MFW ECC: Introduction Part 2

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Latitude, longitude, elevation-depth, physical maps, political maps, historical maps and more!

This whole week felt like one big adventure. Every time we read about a new kind of map the boys would insist on making their own version of that map. My favorite was the historical map of the city three of them were born in. They drew out the streets they knew and placed symbols for all the major things that happened in our family history. We live at sea level so the elevation-depth map was a challenge until my son decided he would make a pretend one out of legos for Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  We read “Nate the Great and the Missing Key” and basically went outside and recreated the book. It was so much FUN. I find that when kids are laughing, they are learning things they will remember for long years to come.

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We continue on in our geography study using Pin it! Maps. My eldest is “visually disorganized” (ie possible dyslexia) and it is very, very hard for him to make sense of maps. So these maps are a valuable tool for him, it makes the map a 3D experience and he can organize locations and features in his mind and process them in a kinetic way that connects it all together for him.

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We labeled maps and memorized our address again. Global Art was a hit this week but sneak peek: they weren’t so thrilled with it in weeks to come. I’ll share more about that next week.

This brings me to my classic week 2 reality check. Every year I sally forth into new curriculum with stars in my eyes and by week 2, I am having to really readjust a few things.  This year it has hit hardest with science, art and the crazy amount of busy work involved with the MFW Geography book. Sometimes it takes a while to find your groove. Its ok to not use every singe item mapped out for you in the manual. We are in the midst of that process now.

This week I took a hard look at our science. Guys, I officially loathe Book of Animals. Its out of our lives for good. Pin it! Maps has a HUGE section of free resources. We printed out their Biome sorting cards and had a blast sorting cards while reading about the various biomes. We also read a few living books that helped us build relationship with these biomes.

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After an hour of sorting biome cards and telling stories, I cut a large sheet of kraft paper from our butcher roll and placed it on their school table. They began to draw biomes with pastels. I brought out several safari toobs and placed them on the table. I said, “Boys, tell me what you know about biomes.” And they poured out what they knew in words and stories and pictures. The map eventually became a story book and a living creative nonfiction writing exercise. Soon, they were narrating in a visual, kinetic way,  the Kipling stories we had read that morning at breakfast. They ended up taking several exams within that frame of time and they didn’t even know it.

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Side note: I never knew how much my kids were absorbing from Chris and Martin Kratt until we hit the biome unit. Those two and the Frizz have my back.

I am totally ok with that.

Also, we skipped the world cake. I know, I know, I am horrible.

Our preschooler was losing his mind that day. I mean, end times preacher during election season, losing his mind. The thought of pumping him with food dye (which makes him manic) made me want to throw the cake at the kids and flee for the hills. I looked at the older two and asked for mercy. They said what they really wanted was chocolate pie. So we bought instant pudding and ready made crust and called it a day.

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I’ll end with this. My second born has really blossomed lately with his handicraft work. This is the child that is always looking to invent something. If I do not give him something purposeful, meaningful, USEFUL, to do, then he will get up to no good. And he can tell the difference between a big job and distraction, so I have to give him good things to do. This is what makes him tic. Art and handicrafts give him joy and daily purpose during the down times in our schedule.  It took time to teach him these skills and I had to be intentional in following through with his lessons. He has started using his skills to minister to others. Helping me crochet a blanket for a new baby, knitting a scarf for my father in law, sewing my eldest son’s favorite stuffed animal back together. He was such a terror when he was two and I was in despair when he was three. But time is passing and that intentional repetition and consistent habit training have paid off. He still has a long way to go, heck, I have a long way to go too! But I see God’s hand working in his life and that blesses this weary Mama’s heart so deeply. There is no quick fix when it comes to “tough” kids. Sticker charts, programs, gimmicks, etc, they don’t stick around. Heart transformation and intentional habit training through repetition and lots and lots of prayer is what really “sticks.” When it comes down to it, I don’t care about correcting behavior as much as I care about building character.

So if you are in the thick of it this week with a difficult child, train your heart to see beyond the behavior and take a good hard look at the character. Pick one habit and do everything you can to hammer out that good habit in your child over a long period of time. This mothering business does not fit the mold of our fast paced “answers NOW” world. Take your time, friend and give your little one time too.

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MFW Kindergarten: Us!

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I was thrilled that MFWK’s U-Us unit coincided with our first week of MFW ECC. My little guy vividly remembers when his older brothers did this unit because our whole family joined in on the fun. We played all kinds of sensory games and laughed so much that week. Their favorite was an old youth group game called, “What is Your Foot Touching?”  <—pretty self explanatory/traumatizing. The minute I said, its time to learn about “U-Us” he said, “Can my foot get to touch the tuna, Mom?”

We played many of the games again. Blindfolds, mittens, taste tests, listening games.
I pretty much recreated every single game from this page. We loved using our sensory doh from The HomeGrown Preschooler and we used the book “Can You Hear It?” for many of our touch, sight and listening activities as well. Who doesn’t love running around to “Flight of the Bumblebee” wearing only your underwear and a set of fabric wings from Magic Cabin?

But our favorite add-in this week was a celebration of my guy and what a special kiddo he is.

Before he was born I was advised to abort him.

I look at him now and I cannot fathom life without him. What a joy and a gift he is!

So we decided to turn the U unit into a party. I started by telling him the story of his life, which he already hears from time to time. He loves the part when I say NO to the abortion and YES to life with him. He asks all kinds of questions about his birth and what he was like as a baby.

As part of the celebration he got to pick an activity every day on top of what we already had planned. These activities would be led by him.

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First up, he wanted his own cursive book just like his brothers. I had an empty Classical Conversations Timeline Prescripts on hand and he has taken to it like a duck to water. He likes to teach me how to form the letters after his brother teach him. The next day he asked to bake his own bread.

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A day later, he asked to play in the mud. “Its for sensory reasons, Mom. Don’t forget I am supposed to study the five senses and mud is something you can use all five with.”

Let your child pick an element and then show you how they can investigate that one item with all five senses, though we don’t recommend mud. He says its a bit too crunchy.

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Our favorite kid’s microscope ever on the face of the planet is the Brock Magiscope. Definitely pricey, so we asked for one last Christmas. We use it several times a week and it was out quite often for this unit. So many things to look at up close! A strand of hair, a nail clipping, a drop of saliva, a drop of blood and since injuries abound amongst my children- cells from an almost healed scab (yuck).

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On Thursday, he asked to go to pottery class for a visit with his teacher and friends. I love watching him work in this class. He is gaining confidence every time we go and its amazing to hear him relay what he has learned.

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Nature walks and poetry tea time with his brothers rounded out the week. The regularly scheduled nature walks are one of my favorite things about MFW. Don’t skip them!! pretty  please?

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Since the week coincided with his older brothers lessons, I set his table up with eeBoo Children of the World cards along with a few other books and toys of interest. This was a nice spot for his older brothers to come and visit between subjects. I love how well everything fused together.

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Heres the whole crew working on different things for school all at once. Lest you think I have it all together, when I snapped this picture I had a three year old on the floor by my feet screaming his head off and a load of clothes in the wash that needed to be rewashed after sitting in the machine for three days. Cheers.

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MFW ECC: Introduction Part 1

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Our “first day of school” picture this year was a group shot. I usually like to do individual pictures, but the weeks leading up to our first day of school were so crazy, that I just did not have time to organize something fancy. So instead, we made the trek into the city and posed in front of our favorite piece of city art with one of our favorite brainiacs. Welcome to third grade boys!

The week leading up to third grade was spent at our local Classical Conversations practicum, hence the craziness leading up to the start of school.  The boys were enrolled in Geography Drawing camp and they had a wonderful time. I loved that it served so nicely as an “introduction before the introduction” to Exploring Countries and Cultures.  They came into this week already knowing the continents song, four oceans song, compass rose, latitude and longitude, basic map reading skills and measuring scale and distance.  The week flew by, and before we knew it, Monday morning dawned and it was time to get back to school!

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We begin each day with our Morning Basket Time or “Morning Meeting.” We gather for breakfast and spend about 30 minutes together. Here is what I do during that time:

Pray
4 minutes: Utilize our maps to practice current country study
6 minutes: Read from our family devotion (Right now its Clay Clarkson’s “Our 24 Family Ways“)
7 minutes: Read from one of our mornings reads (See the list here)
6 minutes: Fine Arts Study (See below)
4 minutes: Talk about the upcoming day. Discuss any departures from the home or any major chores that need to be done. Review the day before and have any necessary discussions regarding expectation or course correction.
3 minutes: Close in prayer, put breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, and proceed with the day!

Now our Morning Fine Arts time is kept very, very simple. We do something different every day. We have our hymn study for the year from Simply Charlotte Mason. The boys are learning “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” by Isaac Watts these next few weeks. The hymn study is ongoing for the whole year.

We will spend three months with Chopin using Music Study with the Masters and living books on Chopin by Opal Wheeler. We are also spending the next three months with Monet using this study pack from Simply Charlotte Mason.  As you can see from the time allotments, the study is quite brief. We don’t deconstruct every painting we look at, we appreciate and become very familiar with it. We become so accustomed to Chopin that when we are out and about and a previously unheard piece by Chopin reaches our ears, the boys perk up and say, “Hey! I bet thats Chopin! It sounds just like him!” The artist and composer are changed out every three months.

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Based on other reports of low pretest scores, I went into the day anticipating low scores on our country identification pretest. My children definitely did not get every country, but they performed much higher than I had anticipated in part because of their time in Classical Conversations and also their frequent use of Pin it! Maps. There is still much to be learned, however, and they are eager to take on the task. I was careful to keep my face completely neutral, even when they missed countries I KNEW they knew.

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We spent that first morning playing with globes and maps and talking about traveling. They filled out their “passports” and filled in a few dates from Maps and Globes into their individual book of centuries. (We use spiral bound timeline notebooks from Miller Pads and Paper). It was definitely a week of light mornings, which the boys greatly enjoyed. We completed a lesson from our Saxon 3 math each day and spent a couple of days in our Memoria Press Latin books.

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Our summers are so abysmally hot and often full of torrential rains that we are indoors much of the time. In the afternoons, during the worst rainstorms, we like to cozy up together and have tea and treats and poetry. “PoetTreats” is a great favorite of theirs. Its something small I can do to bless their hearts and show them my love and care and complete attention. I set the table and put out my fanciest tea cups. We pour oh so many cups of tea and we read our favorite poems over and over again. Its silly and special and lovely. Note the absence of our preschooler in this photo, he is typically asleep during teatime, which is why its teatime and not disaster relief time.  People sometimes remark that my boys are “weird” for liking teatime. Well, tea is enjoyed by most men around the world and no one bats an eye at that. Tea is not just lace and pearls and flowers, its warm drink, a bite to eat and good conversation. Its a restful pause in the middle of one’s day and can be appreciated by anyone because tea, like breakfast, lunch or dinner, is about as gender neutral as it gets, in my opinion.

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In the early afternoons, the boys like to work on handwriting, enjoy independent reading hour, work on their handicrafts (currently its simple basket weaving or knitting) or choose a fun hands on activity. My eldest has been enjoying Pin it! Maps Land and Water forms map lately, which I love.

We read “God Speaks Numanggang” at the dinner table and my husband and I both cried. Our eldest was so moved he is now asking how he can aide in bible translation and is dreaming of which countries he can travel to in order to take on this heavy work. We are surprising them next month with a trip to the Wycliffe headquarters in Orlando.

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My third born is currently in MFW Kindergarten and hit the unit Uu-Us this week. So on top of a study of the five senses, I threw in a little world culture to tie the week together. The cards on the wall are eeBoo Children of the World Artist Cards, they are no longer on Amazon, but do pop up occasionally on Zulily. The boys all had fun enjoying this little corner of the classroom this week.

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We had great fun with all of our read alouds this week. I always begin geography study with a lesson from Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography and then add in our read alouds afterward. Aside from the listed reading selections in the back of the ECC teacher’s manual, you can find more wonderful books about the world using Jamie Martin and Tsh Oxenreider’s new book, “Give Your Child the World,” which has excellent book lists inside for every region of the world.  I’ve included our read  alouds this week in our booklist at the end of this post.

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The boys have opted to make art books for their geography terms instead of flash cards. I may illustrate some flash cards just for review as the year ambles on.

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We continue to use Half a Hundred Acre Wood’s excellent blob maps throughout our year. The boys sometimes blob in other places too. I love how the blob map turned out on our plexiglass easel. He was able to position the easel so that the wall map was in his line of sight and then he transferred the continents by their correct position onto the easel. Spontaneous, fun, hands on exercises like this are always my favorite and turn out way better than anything I lay out in my plans because it is child-led and therefore they are determined to do it!

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My second born chose to work on the World Water and Landforms map during this time, which gives specific form names to pin in the proper place, (i.e. Nile River, Danube River, Mount Kilimanjaro, etc.) This is the next map we move onto after the generic Land and Water forms Map which names geographical features.

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At the end of the week we pulled out our synchronological map of history and had a look at how all the cultures and countries of the world tie together throughout history. The boys could look at this enormous timeline for hours. I love hearing them call out different events they are familiar with and then discover what else was happening at that time.

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Well, if you’re a long time reader, you probably noticed that we were hardly outside this week, which is unusual for us. It has been seriously hot and muggy and the rain has been nonstop. The weather has been so bad that we had to skip much of our science study this week with the exception of our niche project. Our specimen decided to poo right before my youngest’s turn to hold him. You can see from his face that his mind was changed very quickly!

Now here is the confession…..

I really dislike the Complete Book of Animals. My boys do not like busy work or meaningless hand outs and this is essentially a book of handouts. Even the pull-out “story books” are not actually stories but dry informational pamphlets. We will not be using this book for ECC. (No offense to any CBOA believers out there—if your child loves it, that is GREAT!)

We will stick with Properties of Ecosystems and I am currently on the hunt for a better animal study. Chances are I will end up pulling something together for the boys. If anyone has a recommendation, please let us know in the comments below.

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Lastly, a look at this years art enrichment—pottery! I have zero talent in this area, I am thankful to have found local talent with a patient nature and nurturing heart. Lani has been wonderful in teaching my boys and they have greatly enjoyed her class. I am thankful that they have access to this. A word of encouragement for anyone without the means or resources, take a careful look around you. Is there anyone in your sphere with a gift of some sort? Someone that can play an instrument, knit or crochet? Someone with the knowledge of a specific skill set that can be (and should be!) passed down to other generations? See if that person would be willing to teach your child. If its a fellow homeschool mother or father, see if they would be willing to barter. Perhaps you can teach their children something in exchange for your children’s lessons with those friends. Get creative! Not everything has to happen at a professional studio with a packaged price rate.  Most skills in the world are passed down through relationship within community. Maybe your pastor would be willing to teach Greek to a few children once a week? Perhaps the church worship pastor would be willing to teach a guitar lesson once a week. Maybe there are older generations in the church that would be blessed by the company of older children looking to learn from them? Perhaps there is a neighbor or a friend that would be willing to teach your children something. You’ll never know until you ask. Pray beforehand and see what God can do!

On to week 2!!!!

Week 1 Booklist:
As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps by Gail Hartman
Akebu to Zapotec by June Hathersmith
People by Peter Spier
Around the World in 80 pages by Antony Mason
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss
Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Shuett
Maps and Scale Drawings by Marion Smoothey
From Here to There by Margery Cuyler
People and Places by Gerard Cheshire
Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney
Celebrations by Anabel Kindersley

MFW: Exploring Countries & Cultures–Getting Ready!

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Hello friends! We are gearing up for the start of Exploring Countries & Cultures. We are due to kick off our new school year on June 6 and my explorers are chomping at the bit!

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Homeschooling has become such a part of our daily lives that we ended up studying something every week this summer. I never asked the boys to do anything, it was entirely child led–which was wonderful! We ended up taking many, many nature hikes and explored several learning centers in our area. Both boys expressed sadness at the end of Adventures that we did not cover WW1, the Great Depression, WW2, the Civil Rights Movement, etc. So we spent some time covering those topics over the summer. We  predominately used living books. Our favorite by far was, “Only a Dog: A Story of the Great War,” which you can find here.

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Simply Charlotte Mason

We also pulled a few lessons from Ann Voskamp’s “A Child’s Geography” just to whet our appetites for the coming school year. We are in the midst of making paper mache globes to hang in the classroom. The boys have maintained their interest in learning, explored topics of interest and kindled curiosity for the coming school year. I will be honest and say that if my boys arent building, exploring, discovering, playing, learning, SOMETHING!!!! ANYTHING!!!! then they are most definitely fighting and I am most definitely pulling heart out. Even though I needed a break this “summer,” I am more than willing to keep providing learning material just to avoid the hideous sound of four children arguing.

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What have I been up to other than the promotion of world peace? Getting things organized for the school year. Our 3rd son has already begun his K year and things are progressing nicely. Our 4th son is in the last weeks of his curriculum, A Year of Playing Skillfuly by The Homegrown Preschooler. I am in the midst of planning our area practicum for Classical Conversations and gathering materials for my new group that begins class in August. I am so excited to be Directing this new group but I also know that my first callings are: Child of God, Wife to my husband, Mother to my children and Teacher to my children. With this in mind I began my planning by stripping back and trimming away all unnecessary fat. It is often hard to say no because there are many, many wonderful groups and tools and organizations out there. We are blessed to have so many options. As a family, we have prayed and we know where God is calling us and what kind of education He has set before us. Knowing that, we are staying the course and saying “No” where it needs to be said. I do this every year before I lay a finger on any piece of new curriculum. Trim the fat.

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Here are the resources we will be using this year!

1) History, Geography, Bible
My Father’s World: Exploring Countries and Cultures
Pin it! Maps
Classical Conversations Cycle 2

2) Math
Saxon Math 3
Making Math Meaningful
Classical Conversations Cycle 2

3) Phonics & Language Arts
All About Reading Level 3 (8 yo with possible dyslexia)
Explode the Code 6 (7 yo)
Spelling Wisdom
Classical Conversations Cycle 2
Simply Charlotte Mason Language Arts Handbook
Beautiful Feet Books Horse Study

4) Foreign Language
Latin Cristiana 1
Classical Conversations Cycle 2

5) Fine Arts
Simply Charlotte Mason art packs
Piano
2nd semester- Guitar (8yo)
Saxophone (7yo)
Classical Conversations (tin whistle, orchestra study, composer study, artist study)

6) Handwriting
Classical Conversations Prescripts

7)Science
Classical Conversations
MFW Exploring Countries and Culture
Nature Study (TBD)
Beautiful Feet Books Famous Scientists Study

8) Handicrafts
leather work
crochet
knitting
candle making
card making

Morning Basket:
Mathematicians Are People, Too! by Luetta Reimer (Volumes 1 & 2)
Burgess Book of Animals
CC Geography
Brave Companions: Portraits in History by David McCoullough
Stories of the Nations by Lorene Lambert (Volume 1 & 2)
Hymn Study
Scripture Memorization: Ephesians 6

I know that looks like an enormous amount of work! But keep in mind that I have two boys in the same “grade” but not in the same place with learning. For example, we practice our CC memory work each day before math. We will skip count or recite equivalents, etc. Then we pull out our Saxon books and work through a problem set or we bring out our Waldorf notebooks and play with Math, depending on the day! If my eldest is struggling to grasp something in Saxon, we stop and use a more Waldorf approach to connect him to the concept. For language arts, my eldest struggles greatly with reading and has seen tremendous benefit from AAR program. My second born found Explode the Code at a friend’s house, begged me to buy it for him and has flown through the series by himself. He likes to do this when I work with his eldest brother. We approach our spelling and language arts using Simply Charlotte Mason. We need those short, focused lessons with a focus on mastery. Music and Art switch off every other day. Handicrafts are done during leisure time.

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We begin our day with Morning Time. This is usually conducted over a relaxed breakfast with many cups of our favorite tea. First we go over the plan for the day in order to limit surprises. Is there a doctor’s appointment? Will we be visiting anyone? What are the expetations for that visit, etc? The boys then review their current geography work for CC, we read one poem or look at one piece of art and we sing one hymn. Those three things are done in a five minute window of time. Brief. Consistent. Next, we spend 10-15 minutes reading from one of the books listed above. We may finish them all this year, we may not. We just want an enriching story to begin the morning with a variety of subject that connects to things we are learning in the classroom that year. After reading, we spend a few minutes reviewing and learning our scripture passage for the year or we might write out a few cards of thanks or enouragement to friends. We close by singing the Doxology and moving over to the classroom. Again, real life is happening in between the sentences. Spilled tea, burnt toast, hurt feelings, etc. But we never ever ever skip morning time. I am so excited to read the books in our basket this year. I’ve heard great things about the McCollough book and Stories of the Nations in particular. We have a seperate book basket for the lunch hour but I havent quite readied our reading list for the year yet so I will post that once it is ready.

We work on a block schedule,which I have detailed here.

While the older kids are working on their assignments, the younger childer are hard at PLAY!

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I have set up several small spaces throughout the room that I can change throughout the year for the younger two to play and work.  We change toys out of the play stand every few weeks. We’ve also prepared a few other work boxes based on the various continents for the kids to play with (the older boys also work at these spaces too since they also love to play and explore).  All school materials are left accessible to them. Hubby had this ginormous world map with the United States on the right hand side, which left the other continents intact, and features all longitude and latitude lines marked. Hooray for using things you already own! We are planning to display work from each continent around the map as the year progresses.

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To the right of our book cart we have set up several small book cases with tons of books for them to handle as the need arises. Their school books are also tucked in these cases. On top of the bookcases are all the writing and art tools they use on a daily basis. We notebook nearly everything and I will be posting how we do this as the year progresses. I purchased all of their notebooks ready made here along with paint jars, watercolors, brushes and modeling clay. (Yes, long time readers that spy the rainbow boxes in the corner, I caved and got a chicken war cart of doom!)

I’ll pause here to mention two books on our gutter shelf that I am especially excited about this year.
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We plan to incorporate these books with ECC!

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Above is our Pin it! Maps Geography station. All the pin maps, reference maps,control maps, pins, prompts, etc. are stored on these shelves for easy access. Have you visited pinitmaps.com yet? The free resources section is a dream! Free biome cards, land form cards and much more. Check it out! The boys can grab their preferred map along with the corresponding pins and cards and set to work! Read more about these fantastic maps here and here.

Thats the whole kit and caboodle my friends. I’ll post our weekly schedule a week or so before we begin the school year so you can take a peak at how we balance things. See you soon!

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