Year 4: Ancient History Term 1 wk 3-4

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And we are back!

April was a crazy month. Easter, the end of our CC Year, science fair, closing program, music recital, family vacation, wild + free book club, practicum training and licensing training all took place within a three week timespan. All of it was wonderful but utterly exhausting. I am beat.

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Morning Time
Rich + Rooted Passover by Jennifer Naraki
Genesis 21-50
Herodotus and the Road to History by Jeanne Benedict
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lamber
Ancient Egypt by James Baikie
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Hymn: “Fairest Lord Jesus”
Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolio: Giotto
Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois
Poem: “To Be a Pilgrim” by John Bunyan
The Apostles Creed
Biography: Mathematicians are People Too by Luella Reimer
Geography: Visits to Africa by Simply Charlotte Mason
Composer: Vivaldi
Latin: Memoria Press

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Ancient History
My boys have been begging to study Ancient Egyptian History for quite some time now. They were so thrilled the day we hit lesson 5 in the Beautiful Feet Book’s guide and I asked them to decorate an Ancient Egypt Page for their notebooks.
We broke up the readings for “Pharaoh’s of Ancient Egypt” since they are too lengthy for the stage of narration that they are at. Splitting each chapter into three sections has been helpful. They illustrate and include a small written narration for one section and give oral narrations for the other two sections. “Tales of Ancient Egypt” by Roger Lancelyn Green has been a great hit. Its interesting to see the kids dissect the creation story, flood story etc and compare and contrast it to Biblical history.

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We found several wonderful books to add depth to areas of interest within our studies. We broadened lesson 8 with “Pharaoh’s Boat by Weitzman, David L. [HMH Books for Young Readers, 2009] Hardcover [Hardcover]“>Pharaoh’s Boat” by David Weitzman, which tied in perfectly with our study of Pharaoh Cheops and the construction of his pyramid. The book outlines how the Egyptians built boats for the Pharaohs to use in their journey to the afterlife and how they were disassembled, then buried at the base of the pyramids. The latter half of the book walks us through the archeological discovery of one boat and how it was reconstructed and preserved.  Its a bit pricey to track down so check your local libraries first for this wonderful gem!  I’ll list additional books in our book list at the end of the post. I’ll also include a new tab in our Shop tab with links to some of our favorite Ancient History resources.

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The Student Bible Atlas has been hit or miss with the boys. Last week for lesson 6 we decided to do some more advanced map work using our homemade plexiglass easel from The Homegrown Preschooler.  The boys painted the map on the plexiglass using a mixture of tempura and dish soap (with a tiny bit of acrylic added in!) I printed out labels and the kids were able to label their map together. We gathered around the map as we read and they pointed out cities and features as read along. Diving into the map and bringing it to life really solidified everything for them.

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Math
My long time readers know that I like to spend time with a curriculum before writing about it. I am almost to the end of my “observation period” with Right Start Math and I am so excited to share more in-depth about our experience with the curriculum. For now I will simply report that we are loving it! We used Saxon for our entire homeschool experience until the day I realized that my children knew how to answer questions correctly without understanding why they were right. I knew we needed a new program and when I looked at Right Start, I had a feeling it would be a great fit for us. We had to humble ourselves and pick up a lower year package because I knew my children had missed a number of foundational things and had even learned a few things out of order.
I am so glad we did this. The kids flew through the first 40 lessons in the book but now they are really starting to grapple with some of these concepts. Its beautiful to see them understanding math to such a degree that they are PLAYING with their math. They are loving the logic and structure of numbers. They are begging for math everyday—that says a lot to me.
My eldest son really struggled with place value. I’m not sure if it was a dyslexia thing or if the Saxon script never explained it in a way he could understand, but the simple exercises in RSM along with the use of the abacus, finally clicked place value understanding in his mind. What a joy to witness!

IMG_4808.jpgFriday Exam
We have really gotten into a beautiful groove with our Friday exam. The last two weeks the boys have launched right into sharing their favorite stories with each other and teaching their younger brother some of the best things they learned that week. A lovely peek at some rhetoric level sharing. In fact, all the classical education stages are usually present at the table. My youngest proudly rattling off terms and the older two bursting with dialectic questions and once in a while that beautiful burst of rhetoric reasoning as they teach their younger brother something valuable that they learned. I have really come to value these afternoons. Its encouraging to see what sorts of things they are taking away from their lessons, what they are internalizing and what is shaping their character.

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Extra Curricular
Speaking of character, the amount of habit training and character training that occurs within the realm of handwork never ceases to amaze me. Slow, methodical, meaningful work does wonders for our habit training. Then there is the added bonus of handwork as processing space. I shared about my children’s various thinking styles on instagram a few weeks ago. They each have a different way of processing their lessons, but something they all need is TIME to ponder what they have learned. One child needs to verbalize as he thinks, another needs constant outdoor motion (usually time on a skateboard or bike will do) and another needs to work with his hands. I call him my “build it out” thinker. On the day I snapped this photo we had just wrapped a morning of studies containing Shakespeare, Giotto, and the Rosetta Stone. He was sawing wood and working quietly at his work bench for a while and suddenly piped out, “I like how everything we learn is connected and I am a part of it all.” It was a great reminder that after feasting on great ideas, children need that protected time, gifted time, to think and ponder what they have taken in.

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We did not do any formal science during this study period. GASP! We had formal science for a solid 10 months and once our busy end of the year season hit, I felt comfortable letting it go because of all the NATURE STUDY we are constantly immersed in. The children have plenty of time outdoors to observe nature, ample opportunity to interact with insects and animals and other creatures and a never ending desire to read books about all kinds of nature. To be honest, they’ve got this covered. We will probably start up again in June once I am home from convention.

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Ancient History Booklist (lessons 5-9)
Pharaoh’s Boat by David Weitzman
Egyptian Boats by Geoffrey Scott
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lambert 
The 5,000-Year-Old Puzzle: Solving a Mystery of Ancient Egypt“>The 5,000 Year Old Puzzle by Claudia Logan
The Boy of the Pyramids by Ruth Fosdick Jones
Mummies, Pyramids and pharaohs by Gail Gibbons
Egyptian Mummies by Henrietta McCall
Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki
Cat Mummies by Kelly Trumble
Building History Egyptian Pyramid by Gillian Clements
Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile by Tomie dePaola

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Stay tuned for our next installment of The Road to Morning Time!

The Friday Exam

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A few years ago, I handed my two eldest children their very first math test. They sat together, side by side, and commenced. Within moments they were wriggling in their seats and soon the little game of “oops, I dropped my pencil” began. I asked them repeatedly to sit still, focus, and finish–to no avail. After an hour had passed the last answer was finally recorded. The boys were frustrated and cranky, I was overwhelmed and wondered what on earth I would do once they were middle school age. This pattern repeated itself throughout the fall of that year until we broke for our usual Advent rest.

Throughout Advent we would sit by our little electric fireplace (We don’t need a real one down here!) and read for long periods of time. One day my second born brought out paper and crayons after reading time and he began to draw the first story I read some forty five minutes earlier. I knelt beside him and asked him to tell me the story. Never taking his eyes off his work, he relayed the story with remarkable accuracy and feeling. Sure, he left a few things out, but I was amazed by all he recalled. He was able to narrate with greater depth and accuracy while drawing than when standing at attention during his narration lesson. His eyes and hands had purpose now and were no longer roaming about the room while he spoke.

This was the birth of our Friday Exam, though the children call it something else. Months of observing and adjusting and tweaking eventually produced our current methodology.A way to evaluate our children in a joyful and creative way.

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I begin by covering our table in butcher paper (our roll has lasted a few years).  I set out pastels, beeswax crayons and any other useful or necessary visual aides. Then I DO NOT say, “Come and take a test.” The word test is not used. Cuz… yuck.

I invite the boys over and say something like, “Lets chat a while” or “Show me…” or “Tell me about…”

Then they begin to draw their favorite concepts and ideas from our week of study. They love jumping in with something that excites them to get their creative juices flowing.

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While I have them engaged and eager, we work through our drills and memory work. Perhaps they will recite a poem or passage from scripture they have learned, or they will work through their classical conversations memory work.  Oftentimes I will have them spell words aloud (which is the best practice for my eldest son who is visually disorganized) or I will dictate ONE FAMILIAR sentence for them to write out next to their drawings. Then we move onto science. We are studying biomes this year under MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures scope and sequence. The boys draw the biome and relay its characteristics and then they get to make up a story about one animal that lives in the biome. I love hearing their creative storytelling! If the story gets off-track, I gently reel it back in by asking a question. Ultimately, I am looking for 3-5 facts about the biome and 2-4 facts about the animal. They have grown better at this over time. Next the boys will illustrate a scene from our family read aloud and we will discuss it. This is not a time for heavy handed literary analysis! We try and relate to the story, ask questions, work through difficult concepts or spend time comparing what we have processed to what scripture says. We are growing taste, discernment, and insight.

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History, anatomy, botany, geography, art—we touch on a variety of subjects during the week with our “chase the spark” method and the place where I really see the full tapestry of their work is during Friday exam. It is always ENCOURAGING to me. Imagine that!  An exam that brings consistent encouragement? Now, if there is a lull, which can happen from time to time depending on energy levels, sugar intake, will power of the preschooler to ignite anarchy or current lunar calendar, I will pick up a pastel and draw something and they have to guess what it is and then we discuss it.  I cap the exam off after an hour. No need to strain every bit of information out of their heads. I want the children to leave feeling confident and happy and full, the same way they leave the dinner table each evening, that is what I aim for when they depart after their exam. I praise them for their work that week. We do not address any misbehavior or disappointments, that happens at another time. We end on a high note, praising what they did well so that they go into the weekend feeling encouraged.

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As the exam progresses I take notes and once the boys leave I take more. These notes provide highlights from the exams and I am always sure to record what their current interests and delights are. I also jot down areas of struggle or things we need to revisit, perhaps in a new light or meshed in with one of the things they are currently enjoying.

The exam is not given to determine what they do not know. I already know what they do not know because my class is SMALL and I am with them everyday. Why give them a test I know they will not do well on? What does that accomplish? There is no room for a red pen and a bell curve here. Neither is the exam a way to ensure that everyone knows the same thing. As whole persons with unique souls, minds and hearts, the boys are naturally drawn to different aspects of subjects at different times—unstandardized! One brother may absorb his 11 times table rapidly through rote memorization at the beginning of term, another brother may embrace it six months later in song or story form. One brother will look at the Eiffel Tower and be drawn to its structure–the physics and mechanics of wind and steel. Another brother will look at the Eiffel tower and relate to the story of the man behind its creation, its history, and patriotic value. Both children have learned truth, goodness and beauty in ways that cannot be determined by bubbles or multiple choice. I do not need a paper trail to demonstrate who my children are becoming.

Can a person spend his childhood savoring knowledge, gaining wisdom and cultivating a lifestyle of intellectual growth without the presence of thousands of one dimensional tests marking the way? Yes. Yes, of course he can. There is more than one way to demonstrate competency just as there is more than one way to educate a person.

This is not to say that my children will never take a “normal” test. I am sure as the years pass we will have occasion to take a few. But for my children, especially in their tender growing years, I see little need, purpose, or joy in issuing tests for each subject every ten lessons.

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So we unroll the paper and cover the table where we our minds  and hearts meet throughout the week. A button is pressed and music floods the room. We spill pastels upon the table and with the guidance of our hands they convey the treasures we have gleaned that week. We laugh and color and sing and recite and tell and share and discuss. It is not a time for fear or nervousness. Its a time for joy and celebration and the formation of new questions.

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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MFW Adventures: States & Language Arts

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I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the schedule for this week. Its so nice and simple. We took full advantage of the light schedule and we spent as much time outdoors as possible.
We played with magnets and we filled out state sheets and we did not do a darn thing extra!

I thought I would take this week to discuss the Language Arts aspect of our MFW Adventures journey. Our second born is 7 years old and reading everything he can get his hands on. Poetry, chapter books, nature encyclopedias. MFW 1st phonics worked for him. It was all he needed. He wanted to keep his eldest brother company and ended up  zipping through all his Explode the Code books in no time. This week he finished up book 4 and started book 5.  He has continued with Spelling by Sound and Structure. He is two weeks from finishing! First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease (both by Susan Weiss Bauer) have helped his writing and language skills take off. Really, its been a breeze with him.
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Then there is my eldest. Who really, really struggled through MFW 1st phonics. It did not click. Not at all. And I had no idea why. Every time I dragged out that bible reader, he would get tears in his eyes. This broke my heart and I worried that he would have weird associations with the Bible. I added in Explode the Code and it helped a bit, but by the time we were ready to start Adventures, I knew he was behind. We are fairly certain that he has dyslexia. He really had to pause and assess before he read anything. I don’t know what his fluency level will be when its all said and done. Last summer was difficult. Even if he managed to get the words out correctly, it was all done at a painfully slow pace. We ended up adding “All About Reading” to the mix…
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And I am so glad we did! This last week he finished Level 2 and he was ecstatic. It was wonderful to watch him press forward and work hard to achieve his goal. He would stay at the table working hard, long after everyone else had left. He didn’t give up. He is even eager to crack open Level 3 and get started! He has also done Spelling by Sound and Structure along with First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease.  Every now and then we take the time to do a specific encouraging passage of copy work over a longer period of time. Usually a quote from one of his heroes: George Washington, Ben Franklin or Ulysses S Grant. We keep these special pieces of work in a specific notebook to mark his progress. We have ended up shifting his reading time to first thing in the morning and first thing in the afternoon. His mind is the most fresh at these time slots and there is much less frustration to content with.

While he was learning with All About Reading, I was learning, once again, to calm down and allow him to learn at his own pace. Why must I have to relearn this concept every year with a different child? He is right where he needs to be. He is learning and he still loves to learn. I want to preserve that love and nurture it, not kill it for the sake of standardizing his learning. We have decided to continue with All About Reading and next year’s Language Arts final choices will be made after I’ve had some hands on time at our local homeschool convention. Anyone else just love flipping through curriculum? Yum.

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My goal this summer to to continue growing a love for reading in the hearts of my children. For anyone not already plugged in, please check out the wonderful Sarah Mackenzie (Teaching From Rest) on her blog. Read Aloud Revival has been a great encouragement to us. I love listening to RAR podcasts while folding laundry–it gets me through it and inspires me all at once! Check it out!