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 Kindergarten: Apple

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Our first vowel week was a great deal of fun! My little guy has been quite taken with water color drawings lately.  I had selected a few crafts off of Pinterest a couple of weeks ago in a moment of weakness. The true motivating factor behind the choices? I just needed him to be busy for a couple of minutes so I could hammer out a few phone calls for the Classical Conversations practicum I am hosting next month. The crafts were cute and required zero mental effort on my part (or his). Then I stumbled across this article, and resolved once more to let my son go through his own art process. Letting him think and be messy and creative and free is a better use of his time and energy. So I let him go and he surprised me by focusing quite intently on reproducing several pictures from “The Life and Times of the Apple” by Charles Mecucci on the life cycle of an apple. He fashioned the pages into a book and by the end of the week was able to give a thoughtful, brief narration on the stages of apple growth.

He also had a marvelous time slicing apples this week. I purchased a large sack of juicing apples from the store and he practiced using our apple corer and slicer, the apple peeler, a crinkle cutter and a sharper knife for cross-section cutting. He loved finding the star points made out of seeds in each slice.  We dried a few sheets of these slices in the oven at its lowest temperature setting over the course of the day and once the slices were dried, the boys strung together beautiful apple garlands to hang in the classroom.
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One of the new responsibilities on my kiddo’s list is feeding the chickens and gathering their eggs each day. He is always incredibly eager to do his job. This week, however, he had a few missteps in the execution of his work. I am always reminded that I must be vigilant in correcting these missteps immediately to ensure that his habits are well formed as they are being cemented. It is tricky to do this without crossing into legalism. I don’t want him to feel like he cannot make a mistake, but at the same time, this responsibility requires his careful attention. We ended up scaling back for a few days. I accompanied him on his trips and kept an eye on him as he worked. By the end of the week, we were back on track. I am currently working on the next set of life skills that he will be working on over the next few months.

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Back in the classroom, our work with his letters marches on. He is reaching for this set quite often during his free play as well, so I know he enjoys the challenge. His sand books, tactile letters and white board cards are seeing a lot of use. All of his literay work is presented as a game. He is so proud of his play/work.

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Another great activity we set up this week (and I failed to snap pictures of) was our “How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World”  sensory tour. We laid out a spread of all the ingredients and he had the chance to try and figure out what each ingredient was using only his sense of smell, touch and taste. (Though he was not allowed to taste the raw egg yolk/whites). We giggled a lot and ended up making the most lopsided pie I have ever seen in my life.

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Are you taking advantage of the weekly scheduled nature walks? This is my favorite part of the week! While we try and get out in nature every single day, our Friday excursion is specifically geared for my K student. This week we were on the hunt for pond apples. We found zero pond apples. But we did spy roseate spoonbills, cranes, egrets, ibis, and our favorite, anhingas! We found nests, five-lined skins, apple snail eggs laid out in careful order on the stalk of some pickerlweed, and we were even chased across a wooden bridge by wasps. Oh, the thrill!

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We came home and had a feast of apple turnovers (baked earlier that morning) and vanilla chai tea. We read our favorite versions of the Johnny Appleseed story and closed out our afternoon making apple stamp prints. We halved our apples, dunked them in paint and stamped away! We’ll keep this paper to use as gift wrap later on in the year. My guy was proud to accomplish something that would be used by our family later on in the year.

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On to Nn-Nest!!

MFW Kindergarten: Leaf

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We experienced the most gorgeous weather during our Leaf unit! We had compiled a long list of activities for the week and the majority required nice weather, so you can imagine our thankfulness! Here are a few things we did in addition to our scheduled MFWK work….

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We started the week out by reading “Counting on the Woods” by George Ella Lyon. This is a nature based counting book with lovely photographs and a memorable meter. He carried this book in his mind on all our nature walks that week, repeating some of the rhymes and looking for similar finds.  When we got home he made his own “Counting on Woods” book filled with the things he saw, numbered and recorded.

Later that day we read Louis Ehlert’s wonderful book, “Leaf Man.”

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We bought a pack of double sided punch out leaves from the craft store and made our own leaf men.  He loved this project! We ended up with an army of leaf men, all with their own backstory and role to play. We ended up teaching our leaf men all of our bible lessons this week.

We continue to use our little sand box for tactile letter practice along with our sand paper letters.  His letters are slowly improving as we practice each week.  He works on these small whiteboards first and then we work on our handwriting student sheet which we have a higher standard for. Of all the worksheets in each unit, this one always takes us the longest. We take our time to do our work carefully with great diligence and attention to detail. As one of my Classical Conversations students recently reminded me, “Ms. Elsie, practice makes permanent.” First we learn, which takes time and is often sloppy as shapes and ideas are sorted out; and then we practice, which takes time and requires great effort and excellence.

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As I mentioned, we went for several nature walks during the course of this unit. Our local cypress dome was a must see! We found such a large variety of leaves on this particular walk.

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He loved the cypress trees, but his favorite was the sawgrass. Ah, the river of grass. How beautiful it is.

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By his request, we studied leaves later on in the week. He left the house early in the morning with one of his older brothers in order to collect specimens. We laminated them against white paper and took a half hour to identify them all. He made several water color paintings of different leaves to add to his notebook. We sorted leaves by shape and size and color and texture. We skip counted smaller leaves in various groupings with our songs from Classical Conversations.

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The rest of the day was spent playing. He made several leaf crowns for different family members and spent a few hours playing outside in his “Fern Palace.”

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This evolved into muddy, muddy play with all of his siblings as the afternoon wore on.
We also use The Homegrown Preschooler curriculum in our home and I love how easily everything blends together. It has really kept me on track!  Gentle learning in the morning and non stop play in the afternoon.

There is pressure everywhere to make things much more rigorous at a much earlier age, but the research stands strong that children need play and a later start date with rigorous academics. I am reminded everyday that I do not teach to standardize my children, I teach to bless them with the opportunity to learn in their own unique way in their own time.

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MFW Kindergarten: Moon!

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Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’re going to the moon
Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’ll get there very soon
5,4,3,2,1
BLAST OFF!

Our favorite librarian taught us the above poem/song last year. For the moon unit, my boy made a rocketship out of an old toilet paper roll and we would chant this poem while marching around the house. Whenever the countdown came he would crouch down low and then leap up high to launch his rocket at the cry of “BLAST OFF!” I am not attaching a picture of the rocketship because when it comes to a craft like that, there shouldnt be an example picture. Hand your kid a TP roll, construction paper, scissors and glue. Ask them to make a rocket and allow them to be creative! I love what my guy came up with. Its nothing you would ever see on pinterest, but its 100%, undeniably, HIM!

We had such fun reading MFW’s excellent book basket suggestions this week. We drank a lot of tea and had many, many afternoon snuggle sessions on the couch with our books. As a third child, this special time of undivided attention means the world to him!

We were very excited to study the lunar cycle this week. After making our oreo wheel to represent the phases of the moon, we pulled out our lunar  cycle cards from Alice Cantrell (pictured above). He really enjoyed putting them in the correct order and then messing them all up to organize once more.
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Halfway through the week we awoke to a misty morning that in his words, “Just felt like the moon.” So he pretended to be Moon Bear, recently roused from his winter hibernation and roaming the snow laden forest, and he wandered the yard with his arms outstretched, walking in zero gravity mode. I loved watching him get lost in his imagination that way.  He continued the game inside, tying a play silk around his shoulders and parachuting off the moon down to the earth and then off the grand canyon.

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These first few weeks of Kindergarten have been filled with multi sensory approaches to learning letters. His current favorite is his little sand box. We’ve also used sandpaper letters, textured letters, shaving cream, paint inside ziploc bags and construction lines, curves and slants on the light tablet. He is always so proud of his work in this area. I have given him three or four elements of work that he is responsible for initiating and completing every day, and tactile letter practice is one of them. Its part of long term training towards more independent school work.

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Our favorite activity this week was our “Book to Cook” activity, “The Moon Might Be Milk.” He adored this story and really enjoyed gathering all the baking supplies, measuring everything out and mixing it all together and then forming each moon cookie. We surprised his big brothers with this snack. He was so excited to walk back to the classroom and present his brothers with cookies he made and glasses of cold milk. He loves to be the hero!

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Its beautiful to see this boy loving his K year. How wonderful it is to keep things simple and meaningful.

MFW Adventures: The Very Last Week Ever

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“Is this the very last week ever?” Cue the tears.

IMG_1246.JPGWe finished off the last state sheets.

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We drew our last birds.

We wrote letters to President Obama. Three versions to be exact since the first was awful: “Dear President Obama, No one around here really likes you that much but we still have to be respectful.” Yeah, it definitely needed work.

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And the world’s greatest science teacher taught my kids about electricity and computers. Let’s face it guys, I just had a marathon three weeks of science projects and invention activities. I am exhausted. Next week we’ll kick off our summer break with some fun coding work from Cody for Beginners Using Scratch. But for this week, Ms Frizzle had my back. Thanks, Frizz. You’re the best.
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I am so profoundly thankful for this year and for this curriculum that worked so well with our Classical and Charlotte Mason style of learning. I was able to add in exactly what would work best for our family: Beautiful Feet books, Simply Charlotte Mason, Ambleside Online and Classical Conversations.  It was the perfect mixture for us and I am so thrilled with how it all came together.

But Dear Reader….. (scroll allllllll the way down)

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My dearest hope when I began to blog our Adventures year was that my posts would encourage other homeschool mamas to figure out ways to make school work for their families. I loved finding bits and pieces of information that shaped and formed our personal philosophy of education. I felt like I was building a beautiful nest out of the best materials I connected with from an endless wood of homeschool material. I’m thankful for all those voices and blogs and stories that lent out fragments for our homeschool. When I started writing,  I didn’t want to give a bullet point list for homeschool success, some burdensome unattainable, unrealizable list. The last thing anyone around here needs is more false pressure.  I simply wanted to let you all peak in through the window and catch a glimpse of how we made things work for our family, in the hopes that you would find one or two small things that would spark an idea in your own mind to carry back home with you and fit alongside the other pieces of your own philosophies. I hope that happened for some of you. I know sometimes we look at blogs and we only see our insecurities and walk away feeling “less than enough.” I’ve done it to myself quite often. Hopefully you saw past the edges of my pictures and realized that there were children fighting, dirty dishes, endless loads of laundry and a homeschool mama trying to keep it all together.

In June we will begin our Exploring Countries and Cultures year (unless the kids drive me bananas and they beg to start sooner). Thank you for joining us on our Adventures year. Thank you for all the questions and encouragement and feedback. We are thankful for you too!

Onward Explorers!!!

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MFW Adventures: Inventions

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Months ago I started collecting old appliances and bits of junk for the boys to tinker with during the last weeks of MFW.  I had envisioned many afternoons spent watching the boys take apart things and attempting to put them back together or combining them to come up with new things. They were so intrigued when we read Homer Price last year, the thought of a young boy building and fixing radios in his spare time was exciting for them. They wanted to do it too! I am thinking of expanding our junk collection and allowing them more time to tinker with things in the coming months. A copy of David Macauley’s “How Things Work,” a work table and some simple tools–thats pretty much the game plan.

The boys made some crazy inventions out of legos too! As the sons of an engineer they take their building very seriously. It was great to hear them explain their creations and their reasoning as they detailed their choices made in style and structure and how it impacted the function of each invention. We’ll be celebrating our end of the year with a trip to Disney World and we will definitely be stopping at Epcot’s Innovations area.

One machine the boys were not allowed to take apart (even though they begged to!) was my sewing machine. My second born started sewing a quiver for his archery set. He started out by hand stitching two inches of work, which took him awhile to get straight. Then I turned on the machine and the last 12 inches of seam were completed in seconds! “No wonder they called it IronWoman!” he exclaimed.

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Speaking of fantastic inventions, here is a great demonstration video of McCormick’s Reaper. The machine in the video is 174 years old!

We played telephone around the house on telephone day. I also jumped on the chance to sneak in a little practical life skills lesson. We made sure to reinforce our important phone numbers in our memory banks and we practiced correct phone etiquette. We don’t have a house phone so this was an area I knew my children needed help in since they have never had to answer a phone before. It was great practice for them!

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Our Classical Conversations community announced that they would be holding a science fair and I was ecstatic to see that it coincided with our Inventors unit.

The boys were able to select a topic that interested, ask questions, conduct research, keep a logbook, make a hypothesis, record materials needed, run through the procedure (with adult assistance) and then record conclusions and analysis. They employed the scientific method, which they use every week during their experiments at their Classical Conversations community.  Our eldest chose to experiment with dew traps and investigated the process of obtaining water to sustain life in semi arid regions. Our second born built rotors and ran tests on a homemade wind turbine to determine how much weight it could lift.  As you can see from the picture above, everyone showed up for the test runs!

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The boys decorated their project board and took their displays to the science fair. We loved getting to see all the other science experiments there. I highly recommend joining in on a science fair. Ask local private schools or county fair or community groups if they are willing to include homeschool projects and be sure to obtain their rules and procedures list.

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We’ve got the innovation bug over here now and I don’t doubt that the boys will be inventing all sorts of things in the coming weeks!

MFW Adventures: Pioneers on the Plains

Time for Pioneers on the Plains! We loved our book basket readings and the selection of stories from American Pioneers and Patriots. After we finished all our reading, we gathered round the table and talked about the remarkable timeline of pioneer life we have taken in this year. We made a list of all the greatest virtues and attributes these pioneers possessed and we made a lovely poster to hang in our class.

The boys have been melancholy this week, knowing that Adventures is drawing to a close. They are quiet and working slowly through their last assignments. They asked to revisit some of our favorite Pioneer projects from earlier in the year and I agreed that they could each pick a few activities.

We made homemade bread and butter. We packed a “pioneer picnic” and ate it outside under the trees. We played “Pioneers” in the backyard for at least an hour each day. With no girls around its tough to play Little House on the Prairie, but they have managed to create their own story line about the Ingalls prairie cousins the “Ingsons” <–see what they did there? “Luke”, “Mark” and “Carson” played on the prairie this week and had a ball.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

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“In Grandma’s Attic” is a perfect way to end the year. We gathered some of our buttons in a jar and the boys have been playing with them as we read aloud. They make button animals or use the buttons to decorate play doh trees. They sort them by size and shape or by color. They ask questions about their own grandmothers and great grandmothers and I have spent many hours this week reading and retelling our own family stories.  I found a fun looking basket at a thrift store a few months ago and I have decided to make it our button basket. I’ll be asking our relatives to send any fun buttons they don’t mind parting with for our basket. Its been such fun to play with and enjoy something small and simple while we tell and enjoy stories.

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Birds are suddenly back in full force! I loved comparing their bird drawings this week to the ones they produced earlier in the year. The Blue Jay and House Sparrow drawings were especially sweet this week.

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I always have the boys copy out a bit of the information from our Birds, Nests and Eggs book to accompany their drawing. We use spiral bound nature journals from Classical Conversations and they have held up nicely throughout the year. I love the little nature quote interspersed throughout.

The boys have grown in remarkable ways this year. Their individual tastes are becoming more refined and specific. Their passions are starting to take shape. I am already starting to plan how I will help cultivate these interests in the coming year.

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MFW Kindergarten: Sun

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He was so excited to start the “Ss-Sun” unit. He practically bounced into the classroom and was so eager to learn, he could not sit still! I think it was the perfect image to sear into my heart as a reminder that this year is all about cultivating a deeper love of learning. We had a quick meeting about the week. I let him know what we would be learning about and what activities were coming up and then told him to please let me know if he wanted to know more or explore any other topics related to the sun. “This is an adventure and we get to be explorers together!” We started off by spending lots of time OUTSIDE, soaking up some Vitamin D and enjoying the warmth. He built a beautiful teepee with his brothers and a few friends.

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And they spent nearly an hour whipping up a “salad” out of all the treasures they had foraged.

His first exploration question was a funny one. “Why do Cowboys ride off into the sunset in stories?” This required a bit of research, so after completing his handwriting sheet, he went outside with his brother and rode on his horse swing while his big brother read a “Billy and Blaze” story aloud. These are the two siblings that quarrel the most often, so even if no “scientific” questions were explored, they shared a sweet moment together and I have photographic evidence. Total win.

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Target sells cheap little lacing toys in their dollar section. We bought one, and I will confess, I bought the cards for the box they came in. Perfect tracing tool set! A compartment to hold a letter card and a bigger section to fill with a handful of play sand.  He had a lot of fun tracing out the letter “S” and showing it off to his big brothers. I also let him try and trace the letters he knew while working on our “A-a-Apple” song.

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We brought out the light tablet and built letters and made suns out of translucent geo shapes. His little brother joined in on the fun.

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I surprised him with a “sunset” bath. Filling the tub with water, I dropped in two color tablets to make orange water. Then I gave him a muffin tin filled with shaving cream I had colored beforehand. He had various sunset colors in the palette and he loved getting to paint a sunset on the wall.

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Whenever his brothers were working on their independent art projects or handicrafts, our favorite kindergartner would make a run for the crayon stash and draw this same picture over and over and over again. A sun with the word “JESUS” scrawled in the middle. He was proud of each and every one. Aside from his own name, this is the first word he has learned to write and spell correctly on his own.

We purchased some kite paper and made these lovely Waldorf stars to catch the morning light. Folding this lovely paper is a bit addicting!

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When Day 4 rolled around he was ready with a few new questions, specifically the role the sun plays in the process of photosynthesis. We watched the photosynthesis episode of “Magic School Bus” which led to questions about plant cells. We pulled out our Brock Magiscope and checked out a cross section of a pine needle. Our property is packed with pine trees and we loved getting a closer look at one tiny cell and then walking outside and marveling at our lovely giants. His closing observation, “God’s creation is amazing and he cares about every single little thing. Even me!”  No handouts, no complicated worksheets, just great conversation and a taste of good things to come.

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On our walk we also looked at a compass and I explained how it worked. I taught him to orient himself with N,S,E and W on our property so that he can begin to relate his stories with directions when relating his nature adventures. We are striving to closely model Charlotte Mason methods in a few specific areas and nature study/play is one of them!

We loved the book basket recommendations given by MFW on our first time through the curriculum. We are sticking with it this time too! And its safe to say, that he loved each and every one. We have also added long term reads to his Morning Meeting time, with a majority of the selections based off of ambleside online‘s list. We are starting to read through “Now We are Six” by AA Milne along with the entire collection of Beatrix Potter’s works. I am hoping to get through them all this year during our Morning Meeting!

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We decided to do a different variation on the sun dial. We picked our favorite young tree in the yard and tied pieces of yarn to its trunk and stretched out the yarn in the direction of its shadow every two hours. It made such a pretty, colorful wheel on the grass.

We started our grapes on the dashboard of our car and after the toddler ate them (twice) while I was loading the car for various events, I gave up on them. We made fun prints with black construction paper and tiny dinosaur toys. We ate a yummy sun snack—a clementine with pretzel rods rays and we made three batches of Sun Tea.

Our Sun badge is finished and tacked to the wall of the schoolroom. I know a few people have made beautiful quilts with patches made throughout their K year, but I think that lovely quilt would be the death of me. We have opted for a white Tshirt from Michaels and a set of Tshirt markers. He gets to draw something for each week and on the 6th day of study, he wears the shirt. Good times. Simple times.

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MFW Adventures: Transcontinental Railroad

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Anybody else play Ticket to Ride allllllll week long? The boys were eager for rematches whenever possible and they ended up playing at least twice a day.  We would read from various books in-between games.

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We had a great “Railroad Day” which consisted of….
1) BEGGING my kids to try a bite of Irish Oats for breakfast. (They are not oatmeal fans).
2) The boys donning their engineer overalls and we read American Pioneers & Patriots account of immigrants building the transcontinental railroad. Fetching rails and water and food and supplies—we decided to make a game of it!
3) Splitting into two teams of two and using every bit of wooden track we had to race to the middle of the room. I had set the tracks up in a different room and one brother had to run and fetch rails and bring them back into the building room. They also had to squeeze one snack run in there (apples + water). The boys had to drink the water, finish their snack and build more track than the other team in order to win. Team “We Hate Potato Famines” won by a hair!  Team “Ten Mile Dragon” was pretty bummed.
4) We had fried rice for lunch and read “Coolies” (more info below).
5) We played more rounds of “Ticket to Ride.”
6) We read “Iron Horses” and “Locomotive” while enjoying a railroad track snack (pretzels stuck together with chocolate hazelnut spread.

It was a really fun day! Here is a quick review of the books we read:

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Iron Horses by Verla Kay. History told in rhyming quatrains! The boys liked reading this one aloud in “locomotive” voices, they really caught the cadence!

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Coolies by Yin. Excellent early Chinese American history read aloud.  After reading the Irish perspective in American Pioneers & Patriots, I was on the hunt for something from the Chinese perspective. This fit the bill!

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Locomotive by Brian Floca. My boys were a less interested in the story and more intrigued by the illustrations. They spent an entire afternoon, working on similar illustrations for their journals.

Online Resources
Interactive Transcontinental Railroad
Central Pacific Online Railroad Museum
List of Links related to Railroad History

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This week was a prime example of why I love using MFW.  I love that we have wiggle room to add fun and wacky days, like “Railroad Day” and still have room for lots of rich learning. Its good to know that I don’t need to pack their day to the hilt for them to walk away having experienced truth, goodness and beauty. Even as we shift closer and closer to being strictly Charlotte Mason, I am still holding onto MFW because I see how my kids are flourishing with it.

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!