Year 4: Ancient History, Term 1 Wk 1-2

My children skipped summer break. Yes, you read that right. They were SO excited to start  Ancient History from Beautiful Feet Books and continue on with Right Start Math and IEW and all the rest that they canceled their own summer break. We’re giving year round schooling a try. Six week on, one week off. Something tells me we will be sticking with it for a long time.  In these posts I will be sharing about our studies with an in depth look at how we blend Charlotte Mason and Classical Education. This first post is heavy on the set up and light on the practical blending, but as time moves on I’ll have more room for greater specificity. Here is a look at our first two weeks on the new schedule.

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Morning Time:
Genesis 1-20
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Hymn: “O God Our Help in Ages Past.”
Giotto Tended the Sheep by Opal Wheeler
Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolio: Giotto
Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois
Poem: “The Moon” by Robert Louis Stevenson, “Opportunity” By Edward Sill
Biography: “Mathematicians are People, Too. Vol. 2” by Luella Reimer
Geography: Visits to Africa
Handwriting: Classical Conversations Prescripts
Composer: Corelli and Vivaldi

Ancient History with Beautiful Feet Books
Let’s begin by saying that this guide is geared for 4th grade-7th grade in the Intermediate section, which is the first half of the book, and 8th-12th grade in the Advanced Section, which is found in the second half of the book. My two boys are now in 4th grade so I am making adjustments as needed since they are at the very bottom of the recommended age range. The first four lessons of the guide cover Creation- Hammurabi.

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I love how open-ended Beautiful Feet Books is. Enough direction to keep us on track but the overall unscripted assignments allow us to really follow our interests for each section which is so life-giving and keeps the boys engaged, invested and eager to dig for more!

One of the main texts used in the first four lessons is a TEXTBOOK called Streams of Civilizations. It is obviously not a living book and to be honest, if I read every word aloud my kids would have probably run away screaming.  I took time before we started this unit and read through the first assigned chapters of Streams of Civilizations so that I could have a grasp of where things were headed. I marked interesting sections to read aloud to the boys and then I went in search of living books that explained the unmarked sections in a more engaging way. I’ll add our book list at the end of the post.

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A couple of set up notes for everyone following along. The boys will be filling out a standard composition notebook for their Ancient History study. Maps, narrations, drawings, terms, research etc. are contained within. The boys have dubbed them “Field Journals.” We also have picture story pads from Miller Pads & Paper for all of their Bible reading narrations. Secretly, I am using these notebooks to ease them over to more formal written narrations. We divide the scripture reading over a period of a few days and each time we read the boys narrate the story, then we get out our Bible Journals (picture story pads) and they illustrate what they learned. On a separate sheet of notebook paper they write out a few sentences/short paragraph about the story in their own words. I check for any spelling mistakes and then the sentences are written out once more in their best handwriting in the notebook. (All spelling mistakes are added to a list and then worked on at the end of the day). The written narrations will lengthen over time. We are also using a Book of Centuries from Miller Pads & Paper and updating it every day.

Lesson 1
We stretched the first lesson out over a period of three days.  We spent the first day reading through the entire Genesis account of creation, narrating and discussing it. Day two was spent reading about evolution and going through Streams of Civilizations.  The third day was spent further discussing terms found in the Streams of Civilization book. Everything from uniformitarianism to sequence dating. I am a bit surprised that the kids were so excited about their glossaries! We read additional living books each day and on the third day we also read several living books about archeology and anthropology and even went on a “dig” in the backyard to uncover some chicken bones I had buried the day before. Have you checked out  the newly released film “Is Genesis History?” The boys and I saw it in the theater a few weeks before our study began and it was such a helpful starting point for our discussions about Creation, Evolution and the Flood. We spent the remainder of our time on the third day researching the bronze age before the lesson migrated to the backyard with the boys all fashioning spears and weapons out of rocks. I probably should have seen that coming.

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Lesson 2
I really love that the moment we opened our book about Noah, a rainstorm began outside. It felt like a hug from the Lord. When the boys were younger we looked at Peter Spier’s book Noah’s Ark and the flood account in the Bible beginning in Genesis 6. This time we also added in the phenomenal Tom Dooley book, The True Story of Noah’s Ark The boys responded so well to it that I am now considering a trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky this fall so they can see the Ark replica. We spent a full day on the Flood topic and made sure to read flood accounts from around the world. We also discussed geological studies about the flood which were quite fascinating. On our second day with lesson two we read an excellent account about Sumer, Akkad and Sargon in the book “Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors” by Lorene Lambert. This book is EXCEPTIONAL and a much better read than the Streams of Civilization account. I did highlight a few terms and excerpts to go over with the children from Streams after we finished reading from Lambert’s book.  We brought out some Crayola Terra Cotta Air Dry Clay 2.5 lb Bucket and wrote our names in the cuneiform language using popsicle sticks.

Lesson 3
Ziggurats. These kids were captivated by ziggurats. They built several versions of ziggurats out of legos while I read stories about Mesopotamia, Babylon and the Tower of Babel. When it was time to read about Abram and trace the map of his journey the boys sat up a bit straighter and pointed with wide eyes to the city of Aleppo, which we just discussed at the end of our Exploring Countries and Cultures study. I always try to compare the ancient maps to the modern day maps so the boys can see where everything is now.  We pulled out our giant timeline to see how things were weaving together. My eldest mused at the end of the lesson, “Ancient history still really matters today doesn’t it? Its hard to talk about anything political if you don’t understand the history of a place.”

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Lesson 4
Again, Lorene Lambert saves the day. Don’t get me wrong, Streams of Civilization is helpful, but nothing beats a living books account of a topic you want your children to experience and bond with. Her account of Babylon, Nebechednezzer and Hammurabi was excellent. We made sure to visit the Louvre for a close look at the Code of Hammurabi stele.  The boys made more recordings in their notebooks. We also took our first look at the beginnings of the Egyptian Civilization and the boys were completely captivated.

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Lesson 4.5
Ok there is no lesson 4.5, but I wanted to read about the Assyrians, Hittites and Persians so I made a lesson 4.5. Plus, the kids were begging to learn more about the Indus River Valley Civilizations from our Classical Conversations Timeline.  We mainly used Lorene Lambert’s book but we also included a few living books found in the list below. We also pulled out our Pin it! Maps for some more geography practice and a chance for the boys to narrate a bit about life along these four rivers. We spent another chunk of time talking about irrigation and drawing plans for a system in our orchard.

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Science
We did an in depth animal study for science during these lessons. We studied camels! What unbelievable fascinating creatures they are! Our two primary texts happen to be out of print books, but you can visit any public library and find plenty of great books on camels!

Since we happened to study no less than FIVE major rivers these past two weeks: the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus during Ancient History study and the Yangtze river during my first grader’s FIAR study. we decided to conduct a few experiments with stream flow.
We also went online to see photos and video of the headwaters for each river.

We butchered a pig on our farm last weekend and the boys helped us to package everything. We also saved some of the organs for dissection and microscope inspection.

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Math
We are now using Right Start Math and LOVING IT. Once we have worked on our daily portion of History, we take a quick break and return for a math lesson and some games. For those unfamiliar with Right Start, the program comes with a spiral bound book of Math Games that helps children gain greater fluency in their math skills. It is not unusual to find my children playing these games together long after math is over. We take breaks between every subject and right now, math is the time of day when the kids forgo the break and keep chipping away at their games and lessons.  The transition from Saxon has been much more fluid than I initially anticipated. We started a level lower than they were at with Saxon and I am so glad we did! I can’t believe how many foundational things my children had missed out on. They’re already demonstrating a greater understanding of mathematics. They aren’t just giving answers, they can now explain the WHY behind their answers. I am finding that this program is extremely helpful for my dyslexic learner. He has loved using his abacus and everything is flowing so much faster now.

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Latin
We are progressing well with our Memoria Press Latin. After a solid year of Latin its great to hear the boys come across a derivative in their regular reading and hear them chirp out the Latin word it comes from.  “Ha! Navigate. That SO comes from navigo.”

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We are still faithfully chipping away at Student Writing Intensive Level A as we prepare for our first upcoming year of Essentials. I am seeing tremendous improvement in my children as they work through this program. My twice exceptional son (dyslexia and creatively gifted) is flourishing right now. He loves the assignments and appreciates their meaty brevity. I’ll be posting more in depth about this program in the weeks to come!

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Music
Our History of Classical Music Study from Beautiful Feet Books takes place every Friday morning. After taking up so many new instrument this year I realized that the time was ripe for capitalizing on this family interest. This study does not disappoint. We complete one lesson each week and we could not be happier with our lessons. We seem to have fallen into the habit of preparing a cup of cocoa and gathering round our CD player as we listen to our Music Masters CDs. My eldest usually draws while he listens and my second born works on his knitting or crochet work. We are recording our work in these lovely lesson books.

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Friday Exam
Our last two Friday exams were a blend of oral questions from the Streams of Civilizations tests and narrations from the boys about what stuck out most in their minds. They have vivid recall of every battle I mentioned in the past two weeks. They also carried forward quite a bit about Sargon and the flooding of the Nile each year in Egypt.  If you don’t know about our Friday exams, you can read about them here.

Symposium
Friday afternoons will never be the same! After lunch I let my youngest children watch Mr Rogers neighborhood on my laptop and the older kids and I cozy up on the couch and we discuss, debate, ask questions and exchange ideas on things we learned throughout the week. This has become our prime time for witnessing the fruits of blending Charlotte Mason and Classical Education. We pull out our timeline cards and retrieve some of our cycle 1 memory work from Classical Conversations. The exchange of bigger ideas begins to happen in this space and I am witnessing their slow transition to the dialectic phase. I often bring some sort of hands on work for us to do while we converse. A few weeks ago we ran stitches through canvas while discussing the sea voyage of Columbus in anticipation of our visit to the Niña and Pinta replicas. This task made a tactile connection in their brain about Columbus that built relationship to the event. Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education. Poetic knowledge is a powerful thing!

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Extra Curricular
The boys practiced their individual instruments after Blessing Hour and we put in our usual 5-6 hours on the mat training in mixed martial arts.  Handwork this term consists of wood whittling, crochet and basic hand sewing.

Book list for Ancient History Lessons 1-4(.5)
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lambert
The Creation Story for Children 
The Epic of Gilgamesh

The True Story of Noah’s Ark by Tom Dooley
Indus Valley City by Gillian Clements
Looking at Ancient History by RJ Unstead*
Land of the Two Rivers by Leonard Cottrell* (new print version released in 2012)
Archaeologists Dig for Clues (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
Birthdays of Freedom by Genevieve Foster*
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
DK Eyewitness Books: Mesopotamia
Adam’s Synchronological Chart or Map of History. (The GIANT timeline picture above!)
Camels: Ships of the Desert by John Waters*
Camels are Meaner than Mules by Mary Calhoun*

*=harder to find. Check abebooks, thriftbooks, Amazon Used, eBay and etsy.

MFW ECC Kenya

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After three weeks in Africa, we wrapped up this afternoon by reading through our favorite selections from our study, which was fitting because of all the great books we found for this study! I was nearly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of excellent book choices available this time around. We had a great time drawing pictures, building model homes for the various regions in Africa out of clay and practicing our beadwork while I read aloud.

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One of our first books was “Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions” by Margaret Musgrove.
26 Traditions through the alphabet explored. This book sparked their curiosity in many different directions. We took a closer look at the Ikoma people of Tanzania and their use of small birds to lead them to honey for gathering. We read up on the Tuareg people and were fascinated by the veiled, largely silent males in the culture and the unveiled womens position of great respect as they told stories and recited poetry.

Next we read “Bringing the Ran to Kapiti Plain” by Verna Aardema and then we went full steam into our study of the African savannah.

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We were able to read 8 books while the boys drew out a landscape of the grasslands. Then the younger two went to work with modeling clay while the older two did some map work on their Pin it Maps. We made sure to pin all the regions we read about in the books we looked at this morning and it really helped solidify these places in their mind when they could trace borders and take note of local land water forms.

The boys also enjoyed looking through their Dad’s photo album of his months spent in Kenya. They loved seeing the great variety of animals and the sight of their Dad, young and free, exploring Kenya and making friends overseas.

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For the past four years we have raised money as a family to give to Heifer International each Christmas. With advent right around the corner, I was quite pleased to find the book “One Hen” which tells of the story of “how one small loan made a big difference.” This story had everyones wheels turning, not just about our coming donation to Heifer, but about other ways to help stimulate business opportunity and growth in poorer areas of the world. My eldest remarked that he wanted to find ways to help families become self sufficient and take pride and joy in their work. The boys each wrote out a small composition about small business loans and filed it away in their ECC notebooks.

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I recently posted about our Friday Exam, we split the three weeks of study between North and East Africa, West Africa and South Africa, holding a Friday exam each week to cap off. Things I never thought to see on my dining room table? Weaverbird nests, termite hill cross sections, secretary birds and long giraffe tongues.

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Our nature notebook has started to pick up steam now that the summer steam is lessening. We went for a lovely hike early one morning last week and had several new experiences even though it was a familiar trail. I love that about nature! We got very close to a blue heron and were able to hear its strange call. We found raccoon tracks, a few dragon fly specimens and photographed several specimens of wild orchid.

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We came home and journaled together, only to discover that on the same day last year we also saw a blue heron! An exciting moment for us! We are still using the nature journals from Classical Conversations and its wonderful to see how their work has progressed over time.

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“King if the Wind” by Marguerite Henry was our lunch time read aloud for this study alongside the Christian heroes Then and Now  edition of David Livingstone.  The days are slowly ripening into perfect outdoor reading weather and I have a feeling we’ll be doing the vast majority of our schoolwork outdoors this winter. We start Marco Polo’s account of his journey on Monday and I can’t wait!

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There are a few resources that we use for each study, without exception, that I do not mention every time I post. They are:

1) Planet Earth DVDs  and One Small Square series by Donald Silver for Biome Study. These two together have replaced Properties of Ecosystems for us. We journal and illustrate pages from the Square books and then watch Planet Earth. We still do all the experiments listed in the TM.

2) Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel*
3) Material World by Peter Menzel*
*These books have been much more interesting and engaging than the majority of the Geography pages assigned in our TM. Oftentimes we skip those entirely and just learn about the countries using these two books along with the book basket recommendations and…
4) Give Your Child the World by Jamie Martin. This is a book of book lists organized by area and country. Its fantastic and has enriched our year.

5)  Pin It Maps. We use the individual country maps, world map, land and water forms and country flag maps.

6) Around the World in 80 Pages by Antony Mason. This little book takes the children through the countries on the various continents. The last few weeks we read through its descriptions of North Africa, East Africa, West Africa, South Africa and portions of the middle east. It really made the continent of Africa so much more vivid for my children and helped them understand that Africa is not one giant plain covered in grass and full of elephants and lions and giraffes. It gave depth and perspective and contrast. Such a great little book!
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Africa Book List

Rain School by James Rumford
Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrave
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema (also a Reading Rainbow episode!)
Two Ways to Count to Ten: A Liberian Folktale by Ruby Dee
Seven Spool of Thread by Angela Mediars
Owen & Mzee by Isabella Hatkoff
We all Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs
Africa is Not a Country by Margy Burns Knight
Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier
Jaha and Jamil Went Down the Hill: African Mother Goose by Virginia Kroll
The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela by Cristina Kessler
My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me by Maya Angelou
One Hen by Katie Smith Milway
My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tolowa Mollel

I have dropped the ball on crafts, thanks to our focus on handiwork. We haven’t really opened Global Art much of late because of everything else we have going on, especially with crochet and knitting. But I do love some of the crafts in the book so I’m going to try and be a bit more diligent about setting time aside for the boys to make these things.

Next up–the Middle East!

MFW ECC: North America/United States Part 2

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Our second week of United States study happened to fall over the 4th of July! Love when things work out that way.

The boys used their Pin it! Maps every day this week! It woke up one morning and found them hard at work on their maps. I drank my tea (while it was still hot) and just stared at them.  Getting to this place felt like the longest, messiest road trip ever and yet it felt like only minutes had transpired. They can start their day without me. They can start their lessons without me. An idea sparks and they know how to chase it and explore it. It took a lot of intentional repetition to get them here. We still have a long way to go, but we see the light! woo-hoo!

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Let me establish something before I get into the hard stuff. I love My Father’s World. I love the company, I love their dedication to spreading God’s word and their work in Bible translation. I love that my boys first years in education have been spent with this company. Ok, now that I have said the above….

I have mentioned in other posts that Exploring Countries and Cultures has already been a bit of a let down. I was bummed with the science but as time marched on I realized that the “Exploring World Geography” book would also be a “no go” for us.  We tried to do several of the worksheets and the kids never remembered what they were about the next day. I may take a few ideas from the book and use a few pages for group activities, but I definitely will not hand each child an enormous stack of handouts and ask them to mow through it all. (UPDATE: Just fond out the EWG is meant for slightly older students, which makes sense. It was scheduled in the regular learning cycle schedule so it looked as though they were recommending it for lower level students. So skipping EWG is not a big deal at all!)

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So the boys will be exploring the world this year on their own terms. We will still follow the ECC schedule, use POE as a guideline, complete the student sheets and recommended reading and of course, use MFW for Bible.

Last night I let them stay up late with all of their library books and they took notes and drew pictures and dug for treasure in those pages. I came back in and they were so excited to tell me all that they had discovered!

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We are midway through our Morning Time materials. Our Simply Charlotte Mason studies of Chopin and Monet are going so well. The boys have learned two hymns by heart, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” and “To God be the Glory.” They are working on their sculpting together and my seven year old is making strides with his knitting. We are about to move on to hats and hand towels because we only need so many scarves here in South Florida.

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We had so much fun learning about trees this week! The boys really enjoyed taking a close look at different species of trees in the various forests and learning about the ecosystems they are a part of.

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Of course there is nothing like experiencing the real thing. This guy is about 30 feet in the air. He has always been a climber. Once he started crawling, he started climbing and he has never stopped.

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My husband and the boys traveled up to Philadelphia, PA for the 4th of July weekend. It was so wonderful to celebrate the birth of our nation where it all started. They even snuck in a Phillies game with their grandparents!

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So with all that I shared in this post I’ll end with saying that its hard when expectations are not met. But homeschooling requires constant evaluation and reevaluation. We know our children best and I am so glad that I can make changes as needed for my children. I love that they can really dig into their learning and make it their own. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks to come about how we “chase the spark.”

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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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