MFW: Exploring Countries & Cultures–Getting Ready!


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!


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.

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.


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.


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
2nd semester- Guitar (8yo)
Saxophone (7yo)
Classical Conversations (tin whistle, orchestra study, composer study, artist study)

6) Handwriting
Classical Conversations Prescripts

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

8) Handicrafts
leather work
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.


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!




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.


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.

We plan to incorporate these books with ECC!


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 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!



MFW Adventures: Ohio Pioneers


This past week, I opened American Pioneers & Patriots and began reading the story of the O’Neill family heading down the Ohio River.

The boys were decidedly not interested.


I knew attention and participation would be an all day, uphill battle.

I was not in the mood for that.


So I took some cardboard and the hot glue gun and built a flatboat. Then, I asked the boys to bring out the aluminum foil. We walked to the driveway with a bucket of chalk. I sketched out the states surrounding the Ohio River.

We set the foil out along the line of the river and curved the side up high. The eldest grabbed plastic teepees, warriors and canoes. The six year old held the raft and began gathering “supplies.” Little leaves, tiny berries, small stick to use as rifles.


We poured water into the Ohio river and the cardboard raft achieved lift off.

The boys were thrilled. As I read aloud from our book, they acted out each page. They asked thoughtful questions that sent me running to the computer for more information. They played with this set up for hours. Long after I had finished our assigned reading and the extra books in our basket, they played on.

I sat in a green lawn chair and hummed through Over the Rhine’s Ohio album.

By the end of the day, the water had leaked out and washed away the chalk. The next day, the boys ran out of the house with a laminated map in hand. Together they determined where the boundaries of each states should be. They carefully reshaped the Ohio river and even thought to elevate one end with flat rocks to help the stream flow in the right direction.


Its good to change the scenery sometimes. Its good to give their small hands something to do while they absorb information.

Before starting “On the Banks of Plum Creek,” I handed each boy a bowl, tweezers and an ear of Indian corn. They pried kernels loose while I read. We are collecting all these colorful kernels for our upcoming Thanksgiving unit.  I love the concentration they exhibit during this exercise. The silence is also pretty fantastic.
We read five or six books on Johnny Appleseed this week. Our whole week was infused with apples! I made apple dumplings for the boys to eat while I read aloud from Margaret Hodges book. We sliced apples in half and used them to stamp butcher paper. We carefully folded up our project and stored it away  for next month, we’ll be using the long rolls of apple stamped paper to wrap up presents for family. My five year old collected dozens of apple seeds and we used them as counters for our math lessons. The boys learned a great deal about John Chapman’s character this week.  I believe it is the first time they have ever truly considered the idea of legacy. They are starting to wonder if they could change the world around them, even in a small, yet still significant, way. I pulled out Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. After reading about the transformation Miss Rumphius ignites in her neighborhood, I charged the boys to begin thinking of ways they could impact our neighborhood for Christ. I am looking forward to hearing what they come up with!

We have been studying kingdoms and classifications in Classical Conversations this year. We used a few of our science worksheets and lab sheets to reinforce our MFW Science. The boys really enjoyed this exercise in particular.  

Animal Kingdom Notebook Printables helped flesh out our Animal Kingdom Classification Books. Divider pages for each different kingdom are provided. The boys filled in facts about each one and went through a pile of magazines and cut out animals for each category as an “end divider” for each kingdom. Now as we study various animals we encounter in stories, on nature walks, or in our curriculum, we can draw their picture, record facts and file them behind the appropriate kingdom.


Team B enjoyed many fun projects and games throughout the week with their Year of Playing Skillfully curriculum. Team A joined in the fun! They still need heavy doses of play throughout their day. Pumpkin volcanoes and a Van Gogh study kept hands and minds engaged during breaks this week.

We also had the opportunity to watch a free performance of “Peter and the Wolf” at our local library. I was amazed at how much the boys remembered from their study last year during My Father’s World 1st grade. They called out the names of different instruments and characters and remembered the majority of the plot line.


We are getting ready to study “The Nutcracker” in a few weeks. I have finished compiling all the assignments and we will complete the entire unit before attending the show! We can’t wait!


Art Appreciation + Resource List

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.”—Charlotte Mason

I want art to be a part of the mold that serves to shape my children into the adults they will one day be.

Art trains our eyes to behold life with wonder. Studying art adds texture to our history timeline. Art adds depth to stories and breathes life into our everyday academics. Art provides a space for souls to encounter and reflect.  Art calls us to create. Art is a valuable and worthy use of our time.

Teaching children to appreciate art felt like a daunting prospect when I first started. While my lovely sister was always supremely gifted with art, I was gifted in the art of hacking together a *good enough* project. I could *kind of* make art. I certainly knew how to appreciate various forms of art, but in the execution department, I was sorely lacking. When it came time to teach my children, I felt a bit overwhelmed and more than a little underprepared.


One child loved art, one child hated it. One child loved to make and break, one child could not bear to touch anything weird. One child loved Picasso and Monet, one child repeatedly asked “is this over yet?”

IMG_4479All of them are growing to love and appreciate art.

When did that happen? It happened over time. Growing up with art takes time.
If you’ve been following, you know I am not a “Top Ten Ways to” or “How to Perfect…” kind of blogger. But I do love me some philosophy of Education. After tons and tons of reading over the years, I have learned to approach any subject I teach like some weird Classical/Charlotte Mason Ninja with Montessori-ish throwing stars sporting a Fred Rogers Tshirt. Whether its the Trivium, or Charlotte’s 4 R’s (Reading, Reasoning, Relating, Recording), when I approach something I have a system in mind and a mantle of compassion and grace balanced precariously on my shoulders. Ahem, and *reinforcements in the pantry. *Read: chocolate and wine.
For me, Art is all about the E’s.

Expose, Encounter, Explore, Express, Emulate.

This is, somehow, the simplest and most difficult of all the steps. There has to be a purposeful step taken towards including quality art in your home. You have to go out of your way to bring it inside. You have to decide to mix it into your everyday life.
The paintings pictured above are part of an art study called, Enjoying Art Together, from My Father’s World. They helped me get the ball rolling back in the days of little to no quality art. I would hold up one painting before breakfast and lunch. I would not say a word. I would just hold it up and the kids would look at it. I would display it on the server next to our table between meals. I would leave the other paintings around the house where the kids would find them. Art books and puzzles started popping up around the house. Art sprang up around the home wherever the kids looked. They lived with art.
Then I cracked open the books and read stories. My goal was to engage them with each painting. I started to ask questions, “What colors are used in this painting? How does that color make you feel? What are these people doing? Is it sunny where they are? How do you know?” Then they asked each other questions. They would look and look into a painting until they came up with a story about each one. Some stories were quite lovely, I will never forget my eldest son’s interpretation of Renoir’s “A girl with a watering can,” it was simple and heart achingly sweet. Nor will I forget my cheeky four year old’s story about Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles.”

“Forest made of spaghetti, my name is Blue and I DON’T like you. You show up on my plate on Thursdays and I wish you were tacos. Stop making me into blue forks, when all I want is to be free to love a taco.” 

Deep stuff, I know.

Surface value questions that lead to internal interpretation of what the artwork relates to them. That is pretty much the goal.

We start to look into how these pieces of art were made. I call their attention to certain elements. I slip in vocabulary words and touch on techniques. They repeat words back to me and then the new questions start. Michelangelo used marble? Where did it come from? How long did it take to haul out each piece? How long did he train to do this? What were his days like and how did that impact what he made? What other sculptures did he make? Do you have a favorite?

Lets think about these cave paintings. Where did all the different colors come from? What materials can we gather if we were to make this painting? Could we make this painting in another form? How would it look as a sculpture? watercolor? mixed media? The more artists and artwork we add to our vocabulary the more depth this step begins to have. For example, my seven year old choosing to paint triptychs based off of woodcuts from one of his favorite storybooks using brushes he made out of sticks and ferns from the back hollow. This idea sprang from a dozen sources and converged upon our dining room table one random rainy afternoon.
Technically, they have been expressing all along! Their reaction to the initial art exposure, their questions and answers as they encountered art, their research and response as they explored the artwork. Now I gather all those balloons, tie them together, hand them over to my children and watch the lift off. This is the place where ideas and concepts mesh together and my children have the opportunity to express what they have learned. They talk about the odds and ends they have gathered and the different ways they employed each piece. This is probably my favorite portion of the process. We have moved from questions to conversation. Its a beautiful step and always takes the most unexpected shapes. In Classical education, every single subject is interconnected and it really shows when we reach this portion. Science, history, geography, math, language— all of it comes into play. Art and academics serve to enrich each other. Its rather thrilling. 🙂 IMG_4911Emulate
Now we go back to the beginning and look at the piece anew. I bring out texts or tools and we try and learn some techniques together. We recall the vocabulary we learned as we explored. We remember lines and shades and shapes we studied. Then we emulate what we have processed. It is easier to do this step after we have formed a friendship with the artist. We just had tea in a cozy Parisian cafe. Remember that crazy waiter who kept dropping the hot croissants? The night sounded like a lone trumpet and the breeze knew every hair on our heads. We can learn how to paint these elements now that we have spent days with them. Of course, it will never be the same breeze. It won’t be the exact waiter. We know this. We keep trying and we keep learning, and in our minds, we see the painting we want. We encourage our hands to keep trying.

Sometimes kids freak out when their art doesn’t match up to the idea in their minds. Sometimes I freak out too. But we are doing this together, the kids and I. The chances are high that at least one of us can talk the rest of the group away from the ledge of artistic despair. (So many FEELINGS in art class! Ay yi yi!) We remind each other, “Emulate might look more like an Echo, for now.” (or forever, in my case). Art is not a perfectly executed machine. I don’t ask for or require perfection. Art is chance to demonstrate what they have learned and showcase their experience with it. The children’s Matisse renditions looked nothing like Matisse, but they felt like Matisse.

My eldest hated drawing for the longest time. But he persevered and continued to work hard. A few months ago, he drew this picture of his hero, George Washington.

Technique may not be perfect, but art has seeped into their pores and mingled with their thoughts and become impressed upon their cellular memory as they paint, mold, sculpt, paste, splatter and create.

Posts like this make me nervous. Don’t read perfection. Don’t think I have it all figured out. With four kids in the mix, we rarely have an art session that does not include tears or disappointment of some kind. Find a way to let art find its way into your home. Whatever that looks like for your family, just take the first step because it is a beautiful, valuable element of education that should not be overlooked.


Farmhouse Schoolhouse Favorite Art Resources

Donna Young: the whole site is full of ideas for various subjects. Donna’s art tab has great projects and directions for learning drawing techniques and perspectives. Very helpful!
Art History Mom: I really dig this site. Art History Mom has tons of project ideas based off of various famous pieces of art. We loved her Van Gogh Sunflower art project.
The Artful Parent: Pretty much everything in this site is great. “Simple ways to fill your family’s life with art & creativity.” Yes, please.
Filth Wizardry: Discovered this gem thanks to The Homegrown Preschooler. Messy art for kids. Huzzah!  #sayyes!
Jackson Pollock Painting Center: it comes up as a blank site. As you drag your cursor the lines appear and once you click it will switch over to a new color. No ads, no weird pop ups, just painting Pollock style. The tots LOVE this and I love it!
Picasso Head: Make Picasso heads with clip art. So much fun.
National Art Gallery for Kids: There is so much on this site, I don’t even know where to start. Check it out. My kids made a gorgeous landscape a few weeks ago using this site. It was really fun to watch unfold.

Art Studies~
Simply Charlotte Mason’s Picture Study Portfolio
My Father’s World Enjoying Art Together
Memoria Press Art Cards 
Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes

Book List~
Katie and the Picture Show by James Mayhew (Adorable little Katie visits Museums, crawls into pictures and goes on adventures. We love every. single. one.)
Katie and the Starry Night by James Mayhew
Katie and the Sunflowers by James Mayhew
Katie and the Bathers by James Mayhew
Katie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew
Katie and the Waterlily Pond by James Mayhew
Katie and the Spanish Princess by James Mayhew
Katie and the Mona Lisa by James Mayhew
Anholt’s Artists Books for Children by Laurence Anholt: This is a great series! We love “The Magical Garden of Claude Monet”
Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists:  Another great series by Mike Venezia. Your local library may even have some DVDs. Our boys adore Venezia’s story about Michelangelo.
Mini Masters Boardbooks: A series for toddlers. We love these. They have gotten really really pricey. I’m talking $40 on amazon for the Monet one. We found ours as a bundle on ebay. These are definitely cute but I wouldn’t break the bank to get them.
Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors by Jane O’Conner
Vincent Van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars by Joan Holub
Pablo Picasso: Breaking All the Rules by True Kelley
Tickle Tut’s Toes by Julie Appel
Make Van Gogh’s Bed by Julie Appel
Count Monet’s Lillies by Julie Appel
Maryann F. Kohl has fantastic art books! We have about 10 of them. We have found them for pennies at thrift stores and on used book sites. Global Art, Story Art and Discovering Great Artists are some of our favorites.
A Child’s Book of Art by Lucy Micklethwait
ANY COFFEE TABLE BOOK WITH GIANT PICTURES OF ART. Truly, get thee to a Barnes & Nobles and check out that huge clearance section of books. There is almost always a giant collection of art that you can buy for around $5. Its usually tucked behind “Weapons of the Civil War” and “Haunting Visions of Ireland.” Pictures. of. art. Go!
Paul Cezanne Block Puzzle: I know its not a book, but this one is too good not to share. Six paintings, one puzzle, big chunky blocks. We love ours.

Art Supplies typically not listed on other blogs~
Kraft Paper Rolls: I’m talking the ginormous 1000 ft rolls. They last a good year and a half or so and we use it every week. I just unroll enough to cover the table, cut and the kids can paint and practice new techniques or make a huge mural.
Plastic Egg Cartons: Yup. Ask your family to save them for you. Cut them apart so you have trays with six slots each. These are cheap, disposable paint palettes.
Twine: We use a surprising amount of twine. Mostly because the boys love making their own paintbrushes thanks to “Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin” by Marguerite Henry. (Story of American painter Benjamin West who grew up in a Quaker home, no art allowed, and made paint brushes out of his cat’s hair). We use the twine to bundle up pine needles or grass blades to sticks for a natural paint brush.
Vegetable/Fruit Scraps: Don’t throw that celery butt away. Hand it to your toddler to make celery stamps while you are teaching your older kids the basics of drawing. Keep those moldy strawberries and squish the juice out of them to make paint.
Grocery bags: Its not a bag anymore. Its a smock. Paper or plastic—it will work.
Standing Mirror: For self portraits.
Chocolate: For despair.
A camera: For documenting your child’s artwork and progress!