MFW Kindergarten: Sun

IMG_0768.JPG

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.

IMG_0856.JPG

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.

IMG_0655 2.JPG

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.

IMG_0666.jpg

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.

IMG_0994.jpg

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.

IMG_1011.jpg

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!

IMG_0193.JPG

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.

IMG_0109.JPG

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!

IMG_1006.JPG

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.

IMG_0211.JPG

MFW Adventures: Transcontinental Railroad

163993-050-BA6E766D.gif

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.

IMG_0159.JPG

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:

230xNxTranscontinental-Railroad-2.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Ey5QQXyWeM.jpg
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!

230xNxTranscontinental-Railroad-3.jpg.pagespeed.ic.GkGM_l9hjH.jpg
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!

51aQezX7EaL._SX446_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
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

IMG_0915.JPG

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

IMG_0917.JPG

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.
IMG_0937.jpg

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…
IMG_0938.jpg

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.

IMG_0655 2.JPG

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!

MFW Adventures: Abraham Lincoln

IMG_0527 2.JPG

We have spent the last two weeks learning about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. The boys picked up their Beautiful Feet Early American History Guide again and dove into Ingri D’Aulaire’s “Abraham Lincoln” which, like all D’Aulaire’s books, was a big hit with my kids. This book really brought Lincoln to life for them. Our conversations this week were centered around the importance of truthfulness, the discipline of hard work and the responsibility we have to stand up for justice.

My eldest son (age 8) was able to memorize the Gettysburg address over the two week period. We would spend 5 minutes at a time reviewing and adding a new line. This would happen on the way to the grocery store or before bedtime or while we waited for his brother’s soccer practice to wrap up. It was really great to see him accomplish a lengthier piece of work.

We spent so much time reading this week, desperately trying to catch up on the read alouds we missed while my throat was out of commission. I placed a large piece of kraft paper on the floor and the boys had their war plans laid out on it while I drank cup after cup of Throat Care and read. We did not make any fancy lap books or spend time with handouts. Other than a few coloring $1 coloring books from Dover on the various uniforms and weaponry of the Civil War, we mostly engaged with the battlefield below while listening to living book about the war.

IMG_0515 2.JPG

I also want to share one of our favorite productions from Audio Adventures: “With Lee in Virginia.” You can follow the link for information on the all star cast and how the production came together. We are huge G.A. Henty fans over here and I was over the moon when I discovered that Audio Adventures was producing so many of his stories. (We also have “Under Drake’s Flag”, “The Dragon and the Raven”, and “In Freedom’s Cause” all of which get an enthusiastic recommendation as well!) The boys were riveted by the story “With Lee in Virginia” and they listened to it several times over the past two weeks.

with-lee-in-virginia.jpg

Another treasured audio CD is from Greathall Productions, read by Jim Weiss. “Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America is a wonderful biographical CD. We could listen to Jim Weiss read all day long. His voice is just wonderful. (Last year, my son said he wanted to be Jim Weiss when he grew up!)

51NReCwniAL._SY300_QL70_.jpg

Here are a few of our favorite books from the pile we read:

Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters
Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale by Deborah Hopkinson
Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster *** This is a great book to flip through and read bits out of but it is definitely out of age range (2nd-3rd) as a main study. But we loved looking through it!

2515.jpg
Abe loved books. We decided to really celebrate that this week and the boys spent a lot of time enjoying their favorite books over and over. We had our monthly “PoetTreats” tea time this week to make sure we celebrated our favorite poems too. “PoetTreats” is always a special time for us. I decorate our table nicely and make their favorite tea and treats. Everyone gets to bring their current favorite poetry book and we go around the table reading poems out loud while we enjoy our snacks.

IMG_0579.JPG

To cap off our study of Abraham Lincoln, my husband took the boys out to the wood pile where they learned how to chop and split wood. They were all so eager to lend a helping hand and learn from their Dad.

IMG_0626.JPG

The second week of the study was spent learning about slavery and the Civil War. We enjoyed learning about the first submarines of the Civil War and the kids came up with some really fun designs for old war machines!

IMG_0575.JPG

I brought out a reproduction newspaper from the civil war era and we discussed how differently news traveled back then and how soldiers communicated with various camps and the people back home. Each boy got to pen a pretend letter containing important battle plans for another civil war captain to read. Then they had to be delivered by another soldier through the woods to the campsite. Lets just say, I am still finding bits of paper and the occasional wood rifle in the backyard. It was a busy day!

DSCN1075.JPG

We have taken a few “Civil War” field trips in the last year and half. Knowing that we’d be diving into Adventures and eventually studying the war between the states, I made an effort during our road trips to stop off and show the boys bits of history. Over Christmas we stopped off at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Last April, my Mom and I took the boys to Fort Sumter.

11070764_10152837083933616_5115634831366979972_n.jpg11169956_10152837084548616_1989544187006647334_n.jpg11196314_10152837084088616_7328637729812498822_n.jpg

We learned a great deal at the museum and this week I asked the boys to recall some of what they had learned. They remembered many, many details from the fort and the museum inside. My eldest described in great detail, the flag pictured below, which is the original flag that was flying over Fort Sumter when it was attacked.

11664_10152837084758616_8639301495559022254_n.jpg

My youngest remembered passing by the old Slave Mart (now a museum).

11182357_10152837086433616_988436123149154600_n.jpg

Slavery is a hard topic to explain to children. We are proud to be Americans but we also want to acknowledge the very terrible things our country has been a part of. Racism is especially heartbreaking to explain when your children are completely innocent that such a thing exists. They first heard about it last year during our Cycle 3 study with Classical Conversations. I read them wonderful books starting with the civil war era up through the civil rights movement and they were left feeling very confused. They would ask about their African American/African friends and family members and wonder what it was that subjected them to these horrible things. I was feeling a little anxious about starting that painful topic all over this year.

But this year, we had a few months of prior African History study in Cycle 1 of Classical Conversations. Hearing about the Songhai, Zanj and Zimbabweans, gave them a clearer picture of Africa and its history. We studied the start of the slave trade and its origins briefly to give them an idea of its full scope and long history.

We did read several books about the lives of slaves on southern plantations and their experiences in the underground railroad, but the most helpful book we read was, “Who Owns the Sun?” by Stacey Chbosky. Now at first my son could not stop saying “God!” in answer to the question so I had to start over and preface it by saying, “Yes, God owns everything. But this book is asking if any one man owns the sun?” and this helped us move on with the book.

By the last page there was not a dry eye around our table.

IMG_0450.jpg

I don’t think I will ever find an easy way to talk about slavery and/or racism, because it is a horrible and hard thing no matter how you approach it. Giving the boys a bit more background into the culture and discussing the topic of slavery in general, helped us understand the specifics of slavery in America a bit more clearly. Their tender hearts were pierced by this which was hard to watch but necessary for them to experience as they continue to grow in a world where racism is very much alive. We finished our time of study by praying to God and thanking Him for the life of Abraham Lincoln, who stood for up for justice and truth. We prayed for our country as we continue to be divided on issues of race. We prayed for our men in uniform overseas and here at home and for our leaders that govern our country.

MFW Kindergarten: Creation

And we’re off!

DSCN1067.JPG

Our main piece of “work” this unit was the Creation book and Creation numbers found in the student sheets. We combined both using a blank book from the Target dollar section. Numbers went on one page and the artist’s rendering went on the other. It got the job done and he is pretty proud to have his own Creation storybook to show off to cornered visitors and unwilling brothers.

IMG_0446.jpg
Our favorite creation books are:
The 7 Days of Creation by Mindy MacDonald ( A board book that is perfect if your K student has younger siblings always wanting to join in!)
The Creation Story for Children by Helen and David Haidle (pictured above. We love this book. It walks you through creation using scripture and then includes great facts about several unique animals before ushering in a special section directed at your child with tons of scripture verses about their relationship with God and creation)
The Story of Creation: God Made it for You! by Charles Lehman (a storybook version of creation)

This year, I decided to do “Creation Stations” for each day of creation.

Day 1: Dark and Light. We took a flashlight and a candle into the darkest room in our house. We talked about the ordering of light and dark and read our favorite bible verses about Jesus as the Light of the world. We also took time to play shadow puppets because its an awesome thing to do in a dark room with a flashlight. No educational correlation or deep meaning, just FUN.

Day 2: Water and Air. We dragged out the kiddie pools for some water play and brought along a few straws to blow things across the water. We filled various containers with water and sealed them and talked about the air trapped in the parts that looked empty. We opened up the hose and let the water flow downhill and placed different objects in its path to divert the flow of the stream. This led to more conversations about gravity and water flow and water quality. We looked through the book “A Drop of Water” by Walter Wick, mostly because my older children just used this book for a water study and my younger kiddos LOVED the pictures, but also because its an awesome book. We talked about the complexities of water and the different states it can be found in. Note: when I say *we talked* I mean that we just glazed over the topic. At this point I am just exposing them to different ideas and answering questions if they have any. No long lectures! Sometimes my older kiddos jump in the conversation and it grows a bit more complex, but for now, simple and straightforward is best.

Also, we didn’t have any on hand this time around but blowing bubbles, flying a kite or playing with pinwheels would be fun to do as well!

IMG_0421.JPG
Day 3: Dry Land and Plants. This was a fun day! Climb a tree, plant some flowers, roll down a hill, etc. We harvested some kale and read one of our favorite garden books, “Planting a Rainbow” by Louis Elhert.

th.jpeg

We went on a nature walk in our backyard. I put some masking tape on the boys wrists (sticky side out) and they stuck small leaves and flowers and feathers and sticks to the tape. Then when we went inside everyone got to share what they had found.  We made a few mandalas out of flowers and leaves that we had found.  They were such fun to make and a pleasure to look at.

IMG_0446.jpg

Day 4: Sun, Moon and Stars.  We had to watch our favorite episode of Magic School Bus about the solar system. I’m a big fan of the Frizz. We looked through some of the older boy’s favorite books about constellations. Our go to is “A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky” by Michael Driscoll.

DSCN1050.JPG

We also played with constellation lacing cards and these free Montessori cards . I cut out a few squares of black construction paper and handed over a pack of silver star stickers and the boy went to town making constellations.

img_5207.jpg

We had all these things on hand after the older boys studied Astronomy in their MFW Adventures year. I’m not sure I’d go through all the trouble just for MFWK, but since we had it, out it came! A pack of glow in the dark star stickers for a kid’s bedroom would be just as fun and much less work.

Day 5: Creatures in the Sea and Air. Obviously, that day called for an extended bath time with safari toobs of animal creatures. We dropped in a few blue color bath tablets for ocean effect and kiddo strapped on his goggles and went in for a little sea exploration. I read “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister while my  other son proceeded to dump 1/4 of the tub’s water content onto the bathroom floor. Incidentally, I managed to do a thorough mop of the children’s bathroom that day.
IMG_0243.jpg

We spent a bit of time looking at our nature collection of sea life. Again, this is something I had on hand thanks to older children.

DSCN1058.JPG

Then it was time for kiddo to don his halloween costume and learn about creatures of the air.

DSCN1062.JPG

We read through all of our birds books and ran around the house screeching and pretending to upchuck owl pellets. You know, the usual stuff.

Day 6: Land Creatures & Man. This was a great day to march out all the plastic animals from our collection and let him have at it! I had planned to make animal print cookies but we ran out of time. Want the recipe? Its pretty complicated, but I’ll share it with you. Ready? A package of tear and bake sugar cookies (the kind with gluten and preservatives works best) and plastic toy animals. Tear the cookies apart, place them on a baking sheet and start baking. When they are *just about done, pull them out and press the animals feet into the dough to make the prints before the dough cools. Crazy complicated, I know. Hand junior a magnifying glass for added pizzazz and ask him to guess which animals left which footprints.  You can also skip the cookie doh and do this with play doh. We also had fun playing animal charades and guessing which animal each person was pretending to be.

Later in the day, I cleared all the siblings from the kitchen and called my favorite kindergartner in. I lit a nice smelling candle, played his favorite piece of classical music and set out a tasty snack just for him. We looked at his favorite piece of art (Starry Night) while we cuddled on our favorite soft blanket. We talked about the five senses and the special, unique way God made us with so many different ways to engage his creation and appreciate beauty.  We discussed how we are made in God’s image and the importance of our bodies as temples. I told him all the unique things I see in him that I appreciate and how God is already using him in this world.  It was a sweet time.

Day 7: Rest. Yeah, I made everyone take a nap. We are still under the weather and I sure needed one!

DSCN1057.JPG

And that wraps up our Creation Unit! My goal for the week was to get this kiddo excited to learn about God’s World. My first year, I handed my two kiddos a Kindergarten readiness test to see where they stood. Ever wish you could travel back in time and kick yourself in the pants? Sigh. This year, I set out to instill a love of learning in my child. We had a great week. We talked about so many different topics, we made memories, we sang songs and played games and at the end of the week he proclaimed “Kinder’s Garden is my most favorite garden in the whole wold.”

Looking forward to starting Ss-Sun tomorrow!

MFW Kindergarten: Looking Back & Getting Ready

DSC_0407.JPG

We started our first day of Kindergarten this morning. Its our second time with MFWK and I can’t help but smile as I think of the sweet year ahead and remember the sweet year long since passed.

I spent months preparing for my first year with MFWK. I was still in traditional school mode and I basically made an exact replica of my old classroom here at home. I had file folders bursting with notes and crafts and handouts. It took many months of hard headed trial and tribulation before I realized that old dog just would not hunt anymore.

I remember feeling two very distinct emotions as I began that first week. The first was the predictable, “how are my babies old enough to be in kindergarten?” The second, “how do I make sure they learn everything they need and also prove to everyone around me that this was a good idea?”  I felt like I was under a microscope lens. As if everything my kids did in public and their answers to every question hurled at them by relatives, would be the rubric by which to evaluate our school’s success or failure.

God was gracious in destroying my pride that year. Throw in a midyear move to our current farmhouse (which included a month long indoor renovation) and two younger siblings aged 1 and 3, and you’ll understand why all those misplaced scholastic ideals were quickly (and mercifully) obliterated. I was a woman undone. That was the year that I learned not to see my younger children as distractions but as my reality, worthy of careful and thoughtful treatment as I navigated our days. I cried a lot. It was a great year.

DSC_0205.JPG

The first big change came with how I viewed our school area and materials. We have a designated classroom now. Its lovely and I am so very thankful for it. But when we started out, we gathered around the dining room table and I kept all our supplies on the bookcase behind it. I loved it. There are times when I miss it!

DSC_0639.JPG

I had a small quote written out on my planner that year.

“A mother’s heart is the child’s classroom.” Henry Ward Beecher

It reminded me every day to take care of my own heart. This was far more important than the state of our actual physical classroom. Did I spend more time researching curriculum or surfing pinterest for activities that correspond with “Jj-jewels” that day than I did with JESUS?

The classroom that matters to your little one is the classroom in your heart. Fill it with God’s word. Cultivate things that are true and good and beautiful in your own heart so that you can share it with your child. This is far more important than having the “latest, greatest” in your home. There is no piece of curriculum that will hold more influence over your child than the words from your mouth which flow out of your heart.

DSC_0279.JPG

I am blessed to have very patient children. They put up with a lot that year.

While I quickly learned that traditional school would not fit within the walls of our home, it took a long time to figure out just what kind of school we were. Take heart, you don’t have to have it all figured out before you start. Take time to uncover this treasure and make thoughtful decisions about what you bring into your home to meet your children!

DSC_0245.JPG

By the end of MFWK I realized a few things:

What we are learning matters far less than who we are becoming. This helped me meet my children right where they were and helped me refrain from dragging them to where I thought they should be.

I fell in love with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education and did everything I could to embrace that style of learning. MFWK was the perfect starting point for us.

I spent a lot of time making sure our home was their home too. I made sure our home was a safe and loving place to learn about truth, goodness and beauty. I gave them more responsibility. I lowered the expectation down from ” perfect child robot” and taught the boys to not hide their sin away from their Mama and Daddy. To tell the devil they wouldn’t be keeping sin a secret, to parade it out in front of us so we could help them confess and move closer towards holiness and healing. We emphasized the redemption and joy to be had from making the most of our mistakes.

Reading brought us together. We read a lot of books. I mean A LOT of books.  There were stacks all over the house and some week we went to the library every other day for various story times and to get new books.

The great outdoors are not to be missed! We spent a great deal of time out of doors. Long walks at the park or simply playing in the mud outside for hours. We took advantage of all the free activities and learning opportunities our community had to offer.

Free time matters. We didn’t schedule the kids to death. They had tons and tons and TONS of free time. This gave them the opportunity to build, play, create, savor and discover.

DSC_0287.JPG

There are zillions of extra materials and crafts and songs and stories out there that can be added to MFWK to “beef up” the experience. The truth is, keeping it straight out of the manual is more than enough for your kids to have a beautiful year. This year I will be following the manual as closely as possible. We may add a few things we have done before that proved to be great fun, but if I add anything it will be activities or experiences. I won’t be adding extra busywork or handouts just for the sake of adding a check mark to a list that only exists to make me feel better. No two homeschool walks are the same and you may eventually come to a place were handouts and tons of busywork make sense for your family, but I do everything I can to encourage those with littles to keep it as simple as they can in those early years when hands on activity and PLAY are so very valuable to little ones.

DSC_0429.jpg

 

So here is the plan for MFWK this year:

1. Spend time with God prepping the classroom in my heart so that I will have plenty of truth, goodness and beauty to impart to my children.
2.  I have organized our year into 27 manilla folders. This is a very, very high tech system so try to keep up as I explain. You put student sheets inside the folders and you write ideas, supply lists, book basket picks, etc. on the outside of the folder. Stick it all in a basket and then pull it out as you need them. Mind blowing, right? Hasn’t failed me yet!
3. Keep up with our regularly scheduled nature walk.
4. Keep up with our morning basket! One piece of art work or music, a few poems and a book so we can start out day appreciating something lovely. Wonderful suggestion for books can be found over on Ambleside.com.
5. Let my littles be little! There will be plenty of time for writing and advanced math and homework in later years. The clock is ticking and they deserve to enjoy every second of early childhood without all these hideous expectations from a standardized scopes and sequence world or the demands of an anti-homeschool relative.
6. Eat dinner together as a family every night.
7. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. We work hard on Saturdays and we rest hard on Sundays. We cuddle up and read books and we spend time together.  French toast matters to these little hearts. Our attention as they talk and talk and talk, matters too. Having a day set aside for God and family helps us make these vital life connections, breathe life into our tired souls and help propel us forward into the next week.
8. Set up a special time for K schoolwork while the 2nd/3rd graders do their independent work. Even though its the second time through, #3 deserves a special year too! We’ll be adding a decoration to a shirt each week along with coloring in our badges because little man loves to wear fun shirts!
9. Expect fun, not perfection.
10. Take lots and lots of pictures. I just realized that I only have a handful of pictures from our first time through MFWK. I was too uptight back then!  Sad. I am resolved to take more PICTURES!

 

DSC_0820.JPG

And that is the plan. Lets see how MFWK goes this year now that I have learned to relax and my philosophy of education has become more focused.  I am embracing this year with #3 as a sweet time of fellowship of fun. Blessings to you on your MFWK journey, friend. I hope it draws you and your children closer to God and to each other.

10868183_802650930818_1018921262594839242_n.jpg

MFW Adventures: The Trails!

 

IMG_0059.JPG

We are limping back to life at last! We’ve been sick for the last two weeks and I am ready to get back in the saddle again.  A few days before we fell ill, I happened upon a local listing for a huge solid wood hutch. I’ve been searching a long, long time for one of these bad boys. I was thrilled to find one so close for so cheap ($50). Within the hour it stood in our classroom. It was quite the beast to move! The boys helped me get everything settled before I sat down to finish organizing everything for the week. I had an unfamiliar moment of feeling like we were on top of our game. I was grateful for the way God had provided the hutch, I was grateful for our classroom and for our curriculum. I was finally allowing myself to feel ecstatic over the fact that we had not fallen behind all year long and that the kids seemed to be thriving with the rhythm I had set down for them this year. Really, the week had gone like clockwork. I realized that we had reached an all time high in our homeschool life and it felt really, really good.

IMG_0101.JPG

And then a day later, we all fell very, very ill.

We were a miserable, hacking, snotting, petri dish of ultimate yuck.

So now that we are once again, at the bottom of the barrel, allow me to share with you what we did for Unit/Week 26 of Adventures in US History.

DSCN1024.JPG

The American Pioneer and Patriots stories this week were fantastic. The kids loved them! The boys wanted to investigate a little further so we pulled out our Geography guide from Beautiful Feet Books and started a study of “Tree in the Trail” by Holling C Holling.
I purchased a bunch of blank books at the beginning of the year and the boys each pulled one out and started their own Tree in the Trail notebook. They drew cottonwood trees and diagrammed their features. We studied their life cycles and habitats. We studied various indian tribes and had a bit of zoology fun with buffalos, pronged deer and wolves. We charted out the trail and studied the arrival of the Spaniards and the westward movement of the pioneers. I am so glad we took on the extra work!

IMG_0302.JPG

Here are a few other resources we used and enjoyed:

Santa Fe Trail site has photos, an interactive map, timeline and historical info
Oregon Trail Museum 
Oregon Trail Journal of Francis Parkman

You can find the 1990 version of Oregon Trail HERE and play it on your browser. All the 4th grade feels. Totally played while my kids were asleep! I am so glad to be hauling 2000 lbs of Buffalo meat and be suffering from dysentery once more.

Another game we’ve been playing often is Ticket to Ride. My kids pull this one out all the time and they can play it by themselves which is fantastic!

IMG_0159.JPG

th.jpeg

We’ve been using Walter Wick’s book “A Drop of Water” for our Liquid, Solid, Gas unit. Check and see if this title is available at your local library. This book really brought a lot of the concepts from the Usborne experiments to life!

We’ve continued with our nature journaling, even in the midst of sickness, thanks to the small collection of little odds and ends that we can study whenever our health or the weather prohibits our usual nature walk. This week the boys took a closer look at the seashore.

IMG_0245.JPGIMG_0247.jpg

I love their drawings. Its so much fun to watch them grow more and more specific with time and experience. I’ve mentioned before that we had a rough start with art. Its great to see them naturally progressing after such an uphill battle. If the above resonates with you, I encourage you—don’t give up on art!

We started Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War this week. I mentioned to the boys that we only have 6 weeks left after this unit. They were so sad! The rest of the afternoon was spent revisiting some of our old work and looking at our favorite read alouds from the year and reminiscing. My eldest flipped through a book on Native Americans and I found my second born tucked away in the book nook, battle helmet on, reading about his favorite viking. We love you, Adventures!

IMG_0308.JPG

MFW Adventures: Gold Rush & Geography Study

While most of the eastern seaboard was buried in snow, we were entirely inundated with rain this week. Nearly 6 inches fell in a 48 hours timespan. The zucchini patch has drowned, roots rotted through and through. Thankfully, the lettuce rows and kale patch do not seem to mind the rain. The turkey eggs continue to incubate, we are roughly one week away from hatch day(s)! Hubby spent all day today in the back hollow, digging holes for our fence posts. Its the first in a series of bays we are setting up for various animals. We are excited to see our little dream unfold.

IMG_9558.JPG

Studying the California Gold Rush, spurred the collaborative creation of the “Sunday Times Donut Gang” (pictured above). I briefly entertained the idea of panning for gold with the kids at the local fair but the constant downpour was a great deterrent. Instead, we chose to spend the week reading Sid Fleischman’s “The Great Horn Spoon.” We fell in love with Praiseworthy and wish we could go on an adventure with him. Jack and Good Luck and Mountain Jim were so endearing, we could not bear to put the book down. We are two thirds of the way done and will finish it up next week during our study of California. This book was a huge home run for the kids! If your littles are always begging for more books, this is a lovely one, especially on a rainy afternoon!

By Wednesday I realized that we were nearly out of groceries. I did not relish the thought of walking through a monsoon with the kids so we foraged and made the most of it. A meal of freshly baked bread, milk, jam, cheese and fruit made the cut. We brought out our favorite books and ate while we listened to the rain fall on the rooftop. A Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail picnic of sorts, but the boys had another take: “Mom, this reminds me of Plum Creek and the Ingalls family. Sometimes a simple meal made up of all you have tastes so much better because you worked really hard to put it together.” DSCN0926.JPG

We fell into a great rhythm this week with our school work. If you follow our blog, you know the boys like to play outside between subjects. This week they had to stay indoors and I loved watching what they gravitated towards for play. Our Pin it! Maps were reached for the most often.

DSCN1012.JPG

DSCN1013.JPG

DSCN1015.JPG

Six months of near daily use and these beauties are holding up wonderfully well! The Land and Water forms set is by far the most popular with the current age span.

This week, we also reached the end of our Beautiful Feet Geography study using “Minn of the Mississippi” by Holling C Holling.

497_1.JPG
We followed the journey of a three legged snapping turtle named “Minn”  from the headwaters in Minnesota down to the Gulf of Mexico.

cheater-map.gif

We found extra study materials, maps and clip art on Little Schoolhouse in the Suburbs.

While this is a geography study, the boys ended up engaging in math, cartography, botany, biology, anthropology, archeology, paleontology, language arts, composition, drawing, water color, and spelling. I loved watching them engage with dictionaries, encyclopedias and various nature books as they conducted their research. We read two chapters per lesson and really enjoyed the questions and exercises provided in the Beautiful Feet Geography guide. The boys are eager to start “Tree in the Trail” next week when we begin our study of the Sante Fe Trail.

IMG_9591.JPG

If you are already feeling overwhelmed by the Adventures workload then I do not recommend the above study guide. If you are looking for something extra and have 30-45 minutes a day to spare, then I highly recommend looking into Beautiful Feet Books Geography through Literature Pack. We love Holling C Holling’s living books and look forward to finishing the series. It is recommended for 4th grade and up so we scaled back a few of the exercises. I will likely revisit this pack again when we return to US History.

 

MFW Adventures: Morse & Human Body

The boys spent many long and cozy hours indoors this week. Our dry season has turned out to be nearly as wet as the rainy season. Large storms keep sweeping across our area and we find ourselves grateful to be snug indoors with few places to go during the week.

DSCN0924.JPG

We finished up our time studying the human body by filling in the last pages of our Dover coloring books and completing the last two experiments in the Magic School Bus Anatomy kit.

DSCN0901.JPG

Our Anatomy tray was out quite often and the boys really cemented their identification of the organs. We also brought out our magiscope and looked at hair, blood, cell and saliva samples.

DSCN0915.JPG

We brought out one of our very favorite board games, SOME BODY and played a dozen rounds throughout the coarse of the week. We highly recommend this one. Even if your children aren’t old enough to play with the questions cards, they can place the reusable stickers on their body board and become familiar with the layout of our organ systems.

 

71xeEIZ02GL._SL1024_.jpg

 

We read three books on Samuel Morse and the boys made these darling Morse code name necklaces out of leftover holiday paper straws and the remaining pony beads from our Native American study.

DSCN0892.JPG

They were intrigued by Morse’s designs and spent one rainy afternoon trying to get a piece of twine to absorb an electric charge from the carpet in their bedroom, in order to make the pencil on the other end of the twine write secret messages.  After hours of failed attempts we settled for some work on our Snap Circuits board.

In other news, we finaly, FINALLY, reached our state during state study! (How do people residing in the last two states deal with the wait?) We ventured out at the first sign of sunshine. Our local trails were inundated with water which made our adventure extra challenging for the boys. They adored it!

DSCN0943.JPG

We found a fern gully on this particular outing that really captured our imaginations. The boys wanted to crawl under the ferns and set up little homes. I’m half-tempted to move there once the rain stops.

DSCN0960.JPG

DSCN0971.JPG

DSCN0951.JPG

DSCN0985.JPG

I am so grateful for our nature walks. They have turned out to be the most enriching part of our homeschool journey. Everything we learn seems to flourish when we step out onto the trail. I love watching the boys make connections between math and music and geography and latin and history and science as they walk along a mucky path listening to the sounds of the wetlands.

When we return home, out come the nature journals and colored pencils. We use prismacolors for our most important work. They are definitely pricey but worth it for the quality of the product. The boys know they must take special care of these art tools and have demonstrated great responsibility in caring for them.

DSCN0931.JPGDSCN0908.JPG

The insect cards pictured above are $4 laminated printables from the talented Alice Cantrell.

DSCN0930.JPG

We are officially 10 weeks away from completing our Adventures. There are many updates to record here. I’ll be posting a few updates in the near future about how we make the most of our nature walks. Week 25 here we come!

MFW Adventures: More States and a State of the Union

DSCN0720.JPG

We always start planning the upcoming school year in January. This is partially due to our involvement with Classical Conversations. I have yet to blog much about CC, I’m still trying to get a solid year of MFW and HGP blogging under my belt before I try and add in CC. It is a huge part of our lives and our school year revolves around those 24 week cycles. Next year I will be directing a new Foundations community group in our area, which is exciting and nerve wracking all at once. Its strange to start planning so far in advance when I am still in the midst of this wonderful year I worked so hard to plan last January. But the time has come for the yearly, “State of the Union” and so this is the week when I stepped back and observed all that takes place in our home and in our hearts. For us, education is not simply what we are learning but who we are becoming. The short of it is, we are loving Adventures so far. It has been a perfect fit for our family and I am so grateful for it and for the Charlotte Mason method it employs.

DSCN0747.JPG

I am currently in the midst of reading “Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition” by Karen Glass.  It is one of the best homeschooling books I have ever read and I am savoring every single chapter. This book echoes all that we do (and hope to do) in our own home. Its wonderful to pick up a well written book that engages the two methods of education closest to my heart.

Today, I sat on a park bench with my book and watched my 5 year old engage in a self-led physics experiment involving a steep slide and fistfuls of sand. He would walk over every once in awhile to discuss his findings. We talked about friction, inertia, motion and he would hypothesize the results of his next trial with barely contained glee. When it was time to leave, he tidied up the slide, pushed sand off the sidewalk and into the play area where it belonged, and went out of his way to pick up a piece of someone else’s trash and threw it in the garbage.  He did this without any prompting. Twenty minutes earlier I had circled the following passage in the Karen Glass book:

“…Charlotte Mason’s conception of synthetic thinking, or “the science of relations” concerned itself with placing the child in the way of forming relationships with every area of knowledge, so that the question we ask is not “how much does the youth know?” but rather “how much does he care?” When the affections are involved–when we care about a place, a person, or an idea–we are more motivated to act if action is required. When we love virtue itself, we are more likely to behave virtuously.”

DSCN0783.JPG

This is what I have loved about Adventures. Not the amount my children are learning, though they have grown by leaps and bounds this year, but the virtue they are cultivating and employing. How much does he care? It seems everything we are studying, all the habit training and scripture study and living books, everything is nourishing these little ones to care, to desire to act rightly.

Here is what the week looked like. We studied several states: Maine, Missouri, Arkansas and Michigan. The boys took great care in opening the tin of special colored pencils used for our States book. They were diligent in coloring each bird and flower to the right specifications. They copied down each state motto in their neatest penmanship. They closed their books and put away their pencils. They brought out the book basket and we went on adventures in four different states while the toddler shrieked in the background and the preschooler called for pretzels and juice. Everyone eventually settled down and we experienced beautiful illustrations and rich prose. The boys played with seashells while we read “Island Boy.” They acted out “Blueberries for Sal” and cooked pretend clam chowder after reading “One Morning in Maine.” We pulled out our Saxon books and halfway through our lesson, I noticed my six year old building cranes and seabirds out of pattern blocks. “Remember that story?” he asked,  “About Obadiah and the seagull?” Off he went to fetch the book. As soon as he completed his math lesson, he picked up Brinton Turkle’s tender and lovely book, “Thy friend, Obadiah” and read it aloud to his siblings, giving special attention and affection to his younger brothers. Thirty minutes later we were on a website looking at the anatomy of birds and constructing their skeletal systems over and over again. This brought us back to our study of Human Anatomy. The boys brought down the Human Organ tray and began reading each three part card and matching them with the corresponding organs from their safari toob, until the toddler stole the large intestine and chaos ensued. We resolved the quarrel and moved on to our Usbourne Encyclopedia and the boys began to question the latin names they kept hearing, so we picked up our latin work and labored over a few declensions. One particular song used to memorize the 3rd declension latin noun endings reminded them of a Rachmaninoff piece they had heard weeks before. We listened to it twice and then one of the boys asked if we could play outside. We dashed out of the house and opened the coop to let the chickens out. Once again we were talking about birds and anatomy while the 5 year old zoomed by on skates humming Rachmaninoff and the 3 year old stomped around saying “Kuplink, Kuplank, Kuplunk,” in his best imitation of little Sal dropping blueberries in a tin pail.

DSCN0780.JPG

I am not teaching my children for the sole purpose of ensuring successful performances on tests that cannot measure love, sense of wonder, compassion, joy, faithfulness, goodness, or creativity. As Karen Glass says, “If we answer the question ‘What is man?’ with ‘man is a living soul created in the image of God,’ our educational task will be much different, as we seek to discover all the potential in each child so that he can become everything that God meant him to be. All that we can give him will not be too much nor go to waste.”

DSCN0793.JPG

Week 23 was a slower week in terms of topics covered but it was a rich week nonetheless. On these slower weeks, I love to get out into nature with the boys. That prescheduled Friday nature walk is something I make sure to enforce. I make every effort to protect that part of their schedule. In many ways, it is the capstone to all we learn in the classroom.

DSCN0761.JPG

Our son’s godfather came to visit with his son and so our nature walk for Unit 23 took place at the beach. It was a nice tie in for all those “salty” books we read about Maine.  The boys tumbled about the tide pools and played in the surf. They collected seashells and felt the sand between their toes. They experienced life and their souls were nourished by the sea air and warm water.  Little scientific observations were sprinkled throughout the day. It happened naturally. “School” is not something they go to and then leave after a few hours. There are no compartmentalized subjects. It is not a chore.

DSCN0797.JPG

Learning is life and it brings them joy.

DSCN0733.JPG