Saturday, October 18, 2014

October Update 2: Year One is Complete!

I'm so excited! Year One is now complete!

See Year One for the links for this year.

New Additions:

  • Guide for The New Americans: Colonial Times: 1620-1689 by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

Added Chapters/Weeks:

  • Children of the New Forest
  • The Book of the Ancient Romans
  • Age of Fable

Current List of Work in Progress:
  • History of Art for Young People
  • Lab work for Tide Pool Life
  • English Literature for Boys and Girls
  • Ornithology with The Burgess Book of Birds, The First Book of Birds and The Story of John J. Audubon

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Narration: A Child's Perspective

Narration: Various Meanings

Narration. This one word is significant to those who are educators.

A narration has different meanings for different education methods and styles. A narration which follows the Well-Trained Mind approach is based on the idea that a child should summarize a selection by restating its main points and by differentiating between irrelevant vs. important details. A narration which follows the Charlotte Mason approach is based on the idea that a child should retell a selection with attention to detail and with a focus on how it connects within his/her own mind after just one reading. A narration which follows the ideas of the various programs based on the progymnasmata is taught in the narrative level/section of these programs. Our family's approach to writing further expands on the Charlotte Mason style narration as it includes and incorporates aspects of both the progymnasmata, ideas from the Well-Trained Mind and approaches from other classical curricula.

Narration: A Child's Perspective

What does a child think of the act of narrating? 
Do all children enjoy giving narrations?

I've often heard that many families have tried the Charlotte Mason approach to learning and then moved away from it for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons often included the child's complete dislike of giving narrations. The child's discomfort with the act of narrating often included one or more of the following reasons:
  • Narrating is boring.
  • I don't like having to narrate so many times in one day.
  • Narrating is repetitive.
  • I can't remember enough of the selection to narrate it.
  • Written narrations take too long to write.
All of the above reasons can be alleviated with minor alterations such as varying the types of narrations, completing the appropriate preparation work before a reading, adjusting lengths, of both the reading selection and the required written output and many other possible alterations. But quite frankly, much of this discomfort is the result of much more than a distaste for narrating. Narrating is deceptively simple. It gives this illusion, but includes and stretches many skills at once. It's this stretching of skills such as attention, organization of ideas,verbally expressing the selection and the addition of the child's own thoughts that makes narration difficult for children, especially children new to this method. Narration is just one component of the entire Charlotte Mason approach, and like the overall fit, it needs to be given time for adjustments and familiarity.

As children adjust to the style and schedule of narrating, their joy in narrating will usually grown in proportion. My children have almost entirely grown up with narrating. (I started narrations and Charlotte Mason methods and ideas with my older daughter around 2nd grade.) Their perspective on narrating is quite different from children who do not care for it. My children consider narrating an opportunity, as it is a moment for them to share their thoughts and feelings over a selection. They, like most children, want to be heard. To be heard is to feel understood. This is one aspect of narrating from which all children can benefit. I realized that both of our girls did not like to see a day go by when they did not feel as if they had segments of time from both me and my husband where we gave them our undivided attention. What do children want when they want our undivided attention? They want us to listen to them. When my daughters narrate to me, they have my undivided attention and I am listening.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that this level of acknowledgment of their words and thoughts will leave once they are older. My older daughter has many different composition notebooks in which she writes her narrations. In every book, I mark some edits for her to make and I always write comments. Sometimes I comment on some aspect of writing to which she needs to pay more attention, sometimes I write a reminder rule and just as often I write comments of praise. Every week I give the girls their narration notebooks back and they both eagerly open them to read the comments. Also, as the student moves into the upper years, we engage in discussions about the works we read and how the great ideas such as love, liberty, justice and beauty are illustrated by these works. These discussions and the notebooks give even older students the opportunities they need to feel connected.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Update

I've decided to repost all of the blog material for another month or two.

In response to a private message, I wrote the following:

I can repost everything for another month or two, but my Adobe account, which holds the files to be downloaded, is expiring at the end of this year. It was a free account but they've decided to eliminate the free accounts. I will have to find a new way to hold the files. I've wanted to start my own web site for some time now, but time has been hard to find to start this. I'm not very tech savvy and starting a web site will be a new one for me. I expect I'll have a learning curve with this...:)

My ultimate ideal plan would be to start a site, put the guides up for a purchase price (download and printed forms) and set up an Amazon or other such site bookstore. I hadn't thought of the yearly idea, so I may look into that too. Either way, I will have to make some changes to the way I have it set up now, but I can put everything back up for another month or so. If I start that web site, I'll start moving things around over the next couple of months too.

I'm so glad that you've found the site and the curriculum helpful. That was part of the problem. I'm so overwhelmed with what I need to do and what I want to do and not enough time for either, and I really thought that no one (except two others who were using the guides for the books by Mills) was using the curriculum anyway, so I didn't really think that my retiring the blog would even be very noticed. :)


This message contained much of what I would have posted here, so rather than retype the same message, I've shared it here. I hope this helps a little.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Changes and Farewell

I'm planning some very big changes with this site and my curriculum. I will be retiring this blog in the next month or two. Multiple reasons such as the amount of time I have to give this site, lack of interest in this curriculum and the free account I have with Adobe for holding my files expiring at the end of the year account for this farewell. I'm also experiencing a shift in my ideas with regard to my curriculum.

I will leave this up a little longer. I do plan to finish Year One and make it available for a short time. Once I've had it up for a week or two, I'll then retire the blog. I'm not sure why I feel compelled to wait until then, :), but I do. As far as I know, no one is using Year One anyway. Once finished, Year One will be approximately 350 pages long and the result of many, many long hours devoted to it. For reasons I haven't discovered yet, this curriculum does not seem to meet the needs of the families I thought that it would.

I will be continuing my work with all of the books that I've started and I will finish the books by Dorothy Mills. For those who I know are waiting on The Book of the Ancient Romans and for those who have an interest in continuing the use of her books for the medieval and renaissance time period, I will send you a copy of these books once they are finished through private messaging at the Well-Trained Mind Forum.

My goal is to overhaul this curriculum a great deal and eventually make everything available on a web site to be purchased. Thank you to those of you who offered such kind comments.

My children are growing up. My older daughter has only a couple of very crucial years of homeschooling left and my younger daughter has only this year left before entering the upper years. I want to give them as much time as possible. I hope that my redesigned curriculum will be better received. :)

ETA: I've just added Term Three B to Year One. One more section and I'll have the year complete. I actually have most of C ready, so I hope to have it up soon too. Look under Links and Resources for Year One and the books by Dorothy Mills.

Monday, August 11, 2014

An Atmosphere of Learning that Stretches, Soothes and Inspires

Our ultimate goal as a family is to immerse ourselves in any form of learning that stretches us, soothes us and inspires us.

This is the last sentence that I wrote in a post about Charlotte Mason and Classical teaching methods on the Well-Trained Mind Forum. I thought I would further expand on it here.

 "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life"
Charlotte Mason
I'd like to focus on what education as an atmosphere, a discipline and a life looks like for us and why it should include methods which stretch, soothe and inspire children. Why does an education which pervades every aspect of a child's environment and life mean more? What benefits are brought to a child who is surrounded by learning that stretches them or disciplines them? Why would a method need to soothe children and their teacher? What role does inspiration play in learning? How do these methods fit inside one of the guiding principles of a Charlotte Mason/Classical education?
" A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its original dimensions"
Oliver Wendell Holmes
To stretch the mind is to present it challenges, but the key to making this meaningful to children is striking the right balance in challenge. For example, when choosing reading levels for your student, select a couple of books that are slightly too difficult, a couple of books that are exactly the right level and a couple of books that are just slightly below the right level. This approach, repeated every year, will allow your student the right level of growth without overwhelming or causing frustration. This curriculum is designed with very special consideration of this approach and I've used this same approach with my own children.
The methods we use which offer challenge are as follows:
  • Deliberate and concentrated study of math daily
  • Study of a foreign language (French) in the early years with consistent study
  • Copy Work followed by a Copy Book and then by a Commonplace Book
  • Studied dictation which gradually increases in challenge
  • Study of Latin
  • Consistent inclusion of narration work beginning with oral narration and then moving to written narration when appropriate but yet keeping oral narration at all levels
  • Consistent progression of levels in book selections for all subjects
  • Discussion as a major component of all lessons and adding more depth to these discussion as the child advances
  • Using journal articles, lab notebooks, lab work, lectures and documentaries with living books and a focus on observing, drawing and writing for science
  • Adding primary sources to our study of history in the upper levels (as well as some primary sources in the upper lower levels)
  • Concentrating supplemental books in the categories of biography, autobiography and non-fiction over historical fiction. (We use historical fiction for light reading pleasure.)
  • Consistently locating places on a globe or map as we encounter them in all subjects
  • Study poetry and literature which is full of complex sentence structure, high vocabulary, literary elements and complex story elements and gradually increase the exposure (whether through reading aloud, reading together or reading independently) and expectations as the child advances-and do this consistently
  • Include plays, ballets, museums and other cultural events as a major focus of family outings
  • Watch movies, plays and documentaries very regularly all together as a family and discuss them together
  • Read a chosen book together as a family and discuss it
  • Expect the girls to participate in activities which add to their growth and challenge them (ballet and piano)
I think the most important word to take away from this list is the word "consistent". It is because this approach to learning has been important in our family for many years that we now see the growth in our children from it.

"The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil."
Marcus Tullius Cicero

A curriculum which lends itself to an atmosphere which is calm, tranquil and reliable is one which soothes and brings peace to the hearts and minds of its recipients. Hearts and minds are at peace when immersed in an environment which is predictable, but yet is flexible enough to adjust seamlessly and is challenging in a gradual and inconspicuous manner. This requires quite the balancing act! One who teaches from a state of rest is one who is prepared and one who consistently checks to see that the learning environment is soothing. One who teaches from a state of rest is flexible!
Consider these questions to ensure that your environment is reflective of a peaceful and calm atmosphere:
  • Am I prepared for all that I need to teach today?
  • Do I have time set aside or can I be flexible with unexpected detours and delays?
  • Am I diligent about keeping the larger picture in mind? For example, does it really matter if my student wants to write the narration from the perspective of Antony rather than from the perspective of Calpurnia?
  • Can I accept that some days will be more productive than others, but yet know that I must start each day with the intent of being as productive as possible?
  • Is the day balanced with regard to levels of intensity and concentration? For example, do I follow a period of focused work with a period of joyful and/or relaxing work?
  • Have I noticed and have I attended to the student(s) who are either becoming frustrated or are losing their concentration?
  • Am I giving each of my students enough practice, time and/or attention on a particular skill so that they may continue to improve or grow, but yet not confuse or overwhelm them? (Tip: I keep a notebook which is similar to a lesson plan book but that has been altered over time to best fit me. I write notes in the margins when I've noticed something that I want to go over again with one or both girls.)
  • Can I play classical or other types of soothing and non-distracting types of music while we are working?
  • Is the television off and am I keeping interruptions to a minimum?
  • Do I have a basic structure for a schedule so that times slotted for learning stay available? 

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
William Butler Yeats

A curious teacher, an ambience of thoughtful study and most importantly, a curriculum with compelling books and intriguing ideas will do more than capture a student's attention. It will captivate their heart. Inspiration sparks imagination and fuels persistence, of which both are important in an atmosphere of learning.
But, it would be unrealistic to suggest that students who love learning will be motivated and excited at every task set before them and even more unrealistic to suggest that students who view the state of learning less favorably will be interested and engaged in all tasks. Some days, some books and some tasks will be better than others. The overall goal is to provide a curriculum coupled with teaching methods which brings as much of inspiration to the student as possible.
The following are some aspects to this curriculum and my teaching methods which contribute to inspiring students:
  • Carefully chosen books, based on years of study, which set forth the great ideas such as justice, love, liberty, beauty, truth, etc.
  • Including music lessons, listening to music, studying art, practicing art, viewing live plays, watching television productions of plays, ballets and operas, museums, etc.
  • Nature walks, time outside enjoying nature as well as admiring, wondering over and sketching nature
  • Memorizing and reciting poetry, speeches, excerpts from Shakespeare and other inspiring passages because committing them to memory makes them a part of us
  • Keeping sketchbooks, copy books and commonplace books to record nature and literary excerpts that we find particularly striking
  • Narration notebooks which are filled with a personal translation of what is taken from those carefully chosen books
  • Adapting the curriculum to include the specific topics of study to which my students are drawn as often as possible
  • Using methods of learning which are best suited to my particular children and allowing some sense of control over how something is learned, but checking, when needed, so as not to prevent true growth 
This curriculum and these teaching methods, which pulls from some of the very best ideas available, endeavors to make the creation of an atmosphere of learning which stretches, soothes and inspires accessible to those who choose to follow it and, in turn, a student whose heart and mind are in the light.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July Update

Year Three Science and Nature Study

I'm currently spending some time on this, since I'm planning on using these books with my younger daughter. Although these are placed in Year Three, I'm sure that many of you will find that they will work just as well for students who are slightly older as well. I would suggest that this study be used with ages 8-11, using extensions for ages 10-11. I'm going to add The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson to our study of Tide Pools to further advance the work for my rising 6th grader and to fill in the study more and make it a more complete marine biology study. I'm adding a link here for a rough draft of the scope and sequence for Year Three Science and Nature Study to give you a quick peek at what this will cover. I reserve the right to make changes and adjustments as I go along...:) I have completed the notes for Pagoo and Life in the Tidal Pool and will begin typing them soon. Once I add the labs, this section will be complete. I wrote out a rough schedule to be sure that all that I wanted to cover in this year would fit. Nature Study will revolve around the topic of tracks, scats and signs.

Y3 Science and Nature Study- Scope and Sequence Rough Draft

ETA: Here is the guide for Tide Pool Life. I do still need to write the 6 Science Investigations and any teaching notes and supplemental pages. I'll add those in very soon, because this study starts off with two Science Investigations and I will need them too.

The Book of the Ancient Romans

I recently added in chapters 4-10 and will be working on adding more this month.

ETA: Added Chapters 9-10

Year One

I have been working on Year One lately and hope to add Term Two C soon. I try to set goals for myself, but life gets in the way sometimes. :)

ETA: I have added Term 2 C and now Term 2 is complete as well. This means that Weeks 1-24 are available. While I don't have Semester Two listed, Weeks 19-24 can be found under Term 2 B and Term 2 C.

Still Adding Notes

Age of Fable
English Literature for Boys and Girls
A Child's History of the World  -ETA: This is complete!! :)
Our Island Story
Isaac Newton
William Penn's World
Children of the New Forest  -ETA: Added 2 new chapters
and others...

ETA: The first chapter of Science Matters is ready and can be found under Book Notes.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

New Notes for More Books

I've started working on The Book of the Ancient Romans by Dorothy Mills and have uploaded the first two weeks. I'm currently working on Week 3 and should have this ready soon too.

The World of William Penn by Genevieve Foster was a new plan that I put into place with my younger daughter. The time period it covers along with our book on Isaac Newton and Children of the New Forest all line up nicely. I decided to add the Foster book to expand on this time period better. I have even added this to Year Four and the notes can be used here too. I cannot find an image for the cover of our book on Isaac Newton. It is titled Isaac Newton: Mastermind of Modern Science by David C. Knight. I currently have the first three reading for the book on Isaac Newton ready and have read and written out the notes for the first three readings in The World of William Penn. I should have these up very soon. ETA: These are ready now! I will continue to work on Children of the New Forest as I've not worked on this book in a little while. I currently have the first 13 chapters available now. This book has also been moved and is now in Year Four too.

I will use this post as a place to come back with more updates as I add more notes.