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?
 
 
 
Stretching
 
" 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.
 

 
Soothing
 
"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? 
 
 

Inspiring
 
 
"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.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Changing an Artist in Year One



I've  made a change in Year One. I've been trying very hard to leave Year One alone as it is essentially complete, but I felt very compelled to make this change. I will be going back and editing the complete guide to reflect this change. I'm very sorry if this proves to be an inconvenience for some of you. :(

I've been a little bothered all along by some of Francisco Goya's works and knew that a number of his works would be very inappropriate for children. He does have some beautiful pieces with children that are fine for children to study, but as I don't have a copy of Francisco Goya (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia and still cannot find it at a library, I cannot be sure if the works in this book would be acceptable for most families . I'm also having trouble finding the works that I had listed and knew were child-friendly available in the public domain to use for the printable collection. Because of these reasons, I've decided to move Mary Cassatt into this year. I will add the Mary Cassatt collection soon and update the complete guide.

ETA: I've added the Mary Cassatt Collection and will update the guide soon. ETA: I've updated the guide now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Just a Few New Additions

  • I've just added three more chapters for A Child's History of the World. This would be chapters 47-50. I should have this middle section complete in a month or so. This will then make the entire book complete.
  • I also combined all of the Book Notes for A Child's History of the World for Year One into one download. This is for those who just want notes for this particular book. I will eventually add a set for the notes for Year Two and for Year Three. This will divide the book into the following sections: Ancient, Medieval and Modern.
  • I'm almost finished with a Book List for Year Three.
  • ETA: I've also combined the Book Notes for CHOW for Year Three. I wasn't able to contain all of the pages into one download. Adobe Acrobat Workspaces (which I will be moving from still in the near future) will not hold more than 50 pages in one set. I have this labeled as CHOW Year Three and CHOW Year Three B.
  • ETA: I've just added the Mary Cassatt Collection and Cezanne Collection for Year One. These are the selected art pieces for artist study and are linked under Year One.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May Update




This is just a quick post to share the newest updates and changes.

I have made some changes with the book lists for each year. To be forthright about this, I made the book lists for each year based largely off of what I already own, what is freely available online and the remaining books which I thought that I could either include in my own library over time or borrow the shorter books from the library. I can still write Book Notes for these shorter types of books and not own them. As it turns out, the library system in my area is not that great. I'm finding the majority of the books are just not available.

Financially, I just cannot afford to buy books just to own them for writing curricula. My younger daughter is getting older now and she will not need a number of the books for the younger years. I chose the books that I did because I considered them to be good quality choices, but often other books would work well too. Also, I own some older out-of-print books that we love but that I replaced when designing this curriculum because I knew that if would be difficult for others who would like to use this curriculum to find/buy them.

As a result, I've had to make some changes. I am trying to get these settled into a final form. I can't promise that there may not be small adjustments along the way, but the overall layout should be the same. I've also made some adjustments in that I had suggested more than one book title in some cases and I've had to make a choice of one book over another in these cases.

I was also aware all along that the lists for each year were probably a bit too long. It is so hard to choose. I'd love to include so many more, but that wouldn't be wise. I try to move all of these into additional reading suggestion lists, so that you can always feel free to add more if you'd like. The additional reading lists offer additional books in a series, books by the same author, historical fiction books that fit the time period(s) being studied that year and great books that I just couldn't fit into the schedule. You are always welcome and encouraged to make any substitutions or adjustments as you see fit. I will be writing complete guides for additional years and I need to write it for one list of books. :) I'm overwhelmed with all that I want to do and need to do!

Here is what I've added recently:
  • Book List for Year Two
  • Year One, Term Two B
  • Age of Fable Chapter 21 and Chapter 22
  • Classification Study (with High School Extensions)
ETA: The supplemental pages have been added to the Classification Study and can be printed as one whole set.

I have written the notes for Life in a Tidal Pool, but I still need to write the notes for Pagoo. Once this is complete, I will put both sets of notes together into one guide. This will be part of Year Three's Science and Nature Study section.

I'm also working on The Book of the Ancient Romans and will put up the first two or three weeks soon.

I'll also try to put up a Goya collection of art pieces to study for Year One as soon as I get a chance.

I will continue to add in more from A Child's History of the World, Our Island Story and so many others...:)


Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Art of Narrating

 
 


Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting, because it is there, in every child’s mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education. A creative fiat calls it forth. ‘Let him narrate’; and the child narrates, fluently, copiously, in ordered sequence, with fit and graphic details, with a just choice of words, without verbosity or tautology, so soon as he can speak with ease.
(Vol. 1 Part IX.–The Art of Narrating, p.231)



Why is narration so important?

1) It trains the mind to take something that was read or heard and mark it as important and to then file it away differently.

2) Attention and narration are tied together. Without the former, the latter doesn't follow.

3) It gives a child the assurance that his/her thoughts matter. When children feel as if their thoughts and ideas are important, then it naturally follows that they become more invested in their own knowledge.

4) Narrating trains the child's mind to process new information and to readily turn it around as something they then communicate to others.

How does narration improve the mind?

Imparting knowledge is more complicated than simply telling a child what he/she needs to know or reading a book which tells them what he/she needs to know. Narrating allows the child to handle new knowledge in a natural manner but with more complexity than is readily apparent. It is much easier for someone to choose the type and amount of information, transfer it to the child through lecture or reading and then have the child learn just enough to answer questions about it, than it is to have this same child read or listen to a large amount of information, freely choose as they read or listen to what inspires, interests or connects with their own mind and life experiences upon which they wish to focus, and then be ready to turn this input of information into an output in the form of a narration. They will be expected to turn this information over in their mind and share their new knowledge. This expectation will naturally train the mind to pay attention and to process the new information in a manner differently than when it is known that the important information has already been selected and there is nothing through which the child must sort.

How is narration a creative process?

A child who narrates is one who is given the freedom to express their own thoughts and feelings in response to something they've read or have had read to them and, in turn, the freedom to choose their own words or images. Painting a picture, creating an image from modeling clay, acting out a scene, writing a letter, creating a dialogue, extending a scene, turning poetry into prose, writing a character sketch, writing from a different viewpoint, constructing a scene with blocks, turning information into a chart or diagram, writing an essay which take a position and supports it, creating a map based on a vivid description, etc. They are so many ways to narrate. The output or narration a child can give in response to what they have read or have had read to them is almost without limit. The child can be creative in many different ways and this variety cycles back to the same points mentioned above. It is an assurance that their thoughts and ideas matter. They have a voice in this world too.This will lend itself to creating a child who is very invested in their own education and will want to find his/her own path for learning.