Monday, September 30, 2013

Dollygirl's Grade Seven: Week Five, Day Two (and a Saxon bonus if you read carefully)

Rummy Roots Card Game: move on from the "pre-Rummy" level to the "Rummy Roots I" game.

The Grammar of Poetry, Lesson on Metaphor
Discovering Mathematical Thought: more activities about close observation and thinking mathematically
(Map found here)  (Check out the slide show of that same album! Very cool reconstructions.)

History of England: “Names New and Old.” "Now it will be said that, however long we look upon the map of England, we shall never find marked upon it the country of the "North Folk" and the "South Folk,'' of the "West Saxons" or the "East Saxons," the "Wiltsaetas," or the "Dorsaetas." It is quite true that we shall not find these very names, but we shall find names so very like them that it does not require to be very clever to guess that they are really the same. We have not the country of the "North Folk " or the "South Folk," but we shall find the counties of "Norfolk " and "Suffolk " on the map in a moment. We do not talk of the "Middle Saxons," the "East Saxons," or the "South Saxons," but we do talk of "Middlesex," "Essex," and "Sussex." And, in the same way, though we have not got the "Wiltsaetas " nor the "Dorsaetas," we all know something about the counties of "Wilts" and "Dorset." We see that, though more than a thousand years have passed since the Saxons first came to live in England, and first gave Saxon names to the places in which they lived, we have "never forgotten those names, but still use them every day just as the Saxons did who first gave them to us."  ~~H.O. Arnold-Forster, A History of England
Natural History:  Look at some of the "use your magnifier" links I posted last week.  Use a magnifying lens to look at something close up, and draw it for your nature notebook.

The Accidental Voyage.  Finish the chapter if you have not already.  Choose one of the first four hymns covered in the book (see pages 242-245), and learn it by heart, either to music or to say as poetry.  Know who wrote your hymn (if it is known), and approximately when it was written.
Easy Grammar Plus 
The Sword and the Circle, “Sir Lancelot of the Lake.”  Homework:  choose one chapter or story from this book, and use one of the Literature Circle Ideas (see handout) for a short project.  Due in three weeks (after Thanksgiving).
Powerglide French:  work on "Chatter at a Royal Ball."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dollygirl's Grade Seven: We start Week Five

Daily opening time: hymn, memory work, go over corrected work

Poems:  each pick one to read.

How to Read a Book, pages 11-15 (finish Chapter 1).

Discovering Mathematical Thought, by Hal Torrance.  What can you discover by carefully observing photographs of a sunflower, a subway entrance, a pile of barrels in a city square?

Exploring Creation Through General Science, start Module 2. Read pages 35-39, What Science is NOT.  Experiment 2.1: How Does Weight Affect the Speed?  Experiment 2.2: Learning More About Weight and Speed.

Christian Studies: Book of Acts, Chapter 7.

Easy Grammar Plus: One page per day, finishing the unit on prepositions except for the review exercises (do those next week).

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?, chapter 5. Key quote: “At bottom, inflation is an ethics problem.”

Powerglide French: Demonstrate your mastery of  "white and black things."

Readalouds (The Two Towers) and crafts.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday rummage sale finds (mostly books)

We went to a couple of rummage sales this morning, and this is what came home:

A Jackdaw "Tower of London" folder of facsimile documents
Pioneering in North York, which is of special interest because it mentions some family members.  North York, for those of you not in Ontario, is part of Toronto.
A Book of Comfort, by Elizabeth Goudge. Kind of like her commonplace book.

The Saracen Blade, by Frank Yerby.  A historical novel set in the thirteenth century. (Oh--this one turned out to be a bit too graphic.)

The Bible Through the Ages, published by Reader's Digest.  Lots of medieval illumination!

The Snare of the Hunter, by Helen MacInnes
Britannia Mews, by Margery Sharp.  A hardcover edition, probably from the 1940's.

A "complete drawing kit for beginners," by Gene Franks.  I got it mostly for the pencils and other stuff still in the box--art supplies are often one of the best rummage sale deals!

A candy box full of knitting needles, for The Apprentice.

Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy: The Footprints of a Gigantic Mind

A pocket guide to rocks and minerals
Mystery at Deer Hill, by Virginia Frances Voight.  In terrible shape, but it is one of the oldest Scholastic novels, T 197.

An extra copy of The Secret Language, by Ursula Nordstrom.  TX 395.
Wild Horse Running, yet one more Scholastic book.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Close up on nature study, for Dollygirl

Mr. Fixit has several kinds of big magnifying glasses to help when he's doing small electronic repairs.  Recently he got another powerful close-up-looker (I'll have to ask him what it's really called), and he said that Dollygirl can borrow it for nature study.  Which was very nice of him.

I thought she might be inspired to know that the Handbook of Nature Study Blog just posted about 5 Ways to Use Your Magnifying Lens in Nature Study.  Barb also has a Squidoo Lens for Best Magnifying Lens Plans and Activities.  Here's an article she links to on the Squidoo Lens: 50 Things to Look At Under a Microscope. So go look at something today!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dollygirl's Grade Seven: Wednesday school plans

Tuesday's lessons got missed completely because Dollygirl had a sore throat and felt too awful to do school. Which brings up that age-old question: to try to squeeze some of Tuesday into Wednesday, or just count it part of life and go on as we were? Well, we'll move Tuesday's science test to today, but most of the rest will keep.  Update:  Wednesday was a washout too.  But since Thursday's schedule is much like Tuesday's, that leaves us pretty much back where we started.

Daily opening time: hymn, memory work, go over corrected work
Father, We Praise Thee #480 (Mennonite Hymnal)
Romans 8:1-11

English: Poems, How to Read a Book OR work on the Fingal assignment.

Math: Key to Percents, pages 32-33

Exploring Creation Through General Science (Apologia): test for Module 1.

Shakespeare's Coriolanus: finish Act I--a great moment of victory for Coriolanus.

Draw something in your nature notebook.

Christian Studies: The Accidental Voyage. Read to the star on page 63. Find the text of “O Light that knew no dawn” in the back of the book. Watch some of the organ-and-voices version on You-tube. Then watch the second version, a new (more upbeat) tune. Does one seem to fit better with the words?

French: continue the work from Monday

Readalouds: The Two Towers

Three things to make that really work--I promise

1.  Crockpot Applesauce Cake: the flavours of autumn in your slow cooker.  I saw the recipe first on Grocery Cart Challenge, but the original source is Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.  You can also find it posted (and credited) here.  Leave out the walnuts if you don't like them; the egg is also optional. (I was out of eggs and tried it without, and it worked fine.) Not too big, not too sweet, good for breakfast.

2.  A Year of Slow Cooking's "What my kids like" overnight oatmeal recipe.  (The second half of the post.)  Our apples kept their shape instead of disappearing into the oatmeal; but I like it better that way anyway.

3.  A no-sew doll tutu made from dollar-store tulle and a piece of ribbon.  (We found tulle on rolls last year with the Christmas wraps at the dollar store.) You can find the same idea, both doll- and girl-sized, on various websites, but this tutorial (if a bit long) gives the basics.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dollygirl's Grade Seven: Monday and Money

Opening time:  hymns, memory passage

History of English Literature: begin two connected chapters on the (real or invented) Gaelic poet Ossian and the story of Fingal (printed out on several pages, with spaces to add illustrations)
Math: Key to Percents, pages 30-31.  Calculating the percentage of sales tax and discounts.

History of England: How the Saxons, Angles and Jutes invaded Britain; how their arrival was different from that of the Romans; what happened to the Britons; and what happened to Christianity in Britain at that time.
Natural History : Keeping a Nature Journal

Christian Studies: Book of Acts, chapter 6.  "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people."

Easy Grammar Plus: What is the difference between a word like "down" when it is used as a preposition and when it is used as an adverb?  "She walked down the street."  "She looked down."
Whatever Happened to Penny Candy : Dollars, Money, and Legal Tender.  What did a "dollar" originally mean, and why is "legal tender" like counterfeit money?

Powerglide French:  sentences about small white things and large black things.

After supper:  swimming lesson.

(For those of you who don't know what Canadian Tire Money is, details here.)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dollygirl's Friday school plans

Dollygirl is deep into a Cornelia Funke novel that the Apprentice loaned her, so much so that it's a temptation just to say "forget school, go 'wead your book.'"  But don't get excited, Dollygirl: we still do need to get some lessons in before the weekend.

Opening time, O Canada, memory work

Ourselves: on Gratitude.

Literature:  The Bronze Bow, chapter 6.  Either some extremely dull grammar exercises on the book from a literature guide, or a written narration.  Mama Squirrel recommends door number two.
Friday math, problem solving and games:  A new game, Hasami Shogi, in the Klutz Book of Classic Board Games.  Actually what we're playing is Dai hasami shogi, if that matters.
French history:  Attila the Hun.

Current events:  what happened with the homeless shelter's food preparation problems?  What fifteen-year-old math prodigy is now studying at an Ontario physics institute?  What else is going on in the world?

Folk Songs:  "The Sands of Dee"  

Friday art time:  Time today to work on the art portion of the term's geography project.  (A "treasure box" holding souvenirs of H.V. Morton's trip across England.)

Updated with artwork: The Bridge at Narni (Corot Picture Study)

The second painting we are studying this term is Corot's The Bridge at Narni, not to be confused with any of his other bridge pictures (Bridge at Mantes etc.).
The painting above is The Bridge at Narni that you would see if you went to the Louvre.  It's an on-the-spot oil sketch that Corot did during his 1820's trip to Italy.
This is the neat part: the studio version of the painting, which was submitted to the Paris Salon in 1827, is now in the National Gallery of Canada. The painting didn't sell at the Salon, for some reason, but Corot was so fond of it that he kept it hanging on his bedroom wall until his death in 1875.  The NGC bought the painting in 1939.

If you click on that link (the National Gallery), you can also click on the "Audioguide" that you'd hear if you went to Ottawa.

So: two Corots in one.  Which do you like better?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

More similes for Dollygirl

"The short-clipped manes spring back like roosters' combs"  ~~ "Winged Team," by Jessie Haas, in Hoofprints: Horse Poems

"Chain mail polished like woven silver" ~~ "Treasure," by Jessie Haas

"Horses are swimming in the sea.
Their long manes slide like foam
down the green, glassy wave-troughs."  ~~ "The Spanish Armada Retreats," by Jessie Haas

"Like a prairie fire, the horseback idea
spread across the grasslands."  ~~ "Flare-up," by Jessie Haas

"He first saw one with the corner of his left eye, a wisp of pale sheen that faded away; but others appeared soon after: some like dimly shining smoke, some like misty flames flickering slowly above unseen candles; here and there they twisted like ghostly sheets unfurled by hidden hands."  ~~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

"While the grey light lasted, they cowered under a black stone like worms, shrinking, lest the winged terror should pass and spy them with its cruel eyes."  ~~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Found: similes!

Our last lesson in Matt Whitling's Grammar of Poetry was about similes.  Similes are sometimes harder to find than you'd think. I keep seeing personification, metaphor, but not so many similes.

But here are some I just came across.

Oh! I have just had such a lovely dream!
And then I woke,
And all the dream went out like kettle-steam,
Or chimney-smoke.

My dream was all about--how funny, though!
I've only just
Dreamed it, and now it has begun to blow
Away like dust.

~~ Eleanor Farjeon, from "Waking Up," in The Kingfisher book of Children's Poetry

In a single motion the river comes and goes.
At times, living beside it, we hardly notice it
as it noses calmly along within its bounds
like the family pig.  But a day comes
when it swiftens, darkens, rises, flowers over
its banks, spreading its mirrors out upon the flat fields of the valley floor, and then
it is like God's love or sorrow, including
at last all that had been left out.

~~ Wendell Berry, from "Sabbaths 1998" in Given: poems

Carnivals this week, and one extra Charlotte Mason link

Yes, carnivals are still happening!  They seem to be getting a smaller, with all the other kinds of media competing for our time...but these old faithfuls are still running.

The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is to be hosted right at its mama site, Fisher Academy International.  Not up yet, but that's where to look.

In the meantime, you can peruse "Charlotte Mason and the Latest in Education Research", at The Common Room.  I really hope the DHM sent this to the CM carnival, but I'll pass it along anyway.  This is an amazing post--lots to think about. hosts the Carnival of Homeschooling: In the Clouds.  The only word that comes to mind for this edition is "cute."  Several of the posts have their own little word clouds (good thing the carnival hasn't been as extensive lately!).  I particularly liked the post Switching Key Habits in the Home and Homeschool: Cultivate a Growth Mindset, at Simply Convivial.  (How is a child's "can't do it" attitude towards math similar to an adult's "I'm burned out, so I'll always be burned out" thinking?)

Enjoy the carnivals!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dollygirl's Monday School Plans, with some updates

Opening time:  hymns and memory work.

Poems, especially those with similes in them (theme of last week's Grammar of Poetry)

History of English Literature: “One of the Sorrows of Storytelling” (a retelling of of Deirdre).

Math: Key to Percents: starting on page 24, Estimating Percents. Work for 30 minutes.

English History: finish Chapter 1 (short section on Christianity in Roman Britain); read Chapter 2 together, "The Coming of the Saxons."

Geography, In Search of England: continue reading. Goals for this week: complete Chapter 3, mark map, work on project.  Natural History:  read chapter 1 of Keeping a Nature Journal; go outside and make a journal entry.

Go on an errand with Dad.

(Lunch break)

Christian Studies: Acts of the Apostles, continue reading.

Easy Grammar Plus: continue the unit on prepositions.

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? Chapter 3, "Inflation."

Powerglide French, starting on page 22: working with number vocabulary. Follow notes on the bookmark.

Readalouds (Tolkien) and crafts (cross stitch).

After supper: swimming lesson.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Showers of blessings (and more of Dollygirl's frugal hacks)

A Regal Pro bread machine from a yard sale: the same model we used to have, so we know how it works (and even have the manual, that the company kindly sent me last time).  I baked a loaf of Classic White in it this afternoon and we had it for dessert.  (Don't ask.)

A half-price fall floral arrangement from Michael's, for our front hall.  The kind that lasts forever.  I looked at those awhile back, but patience pays off...they were 40% off early last week, and I still hesitated, but by Friday's flyer they all went to 50%.  The one I picked is fairly small, but it goes well with the Tom Thomson painting over the hall cabinet.

Speaking of Canadian maples...I guess it is a blessing that the tree came down without any further damage, or the tree guys getting hurt.  Still, the stump looks kind of raw and lonely.  We are thinking of maybe putting a bird feeder on top of it.

The girls' friends, who (variously) like to ride bikes, take photos, and do homework with Dollygirl and Ponytails.

Ponytails' soon-to-arrive birthday.

Working on (thrifted) counted cross stitch kits.

A previously-ordered copy of The Heart of the Family arrived for me at the indie bookstore, and I had a bit of extra money put aside to pay for it..

The girls had optometrist checkups (kids' checkups are covered by the provincial health plan), and they don't need anything different (the anything differents are usually not covered).

Price-matching between some of the local stores...this has made my life easier (although maybe not the cashiers').

The funny bits in The Two Towers...'What is it?' growled Sam, misinterpreting the signs.  'What's the need to sniff?  The stink nearly knocks me down with my nose held.  You stink, and master [Frodo] stinks; the whole place stinks.'  'Yes, yes, and Sam stinks!' answered Gollum.  'Poor Smeagol smells it, but good Smeagol bears it.  Helps nice master...'

Some freebie-box finds from a support group meeting last night: a horse activity book for Dollygirl, a couple of teacher-books, and a set of Latin and Greek Rummy Roots card games.  I knew who owned the card games, and I did give her some cash for them because it didn't feel right just taking them for nothing.  But still, that was pretty neat.  Also I got to borrow Norms and Nobility from the homeschool library.

The ballet set that Dollygirl made for her Samantha doll this week...almost entirely out of odds and ends.  Really, she did an amazing job.  The tutu was made from strips of tulle knotted onto a ribbon sash; she has a choice of two tops (a camisole I had made before, and a striped stretchy top Dollygirl made from a sock); Dollygirl made felt-and-ribbon ballet slippers, legwarmers from the same sock, and a felt bag to hold dolly energy snacks and a towel.  Some of the other dolls joined Samantha in a recital of highlights from The Nutcracker.

Showers of blessings...yes.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Treehouse and the tree

See the large maple in the corner of the hedge?

By the end of today, it will be gone.  It's gotten too big, it's too close to the neighbour's roof, and it was damaged in the storms we had earlier this summer.  Time creeps up on all of us, and also on our trees.

But it is still a sad day for the Treehouse.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dollygirl's Wednesday School Plans

Opening time:  choice of hymn, work on memory work (from Romans 8).

The Grammar of Poetry, done together.  A lesson on similes.

Key to Percents, Book 3.  First activity:  play "Guess My Decimal" with a celebrity panel of dolls and stuffies.  Each one has an index card with one of the eight multiplication-of-decimals problems on page 13. Your job:  to solve all the problems before the time runs out.  Cash and large expensive prizes will probably not be involved.

Second activity:  Work through page 14.  Do not solve the problems; just rewrite them as instructed.

Homework activity:  Solve the problems on page 15.

English History:  Two short chapters in Arnold-Forster's History of England.  Homework:  read two pictorial books, Fishbourne: A Day in a Roman Palace, and Roman Britain by Felicity Hebditch.  Come to class tomorrow with a list of ten Stump-the-Teacher questions and answers.

Handicrafts: Start working on a mini cross-stitch project.

Plutarch's Lives:  Coriolanus, Lesson 2.  (We will be reading the corresponding scene from Shakespeare's play later in the week.)

Easy Grammar Plus:  one page in the workbook.

Christian Studies:  read the next chapter in the Acts of the Apostles, and narrate.

Teatime! (and probably Tolkien)

Monday, September 09, 2013

Why it's good, often, to lay out your week

Sunday-night planning is tradition for a lot of homeschoolers.  At our house, because the trash gets picked up early Monday mornings, it's part of the Sunday evening routine: take out the garbage and recycling; make sure  any public-schoolers have signed permission slips or whatever they need; and go over the week's homeschool work.  That's when I rescue the 2-litre plastic bottle from the recycling, because it's on the supply list for a science experiment; when I track down a book that's gone missing from the shelf; and when I try to figure out the tune to the next hymn or folk song.  It's the homeschooling equivalent of looking in the cupboard and seeing if we have enough oatmeal and sugar to make cookies tomorrow.

But the best kind of planning goes beyond that.  I don't mean in a compulsive, track every minute every paragraph way, but in terms of overall goals.  Do you know, for example, what pages or chapters or topics your students are going to read this week, or that you're going to read to them--and if they read their own work, how are you going to communicate those plans to them?  Or if you don't plan ahead to that extent, do you at least know what books or materials they're going to use this week, and in what sort of order? If you have older students who do written narrations, do you have a couple of the readings tentatively (or definitely) marked for that?  If you want older children to help younger ones with math or reading, are there particular topics this week that would be a great match for those kids (or not)?

If there's a new and difficult book you have worried about starting...and for AO Year Sevens, there are a few of those...your planning time is also the time to boost up your own confidence and ability to communicate what's important or special about this book.  A couple of school years ago, I decided to start reading Silas Marner to Dollygirl.  Silas has been the butt of bad-English-class jokes since about the day it was published, but it honestly doesn't deserve its long/boring bad rap.  But like Shakespeare plays, it's easier to follow the book if you have some kind of a character guide; so Dollygirl got one made from "Mom's doodles"--like stick figures. Like meeting too many people at once in real life, it's hard to make sense of all those names without a bit of a hook; but it doesn't have to be complicated.  Just drawing the bad guy in an evil-looking hat or with a sword is enough.

You might have been thinking about a particular child's learning style, say a VSL-type, and wanting to incorporate some good ideas you read about in Upside-Down Brilliance.  Some parent/teachers can think on their feet and come up with stuff on the spur of the moment: "Quick, grab ten books off that shelf and put them in alphabetical order."  But for the rest of us, it makes more sense to preview the week's plan and pencil in some "let's try this" ideas, than to finish Friday and wonder why the week dragged so much.

Real-life examples:  At the Treehouse, this is the week we start Whatever Happened to Penny Candy, so I'll pull out the family box of coins.  This isn't just for amusement--we have some U.S. and other coins in there that have "reeded" edges, which is something discussed near the beginning of the book.  Why do coins have the features they do, such as reeding?  It's based on a question of honesty (keeping coins intact, not being able to shave off the edges without being detected).  I also noticed that there's an article in today's paper about Bitcoins, which I don't think we'll need for Chapter One but which is worth hanging on to for a later chapter.

When I look at Monday's work, I realize that we have three book lessons in a row, unintended, and they're all on British history (or history of literature), or British geography, also unintended.  Simple fix:  since we're rotating history and science, Monday's main history lesson moves to Tuesday, and we'll do science experiments today instead.  And what's that Robert Browning quote in the first chapter of English Literature?  About a magic place--

"Where waters gushed and fruit trees grew
 And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
 And everything was strange and new;
 The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
 And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
 And honey bees had lost their stings,
 And horses were born with eagles' wings."

Oh--it's from "The Pied Piper."  Well, I'm not going to re-read the entire poem during our opening time today, but maybe the last part.

For geography--well, Dollygirl will be doing most of the other readings today on her own, so it wouldn't hurt to read In Search of England together, and then we can talk about the narration project I want her to do over the term.

And so on.

A final note, and this is important:  I am not a compulsive planner in every area of life.  For instance, I've tried writing detailed dinner menus for the week, but for us it doesn't work well; if we have the pantry ingredients, we're usually good with day-ahead meal plans or even "it's three o'clock, what are we going to eat?"  As long as the food gets on the table, it seems to work.  I'm not knocking those who prefer to know every meal a week ahead: if others are cooking or you have to buy ingredients, it's good to know what's coming up.

I know some people reading this will have more children, more books to read, and more plans to write.  It is not possible to pre-read and pre-think absolutely everything during the week, and I'm not suggesting that our look-ahead weekend planning is the right way or the only way to homeschool, to do Charlotte Mason, or even to do Ambleside Online.  If your students are more independent than mine, it may be possible to just turn them loose with a checklist of chapters to read.  For us, it works better to have a bit of a Mom-plan.

P.S.  The funny side of planning:  I called down to Mr. Fixit to ask if he had a piece of cork for Dollygirl to use in a science experiment.  "Yes, but you'll have to thaw it," he called back.  Thaw it?  "Not pork...cork!"

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Camille Corot and Playing with Colours

On Thursday, we did a traditional Charlotte Mason-style picture talk of "The Colosseum Seen From the Farnese Gardens," by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, painted during his three-year tour of Italy in 1826 (his first break-out period).  I also read some biographical material from Discovering Great Paintings: Corot (published by Fabbri).  After describing the painting verbally, Dollygirl did a quick pencil sketch of the main features.
Friday was our "do art" day, and I had planned something else for the first week of school.  But I was interested in something I had read in our booklet of Corot paintings.  The author says, “The olive trees in the foreground, the crumbling brick and stone of the ruins in the middle and the pale light playing over the distant hills in the background are all quietly but also poetically realistic.  He has created this effect with chalky whites, pale sage greens, grapey purples and tawny browns which produce a remarkable yet restrained colour harmony.  This harmony is so powerful that it could exist almost independently of its supposed subject.”
That gave me an idea for an art activity.  This is what I suggested to Dollygirl:
1.  Have a very close look at the painting.  Can you pick out the four colours described?  Are there any other colours that stand out?  (Dollygirl disagrees that there are purples in the painting; she says they are blue.  I said that might just be our reproduction.)
2.  Look at  the “Basilica of Constantine” and “View of the Mount Pincio and the Church of Trinità dei Monti seen from the garden of the French Academy,” two other paintings done at the same time.  Compare the colours of those paintings with “The Colosseum.”
3.  Using chalk pastels, oil pastels, or pencil crayons (or a combination) in similar shades to the ones described, create one of the following:  a real or imaginary landscape; a sketch of a real object (maybe something outdoors, like a plant or tree); or just an experiment with colours.  Don't use any other colours than those listed.
4.  Do you agree that “chalky whites, pale sage greens, grapey purples, and tawny browns” work so well together that it almost doesn’t matter what subject you choose?  Or is the author exaggerating?   
“As the sage said, if you follow someone, you are always behind him.”  ~~ Camille Corot

Friday, September 06, 2013

Frugal First Week (Dollygirl's Grade 7)

So how are we "homeschooling on less" this year?

As the Deputy Headmistress sagely remarked this week, sometimes the best resource is just the one you already own.  We are re-using or recycling several things that the older girls used in middle school:  Apologia General Science (without the Windows 95 disc, though); Powerglide French; The Easy Grammar Plus.  We are playing vocabulary games with a dictionary I've owned since university, and experimenting with a math board game that the Apprentice was given when she was really too young to appreciate it.

Under the mesmerizing influence of Hope for Homeschool's organizing posts, I did buy a bin for hanging file folders, and a beauty-ful purple binder at Staples.  But most of the components of our (very modified) workboxing system have been recycled from four years ago, including peeling a few sticky-Velcro dots from containers that wouldn't work this year--wrong size, wrong shape--and re-sticking them on others.

We are using (or will be using) quite a few things collected at the thrift store.
And several free online resources:  vintage history books, math books that I downloaded as Kindle freebies, printable maps.  Not to mention Ambleside Online, and Donna Young's indispensable website.  And the photo of Grandpa Munster in his lab that I printed out to decorate our science-stuff box.

We bought several packages of lined paper when The Big Mart had a door-crasher sale of 15 cents a pack.

Dollygirl decorated one binder with a collection of stickers, and a (really awesome) science binder with some printed-out photos of dolls doing science.  Really.
But in the end...whether you're homeschooling cheaply or extravagantly, whether or not you have a "good year" isn't just about the stuff.  Because staying positive doesn't cost extra.  Neither does finding a schedule that works for you, and making sure there's variety in the school day and not too much homework.  Also, in some subjects, letting the student set the pace.  I know the classic CM scenario is "You have two pages and twenty minutes; if you can do them correctly in less than that time, you get the rest of the time to yourself." But sometimes it works just as well to say, "Work for twenty minutes.  How much can you get done?"  They might surprise you.

Making a "Herman Munster's Citizenship Class" bookmark, with space for writing in new words or other notes, took a few minutes and a piece of cardstock.  So it was almost free. (If you ever watch The Munsters, you know that being a good citizen is very important to Herman.)

Using the newspaper to pick out a few key current events was (more or less) free.  We had the Premier of Ontario squeezing tomatoes at the farmer's market, a story about a local homeless shelter that's dealing with a health-department enforcement on where its food is prepared (no more home-baked brownies); and the fact that two world leaders don't want to sit almost-next to each other at the G-20 conference.  Every kid understands what that's about, if not exactly why. (I am not meaning to make light of current serious world events; this was just a way to try to bring a very large story into a smaller compass.)

Letting Dollygirl wear her pajamas to school on Friday was, obviously, free.  This was inspired by our first-week handicraft, a pair of doll pajamas.  Dollygirl sewed the bottoms, I sewed the top.  The doll in the pajamas came to school too.
And the cost of Dollygirl's science presentation on lab safety, featuring Polly Pockets who had suffered various dreadful effects of experiments gone horribly wrong?  (Think mermaid tails.)

Like they say on the commercials: priceless.

Slowing down a speed reader

There's one book on this term's schedule that I know Dollygirl is going to try to rush through and say that she's read it. In fact, she "read" the first chapter in about ten minutes, when I think it took one of her sisters about three weeks.

Looking over the next chapter, I notice that it mentions several Christian symbols found in the Roman catacombs; but you have to read carefully to find out which ones.  So next week's reading will be accompanied by a sheet of paper headed "Symbols of Faith" and divided into boxes, on which she will be asked to draw the symbols that are mentioned.  (Something I learned from the mama in All-of-a-Kind Family.)

Illustration from All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, illustrations by Helen John.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

How Way Leads Onto Way: a Two-Days-Before-School Post

You see it frequently in real estate ads: "not a drive-by."  In other words, a house doesn't show so well from the road, or it looks small from the front, or you just really need to get out of the car and have a closer look to fully appreciate the beauty of the property.  Those rushing by on their way to somewhere else will miss out.

Recently the phrase "drive-by thinking" came up.  Somebody referred to the fact that we cannot possibly all put the same amount of thought into every issue that comes at us, or we'd go crazy.   Everybody probably has at least a few "drive-by" topics.  Richard Maybury's first "Uncle Eric" book mentioned this, too: that there are times where you're given some information that may or may not be accurate, but you don't care enough about it to question it.  For instance (I think Uncle Eric said), the fact that you can make a mock apple pie using crackers.  If you're not particularly interested in pies, not a baker, and not short on apples, you're not likely to go to the trouble of verifying that piece of information. It doesn't matter too much to you if it's true.  Other issues, you take a more personal interest in, spend more time and thought on.  A few things, maybe you invest a lot of time on, and then--to come full circle--you find it frustrating when other people just "drive by."  Shouldn't everybody care about whatever-it-is as much as you do?

I heard last week that Ontario public-school testing has shown a drop in elementary-level math scores over the last few years.  The suggestion was made that "regular" elementary teachers shouldn't be teaching math at all, but should be replaced by specialist math teachers.  I read this in the newspaper at about the same time that I was reading an online article about the "right" way to teach Charlotte Mason elementary math...which, while it interested me as most CM things do, also made me wonder (naturally) if I'd gone about our children's math teaching all wrong.  Maybe I messed things up, and that would be logical.  In many people's eyes, I am a complete amateur with almost two decades of homeschooling experience, but still a extreme generalist.  I have no right to be teaching middle-school math, or music, or science.  (I might be able to squeak though on the writing major.)  But, according to the crtiics, neither do the "qualified" generalist teachers have the right to be teaching math!  I guess that makes me feel better, or at least in good company.

Two days before school starts, I have library books on the coffee table about polymer clay, mosaics, and crafting with string. I also have a vintage copy of the Oxford Book of English Verse, and the 1987 travel book Heidi's Alp.  I'm reading Phillip E. Johnson's Darwin on Trial, George Eliot's Romola, and Todd Oppenheimer's The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom and How Learning Can Be Saved.  I'm thinking about Christian martyrs in Rome, Charlemagne, Corot's early painting of the Colosseum, and the rules for a math game (not to mention the load of laundry in the washer, the electrical work we need to get done, and the Apprentice's wisdom teeth).  I'm happily discovering that our local library's website lists DVDs not only of the 1984 BBC production of Coriolanus, but of the film Castle, based on David Macaulay's book; and that they have a copy of Rosemary Sutcliff's book Outcast.  (They're not generally very big on Rosemary Sutcliff.)

I care about a lot of things, and I have to, if I'm to get a homeschool year together that contains more than one subject (and have a life outside of that).  I could spend all summer focusing on just one subject area: science, or math, or something.  However, there's no way I could go into that much depth for every part of a "generous curriculum."  In at least some subjects, I'm always going to be, if not driving by, at least stopping only for a short look.  I cannot be an educational expert on Byzantine art, the Spanish Armada, mitosis, irregular verbs, vectors, and antinomianism.  Way leads onto way, as Robert Frost said, and on some things we may never come back.
But here's the point:  that's okay.  See the photo of John Holt with his cello?  He didn't start that until he was almost forty. He never let what he didn't know keep him from trying to find out.

I can't know as much about a lot of whatevers as a specialist does.  My life, so to speak, has an awful lot of drive-bys.  I slow down where I can, and sometimes I get to climb out, take my time and explore.  In the meantime, life goes on, and another school year begins.
"Corrie, we don't know where the road leads, do we?" "No, Andrew, we don't," Corrie replied, "but let's go there together."  ~~Brother Andrew, God's Smuggler