one step at a time...
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Sunday, May 05, 2013
If you are pre-reading books, don't read your children's books too far in advance. Years ago, I made this mistake, A LOT. I read several books that my oldest child would be reading two, three, three, and four years down the road. At the time, I couldn't possibly imagine my child being able to handle the ideas in some of these books. They seemed inappropriate for my sweet, little innocent daughter that I cherish more than my own life. Sooooo, being a little offended that such books were recommend on certain popular homeschooling book lists, I got rid of them. You know where this post is leading, don't you? Some of you more experienced homeschoolers are smiling right now.
Well, years down the road, I kept hearing about one of these books. "It is so wonderful, it is a 'must-read.'" I didn't understand this. I certainly didn't remember it being so great. Finally, I picked up the book again at a used bookstore. It was on clearance for a dollar so I bought it thinking it wouldn't be a great waste of money to give it a second chance. I took it home and reread it. This time, I liked it. In fact, I remember thinking, "Why, this book is really quite lovely. My daughter (now, three years older) will not only enjoy this tale, but benefit from these new and challenging ideas. Why did I ever think she couldn't?"
Folks, I began to reread and yes, rebuy those castaways. Are you laughing at me now? Go ahead. I'm laughing at myself. I learned a valuable lesson. Lindafay, don't read too far ahead because I can't accurately evaluate if my child can handle a book until my child is closer to the recommended age for that book.
Now, there have been plenty of books on booklists that were recommended by others but they simply didn't meet my family's standards of a worthy book FOR ANY AGE. I hope this is the case for you too, sometimes. A mother knows better than anyone else that her child is unique with unique experiences and callings. What may be appropriate for one child may not work for the other child. But sometimes, a book may seem inferior simply because we can't imagine our child older and with the maturity that is necessary to understand and benefit from it.
So my little advice today is try to pre-read your children's books as much as possible and at the appropriate time."
one step at a time...
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Then, this spring, the opportunity arose. My friend suggested that we travel across the US together and camp along the way to save on expenses. A hopeful spark ignited in my heart. It just might be possible...I broached the subject with my husband. He told me he couldn't leave his job for so long, but he would fly out and meet us for part of the adventure.Yessss!
Three weeks later, my friend Lari, six children aged ten to twenty years and myself, set off to see the east coast of the USA. Our most important goal was to show them Washington D.C. Our vehicles were loaded down with tents, bedding, and everything we would need while living out of our vans for 16 days. We stayed with relatives along the way, camped when we had to, ate cheaply, washed our clothing at laundromats, and showered whenever and wherever we could. Although it was difficult at times, our trip was so rewarding!
After many years of studying American and World history, art masterpieces and the natural world, we experienced the actual places, the monuments, the paintings and artifacts up close and personal. Our understanding of the great ideas behind them deepened immensely.
Before we left, I gave each of my children a new journal with colored pens, glue, and scissors. During our travels, each evening, we cut out and pasted in favorite pictures of the day from a pile of brochures and recorded our impressions of the events and places we visited. Here's a peek into some our our adventures:
"Rolled into the Greenbelt campground around the hour of 5—after a rather serious detour involving an empty gas tank and a few wrong turns : ) Set up camp in the cold and ate yellow lentils with hot tortillas...sang loud LES MISERABLES in the bathroom."
Perhaps the room where we spent the most time was a fascinating collection of stones and minerals which, had I seen it as a child, I suspect, would have shifted the course of my whole life. Thank goodness, I didn’t :)"
"We saw the horses,the storybook horses
that really do live!"
one step at a time...
Friday, March 22, 2013
Ambleside does not yet have a year 12. This is what one of my students studied for 12th grade. This is only the books for her first 12 week term. She has used Charlotte Mason's methods all her life and is accustomed to reading classic literature. It is based upon her personal interests. We have starred the books that we feel are the most important.
ANCIENT/CHURCH HISTORY and WORLD LITERATURE
*The Apologetics Bible
*My Utmost For His Highest, by Oswald Chambers
*Streams of Living Water, by Richard Foster
*Your God is Too Safe, Buchanan
Weapon of Prayer by Bounds, E.M.
*Reasonable Faith, by William Lane Craig
*Pensées Pascal, Blaise
Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview, by J.P. Moreland (for the serious philosophy student)
Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin
and various Armenian works. (my student studied both sides of the issue)
*Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley
*How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill
Scheduled WORLD Literature
*How to Read the Bible as Literature, by Leland Ryken
*Realms of Gold: The Classics in Christian Perspective by Leland Ryken
*Heroes of the City of Man: A Christian Guide to Select Ancient Literature by Leithart
*The Iliad, by Homer
*Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
*The Trial and Death of Socrates
*The Stranger, by Albert Camus
*The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy
*Island of the World, by Michael O’Brien (geography too)
*The Little Prince by St. Exupery
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius by Long, George
Confessions by Hippo, Saint Augustine of
Aristophanes, the Clouds
Calculus (various sources)
Mathematics, Is God Silent? by James Nickel
*Exploring Creation with Physics, by Dr. Jay Wile
Ignorance: How it Drives Science, Firestein, Stuart
Relativity: The Special and the General Theory Einstein, Albert
Write a poem every two weeks
Oral and written narrations
Notes and Outlines
She is also working on a novel.
Poetry and Recitations
*The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950 Eliot, T.S.
Poetry of Charles Williams (Taliessin through Logres, The Region of the Summer Stars, Poems of Conformity)
Having Decided To Stay by Johnson, Bryana
Various Turkish literature for translation
Various French literature for translation
Concise French Grammar
Open learning institute French program (online and free)
Paint every two weeks
Free Reading for entire year:
Brave New World Huxley, Aldous
Everlasting Man, Chesterton, G.K.
The Silmarillian, Tolkien, J.R.R.
Murder in the Cathedral by Eliot, T.S.
Tales from the Perilous Realm [with Roverandom] Tolkien, J.R.R.
Lilith by George MacDonald
Collected Fictions, by Jorge Luis Borges
Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen
1984 Orwell, George
A Rare Benedictine by Peters, Ellis
The Old Man and the Sea Hemingway, Ernest
A Damsel In Distress Wodehouse, P.G.
Letters to Children Lewis, C.S.
Sit, Walk, Stand Nee, Watchman
The Lady's Confession MacDonald, George
The Landlady's Master MacDonald, George
The Solitaire Mystery, Gaarder, Jostein .
The Time Machine Wells, H.G.
The Invisible Man Wells, H.G.
The First Men in the Moon by Wells, H.G. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
Phantastes by George MacDonald
Saga of the Volsungs
The World’s Last Night and other Essays C.S. Lewis
The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-earth, #3) Tolkien, J.R.R.
The Lost Tales Tolkien, J.R.R.
The Flying Inn by Chesterton, G.K.
Bleak House Dickens, Charles
Piercing the Darkness, Peretti, Frank
Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry
Gilead, Wendell Berry
one step at a time...
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Sometimes, I take care of a couple of boys for the day because their mother, a single mom, works full time outside the home. She home schools them in the evenings and on weekends. I consider their mother to be one of those unsung heroes on this earth. Although her sacrifices go unnoticed here, she’s a star in heaven.
I know that she has been reading aloud rich classic literature to her children for many years. Her son, Justin who is in 6th grade, has been reading his schoolbooks for several years but has only been narrating for about a year. On the day that he was visiting our home, he brought his schoolwork and began working on his assigned readings. Everything was going fine until he told me that he was supposed to write a narration. I hate writing narrations! It’s like climbing a sheer cliff! Tears welled up in his eyes. His brother explained to me that Justin has always hated writing narrations and it usually took him over an hour to complete one. I had expected this resistance because his mother had warned me that I probably wouldn’t be able to get a narration out of him.
In order to find out the reasons behind his frustration, I began to ask him questions. After pinpointing the problem, we sorted it out and twenty minutes later, he wrote a beautiful narration. As he prepared to go outside for a break, he said to me with enthusiasm, “If I could write narrations like this, I wouldn’t mind it so much!”
So what were the problems and how did we solve them?
I learned that Justin had read thirty-five pages from one book that day. Reading and narrating from that many pages is too much to expect from a child. Charlotte Mason kept the readings for younger children brief. Upper level students who have several years of narration under their belt may be called upon to do this, but no one else. Justin instinctively knew this was too much. He was overwhelmed. I would be, too.
In order to solve Justin’s dilemma, I asked him to recall one small part of his reading that he really enjoyed. Then I asked him to tell me about that part, and that part ONLY. I could tell that the ice was breaking. His face showed that he thought this task just might be possible to accomplish. Now, I realize that there are times when children double up their readings to catch up on a lost week. We do this sometimes too. But this should be the exception to the rule. Shorter readings are ideal.
Justin understood that he had to SUMMARIZE thirty-five pages. This requires sifting through huge amounts of material and determining the main points while leaving out all the juicy, exciting details. Such a task is not only overwhelming for children, but extremely BORING. Essentially, he was being asked to write an ESSAY. It's difficult enough for a child to have to write his thoughts down. Adding the task of summarizing can shut down some children. Crafting an essay involves higher level skills that are best suited for older children. Some children in the elementary years are capable of doing this, but I’ve never met one that enjoys it, especially if asked to do it on a continual basis. Charlotte Mason expected high school-aged students to begin learning this skill, not young children. Technically, essays are not even narrations, but a form of academic writing that is used in college level classes. This skill can be learned in a short amount of time. But it is best learned when children have become proficient writers and only AFTER they have learned to enjoy writing. And yes, I firmly believe that EVERY child can learn to enjoy writing (or typing), if the proper foundational steps have been put in place using Miss Mason’s suggestions religiously.
When I asked Justin to tell me about a particular part of the story he had just read, I reminded him that I hadn’t read the story, so would he please make it interesting. Don’t just tell me what happened because that is boring. Tell it to me like the author did. If you remember something interesting he said, try to do the same. Use fun words. Justin warmed up to this idea and did a fine job giving me a detailed narration. Why? Because in his thinking, this was doable and could even be fun. In fact, when he finished he was surprised that it was acceptable to me. He expected it to be harder.
Next, I told Justin that I wanted him to write down on paper what he just told me. I placed a timer beside him and set it for twenty minutes. If he worked hard and didn’t waste any time, he could stop when the bell rang even if he hadn’t finished writing down all he wanted to say. I assured him that since he had already told me out loud his entire narration, it didn’t matter if he couldn’t finish writing all of it down. The most important things he needed to remember were to be accurate and interesting. I don’t want to read a boring narration, Justin. And I’m sure you don’t want to write a boring one either. Have fun while you are writing. Again, he lighted up at the thought of these new guidelines. Maybe I can do this.
Twenty minutes later, Justin had written a FULL page. I honestly wasn’t expecting that much. I had browsed through his notebook and noticed that he generally wrote about half of a page. I asked him to go over it very slowly with his pencil and see if he forgot to capitalize or punctuate anything. Take your time. Then, I asked him to read his narration out loud to me. He hesitatingly began. I didn't interrupt.
Folks, it was simply beautiful. He uncorked the rich words that had been bottled up in his mind after several years of listening to great literature, and they began to run all over the paper. All he needed was the proper coaxing to start the flow. He had added little descriptive details that were not to be found in his previous narrations-and clearly, he was greatly enjoying it.
If your children are having troubles with the skill of written narration, it is just possible that their passions are being stifled by unrealistic expectations. Remember to shorten the reading, keep the writing brief, and let the child RELIVE THE TALE by saving the skill of summarizing for later years.