"'Education is the Science of Relations'; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of––
'Those first-born affinities,
That fit our new existence to existing things.'"

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education
with a quote from The Prelude by William Wordsworth

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Heritage History

I found Heritage History, another great online book site with all kinds of old children's history books. It works a lot like The Baldwin Project; in fact a link to "Baldwin" appears in books that are on both sites. The Heritage History collection is not as extensive as Baldwin and is more focused on history in a broad sense to include legends and fiction. I especially like that it has more Catholic offerings than Baldwin, making the two great Christian companion sites.

For example History of the Catholic Church by Rev. James McCaffrey, complete with an Imprimi Potest, is available. The site also has quotes at the top of the page, several of which are from G.K. Chesterton (though none of his works appear on the site, probably because they are readily available elsewhere on the Internet.)

I've added the link to my Book Sites section. So much to read and so little time!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Living Media

"'Education is the Science of Relations'; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of––
'Those first-born affinities,
That fit our new existence to existing things.'"

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education with a quote from The Prelude by William Wordsworth

She goes on to state, "The children I am speaking of are much occupied with things as well as with books, because 'Education is the Science of Relations,' is the principle which regulates their curriculum; that is, a child goes to school with many aptitudes which he should put into effect."

Miss Mason lived until 1923, just at the time of radio's development and long before television, computers, or the Internet. While living books will always be the cornerstone of our homeschool, I am also always searching for living audios, videos, software, and web sites. We do not exclude any sources (though certainly families do for their own good reasons); instead I evaluate all these things in the same way I do our books.

A living book:

...is written by a single author with expertise and enthusiasm for a subject;
...is well written in an engaging style such that they are an enjoyment to read;
...has high quality information in terms of its depth as well as in relation to good character formation.

One does not have to stretch that definition too much in order to apply it to other media forms. Certainly we can find absorbing programing that has little educational value, or worse, with moral values counter to a family's own. We can also find boring educational media, or educational material that is over-simplified or not of "literary" quality (the recent fad of gross-based science materials comes to mind.)

Finding engaging, challenging media presented in a quality format, i.e. living media, can be hard to find in a world of media twaddle. Then again, finding living books in a world of twaddle is not easy, either. When we see our children forming a "relation" with material of which we approve, then we know we've found a living media.

Feed their minds nothing but the best.

Friday, December 19, 2008

December ice and now snow

You may have heard about or lived through the recent ice storm here in the Northeast. Our town was hit hard, though it was at the edge of the storm. Drive a few miles in any direction but north and the damage was far less.

We awoke last Friday at 3am to the frequent sound of trees cracking, bending, and sometimes falling. We waited for one to hit the roof, though that never happened. Many people likened it to gunshots in a war zone. We lost power for 6 days; thousands in the area are still without it. Please pray for them.

The next morning we saw the crystal coating forcing all to bend beneath it. The birches especially yielded low but did not break, while the hardwoods simply snapped. Branches were scattered everywhere.

By noontime the sun ignited the ice, and a stiff wind blew it off the trees in bursts of sparkling, pelting showers. The trees groaned again.

Still, it was beautiful. The light was so brilliant, and world so transformed, as if I were no longer home. And the ice is fleeting; already it is gone. And now as I type, we are being blanketed by a foot of snow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Money rabbit trails

Yesterday, ds#2 had to "make change" for his MEP lesson. Not wanting to do this on paper, I took out our play plastic coins and a money puzzle in which half the pieces had priced items pictured on them.

I gave ds#2 money and asked him what to buy something and then figure out how much change he should get.

Ds#1 & ds#3 though that was great fun so I let them get out the large money kit and go shopping. I only asked that they make change rather than give exact amounts.

Interestingly, ds#1, who learned addition and subtraction with Math-U-See, wanted a dry erase board to figure out change from $1. Ds#2, learning addition and subtraction with MEP level 2, explained to him how to subtract 2 digit numbers from 100 mentally. Ds#1 picked right up on it, since he has been asked to do that for review at MEP level 3 as well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Because I love board games

You Are Chess

You are brilliant and shrewd. You can often predict what people will do in the future.

You thrive in complex situations. You deal with contradictions well.

You can have many streams of though going on at your mind at once. You keep track of things well.

You are very patient. You have lots of endurance, even when your energy dwindles

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Geo Bee, and how to learn facts

Today we had our first Families of Faith Geography Bee focusing on the United States. Our family spent the term creating our own state sheets so my dss would have at least been exposed to states, capitols, nicknames, flowers, birds, and trees. As the bee approached, though, I knew that they knew very few of the facts they filled out over the past several weeks.

I let them play the states and capitols games at sheppardsoftware.com a few times, and before long they knew their state capitols! There's nothing like trivia games for learning facts. We seem to remember even better the ones we get wrong, and we also review what we do know.

I went hunting for other online games for the state nicknames and symbols. I found a web site called purposegames.com that has dozens upon dozens of these games for a variety of subjects. They have simple but nice graphics, and the games are no more than matching, yet they are a fun and effective way to drill facts. I had the kids playing them this morning and by noon they knew a lot of those symbols and nicknames!

You can register for free at purposegames.com and create your own games, too, should you not be able to find just the right one already made. Hmmm, maybe a saints game, since they actually don't appear to have one yet...

Friday, November 14, 2008

String Art

This week I went back to our Color book and got this idea for string art.

We use only primary colors for this and blend them to form secondary colors.

We cut lengths of string and dipped two at a time each into a different primary color, wiping of the excess. We placed the strings randomly onto a folded piece of paper, leaving a tail outside of it, and then slowly pulled out the strings one at a time while holding light pressure on the folded paper.

Ds#2 figured out even before we pulled the strings that the result would be symmetrical.

When we were done I mixed together small areas of the intense primary colors to form the more muted secondary ones.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rabbit trail of dominoes

As our first term winds down, it seems the kids are wanting to go off on more "rabbit trails" than usual. I don't mind too much, depending on the trail they choose.

Yesterday the tin of dominoes that has been there for years finally found some appeal. They built a house with them and, well, even though they did not play the game of dominoes they did used them for their arguably better known use:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Starry Night

Last week the boys interpreted Van Gogh's Starry Night. I thought it interesting that they found the old tree to be the focus of the painting; personally, I am always drawn to the bright swirls of stars.

For some reason I don't know where ds#3's composition ended up. Hopefully it will turn up soon!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Artist study and art project

I got this idea from this post at Eclectic Education. It is so natural, so obvious, yet I didn't think of it until the post, part of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival, probably because of my general art neglect, LOL.

I read the post but did not do the art project until a few days later. I chose Van Gogh's Sunflowers because ds#3 has actually drawn that picture before (yes, and still the idea did not occur to me.) I went back to comment on the post and saw she had actually used the same work! I must have really liked the whole idea, LOL!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Husbands and Food TV

This is what you get when your hungry husband watches The Food Network.

He made the dough from scratch.
He even went out to buy some of the toppings.

This was very popular with the boys.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Views from our nature study

We have been studying trees since the beginning of the school year with another family in our back yard. Now that we have major repairs and upkeep occurring to our house, we can no longer romp around our yard. We've moved up to their yard where trees are sparse but the views are beautiful. Here's a couple of photos from our walk today on this unseasonably warm day just past peak color here in Massachusetts.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

M.E.P. update

We have been using MEP (Math Enhancement Programme) for over 8 weeks now and, after a bit of trial and error, I have finally found where all my boys should be. We are all really happy with it.

M.E.P. is a complete, and completely free, math curriculum. Years 1 through 6 are for kids ages 6 through 11. The next stage is Years 7, 8, and 9 for ages 11 through 14. The high school program is called GCSE and, like all the other years, is a spiral program. In the US, high school math is done by subject each year (algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus) whereas GCSE covers all 4 with increasing difficulty as a student progresses through the program.

For Years 1 through 6, downloading, printing, and organizing the program is difficult at first until you get the hang of how it is put together. Each year has 3 ebooks:
  • Practice Book. This is the student's book to write in and typically has 4 exercises.

  • Lesson Plans. This is the teacher's book. It has all the exercises in the Practice Book plus several more for the teacher and student to do together.

  • Copy Masters. These are supposed to be for overhead projectors, and many of them are already in the Practice Book. I print out the ones not in the practice book and give them to my child to do.

Each of these ebooks are broken down into 6 sections to make the files smaller for downloading. This means you have 18 files to download for each year. Some of the files require a password to open, which is available in the files section of the Yahoo MEP-homeschoolers group.

I print all of the Practice Book, plus pages of the Copy Master not in the Practice Book. I do not print the Lesson Plans since I view them on the computer during our math time.

Here is how our family uses M.E.P. I set aside 40 minutes for ds#1 (age 9.5 doing Year 3) and 20 minutes for ds#2 (age 7 doing Year 2); I do Year 1 with ds#3 (age 5.5) on occasion. We complete whatever exercises we get done in that time and then stop regardless if a whole lesson is complete. Rarely do we finish a lesson in that time at this point but I see my boys working somewhat faster as they get more comfortable with the program.

I call each exercise a "math challenge" and when they complete each challenge they get a small sticker in the margin of their Practice Book or on the Copy Master sheet I printed. Some of the challenges in the Lesson Plans are done orally or on a dry erase board, so I give them verbal praise for completing it. While some of the challenges are nothing more than a series of calculations to do, usually put together in an interesting format, most of them are showing different ways to use new math skills, and some introduce very advanced concepts in their most simplistic form.

The program is written to be used in a classroom. The exercises are easily adapted to be done by a single child on a dry erase board, with few exceptions.

One of the fascinating and wonderful things I like about this program is that ds#2 has been doing a lot of adding and subtracting from 0 to 100 but has not been taught the "algorithm" that most math programs teach. Yet because he has been doing these calculations in his head, when I do "regroup" he understands exactly why that works. He is not learning a procedure, like ds#1 learned; instead he understands the math in such a way that the procedure eventually becomes obvious to him. This is the part I really like.

The other thing I like is that the kids are doing a lot of calculations in these challenges, the equivalent of a typical "drill" but in a very engaging format. This really has helped them remember their math facts, far better than drill sheets do, because they are using them repeatedly in various interesting contexts. As they remember their facts better, they complete challenges with more ease and speed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More abstract art

We've continued with primary colors, abstract art, and lines. This time we traced tools on our paper and then drew lines across them. Each new little section is colored in a different primary color.

I happened to have a board book with pop-out cardboard tools in them that I used--it was easier than trying to hunt them down in the garage.

I've moved art to Wednesdays and Science to Fridays in hopes of doing more art, since we do so much science anyway. It seems to be working so far.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quotable Saints for copywork

I just bought this affordable title from CHC and it is almost perfect for copywork. The print is very small, and on newsprint-type paper so it can be difficult to read. Ds#2 can use it fine but I know ds#1, who struggles a lot with copying of any kind, would likely need the quotes retyped and enlarged.

The quotes are grouped by theme; you can also use the index to find all the quotes from a particular saint. I'll be using this book a lot for cursive practice and dictation, too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Italy study

I am currently leading God's Country Club as we study Italy. Check out what we did this week at God's Country Club blog.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wow, another art project

Amazingly, I was able to get in another art project before making lunch, frosting pumpkin bars, and heading out to a casual and fun harvest party!

This is based on the work of abstract artist Piet Mondrian. Trying to create something with just the right balance of color and white, just the right rectangles (golden ratios, perhaps?) gives an appreciating for this style of art.

The kids' work came out pretty well. We used oil pastels on sketch paper. The oil pastel tends to smudge into the white space, though.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Art project, finally

The kids finally completed an art project a week later than I expected. It seems our Fridays continue to be taken up with all sorts of different things...

This simple project involved making patterns with primary colors. While my boys do not have the drive to create perfect reproductions in each square, the results were still pretty good.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My new home

I have moved from my blog at Homeschoolblogger over to here so that all my blogs will be in one place. I hope you like my new home!