"'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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Journey North

Journey North is a site with a number of project in which your "classroom" can participate. The projects are free, though the "teacher" needs to register. I decided to participate in the project relating to photoperiod (sunlight) called Mystery Class and open it up to our homeschool co-op. The project starts this Monday, February 2.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Concrete Math

Ds#2 started multiplication, and division, this week in MEP. Each year is broken up into 6 books, and he is somewhere in the 4th one. At first he was intimidated. "I don't know division," he said.

MEP introduces both concepts simultaneously and demonstrates that they are opposites of each other. It shows how to find the answer to division problems using his multiplication tables. It gives pictures and has him write addition, multiplication and division problems for each one. Ds#2 thought that was great.

One activity asked that he use blocks to represent a simple problem like 5 x 2 = 10. He knew the answer readily and did his work on paper easily. I almost skipped the blocks thinking he had a good understanding, but since the MUS blocks were right by us, and they were not getting as much use these days, I grabbed them.

To represent 5 x 2 = 10, Ds#2 took out a 5, 2, and 10 block and got immediately frustrated because he did not know how to make an equal sign. After asking him to put the 2 block back, and asking how many "times" did he add the 5, he took out another 5 block. He then put them together next to the 10 block, and I saw his light bulb go on.

The experience reinforced for me the importance not just of the hands-on aspect of manipulatives, but also of their concrete nature, which is so important for young learners. Blocks, number lines, rulers, containers, whatever demonstrates the concepts concretely will help them better understand what they are doing in their books. I will make a point of doing that with Ds#1 whenever possible as he continues (with wonderful success I might add) to overcome his dependency on the standard algorithms and actually *think* about the numbers and concepts.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Today the boys finished ILL and PLL early so I started reading from Grammar Land by M. L. Nesbitt. The book is in the public domain so if you live in the US you can download it free from Google Books. I printed and comb bound it at home (listed as Home bound in my LibraryThing, lol!)

The boys really enjoyed Chapter 1. Judge Grammar divided his kingdom amongst 9 different Parts of Speech, and they are quarrelling over some words about where they belong. So Judge Grammar, with his assistants Serjeant Parsing and Dr. Syntax, have summoned his parts of speech to present their cases to him. First up is noun, but that is chapter 2.

Parsing a sentence...now I have not heard that term in a really long time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

More rabbit trails--where they go

We had what is to be considered a mild day around here with temperatures in the high 30's. After the kids were sledding in the yard for awhile I put on my boots and took them into the woods.

We didn't need to go but a few steps when we saw rabbit trails around the edge of the yard.

They were only in the area close to the yard, not further back in the wood. And they all stopped at various holes.

I don't know if the kids expected to see creatures in the holes, but they certainly wanted to see what was down them. Some of them were just leaves, as if the rabbits had dug there and moved on. The ones at the tree bases were deep holes where we could not see the bottom.

We only went a little further back today, enough to see again our grove of bent birches. Looking closely you can see that all of them bent together such that their crowns are entangled preventing them from returning upright like most of the others have.

I think Mrs. Gatty could have made a parable of the scene.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Building towers

What is it about kids and towers? Ds#3 entertained himself building a tower taller than himself--and his brothers, much to their excitement.

What do you do when the tower is complete?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Connecting With History

History for a Catholic Charlotte Mason educator is difficult. The popular Story of the World and the old books favored by Ambleside Online are comprehensive histories, so they are textbooks, after all, regardless of their packaging and writing style. They are also biased against Catholics so they are not really a good fit for our family.

World History is block time for us, meaning I want to have both living books and hands-on activities. My boys just will not sit and let me read to them for more than fifteen or twenty minutes at a shot. I was going to pick a time period and try to put together some resources, but nothing in the popular or out-of-copyright material incorporates any Catholic perspective whatsoever.

I remembered RC History came out with some sort of world history program last summer. I was wrong, however, in thinking that it was something along the lines of Story of the World only from a Catholic perspective. It has a classical design, and it uses a variety of living books available through the library. I read the review at Love2Learn. Yes, this is a Charlotte Mason style program.

I ordered a copy of volume I today. Volume II is just coming out and will be available next month. St. George Catholic Books has free shipping, so I am trying the program without the extras for now. I guess it is meant to be done in one year, with 4 volumes planned in all to match the 4 year cycle of a Classical education. We of course will do things at our own pace.

With Connecting with History, and Maureen Wittmann's book For the Love of Literature I am ready to put together our World History studies.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Primary Secondary Overlapping Art

This week we used both primary and secondary colors for our creations.

We drew overlapping shapes onto our 11x14 wet media paper. You can make a template out of cardboard or cardstock as the book suggests, but we had some PlayDo cutters that worked just fine.

The boys painted the shapes, except the overlapping areas, in primary colors. They then mixed their own secondary colors and painted the appropriate overlaps with them.

I found some $1 tablecloths at Walmart to cover our homeschool table--so much easier than newspaper, even if it is not very durable. I should be able to get a few uses out of each one.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Schedule Tweak

'Tis the time of the year to make adjustments. I am happy to say that for the first time I am just adjusting the schedule to reflect how learning has been occurring rather than trashing the thing because nothing has gone as I planned! :o)

Basically on Thursday I took out the regular stuff we do for Math and Language Arts and replaced them with other stuff in order to ward off the drudgery of repetition. Copywork is from Quotable Saints. Math for Ds#1 is Life of Fred Fractions, while for Ds#2 it will be any of the many living math books we have. I added in Poetry, a sorely missed omission. I have no place for Shakespeare right now so he will remain shelved for the time being (or maybe alternating with Poetry?) We are reading stories from The Book Of Virtues and The Moral Compass with the P.A.C.E. program.

The Monday block time used to be for living Math and Language Arts, now it is for World History as of last night. I have to figure our what we're actually going to do for that!

I found a fabulous web site to upload documents that you can then embed into you blog. Here is my current schedule, viewed through Scribd (click two-toned button on upper right to view full screen):
Our Schedule 2008

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Skin, first layer

We continued with our study of skin today by completing the first layer of our skin model. Ds#1 read a few pages in Blood and Guts and then we got to work. They each colored n their own subcutaneous (hypodermic) layer complete with fat cells, and parts of vessels, nerves, and glands.

I printed this layer on card stock; to this we will tape two more layers that will fit just above the contour shown. And of course the boys love to ham it up for the photo of their great work!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rabbit Trails--Literally!

With a lot of inspiration from In The Sparrow's Nest I decided to actually go out with the kids and not just send them out to play. We explored the snow-covered woods in our back for a full hour!

We found lots of rabbit trails in the snow, both large and small. We also looked over some of the residual damage from the ice storm. Some of the birches, mostly, are forever bowed over. A few large trees were uprooted because they were sitting in wetlands created by an underground spring.

Here is a slide show of our adventure.

I found this photograph particularly interesting. Though the tracks are imprints into the snow, the lighting makes them appear as if they are embossed onto it. It even looked that way through the view finder.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New! Hands On Homeschool Blog Carnival

My friend, Cheryl, over at Talking to Myself has created a new blog carnival that should be a great resource for homeschoolers.

Hands On Homeschool Blog Carnival is the place to post or view great homeschool learning projects. I am always looking for more hands-on activities so I can't wait to see the submissions. The first edition is scheduled to post on February 2nd so please drop by to submit an entry or browse the carnival!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Radial Patterns in Secondary Colors

First thing this morning the kids played Blurt! instead of doing PLL or ILL. After finishing MEP and reading St. Thomas Aquinas and the Preaching Beggars, I looked through the Using Color in Your Art and put together this project.

I used the small radial cutter to cut 6 circles out of finger paint/wet media paper. I folded the circle 3 times to produce 8 segments. The boys outlined the segments and painted the same pattern in each using only secondary colors.

I asked what a radius was, and Ds#1 knew from reading Sir Cumference books.

They made some wonderful creations! As the book suggested we also looked at the use of secondary colors in The Green Violinist by Marc Chagall.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Update on Ds#1 and Starting Science

Yesterday Ds#1 had his EEG. The weather was miserable, with sleet and freezing rain. After Dh took the day off, and keeping Ds#1 up until midnight and waking him at 4 am (EEGs are done while sleep-deprived) nothing was going to keep us from this appointment.

He did well with the whole thing. It took a bit of time to measure, mark, clean, and attach the 24 electrodes. He had to close and open his eyes, breath fast, and have a strobe light flash over his closed eyes. He squirmed quite a bit because that is his nature, yet the technician said she got good readings. No news is good news and today I did not hear from my pediatrician.

I decided to start science today only because it's easier for me to wing that than Native American History. You can read more about Blood and Guts and The Body Book over on AtHomeScience. We read about the skin while I hitched up the scanner and scanned in the skin model from The Body Book.

Before the term started I ripped out every page from the binding, trimmed the edges, and put each page into a sheet protector. This makes them so much easier to photocopy (the book instructs you to make a copy of the models for each student.) Now I have a nice PDF file of the skin model sheets to print as I need them. Eventually I will have them all scanned for my personal use.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back to school

I was not ready to start back today--I have not finished planning my Native Americans unit, nor even my Human Body unit. Between the power outage, Christmas, working extra shifts, and the craziness on New Year's Day, I am not prepared. But I trust in the Lord, and the day went well.

I followed the schedule we've been using, so we read Faith and Life, did PLL and ILL, then MEP. We read tales in the Eric Carle book.

Our Monday block time is set aside for Math or Language Arts. Ds#1 and Ds#2 did a few Mad Libs together while I read with Ds#3. Next I grabbed the magnetic word board I picked up at the beginning of the year. Ds#2 made sentences and then we put the words into the appropriate part-of-speech block. Ds#1 liked making silly sentences.

Tuesday is co-op an the dissection supplies have not arrived yet. What to do?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Another ED trip today with an uncertain future

During good times, and especially during bad times, the Divine Mercy holds a special place in my heart ever since I saw the image of the risen Christ with those words, JESUS I TRUST IN YOU.

Nine year old Ds#1 woke up this morning and had a seizure. He was not ill nor had a recent head injury. His exam and blood work at the emergency department were normal. Simply, he had a seizure and we don't know why.

He will have an EEG, probably two, to see if that shows any signs of epilepsy. Even if that is normal, he still has a 1 in 4 chance of having another seizure in the next 3 years. Yet if it is normal he will not need to see a neurologist or be treated with anticonvulsants. Here is a good article I found explaining exactly what to expect from what happened today.

Though I have seen many seizures working in the emergency department, it simply does not compare to it happening to your own child. Please pray along with us for his good health.