"'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

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hands On Homeschool Blog Carnival #12

School is back in session for just about everyone now, and our kids are getting busy doing hands-on projects! Here is the place to get inspired.

Cheryl is starting an official mailing list for this Carnival. Please drop her an email...CherylinMa at gmail dot com...if you would like to get a email when a new edition comes out. She's looking for hosts, too!

Let's begin with the many, many ideas Jimmie gives us with Living Math with Factors, Multiples, and Primes posted at Jimmie's Collage.

Jimmie also has a neat narration tool, Puppets for Narration posted at Heart of the Matter Online, a Christian homeschooling group blog full of information.

Go out and get your hands dirty! Katie give several suggestions for Using Nature Study to Study all Areas of Science posted at Katie's Homeschool Cottage.

This science lesson is after my own heart that Teresa blogs about in Best Lesson Ever posted at higher education.

Barb shows the beautiful art her children created in Geography Through Art: Ivory Chessmen posted at Harmony Art Mom. The book recommendation looks great!

Martha gives us a different perspective of "hands on" as she describes Today's Extraordinary and Amazing Event posted at Sunrise to Sunset. She also added in a hilarious post about a sign during her family's recent visit to the zoo in Texas is a Country, really! posted at Sunrise to Sunset.

Interested in making a simple, large, timeline display? Dana describes hers in Our Timeline posted at school for us. It is really impressive!

More on history, Sarah in the woods shows her family enjoying a day in ancient Rome in To The Republic! posted at The Forest Room. The Roman bath is just precious!

Finally, Yours Truly has a wearable science, or is it art, project Solubility, Capillary Action, Math, and Art on At Home Science. I'll also be sending this one on to Miss Julie's fabulous new kids' art carnival, The Gallery. It's well worth the visit!

Thanks for visiting the back-to-school Hands On Homeschool Blog Carnival. I'm really looking forward to more wonderful ideas throughout the year!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Response to "Unit Studies and Charlotte Mason"

Jimmie's Collage has a blog entry in the current Charlotte Mason blog carnival encouraging a discussion about Miss Mason's opinion about unit studies. Here is the quote Jimmie refers to:

"The well-intentioned, clever, hard-working teachers who create these concentrated studies have no idea that each lesson is an offense to young minds. Children are eager and capable of a wide range of knowledge and literary expression. But these kinds of lessons reduce their learning to senseless trivia and insipid, pointless drivel. They develop apathy that stays with them, and the mere mention of learning makes them anticipate boredom. Thus their minds wilt and deteriorate long before their school career ends."

Let me first define "unit studies" as the integration of multiple school subjects, such as literature, history, math, and science, based on a single unifying theme. Entire curricula are designed in this manner, the most well-known being the excellent program, KONOS. Yet even KONOS has parents supply their own separate grammar and math programs, and the science portion is weak in several units.

It is one thing to integrate topics that naturally flow together, for example drawing from your literature to create copywork, or reading historical fiction and period literature along with your history studies, or assigning writing topics based on your subject of study. Trying to make other subjects integrate, however, is like putting square pegs into round holes, and those other subjects suffer because of it.

Math and science are two subjects likely to be short-changed; this is because these are rarely the central theme of a study. Activities that integrate these subjects usually are contrived as Miss Mason observed. Creating word problems based on historical subjects does nothing to increase a child's mastery of mathematics. Science involves reading biographies or science history rather than learning scientific principles.

Today I see a different notion of "unit studies" in homeschooling circles, something that is more properly called "thematic units." We are studying Westward Expansion this year, so I have collected a variety of resources--books, movies, games, web links, lesson plans--relating to this theme. I do not try to integrate grammar, math, science, art, or any other subject into this theme. I do, however, provide a variety of approaches, including hands-0n activities, for kids to learn from, though our homeschool is child-driven in this narrow area. I give the kids an activity book and they pick out the project they want to do, or something else of their choosing, so they make their own connections rather than me giving them mine.

This goes back to my own philosophy about phantom "holes" I used to worry so much about. We are learning about vast subjects, like history and science, of which we could never master all there is to learn. The notion of "core knowledge" is an illusion when we consider all that we leave out of curriculum standards. And when we forget more than we learn of trivial facts, then what our children retain through the relationships they form with a topic is as worthy as what anyone else has formed. Our task as teachers is to provide the framework that reflects our world view and the resources that instill our moral values; our children will then forge their own knowledge relationships.

This reminds me of a G. K. Chesterton quote (who married a woman that worked for the P.N.E.U. by the way) that is at the bottom of my left sidebar:

"The present collapse of this country began when education was regarded as a substitute for culture, or rather when instruction was regarded as a substitute for education, or rather when getting facts by teaching was regarded as a substitute for getting truth by tradition."

That is where KONOS has it right--by centering their themes around Christian virtues. In that sense, our entire homeschool is one continuous unit study centered on the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Westward Expansion: Corps of Discovery

The first topic in Westward Expansion is the Lewis and Clark Expedition, or the Corps of Discovery. Here are the books I have found for the boys to read, and a few comments about them.

Of Courage Undaunted by James Daugherty is a classic. The Captain's Dog by Roland Smith is an interesting selection I have not read, told through the eyes of Clark's dog, Seaman. Seaman's Journal by Patti Eubank has the same premise only it is a short picture book. How We Crossed the West by Rosalyn Schanzer is done in the style of a D'Aulaire or a Holling, so I chose it for a read aloud. I have several books in the In Their Own Words series, which intersperses primary source journal entries in with the rest of the non-fiction text.

Below I put three "spines" that I found very helpful. Lewis and Clark for Kids is one in a series of books that chronicles topics and has a dozen or more activities to enrich them. The other two books are both what I call "timeline books," meaning the table of contents gives a timeline of events and each short chapter details those event. These and others in the two series will be very helpful this year.

Addendum...I forgot to list some of the web resources I found!
Online gamesWe also have The Lewis and Clark Adventure Game that has lots of information on the board, as well as the National Geographic movie.

The Gallery blog carnival

Miss Julie has started a new blog carnival at her Art Projects for Kids blog to showcase kids' art work. It's called The Gallery and it is fabulous! Submit one of your projects, get some really great ideas, or just enjoy the wonderful artwork.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Our first week completed!

Summer officially ended for us August 31, the day we started back to our schedule. The week got off to a great start, if not as vigorous as future weeks promise to be. The weather has been so spectacular--the best all summer--that after First Friday Mass and Reconciliation I let the kids go out and play.

I am still updating the sidebar with out spines and readings. This year I have them sorted by child, though I may sort it by subject, too. I posted my schedule on the sidebar as well.

For World History we are studying the ancient world using Connecting with History, so we are at Creation currently. This program is specifically designed to study Salvation history together with secular history, so much of our religious study is tied in with this.

For US History we are studying the 19th century through three units. First we are covering the Westward Expansion, covering topics like Lewis & Clark, the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails, The California Gold Rush, the Homestead Act, and the Transcontinental Railroad. Next we are going to cover the Industrial Revolution (there's lots of stuff in Massachusetts to explore this topic, from the Blackstone Valley Corridor to the Lowell Mills to Old Sturbridge Village.) Finally we are going to cover the Civil War, from the antebellum period through Reconstruction.

For Nature Study we are studying plants. I don't have a fun read aloud yet; I've just pulled all the science readers and picture books I have relating to plants so far. I found this interesting link to hands-on activities for learning plant classification that we will do.

We are covering some Earth Science this year, starting with rocks, minerals, and soil. Since we are doing that with our TORCH group, that won't start for a couple of weeks. I'll post more about that on AtHomeScience.

Picked up a book bag full of books from the library yesterday. No one can say they have nothing to read, that's for sure!