"'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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

da Vinci Advent Art Study

I was inspired to include an art and music study during our Advent break by Studeo: Marian Songs for Advent. I wanted to put together some Madonna pictures for an art study; I needed to look no further than Leonardo da Vinci.

About.com: Art History has a collection of da Vinci images that includes 9 relating to Advent. And they're large images, too. Be careful--some of the later images are not da Vinci but were influenced by him. And I love his final work, St. John the Baptist.

Shown here is The Virgin of the Rocks, ca. 1483-1486.

Friday, November 27, 2009


We took this week off from any formal studies (other than cooking!) and we interrupt our regularly schedule schoolwork for Advent. I have found a few new intriguing resources for this year.

We will have our Jesse Tree and Advent Wreath. Jennifer Miller at Family in Feast and Feria has put together a wonderful reading schedule based on three books by Inos Biffi made available through Family-Centered Press. The schedule also includes two saint books by Ethel Marboch Pochocki, Saints of the Seasons for Children and Around the Year Once Uppon a Time Saints.

Elizabeth Foss on her Serendipity blog has created an Advent Around the World collection of books, links, recipes, and crafts.

I've bookmarked a fun interactive Advent calendar from the USCCB. Roll over the calendar itself to open the doors. Will something be in there on Sunday?

I need to finalize our Advent schedule. I've decided to continue MEP in hopes of getting Ds#1 into Y4 sooner (we just started the second half of Y3) and to get Ds#2 into Y3 (he is in the sixth and last book of Y2.) Maybe we'll do some history reading, too. Most of all we are excited about preparing our hearts for the birth of our Savior.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


For the past several years our family has been a part of a large co-op. The first one met in someone's home, and when she moved away the co-op fell apart because no one agreed about how to run it. We were then active in a second democratic co-op that also fell apart. Lesson learned: good co-ops need leaders to make the decisions.

This year we are part of a 3-family Catholic Co-op that is part of the TORCH organization. This has been dramatically different from our previous experiences. I teach science (of course) but I can teach the topic and method that fits in to the rest of my homeschool. Though I still have 10 kids as before, we can break into groups, watch videos, do outdoor activities more easily. Overall it is much more relaxed.

The two other moms teach cooking and saints. Our final week focused on St. Jerome since Ds#1 was St. Jerome for All Saints Day, and Ds#3 was the lion from which the saint pulled a thorn. The picture shows them reenacting the scene.

Speaking of All Saints Day, we also had a party with our TORCH group. We had cupcakes instead of a cake and put a saint icon on top of each.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More On MEP Math

I continue to be amazed by MEP and my kids continue to love it. Because MEP is so different, it took a year for all 3 to be able to complete one MEP lesson each school day.

Ds#1 is on the 6th and final book of Y3. Interestingly, MEP is just now introducing vertical addition--you know, listing the numbers vertically and then adding with regrouping. Finally, his 4 years of Math U See could be used for MEP and he of course breezed through these problems.

Those of you not familiar with MEP might be scratching your heads. What is MEP doing in all the time between learning addition and learning vertical addition? MEP teaches arithmetic using small numbers and then students use these basic skills to learn a wide variety of other math concepts and applications--continuing sequences, filling in tables, logic puzzles, money and metric (which focuses on units, 10s, 100s, and 1000s,) geometry, algebra, order of operation, and of course, word problems. They use small number arithmetic so much that moving to 3 digit numbers or vertical math with regrouping is simple because they already understand the concepts. It is just another or bigger way of doing what they have already been doing.

For example Ds#2 is doing Y2. MEP introduced multiplication and division together, one being the reverse of the other. And while most of his calculations are on the multiplication chart, he sometimes has to do things like 68 ÷ 4. First he says he doesn't know that, but he knows that 68 is 40 + 28, and he can divide each of those by 4, which is 10 + 7 = 17. He learns early on to regroup numbers because it is useful, not because it is what you need to do vertical arithmetic.

It is as if typical math programs put the cart before the horse. They certainly present the concepts of place value and regrouping enough for kids to get an understanding for them. But you better pick it up quickly because you're going to be adding 5 digit numbers soon! The message is that you need these skills in order to do the algorithm without any understanding of the greater mathematical picture.

I invest 40 minutes each for Ds#1 and Ds#2, and 20 minutes for Ds#3 teaching math and it is worth every minute. And to think such a math program is free.