Thursday, May 3, 2018

2017-18 End of Year Evaluations

Three more weeks left in our school year!  Things are beginning to dwindle as some subjects are finished and more are dropping off each week. It's that time of the year where we start feeling a bit more free! I've come to love the end of the school year, not because I'm exhausted and so ready to be done, but because it is so satisfying to reflect on the past year and all that was studied, experienced, read, discussed, made, and enjoyed.  Focusing on filling our souls with truth goodness and beauty has resulted in full hearts and minds at the end of the year. Of course we're all ready for a break, but we're not exhausted, burned-out, and dreading the start of "school" again...

This past year, my 5th/6th grade kids had the following subjects:

-Math: Art of Problem Solving PreAlgebra and Math-U-See Zeta
-Latin for Children Primer C
-French for Children Primer A
-Writing & Rhetoric Books 6-7 (Commonplace, Encomium & Vituperation)
-Grammar Voyage by Michael Clay Thompson
-Building Poems by Michael Clay Thompson
-Reasoning & Reading Level 1
-Lyrical Life Science Anatomy
-Tapestry of Grace 19th Century history
-Hand-picked literature titles

Much of this is just carrying on in the paths we've been walking for the past few years. I had planned to also work through Memoria Press Geography 3, but it proved to be too far above their level for this year. We'll try again next year. :)

Math: We did our best with The Art of Problem Solving. We both really liked it. It was super challenging, but it required a lot of time, and incurred a lot of frustration. The results were what we enjoyed though, as the math concepts were coming to life for both me and Luke.  But, after one semester, we were only a third of the way through the book. :( He chose at semester to switch back to Math-U-See Prealgebra. He started at the beginning of the book, and found it so easy after The Art of Problem Solving that he's going to finish the whole book by the end of this semester!  So, I'd call that a win. I'm going to have Kiryn work in it a little bit next year too for fun.

Language: We all still love Latin!  It is the kid's favorite subject, with French now a close second.  We are translating harder and harder sentences and it's a lot of fun.  They both really enjoyed French this year, and we'll continue into the second book next year. Writing & Rhetoric is going so well. They are really turning into wonderful writers, and best of all, they enjoy it! I have been so pleased with their encomium essays this semester!

Again, we love love love Michael Clay Thompson grammar and poetics. We made it through both books this year and I'm so impressed with the depth of understanding they have of poetical devices, complicated sentence structures, and their ability to use different phrases and clauses in their writing appropriately.

We began the year with Sassafrass Science as our main text for our human body study. But somewhere in the middle of the first semester, they got bored with the reader and we weren't getting to the experiments.  They really preferred the Lyrical Life Science book, and so I let them focus more on that. They did great with the songs, and with the workbook.  I also had them do some sketches in their nature book of the body systems they were studying.  This was a really interesting study, and kept things simple for science this year. We finished it with six weeks to spare, so we're moving on to birds using Memoria Press's What's That Bird? set.  They both are LOVING that since high now we have lots of different kinds of birds in our yard building next. We have European Starlings, blue jays, robins, cardinals, and several small sparrows or finches...  Great time for a bird study!

Tapestry went really well this year. I really just use it as a guide. I did my Big-Picture planning over the summer where I planned out the books we'd read and how long we'd give each one, what projects we might do, maps, and what literature titles we'd read.  I kept it fairly restrained and set reasonable expectations that were just about right. I wanted them to be reading 45-60 minutes per day. I'm so very pleased with their finished book stacks this year!  They've written some great narrations on their history, done some beautiful projects, and thanks to the Accountability and Thinking Questions in the Tapestry student pages, we've had some really good discussions together as well. I plan to keep doing Tapestry my own way for the foreseeable future.

In addition to this, we studied Rembrandt and Botticelli paintings all year, got to know Vivaldi and Beethoven's works, read two Shakespeare plays in their original entirety (Twelfth Knight and Romeo and Juliet), read two lives of Plutarch (Theseus and Romulus), learned six hymns, and memorized I Corinthians 13, Psalm 100, and the Gettysburg Address.

My younger two had a great year with Veritas Readers, All About Spelling 1-2, Explode the Code, Cottage Press Primer 1, Song School Latin 1, MUS Alpha and Beta, and lots of wonderful books from Tapestry of Grace, Ambleside, and My Bookhouse.

And now for Mom.  I have somehow managed to complete the following ClassicalU classes:

-Essentials of Effective Teaching by Robyn Burlew
-Teaching the Great Books by Joshua Gibbs
-Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing by Andrew Pudewa
-Principles of Classical Pedagogy by Dr. Christopher Perrin
-Essential Latin by Karen Moore
-Plato: The Great Philosopher-Educator by Dr. David Diener
-Teaching Math Classically by Andrew Elizalde
-How to Teach History by Wes Callahan

Over the summer, I plan to take:
-Reading and Teaching the Odyssey
-Assessing Students Classically
-Essential Logic: The Logical Fallacies
-Teaching the Classics by Center for Lit with Adam Andrews

I've also read:
-Plato: The Great Philosopher-Educator
-Villette by Charlotte Bronte
-Treasure Island
-Robinson Crusoe
-Life Under Compulsion by Anhony Esolen
-The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse
-Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass
-Little Women
-Uncle Tom's Cabin
-The Iliad
-You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith
-Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
-Norms & Nobility by David Hicks
-A Thomas Jefferson Education
-The Black Moon and Angry Tide (Poldark novels) by Winston Graham

I'm currently reading or will read over the summer:
-How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
-Beauty for Truth's Sake by Stratford Caldecott
-The Aeneid by Virgil
-A Beginnner's Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael Schneider
-The Vicar of Wakefield

This is one of those things like when you look back at your budget and you cannot figure out how you paid all your bills. I look back at this list of books read and classes taken and cannot account for how I did this. :)  It does not seem like it should have been possible. But, there it is! I did it! It's been a tremendous year of growth for me personally, and I'm so thankful for the time I had investing in myself as a person, mother, and teacher before we step into the middle school and high school years. I feel equipped and prepared. I have a plan and I'm sticking to it.  Well, not really. I'm sure it will be drastically changed! Maybe I should say, I have principles and a philosophy, and I'm sticking to them. :)

Here's to a great year next year!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Multum, non Multa" or a "Broad and Generous Feast"? Yes please!

(Nota bene: this is not a scholarly article. I'm a homeschooling mom. These are the ramblings of my mind as I'm processing the things I'm reading, listening to, and being changed by. Please forgive me for not citing sources or attributing quotes properly. I'm summarizing. If you think I'm getting it wrong, please comment and let me know!)

There has been much and lively debate about whether Charlotte Mason deserves to be considered part of the larger classical tradition of education.  Having first discovered the classical tradition, and through that being introduced to the ideas of Charlotte Mason, I have always been curious about the differences and similarities between the two. Last year I chose Charlotte to be my educational mentor for the year and set a goal to read as many of her volumes as possible in one year. I made it through four: Home Education, School Education, Formation of Character, and Towards a Philosophy of Education. I found myself nodding in agreement with much of what she said, and encouraged and affirmed with the study on classical education I had done.  It seemed to me, uneducated as I am, they were much in agreement.

Since then, in reading and interacting with others who strongly disagree that Charlotte Mason is in any way part of classical education, two main differences between her method and the classical tradition have risen to the surface.  The first is the role of the teacher.  The second is the contradiction  of a broad and generous feast with the classical principle of "multum, non multa." Charlotte proposes the implementation of a broad and generous feast, and uses the analogy of a broad and varied diet for the mind, just as for the body. In classical education, a main principle is multum, non multa: much, not many.

In all the curricula I've looked at based on Charlotte Mason's writings, there are lots and lots of subjects.  Most have at least twelve, some up to fifteen or more.  Each subject or area of study has one or two books assigned to be read over the whole year.  Often times, the books are read very slowly over a long period of time.  A student may read one chapter a week in nature lore, one chapter a week in history, one chapter a week in science.  Different subjects are studied everyday, or, lessons are kept very short and every subject is read every day.

The idea of multum, non multa, would seem to be in contrast to this. Dr. Christopher Perrin likens it to digging deep wells with our students.  When you are digging a deep well, you inevitably can only dig so many at a time, so you must focus and think deeply on a handful of things at any given time.  I have heard some strong Charlotte Mason proponents criticize this idea by saying it is like starving your child.  I rather think that the way most curricula spread a broad and generous feast could be doing that instead.

C.S. Lewis talks about treating books as if they were people. (I think.... it could have been Mortimer Adler. Or maybe Angelina Stanford. I know she talks about this in her lecture on the Nourishing Your Soul Circe Conference audio CD.)  But this idea has gotten me thinking.  We all know that we can only handle so many relationships at a time.  Trying to juggle too many friendships can leave them each neglected and prevent them from deepening as much as they could otherwise.  What's an ideal number of friends to have? Isn't this a relative question? For some people, it's one.  For others it might be 7 or 8.  For others, 3-5 good friends is a healthy number.

Charlotte Mason also talks about education as the science of relations.  I think this is a really important idea.  We want our kids to develop relationships with their areas of study. To care about them. To make friends with them.  We also want them to notice the relationships between one subject and another. We want them to see the connection between one author and another.  But in order for our kids to develop good relationships with their studies and to love them each, shouldn't we bear in mind how many relationships they can handle at any given time?  Is it realistic to think that any child could really develop a deep love, relationship with, and understanding of 15 or more friends at a time?

It is possible that digging a little each day in lots of wells will achieve the same results over the course of the year as digging deeply in a few for a time, followed by digging deeply in a few more wells for a time.  But what is going to be more rewarding and healthy for the child?  Many children will do much better with a more focused, long gaze at a few things.  It will enable them to focus their interest and think deeply about things.  Over the course of a year, if we spend a twelve-week term digging 2-6 deep wells, and the next 12 week term, pick 2-6 new wells, and so on, by the end of the year, we could have even more deeply dug wells than digging 15 a little each week!  Not only is this good for the students, but it's so much more manageable for moms!

I put this theory to the test this year.  I had been attempting to follow the Ambleside Online recommended reading lists and schedule for a handful of subjects. I used these mostly as read-alouds for our Morning Time.  Last year, it just felt like slogging through waist-deep water;  it was a lot of effort, and very little progress to show for it.  Reading 8-10 books at a time was just wearing me out.  None of us enjoyed it. It just felt like so long between meeting each character or entering each story, and it felt like starting all over each time (much like seeing friends infrequently for brief encounters).

This year, I decided we'd focus on only 2-3 topics each term, and we'd change them up from term to term. (This is in addition to our core studies).  We are reading a something historical (historical fiction, biography, or a narrative history), and a literature title for pleasure at all times.  Then we have one other thing we're reading.  It could be a science classic like The Storybook of Science or Parables from Nature.  It could be a life of Plutarch, or a Shakespeare play.  But, it's only one thing.  And we'll read it until we are finished with it. We'll read it everyday.  I have been so surprised and pleased with how this has worked out in our school this year.  Far from starving my children, they have loved the books we've read. We read through (almost) the entire Parables from Nature the first term, and my daughter did a lovely drawn narration of each chapter.  We moved through it much more quickly than Ambleside schedules it, and we still loved it. We spent eight weeks reading Swiss Family Robinson. We read it everyday for about 20-30 minutes. We LIVED in that story.  We knew the family. We could picture their homes and the entire island. It became a regular topic of conversation.

The best benefit of all has been the amazing finished book stack we have as we are approaching the end of this year. It is the biggest and best shelf of finished books we've ever had.

By serving a few dishes at a time and savoring them each for their intricacies, we have feasted royally this year.  There's more than one way to serve a broad and generous feast to our children. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Great Homeschool Convention 2018: Two Big Questions

If you have not had the opportunity to go to one of the Great Homeschool Conventions, I can't encourage you enough to start planning right now to go to one near you next year!

This was my second trip to the GHC in Fort Worth, TX. I went last year and was so encouraged and blessed by the trip. I just took in as much as I could from the "mentors" I had been following online and learning from. I got to listen to Dr. Christopher Perrin, Sarah Mackenzie, and Andrew kern, among other excellent speakers.  I was eager to go back again this year!

While I was anticipating my trip this year, I thought of some specific things I wanted to research or get answers to. Over the past year, I've done a lot of comparative analysis of many of the most popular Great Books programs out there, trying to wrap my head around what it means to teach/read the Great Books and how to do it in high school. (The spreadsheets I've made of book lists make my head spin...)  I went really looking forward to talking to the publishers of some of those programs and hearing from them about why their programs were laid out the way they were. I have felt like all of them (with the exception of Memoria Press) have unrealistic book lists, and I kind of wanted to hear their defense for their choices and why I should require my kids to read that many (challenging!) books over 3-4 years. :) 

My second question was much less straight forward. Pursuing a liberal arts education for our kids as we are, I have been doing some reading and study on... the seven liberal arts. I feel like as a community classical educators have a pretty good handle on the lower three arts, the Trivium. These arts are Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric, which are arts of language. From a mastery of these arts, students proceed into a study of the four upper arts, the Quadrivium: Arithmetic/Number, Geometry, Music/Harmonics, and Astronomy. I've heard these described like this: 

-Arithmetic: the art of number
-Geometry: the art of number in space
-Music: the art of number in time
-Astronomy: the art of number in space and time

Clear as mud, right??  Yeah, me too. I really want to explore these ideas, and had some ideas hammered out, thanks to the excellent Classical Homeschool Podcast by Jennifer Dow and Ashley Woleben. But I wanted to talk to three specific people who I felt had done a good bit of reading and thinking about these arts and could have some input as to whether I'm heading in the right direction or not. 

I needed to plan to spend a good bit of time in the Expo Hall in order to get answers to all these questions, but didn't want to miss any of the wonderful sessions! There were like three lectures at each  hour that I would have enjoyed hearing.  

I ended up attending the following lectures: 

-Andrew Kern: Faith and Thinking: Is There Room for Both in Homeschool?
-Brandy Vencel: Thoroughly Christian Education: Charlotte Mason meets Thomas Aquinas
-Adam Andrews: Teaching with Grace: An Unlikely Path to Success
-Andrew Kern: Why Should Christians Embrace Classical Education?
-Adam Andrews: The Seven Laws of Teaching and Other Myths
-Classical Education Unhinged: A Panel Discussion
-Janice Campbell & Carol Reynolds: Literature and the Arts Can Help You Teach
-John Mays: Science and the Poet Should Be Friends
Andrew Kern: Christ: The Wisdom and Virtue of God

After my first opportunity to listen to Adam Andrews, I loved so much what he had shared about teaching literature that I made a beeline for his booth in the expo hall afterward. I wanted to talk to him about teaching Great Books in high school.  I told him that I had been looking at the different Great books programs and I just felt like they were all trying to do too much.  His eyes lit up and he said, "You're right!! They are all trying to do too much! Hold on to that!"  We talked about the feasibility of putting together our own book lists for high school and reading deeply, and he was so, so encouraging.  I already owned his Teaching the Classics curriculum, but had never seen some literature guides they publish for different levels, as well as a book called Reading Road Maps that has a book list for each year K-12. The book lists are thorough, but also quite restrained and look very do-able from a perspective of teaching for delight and rest. I was sold! Dr. Andrews saved me a lot of time talking to other companies by giving me confidence to trust my gut and do what I know is best. I just needed someone to give me permission to create my own book list.  Since I came home, I've discovered quite a few other curricula/resources/companies that have a "less is more" approach to literature, which has just affirmed even more we're going in the right direction.  (Center for Literary Education, Excellence in Literature, ScholĂ© Academy Great Books classes, and Greenleaf Press history and lit guides)

I so enjoyed Brandy Vencel. Her talk was an hour-long contemplation on the Florence fresco so often referenced in Charlotte Mason's works that depicts Thomas Aquinas and the seven liberal arts and then some. There is SO much to that fresco and I loved learning a lot more of the depth to the history of the painting. 

In Faith and Thinking, Andrew Kern made the case that without faith, no one would think. He asked, "If you knew there was no answer to a question, how long would you think about it? If you didn't believe there was a solution to a math problem, how long would you try to solve it? You wouldn't." Faith is the precursor to thinking, because without faith there is Truth to be found, you will not even seek. So thinking is the very evidence of faith. I loved that!  That's a very simplistic and basic summary of everything he covered in that talk, but it was my main takeaway.  

A surprising theme that emerged for me happened on Saturday.  Carol Reynolds, Janice Campbell, and John Mays all talked about the same idea: gaining knowledge of one thing through another, namely, through art.  They all made the case that you can grow in depth of knowledge of literature, and in science, by pursuing and engaging art that depicts those themes.   Reynolds and Campbell had a great session on tracing a story through its historical artistic expressions.  They showed different paintings, musicals, and orchestral/ballet productions of the story of Romeo and Juliet. It was beautiful to see how differently it was interpreted by people, and each one brought more depth to the story!  John Mays of Novare science gave a wonderful talk on artistic presentations of scientific ideas.  He gave a handout that had an extensive list of poetry, stories, paintings, music, and more that encourage students to think more deeply about scientific concepts.  It was one of my favorite sessions because it took me in a direction I least expected and was so pleasantly surprised by. 

Throughout Saturday, I got the chance to talk to Brandy Vencel (Afterthoughts and ScholĂ© Sisters) briefly, and Martin Cothran of Memoria Press for a bit longer, to get their thoughts on teaching the Quadrivium. Brandy talked mostly about harmonics, and suggested learning harmony singing, specifically Sol Fa, and named some resources that would be good for that.  Martin talked mostly about math, the need for mastery-based math curriculum, and suggested having the kids take a drafting class in high school.  I also got to talk to a  couple of people at the Circe Institute booth who said various things, like learning an instrument and singing is good for music, mapping the night sky through the year is appropriate for astronomy, and things like that.  

After my last session, I was able to get a few minutes to talk to Andrew Kern about this. I had the highest hope for his thoughts on the quadrivium, and he so graciously gave me about 40 minutes of his time to talk through it. I felt like he really understood that I wanted to know more than just some practical applications of how to "teach" these arts.  He calls them arts of truth perception, so I felt like  there's got to be more to it than learning an instrument and taking a drafting course, as good of a start as those things might be. Through picking his brain, the big Ah-Ha I had was that I cannot treat these arts as subjects. It's not like I can find a curriculum or book and study each one for a year.  This is not how they work.  And that's about all I know. :)  He did point me in the direction of a few other resources to read more, so I hope to keep pursuing this and growing!  I still think there's a place for studying these arts, especially what people in the past have thought and written about them.  I'm trying to work out what it will look like. The good news is that as classical education is being rediscovered, no one really knows. So we're all just learning by trial and error. As Andrew Kern said, we're all archaeologists unearthing classical ed and it is not all yet clear, we don't have all the answers yet (and probably never will). So we'll just do the best we can!

So I came home feeling so encouraged that I'm heading in the right directions and challenge to keep asking questions and pursuing growth. I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to go again this year!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lent Week 1

Since this is our first year as a family to observe Lent together, I'd like to keep a diary of sorts with pictures of the things we've done and remember our first experience through this season.

For the family, I opted to follow Rich & Rooted Passover. It's organized with three study days a week, a day of Prayer, a day of Alms (either giving money or acts of service), a day of feasting, and a day of worship.

We began on Ash Wednesday with our own little ceremony. We talked about the purpose of Lent being a time to remember that we are made from the dust, and we will return to dust. Thinking of the end of our life encourages us to contemplate what it means to live fully and well today.  We spent some time talking about what it means to live well and to live fully, a life more abundant, and what things might keep us from living that way, things that hold us back.  We all wrote those things down on a sheet of paper and burned them in a small bowl.  After that, we set up a "Provocation Station."  This is a place we will set small items as we study through Lent, reminders of the things we have learned about the life of Jesus. We can come here anytime and spend some time thinking about how we're doing at ridding our heart of those hindrances, remember Jesus's words, his trials in life, his sacrifice.  We set up a Wilderness Candle that reminds us of his 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, and how his light will always guide us through these times in our life.

On Thursday, we studied beauty: how Jesus takes these ashes and gives us beauty. Friday we volunteered with the International Rescue Committee for the afternoon and helped set up an apartment for an incoming refugee family.

Sunday, we feasted and worshipped together.  We made Capirotada, a traditional Mexican bread pudding.  The bread is soaked in a  syrup that is made with cinnamon sticks and cloves, which represent the cross and nails of the crucifixion, and the broken bread represents the broken body of Christ.

The Lent Project has been really good for me so far, and given me a lot to ponder and contemplate. I love the artwork, the music, and the poetry. It was especially exciting for me that one day there was a song in Latin, and thanks to studying it alongside my kids the past three years, I could actually understand the words to the song:

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.

Where there is love and care, there is God. 
We gathered as one in the love of Christ.  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On Observing Lent

When our kids were small, we began the tradition of observing Advent as a family. Neither Paul nor I grew up observing Advent or Lent, or celebrated things like Ash Wednesday. But a mentor friend of mine had given me a set of Jesse Tree ornaments, and a devotional guide for the Advent season to go along with it, and we began to do this every year for our children.

As we've returned to the US and found ourselves most at home in a Presbyterian church, we have been introduced to the celebrations of Lent and Ash Wednesday.  These were very unknown things to us a year ago, and I will always remember vividly my first Ash Wednesday service last year!  This year, I wanted to be much more intentional to embrace this season of anticipation. I'm learning a lot about and hope to grow through it these next six weeks, as well as lead my kids to some self-flection.

Here are some resources we'll be using to help us navigate this season as newbies:

I found this article that is a great run down of the significance of Ash Wednesday and why to celebrate it:

Then I ran across this Lent Project by Biola University.  They put together daily devotionals with Scripture readings, complete with art and music to listen to. You can see some of the previous Lent Projects from years past on their website, and subscribe to get an email daily during Lent this year.

Lastly, I found this beautiful little book called Rich & Rooted Passover.  This is a guide for families, with Scripture to copy, hymns, small craft and art projects, and feasting recipes. As I've printed it this afternoon and look through it it looks lovely, and I'm really looking forward to going through it with my kids!

In addition to this, I'm fasting from social media. It has been such a time sucker and distraction in my life. I'm dying to get off of it, and this is the motivation I needed. I've never fasted for Lent before, and since I'm not in a place with my health to do any physical fasting, this is the next best thing. I'm really looking forward to slowing down and giving my soul room to contemplate and reflect over the next few weeks.

May the Lord bless you and keep you through this season!

Saturday, November 25, 2017


After all the food had been eaten and all the playing had been accomplished and all the dishes had been washed, Paul and I sat down in a quiet, lamplit home and gave our kids a few minutes to write a list of things they were thankful for.  Some of them chose to write a list based on the alphabet. Others went for a free-form list. :)

Here's what our kids are thankful for this year!

Luke, age 12
Holy Bible
Jazz music
Mom, Meryn
Nerf guns

Kiryn, age 11:
Good-lookin' Dad
Itch ointment
Nadia (pen pal)
Other People

Levi, age 7:
Great Grandma
Great Grandpa

Meryn, age 6:
Abby, my stuffy
Ice Cream
Jantz Cousins
Katie Rose, Kiryn
 Luke, Levi
Orange juice
Playing outside
Quiet bedroom
Wild Kratts
(mom's e)xcellent food
(She had help with a few of these! :)

So fun to see what they are thankful for! :) 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

End-of-Term Review and Reflections

Each year when we begin our studies, I always think I'd like to do weekly post on how we're spending our time and growing. But somehow, it seems kind of like measuring the kids' heights every single week. You do it so often its hard to see the growth. While I have managed to write about some specific things we've done so far this year, I'm going to try to do end-of-term reviews to see more significant growth. By looking back at 12 weeks of school work, maybe I'll see bigger strides of growth, more accomplished, and generally be more encouraged to keep on.

This week we are taking the week off of school, so I had planned into the week to have a day of reflection, and to walk through the Simply Convivial Homeschool Audit. That's what I'm doing today, so here's a review of the past 12 weeks of our learning!

Morning Time

We have read a lot.  We have two stacks of books: completed, and in progress. 
This is our completed stack. The kids have read these to themselves, with the exception of Of Courage Undaunted. That was a read-aloud our first six weeks. 

This is our in-progress stack.  Some we just began (like Queen Victoria and John Audubon). Others we're almost finished with (like Lord of the Rings and The Great Little Madison, and an un-pictured eBook, The Swiss Family Robinson), and others we'll be reading slowly all year (like Hearts and Hands, Easy French Reader, Abraham Lincoln's World, Story of the Great Republic, and the atlas of physiology). 

Most of our reading happens during our Morning Time.  The past twelve weeks in Morning Time, the kids have: 
-heard daily Bible readings
-learned two new hymns by heart
-listened to multiple pieces of music by Vivaldi
-read Building Poems by Michael Clay Thompson and written their own poems with what they've learned
-carefully looked at and learned to identify six paintings by Botticelli
-learned about phrases (prepositional, appositive, verbals) in grammar 
-memorized I Corinthians 13
-listened to the entire Twelfth Night play by Shakespeare

Some of Luke's poetry writing. He was given a meter and rhyme scheme and a theme. 

My Morning Time planning sheet, well-used and filled up with all that we've put nurtured our souls with together. 

Sometimes, the younger ones need things to keep them busy and hopefully quiet during Morning Time. This is a picture of one of the ways we did that. :) 

Everyone hard at work on grammar during Morning Time. 

I look back on this and can say I'm very satisfied with the ground we've covered here. :) If I will keep consistently working my plan, I will remain very satisfied with our how days are getting started and the thing we're filling our minds and hearts with together. 

Upper Grammar Kids
My older two kids have been growing in their independence this year. They are expected to read more independently, manage their time more independently, make decisions about how and where and what to work on.  Their checklists are working well.  Here's some samples from their Commonplace books and Nature journals. 

Kiryn's Commonplace. Latin to English translation of questions and answers to a Latin story she read on the left. Rough draft of one of her essays on the right. 

Kiryn is my creative kid. This is her Latin practice, complete with doodling, and an upside down monkey hanging from the top of the page. :)

The kids have been studying the human body. We've worked through several of the systems, and I've had them draw and label each one as they've learned it. I couldn't find Kiryn's skeletal or respiratory systems, because they were drawn on loose paper (instead of in her nature notebook, where they ought to have been done).  So this brain is all I have of hers so far this year. :(

We've been working on taking notes as they read history, and building their Timelines off of the notes they take.  This is a sample of Kiryn's history note-taking, with some Dictation at the top. 

Luke's Commonplace book. He has been working on outlining. Here is an outline of the story of Benedict Arnold. 

Sample of Luke's history note-taking. 

Kiryn's nature journal. We found one of these caterpillars in the garden and have kept him. He cocooned within a few days, but it looks like he's going to over-winter, because he's still in there. :) 

Luke's Nature Journal. This is his free-hand drawing and labeling of the skeletal system. 

Luke's Respiratory System and Brain drawings. 

Looking back through their work has been so encouraging to me! We are really learning things, and getting to know God and His ways in the process. We are growing in knowledge and virtue together. Thank you, Lord!

Lower Grammar Kids
My lower grammar kids have also been hard at work.  We've read a lot together: 

Our completed book stack from the past 12 weeks. (Except Just So Stories. We just have another chapter or two in that!)

Here are sample of their work.  Meryn is still learning to form letters and is just beginning to do some basic sentence copy-work, so she doesn't have too much written work to show yet. :) 

Levi's reproductions of art he's been looking at. He's studied Winslow Homer, Jean-Francois Millet, and Van Gogh this year so far. 

I love this. He loved this painting so much he asked for a poster of it, which we got and hung over his bed. 

Levi's also been learning just a bit about major stars and constellations and learning to draw them. 

Levi's nature journal. Here is an entry about a golden finch. He drew this from a picture in a book, and wrote down what he remembered reading about it. It was from a story/fable, not a scientific reading. :) 

Meryn's drawing and oral narration from the same story. She dictated to me and I wrote what she said. 

Levi and Meryn playing math games together. They like to race to build the shapes. 

Levi having some quiet reading time to himself. 

Outside Activities
In addition to our home-based studies, we are part of a homeschool co-op.  This co-op meets every Friday. Twice a month we have class days together in Latin, Writing, History, and Fine Arts (and nature time for the younger kids). Twice a month we have Enrichment Days in which we do a service project, have a field trip, or have a nature day.  This has gone so amazingly well this year, and here are some scenes from the things we've done together, as well as just some family outings we've had! So many good memories here!

Family trip to see the solar eclipse!

Co-op: Lessons on Lewis & Clark and their adventures as naturalists who documented many new plant and animal species. Kids looked at L&C's journals, and had to go outside and find plant samples and make entries like Lewis & Clark did, giving detailed drawings and descriptions. 

Co-op: Field trip to Eagle Valley Raptor Center. This was an awesome field trip and the kids got up close and personal with some serious birds of prey!

Here, Meryn has just left a mouse in the fence for the vulture to come eat. 

Yes, that is a real bald eagle!

Kiryn working on Latin so happily and peacefully, I just had to capture it. :) 

Co-op: Service project at the Kansas Food Bank. We stocked shelves together for almost two hours and helped with milk, vienna sausages, pudding packs, and more!

Family field trip to the Bliss Bouldering Club to try our hand at rock climbing. Super fun!

Kiryn has really grown in her crafting skills this year. 

Co-op: Special Guest Speaker Vicki Dicks came and told our kids all about her great-great-grandfather, Chief Sequoyah, who wrote the Cherokee language. This was a special and memorable treat!

Co-op: Jacque teaching the kids about the Oregon Trail. Here they are measuring off exactly how large a wagon would have been and thinking about fitting everything a family owned or would need for that kind of journey into that amount of space. 

Co-op: Nature Day at Chaplin Nature Center. We love Mr. Shaun and the programs he puts together for the kids. This trip he took us on a 1 mile hike to investigate the different types of trees and teach the kids a bit about identification and parts of a tree. 

Home: Kiryn is really enjoying playing the violin. 

Co-op: Kids playing an Oregon Trail card game as we continue learning about the Oregon Trail. 

I am so so pleased with how our co-op is going and all the wonderful things we've experienced so far this year with our group! 

Planning Reflections
So this past summer, I spent a lot of time in planning and creating a planning system I thought would save me a lot of time. Has it worked? I'm glad to say that I am very happy with how my planner is working.  It does save me significant time each week to already have an idea of the broad strokes of the year in our major courses. I have been able to read widely in the free time I've had the past twelve weeks. I've read: 

-Norms and Nobility (half of it so far)
-Robinson Crusoe
-The Black Moon (A Poldark novel, light read)
-Consider This (half so far)
-Life Under Compulsion by Anthony Esolen

I've also been able to complete two classes on Classical U (Essential Latin, and Teaching Math Classically), and get about halfway through another (How to Teach History with Wes Callihan). I've also been able to spend significant time researching and planning a long-range 7-12th grade brain storm for what our co-op could look like for those grades, since we have a group of kids moving into 7th grade next year. I don't think I'd have had the margin to do all this in the afternoons and on weekends if I hadn't planned well over the summer. It was time well-spent.  Here's a peek into how my planner is working for me: 

A filled-in Morning Time sheet.

My memory keeping page. Anything fun we do I try to write a little note here so we can look back at this and remember what we've done!

A complete week spread with assignments filled in and checked off, notes made, etc. (One day I had to call and schedule a chimney cleaning, so there are notes about that totally un-related to school.) :)

My co-op lesson plan sheets. These have worked really well for me to plan out how our classes will go each time we get together. 

It's been so encouraging for me to reflect back on the past twelve weeks! I still have some time to sit down and work through the questions in the homeschool audit and see if there are areas I could tweak and improve. I know we have areas that need improvement. One of my children is severely lacking in discipline and is always dragging their feet to get their reading work done.  One of my children is a bit hasty and rushes through their work, especially math.  I struggle to get up early enough to begin at a decent time, which ends up cutting the kids time too short to accomplish what I'd like for them to do.  I need to be more diligent and consistent in getting up and being ready to go by 8:30. When I'm slow in the morning and we don't get started till 9 (or 9:30, let's be honest), we inevitably cannot complete all I've set out to do in a day. The needs of the four different kids mixed with making lunch and the older two going and coming for their orchestra classes everyday leaves us with about 2.5-3 hours for school if I'm an hour late.  This is an area I've struggled with the past 3-4 weeks, and I know I need to improve in my diligence to give them the appropriate amount of time so our learning is not rushed and they feel their time matches the expected work.  So those are the things I'm looking to improve as begin a new term next week! :)