Sunday, October 11, 2015

Tapestry of Grace Year 1: Week 4-6, Creation and early Israel

After taking a look at ancient Egypt for three weeks, we went back to the very beginning in week 4, and began to study the "books of Moses" after coming to an understanding of his own upbringing and life in Egypt.  Starting with creation, we studied the Biblical account of how the world came into being, and paid particular attention to the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and the genealogy up to Noah.  We spent a lot of time understanding the flood and reading about Noah's life, before and after the flood.  in our co-op this week, we went outside and measured how long and wide and tall Noah's ark would have been in real life.  It was way bigger than any of us had ever imagined!

We started here, and stepped off the length of the ark...

You can hardly even see where we started! It was so far!

We went back inside and got to work on making timbrels, which were a simple instrument similar to a tambourine the Israelites used. 

This is a great group of kids, learning and building memories together! 

Week 5 was all about the Tower of Babel, and learning about the early cultures of Sumer and Ur, as well as leaders like Sargon.  In our group class we got messy and made simple ziggurats out of boxes and paint!

I love this group of boys!

And this group of girls!

And these big boys!

The next week, we took the opportunity to get outside and spend some quality time with nature. My beautiful Kansas girl!

The kids almost immediately found a turtle.  This turtle lucked out, because he got to go home with Luke's buddy and live in their old garden.  He's a very happy turtle now. 

Kids and creeks go so well together.

We also had a nice encounter with a very friendly police officer who drove by and helped us with a ball in the road.  He came back with stickers for all four kids.  Go Derby Police!

Week 6 we spent learning about the Patriarchs of Israel and how Abraham left his home and traveled, and how Joseph eventually ended up in Egypt, which led us back to Moses.  We're really enjoying our second pass through the ancient world, it's so much more fun with friends this time!  More fun things to come in the next three weeks!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tapestry of Grace Year 1: Weeks 1-3, A Look at Egypt

Every year, I have these grand dreams of blogging each week about what we did in school. I usually make it about 10 weeks before I fall off, if even that.  So this year, I'm not having any expectations of myself, and maybe, ever few weeks, I'll get around to re-capping what we've done.

The first three weeks of Year 1 are an in-depth look at Egypt and the context in which Moses grew up and was educated, learning about the Israelites in slavery, their exodus, Egyptian religion and mythology, mummification and pyramids.  Egypt is such a fascinating place, and we have so much evidence of their lifestyle that it's a fascinating thing to study!

Here's some highlights from our last three weeks!


Luke working on math!

We started a timeline this year.  I am loving this, and so are the kids. I wasn't sure if they would enjoy it, but they really have gotten into it and are starting to make some connections as a result. 

Math studies...

We celebrated our first week of school by one last trip to the pool!

Levi and Meryn created a sugar cube pyramid.  We only had one small accident with the hot glue gun. Yikes!

Luke made a sphinx out of clay.

Kiryn made clay bricks and built a pyramid with them. 

We had our first ever Latin class!  We are so excited to have now five students in class.  We are using Latin for Children A, and the kids are really enjoying their chants and being together for this.  

Thank you, Dr. Perrin, for our grammar instruction every week!

We spent half a Saturday out in nature at a park. 

We are studying insects in depth this year, and so we're on the lookout for interesting bugs.  Kiryn found this awesome praying mantis and we kept him for a few hours to observe him. 

This is what our read-aloud time looks like right now.  Coloring, shape blocks, whatever can keep hands busy while I read aloud!

Kiryn really enjoys creating beautiful designs with these blocks!

We successfully accomplished our first ever Tapestry co-op!  The little kids made Egyptian paddle dolls...

The big kids made reed boats out of wheat stalks.  

The finished paddle dolls, full of creativity! :) (These kids are 3-7 years old!)

We have been having such gorgeous weather the past week that we've taken school outside quite a bit.  For some reason, Meryn is wearing a superman cape.  Kiryn looks like she has a hijab on!  But earlier she had been in the tree reading Peter Pan, and a bird landed on her head!  She wanted to camoflouge herself to try to get a bird to land on her again, thus the black drape?!? 

Another Kiryn original.

We're off to a great start! I'm really enjoying in particular our timeline, the Memoria Press Insect study, and our re-vamped Morning Time with our Memory Notebooks. I have been very impressed with what the kids have committed to memory already, and how meaningful it has become to them.  They whip their insect facts out when we're out looking for them and find something interesting.  Today we figured out a way to remember the eight orders of insects we're studying in this book!  :)  Levi is also doing great with his reading, picking it up really well and moving right along with All About Reading and Math-U-See.  We've been enjoying reading The Burgess Book about Grandfather Frog, and the Christian Liberty Nature Reader, as well as the Veritas Press readers.  The older kids have LOVED A Cry From Egypt, which tells the story of an Israelite family of slaves in Egypt and their experience of living through the plagues.  We've learned a lot in just the first ten percent of our year! :)  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Planning Ahead in the Summer

Summer is over and school is in full swing!  I admit, I am a planner. I love to plan.  I love to plan maybe too much. I spent a ton of time this summer pouring over articles and lectures, trying to glean a lot of wisdom for this coming year. I also wanted to be well-prepared in hopes that it would reduce the time spent each week on getting ready for school.  The past few years I found myself spending 1-3 hours each weekend printing out sheets, reading notes, getting ready for school the next week.  I wondered if I could save myself time by doing it all over the summer.  It was a lot of work, but just in the third week of school, I'm already glad I did it. : )

Here's what I did that is saving me a ton of time.

1.  I made a spreadsheet of my typical day and my typical week, and blocked off the times that were not able to be spent doing school (meal times, Bible study, co-op, gymnastics, etc.)  Then I knew what I had to work with when it came to our schedule. (In addition, I could see when I was getting overcommitted). :) I got this idea from Misty at Simply Convivial. She is the organizational queen.

(Um, if you're looking at this daily matrix below, please don't be fooled into thinking this *ever* actually happens. :)  Normally, we start at around 9, and I don't work out until 4, if I'm not too exhausted.  I almost never get up that much earlier than the kids.  This is just the idealistic dream of a schedule that one day I will accomplish!)

2.  I started plugging in when we would study what on a typical day and week.  It ended up that we have a very busy Wednesday this year, so Wednesday, I'm not expecting much from us in the way of sit-down-school-work.

3. I formatted my online planner to reflect my realistic expectations of everyday and what lessons we would do.  Then I copied it and added those lessons to each week for the whole first semester.  Now, each week instead of adding a block and each subject, I just have to click that block and add the specific pages or chapter we'll be working on this week.

4.  I went through Tapestry, Harmony Fine Arts, and our timeline, and printed out everything we will need, and filed it by the week.  In my accordion file, I have printed and whole punched Student Activity Pages, Maps, Evaluations, art notebook pages, timeline figures, and coloring sheets for Levi for each week.  Each week, I just pull them out and put them in the binders.  This is a major time saver.

This is their "Humanities" binder.  It includes History (Tapestry Student Activity pages), Geography, notebook pages on scientists of the Ancient World we are studying (we are having a heavy focus on people and historical figures this year), Art and Music notebook pages, and their Timeline figures. 

5. I went through Tapestry, Harmony Fine Arts, and our science curriculum and chose projects and experiments for each week.  Then I made a list of supplies I needed, and I went and bought it all. I've never done this before, because it seemed like a big expense.  But you know what?  Every year when I think I'll plan projects as we go, and get supplies as we go, I never get around to getting supplies, and so many fun memories are lost.  This year, I decided if I go to the trouble to buy the supplies, I'll feel guilty if I don't use them, so maybe we'll actually do it! :)  Ha! So far so good. We've made a sugar cube pyramid, a clay sphinx, and this week, we are making paint from chalk and painting a mural outside.

I did a few other little things, like printing the Vocabulary and People glossary for Tapestry, printing out art prints to view for the whole semester, making flash cards ahead of time and laminating them.  It is all making my weeks so much easier, stress-free, and easily manageable.  What do you do to prepare for your school year to run well?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Memory Work

This year, we are starting a Memory Index!  Over the past two years, the kids have had some memory work, but it has mostly been Bible verses, math facts, spelling facts, Presidents in order, states and capitals, and their catechism.  This year, we are ready for more.  I created a Memory notebook this summer, similar to the Simply Charlotte Mason system, to help us stay organized and regularly review the things we're memorizing.  I couldn't believe it could be as simple as reading each piece everyday, and then reviewing.  But two weeks in, I'm a believer.  Here's how it's working.

First, in the binder are the things we are actively trying to memorize.  For us right now, that is The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7), The Happy Farmer (poem), the first part of the Timeline Song, the Books of the Bible, and our catechism.  We are also memorizing insect facts and Latin vocabulary/conjugations in those subjects, but I'm not keeping them in the Memory notebook.  So each morning during our Morning time, we open up the Memory binder, and read the parable, read the poem, sing the Timeline song, Books of the Bible song (from Slugs and Bugs), and the catechism of the week.  Seriously.  That's it. And after just two weeks, they have the parable AND the poem down.  In addition to seriously hard insect facts and Latin chants.  Honestly, I'm shocked, stunned, super impressed that it was this easy.  And they enjoy it!  They're having fun, and proud of their accomplishment!  So, now we move the Parable sheet to the Monday tab, and review it every Monday, while we move the poem to Tuesdays, etc.  Once we have something mastered, we review it once a week.  And as we master more and more, we move things to a monthly review.  This website has a much more thorough explanation of how to build a memory work binder that helped me a lot!  But it really is super simple!  We shall see how this keeps working, but so far, I'm impressed and pleased with it's ease and simplicity.

I drew a lot of inspiration from Brandy's Memory Index when it came to deciding what to memorize. I would also highly recommend her lecture called "Memorization and the Soul:Why, What, and How".  After reading and listening to this lecture and others about the importance of memory work, I am sold.  I also created notebooks in my Evernote to start collecting ideas of things to memorize each year that relate to our history studies, specifically famous speeches. I also love this list at Ed Snapshots of 100 things to memorize!

Each student has their own binder.  It really helps them to have the words in front of them as they are listening to songs or poems. It makes the memorizing happen more easily.

I've got what we're currently memorizing in page protectors so they can flip back and forth each morning.

Here's a view of their tabs for Monday-Friday.  As they memorizing something, we'll move it back to be reviewed one day each week. Since we're just starting, we don't have anything behind those tabs yet, but we're hoping the binder will be full at the end of the year!

Here's my binder: printed Lessontrek schedule on top, and then in the back are tabs for today's memory work, M-F review, and tabs 1-31 to review on the date.  So each day, we do the daily memory work we're working on, and then review, for example, Monday's tab, and tab 17 today, because it's the 17th.  This way, ALL our memory work is reviewed monthly and stays fresh.  Super easy!  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Do you have a Homeschool Road Map? On Long-Range Planning

A couple of years ago, I realized it was time to move from phonics, handwriting and spelling, to learning how to really write for my oldest student.  Finishing up second grade and having a confident reader and good printer, I didn't really know what the next step was.  I began to do research on writing curricula, not really having any idea how to evaluate them or what I was looking for!  I was very quickly overwhelmed.  At the same time, I was digging deeper and deeper into understanding classical education, and it's a good thing, because identifying myself as a classical educator saved me from drowning in writing curricula. Because there's one classical way to teach writing, the Progymnasmata.  And a few years ago, I could only find two programs based on it. (here and here) That narrowed it down a LOT!

Looking at both those programs, I realized they were long-term investments, and you must start on time, or you're forever behind.  Ideally, you'd start in third grade.  Shew! I wasn't too late to the party, just in time! :)  But it made me realize, I need a game plan here. I need to look at the end, where do I want my children to be when it's time to graduate high school? Not just when it come stop writing, but in terms of their whole education and soul and person.  What do I want to have taught them? What programs and skills and knowledge and character do we as their parents want them to have developed?  And how are we going to get there? Yep, we were just finishing second grade, and I needed to be thinking about 12th right now.

So that summer, I spent hours and hours pouring over classical education resources, articles, podcasts, magazines, books, and I came up with our Road Map.  Of course over the past two years, it has morphed and changed slightly.  I decided I didn't like the science I thought I would use for the rest of elementary. A new progymnasmata writing curriculum from CAP was released, which I LOVED and switched to.  Minor changes.  But the over-arching goals and steps to get there remain.  I'm so thankful I put the time into creating the road map, because every year as I sit down to plan, I can consult it and ask myself what do I need to do *this* year to keep us on track with the end in mind.  I have a ten year game plan, people!  It's very liberating and confidence-boosting to proceed everyday with the end in mind.

Here are some ideas to get you started in creating your own Road Map: (disclaimer: my specifics are more geared toward classical/Charlotte Mason education)

-Read. Read widely.  I read The Well-Trained Mind, Trivium Mastery, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, For the Children's Sake, and more.  I subscribed to Memoria Press's quarterly magazine, and to Classical Academic Press's catalog, which always has excellent articles.  I scoured the Circe free podcast bank, and listened to several different Quiddity podcasts.  Lately, I've been gleaning a lot from the Schole Sisters; specifically Simply Convivial, Afterthoughts, and Amongst Lovely Things.

-I compared lots of curriculum companies recommendations. I made detailed notes of Veritas Press, Tapestry of Grace, Memoria Press, Classical Academic Press, and Ambleside Online.  I have a lot of respect for each of these companies and trust their recommendations.  I picked the very best things that I loved from each of them, and tried to work it all in to my overall plan.  I also asked lots of questions on forums of other classical educators about learning Latin and other languages, writing, anything I didn't know much about. I asked questions and got lots of feedback from others as I worked up my plans. (I even wrote curriculum authors themselves and asked them to explain certain "why's" in their programs as compared to others, and heard back personally from Dr. Christopher Perrin, Dr. Jay Wile, Christine Perrin, and a couple of others!)  I also looked at high school graduation requirements in our state and made sure that we were meeting those credit requirements as well.

-I made a spreadsheet.  It looks like this:

It's a monster. It has each grade/year of study across the top. I divided our studies into Language, Logic, and Content/Knowledge.  I drew a lot of this from a mentor who used to teach Latin at Highlands Latin School.  Language is basically all things related to language arts.  Logic is anything that teaches critical or ordered thinking, and I put science in there as well (because in my opinion, nature study and memorizing the orders of insects and trees is ordered thinking! :)).  Content is just the knowledge-based subjects I want to include, like Bible, History, Art, Geography.  Tacked on at the bottom is Formal Logic and Rhetoric.

Then I started plotting what programs I wanted to use.  This was so helpful for me to see on paper in little boxes how it was all going to work together.  Could I even do everything I wanted? Were my goals reasonable? If not, how could I adjust? If I wanted the kids to learn both Latin (well enough to pass the National Latin Exam), and to study Greek, when and how would we do that?  If I wanted to skip out on our chronological history rotation and dig into Roman government and politics for a year in high school, when should we do that? If we want to spend a year studying educational virtues and vices, what is the best spot to plug that in?

I cannot recommend this exercise highly enough.  Start as early as you can, thinking through the end goals you have for your children.  Every family's plan will look different, and that's what is really fun about homeschooling: getting to set your own goals for your children's education, and then accomplishing them together.  Don't be afraid if this takes you months, it did me. And every few months, I open this up and realize, uh oh, I've changed something and I need to update this road map. I think it's Road Map 4.0 by now. :)  But having something like this on paper can instill confidence and a path when you face doubt and opposition.  I know I've done my homework, and can trust that God has called my husband and I to this very different way of living and learning with our kids, and that He has equipped us and given us all the resources we need to accomplish it for His glory!

(*no affiliate links in this post, I just do it to be helpful, not to get something out of it! FYI!)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Ready, Set, Go!!

I always like to think of summer as our 'off-time", but this summer it's been my work-in-over-drive-time.  I've been busy making Year 1 Tapestry flash cards, researching Memory work and making Memory work binders, cataloging and organizing our library, reading The Liberal Arts Tradition, which, trust me, was work. :)  But, I believe all the work will pay off when we start school this coming Monday! I hope I have made it easy on myself to plan and be prepared to make the most of each week!

Here are a couple of little tips for getting ready for school that I do each year!

1.  Did you know the UPS store will bind your books for you?  All those paperback, gum-bound workbooks and teacher's manual that never seem to make it through a semester, let along a full year, can be cut and spiral bound!  I take all the kids notebooks and any teacher's manuals I have, because they do it for around $3 a book!  This includes a nice clear plastic cover front and back to protect the book, and allows the books to open flat and stay flat.

2.  If you're a Tapestry user, have you printed out your Vocabulary and People Glossaries for the year? In your loom, you can find a document with all the vocabulary words with definitions by week, and another document with all the people covered in your year plan, with a short description, alphabetically with dates.  I always print these out and put them in a notebook or Proclick notebook. They're just really nice to have on hand to refer to when needed!

Here's to a great start this year! : )

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Planning by the Week

I have tried all kinds of different things when it comes to weekly planning.  Each year, I make my own planning sheets, tailored to what we're doing that year.  I have tried programs like Olly, Google calendar, using my iCalendar, and more. I usually settle on a homemade planning sheet I print each week and hand write the assignments on.  But it was getting tedious for me this past year, AND, there was little record at the end of the year of what we'd actually done.  Keeping grades has not been a real priority for me yet, but in the coming years, it will be.  So that's been in the back of mind as well.

Sometime in the fall, I read about Lessontrek. I've always avoided those monthly subscription kind of planners where everything is online, but they were offering a four month free trial, so I figured, why not? I can get a good feel for it in four months, and for nothing!

I've gotta tell you, I love this planner.  It makes it so easy to create classes and regular assignments, to set a weekly routine that you just fill in the blanks, to move things around, and to keep grades, not to mention, having a page for each student and navigating back and forth super easily. I can also save a PDF of each week plan, as well as print it out, so I don't have to stay tied to my computer.  Entering things on the computer goes so much faster than handwriting out a schedule for me.  There's usually a sale going on for a year subscription, and I got mine for $30.  I figured I'd spend almost that on a planner anyway, so justified the expense. :)  It has become staple in my planning.  I also use a separate print out to help me organize Tapestry readings, but then enter it into Lessontrek to work from through the week.

I organize my Lessontrek into four blocks:

- Morning Time
- Daily Work
- Weekly Work
- Tapestry of Grace

Here's a screen shot or two of my planner:

All the color-coding and boxes to check just make the J-personality-type-heart SO happy! :)

We work through our day in that order.  We always begin with Morning Time.  For this past school year, we have had the following categories in Morning Time:

-Bible and Catechism Song
-Hymn: learning hymns together, as well as how to sing from a hymnal and harmonize
-Poetry: We pick an anthology, and each read one poem aloud a day.  Takes about 5 minutes, no planning.
-Read Aloud: Sometimes Tapestry literature, sometimes a book we're just enjoying together
-Memory Work: M: President Song from Veritas Press, T: Math Facts, W: States and Capitals Songs from Kathy Trowel, Th: Bible memory verses, F: Review all
-Harmony Fine Arts: Picture studies, artist biographies, listening to music, note booking, etc.

Working through this each day takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes, depending on how long we read aloud, and how cooperative the littles are. :)  I try to get the littles busy on drawing, cars, blocks, play-doh, something to keep them occupied, so we can read in peace.  But, most of the time, there are distraction and interruptions. We just plod on and get through it!

Daily Work is next.  The subjects I want us to come to daily are Latin, Math, and Writing, for right now.  So each day, we just spend 15-20 minutes on each of those subjects, and usually in an hour, we're done with them.

At this point, we're usually ready for a break, if not before this!  We take a snack break and have a few minutes of free play.  Then we get back to weekly work for 30-45 minutes before breaking for lunch.

Weekly Work this year has covered:
-Reasoning and Reading: 3 times a week (M-T-W)
-Science: 3-4 times a week (M-T-Th-F)
-Handwriting: 1 time a week (W)
-Spelling: 2 times a week (TH-F)

So we usually have two things we do in Weekly Work each day.  This can take us usually around 20-30 minutes, but sometimes longer if I have unfocused students.  Typically, I can get them going on something like Reasoning and Reading, or Handwriting, and then give them some time to complete it while I work with the littles on Math or Reading, Letters and handwriting practice.

Now it's lunch time!  If the kids have math that wasn't finished in the allotted time from Daily Work, or anything else not yet done, they have to work on this until lunch, or until they're finished.

After lunch, Meryn has been taking a nap, usually going down around 1:30.  While she sleeps, we dive into our fourth block, Tapestry of Grace.  As I shared in my review post, I have really backed off of some of the more time consuming productivity (which can become busy work) that goes with Tapestry.  I have put off lap books until later, if ever.  We don't do much note booking anymore if at all.  Mainly we just sit together and read the history books and talk about it.  This may be because we have been dealing with the modern era this year.  So our reading has been around things like World War I and II, the Cold War, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Clinton, the Iraq War and 9/11.  These are deep subjects, which don't necessarily lend themselves to fun art projects like building pyramids. :)  (Tapestry compensates for this by doing a world survey in Units 3 and 4 and bringing in art projects from different cultures, and having a year-long invention project, which looked neat, but we didn't do!) I'm glad this was our fourth year with Tapestry, because the kids are older and were able to handle some of the things we faced in history this year.  All that to say, we have done a lot of reading this year on the couch, all the geography, and most of the literature worksheets.  And I've felt like that is enough.  We have done a few projects , but maybe five or six all year long.  Still, it's been a good year with Tapestry.

Next year, I anticipate Morning Time looking very much the same, with some shifting in the Memory Work we cover.  I also expect our daily work to look very similar, though science may get moved to daily next year.  I do not plan to do both Science in the Ancient World AND The Insect Book study everyday.  Science in the Ancient World covers the beginning of scientific discovery through 1500 AD.  So I plan to use the lessons related to what we're studying in history.  So this book will take us almost through two years of history studies.  Tapestry Year 1 covers beginning to Roman Empire (roughly 100 AD I believe), and then Year 2 covers Roman Empire through Exploration (100 AD to 1799).  I plan to spread out the Science in the Ancient World lessons to when they're appropriate to our history studies.  And on the off days, work through the Insect Book.  We may even start the Insect Book this summer, because it looks like a lot of fun, and what better time to learn about insects than summer! :)

Our weekly work next year will shift considerably.  If science is removed, and Reasoning and Reading, we'll plug in the English Grammar Recitations and Geography there. Handwriting is super quick and easy for us, the kids do 2-4 pages a week, and it takes basically no planning on my part. I just have them open their book and pick up where they left off.  Spelling is also very laid back and easy.  It doesn't take much planning on my part, either.  We tend to cover the new topics in the lesson on one day, and then do review and sentence dictation on the second day.  It takes less than ten minutes both days.  But I admit that spelling has not been a struggle with my kids, it has come naturally to them, and been easy to pick up. I know it's not that way for all kids, and some require a lot of time with spelling.

I hope this is helpful to understand how in the world we get it all done.  Honestly, many times, we don't! :)  And other days, we finish it all so fast, I don't know what to do with the rest of the day!!  But for me and my house, I like to be busy and have a routine and a plan.  The less down time, the better.  We do really value outside time, and free play.  They get plenty of that! :)  I have found that for us, having a faster moving day where we have short lessons on a variety of things makes the day move faster, we cover more ground, and it hasn't resulted in a lower level of mastery for us.  For me, my big rocks are Bible and character training, Latin and Math, and writing, because it's teaching beginning thinking skills.  The rest are the small rocks that we fit in and around, and leave out if we have to.