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!)