Thursday, November 29, 2012

A few Charlotte Mason Resources

So, I guess I missed most of November.  Time is seriously flying by here at our house.   Our littlest one is teething and our oldest broke his arm.  The middle still refuses to sleep.  He is still in his bed telling himself stories.  Today I administered our first official end of the quarter "test".  I was actually really pleased (after he stopped whining) by how much he remembered.  I am really glad that I convinced him to let me record it.

Here are a few resources you might be interested in:

Language Lessons through Literature by Kathy DeVore is the language program we have been using.  It has really helped keep us on track - she has poetry, Aesop's fables, many of the literature selections from Year 1 and 2 on the Ambleside list scheduled out.  The copywork passages are linked to the literature and there are short poems for copywork as well.  There are short lessons to introduce grammar terms that are supported by the copywork selections.  She has really done a LOT of work which makes my job MUCH easier!

This past week a local town hosted the start of a "study group" on Charlotte Mason.  It was interesting and there were about 30 people there!  I think the speaker was surprised by how many attended.  She pointed us in the direction of a series of video clips about implementing Charlotte Mason (and here scroll down to get the ones that show chapter 1 etc.).   I haven't watched them yet - but I will.  The study group should also be interesting - the next meeting isn't until the end of January though.

I also found another mom who put in a lot of work to create a list of AO books and where to find them for your kindle.  I did break down earlier this year when Yesterday's Classics had a great deal and bought the bundle (apparently it is on again $49.95 for 225 books!).

Anyway, I am actually implementing curriculum around here and learning a lot as I go.  It seems that there are also people that might be coming alongside me as we figure out how to grow our kids in the Lord.  I am excited.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reading Scheme

I broke down and bought the 2nd edition of Latin Centered Curriculum (LCC).  I am glad I did.  I appreciate the simple (yet deep) outline that he includes in the last section of the book.  It makes homeschooling seem do-able.  As you read through his curriculum you need to remember that he expects good music to be listened to in the home, art to be appreciated and books to be read aloud as a part of life (not curricula).   Parents should model and include their children in these aspects of their life.  If you are like me and have neglected these things (except for reading) for quite a while I might suggest using Amblesides' rotation of art and music to help make sure you cover the basics.

I am still a little torn between Charlotte Masons' laying a banquet with many varied readings and the LCC idea of "multum non multa"- a few deep readings.  So I am trying to strike a balance - as usual.

After thinking about all the different types of reading to be accomplished I decided that maybe I should create categories. Simply Convivial's idea about having a listening hour (and my son's addiction to legos and listening to stories) has been part of my inspiration.  I also want to figure out how I should "rate" books as I come across them.  Are they a "must have" because they will be used as a core book later or a "nice to have" because one kid might read it at some point.  Remembering that my oldest just turned 6 - so this is all theory - I think we will try this arrangement for history and literature (and maybe some science).

Study books - these are the key books that will be core texts - we will spend a lot of time with them.  Most of the suggestions for these will be taken from LCC and Memoria Press

Read Aloud Books - these are the kinds that Andrew Campbell just expects to happen - but will require more planning than that on my part.  So, this is where we will probably bring in Ambleside's literature suggestions, books of honor from Ordo-Amoris (or here) and others that I want to really discuss with the boys.

Audio Books - There are some books that I think are just better if someone else reads them aloud (Shakespeare, Pilgrim's Progress, etc.)  Other books are also worth listening to but I don't think they need to be a focal point of our study.  Right now, Our Island Story and Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World or M.B. Synge's world history will probably fit in here.   Fortunately, librivox can help cover a lot of these needs.  As I consider it, there will be some "required" listening (aka Simply Convivial style) and some "free" listening selections. Some stories that we have read aloud once might be made available for free time listening as well.  

Free Reading - Obviously, it will not be totally free since I will be suggesting books worth reading.  I know that popular opinion says that you should just be glad kids are reading.  However, I wasted many a summer reading Babysitter's club books and their ilk.  Now I wish I had read something with a little more substance.

So, I think that cover most of the reading that goes on in our house.  I think that this might give us a good balance and give me some guidance in what is worth purchasing and when we might need it.  I have not gotten to the point of actually going year by year to outline what might fall into these different categories.  That is still floating around in my head.  However, I now have a better idea of how we might tackle all that I'd like to read.  I am a little concerned that we will have to force the free reading around here because the oldest can read but prefers not to do so.  He is 6 so I am trying to be patient.

Anyway, if you have any additional thoughts I am open to them!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Something to write about

I was a little shocked to realize that I haven't posted since August.  Time flies!  I spent a good portion of these past few months focusing on getting school going and working on our eating habits.  We are tending towards paleo now (but we haven't given up dairy - yet) and have been trying to figure out how to further reduce our bread based carbohydrates (not the technical term).  I think it has been going well - but veggies take a while to prepare.  Fortunately, one of my kids LOVES his veggies so that makes it easy.  The other one has decided it is better to eat what I serve than starve (although I think he counts down to when he can visit grandma's house).

Last weekend I was privileged to attend CIRCE's conference in Austin.  It was GREAT!  So many things to think about.  I am so glad that I am early on in the homeschooling game and getting such great input.  Actually, what stunned me as I walked away was how much Mr. Kern's description of Mimetic teaching helped me to better understand how Montessori works (or could easily be adapted to work).  Montessori is all about naming the environment - very specifically.  You don't just learn "triangle" you learn "obtuse isoceles triangle".  This naming is crucial in helping kids understand their world - and they can deal with big names. She also constantly uses what Kern would call "types of the logos".  Her whole program is basically helping kids build from one truth to the next in incremental steps.  However, she doesn't clearly point to the Logos in her teaching (which is one reason I struggle with her appraoch).  Understanding that she is basically using types to teach math and grammar has given me new inspiration for using them in our coop class (which uses Montessori materials).

This conference also helped me name my difficulties with Montessori (we discussed the power of naming a lot at the conference).  Mr. Kern talked about the three types of learning - facts, skills and ideas.  Montessori stays in the level of facts and skills which is what makes it so universal.  However, I believe that education is about equipping kids to deal with ideas, relationships and ultimately cultivating virtue.  Although you can (and will) bring these into Montessori - she seems to intentionally try to exclude them from the learning process.  Montessori was against telling young children fairy tales and fantasy stories - which is the exact opposite of what Classical educators advocate.  They believe that these stories help cultivate a child's moral imagination (the author of this article was actually doing a conference in Dallas the same weekend).   As we discussed last weekend, she is preparing students to think analytically - but we are created first and ultimately to think analogically (through analogy/ story).    Montessori does bring story into the early elementary classroom - but the teacher can weave her own story - it is not necessarily tied to a specific faith tradition.   And honestly, most kids attend Montessori for preschool and then head off to a "normal" school so they miss the story.

So those are some of my initial thoughts.  I have started studying Latin - using the Memoria Press study guide for Henle (I am on lesson 2).  I still look at Visual Latin about once a week - maybe I will get it eventually.  I have also found this Latin tutorial site to be very helpful so that I can hear what it should sound like.

Additionally, I am tackling English grammar.  I realize that learning Latin will improve my English grammar - but I need a direct infusion.  I am using Jensen's Grammar.  I learned something new in lesson 2 - this is how sad my grammar education is.  So maybe I will figure out how to apply some of this new knowledge.

Finally, I am intending to blog through Mind of the Maker with Cindy Rollins at Ordo Amoris.  I picked the book up for a buck at a local thrift store - SCORE.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ideas Have Consequences - Chap. 8

It took me a while to get started with this chapter but when everyone else said it was their favorite so far I decided to give it a try.  I was not disappointed. 

As the others have mentioned, the first part is about a philosophic discussion about the role of words and language in our society.  While a defense is necessary, I personally decided this was not my battlefield when I read a little of Wittgenstein and was totally lost.  I am glad to see it might be, in part, because he was trying to accomplish something that really can't be done.  Maybe. 


I think the key idea I got from this chapter was the importance of definition.  As a debater (short lived) we learned to define our terms but we had no idea what we were really doing as middle schoolers.  But I did love Lincoln- Douglas debate because of the way it played with ideas.  Although I take good definition for granted, I am learning that I shouldn't.  There are a few educational points that came to mind with this idea of definition: 

1.  In the Montessori classroom one of the first things you do is name EVERYTHING.  You tour the room and name it (not with labels - but aloud).  This is to give students ownership and "power" over their space.  You also always use the proper name - not a babyish name.  This chapter gave reason why this is so important in developing young minds and helping kids to grow.  To teach items not in the classroom you use three part cards - with pictures and names - to help students name the world around them. 

2.  If you have ever read anything about the Principle Approach they talk a LOT about using Websters' 1828 dictionary to define terms and they spend a LOT of time doing it.  Basically, Noah Webster was a linguist extraordinaire (I think he knew about 20) and had a very Biblical worldview.  Current day definitions tend to have some of the drift that Weaver warns against, but the 1828 is quite a standard.  I think it is telling and helpful to use these definitions, with older children especially, so that they can see the way words have changed.  Webster felt called to write a dictionary because he knew the power of language.  

3.  I really enjoyed Andrew Kern's lecture about the 5 topics.  The quick overview tells us that definition - what is it? - is the first topic and comparison the second.  This is basically what Weaver is saying as well.  This is how we make sense of our world and if we can help our students grasp this and internalize it they will be the better for it.  

So, definition or naming may seem trivial but it is essential.  I think this is especially important because our culture and Christian morality once had similar definitions for things.  But we all know that isn't the case any longer.  It is essential that our children understand that there are ideals (even if they can't be met) and that some things are permanent - regardless of current fad.   As he explains "the student will get a training in definition which will compel him to see limitation and contradiction . . . training in thinking, whereas the best that he gets now is a vague admonition to think for himself."   


Another point that he drives home is that "command of language will prognosticate aptitude" - basically that being able to speak well and understanding language will help you go further.  One of my favorite studies is about preschool students and their language aptitude.  Let's just say that your language facility at 3 can predict your long term aptitude.  This is why I am so passionate about reading aloud to children. 

This is one reason why I like Core Knowledge and its thoughts about cultural literacy.  Basically, they argue that we can teach our kids technically how to read (if we decide to use phonics) but they lack the "background" to understand many of the stories and information once it gets above a 3rd grade level.  This is because they haven't been given the vocabulary, experience and stories to do well.   Although some may naysay against cultural literacy as "elitist" in nature - whose to say what culture we should be teaching - it is just the opposite.  There is a western tradition that has helped form who we are as a nation and all kids should learn about this heritage so they have a chance of understanding where our culture comes from.  This is NOT to belittle other cultures - but to provide them access to a great tradition of language and ideas.  As they say, teaching content is teaching reading. 

I see Core Knowledge as a modern adaptation of Classical Studies in some ways - especially when it comes to literature selections.  There is a need to provide students with access to the best poetry, literature, historical figures and ideas we can give them.   We should "lay the banquet" as Charlotte Mason encourages us with the expectation that children can and will make their own connections when given the chance.  However, if their "cultural literacy" is limited to what you can read about on the check out stand we are all in serious trouble.  

Weaver's chapter also encourages me to keep reading poetry - just like Cindy keeps encouraging us to do.  So although I don't really get poetry all the time - it is my lack of experience - not the poet's problem.  I just need to read more.  Weaver argues

He (the poet) is the greatest teacher of cause and effect in human affairs.  

Finally, this is the quote I will be thinking about the most, by Sir Richard Livingstone, who notes

that the people of the Western world 'do not know the meaning of certain words, which had been assumed to belong to the permanent vocabulary of mankind, certain ideals which, if ignored in practice under pressure, were accepted in theory.  The least important of these words is Freedom.  The most important are Justice, Mercy, and Truth."