Saturday, March 10, 2012

Storytime with David

I've always found books a connecting point with children so when I got the chance to stay with my grandchildren for a couple weeks I went to their local library to find some books to share with David.  I found several, but one of my favorites and one I knew he would like was The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle.  It has a different farm animal on each page making it's own sound along with  the repeat of the phrase, "The spider didn't answer, she was very busy spinning her web," until the end where that phrase changes to, "And the Spider caught the fly in her web, just like that!"  The spider and the fly on each page as well as the web are golden and raised so the child can feel them.  Slowly through the book the web is developing.  This book was so successful with David that I ordered it on Amazon for his birthday.  We loved reading it together.  

Flexible Home School

Mary doing her schoolwork at Traci's
I love how flexible home schooling is.  When major events come into the family or ministry opportunities we can take our school with us.  Some time ago, realizing that we aren't having babies any more and with this have less opportunity for the younger children to learn those good serving skills and unselfishness, I had asked the LORD to give us some ministry opportunities outside the home.  I didn't know if this would be helping at a nursing home or with another family somehow.  Then we found out that our son and daughter-in-law were expecting twins.  I was there at the ultrasound when they were first discovered!!  Then and there I offered my daughter-in-law a month of help when the babies would come.  The babies were born a bit prematurely and spent a couple weeks in the hospital, then when the first baby came home, we went to stay, three of us at a time.  It was a wonderful experience and we all enjoyed the blessings and opportunity of it!  But it meant that school was interrupted for four weeks.  We chose more independent studies for the month - more reading and writing about what they read, some older students helping younger students.  And of course, those of us who were gone, took our books with us!  Holding sweet babies and reading - the best way yet to do school! 

And then when you get too tired, you can fall asleep together....
Precious times with those sweet babies!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Planning out a school schedule

It's an odd time of year to be thinking of how to plan out a school schedule but a friend recently wrote me saying she was dissatisfied with how her schooling was going.  Scheduling being something I really enjoy I thought I'd put my thoughts together here for her and for any others who are finding themselves mired down in winter discouragement and could use a fresh start.

Making a School Schedule
  1. I start with a list of the basic subjects I plan to cover:  Math, Science, Music, etc.
  2. I break these down further.  For example science could include text and projects.  Art might include art appreciation, doing art, and crafts.
  3. Now I put a number by each of these subjects showing how many times I'd like to cover them per week.  Science text - 3x, science projects - 1x, music appreciation - 1x, music practice - 5x, hymn singing - 2x, math - 5x etc.  I highly recommend including nature walks and art and craft projects into your plans.
  4. Next I make sections on a page labeled for each day of the week I will be schooling and begin to list my subjects under them, arranging them so that they are listed the number of times I have prescribed for each subject.  Use a pencil or work on the computer so you can easily rearrange.  Things that are five times will go under all five days, things that are only once or twice can be scattered evenly over the days.  You may want to have a pattern - perhaps you know that one day of the week is difficult so you can make that an easier day or choose more of the subjects you most enjoy for that day.  We have often used Friday as an art and music day - we have an easier load that day and include a nature walk.  Sometimes we write letters that day for writing.  It puts a nice ending to the week.  Or you may want to divide having M,W,F for some classes alternated with T,Th for the things you want to do twice.  This makes for interesting diversion as you switch classes every other day.  Maybe Mondays are difficult for you, or you have a day that typically includes appointments - put less classes on that day and leave out your most difficult subjects.
  5. Now I decide which things will be done together as a group, which things I will be available to help them all as they work individually (at our house this includes math) and which things I will expect them to work on individually with only occasional help (I can be working on my own projects during this time).  Determine the order you want for these ways of working on each given day (it's easier to remember a routine if it has a familiar rhythm).  You may want to have them get a start on their work while you do a few household chores so you could start with their individual work.  Or you might want to start the day together as a group, then move to individual lessons where you are available and finally give them their personal assignments and send them off to finish.  You also may want to schedule in time to work with each individual student while the others work independently or older students tutor younger ones.  This will all depend on your personal preferences and your knowledge of how your children work best.  If independent work is difficult for them yet, you may want to start with that and then move to the easier together times. If you tend to get distracted with other projects and have a hard time pulling yourself back to schooling, start with together time and then when you are done schooling you can be free to focus on your own projects while they finish their own individual school projects.
  6. Decide if you want to set times for given classes or just an order of topics.  Even with topics it is nice to have a ballpark idea of how long you expect a given class to take - 15 min, half hour or perhaps an hour.  Assign a time frame to each subject.  Remember that especially at a young age, classes are best kept short and varied as the brain tires in one area you can move to another topic and feel fresh.  I try to keep most of our academic pursuits during the morning hours so that we have time in the afternoons for rest, free reading, housework, outings and creative pursuits.  You may want to schedule your afternoons with days for particular pursuits - times with friends, a sewing day or a deep cleaning day, a shopping day, library day or perhaps your nature walk or science experiments that might take too long in the morning.  
  7. Each day should now be broken down into four time periods:  group class time, supervised individual work, independent study and your afternoon projects.  At this point you can arrange your daily subjects under these headings.  Charlotte Mason recommends varying the lessons as much as possible, using different areas of the brain so that they don't tire as much but stay fresh for each new class.  Follow math with a creative subject, follow a reading session with art, music, or handwriting.  If you use a lot of text books, you may have reading for  many of your subjects, but you can intersperse this with their writing, math, music, art, drill work, or a quick work-out with a few exercises giving the reading part of your children's brains a rest periodically. Also if they are reading, vary the topics as much as possible.  
  8. Finally, you are ready to put it all down in order writing out your final schedule and it only remains to try it out and tweak it to fit your family's needs.  Make a copy to keep post or keep close at hand the first couple weeks until you are familiar with the new routine.  
I use a similar method for scheduling household chores - listing daily and weekly jobs then assigning them to particular times often connected to meals.  Spread your weekly jobs over the days.  If everyone has a chore or two before and after each meal a lot can be accomplished.somewhat effortlessly.   

Happy scheduling!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

studying human hair

Our human body unit continues today with hair.  Straight, curly, blonde or dark hair is determined by genetics.  The shape of the hair follicle determines whether our hair will be straight or curly.  Round follicles make straight hair, flat follicles grow flat hair which is curly.  We have more than 100,000 hairs on our heads.  It is in all stages of growth as some is always falling out and being replaced by new growth.  After reading about hair we looked at a hair under the microscope.  John thought it hurt a lot to have a hair pulled out but he liked seeing it under the microscope.  

We looked at John's hair under different magnifications.  It looked a little like this magnified photo I found on the internet but ours looked clear almost see-through.  It also had some rough places along the edges.                                                                                                    

A microscope image of a human hair

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Poetry is beautiful thoughts strung together in words worth remembering.  The sounds and rhythms themselves are descriptive and lovely.  They seem to go right to our heart's eye so that we take the thoughts into our very being.  

In searching for poetry to share with my children I look for things that are beautiful and appealing, along with true and worthy.  I want to choose poems that are suitable to their ages and interests.  

Children are never too young for poetry.  Even toddlers can enjoy picture poem books for the very young.  Our youngest, who is now six, has always enjoyed poetry and though he is very active.  He loved to have me read him a book of children's poetry from quite young.  He would sometimes choose a book of poetry over a storybook.  One of the books from our library that he has enjoyed is Poems to Read to the Very Young, selected by Josette Frank and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.  If you aren't familiar with Eloise Wilkins, the following are two illustrations by her: 

Another book with wonderful children's poetry is A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.  You will find many different versions of this.  One we have really enjoyed with beautiful paintings of children is called Leaves From a Child's Garden of Verses Illustrated by Donna Green.  This book is not comprehensive but the paintings are lovely.

There are so many wonderful copies of this book I hesitate to lead you toward any one in particular, but if you like Thomas Kinkaid paintings, there is a nice hardcover copy of A Child's Garden of Verses with illustrations by him.  It includes scripture and prayers.  
A Child's Garden Of Verses A Collection Of Scriptures, Prayers & Poems - compare prices

Another poetry book we have almost worn out through the years is A Golden Treasury of Nursery Verse compiled by Mark Daniel.  It has nice old paintings sprinkled throughout.  

A wonderful anthology of children's poetry that we got on Karen Andreola's recommendation is Favorite Poems Old and New selected by Helen Ferris.  This is a hefty, almost 600 page book has poems arranged by topic which makes it nice when you want to select a poem to go with something you are studying or for nature study. 

A poetry book my children and I have found very helpful for finding worthy poetry to memorize is Poems for Memorization published by Rod and Staff.  This is a paperback and has poems listed by grade level appropriate for memorization.  

For your older child or perhaps for yourself, The One Year Book of Poetry has 365 devotional readings based on classic Christian verse.  Each day includes poetry and a devotional on that poem.  These are challenging reading and deep thinking poems.

My all time favorite is Mountain Breezes a collection of Amy Carmichael's poetry.  She is my favorite poet and this is a comprehensive collection of her poems.  They are grouped into sections and it includes a section with poems for children.  Along with her deep spiritual insights, she loved nature and was very gifted with analogies so she puts beautiful words and comparative descriptions to spiritual ideas.  This book includes a section for youth that children will enjoy including animal poems.  

I read a poem aloud daily for several weeks to help the children begin to memorize it.  As I memorize poetry along with the children I find myself quoting it to the little ones at appropriate moments, like, "Who has seen the wind, neither I nor you...." by Christina Rosetti or "How do you like to go up in a swing, up in the air so blue?" by Robert Louis Stevenson while I push them on the swing.  I also use poems for copywork and to go along with our nature studies.  The Handbook of Nature Study has some poems sprinkled throughout that go with particular nature topics and can be copied into nature notebooks.  Favorite Poems Old and New is also a wonderful source for particular poems and has its poems listed in categories so it's easy to find poems to go with a particular study.  

Children may like to write their own poetry.  Like drawing, or riding a bike for that matter, their first attempts may not be impressive, but I like to encourage my children by finding something to praise or comment positively on.  As they continue, I gently give suggestions and teach meter and rhyme.  One of our daughters who struggled with meter with her first attempts at writing poetry now, as an adult, writes beautiful poetry. I've found it helpful when beginning to write poetry to choose a familiar poem or hymn and use that meter to write my own words.  Of course not all poetry has meter or rhyme, but I like to encourage my children to at least learn to write this way as it takes discipline and thought and of course the finished product is appealing.  Our minds are drawn to the repetitions of sound and cadence.  

With a little effort, our children will be storing away beauty in their hearts and minds for the days and years to come.