Wednesday, December 2, 2015

School in December - Focus on the Birth of Christ

I've decided to change up our routine for the month of December so we can concentrate on celebrating the birth of Christ.  I went to the library yesterday and chose Christmas story books and craft project books.  I made out assignment sheets and check off lists for our four students for the month.  Only the oldest wants to continue with her normal weekly readings, the rest will read stories and books related to Christmas. We'll still continue with math otherwise we'll focus our other subjects on the birth of Christ. We will be listening daily to Christmas stories on Librivox.  The youngest is hoping to download a collection of stories on his new MP3 player.  There are so many it is hard to know where to start. 

Last night I read our first Christmas storybook to the two youngest, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, a beautiful story with lovely paintings! Other titles I got from our local library include, The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, Room for a Little One: a Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell,  Madeline's Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans, The Little Boy's Christmas Gift by John Spiers, The Nutcracker retold by Anthea Bell and Christmas Song of the North by Marsha Bonicatto.  I haven't read all of these yet, but they each looked promising. 

 I'm hoping to read some longer books aloud, including The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which is a wonderfully hilarious tale of a church Christmas pageant.  The nativity is seen through the eyes of a poor, unchurched family who comes to participate.  Sometimes we become too used to the Christmas story and forget the wonder of it.  I found a couple of books listed at Living Books Library under their Christmas heading and ordered some from our state inter-library loan including a couple by Alta Halverson Seymour who is a new author to me.  She has written Christmas stories set in different countries.  I'm looking forward to trying them.

Dickens' A Christmas Carol, has become a tradition for us.There are many wonderfully illustrated editions.  I'll choose a couple from our library.

  After reading it we'll watch a video of a musical called "The Gospel According to Scrooge".  My sister and niece perform in this well-done production of this wonderful musical.  We purchased our copies for $10 each through DTV20, 831 Main Street South, SaukCentre, MN 56378 or you can call 320-351-7288.  It was performed a few years ago so I'm not sure if they still have it, but it is well worth the $10 and has become a tradition for us to watch. 

Speaking of films, we plan to watch "It's a Wonderful Life".  Which has been a tradition for my sister's family for years.  

For picture study we will be looking at about a dozen paintings of the Annunciation to the Shepherds.  You can follow along with us on my art, music and poetry blog, All Things Bright and Beautiful.

We're also hoping to each make some sort of artistic expression of the angel's announcement to the shepherds.

I've asked the children to begin planning a book that they will write and illustrate this month.  It can be a poem, the story of Christmas (they will each be writing this narrative sometime during the month for writing anyway) or a story about someone celebrating Christmas.  It will be fun putting the books together and even more fun to read and reread them through the years. 

There are several pieces of classical music including Handel's Messiah I hope to enjoy together as a family.  You can find these on my blog along with the picture study and poems for the season.  

Just found a wonderful resource for an advent devotional using hymns.  It has links to youtube videos of each song.  I downloaded it free this morning and we listened to the first two days to catch up. You can find it here

I found three books of carols, two for piano and one for guitar.  Our students are not very advanced yet, but may find a song or two they want to learn to share with the family on Christmas Eve.   And I just found a site for printing free Christmas Piano Pieces.  It looks like they have some nice easy to play pieces.

Other projects may include modeling a clay manger scene, painting, stitching projects and making wrapping paper, cards and gifts.  I'm really looking forward to this joyous season! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Drawing Birds with John Muir Laws've been using Apologia's Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, and enjoying it very much.  This week we added some bird drawing lessons and I was impressed with the results.  The book we used is The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds.  This book is packed full of wonderful information, diagrams and assignments.  I think it could be used for a whole year of art and science lessons just in itself.  I highly recommend it. We have used some of John Muir Laws You-tube videos on drawing from nature and found them helpful.  This week we did a two-page demonstration--assignment with 18 steps to drawing a warbler from this book.  The book has comprehensive information on bird anatomy along with detailed art lessons specifically geared for drawing birds. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Meaning vs. Technique

Yesterday S-16 started Jensen's Format Writing which her older sister had loved a few years ago.  She had asked me for something that would shore up her writing skills in case she decides to go to college.  The first assignment was to take a sentence and using the various parts as a connection write  second sentences to go with it.  For example if the subject of the first sentence was Sam you would write another sentence starting with Sam, then one with a pronoun and perhaps one using the predicate or a second noun.  She asked if the sentences had to be about the same thing and I said that technically they didn't need to - they just had to have the same subject.  I gave a random example where the topics were completely unconnected except that Sam was the subject of both.  She dissolved into tears - very frustrated because there was no meaning, no real connection.  I told her it was better to make more connection - that is how it would be in real writing so that is how she did the exercise.  For me this was "just an exercise" - I grew up following the directions, getting by, not caring about the meaning (there often was no obvious meaning in my public education), doing the exercises as a game, (I did get good grades) but S, having grown up with a Charlotte Mason education feels that the meaning is the point.  Thinking about this makes me glad for her frustration and insistence on real meaning.  Her sentences were good and interesting besides. This morning I realize that I am perhaps more "successful" than I deserve to be in educating my children.  God's grace giving benefits I wouldn't have known to seek.  Maybe it's just her personality, but I think probably it has a lot to do with using a Charlotte Mason style of education and a God who is bigger and better and gives us more than we could ask or think.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bequest of Wings

Someone recommended Bequest of Wings by Annis Duff so I ordered it in through our state interlibrary loan program.  It is a wonderful book!  She says what I feel about books and reading with children, but in such beautiful language!  Here are a couple of sample paragraphs from the first chapter.
     "The dictionary defines education as the 'cultivation and development of the various physical, intellectual, aesthetic, moral and social faculties; instruction and discipline.'  The responsibility for all of this is laid on the parents.  Nature, in effect, simply hands over a parcel of assorted energies, and says, 'Here, see what you can do with this.' And all that two blissful and bewildered people have in the way of preparation for the job is what they have been able to learn from life, up to that point, and what they go on learning as they grow up with their children.  We were as awkward a pair of parents as ever launched blithely on a career of exploring and developing human personality.  But we knew without much discussion what our hope was for our children--that they should grow fully and robustly and merrily into a fine abundant life, rich with all the things that had brought so much joy to us as individuals, and to our relationship as friends.  We had no clear idea of how we should show them the way, except that we must give them as much of ourselves as we possibly could."

"...It includes all the honest books, that are written with knowledge, insight, humor and imagination, and put together with the skill and artistry that respect for language and style demand.  These are the books that come to live in the family library, especially when the need for careful spending dictates fastidious choosing.  Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows can rub shoulders with The Crock of Gold and the Plays of William Shakespeare, without incongruity; for they are made of the same permanent stuff, laughter and pain, hunger and satisfaction, and an infinite love of all the bittersweet ingredients of human life.  These are the books that I mean when I speak of coming closer in sympathy and understanding, through reading, to the whole of the human family."...

And from chapter two, "So, from the sharing of books in intimate family pleasures with the smallest of bairns, comes, for the family as a unit, stability and kinship of spirit; and for the little child, the dignity of the persistent striving of humanity toward the Good Life.  So, too, from these early beginnings comes the growth of the mind in perception of 'that which cannot be thought about in words, or told or expressed...all the secret and quiet world beyond our lives, wind and stars, too, and the sea, and the endless unknown.'"

That's as far as I've read so far, but I'm excited about this book. Reading is such a part of family life for us. Annis Duff refers to lots of titles we've also enjoyed together as a family!  It's like having tea with a kindred spirit talking about favorite books and getting recommendations for new ones. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Secrets of Heathersliegh Hall

I'm starting to think about books for Fall for my students.  I continue to follow Ambleside Online loosely, adding and substituting books we have or that I find and want to share with my children.  

I've just finished a series by Michael Phillips, Secrets of Heathersleigh Hall.  It is set in World War I which I knew next to nothing about before reading these books.  I'm planning to assign this series to Sarah this year as I think historical fiction is a great way to get a feel for other times and places and this is right where we are in our chronological study of history.  These books are also a great choice because of the depth of Biblical insight in challenging issues - women's rights, the Father heart of God and the atonement, forgiveness, obedience and suffering, as well as how wealth does not bring happiness rather fulfillment comes in learning to give and serve.  These concepts are beautifully spoken in story form by characters you've come to love and admire, so they are easy to take in and digest.  I'm looking forward to discussing these issues with her as she reads. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reading worthy books

I rejoice in the beauty of what my children are reading!  I remember in high school reading short stories about death, suicide and hopelessness and a novel about violent street gangs. I can only imagine what today's high schools include for literature! Yesterday my daughter was recounting to me the chapter she had read/listened to from Les Miseables, with the beautiful picture of  Jean Valjean seeing his moment of choice between a life of depraved hate and violence or a new life of goodness and love. I was inspired listening to her tell it, even though I haven't read this novel yet myself.  I love how Charlotte Mason's ideas encourage us to give our young people beautiful and worthy things to think about.  Recently my daughter has been reading Speak Love by Annie Downs. This isn't a school assignment but a book she chose on her own. I am blessed that she chooses and has time to read worthy books by Christian authors building her walk of faith even beyond what is assigned for school.  We use Ambleside Online loosely and so are introduced to many wonderful and inspiring books we would otherwise miss. Thank you to the ladies at Ambleside Online who have so generously shared of your time, wisdom and experience so the rest of us can benefit!  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Door in the Wall

We're reading aloud The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli and there have been several passages that have moved me so much by their beauty and truth that I want to write them in my commonplace book.  I paused, then reread part of this one yesterday during circle time:

     "One day, late in October, as the friar walked with Robin along the side of the hill leading down to the river, D'Ath following, Robin stepped in the path.
     'Think you it is really helping my legs to swim?' he asked anxiously, 'I cannot straighten my back, and can walk only as before, halfway bent over.  What think you, Brother Luke, shall I ever straighten?'
     'I know not what to think about that.' Brother Luke sighed.  Then he lifted his head and said firmly, 'God alone knows whether thou'lt straighten or no.  I know not.  But this I tell thee.  A fine and beautiful life lies before thee, because thou hast a lively mind and a good wit.  Thine arms are very strong and sturdy.  Swimming hath helped to make them so, but only because thou hast had the will to do it.  Fret not, my son.  None of us is perfect.  It is better to have crooked legs than a crooked spirit.  We can only do the best we can with what we have.  That, after all, is the measure of success: what we do with what we have.  Come, let us go on.'"

     What beautiful things are you finding in your reading this winter?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Too Much of a Good Thing - It's All Too Much

I follow Ambleside Online loosely.  I deviate a bit so I can keep us all together as we work through the timeline of history and substitute occasionally with books I have on hand.  We ended last year with the Roman Empire and Life of Christ, so this year we started with the Early church and the fall of the Roman empire. There were so many good "spine books" for the time period. I didn't want to miss anything and I didn't know which would be best so I decided to try all that I had on hand.  We're reading The story of Mankind - this year we covered the first half of the third book. I also purchased The Story of Europe because I like another book we'd used by H.E. Marshall and her books are highly recommended.  I already had A Child's History of England (I love anything by Charles Dickens), and we've been reading through a copy of The Church in History that I've had for years.  We also read the first part of Trial and Triumph and Great Astronomers. My two junior high aged students were reading Birth of Britain but both found it difficult reading.  I'd hoped to include some historical novels as well, but the schedule was pretty full....  With more than half the year behind us, I'm finding that we are too heavy on the overview books, but I've been reluctant to let any of them go as each has its own appeal.  Finally, yesterday I decided that I will cut out all but The Story of Mankind, Great Astronomers and Trial and Triumph.  We've learned a lot from The Church in History and I love Dickens' stories, H.E.Marshall's narratives are also excellent, but it's all too much.  So even though I haven't heard anyone else talk about the books, The Story of Mankind: A Picturesque Tale of Progress, by Olive Beaupre' Miller, it turns out that this is my favorite series.  I inherited this four-book set when my Dad cleaned off his bookshelves. There are pictures and maps on pretty much every page, though that isn't what draws me.  I like her storytelling.  The chapters are quite long, but there are breaks with headings if you want to use shorter readings.  I also like the fact that I can cover the whole span of history using one author.  We just finished book 3, part 1 of the series (each book is divided into two parts).  The thing I like about Trial and Triumph is that each chapter is a biographical sketch of a man of faith.  Some of the overview books we were using covered so many people in each chapter that your were left trying to remember names and dates.  For this reason I'm excited about reading some historical fiction where you actually feel like you get to know the people and settings in detail.  I'm hoping to get through the following and more if possible, we've actually started three of these already. My list includes:
  •  The Door in the Wall, Marguerite DeAngelli
  •  The Namesake, The Story of King Alfred, C. Walter Hodges
  •  Messiah! A New Look at the Composer, the Music and the Message! N.A. Woychuk (of Scripture Memory Fellowship)
  •  Son of Charlemagne, Barbara Willard (Bethlehem Books)
  •  Adam of the Road,Elizabeth Gray Vining
  •  Wulf the Saxon: A Story of the Norman Conquest by G.A.Henty
My students also have other biographies of this time-period they are reading individually.

I'd be interested if you have recommendations for other biographies or historical novels from this time-period?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Memorizing Scripture

We're memorizing a couple different longer passages from the Bible this year, actually we started most of them last year but are continuing with them. One of them is Romans 6-8.  I found a CD of Romans 6-8 put to music.  This is such a great passage of Scripture, but it is complex and difficult to memorize. We're finding it much easier to music. Here is a link to the website for Songs of Scripture.  The Romans Project is the one we're using. 

 We've also been working on the Sermon on the Mount.Sermon on the Mount - DVD We've been working on it on our own, but I have a DVD of Keith Ferrin quoting it with meaning and passion and I think I'll try using it for our memory-time.  You can get this Keith Ferrin Sermon on the Mount 

DVD here.  Keith Ferrin has lots of resources for helping you and your family memorize and meditate on Scripture.  His website is That You May Know Ministries.

I told my children this week that we really don't know what the future will hold for us as Christians.  It may be that we are in prison someday and it will be a tremendous gift to have the beautiful Word of God stored in our hearts.  Actually, if we memorize it we have it ready for meditation anytime and anywhere....  

What do you use to help you memorize?  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Silver Chair - C.S.Lewis

We're reading The Chronicles of Narnia as a family and I'm finding deep insights I somehow missed as a child when my parents read them aloud to us.  Maybe they're like any really good allegory, they fit on many levels and they grow with you.
We just completed The Silver Chair.  I didn't have an attachment to this book in particular, but this time around it seemed to have a lot to say to me.  I'd like to record a few of my thoughts and musings from this reading of it.

Jill and Eustace have called on Aslan asking if they can go to Narnia.  When Jill meets Aslan a few moments later and he is talking about the task for which he called her, she responds, "I was wondering--I mean--could there be some mistake? Because nobody called me and Scrubb, you know.  It was we who asked to come here.  Scrubb said we were to call to--to Somebody--it was a name I wouldn't know--and perhaps the Somebody would let us in.  And we did, and then we found the door open."
     Aslan's response is, "You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you."
And how precious it is that our LORD is calling to us! and we have the privilege of responding by calling on Him!

Then they find themselves in Narnia and are ushered into the castle.  "Supper in the great hall of the castle was the most splendid thing either of them had ever seen;..."  This second chapter ends with this paragraph:  "When they were dragging themselves upstairs to bed, yawning their heads off, Jill said, 'I bet we sleep well tonight,' for it had been a full day.  Which just shows how little anyone knows what is going to happen to them next."

The journey their assignment took them on was arduous and uncomfortable.  It was a reminder that our comfort isn't the issue at stake, it is the call to bring glory to God and to serve Him and His Kingdom that shapes our lives.  

Later in the book as the evil enchantress is working her magic and trying to deceive them, I saw interesting parallels to the deceptions of worldly philosophies that currently pervade our culture questions about what is real and what is true.  The deceit was so subtle and they were vulnerable to it.  It took pain and intense struggle to wrench them back to reality and truth. 

I highly recommend these books!  They are full of spiritual insights! 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Common Redpoll

While we were working on our gingerbread houses a female Common Redpoll hit the dining room window and crashed to the snow below.  I noticed four or five at the feeder, some were males with the pink bib.  Ruthie went out to check on it.  The wing was splayed in an unnatural position but she gently picked it up and brought it in.  She said the little heart was still beating so we found a cage to set over a box so it wouldn't panic and fly around the house when it came out of it's stupor. 

When she came around we took the cage outside and lifted the cage off of the box to let her go.  She immediately flew off into the woods.  I hope they stay around at our feeders awhile.  So far we've had mostly chickadees and a nuthatch. 

New Years Day 2015

Love this little snowman....
candy sleigh & gingerbread man

Holidays are filled with activities and traditions that are educational.  Even when we aren't doing formal lessons we are learning and growing. One of our New Year's holiday traditions is to make gingerbread houses.  This year we decided to make them using graham crackers. We have wonderful memories of friends making them with us different years.  Like the year Adam brought candy "stones" to make chimneys and rock work on our houses. But this year it was just us....   The girls studied ideas online, purchased some candy, made the frosting glaze and glued the crackers together last night.  While they dried and we waited for the New Year to come in we listened to an audio version of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This morning when the breakfast dishes were done, we were ready to spread the table with houses and candy.  Then the creativity began. 
finished gingerbread houses on display

We had enough houses for a second display

After the gingerbread houses, we worked on making Lefse.  It didn't turn out perfectly but it tasted wonderful and we had lots of fun and laughs....  

Then it was time to go out sledding.  There was a nice dusting of snow last night so we filled some tubes and headed for the hill.  It's unusual to have this little snow here this time of year, but it is certainly cold enough for January. 
Not much snow, but enough for tubing....

Going down in a train - hang on!

climbing back up for another run

It's a long hill to climb but worth if for another ride down...

The only things left on our to-do list for New Year's Day 2015 besides eating a nice dinner together is to watch our video of The Gospel According to Scrooge and to listen to more of the audio book, The Silver Chair which we just started last night.  Looks like the year is off to a wonderful start!!