Fall 2017 Group Subjects

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In years past, we’ve done quite a bit of school with all three of the big kids together. When they were younger and not as independent, it made sense to do that. Now that they are all doing most of their work independently, we don’t have to have “The Reading” or “Table Time”–but we haven’t cut it entirely.

Since we do Convocation together first thing and I keep that streamlined, I moved most other together subjects to a loop system of sorts. On my clipboard I have other resources listed along with bubbles to fill in for how many times I want to cover that topic or book per week. Some things happen every day and some are just once a week. This seems to work well, because if we have days that get away from us or days when it takes longer to get through individual teaching/discussion times, it’s ok for these things to drop off the schedule. I can always make up the material later in the week, or in the following week. I feel a lot of freedom to do this, because of the volume of independent work also happening.

After teaching times are done, we regroup at the table or couch to do The Reading. It’s not hard to pull everyone in for this, because they all enjoy it. Here is what we cover:

Poetry – Both reading selections and reviewing poems previously memorized. I didn’t get around to identifying a new piece for this term, so we just cycle through what we’ve already learned. Each kid also has an assigned poet per term, but those are read independently.

Plutarch – We read sections from Plutarch’s Lives daily, slowly working through the book from start to finish. It’s probably going to take us years if not decades. That’s ok. The idea is to learn how to see civic behavior, leadership, and character in a more nuanced light. Perhaps because the kids have a strong background in these stories from previous years, we have not found this onerous and we aren’t using any study guides. I read a section that feels like a complete part of the narrative, then one child narrates.

Church History – Rather than the individual assignments from Trial & Triumph, I just read one-two chapters per week and we narrate. We’ve read this book before, but it bears repeating.

Indiana History – I have mixed feelings about state history. I guess it’s a good idea if you are born and raised and live in one place all of your life. I personally had state history while living in California. So if you want to know anything about the goldrush, conquistadors, Spanish missions, and the like, I’m…still probably not your person. I vaguely remember some of these things. And I haven’t lived in California since that brief 4th and 5th grade window. So, I’m not willing to devote very much time to state history. Still, we do live here, so I toss in a few readings from a history spine and some historical fiction set in our state. We also have a membership to the Indiana State Museum and its 12 satellite museums this year.

Extra Science

The big kids all have complete science coverage in their independent work, but we like science and happen to own several texts that we haven’t done yet, so we read from one or the other of those most days. The Way Things Work is pretty cool, but in future years I might assign that as an independent read when the AO selections feel too sparse. I’m becoming less and less enthused about Apologia books, so may wind up selling off our collection eventually. Meanwhile, we keep reading.

Shakespeare

We’re doing Richard III this term, going slowly. I meant to identify some monologues to memorize, but never got to it. Suggestions welcome. We’ll read the play, listen to it, and probably watch it. Hannah has some Richard III material for history this year, so it will be fun for her to have this background when she gets to Richard III as a historical figure.

Artist Study

We have one Durer print per week for picture study, and are reading a good biography. Some weeks we do an art activity that ties in, for example making “wood prints” by carving styrofoam and rolling paint on them to press on paper.

Composer Study

We started out with Telemann and Corelli, but didn’t find much to connect to in terms of reading. I prefer to have a biography going (like one of Opal Wheeler’s) at the same time. So we listen to various pieces throughout the week, but not in an organized fashion right now. The kids recently switched piano teachers, and the new lessons are much more geared to learning to play classic repertoire, so we do listen to pieces and composers the kids are learning.

Nature Study

Sadly, I am not getting this one done. We have sketchbooks and little watercolor sets and water brushes and very nice pencils, but have only done two sketches all term. I’m having a really hard time identifying a spot in the schedule for this. My friend Heather is teaching nature study classes this fall, and I so wish I had signed us up! Maybe next time!

Dictation

We do dictation on Fridays, based on the catechism answer we’ve been studying all week.

Habit Discussion

We started off strong with these, but now it’s more ad hoc. Having a list on the clipboard does remind me to look for ways to work these things into the day, though.

Penmanship

Daily cursive practice is new. We were getting sloppy. I’m using Cursive Logic, which is a great system if you have kids who already know how to write in cursive, but who aren’t forming letters precisely or need some extra help to strengthen their penmanship.

This looks like a lot, but since we loop most of it, it doesn’t take long. If we finish early, we have time to fit in some extra chapters from our family read-aloud. I do miss the days when we did most of our school work as read-alouds together, but it’s nice to still have a few things we read together.

If you have multiple children in your homeschool, what subjects do you combine, if any? Do you loop any subjects or do everything every day?

 

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

Hodge Podge: Literary Casserole Edition

FullSizeRender (1)One runs out of themes for Hodge Podge reviews. So think of this round-up as that sort of casserole you make when you haven’t been to the store in eight days and all you have is half of a leftover chicken breast, 3/4 cup of taco meat, a bag of frozen green beans, a can of chickpeas, a bowl of last night’s rice, a wizened onion, and sheer determination.

But I digress. And now, the books.

Beowulf – This is a re-read for me, but Hannah is reading the Seamus Heaney translation, and it’s so terrific. “He is hasped and hooped and hirpling with pain, limping and looped in it.” If you love words, this is for you. The illustrated edition is particularly fascinating.

Man’s Search for Meaning – I liked the personal memoir narrative of the first part, but got bored with the psychological treatise of the second part. Gist: regardless of your circumstances, you can choose your response.

The Valley of Vision – I read this book of prayers in small doses, and was not sure exactly what to do with it. I found some thought-provoking and/or helpful ways of thinking about/praying about things, but I’m not sure I’d re-read it.

Teaching From Rest – This was a re-read (link is to the original review), and is a great example of a book that hits you in exactly the right way the first time, is integrated into your life and way of thinking, and then doesn’t have a lot to add the second time around. It’s a good book, but maybe not one that requires re-reading.

Time to Write – If you are just starting out in writing, and have read absolutely nothing at all on writing or time management, you might find this book helpful. Sometimes I pick up books like this, thinking, “Help! Someone tell me how to [find time to write/make a living as a writer/be creative/etc]!” and then I read the book and think, “Oh, I guess I already do that.” I guess it’s as good a cure for imposter syndrome as any.

What have you been reading lately?

Note: The picture in this post has nothing to do with casserole or books. It’s just the corner of my desk: zinnias from the garden, a picture of my great-grandmother holding a chicken, and a print from Gracelaced that reminds me to watch my words.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Jack’s 5th Grade

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Jack does just about everything full-throttle, so educating him is a bit of a wild ride. He’s either fiercely interested–discussing things at a wildly high level and wrangling ideas like untamed wildebeests–or he’s fiercely bored and dragging his feet and his pencil and having to learn the hard way to love what must be done.

Welcome to fifth grade at our house this fall.

IMG_6989Jack is doing a modified version of Ambleside Online Year 5. My modifications were adding several additional science books and biographies, and picking up the pace on a couple of other readings. I wanted to give him a little more challenge while also giving him space to get better at following through on assignments.

Like Hannah and Sarah, Jack has a weekly clipboard that lists his daily work, work done together with everyone else, and co-op classes (on the right) and the categories from which he chooses one assignment per day (on the left).

We have a daily hour or so in which we discuss his readings, written work, Latin assignment, and math. He narrates (tells back, in detail and sequence) every reading except for free reads, and he does one written narration per day. Each week he has to put on revised piece of writing into his history notebook and his literature notebook, and he writes all of his science experiments and observations in a separate science notebook. Jack’s readings are below, with links for books I added or have already reviewed separately.

History & Geography (all narrated*)

  • This Country of Ours
  • The Story of Mankind
  • The Complete Book of Marvels (Halliburton)
  • Geography (Van Loon)
  • What the World Eats
  • Abraham Lincoln’s World
  • Story of the World, Volume 4

Historical Biography (all narrated*)

  • A Passion for the Impossible (Lilias Trotter)
  • Always Inventing (Alexander Graham Bell)
  • Carry a Big Stick (Teddy Roosevelt)
  • Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics
  • Something Out of Nothing (Marie Curie)
  • George Washington Carver

Literature & Historical Fiction (all narrated*)

IMG_6991Poetry

  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • John Greenleaf Whittier
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar

Science (all narrated* and all experiments written up)

Free Reading (not narrated, but required reading)

  • Black Horses for the King
  • Little Women
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Captains Courageous
  • Puck of Pook’s Hill
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • The Prince and the Pauper
  • Treasure Island
  • Lad: A Dog
  • The Treasure Seekers
  • The Wouldbegoods
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • The Long Winter
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
  • Hans Brinker
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (this is re-re-re-re-read, but really, it’s so good)
  • Rifles for Watie
  • Across Five Aprils
  • Rilla of Ingleside
  • Falcons of France
  • Goodbye Mr. Chips
  • The Story of My Life
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  • The Rescuers
  • The Cricket in Times Square
  • Homer Price
  • The Great Brain
  • King Arthur (Lanier version)
  • Moccasin Trail
  • Sacajawea (Bruchac version)

Bible

  • 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles
  • Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

Language

Math

  • Learn Math Fast
  • I’m still unsure where to place Jack this year, because he basically finished Saxon 7/6 and tested as ready forArt of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra, but he has a LOT of conceptual holes so I know AoPS would frustrate him. So, for now, we are focusing on Learn Math Fast through pre-algebra, in hopes that the conceptual review framework will help prepare him. And then maybe next semester–or even next year–we will dive in to AoPS.

Co-op (classes meet once a week)

  • Engineering
  • Handicrafts
  • Junior Achievement BizTown (economics)

Other (subjects we do together with the other kids, more in a separate post)

  • More science (The Way Things WorkApologia Chemistry and Physics)
  • Church history (Trial & Triumph)
  • Citizenship (Plutarch’s Lives)
  • Indiana state history (various historical fiction, biographies, history spine)
  • Literature (Shakespeare play per term–Richard III this fall, daily poetry, poetry memorization, family read-alouds)
  • Artist study (Durer, this term)
  • Composer study (we were doing Telemann and Corelli, but may switch to Kabalevsky)
  • Nature study (using John Muir Laws guide)
  • Piano lessons

And that’s fifth grade for Jack. Kind of intense some days, but often truly amazing. It’s the sort of person he is!

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Sarah’s Third Grade

DSC_0147The biggest shift for Sarah this year is in her doing almost all of her readings independently. Since she is the most independent of all of the kids (so far) that was not a huge leap for her, and she is handling third grade with aplomb.

I started with Ambleside Online Year 3, adding a couple of things and deleting others. Primarily, she’s covering the 1400s-1600s in history.

As with the other big kids, Sarah has a weekly checklist to remind her of her daily work (copywork, a written narration, math assignment, typing, French, piano, chores, etc) and she can choose one assignment per category from the list on the left-hand side of her checklist.

In our daily one-on-one time, we talk over her readings (Sarah gives detailed and interesting narrations, so even if I wasn’t pre-reading–which I am–I would know what was going on in all of her books to the letter!), do math lessons, and correct her written work.

IMG_6985Here are her books for the school year (books linked are things I added to AO or have already reviewed separately):

History & Geography (all narrated*)

  • This Country of Ours
  • A Child’s History of the World
  • Our Island Story
  • Explorations
  • New Nations
  • The Discovery of New Worlds
  • The Awakening of Europe

Historical Biography (all narrated*)

  • Michaelangelo
  • Marco Polo
  • Bard of Avon
  • Good Queen Bess
  • Landing of the Pilgrims
  • Squanto
  • Unknown to History: the Captivity of Mary of Scotland

Literature & Historical Fiction (all narrated*)

  • The Princess and the Goblin
  • Children of the New Forest
  • The Jungle Book (books 1 and 2)
  • American Tall Tales
  • Tales from Shakespeare
  • The Heroes
  • *I would like to find a good retelling of Spencer’s Faerie Queene, but Amazon does not currently oblige.*

IMG_6986Poetry

  • William Blake, selections
  • Sara Teasdale, selections
  • Hilda Conkling, selections
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, selections

Science (all narrated* and all experiments written up)

  • Pagoo (sea life)
  • Science Lab in a Supermarket
  • A Drop of Water
  • Secrets of the Woods

Free Reading (not narrated, but required reading)

Bible

  • Luke, John
  • Exodus, Leviticus
  • Psalms

Language

  • French – Duolingo
  • English – daily writing assignments and spelling, incidental grammar as it comes up, weekly dictation

IMG_6987Math

Co-op (classes meet once a week)

Other (subjects we do together with the other kids, more in a separate post)

  • More science (The Way Things WorkApologia Chemistry and Physics)
  • Church history (Trial & Triumph)
  • Citizenship (Plutarch’s Lives)
  • Indiana state history (various historical fiction, biographies, history spine)
  • Literature (Shakespeare play per term–Richard III this fall, daily poetry, poetry memorization, family read-alouds)
  • Artist study (Durer, this term)
  • Composer study (we were doing Telemann and Corelli, but may switch to Kabalevsky)
  • Nature study (using John Muir Laws guide)
  • Piano lessons

And that’s Sarah’s third grade so far!

Note: This post contains a few Amazon affiliate links, but links to other websites are not affiliated. For more details on the AO booklist, please check the AO website

 

In which we tackle middle school

DSC_0114Long ago, my aunt commented that I might want to use “homeschool” as a blog category rather than “preschool” because someday the children would get older. At the time, it felt like our older three kids were babies and toddlers and preschoolers for approximately 47 years. And then it seemed the younger two were only babies for around three seconds each.

Skewed time perception. It happens to the best of us (cue Simon & Garfunkel song).

Meanwhile, Hannah hit middle school like a Mack truck.

You’re thinking, “Like a Mack truck? Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?” I’m thinking, “Both.”

FullSizeRenderIn many ways, this year is a jump for Hannah, not so much because we switched curriculum (although we did) but because I moved her up into a pretty challenging level of readings. She’s ready for it, and thriving, and I’ve been really pleased overall. Every week she has a checklist so she can do most of her work independently. She chooses one assigned reading from each category on the left, and then is also responsible for what’s on the right (which is a combination of independent work, things she does with me, and things we do together with the other kids).

Every day Hannah and I have a designated hour or so when we discuss her readings, I correct her writing, and we do math and Latin. Here is what she’s up to for school. (Note: We are using Ambleside Online Year 7 with some modifications. I didn’t do Amazon links for the AO books unless I’ve already reviewed them separately.)

History & Geography (all narrated*)

  • The Birth of Britain, by Winston Churchill
  • Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People
  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle on Alfred the Great
  • Battle of Hastings, by William of Malmesbury
  • The Magna Carta
  • New Nations
  • The Brendan Voyage
  • How the Heather Looks

Historical Biography (all narrated*)

  • The Life of King Alfred, by Bishop Asser
  • Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by Mark Twain
  • A Heroine of France

Art History (all narrated*)

  • The Story of Painting

Literature & Historical Fiction (all narrated*)

  • Ivanhoe
  • Beowulf
  • The History of English Literature
  • The Age of Chivalry
  • A Taste of Chaucer
  • In Freedom’s Cause
  • History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea
  • The Daughter of Time
  • The Once and Future King

Poetry

  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson (selections)
  • John Keats (selections)
  • The Idylls of the King
  • The Grammar of Poetry

Government/Economics/Citizenship/Logic (all narrated*)

  • Whatever Happened to Penny Candy
  • Ourselves
  • How to Read a Book
  • The Fallacy Detective

Science (all narrated* and all experiments written up)

  • The Elements
  • The Mystery of the Periodic Table
  • The Sea Around Us
  • Eric Sloane’s Weather Book
  • First Studies of Plant Life
  • Adventures With a Microscope
  • Signs and Seasons
  • Great Astronomers
  • Lay of the Land

IMG_6973Free Reading (not narrated, but required reading)

Bible

Language

Math

Co-op (classes meet once a week)

  • Engineering
  • Literary analysis
  • Machine sewing

Other (subjects we do together with the other kids, more in a separate post)

  • More science (The Way Things Work, Apologia Chemistry and Physics)
  • Church history (Trial & Triumph)
  • Citizenship (Plutarch’s Lives)
  • Indiana state history (various historical fiction, biographies, history spine)
  • Literature (Shakespeare play per term–Richard III this fall, daily poetry, poetry memorization, family read-alouds)
  • Artist study (Durer, this term)
  • Composer study (we were doing Telemann and Corelli, but may switch to Kabalevsky)
  • Nature study (using John Muir Laws guide)
  • Piano lessons

Notes on how we do this:

  • If you wonder about the weekly checklist, I break Hannah’s readings up into categories, and she has to read one selection from each category each day–an amazing idea I took from Kathy Livingston. From those readings, she chooses one per day to write a written narration (composition) about, and has to be prepared to narrate (tell back in detail and sequence what happened in the reading and be prepared to discuss issues and themes) each of the others. Once a week, she has to put at least one second draft piece of writing into each of her serious keep-this-forever notebooks: history, literature, and science.
  • Not all books are assigned each term.
  • Yes, I’m pre-reading all of this. Mostly so I can be prepared for daily discussions, but also for my own edification and/or nostalgia!

And that’s Hannah’s sixth grade so far!

Note: This post contains a few Amazon affiliate links, but links to other websites are not affiliated. For more details on the AO booklist, please check the AO website

Preschool, Take Four

IMG_6697Someone asked me what I did differently with preschool the fourth time around.

Answer: not much. Really, my approach to preschool boils down to one thing. A lot of reading.

At our house, preschool for any age (2, 3, 4) consists of:

  • A story from a Bible story book (this is our new favorite)
  • A story from Aesop’s Fables
  • Several pages of one of our collection of Mother Goose anthologies (it turns out that nursery rhymes are key for pre-reading skills, but I also think they are a good introduction to poetry and they turn up in literature all the time) – a few of our favorites are this, this, this, this, this, and thisbut we have others. 🙂
  • Five (or more) picture books from our collection

Ideally, I kick off the day with Eliza’s one-on-one preschool time, because she’s always up and raring to go early and it fills her tank so she can listen and color or play quietly alongside the big kids when they are getting my focus the rest of the morning. Eliza turned 4 in May, so this year she adds in reading lessons (5 minutes) and some basic handwriting and numbers (5 minutes) to the usual preschool routine described above. She is fairly desperate to learn to read, and is diligently identifying words and sounds whenever she can. She sits for long stretches of time with books in her lap, attempting to read them, then announces to all and sundry that it’s VERY difficult to read when you can’t read WORDS. We’ll get there.

We use picture books from a variety of lists, from Ambleside Online, Sonlight, etc. I started with lists but didn’t stop there. , Over time I developed a sense of what kind of books I like to read and share with the kids–interesting illustrations, vivid language, no didactic lessons or tiresome data or cartoon characters–with good books I feel like I know it when I see it.

I’d love to read more picture books than our preschool time, and some days I do, but even when I don’t get to it, Eliza has a lot of reading in her life. In addition to her preschool reading, Eliza sits in on all Bible and school reading for the other kids, our family read-aloud time, and her older siblings read to her daily. Some days, if time allows, I do Margaret’s reading (five or more board books) right after Eliza’s preschool, and both girls listen to both types of books.

My focused preschool time with Eliza takes 30-45 minutes per day, depending on the length of books we read. This is not to say that she doesn’t do other preschool-y things throughout the day, such as cutting up bits of paper with scissors, playing with playdough, coloring, doing puzzles, lacing cards, etc. We have a box of those things that she can use during school time, and she does. But I’ve found that kids actually do better and enjoy those things more when Mama isn’t hovering. Fortunately, with five children in the posse, helicopter parenting is right out!

And that’s preschool at our house this year (you can read more about our school day here). If you have preschoolers, what does your day look like?

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

On Music

The object therefore of the instruction…should be to foster the natural good taste of the subject, and gradually to build up a fund of experience, which may serve as a standard of right and wrong, incidentally bringing him into contact with some of the great creative geniuses of the world and providing him with a treasure house of beautiful things, which will be a joy to him all his life.

infiniteA Touch of the Infinite is an excellent resource for adding music to education–in a homeschool, after kids get back from school, or for yourself. Megan Elizabeth Hoyt struck a wonderful balance between casting a vision for musical education and practical suggestions. I am so glad to own a copy of this book for frequent reference.

Hoyt includes invaluable insight into helping us understand composers and complicated music, while also explaining how simpler forms also serve a purpose. From musical instruments to singing to being an educated audience member at symphonies and other concerts, Hoyt covers so much ground in the book that there probably isn’t any way you could complete it all in a lifetime.

In that sense, I see this book as a great inspiration, a practical guide, and a lifelong handbook for growing in understanding, making, and appreciating music in many genres and forms.

Students need to know why it is important that they learn about music—what purpose it will serve for their lives. What do we expect to accomplish in providing them with a cultured existence full of art, music, architecture, and sculpture?…The benefit of learning about all aspects of the arts and sciences, mathematics and history, is that it encourages us to form relationships with people, things, and events of the past, present, and future—to understand our universe and to fully grasp our place within the broader scheme.

In compiling this resource, Hoyt drew on her own extensive background in music, as well as her review of British educator Charlotte Mason’s methods for music instruction. Even if you’re not a Charlotte Mason fan, you might be surprised to see how widely applicable the principles are in music, and Hoyt did a masterful job of discussing how CM schools handled music while also pulling in her own outside knowledge and experience.

We study a composer every school term, and often have music playing at home (classical, yes, but other genres, too). But until I read A Touch of the Infinite, I never realized how many opportunities there are for training our ears, increasing our understanding, and building our enjoyment of the music we surround ourselves with. I’m excited to put many of these tactics and suggestions into place for the new school year, and highly recommend this book.

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

On Languages

Languages. I love them. I want to speak many of them. And yet, it’s hard for me to set aside the necessary time and narrow down the focus to one language to really learn it well. So, I dabble. And I let the kids dabble. I used to feel bad about that, and still think about which modern language to really drill down on with them, but I’ve mostly decided that, for now anyway, fostering passing interests in various languages and cultures is part of broadening their viewpoints and giving them a taste of the world.

learn-any-languageThat said, I do love to read about languages and the pedagogy of learning and teaching them. If you’re also interested in those topics, you should definitely read Learn Any Language by Janina Klimas.

Unlike some other language books that I ultimately found difficult to implement, I really clicked with Klimas’ approach. She advocates a strategic framework that meshes well with how I think: figure out why you want to learn your target language and what you want to do with it, be realistic about how long it’s going to take you to achieve that level of fluency, and tackle the language in a low tech but high impact way.

Klimas makes strong points about why classroom language instruction often leaves students unable to communicate after several years of study, and offers an alternative path that involves creating your own sets of necessary words and phrases for different situations (you might need a set for talking to a babysitter more than a dialogue on picking up drycleaning, or vice versa), reading, and writing in the target language daily. I think her approach to writing is particularly sound, and I wish I had known these tips when I was floundering gracelessly in my college Russian classes.

Full of helpful, concrete examples and inspiration to learn languages for a variety of applications, Learn Any Language is a great resource that I highly recommend, and will certainly return to for myself and to help the kids.

language-hacking-italianThis fall, the kids and I previewed Benny Lewis’s Language Hacking course. Jack had gotten the bug to learn Italian (possibly fueled by his gustatory preferences, but hey, you have to start somewhere) so we gave it a go. We checked out some Italian picture books and made it through the beginning lessons of the course, but ultimately found it didn’t gel well with our style. That said, the program has some significant strengths that could make it excellent for others. If you’ve read Benny’s book Fluent In Three Months, you’ll remember that he’s big on speaking from day one. So his course emphasizes creating dialogues and mastering key phrases to practice in speaking. You use the phrases to record videos of yourself speaking and share with an online community. That’s far easier and cheaper than other online tutoring options, and could get you into a good groove quickly. Since we try to minimize screen time for the kids and don’t really do a lot of things on the computer for school, the program didn’t line up too well for us, but again, could be excellent for others.

These days, our language notes include Korean, French, Italian, German, and Dutch. We play Latin card games. Hannah and I are slowly working through Visual Latin together. And we dabble on.

Have you chosen one language to focus on for yourself or your family? How did you decide which one to learn?
readmore

Disclosure: I received review copies of both products mentioned in this post in exchange for an honest review. This post also contains affiliate links.

A Little Extra Math For Fun

 

Math pedagogy can be overwhelming, whether or not you homeschool. Is this the right curriculum? Am I doing too much? Too little? Am I boring him or pushing him too hard? What if she misses something important? How can I help my child enjoy math even if I’m not “a math person” myself?

I think math is beautiful and fascinating and exciting, albeit somewhat mysterious once you get past calculus. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m conveying those feelings to my kids, or if I’m pushing them to dislike math by boring them or over-drilling. Recently, I read a couple of books that helped me to relax about math, try some new things, and aim in a slightly different direction for pre-algebra.

mathematical-mindsets
In Mathematical Mindsets, Jo Boaler examines research about how children learn math and what makes a successful mathematian to suggest the ways in which traditional education is failing students and how we can change outcomes as parents (or homeschoolers). Whether you have your child in a brick and mortar school or you homeschool, this book would give you a lot to think about.

Topics like how to create problem solvers (versus calculators or test takers), how to help children develop a growth mindset, and how to best challenge kids with math are well-presented and highly practical, while also backed up with good research.

I found Mathematical Mindsets incredibly helpful and would highly recommend it to all parents, whether or not they are teachers, and all teachers, whether or not they are parents.

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I also read the inspiring and encouraging collection of essays in Playing With Math. The book chronicles efforts by really invested teachers in a variety of school settings, homeschoolers dedicated to teaching math well, and leaders of math circles (groups that get together to do problem solving). I got so many helpful ideas, insights, and reassurances from this book. Most of the essays end with a math problem to solve individually or in a group. I really liked the inclusion of those problems, and was inspired to add math games/group problem solving/logic puzzles to our Table Time each day.

Most of all, I am glad to have read both of these books for their vision. I think my kids had gotten into the habit of thinking of math as just a problem set to get through, but what I really want is for them to catch the excitement of how neat math is, and to learn to be problem solvers. While I wouldn’t say I agree fully with everything in either book–it’s not practical to implement every idea in every setting–both were instrumental in shifting my focus and in making math more enthusiastic in our house.

If you’re interested in adding math games for a range of ages to your family time (whether in homeschool or just for after school fun), I’ve also been using some of the suggestions in the following books:

And, since I mentioned pre-algebra, I’m looking at switching over from Saxon to Art of Problem Solving when Hannah finishes Saxon 7/6. If any of you have thoughts on that, I’d love to hear what you think!

What are your favorite problem solving, math, or logic games?

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Hodge-podge: Books for Kids and Adults

This weekend, I surveyed the double layer of books on my To Read shelf and elected to thin the herd. It felt great to lift some of that pressure, self-inflicted though it is! Although I’m preferring the topical round-up style reviews lately, I thought I’d throw out a hodge-podge in case it helps anyone clear out an overfull shelf, or gives some ideas for kids books to add to your audio queue for upcoming over-the-river-and-through-the-woods jaunts.

First, a few kids books of note:

Alice In WonderlandAlice in WonderlandThis classic is probably worth owning in print if you don’t already, and it’s also quite inexpensive on Audible. We listened to the audio version through our library’s Overdrive app and enjoyed it. It’s a great mix of silly and bizarre and rhymy so it works for all ages. It’s also a lot shorter than I remember.

The Island of Dr. LibrisThe Island of Dr. LibrisI expected to like this book more than I did, given the premise of kids encountering book characters coming to life. But often I just wondered, why these books? Why these characters? Some seemed normal for kids, while others seemed needlessly linked to grown-up books, so it’s not like the kids who read Dr. Libris would then go out and read the adult books. It just could have been better. It was fine as an audio book for the car, but nothing extraordinary.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid LindgrenPippi Longstocking – Although it’s obviously a classic, do yourself a favor and get your kids the paper version rather than subjecting yourselves to the audio book. From a parent’s perspective, Pippi is just so annoying. I could not wait for the book to be over. It’s a little odd, since I remember liking the book as a kid, and my own kids have read and liked the book. I guess it’s just one of those things, like how adults read Little House in the Big Woods and can’t get over how much work Ma had to do, when kids are only thinking about wanting a pig bladder balloon. Anyway.

Stone-Fox-John-GardinerStone FoxThis short book packs in a great story of adventure and sacrifice, with some good topics for conversation. It also has a shocking ending (at least it was shocking to us) so be forewarned. It was a great audio book to listen to, but would be a good one to own as well.

 

mrs_piggle_wiggles-farmMrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm – You really can’t go wrong with Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. We’ve enjoyed all of the series (at least the ones we’ve found so far) both in audio and paper versions. This volume is no exception to the pattern: kids with bad habits or character issues are taken to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who gives them some natural consequences or otherwise helps them to figure out how to change their habit. I like the emphasis on the child having to do the work to change, but the adult being there to help.

Now, on to the books for grown-ups:

nature-anatomy-coverNature Anatomy – We used this book as a read-aloud for nature study, but I thought it could just as easily be something an adult would want to pick up to peruse. The author did a lovely job of hand-drawing bits of nature from rocks to birds, animals to plants, and then hand-lettered in interesting facts and scientific names, with some typeset information and grouping by category. This is what a nature notebook could look like if you were an artist and naturalist for real. We found it inspiring and quite informative.

strong-and-weak-andy-crouchStrong and Weak – I wanted to like this book more since I did really enjoy the author’s previous book, Culture Making, and named it as one of my favorites from 2009. But this one just didn’t really stand out for me. It was fine, but I didn’t come away from it feeling particularly challenged or inspired or with new ideas about flourishing. I think your response might depend on how much culture-shaping type literature you’ve read.

becoming-brilliantBecoming Brilliant – Having received an advance copy of this book, I was somewhat sad to find that I’m really not the target audience and I honestly didn’t enjoy the book. For one thing, I felt that the authors’ views on issues like giftedness, the point of education, and educational methods ran counter to what I have read, researched, and experienced, both as a student and as a teacher. For another, the information is presented in fairly dry book report fashion rather than as dynamic new ideas, and I’ve read most of the information in other sources before. Not all of the ideas were really all that supported by research (for example, the actual outcomes from learning via screens). The good ideas also tend to be geared toward classroom teachers, rather than towards parents or homeschoolers–involved parents and homeschoolers are almost certainly already doing the things the authors describe to ensure their kids develop well. In thinking about who should read this book, I decided that it would be good for policymakers in government who have no background in educational issues, but who find themselves needing to get up to speed fast. If that’s not you, skip this one.

games-for-writingGames for Writing – I have a child who is a reluctant writer. It’s not that said child CAN’T write, because said child enjoys attempting intricate calligraphy and keeping notebooks full of random facts about various topics. However, said child LOATHES writing assignments. I have tried Oh So Many Things. What is working for now is reminding myself to take a deep breath because this is only elementary school and there are plenty of years in which to tackle the sort of writing required in college. Meanwhile, I’ve been using many of the writing prompt ideas from Brave Writer, and also several I found in this little book.Games for Writing is geared toward early elementary, but I’ve been beefing it up a little bit so that I can use it with all of my big kids (2nd, 4th, and 5th grades) together. In general, I still think the copywork to written narration to analytical essay path is correct, but sometimes it does help to get there via a meandering path rather than a straight blaze. If you’re in the same boat, maybe this will help.

What’s been in your hodge-podge lately? Have you cleared anything of note (good or bad!) from your To Read shelf lately?

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