Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent with Children

The kids got to open their advent calendar today :)

I made the advent pockets a few years ago...

Sorry about the image quality- it is dark and rainy here today.  Not much in the way of good lighting ;)
Inside the pocket...

... were goodies.  I picked up these chocolates from England while I was there.  They are GOOD ;)

AND they are cute too :)

After that, hanging the tag seems a little... well... anticlimatic I guess :)  Never mind -the kids didn't seem to!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Music in Classical Education

Music is one of those subjects that is, rather unfortunately, overlooked by most people.  It formed a large part of life in previous centuries, and was given a very honourable place by the ancients- and more.  In fact, Thomas Jefferson himself placed a great deal of import on the learning of music, forcing his children to practise for hours each day.

So how can we incorporate music into our modern homeschools?
We should have very little difficulty, after all, we are blessed with the most amazing capabilities to reproduce and listen to music any time we feel like it.  In fact, as I type this, my computer is also playing a selection of music. 
So find below an adequate outline of study, designed along the lines of a classical education!
(I shouldn't hesitate to say that yes, music was part of the quadrivium of studies, BUT I suspect that in that case it was very much the compositional and performance arts that were practised, the foundational blocks having been laid long before).

Music Theory:
All music study should begin with the basics of music theory.  a quick trip to the local music stores will supply you with a multitude of books you can follow along with if you absolutely must :)
Children should be familiar with written music and the application of it to an instrument.  There is no reason it has to be a complicated instrument like a guitar, violin or piano (although any child who expressed the desire to learn should not be held back from this either)- a simple recorder is more than sufficient.  In fact, the recorder can be a very pleasing instrument to learn, since it is quickly mastered. has a wonderful selection of music theory lessons.  In fact, I thought it very well done and highly recommend it.  If you are not American, then there is a good possibility that your own nomenclature may differ- I know I learned all the English note names when I learned to read music, and my mind does not readily translate to the American terms.  That being said, I really think there is no real issue with learning the names of a different country unless you are planning to follow through with some kind of examination process (such as the grade music system in England).  I have been told by other sources, that getting the music 'grades' in England is not absolutely necessary if you follow the performance circuit instead, but that involves having a super teacher who knows how!  (My sister is currently doing this so I can probably get more information should you need it- just email me ;))
8notes also has a selection of composer biographies and some sheet music.
As a memory aid, you can use the flashcards at Linkware Graphics to learn the note names and some other common musical notations.

Music theory of course, would not be complete without learning a little about each of the eras of music.  There is a nice, and somewhat simple, timeline you can view here at Dr. Estrella's Abridged Dictionary of Composers.  It is by no means a comprehensive one, but it has a great outline of the dates in question.

It seems to me that memorizing the eras might in fact be a good idea.  not to mention some of the terms used in studying music.  To that end I made up some flashcards to help with that :)  You fold them on the centre line and either glue together or laminate (or both).  All the information was found online.
You can drill these as a standard part of your memory work cycle.

Work your way chronologically through the musical eras reading up on the big name composers as you come to them.   There are a number of wonderful children's  books about the biggest names out there, or you could use the aforementioned 8notes site.

Ideally, you would trawl through the centuries, listening to the composers as you come to them, using the composer's work to illustrate the music definitions you are learning.
Here is a site with a nice overview of music history.  If I eventually find a great book to help your travel through the centuries (think as a spine) I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to School- with adjustments!

It's back to school time at our house.
Nothing special. Just a slow adjustment period to doing lessons. Sometimes while waiting for books to arrive.
Usually with the kids being rather reluctant to actually work.
I have had the plans set up now for a few weeks.
I find that I need to have everything planned out for accountability purposes- after all, if it is planned there on the page, I can hardly claim to not know what I need to do now, can I?
As with everything planned like that, it means that adjustments have to be made.
So I started with mathematics.  Daily mathematics is easy to instigate- especially since Rebel is using Teaching Textbooks.  He is using TT7- which is about 6th grade level, and has been since earlier this year.  This level is self-grading (what a great concept- I wish the future levels were too!!) and the program is geared towards the homeschooler.  It is well organized and features a great amount of in-depth instruction- well worth the money!
M'lady has to make do with Singapore Mathematics :)  Not that I dislike it, we have used it for years.  It is just not quite as exciting for her as TT is for him!
This week I added in the reading subjects.  And languages.  I wasn't going to add in the languages (Latin and Greek) just yet, but he insisted.  That's just fine with me ;)
Some of our reading is lacking- because, well the books are not yet here, or I have to get them from the library for now!  But this is the one area that already needs adjusting.
We have started reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.  It is an interesting read, Franklin was an entertaining writer.  But the language of Franklin's time is different, and it is a rather harder read than I had expected.  My 20 pages a week (20 pages in the e-reader that is) would seem to be something I cannot accomplish in one, 1-hour lesson.  So we'll be reading my issued amount across the week.
I have also planned something new for the year.
If you look on my front page, you will have noticed that on my Goodreads widget, I have just finished reading "The Core" by Leigh Bortins.  (If you are reading in a blog reader, it is on my main blog page).
One thing I really took away from this book, was the desire (even, should I say, need) to do some memory work.  I am still in the planning stages of this, but I think I might well follow Leigh's Classical Conversations progress.  I do not want to do the coop itself (although I can see many good reasons to do it), but I would like to take away some of the suggestions from it!  Thus the reason for the memory work.  I will also add in some Shakespeare and Art.  Yes, I have absolutely NO excuse for not doing more art with the kids!
Our biggest adjustment is moving into the kitchen to do the work.  I have for years allowed the kids to sit on the floor to work.  This year I have decided to stay in teh kitchen and be the old cliche homeschoolers working around the kitchen table.  It makes my kids focus more- and it stops them making too much of a mess in the kitchen and the living room :)

Any way I look at it, I still have some tweaking to do. Hopefully I'll be back later with some progress!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Reluctant Reader

 When I first had my children, I could never have conceived of the idea that I would have a child who was not anxious to read.  I remember I could not wait to read, and as soon as I was able, I read everything I could!
I read Pride and Prejudice at the age of 8.  I did not really understand it, but I read it anyway!
So I was very surprised when my son turned out to be the most reluctant of readers.  I blame my husband.  He is not the most avid of readers, he does not care for fiction and my son both takes after him and likes to emulate him.
It is not that my son is not a good reader- he is a good reader.  He just doesn't like to read.  He'd far rather play while listening to an audio book.  I suspect he is typical of many boys- reading means they have to pause and refrain from doing something else... of course it is o.k. when it is his idea to read.  Which for my son, usually means in the middle of another lesson, or instead of cleaning his room, or instead of going to sleep...
So how can you encourage the reluctant reader?
In the beginning, I started with the graphic novel and comic books.  Tintin can encourage the most reluctant reader to want to read a book, and Asterix works really well for history :)  Marvel and DC comics are good (though you should pre-read them) and the newer Japanese Manga books can be great.  Those can cause a little confusion at first since they are often printed backwards, but they are a lot of fun.
Next I found his weakness.  Weaknesses are not something that my son cannot do, but rather something he was very interested in.  In his case it was Lego Blocks.  I found a book on Lego blocks and building with them that really encouraged him.
Then I discovered 'silly' books.  Silly books don't have to be 'twaddle' (although some definitely are), but they have to be books that appeal to the humour of a child.  In my son's case, this was the Horrible Histories, Horrible Geography and Horrible Science books.  Horrible Books always draw his attention because they are just plain 'interesting', and written to appeal- and he still likes to read them.
Stories of children having adventures appeal too.  The reluctant reader can relate to them.  My son liked The Magic Tree House books and later, as he grew older and kind of outgrew the Magic Treehouse, they were replaced by The Hardy Boys, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven.
The Magic Tree House books were wonderful, because they were so short he would finish a book in no time. For the older elementary grades, the Hardy Boys have interesting adventures, and the Famous Five and Secret Seven books are stories about children his age having adventures.  That is almost always guaranteed to appeal!  He is a third generation reader of the Famous Five by the way- both my Mum and I read them and loved them ;)
The most recent addition to his reportoire would be the Redwall books.  I read these as a child his age, and I knew he'd like them.  My husband had seen the show and thought he'd like them, so we were non-plussed when he refused point blank to read them.  I kept the book around and would make him read a little every so often, but he still complained.
Then struck the latest of my 'tricks'.  I suggested that perhaps by reading this book he'd be better read than a local child he is somewhat antagonistic towards- because surely they had not read it.  He was encouraged to start reading it.  Then he started to argue.  So his punishment was one more chapter each time he argued.  He stopped after 5 chapters were assigned, started furiously reading- and read 7 chapters.  He was pleased with himself for reading the extra chapters ("that'll show you Mummy") but had ended up hooked, so the next few days he was reading the book as often as he could sneak an extra chapter!  I don't particularly recommend this method unless it is strictly necessary!

Nowdays he is just as difficult to please.  He doesn't want to read the books assigned for literature (too boring/badly written) or history ("I'm not interested in reading about that").  His excuses are just that- excuses.  He is being lazy, and it is difficult to ascertain the point where laziness and true dislike meet.   A true dislike is something that needs to be addressed, so typically when he comes up with a complaint, I ask questions to see why he is not enjoying it. 
So recently he was complaining about a King Arthur book I had assigned for Literature.
"Why don't you like the book?" I asked, as he complained.  After all, it's Knights and Castles and battles- surely those appeal to a boy?  Not to mention even his Dad told him he didn't understand why he wouldn't read it.  (Dad is the ultimate authority here- anything Dad likes, Rebel usually likes it too).
"It's boring," he said.  "They do stupid things!"  I asked for clarification.  He could give me none, so I said that was obviously not the problem.
He then complained that the book was written like a comic book- a complaint I really didn't get because he loves comic books!  I assumed this meant that he just did not care for the style of writing.  So I switched to a different re-telling.   Apparently that suits him better- I chose to get an audio version or Howard Pyle's retelling, where the style of writing is somewhat archaic so I made him listen and read along with it (I used an e-text for this, apparently e-texts are popular with him).
Afterwards I asked him, "So what do you think of that version then?"
"It is better written and it is funnier too..." came the response. Success!

His similar complaint of a history book turned out to be sheer laziness.  In that instance I just got an audio version for him to read along with...  
That is another good reluctant reader trick.  Following along with a book helps them to focus and seems (to them) to be less work.  It also frees you up to work with another child ;)

In essence, the reality of dealing with a reluctant reader is persistence and determination.  You have to patiently figure out what your reluctant reader likes and tailor the reading to suit.  You have to wait and try different techniques, different books and work hard.
And you have to never fail to try and make your reluctant reader, a book lover.
My brother was once a reluctant reader.  I used to work so hard to encourage him to read different books (yes I started young LOL).  I wouldn't say he is a bibliophile like myself now- but he reads books of his own choosing and has things he enjoys reading... so perseverance works.  On brothers- and hopefully sons too!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Homeschooling Tool...

I have noticed that, among the homeschool community, the iPod - particularly the iPod Touch (iTouch) is a popular and versatile tool. You will see it mentioned at Melissa Wiley's blog, and Elizabeth Foss's blog (check her 'on my iPod'), and Mary from Evlogia's blog...
One might be forgiven for thinking I have followed a crowd here- but it is not true. My iTouch predates most of theirs ;) I got my iTouch years ago- for myself. It had nothing to do with schooling. It had everything to do with the ability to check email without having to turn on my machine, and listen to Podcasts when cooking or cleaning.

Later I discovered how useful it was to give M'Lady audiobooks to listen to as she was drawing or colouring. She would sit beautifully still for them. Storynory became a family favourite then.
When I discovered Librivox, I knew the iTouch had been given a new life- you know audiobooks are a great way to entertain kids in the car? And if your husband prefers music, well the iTouch can become a lifesaver!
And then the are the educational apps- training for multiplication and other mathematical skills, science, reading... These 'games' can entertain children anywhere. Especially when you are waiting!

You can download e-books to the iTouch- although I have yet to find an app that allows me to upload .pdf e-books to read :/ This allows you to NOT have to buy every classic book you will use in schooling- no, you can download them to the Kindle app, or the B&N eReader App, or the Stanza app.

You can listen to language podcasts or religious podcasts or lectures from universities...

There are various art apps too... for painting and drawing on the iTouch.
The list goes on and on.

So I wondered... what would be my ideal selection of things to do on the iTouch?

1. I'd love to see some kind of mathematics program on there- you know, something like Teaching Textbooks- only for first graders. It would be awfully nice to have something like that!
2. The ability to see 'flash' things on there- I could then watch certain TV shows without interrupting or disturbing the kids- or they each other! I could also access most websites no problem then!
3. An app for downloading and reading pdf files. Something like an e-reader, but with the ability to see a few pictures :)
4. A print feature. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to print from an iTouch?

Of course, since iTouch is far from perfect, there are many things I could ask for to improve it, but I think we are in a new generation of 'electronic schooling' devices- and the iTouch is leading the fray... it will be interesting to see where this leads us!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Letters of Grace

For those who really loved the alphabet path over at Serendipity, you will be overjoyed to learn that Mary from Evlogia, Anna and Matushka Emily have produced an Orthodox Christian centered version called Letters of Grace.  Mary was one of the people who started Serendipity with Elizabeth Foss before life got in the way, and the Letters of Grace curriculum is beautiful.  Even better, it is written at several different ability levels- so even if your child is a little old for the Alphabet Path, she might not be too old to follow along with Letters of Grace!!

Please, go enjoy the hard work of these wonderful ladies!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pardon My Dust

And any multiple posts that might appear. You can probably see (if you are at the site) that I am in the middle of redoing all my blogs- blogger activated a fairly nifty new template tool through their 'draft' blogger section, and I have been playing with it. You can see the results on all of my blogs- AND the results of my learning a lot about my photo-editing software :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick

I know a lot of you like to celebrate St. Patrick's day, so I made a colouring page (couldn't find one I liked online...)
If you would like to use it, you can get it here.

You can also see a smaller version of it below :)

In other news, perhaps you'd like some good links for St. Patrick?

Irish Recipes from author Susan Wittig Albert
Free StoryNory Story about St. Patrick.
Taste of Home Recipes