• the learning arts,  wonder and inquiry

    Digging deep…

    pumpkinwindow newstrategies solarium rocketboys

    We have settled into the new school year in earnest the last few weeks, settled down to a strong, gentle rhythm of days. It really feels lovely. The children seem to calm and settle and dig in deeper with each passing week in a way I would not have imagined possible when we began homeschooling again last year. Yet it is here, a blessing giving dividends. I see their trust in themselves and their own innate learning grow as they realize that the world is truly at their door and they have only to explore it. We have a set course of study, of course, but already in a short month’s time they have covered vast swaths of things borne out of their own questions that I could neither have imagined or foreseen when I sat down to plan out the fall term a month ago. The best sort of explorations.

    I have seen the fruit of my focus on mastery come to fruition as we began to dig in this year. Such immense improvements in reading and writing across the board with all of my students. Three, almost four students (another month or so!) can work independently and easily now across their subjects, which means I return to my desired role with my older students- guide, companion, tutor.

    Our curriculum across the board consists of a mix of Memoria Press (Latin, Composition: Fable, and Ellianna’s kindergarten curriculum), Ambleside Online (all of our literature selections this year), Story of the World, Modern Era (Well Trained Mind Press), and an eclectic mix of math depending on the child (Math U See, Rod and Staff, and Math Mammoth- Ben is using the Prentice Hall Classics as recommended by Memoria Press) and Institute for Excellence in Writing.

    Grammar lessons are pulled either from our Shakespeare memorization for the month or from Ambleside Online copywork. The younger children copy whatever it is for the day; the older children work with me to diagram the sentence and copy it into their notebook. (All told, about a 10 or 15 minute lesson in sum). I had barely begun to do this exercise before attending the Circe workshop last year, but was encouraged by all that was said to continue it, and it is this short grammar lesson each day that I do solidly believe has made the largest difference in their reading and writing mastery. We use Maria Montessori’s approach for grammar- we label each word with the appropriate symbol, and borrowing from IEW, we underline any tell-tale endings that suggest a verb (-ing), adjective (-ly, -ness) and so on. Even Ellianna can quickly identify such things as pronouns and articles now, and it has been painless for all. To them it is a game- they race each other to pick the correct symbol first.

    Lorelei and I have been trying something new with her spelling words, which she laughingly refers to as her “one weakness” (ala Dorcas Lane in Lark Rise to Candleford, although when Dorcas says it, she’s usually referring to things like chocolate or match-making). Lorelei’s reading has vastly improved in a year’s time but her dyslexia most makes itself known when it comes to spelling. What a struggle it is. Anyways, though we have been using All About Spelling for quite some time, we added some new tweaks this year and so far, we are both impressed with the results. First, I have her write her spelling words three times using colored pencils. Blue for beginning sounds, purple for consonant teams, red for vowels, orange for vowel teams, green for ending sounds.  The next day she finds all the bannanagram letters for her words. The third day, she pulls out those same letters and marks them with little plastic game markers that correspond to the same letters. The fourth day, she writes a sentence with each word. The fifth, we review. So far we’ve had a hundred percent retention, which is a vast improvement. Prior to this, she’d retain about a third of ten words. As she enjoys it and it seems to be working well, we’ll continue to do it until (and if) we need to change it up. I can see her confidence growing in her other writing, too, which is the most important thing for me. She no longer thinks “I can’t do this”. She is getting quite courageous in her written narrations, and tears no longer come when she can’t spell a word she wants- I watch her use all sorts of strategies now to guess, (often getting it right!), and she will come to me when she needs help instead of getting discouraged.

    Overall, our school day is much shorter than it was last year, and the afternoons are almost solely devoted to their own explorations. The older children have been very fascinated by this election cycle, so they have been researching the processes as to how the President gets elected, how the electoral college works, how political parties are formed, conventions run, delegates chosen. They have demanded to watch all of the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates so far. With my degree in History, I must say it is fascinating to be a listening bystander as they explore and watch this election. I have been careful not to make my own views known, and have watched all the goings on silently. Because they are currently studying World War II and its aftermath, so much of their running commentary on the election proceedings relates back to that era, as well as Ancient Greece and Rome (as Ben is studying the Illiad). Watching them make connections that I hadn’t even begun to think of prior to this is the best part! It is a case study of watching learning in action: watching them hang new learning on the rungs of what they already know- making connections, scaffolding knowledge. Such a beautiful thing.

    I’ve had this quote of Laura’s pinned on my desk for a while now. It seems to sum up what I’m aiming for lately.

    “This is why I believe that the most important thing you can do as a homeschooler is to ask yourself the hardest question of all: who do you want your children to be as people when they leave your home, and what benchmarks will you use to measure your progress on the way? It is simple to hope your children are kind, loving, inquisitive…it is harder to imagine what you can do to help them on the path of kindness, love, curiosity. I want my children to be confident, to believe in their worth as humans and as contributors to this world, to feel connected to place and people, to be interested both in learning new things and the connection between ideas, to feel capable. I want them to recognize and appreciate beauty, to be able to participate in wonder. I want them to be equipped to live a simple life of peaceful joy.”- @lbkrause

    This a post in the continuing series, Wonder and Inquiry.

    wonderandenquiry

  • the learning arts

    That time of year…

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    Don’t look yet, but it’s that time of year again. I know! It can’t be, right? But it is.

    I can’t help but compare this year’s beginning to all the years before. It’s such a sea change. The majority of my planning and purchasing were done very early in the summer (actually, before last school year ended). I had only to sit down for a day or so, mid-August, and tuck in specific plans to each child’s sheet. I’m using the wonderful editable printables provided by Jen Mackintosh.

    The planning itself was simple and straightforward. Pulled mostly from Ambleside Online and from Memoria Press suggestions, I had only to decide on which literature choices for which child. The rest of the spine was already present from our work last year, and it was simply selecting the best supports for what we’d like to do this year. It is miles and miles from the frantic start of last year (which was probably a bit warranted, given the circumstances), and if I was honest, every homeschooling year previous to this one.

    It’s a heart-level thing.

    I was homeschooling for all the wrong reasons prior to them attending the public elementary school here. I can see that now, clear as day. I’m not even sure I can articulate why my reasons were wrong. In my heart, I meant right. But in the working out of it in the day to day, it all fell flat. The kids knew it, I knew it. My heart wasn’t properly in it at the time. It was, but it wasn’t. It’s hard to explain. I was striving under a heavy load without really stopping to consider if I was yoked up properly, does that make sense? A tremendous amount of spinning wheels and getting stuck in muddy, thick, ruts.

    It made me dread the beginning of the year.

    It’s the delight that tells me the yoke is placed properly now.

    It is the delight that makes it light. We enjoy our work, we enjoy our explorations, and even when we are stretched with new concepts, we lean into the work instead of feeling like rubber bands pulled past their limits. And there is a tremendous amount of laughter and joy. Lots of Mama, come quick! See what I’ve found! Awe and wonder are our daily companions now. Sure, there is still the rough patches, still days that everything seems to go all pie-shaped, days when two kids just can’t leave each other alone…but even on those days, we are finding ways to pull together. It’s like night and day.

    I have dearly loved Kyrie’s series on Homeschool (Un)planning, which articulates much of what I’ve learned since my last foray into homeschooling, and Kort’s article on Sustainable Homeschooling was just tremendous. We’ve been using the timer idea ever since!

  • Books,  the learning arts,  wonder and inquiry

    Fill er’ up…

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    A few homeschooling reads I re-visited this summer. Teaching from Rest should be one of those that you re-read anytime you start to feel the walls closing in, not just once a year in the summer!

    1./ Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting Off the Beaten Path

    This came out early last summer, and it was so inspiring. Re-reading this year, I’ve been reminded again to look at the overall picture of our schooling days and years. I’m so excited about Heather and Ben’s collaboration, Home Grown Education.

    2./A Mother’s Rule of Life

    It’s good on all levels, but I was specifically re-visiting this one for scheduling considerations as we move into the new year. Our rhythm has really changed over the last year and needed tweaking. Jen Mackintosh’s planning posts are also super helpful!

    3./Teaching from Rest

    If you read no other “homeschooling” book, make it this one. Worth its weight in gold. Revisit as often as needed, whenever needed. (Circe Institute’s Restful Teaching seminar is a close second!)

    4./The Well-Trained Mind

    I hadn’t picked this up in a long while (and it’s obviously an older edition) but since we use so much of Susan’s curriculum for history, it was nice to check back in. I think everyone should read an edition of this, regardless of whatever eclectic homeschooling style you may choose to go with- it’s just a really good, solid reference to refer to when needed.

    5./Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home (out of print)

    Elizabeth wrote this many, many moons ago. I thought I had lost my copy, actually! But it was a good re-read. If you aren’t familiar with Montessori type approaches for young ones, it’s a great place to start. She blends a lot of Charlotte Mason in too. It holds up to the test of time. Good luck finding a copy!

    Part of the continuing series, Wonder and Inquiry.

    wonderandenquiry

  • celebrations,  the learning arts,  wonder and inquiry

    A generous education…

    stemfun porchwork ellyalphabet doctortosie airandspace luluhouse flatcoins zreading ellyastronaut treehouse ellyworksheet tosieastronaut daffodilelly

    We finished up our school year just under a week ago. We’ll be taking the rest of the month off and a teensy bit of August, and then we’ll jump back in. I wasn’t exactly intending to become year round schoolers, but given our wacky and often unpredictable schedule, it fits just right. Looking back over these pictures just from the last month or two, my heart is so full. This year was so, so, rough, but I look back over these and I just see all the fun and joy we were having in the midst of it all; how much learning was going on even when I couldn’t be intentional about it. I look at these pictures and see my small intention and God’s mighty increase, filling us up. This year was full of so much overflowing grace. I can’t begin to express how much happier and more joyful this year of homeschooling has felt compared to our past homeschooling years prior to public school. It is like night and day.

    And my goodness, did the test scores show it. To me, testing is for the birds and a ridiculous anachronism of our industrial schooling model, and a rather odious one. I was so stinkin’ nervous about the stupid things. Our state requires them by law, and given all we endured this year, I was a ball of knots going into it, especially given some of the learning challenges we face. I should have known better after trusting the words of wise counselors. Everything I learned from Andrew Kern and Matt Bianco, Sarah Mackenzie, Christopher Perrin– about mastery, about scholé- and put into practice- showed in those tests.

    The proof is in the pudding, dear readers. I’m a restful teaching, classical learning, read aloud lifer after this. 😉  It’s not that these arbitrary numbers matter, but it gets the state off my back, and I, for one, am super grateful. Y’all, I cried some happy tears getting those results back. It was so encouraging to see. I had nothing to do with it. This was all them, all God. He is faithful. 

    This is a post in the continuing series, Wonder and Inquiry.

    wonderandenquiry

  • Books,  the learning arts

    Book Friday…

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    Art Friday has been a long standing tradition ’round these parts. Alas, alack, with all this medical fun, very little works in progress can be shared because, well, I have to start them first. Ahem. Very soon, I hope! But there is a second best thing. My friend Katherine and I started the #fridaybookpile on Instagram a few weeks ago and we’d love to have you join us. We don’t care where you share it, so long as you share it! Make sure you tag us! I’ll have a button for you to use on your blogs next week, if you’re interested. We share what we’ve been reading as a family each week, our school books and read alouds, our own personal reads. It’s a lot of fun to see what everyone is interested in at the moment. Hope you’ll join us on Fridays! What else could be better than my second and third favorite things, if you can’t have art?