I’ve really been enjoying the new season of The Mason Jar from Circe Institute. Karen Kern has taken the reins from Cindy Rollins (of Ordo Amoris, if you remember that wonderful blog!), and the first eight episodes are regarding cultivating culture within your home. While it may be a “homeschooling” podcast, these episodes will encourage and challenge any parent. I’m chewing on what I’ve listened to so far; I have so much I want to say about it, but I’m marinating right now. Definitely go have a listen!
The lovely folks over at Charlotte Mason Poetry have been making available some of their video workshops for free this week. (Here’s the link, if you’re interested- they will come down Aug. 31) Above are my notes from Art Middlekauff’s workshop on Charlotte Mason’s twenty principles. I was pretty familiar with them before this workshop (and maybe you are too?) but even so, I learned so much from it! I’d definitely recommend it whether you are a CM newbie or a seasoned veteran. I was particularly struck this time by the connections between my own Orthodox faith/theology and Charlotte’s thoughts, especially in principles one, thirteen, nineteen, and twenty, and I want to dig into those connections in this space, as I have time. Noting it here for accountability, ha!
I deeply enjoyed Richele Baburina’s workshop on Mathematics called Charlotte Mason and Math: A Mountain Perspective.
It’s no secret that math and I are not exactly on friendly terms. My own calculation speed and ability to follow large form equations has increased over the years with the constant teaching and reviewing of elementary math principles with my children these last eight years or so, simply from having to teach it. I don’t think I (or my teachers) realized how many fundamental pieces of foundational mathematical knowledge were missing in my vocabulary, but boy, they were…extensive. So much so that a few of the teachers I had suspected that I might have dyscalculia . (I had a very consistent habit of switching whole equations and number sequences.) Looking back, I don’t think I did or do have dyscalculia- my switching had more to do with how little I understood the processes of multiplication, division, and fractions. That might slip by in the elementary years but really becomes telling in the upper abstract maths. If you haven’t mastered (not learned) those processes, the yawning chasms between different rungs of the abstract maths ladder will become very deep indeed. Anyways, I breeze through my older children’s Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 work now, something I wasn’t capable of even five or six years ago. It amazes me.
Needless to say, I was so interested in what Richele had to say given my storied history with the language. I absorbed so much from her workshop that I am still unpacking it four or five days later. I will probably watch it again before it disappears, it’s that good, and so full of information! Two things that I have been thinking about constantly since: keeping the concrete>imaginary>pure number continuum in mind when teaching and evaluating, and also, the need to include more mental math processes in my teaching. (It’s my weakest point, still. I could answer only one of the five or six examples Richele gave.) This is where the holes were in my own mathematics education, and I want to make sure it’s something I pay attention to with my own children. There are so many resources and ideas she presented that I am still unpacking it all! I’m sure I’ll have more to say as I digest it.
I want to catch Charlotte Mason and the Educational Tradition workshop this week, but haven’t been able to swing it yet. Hopefully!
What has been really making you think and inspiring your own education lately?
Yet another of those ideas tucked into my homeschool aims and mantras, seen here, as bumper sticker on our van. (Side note: I love how much my Coexist sticker makes all my nerd friends laugh. I’ve even seen it tickle the funny bones of monks and nuns. Which makes me smile all the more.)
(The four younger kids decided on an art project this summer- their goal is to fill this long living room wall full of drawings and paintings by the time Grandma and Grandpa visit in late August. Here they are hard at work and planning the next steps.)
My social media feeds are full of back-to-school pictures and first day of homeschool pictures and everything in between. Is it just me, or is the school year seeming to start earlier and earlier? It used to start after Labor Day ‘back in the day’. Not that I have anything to say about it, really, as we went through the summer this year on a relaxed schedule. Ha!
We usually don’t even begin to think about the new school year until after the Feast of Dormition, which is tomorrow, August 15. As it stands, I don’t think we’ll roll into true blue full school days until after Labor Day; we like to layer in a few subjects in at a time and have a gentle transition into full days. For us that will look like wrapping up our summer subjects by Labor Day and then adding in a few more activities that first week after Labor Day.
This year is a bit different for us. One of our older children decided to return to a more formal school setting, so they started on August 8.
This year we are only adding in two new curriculum choices. Both were more for my sanity than for any other reason. We are using Teaching Textbooks for all of the children’s Math this year after a successful roll-out with some of my older students last year. Teaching individual math lessons across six grades was really becoming difficult for me- it was such a HUGE chunk of our learning day and I am happy to be handing most of the heavy lifting off to the video lessons. They’ll still get individual tutoring from me as needed, of course, but I won’t have to teach so many lessons. Frankly, it made my brain hurt having to jump back and forth from Algebra and back to basic arithmetic and back again. Mathematics has never been my gifting anyways, so- fhew. Most of my kids also like to play on Prodigy, which is pretty hefty in mathematics, too.
We are switching from Story of the World history, which we have used consistently for the last five or six years, to The Good and the Beautiful’s History, Year 1. Part of it is just that we’ve used SOTW for so long that I feel like we’ve explored all that is available in that vein. And, while I love SOTW’s global focus, you really almost need a separate US History curriculum or extensive supplementation to each US Chapter to stay abreast of testing requirements. More work and thinking it through that took time away from actually teaching them. As I looked into Good and Beautiful’s set-up, I was pleased with the mix of both Global and US History, and that the curriculum is more heartily broken down between each age/grade group (elementary/middle/high) for assignments- SOTW is heavy on Elementary assignments and very, very brief on higher grades, so I had to come up with my own assignments for my older kids, as well. It was just getting to be too much. One of our struggles as Orthodox Christians in finding history curriculums has been the tendency of ‘Christian’ history books to skew towards Western and Reformation history, leaving out, well, half the globe, and most of the development of our faith, which predates the Reformation. I’ve found that both SOTW and The Good and Beautiful do a good job of keeping a more global, holistic, and well-rounded focus without disparaging or ignoring many peoples and faiths’ contribution to the story of History.
We have been somewhat light in the science department over the years, choosing primarily to focus on nature study in the younger grades. My older kids have enjoyed the Tiner Science that Memoria Press puts out for middle school and Apologia for High School, but my current spread of kids this year is sort of in-between the two options and a bit old for just nature study. We’ve chosen to do the Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics by Apologia this year. Two of my students will use the regular companion notebook and two will use the Junior notebook. Again, this is for my sanity. Trying to track across so many grades was getting very nutty for me and I like that we’ll be doing it together again, which is what we’ve always liked to do. My high school student will be doing Apologia Biology.
We are keeping our Good and the Beautiful Language Arts and Handwriting programs, which we’ve really enjoyed this last year. Outside of math, this is where I spend the most time one on one with each child, and G&B makes it easy to hop tracks with each kid and keep track of where we are. I love how comprehensive it is. The kids like the mix of subjects within the program- it rarely gets boring and it is colorful and engaging without being overboard. I like how straightforward the handwriting program is without much extra fluff.
Our morning basket will be a Read-Aloud (pulled from the Ambleside Online lists), Age of Fable/Bullfinch’s Mythology, Tending the Garden of Our Hearts and Saint of the Day, plus our history and science work. Their picture study is included in their individual Good and Beautiful Language lessons, so we will most likely only do Composer Study together. I haven’t quite decided on who we will study this year, but most likely I will pull from Ambleside Online suggestions. (Why re-invent the wheel when fabulous homeschool mamas have already done the work for you?) The kids also have individual Latin lessons, and we will begin German for two of the older students.
We all want to be more physically active this year but have not decided what that will fully look like yet. Two of our kids are in ballet, and we are thinking about a kickboxing class for the other three. Our formal school kid has PE at school, so that is covered.
I like that we have a well defined spine this year. We will always plug in extra things as we get curious about something, but I am very grateful that all of the main subjects are already planned out for me. More time for floating in the pool!
My dear friend Christy Mandin sent me a prototype of her Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac early this year. I have been using it for our homeschool planning and tracking since, and it is by far my favorite one to use of all I have tried over the years. I hope that she will be producing one for this upcoming year. I have fallen deeply in love! Her brain works like mine in the way I group things and what I need where and when, and it is so beautiful while being entirely helpful and functional. I also deeply appreciate the BIG spaces for each day in the weekly layout. I need space!
One of my absolute favorite parts of her planner is the opening pages to each month, which has lists of flora and fauna that one might find each month. This alone has encouraged me to simply pay attention as we are out and about, and makes nature study each month a rather easy prospect without a whole lot of forethought or preparation. We have done so much more in this area since and it is entirely due to this planner. I’ve wanted better outcomes in this area for years and now it happens naturally and organically each month, thanks to Christy.
My other favorite part has to be the monthly at-a-glance she did. I had been meaning to make a similar sort of landing pad for years in my bullet journal and never got around it to it, and I love how hers is laid out. It has the relevant things I want to know as a homeschooling mom, with quick reminders as to what is needed when and goals we might have for the month. Christy is Catholic, and she includes all of the Catholic feast days and celebrations for each month, as well as the readings for each week and a Saint to focus on each month. I’ve found this easy to adapt for our Orthodox needs and I love the encouragement to keep a liturgical focus each month, too. I can’t wait to see where this planner goes in future!