Friday, March 7, 2014

What We've Learned: February 2014

Education is an Atmosphere
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.”  (1 John 3:1, NASB)
Alternative use for packing tubs...

Education is a Discipline
So, last month, we were still struggling to find a routine.  This month has gone much more smoothly due to several tweaks in our routine:
I wrote about our new evening routine here.   We’ve been following this routine for about 4 weeks now and it is still going really well.  It has made a huge difference in our evenings.  And now that we have a workable evening routine in place (read: our evenings aren’t totally in chaos anymore), I feel like we can tackle some of the related habits such as improved table manners, pleasant table-time talk, holding the older children more responsible for cleaning up their stuff thoroughly and without nagging, and more enthusiastic participation in our evening devotional time.
Monday mornings have also often been chaos around here, so that was the next thing that I wanted to tackle.  One of the nature study ideas I wanted to try this year was to have a meal-time outside on a regular basis.  However, it is often too hot to do this at noon for lunchtime, so I decided to try a breakfast picnic instead.  I chose Monday as the day because I thought this might provide a pleasant motivation to  get moving on a Monday morning as well as create less mess in the house to clean up so we can easily get started on the rest of our schoolwork when we come back in.   We’ve done this the past two weeks and I think we have another “keeper” in our routine.  We’ve taken a simple low-mess breakfast (hard boiled eggs, muffins, drinkable yogurts for the kids) out into the yard, enjoyed the cooler morning air, and taken some time for nature observations and journaling.  Very pleasant way to start the week.
Also, inspired by this post, I put our other “activity” subjects (drawing, paper sloyd, science experiments) into a looping schedule.  In a good week we can get to them all, but in a disrupted week we just carry over the extra to the following week rather than feeling grouchy because we missed out on drawing or science time AGAIN.   We’ve been much more successful hitting at least 2 of the three the last couple of weeks as well.
Papaya Leaf Dancing...

Education is a Life
Michelle – Age 8 – Year 2
We are already up through Week 6 of AO Year 2.  It’s going by quickly, and has been so very enjoyable.  Among other topics we have read about William the Conqueror, and much to Michelle’s dismay the Normans did indeed conquer the English.  She was dreadfully disappointed...although apparently this is a common sentiment among other Year 2 students.  J   As an adult, I knew what was coming of course, but I will admit that in my textbook-study of history, I had never thought of the Norman Conquest as a two-sided conflict.  And this, my friends, is why I love AO so much.  Michelle is likely never to forget the Norman Conquest because of how much she was drawn into the story, and I as an adult gained a new perspective on what was previously just a blip on a timeline.
Michelle has been reading Leif the Lucky, The Burgess Animal Book, and Understood Betsy independently and narrates all of them really well.   She is also making great strides into written narration.  She is keeping a notebook for the animals she reads about in BAB – after she narrates orally to me, she draws a sketch and writes a few sentences to tell what she has found interesting about one of the animals in that chapter.   Here is a recent entry:
Click on the picture to view it larger
She’s also enjoyed doing comic-style written narrations and completed this one of the first half of Leif the Lucky (she plans to do a second page to add to this when she completes the book, and a cover she tells me “so it’ll be a real book mama”):

Click on the photo to view it larger
I’m really pleased with her efforts.
Math – well, it goes. J  We have been working on subtraction with regrouping, counting coins (American and Cameroonian), and continual drill and practice on addition and subtraction facts.
We’ve also been doing drawing and paper sloyd (paper folding) projects, exploring properties of water with Science in the Beginning, memorizing a speech from Shakespeare (they ADORE Shakespeare!) and getting back into a nature study groove.
Showing off her paper sloyd envelope.  More on sloyd soon, I hope...
James – Age 5.5 – Year 0.5
James is a delightful student.   We enjoy our daily reading time together.  He has been reading to me from the Little Bear books. He has been enjoying all of the books I am reading to him, and especially Among the Farmyard People.  We’ve reached some very basic adding and subtracting in MEP 1A, and he continues to enjoy copying a sentence chosen from his reader each day.  I am still not requiring narrations, but on the occasions when he offers them they are very thorough and detailed.  In all, he is taking to his formal lessons quite well.  (Moving him towards independence with household chores, however, is another matter....)
Nature Journaling
Elizabeth – Age-Almost-Four – Year 0
Still the tagalong!   She will be 4 right before we break for Conference and Co-op at the end of the month, but when we get back to our homeschool routine at the end of April, I will pull out some of our alphabet manipulative stuff and start being a little more intentional about playing around with them with her.   Friends of ours with twins about the same age as she is also just offered to let her come over and do learning activities with them one morning each week.  She went the other morning and had a ball, and the rest of us got our work done with time to spare before lunch. J
Yet another little bookworm
Mama – Year 4, etc.
I am about three weeks into Term 2 of AO Year 4.   I added in Plutarch this term and am really enjoying it.   I started with Poplicola and am using Anne White’s highly recommended study guide.  I see why they are highly recommended – they really do make Plutarch  less intimidating.   I am also absolutely LOVING Genevieve Foster’s history book George Washington’s World.   I love how she weaves together bits of history from all over the world, and some of the little bits that she includes in each story are really interesting.   I’m really enjoying the biography of Abigail Adams too.  I’ve never read/heard much about her.   I’m getting the sense that although her culture and time dictated that she stayed behind the scenes, she really was very influential in the life of her husband, and therefore in the life of her nation.  As a “behind the scenes” kind of girl myself, I appreciate stories like this – you don’t have to be high-powered and out-in-front to make a difference.
I continue with The IliadSilvia had some lovely thoughts to share on our group reads over at the Forum.  And I’m continuing with Desiring the Kingdom – I really wanted to like this book, and it HAS given me good food for thought, but I am also finding it a little bit of a disappointment.  Smith raises good questions, but I'm not sure I like his approach to finding answers to them.  Anyhow.  The discussion and reading various perspectives on other’s blogs has been a good experience, though.  I’m still planning to finish it since I’m blogging it and all….but at the same time, I’m sort of chomping at the bit to move on to something else in this genre.   Maybe I’ll just read ahead of schedule, finish it, write a couple of posts on anything that strikes me to post in the appropriate weeks? (Is that cheating?) Charlotte Mason’s School Education and CS Lewis' An Experiment in Criticism and Vigen Guroian's Tending the Heart of Virtue and Laurie Bestvater’s The Living Page  (well, if my copy of it ever arrives rather than being LOST AT SEA!) are calling my name…..  (So many books, so little time...)
Oh and I finally downloaded some of the talks from the 2013 Circe Conference when they had a special a few weeks ago: good, good stuff.
What happens when Mama passes over the camera to the 8-year-old so she can take pictures of nature specimens that interest her....

What have you been learning in your family?


  1. Just wanted to say that since we're doing Year 2 also, I loved seeing Michelle's Burgess notebook and Leif comic book--so great! I'm going to show these to my kids, as I'm sure they'll be really interested to see what other kids are doing. I have a feeling my son is going to want to start a couple notebooks of his own after seeing hers--those were two of his very favorite books from this year. :)

    1. Thanks Celeste! It's been fun to see how much she's taken ownership of these things, and I'm impressed with the writing she's producing too. Glad that you've been able to find some inspiration here for your own kids. It's always fun for me to check in and see what your family is doing since your two oldest are really only a few weeks ahead of us in Y2. :)

  2. I do know what you mean about Desiring the Kingdom. I don't think it is cheating to read fast and post as you see fit! I noticed (in your sidebar) that you are also reading Amazing Grace. I would love to hear your thoughts on that. I read it last summer and really enjoyed it. I have thought about using Metaxas' newest book 7 men in a way similar to Plutarch once the kids are a little bit older to give some more modern examples of men of faith (although that isn't really the point of Plutarch - obviously). Loved reading more about where you all are at in your studies!

    1. Thanks Pilgrim! I admit that I have read ahead and read all of Chapter 5 (it's long - broken up over about 5 weeks in the schedule I think) this weekend. I actually liked quite a bit of what he talked about in that chapter (breaking down the meaning behind various liturgical worship practices), so perhaps we'll end on a more positive not after having to sort of slog through chapters 3 and 4. :) I finished Amazing Grace this weekend and enjoyed that too - I knew some of Wilberforce's story (I saw the Amazing Grace movie a number of years ago when it was out), but he was a very interesting person to learn more about - and the insights into the time period in which he lived were interesting to me as well. I think I tend to over-romanticize that era of time (too much Jane Austen!), but really there were a lot of really horrible things that were 'acceptable' back in those days as well, just as much as today. Makes Wilberforce's stand for Truth and Justice very applicable for us, I think. I think I may quote from it this week or next for Wednesday with Words. :) I haven't read his 7 men yet, but downloaded his biography of Bonhoeffer when it was on a 2.99 sale for Kindle and hope to tackle that soon.