Thursday, May 26, 2016

What We've Been Up To...

So friends, I've been a bit AWOL in this space.  To say the month of May has been busy is an understatement!  I'm hoping to get back into a writing rhythm and get that Getting Started with Year One series wrapped up soon for the sake of those of you looking ahead towards the fall.   But in the meantime, I offer you a little glimpse into what we've been up to these days…
Out and About::
Last weekend, I had the wonderful privilege to attend the AmblesideOnline Conference, Deep in the Heart of AO, in Waxahachie, Texas.  What a joy that was!!  I have been actively involved in the AmblesideOnline Forum for several years, and met a good handful of those lovely online friends last summer at the AO Conference in Indiana.  It was a delight to see those dear people again, and to meet others for the first time.   It was like a little taste of what heaven might be like, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that.
My Amazing Roomie and very dear friend Dawn
The AmblesideOnline Advisory and Auxiliary - they are the ones behind it all.  They are pretty amazing too.
Amy, Dawn, Brandy, and Me
Photo credits for all these conference photos to Dawn..or the people she handed her phone to. :D  The few I took didn't come out! :(
The Conference sessions were all wonderful too.  So much food for thought to chew on for the next long while…but at the same time things that I have put into practice in my home immediately too.  I'm not going to write about that today, nor am I planning a long-winded series (although Katie is!), but I'm sure that ideas I gleaned will be popping up here and there in my posts over the coming weeks and months.
In the Schoolroom::
We wrapped up our co-op year this past month, finishing with a presentation of the final death scene from Hamlet from the Shakespeare class.  Michelle only had one line, but she delivered it with clarity and confidence.  I was so very proud of her!  This class definitely ignited what I suspect will be a lifelong love for Shakespeare as well.  It was such a fantastic experience for her, as was teaching the third-fourth grade history/literature/art and music appreciation class was for me.   Sadly, due to distance, we won't be able to be a part of this same co-op again next fall, but have some new plans with church friends in the works for the fall.  We shall see how it all works out. 
Michelle and friends after Hamlet
In the meantime, we have started what I am calling our "Summer Term".  We have had extended breaks at odd times this year, so plan to continue schooling through mid-July.  Michelle and James just started Term 2 of their respective AO Years 4 and 2, and Elizabeth – who turned 6 in March – began Year 1 Term 1.  (My baby!  My last trip through Year 1!!  Sniff!!!)  Just to mix things up a little bit, I have set aside our regular Morning Basket fare (stay tuned for a post on our Summer Morning Basket plans soon!).  We are also planning to use that fifth day that was our co-op day for a weekly field trip.  There are a number of local museums we'd like to visit that we just haven't taken the time for, and weather permitting we'd like to get some full-day nature study outings in there too (preferably NOT when it is 100 degrees out, though!!)  And our community pool is opening next week if I'm not mistaken, so lots of afternoons at the pool are in our schedule too.  Hoping this will be a good mix of refreshment while still making forward progress on the academic front.
Pretty much limited to nature journaling and sketching with the kids, these days.  But that's happening pretty regularly because I tossed them in our morning basket…and that counts, right?
In the Kitchen::
So, a while back, I picked up Trina Holden's book Your Real Food Journey.  I am truly appreciating its accessibility and baby-steps approach.  I tried to get into the real food thing a few years ago, but that was when I still had babies and toddlers in the house, and we were in the process of moving internationally 4 times in 4 years.  Let's just say it was literally all I could do to get dinner on the table – any dinner.  I was not in the right season to be making dietary changes.  We just needed to eat – something.  Anything.  Anyhow, we are in a more settled place now and my children are older so we're revisiting this.  (Even though I have NO desire to be in the kitchen all the time.  I just don't.)  So, I have made a list of some of the baby steps that she suggests in the book and am slowly working through them – not adding another until the previous one becomes natural.   I started with replacing the fats I use in cooking (we pretty much only use olive oil, coconut oil, and butter now), and then tackled a better breakfast rotation.  We were resorting to cold cereal far too often.  I needed nourishing, simple options that lent themselves well to serve-yourself breakfasts because of various rising times in our family.  Next, will be improving the nutritional value of the snack options available in our house…
Not our house. ;)  But I love this photo so I threw it in anyhow.

Around the House::
We are LOVING our new house and making it a home.  LOVING IT.  But I have no pictures for you.  Maybe a tour of how we organize for homeschooling next time (we don't have a dedicated school area)?
What have you been up to?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

From My Commonplace: A Hymn to God's Glory

"Newton's intent in all his work was to make men more pious and devout, more reverent in the face of God's creation.  His aim was not that men rise to their feet in freedom but that they fall to their knees in awe.  So for Newton himself, the answer to the question where does God fit into the universe? was plain.  God sat enthroned at the center of creation.  Newton had always known it; he had always seen his work as a hymn to God's glory, though one written in curves and equations rather than notes on a staff.  Now his dazzling success in the Principia provided still further evidence of the magnificence of God's design." p. 308
~Edward Dolnick, The Clockwork Universe
(Fascinating book, by the way.  I took AP Calculus in high school and even passed the AP test, but had no idea that calculus actually had a real purpose.  Or that it had been invented, kind of out of nowhere.  Sort of wild to think about.)

My Bookbag This Week:
Devotional: The Daily Office Lectionary Readings and Prayers from The Trinity Mission
 The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost (Wright)
Theological: On The Incarnation (St. Athanasius, with introduction by CS Lewis)
AO Book Discussion Group: I Promessi Sposi (Manzoni)
Personal Choice: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (Pyle) – Pre-reading for AO Year 5
With my Hubby: Emma (Austen)
Family Read-Aloud Literature: Little Britches (Moody)
*I am also reading Charlotte Mason's Volume 6 for a local CM book club, but these meetings are infrequent and so I just read the brief section assigned as our meetings come up.   

Click Here for more Words

Monday, May 2, 2016

Getting Started with Ambleside Online Year One: The Booklist

Welcome back, friends.  Ready to jump in to our next installment?   Let's talk about all the delicious books, shall we?   (Happy sigh.)
Once again, I'm going to refer you over to the Year One page over on Ambleside Online's website.  Please open that page in another tab to refer to while we're chatting today…otherwise much of what I say probably won't make sense. J
What am I looking at?  Where should I start?
You will see two choices Year One Basic and Year One Detailed.   The Basic list is just what it suggests – the simplest form of the list, usually giving only the first/preferred option of book choices when there is more than one choice.  The Detailed list gives you various options in some cases, if you want to pick and choose.  There isn't a lot of difference between the two lists for Year One – the options come more into play in the upper years.  Select the list you prefer and click to open the booklist page.   The subjects covered by the booklist are Bible, history, biographies, geography, natural history/science, poetry, literature, and free reading.  You will notice a variety of clickable symbols next to each title in the booklist – there is a key at the top of the page to explain them.  Basically they are links to various sources where you can get each book in a variety of formats – print books, ebooks, and audio books.  There are also little numbers next to certain books, which link to the footnotes at the bottom of the page.  Please, please take the time to read through all of the footnotes!  
Do I need all of these books?
Yes, you really do need all the books. J  The only book that is really 'optional' in Year One is Trial and Triumph (be sure to read the notes and preview this book to see how you want to handle it.)  There are sometimes good reasons to substitute other books (certain history selections for non-American families, for example), and AO's format is flexible enough that it is possible to do this pretty easily.  However, I caution you against making substitutions, additions, and other changes unless it is absolutely necessary.  I swapped out and added in books when we first started AO, and I came to regret nearly every one of those changes.  We do AO pretty much as written now – moving some books around to group read-alouds as needed since I am juggling students in three different years, but still hitting them all eventually.   So…I suggest starting with the booklist as written, and go from there.  If you have questions or concerns about any of the books on the list, you can hop on over to the Forum and ask there or search for past discussions.
What format should I use – print or ebooks?  Do I need to purchase them, or can I use the library?
One of the beautiful things about AO is their vision to make a rich Charlotte Mason education available to everyone, regardless of location or budget.  As such, many – although not all – of the books they suggest are available online for free as ebooks.   This is a wonderful option for those who are on a very tight budget or who are overseas and have shipping restrictions.   We started out using as many Kindle books as we could because we were overseas at the time so shipping was an issue, and this worked just fine.  Now that we are settled in the US, we are slowly starting to collect print copies of the books and find that we greatly prefer that format.  So…my suggestion?  Purchase as many books in print versions as you can in your particular circumstances, and use ebooks for the rest.  If you check used bookstores, library sales, and online used book retailers, you can purchase many of the books very inexpensively.  When purchasing books, please consider purchasing them through the Amazon links on the Ambleside Online website.  These are affiliate links and will go towards supporting Ambleside Online, which is completely run by volunteers offering their experience, expertise, and time as a gift to the Charlotte Mason community.
As far as the library goes – most of these books are stretched out over the whole school year, and some of them across several school years.  So for the most part, the library won't be terribly practical.  The one exception would be the free reads, since these aren't scheduled – they are just offered as worthy "don't miss" selections to read as you wish outside of school time.  We have used them as family read alouds in the evening, audiobooks for long car trips, and personal free reading once the children were reading well enough.
What do I do with these books once we are ready to begin lessons?
Back on the curriculum page, you will find links to a 36 week schedule that tells you what chapters from which books to read each week of the school year.  There are charts available in a variety of formats, or you can make your own (which is what I do).  I wrote a post for Brandy over at Afterthoughts a couple of years ago on how I prep and teach a Charlotte Mason style lesson using a couple of Year One books as examples.  For the most part, it is as simple as "read and have the child narrate".   There are some cases where you may want to look up pictures or Youtube videos to get a visual image of something.  We keep maps handy to look up the places we read about in history or geography lessons, and begin a simple timeline.  But for the most part, it really isn't necessary or even desirable to add in a lot of 'extras'.  The ideas are in the books themselves, and we want to let the child form their own relationship with those ideas without throwing in a lot of things that get in the way.
For Year One, even for a child who is a strong reader, you can expect to be reading all of the child's school assignments out loud to them.  I suggest this even for strong readers because it is important for the child to have established the skill of narration before handing off school books to be read independently. 
That's all for today, folks!