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Friday, November 12, 2010

reflections on a Charlotte Mason education.

"What are your favorite aspects of AO? Why did you choose to use that as your primary curricula?"

Basically, here's the thing with Charlotte Mason/AO...
The idea is that the child is born a natural learner.  And that all the while he's living (if we don't give him reason not to) he'll delight in learning from nature, observing things around him, picking up ideas from the stories he's told and the experiences he's having and making connections between them all... that the child naturally remembers the things that interest him.  As something interests him and he begins to form a relationship with that area (with birds for instance), he'll naturally notice them in the backyard, and then identify personally with them in Burgess Bird book and file this information away for the next encounter he might have for example at a family outing to the aviary or park to feed the ducks and notice the differences between water birds and the birds he sees at the birdfeeder...etc. etc.  We can gently capitalize on these moments and help them by giving them small tidbits, more food for thought, or provide them with more experiences that add to the whole compost of ideas that's churning inside them.  These kinds of relationships are what real living education is made of... it really has no pin-point-able beginning or end - well, excepting birth and death; even then there's heaven. Who knows if we'll ever stop learning!...    :)

I think the thing that attracted me at first to Ambleside Online was the fact that a lot of the resources were available online.  Second was CM's emphasis on the natural beauty of learning itself.  That we don't have to be taught to enjoy learning... only encouraged to keep on loving it...  (with modern methods, sometimes it seems virtually impossible to maintain interest! at least that's what happened in my case and a good many others I know of!  ;)

As I began AO/CM, the thing that secured my interest was how it all flows together.  How we can and ought to integrate a lot of areas of education, that education is a life, and atmosphere in itself... I realized how important it is to give the gift of culture, the arts, living history to my kids so that they can be whole, diverse and interesting people!  :)  AO/CM encouraged everything I ideally wanted to incorporate even though initially I didn't know how to do it.  So, I dove in, learning as I went (I'm still learning!).  I fell more and more in love with 'education as a life' philosophy as I too was being enticed by all the knowledge that somehow I'd looked on as 'boring' and left by the wayside during my earlier education years.

As I've continued on with AO/CM, I've been amazed at how much my kids know!  Reading living books, narrating them back, being exposed to the arts, and nature study (observation, attention, etc), it is SERIOUSLY amazing how natural and enticing a living education really can be!  My kids really enjoy learning, and they retain a TON!  They still remember books/lessons/poetry/art from 5 years ago!  It really is shocking.  :)

"I guess my question is when you read the books do you have activities that you do or implement to go along with them or is reading enough?"

Though it might seem crazy, a child doesn't really need a lot of hands-on activities to learn things or make connections when reading living books!!  :)  A drawing, an acting out, a couple of sentences written/dictated about what he's read (all actually forms of narration, retelling), in whatever way is particularly interesting to your child... all of these things are good.  Basically, the only thing required is the child in some way retell what he's just heard.  When the material is interesting, the kids amazingly remember.  :)

So, please do share with us...
What is YOUR favorite aspect of a CM education?

Would you consider posting and sharing your thoughts about this?
If you do post, please do link up below! ;)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

oh my good golly... nominated?

Oh my good golly..

I was just over at the HSBApost where the Annual Homeschool blog awards happen.  I was perusing the different categories, eying my favorite blogs...  and voting... and my heart's beating fast...  and my thoughts are racing... and...

(there, I said it again.)

I've been nominated!


Now, I'm not going to ask you to vote for me (though you can if you honestly think I deserve it) because there are a number of really great blogs on the list!  Of course you could vote for one of my friends' blogs and ask one of your kids to vote for mine!  ahahahahahah!  If I asked for your vote, I would feel like I were asking you to NOT vote for some of my very favorite blogs!!  ;)    For instance.  Some of my long time friends are nominated too!

Jimmie @ Jimmie's Collage, who I've known since the good ol' days at HSB
Jeanne @ A Peaceful Day
Mama Squirrel @ Dewey's Treehouse
Amy, Marshie and all the rest of the delightful people @ Heart of the Matter

And of course a good number of newer friends have been nominated too...

{Make sure to click on the blog's link before you click the dot to vote 
because after you vote the list vanishes 
** UPDATE: Here is a list of all this year's nominees.}

So.  I just can't believe it.  Seriously.  And all I want to say is, thank you to YOU my friends who read this blog and think it useful.  :)  I want you to know how nicely and warmly that makes me feel.  :)

there.  I'm done.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Artist Study: Caravaggio

Some thoughts about Caravaggio...

The way he portrays light is awesome.  In art terms it's called chiaroscuro.  Everything appears to be in shadows, and he portrays bright light to accentuate the part of the painting that he wants to highlight.  I REALLY like this.  However, he has some rather morbid themes and graphic portrayals of death in several of his paintings and some nudity as well (so be careful when browsing online galleries).  I think these themes and even his dark paintings actually demonstrate his somewhat violent temperament.  Click here to read a kid-friendly biography, and another biography here.
"Caravaggio had a noteworthy ability to express in one scene of unsurpassed vividness the passing of a crucial moment."  ~Wikipedia: Caravaggio

Read about Caravaggio in recent times! 
Here's an article about a stolen and then damaged work of art that was purportedly of Caravaggio.
Read here about one of Caravaggio's works that was found after having been lost for 200 years!

Caravaggio's paintings are in the Baroque style.  Here's how National Arts Center (Canada) explain Baroque:
"Baroque art emerged in Europe around 1600 as a reaction against the intricacies of the Mannerist style that had dominated the Late Renaissance. Baroque art was more direct, more realistic and certainly more emotionally intense than Mannerism. The word “baroque” is derived from the Portuguese and Spanish barroco or French baroque, both referring to a rough or imperfect pearl. This movement was characterized by drama and grandeur."
Did you know that Baroque is a label not only for art, but for music as well?  Want some ideas how to integrate studies of both Baroque music and art?  Click here.

Here are some comparisons between two VERY famous Baroque period artists:

Art Lesson Plans and Activities using Chiaroscuro:

Chiaroscuro Portrait Lesson
Mosaic and Chiaroscuro
The Power of Light and Dark
Mr. Potato Head's a Lesson in Chiaroscuro

See the use of chiaroscuro in photography here! (PDF)

Here's a free printable - a (PDF) booklet with the
AO selections as well as a few extras we'll be looking at this term. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

in a nature study quandary

So, one day, imagine you find a nest of 6 baby rats in your yard. What on earth are you to do with the things? They're too cute and helpless to kill, and yet, you don't really want your entire yard crawling with the things until they reach adolescence so that you can dispose of them with a clean conscience... 

I mean, after all, they are definitely no federal laws protecting these vermin like over at Jeanne's place.

[read here to find out the rest of the story]

We had a lot of fun studying the cutesy little things while they were still cute.

We even read about Robber the Rat in Burgess Animal Book this week. 


So what would you have done?  

First Reading Lessons in earnest

Because as Charlotte Mason says, reading is neither an art nor a science, there are not steps set in stone to do in any particular order, and no fixed starting point. A child who has been learning to recognize letters and their sounds and building basic words, has been learning to read. But we can't always put a finger on the exact point when he has officially learned to read. It's a process and it's a little bit like magic... :) and it can be beautifully relaxed and fun!

We've had a lot of fun this time around with my youngest son learning to read. Even though his reading level is quickly advancing, so much so that he's halfway through Now We Are Six on his own, we are still carrying on with reading lessons.  Some might call them phonics lessons, word-building, or spelling lessons - we bundle them all together and call them all Reading Lessons (because it's all so interwoven).

In this post, I'm going to outline some of the ideas that Charlotte talks about, and show how we've done them.

Prerequisites to Reading Lessons:

With our most recent batch of readers, the following pattern has surfaced.
  • Play with letters/words - relaxed (child learns many letters by form & sound, some easy words by sight)
  • Learn single letter phonograms (age5/6) (child learns all sounds each letter makes by itself, some easy words by sight)
  • Practice blending building letters and words (child learns that sounds put together make familiar words, list of known words increases)
  • Introduce multi-letter phonograms (child begins to memorize through games, the sounds of the phonograms that have more than one letter, ck, ch, oi, oy, ea, ee, etc)
  • Start Reading Lessons...(whenever fully interested and ready, or around age 6/7)
Read a comprehensive list of skills helpful in reading readiness here.

Ideas for Reading Lessons:

For these lessons you will probably want to do a couple of things ahead of time:
  • Print 2 copies of either of the following: Jesus Loves The Little Children or Jesus Loves Me
  • (choose the song most familiar... if unfamiliar spend a week learning the song before beginning)
  • Cut out 3 sets of the words.  (leave one set intact for later)
  • Spread the words from the first page only (the first two lines of the song) out in a shoebox or cake pan.
  • Store each poem it it's own ziploc bag.

The following lesson ideas could be broken into more than one session depending on the level of readiness of your child.  He/she may be able to handle the whole lesson in one gulp, but you don't want the lesson to go much over 15 minutes.

Idea #1:

1) Using a dry erase board (or chalk board or markers on paper), write a word from the song (in random order), 2) say the word aloud as you write it, the child looks carefully and repeats, 3) from his cut outs, the child finds all the copies of the word.  
Do the same with all the words:

Jesus   children  loves  world  little  the  all

(*hint: try to keep the song a secret until the end... 
that way the child gets all the satisfaction from the discovery himself!)
4) from the board, child reads all the words as you point to them starting from the bottom of the list... words are still in random order.  5) child arranges his cut-up words in the same order as that on the white board.  6) child randomly rearranges the words in his own way reading them aloud.  7) Finally, dictate the song to the child and have them find the words as you go.  8) From the uncut copy, let the child read from the page.  He/she will be delighted that she can now read all the words in the whole song!  Review for the next day: 9) Have the child hunt for each word from the pile of cut up words. *optional: 10) if your child is ready for writing, have them write the word from memory. 

Idea #2: (using a different song/poem) 1) Read/sing the first half of the song out loud, sweetly and with good intonation of voice.  2) Point to the words as you say them aloud. 3) When the child can see the words as it were without looking (in his mind's eye), and repeat the words without prompting even when taken in random order, let him read the lines with clear enunciation and expression. Review for the next day: 4) Have the child hunt for the words in turn from a page of clear type (perhaps the book from which the poem/song was taken?)  5) Using his letters, have the child build each word in turn from memory.
Idea #3: From a book, pointing to words you know your child has mastered, point to words and have them read them out loud.  
Idea #4: Word building.  Using the phonogram sheet (available here), have the child build words learned in previous lessons.
Idea #5: Make your own lesson!  With these same ideas, use a poem or song already familiar to the child.  Here are a few more printable lessons I made.  The poems were chosen for the words themselves as well as interest level for kids this age...

By the end of these lessons the child will practically have the song/poem by heart, and the lesson can double as a recitation!

Helpful Links:
Download & print, First Reading Lessons in its entirety taken from CM's Volume One, here.
Parent's Review article, First Reading Lessons, by Miss E. Armitage
Parent's Review article, An Essay on the Teaching of Reading, by F.B. Lott
Parent's Review article, First Reading Lesson, by Charlotte Mason (the same as in volume one)
Some of my friend's who've blogged their CM reading lessons -
Phyllis at All Things Beautiful - here and here.
Richele at Barefoot Voyage - here.
Kathy at Piney Woods Homeschool - here.

More posts in this series:
Our Story... I'm a failure. {part one}
Our Story... Struggle no more. {part two}
Our Story... Just relax! {part three}
Learning to Read - The Scary Myth {part four}
The Two Keys to Teaching Reading {part five}
Playing a Foundation to Build on.
First Reading Lessons in Earnest.  << -- You are here. :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Folksong: Tall Men Riding

When I was little, I would've liked nothing better than to be a cowboy when I grew up!
(mind you, a cowboy - I had no desire to be a cowgirl! wimpy I remember thinking! ;)

I grew up in Oregon, you know, the end of the Oregon Trail... and though in those days everyone had recently left off taking the covered wagons to go to the grocery store, of course as kids we were still naturally quite taken with stories of the wild west in which we lived. (In high school, I met a girl from SC who asked me, in all seriousness, if everyone still rode horses... uh... yeah)  I always mourned that I wasn't born as Laura Ingalls' neighbor or Ralph Moody's playmate... though I probably would not have delighted in being a mother in those days.  Serious work! 

Around the age of 8 or 9 my best friend cousin and I, who were completely infatuated with horses, would spend hours pretending to be horses as we galloped through the forest around our family's cabin every summer, and looking out the window on long trips we would imagine us atop our swift mounts running on the shoulder along side of the car ...glorious days those. If I hadn't grown up in the city, I'm pretty sure I WOULD have been a cowboy (with long braided hair of course)!

My kids know NOTHING of the wild west experience, having grown up here in Peru, excepting our handful of stateside rodeo experiences...  which by the way are SO fun!  I love going to relish in the life that might have been mine... ;)

Regardless, this video might make you a little sad for bygone days too, but it's worth it! :)

Helpful Links for this term's Folksong:

More Cowboy poetry by S.Omar Barker (author of Tall Men Riding)
Midi, lyrics and history
Downloadable Lyrics (PDF)
Sheet music and lyrics
A video of a guy playing the tune on a banjo!  cool.
Guitar Chords for a different song to a similar tune (see below)
Alternate Chords with video [Tramps And Hawkers (Irish song)]

Helpful Links for Folksong Study

Folksong and Hymn Study
Buy Homestead Picker CDs (pretty much all AO Folksong Folksong selections are on these 2 discs... super convenient!)

Other Folksong Posts:

Waltzing Matilda
Farewell to Nova Scotia
Land of the Silver Birch
Follow the Drinking Gourd

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I've linked over here today...

I'll be back to my regular scheduled programming posting... soon. :)

We've been working on a little intrinsic motivation around here. ;)

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