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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Current Events: Q&A

image courtesy of lusi

I love this. I've been trying to figure out how to introduce current events to my children without overwhelming them with all the negativity in the news. They are just little kids; it seems wrong somehow to burden them with things that are too much for them to handle emotionally yet. How do you decide?

I'm in the same boat. I think it's good to shelter our kids from a good deal of negativity in the world when they're very little, but at the same time, as they grow, we don't want to continue by over-incubating and in so doing make it difficult for our children to adjust to life outside any protective shell we've created for them. ;)

This is why when the kids are very young, we read fairy tales and fables (the real kind with a moral, not just the prettified versions we have nowadays via disney). They learn about the stark realities of life from story. Read more about the role of fairy tales in the education of the young, here.

As to the way I think we go about introducing our younger children to what's going on in the world, without scaring the living daylights out of them, ;) is through natural family conversation, or as CM called it, "table talk". We might choose a current article from World Magazine for example and read it aloud at the dinner table, or just discuss what's happening in the world at a family meal. When the children are small, I imagine much of this would take place between parents as children grow into the conversations. Here's how CM describes it:
"Allowing that it rests with the parents to give their children grounds for sound opinions on men and movements, books and events, when are they to get opportunity for this sort of culture? Whenever they fall into talk with, or in the presence of, their children; but especially at table––other opportunities come by chance, but this is to be relied on...

This is the opportunity to keep the young people informed upon the topics of the day,––who has made a weighty speech; who has written a book, what its merits and defects; what wars and rumours of wars are there; who has painted a good picture, and what are the characteristics of his style. The Times newspaper and a good weekly or monthly review will furnish material for talk every day in the week. The father who opens the talk need not be afraid he will have to sustain a monologue; indeed, he had better avoid prosing; and nothing is more delightful than the eager way the children toss the ball to and fro. They want to know the ins and outs of everything, recollect something which illustrates the point, and inevitably corner the thing talked about for investigation––is it "right," or "wrong," "good," or "bad"; while the parents display their tact in leading their children to form just opinions without laying down the law for them. The boys and girls are engaged with the past, both in their school-work and their home reading, and any effort to bring them abreast of the times is gratifying to them; and it has a vivifying effect on their studies."
As for school studies, CM didn't have students reading current events (it seems) until grades 7-9.
Here's what grades 7-9 (form III & IV) were doing, quoted from here:
-Read on Tuesdays some subject in "Literature" or on the news of the week or on some historical or allegorical subject, etc. Write on Thursdays a resume.
-Verses (note metre of poems set for this term) on current events and on characters in the term's reading, upon heroic deeds, or, on autumn and winter scenes.
-Narrative poems on striking events.

Grades 10-12 (forms V & VI) did the following, quoted from vol 6 pg 194...
"Here is an example of a programme set for a term's work in these two Forms,––"A good précis; Letters to The Times on topics of the day; subjects taken from the term's work in history and literature; or notes on a picture study; dialogues between characters occurring in your literature and history studies; ballads on current events; (VI) essays on events and questions of the day; a patriotic play in verse or prose." Here are questions set for another term,––"Write a paean, rhymed or in blank verse, on the Prince of Wales's tour in the Dominions." "An essay, dated 1930, on the imagined work of the League of Nations." Form V, "Write a woeful ballad touching the condition of Ireland, or, a poem on the King's garden party to the V.C.'s." "An essay on the present condition of England, or, on President Wilson."
 The aforementioned literary assignments (patriotic play, poem, essay, woeful ballad, etc) would have been composed in response to their reading of current events on the League of Nations, Ireland, King's garden party, present condition of England or President Wilson. 

image courtesy of vlambi

In conclusion:
My current events posts are for my older boys who are studying AOy7. They read through 2-3 current events articles and document them in their narration notebooks as, "This Week in History". In the next year or so, I'll have them transition into writing more creatively about what they read of the world today and the related issues they are thinking through.

At the dinner table, we often discuss what the boys have been reading when my husband is home. This has been so much fun! In hindsight, I wish I'd done this more often, in an informal, conversational way with the kids even when they were smaller, as is mentioned above in the "table talk" quote. I'm currently aiming for at least one dinner time conversation a week with the family about current events (thursdays?). I'll bring this up very informally, and should hopefully not ever seem contrived. I've realized how easy it can be, now that I'm looking through the headlines for my boys, to pick out a weekly theme for conversation. Most often though, it usually comes about because the boys are interested in what they've just read and naturally bring it up as the hot topic at dinner time! :)

Stephanie, I hope these ideas will help you to formulate your own thoughts and plans for working with your family! :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Current Events: 12/28

In the news this week (as in other weeks), is the Stop Online Piracy Act...  so have at it! ;)

Lines Drawn on Antipiracy Bills - **

Daily Report: Congress Considers Bills to Prevent Piracy - **

Explainer: understanding Sopa (animated explanation of the issue) - **

Daily Report: The Boycott Against SOPA Supporters - **

Piracy vs. privacy in the online world - **

Online Piracy and SOPA: Beware of Unintended Consequences -

The news ... illustrated - world magazine's political cartoons **

Interesting thoughts on technology in 2011

2011: The year when it became the norm for the device in your pocket to be the center of your world -

Your Brain on Computers, Attached to Technology and Paying a Price -

Your Brain on Cellphones: Effects Present, Consequences Unknown

Your Brain on Computers, Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain

How Digital Technology Has Changed the Brain, "By their 20s, young people will have spent more than 30,000 hours on the Internet and playing video games. That's not such a bad thing..." -

The articles are in the order I would recommend them read in. I've starred the articles my boys will actually get to choose from. :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Greetings from Fisher Academy!

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

And a Happy New Year!

PS. This is among our very first attempts at recording and publishing our recitations. Being eager to share something for Christmas, we didn't spend as much time as we could have. Also, I wasn't as faithful with the actual recitation lessons as I would have liked this term... we've had to forego some things as we've transitioned back to Peru and back into schooling. Besides, we must all start somewhere ;) Keep in mind, recitation is not necessarily memorization :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Folksong: The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Lion 006

"Mbube" (Zulu: lion) was written in the 1920s by Solomon Linda, a South African singer of Zulu origin, who worked for the Gallo Record Company as a cleaner and record packer, and who performed with a choir, The Evening Birds. According to South African journalist Rian Malan:

"Mbube" wasn't the most remarkable tune, but there was something terribly compelling about the underlying chant, a dense meshing of low male voices above which Solomon yodelled and howled for two exhilarating minutes, occasionally making it up as he went along. The third take was the great one, but it achieved immortality only in its dying seconds, when Solly took a deep breath, opened his mouth and improvised the melody that the world now associates with these words:

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.[1]
It went on to earn at least 15 million US dollars in royalties from covers and film licensing. Then, in the mid-nineties, it became a pop "supernova" (in the words of South African writer Rian Malan) when licensed to Walt Disney for use in the film The Lion King, its spin-off TV series and live musical, prompting a lawsuit on behalf of the impoverished descendants of Solomon Linda. [1]
Family of 'Lion Sleeps Tonight' Writer to Get Millions


Conveniently, this is a folksong we're already familiar with for the most part, so we won't have to spend much time on it considering we're a month behind and it's the day before the day before Christmas... though in comparison our December weather is a lot more African (as in tropical), than it would be in N.America this month! :)

This is our favorite youtube version:

Helpful links:
AO Folksongs
The Lion Sleeps Tonight - wikipedia

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Current Events: 12/21

I know, it's almost Christmas and we are still schooling... isn't all of life education though? Even if we weren't sticking with our reading assignments and other interesting pursuits, we'd still be learning something else, right? :) We're slowly catching up after a very strange school year. We should be pretty much on track by the end of the next term... we're hoping :)

Even so, we are very much enjoying the holiday season...

The kids taking part in the Christmas production and festivities at church!

So, without further ado, my boys, you may choose any 2-3 articles from the following categories:

North Korea leadership transition:
North Korea Leader Dies in State -
Analysis of North Korea After Kim -
Kim Jong-il death: 'Nature mourns' N Korea leader -
US says Transition Smooth so far as North Korea Claims Kim Death Sparks Natural Wonders

Latest trip to space:
Multinational Crew Blasts off for Space Station
Soyuz rocket blasts off for International Space Station - {video}
Smooth Start to Latest Space Mision


Because I simply can't bear to leave this post without more holiday cheering, I leave you with this:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Book of Centuries: a pictoral update

I wrote some two months ago about our Book of Centuries, which in a way is new to us this year, thanks to talks this past summer by the lovely Laurie Bestvater. Previously, we only kept a communal timeline notebook (the littles still add to this one), but this year my boys have been keeping their own; adding entries on a weekly sometimes daily basis.

Javen's 4th century A.D.

...a detail from one of Javen's pages

She inspired us all at the Living Education Retreat in Windom, MN to use the Book of Centuries along with a number of other books as "forms of vitality" for our children. Though I'm quite sure I don't know how one could not make one's own while the children make theirs... so of course I had to have one too :)

Here's my 20th century, shows all of our immediate family's birthdays :)

Charlotte says,
"One thing at any rate we know with certainty, that no teaching, no information becomes knowledge to any of us until the individual mind has acted upon it, translated it, transformed, absorbed it, to reappear, like our bodily food, in forms of vitality. Therefore, teaching, talk and tale, however lucid or fascinating, effect nothing until self-activity be set up; that is, self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child's nature."

This was Cullen's sketch after a visit to a local museum. 
I think it is awesome!


I LOVE the term "form of vitality", don't you?
What does it make you think of as related to education?


Friday, December 16, 2011

Reflections on the Messiah for Advent

We've been so enjoying our Advent readings thus far into this Christmas season. Among our readings are, Ann's book, AO Christmas poetry, and we've also been enjoying reading/listening to Handel's Messiah. All the words are taken straight from Scripture, starting with prophecy of the coming Messiah, interwoven with passages of his birth, life, death and resurrection! It's beautiful. I'd heard it before, but before now I'd never read along, so I hadn't really heard it, if you know what I mean.

As we are about halfway through (or at least halfway to Christmas – we'll be catching up, see below), I'm making a few notes of observations you and I might find helpful in the future. :)

  • We take turns reading the selection out loud before listening to the selection. After listening, on occasion, we'll talk about how the sound or tone or particular instruments leant to our understanding of the passage. Most days, we don't discuss, we just enjoy the music.
  • It would be more meaningful for everyone to be able to read along. For that purpose, I've made a handy-dandy printable so that should help (we tried using our Bibles, but it's a different version, and that seemed to throw the littles for a loop – literally. I found them not listening at all, instead they were actually throwing themselves into loops by flailing their limbs and contorting their bodies into fantastical positions).
  • Encourage self-expression. We take turns at director of the symphony or as the opera singers. It can make things VERY interesting. ;) Warning: this activity may lead to the aforementioned flailing limb-type activity, jumping up and down, and even cartwheels. Just sayin'.
  • It's better to listen to a smallish section at a time rather than attempt several sections (thanks Miss Charlotte!) This may seem fairly obvious to long-time CMers, but really, if you want to listen to several sections per day, or if you get behind and want to catch up, spread them out throughout the day rather than piling them all on top of one another. The kids might actually enjoy it that way, and you will too. And, you will avoid finding yourself frustrated that they will. not. sit. still. for. just. one. more. accompagnato. I know this can happen. I may or may not be speaking from personal experience... ;)

I hope your Christmas is bright as you bask in His Light!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some sights & sounds of Christmas

Enjoy some Christmas cheer!

We have some Australian friends who make videos who
just happen to look and sound EXACTLY like these adorable kids!! :)

Audrey Assad and Chris Tomlin


Monday, December 12, 2011

Look what came in the mail today!

Hip, hip, hooray!! Our friends sent us some WORLD magazines!!

We were all super excited about the contents of this package!!
As soon as I opened it up, Javen said, "OH! I LOVE those magazines!!"

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Laurio family!! :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Little Drummer Boy... {christian teenaged boy version}

This. is. awesome.

16 year old drummer boy, sings, plays, edits and produces video...
Read this first.

Sean Quigley. You are my boys' latest hero (mine too). Thank you.

"The catchy video also pays tribute to the song's message about the true spirit of Christmas. That resonated deeply with Quigley, a Christian teen who plays drums in his local church."

"I played my drum for Him, pah rum pah pah pum.
I played my best for Him, pah rum pah pah pum,
rum pah pah pum, rum pah pah pum, rum pah pah pum.
And then He smiled at me, pah rum pah pah pum
Me and my drum."

...I'm pretty sure He's still smiling, Sean. :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fisher Days

For some time now I've arranged our school by the day of the week. Have you seen that little ditty on my sidebar? Several people have asked about that, and it's time I updated and clarified :)
Oh, here it is:

It helps me to keep my head about me to have a loose idea of what we want to accomplish each day. I divide our work into subjects, which are designated to a certain day of the week. It doesn't mean we only do these things on the specified day of the week and no other... it just helps to know that everything will, or at least potentially could get done sometime during the week if all else gets crazy and unpredictable. Does that make sense? Schedules or checklists exist to serve me, I do not exist to serve the schedule! ;)
  • monday - science & natural history
  • tuesday - literature & poetry
  • wednesday - biography & geography
  • thursday - history
  • friday - leftovers
Friday is left free so that anything we don't get done during the week is done that day :)

When I only had two children in any given AO year, it was VERY simple, I didn't even have to write it out, and we rarely had to look at a schedule. We got into the habit quite quickly knowing which books were read on which day. 

This year, as I have four, it is a HUGE help to have the subjects divided by day... here are my thoughts about using this list in the different years:

y2: I pretty much arrange the littles' entire day, every day (they still have plenty of free playtime in which I get to practice masterly inactivity). The amount of work in this combined year (see below) doesn't reflect a normal AO year. Even though their year is combined, there are several things that I only do with one or the other that I didn't put there on the list below.

y7: The bigger kids have arranged their schedules as they see fit when it comes to which books are read on which day at whatever time of day. :) But there are still quite a few things I help them with or am in some great way still involved. Their subjects that I am needed for are arranged by day. I commit to make myself available for those subjects at some time that day (usually before lunch). If they don't take advantage on that day, it gets pushed 'til Friday, or if neither of those, will have to be based on my availability at another time (meaning it may not get done that week).

Here's an example of our days:

Click to download

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Current Events: 12/7

A continuation of stories from previous weeks:

Occupy Protests:
People vs. Profits? -
Dozens arrested in Occupy D.C. protests -
Read the Occupy D.C. website... interesting to read this side -
70 arrested as police clear Occupy camp in San Francisco and dismantle around 100 tents -
*For older students: Are Occupy Wall Street and corporate fat cats the same? (Parents, please use discretion when watching this video) -

Newly Elected Egyptian Government:
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood says it does not seek power struggle with ruling military council -
Muslim Brotherhood top winner in Egyptian election -

Political cartoons are an interesting way to think look at current events... many themes probably go right over the students heads?
Political Cartoons - 

I'm interested to know what you think about using these!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Handicrafty Christmas

Wanna know what we'll {hopefully} be making to give as gifts this year?!
We only have one week!!  We'll be traveling again very soon.
Here are some hints... :) Close your eyes if you expect a gift from us! ;)

More ideas with these patterns for simple projects:
Simple project patterns
Super simple stocking & ornament pattern
Rag Doll Pattern - (adorable, but not free)
Tissue Holder

Handicraft inspiration from my friends:

Kids Handmade Holiday: Holiday Gifts Kids Can Make - Crafty Crow

Naomi in CA shared the following via the AO yahoo group, and I asked her if I could post it here also!
She said yes. :)

Google 'tutorials' on youtube:
Soap Carving
Cat's Cradle String
Flower Pressing
Finger Knitting

Helpful Links:
AmblesideOnline' s Handicraft page
Keeper's of the Faith Handicraft Kits - an online knitting community with many free knitting and crochet patterns.
Embroidery for kids - courtesy of Katie Sahid
Handcraft ideas for a last minute pull together party - from Greta Eskridge including large colorful pom poms, healthy popsicles, cupcake decorations and personalized gift bags. So simple!
On Wire Sculpting 

Specific Projects:
No tape no staple booklets your kids can make. For making up their own picture books, copywork books, gifts for friends and family.
Dancing Deer Toy - courtesy of Common Room
Marble Run Toy - courtesy of Common Room
Woodpecker Oscillating Toy - courtesy of Common Room
Wire Crochet Basket
Colorful Tissue Paper Windows - your little ones can make

And here's a link to Naomi's blog posts on handicrafts with more ideas!
Her co-op has had a couple of REALLY cool craft shows!  Check them out!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Composer Study: Handel {for Christmas!}

Image courtesy of wikipedia

After reading this post by Cindy Rollins over at the Circe Institute, I was truly inspired to use Handel's Messiah as part of our anticipation of Advent this year. I wouldn't mind if it became a yearly tradition either!

I'm so excited.

I downloaded the Libretto (text of the Messiah), checked to make sure I have the complete version on mp3 by comparing the Libretto with the music (many music versions are abridged I found out!!).

Tomorrow, during our Bible/devo time, I'll read from the Libretto and we'll listen to parts 1, 2 & 3 to begin. Then every weekday we'll do the same (a couple of parts) until Christmas Day, when I hope and plan to listen to the whole thing as part of our day.

Like Cindy, mentioned, some parts are smaller and so even if we miss some days (as is inevitable at this time of year!), we can make it up easily.

Download here for free, or buy Handel's Messiah on CD

For further reading:
Wiki on Handel's Messiah
An online study course ( on Handel's Messiah - Libretto and Online listening guide + Assignment

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Visual Latin {a giveaway!}

Home educating magazine is having a giveaway for Visual Latin curriculum! 
I've looked at the free lessons w/ my boys... we liked it. :) It's one I'd definitely want to look at further!

I actually have looked at this VERY recently, downloaded and watched the lessons. Here's what we liked:
  • the 4 intro and 2 first lessons are free to try on their site! (I love it when businesses express confidence in their product by giving sizable free trials - a good product will sell itself!)
  • there are a TON of freebies also on the site - vocab cards, worksheets, etc
  • the curriculum is fully downloadable!!
  • the videos are SHORT and INTERESTING.
  • the guy in the videos is nice and subtly funny.
  • it's evident that the guy loves languages.
  • he makes some little mistakes, but recovers well, which just serves to make it real.
  • the well organized site and professional videos are done by two homeschool families.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Reading... without books!

We have been anticipating Advent during December for several years now.  It has been such a wonderful way to focus our hearts on the truth behind all of Christmas!! Every day, we do just a little remembering. This is our third time using Ann's book (it's free and beautifully done & you can download and print it off wherever you are. Again and again. For example, if you are not where you thought you'd be this Christmas season, and you find you have absolutely no Christmas things, don't worry, just download and print! It never hurt anyone to have several copies!):

Every Christmas season, another of our FAVORITE traditions is reading aloud around the Christmas tree all lit up. We stay up very late at night, that is, because the stories are just SO good! Hours after bedtime, you can find us cuddling with pillows, blankies and each other in that sleepy magical aura of Christmas tree lights. And we continually poke those sleepyheads who just. can't.. keep... their.... eyes...... open....... because we want to read more and we don't want anyone to miss anything!! We read this story right off the screen until a quarter past ten tonight... about a boy whose Christmas outlook looked rather bleak (like ours might this year with no decorations or Christmas books or... if I think too long I'll remember just what all we're missing, so I'll stop now.)
Of course IF we had our basket of delights (a basket full of our favorite Christmas books that normally boasts the prime spot right next to the Christmas tree every year), I would want to do this project:

A book countdown with reusable wrappings...
But as it is, we have no basket o' books, so I'll be choosing from
the holiday stories listed at AO this year!  How convenient.
We'll probably even sing some songs from this free e-book!

And I decided to buy the book above on the kindle to splurge a little in light of our sad state of affairs in the holiday library category. We may be lacking in books, but we've lost nothing in the merrymaking category. I've heard this story is great fun. I'm looking forward to reading it next! :)

Do you have any favorite holiday stories?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Current Events: 12/1

This was a difficult week to choose articles. If you'll notice the amount of links, it is not because there are so many interesting articles, but rather, I couldn't decide which would be engaging enough to focus our attention on. My goal is having a variety of opinions/sources on any given subject. I'm gonna let my boys look over the headlines this week and choose which of the three divisions they'd like to read about for their This Week in History narration. 

Iran in the news:
Britain evacuates all embassy staff after Iran protesters storm compounds -
EU imposes sanctions on Iran over embassy storming -
Europeans stiffen sanctions on Iran after embassy attack -
Who's Blowing Up Iran? - PJ Media, Michael Ledeen
Iran Declares House Churches a Threat -
News from Iran, Somalia and Slovakia -
Watchdog Reveals Iran's Nucular Arms Work - (subscription required)

Politics or Economics?: Tax Increases for the wealthy
End Welfare for the Wealthy -
Should the Rich be Condemned? -
Cut the Payroll Tax - National Review Online
Congress Bickers Toward Year-end Compromise -
The Iron Law for Tax Cuts -

NBA: The Lockout is over
NBA teams to open facilities to players Thursday -
The NBA is Back and so is Steve Nash -
Jordan the Player vs. Jordan the Owner, One of the many lockout storylines coming to a close

For fun:
Peru's in the news @ CNN, Student News (video)
White House Decks the Halls - (photos)
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