Thursday, October 30, 2008

And again


These recitations were due a couple of weeks ago. I finally got them to stand still long enough to record them last night. Both thought speed was of the essence since they were 2 minutes from leaving for church. But at least I got it! And they remember it!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sometimes You Gotta...

drop a few books out of your educational repatoire. We did that this past week with The Story of King Arthur and His Knights and Of Courage Undaunted. They were living books, but we were not feeling the fire. So we moved on to other living books.

We use a literature study method for homeschool because we want to learn through living books. Charlotte Mason advocated reading living books versus books with cold, boring facts.

It took me a while to understand what a living book is. Still, sometimes, it seems like it escapes me philosophically. But the finest way I can venture to explain it is like this: your son is 8 years old and needs to eat. You have a choice, as a parent, of what to feed him. You can feed him some cold chicken nuggets and salty french fries and a coke from McDonald's. He might thoroughly enjoy tasting this nutritionless meal with all its salt and oil and preservatives, but as for what it does for building his body, I think we all would agree if we have seen the documentary on McDonald' is not best for the healthy. Have you seen the experiments people do where they take a home-made meal and a McDonald's meal and see how they decompose? Three weeks later...McDonald's french detereoration. That tells you how preservative-rich it is.

Or you can serve him some home-made, preservative free baked chicken, iron-rich spinach, mashed potatoes, whole wheat bread, and a cold glass of farm-fresh milk. This meal is going to be digested by enzymes and be able to carry actual nutrients through his blood stream out to nourish the rest of the body, support organ function, improve eye sight, etc.

This is what Charlotte Mason advocated in living books. We could give children all the same cold facts books we read in school that are supposed to help them perserve dates, names, wars, titles, anatomy (but they forget by the end of the school year or sooner). We can give them twaddle (life-less reading material). Or we can give them something sustaining, life changing, rich, comforting. Instead of a cold-facts easy read on wolves we can read a book where someone has a life-long relationship with a pack of wolves, can tell you first hand about their spirit, their customs, their diet, their charm, their brilliance, their obstinacy. You can read a book on wolves and walk away with two or three hard facts, your can feel like you are there with the wolf in a living book, and never forget what you read.

Charlotte Mason advocated children reading books that come alive, that light a fire in you and alter your life. Books that make you think. Why would we give our kids SpongeBob when we can give them Shakespeare and Thoreau? Why would we not want our children to be challenged? Why would we want a watered-down education?

I, too, was afraid my kids would go, "Plutarch Who? Shakes...huh?" A few days before school started I worried they would completely reject classic literature. I worried they would find it irrelevant, boring, and too difficult.

What I found is that they find it extremely relevant. They are alive with ideas. They are insatiable readers. Our biggest problem these days is having to say, "Please put your book down!" Hannah read over 1,000 pages in less than 7 days, not including everything we read in school. They have a fire lit within them.

But I need to challenge them more. I need to alter our homeschool even more toward Charlotte Mason's tenants. I see how I held on to a few chicken nugget and cold french fry mindsets and I have suddenly become of aware of that this weekend. I think sometimes God has us see changes we need to make a little at a time. I am one quarter of the way through the school year and we have made terrific changes. It is better than what I ever imagined possible for my children's education. But I see more...we can do more.


I have grown frustrated with our spelling curriculum, which we have used since 2006 at the recommendation of some educational testers that evaluated my daughters in Winston-Salem NC while we were vacationing there. It is a great concept, but it is too complex to use effectively. I'm thinking if it were softened and streamlined, it would be a great concept.

Why the change? We've pulled what we could use out of it for almost 3 years. So why change? Two reasons:

1) Charlotte Mason has changed my outlook on education. And what I have read of this woman's philosophies has already changed our homeschool, our parenting, our home life. Everything she said that I have put into practice has come to be just like she predicted. So why not take spelling and align it with her precepts as well, and see even greater improvement?

2) Our kids seem to have hit a plateau here.I think we used the program to the best of its ability and it is time to move on.

So what did we change from? No matter. What are we changing to this week? Spelling Power! I got the book yesterday in the mail and read the manual and looked over the 2 DVDs, discussed it with Michael, and so we will implement it this week. HOORAH!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Week 9

Weeks 4-8 were kind of harsh. We welcomed our 4th and 5th children in a 2 week span! Chicks get maternity leave for a reason right? I allowed myself 5 weeks of "Oh SNAP" leave where they did independent study, but finally we are back on track. I desperately missed our 1 hour together before lunch to read interesting things!

This week at Integrity Academy:


We learned about the Apostle Paul speaking at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, which was once the 7th Wonder of the World.
It is now just one pillar. We wrapped up our study on Turkey by learning about the Whirling Dervishes (NOW I know what they are!)
and a brief study on Islam. The girls had to learn the 5 pillars of the Islamic Faith. I don't agree with Islam but I think we should teach our children about other religions so their Christian worldview is not ignorant, but rather well-informed. I learned about the Islamic 5 Pillars in college and it helps me make more sense of what I hear on world news. I want them to understand what a Hajj is, even though it is on the other side of the world. I desperately want them to be deeply rooted in their Christian faith and know WHY it is the TRUE faith!



We're still in 12th Night. Viola now realizes that disguising herself as a man named Cesario is ruining the world. Now she is in love with Orsino. Orsino is having her/him hang out with Oliva to win Olivia to Orsino, and Olivia is in love with Viola, who she thinks is a man. Viola and her brother Sebastian both think the other is dead. Sebastian has a friend Antonio who Tara thinks has gay love for Sebastian. Charlotte Mason advocated studying Shakespeare. However, I do think there are some things here we could parallel in 100 ways to our modern society. 'Nuff said. Tara could sit and read nothing but Shakespeare and Geography.


Sometimes you gotta just pick and choose. We were using 4 books for our textbooks. I dropped one on Lewis and Clark because it seemed like chapter-to-chapter we were just getting nowhere but bored. I did add on two short books since we are getting into slavery study: bios on Sojourner Truth ("Ain't I a Woman?") and Harriet Tubman (Go Free or Die). This week's study centered more on there being rising opposition in the North and South on slavery. Abe Lincoln's mammy died and they moved to Indiana (as many poor did) to get work, because it was a slave-free state where the poor could earn a living. The next year his daddy went home to Kentucky and picked up a new mammy. She was a caring mammy. His birth mammy had been very sick and unable to care for him. His father completely inept at raising children. So when Sarah came, he was bathed, he was encouarged to read/write/cipher, though she was illiterate herself, and he found a soul mate in his angel mother, Sarah.

" All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
Abraham Lincoln on his stepmother, Sarah Bush Lincoln


This week we learned more about the variety of things the sun does for us. That would be a 17 post job to describe. We also learned about the tools God gave animals ON their bodies! Man is inventive, so he can create his own tools. Animals are created to have a quest and a special diet, and their bodies help them fulfill that. Just amazes me! We also learned about a cottontail rabbit who is being taught by his mother how to avoid being killed....lessons such as "FREEZE" so the enemy cannot see you, and if all else fails, hide in the thicket! This old book Wild Animals I Have Known really impacts Tara and I! We could read it over and over all day. It is really for nature study but I put it in with our Science reading.

Which makes me do you explain Brer Rabbit to kids who have no idea what you're talking about? I'm going to try to get the DVD on AA folktales from the library.


We've been reading about King Arthur and His Knights, and for some reason, we are the least motivated to read this book than anything. So I dropped it. We're just bored with it. So we are just going to move on to Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol in addition to our weekly briefings on Greek Mythology. I don't think I have ever read Oliver Twist. Looking forward to that. We are going to get into some Mark Twain later in the year. I am stoked!


They are going through the Little House Series (cuz I want them to). They are about to finish Farmer Boy. I am hoping by the time we get to The Long Winter it is going to be like freezing cold for a couple of days and we can really feel for Laura and her starving family.

They are also reading Anne of Avonlea and I just remembered! Since we finished Anne of Green Gables we can now watch the DVD! So I hope to pick that up from the library after dinner for CHICK FLICK NIGHT! Hannah read 2 big books this week and is foaming at the mouth until she has something more to read.


Hannah has been taking art lessons for 4 weeks and has completed 2 projects. They study a geographical location for 2 weeks, along with art of the area and culture.

Sometimes I am intensely sad that I have no frame of reference for my culture. I'm a "mutt" I guess. I have no claim to a specific culture other than supposedly I am 1/16 Choctaw. I was born and raised in New Mexico, so many things about the Mexican culture (and some even Navajo) I identify with. That is the closest thing to having a culture, living amongst Mexican Americans for 17 years.

Anywho...though I have not traveled the world, I have friends who have! So here is our tiny collection of international pieces, if you will. LOL

All the things here came from Africa or South Africa except for 2 items, which Hannah recently made in art class. Can you guess which ones? I also have a beautiful woven basket with a lid that I forgot to photograph and a couple of misplaced South African pieces.

Some of my students at the Christian school had grandparents who served as missionaries in Peru, so each year I got something new for Christmas! These are all Peruvian hand-made items.

These coasters are handpainted. Some are almost identical but again, since handcrafted, there are subtle differences (slips of the hand while painting, etc).

I don't know what happened but I am missing entire Korean tea sets. I used to have a lot of Korean students at the school (mostly in K3 and K4). I miss those kids! Hannah used my tea sets and they have not yet returned.
You guessed it! Hannah made this African mask! They formed it out of clay and let it dry for week, then she put on 3 layers of glaze and they fired it. They told her to put the stuff around the face and she just did not like it but can't get it to come off. She is pretty irritated everytime she looks at it. It is very 3D. She did not feel like the color came out African enough after firing.

This is an African Gourd made from paper mache as you can probably tell. They studied so much about culture they only had 30 minutes to construct the gourd on a couple of weak layers. She wants to redo a really good gourd at home.

Something funny: she is always the last person out of class because she is perfecting details. She wants her art to look culturally authentic. She said all the other gourds were hot pink and white polka dotted, or Hannah Montana, or whatever. Two of the kids painted Dallas Mavs gourds....can you figure out why?

Interesting Parallel

We are going through the Anne series, partly because it mandatory each girl read about Anne. I don't see how a girl can make it through to adulthood without just reading Anne of Green Gables. Secondly, because in History this year, we are studying the pre-Civil War through WWII.

The girls are halfway through Anne of Avonlea and I just wrapped up Anne of Green Gables yesterday. Hannah and Tara told me they cried when Matthew died. I had forgotten, though, what brought it to pass until I read it yesterday (and cried).

Matthew, who along with his sister Marilla, adopted orphan Anne, had been having spells with his heart of recent. And when he opened the door and read the news of the day, he learned that his bank had failed, along with countless others during that time. And his heart failed at that moment.

Interesting parallel to be reading about the birth of the Great Depression considering the nature of today's US and world economy.