Friday, September 22, 2017

Our Weekly Amble for September 18-22, 2017

Phew. Another solid week. Another overall good week where we accomplished almost all of what I wanted to.

I returned to #uppingmybreakfastgame and made breakfast almost every - and the day I didn't we had leftovers. Yay me. It does make a difference, though.

We walked the dog every morning before school. That's a total win. It makes for such a fantastic start to our day to get outside, see the sky, breathe the air, and move our bodies. I hope this trend continues. I know the weather will likely go downhill, but we will be able to continue moving in some manner.

We also did Whatchamacallit all four planned days this week. It feels really good to be accomplishing our work. We will finish our Isaiah 9:2-7 next week. We did a lesson on past, future, and present participles in grammar; learned about percentages with math; began the "I know a bank ..." passage from a Midsummer Night's Dream and read 2 scenes from Henry V; finished Publicola (!); began our Architecture booklets with pyramids; and almost have "O Captain! My Captain!" memorized.  We read about and listened to some Telemann and enjoyed 'Will Ye Go Lassie.' We read a bit of The Open Gate.

Typing that all out makes me very happy.

Our readings also went well. I got pre-reading done for all but one book and made my own Keeping entries. That felt good. Sometimes we fall off the wagon of our habits and you have to just make the decision to start again. Especially after you've podcasted about it ;)

Hint: One of these two books did not get read by me. Maybe I should start with the science books tonight.
We are enjoying our trip back into ancients. The Caesars and the Greeks and the Iliad ... making so many connections. Our Architecture study during Whatchamacallit even brought Ancient Egypt into the mix with the evolution of the Pyramid.

They continue to copy scripture for penmanship. M-girl is getting close to finish 1 Peter; R-girl is working on Esther; and N-boy decided to copy Psalms (so he'll never have to choose again, methinks!) . We also finished the Memoria Press Geography II book today; we'll start III next week. They continue to move forward with Math. M-girl is working on fractions; N-boy on commutative property in addition and multiplication; and R-girl is still in the "new book, review" section ... so it's easy for her!

Latin is also moving along after last week's epic "I hate Latin" meltdown (only one child, said child is now reconciled to Latin). M-girl had her Google Hangouts chat with her tutor today; that is going really really well and she said it's been helpful. So, yay!

We even managed to get in the Weekly Meetings we haven't had in months (can I call them "Weekly?") It was a great way to end the week; reviewing goals and work, and sharing what was "kept" in our studies.

Next week is the last week of our term. We're all ready for a break. We're officially 2 weeks "behind" in our term, and we have one six week term left in our year, so I have a decision to make:

  • Do I push us to do 8 weeks in 6?
  • Do I do 7 weeks in 6 this term and 7 weeks in 6 in January?
  • Do I leave those last two weeks until January and decide later? 
  • Do we skip them altogether?
What would you do? 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Our Weekly Amble for September 11-15, 2017

In many respects this was a great, if imperfect, week. We had the best day of school we've had in ages on Monday. Wednesday with our 'Art and More with Friends' group was wonderful. Soccer went really well. M-girl and N-boy were prepared for their piano lessons. Friday went well enough.

One of our big changes this week was more timers on my phone. I set one for every 30 minutes and had the children check-in what they planned to work on during the next 30 minutes. I think it helped them to stay focused and working. It wasn't perfect, and some emotional half-hours did some derailing, but overall it seemed to help them see they could get finished.

I also worked on getting back to making breakfast and or lunch. I wasn't perfect with that, but a big improvement over recent history.  What I really need to do is get back to writing a menu plan and placing a grocery order.

We did Whatchamacallit the four scheduled days this week. I recently made some minor changes which you can see above - I split out an AO loop for Shakespeare and Plutarch. We read Shakespeare twice and Plutarch once. We listened to folk songs, read about Giotto (we're a bit behind), did some counted cross stitch. We finished a long chapter in our readaloud, The Open Gate. We're working on Isaiah 9:2-7 (almost done) and O Captain! My Captain!  by Walt Whitman. Our current hymn is 'Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands' at the children's request. (Love them)  It was a writing week and we finished Lesson 1 and most of Lesson 2 in Writing and Rhetoric book 3.

On Monday we started with our Weekly Meeting. I've been assigning days to any readings that need to be done on multiple days, but letting the children self assign which other readings they want to do when. For a while I was making them all choose the same schedule, but allowing them the freedom to save a personal favorite for Friday or getting a difficult one out of the way early in the week has led to less bickering and more peace. Because they still do the same readings over the course of the week, it wasn't that much bother for me to hear a few different narrations per day.  You can see how we've been working out the readings here. I write on the whiteboard, they copy into their assignment books.

The angle is odd because of the glare; sorry.
Also, I mis-counted - the AoF reading was one, not two so they had 3, 4 reading days.
They did math each day.  M-girl finished the week with fractions and their values. R-girl is doing a lot of conversions between metric values (cm to Meter, etc). N-boy is working on the beginning of a new year, so it's a pretty easy review time for him.

On Wednesday, we did some cleaning up at home before we hit the library where I sat and worked on my phone while they chose books. I observed the moms of littles and thought about how I never thought this day would come. We began Julius Caesar (using Anne White's guide, of course) with our little class. R-girl and one of last year's student's sisters aged into the class, so we have 5. As I did my pre-reading I wanted to know some things so I made a handout with a map showing Cilicia and Caesar's family tree.  That was a help to my students. We did the first lesson which was very fun.

Anna, from Little Drops of Water, taught our Paper Sloyd lesson. Unsurprisingly, it went very well! We split the big kids at one table and the younger kids at another. The kids all worked diligently and carefully and were successful at the first project!

The other days we worked steadily to get our lessons done. We had soccer three nights (one of them was a game in the remnants of Irma). R-girl scored a goal in her game!

Jason and N-boy are planning to go to the Father-Son camping trip later this month. We went and found him some hiking boots for that trip and he has worn them a lot since Tuesday - including for our before school walks.

We didn't do the Iliad lesson I had hoped to do, our Keeping was not great, and there were more attitudes and fighting than I'd prefer. BUT, it feels as though we're on the right track and I'm thankful.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesdays with Words: Villainy Nauseates

"Young though I am, I’ve been observing these three blowhards closely. I am “man”—which is to say, servant—to all three of them. Yet not one among them, if all three were to wait on me, could be my “man,” because three such fakes don’t amount to a man. Take Bardolph: he is cowardly and blustery. He acts tough, but he doesn’t fight. Pistol, meanwhile, has a lethal tongue but an inert sword. He destroys words but keeps his weapon in one piece. As for Nym, he’s heard men of valor are men of few words, so he refuses to pray lest he should be thought a coward. But he has as few good deeds as he has bad words—for he never cracked anyone’s head but his own, and that was against a post when he was drunk. They will steal anything and call it spoils. Bardolph stole a lute case, carried it for thirty-six miles, and sold it for a penny and a half. Nym and Bardolph are sworn brothers in crime, and in Calais they stole a fire shovel: I could see from that that they had no pride. They would like me to be as familiar with men’s pockets as their gloves and handkerchiefs, which goes against my manhood, because to take something from another’s pocket and put it into my own is plain stealing. I must leave them and seek some better employment. Their villainy nauseates me, and I must therefore vomit it up." Boy, King Henry V, Act III, Sc II William Shakespeare
We are reading, oh too slowly, Henry V during Whatchamacallit. We take parts and read a scene from tablets and books - taking multiple parts when necessary. The kids are way better at it than I am; in particular they differentiate characters if they have more than one part, while I just read it. Not very dramatic am I.

This little monologue from Boy struck me as he diagnosed his elders with wisdom and clarity and refused to be part and parcel to their villainy. Oh that we could see as clearly as Boy and act on that sight.

I'm glad to be back to Wednesdays with Words. While it was a nice break over the summer; looking forward to everyone's links :)

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Simple Woman's Daybook for September 11, 2017

For Today...

Looking out my window ... The pink sky winked over the horizon to the East.

I am thinking ... about dinner. Any suggestions?

I am thankful ... for the best day of school that we've had in weeks.

One of my favorite things ... is walking the dog before school. I like getting the steps and spending the time with my kiddos and the getting some wiggles out. Two took their scooters today which made for a quieter walk with M-girl.

I am wearing ... My "Atmosphere, Discipline, Life" shirt

I am creating ... clean laundry ... the dryer is running with the last load of the day. I probably should do some ironing as well but may put that off.

I am listening to ... the Classical Homeschool podcast. This episode is an interview with Richard Gamble who anthologized The Great Tradition. Jennifer and Ashley are going to work their way through the book (or part of it!) in season 3. I've been neglecting it on my shelf for years; Mystie has been reading through it, too. I'm excited to listen to the season!

I am hoping ... that today's success with a new strategy will be a harbinger of continued hard work. My experience tells me to tread cautiously.

I am learning ... to make my bed. Phooey.

In my kitchen ... I have a bunch of tomatoes and tomatillos to use.

In the school room ... I already told you we had a great day. Here's part of one of R-girl's narrations.

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In my garden ... lots of tomatoes and tomatillos. I suspect we'll have something Mexican tomorrow.

Shared Quote ... I love Madeleine L'Engle's non fiction, memoirs best. Here's a reason why:

A moment from my day ... lunch was a bit of a scramble. I found a box of Zatarain's Cilantro Lime Rice and added a can of Kidney Beans. It was yummy and filling.

Closing Notes: In case you missed it, when I was in Portland with the Schole Sisters, they invited me to record a podcast episode with them about pre-reading for the homeschool. It was a fun conversation. I love conversations like that that force me to formulate and communicate my thoughts. And with that group of some of my favorite ladies; what a blessing!

Linking up with The Simple Woman.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Wednesdays with Words: Break time

You have likely noticed that I've been inconsistent here despite the best of intentions.

I think I'll take a summer WwW break and pick back up after Labor Day.

Feel free to link posts here in the comments through the rest of the summer and continue sharing with one another. I am going to pin this to the top of ladydusk.

Love ya all.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Our Weekly Amble for August 21-25, 2017

Habits are hard y'all ...

It was the first week of our second to last term of the year. We have 2 weeks of Ambleside Online Year 6, Term 1 to finish before starting in on Term 2. I'd love to do all of Term 2 in the 4 and then 6 weeks (that's 10, total) we have before Yuletide Session. If we manage that, it'll be the first year we don't lose time over the course of a year and that would be a major win!

If we can't get it done without losing our minds, I'll be OK. We're not in a hurry.  I'm going to see if I can get the plan around. It does mean a number of days with 5-6 readings and 4 is just about right for us. I've also been learning more from my Charlotte Mason peeps about a more exact routine. So I need to think more about that. I think I'll try to institute more of that when we get to Term 2 work.  Brandy's Day in the Life post this week was especially inspirational for how to do this.

Our Monday Planning Session
We've added watching CNN 10 (formerly Student News) to our morning before school starts. The kids like knowing a little about current events and this is the shortest, least annoying means I can find. We've already had some discussions about how media -ahem- mediates the information they present.

On Monday R-girl needed some orthodontic repair, so we didn't do Whatchamacallit. Between orthodontia, first day of a new term, and the eclipse, the rest of the day was hard. Our Monday planning meeting was a struggle with people wanting their favorite books later and less liked books earlier in the week. There was a lot of wrangling. In a lot of ways it might be easier if each did their own year.

Lessons took forever on Monday and there was too much fighting.  The eclipse was cool and fun, the rest was yucky. But we persevered and finished.  Piano lessons moved from Monday to Thursday (I think this will be good, but when organ starts up the schedule will be different this year.) All three kids had soccer practices - at three separate parks beginning at different times but ending at the same time. Ack.  

I know the first day back from break is often difficult, throwing in the excitement of an EVENT made it moreso. I should have taken those things into account and thought about our school day more carefully than I did. Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, and a Life. Mama controls that and I let circumstances control me. Better preparation needed.

Soccer practice, though.
Tuesday went much better. We had a walk in the morning (which always - always - makes a difference) before lessons. We had a really good Whatchamacallit. We moved forward to Writing and Rhetoric Narrative book 2. We worked better and got things done appropriately. We've been finishing Story of the World IV and we're getting to history I remember. That's a little strange.

N-boy (age 11) School of the Woods written narration
Wednesday was a field trip day. We went to the Ohio History Connection (museum) and Ohio Village. We had a great time and learned about small town life in 1896 Ohio.

In the museum we saw historic military flags, gear, and weapons; household goods; and - surprisingly my favorite - the Natural History area. (which they called Natural History!!) We also saw a 1950s Lustron house which was crazy odd.

Of course he found an organ.

We hit the sporting goods store - N-boy needed cleats, socks, and shorts - and the grocery - I've been limping along without a plan still - on our way home. We started Harry Potter Book 6 at dinner.

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Thursday was pretty good as school goes. We had a great Whatchamacallit. We're working on 'O Captain! My Captain!' for memory work after finishing 'The Road Not Taken.' Our hymn for August is 'Loved with an Everlasting Love' and we're memorizing Isaiah 9: 2-7. We worked on some Plutarch. I want to finish Publicola before our Art and More with Friends group starts up next month. Math, readings, Latin, Copywork, Geography rounded out the day.  M-girl and N-boy both had soccer practice, too. We also had friends ask us to dog sit while they went on a trip, so that was excitement throughout the day and made it a little harder, but glad to help.

Today was hard again. It was late last night. The kids didn't get into bed until well after 9, so I let them sleep in. I got them up at 8:30 but the morning still went poorly.  We did a Minimum Viable Whatchamacallit - Bible section, poetry reading, and 5 minute Free write. Readings and math and attitudes and all took forever and necessitated one text to Daddy "So and so needs you to do math with them tonight" which resulted in a call home and more focused attention to lessons. So that was a win. But everything led to arguments and took forever. Everyone walks from now on ... and we may have no more sleeping in days during the week. Just sayin': routine is routine. Why do I always forget?

Anyway. That's been our week - some rough, some great.  My personal preparation and routines need some help, too, which is easier to structure when everyone else is back to school.  I'm excited about the prospect of two soccer free evenings per week this fall. It's the little things.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Mother's Scaffolding is Temporary ... it's for a Season

We've talked about the intricacies of scaffolding in it's base and structure - how it's put together so it is safe and provides a standard. Today I'd like to think about it's purpose.

Scaffolding is meant to be set up, yes, but it is designed to also be taken down. It's there for the building, but removed to reveal the building itself in all its glory.

Your job, mama, is for a season. You are there to help your student to build their education, yes, but ultimately you must teach them to build their own scaffold in order to continue building on their own.

Scaffolding is built to be torn away. It is impermanent.

You will not always provide it.


Before I get all maudlin, though, I want to think about why this is a wonderful thing.

As a parent (A Christian parent in particular), your job is to raise a child into an adult: an adult who stands firmly on the Christ as a foundation; an adult who can take their rightful place in society; an adult who can fulfill their responsibilities and duties.  "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6  We want to raise children who is a mature adult without our added every-day support.  Our safe standard will be pulled away from their every day life. This is as it should be.

I am not saying you have no place in your adult child's life - I'm very thankful for both Jason and my parents and their place in our lives and the lives of our children.

I digress.

I've been reading In Memoriam: A Tribute to Charlotte Mason and the Honorable Mrs. Franklin uses a slightly different metaphor (pg 117):
There is a saying of King Alfred's that I like to apply to our School,--'I Have found a door,' he says. That is just what I hope your School is to you--a door opening into a great palace of art and knowledge in which there are many chambers all opening into gardens or field paths, forest or hills. One chamber, entered through a beautiful Gothic archway, is labelled Bible Knowledge, and there the Scholar finds goodness as well as knowledge, as indeed he does in many others of the fair chambers. You see that doorway with much curious lettering? History is within, and that is, I think, an especially delightful chamber. But it would take too long to investigate all these pleasant places and indeed you could label a good many of the doorways from the headings in your term's programme.
But you will remember that the School is only a 'Door' to let you in to the goodly House of Knowledge, but I hope you will go in and out and live there all your lives--in one pleasant chamber and another; for the really rich people are they who have the entry to this goodly House, and who never let King Alfred's 'Door' rust on its hinges, no, not all through their lives, even when they are very old people.
That beautiful House of Knowledge where there are nooks and crannies, corridors, secret passageways between galleries ... isn't that what we want for our children? For ourselves? We give them entree and a little help navigating it during their school days, but it is a place of delight for the whole life.  They learn to wander and love the halls of that vast House under our care, but it soon becomes a place of exploration and where they desire to be. But nothing in Mrs. Franklin's metaphor seems to me to be aimless wandering. It is always purposeful.

Scaffolding is like this. It's helping them set foot in that big room through the intimidating door. It's walking them carefully through the galleries and introducing them to the wonders. It's showing them where and how to connect galleries together. It's a map. But they'll outgrow the need for the map - or they'll start to draw their own. "I know, I know, mom!" Sometimes they do know. (Admittedly, sometimes they don't)

My children are approaching the last half of their education at home. It feels like a long way to go, but I see the short amount of time it really is. It is time for me to start to teach them to set up their own plans and scaffolds - oh, not the whole thing, but part of it anyway in these years.  In my home where I teach habits of scholarship, help to train neural pathways, follow the shepherd by still waters, make assignments and requirements, I ought to be helping my students understand scaffolding so they can continue building in the way they should go.

Working together to plan the week's assignments. This is from AO Y6, week 11.

When we start a lesson with "What do you remember?" then pay attention, read, narrate, keep record of, then culminate with "What does this remind you of?" and a grand conversation; that's scaffolding. Perhaps they notice the pattern at a young age, perhaps they don't. In these upper grades, I want to make it more obvious. I want them to see how they appropriate knowledge and gain wisdom. I want them to see that the stability and structure are really becoming their responsibility.

Teaching our students to connect a reading back to previous reading helps them in the habit of slow reading; of taking their time and allowing ideas to marinate before adding to them. It is restful learning.

I look back to my University days and remember how I was expected to read and acquire the information necessary to pull together ideas for papers, essays, and exams. It wasn't handed to me on a platter.  At Oxford - I did not go to Oxford - the students "Read" an area of study and then meet with a tutor to discuss what they've read.  No multiple choice. No fill in the blank. Pull ideas from here and there and express them in a clear and organized discussion.

This is what we're helping our students learn to do at young ages. We present information and talk about it. We're giving them the steps to succeed at pulling together and making connections to prior knowledge and to ask questions as they delve into deeper study.

But it's hard. Children aren't regurgitating "the right answer" because we aren't looking for an answer in particular. They aren't filling out a worksheet but using their mind to incorporate readings into their context and representing it in words - whether written or oral. Narrating a complete passage or chapter is hard mental work. It takes practice and consistency and persistence. It's a skill that takes time to get good at.

Keeping is an important practice in a Charlotte Mason education. Pictures drawn from observations of the natural world, important events in history logically arranged, noting the use of will and or reason by characters in literature, and other practices help our students to grasp hold of and contextualize what the are learning. This practice is one that can become second nature when it is done habitually (not that I have obtained all this!)

Inspired by @mystiewinckler (of course), we're instituting a #Mondaymorningmeeting to set the assignments ahead for the week. Unlike Mystie, though, I get to meet with all of the children at once and we hash out what will be read when together. . There was some challenge today over some not hearing the assignments and not getting them down right. We'll keep practicing. I made a list of the readings in my notebook; then we worked together on the whiteboard to plug them into spots; then they copied them into their notebooks which is where 'assigned readings' on their Independent Student Things To Do List points them. I copy them into my book, too. . #hsplanyouryear #theindependentstudent #homeschool #homeschoolsolutions #livingbooks #charlottemasonirl #charlottemason #amblesideonline #behindthescenesatambleside #aoy6 #spiralnotebook #homeschoolchecklists
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By noticing what is connected and what isn't in their narration and keeping, we leave room for questions for future, deeper study. What effect did so-and-so's choice have on the rest of the story? Should they have done such-and-such? What is at the bottom of the Marianas Trench? How do we know when and where an eclipse will happen? Why was the Treaty of Versailles a lead-in to the Second World War?  Were the Spanish Civil War and McCarthyism connected? How? Why? Who showed bravery, love, service, virtue in this situation? How do I show those things?

More from Anthony Esolen (Out of the Ashes pg 69):
To take the highest things out of a curriculum is to attempt to win a temporary consensus by sacrificing what the education of a human being ultimately is for. We avoid religious questions at the cost of avoiding the most human questions. And thus education, which should be human, is reduced to the mechanical and the low.
and (pg 70):
We are not imagining a castle in the air. We need only restore a very old and venerable thing in the world, with its foundation solidly laid in the God-created earth, and its spire pointing towards the place where man is meant to turn.
I am coming to see that this is, perhaps, the most important part of what we are teaching our children to do. We are teaching them to learn on their own and to want to continue to do so. The information is important, yes, but not as important as learning to wield the tools of learning rightly.

You can see how these practices should be taught and required, but I hope you can also see how a child should grow into ownership of them. How scaffolding is a mother's responsibility for a season, how her support is temporary to a child, and he should learn to set up his own scaffolds in the future.

  1. Scaffolding is Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life
  2. Scaffolding in a Lesson
  3. Scaffolding Under Conditions
  4. Scaffolding Q&A