01 August 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Rambling about Life, Answering Your Questions, and More!

— 1 —

Yesterday, we had one last summer hurrah. Friend R. and I took all of our children {ahem can you say THREE five-year-old boys??} to Avila Beach for the day. Avila is just about my favorite place in all the world. And the waves are usually on the small side, which means we don't have to worry so much about the lifeguard having to pull them out -- a nice thing, when we don't have the dads with us, especially.

I didn't think about it as being our big end-of-summer thing, but it turns out, that's what it is. We don't have anything else Big planned, and I need to spend most of my days for the next two weeks working on school prep.

This was the first time I recall taking all of my children out of town without my husband ever. I mean, Friend R. was with me, but together we have too many children for one vehicle, so I drove. By myself. Out of town. That just isn't something I do. But I did it. It was so much fun. I want to do it again next year!

— 2 —

Let's talk about Swedish Drill. Because you asked. Just to clarify: I've never done it before. I could very likely fail at this. A few years ago, I put it on the chart. I read part of the book. I quit before trying. I just wasn't there yet. But my interest has been piqued again, mostly because Kathy keeps tying it to Brain Gym and noting how similar the two are.

So I looked through the book again. I decided that really it might be as simple as teaching the different positions, and then asking them to move from one to another. I think before I was turned off by the military feel of it. But I decided that just as the ugly dresses and bad hair are optional, the tone probably depends upon the teacher. So I'm going to think of it like a really low-impact aerobics class. Or something.

I'll let you know more in a year or so.

— 3 —

I wouldn't call my planning late, but it isn't early either. It's not like I'm usually up at midnight the night before school, in a panicked frenzy. I usually time it where I finish a few days before school starts. We have a pleasant weekend together, and then begin. It takes a few weeks to plan because I still read aloud, cook meals, and do laundry and stuff. I was thinking about why I do it this way. I never thought about it before, but this year I saw so many blogs discuss planning in June or early July.

There are two reasons why I do it differently. The first is that I feel like we have to have the local conference done before I can think. So I order my books before the conference, but that's about it. But second, I think that it's as simple as the fact that planning gets me excited for school. It's when I gain my vision for the year. If I get it done in early summer, all that passion and interest is frittered away, and by the time I revisited my plans, I would likely have forgotten the reasoning behind some of them. Much better {for me, anyway}, so plan and then act only a few days later.

— 4 —

I did something totally different for my planning this year, and I have Nicole to thank for it. If you haven't watched her CM planning video yet, or read the whole series she wrote, you are missing out.

Each year, I create a 36-week spreadsheet for each student. I have a tab for each week, and the Ambleside Online assignments spread out from there. I don't use the AO charts because {1} I like my pretty weekly spreadsheets, and {2} what I make is less confusing because it only includes what the children are actually doing in individual lessons -- I take out all the things I've combined in Circle Time, for example.

In the past, I've just added the reading assignments, and been done with them. This year, I'm not doing that. Instead, I'm trying an almost totally time-based schedule. So, for example, a slot will have the book name, and then in parenthesis it'll have the number of minutes I want the whole thing to take {including narration}. I feel pretty confident in doing this because I did this for a number of things last year, and we actually did more in a day than we'd done when we focused on reading a certain number of pages.

Counter-intuitive, I know.

In order to create my weekly spreadsheets, I started with a template of what the week should look like, with subject names and minutes for each slot. {I'll probably share this here on the blog next week.} From there, I am plugging in book names. I think this will work brilliantly.

On the other hand, I might return and repent come next year. We'll see!

— 5 —

AO's science had some switches this year. The absolutely fantastic science team debuted the first year of what will end up being a six-year program for the upper school years. My problem? Some of what we did this past year for Year Six was moved to Year Seven! In general, this is a good thing. I think the new way will work much better for my upcoming students. The questions remained about what to do for this particular student. At the advice of Jeanne, I simply moved Mystery of the Periodic Table, a new Year Six book, to Year Seven. We haven't done that one, and I've only heard good things about it.

— 6 —

I actually wrote a post on scheduling -- and how form brings us freedom -- for Scholé Sisters. It'll be up in a couple weeks, I think. Right on time for the implementation of our new school schedule, I presume. I'm sort of excited about it. It's one of those posts that just came pouring out of me, you know?


Projects, projects...What are you working on? I feel like the end of summer is a time of hustle and bustle...

And that is all for this Friday. I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

31 July 2014

School Prep 2014: Planning for the Average Day

I recently realized that our school start date is creeping up on me, so I've tried to resign myself to another painfully short summer's end and commence with planning. I don't want to procrastinate and then freak out due to lack of preparation. Today was a big triumph because I think I finalized my Average Day Chart. I say "think" because I always have this feeling that I've forgotten something.

Because I finally have all four children doing regular lessons -- have I mentioned the weepy "Goodbye, Preschool" post that I meant to write, but didn't?? -- but I don't want to school them for five million hours each day, I spent a lot of time staring at Nicole's matrix.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, by "a lot," I must clarify that I mean hours. I even typed up my own version so that I could move columns around to get a better view. Each time I add a student, I have to do a lot of thinking.

So I had various goals that are expressed in this chart. If I'm going to share my chart, I need to explain it, of course.

First, we have busy Tuesday afternoons most of the time. So there are certain things that do not happen on Tuesdays. They only needed to happen a few days a week anyhow, but instead of spreading them out to make all days even, I made Tuesday shorter in order to make room for an earlier lunch.

Another priority was to do as much together as possible. If you notice, my Circle Time is quite a bit longer than previous years. This is because I'm combining some things that I left separate in previous years. I'm still perfecting my Circle Time plans, but I'll be sure to post them when I'm done.

I'm also bringing everyone together for Swedish Drill in the middle of the morning. I think that'll freshen everyone up for more studying. Some things that sometimes get lost in the shuffle, such as drawing lessons, now have a place on the schedule and I have high hopes that we will be more consistent.

One of the big things I'm unsure about is attempting an AO Time with both my girls at once. I don't know that it will work, but I'm going to try it because it worked for us last year. The alternative -- spending completely individual time -- would extend the school day more than I am comfortable with.

The reason I don't have our afternoons in the chart is because I plan those more from day to day and week to week -- there is no average day, though there is certainly an average month. We have days where we do grocery shopping and days when we have 4-H meetings. There are days that we stay home and the older two are required to do a half hour of free reading and a half hour of piano practice. There are days when my dad comes and picks some or all of them up and they play at his house for the afternoon.

What else can I tell you? I suppose if you are new around here, you need to know that it says "milk" because I have goats to milk in the morning. I often do it earlier than it says on the chart, but this is the latest it can happen and still have all the rest on time.

My kindergartner will only have half an hour of individual lessons. This is when we'll do our phonics and also MEP's reception year. He'll also be present for most of Circle Time, for drill and drawing lessons, for handicrafts. It should give him a full day, without going overboard. Later in the year, I plan to add in some Aesop to do formal narration training, but for now just having him try to "remember one thing" will work during Circle Time.

For drawing lessons, I'm starting off with the beginning lessons from Donna Young. I used to make these myself back when E-Age-Twelve was a little guy; it is waaaay easier to just print them out. This will cover at least a few weeks, and then I'll probably give lessons from Draw Write Now, because we already own a couple books from the series, and we've had success with it already. Truly, I think the regular drawing will help more than any particular exercise. The lesson plans just make sure it actually happens.

My post Extras are Riches really convicted me that I need to make sure I am spreading the full feast. In my upcoming Circle Time post, you'll see the influence there as well. There are only four days on the chart because I'm planning a sort of Enrichment Friday. It's something I suggested in my post, and it's what we're trying this year. We're not in a co-op for the first time in ages, but I decided that I still prefer that rhythm. On Friday, I'm toying with some of the things missing here: Plutarch, Shakespeare, Picture Study, Composer Study, Dictation, and Nature Study. I don't have an official schedule for it yet, but they are all contenders. I always have trouble with Fridays, so mixing it up will be good for all of us.

I haven't chosen a handicraft yet. It is my big weakness and I always avoid this until the last minute. Sometimes it never happens. However, I'm trying to focus on riches: riches! When E-Age-Twelve was around this year, we did knot tying. I'm thinking about doing it again, and also teaching the girls to braid.

Now that my average day chart is done, and I have a template {based on Nicole's matrix} for each day of the week, I can start plugging in reading assignments and see what it looks like. I did a sample first week, and it all came out okay. At least, I think it did. I'm still experimenting. What is always shocking to me is how much science reading Miss Mason had them doing in the upper years; you don't really get that sense from reading her works, but from the time tables and programmes, you definitely do. It's an interesting thing, really.

I'll touch more on planning next week...I'll be steeped in it, that's for sure! Anyone else plan at the end of summer like I do?

30 July 2014

Magazines as Continuing Education

When we think of Charlotte Mason, the word magazine isn't the first to come to mind, is it? We usually think of the thousands of pages we find in her volumes. If Miss Mason was anything, it was a prolific writer. Of course, if we read those volumes carefully, we realize that some of them are compilations of articles published elsewhere. I don't know about you, but it took me years to make the mental connection between that fact, and the wealth of wisdom found in the online collection of the Parents' Review magazine.

So let's discuss a little history.

Miss Mason helped found an organization called the Parents' National Education Union, often abbreviated as PNEU. The PNEU existed to promote Miss Mason's philosophy {i.e., the principles we find delineated at the beginning of each of Mason's volumes}, educating parents who in turn directed their own children's education. This included using official PNEU schools. Some PNEU children were homeschooled, while some went to PNEU schools, but they all benefited from Miss Mason's wonderful curriculum, which was an expression of the philosophy upon which the PNEU was founded.

The PNEU was a very decentralized organization. Each meeting place was its own little club, and each little club was tied to the others by shared principles, rather than shared government. In The Story of Charlotte Mason, Essex Cholmondeley tells us:
Each branch was left free to organize itself and to make its own by-laws; each sent a yearly report on its activities to the central council.

'A broad unifying base of thought' supported the whole union. {p. 42}

The Parents' Review 

A magazine called the Parents' Review {many of the old volumes can be found and perused for free, complements of Ambleside Online and our many volunteers} was created as the "inspiring organ" for the PNEU, which was in its infancy at the time. According to Miss Mason herself, it was feared that without something like the Parents' Review to ground the PNEU, the whole thing could potentially become
a mere tool to the hand of every educational faddist who had a theory to advance. Now the PNEU owes its vitality to the fact that it is a propagandist society, existing to disseminate certain educational principles. Such a society must obviously have the means of communicating month by month with its scattered members, must guide the progress of the movement towards the end in view. {p. 27}

The Parents' Review was supposed to:
  • "Raise common thought on the subject of education to the level of scientific research."
  • Give parents some basic principles that would help them form their children's characters.
  • Keep parents in touch with the "best and latest thought on all those matters connected with the training and culture of children and young people."
Essentially, the Parents' Review was a partner with the parents as they grew in their understanding, as they became better equipped to direct their own children's educations.

L'Umile Pianta

Another {lesser-known} publication associated with Miss Mason's name is L'Umile Pianta. This was created by the students who graduated from the teacher's college at Ambleside. It was essentially the alumni magazine. Within its pages, the graduates talked with each other, encouraged each other, and furthered their own intellectual lives. Not only did former students furnish articles, but members of the Ambleside staff, as well as Miss Mason herself, also wrote for its pages. 

In fact, it was an article from L'Umile Pianta, written by Miss Mason herself, which originally inspired this entire series.

Many Avenues to Intellectual Growth

My point in this series has been to explore all the ways in which Miss Mason and her associates nurtured their own intellectual lives. These two magazines were one of those many ways. We see that whether one was a parent, or a student, one was regularly reminded of the basic principles, as well as new and living thought.

I'm going to go into this more in future posts, but for now I think that if we're trying to apply this to today, we could include blogs along with magazines. Not all blogs, of course, but certain ones would fall into this category, I think.

Next time, we'll talk about PNEU meetings.

28 July 2014

Latin for Moms: How to Determine the Gender of a 3rd Declension Noun {A Flow Chart}

I haven't written much about Latin in a while. Well, in a year. Anyhoo, that is beside the point. The point is: the third declension is a frustrating mess because it is basically the wastebasket of all declensions. I mean, yes, all these nouns are declined similarly, which tells us that they are, in fact, a family. But the declension itself is full of masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns, and telling the difference is complicated.

When my son and I were debating over this again, I decided to make a flow chart to prove that I was right help my son in his studies. I actually printed it out on index paper to make a sort of bookmark to rub it in be even more helpful. I'm sharing it here, but please note that there are some exceptions. I noted that on the chart, but I wanted to point it out, just in case. However, comma, this chart will help you determine the gender of the vast majority of third declension nouns, so it's still useful.

So here you have it:

May all your Latin journeys be blessed!

Read More in This Series:

Lesson 1: Understanding the Five Basic Cases
Lesson 2: What Does Declining Mean?
Lesson 3: A Preposition Inside the Genitive Case
Lesson 4: A Preposition Inside the Dative Case
Lesson 5: How to Determine the Gender of a 3rd Declension Noun {A Flow Chart} ← you are here