Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Peek at our Day

Here is a look at our days as they are currently shaping up. I love schedules, and it helps to have some routines in place, though we are not following a strict MOTH style schedule these days. With constantly changing baby nap times, a husband who gets home anywhere from 6:30 (rarely) to 7:30-8 (more common) etc, I have become very fluid with our days, but try to have a "skeleton" plan that we flesh out as each day requires. The times serve as pegs for the day, moments that we are working on building routines around.

8:00 chores, breakfast
walk outside
9:30 prayers, recitation, calendar
the Queen's "lessons" (see my preschool post)
history read aloud
10:30 naptime for baby
Main Lessons: math, Latin, language arts
12:30 lunch - composer study
read alouds
science reading
2:00 the Queen's story time (Peter Rabbit is a must for a smooth transition to naptime :)
2:30 the Queen's nap -
projects (mine and the kids!)
outdoor play
poetry teatime or picture study
6:00 chores, supper preparations
7:00 daddy home & dinner (my ideal :)
8:30 bedtime

Monday afternoons we have piano lessons (instructor comes to our home) and my sister in law will be bringing her kids over for Atelier art lessons starting next week.
Wednesday afternoons include a trip to the farm to pick up our CSA box, and Vespers.
Thursday afternoons we have gymnastics - this is the day I usually run all my errands.
Tuesdays and Fridays are left VERY flexible, because those are the days my husband might be off (his day off varies).
So that is what I aim for each day. Often things go crazy, and life happens, but that is part of the fun and I am learning to "go with the flow" (something my husband has been trying to teach me for 15 years - I am a slow learner).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chrismation Gown

Wanted to share a few pictures of one of my big projects this year - my newest baby nephew was chrismated and baptized into the Orthodox Church in August, and I made his gown. It is the first boy gown I have made (my husband refused to allow our little boy to wear a gown). It was a lot of fun to do a gown where the focus was on the handwork instead of the lace!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why I Home Educate

I began this post over a month ago, and have come back to it over and over again, trying to write it in a way that expresses what I feel, and sounds neither arrogant nor condemning. Please forgive me if I have failed.

Why do I homeschool?

I have pondered this question often, perhaps even more so recently as I look hard at my life and my goals for my children. Of all the questions I get about homeschooling, this is the one they never ask. Perhaps they don't want to know. Perhaps they think I will make them feel guilty. Perhaps they already know the answer, or think they know the answer. When I look at my choice, I often think about how quick some are to "evangelize" the world about homeschooling; feeling compelled to personally convince everyone around them they have made the right choice, or to convince others they should make the same choice themselves. That is not a desire I have ever really had. I do not feel the need to "preach" to anyone about homeschooling, and I think most of my non-homeschool friends would agree (at least I hope they would agree!) that I do not make it my business to convince anyone who does not have the desire. I will defend my decision without hesitation when called upon to do so. I will answer questions about homeschooling, I will give advice if asked, but it is not my place to convince someone else that my decision is right for them also. So again, I ask myself, why have we chosen to educate our children at home?

The answer is easy, and yet so very complicated.

I home educate because it is the right thing to do. I say that not with condemnation or judgment - just conviction that for my children it is the right thing to do. There are many other explanations I can give - but ultimately for me, it is a matter of feeling as if God has put me in a place where my purpose right now is to train up my children in the way they should go. I feel that I cannot effectively do that when someone else (who does not share my faith, values and beliefs) spends more time with my children than I do.

So, why do I homeschool?

I want our children to learn to walk in the Orthodox faith and become saints.

I want them to see that nothing in life comes before their love and dedication to God and His Church.

I want them to see that all learning is for God's glory, all learning exists for GOD.

I want them to learn to read so they can read the Holy Scripture and the lives of those who have walked before us and given their lives in the pursuit of eternal life.

I want them to learn grammar and spelling, logic and rhetoric, so they are able to become effective speakers and writers, and defend their faith to those who persecute them. That they, like St. Katherine, may baffle and win over even the great philosophers with the simple truth of God.

I want them to learn history so they may see God's hand over all, his love for his people and his wrath when they reject Him.

I want them to learn science and math so they may understand that we worship a God of order, not chaos; so they may stand in awe before the mind of God, so beyond our understanding.

I want them to experience the great masters of art and music, so they can see that we worship a God of beauty and harmony, and to strive toward that beauty and harmony in all areas of life.

I want them to read great literature so they may see how every story is just a part of the only story; so they may learn to discern truth and recognize when God is absent that truth becomes distorted.

There are many other reasons why I love homeschooling, but they are merely "benefits" to the job - extra perks I enjoy such as the freedom to allow my children to spend the day with Daddy when he is off on a week day, the ability to just stay home and not leave the house if I don't want to, the chance to see my children learn to read, the privilege of being the one to introduce them to the books and characters I hold so dear from my childhood, the opportunity to let my children pursue areas of learning which inspire them, the joy of letting my children spend hours outside exploring creation, the chance for them to be with each other and form friendships among themselves, the time to allow the older ones to be a part of the little ones lives as they grow, instead of being off at school all day, the luxury of just deciding to pick up and do something wonderful when the opportunity presents itself, and not be ruled by the school schedule.... I could go on, but then it might start sounding "preachy" - and I promised not to do that :)

So, while I recognize that some day circumstances may require that my children go to school, for now, when they are so young and impressionable, I will treasure the time God gives me with them, and do my best to live up to the job he has called me to do.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Review: Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization

I have been looking at this program for a while now, but could not decide if it was really worth it. It seems like the sort of think I could do myself, without buying a "program". Not sure why I finally caved - except I have a curriculum addiction that makes it hard to say no!
First, for anyone who has any doubts about the benefits of memory work, read this article here.
Now that you are convinced :) - go buy this program NOW!
Seriously though, I am very pleased with the purchase. The program consists of a spiral bound booklet with 4 levels of poems and a CD set with the poems recited by the author. Within the booklet is a very thorough discussion of not just why we should have our children memorize, but also why it is important they memorize poetry (good poetry, not that Shel Silverstein cr*p). The author (Andrew Pudewa) points out that in his years of teaching, the one thing children seem to be lacking the most is the ability to write well. He argues that "you can't get something out of a child's brain that isn't there to begin with." We cannot expect our children to write well if their head's are not full of examples of excellent writing. He proposes that poetry is a most effective method for "creating a large database in [the child's] brain of reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns." Poetry is easy to memorize, and full of higher vocabulary they may not be exposed to in every day reading. Poetry is full of imagery, beautiful language and sophisticated sentence structures. Children are going to fill their heads with something, so we can select what goes in, or we can allow them to go into default memorization mode where the brain stores the lyrics to every commercial jingle and pop song they hear (there are some good language patterns for you!).
Examples of poems chosen are At the Seaside (R.L. Stevenson), Trees (Kilmer), The Tiger (Blake) and The Hunting of the Dragon (Chesterton). The selections get longer and more sophisticated as you proceed through the levels, but there are plenty of simple and appealing poems in the early level that even Kindergartners can join in on the fun (the Queen has already memorized the first two poems with her brother and sister).
The only drawbacks I can see to this program are 1)cost ($65) and 2) the author's voice. Reason 2 is what made me hesitate for so long, as I have heard others complain that his voice is not what they expected and some found it too high-pitched. I would suggest you go watch this YouT*be video to see for yourself, but I found that it really was an overblown issue, and it has not bothered the kids at all. Reason 1 caused me to pause and consider only buying the book ($24), but I am so grateful I did not. It is well worth having all the poems already recorded (rather than me recording them myself), and it is a good chance for the kids to hear someone other than mom teach them! I downloaded the CD's to my i-P*d, and each morning we recite all the poems we are working on. The kids can listen to them when they want to review, and I don't have to do anything! For those with a bit of patience, it is possible to find a used set for cheaper on such boards at WTM. With four levels, I anticipate using this program for the next 3-4 years with the first two kids. The booklet also includes a series of charts to help you establish a pattern of reviewing the poems and to help each child track the poems they have memorized. In all, I think it is an excellent tool, and is quickly becoming a favorite activity in our household.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Preschool Ideas

I am not a big one for "planning" preschool themes, but Jen has inspired me, so I have decided to at least do a few things around a topic each month. I like the idea of having seasonal topics that relate well for science, so we are going to start with apples. The older ones will be included with some higher level books and drawing assignments in their nature notebooks. Here is what I am planning for September.

Christian Studies:
The Boy, A Kitchen, and His Cave
icon of St. Euphrosynos
Three in One: A Picture of God

Language Arts:
letter "a"
Flower Fairies Alphabet Coloring Book

counting apples
numbers 1-3
whole and half
Apple Fractions for older ones

growth cycle of apples
kinds of apples
where apples grow
apple blossoms
5 senses
How Do Apples Grow - good reader for little princess
Apples - higher level science for older ones

Geography, History, Literature:
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
Johnny Appleseed
The Apple & the Arrow - for olders
The Three Golden Apples - Hawthorne version Greek myth

color and fruit vocabulary
"me gusta" phrase usage

apple prints with apples
shading lessons for older ones

visit apple orchard (we actually just did this last week)
pick apples from our own apple trees
make apple pie & applesauce from our apples (maybe even apple ice cream?)
apple recipes to explore
here is another tasty sounding recipe - for apple bread

Well, I am sure I have missed some great ideas, so if you have any suggestions, hit me with them! And thanks Jen for motivating me! I am glad I finally decided to go with Amazon Prime - I can procrastinate on planning, find a great idea from someone else, and get the books here in just a few days :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Our School Plans - Revisited and Revised

We have had a slow start - but we are finally officially back to school! I wanted to repost our plans for the school year, since I have greatly revamped them after some soul searching conversations with a few homeschool friends whose opinions I hold in high regard :) The major change is, I am going back to keeping them both in the same history period. This is a little bit of a let down since I spent a good many hours creating a fun and exciting plan to study Ancients with the little princess - but oh well, I guess that can wait a year or so and then I will have it ready to go when we need it! I will post that plan next week for anyone who might find it useful. Ultimately, I do not think it is practical for me to try to keep up with so many history periods, especially when the other two reach school age. So here is a look at my revised school year.

2nd grader
Christian Studies:
Old Testament Children's Bible Reader (she will read these aloud to me or her little sisters)
various children's lives of the saints books
Let the Little Children Come to Me

Math on the Level - we are just beginning with this, and I am really liking it, so hopefully things will go smoothly, even though it does require more work from me.

English Studies
Yesterday's Classics - First and Second Readers - she is loving these
Explode the Code - book 4 and maybe 5 depending on her pace
The Sentence Family - I am teaching this at a once a month co-op - the first lesson went great and I think the kids will really enjoy it
Copywork - poems for poetry book
I have decided NOT to continue with SWR with her - instead we will focus on ETC and when she is ready move into Spelling Wisdom for copywork and spelling practice.

Colonization and American Revolution - books to be posted later :)

4th grader
Christian Studies
Golden Children's Bible
Memoria Press Christian Studies I
Forty Saints - lives of saints, memory verses and copywork included in this

Math on the Level - and Singapore if needed

Lively Latin

English Studies
Classical Writing - Aesop - we played around with this last year, but I finally feel ready to teach it properly so hopefully we will get through it early
The Sentence Family - with the co-op

Colonization to the American Revolution - Time Travelers series - these are so much fun!

My favorite purchase for this year so far is Developing Linguistic Patterns through Poetry Memorization (fancy name for a poetry memorization program :) I will post a review on this next - but suffice it to say, it is a big hit in our house right now.

I am in the process of selecting our artists and composers for the year, I will post those when I have decided for sure. We are learning art technique at our co-op using Visual Manna as the core, and I will continue doing Atelier with the kids and my nieces & nephew.

Also, a note about science. We are currently reading Among the Pond People, and for now I am going to stick with that. As the seasons change we will be doing some tree studies, and in the spring focus on plants and butterflies, but for now I am just enjoying reading aloud the stories and letting the kids illustrate them. We have also become more consistent with our nature notebooks and nature walks.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008