"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

TJEd from Interesting Places

When my husband and I decided that the principles of TJEd were the right ones for our family, it was ALL new to me. My "conveyor belt mentality" was so ingrained in my whole being, I felt I needed to do everything I could to train it out of me. So, I read all I could about TJEd.

One of the things I liked best about TJEd was the concept that what a student learns is not dependent on the teacher, but on the student. What a freeing revelation that was for me as a home educator. I need to gently guide them and inspire them to learn.

Today, I read something written in 1945 by Angelo Patri. He was the author of The Children's Institute: Graded Courses of Study (Correlated to The Book of Knowledge) that inspired ME to write this blog post. We got this gem of a collection thanks to Christmas monies received last year from our collective families. (We also bought the set of Chronicles of America.) This set of children's encyclopedias was recommended by the A2 curriculum I use along with other materials.

I grabbed this little book that came along with the encyclopedia set today because this year, so far, has been all about the 4 R's. It's time to take what they are learning with the 4R's and apply it to critical thinking exercises. So far this year MUCH of our Science and History have been gleaned through reading alone. Now, I want to have them apply their reading and writing skills toward a better end: the study of other subjects. I set upon this goal by seeking out the two little gifts that unexpectedly came with the encyclopedia set.

The Children's Institute: Graded Courses of Study (Correlated to The Book of Knowledge) includes outlines, questions linking subject matter to incidents of everyday life, and achievement testing using The Book of Knowledge as their source of information. I started by reading the introduction, addressed separately to the student, parent and teacher. This introduction by Patri aptly outlines the 7 Keys to Education that Oliver DeMille explained in the first book I read about TJED, A Thomas Jefferson Education.

It was the section address to teachers that really caught my attention. I'll teach each exert and apply it to TJEd.
...We know that we can help a child, according to his power, to find his talents and increase them. We can set his tastes. We can teach him where to look for information and help him to form the habit of looking for it and using it rightly. We can give the child a certain attitude toward life that will bring success and happiness. Beyond that we do little. From there on each child must help himself.
My kids know it is their job to do their work and learn. I can lead them down a path, but I can not make them learn something. I need work on inspiring them, though...
The teacher strives to help his pupil gain knowledge and make the right use of it independently; to make the unknowing child conscious of his plan and purpose in coming to school; to make him his own teacher. Once the child gets the idea the teachers' burden is lifted and his task becomes a joy. The unwilling child becomes the eager searching child whom it is a delight to serve....Education lies in personal experiences, personal responsibility to work and conduct.

Also, I am not a fan of traditional textbooks. We do use Faith and Life for our Religion. My kids read McGuffey as part of their daily reading, and we have used Math textbooks but we don't use textbooks in the traditional sense. Much of my kids' religion comes from reading real books like St. Patrick's Summer or The Life of Our Lord for Children by Marigold Hunt or stories of great Catholic Saints. We mostly read classics. Patri says:
...The textbooks are, of necessity, meager. Their content is limited by the size of the book and the time allowed to study. The teacher's energy is limited also. Nothing so depletes one's vital forces as a teaching day. ..

One thing I wish to impart, more than anything, is the ability to FIND information. I want them to know how to look things up in paper form and in electronic form. I want them to be able to think critically enough to determine what material imparts good, valid, real information. Much of what is on the Internet today seems to come from "so-called" experts. You must be as critical of your sources as you are of your information:
...This is the day of specialized knowledge, the day of speed and accuracy. No time is allowed for ignorance or blundering, no excuse is granted the worker who in not equipped for his task...It is for this emergency that THE BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE is offered. Teach your pupil its use and you have opened wide the door to an enriched self-education. Teach him the right use of this set of books and you have given him the means to serve his highest educational ambitions...
And, one thing I find more important than anything as a home educator and parent is teaching your child not what to learn, but how to learn. My kids are actively involved in deciding what they learn. I ask their opinion on what books they would like to read, along with trying to inspire them to try new things. I also need to teach them the discipline to learn and follow through on things they start, even if they are hard.

...Things turn about a little. Take the child into confidence about his education. Show him the course of study as it is set down and explain that it is the fund of knowledge that every school child of his age and power can master. Show him how to follow it through step by step and how to enrich it by the related reading. Teach him how to test his knowledge. Allow him to put his creative instinct on a job and you have given him the best of gifts, the power of self-help.
At the end of this mission, Iwant my kids to see me not as their teacher, but their mentor. I hope to have the humility to realize I can't teach them everything, the courage to let others mentor them when I can't and the sense to let them find their own wings. I haven't finished my education yet. I expect that will take my entire life.
...If you can take this attitude toward teaching you will find your function has shifted from that of task-master to that of the leader and guide. You will find yourself acting as an inspirational force rather than as the dull, compelling dictator. You will discover that there is much of the adventure in search of knowledge still open to you and you will go forward with your pupils.
This clinches it for me.
...He who opens to the questioning mind of a child the knowledge that increases his powers and stimulates his created instinct blazes a trail for a new, a nobler race.
My hope is to raise statesmen.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More on Spell to Write and Read

Some things are just logical to some, but not to me. Sometimes I need a hammer over the head to get things. Things like this:

Our pediatrician (who homeschooled his three children) told me that the best indicator of how well a student is doing in K-5 is how well they read. From grades 6-12, it's how well they write. In order for children to fluently write (not handwriting, but the act of writing information from their brain on to paper, perhaps following an assignment), they absolutely must be able to:
1) fluently handwrite (cursive is my choice and I'll get into that later...) or type
2) spell
3) understand the rules of grammar
4) think critically

If they can't do any one of those things, writing becomes a road block. Boys, in particular, hate the whole writing process. Here's my theory on why. For the most part, we skip step one or decide it's not important or dismiss boys from handwriting. I did.

My first born had two eye surgeries within the first three years of his life and they did not correct his problem of bi-lateral strabismus (both eyes crossed). Glasses did not correct the problem, either. So, we went to occupational therapy seeking help with fine motor skills that were lagging because of his visual deficiencies. His brain would shut off his left eye. He had no depth perception. We came to find out he had issues with primitive reflexes that had been retained. Many of the reflexes that infants have as a survival instinct remained intact and did not convert into postural reflexes. After three years of visiting a specialist in Chicago, guess what? His eyes straightened out and they were both working again. Unfortunately, his fine motor skills were still easily 4 years behind. So, we went to occupational therapy, AGAIN. Sadly, the therapist dismissed him, telling me we should not expect him to do more than be able to sign his name and print basic information for things like job applications. I'm sorry, but I'm not willing to give up on my son quite that easily!

Unfortunately, I didn't know which way to go to help him when we got that diagnosis 3 years ago. We had been using Handwriting Without Tears since Kindergarten and it was the program recommended by the occupational therapist as well. However, even with the cues and tricks they recommended, my son was still having difficulty with spacing and even remembering HOW to create the letters. We moved to cursive in 3rd grade because I didn't want him to "fall behind" (ha ha). He hated it. I gave up and got him a typing program because I wanted him to be able to express himself somehow.

Fast forward a year. I discovered the Thomas Jefferson Education approach. TJEd has distinct phases of learning based on age AND development. I'm including the age here only as the development description part takes too long and you should REALLY read The Phases of Learning by Oliver DeMille. Here's a very brief description:
CORE: Age 0-7 - learning right and wrong, good and bad, truth from untruth, beauty from ugly, discipline and how to be a good worker
LOVE OF LEARNING: Age 8-11 - Have fun learning, working on projects of interest, Kidschool - teaching basics of education, but much of their education is gleaned from reading classics
SCHOLAR - Age 12-16 In depth work on projects of interest in which the student researches and writes on topics of interest (think great big unit study with a research or thesis paper at the end) using classics, led by mentors
DEPTH PHASE - Age 17-21 Even deeper development of thinking, writing and research skills, typically done at a liberal arts college

This is the type of education we want our children to have. We want them to have the quality of education that our great fore-fathers had. We want them to have a statesman's education. A statesman is a man who is a respected leader in national or international affairs. That means we want a leadership education for our children, based on the classics. We want to teach them how to think, not what to think. That is what a liberal arts education is all about.

So, if you have read this far, thank you. Now on to Spell to Write and Read. I have owned this curriculum since 2005. I didn't use it because it was so "intimidating." What I mean by that is that it is spread between two books, also including flash cards, spelling logs. I really didn't understand what I had purchased when I bought it. Someone has recommended it to me for good spelling lists. So, I thought I had only bought the spelling list, but instead got the entire program. When I got it, I became overwhelmed (get out the hammer, please). What I didn't realize is that I had the solution to making my kids good writers all along. I packed it back up and put it away for a while.

In 2007, a very nice friend told me she was using after attending a two day seminar in Wisconsin. Wow! She loved it. So, she was kind enough to sit me down for 2 hours to tell me how it worked (I was still intimidated). So at the beginning of school year 2007, I tried it with the kids, but left out some of the key components because I didn't understand it (i.e. I didn't read it well enough - still overwhelmed). We stuck with it for two months and the kids didn't like it because I wasn't using it correctly.

This summer, after trying to decide what to do about my "non-writer", I decided to talk to my dear friend Sue. Sue has a son, same age as mine, but with no fine motor difficulties. Guess what? She was having the same problem with getting him to write. The hand writing process was too tedious for him. His spelling wasn't very good. He didn't like grammar lessons.

Then, like a light bulb, it came to me (or the hammer finally met my head). How can these boys possibly write well, when they can't handwrite (cursive or manuscript)? My son was spending ALL his brain cycles on trying to remember how to make the individual letters! That took so much thought and recall, that he could not get to the spelling part. Often, he'd have to ask me to tell him the word again because he forgot what he was supposed to spell because he was concentrating so hard on writing the letters! And, how could he write sentences? His thoughts got lost when he was trying to make the letters, then spell the words, then remember the grammar rules! No wonder this was so hard!

What was the solutions? Sadly, my friends, practice and going back to square one. Handwriting had to become fluent. He needed to learn to write the letters without looking at a model or having to think through the strokes. Then, he had to be able to spell the words fluently. Then he had to construct the sentence properly in his head. Then he needed to get it down on paper. So it all came back to handwriting. After doing a tremendous amount of research this summer, I decided we would learn cursive and go back to a very phonetic method of spelling.

I pulled that Spell to Write and Read program off the dusty shelf and I enrolled myself in a two day class. The instructor was phenomenal! And, she helped answer many of my questions just by how well she taught the class. By the way, I am a professional educator, so I am pretty picky about who I praise. And, I walked away from the class confident in my choice, confident on my theory and confident that we would have good writers after this year of school. I'm such a big fan, I've converted another homeschooling family down the street to Spell to Write and Read.

I used to be a fan of accommodating. I'm not any longer. He had to practice. We also had to work with his difficulty with crossing midline. That one was easy. Brain Gym, developed by Paul Dennison is brilliant. They work on helping kids (especially kinesthetic learners with difficulties) overcome their learning problems. I came across Brain Gym when I started homeschooling and have been using it ever since. Kids that have difficulty with crossing midline have difficulty with letter directionality, hand writing and spelling. One Brain Gym exercise that is super easy and so helpful with this is the lazy eight. Draw an infinity symbol (or a number eight side ways) on a large sheet of paper. Start by having the trace the symbol, being sure to position the paper with the middle of the symbol at their middle.

After working on midline issues, I started the Cursive First program. This program is integrated in the Spell to Write and Read program. I bought the actual curriculum and LOVE it. My first grader is now learning cursive after teaching herself how to print at age four. She has many bad printing habits. Learning cursive is good middle ground for her and I, as she often doesn't want to be taught that which she already (thinks she) knows. My son had to relearn cursive. He's doing great.

Then, we started Spell to Write and Read. He scored a grade below his actual grade, which was a nice surprise. He has to write his spelling words in cursive. Spell to Write and Read starts out by teaching the 70 phonograms and 28 spelling rules most often used in the English language. There are no sight words, which I like because telling kids just remember this word isn't a logical approach to reading or spelling. I tested each of my older children to determine where to place them on the Wise Guide to Spelling (the spelling words, based on the Ayres List of most common words in the English language). I cheated a little. My daughter should be about 14 lists ahead of my son, but I figured a little practice wouldn't kill her and she needs to work on her humility.

Each school day is all about Spelling, Writing and Reading at our house now. We review the phonograms each day. We spell their 20 spelling words for the week, marking the phonograms used to spell the words and any special spelling rules. Guess what? My non-writer is spelling very well and his cursive is more than just readable (which it wasn't last year), it's very nice. He's still not liking writing essays. But, this is a process, right? We must crawl before we walk. They are learning to write nicely in cursive (fluently, too). They are learning the critical thinking process necessary to decode words in order to read and spell. They are learning grammar along the way, as that is an integral part of SWR (Spell to Write and Read) and they are practicing. I hope to be able to report at the end of the year that my son is no longer a struggling writer. Stick with us and I'll tell you how it's going.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Girl's Book Club

As many of you know, I like to host book clubs for my kids. I think reading classic literature is vital in developing their language art skills, teaching history through fiction, and building character.
We will be reading two series of books by a great author, Hilda Van Stockum and published by Bethlehem Books. Each series has 3 books. 
We would like to meet at our house every month to discuss the book. I will lead the discussion at both a literary and religious level. We will fill in a worksheet using the Socratic Method of learning where I ask questions and help them to discover plot, setting, characters, theme and conflict within the story. They will take home a list of vocabulary terms to fill in for the next meeting. 
Unlike other book clubs I’ve done in the past, there will be no thematic craft or thematic snack. Snacks will be provided by participants on a rotating basis. The fee is $1 to cover the cost of copies for the book club. 
This book club is for girls age 8-12.  Here are the series and book titles:

The Mitchells Series by Hilda van Stockum

Timeline: 1940's America/Canada
176 pp - 256 pp, Ages 10-up
1. The Mitchells: Five for Victory
2. Canadian Summer
3. Friendly Gables

The Bantry Bay Series by Hilda van Stockum

Timeline: 1930's, Ireland
239 - 293 pp, Ages 10-up
1. The Cottage at Bantry Bay

2. Francie on the Run
3. Pegeen
The stories are about large Catholic Families. The good news is that our County Library has one or two copies available.

Boy's Book Club - G. A. Henty

As many of you know, I like to host book clubs for my kids. I think reading classic literature is vital in developing their language art skills, teaching history through fiction, and building character.

My son will be reading several G. A. Henty historical fiction books this year. I would like to offer that if others are interested in having their son’s read along with us, they would learn a lot AND have a great time discussing the books. Here’s some information about the G. A. Henty books:
While many children's adventure books that emphasize the traits of courage, high moral character, diligence, perseverance and other valuable personal virtues were written during this period, G. A. Henty's books are unique. Each adventure takes place within the setting of some important period in human history. From the fall of Jerusalem to the American Civil War, Henty's heroes live their adventures within exciting historical events. The reader learns much detailed history while he is being entertained and taught by exemplary heroes.
Moreover, through his personal experiences and careful scholarship, Henty provides very detailed and accurate accounts of history. While one might read a section of a history book concerning, for example, the conquering of Mexico by Spain, most such accounts are dry and shallow in comparison with Henty's tale of the primary happenings and of the way of life of the people caught up in those events.
Henty wrote 72 historical fiction novels for children. I’m using _The Boy’s Guide to Historical Adventures of G. A. Henty_ as a guide for choosing the most interesting books. I’d like to go through some in chronological order. Now to be fair, Henty has been some books that have an anti-Catholic bent (he was protestant) pertaining to times during and just after the Reformation, so I have DISCLUDED those from the list. Many of his novels show up in Catholic Reading lists (like Angelicum.)
The way I would like to run this book club is to have the boys complete the book before our meeting date. At our first meeting, I will introduce the boys to Mr. Henty (via biographical information) to help them understand why he wrote as he did. We will fill in a worksheet using the Socratic Method of learning, where I ask questions and help them to discover plot, setting, characters, theme and conflict within the story. They will take home a list of vocabulary terms to fill in for the next meeting. Unlike other book clubs I’ve done in the past, there will be no thematic craft or thematic snack. If you sign up for the book club, you would need to bring a nut-free/peanut-free snack to share one time. There will be some time for the boys to stretch their legs and re-enact some of the book during that time. The cost is $1 per boy to cover copying costs.
This book club is for boys 9-12.  Here’s the list of books we’ll discuss them:
_The Cat of Bubastes_ (Ancient Egypt – 1250 B. C.)

The Young Carthaginian_ (Punic Wars – 220 B. C.)  

_Winning His Spurs_ (Crusades– 1188)

_ A Knight of the White Cross_(Rhodes – 1480)  

_In the Reign of Terror_ (France - 1793)

 _With Lee in Virginia_ (Virginia, USA – 1860)
    The Library System has some copies of these books available if you don’t wish to purchase your own copy or you can read them online or print your own at: http://henty.ae6gn.com/listbooks.php?sort=year or here: http://www.gahentyonline.com/example/booklist.html.   These books are all in the public domain.  If you have an eReader device or the ability to read books on your computer, you don't need to spend a dime!

    Sunday, August 30, 2009

    Book & Movie Recommendation

    My husband is a big movie buff. He loves movies that teach great moral lessons that we can share with the kids.

    Two weeks ago, he brought home Horatio Hornblower: Duty from the public library to watch. I saw 10 minutes of it because it was a movie to be watched on my "night out". I LOVED IT. They LOVED IT. It's an A&E production based on the C. S. Forester Horatio Hornblower Series written between 1937 and 1967.

    C. S. Forester is most well known for _The African Queen_. He was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1899. He live his early years in England. At the beginning of World War II, he came to the US to help produce propaganda to encourage American support of the war effort. To pay the bills, he was also writing a screen play about the Napoleonic Wars. Unfortunately, Captain Blood was released just as he was working on his movie script. He was disheartened and gave up. However, still needing to make a living, he started writing the Horatio Hornblower series. His first book, known as _Beat to Quarters_ in the United States, was a huge success. He added books for thirty years to the series and readers, famous and not, sung his praises. Here are a few famous men talking about the Hornblower series:

    "I recommend Forester to everyone literate I know." - Ernest Hemingway

    "I find Hornblower admirable."- Winston Churchill

    I'm always looking for good books to use as book club material. As my children move closer to the Scholar Phase, I'm changing how we do our book clubs. This year I'm doing a literary book club for each of my kids where we'll used the Socratic method of literary analysis to discuss the book. We'll be using outlining the book using the worksheets from Teaching the Classics available from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. I got so excited about the Horatio Hornblower books that I was about to do this for my son's group.

    I reserved all eleven volumes of the series at the public library. I picked up the first on Monday. _Mr. Midshipman Hornblower_ was written in 1950 as a prequel. It's not supposed to be very good. In fact, as I read the reviews I felt myself starting to be a bit disappointed. It was a bit disheartening to see people say it was not nearly as good as the others that were written earlier. But, I usually have to judge things for myself and I'm glad I did. I didn't get to start reading the book until Tuesday evening.

    I must admit I was a bit depressed after reading the first chapter. I won't spoil it for you, but I found the content too deep for a 6th grade boy's book club. I could see myself doing it starting in 8th grade, however. I was about to give up reading it. My husband, wise as always, encouraged me to just read another chapter and give it a chance.

    I wanted to resist. My time is so precious these days, having 6 kids under 12. However, part of the TJEd philosophy is "You, not them" and I tend to forget that. I have been rereading _Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning_ by Oliver DeMille and I had a completely different take away this time. I get so hung up on the day to day that I often forget my goals. I want a Leadership Education, too. I need to be reading the Classis, too. So, here was my chance and my husband was willing to help me find the time to do it. I'd be silly not to take the time.

    So, I kept reading. Yesterday was one of those days we spent hours in the car driving my nieces back to Wisconsin, visiting my 90 year old grandma and visiting my best friend from junior high and high school. We were in the car for about 4 hours of the day. I normally use that time to talk with my husband. We don't often get concentrated amounts of time to just talk, free of media or children. We did have children with us, but most were occupied visiting with their cousins or sleeping. Instead of talking with my husband, I read. He encouraged it, too.

    Let me tell you, reader. I love the book so far. I'm on page 222 of 310 pages and I can't even believe I stopped to write this post. So, I now have the other 10 books in my possession from the library and I will be sneaking off to read whenever I have a spare moment.

    If you have a young man (teen aged years), have them read this book series. If you are interested in helping them develop values and character, have them read this book. Horatio starts out as a 17 year old boy placed on a ship as Midshipman. Get to Wikipedia often to look up the TONS of nautical terms you are not going to know or recognize. Talk about the choices he had to make. Talk about why Mathematics was so important to his career and talk about the life-and-death situations he was place in with regularity and how he survived. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Book Clubs of the Past

    The Knights of Freedom
    Book Club
    Our Founding Fathers
    First Fridays from 1:30 – 3:30
    February - May
    Mission: The mission of Knight of Freedom is to create lasting friendships with boys of high character, active minds and busy hands, to introduce moral leadership activities and opportunities, to bond and move through life together.

    Membership is open to boys aged 7-12.

    1. Monthly Meetings, two hours in length: Each meeting begins with an opening ceremony that includes prayer or scripture and pledge of Allegiance.
    2. Reading and discussion of biographies of great men: The boys read one biography per month from the Childhood of Famous Americans series. This meeting also includes a presentation by the advisor on the era in which the famous person lived. There may be an occasional guest speaker as the advisor deems necessary.
    3. Leadership training and experience: This makes up the other part of the meeting. Basic parliamentary procedure is taught. The advisor gives a short lesson on leadership. Each boy then gives a 5-10 minute presentation on the topic of his choice. For example, cooking, volcanoes, airplanes, piano recitals, Johnny Appleseed, Big Foot, Legos. This helps him develop leadership skills while increasing the feeling of brotherhood in the club. Lessons on knighthood are given during the first meeting. The lesson will include details about armor, King Arthur’s round table, weapons, the code of honor and the “Armor of God”.
    4. Tuition: $20 for supplies. Book cost is not included. There are MANY copies available through the Library system.

    Meeting 1 - February
    • Prayer
    • Pledge of Allegiance
    • Introduction to Parliamentary Procedure
    • Lesson on Knighthood
    • Discussion of George Washington – Childhood of Famous Americans Series
    • What is a Patriot, Liber and Public Virtue?
    • Activity Plywood Shield w/Leather Straps & Snack
    • Time permitting – Optional PVC Swords w/Foam Padding (additional $3 for materials) and practice fencing

      Meeting 2 - March
      • Prayer
      • Pledge of Allegiance
      • Discussion of John Adams – Childhood of Famous Americans Series
      • Diplomacy & Foreign Affairs for Kids
      • Member Presentations
      • Activity (Paint a duck decoy) & Snack
      • Time Permitting – Duck Shooting w/Bow and Arrow
      • (PVC Bows and dowel arrows optional – additional $3)

      Meeting 3 - April
      • Prayer
      • Pledge of Allegiance
      • Discussion of Thomas Jefferson – Childhood of Famous Americans Series
      • History o f the U.S. Government
      • Member Presentations
      • Activity Jefferson Wheel Cypher & Snack
      • Time Permitting – Secret Code Cracking

      Meeting 4 - May
      • Prayer
      • Pledge of Allegiance
      • Discussion of Ben Franklin – Childhood of Famous Americans Series
      • How to debate
      • Member Presentations
      • Activity Build a Kite & Snack
      • Time permitting - Kite Fighting after class at local park

      Wednesday, August 19, 2009

      Liberty Girls - Kirsten

      Here's the girl's book club this year:
      Announcing - Liberty Girls Book Club
      Kirsten: A Minnesota Liberty Girl
      Assorted Fridays from 1:30 – 4:00
      September – December

      Mission: Liberty Girls Book Club is a club offering young girls in grades 4-6, an exciting opportunity to learn about American History through historical fiction, narration, hands on creative and explorative experiences, mentors and social interaction with other homeschoolers.

      Vision: Little girls want to grow up to be great women. To do this, they need models and inspiration. As young girls, they also want to try out the things they read about, to be able to understand how it was for other American Girls and how it was for girls living long ago. They want to get messy, dress up, go places, have adventures and form friendships that last. Liberty Girls offers an avenue to meet these needs through stories, activities, cooking, games, discussions, special guests and producing a play in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.

      Registration: Club membership is for 4 months: $12. This will cover all of the expenses associated with the meeting activities. The cost of the books is not included. However, there are MANY copies available at the County Library.

      Reading: We’ll use the American Girls Series: Kirsten, reading the six books in 3 months (2 books a month), with the last month meeting used for the play. Books are approximately 60 pages in length each. Kirsten is a fictitious girl living in 1854 in Minnesota. Each meeting has been designed to correspond to the books for that month allowing each girl to experience for themselves some of the things Kirsten did during that time. All members are required to read the book before the meeting.

      What does Mom have to do? Just help your daughter finish the book each month, bring your daughter on time, pick her up at the end, help her prepare for a one time narration, and help with one meeting or the play. Costume for the play is white shirt, mid calf to ankle length skirt, nice shoes and optional shawl. If your daughter has a long dress she would like to wear instead, that would be fine.

      Narrations: We remember a story better when we tell it to our friends. Each girl will get to give one narration to the book club members during the opening ceremony of each meeting. This should be a retelling of a part of the book featured that meeting that20she decides to share. She can dress up, act out, draw pictures, have props, rewrite it in her own words, put it into verse, sing a song, whatever she is excited about doing to express this part to her friends. A narration should take 5 minutes. We’ll have a sign up sheet at the first meeting.

      Program Outline

      September – Book: Meet Kirsten & Kirsten Learns a Lesson

      Program overview for the girls
      Narration sign up
      Lesson and Discussion: We will trace Kirsten's route on a map and talk about health issues of Kirsten’s time. We will learn a few Swedish words. We will learn more about Singing Bird, her tribe and what her life was like.
      Craft – Make a rag doll.
      Snack – Swedish Coffee bread.
      Play and Talent DESIGNATIONS (Play parts will be assigned by picking names out of a hat)
      7 female roles

      October – Book: Kirsten’s Surprise & Happy Birthday, Kirsten
      4 Narrations
      Lesson and Discussion: We will learn more about St. Lucia's Day and tornadoes.
      Craft – small quilted potholder.
      Snack – St. Lucia Buns.
      Read through play. Have you memorized Act 1&2?

      November – Book: Kirsten Saves the Day & Changes for Kirsten
      3 Narrations
      Lesson and Discussion: We will play games like they played on the Fourth of July. We will also learn about the black be ars in Minnesota, fur trading and bee keeping.
      Craft – bees wax candle
      Snack – Pepparkakor (Swedish Cookies)
      Play practice. Do you have Act 3&4 memorized?
      December – Play
      Practice Play
      Play Home is Where the Heart
      Snack – Swedish cookies

      Boy's Science Club

      It's that time of year again and I start thinking of clubs for my Love of Learning aged kids. It's important at this age that they have the opportunity to learn with others and see how others think. I also want them to be comfortable participating in group activities.

      This year, my son is doing a Science Club. Feel free to use this syllabus. I am using a curriculum that already exists and requires work on fine motor skills, something on which my son needs to work.

      Boy’s Science Club

      4th – 6th Grade Boys

      The World of Tools and Technology

      2nd Friday of the Month

      Open to 6 boys

      $35.00 each, includes all supplies and lab materials

      Using the GREAT SCIENCE ADVENTURES curriculum:



      Materials Covered

      Homework due before class:

      Labs and activities done during class:

      Class 1

      Lessons 1-4

      · Create books 1-4

      · Read each book

      · Build a force meter to be used for other classes

      · Create a timeline book “Tools in Time”

      · Perform 5 labs

      · Create 4 graphic organizers

      · Take home assignment to be completed for next week (Experiences, Investigations and Research assignment)

      Class 2

      Lessons 5-10

      · Create books 5-10

      · Read each book

      · Complete take home assignment

      · Update the timeline book “Tools in Time”

      · Perform 3 labs

      · Create 10 graphic organizers

      · Build a screw

      · Take home assignment to be completed for next week (Experiences, Investigations and Research assignment)

      Class 3

      Lessons 11-14

      · Create books 11-14

      · Read each book

      · Complete take home assignment

      · Update the timeline book “Tools in Time”

      · Make 2 levers

      · Perform 5 labs

      · Create 5 graphic organizers

      · Take home assignment to be completed for next week (Experiences, Investigations and Research assignment)

      Class 4

      Lessons 15-19

      · Create books 15-19

      · Read each book

      · Complete take home assignment

      · Update the timeline book “Tools in Time”

      · Make a wheel and axle and some pulleys

      · Perform 5 labs

      · Create 7 graphic organizers

      · Take home assignment to be completed for next week (Experiences, Investigations and Research assignment)

      Class 5

      Lessons 20-24

      · Create books 20-24

      · Read each book

      · Complete take home assignment

      · Update the timeline book “Tools in Time”

      · Make gears

      · Perform 1 labs

      · Create 5 graphic organizers

      · Take home assignment to be completed for next week (Experiences, Investigations and Research assignment)

      Friday, August 7, 2009

      Rethinking my plan and Spell to Write and Read

      As I look at my goal for next year, I must rethink my plan. What is my goal?

      Holy Trinity Academy Goal #1:
      We will become proficient writers.

      Holy Trinity Academy Goal #2:
      We will learn speed reading.

      Holy Trinity Academy Goal #3:
      We will practice without complaint.

      Sounds easy, doesn't it? Not to this mommy! These are lofty goals for any homeschooling mom. Just number 1 alone scares the pants off me. Proficient does not mean okay or good. It means expert. How do we make kids good writers? Daily practice is required and I pray we can practice without complaint (see #3).

      I will be attending a Spell to Write and Read conference in two weeks. In order to accomplish #1, we need to master handwriting and spelling. Once we've got that underway, we'll be working on grammar and writing.

      Thursday, August 6, 2009

      10,000 hours...

      Erin over at Bearing Blog linked to this interesting article. This part stuck out at me like a brightly flashing beacon:

      The emerging conclusion is that experts in many fields (sports, literature, composition, performance of every kind) need about 10,000 hours of practice time to achieve world-class levels of proficiency. 10,000 hours is the equivalent of 3 hours a day, seven days a week, for a period of 10 years. These studies do not address the differences in the efficacy of practicing for different people (which is known to vary widely). But when we're discussing performers on the level of Michael Jordan or Philip Roth or Yo Yo Ma, there apparently have not been cases where truly world class expertise was developed in less time.

      Maybe why that is why the scholar phase is geared toward 8 hours of study for 5-6 days a week for 4 years. That adds up to 10,000 hours. Isn't interesting that Oliver DeMille included that as part of the TJEd plan.

      As my oldest approaches Scholar Phase I wonder if we are both ready for it. Right now, he is buried in books 4-5 hours a day of his own choosing. In fact, I struggle with pulling him into the 4 R's (Religion, Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic) that are "pseudo required" here. In fact, because of how much study they do require, I feel like my "Mom School" has to step it up a notch this year. I want writing to become second nature to my kids, not a dreaded task. But how does that process happen? The answer is practice. In order to write easily, one must practice...practice printing or writing so that forming the characters is not interfering with expressing oneself, practice spelling so that words are easily constructed rather than stopping ones train of thought and practice grammar so the sentences flow off the pen rather than slowing one down as they wonder whether they should use plural or possessive...

      What are you willing to spend 10,000 hours on to become an expert? Reading the classics seems like a very worthy endeavor.

      Thursday, July 23, 2009

      School Planning

      It's that time of year again. Time to buy things for school next school year (although we are semi schooling this summer). I thought I'd update with what I am planning on using so far, along with what I'm still looking at to purchase. Please comment if you have any suggestions or questions.

      One of the things I'm struggling with is whether to offer book clubs for my kids again. I love the curriculum development part of it. I love the actual get together. I don't love the panic I put my children into to get the house clean. I know that the boys don't care. However, I do have parents dropping them off, coming in, assisting, etc. So, it probably should be "clean enough for company". However, I need to weigh the cost of getting the house ready with the benefits my kids receive (and other kids, too). I'll be asking HOtF (Head of the Family) what his opinion is as he suffers when I'm in that mode, too. He's super supportive, but I don't want him to be without clean underwear or dinner because I've over committed.

      We're sticking with the A2 curriculum for our backbone. We'll be reading plenty of classics, doing projects and adding curriculum where I feel we either need more work or where the A2 doesn't satisfy our family's needs.

      What I have so far:
      A2 - Classics list for 5/6th Grades:

      Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates

      Tarzan of The Apes

      Return of Tarzan

      The Beasts of Tarzan

      Jungle Tales of Tarzan

      The Song of Hiawatha

      Franks Campaign

      Joe The Hotel Boy

      Paul Prescott's Charge

      Paul The Peddler

      Phil The Fiddler

      Struggling Upward

      The Cash Boy

      The Errand Boy

      A Christmas Carol

      Mysterious Island

      A Girl of The Limber Lost

      At The Foot Of The Rainbow


      Lincolns Yarns and Stories

      Little Men

      Little Women

      Paul Reveres Ride

      The Raven

      The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

      The Jabberwocky

      The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

      Uncle Remus

      The Hobbit

      A2 Classics list from Grade 1:

      Aesops Fables

      Just So Stories

      Jungle Book

      Alice in Wonderland

      McGuffey's Readers (Grades 1, 5 & 6)

      EPS Primary Phonics (Books 1-4)

      Spelling: Spelling program from A2

      Grammar: Grammar program from A2

      World History: _The Old World and America _ & Story of the World Volume 1

      Religion: Great Adventures Time Line for Kids, Faith & Life 5/6 and Grade 1, Catechism

      Math: Singapore Math 1A&1B, Teaching Textbooks 5

      Science: Exploring Science 5 by W. Thurber

      Art: Barry Stebbings - How Great Thou ART and The History of the World through Art

      Foreign Language: Rosetta Stone Spanish, Prima Latina (we're starting over...)

      Music: Musicmasters CDs

      OTHER: Teach Your Daughters to be Keepers of the Home, Boy Scouts Merit Badges,

      PE: Undecided yet...possible options: Sword Club, Gymnastics, Y-Gym & Swim, Irish Step Dance