Monday, January 26, 2009

B is for Brain

My daughter made a model of a human brain at a co-op class last year. As we were leaving the co-op, she yelled, "I forgot my brain!!!", hopped out of the van and ran back into the building to get it. I'm glad that doesn't happen too often.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vocabulary, Spelling and Grammar

During this school year, I have been hosting Charlotte Mason Discussion Groups at my home once a month. The discussions are based on Karen Andreola's book A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning.
Our discussion this month was about Vocabulary, Spelling and Grammar.

I started with a quote from Karen Andreola:
"The Maker of Heaven and Earth chose words to make himself known to us. When a believer is 'in the Word' we are closer to Him (I John 1). We worship Him with our actions, our intenetions, aour hears, and with words. Words are wonderful!"

This tells us how important words are to God. Our discussion lasted almost two hours (as usual) and I can't get every detail here in this post, but here are some of my thoughts after the discussion was over.

Vocabulary development starts from birth. How we talk to our children is reflected when they begin to speak. Karen Andreola suggests that we "talk up not down to children". I take this to mean that we should expose children to language that is not dumbed down. We can do this by speaking to a child like he is a person (no baby talk) and by exposing him to quality literature.

What is meant by quality literature?
Junie B Jones, although funny, is what Charlotte Mason would consider "twaddle". The back of the book indicates that it is written for a 2nd grade level. On the other hand, Ambleside Online suggests reading books like The King of the Golden River to children who are about 2nd grade level.
Here are a couple of quotes from these books:
Junie B Jones: "After school was over, me and my bestest friend named Grace walked to the bus together."
The King of the Golden River: "Gluck was so perfectly paralyzed by the singular appearance of his visitor, that he remained fixed without uttering a word, until the gentleman, having performed another, and more energetic concerto on the knocker, turned round to look afer his fly-away cloak."
No matter how cute she is, do we really want our children talking like Junie B? These two examples are on opposite sides of the spectrum, but given a choice, I would rather hear "he remained fixed without uttering a word," from my children rather than "me and my bestest friend."

Karen Andreola suggests in her book to not introduce formal grammar lessons until about age 9 or 10. (4th or 5th grade). I couldn't agree more.

Exposing young children to good literature and speaking properly to them will increase their vocabulary and their use of the English language better than any language arts textbook will.

Without a textbook or a workbook, how will we get these subjects into our Pennsylvania mandated portfolios?

Pennsylvania Law states:
"At the elementary school level, the
following courses shall be taught: English, to include
spelling, reading and writing..."

As you can see, once again, the law allows for a great deal of flexibility. In the "English" section of your portfolio, you can include copywork. This covers the spelling and writing (it doesn't specify handwriting or compostion). The reading part is covered by the book list you keep.

If you do not have it, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Karen Andreola's book. You can skip around it and read just a chapter or paragraph at a time to be inspired. It's a book I refer back to often.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A is for Autumn Tea

A is for Autumn Tea
One of my goals this year was to have one tea each season. This was our autumn tea. During our week of preparation for the tea, the kids made the centerpieces using real pumpkins and silk flowers. They also hand-sewed a hot pad to be placed on the table under hot pots, made a banner that said "Autumn Joy" out of paper and ribbon, and they learned to embroider by tracing the outline of a leaf onto a piece of muslin and backstitching their way around it. The autumn-themed week culminated with the tea.
My resources for this week:
Hearts and Trees Fall Kit 2008

Here are the rules… be sure to post them when you join!

1. Post a photo for each letter of the alphabet of anything that starts with that letter.

2. Write a few short explanatory, quirky, or witty sentences about each photo you post.

3. Only post one photo at a time (the meme can take as long as you want - a month, three months, whatever… you aren’t being graded). You can link them later in a blog post so they are listed in order if you are the list-making type.

4. If you want to join the meme, sign the Mr. Linky and use the “A B See Photo-Meme” graphic in your sidebar. Link your graphic to this post and announce that you will be joining us.

5. When you post a photo, come by and add it to the weekly A B See linky that we’ll be posting on Foto Fridays for those who have some alphabetical photo to share. You can sign it each week as many times as you have posted photos - one time for each photo linked post. Make sure you link back to the HSBA on your posts, too - so others can come and join the linky.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

These are the moments I wait for

Little tiny ice pellets are falling from the sky. We have been waiting for the horrific weather that has been forcasted for the last couple of days now. Even though the weather was supposed to start last night, it finally did start around 3 this afternoon. We'll see if we get the 2 to 3 inches of snow they were predicting. Right now, it doesn't look likely.
My plan today was to make homemade playdough. This activity was especially geared toward my 4 year old in an attempt to keep him off "screens" today. (Screens = anything with a screen, TV, computer, video games, etc.)
I knew DD10 would want to make playdough because she very much wants to be 4 again. Much to my surprise, DD11 wanted to make playdough, too. I really wasn't expecting that. To make playdough for all three of them, I had to make one and a half batches. So I made the first batch for the two younger kids and DD11 insisted on making her own. I told her she only should make a half batch, and she simply said, "Yes, mom. I know how to multiply the fractions by 1/2." (Great big cheer inside.) This is the child who has cried more over math than I can even tell you and she has this very matter-of-fact attitude about it today. I guess (in her mind) since it wasn't in a math book, it wasn't anything she needed to cry over. I won't pop her bubble by telling her any different.
And here she is just going to town working with fractions.

Always with a flair for the dramatic - I don't know why this child had to flour her face.
This one is busy working with his "recipe". It smells so good that he had to taste it. Well, it's made with salt and doesn't taste like it smells. Perhaps if we used sugar instead of salt...
We made Kool Aid playdough. It smells so good and requires boiling water. The kids knead it after it cools a bit and they love feeling the warmth on a cold day like today.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Clove Apples

Aunt Eliza had brought Ma a large red apple stuck full of cloves. How good it smelled! And it would not spoil, for so many cloves would keep it sound and sweet.
-Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Today we made clove apples. When I went on the search for cloves for 5 children*, I had no idea how expensive this could be. One little bottle of whole cloves was $10.50. Yikes! So I got one bottle and told the kids they could make a design like a heart or something like that. I just wanted them to have the experience of putting the cloves in and smelling the spice. Their apples actually turned out beautifully. The other nice part about this "project" is that all ages could do it.

*3 of the children are my own while the other two are students I tutor.

Here are some pictures:

DS4's apple

DD10 tried to clove a lemon. She drew a heart on it as a pattern for her cloves. This is all the further she got because it was very hard to get the cloves in. She even used a knife to poke little holes. The apples were much easier.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hog Bladders and Butter

We started back into our routine this week and we are having a blast. We are reading a chapter a day from the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. We started yesterday with Little House in the Big Woods and today we made hog bladder balloons and butter. I would have rather made the balloons yesterday since they are mentioned in chapter 1, but the local meat store didn't have them available until late yesterday.

As we did each of the activities, we were able to discuss toys back in Laura's time. There was no mass market toy superstore back then. That is why Laura and Mary were thrilled to have a hog bladder to bat around. My plan was for the girls to take the balloons out in the yard to kick them around a little, but we are getting snow/rain /ice today and it's just not a good day to do that.
The bladders did have a little bit of a "smell" to them. I told them that the smell probably didn't bother Laura and Mary when you consider how often they bathed and the lack of things like deodorant.

Starting to get a little tired of shaking the jars.

We were also able to discuss all the work that went into making butter. I poured about 3/4 cup of heavy cream into a jelly jar and let the girls shake until we had butter. It took about 20 minutes and the girls were able to see the physical changes happening with the cream. After about 10 minutes they said they were getting tired. It was a lot of work to go through just for some butter. I explained that is why they didn't have exercise gyms back then either. They got exercise by default and probably didn't have to worry about diets to loose weight.
Mmmmmm...fresh creamy butter!
I hope the rest of the week is as fun as today was.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year

Isn't it wonderful to have new beginnings? The holidays are definitely a time for me to regroup.

I am looking forward to tomorrow and the beginning of our study on Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our study will be based on The Prairie Primer by Margie Gray. I attempted to use The Prairie Primer two and a half years ago and I burned out very quickly. I tried to do every activity, every day. I spent hours gathering materials for an activity that would last 15 to 30 minutes then we would never go back to it.

This time, I am using The Prairie Primer, but am only doing selected activities. I plan to read a chapter a day with the kids. They will continue to do their Math U See books and Primary Language Lessons each day. At times we may take out Ray's Arthmetic and the McGuffey Readers so we can do lessons like Laura did.

This next week will be full with making butter, corn cob dolls, hog bladder balloons, cloved apples and oranges, and drawing Jack Frost. I am really looking forward to it and hope to post pictures as we go.