Friday, May 19, 2017

Webinar Reminder :: Exams in the CM Homeschool!

Hi friends!  Happy Friday!

Just wanted to remind you about the "Exams in the Charlotte Mason Homeschool" webinar I'll be doing for the Learning How to Live community this coming Tuesday at 8pm Eastern.  If you haven't signed up yet but were planning to, please head over there to get yourself on the list!


I'm really excited about the chance to chat on this topic in a live audio/video format.  If you've been around my blog for any length of time, you know this is an area of passion and interest for me.  And thanks to the flexibility of the platform, I'll have the chance to get into more detail than I've been able to before!

Just to give you a peek at some of the topics I'll be covering:

:: how exams looked in the PNEU, especially in light of the culture of English schools at the time
:: the inspiring vision for exams from the volumes, Parents Review articles, the programmes and examination booklets themselves, and more gems from the archives
:: specific ways that exam questions change through the Forms and what that tells us about the intellectual development of our students, the curriculum we offer them, and the methods we use
:: a clear articulation of principles from her approach and how we can carry over that mindset into our own homes
:: nitty-gritty suggestions toward creating and implementing exams with your children
:: the tremendously fruitful process of assessment, and strategies for applying what we learn through that process to benefit our homeschools
:: common difficulties and reservations, and options for troubleshooting those

I have pulled examples to share from our term exams through the years, and am looking forward to answering the questions I have received so far -- and am up for more as well!  And, of course, the workshop will feature a healthy dose of real-life experience, because as a mom of eight very different children, that's where I'm coming from. ;)

I'm hoping it will be valuable to both newbies and veterans alike.

If you'd like to sign up, now's the time!  Registration will close on Monday.  Head over to Learning How to Live for more information.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Story of Our Shakespeare Festival

 ...or How to Do Shakespeare in a Group without Meeting as a Group.


Yep, sounds a little oxymoronic, but that's the short of it!  Let me explain...

I have had lots and lots of questions about how we do Shakespeare in a group after mentioning here and on Instagram our twice-annual Shakespeare Festival with friends.

I'm going to give you a hint: we don't!  At least, not really.

I think it's wonderful when families get together to all read, act, rehearse, and take part in a shared performance of Shakespeare together.  We have a really fabulous youth Shakespeare troupe that meets and puts on top-notch full-length plays three times a year, and that's probably my ideal vision for a Shakespeare club for homeschoolers.

But the troupe requires long and intense hours of practice stretching into the evenings, including from the parents, who are responsible for volunteering in some capacity.  It's not a good fit for our family right now.  So for now and for the foreseeable future, we enjoy the troupe's performances from the audience.

Over a year ago, Amber and I were chatting about her wonderful Shakespeare class plans, which she runs for local families in 6-week sessions.  She described a couple different ways that she has managed them, once reading through the play together and then making the performance more of a set of speeches and character introductions, another time acting out scenes and stringing them together with the help of a narrator. I was inspired, but both of those options also were a bit more than I could handle, having just had a baby.  I filed them away for a later date.

But she got me thinking: wasn't there a way to give my kids a group Shakespeare experience that I could handle?

One of my local friends and I decided to try a little experiment.  We would tell the kids (my oldest six, her oldest three, all ten and under) to decide on a scene from a play of their choice. They would assign the parts, learn their own lines, handle staging and directing, and choose costumes.  We would give them a couple chances to meet up and practice together, but mostly they would be practicing at home with their own family members.  And then when they were ready -- say, six weeks out -- we would choose a performance date and meet for the play!

The kids were thrilled and got right to work.  Caveat: we each had bossy older daughters to help out with directing younger siblings, and all of our kids were familiar with Shakespeare and had studied several of the same plays.  They chose the first scene from Midsummer Night's Dream, cast their parts, learned their lines (and helped the littles learn theirs too), and picked costumes from the dress-up bin.  We met at a park a couple times for an hour to let them practice while we chatted.  And then we set a date and chose a location: a little outdoor stage at a local county park.

This performance was a trial run: could the kids handle the whole event on their own well enough that we could open this up to other families too?




Answer: yes!  It was great!  We spent the rest of that afternoon enjoying the creek and a picnic lunch together -- and plotting our next event. ;)



We wanted to open the opportunity up to a bigger crowd, but there came the difficulty: it had been easy enough to arrange for our two families to meet at the park a couple mornings for practice.  The more families involved, the more difficult that is to schedule.

Instead of including all the families in the same performance, we decided to make the event a bunch of mini-performances.  So some families might choose to come together to prepare a scene. But a family who can't arrange practices outside the home could just do a scene with their own family. Amber suggested calling it a Shakespeare Festival, because that's what it is!

I sent out a few guidelines:
Hi friends!
I'd like to invite any interested families to join us in performing and enjoying a Shakespeare Festival with our homeschool group.  This will be an opportunity for your children to perform or recite lines from Shakespeare in a group setting.  Students can choose whatever lines they want, whatever length they want, whatever play they want. They can participate in groups or alone.  Whole families are encouraged to participate -- there is no minimum age.  Children are encouraged to prepare their own scenes, come up with their own costumes, manage their own rehearsals.  They can memorize their pieces or recite from a book/paper if they would prefer.  This will be a low-stress, low-key performance and is meant to be very low-work for the moms. :) 
Here's how it will work: 
:: Select a piece to perform. Students can work individually with a monologue or sonnet, in pairs with a bit of dialogue, or in groups with part or all of a scene.  They can work alone, with siblings, or with another family to perform together.  Pieces can be edited/abridged but should maintain Shakespeare's original language.  When you have chosen your selection, please send that information to me.
:: Be prepared to introduce your piece to the audience briefly. (You may also include a narrator in your group performance if needed to maintain flow from speech to speech due to editing.)
:: Arrange necessary costumes and props -- they need not be elaborate. 
On one weekday morning in <month> we'll come together to take turns performing our pieces for the group.  We'll decide on the date depending on who will be participating.
We have done two such events since then, one in fall and one in spring, and they have both been wonderful experiences for my kids and a pleasure for me as an audience member!  We have so many great families in our circle of friends. One mom hosts us in her beautiful backyard that even has a small stage, and everyone brings snacks to share.

some scenes from our fall festival


 



and some from our spring festival




Since it technically requires just one meet-up, friends from afar can join in (we had two families come from over an hour away this time, which wouldn't have been possible for an activity with weekly practices), and even those families that are already quite busy can arrange their schedule to accommodate that one day.  Older kids with the passion and time can organize something elaborate, but a student can also just come and recite the lines from their family memory work for the term. That flexibility has been so helpful.

The best part: it's both a rich educational experience and the kids are bearing the work of it. This is the kind of activity that I as an introverted, baby-wrangling mama can handle!

There are lots of different ways to do Shakespeare well in a group, and this is just one. I hope you find one that works for you!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A School Year Kept

As a look back on our school year, I want to share a bit of our formal keeping from this past year.

My Year 5 students kept three special notebooks in addition to their nature journals (which I share photos of every so often anyway and won't include here): their History Notebook, their Science Notebook, and their Prose and Poetry Notebook.

In my post on our School Plans for this year, I detailed the way we would be using these books -- frequency, purpose, format, and so on.  (Here are my write-ups for Year 5 and Form I.)  So I'll share a short description here, but for more information, head over there.  And then if you have further questions, ask away!

From my Year 5 Students

Their history notebooks contain their written narrations for the year in that subject (both for This Country of Ours and their historical biography in Term 3), as well as mapwork, lists, charts, and other keeping they chose to do.

The first half of the photos belong to Vincent and the second to Gianna.  As you can see, they have very different styles and their individual strengths and interests shine through in their notebooks, which is why Charlotte Mason-style notebooking is different than other more cookie-cutter, static forms.

(By the way, the pictures below feature the EcoQua notebooks I bought for our Year 5 keeping. We love them and will definitely be using them in the future.)


















Their science notebooks were simpler, holding only their weekly written narration for that subject:



Their Prose and Poetry Notebooks, which are basically a precursor to a commonplace book, are below. They wrote in this notebook in lieu of copywork for ten minutes weekly.  They were able to choose their selection.  Interestingly, both chose to include large amounts of Hiawatha, which we read in Term 2.  But the rest was a mish-mash of poetry, famous speeches, bits from Kim and Shakespeare, and more.


All three of these notebooks will continue into next year.  The History Notebook will be used in Term 1 before we move into a proper Book of Centuries with the new history rotation in Term 2.  Their Science and Prose and Poetry Notebooks are about half-full and will continue to hold their work for those subjects.

From my Form I students

Cate in Year 2 and Xavier in Year 1 had simple keeping on their weekly schedule: an entry in their binder timeline and on their current map.





They also had the option of making animal cards to go along with the Burgess Animal Book, which they opted to do just about every week, and that they did independently.  At the end of the year, we made those into a little book for each of them.



And from me!

I kept a few things alongside my Year 5 kids this year: a world map, a United States map, and a century chart. These were very educative to work on -- and also quite fun!



I also always keep one commonplace book dedicated to school readings, and Year 5 featured very prominently in that this year -- Halliburton, Kipling, Dickens, Helen Keller, John Muir...




In addition to these examples above and to our individual nature journals, we keep two collections as a family: a Calendar of Firsts and a Family Poetry Notebook.  They are both housed in the same binder.

We began keeping our Calendar of Firsts back in 2013, so this is our fourth year of data!



And our poetry notebook are all of the poems each child has learned, illustrated and added to the pile.  We began that when Gianna and Vincent were in kindergarten and have dozens and dozens of poems included now.


That is a look at our year on paper!