Thursday, May 26, 2016

What We're Reading :: May

L' Amour's The Lonsesome Gods (set in the California desert)
Undset's Kristin Lavansdatter (chagrined to say I've never read this classic!)
Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (a re-read for our local book club)
Shakespeare for Children: Six Scripts for Young Players (previewing on Amber's recommendation)
Cholmondeley's The Story of Charlotte Mason (have had this on my shelf for a year but am finally reading it!)
Cooper's When Children Love to Learn (for our local study group)

Vincent, age 9
Enright's Thimble Summer and Morey's Gentle Ben (both Year 4 free reads)
Fradin's The Signers (some Revolutionary-era non-fiction)
Eager's Knight's Castle (a re-read, part of his Tales of Magic series, which sounds twaddly but isn't ;))

Gianna, age 9
Cecily Barker's The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies (she's drawing her way through these poems)
Burnett's The Lost Prince (not as good as her other books, but Gianna doesn't seem to mind :))
Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (starting in on the Year 5 free reads!)
Haywood's Betsy's Busy Summer (reading aloud to Cate)

Cate, age 7
Elsa Beskow's Princess Sylvie (she took her most recent art project with her teacher from Beskow's illustrations for this book)
Beskow's The Flowers' Festival (inspired by our yard bursting into bloom this month)

As a Family
d'Angeli's The Door in the Wall (a re-listen on audio)
Ransome's Swallowdale (on audio also -- just started it as our "car book")
Enright's Gone-Away Lake (just finished -- I handed the Big Kids the sequel to read on their own)
Collodi's Pinocchio (the new read-aloud in our Morning Basket)

The Little Kids have been busy with birthday books from the past month...

From Xavier's birthday...

The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose (a lovely hardcover copy popped up on PaperbackSwap!)
Helen Ward's The Rooster and the Fox (I just love Helen Ward's illustrations)
Peter and the Wolf, illustrated by Wallace Chappell (yep, yet another version :))
Belloc's The Yak, the Python, and the Frog, illustrated by Steven Kellogg (fun combination!)
Greene's Railroad Engineers and Airplane Pilots: What Do They Do? (perfect for a transportation-loving boy!)

And Drew's second birthday books...

Ruth Krauss' I Can Fly, illustrated by Mary Blair (ours is a larger copy, but I linked to the regular Golden Book version)
McKie's Noah's Ark (love oversized books)
Margaret Wise Brown's The Wonderful House (classic)
the Ahlbergs' Each Peach Pear Plum  (which we somehow did not own already!)

In the Mail

Animal Tales (my parents found this lovely reproduction full of pop-ups sitting in their garage!)
Lobel's The Wisest Man in the World
The Jessie Wilcox Smith Mother Goose (I can't get enough pretty Mother Goose editions)

For our non-fiction collection...
Pettit's Animal Signs and Signals
What Makes a Bird a Bird (I love Leonard Weisgard's illustrations)
Day's What Is a Flower?
Cherry's A River Ran Wild
Gail Gibbons' The Honey Makers

Girls Who Looked Under Rocks (I pre-read this for my daughter and it has a couple bothersome phrases I need to make a little note next to before handing to her, but otherwise it's a decent book of short biographies for a girl naturalist -- especially because it includes Comstock!)
Five Little Peppers Abroad (in hardcover, how could I resist?)
Palace Wagon Family (a book about the Donner Party that I want to preview for my Year 5 kids)
two more hardcover Narnias to make our collection complete -- now I can sell the paperbacks!
Aliki's William Shakespeare
Dalgliesh's The Columbus Story (not as good as d'Aulaires' but couldn't pass up Dalgliesh)
The Age of Chivalry: The Illustrated Bulfinch's Mythology (a beautiful edition!)

What are you reading, friends?  Picked up any good books lately?

(Links above are affiliate links. I left un-linked the books that are recommended by AmblesideOnline because I'd prefer if you clicked over to their site and bought through their affiliate links. As always, thanks for your support!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

{This and That}

First, the lovely Leah Boden invited me to contribute to her My Living Books Life series.  She was extremely patient with me while I handled the retreat, the end of our school year, and a nasty cold, but I finally got my little memoir to her and she has it up today!


Cate received her First Communion on Pentecost.  She was one of five girls to receive at our Traditional Latin Mass community, and it was a blessed day.

and there's vincent there in the front row of altarboys!
The week before, we had a May Crowning, and this year, all four of my girls were old enough to participate as flower girls.  Love.


We also had a few birthdays: Drew turned two and Justin turned six months.  I have a post coming later this week with their birthday books.

I just posted a video yesterday over on Instagram of Justin's "crawl," which is really more like a cross between inching-like-an-inchworm and doing a butterfly stroke.  He is more efficient than the video suggests when he has somewhere to be, but mostly, that's how he has gotten around for the past couple months. However, he just pulled himself up on the sofa to stand for the first time on his own yesterday, which he was extremely pleased about and I was...not.  So I think his days as a crawler are limited!


I've started Year 5 planning, which at this point means that I'm collecting pretty books into shelves and piles and staring at them excitedly.

But I'm hoping to get around to actually planning things this week!  First up: I'm going to figure out how I'm combining my Year 2 and Year 1 kids next year.  Wish me luck because that has been feeling like the sticking point for me.  (I'm considering something like Virginia Lee's Form I rotation but modified for our family.)


A lot of exciting opportunities have popped up lately in the Charlotte Mason videochat world!  It started, I think, with Amber's recent interview on Schole Sisters, in which she discussed finding community online--not just through type- or photo-based formats (like forums or Facebook, which are also great for building relationships with like-minded moms) but also through live video and voice discussions. I've tuned into webinars, (Peri-)scopes, and hosted video events for years, but live formats that allow for back-and-forth communication like an in-person discussion really have an advantage in lots of ways.

And now there are now a bunch of options in that vein available!  The lovely ladies at Mater Amabilis have started working through Mind to Mind in a monthly videochat, Jen is leading a live discussion on Circe Institute's Restful Teaching series, and I popped into Ashley's first Online Scriptorium last week.

And the opportunity I really wanted to share with you: Amber is also putting together some groups to go through Brandy's "Start Here" study guide over the next year through monthly live video-and-voice discussions. So if you have always wanted to join a Charlotte Mason study group but don't have interested moms close by or can't get out of the house for meetings, now is your chance!


The CM West Facebook page is getting busier!  West Coast friends, are you following?  I posted about wildflowers last week, and Amber shared her thoughts on our recent retreat.  I'm excited for the big plans we have in store for the West Coast CM community, including the Northern California Conference in the works for next February here in the Bay Area.  (You can bet I will be talking a lot about that in the coming months, and I'm hoping I'll see you there...maybe?)


A bit of late spring color on the ground and in the sky...

our wildflower bouquet after nature study

on my early-morning group run

Keeping Company is a bit quiet this month on the blog, but it's hopping over on Instagram!  If you'd like to participate, click around to read, link up, or tag.  I always enjoy what you ladies have to share!

This week I'll be sharing our Summer School plans.  We are already a third of the way through our "summer" break, so it's overdue! :)

Friday, May 20, 2016

The School Year in Review :: Years 4 and 1

This year went about as smoothly as a year with a baby born smack in the middle of it could go.  We started right after July 4th and finished at the beginning of April, with short breaks for Justin's birth, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Lent/Holy Week.

I know I shared all about our schedule for this year back in the fall, but I thought I'd update a bit about how it actually worked in practice...

As a reminder, this is what our ideal-day plan looked like this year:

Our days ran rather smoothly on these "rails." We certainly did not hold to this schedule every day!  But the structure was there when we needed it.

Some things shifted around a bit by the end of the year, even for our ideal days.  For example, the Latin and Italian in that "Work with Big Kids" block became independent work after Justin was born.  Also, I started having the kids stay outside until 11:30, which means that the Bathrooms + Floors chore time got switched to the pre-dinner hour most days.  I didn't do math with Cate daily--that pre-breakfast time slot is just itching to be used (my toddler sleeps in and littles are busy coloring usually), but I just can't seem to get going right out of the gate like that.  I'd much rather catch up online or read while I drink an extra cup of coffee.  That was definitely a discipline issue on my part!  Luckily, we school math year-round, so Cate will have plenty of math time with me in the summer.  Little things like these always creep up as we work through the year, but I just adjust and keep moving along.

The biggest benefit to having a schedule like this is the knowledge that if I do need to make sure we stay carefully on task in a given day, I can follow this schedule and everything will get done.  With a big family, it's valuable to know that there are indeed enough hours in the day for the items you are asking your children (and yourself!) to do.  Beyond that, there is plenty of room for flexibility within that routine.


As far as curriculum, we didn't adjust much at all.  (Here were my plans for Year 4 and for Year 1.)  We completed all of the readings we set out to cover in the fall, and we made satisfactory progress in our skill-based subjects. We switched out a couple of the memory work selections, and we did not get to all my handicraft plans. I did change one thing for the Big Kids: I added in Winston Grammar, one lesson per week, for Term 2 and 3, and we are liking it a lot.  We then apply the concepts used to our dictation passage for the week and are finding it to be a nice combination.


I promised to share how our Keeping went this year...

My Year 1 student kept a map for Paddle to the Sea.  (She chose the colors. ;))

She also started a simple timeline like my Big Kids have.

My Big Kids did quite a bit of Keeping for history and geography this year:

They so enjoyed working on these century charts.  We will definitely be doing this again next year for the 19th century!  I love how they each made different inclusions and presenting the people/events in different ways.

We read a California geography book this year, The Cruise of the Arctic Star, as well as a biography of Fr. Junipero Serra in Term 2.  They tracked the information from both of those readings on these blank watercolor maps they made at the beginning of the year.

They also kept maps for Minn of the Mississippi and our Revolutionary War history readings.  These should look very similar to the maps they used during Term 3 exams.

And they requested to start a Reading Log, so I printed out a simple form for them to use.  Here's an example from my book-loving daughter:

I'm preparing a Reading Log they can keep in a notebook for next year, but this was a nice start to the practice.


My Year 4 students have been doing one written narration a week this year.  During our "babymoon," I increased it to two written narrations a week to lighten my load a little: one on Fabre's Storybook of Science and one on a book of choice.  (I have very chatty narrators, so it takes me far less time to read a narration and discuss it with them than it does to listen to their oral versions!)  I also mentioned that rather than just a straightforward prose narration, as they had been doing, they could also choose to let their narration take a more creative form (a poem, a play, an illustrated paragraph, and so on).

In Term 3, Gianna continued with two written narrations by choice and really let her dramatic-poetic side come out.  Writing is an activity she truly loves, and I wanted to share a few of my particular favorites. (If you're interested in reading some of her work, click to enlarge.)

As you will notice, most of her creative narrations are humorous too, with lots of inside jokes with me.  (Like those morals! LOL)  I had no idea that we would bond over her writing, but it has been so fun!  She leaves her narration on my desk and then giggles until I read it. ;)  I share these because I really feel like this is where personality can develop in a writer when one doesn't force them into a composition "formula."


So the year ended, and we celebrated with a teatime treat and, naturally, books! I make a habit of putting aside used books I pick up that somehow connect to this term's readings.  It's a lot of fun to come across books on similar topics (the kind that in another style of learning, I might pull as part of my kids' lessons and overload the schedule!) to add to an end-of-the-year celebration package.  And bonus: my kids get to read a bit more about the topics that interested them from our school year during their free time.  

The Life of Buffalo Bill (a vintage comic book version of his biography)
A First Book of Brahms (easy arrangements for my younger kids)
Brenner's The Boy Who Loved To Draw (a picture book about Benjamin West)
Edmonds' Drums Along the Mohawk (historical fiction set in the Revolutionary Era for me -- NOT for the kids)
Schneider's Rocks, Rivers, and the Changing Earth (a tie-in with Madam How and Lady Why)
Farjeon's Kings and Queens (couldn't resist after getting her Heroes and Heroines for Christmas)
Coatsworth's The Fair American (Bethlehem Books reprinted this historical fiction book that fits nicely into Y4 studies--it's part of a series)
a vintage edition of Robinson Crusoe (abridged, but I thought they'd enjoy looking at these very different and very fun illustrations now that they have read it)
Yolen's Apple for the Teacher (another songbook)
Paul Revere's Ride (illustrated by Paul Galdone -- we already have the one illustrated by Ted Rand)
Leeming's Fun With Paper (they're very into origami right now, so I know this sloyd book will be a hit!)

If you're wanting to homeschool using AmblesideOnline but worried that your kids won't connect with one another if they're not all studying the same period in history: don't be! Even though I grabbed Buffalo Bill with Cate (my Year 1 student) in mind, the kids agreed that it rightfully belongs to everyone since they all loved listening in. On the other hand, Xavier and Cate were riveted by Paul Revere's Ride (a Year 4 poetry selection). Thanks to Madam How and Lady Why, we have been making comments about landforms as we drive along all year--so much so that even though earth science is scheduled for Year 4, Cate wants Vincent to read her Rocks, Rivers, and the Changing Earth because she thinks it will have "more about earthquakes and volcanoes and mountains and stuff."  (It does, and it was a wonderful recommendation from one of my Mater Amabilis friends.)  And Kings and Queens--well, that is certainly for everyone!  Gianna has been reading relevant bits from each person's year to entertain us all.  Brahms was a family subject, as were the folk songs that inspired Apple for the Teacher.  And Xavier grabbed up Fun with Paper, which I intended for my Big Kids, and is attempting to decipher instructions despite not being able to read all that well!  There is so much combined learning going on around here despite each student having his own "year."

Last but not least, we also took a trip to the theater for a performance of The Winter's Tale to celebrate.

Shakespeare is probably my kids' favorite reading, and Gianna in particular memorizes lots and lots of lines for fun and is dying to act.  Thanks to Amber's recent posts on her Shakespeare club, I'm starting on a plan for fulfilling that need!


We have about two months of vacation left before we start back up in July.  In the meantime, I've got Year 5, Year 2, and another round of Year 1 to plan!  We also do a light summer session, so we've still got a Morning Basket going and some short daily tasks.  More about those another time.

So are you almost finished up with the school year?  Any special ways to finish off the last term?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cate's First Grade :: Exams, Term 3

Once again, I prepared a lighter load of questions for my Year 1 student, and my kindergartener joined in for a few...

(You can see previous exams here, and the wonderful exams from the AO site are here--all years and terms available!)

History and Geography
What do you know of Harald as a little boy? Tell everything you can think of.
Name something Paddle passed as he traveled through the Great Lakes.
Draw the shape of California.
Tell a story about King Alfred.

Paddle to the Sea was on the last part of his trip. He was floating on the water when he saw three men.  Two of them men were looking at him, and one was the boy Indian.  He said "There's Paddle to the Sea, and I made him." Paddle to the Sea was now four years old, and he was sailing away. The Indian boy went on a boat and started sailing away, and he was trying to say goodbye to Paddle to the Sea but he slipped away too fast.  The men were on boards on the water so they wouldn't drown because the water was very deep over there...a wharf!  That's what it's called--they were standing on a wharf.  Paddle went far over the sea after that.

Tell one of Aesop's Fables.
Tell part of a "Just So Story."
Describe a scene from The Winter Tale.

What was your favorite poem by AA Milne that we read this term, and why?
Illustrate the poems you have memorized.

Nature Study and Science
Draw something we saw at the aquarium.
Draw one new wildflower we identified this term.
Tell me some differences between the loon and the Canada goose.
What do you remember about Hummer?

There was a rabbit whose name was Peter, and he was going to have some friends fly over to him. They had to watch out for the men that might shoot them for food. It was snowing, and Peter had no friends because the birds went to keep warm. Then he heard some honking noises and he knew it was Honker the Goose. So he went and the gooses told him to wait by the Sandy Bar because that was where they were flying to and that's where they always met Peter.  They sat down and started talking. "Was it long?" asked Peter. "Yes, it was very long and we still have a very long way to go."  These two birds liked the snow and they were Peter's friends. The Canada goose lives in the water and the ground and the loon lives inside the water. The loon has very short legs and looks like it walks on its bottom. The other differences from the loon to the goose is that the goose is black and brown and the loon is black and white.

two-toned tidy tips, by cate
sea otters at the aquarium, by xavier

Copy these sentences in your best hand.  Then read it aloud to me.

For her religion exam, she had her meeting with Father regarding her catechism to assess her readiness for Holy Communion.  (She passed! ;))

Reading Skill
Read a couple pages from one of your Flicka Ricka Dicka books aloud.  Then tell me about it in your own words.

Memory Work
Recite a selection from this term in the following categories: hymn, folk song, poetry, Bible, Shakespeare.

Tell me about your day in Italian.

Fine Arts
Choose a picture from My Nature Friend to copy.
Make a rough color sketch of one of Waterhouse's paintings.  Describe it to me.
Play your latest recital song from memory.
Fold a origami butterfly for our spring windows.

wood duck, by cate

Coming up tomorrow: a round-up of this past year before I move on to sharing our summer plans!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fourth Grade in Our Home :: Exams, Term 3

Time to wrap up this past school year!  I've got these exam posts scheduled for today and tomorrow and then one other wrap-up post to share with you on Friday.  Then it's on to our summer plans next week!

Below is a peek at my 4th graders exams from the final term of AO Year 4, including a sampling of their answers.  We ran these exams the same way as last time: I handed them a big stack to complete over the week and let them complete it in their own order and at their own pace.  We did a few oral narrations as well, and these were done during our usual "naptime school" block.

If you're looking for questions to use for your own exams, check out the wonderful exam page over at AO!  They even include answers to make your life easier. :)  (And in case you're interested: you can find all our previous exams here.)

The Questions

What do you know about the Battle of Bunker Hill or Valley Forge?
Tell about the Declaration of Independence.
"I haven't begun to fight yet." Tell the whole story. OR Discuss the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and John and Abigail Adams.
What do you know about Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great, or Dr. Jenner?
Tell about the Reign of Terror or the fall of the Bastille.

What is the difference between a fast flood and a slow one? Or, Discuss some boats that changed the Mississippi River.
Add as many details to this map as you can.  Annotate with information from Minn.
Tell all you know about Egypt and China from Hillyer's A Child's Geography of the World.
Complete the following pages:

Natural History and General Science
Explain how Madame How's great ice-plough has helped make the ground on which we live.
Tell what you know about pollen, and why plants need insects.

Write 2-4 lines of a poem you memorized this term in print and in cursive.

Complete the provided grammar worksheet:

Complete your next translation lesson in Getting Started with Latin.

Complete the following pages:

Memory Work
Recite one selection from this term in each of the following categories: hymn, folk song, poetry, Shakespeare, Bible.  (Note: we did this as a end-of-term performance for Daddy, which was fun!)

Nature Study
Describe and draw three wildflowers that bloom in spring.
Write an ode to something we see at the beach.
Describe something we see at the aquarium.

Tell the story of one myth in the style of Kipling's Just So Stories. (Cupid and Psyche, or Echo and Narcissus, or Niobe)
Shakespeare: Describe a favorite scene from The Winter's Tale with as much detail as you can.
Draw a map of The Incredible Journey, labeling the places the animals visited and what they encountered in words or pictures.

What was your favorite poem by Wordsworth other than the one you memorized?  Share a bit or image from it that struck you.
Illustrate the poems you memorized.

What was one flaw of Titus Flamininus?  Tell a scene from his life that illustrates that flaw.
Describe the campaign of Titus in Epirus, showing how he made the Greeks willing to submit to him.

Choose a few lines from The First Epistle to St. Timothy to add to your Prose and Poetry notebook.

What is the purpose of prayer?
Explain what a sacramental is and give examples.
Draw a picture of the altar properly laid, labeling the necessary parts.

Music Study and Picture Study
Tell about one Palestrina piece from this term.
Tell a bit about the life of Palestrina.
Can you name the following composition by Palestrina?  What was his inspiration for the piece?
Sketch from memory your favorite Waterhouse work from this term's studies.

Reading Skill
Select a passage from Johnny Tremain in your clearest voice.

Complete the assigned math selection.

Play your most recent piece for your grandparents.

Choose a picture from My Nature Friend to draw.

Handicrafts and Life Skills
Carefully craft an origami butterfly or bird out of kite paper for our spring windows.
Make an origami frog for one of the little kids.

Some Answers

I like to put some of the kids' responses side by side just to show how different two students' details and styles can be.  This is one of the reasons I really like CM-style exams: they give the opportunity for the student to share what he remembers best rather than trying to ferret out what he doesn't.  They connected with different elements from our readings and expressed themselves in different ways, but both students' answers would be considered a job well done.  Exams responses are not going to all look alike--and that's a good thing!

Some Thoughts

I'm going to save most of my wrap-up comments about the term for my final Year 4 post later this week, but I'll just say a few things about what I took from this particular exam experience...

:: We were more intentional with our mapping-alongside-readings and I was pleased with the results of that. They were far more confident in their mapping on the exam and had lots of details to add.  (And even the bits they weren't especially sure about, they did know the general area.)  This motivated me to ensure I set up a mapping opportunity for our Civil War battles for next year!
:: I threw in that question about telling a story from Age of Fable in the style of Just So Stories because my Big Kids have been listening in on Cate's Year 1 readings, particularly Kipling.  (And how could you not?  That book is positively delightful and a joy to read aloud.)  They giggled through the whole thing and I look forward to more of these kinds of creative narrations to come!
:: I asked for an ode on a nature study theme because the topic has come up in our reading of Wordsworth. Several of his poems they chose to memorize were odes, and although they didn't know that terminology, they were asking why the poems seemed to be addressed to the objects being described.  I briefly explained an ode and for the rest of the term, they noticed more examples.  But I didn't share their finished odes here because they were surprisingly shy about them, even though I think they did a great job.
:: The kids continue to be thrilled with origami.  I think we're going to transition that to paper sloyd this summer--to incorporate more measuring and precise cutting skills along with the folding.
:: On the history questions, they were able to pull details from all their readings (George Washington's World, This Country of Ours, Abigail Adams) into their answers. I feel like we got a very rich and thorough view of the period through the way AmblesideOnline scheduled these readings and I can't wait to see what next year holds.
:: Palestrina and Waterhouse were both huge hits this term!

Up tomorrow: a quick look at Cate (Year 1)and Xavier's (Kinder) exam!