Thursday, July 2, 2015

Inside Our Form I Binder

My rising first grader has been eagerly awaiting a Year 1 rite of passage in this house: receiving her very own binder!  She squealed with excitement when I brought it out of the office and placed it on her school shelf in preparation for Monday's start.  (I should add: this girl is amazingly easy to please, if that's not obvious. ;))  The funny thing is that it's really nothing special!  Just a handy housing place for her written/drawn assignments and reference materials for AO's Form I work.

Care to peek inside?

Copywork.  Cate is working on letter formation and loves writing.  So I printed a mix of alphabet practice and simple sentences to start her off.  Later in the year, I'll have her work on the poems she is memorizing,  favorite bits from her school readings, and prayers.  I usually keep just a couple pages in her binder and the rest in my own folder, waiting to replenish hers when she has finished.

An alphabet card.  These are just little reference cards for my eager early writers to use in their free time.  I printed them using Startwrite, just like I did the copywork pages.

Maps for mapwork and for reference.  Last year, I printed blank maps of Europe and America for my older kids to note relevant places we encountered in our readings--beyond the scheduled mapwork we did alongside our designated geography readings.  I did the same thing for my first grader's binder this year.  So when we read that Velazquez painted in Spain, Handel was born in Germany but composed for the King of England, or Leif the Lucky landed on this coast or that, we can make a quick note on these casual maps instead of just referencing our wall map (which, although convenient, wasn't making the impact I was hoping for).

I also have our formal maps for this year printed on cardstock--Year 1 has Paddle to the Sea scheduled, so we'll be covering the Great Lakes region in a bit more depth as we chart Paddle's journey.  Next year we'll do the same with Tree in the Trail, and the year after with Marco Polo.

And we refer to these handy laminated maps all the time, so they're in there too.

Binder timeline.  I've described our binder timeline before.  Cate's is blank now but it won't be by the end of the year!  My older kids have kept the same binder timeline through all of Form I.

Bird coloring sheets. This is something I did as a supplemental project with my older two when they went through The Burgess Bird Book in Year 1, and I'm certain Cate is going to enjoy it as well.  I used the Peterson field guide coloring book to make copies of the relevant birds, and she can color them based on the field guide's key.  At the end of the year, we can add them to her nature journal.  This is not a required element of studying Burgess' book, and for some kids it would be overkill.  For my kids, who happen to love coloring and nature, it's a fun addition.  (One might do the same thing for The Burgess Animal Book in Year 2, but we didn't.)

Memory work.  Each child has in her binder a copy of the selections we're working on: a hymn, a folk song, a poem, a passage from Shakespeare, and a passage from the Bible.

Once she learns this memory work, I remove all but her poem, which she illustrates and then gives to me to add to our family poetry folder.  We have four years worth of poetry in there from two children so far, and there will be more added as the years go on.  It's a lovely pile of drawings and poems even at this early stage!

Math drill sheets.  We use RightStart math in the early years, and starting in Level B, they provide math drill pages for regular use.  I put these in page protectors and they do one a day with a wet-erase marker.  Later on, I'll often print extra practice on specific topics from Math Aids and tuck them in the pocket for daily use.

Drawing drill sheets.  These free printables from Donna Young's site are another of those wonderful extras for kids that love to draw.  I schedule these for five minutes a couple times a week.  They coordinate with the exercises in Mona Brooks' Drawing with Children, which I have used on and off with my kids for the past few years.

And not shown, but -- Paper for drawn narrations.  I pop some blank paper in the back pocket for easy access.  My 1st grader's are just blank pages, but in second and third grade, I printed a variety of lined papers with a blank space at top, bottom, or side for sentence-long written narrations or copywork accompanied by a drawing.

Not all our Form I Keeping is held here; we keep nature journals separately in a hardcover spiral bound notebook, do math on looseleaf sheets or in math workbooks, house our family Calendar of Firsts in a shared binder, etc.  But this binder makes it easy for her to keep her personal work together and organized.  I can also assign "binder work" first thing in the morning, and that includes copywork, map drill (when she's a bit older), drawing drill, memory work, and more--and all she needs to bring to the table for that learning block is this binder and her pencil box.

This binder stays pretty much as-is (with year-specific additions and refreshing) through Form I (Years 1-3), but I'm pulling together my Year 4 students' binders now and I'll have to chat about those once they're up and running--added responsibility, more written assignments, and a couple on-going projects means theirs are a bit fuller.

Monday, June 29, 2015

{This and That}

Happy Monday!  We have one week left until school starts, and although not everything is ready, I'm finally at that point where I think it will be.  The first week's schedule sheet is printed, artist and composer selections are chosen, books are organized on the shelves, and I even have my kindergartener's box ready to go...

This coming week, I'll be printing out our first memory work selections, considering some plans for a "weekly meeting" with the Big Kids and a "weekly planning time" for me, and getting our Italian materials in order (that last one takes the longest).

My main consideration right now is how I'm going to fit it all in, but I think that will just take trial and error, so I'm not counting on getting that all squared away before school begins.  A few weeks along, I'm hoping we'll be settled into a new routine and then I'll share all about our plans here.  So for those asking: expect a report on that at the end of July. :)


Speaking of the new school year, did you know that AO's volunteers have made available handy bookmark schedules for the books in Form I and II?

They're over on the forums' Resources section to download and print.  I love these!  They are particularly great for my independent readers, who can then just look at the bookmark and know what to read each week.


Last week I mentioned my commitment to help Gianna make pasta salad for dinner once a week all summer as part of her cooking classes with me.  We started with one of our family favorites--you can get a peek over on Facebook!


In case you're looking for some reading to keep you busy:

Shakespeare and the Decline of America
Identification, Please
Why Startups Love Moleskins
Why So Poky?

And because I have been researching CM-style dictation and grammar in preparation for starting both for the first time next week (and maybe you are too?), here's a round-up of some of my favorite posts on the topic:

A detailed series on CM language arts from The Common Room
Considered Language Arts free pdf from Wildflowers and Marbles
brief Language Arts scope and sequence from Ambleside Online
What Exactly is Language Arts? series from Simply Charlotte Mason
The Power of Dictation series from Simply Charlotte Mason


We did get a jump start on school last week and started our first Shakespeare play of the year during the babies' naptime.  I had planned to begin with Midsummer Night's Dream, but then I noticed a local production of Much Ado About Nothing in a couple months and decided to start there instead.  They just read the Lambs' version in the spring, so we dug right into the real thing so we can finish it up before attending the live show.

I pulled out a few assorted copies so we could all follow along in the text while listening to the Arkangel Shakespeare audio recording.  The Arkangel collection is pricey but oh so good.  I'm borrowing them from the library for now, but we might need to splurge for copies of our own at some point because they're just wonderful.


Last but not least, have you checked out Keeping Company yet this month?  I know a lot of you are looking at how you're going to fit Keeping into your schedules for this upcoming school year, and this link-up is great because it shows how a variety of families are doing just that.  Different ages, different kinds of notebooks--it's all there!

(And for you bloggers: there's still plenty more time to join in.  Have you added your Keeping posts?)


Coming later this week: a peek at our elementary binder (by popular request!) and some more nature study at the beach if I can get my school plans wrapped up before the long weekend. :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

{From My Commonplace}

My study of Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles has come right when I'm in the midst of lesson planning for next school year, and I'm so glad.  Pondering the principles has been just the boost I needed to be sure my plans accurately reflect the underlying tone I want to foster in our homeschool.

I've been thinking specifically about personal initiative, virtue and good habits, authority, and atmosphere...  There is so much to think on and I'm soaking it in and hoping it will make me a better parent and teacher!

In that vein, I thought I'd share some favorite quotes from Charlotte Mason that I've added to my commonplace book over the past few weeks.  These words remind me to live out this educational philosophy more intentionally and to ensure that my plans reflect my ideals.


It is our business to know of what parts and passions a child is made up, to discern the dangers that present themselves, and still more the possibilities of free-going in delightful paths. However disappointing, even forbidding, the failings of a child, we may be quite sure that in every case the opposite tendency is there and we must bring the wit to give it play.  (Volume 6, page 47)

And the presence of the slight, sweet, undefined feeling of dignity in the household is the very first condition for the bringing-up of loyal, honourable men and women, capable of reverence and apt to win respect. (Volume 2, page 14) is worth while for the mother to lay herself out to secure that her child never does a lesson into which he does not put his heart. And that is no difficult undertaking; the thing is, to be on the watch from the beginning against the formation of the contrary habit of inattention ...  it is not the things we do, but the things we fail to do, which fatigue us ...  And this is almost the only cause of failure in the work in the case of the healthy schoolboy or schoolgirl: wandering wits hinder a lesson from being fully taken in at the right moment; that lesson becomes a bugbear, continually wanted henceforth and never there; and the sense of loss tries the young scholar more than would the attentive reception of a dozen such lessons.  (Volume 1, pages 146-7)

To excite this "appetency towards something"--towards things lovely, honest, and of good report, is the earliest and most important ministry of the educator. How shall these indefinite ideas which manifest themselves in appetency be imparted? They are not to be given of set purpose, nor taken at set times. They are held in that thought-environment which surrounds the child as an atmosphere, which he breathes as his breath of life; and this atmosphere in which the child inspires his unconscious ideas of right living emanates from his parents. Every look of gentleness and tone of reverence, every word of kindness and act of help, passes into the thought-environment, the very atmosphere which the child breathes; he does not think of these things, may never think of them, but all his life long they excite that "vague appetency towards something" out of which most of his actions spring. Oh, wonderful and dreadful presence of the little child in the midst!

That he should take direction and inspiration from all the casual life about him, should make our poor words and ways the starting-point from which, and in the direction of which, he develops--this is a thought to make the best of us hold our breath. There is no way of escape for parents; they must needs be as "inspirers" to their children, because about them hangs, as its atmosphere about a planet the thought-environment of the child, from which he derives those enduring ideas which express themselves as a life-long 'appetency' towards things sordid or things lovely, things earthly or divine."  (from "Parents as Inspirers," The Parents Review)


And as a bonus, a peek into my Charlotte Mason study notebook:

This is a separate notebook from my commonplace where I keep notes as I read, write bits of quotes I want to consider, and pose questions to myself.  When I'm finished reading, I try to answer these questions in writing as a kind of narration exercise.


Do you keep notes when you study also?  If so, are they separate from your commonplace book, or do you combine the two?

What quotes are inspiring you as you consider next year's course of study?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Nature Study at the Beach :: More Dune Flowers

Last summer, we hit the local coastal walkways several times and I had a chance to get familiar with some of the dune flora.  On our trip last month, we took another walk along the dunes and I was able to spot a few new ones and revisit some old favorites.  

dried thrift balls
beach aster
beach primrose
coastal sagewort
tree lupine
lizard tail
red clover
sea rocket
I find this habitat not only beautiful but also fascinating.  Here in California, the state parks are very particular about visitors staying on the trails along the dunes.  I am sure to follow the rule since I just love these pristine stretches of rolling sand and don't want them destroyed, but I imagine too that these special flora must be quite hardy to grow so steadily on such inhospitable soil.  I love seeing the unlikely places they pop up and how far they spread.

I'm particular about keeping running lists of our wildflower sightings, so these went straight into my nature journal--more on that another time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This and That

I meant to get this all written out on Monday, but it wasn't meant to be.  Why?  Well, we only have three short weeks until the beginning of our new school year.  And you know what that means, right?  Obviously, it means it's the perfect time to switch around the the entire upstairs and completely reorganize our office.  

Wait, you usually save the last couple weeks before school starts for lesson planning?  Yeah, me too.

Apparently I'm experiencing a lethal combination of second-trimester nesting and pre-school organizational craziness.

So I'm pre-reading and note-taking at night and spending the day pushing furniture from room to room, organizing nine people's worth of clothing, and attempting to carve out some functional downstairs learning spaces.  Oh, and type up lesson plans!  Right.

Needless to say, it's been a busy week.  I do anticipate getting back here with some meatier stuff soon, but I won't make any promises until next month. (When I'm also planning to clean out the garage.)


Quick note about Keeping Company on Instagram: I just realized last week that for your photos to show up when I search the #KeepingCompanyCM tag, you need to either have your profile set to public or I need to be following you.  So if you have been sharing but your account is set to private, people (including me!) can't see the shared photos unless they are followers.

The easiest way to fix this is to make your account public.  I know lots of people prefer not to do that, of course, so another option would be to make sure I'm a follower.  Then at least I'll see it, even if others in the community won't--and I really would like to!  If you've been tagging photos and you're not sure if I'm following your account, leave a note here in the comments with your username and I'll be sure to request an add. :)


One of my priorities this summer has been to teach my oldest three some basic cooking skills.  My main goal is to get them proficient at breakfasts and lunches by the time the new baby arrives this fall.  We've done a few of our standard breakfasts for my kids to rotate through over the course of a week (oatmeal with fruit, oatmeal bars, sandwiches, yogurt with fruit, wraps), and I'm now adding in some of our non-breakfast family favorites: cornbread, crustless quiche, fruit crisp.

My next step is to move on to some easy lunch and dinner ideas, so I asked for pasta salad recipes over on Facebook and got lots of good suggestions.  I'm thinking I can boil the pasta and then they can take over from there with the measuring, mixing, and serving.  Pasta salad is forgiving, portable, and perfect for the hot weather.

I'd like to try out one per week over the rest of the summer until we have a repertoire of winning combinations.  (And if I get my act together, I will try to post that week's salad either on Instagram or the Joyous Lessons Facebook page--haven't decided which yet.)

If you have any recipe suggestions, I'd love to hear them!


It's a BOY!  I'm excited for a baby brother for Drew, and my Type-A personality loves having an even split (four girls and four boys).  And, to get into even greater detail, my eight will continue to split evenly into groups: right now we have the "big girls" (8 and 6), the "baby girls" (3 and 2), and the "big boys" (9 and 5).  Now Drew will join baby brother to be the "baby boys."  Very convenient!


Dawn at Mud to Meteors had one of her wonderful Nova Scotia beachcombing posts up recently and we had a little chat about crabs, which I wrote about last week.  Thanks to her, I updated my post to reflect that one of the crabs we found was just an exoskeleton from a molt and to share a video of a spider crab molting that she alerted me to.  Click back over for the link to that last one--it is truly amazing!


In the last couple months, 2yo Clara has started using "you" more often, rather than just talking in the third person.  But she says it "oo":  "Oo give me my milk peez?"  "I wanna sit with OO!" 

What are the favorite things your kids have mis-said?  We have had so many over the years and it so sad every time they give it up.

I just remembered that Xavier used to call tater tots "teeter-totters"--and even better, he couldn't pronounce his r's.  He hasn't said it that way in ages...  Sniff.


Back on Friday with more {Nature Study at the Beach}!  See you then.

Friday, June 12, 2015

What We're Reading :: June

my growing tummy and I taking a little reading break!

Mantel's Station Eleven (if you like dystopian fiction, this one is thoughtful and less gritty than most)
Goudge's Pilgrim's Inn (picked up again after a break--happy sigh)
C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters (just started)
Tieger's Nurture by Nature and Myers' Gifts Differing (as I attempt to "type" my older kids)
Charlotte Mason's Volume 6 and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's For the Children's Sake (for our CM study group using Brandy's Start Here)

To the Big Kids
CS Lewis' The Magician's Nephew (we're doing all of Narnia on audio for summer!)
Trevor's Sun Slower, Sun Faster (good Catholic historical fiction)

Vincent, age almost-9
Silverstein's Life in a Tidal Pool (one of his Easter books)
Lang's Arabian Nights (from the AO Year 3.5 list)
C.W. Anderson's Favorite Horse Stories (inspired by the Triple Crown, I'm sure!)

Gianna, age 8
C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair (we finished it on audio and she immediately picked it up in hardback!)
Dahl's Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (also re-reads)
Montessori's The Mass Explained to Children (we read this together as part of FHC prep, but she likes revisiting it)

To Cate, age 6
Wiltse's Kindergarten Stories and Morning Talks (we didn't finish this one last school year, so she has been begging me to pick it back up and continue)
Neumann Press' Saints for Girls (she adores this little book)

To the Littles
Dr. Seuss' Hop on Pop (5yo Xavier is reading this one to me--he's determined to follow on the heels of newly-reading big sister)
Eric Carle's Does a Kangeroo Have a Mother Too? (3yo Bridget's current favorite--in the small format Clara got for Easter)
Eloise Wilkins' Mother Goose (2yo Clara's current favorite--she brings this one to Bridget to "read" to her)

In the Mail
It's book-buying season!  Okay, so around here it is always book-buying season. ;)  Perhaps I should say instead that it's book-SELLING season: lots more for sale, and lots more to buy!

(Just between you and me: these aren't even close to all of them from this past month, and I may or may not have three more packages headed this way now.  Ahem.)  Notice that all these pictures are taken with books stacked on top of the bookshelf by the front door?  That's because they're still there, in towering piles, waiting for me to find more shelf room, somewhere somehow.  I know you book-loving ladies can relate!

Are you buying for the new school year yet?  Fun summer reading?  We're just started the last book of Narnia this afternoon and I will be sad to move on to something new!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

{From My Commonplace}

The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time.  If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.

"Glory be!" said the Cabby. "I'd ha' been a better man all my life if I'd known there were things like this."

 -- from C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew