Friday, April 29, 2016

Nature Study Outing :: Color!

We're doing nature study in our yard this week so that we don't spread our cold to our friends, but I'm dreaming about last week's outing, which was sunny and full of color.  We tried a new park in the foothills outside of town. There was an oak-lined trail and a creek, but the real draw was a meadow full of wildflowers...

lupines everywhere!

We did a tick check when we got home because although we don't have many in our area, the kids certainly put that to the test with all their romping in the grasses!  (And is it just me, or does it look like they tried to get as far away from us as they possibly could while still remaining in eyesight? Yep, sounds about right. ;))

We took home a little nosegay...

from right to left - blow wives, some kind of yellow clover, q-tips, owl's clover, dove lupine, yellow tarweed, yarrow
...and made some comparisons...

both kinds of goosegrass?
...which got laid out for our weekly tray.

I'd like to introduce you to a couple "friends" this week:

Clarkia was a new find for us! Bright magenta with four delicately toothed petals and narrow leaves.

And owl's clover, one of my very favorites.  (It's that flower below on the left, and you can also see it on a previous post.)  It is lovely and complicated--bits of yellow and polka dots and such. I took a closer look at it this week with our new loupe....and realized it is even more complicated up close!

look at those feathery petals!

But although my favorite part was the wildflowers (it always is!), the kids' favorite might have been the insects we encountered. Lines of ants everywhere carrying dozens of these curly bits below back to their holes along the trail.

anyone know what they are? the leftovers of some kind of seed pod?
One boy caught a cricket with his bug sucker (seriously--it's a thing, and it works!), which is a treat around here.  Everyone wanted a peek.

And we saw this gorgeous tiger moth on the way out.  He stayed perfectly still for us for a long while.

Then there were these two, who spend a large part of the day running circles around the house but as soon as we get into big open spaces, walk around holding hands and then plop down to "nature journal."

And the most lovely thing about this outing? All the moms. It's a pleasure to study nature alongside other moms who get it--who are as engaged and enthusiastic as the kids are, who keep nature journals, who aren't afraid to get (a little) dirty.  More about that another time--I have some chatting I want to do here on the blog about Mother Culture and nature study is a big part of that.

Wishing you a bright and colorful weekend!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What We're Reading :: April

I planned to get a couple posts up this week, but I came down with a nasty head cold on Monday and haven't yet recovered. But! I had this post sitting in my drafts folder just ready for a little finishing up. So I guess we'll chat about books today!

Me (that's my nightstand up there!)
Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle (just finished for our local book club)
Berry's Jayber Crow (still working on it six months later! ;))
Robinson's Gilead (had to return it to the library, but I have it back now)
Doerr's Four Seasons in Rome (just started it and can already tell it's going to get gobbled -- ha!)
Mother Mary Loyola's With the Church (pre-reading for my kids)
Anne White's Minds More Awake (skimmed this last fall but now I've started a slow read)

And not pictured, but hasn't left my desk: John Muir Laws' The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling.  I know I have been mentioning this book all over the place, but I'm entranced! I'm working on writing up a set of related "challenges" to do alongside my kids this summer.

As a Family
Enright's Gone-Away Lake (a Year 4 free read)
The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook (for my littles)
Spyri's Heidi (on audio)

And I'm going to share the books I piled under each child's Easter basket this year, since that's most of what they have have been reading lately!  As a reminder: I grab these from a box I keep of all the random used books I buy over the course of a year, so they always are gifted a bit of a mish-mash! :)

For Vincent, age 9

Leiper's By Hook and Ladder
Windeatt's St. Dominic and St. Benedict
Rops' Golden Legend of Young Saints
Kielgaard's Two Dogs and a Horse

For Gianna, age 9

Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories and More Rootabaga Stories (these have a reputation for being rather odd -- but she's going to try them and I'll let you know how it goes! :))
Windeatt's St. Margaret Mary and St. Rose of Lima
Fr. Lasance's Emmanuel

For Cate, age 7

Brown's The Golden Bunny
Edwards' My Naughty Little Sister Storybook
Barklem's Sea Story (part of the Brambly Hedge series)
Lovasik's St. Joseph Catholic Children's Bible

For Xavier, age 5

De Brunhoff's Babar the King
and a few unabridged mini-books from the Winnie-the-Pooh collection

For Bridget, age 4

Brown's Home for a Bunny
a darling box set of Real Mother Goose board books

For Clara, age 3

Richard Scarry's Bunnies
The Zoo Book
Suess' Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? (oversized board book -- a duplicate for us but this one is "hers")
I am a Little Giraffe (my littles loooove miniature books, and this one is tiny)
Screech Owl at Midnight Hollow (another miniature version of one we already own)

For the Baby Boys

a set of Byron Barton board books: Trucks, Planes, and Boats

In the Mail

Donald Silver's One Small Square: Woods
Prelutsky and Lobel's The Terrible Tiger
Knowlton's Geography From A to Z
Stories from The Old Testament
Celenza's The Farewell Symphony
Willard's The Voyage of the Ludgate Hill
Gaskell's Cranford, Everyman Library edition
Henry's King of the Wind
Lawson's The Tough Winter
The Swiss Family Robinson
Fabre's Book of Insects
And a few books for Year 5: Oliver Twist and a lovely hardback of Kim

So that's a lot to keep us busy! I actually had another box arrive today and Xavier got a stack of books for his birthday, but those I'll save for next month. :)

(Links above are affiliate links.  I left unlinked the books that are recommended by AmblesideOnline because I'd prefer if you bought through their affiliate links. ;)  As always, thanks for your support!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

{This and That}

We are back from a very enjoyable Retreat at the Beach and I'm finally caught up on sleep! ;) I posted a sneak peek over on Facebook and Instagram.  (And so did Amber.)  I'll be recapping the experience here on the blog soon, but for now, I'll just say it was a blessed weekend: the weather cooperated, the ladies were all friendly, and I came away inspired and challenged.  I can't wait to share more with you.


We are officially finished with our school year!  Our exam week ended up being the week right before the retreat, so I was able to put aside our school stuff for good before focusing on the final retreat details.

It was a successful year--lots of learning and growing took place in all of us. But it's always hard to get it all done with a baby in tow, and I'm happy to be on break!  We're taking completely off until May, when we'll start a light summertime schedule.

In the meantime, I've got some big to-dos I'm hoping to hit.  This week's assignment is The Great Summer Clothing Switch-Out of 2016, perhaps my least favorite seasonal chore.  (I know I'm not alone in that!)

To make up for it, I'm promising myself some more time to go through John Muir Laws videos in the afternoons--I sit down with scratch paper and a pencil and spend about twenty minutes listening to one of his workshops, and it's been both relaxing and helpful.  His feed is a goldmine of practical tips and encouragement in the principles of process and observation.  (And, of course, I'm going to work through the book too!  So lots of nature journaling this summer.)


Reading around...

Dawn is celebrating fifteen years of blogging, and that reminded me to direct you once again to her free e-book, which would make a great addition to your Morning Basket!  Pam also recently interviewed her for Homeschool Snapshots--definitely worth a listen.  And if you're so inclined, head over to her anniversary post today and link up your favorite Wednesdays With Words post.  I'm still deciding which of mine to share...

I'm a couple days late, but Amber reminded me of this annual novena to Our Lady of Good Counsel that she prays as she discerns her upcoming school planning.  If you'd like to jump in now, I don't think Our Lady will mind! ;)

Have you seen Legends and Lace?  Lizzie is an AO mom who makes beautiful Charlotte Mason-themed bracelets. She's running a giveaway right now, so head over there to learn more! It would make a fun Mother's Day present to yourself or might be just the lift you need to get you through the rest of the school year.  (And just to be clear, I'm not getting any finder's fee; she's just a homeschooling e-friend who does lovely work.  I mean really, CM jewelry?!)


Xavier turned SIX yesterday.  As I said on Instagram, he is one of those wild-and-crazy boys that loves to snuggle.  I overheard him telling his sister how much he wanted a Schleich crocodile mother and baby, so we gifted him a set.  He was so surprised and pleased.

But you know what he said he was really hoping to get?  A school binder.  Ha!  That is a Year 1 right of passage in our house, so he's going to have to wait the long summer through until he starts first grade in the fall.  Poor binder-less guy. ;)


Speaking of Xavier, he and Gianna have an arrangement in which she quickly doodles him a page to color in each day.  This morning's, based on those crocodiles he got yesterday as well as his Schleich knights...

I love seeing her skills develop and how she shares those skills to please her younger siblings. :)


And Justin is now big enough to join is in the high chair at the dining table for Morning Basket!  He doesn't last all that long, but it means I get to do a bit of reading without bouncing him on my knee, so I'll take all I can get.  He's also army-crawling now, which means he's happy to play on the floor with some toys for a few minutes in the mornings.  My schedule-happy personality loves these little steps toward predictability.  (I know that you fellow Type A moms of babies know what I'm talking about!)


In the next couple weeks, I'll be posting What We're Reading for April, a retreat recap, and an overview of our year and Term 3 exams.

And a quick reminder: if you'd like to add a post to Keeping Company, head on over!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Cate's First Grade :: Exams, Term 2

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 Year 1 exams here, and the exams from the AO site (which are wonderful) are here--all years and terms available!)

Tell the story of Dick Whittington, Picciola, or Antonio Canova.
Illustrate one scene from the life of George Washington.
Tell me why and how The Giant's Dance was brought to Britain or about the founding of the Round Table.

not exactly how I picture George Washington in my mind's eye, but... :)

Nature Study
Describe what the county park looks like in winter.  What trees are bare?  What is in bloom?  What animals or birds do we see?
Tell me what you remember about the kingfisher or the heron from the Burgess Bird Book.  (She opted to draw a picture also.)
Tell the story of The Market Square Dog or Blossom Comes Home.
Find one thing in your nature journal from this term and tell me about it.

Tell the story of the Visitation.
What are the Seven Sacraments?
Give the definition of a Sacrament.
How can we increase contrition for our sins?

Read Alouds
Tell a favorite scene from The Sign of the Beaver.
Illustrate a favorite story from Winnie-the-Pooh.  Describe it to me.

Reading Skill
Read a paragraph from your folk tales book aloud.  Then tell me about it in your own words.

Play a game of Addition Money War with Xavier.
Play a game of Corners with Mommy.
Complete this worksheet adding tens and ones.
Draw the line(s) of symmetry for the following shapes.
Show the horizontal and vertical flips of this triangle on your geoboard.  Where are the lines of symmetry?

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

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

Label the following on this map: California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Nevada, the Great Lakes.
Show me on our wall map the following countries: Canada, England, Mexico, the United States.

Sing "Jingle Bells" in Italian.
Say in Italian: The birds are in the tree.  The lake is cold.  I like the beach.  On Sundays, I go to Mass.
Introduce yourself completely. Include name, age, your likes and dislikes, what kind of person you are, what you look like, what you're wearing, and more.

Recite the poem you memorized for Christmas. Illustrate it.
What was your favorite poem by AA Milne that we read this term, and why?

Tell me a fable of your choice from this term's reading, including its moral.
Tell me the story of  The Glass Slipper or Aladdin?
Draw a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream.   Describe it to me.
Tell me the story of the Elephant's Child, First Letter, or Armadillos.

Choose a picture from My Nature Friend to copy.

Picture Study
Make a rough color sketch of one of Corot's paintings.  Describe it to me.

Play your latest recital song from memory.

Make a paper star.

And a Few Oral Answers

On the Founding of the Round Table
In a completely serious tone: Catherine Audiobook presents: The Founding of the Round Table.  Once there was a founding of the round table.  Arthur was very mad when he saw his people were fighting.  The side that was up on the table got the best food and the side that was down got the worst food, and so everyone had a quarrel about who could sit at the top. They were all mixed of ages, so there couldn't have a youngest and oldest age. Even some of them were the same age but very close to being twins. (I was trying not to die of laughter here.) Merlin and Arthur were upstairs, so they  didn't know about the quarrel being loud until everybody started rushing into the hall and pretending to cut off people's necks and running all over the place. Some even stood on the table. They were angry at the others for not letting them sit at the table. When Arthur heard this, he certainly rushed down the stairs and went in. Merlin went down too. Arthur didn't know what to do, so he asked Merlin and Merlin suggested they should buy a fair table, which was round and had no higher and lower so that there would be no fighting. The End.

On the Market Square Dog
There was a market square dog and there was a vet.  The vet goes to a bunch of stores.  The stores are very good and they sell stuff like cheese, bread, and those kind of things. The dog, when people tried to get him, just runs away to other shops.  And even to one that sells scones and sausages. The market square dog goes to a lot of shops until he can't find any more to go to. Then a policeman comes up. The policeman goes to his station and brings the dog there. The vet asked what was wrong and the policeman said, "Nothing." The market square dog, when he is tired, goes to his cage with the policeman. He lives in a shop for someone to buy him, but people buy all the other dogs except him. The vet comes there one day and the market square dog is not there. The vet asked the policeman, "What has been? Has somebody bought him?" and the policeman says, "No, he's in prison." "But dogs can't be in there. Dogs are not allowed to go in those sort of places." This time the policeman was joking. He wanted to play a trick on the vet. He was that sort of man--playing tricks on people. The dog was inside the house with two girls petting him because the girls were always waiting for a dog. They were very glad the dog was there and the dog now had a place to live in. The dog had a white coat with big black splotches all over.  (Wait, I forgot the part I like best--can I say it?) The vet's wife made some chocolate cake for them to go out. They were going to go to a little place to sit, but right then, a policeman comes up and says, "The dog has broken his leg and one eye is tight shut." When the vet hears this, he goes out to the car and brings him in. They put him on a sheet, and the vet's wife is his helper too--she is used to helping him. She does the eye. He stitches up the leg. She helps with the bruises.  She thinks it sounds like they will still have a day out, and they wear their fancy clothes, and she takes out her fancy hat and the necklace he has never seen before.  He takes off his jacket that she has never seen before.  (Okay, now I am going to go back to the other part.) The girls put the dog on a pillow inside a basket so he can curl up inside the basket and get warm instead of being out in the freezing cold.  But no one knows whose dog it is really, and the vet doesn't know even though he is a doctor.  The End.

Some Thoughts

Cate is dramatic and imaginative, and part of our work this year has been to reign that in just a tad and have her focus on specific details in the reading rather than supplying her own. ;)  But I love her spunky creativity and I know we will find a happy way for it to coexist with reality!

My main focus for her exams is to have fun.  That means giving her lots of variety and letting her shine with what she liked best about this term as she learns to flex her narration muscles.  She is only in Year 1, after all!  But she takes her "work" seriously and I'm happy to have her join us at the exam table.

Xavier had a lot of fun pointing out to me favorite bits in his nature journal and drew a sweet illustration of the characters of Winnie-the-Pooh, his current favorite.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fourth Grade in Our Home :: Exams, Term 2

Verrrry late in getting these up (we just finished our end-of-year exams this week!), but I do want to have a record of them here, and I know some of you would like to see them.  So: Term 2 exams...

Below is a peek at my 4th graders exams from last term: first the questions, and then a sampling of answers follow.

I did something a bit different this term: I printed out a bunch of questions with space for written narrations and then one sheet of paper listing the drawn narrations and other independent activities, then clipped it all together and left it on the dining table for them to grab first thing that Monday morning.  (You can see the stack in that photo at the top.)  I let them work at whatever pace they wanted, in whatever order they wanted.  The oral narrations are pretty much all that weren't listed there--we did together during our usual naptime school block.  They had a lot of fun with this format and I did it for our Term 3 exams also.  (If my kids didn't enjoy writing, we certainly wouldn't be doing it this way!  But if your kids do like writing, it's something to consider. :))

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

Tell about two of these: James Oglethorpe, La Salle, King William's War, or Chief Pontiac.
Tell about the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.
Tell about the French and Indian War or the Seven Years War.
Choose one and tell what you know about him or her: Marie Antoinette or Voltaire.

Tell what you know about Lake Pepin.
Tell all you know about Russia or the Scandinavian Peninsula from Hillyer's A Child's Geography of the World.
What do you know about the Mound Builders?
Complete the following pages:

Natural History and General Science
Describe the links of the endless chain of change that transform a grain of soil.
Tell how steam can make machines move or tell all you know about clouds.

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
What does the county park look like in January? Are the trees bare, bearing fruit, in bloom?  Are there wildflowers?  Describe at least three January sights there. You may sketch if you like.

Write a haiku to tell a story from Age of Fable.  (Note: We happened to discuss haikus when they came up in George Washington's World.)
Illustrate one scene from Kidnapped and write a short description.
Who was your favorite character in A Midsummer Night's Dream?  Describe a favorite scene that he or she was in with as much detail as you can.

Describe how Philopoemen remained a good general until the end.

Choose a few lines from The Epistle of James to add to your Prose and Poetry notebook.

What are the Sacraments of death?  The sacraments of life?  Why are they called so?
Name two commandments of the Church.
Choose one rosary mystery and describe Mother Loyola's insights about it in Hail Full of Grace.
Answer any two questions about our saint studied this term, St. Junipero Serra:
 -- Describe a particular difficulty St. Serra endured on his journey and how he overcame it.
 -- Share something of the early life of Fra Serra.
 -- Describe the founding of one of Fr. Serra's missions.
 -- How was Father Serra welcomed by the native Californians?

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

Reading Skill
Select a passage from Calico Captive in your clearest voice.

Play your most recent piece for your grandparents.

What was your favorite poem by Dickinson other than the one you memorized?  Share an bit or image from it that struck you.

Complete the assigned math selection.

Choose a picture from My Nature Friend to draw.

Handicrafts and Life Skills
Show something you made for Christmas to Daddy.
Make a paper star from memory.

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!  (Click to see larger if you'd like.)

Some Thoughts

:: I guessed last time that once we hit the Revolutionary Era, the kids' enthusiasm for their history questions would increase.  It did!  They really enjoyed this term's history readings and that came through in their written responses.
:: I prioritized mapping habits in Term 2 and found their work to be much better than in Term 1...but still not as great as I expected.  (I will say, though, that Term 3 results are much improved so I will share more about that when Term 3 exams are ready to share.  I think we needed two terms of this habit under our belts to start to make connections.)  Map drills, on the other hand, have been very successful, as usual.  But I really do privilege mapwork accompanying our geography readings to the drill form, so I'd like to have the former catch up with the latter in terms of retention.
:: Italian answers were surprisingly good (better than Term 1), but spelling was definitely a problem.  I added in more Italian copywork in the CM style for Term 3 to help with some of that.  We did Italian completely aurally/orally for a couple years before this, so they can definitely say more than they can write--and that showed here.  I'm pleased they are taking risks and not just sticking with words they're completely sure of, though!  Those results also made me think I need to include more reading aloud in Italian to translate spelling to pronunciation.  I added that to my for Year 5 brainstorming.  
:: Their favorite part of the exams were the creative options.  I think adding a few of those to the tell-what-you-know variety makes the whole experience more fun!

Tomorrow: my Year 1 and kindergartener's exams!