Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Keeping Company :: September Invitation

Hello, friends!  September is here already, and with it, a refreshing change of season and a recommitment to schooltime habits.  I have loved sharing in the Keeping you have been doing during summer days, but I'm looking forward to reading more about how fall looks in your homes and your notebooks.

I've already seen lots of great entries describing new autumn Keeping habits and lots more.  If you haven't yet had a chance to check out the August link-up, please do!

Monthly Feature

There were a few posts in the last link-up that happened to be on the very same topic: butterflies!  With the end of summer comes the end of butterfly's favorite season, but hopefully you still have some around your area to enjoy as the hot days taper down.

Carol at Journey and Destination shares about Australasian butterflies through a few books they have been slowly savoring and nature journal entries from her children.

from Journey and Destination

Lisa at Olive Plants All Around My Table has a butterfly bush outside that's getting a lot of attention--but not just from the butterflies!  Are you considering how to make nature observation and recording an self-driven activity for your older students?  Take a peek at her daughter's inspiring work.

from Olive Plants All Around My Table
(And Amy at ...these are a few of my favorite things... just happened to include a lovely picture of a butterfly alongside her commonplace entry.  A coincidence?  Probably, but I couldn't resist!)

This month's optional prompt

I thought I'd ask this month about other kinds of notebooks.  We have talked quite a bit here about the Book of Centuries (or timeline, for younger ones), the nature journal, and the commonplace--the "big three," as Laurie Bestvater categorizes them in The Living Page.  But she also goes through so many others that come up in the context of Miss Mason's schools: foreign language notebooks, Calendars of Firsts, poetry collections, self-made homekeeping manuals, math and science notebooks for the upper grades...

We don't know as much about some of these--whether they were common among CM students or just a simple project by a classroom or two, whether they were meant to be lifelong or just for a term, and so on.  But I do think we can judge that there is room for more than just the Big Three for certain homes and certain students.  Have you had any success with other kinds of notebooks?  Are you adopting an extra CM-style notebook this year?  Do you have students keeping a music notebook, a Book of Mottoes, a Way of the Will chart?  I'd love to hear about it!

I'll be back here next Tuesday, September 8th, to post the next link-up.  Until then, feel free to add your posts on any CM Keeping topic to the August link-up!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Xavier's Kindergarten

Xavier is my kindergartener this year.  He's 5.5, all boy, very eager, and a lovable combination of silly and serious.  He's only 14 months younger than Cate, but I have no plans to combine the two now or in the future--we'll save his Year 1 for next year, when he'll be six.  This year, he's enjoying the riches and readings we do as a family as well as a little time carved out just for him.

He has three slots on my checklist each day:

:: 15 minutes of either math lesson (RightStart Level B) OR reading lesson (CM-style)
:: 5 minutes of either writing (learning letter strokes on a chalkboard) OR another fine motor activity (cutting, puzzle, lacing, etc -- these usually stretch longer than 5 minutes)
:: 15 minutes of a read-aloud from the Year 0 shelves (though Cate listens in too)

He also gets a bit of schoolish time in other ways over the course of the day:

:: He listens to about 20 minutes of an audiobook daily with Cate while I do school with the Big Kids.  Right now they're working through the Little House series again, and then we'll move on to Jim Weiss and some Year 1 free reads.
:: The Big Kids spend a few minutes reading either Beatrix Potter or Winnie-the-Pooh to him two afternoons a week while I get a little extra school time in with just Cate.
:: He joins us for our family work, including Morning Basket readings, picture study, music study, poetry, and Italian.
:: He listens in on Cate's daily religion readings as she prepares for First Communion.
:: He loves our nature study outings and keeps his own nature journal, which he takes quite seriously!  :: And obviously he joins the littles too when I sit down in the late morning with a short stack of picture books.

Basically, he occupies his "middle child" position in the family quite happily by being involved with everyone doing everything. ;)  The rest of his time he spends outdoors or in imaginative play, and he's also apprenticing under his big brother to take on some new chores later this year.

He doesn't have his own binder or pencil box yet (those are special privileges reserved for the Year-1-and-over crowd around here ;)), but he does have a couple spots where he keeps his things:

his small "kindergarten box," like Cate's last year...

...and the ottoman in our family room, which has during-naptime-only activities he can pull out while I'm working with the older kids, including puzzles, pattern blocks, lacing beads, and the like.

When I get a chance, I'll give a closer peek at his shelves, which include not just kindergarten-ish read-alouds but also my favorite picture books for the Year 0 crowd.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kinglsey...at the Beach!

Charles Kingsley's Madam How and Lady Why has been a hit so far with my two Year 4 students this term.  It's no surprise, as they were already familiar with and quite fond of his humorous asides and conversational tone.  (We read The Water Babies and Heroes aloud last year; in terms of tone, I think this one falls very close to the former, but the content, being non-fiction, is more straightforward.)

My daughter in particular appreciates Kingsley because he always anticipates her follow-up questions before she even has a chance to comment.  She'll open her mouth to object or ask a question, and the next words I read are, "What! you have a question more to ask?" or "I see you are astonished at the notion."  Gianna just eats all that up.  And how could you not?  His voice shines through with such charm, and we're happy to spend twenty minutes or so with him each week as he shares insight into the hows and whys of the natural world.

But we weren't expecting to find him at the beach last week, though I suppose we should have!  After all, Chapter 1 of Madam How and Lady Why--and the whole book, really--is all about "water, water, you stupid man."  (Yes, according to our house rules, you are only allowed to call someone stupid if you are writing in the nineteenth century.  And yes, that is another reason Kingley's writing invokes lots of giggles.)

Back to the beach:

Vincent spent twenty minutes or so digging a long, narrow tunnel connecting a sand castle he was making to the water (see him there on the left working away?).  He noticed that the deep, narrow tunnel gradually began to grow broader and shallower at the end as the water flowed in and back out.  "It's like The Glen!" he happily reported.

He dug another tunnel to show me.  Sure enough!  It started off with high sides...

And as the water moved in and out, that end of the canyon grew shallower and broader.

And then these crests started to form which reminded us of another bit:
"You know what an odd, and indeed of what a pretty form all these glens are: how the flat moor ends suddenly in a steep founded bank, almost like the crest of a wave--ready like a wave-crest to fall over, and, as you know, falling over sometimes, bit by bit, where the soil is bare." (14)

Of course we were using just sand and not combinations of earth layers, but the concept became clear to the children all the same.

Kingsley encourages us to not to take his word for it but to investigate ourselves:
"But I do not want you to merely depend on what I say.  If you want to understand Madam How, you must ask her questions yourself, and make up your mind yourself like a man ... The Bible says, 'Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.'  So do you prove my guess, and if it proves good, hold it fast." (19-20)
And later in the chapter he makes this point which I think is just lovely:
"For the safest way to learn Madam How's methods is to watch her at work in little corners at commonplace business, which will not astonish or frighten us, nor put huge hasty guesses and dreams into our heads ... So do you be humble and patient, and watch Madam How at work on little things.  For that is the way to see her at work upon all space and time." (23)
We were happy to take his advice without even meaning to, and we are waiting with humility and patience for what Kingsley and Madam How have to teach us through the rest of this year.


For those of you who are also doing Year 4 science, here are a few helpful parent guides that I look over each week during my weekly planning and pre-reading session:

Story-Book of Science Notes and Activities at the AO Forums
Madam How and Lady Why posts by chapter at Journey and Destination
Carol's Pinterest boards on Earth Science (including MHLW) -- thanks for the tip, Dawn!
Katie Barr's Madam How and Lady Why study guide from the AO website

I hope you are enjoying this year's science selections as much as we are!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What We're Reading :: August

(I finally signed up for Amazon Affiliates.  The links below are affiliate links, and as such, if you purchase through one of the links, I will get a small percentage of the sale.  I'm choosing not to add links for books scheduled by AmblesideOnline because I'd much rather you purchase those through AO's affiliate links instead, which can be accessed on each year's booklist.)

Berry's Jayber Crow (on my list since reading Hannah Coulter last year)
C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters (in bits here and there)
short stories from Flannery O'Connor (for our local book club)
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
Trevor's Sun Slower, Sun Faster (finishing up from summer during Morning Basket time)
Speare's The Sign of the Beaver (our new read-aloud--I remember reading this one as a kid)

Vincent, age 9
Ince's St. Thomas More of London (a re-read of one of our scheduled saints' lives for Year 3)

Gianna, age 8
Cooper Edens' Princess Stories (she has scheduled this one out for herself, a chapter a week--ha!)
Margery Sharp's The Rescuers (from the AO Year 4 extra free reads list)
Streatfeild's Theater Shoes (also from the AO list, and just finished!)

To the Middles (Cate, age 6, and Xavier, age 5)
AA Milne's House on Pooh Corner
McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings and One Morning in Maine
For this week's reading lessons: Stevenson's "At the Sea Side" (for Cate) and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (for Xave)
On audio: Little House on the Prairie read by Cherry Jones

To the Littles
Cooper Eden's Glorious Mother Goose (3yo Bridget's current favorite--and one of mine too!)
The Farm Book (2yo Clara's current favorite--fyi, it looks like the barn-shaped version is no longer in print, and that is the real charm of this book. so sad!)

From the thrift store and in the mailbox
I picked up the top half of this pile at the thrift store and grabbed the bottom half from an online seller:

I also got a thick stack of used Yesterday's Classics (Pierson's Among the Series and a couple of the Andrews' Seven Little Sisters books) that went right on to the free reading shelf and are being happily picked through by my bigs.  I plan to work a couple into Cate and Xave's read-aloud time later this year...

What have you been reading lately?

Monday, August 17, 2015

{This and That}

Thanks for all of your kind emails and comments regarding my planning posts--I'm glad they are useful to you!  This week, I'm hoping to post Xavier's school plans, and maybe the week after that, a list of some of my favorite books for the preschool/kindergarten set.


I took the oldest three to see their first Shakespeare play last week, a local production of Much Ado About Nothing.  We had just read the Lambs' version of the play last spring (for Year 3), so we listened to the Arkangel audio of the full-length version over the last couple months and the kids also learned several passages as part of their memory work.  They were so excited about going and absolutely loved it.

I'm thinking we'll probably read Midsummer Night's Dream next and then The Winter's Tale for Term 3, since I think that will be playing locally this spring.  That is one of my favorite plays, so I'm looking forward to it!


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My husband started working from home again for at least the short-term as of a couple weeks ago, which means we'll be hitting the beach 1-2 times a week as long as the weather holds.  We had this same situation pop up last summer and it was bliss.  I feel really thankful to have the opportunity for more time at my favorite places with my favorite people.

(Both of those photos are completely unedited--no color filters or brightening or anything.  So if posting slows down a bit here, it's because I am sitting under a beach umbrella staring out at those beautiful waves and those beautiful kids. ;)  I have to take it when I can get it since I never take the kids to the beach by myself!)


The challenge with that scenario is getting school done!  Last week, for example, we had one full day at the beach, one morning out for nature study, and one morning out for homeschool park day.  This week, we'll be adding back in our piano and art lessons one morning too, and I think we're aiming for two beach trips.  That makes my "average day chart" look less and less average. ;)

This is why I love working primarily from a weekly checklist rather than a daily schedule.  For the days that we were home, we followed our daily schedule and appreciated the pre-planned rhythm.  For the days that we weren't, we worked off of our weekly checklist before and after the day's outing.

We also did a few things in the car on the hour-long drive to the coast: the week's Minn reading and narration, the narration for This Country of Ours, a bit of Italian, memory work using Evernote on my phone, and an hour of our Year 4 free read on the drive home.

Thanks to the weekly checklist, we still got everything done without feeling like we were behind just because we missed Latin on Monday morning at 9:30am. ;)


Oh, and one last thing about the beach: I came across this creature on our last outing.  Anyone know what it is?  Just a sea slug?  It was dead and smelled terrible, but I had to hold it to get some photos--all for the love of nature study, you know.


Some friends and I have been doing nature study together for years, and this year we're attempting a slightly more formal approach now that our kids are a bit older.  We're focusing on trees, and we'll be following a half dozen of our most common native trees over the course of the year.

Usually we have maybe 3-4 families and 10-15 kids, but last week, we had eight families and over 35 kids!  Those picnic tables shown above were packed and we ended up having to journal in shifts--a really fun time. :)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Morning Basket 2015-2016 :: Term 1

First, a note: I use the term "Morning Basket" to refer to all the work we do together as a family, even with the littles. Even though I call it Morning Basket for organizational purposes, it is really broken up into two parts: one done over breakfast, and the rest done at the end of our Naptime School block.  Our Morning Basket is still very much the same as we have done it for the past few years, so if you'd like to read more specifics about how it works for us, you can read about how we structure it and prior selections.

A look at our Morning Basket plans for Term 1 of this year...

Over Breakfast

Calendar Work - in English and Italian (daily)

Poetry - a poem from our poets for the term, Alfred Lord Tennyson for Year 4 and Robert Louis Stevenson for Year 1 (daily)

Short Reading - from one of the following:
:: Hillyer's A Child's Geography of the World (two chapers per week)
:: Sybil Deucher's The Young Brahms (a bit per week)
:: Hillyer's A Child's History of Art (section on Velazquez)
:: Flos Sanctorum (verses for the week based on the liturgical year)
:: The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism No. 1 (one section per week)
:: Amy Steedman's Legends of Italy (one chapter per week)

Read-Aloud - with any breakfast time I have left before the babies start fussing, I read from one of our scheduled read-alouds: Speare's The Sign of the Beaver, Burnett's The Secret Garden (on audio), or Trevor's Sun Slower Sun Faster

In the Afternoon

Memory Work (daily) - includes review of that day's items from our memory "notebook" as well as our current selections:
:: Hymns - Veni Creator Spiritus; Dona Nobis Pacem; O Sacred Heart, O Love Divine; St. Michael Prayer in chant
:: Folk Song - Scarborough Fair; The Ballad of Davy Crockett; Red River Valley; Michael, Michael, Michael of the Morning
:: Bible - The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17), The Salt and Light Discourse (Matthew 5:13-16)
:: Prayers - Confiteor in Latin, Nicene Creed in Latin
:: Poetry - Tennyson's "Sweet and Low," "Crossing the Bar," "Will," "Early Spring"; Stevenson's "Rain" and "At the Sea-Side"
:: Shakespeare - Much Ado About Nothing 5.1.215-219 and 2.3.205-end of soliloquy
:: Bird Calls - California Quail, Belted Kingfisher (we didn't finish these last year)

We move on to a new selection once we have the previous selection memorized rather than on a regular schedule, so our plans are just that--plans.  I'll update our Memory Work index with the ones we cover.

Italian Memory Work (daily) - The older three and I cover new concepts, games, and conversation during naptime, but we usually do our Italian memory work with the littles around:
:: Rhymes - "La bella lavanderia" from Filastrocche Italiane
:: Songs - "Tu canterai, "Cosi fan," "Giro giro tondo" from Teach Me Everyday Italian
:: Series - "I do something every day"

Picture Study on Diego Velazquez (once weekly) - two weeks for each piece, alternating between observation/narration and a picture sketch
:: Old Woman Frying Eggs, 1618
:: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, 1618
:: Juan de Pareja, 1630
:: Christ Contemplated by the Christian Soul, 1628
:: Aesop, 1639
:: Las Meninas, 1656

Music Study on Johannes Brahms (once weekly) - including attentive listening and discussion
:: Hungarian Dance No. 5 (four weeks)
:: Lullaby (2 weeks)
:: Piano Concerto No. 1 (2 weeks)
:: Variations on Haydn (2 weeks)
:: Violin Concerto in D (2 weeks)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cate's First Grade

It's time to share Cate's first grade programme!  She'll be doing Year 1 of AmblesideOnline with a few substitutions.  (My plans here are posted with permission from AmblesideOnline.)

MathRightStart Level B/C (15 minutes x 4 days/week)
Language ArtsCopywork - printing using Startwrite pages, beginning with letter strokes (daily)
Reading - either reading an easy reader or doing a CM-style lesson (daily)
First Communion Basket
(15 min daily)
Leading Little Ones to Mary
Neumann Press' First Communion Days
Little Nellie of Holy God
Mother Mary Loyola's King of the Golden City
Mother Mary Loyola's First Communion
Fr. Halpin's Retreats for Children (First Confession and First Communion sections)
Fr. Brennan's Angel Food for Boys and Girls
Knecht's Child's Bible History
New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism No. 0
Amy Steedman's The Read-Aloud Book of Bible Stories
PoetryRobert Louis Stevenson (Term 1), AA Milne (Term 2), A Child's Book of Poems (Term 3)
LiteratureLang's Blue Fairy Book, Aesop's Fables, Kipling's Just-So Stories, Lambs' Tales from Shakespeare
HistoryMarshall's Our Island Story, Baldwin's Fifty Famous Stories Retold, Hall's Viking Tales
D'Aulaire biographies
Weekly entries on binder timeline
GeographyHolling's Paddle to the Sea
Mapwork - tracing Paddle's on the map, learning Western states, noting characters from history on maps of Europe and America
Natural HistoryThe Burgess Bird Book for Children, James Herriot's Treasury for Children
Nature StudyWeekly nature study outing with friends
Weekly nature journal entry
Monthly object lesson and in-the-field sketching session focusing on Trees
Keeping a Calendar of Firsts as a family
Alongside the Big Kids
(details here)
Picture study and music study (10 min weekly)
Italian (15 min daily)
Handicrafts - sewing with felt, wet felting, cooking (weekly)
Free Reading from the Year 4 and Year 1 lists (daily)
Daily calisthenics during memory work, weekly run with Mommy
Memory work (daily)
Morning Basket readings (not narrated) - Steedman's Legends of Italy, Flos Sanctorum, Hillyer's Child's Geography of the World , New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Opal Wheeler's book on the term composer, Hillyer's A Child's Book of Art on the term artist (daily)
Extra-curricularsPiano lesson (once weekly) and daily practice
Art lesson (once weekly)
Swim lessons with Xavier
Weekly homeschool park day

(And just for comparison: Gianna and Vincent's Year 1 and Cate's kindergarten.)

A few notes about Cate's schedule:

She is tagging along with Gianna and Vincent this year in many subjects, including handicrafts, Italian, memory work, Morning Basket readings, and so on.  In fact, I'm doing a slightly trimmer Year 1 with her than I planned for my older two kids since she sits in on so much of their work (like Shakespeare, for example!) and is hearing challenging readings often.  For them, I did add to the Ambleside Online schedule a tad, but it feels plenty meaty enough this go-round.

As usual, we are not doing Trial and Triumph, the suggested Bible rotation, or Parables from Nature, choosing instead to fill those slots with our own religious materials.  This is a sacramental preparation year for Cate, who hopes to make her First Confession and First Communion this spring.  So I chose to do a First Communion basket of religious reading I thought she would love as she readies herself for those events.  (Xavier is also joining us for the First Communion readings; he'll basically have a two-year preparation, which I think is an added bonus of being a younger sibling!)  I'm not scheduling these books out--just reading about ten minutes to her daily from whichever books we choose.

She's doing more extra-curricular activities than my older two were doing at her age.  But we found instructors for art and piano in our home, so I didn't mind adding Cate in to the lessons since they're already coming over to teach the older two.  She is very eager to start piano officially, and she'll do some simple drawing exercises with the art teacher while the big kids work on more complicated projects.  And I have been waiting until Xavier hit kindergarten age so the two of them could be paired for swim lessons.  So all three items on her list are family activities that will stretch for the year.

Cate and Xavier (my kindergartener) are actually doing quite a bit together this year, but I'll chat about my specific plans for him another day because I want to share a little pile of my favorite books for the Year 0.5 set. :)