One Method to Rule Them All: The Narration Process Crosses Every Discipline, by Genevieve

1

I have noticed many homeschooling blogs which depict perfect mothers teaching perfect children in perfect homes. Maybe they spend days setting up the fantasy scenery and more days editing out every imperfection while their children are left to fend for themselves. Maybe they are just naturally perfect. I don’t know. I don’t frequent those blogs.

At my house, there are stuffed animals and bits of wool on the floor. There are doggy kisses during the lesson, and sometimes even a preschooler who is obsessed with using the electric pencil sharpener. If I waited until things were perfect, we would never get school done.

Fortunately, perfection isn’t a necessary prerequisite to successful homeschooling. Consistency, respect, wonder and enthusiasm are.

“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules”
         ~Anthony Trollope

So go teach your imperfect children imperfect lessons in your imperfect house and believe that the diligence of your imperfect self will be rewarded richly.

One truism I know about homeschooling is that it takes time and costs money.  When a parent starts investigating the possibility of homeschooling, the options and details involved seem completely overwhelming. The narration process can simplify matters significantly, although even this cannot make it fast and free.

One advantage of incorporating narration into your homeschool day is that it allows you to use living books rather than purchasing a commercial curriculum for every subject. This reduces the cost and allows you to cover several core disciplines in a single lesson. Another advantage is that the narration process is conducive to folding in students of differing ages and abilities. In this sample lesson, I was teaching a nine year old, an eight year old and a four year old. Additionally, this method is ideal for allowing students to explore various editions and translations of the same story. Older children are fascinated by comparing and contrasting the recounting of a single historical event from various sources.

For the sample lesson, I opened several Bibles to Genesis 27-28 and let each child choose a book from which to draw an illustration in their Bible journals while I read to them.

Lesson Opening 

This is where I tell the students about what we are going to be reading and tie the new subject material to their previous knowledge.

The Lesson

It is important to keep lessons short enough to hold the children’s attention. This entire Bible lesson is taught in under seventeen minutes; however my four year old went back to her journal and continued working on her illustration all evening.  There will be interruptions, even during a short lesson. Handle them calmly and in an unobtrusive manner so as not to distract the other students and to maintain a positive atmosphere for learning.

Teachable Moments 

Look for opportunities to incorporate spelling, grammar, and handwriting into this part of the lesson. Remember that students are expected to be respectful but not silent or still.

The Narration

This part is critical for assessing how much of the lesson the student understood. Once, after reading an account of Martin Luther, my student kept wanting me to write about a squirrel, or more specifically a person who made a pact with God in a thunderstorm which turned him into a squirrel. This provided the perfect opportunity for me to explain the difference between a monk and a chipmunk.

During narration, write exactly what the child says. When they know that every word they say will be recorded, students take their time and choose each detail carefully. Children are also more motivated to read their own words than the words of others. During free-time, I often find them pouring over their journals, reading past entries.  We treasure the old journal in which the title reads “The Reign of Terror,”  and the narration reads “I like and I love this girl’s pretty dress.”

Reading The Narration 

During this step, I read the child’s words back to her exactly how they are written, which helps strengthen her understanding of the relationship between the spoken and the written word.

One of the most exciting aspects of this method is watching the child progress through the stages of thinking logically and sequentially, speaking coherently, and finally beginning to write their responses themselves.

I chose not to correct this account of the story, but that could be a lesson for another day. I might even take next week’s dictation sentences directly from this journal entry, as an opportunity to further integrate additional subject areas.

I have continued to use narration with our older children, which has given them the opportunity to work daily on their handwriting and composition skills, both in writing and art,

as well as improve drawing skills,

and eventually practice typing.

When you incorporate narration into your homeschooling day, you may find it to be something your entire family enjoys. You save time by teaching multiple concepts simultaneously while allowing your children to develop a strong scaffolding for future writing. It might even become their favorite part of the day, and their journals are guaranteed to become keepsakes which remind you of happy days spent learning together as a family.

It’s All Greek to Me, by Cheryl

1

Architect

Astronomy

Chorus

Democracy

Geometry

Gymnasium

What do these words have in common? They are all common English words that have Greek roots.

English is a difficult language to learn to speak and even harder to learn to spell. I have struggled with spelling my entire life. I was not given a strong foundation in the subjects that would help me with spelling. I want something better for my kids.

We start with a strong basis in phonics for reading (kindergarten). I add a spelling program that teaches the basic spelling rules of the English language (first grade). We add Latin to assist with grammar and spelling/understanding words that are Latin based (first or second grade). This year (fourth grade), we are adding Greek to help with the spelling of words with Greek origins.

The study of Greek roots can also help with understanding the meaning of new words. If a child comes across a new word with Greek origins, they are able to break the word apart and derive a meaning through their knowledge of Greek. My 8-year-old son is already doing this with his minimal study of the Latin language, Greek history, and Greek mythology.

Is this too much? Can a child learn two languages at one time? Am I overwhelming my student?

No. Yes. I don’t think so.

I don’t think I am giving my child too much. Many people vastly underestimate what a child can learn and handle. If you understand a child’s learning style and you cater to that, they can learn at an astounding rate. I am careful to select curricula that support my individual child’s learning style as much as possible.

Many children grow up learning two and three languages at once. Most of those probably live in a bilingual household or have regular contact with a native speaker. It may be a little harder to learn through books and CDs, but I am not looking for fluency in speech with Latin and Greek. I want a knowledge of the elements of the language that will support their use of the English written word, and later aid their study of the foreign languages they chose to learn in the logic and rhetoric stages of their education.

My son will be starting his third year of Latin. It seems to come easy for him. The program we use teaches pronunciation, grammar, and some conversational Latin phrases. As we add Greek, we will start with Memoria Press’ Greek Alphabet book. This slow start as we overlap the languages should help ease us into two languages without overwhelming or confusing him. We can always drop it if it becomes too much and add it back in a year.

I have spent time talking with my son about why we are studying these languages. He has even had conversations where he was able to put his knowledge to use. This alone excites him to begin a new language! I know why I want my children to study the subject, and I take great care as well to be sure they understand why we are studying it. This gives them a focus and determination that no one can force on them; they want it for themselves. I am teaching them to take control of their education.

cheryl

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

It’s All Greek to Me, by Cheryl

1

Architect

Astronomy

Chorus

Democracy

Geometry

Gymnasium

What do these words have in common? They are all common English words that have Greek roots.

English is a difficult language to learn to speak and even harder to learn to spell. I have struggled with spelling my entire life. I was not given a strong foundation in the subjects that would help me with spelling. I want something better for my kids.

We start with a strong basis in phonics for reading (kindergarten). I add a spelling program that teaches the basic spelling rules of the English language (first grade). We add Latin to assist with grammar and spelling/understanding words that are Latin based (first or second grade). This year (fourth grade), we are adding Greek to help with the spelling of words with Greek origins.

The study of Greek roots can also help with understanding the meaning of new words. If a child comes across a new word with Greek origins, they are able to break the word apart and derive a meaning through their knowledge of Greek. My 8-year-old son is already doing this with his minimal study of the Latin language, Greek history, and Greek mythology.

Is this too much? Can a child learn two languages at one time? Am I overwhelming my student?

No. Yes. I don’t think so.

I don’t think I am giving my child too much. Many people vastly underestimate what a child can learn and handle. If you understand a child’s learning style and you cater to that, they can learn at an astounding rate. I am careful to select curricula that support my individual child’s learning style as much as possible.

Many children grow up learning two and three languages at once. Most of those probably live in a bilingual household or have regular contact with a native speaker. It may be a little harder to learn through books and CDs, but I am not looking for fluency in speech with Latin and Greek. I want a knowledge of the elements of the language that will support their use of the English written word, and later aid their study of the foreign languages they chose to learn in the logic and rhetoric stages of their education.

My son will be starting his third year of Latin. It seems to come easy for him. The program we use teaches pronunciation, grammar, and some conversational Latin phrases. As we add Greek, we will start with Memoria Press’ Greek Alphabet book. This slow start as we overlap the languages should help ease us into two languages without overwhelming or confusing him. We can always drop it if it becomes too much and add it back in a year.

I have spent time talking with my son about why we are studying these languages. He has even had conversations where he was able to put his knowledge to use. This alone excites him to begin a new language! I know why I want my children to study the subject, and I take great care as well to be sure they understand why we are studying it. This gives them a focus and determination that no one can force on them; they want it for themselves. I am teaching them to take control of their education.

cheryl

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Care to get a little dirty? Study Earth Science! –by Lynne

1

Learning about erosion

Studying earth science is a fantastic way to interest little boys and girls in science, especially if your little ones like to get dirty and make messes. There are dozens and dozens of ways to dig in to earth science (pun intended).

We did earth science during our first year of homeschooling, when my boys were in first and second grade. After a quick perusal of library resources, I decided not to even look for a curriculum for earth science. There were so many age appropriate books for every topic that I thought we should cover that I didn’t see the need to spend any money.

Here are some of the books that we used:

Magic School Bus Inside the Earth, by Joanna Cole

The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks, by Joanna Cole

Kingfisher Voyages: Oceans, by Stephen Savage

Weather (National Geographic Readers), by Kristin Baird Rattini

Weather (Eye Wonder), by Lorrie Mack

Rocks! Rocks! Rocks! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

Rocks and minerals (True Books), by Ann O. Squire

Volcanoes, by Seymour Simon

Global Warming, by Seymour Simon

Hurricanes, by Seymour Simon

Danger! Earthquakes, by Seymour Simon

Tornadoes, by Seymour Simon

Dave’s Down-to-earth Rock Shop, by Stuart Murphy

My boys also enjoyed this video: Earth Science Rock N’ Learn

We spent a lot of time together on the couch this year. We read and read and read about earth science. We started out learning about the layers of the earth and plate tectonics. Then we moved on to the different types of rocks. We talked about how rocks were formed by volcanoes and compression of sediment. My younger son loved this and started a rock collection, to which he still adds rocks and gem stones today. It thrills him to look in his rock books and try to identify what he’s found.

Playing with plate tectonics

Looking at how water turns into weather

We then moved on to the water cycle and oceans. This led us right into the different kinds of weather patterns and storms. We learned about cloud shapes, and what causes thunder and lightening. We scared ourselves silly learning about tornadoes and hurricanes. We made a rain gauge and kept a weather journal. We looked up average weather patterns for our area, and compared this information to our weather journals.

Seeing how wind moves ocean waters

Digging a hole for the rain gauge

Checking on the rain gauge

We took a few field trips that helped us learn more about earth science, as well. We visited some really cool caverns, where we learned the difference between caves and caverns. We went to Niagara Falls, and saw the exhibit that shows how the falls have moved back because of erosion. We visited a nature center that explained how our entire area was once covered in a glacier. When the glacier receded, layers and layers of fossils were left behind. We have found several of these fossils. We’ve gone to Lake Erie and looked at the layers in the cliffs. We also learned how our big river carved out our current topography.

Niagara Falls!

Giant stalactite!

Because we follow a four year history and science cycle, we will be revisiting earth science next year. Grammar Stage earth science was a blast. I can’t wait to see what Logic Stage will be like!

lynne   

Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past 4.5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

Good Literature and Emotional Memory: Why I Will Continue to Read Aloud to my Kids Even After They Can Read on Their Own, by Cheryl

3

I remember sitting on my bed with my “big sister,” Mary Beth (she was my babysitter, but we are as close as sisters), reading. I was about ten or eleven.

She had told my mom and me that I should read Anne of Green Gables. My mom picked up the whole series, and I fell in love with all of the wonderful characters. I remember reading the first book in only a few days.

I was close to the end of  the book when Mary Beth was at our house. She handed me some tissues and sat with me as I read and cried over Matthew’s death. She comforted me, and we bonded over a book.

One of my most vivid memories of elementary school is of my fourth grade teacher reading A Dog Called Kitty aloud. I remember how I felt as she described the little boy getting rabies shots in his stomach; I remember the feelings I had when Kitty was attacked.

I can visualize the cover and title of the book my mom read us bedtime stories from, when my sister and I were little. I remember how it felt to snuggle with her and listen to her read.

Good literature and good stories can create strong emotional memories. These memories stick with us for life. They help us form a love of reading and appreciation for a good story. I have plenty of memories of reading and enjoying a good book alone; I read the Narnia series once a year for a while, and can remember where I was as I read them. But the memories created when good literature is shared — those are the memories that really last!

I think that this, as much as any other reason I have given in the past, is why the classical method appealed to me. I only realized it recently, as I really began to focus on reading classic children’s literature out loud to my children. I want my kids to have those memories: strong memories tied to reading good books; attachments to the beautiful characters like Charlotte and Wilbur, the Pevensies, Charlie and Grandpa, Anne and Gilbert, Dorothy and her companions,  and countless others.

As I read aloud to my kids, I remember more and more about being read to as a child. I remember how reading with friends and family helped to create my love of books and reading. Reading is more meaningful if you share the experience with someone else. It does not have to be a deep, philosophical discussion where you search for the author’s true meaning (this ruins books for me more often than it enhances it), but just having someone to share the emotional roller coaster that happens when you fall in love with a character and that character suffers loss or joy enhances the experience.

Sharing these emotional experiences with a close adult helps to teach a child how to deal with these emotions. But more than anything, it creates an amazing bond as you experience the adventure, excitement, and sadness of these beloved characters.

Some of the amazing books my kids and I have read and loved:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum

Grimms’ and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairytales from various sources

Aesop’s Fables

Selections from the Bible and Bible storybooks

As I work to develop a love of reading in my children, I realize more and more that the way to do it is to pick good books and read aloud to them. I cannot force them to read a book that I pick for them. Many times, this turns my son off of a book I know he would love. I tried all year to get him to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and he refused. Now that we have read it aloud, it is one of his favorites. I have no doubt that after we read the first few books, he will get impatient and finish the series on his own.

Read aloud to your children, read alongside them, and experience the joy of good literature together. Instill the love of a good story, and they will become readers for life.

 

cheryl

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Reading: Slow and Steady Wins the Race, by Briana Elizabeth

3

My youngest daughter learned the basic phonograms at age five. We reviewed them almost every day; we practiced writing them; we took one step at a time. In spite of all that, she didn’t learn to read well until age 8.5.

I could have been utterly panicked and afraid, but as I know now, this is how my children are.  You see, the first child I taught to read was my middle son. He also took years to learn. Then when he hit about age nine, he took off and soon was asking to read books like Gulliver’s Travels.

It’s like they have some imaginary switch. One day it gets flicked on and there’s no stopping them. However, up until that time, we go very slowly. I can’t push them too hard or their frustration turns to tears, and then they hate the very idea of learning to read.

What I have always done, though, is read to them. Every day all of my children, no matter how old, get read to. Fun books, hard books, short books, long books. The Wind in the Willows, The Water-Babies, Smith of Major Wooton, The Reluctant Dragon, Macbeth. We’ve read a lot of books together.

Why the constant reading? Well, for one I like the idea that we have shared stories. We can talk about what we loved, character decisions, and we have a family culture that revolves around the books we’ve read together. But also, it gets the non-readers used to difficult clauses, hard words, sentence pacing and cadence, so that when they do finally start reading, they can pick up whatever book they want and not stumble over ideas and they’ve heard those difficult words before.

I don’t have early readers; I have my kids. I would love to have the child that is writing sentences by age six and learning how to style paragraphs at seven, but I don’t. I have to teach the children I have, not the ones I wish I had. I use very gentle grammar instruction, and I keep my eyes on my own children so that I’m making sure they are living up to their own potential, not what the grade on the book cover says they should be doing. This is why I’ve always loved Emma Serl’s Primary Language Lessons and Intermediate Language Lessons. My children are ready for harder grammar books by grade 6, but if I push too hard before then, it’s never worked and usually blows up in my face. Besides, is it really that awful if they don’t learn what a gerund is until 7th or 8th grade?

So for us, slow and steady wins the race. 

Bringing Grammar Stage History to Life, by Lynne

2

I’m not a homebody. I like going to new places and discovering things I’ve never seen before. Homeschooling provides me with the perfect opportunity to introduce (indoctrinate) my children to my wanderlust lifestyle.

Taking Flat Stanley on a historical trolley tour of our city.

I chose to use The Story of The World by Susan Wise Bauer for our grammar-stage history program. Being the vagabonds that we are, I bought the audiobook version read by Jim Weiss so that we could listen to it in the car sometimes. My children were actually in kindergarten and first grade at the local public school when we started listening to the first volume of SOTW on the Ancient Times. We drove here and there, learning all about Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and the Indus Valley. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy listening to it at first, but the kids did. It grew on me, and now I can’t get enough. I ended up purchasing the Activity Guide and checking our local library for supplemental reading on the different topics. We colored some of the pictures and did a few of the activities suggested. We even made a chicken mummy per the instructions in the AG, about which I have already written a post.

Practicing making mosaic pictures after learning about the Hagia Sophia.

The next year, we were homeschooling full time, but I still purchased Volume 2 (Medieval Times) on audiobook, along with the Activity Guide. We listened to some of it at the dining room table while coloring the corresponding pictures. And again, we listened to some of it while driving all over the place. We did all the corresponding maps in the AG, too. My boys really liked doing the maps, and I was impressed at how they could remember certain places and point them out on another map or globe. Some people don’t care for the way SOTW skips around from place to place, but I like it because it gives you a better sense of what’s happening simultaneously around the world. I liked that when we came to learning about China, say, my kids remembered labeling a previous map about it and could locate the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. Because SOTW is told in a narrative style, it’s more like listening to a historical novel than memorizing a bunch of facts and dates. This held all of our interest much better than I’d imagined. I also chose some of the crafty projects for us to do from this AG.

Making Merovingian king robes

Next in line for the throne!

 

Playing with a medieval castle

Volume 3 (Early Modern History) was probably played more in the car than at home. We were going to swimming lessons, Hebrew school, Cub Scouts, science center trips- you name it, we did it. We still colored the pictures, did the maps, read supplemental library books, and did some of the activities from the AG. But I wanted to focus a little more on early American history, so I also had the kids watch the Liberty’s Kids video series, and we did Evan Moor History Pockets about Colonial America. We made butter and wrote with quills and made hardtack to eat.
So much fun.

History Pocket

 

Trying the ink and quill on parchment

 

Takes a lot of shaking to make butter

 

Scary Viking Longboat

Our third year of homeschooling, during which we listened to Volume 4 (Modern Times), was thrown off a little by my illness and surgery. It took us a little longer, but we still managed to get through the audiobook by the end of that summer. Our list of supplemental reading was a little shorter but still adequate. The Activity Guide for this volume is quite different though. Instead of pictures to color, students are asked to fill in missing components on an outline of each chapter. This starts to prepare them for the more studious logic stage on the horizon. The activities are less crafty and more academic, but still entertaining. There are two maps for every chapter instead of one. All in all, it’s a little more advanced.

I wouldn’t change a thing about our history studies. I learned so much that I didn’t know from Story of the World. My boys have a history foundation that I know they would not have if I’d kept them in public school. And they certainly would not have gone on as many historically related field trips.

So, SOTW brought history to life with its narrative format and engaging activities. But, to me, the cherry on top of it all was the ability to take my kids to historical museums and sites. What better way to cement those images in their brains than to experience things up close? It’s one thing to read about the close quarters that the passengers endured on the ships headed for the new world. It’s another to see one of those ships in real life and experience the claustrophobia for yourself. We are lucky to live in state from which 8 US presidents have hailed. There’s nothing like sitting on the front porch of Warren G. Harding’s house and hearing about how random people came from all over and chatted with the President on that very porch.

When going through my pictures for this article, I realized just how many experiences my kids have had. We have been very fortunate to be able to travel and have the time and funds to explore our own environs as well. I tried to narrow it down to some of our favorite spots, just to give you some ideas of what is available for history study.

Medieval armor and weapons at the art museum

 

Learning about one room school houses in Vermilionville, Louisiana

 

Jamestown Harbor, Virginia

 

Amazed by the storage room at Jamestown

 

Powhatan village at Jamestown

 

Edison’s birthplace

 

Rutherford B. Hayes museum

 

William McKinley monument

 

James A. Garfield Monument

 

Visit to Ft. Meigs during a reenactment weekend!

 

Presenting for enlistment into the army

 

Musket training

 

Blocking out the cannon fire noise

 

Watching the battle

 

Getting captured by an opponent

lynne   

Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past 4.5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

 

Grammar and Writing: Where Do I Start? by Cheryl

2

The most difficult curriculum for me to pick was, and continues to be, grammar and writing. Language skills are incredibly important. It does not matter how much science, history, and literature you know – if you cannot effectively communicate, what good is the knowledge?

I love to write, and I want my children to grow to enjoy it and communicate effectively through the written word. Texting, email, Facebook, and Twitter have had a profound effect on the way people communicate. The plethora of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and format mistakes can be overwhelming.  I want a good foundation for my children.

After reading The Well-Trained Mind, I selected Rod and Staff English because it was a full grammar and writing curriculum in one. This seemed like the easiest and most financially sound choice. We have since added Institute for Excellence in Writing to our studies, and we now skip most of the writing in Rod and Staff.

How do I use the curriculum?

Rod and Staff seems to require a lot of handwriting. If you do everything as presented, a second grade student would be writing out 10 sentences everyday, sometimes more. I had a writing-averse child when we started level 2 (we did this level in 1st grade with no problem, but his reading level was advanced). He is my oral learner, so I chose not to require him to write anything.  We talked through every lesson and did all of the exercises orally. This worked great! Grammar studies were quick and easy, and he seemed to be picking up on all the concepts. Then I gave him the California Achievement Test at the end of the year. He was weak in punctuation and capitalization. Those needed to be addressed in written form.

I still did not want to require extensive handwriting for grammar, so I purchased the worksheets to go with level 3 for second grade. We still did all of the lessons orally, and then he did the written practice in the workbook. (It provided the opportunity to write in the punctuation and fix capitalization and circle the parts of speech without having to copy 10-20 sentences a day. I found this more effective for my child.) If the assignment was writing a letter or paragraph, we did that on paper. By the end of the year, his punctuation skills were on track.

For third grade I decided we needed a bit of a change. He was not gaining much from the writing assignments; I needed a different approach. I listened to a presentation on IEW’s Student Writing Intensive at a convention, but the price was high. I ruminated on it for a couple of months and then bought the first level.

For third grade, we did Rod and Staff grammar orally, skipping all of the writing assignments except poetry and letters. I purchased the workbook again for all written practice. My son loved every moment of the IEW program. He found Mr. Pudewa very entertaining, and the instruction was easy to follow. As he learned a “dress up” or “sentence opener,” we discussed how it was related to the grammar we were studying. The programs complemented each other nicely. Another element that made the year go much smoother was to allow him to type all of his final drafts.

For fourth grade we will continue with this pairing. I allowed him to choose the themed writing program he wanted to do. (I opted not to use another DVD program this year in an effort to keep our costs down. I may move onto the next DVD series in a year if the themed program does not work for us.)

I have found this combination of programs and method of presentation to be great for my son. Will it work for my daughter? Maybe; maybe not. I will start with this plan because I have the programs, but she likes to write so she may do more written practice and less oral work than my son. On the other hand, she may need a different program altogether.

This is not THE way to do grammar and writing. This is the way that works for my son. The important thing with grammar and writing is to find the program that fits your teaching style and your child’s learning style. Don’t feel stuck. If you like part of one program and part of another – feel free mix and match. Planning takes more work, but you do what you need to get the most effective program for each child.

cheryl

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

 

There Is No Crying in Homeschool, by Genevieve

4

photo by Gretchen Phillips

“The learning stops when the crying starts,” my friend explained. It sometimes feels like crying and tears are a natural byproduct of responsible parenting. While at times they truly are unavoidable, here are some strategies to help parents and students before they go past the point of no return.

During the grammar stage, my goal has always been getting my children completely addicted to learning. I want them to view learning as another natural and essential aspect of life, like eating and breathing. How is this even possible? I have children who were born for school, begging to do more each day, and I have children who repeatedly “lose” their workbooks, and spend more time avoiding schoolwork than completing it. The following guidelines are for children with both mindsets. While they won’t turn the latter into the former, they will help preserve family relationships and the sanity of all.

* Check Yourself

Are you calm and relaxed? Have you had your tea, done some reading, taken a walk outside or whatever you know puts you in the best mood and frame of mind for schooling? If you feel pressured, stressed, in a hurry to get school finished, consider delaying lessons until your errands are run and you have the leisure to work with your children in a relaxed and comfortable fashion.

* Check Your Student

It is ideal to start your lessons with a well-rested, well-fed, and well-exercised student. I have one child who cannot learn without an impressive amount of protein. If she hasn’t had that, there is no point in even trying to teach her. A melt down is guaranteed. Another of my children must have sufficient exercise to think. When she was in the grammar stage, we had homeschool P.E one morning a week, bike riding two mornings a week, and she swam two miles on the other two school days. By the time she had exercised and I had cooked a big breakfast for her, we often did not start school until after 11am. Despite this, she learned more in the afternoons than she would have in the mornings and afternoons combined had her physical needs not been met first. Some children allow for more flexibility; this is why it is so important to take your child’s emotional temperature before starting the day’s lessons.

* Start on a Positive Note

I know there’s a temptation to get the most unpleasant subjects out of the way first, but I find that attitudes are improved when you can start lesson time with an activity that the child truly enjoys.

*Progress, Not Perfection 

Sometimes you really have to work against a child’s naturally perfectionistic personality, but learning is more effective and more enjoyable when mistakes are considered a natural predecessor to achievements. Cultivate an environment of encouragement and experimentation rather than obsessing over grades and test scores.

* Invest in Quality Materials 

Whenever possible, invest in high quality tools and supplies, so that your children can easily see that you value the activity and the work involved. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to use supplies that just don’t work.

* Foster Positive Associations with Books

Foster a feeling of closeness while sharing new ideas and exposing children to literature. These positive associations can stay with the child her entire life.

*  Limit Screen Time

Consider only allowing screen time on the weekends, or even after dinner, because some children have difficulty taking their time and doing their best work when they know that they can have electronics as soon as they rush through their assignments. Instead, allow large blocks of time for creative pursuits, such as experimental fashion design.

* Lifelong Learners 

I can not claim that following these suggestions will turn every reluctant student into a voluntary scholar; however, reducing your family’s stress level is always beneficial. When you share your own love for learning, your child just may surprise you by seeking truth and knowledge for the mere joy of it.

Genevieve   

Genevieveis a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .

Classical Education: Not a Formula, But a Life, by Amy Rose

4

At Sandbox to Socrates we are devoted to sharing our homeschooling experience and wisdom with you. We want to tell you what to do when you approach a subject or skill with your child, so the Monday morning dread is lessened due to preparation and confidence. We want to teach you how to roll up your sleeves and teach! We also want to encourage you in loving your children, preparing your heart to teach them, and keeping the big picture in mind. Always.

The following is a “big picture” bit of wisdom from a veteran homeschooler who is facing the end of her homeschool journey with a couple of her sons.  ~Editor

Sometimes it seems the younger moms feel that the elder are being vague and unhelpful when asked very specific questions about homeschooling. Especially when the homeschooling parents of teens get on a kick about classical education and we start talking about literary analysis, calculus, philosophy, Latin and Greek…and our children’s studies sound so interesting and their achievements seem rather impressive, so you ask us the formula by which one gains these results. You want lists, schedules, planners, curriculum reviews, and premade lesson plans. Those things have their place, but they are tools and nothing more, so we never do sound as invested in them as you’d like us to be. We can try to tell you about the mystery of homeschooling that goes beyond the plans, but there are only so many ways that we can say, “Work out your own convictions and live by them for that is the only way to have peace in how you homeschool your children. You will only believe in it enough to do it, no matter what comes, if you were the author of the vision.”

We can say (and we have said), “Read these books and see if these philosophies take root in your heart.”

We can say (and we have said), “These book publishers and classical education speakers or mentors are seeking some of the same things, so you might want to start with their lists and materials while you hone your vision.”

We can say (and we have said), “It starts with believing that the answers are within yourself and not so much in a system designed by someone else.”

But we can’t really show you our day, because it’s not a matter of marching the children through stacks of curriculum and skills, not a matter of standardized test prep, not a matter of magic found in routines and schedules. We make pretty plans and lists but we depart from them as the spirit leads, and what arises in their place is almost always better…and we don’t even know how to say that in a short, online conversation! We older moms are frustrated, too, because what we really want is to get off this computer and invite you over to our houses for the day so you can just watch us do what we do, but we can’t. We have these articles and Facebook and forum chats that we are eager to share with you, but you’ll have to walk that lonesome valley to make it your own.

Read the books. Buy books for your children and for yourself. Determine who you want to be as a parent and as your child’s guide through his formative years and BE that person, no matter what anybody says, no matter if you get tired or lonely or start to doubt yourself. Be who you are called to be. Learn to see the human growth of the child standing in front of you, and to be honest with yourself about whether he is growing in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man. Does he lean toward beauty? Can he recognize truth and wisdom? Is he curious? Is he happy? Is he acquiring the kinds of useful skills upon which he can build more knowledge and skills? Whatever you believe education to be “for,” are you seeing the fruit of that pursuit in your home or do you need to make changes so that the entire family is living and growing again?

See, I can tell you the books my seventeen-year-old son is reading this year, and I can give you a few snapshots of our discussions. What I can’t do is explain exactly how homeschooling in this highly relational way is superior to even the best private schools. Not really. It has something to do with that connection between parent and child. It has a lot to do with the continuity of having a single very attached teacher through their whole childhood. The power, the absolute power of being able to refer to lessons he learned at 4, 8, 12, as he goes on? To make those connections to pivotal moments in his education and upbringing as you encounter the same principles in his rhetoric level books? AMAZING growth, amazing love, amazing connection — this is why homeschooling in this switched-on way is so effective. You were there for the whole thing. You were there to show him the world from birth. And you were there to help him learn to express his reactions to all that he sees and thinks, through writing, speaking, drawing, painting, and living.

You will see your children live a life changed, shaped and molded by virtuous things. Heroes, wisdom, beauty, truth, knowledge, skills, faith, wonder — nobody spends their day seeking these things without being changed. You will be changed, too.

This type of transforming growth does not come by workbooks and canned curriculum. You can start with somebody’s list, but if you aren’t open to the spirit leading you and the rabbit trails being of greater worth than the plan, then this style might not be for you. If you can’t listen to your child explain in wonder how a book has changed his life (with all the connections and lessons he’s learned, just pouring out of him, as he becomes your teacher for the moment) and follow that by tossing your study guide out the window because the student has obviously learned all he needed to learn for now…then this style might not be for you. If you are not interested in spending your spare time reading and listening and thinking and learning and praying so that you have more to pour out in the unexpected moments, then this style might not be for you.

But if this type of organic classical education is for you, and you are ready to tell the world that college and career ready skills might be a by-product of your child’s education but they will never be the goal, and you thumb your nose at the standardized tests and you no longer yearn to be rich enough to send your child to the “best” prep school, and you know that truth leads to more truth so you have time to figure it out and you have the diligence to pursue it…you will reap what you sow. Sow these things into your children and into your own heart and you will reap a beautiful and bountiful harvest.

After a very hard winter (literally and metaphorically) I am seeing the buds and shoots. Spring is here. The crop is promising, and I have no regrets.