Memoria Press Review by Kristen: Timeline

Recently I was given the chance to review Memoria Press’ Timeline curriculum.  I had been eying this for awhile, so I was very excited to break out all the material and see what I had to work with.  I received the Wall Cards, the Flash Cards, and the Composition & Sketchbook.  First thing out of the box was the Wall Cards; I’ve wanted a timeline on the wall for years!  The Wall Cards are very sturdy, and the colors are crisp and easy to read.  The Flash Cards are identical in quality.  I particularly liked the Composition & Sketchbook, though, as it gathered together all of the history review I wanted to wrap up our study of major events in a way that was easy to reference.  The Composition & Sketchbook fit the bill.

  • Method:  We used this as a review with our history program, Story of the World 4.  After each major event I had my daughter (9), go back through the material and use it to fill out the Composition book entries for Key Participants, Key Locations, and Event Description.  After she finished, I gave her colored pencils and had her sketch anything she felt was particularly interesting about the event.
  • Pros:  The Composition & Sketchbook is great.  I have seen similar individual sheets on the internet, but having these bound together is crucial for kids that lose things easily, and the space for sketching was a very nice extra to have.  This isn’t going to be the spine of a program, but it is an excellent additional resource to have on-hand.  The Timeline cards themselves are very sturdy and easy to read and the flashcards were a big hit here.
  • Con:  The flashcards and workbook are very easy to forget to use if you have a week where you are just trying to get the basics done.  I would have liked to see more events from the Modern Era as there are only a handful and it makes the use of this book rather limited if you are focusing on that particular time period.  However, it includes events from all of time, so there are ample opportunities to use it later when you cover other periods.   I have absolutely no complaints about the wall cards, besides the above mentioned lack of modern dates, but they do cover the essentials (World Wars, Great Depression, etc).
  • Conclusion:  I loved the idea of this product and wish that I had been able to use it more consistently.  We are currently studying the Modern Era,  and I found that over the course of the review time I only had the opportunity to use it twice, due to the material we covered.  I anticipate making better use of this in coming months as we cycle back to Ancients and I have more material to work with.  With attention, this could be a wonderful addition to any history program and an excellent way for a child to remember the highlights of a time period and to keep those fresh in their mind.

Be sure to read what our other reviewers had to say about this and other Memoria Press products.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review on the Sandbox to Socrates blog. Opinions expressed in this review are the opinions of myself or my family and do not necessarily reflect those of the Sandbox to Socrates blog. I received no compensation for this review, nor was I required to write a positive review. This disclosure is in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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Kristen is a homeschooling mom of four, living deep in the heart of Texas. She loves history, running, and camping, and drinks more coffee than is prudent. Kristen blogs about her daily adventures trying to classically homeschool kids who would always rather be up a tree than writing anything, ever, at www.unsinkablekristen.blogspot.com

Memoria Press Review by Tamara: First Start Reading

I had the chance to review First Start Reading from Memoria Press, which sells for $42.95.  Although this program is designed for an older child, we used this with my 3 ½ year old daughter. She is able to sing her ABC’s, cut with scissors, and draw well with a pencil, so we decided she was ready for a gentle introduction to phonics.

This program is wonderful! It could easily be stretched over two years (pre-K-K or K-1).  It begins with simple phonemes like /m/ and /s/ and concludes with consonant blends and “magic e” words. By the time a student finished book D, she will be reading 4-5 sentence paragraphs.

The program features a large teacher’s guide, which gives simple scripts and questions to guide the student in his lesson. Four student books (A-D) accompany the TG. The lessons generally span two pages and are easily accomplished in 20-30 minutes or less. They usually include a new rule or phoneme, some handwriting practice, a few lines of reading, and a space for the student to draw. There was enough variety that Leah had no problems staying focused on the lesson until its completion. As the student progresses to the last two workbooks, fun stories are included. My kindergarten son read several of these later stories to me and declared them to be “very cool.” I was appreciative of the natural syntax in the stories, as some readers we have used feature very strange and stilted verbiage.

The teacher is encouraged to read aloud often to the child while completing the program.  Listening to Mom read was our reward for finishing each lesson. Other skills emphasized in the program are proper pencil grip, ear training, punctuation, and capitalization. This program would be an excellent stand-alone language arts curriculum for K-1st.

Be sure to read what our other reviewers had to say about this and other Memoria Press products.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review on the Sandbox to Socrates blog. Opinions expressed in this review are the opinions of myself or my family and do not necessarily reflect those of the Sandbox to Socrates blog. I received no compensation for this review, nor was I required to write a positive review. This disclosure is in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

by Tamara –  Tamara is a proud Kansas City native who was transplanted to Texas thirteen years ago. She has three boys and three girls, and is currently in her seventh year of homeschooling. Several of her children have struggled with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and other learning challenges. She tells them often that God must have something amazing for them in the future, as they are learning perseverance now.

Memoria Press Review by Cheryl: Timeline

Memoria Press’ Timeline program includes a Handbook outlining the program and containing summaries of each event. The summaries are used to help the students complete their Composition and Sketchbook. For each event the Composition and Sketchbook contains a blank page for students to illustrate the event and a notebooking page to record important information about the event. Student Flashcards are used to help students memorize dates, and Wall Cards are hung as a visual reminder of the order of events. The full package retails for $39.95.

I fell in love with the idea of memorizing a history timeline when I first began studying the classical method. Memorizing historical events in order as reference for later studies made sense to me. We tried a different timeline for two years, but I found it too cumbersome. We spent hours of our week trying to memorize the numerous events. About a third of the way through, we dropped it to make more time for our other studies. When I opened up the Memoria Press Timeline I was pleasantly surprised by the number of items to memorize, only half of what we had been trying to remember previously. It is doable without being the main focus of our school.

Each year builds on the previous year’s memory work. My oldest is in third grade. Third graders are only required to memorize eleven events. Fourth graders review the original eleven items and an additional twenty for a total of thirty-one events. Fifth graders memorize forty-two events and sixth grade students memorize all sixty events.

I used the curriculum with my third grader, and my kindergartener tagged along. We memorized two items each week. The handbook contains the answers that should be written on the student composition page. I used the handbook answers as a quick review of the event. Later in the week I had my kindergartener complete the sketch page (because she is my artist) and my eight year old the composition page (because he is my writer but does not enjoy drawing). I don’t have a place on the wall to use the wall cards right now, but the flash cards were great for a quick daily review.

My kids found the timeline activities fun and easy. I love the simplicity of the curriculum. It is an excellent supplement to any history program.

*Memoria press is a Christian company. The timeline begins with Creation. The five Biblical events could easily be skipped if you are looking for a secular timeline.

Be sure to read what our other reviewers had to say about this and other Memoria Press products.

I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review on the Sandbox to Socrates blog. Opinions expressed in this review are the opinions of myself or my family and do not necessarily reflect those of the Sandbox to Socrates blog. I received no compensation for this review, nor was I required to write a positive review. This disclosure is in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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.

Memoria Press Review by Emma: Timeline

I was recently given the opportunity to review the Memoria Press Timeline curriculum. We are history nuts, here and love almost everything Memoria Press, so I was really looking forward to working with the materials. I received Wall Cards, Flash Cards, Handbook and the Composition and Sketchbook.

The Wall Cards and Flash Cards are made of heavy card stock and have white words printed on a dark background, making them easy to read. The Composition and Sketchbook has just the right amount of space for summarizing what was learned. The Handbook contains a brief summary of each moment in history.

This program was a great way to review previous history learned, and to start to build a sense of when things happened during history. We went through one card every couple of days, just reading through the notations in the Handbook, then we’d find the corresponding cards and hang the Wall Card on our Timeline. After that, my son would fill out the pertaining section in the Composition and Sketchbook.

Pros: Easy to use, good quality materials, great selection of moments in history.

Cons: There were a lot of pieces to the program, and it was a bit hard to keep up with all of them. It’s one of those programs that are easy to forget to use during busy weeks. Images next to each event would make the Wall Cards more interesting.

Conclusion: We will continue to use the program as review, although I was only able to use the program twice during our studies due to the period in history we are covering. I intend to schedule this into our week and think it will be an interesting addition to our history studies.

Be sure to read what our other reviewers had to say about this and other Memoria Press products.

Disclaimer I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review on the Sandbox to Socrates blog. Opinions expressed in this review are the opinions of myself or my family and do not necessarily reflect those of the Sandbox to Socrates blog. I received no compensation for this review, nor was I required to write a positive review. This disclosure is in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

emma

Emma–Emma has been married for seven years, and is mom of two, plus one once-crazy dog. She’s been homeschooling for three years now in NC. In addition to being a wife, mom and educator, she is also a Graphic Designer.

Lapbooking: A How-To Guide, by Cheryl

 

If you have followed my Biome study posts, you may have looked at the lapbook pages.  (If not click HERE to see them.) I used to look at lapbooks other people made and be overwhelmed at the thought of making my own. Instead, I downloaded free or inexpensive pre-made lapbooks. Eventually, I gained the confidence to start from scratch and discovered that it was not as difficult as I had once thought.

What is a lapbook?

A lapbook is a scrapbook of things you and your kids have learned. It can be anything. Most lapbooks are made up of “mini book” pieces, each piece covering a different concept or idea. You then glue the mini books into a file folder, onto card stock in a binder, or into a spiral notebook.

The idea is that you teach something, your kids make the mini books, then look at them again as they continue adding to the larger book. It gets them involved with the information three or more times. The more times they see the information, the better they remember it. Lapbooks are a great way to get things into their long-term memory. Plus, if you are in a state that requires a portfolio, they make a fun addition to the record of your school year.

Where Can I Get Premade Lapbooks?

Two of my favorite sites for finding these lapbooks are:

Homeschool Share – lots of free lapbooks on all subjects, and free templates for making your own book.

Currclick – lapbooks to purchase, including Knowledge Box lapbooks. I love the quality of Knowledge Box lapbooks, but the price prohibits me from purchasing many; I have caught a few that I really wanted when they were on sale at Currclick.

Some of the premade lapbooks give all of the information you need to teach a full unit study (I have purchased this Oklahoma State History study from Knowledge Box), some are made to follow a certain book (like this lapbook for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), and sometimes they require research to fill in the blanks (this Frog lapbook is cute and fun, but it will require some research). Often, the book we found did not have all the information the lapbook wanted. I wanted lapbooks to go with what we were learning and the books we used. I just did not know where to start.

I made my first lapbook for Lilly when she was 3. Aidan was studying The Story of the World Volume 1 for history, and we were making an amazing lapbook I found online (you can download it here.) Lilly wanted to make a book. She was studying a letter a week. On Friday when Aidan did his history lapbook page, we made a letter page for hers as well. I went to Homeschool Share and picked a template, printed it and while Lilly colored on it, I found clip art pictures in Microsoft Office. We printed pictures of objects beginning with our letter for that week’s and put them in the template. Easy! I can do this!

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When I started with my Map Skills lap book, I knew I needed something different. I had 12 students and I did not want multiple pages to hand out to each child. I needed each minibook on one sheet of paper. I had to design it all for that to work. It was about this time that I discovered Google Docs and all it could do. The drawing tool became my best friend!

I knew enough about basic mini-book parts to start with a few interesting pieces. Below are a few “how to” images for my favorites. (Click on the picture to see a larger image, or on the name of the piece for a downloadable version.)

Pocket:

pocket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wheel:

wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Dog Book:

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Flap Books and Fold-in Books:

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For pictures and diagrams you can draw in Paint, search the web for a picture that serves your purpose, have the kids search through magazines, or have your kids draw a picture! The idea is to reinforce what you are studying. Do whatever will help cement things into your kids’ heads.

Get creative and make your own types of mini-books. You can do anything! Start by looking at what other people have created, or the templates on Homeschool Share, and then start making your own designs.

Now, if you really like things neat and you want your hard work to look pretty – make your own lapbook! Again, if you have looked at the Biome posts, you see the neat and pretty books. Here is a big secret: I put that together, my kids’ books look nothing like that! Below you see two versions of the same book (our Map Skills Lapbook):

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My son’s looks nothing like my vision for the book. That is okay! He still learned, he had fun, and we have a record of what was learned.

If the thought of designing a lapbook still overwhelms you, make your kids do it. Print a few blank templates, hand one to your child, tell him/her what information you want to see, and let them be creative!

 

Cheryl–Ccherylheryl 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.

Great Books: The Canterbury Tales, by Jen W.

 

 

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The Canterbury Tales are one of those required readings that most people suffer through in high school without really taking the time to understand, deeply appreciate Chaucer’s ability to cover numerous aspects of the human experience or even stop and think about whether or not they find it enjoyable reading. Are you the type of person who likes the type of chaste, romantic stories that you might find in Christian romance novels? Or are you more of the type who loves irreverent humor like the type found in modern farce? Either way, Chaucer has something for you.

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When my students read The Canterbury Tales, the first thing I have them do is read through The General Prologue. I have them make three columns: people that Chaucer likes or approves of, people that Chaucer does not like or disapproves of and people that Chaucer is ambivalent about. Students nearly always get this wrong the first time around. They skim, they don’t see Chaucer’s biting sarcasm, they don’t connect that the implications they would read into the words today are often the same implications that Chaucer intends. Two prime examples of this misunderstanding are with the Summoner and the Pardoner.

Read quickly, students assume the usual modern tropes as they skim the text. These are religious men, so the students assume goodness. The Summoner’s appearance is described in detail, but in seemingly opposing phrases. His face is described as red and “cherubic,” but because it is covered with sores, he has crazy eyebrows over his small eyes and he smells bad. Modern students are accustomed to this sort of rough exterior holding a heart of gold, but Chaucer tends to be more literal. The Summoner’s interior is no better than his outward appearance, he is usually drunk, he is lecherous and a liar. The Summoner was someone who was charged by the medieval church to charge people with spiritual crimes and bring them before the ecclesiastical court. The description of The Summoner’s many faults, his ignorance (he barely knows any Latin, despite hearing it all day when in church), the way in which he brushes off the teachings of the church (pointing out that you can pay a bribe to excuse yourself) both show that Chaucer thinks little good of him. Students recognize this when you have them go back and read the section aloud. One of the main things they catch onto is the quip about children being afraid of him. Are they merely afraid of him due to his outward appearance and gruff, drunken behavior or is there another reason? My students have mostly asked when they came to this line, “is he a pedophile?” I think, yes, that definitely one possible implication that must be entertained, even if it is not a certainty.

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The Pardoner’s description is not much better, but without careful reading it’s easy to miss. The Pardoner is in many physical ways the opposite of the Summoner. He is gentle. He is smooth and hairless. He has flaxen hair. He is carries religious articles. But, a closer look shows other aspects. He is like a gelding. His flaxen hair is greasy and lank. He carries jars of pig-bones. He carries a bag stuffed full of pardons that he is selling for a price, hopefully to a trusting country parson who will pay a dear price for a real religious relic. The implications of his description are a matter of intense controversy. Chaucer surely means the hairless, gelding description to be distinctly negative. Is he really a woman? A hermaphrodite? Is he part of a couple with the Summoner? I don’t think it’s possible to say for certain, it only matters here that sexual immorality of some sort is being implied. These are as much criticisms of the church as they are personal criticisms. The church was in the midst of the great schism. Many of Chaucer’s close friends were executed during the political turmoil of the time. Chaucer was forced to leave London for Kent. There was even a specific event involving pardoners who stole money they claimed to be collecting for a hospital. The Friar’s Tale deals with a summoner who is working for the devil. Clearly, Chaucer is making statements about the corrupt nature of the ecclesiastical structure and politics of the time.

These are the sort of descriptions that can give many students their first realization that the human condition is exactly that, the human condition. There truly is nothing new underneath the sun. Society is no more degenerate now than it was then. Chaucer certainly seems to disapprove of the degenerate nature of several of the pilgrims, but does Chaucer fully approve of the opposite?

The Knight could be seen as the opposite of the first two pilgrims we have looked at. He is first described as “worthy.” He values truth, chivalry, truth, honor and other high-minded qualities. He has ridden to war in defense of Christendom. He is at once wise and humble. But, he is also serious and unhappy. He is the first of the pilgrims to tell his story. His story is chaste, romantic, classical and boring. This is the drawback of clean living. It isn’t very exciting. The same can be said of many modern similar stories. Each of the pilgrims tells a story that reveals their nature and reveals more of what Chaucer thinks about them. Their stories reveal both their proclivities and their prejudices (such as The Prioress’s Tale which is a gruesome, anti-Semitic story).

If you thought that the pilgrims were going continue in order of medieval societal hierarchy, you are quickly disabused of that notion when The Miller jumps in with his own story. The fact that the pilgrims do not continue in some sort of order gives a democratic or egalitarian feel to the group. The Miller’s Tale is a rollicking one involving adultery and more than a healthy dose of scatalogical humor. The ribald nature of The Miller’s Tale rivals modern movies like The Hangover.

The depth and breadth of Chaucer’s tales, told by his pilgrims, is one of the major things that makes them worthy of reading today. Few modern authors could manage so many different genres and styles of writing. The collection shows that movies like The Hangover are not the result of our cultural downfall or erasing of Christian values in a secular society. Stories both chaste and…well…not so chaste have existed since people started writing down stories in the English language. They even existed at this time, when the church was at the height of its political and social power.

Taken as a whole, both the prologue and the stories are a tale of what it means to be virtuous. Because the truth is, we are all Chaucer. Humans admired many of the same things then as they do now. People might find the risque nature of The Miller’s Tale hilarious or offensive, but it is a tale of getting by on one’s wits, justice and the benefits of maturity. The Parson’s Tale offers advice of not believing everything you hear, not being overly trusting and cautions against greed. The Reeve’s Tale takes a “eat or be eaten” attitude toward human nature that suggests that every man is out for himself.

These tales illuminate the nature of the each pilgrim and often, the nature of humanity of a whole. “Holy” men of highly questionable character, cheating businessmen, people who take their civic duties seriously, women fighting to be recognized as equal to men; the pilgrims are a mix of people that can still be found in modern society. This allows students to appreciate the fact that human nature has remained largely unchanged, that the struggles faced today are not new.

It smacks of Kurt Vonnegut’s quote, “But I have to say this in defense of humankind: In no matter what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got here. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were already all these crazy games going on that could make you act crazy, even if you weren’t crazy to begin with. Some of the crazymaking games going on today are love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf, and girls’ basketball.”

Careful reading allows students to connect with people of the past in a way that sanitized summaries in a textbook do not allow for. It allows them to see that there truly is nothing new under the sun. It humanizes the people of the past. It allows students to think that maybe they can make a small difference in the world, even if they cannot change human nature. Say what you want about the downfall of Christian values, but you cannot deny that people have always enjoyed stories that involve sex and fart jokes.

While sex and fart jokes are a large part of some of the stories, there are other stories that balance those out. Taken as a whole, both the prologue and the stories are a tale of what it means to be virtuous. Because the truth is, we are all Chaucer. Humans admired many of the same things then as they do now.

 

Jen W.jen_wJen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.

World Biomes #3: Rain Forest

by Cheryl

My kids were excited to start on the rain forests! The plants and animals that live in the rain forests are so amazing and varied that we spent a little more time here than I had originally planned. My daughter wishes she were a jaguar living in the rain forest now!

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Books

Again, all of our books came from our local library. Some of them are great and I would suggest looking for them! Every book we looked at had some great information.

Looking Closely at the Rain Forest by Frank Serafini is the second of a series we have used. Just like in the desert book, he shows a close up of a plant or animal and you try to guess what it is. The following page has a full picture and a description of the subject of the photo.

The Magic School Bus in the Rain Forest by Joanna Cole is a fun story about a visit to the rain forest to see Ms. Frizzle’s cocoa tree. We love The Magic School Bus, and this was a great intro to our study.

Who Needs a Jungle by Karen Patkau is a beautifully illustrated look at the rain forest and the creatures that live there.

The Rain Forest Grew All Around by Susan Mitchell is a play on the childhood song, “And the Green Grass Grew All Around.” My daughter loved the repetition and the sing-song nature of the book.

Why Does it Rain? is a Weekly Reader book that walks you through the water cycle. I found this at our library book sale a few years ago.

Draw Write Now Book 7 by Marie Hablitzel and Kim Stitzer contain the lessons that correspond to the rain forest study.

Animals

The rain forest is home to some amazing animals! In our reading we came across howler monkeys, sloths, humming birds, leaf cutter ants, weaver ants, flying frogs, spider monkeys, flying squirrels, sliding snakes, jaguars, tapirs, anacondas, gorillas, red-eyed tree frogs, poison dart frogs, macaws, toucans, harpy eagles, vultures, capybaras, caimans, scarlett ibises, and piranhas!

Plants

Carnivorous plants, huge trees, vines, plants that grow on other plants instead of the ground – the plants of the rain forest are a lot of fun! We learned about orchids, bananas, rafflesia, pitcher plants, cocoa plants, kapok trees, and more.

Vocabulary

Epiphyte, bromeliad, water cycle, evaporation, condensation, precipitation, emergents, canopy, understory, forest floor

Fun Fact

The rain forest is divided into four layers.

Project

We read about rain and the water cycle as a part of our rain forest study. We decided to make a mini-rain forest at home to watch the water cycle at work.

Materials: 2-liter bottle or a large mouth jar, plant charcoal, gravel, soil, a plant (a fern or tropical plant is best; we used a pepper plant seedling because we had it on hand), packing tape, and water

Cut the top off the bottle, fill the bottom with charcoal and gravel, cover with a thick layer of soil (we did 3 inches and included some of our fresh compost), moisten the soil, place the plant in the soil, spray with water a few times, tape the top of the bottle on, and place in a warm and well-lit spot. Now you can watch a “rain forest” in action!

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Lapbook

Our rain forest section has plants and animals, like the previous sections. We also included a section to label the layers of the rain forest. We added a Water Cycle piece to our general information section, as well. Click the links below to see what we did.

CoverpageAnimalsPlantsMapLayers of the Rain ForestWater CycleVocab Review

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Next time: Boreal Forests (Taiga)

 

Cherylcheryl–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.

Living a Beautiful Life…Before It's Too Late, by Genevieve

 

“Don’t turn on the news and kiss my babies for me.” My entire perspective changed with that one phone call. Almost two thousand innocent people lost their lives that Tuesday morning; what if one of them had belonged to me?

We had only been homeschooling a few weeks. I had read every homeschooling book I could get my greedy little hands on. I had a plan, and my plan included an hour of SAT test practice every day of high school. I was certain that high test scores combined with a solid early foundation would ensure my children’s success.

But what if?

What if it had been one of them? What if their lives had been severed that morning?

What if I did everything the experts encouraged? What if I planned every moment of their lives in preparation for that perfect test score, that coveted acceptance letter, that full ride — but their lives were cut short? It happens every day. Teenagers die of illness or car accidents all too often, right at the moment when they are to reap the rewards of all their labors.

I made a promise that day. I would not sacrifice my children’s childhood preparing them for an adulthood that may never come.

My goal was no longer to give them a successful future life. I wanted to give them a beautiful current one. We skipped school that day. Instead, we spent the day in the sunshine, on the patio, painting Halloween decorations on wooden boards we hauled out of the trash. As the children painted, I thought about my promise. I could never forgo Latin and Logic and books by the greatest writers who ever lived. What could be more beautiful than those?

I could balance them, though. I could fill our days with meaningful work,

arts

and crafts,

music

and travel,

sports

and healthy food,

time with family

and time with friends.

Almost thirteen years later, I have graduated two children and have another with one foot out of the door. It’s time to evaluate my methodology: Have I reached my goals?

“Are you doing what you want, Sweetheart? Are you happy?”
“Yes, Mom, very.”

 

*featured photo by Gretchen Phillips*

Genevieve–is a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been Genevievehomeschooling 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 .

Arts and Crafts Explained: Needle Felting! by Apryl

 

Needle felting is a fiber art that has been gaining popularity, and for good reason. It is fairly inexpensive to get started and not difficult to learn. Your creations are only limited by your imagination!

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The basic supplies:

1. Felting needles.  These needles are barbed and come in triangle or star shapes. Common sizes are 36, 38, and 40 gauge.  40 are the thinnest and best for finish work. The lower the number, the thicker the needle. You can also purchase “pens” that hold multiple needles. This allows for faster felting of larger surfaces, and can be more comfortable to hold. Please be aware that the needles are very sharp. Accidentally stabbing yourself is nearly unavoidable, especially at first. Keep this in mind when allowing children to take up this project. It is really the only reason I would lean towards older children doing this rather than younger ones.

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2.  Wool roving.  Roving comes in many different colors and textures. The rougher textured wool will felt more quickly and feel firmer. The finer silky roving takes longer to felt and has a softer texture. You can find everything from lower cost, mass produced roving at the larger craft stores, to beautiful hand-dyed roving from exotic breeds. I recommend using the lower cost roving at first as you learn.

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3.  Foam block. The foam block is your work surface. It allows the needle to freely stab through the wool without hitting a hard surface ( or yourself!).

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That is all you need to get started! You can purchase a starter kit like this Round and Wooly Turtles Needle Felting Kit that come with a needle, roving, a small block and instructions to make an animal. I highly recommend these as it will give you an inexpensive taste of needle felting without investing in a lot of different items. I do recommend buying an extra needle or two, because they break easily and beginners break them often.

These are the turtles my 13-year-old daughters made from the kit linked above. It was their first attempt at needle felting.

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A quick search on Pinterest or YouTube will yield a plethora of tutorials from very basic to very advanced. Check out a few and then try it yourself!

Look for future articles in this series for more advanced techniques.

 

Apryl–Baprylorn and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.

What Does Creativity Have to Do With Classical Education? by Briana Elizabeth

 

What if I told you everything?

Stratford Caldecott in his book Beauty in the Word renames the Trivium’s Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric as Remembering, Thinking, and Communicating. Or Jenny Rallens in her video The Liturgical Classroom and Virtue Formation uses Lectio, Meditatio, Compositi and talks about the idea of Compositi being ‘honey making’.

Both Communicating and Compositi are creative.

As I was thinking about these ideas and remembering Bloom’s Taxonomy, I was getting excited about creative projects I could bring into my homeschooling! I’m a creative person; I could totally think up projects for each subject that would segue well with what my kids were studying. Unit studies, lap books, crafts! But the more I thought about that, I started to wonder, is that really the type of creativity that Bloom’s Taxonomy is speaking about? Is that true Communication and Compositi?

If I make a project for my children to use with their homeschooling, who is being creative? Me? And am I dragging them through something that doesn’t add anything to their learning?

I had already done that a few times by following a few other curricula, and what I learned that no matter what the projects were, my kids forgot them. I came to the conclusion that the only person being creative in these situations was me. It was another moment for me to realize that homeschooling is not about me, what I want to do, or what I think is fun. It’s about what is best for them, how they learn, and even if writing out Latin words in Light Bright pegs on a rainy afternoon sounds like fun to me, my kids might not think so.

I had circled back to my first question: How do I foster this top tier of creativity in my children? Is this even compatible with classical home schooling? And then I thought about when I had seen it in my children. After a semester on poetry (and years of poetry copywork), one of my daughters started writing her own poetry, without any prompting from me. Another had written her own poem and made a cross-stitched picture of it. My sons loved drawing their own comic strips and I had seen what they had learned in our medieval studies making their way into the strips. Another son used what he learned in the poetry semester to write music and obtain a merit badge. All of this was totally unprompted by me.

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What I had given them was the scaffold to be creative. I taught them the skills (rhyme and meter) and gave them the tools (hearing poetry and a deep well of ideas).

Now, how can I more purposely build a scaffold, and foster even deeper creativity? What kind of schoolwork is making the creativity for them, and what type of schoolwork is giving them the ability to create with the skills and tools they’ve learned? What type of schoolwork enables them to behold glory and represent that glory in their own medium?

Something I am going to be trying is Charlotte Mason’s Book of Centuries. I recently read one of the best books on Charlotte Mason’s practices that I have ever read, aside from Charlotte’s own series, titled  The Living Page by author Laurie Bestvater. It is a book I am going to tell everyone about. What seemed like a murky idea in Charlotte’s books that I never quite understood, Laurie has teased out with a lot of research and devotion to her task, and she writes about it with eloquence.

Why the book of Centuries, The Nature Notebook, a Commonplace Book, and a Timeline Notebook? Because they are scaffolds. Here are the tools and here are the directions, but the end product is fully up to the student. It is about what they have assimilated through their reading and learning,  and taken as their own to be expressed on paper as only they can.

As an artist, a blank canvas can be intimidating. How much easier if the art teacher tells you to draw a still life in monochromatic colors, or complimentary colors? The notebooks have rules to follow which give the child support, and parameters. Freedom to create comes with parameters.

If you do narrations with your children, you have provided the skills, and the tools, you built the scaffold, and the narration is the creativity. The picture narration your child draws is the creativity. But you have also given the scaffold. You have read a story — the child is supplying an oral narration on that story. Or the child is giving a picture narration of the story. You’re not handing them a blank page and telling them to create. You’re not creating for them, and asking them to somehow ingest that lesson as their own.

This is something that I am going to be checking myself with from now on. Have I given them the skills? The tools? Have I built the scaffold? Or have I created something for them and asked them to fill in the blanks? I need to keep reminding myself that this is not about me, this homeschooling journey is about them. My job is to build the scaffold.

 

Briana brianaElizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.