Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An atmosphere of learning, 2013-2014

Nancy at Sage Parnassus recently shared in a post what their lesson schedule and home atmosphere is like. She has graduated two of her children already using Charlotte Mason's ideas and even seen them go on to get married.  I mention that only to say that when I read people like her, I take comfort in knowing that many like her have gone this way before.

This year, Seth is entering Year 5 (grade 5) and without intentionally doing it, our lesson work lines up almost perfectly with Ambleside Online's Year 5. I say without intention because I went through each of our subjects and the books/curriculum I use and found that we were still on track with most of the Ambleside selections for this year which pleasantly surprised me.

Here is a rough sketch of how our days typically go, with figuring in having Kate and Laura to attend to.

Our Bible time, which I now consider Morning Time since we do more than just read our Bibles and sing begins our day once Shane has finished Seth's math lesson and left for work.

Morning Time:
- Hymn singing
- Catechism using Starr Meade's Training Hearts, Teaching Minds which is based on the Shorter Catechism
- Memory work: Psalm 145
- Bible reading, continuing through 1 Samuel
- prayer
- a variety of readings, one each day: Mr. Pipes by Douglas Bond, Trial and Triumph, historical fiction (current selection is The Minute Boys of Lexington by Edward Stratemeyer),
- Nature guides (the daily reading from Naming Nature by Mary Blocksma and checking the calendar from Natural Science Through the Seasons by James Partridge
- review memorized poems
- folksongs
-art and composer study once a week
-history reading and narration (We're finishing up Story of the World Volume 3, Volume 4 is up next)

Then we break for a snack or lunch depending on when we get finished. Seth has an Independent Work List notebook where I write down tasks or assignments for him to complete on his own. Examples of work in a moment.

Here are some tasks from last week before we really started our lessons.

He can work on these anytime that we are not working on a subject together or when I need to take care of the girls, like give them baths or household work that I need to do. Taped to the inside cover of this notebook is his Morning Routine list which reminds him of everything he supposed to be doing before we are ready to start our Morning Time.  He has to complete this around Shane's work schedule so that he is available for his math lesson with Shane whenever Shane tells him to be ready.  It includes tidying his room, reading his Bible, reviewing catechism questions, Latin vocab, etc.

Other lessons we work on throughout the day include Grammar (First Language Lessons Level 4), Spelling (All About Spelling Level 5, only 2 lessons left), Latin (which is a mixture of Henle, Lingua Latina, and Visual Latin), Classical Writing: Aesop, Level B (new to us this year and so far so good, although it took awhile for me to wrap my head around how to do it, lots of prayer for understanding was sent up), Shakespeare, and Literature Read Alouds, (like Bullfinch's Age of Fable, Arthur Ransome's Swallowdale, and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Since I am only planning for four days a week, this leaves Friday open for things like Nature Walks/Journals, true Science lessons, Handicraft work(whittling), and any catch up work needed.  Also we are amassing quite a collection of nature items, some which need preservation or pressing so that takes time as well. And I confess, I'm probably the biggest contributor to our collections, but I really enjoy working with God's creation and learning how to care for all the things we find.

On his Independent Work List, he may have a reading and written narration assignment from George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster, soon to move on to her Abraham Lincoln's World. Or he will have a map drawing assignment, (so far we have completed S. America, Australia and surroundings, and Canada with N. America) or play a geography game online or complete a map puzzle. He will have copywork or drawing lessons to work on, and new this year, typing lessons.  Also he will have to read and complete both an oral and written narration from his Nature Reader.  You get the idea, work that he can do without my full attention needed.

Laura is clamoring for schoolwork so I have a list of things to be working on with her that require very little prep and can be done anytime. Readings from Leading Little Ones to God, various picture books from our home library, Mother Goose songs and rhymes, coloring, cutting and pasting Kumon books, letter and sound recognition, and Bible story book. She just turned four and in Ontario she would be going to Junior Kindergarten full days, so we do some things, but mostly she just listens in and plays. And listening she is. Tonight after supper, she was playing with some of her little animals at the table and I was working on the computer and I realized that she was chanting part of the list of personal pronouns that she heard Seth and I reviewing today.  She asked me to repeat the list and then she would try again, apologizing when she messed up and saying she was "just getting it mixed up, forry about that."  I was surprise by how many she could remember like "I, me my mine, you, your, yours..."  Crazy.

Seth also has books each week to read, usually two a week, but given our heavier schedule so far this year, he may only have to read one before Saturday morning. This week he is reading The Sign of the Beaver which I pre-read last week and enjoyed.

My goal is to enjoy our lessons and if the joy is gone, I need to find a way to bring it back.  The children and I do not always get through the lesson with peace and harmony in our house and for me that is just as important as the lesson subjects. I don't want learning to be fun. I want it to be interesting and satisfying, and at times it will be exhausting, but completing difficult work is rewarding and it stretches our minds in good ways. A well written narration, a carefully drawn map, a successful Latin translation, a verse or poem recalled from memory, all of these take effort but give so much satisfaction when completed.

I know I haven't included many links, so if you have questions about any of the resources I mentioned, please just ask and I can let you know more details if needed.


  1. I like your idea of the Morning Routine list. And-- cute Laura- working on her pronouns already!

    I'd love to hear more about your geography. How do you do the maps? Do you print them out from online? Does Seth trace them or draw them freehand? I'd love your links for the geography games/map puzzles.

    Also, whittling. Are there resources or how-to's for this or is it something one just discovers as you experiment? My boys have knives but don't really whittle anything recognizable.

    Typing lessons. I've considered this for Ella, too, but haven't looked into it at all. What are you using?

    Thanks, Heather!

    1. Stacy, we started by following Leigh Bortin's suggestion of drawing the great circles and "blobbing the continents". If you look under my "geography" label, you will find all the posts I have done about how we did that. I recently found this free geography/map ebook that you can download and print your own grid/blank maps. http://www.knowledgequestmaps.com/Globalmania.html

      We have the complete set of these GeoPuzzles. They are very nicely made and give an accurate depiction of the shape of the country, state or province.

      For whittling, I bought this beginner book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Little-Book-Whittling-Woodcarving/dp/1565237722/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378930867&sr=8-1&keywords=whittling+book

      Currently we are using an open source(free) typing course that my husband searched for and liked. I don't know what it is, I can find out. If we decide to buy something, I will lean towards getting Mavis Beacon.

    2. Oh, Heather... thank you for listing your resources! I'm excited to try the blob approach, we own all of the GeoPuzzles, and the whittling book is already in my Amazon cart!

      (While Googling, I also found great Geography resources here, if you're interested:

      Blessings to you and yours,

    3. Thank you for that geography link, Stacy. Many good things there, esp the blobbing maps download, very kind of her to share that.

  2. Dear Heather,

    Well, this sounds like a lovely plan! I LOVE your concluding paragraph, especially this -

    "My goal is to enjoy our lessons and if the joy is gone, I need to find a way to bring it back."

    From joy to joy,

    1. Thank you Nancy, your encouragement means a lot to me.

  3. Heather -- I really enjoyed this post. So much to talk about dear friend.


  4. 'I don't want learning to be fun. I want it to be interesting and satisfying, and at times it will be exhausting, but completing difficult work is rewarding and it stretches our minds in good ways' - Well said, Heather.

    1. Thank you Carol, I've learned some important lessons from all my CM friends and mentors. :)

  5. When you find the typing program, post it for me, could you? Gabe's blogging attempts have prodded me to consider etching out some time for typing lessons.

  6. Shane said it's called Type Faster, free and downloadable.

  7. Thanks Heather - I'll check it out. For now we are just aiming to keep little fingers on the home row and try to keep our eyes up... tricky.


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