Friday, September 21, 2018

One Month of Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

Week one of our new school year using the Charlotte Mason method was wonderful. 

WEEK TWO

But of course, already I had to deal with personal issues, and while we still managed to keep to most of our schedule, there were some days it did not go smoothly. 

WEEK THREE

This is what I call crazy week because my girls have rehearsals all week for their upcoming recital on that following weekend. Every night we spend several hours at our local community college, and usually come home late. It is tiring. Both were in opening number and had four and five numbers each. We were a little distracted during the day and tired from the night before. Nonetheless, we kept to our schedule, though took a break on Friday to rest for the weekend. 

The following pictures are my girls in a few of their costumes from picture day at their studio.










Instead, on that Friday, my girls went to book club and my son had his piano lesson. Then we called it a day.


Saturday and Sunday were four recitals. They were long, and we were exhausted, but it was all worth it.


WEEK FOUR

Monday, I let everyone sleep until 10am. And I cancelled school. Later I found out several other homeschool moms at the dance studio also took the day off and let their kids sleep.

Then on Tuesday we went on our hike to Pine Knot Trail in Big Bear; and I am sad to say, I am regretfully hanging up my hiking boots. I am the only one in my family who loves to hike and be around nature. My kids complain, always: one hyperventilates, another has chest pain and heart palpitations or head aches. I do not make a major issue of the drama, but often wonder if maybe it is true. The hikes are not easy, and even I struggle, though I keep it to myself and push my way to the end. But this hike we were left behind, alone in the woods, because my youngest one was in tears. I do not like being left behind because...bears. It was really scary. So I am not doing this anymore. I am done being left behind and forcing my kids to hike when they hate it.

Starting out on the trail

Our group


My two hypochondriac children at the crest of the trail.
 On Wednesday and Thursday I crammed our two lost days into these days, and we skipped literature (because we already finished The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) and our daily copy work and memorization, and instead we all recited Revelation 20, which we have been memorizing for church all summer.

Now, on Friday, only my son and I were up early enough to go to the park to rollerblade. While we were there, my son spotted this strange bird that we had never seen in the area, in all our years of living here. He was so excited, he ran onto the grass field in his rollerblades to get a closer look at it. I had my camera with me, and I was able to zoom in and get a picture of it.

When we arrived home, my son searched and searched our bird books, but he found nothing. So I finally resorted to Google, and found that what we saw was a white-faced ibis, probably a juvenile, migrating south. Of course, I pulled out my nature journal to record our observations and suggest my son do the same, which he did reluctantly because, as I have said before, he does not like to draw.


Mom's nature journal, dry brush and ink


son's reluctant scribble, pencil and ink

CONCLUSION

We still are loving Charlotte Mason. We love the short lessons and the variety. And I have every confidence that they are going to improve in their narration. One of their weaknesses is comprehension, and I believe constant narration is going to strengthen their comprehension skills, as they learn to have better attention.

My son was so inspired by our study of Lewis and Clark that he made us a meal, using recipes from The Lewis & Clark Cookbook, by Leslie Mansfield, making macaroni and cheese and mocha cream pie (minus the mocha), all from scratch. So yummy!

My son also said he likes how they are "forced" (in the afternoon) to do what they think is fun. He's been cutting out and making these Minecraft cubes and said it is like computer coding, because he engineers his own game.  He also spends extra time learning Latin, reading about Ancient Rome, and solving his Rubik's Cube over and over again.

Minecraft cubes and characters

My daughters have been working on their own cardboard dollhouses. They are also making the furniture. Both are totally under construction, as you can see by the mess, and my school room is always in chaos! Scissors, glue guns, paper, cardboard, paint and yarn everywhere!






Now that all has returned to "normal," and we have two weeks off from dance, I am hoping that we get back to our usual schedule. Life can be such a distraction and obstacle to homeschooling.

Looking forward to week five.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Using Charlotte Mason Week One

This is homeschool year seventeen for me. Two of my students are attending college, and three remain at home. Of the three, one is near 14-years old, another is 11, and the last is one month shy of 10.

Homeschooling since 2001

My first born, having been homeschooled until age 16 (when he entered college full time), suggested ways I could have homeschool better - that is, I should have quit implementing new ideas. I changed too much. But the more I researched, the more it opened my mind to new ideas, and I wanted to try them.

Originally, I just did what I knew, which was how I was schooled. Then I read The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer, and I changed gears and did classical education for five years; then we learned about Epic Adventures, and did that for four or five years; one year I did a Little House year; and recently we've been just doing a mix of what I think works best for our family.

Charlotte Mason, 1902

But then I found Charlotte Mason. I knew about CM years ago and recently bought and read her books. Plus, there are the abundant support groups all over the internet! The more I read and researched, the more I knew we should be doing this now!

While it would have been well to have used CM's method of education long ago with my first student, it cannot be helped now; all that matters is that I have since learned the method and we are using it now. And that is how life is. We do what is best for our family, with the resources we have at the moment. We go forward.

This was our first week using CM's method. How did it go?

TWO AMAZING OBSERVATIONS

The first amazing thing about the method was breaking up subjects in short increments. We started at 8:30am and finished by exactly 12:00pm. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday were the same. Tuesday was the only day we went slightly over, which was by design because we have no afternoon activities, and we are home the entire day. Hence, on that afternoon, we added art/illustration and composer study.

The second amazing thing was the variety of subjects/ideas. At first, my kids could not believe how much we were going to cover in 3 1/2 hours, but keeping strictly to the time schedule permitted us to cover a wide range of feast, and it truly did make the morning interesting and exciting.

OUR SCHEDULE

Here is what our schedule looks like (for now):

Monday: 
Prayer/Bible
Math
Ourselves
Hymn
History
Memorization/Copy
Literature
Foreign Language
Nature Lore
Afternoon Occupations

Tuesday:
Prayer/Bible
Math
Citizenship
Poet Study
History
Memorization/Copy
Shakespeare
Grammar
Latin
Art Illustration
Composer Study
Afternoon Occupations

Wednesday:
Prayer/Bible
Math
Ourselves
Folksong/Folklore
History
Memorization/Copy
Literature
Foreign Language
Afternoon Occupations

Thursday:
Prayer/Bible
Math
Plutarch
Artist Study
Geography
Dictation
Science
Grammar
Recitation
Afternoon Occupations

Friday:
PE/Library
Natural History
Nature Study 
Afternoon Occupations

My almost 14-year old has independent work also, including current events each morning and slowing reading through The History of Painting (Janson), Mere Christianity (Lewis), Whatever Happened to Justice? (Maybury), and How to Read a Book (Adler). She is also reading Our Young Folks' Plutarch (Kaufman) on her own. All of these include written narrations.

SOME CHALLENGES/CONFLICTS

We're reading the original "Fear" language side

Reading Shakespeare was a challenge because I am still not clear if I should read the original language or a child's version. Any research I had done ahead of time suggested both. So we went ahead with the original language; and therefore, it is a little challenging. Nonetheless, they are enjoying reading their parts aloud, even if they don't understand the plot clearly. We'll get it somehow.

We also had a little conflict with math: my kids are used to doing complete lessons, even if it takes over an hour. They struggled to accept that they need only work for 20-30 minutes and then stop. They wanted to continue until they were done with a whole lesson, and it stressed them out. It took several days (by the fourth day) for them to accept that they could stop. Let it go. It's just math.

We also had another problem with doing unlimited amounts of time on the same handicraft during afternoon occupations. It will take them some time to learn to limit themselves and to choose variety for their afternoon. It is part of practicing self-control, I think.

AFTERNOON OCCUPATIONS

Some ideas I gave them are for afternoon occupations include reading, research, nature study, art, paper crafts, games, crocheting, needlework, outdoor play, science projects, additional foreign language, additional music/dance practice, book making, chores, cooking, memorization work, and more.

My son has such a fascination with Latin, that one day he copied three pages of Latin words and translations as his afternoon occupation. He said he is "committing them to memory."

Speaking of my 11-year old, he has been the most vocal about our new school direction. He told me he appreciates the new schedule and the variety of different subjects. He said he loves how he has all afternoon to do anything he wants. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Age of Revolution: A New Republic

This is the school year wrap up, which happened at the end of May. 

This last month was broken up with extra-curricula events, complicated life issues, and unforeseen necessary happenings, such as a quick run to Sacramento to implement "We the People."  

Nonetheless, we managed to get through these important issues.

April - May

Age of Revolution
Europe and America
1600-1800

"Fare thee well"

History

The United States Constitution

Of course, we had to read the quick story of how the U.S. Constitution came to be, how it outlines the structure of our government, and how super short this document truly is. Imagine: legislation and our tax code are longer than the document that holds our nation together. Amazing.

The Bill of Rights
We covered the extremely important first ten amendments to our Constitution, which protect the rights of the individual and the states from an overreaching federal government.

The French Revolution

And we did a quick overview of the reasons for and the beginnings of the French Revolution. I promised to speak to this. I found a lot of interesting similarities to those pre-revolutionary ideas and to our society and culture today. Maybe it is simply because civilizations repeat themselves throughout history. Frankly, there is nothing new under the sun. 

Here is a summary:

The people had lost hope in the King and the Church, as both had shown themselves to be untrustworthy, corruptible tyrants. They watched the revolution in America, and they wanted their rights and liberties, too. 

Remember the Enlightenment? This philosophy, thanks to Voltaire, Rousseau, and others, came in handy. The people began to reject the laws of God and instead embraced the ideas of man. In other words, they could no longer look to their king or the church to teach them what was right; hence, they were left to their own devices.

The Enlightenment encouraged the people to be ashamed of their country, its history, and its institutions. They rejected their own French Forefathers! They even questioned and attacked God as the established authority. They envisioned a utopia where there would be no prejudice, sin, or error.

Sound familiar, yet?

The Enlightenment blamed Christianity and the aristocrats for every societal problem (which is understandable because the Catholic Church was filthy rich, the King and Queen were living high on the hog, and both were untouchable). The people began to reject privilege and excellence and desired equality of the classes, and sanctity of the poor, and to be free from civilized restraints. They rebelled against traditions and sinned openly, without shame or restraint.

Sadly, the more they demanded liberty to do as they pleased, the more it brought on chaos, disunity, fear, and tyranny. In the end, though we stopped at 1800, they brought on another kind of dictator anyway. But we'll cover that next year when we return.

The New Republic

Finally, we covered two more short topics: one on the New Republic and some of its obstacles, such as little uprisings of left-over rebelliousness, meant to check the new government. 

Northwest Ordinance

One of the new republic's ideas was to encourage settlers to move west into the Northwest Territory, just south of the Great Lakes. The Northwest Ordinance explained how a territory could become a new state and join the union.

Of course, the Native American peoples living in these areas did not much appreciate this, and there were a deadly few skirmishes with settlers. Hence, the government sent Mad Anthony Wayne to put a stop to the Indian attacks, and supposedly it worked, but not without a terrible loss of life.

And this concluded our history up to the 1800s.

Literature


For literature, we took two months to read The Scarlet Pimpernel, which is more of a love story than it is about the French Revolution, but the kids loved it because it is a definite hero/heroine story with a good guy/gal and a villain. 

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Orczy


Poet


I did not like my poet choice this month, so we only read one poem from Lord Byron. 

Lord Byron

Music

Music of the French Revolution


We listened to French music of the Revolution for music, including "La Marseillaise," which is the national anthem, and was written in 1792. 

Artist

Jacques Louis David


And finally, we studied French artist Jacques Louis David. We have been able to see some of his works at the Getty in Los Angeles. 


The End.

See you all next fall.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Age of Revolution: The War for Independence

January - February - March

Age of Revolution
Europe and America
1600-1800

"Raining cats and dogs"

History

The War for Independence
1775-1883
This is a big chunk of history, and it took two months to cover. It began with 1775 and Paul Revere's famous Ride, leading to the "shot heard round the world." Then we went year by year and followed General George Washington.

Paul Revere

One of the most amazing stories we read about was Henry Knox and his crazy idea to drag a load of cannons and other artillery from upstate New York (Ticonderoga) to Boston . . . in SNOW and across frozen lakes. Because where else was the Continental Army supposed to get weapons to fight the British?

Artillery Train

Of course, in 1776, there was that scathing letter to King George, in which men pledged their precious lives and sacred honor to tear away from their royal government and begin a completely new government based on liberty and self-government. They surely understood the dangers of a government that believed it was the source of its citizen's rights; anyone who believes our rights come from government doesn't understand that they are granting that same government the right to revoke those liberties when given the opportunity. Our Founders acknowledged that our rights come from God. (Yes, a higher source than man.)



1777-1778: We read about Valley Forge during winter and how miserable the Continental Army was. But thank God for Prussian Baron Von Steuben, who joined Washington at Valley Forge and helped transform the Army, raising morale.

Von Steuben at Valley Forge
1779-1883: We finished up with a somewhat discouraging, though perseverant campaign in the South; but the French arrived just in time came, the British made some mistakes, and Washington won a decisive battle at Yorktown, Virginia, against Cornwallis, to end the Revolutionary War.

Important Figures in History
Next, we spent a separate month to focus on biographies of important figures in early American history.

George Washington


John and Abigail Adams


Benjamin Franklin


John Hancock


Thomas Jefferson


Marquis de Lafayette



Literature
We took a couple of months to get through Johnny Tremain. The kids loved this story. 

Johnny Tremain - Esther Forbes



American Folklore and Folksongs
We also spent a month reading early American folklore and songs, which the kids also loved. I often caughy them reading ahead, which I wish they would wait because then we may learn new ones together, at the same time. 


And here are the poets, composers, and artists we studied during this period:

Poets

Phillip Freneau
William Wordsworth
Jane Austen


Composers

Music of the American Revolutionary Period
Domenico Scarlatti
Niccol├│ Paganini


Artists


Gilbert Stuart
(Sidebar: during our visit to the California State Capitol building, inside the Assembly chamber, there is a painting of Washington, which is a copy of Gilbert Stuart's Washington portrait, redone by his daughter, Jane Stuart. The kids recognized it right away.)
Jon Trumbull
Charles Wilson Peale
Peale Self-Portrait, 1791

We are almost done with this school year. Just a few more topics to cover. See you then.

Coming Up Next . . . 

The United States Constitution
The Bill of Rights
The French Revolution

Friday, April 27, 2018

We the People, in Action: Victory for Homeschoolers

What an excellent field trip for this school year! 

April 25, 2018, the California Committee on Education was set to hear arguments for and against AB2756, the terrible homeschool bill that would collect specific data on (families) who register as a private school. Frankly, government just needs to stay out of the business of PRIVATE schools altogether.

So, Tuesday, we took an 8-hour drive to Sacramento with another homeschool family. We arrived at 9:45 pm, and did not get much sleep.

Wednesday morning, about 9 am, we walked to and took a tour of our Capitol.


Our tour guide showed us the Assembly and Senate chambers from the balconies. He gave a wonderful and informative presentation of how government works, which is exactly what my kids have been studying this year. They were even able to answer some of his questions, or at least were familiar with the ideas he spoke of.


The Assembly

Our guide, Clem

The Senate

After the tour, we had time to visit our Assemblyman, Jay Obernolte, who was kind enough to receive us without appointment, and he even gave a personal tour of the Assembly floor -- meaning we got to walk about the floor, which you cannot do without a member of the Assembly.


Assemblyman Obernolte giving us a personal tour

Assemblyman Obernolte brought our attention to the gargoyle in the egg-and-dart molding above, who sticks his tongue out at the Speaker.


One last look at the rotunda:


At 12 pm, we brought our lunch to the West Lawn to eat with others who had come to the Capitol to oppose AB2756, and by 12:30 we saw people already lining up to enter the building. The hearing was set for 1:30 pm. By 1pm we joined a very long line on the fourth floor. It was hot, it was stuffy, and it was tedious, just standing and going no where.


Occasionally, the kids found places to rest


I really like the following sign because this day truly was an example what "We the People" means.

I explained to my kids that representative government is hard work. Surely, we could have a king, and he could tell us how to live our lives, and we could just do whatever he says. Or, we could do the work to shape our government. To tell them what is right, we have to be involved. So standing in line for three hours to tell them we oppose this really bad bill, is hard work but necessary in order for this kind of government to exist and function.



Later, as our line was stopped right outside Assemblyman Obernolte's office, we popped our heads in quickly to say hi, again, and there was Mrs. Obernolte, waiting for the line to go down so she could join the end of it and voice her own opposition. She, too, is a homeschool mom. : )

Here is just one hallway, but this image does no justice because the lines looped around and around  the offices; we heard that the crowds needed to be moved to the fifth and sixth floors, as well as the cafeteria. We later read that the Sergeant at Arms counted over 2000 people who voiced their opposition.


I overheard Capitol employees ask what was going on, as they tried to walk down the hallways and reach their offices or the elevators. Some said it was the largest group of people they had ever seen turn up for a committee hearing. And another group of members joked that it looked like a line for a ride at Disneyland. That was probably because the lines were full of families -- moms, dads, children, even grandparents. 

By the time we got to speak, it was nearing 4 pm. It went very quickly, but I was very proud that all of the kids in our group chose to voice their opposition. And they did an excellent job.

After we opposed the bill, it was suggested we also visit our State Senator (Scott Wilk) before we leave, which we did. He was no longer there, but we spoke with his staff, and they assured us that he was not in support of the bill, if it ever reached the Senate. 

Finally, we joined the rally in progress on the South Capitol steps, and listened to a few speakers. When it was over, we walked to a pizza place, ate dinner, and went to our rooms for the night, for another sleepless night. We had to get up early the next morning to go home. 

But before the end of the night, it was a great joy to hear the news that the Education Committee asked for a motion on AB2756, in order to vote on it, and seriously, no one bothered to motion. It was dead. VICTORY! 

We left Sacramento the next morning knowing that our hard work had paid off. That is what our Founders meant by We the People. I hope this experience stays with my children forever and they never forget to be grateful for a free and representative government. 

Train them young to be grateful for their freedoms

Later that night, Assemblyman Obernolte added this image and post to his FB page:

That's us!

I am so proud of the hundreds of homeschool families (including some of my constituents) who traveled to Sacramento yesterday to testify in opposition to AB 2756. The line of people waiting to get into the committee room went all the way down the hall, past my office, and around the building. The Sergeant At Arms office told me it was the most people they'd seen for a hearing in recent memory. Ultimately the bill failed for lack of a motion, and because the deadline for passing fiscal bills out of committee is tomorrow, AB 2756 is effectively dead. Democracy in action!

My final word on the matter: 

It makes no sense that state government would care about how our children are educated when overwhelming evidence already is available that the majority of homeschooled children go on to be productive and successful citizens. Even testing and college entrance has determined that they perform as well as and better than their public schooled peers. 

This event even demonstrated how DIVERSE homeschool families are. (We know government loves diversity.) There were families of many races, languages, social, religious, and economic status, as well as conservative to  liberal. 

Homeschooling also produces diversity in citizens because families are raising up brand new unique people in character and knowledge. No two homeschooled students are alike because homeschooling fosters uniqueness in individuals. This should be encouraged. Homeschooled children tend to be untainted by the outside world. And homeschooled children are inclined to follow, study, and absorb what interests them. Uniqueness should be celebrated. 

And finally, our state government cannot convince me that they care about my children's educational development or health more than I do, especially a government that supports and defends the murder of unborn children in the womb. When the California state government fights for the life of the unborn and outlaws murder in the womb, then come talk to me. Before then, keep your hands off my children.

To see the video of the Education Committee hearing and opposition to AB2756, go here:

http://assembly.ca.gov/media/assembly-education-committee-20180425/video