"God made us for joy. God is joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us." (St. John Paul the Great)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

School Update - Part 3

And the conclusion to what's shakin' in our schoolroom ...

Art: After taking a couple of years off of formal art study, we returned to Artistic Pursuits this year. What I love about this program is that it is a combination of art appreciation and history with learning techniques and applying them. This year we are focusing on American art and the elements of art and composition.

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History: We continue to love Story of the World and just started Book Two on the Middle Ages. It takes us about two years to go through a book because we only do history one day a week and there are (again!) so many good things to read and do. We like to listen to the audio version of these books. If you've never listened to Jim Weiss, you're missing out. If you're not using Story of the World, check out his other stuff from Greathall Productions.

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Geography: We've had a smattering of geography here and there over the years with our history and literature studies. We've memorized the capitals and done some basic map work. We made North Dakota lapbooks our first year after moving here. We subscribe to magazines like Faces and own geography boardgames. My kids really enjoy studying different cultures, though, so this year we began a more formal geography study with Around the World in 180 Days. We have been focusing on one continent each quarter, and so will use this book for two years. Our studies include identifying land forms and defining geography terms, map work, and cultural studies, but the book also includes history and religion sections as well. The kids have studied Africa and Asia so far this year, and we just moved on to Europe. They have enjoyed making travel brochures and planning and preparing cultural meals among other things.

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Music: Here's a subject where we've been sporadic at best. Although I'd love the kids to have knowledge of the great composers and their major works, as well as be able to read music and play an instrument or two, I just haven't been good about fitting this into our curriculum. I don't feel too badly though, as they all share my love of music, and someone is almost always singing around here. This year I did purchase the Classical Kids series, and (when we get around to it) we all enjoy it. So far we've studied Beethoven and a little Handel. We're going to study Tchaikovsky this quarter. In addition, Miss Sunshine started playing the piano last summer and I just love listening to her playing some classical stuff like Mozart's Rondo alla Turca, Bach's Minuet in G, and Pachelbel's Canon. The Boy continues to work on his guitar skills. And Miss Rose has been bugging me to find her a flute teacher -- another thing on my list of "haven't got around to yet."

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And, Physical Education: Our area homeschool group has a great program we attend once a week. Each month they focus on a different sport/activity: soccer, tennis, flag football, basketball, bowling, volleyball, rhythms, swimming, gymnastics, and track and field. But what we ALL really miss in this German state is Irish dance!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

School Update - Part 2

I started posting yesterday about what we've been up to this year. Here's some more ...

Language Arts: This is another area where we started with one approach and ended up with something totally different. When we first started homeschooling, the kids had separate books for reading and grammar and handwriting and vocabulary and spelling. It seemed like a lot. And it was. Then I found out about Total Language Plus and Learning Language Arts Through Literature at a homeschool conference. We've tried them both, but I definitely prefer Total Language Plus. The integrated approach makes a lot of sense to me and works really well for our family. Each quarter, the kids have a primary work of literature which they read and about which they answer comprehension questions. They also write short answers or paragraphs which focus more on critical thinking skills than on comprehension. Their vocabulary and spelling words (which are extremely challenging, I think) are the same and taken from the work of literature. The study guides for the younger grades contain grammar lessons; for the older kids, there are dictations and proofreading exercises. The guides also contain many ideas for enrichment activities, ranging from art projects to field trips and everything in between, though we seldom do many of these. I have the girls do their dictations in handwriting to get practice there. And I am kind of a grammar nazi, so I also have them practice Daily Paragraph Editing. So far this year, the girls have read Rifles for Watie and Julie of the Wolves. They are currently reading The Light in the Forest and will finish up the year with Out of the Dust and Crispin: The Cross of Lead. The Boy, my slower reader, spent the first half of the year studying The Courage of Sarah Noble and has now moved on to The Whipping Boy. The kids choose their own novels from the list I provide.


Italian: For our modern language study, we have been using the Rosetta Stone Italian Homeschool Curriculum (in the hopes we will one day be spending a semester abroad). I brush up when I can (which is not very often!).

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Science: Here's a subject where I think I've done something different every single year. But I think I've finally found something I'm going to stick with for a while. It's called NOEO Science (from noeo, the Greek word for "understand," and referencing Romans 1:20). There are three levels each of biology, chemistry, and physics. The instructions are easy to follow. There is no textbook, but rather a selection of books from different publishers on different topics, and they are great. And, the best part is, get this, the experiment kits are included! We've done more experiments this year, just because I didn't have to make sure we had the supplies on hand! The teacher's guide, books, and experiment kits all came in one box! (Can you tell I'm enthusiastic about this program!)

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Not done yet ... stay tuned for more.

Monday, January 21, 2013

School Update - Part 1

Today we started our third quarter. (As a side, that means we're officially halfway through the school year already!) Since I didn't blog at the beginning of the school year, I thought I'd share with you what we've been up to. I love that at this point in homeschooling (seven years in), I'm happy with almost everything we're doing and have very few changes/decisions to make each summer.

Religion: This year we took a break from formal catechesis to focus on growing in virtue. A friend of mine recommended PACE (Program for Achieving Character Education), and I have found it to be a great resource. I started out intending to focus on one virtue each month (there are ten), but there was so much good stuff (prayers, short stories, recommended novels and biographies for book reports, quotes to copy and memorize, Bible verses, saint studies, discussion questions, writing exercises, plus additional enrichment activities, including art, music, and nature studies) that I decided to focus on one virtue each quarter and stretch the program out for two years. One of the best parts has been reading and discussing the short stories from William Bennett's The Book of Virtues and The Moral Compass around the dinner table as a family. It has also been good to have such an extended period of time to concentrate on getting better at one thing. I highly recommend this program for use in any Catholic family, homeschooling or not.
 
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Math: Math has been a weak point (for the girls at least) since the beginning. We started out in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade with MCP. Then we switched to Shiller Math, a Montessori-based curriculum -- which does have its strong points and worked really well for The Boy. (If you're interested, I'm looking to sell ours -- I have all seven student and teacher books and most of the manipulatives.) This year we switched to Math-U-See and I'm happy to report my fifth and sixth grader are (finally!) learning their multiplication tables with ease. I had all three of my older ones take the placement test and they all three ended up in the same book, much to the girls' dismay. I've been making them work double time in math this year, so that by the end of the summer they should be back on track. Happily, also, their math grades this year are much improved and the level of math complaining and tears have decreased dramatically.

 
Latin: We continue to use Memoria Press for our Latin instruction. The Boy will complete Prima Latina this year and the girls will complete Latina Christiana II. I'm not sure where to go with them next year. Any suggestions?

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More to come ...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Seven Quick Takes - Volume 17

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-- 1 -- 

The absence I took from blogging was unintentional, but, I suppose, necessary.
I've missed it and hope I'm here a little more regularly in 2013. 

-- 2 --

I've been thinking a lot about this quote I saw on Facebook earlier this week: 
"What screws us up most in life 
is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be."

Hmmm ... I have so much to say about this ... perhaps a future post?

-- 3 --

 I hate stinky dishclothes.
I started knitting some new ones for myself.
(I've only knit dishclothes as gifts in the past.)
This year I'd like to break away from dishclothes and learn how to make caps.
I wish Ginny, or her son, could show me how.

-- 4 --

My sister-in-law painted a North Dakota landscape for our living room.
Now I can get started on painting and decorating that room.
First order of business, scraping the "popcorn" off the ceiling.
Anyone ever done this? Any advice?

-- 5 --

 Ever heard of the paleo diet?
 
The Paleo Diet is based upon eating wholesome, contemporary foods from the food groups our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have thrived on during the Paleolithic era, the time period from about 2.6 million years ago to the beginning of the agricultural revolution, about 10,000 years ago. These foods include fresh meats (preferably grass-produced or free-ranging beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and game meat, if you can get it), fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthful oils (olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed). Dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods were not part of our ancestral menu.

I'm not into "diets," so I'd rather refer to it as a lifestyle.
This one intrigues me and I'd like to learn more about it.
I'm especially reluctant regarding the absence of dairy products.
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
 
-- 6 --

The best part of our day this fall and winter 
has been the half hour after our "recess."
This is the time we spend all together around the fireplace.
I read to the kids; they listen and color or knit or just lounge.
We read The Hobbit in the fall and just started The Fellowship of the Ring.
Many days our half hour gets stretched -- 
 I can't ignore the pleas of "just a little more, Mom."

-- 7 --

Today is Friday. I am looking forward to date night.
Enough said.

For more quick takes, visit Jen, and say a little prayer for her and her baby while you're there.