Thursday, October 21, 2010

A New Year and A New Direction

It has been a while since I posted. I have had a few life distractions. You know how it goes. Adjustments and flexibility have dominated my life lately.
I recently took on a job that I am loving. I work from home and juggle it all now. Sometimes school hapens later in the day. Sometimes it happens on the weekends. We juggle life.

This year my focus with school is creativity. I want to teach my children to creatively express and apply what they are learning. I want to build a deeper independence. Indepence is a necessary skill my children need at the moment. I need them to be confident and self-motivated, focused and excited about the topics and themes they are studying. Excitement makes you want to dig deeper. Creativity makes you want to look at every angle and examine the subject more intently.
I think creative outlets are a fantastic way to build confidence and free thinking.
So . . .we read. A lot.
This year I am not following one particular curriculum. We aren't over-thinking it. We are just doing it.
Fridays are the most anticipated day of the week for my kids.
On Fridays we do narration activities through art. We review what we have read and studied and each child makes 4 artist trading cards to convey a detail of our reading. Maybe they will draw a character from their reading book. Maybe an animal from their science book. Maybe they will create a card about a historic time or an important historic figure. Once my children even created math atcs by writing one number in four different languages on their card.
If you aren't familiar with artist trading cards you can learn more here.
We joined some trading groups on yahoo, but weren't really happy with our returns. Now we are exclusively active on My kids have traded with several states as well as Canada, England, Finland, and New Zealand.
We keep a map that we color in once we have traded with that state or country. This is teaching them geography in a non- threatening way.
They have learned to apply math skills to determine how many stamps their envelopes require to cover postage and which stamps are best to use to save $ (44cent, 10 cent, etc.)
We have even been lucky enough to sneak in some geology when their return cards from Finland where delayed after being re-routed around the volcano in iceland. We snuck in some current events recently when I had a return trade from Chile that arrived the week that the miners were freed.
The blessing of mother culture has been wonderful for me as well. I needed an outlet and atcs have been wonderful tools for me to create as well.

My son is really struggling with writing lately. He has sensory processing disorder and possible disgraphia. The act of writing is discouraging to him and he quickly feels defeated. It has become conterproductive to his learning, so I'm not forcing it --right now. There is a season for everything right? For now, we are using the computer to meet his "writing" needs. He is learning to type.

As part of his typing asssignments he is blogging about our art study lessons. My daughter is also helping out. We started a blog called ART-ucation for this project.

My daughter doesn't get hives at the thought of writing. She is working on Learning to Spell Through Copywork A and Language Lessons for the Elementary Child (Volume 1). She is also looking forward to November when she'll start her first year of NanoWriMo.

That leaves math, science, history and reading.

For Math:
We are glued to Math Mammoth. I love this curriculum and swear by it. I won't use anything else for my children.
We have also been casually reading Number Stories of Long Ago to help establish the origins of math and tie it in to our history studies.

For Science:
Apologia rocks! My kids are loving Exploring Creation With Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the 5th Day. We are also utilizing the online bonus materials, the lapbook and notebooking that coordinate with the book. They are all wondeful!

For History:
A Child's History of the World, and Learning Through History Magazine Unit Studies to expand on the material and a handy-dandy Book of Centuries time-line from Simply Charlotte Mason.

For Reading:
For read- alouds we are doing A Bear Called Paddington(for my little ones, the older two are the readers), The Peterkin Papers,The Saturdays (Melendy Quartet), Homer Priceand Heidi.

They are also required to complete 30 minutes of independent reading daily. Even my younger two have "quiet book time". My oldest has read through eight Junie B Jones Books so far. My son has developed a love for Louisa May Alcott (not sure how that happened) and is currently enjoying Jo's Boys. I am very please with the amount of reading that occurs and definately surprised by their choices for independent reading.

For Bible:
We are doing devotions, character study and reading a ywam biography of Ida Scudder. Currently, we are participating in Sonlight's Mission to India. It is excellent! I hope they do more of these for other countries in the future. My kids are loving learning about India and have already collected a bunch of money toward the mission.

For Life Studies:
My oldest is learning to sew and has also joined me in the kitchen. My son has helped daddy on building projects and household chores.

So . . . lots of adjustments. That's kind of how homeschooling works though. It bends to life and fits us in every season (not like my skinny jeans that cut off circulation this time of the month). Homeschooling always fits. I'm so blessed to have the freedom and ability to school my children at home.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CM Blog Carnival

The Holistic Homeschooler hosted the most recent (Jan. 18th) Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival. The contributors are great! I especially enjoyed this post with loads of Vincent van Gogh resources. One of the fun things about any blog carnival is the discovery of excellent bloggers that you might not have come across on your one. I had never visited The One Thing until the Carnival and I loved it! I'll be back to the site again and again for great life skill challenges. You'll find my post about ermines there as well. So swing over and check out The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival. Remember, you can always submit your posts as well. :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Poetry Revisited

"Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen." -Leonardo da Vinci

Recently, in a previous post, I discussed my struggles with teaching poetry. Since then I have done a bit of study and found some resources that I thought I'd share here.

1. Printable poetry would be good to place on the refrigerator or on display somewhere that children can see and read it.

2. I also found more printable poetry broken down into topic categories like Animals, Colors, Earth Science, Family, etc. I really like what this site offers. Their list of bird poetry is long and wonderful. I'll be visiting this site a lot during our bird studies. Many of the poems would make excellent copywork.

3. If you're looking for an idea of what to read to your child you can check out this great list of classic children's poetry to read online.

4. The Poetry Foundation offers tons of information and educational resources to promote the art of poetry. Currently they feature a really cute video of Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman reading her works and chatting to kids about poetry and rhyme.

5. Lit2Go has a great collection of poems and stories. The poetry often has activity sheets to go with the poetry. Here is a link to a simple little poem that we recently enjoyed.

As part of my research and study I also read Parents' Review Articles titled An Address on the Teaching of Poetry and The Teaching of Poetry to Children.

In An Address on the Teaching Poetry by Rev. H.C Beeching it is explained that poetry has the ability to tap our memory, enhance our ability to describe with beauty and clarity, and sharpen our scientific observation skills. The article discusses the emotional impact of poetry and it's ability to waken our mind and train it for deeper feeling. The author advises parents to use quality poetry that is "delightful" to read and also to choose poetry that considers the age of the reader. The article presents that good poetry should leave children with joy, expanded and trained emotional understanding, and the skill of applying the imagination through words.

The Teaching of Poetry to Children by Mrs. J.G. Simpson stated that a love for poetry begins in childhood. It stresses the importance of making poetry worth reading and learning, not wasting the child's ability to memorize by giving the meaningless poetry that doesn't engage the imagination and instead raises the bar of what they can enjoy. The article insists that a child can be trained to love beautiful poetry that we might think is beyond their understanding. It urges parents to choose great examples of poetry rather than silly senseless rhymes that lack meaning. It goes on to say that one of the best tools for teaching our children to love poetry is by letting them see our own love for poetry. The article is loaded full of great links that are definitely worth checking out.

My children and I are now enjoying poetry from A Child's Garden of Verse and working on being better acquainted with the art of poetry. Dover makes a coloring book version that I want to purchase to incorporate with our poetry readings.

My children were so excited when we began our poetry lesson. They really didn't view it as a lesson (or "school" at all). In fact when their friends came over later that day, they announced that all they had to do for school was math and writing. When I mentioned poetry they said "yeah but that was cool". Ah ha! The joy of poetry.

Happy Learning!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ermines: A Lesson in Art and Science

Recently, we have been studying the art work of Leonardo da Vinci. We currently have five of his paintings hanging on my living room walls (Mona Lisa, Ginevra de' Benci, Lady with an Ermine, The Virgin of the Rocks, and Study of Cat Movements and Positions).
Their decided favorite of da Vinci's works is Lady with an Ermine, who they all find "beautiful" and "rich looking". This painting has led to some fascinating and fun discussions in my home.

When I first hung Lady with an Ermine my mother was visiting. She noticed the painting and asked "what is that animal supposed to be?"
I thought I knew something and I answered that it was called an ermine and probably extinct.

The whole matter was forgotten until yesterday when my daughter asked if we could research what ermines were like (being told by me that they were extinct and all).

I quickly discovered how little I knew. Ermines do exist today, and though they are not a widely known animal, there are enough of them out there to keep them off any endangered or threatened lists.

My daughter's curiosity led to great learning for all of us.

Here is what we learned about ermines:

Ermines (Mustela erminea) are members of the weasel family. You can find ermine in Canada, Northern USA, and Eurasia. Ermines are very territorial carnivores that live and thrive in the Siberian tundra. God created them with the unique ability to handle extreme cold. They also enjoy marshes and woodlands.
Their life span is only 4-7 years. With such a short life span it seems only reasonable that the females would mature as early as two months old! It takes the male ermine about ten months to catch up . . . no comment ;).
Mating occurs as soon as they are able to hunt independently. They can have up to thirteen kits (young) in each litter. The moms are the active parents who raise and provide for the kits.
Ermines feed on birds like chicken and snow owls as well as squirrels and rabbit.
As a key feature, God created the ermine with a beautiful and useful coat. It has the ability and benefit of changing color in the spring and winter to camouflage it from predators. In the spring the ermine's coat is brown, blending it into the ground and woodlands. In the winter its white coat is virtually invisible against the snowy surroundings. The change of appearance is dramatic and beautiful. The one constant is the tip of its tail which always remains black.
In our study we learned that ermines were used for clothing and as status symbols in the Middle Ages. We also learned that the little black tip of their tail was a key ingredient to producing the paintbrushes that artists treasured in da Vinci's day.
In one of da Vinci's notebooks he writes about feeding the ermine every two days. This might have been a logical pet for an artist. He may have cared for the ermine temporarily during the sittings for his painting, or maybe it was a permanent resident in his studio. It was fun to wonder about what an ermine might do and how it might behave around paints and canvas while hanging out in da Vinci's studio.
During the renaissance the ermine was prevalent in art and literature. It represented royalty, purity, and chastity.
Leonardo da Vinci may have used the ermine in Lady with an Ermine to depict his subject (Cecelia Gallarani) as virginal. He also may have had a more witty and puzzling purpose for using the ermine. Cecelia Gallarini was a very young mistress to the Duke of Milan (There was some discrepancy with her age. Accounts have her as 9, 10 or 17 years of age). In any case, it would have been wise and appropriate to depict her as innocent and virginal.

From our biographical reading on Leonardo da Vinci we learned that da Vinci loved word games, riddles and witty puzzles. Some speculate that his use of the ermine was a play on words with her last name being so close to the Greek word for ermine (galay).

The painting is wonderfully made. I love his use of color and the heavy richness of the hues.

Maybe your children would like to experiment with coloring their own interpretation of Lady with an ermine. A very well done coloring page can be found

Another notable portrait containing an ermine was made of Queen Elizabeth 1. Where the ermine seems large in the arms of Cecelia, the ermine is much smaller in Queen Elizabeth 1's painting (created by Sir William Segar). He sort of hides out in her sleeve.

The size of the ermine could be reflective of the human subject's age, or in Queen Elizabeth's case, shrunk down for greater symbolic subtlety. It both cases the ermine enhances the wealth and status of the painting's subject.

If you have little ones you might like to check out
this poem about ermines. It was created to teach the letter E, but it also worked for my little ones who were joining in with our fun tangent of scientific learning sparked by art.

Happy Learning!

my sources:,_pets,_pet_lovers,_art&articleid=121862

*Images in this post are in the public domain. They were obtained from Karen's Whimsy and Wikepedia Commons. Thanks to both sites for making them available.

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