Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

A Charlotte Mason Christian Home School: Preschool – 3rd Grade :)

Four, Seven, and Nine are Simply Divine!

2017-2018 Curriculum Plans

For my preschooler, 1st grader, and 3rd grader

Hello homeschoolin’ mamas! Its planning time here! How is your planning going? I am praying that God strengthens us with vision so that we are able to customize our family’s plans according to His perfection. To that purpose, I encourage you to print and use these visionary prayers for your homeschool. Prayer based in the authority of scripture is our foundation for success.

If you are planning “outside of the box,” you know how it takes time, but that its definitely doable, and the resulting satisfaction in the following school year makes those summer planning hours so worth it. Despite the work involved, I look forward each year to planning because of the results: seeing my kids wild about books, seeing their character being nourished, and hearing them narrate with great accuracy is the Father’s reward for this mom’s heart. God has been so good!

Simply Charlotte Mason materials and book suggestions continually capture and thrill our hearts here. As I mention below in this post, “In my experience, SCM offers living book suggestions that can not be passed up they are so good.” The readings tug on my heart all the time! SCM picks the best of the best literature available. We sometimes use book suggestions from other Charlotte Mason type curriculum suppliers for extra summertime reading, so I know some of what is out there, but I always come back home to SCM books and lesson plans for their simplicity and sweetness.

The SCM forum is my favorite place to go for school advice. Whenever I have nitty gritty education questions, I do a search on the SCM discussion forum, and find answers abounding from the ladies, who strike me as so Godly and helpful and wise. Their wisdom really stands out. The CM guidance I glean from the Simply Charlotte Mason community is a blessing, and I am sure it will especially be a great assurance while planning and teaching the highschool years.

All these things aforementioned are really wonderful, but perhaps the principle reason we LOVE doing Charlotte Mason homeschooling is because first and foremost it allows us to be together. Its hard to describe how very very blessed I feel about the “togetherness” we are growing here. Our 4 years of CM schooling have been fruitful, challenging, and thoroughly enjoyable as we learn all together. Charlotte Mason says, “the souls of all children are waiting for the call of knowledge to awaken them to delightful living.” I so agree; as my family photos here may attest, school to me is about living a deeply rich and satisfying life all together. It is our lovestory.

I have often written about the loveliness of togetherness. In my post, Soul Filling Friendship, I encouraged, “As our children mature, we will have interesting and rich conversation with friends who truly love to talk about things that matter, and who love what we love…..As we lay down our lives to nurture our children, someday the friendships we have built with them will nurture us in return. Someday we will look into the eyes of our beloved children and realize that they have become our dearest friends.” True friendship is a most wonderful result of the togetherness we are creating in our homes day by day, the process beginning when our children are still young (and admittedly sometimes hard to be with). I recall the warm feeling of togetherness growing in my heart when I wrote my post Discipling our Children at HOME sweet HOME.  I gushed, “Home is where the heart is, and home is where we can best reach our children. It is our homes that give God the most undistracted access to our children’s hearts and minds. The home is a God designed dynamic learning environment for children. Therefore, we as a family commit to being at home, together, a lot, in order to build our home. We desire a slower paced environment and atmosphere in our home, where our children can soak and drink deeply of God, rather than us always rushing in and out, building up much of our lives outside of home, and separately.” Intimacy at home comes through many avenues, but I think doing school together provides families with one of the best bonding opportunities of all.

If togetherness in school is something you also desire, take a look at the SCM website and see how many subjects you can teach your whole family together, grades 1 through 12! It allows family to come together in a marvelous way! SCM is a logical choice for bigger families teaching lots of grades, and for creating a sweet sense of unity in any size family by allowing learning experiences to be shared by all. With other curriculum structured for teaching kids more separately, where different ages are reading different books in lots of subjects, natural conversations wouldn’t come up as much. For example, in a family with 5 kids there could be as many as 5 different time periods being studied for history, and so common ground is lost for conversations to occur about what is being learned. In SCM however, history might look like this: The whole family is reading Stories of America together. Oldest is also reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Next oldest is reading A Young Patriot. Third child is reading Johnny Tremain. Finally, mom is reading aloud Benjamin Franklin by the D’Aulaires to the two youngest. Not everyone is reading all the same books, but everyone is reading about people from the same time who all were part of the events of the American Revolution. There is common ground in almost every subject to prompt lovely conversation when you teach the family together, and this is one important way that a lovely sense of family togetherness may be fostered.

I feel that the simplicity of SCM allows moms to teach from a restful place. And for moms who want the ease of a complete open and go curriculum package, SCM now offers that as an option too! There are very few curriculum packages out there that are truly CM. I personally continue to prefer to use SCM’s original do-it-yourself curriculum overview chart, which is free. Either way though, SCM is nice because you get to secure your own books, which is one, very cost effective, and two, allows you to teach to the child (and his or her needs), not to the curriculum. Almost all of our books come free from the library and are hand selected by mom.

We are looking forward to sharing another wonderful year of homeschool here with you at Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs! May God continue to draw our hearts together through the amazing opportunity of homeschool, and may He allow us to write a lovestory of togetherness as we experience the many awesome living explorations of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness.

XOXOXO Lynn

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Now, onto the books!!! Of course some books remain the same in my plans from year to year, but I don’t want you to miss out on all the new things embedded in between, especially the Nature Study and History books planned for this year! I admit, it will be really something if you can get through all of this post! 🙂 Thanks for being patient with my gushing.

The following Annual Curriculum Plans are also available for other ages/content:

If what you see below in my plans looks like an impossible amount of material, remember Charlotte Mason methods use short lessons so that students can be exposed to a nice wide variety of subjects (the feast!). Here is a very doable sample schedule from Simply Charlotte Mason that shows how your week might look:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Scripture Memory (5 min.)

History (20–30 min.)

Picture Study (10 min.)

Foreign Language (15 min.)

Literature (20–30 min.)

Math/Science/Language Arts per student

Scripture Memory (5 min.)

History (20–30 min.)

Music Study (10–15 min.)

Habits (10 min.)

Literature (20–30 min.)

Math/Science/Language Arts per student

Scripture Memory (5 min.)

Poetry (5 min.)

Geography (10 min.)

Handicraft or Art (20–30 min.)

Literature (20–30 min.)

Math/Science/Language Arts per student

Scripture Memory (5 min.)

Bible (20 min.)

Hymn Study (5 min.)

Shakespeare (20 min.)

Foreign Language (15–20 min.)

Literature (20–30 min.)

Math/Science/Language Arts per student

Scripture Memory (5 min.)

Bible (20 min.)

Nature Study (30 min.)

Habits (10 min.)

Literature (20–30 min.)

Math/Science/Language Arts per student

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My Precious Students

 

 

           Noah – 3rd grade                Faith – 1st grade                  Daniel – Preschool

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Mother Study:

As I am not very familiar with academic Bible study methods, my goal in recent years became to find a good study resource so that I might learn a thing or two, or more. However, the hunt for the right resource felt like searching for a needle in a haystack. I didn’t want to do one of the many “Bible studies” I typically see with lots of contrived questions based on the popular Christian book its paired with; I wanted to learn the basic “how to” methods of timeless Bible study that can be applied to all future studies.

I never guessed that what I needed was right under my nose all the time. So happy to have found this study from my beloved mentors at Simply Charlotte Mason–no fluff, just the real stuff.

Life in the Word is a handbook for teens (or adults like me!) that walks them through various Bible studies step by step: narrative studies, word studies, topical studies, inductive studies, character studies, and more.

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Devotions:

Personal and Family Bible reading/study, prayer, and worship

Morning Devos: Meeting with the Lord in morning devos is all about getting to know Him. Devotional time helps us to know Him for ourselves, rather than just knowing about Him. The discipline of meeting with Him everyday also helps us experience victory and stay in the Lord’s perfect will of joy and revelation and blessings. So we are careful to take our time each morning and meet with the Lord as long as we feel led. First thing in the morning we do personal devotions, then kids and mommy meet together right after for a group devo (and we also do night time devotions together as a family a few times a week). I guess we love devos.

During personal devotion time, I read my ESV Study Bible, Noah reads his Bible and then usually either he or I read The Preschoolers Bible to Daniel, who can’t read yet. Faith would sit and look at Bible story pictures for a long time before she could read, but now that she is reading, she is enjoying her (“non-twaddle”) Bible story book, The Children’s Bible Story Book by Catherine Vos. After separate reading, we worship, pray, journal, and/or read the Bible again together in order to narrate (as per our curriculum). Sometimes in the past we have used devotionals like Jesus Calling or Leading Little Ones to God or What Would Jesus Do?, but this year I think the kids will use their Study Bible (Child Training Bible) more instead, as I also work through my personal Bible study, Life in the Word, little by little each day. 

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Scripture Memory: We have always memorized one scripture verse or passage a month and reviewed the verses we learned during the same month in previous years. I usually picked a verse that was relevant to the character trait we were studying, I wrote the verse on our chalkboard over the kitchen table, and then we practiced it all together during breakfast. This year I would like us all to challenge ourselves with memorizing larger chunks of scripture, as well as begin to form the habit of independent scripture memorization, perhaps fitting some time for independent practice into our morning devotions routine. Just hoping to see scripture memory become somewhat more of an independent pursuit as we are growing in years. IMG_0041

Prayer Journal: This has been a blessing! In the past we would separate into different rooms in the afternoon for a quiet time where we would spend some time prayer journaling whatever the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts. Slowly prayer journaling has been moved into our morning devotion time as quiet time seems to have phased out last year with the last of Daniel’s naps. Journaling became a time and place for the kids to specifically respond to some of the life application questions or prayer prompts posed in our devotionals as well. Maybe we will find quiet spaces in the afternoon again this year, but either way, we will continue to write our thoughts and prayers out as it brings grace to our days. The kids pages make me teary eyed they are so sweet sometimes, so I can imagine how the Lord must feel to receive His little love letters.

Prayer Wall: Prayer Wall was a new addition this past year, and I am glad we have one now. I personally use a binder to keep track of what I am praying for, but the kids use the “Prayer Wall” to guide their prayers. The top chalkboard on our Prayer Wall lists current short term needs, and the 3 cups at the bottom contain long term prayer focuses for 1-Our Family, 2-Loved Ones, and 3-The World. For our family, since we have stood on God’s promises for various needs over the years, we now have the scriptures organized in one place (the “Family” cup) and easily accessible to the children to use in prayer. The Family cup has slips of paper with a topic such as ‘Godly Friendships’ or ‘Health’ on one side and our corresponding promise from the Word on the other. The ‘Loved Ones cup has slips of paper with the names of all the family and friends our kids could think of (they sounded out and wrote the names themselves).

The World’ cup has slips of paper with people groups, nations, and general world needs (natural disasters, government, missions, churches, etc.). The kids can use the map on the Prayer Wall to locate the nation named on their slip of paper. We are still enjoying learning about nations and people groups from our Window on the World prayer book (usually during geography lessons), and then praying for the people using the prayer points and background information offered. Faith really loves learning about people and cultures around the world, and it was sweet to see God draw her heart to the Native American tribes this year.

Worship: The kids and I sing accapella praise and worship to the Lord every morning together. It was cute to see them become a little more independent in initiating worship this past year, and sometimes find them leading Daniel in a rousing song of Praise Ye the Lord or This is the Day. Sometimes we enjoy singing simple spontaneous Spirit-led songs unto the Lord; everyone singing their new song all at once seems to help move us out of complacent worship. Our hymn books, which are simply printed off hymns put into binders, started a couple years ago, have become a great resource of songs for us to use together in worship time or to take to a care home and minister to the elderly. The words of hymns are poignant and the message is so beautifully articulated! We did slow down last year in learning new hymns, and so we probably need to try to make a point of learning more new hymns again next year.

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Literature:

These are some of the literature books I am thinking about buying/checking out from the library this year, but also much historical literature (not pictured), thanks our new resources All Through the Ages and the Truthquest History guides (see “History” below for descriptions).

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Image result for pollyanna bookImage result for winning his spurs G. A. hentyImage result for door in the wall hardcover

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Math:

Since preschool we have been using Kathy Richardson’s Developing Number Concepts math series for PreK-3rd. The more flexibly children can work with numbers and manipulate them in many various ways, the better they will be at math, and Kathy Richardson does a great job helping children to work deeply with numbers. We have been happy with this math curriculum that I found while student teaching in a elementary classroom before having my own kids. I think Noah will soon be aging out of this curriculum, so its time to start thinking about what to do next.

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In the meantime Kahn Academy has helped fill in the gaps for Noah with extra math practice that he really needed, since we never seem to do many math worksheets or workbooks. Its been nice to have a practice resource to supplement our math lessons that can also be done independently, especially on full days when I don’t have time to do another lesson.

We are also excited to try out this fun living math idea to supplement Noah’s math studies this year. In Your Business he will get to pretend he is running his own pet store business! Sounds fun!

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History:

My kids really really love history, but we have been “living” with the ancients for 3 years now, and honestly, I am eager to move up the timeline! I am excited, really excited to get into the stories of the Middle Ages and Renaissance! I am excited for my kids as well because knights and castles and kings and queens have been a major theme over the years playing at home. Now to bring it all alive!

The main goal of CM history studies is to allow the children to “live” in a time period and get to know what people and ideas were like during that era; and that goal can be accomplished through simply reading a variety of living books (spines are optional). I will explain below how we are going to greatly supplement the “living” aspect of our history studies this coming school year, while still using the wonderful living history curriculum offered by Simply Charlotte Mason as our anchor.

The Manual

In my experience, SCM offers living book suggestions that can not be passed up they are so good. For the most part, these are and have always been the living books we read together. However, next year, I also plan to begin to use two book list resources: All Through the Ages and TruthQuest, in order to pick and choose more of the best living books available for the time period we are studying (especially since we are now studying a period rich with literature compared to the ancient time period). Oh how I wish I could read all of the living books that my children will devour in their free reading time, but alas, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in a mothers day to read the day away.

The Spines

Our SCM spine, A Castle with Many Rooms will serve as an introduction to each topic of our time period, and a springboard for further studies (through TruthQuest and All Through the Ages) into those topics. For example, I have cross referenced all the chapter topics in A Castle with Many Rooms with living books and commentary from Truthquest (below) so that each topic introduced in our spine can be fleshed out lots more through a good stack of living books.

We have slowly read and narrated the stories throughout most of the Old Testament, the Gospels, and Acts in our last 3 years of school, and learned A LOT. Next year we dive into the epistles with my ESV Study Bible as our other history spine, and I am curious to see how narration will go since the material will be theology and doctrine, rather than narrative. Thankfully, Bible this year is more than ‘read and narrate;’ the manual also includes family Bible study plans, probably to help abstract concepts in the epistles come alive in children’s minds.

 

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Living Books to Supplement the Spines (or use instead of):

Last year while studying the history of the Ancient Romans, I eventually found myself  inwardly wearying of their corruption, violence, and pride, while I found my kids still admiring them and cheering them on, “Go Romans! I hope they win!” Did I miss something here!? These kids seem to be missing the point!! Soon enough I was sighing and rolling my eyes –outwardly– as I continued to weary with the greed and debauchery present in every history lesson. Oh dear, mom was caving. I came to the conclusion that perhaps I need to rethink how I am teaching history. My kids seemed to need some wise Godly insight into what was really happening and I seemed to need some fresh air of hope over these dismal stories of never ending evil and murder in the history of mankind.

So I started doing my homework and found TruthQuest History, a curriculum that presents a historical focus in light of God’s truth. Author of the curriculum, Michelle Miller, says, “The exploration of history, then, should reveal God and His truth, not glorify the achievements of mankind……. Let us, then, not be found teaching humanistic history. Let us learn of civilization and its beliefs in a way that reveals and glorifies the God whose name is Truth.” Yes, yes I thought. Curriculum with a strong Biblical worldview is exactly what I want!

I found out that TruthQuest History is a deep and rich literature-based history study…but with a difference. Michelle explains, “You will not learn the story of mankind; you will learn the lovestory of mankind. You will not focus on the rise and fall of human civilizations; you will focus on the arrow-straight line of God’s unchanging existence, power, love, truth, and plan for civilization. You will not simply ‘meet the culture’ or ‘get the facts;’ you will probe the truths of history so deeply that your students will be equipped to change their world!” Well amen to that!!

TruthQuest history consists of a guide for each era of history with a fantastic booklist for each topic and subtopic within that era. Also included is a thought-provoking introduction for each topic, written in a lively conversational style, in order to provide context background that kindles interest (and promotes strong Biblical worldview). A unique aspect of TQH is a primary focus on the central questions of life: Who is God, and who is man in relation to God? If we want children whose minds are awake and alive to the most vital issues of life (which is what philosophy is about), then TruthQuest History is an outstanding choice. I love how the author says, ‘You won’t need any tests to show that your kids are learning: they’ll be living what they learn, playing what they learn, talking what they learn, and praying what they learn!’ Ok, that’s definitely what I desire for my kids!

All Through the Ages is another even bigger book list of living books.  I couldn’t help myself; I have wanted it for years, so I bought it too. With 7,000 books listed from every historical era and every reading level, all you need is a library card (using the interlibrary loan system is very helpful too for securing those hard to find rare gems, which ATTA is full of). All the research is done for you and the books are selections you can trust. ATTA is a such a worthwhile purchase for any homeschool; its comprehensive coverage provides families with the ability to spread a feast for their children’s minds and hearts for all 12 grades. I won’t have to hear my kids say, “I have nothing to read!” again, especially now that I finally know about the interlibrary loan system (can’t believe I just recently found out about it!). ATTA also includes suggestions for living geography and science books. Its a great buy for anyone willing to make good use of their library!

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Geography:

Forming a heart for the people we are studying, and have studied, by praying for them, is the most wonderful and important aspect of a child’s geography study.  When we found the book Window on the World by Operation World, with its cultural information, photos, and prayer points for countries around the world, I felt like we found the critical component that had been missing in our homeschool studies. The book is designed to help kids get started in praying for the world, but it has certainly served to soften my own calloused grown up heart. One day a week, on geography day, I send one of my kids to randomly pick a slip from the Prayer Wall’s ‘World’ cup. We read about that selected nation or people group in Window to the World, and then we each take a turn to pray over them before we dive into our geography lessons.

Since history next year covers early exploration in the Americas, our geography curriculum coincides by taking us on visits to South America and Central America. Visits to South America and Central America includes map drill, making your own maps, and living books. We regularly “visit” families homes from various countries to see how they eat and how they live in the fascinating books Hungry Planet and Material World, our geography “spines.” We love geography day because it feels so personal.

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Character Study:

Lots of missionary books this year. The Millers Series is incredible!!!

Image result for missionary millersCharacter Companion for the Miller Family Series

YWAM Heroes books about missionaries are wonderful.

Image result for gladys aylward yWAMImage result for nate saint on a wing and a prayerImage result for jim elliot heroes then and now

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Habit Training:

Almost every book we read is selected with the purpose of shaping and developing our hearts and minds, and so thankfully, much of our kids character development happens proactively, without much direct or explicit teaching necessary. In this way, there is lots and lots of habit training occurring everyday. However, habit training sometimes requires a reactive approach as well, better known as discipline. For our our bigger discipline needs we use the Child Training Bible, which helps children do topical Bible studies on things like anger, pride, or complaining. After studying all the verses marked on a topic, my kids choose one verse to handwrite out and hide away in their hearts so that they might have strength against future temptations. (We also plan to use the Child Training Bible for Bible study purposes, as mentioned above in “Devotions.”)

Our Service board show kids what their daily assignments are. Noah is the green markers and Faith is the red markers (clay shaped into hearts).

Our Service board show kids what their daily assignments are. Noah is the green markers and Faith is the red markers (clay shaped into hearts).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will continue to use our Stewardship Street coin banks to hold earnings for Service Opportunities done at home (better known as chores). The kids are taking over the work around here little by little, and I am working myself out of a job; its great! Ok, it is lots of hard work staying on top of them, but I do think it is getting better with time. The life skills and the character that work helps develop in children is so important, so we keep at it.

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A to do: finish Faith’s street this summer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will continue to use the following excellent resources for habit training and character study: IMG_8343

Nature Study:

 

 

As the foundation of our nature study, we pray– that God will open our eyes, ears, and hearts to more fully see all the special things of His creation…. and He really does! This past spring and summer we fed 3 caterpillars at home, hatched baby praying mantis’ and raised one almost to adulthood, cared for a backyard lizard and a backyard frog in our terrarium, and caught and observed butterflies. A terrarium has proved to be quite helpful for nature study here. 🙂 And canning jars with some mesh or tulle on top too.

I was so happy to see Faith’s excitement over critters really reach an all time high this year! She ran around with her butterfly net catching all kinds of things as her gross motor skills caught up with her butterfly catching dreams in kindergarten. She was the one filling our terrarium this year with all of her special live critter finds. I have been waiting and waiting to see this kind of nature enthusiasm to emerge in my kiddos. Praise God!!

We have always enjoyed going out to hike, play, and observe the flora and fauna in various parks when the weather is nice. This past year we surpassed our previous comfort zone and actually got out hiking in the rain and were rewarded and wowed with sights we had never seen before, such as beautiful ephemeral waterfalls. Often we bring specimens home to draw, but I love sketching out in nature whenever possible. It is hard work with three young children and a backpack of supplies in tow, but once settled, nature journaling can be the quietest, most peaceful moments of homeschool; moments that nourish my soul like nothing else. I remember one day last year at the nature park with my children, we sketched together in sweet (voluntary) silence for at least half an hour–it was surreal. I look forward to more of that!

I am super super excited about an amaaaaazing nature study resource I just bought, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling. It teaches anyone how to observe nature and journal his experiences, plus it includes lots of art instruction–just the kind I have been looking for. John Laws also offers free nature journaling classes at some of the local libraries in the area.

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Handwriting:

 

First off Noah needs to finish up his second round of Print to Cursive this year (he is doing the book twice because he needs more practice). Hopefully by mid-year, or before, he will get into his next cursive book, Hymns in Prose. Faith will continue practicing printing and begin cursive in her first round of Print to Cursive.

Hymns in Prose Zaner Bloser Cursive

And little Daniel will start to practice his letters on our little black chalkboards from Handwriting without Tears, just like Noah and Faith did once upon a time.

Here is a flashback!

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Spelling:

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My 6-8 year old students spell words using a Montessori alphabet

Learning how to spell and sound out

My preschoolers word build using Lauri’s A-Z puzzle

 

We have used a unique but effective spelling method with little students 8 and under for a number of years now. I explain our methods step by step in this post (scroll down down down).

Following in Faith and Noah’s footsteps, little Daniel will begin using our Lauri alphabet puzzle to sound out and word build his first three letter words this coming school year!

 

“The gift of spelling depends upon the power the eye possesses to ‘take’ (in a photographic sense) a detailed picture of a word; and this is a power and habit, which must be cultivated in children from the first.” –Charlotte Mason

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As much as we have loved our self contrived spelling methods, we are excited to move our 3rd grader Noah up into prepared dictation using classic literature selections in the curriculum Spelling Wisdom. As Charlotte Mason students typically delay formal spelling instruction until the 3rd or 4th grade, next year will be the first “official” year of spelling instruction for Noah, and I think he has been well prepared for Miss Mason’s simple method of prepared dictation. He and I are looking forward to it!

 

Noah will also begin simple 10 minute language lessons next school year. Using Language Well pairs with Spelling Wisdom and teaches English usage, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and composition through great literature. And just for fun, we will try using Story Starters to have the kids write creative stories, which they love to do (the story crafting more than the writing). 🙂

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Vocabulary:

Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 Edition - By: Noah Webster

Produced during the years when the American home, church and school were established upon a Biblical and patriotic basis. The American Dictionary of the English Language is based upon God’s written word, for Noah Webster used the Bible as the foundation for his definitions. Scripture verses are referenced throughout.

 

 

For vocabulary studies, I continually attempt to explain vocabulary words off the top of my head the moment we approach them in our readings, or use my phone to look words up super fast so we can quickly move on with better understanding of the material. Sometimes I highlight a few key words while reading that Noah can choose to define later. Noah looks up one word, any word of choice, once a week in Noah Websters 1828 Dictionary and writes out the definition in his vocabulary notebook. Next year Faith will join him in our old fashioned, but worthwhile, dictionary skills lessons. It should prove to be interesting! 😉

 

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Reading:

So thankful that I have two growing readers in our school. We reeeeally love our Pathway Series Readers, that are so full of wonderful character lessons. My kids are the ones who actually initiate reading lessons here by coming up and asking if they can read to me all the time because they enjoy the stories that much. All the stories center around an Amish family’s farm life. Children are expected to obey their parents, respect their teachers, ask forgiveness when they do wrong, and humbly submit to the discipline of those in authority! Yet they still enjoy life!! There are Pathway readers available up through an 8th grade reading level.

Noah uses the readers mostly for practicing good prosody; Faith uses them for reading practice. The readers have also provided spelling words for my younger kids (preparing them to switch to prepared dictation in 3rd grade). I explain the effective spelling method we have used for a number of years in this post -scroll down.

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Art Projects:

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Faithy’s Penguin Project from Preschool

 

 

 

I love kids art. Noah and Faith’s bedroom wall is covered in a growing menagerie of their beautiful artwork. This school year we will continue to do free art, directed art, and picture book inspired art as always. We do perhaps 2-6 “frameable” projects a year. Other areas of school such as nature journals, prayer journals, history/Bible narration drawings provide us with regular drawing practice as well.

 

 

Every once in while we use these worksheets with simple drawing tutorials for kids. These painting lessons could give me ideas simple enough to do with Daniel (4years). However, I have yet to find the kind of art lessons I am really desiring for the kids and myself, never the less, we seem to be doing fine and learning anyway. Plus, as I mentioned in “Nature Study” above, John Law’s book has great art instruction that I think is going to be super helpful to us across the disciplines.

 

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Art Appreciation, Music, and Poetry:

A Charlotte Mason school includes Picture Study, Classical Music Study, and Poetry Study. Simple exposure to the humanities is what Charlotte Mason said to give our children’s eyes and ears opportunity to learn beauty.

“We all have need to be trained to see and to have our eyes opened before we can take in the joy that is meant for us in this beautiful life.” -CM

For Picture Study, we found that having an actual book in front of us was a lot easier than doing picture study on the computer. We look for coffee table type books with large paintings so everyone can see (we will also find art books through All Through the Ages, and TruthQuest). Picture study will hopefully include several artists and composers this year as there are a plethora of choices in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. To begin with, Picture Study for us was simply talking about what we saw while we all looked at a piece of artwork during breakfast. Lately however, we study the picture, then I hide it, and we take turns listing all the descriptive details we can think of (with the intent of finding things others didn’t notice). Its fun to try and stump each other. Everyone is eager to see the picture again in order to find what he or she didn’t notice the first time. This basically is Charlotte Mason’s simple method of picture study.

A list of possible artists to study:

  • Giotto-1266-1337
  • Botticelli-1444-1510
  • Da Vinci- 1452-1519
  • Michelangelo- 1475-1564
  • Albrecht Durer- 1471-1528
  • Raphael- 1483-1520
  • Pieter Bruegal-1525-1569
  • El Greco- 1541-1614
  • Diego Velazquez-1599-1660
  • Rembrandt-1606-1669
  • Johannes Vermeer-1632-1675

Image result for Giotto Tended the Sheep by Sybil Deucher and Opal Wheeler

 

 

 

I hear Opal Wheeler writes great biographies on composers (and a few artists) for kids, so I would like to try Giotto Tended the Sheep.

 

 

 

 

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For Music Study, here are a few ideas from charlottemasonhelp.com for teaching young kids about orchestra, ballet, plays, opera…….and for exposing them to Medieval music.

Image result for The Orchestra by Mark Rubin and Alan DanielImage result for bernstein favorites peter and wolf

Image result for A Feather on the Breath of God: Sequences and Hymns by Abbess Hildegard of Bingen  Image result for Salve Regina - Gregorian Chant" by Benedictine Monks of Saint-Maurice

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Image result for Pet of the Met by Lydia Freeman

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For Poetry Study, we will continue to memorize one poem a month to practice recitation, try to read others from the following books, and attempt to write our own poem every once in awhile just for fun. You never know, poetry can sometimes turn out better than you think it will. Noah’s Mother’s Day poem to me was a surprising delight last year.

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Handicrafts/Life Skills:

My “Activity Brainstorm Page“, listed on my homepage menu has lots of crafty ideas. The craft projects include holiday, seasonal, and themed ideas which are an ongoing collection of various ideas collected from the internet. We purposely save art projects, craft projects, and fieldtrips for “Fun Fridays,” our light day of school. I would love to get scrapbooking and put all the family history info we gathered this past year into a keepsake book. We will also continue to try our hand at embroidery (a nice activity during read alouds) this next year since we took some baby steps towards learning it this past year.

Here is a plethora of life skill ideas as well.

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Spanish:

After two years of failed attempts at learning Spanish, it was wonderful to sign up for Spanish class with our native speaking friend Miss Maria and let her do the teaching. We were the only ones in the class, so we got a lot of personal attention. I am happy to say that we finally really enjoyed Spanish this year. We still haven’t watched these crazy silly Spanish videos for kids by Salsa, so I will leave it on the plans.


May God receive the glory in all we do this year my friends!!

“….according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:31

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Six and Eight are Great!

2nd Grade and Kindergarten Curriculum for 2016-2017

We are looking forward to school in September!! With Noah in 2nd grade and soon to turn eight, Faith in Kindergarten and about to turn six, Daniel soon to be three and starting to learn his letter sounds and numbers, juggling will be required– to keep things exciting for mommy. It will be delightful to nurture all these hearts with the simple immersion of truth, beauty, and goodness found in living books. As for our school curriculum thus far, there has hardly been a thing wanting for improvement, so we will continue on with what we love and hold dear. God’s guidance through Simply Charlotte Mason’s curriculum continues to dazzle us and make our days of learning so sweet together. We love what we get to do in homeschool!!! Plus it was a wonderful blessing to get to do school twice a week last year with my sister and nephews!!

The two areas I would like to spend more time on this year than we we were able to last year, are math and nature journaling. Also Spanish last year was again, almost a flop (though we tried, it just wasn’t working), but we won’t worry, God will work this out too, in His timing. Two areas we did flourish in last year were reading (Faith is starting to read, yay!, and Noah can devour books) and morning devotions (love this time together), the two staples of this house for sure. Thank you Father!!

 

Our studies this 2016-2017 school year will continue to include a little bit of Spanish, vocabulary, art, poetry, hymns and classical music, plus all the following beautiful books:

 

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Spiritual Growth, Life Skills, and Character Development

  • Contenders for the Faith–life skills, character development, and handiwork  (scouting alternative; a Christ centered family based club with merit awards)
  • Jesus Calling, Over the Edge, and What Would Jesus Do?–morning devotionals

  • Christian Heroes Then & Now (YWAM) –historical biographies exemplifying heroic Christian character
  • Growing with the Millers–character building short stories
  • Bible–history and morning devotions (my non-readers also use many storybook Bibles in the morning too)
  • Window on the World–prayer points for countries and people groups
  • Child Training Bible —a Bible set up to help make the Word a priority in habit training; doubles as a child friendly topical Bible study resource (tabbed Bible on the left)

 

 

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History

Simply Charlotte Mason’s Matthew-Acts and Ancient Rome

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Geography

Simply Charlotte Mason’s Visits to Europe (picture books not pictured)

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Reading and Spelling

Pathway Readers

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Writing

Cursive practice book, blank writing notebooks (for copy work), and blank books (for authoring a story)

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Science

Simply Charlotte Mason’s 106 Days of Creation

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Nature Study

 

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Math

Kathy Richardson’s Developing number Concepts Series

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Literature

 

Please also see the following Annual Curriculum Plans for more ideas:

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These Pics are a few months late, but here is a peek at the end of last school year!

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Spelling with Lambie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Little Juicer Guy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Moment Just Like Old TImes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Noah’s story recapping his experience at The Lord’s Land: “One March Thursday my family and I went to the Lord’s Land. We were going to stay at Wood Butcher (cabin) four days and three nights. My sister and I slept up in a loft. There were two boards supporting the roof. On the second night my head was touching the boards all night long, it hurt. The next day were going to the beach. Back at the Lord’s Land we liked the Prayer Trail because there were scriptures on a rock and pieces of wood. I felt the presence of the Lord.” After he had written the story, we found out he had a tick in his head. :O We keep thanking God that he is well!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading Lessons Are Paying Off!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Legitimate Vocabulary Word Study 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Noah shares his personal promise with Grandpa sick with pneumonia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A science experiment with Aunty Tara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning to Peel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking for seeds mommy! (in the Nigella seed pods)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love my Sweet Aquarium Fishy Cards for Mothers Day (executed by Daddy XO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flowers for Mommy XOXO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mothers Day Tea with Doris and Katherine (a spontaneous idea of Noah’s in prayer that morning)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sprouting up so big

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Mom’s Night of the school year was a special time around The Lords Table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Invitation:

For our last Mom’s Night meeting of this remarkable year we will share a love feast together at The Lord’s Table, letting the Holy Spirit pour out in our “Upper Room.” A sweet gathering of ladies for heart to heart koinonia.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42

Acts 2:42 lists the 4 main devotions of the thriving New Testament Church: teaching, fellowship, meals, and prayer. The act of “breaking of bread” is a relaxed and worshipful meal around the table where believers remember our Lord Jesus, and commune with Him and each other.

What if remembering the Lord and breaking bread is meant to be more than a 10 minute communion time tacked on at the end of a church service? Perhaps like the early church who ate long meals together weekly, believers today would be unified and blessed through meeting and worshiping together regularly at The Lord’s Table in our homes with our families, with our small community groups, and in our churches?

It is at The Lord’s Table, where the Spirit reminds us of the importance of our spiritual unity in loving one another, of experiencing true fellowship with one another, ministering to one another, serving one another, and seeking peace with one another.

Its amazing that at Pentecost, in the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit, men and women, slaves and slave owners, Jews and Gentiles, were unified and eating at the same table for the first time in history. Walls and barriers come down when the Spirit pours out! The Holy Spirit is as powerful and active in communicating and unifying His children as He has ever been.

The Lord has you in this community for a reason, you belong here. He has a living Word to speak over your life. He speaks through people in our lives as we stay connected to community. Around our Mom’s Night Table we will speak over each others lives what we believe the Lord is saying, appreciate our sisters in Christ, sup together, and give God glory.

Seeking God this year together has meant a lot to me. I am looking forward to a beautiful time around The Lord’s Table to celebrate each of you and the Lord’s work in this community. (Please note the time change for this meeting)

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Faith (preschool) and Levi’s (kindergarten) Graduation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Whole Clan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My precious threesome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘God Keeps His Promises’ was the theme God gave us for graduation, made special by Faith’s love of rainbows, and all of the children contributed rainbow art for decorating.

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Worship Circle, Prayers of Blessing, Graduation Ceremony, and a Treasured Tea Time rounded out the celebration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Faith chose this poem to recite at her ceremony. I was so blessed. She also read Proverbs 23:4-5 from her reader. “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

 

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Let me hold on longer, God, to every precious last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Staining a new playhouse for Faith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Noah loved putting the playhouse together with Daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Fun and Relaxing Summer Day at the Nature Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Noah Reading Bible in Morning Devotions

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Last Day of School Tye Dye Fun

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Baby Swim Time!

 

 

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Samples of Noah (7) and Faith’s (5) ‘My Story’ blank books, Noah’s ‘His Story’ book, and a couple other work samples from Noah’s 1st grade year.

 

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Sweet Sixes and Sevens!

Ist Grade Curriculum Plans for 2015-2016

Are you ready to make school a breeze? Alright, then follow me into Charlotte Mason land. You will happily see that there are very few teacher manuals or worksheets in a Charlotte Mason school, and no textbooks at our school either. Life is too precious to waste it on busywork, worksheets, boring books, and silly stuff.

One thing I am coming to really appreciate about Charlotte Mason methods is that you get a lot done in a short amount of time. Really! There are no follow-up worksheets with comprehension questions, silly little things to cut out to reinforce one little point from a story, or quizzes to assess your child’s learning. Time wasters drain the life out of school because it feels like we are just plodding along, not getting anywhere fast. Here is the answer to all the nonsense and fluff: just do reading and narration. Reading and narration, reading and narration, reading and narration. Say it with me, reading and narration. That’s all! In just a few minutes of narration your child’s brain will have worked much harder than it would have on those “helpful” follow up questions provided in manuals, or on those cute but time consuming little worksheets. Sure you can also plan some hands on projects and crafts and term projects, but make them special and keepsake quality, 1 or 2 a month is plenty. Charlotte Mason says don’t waste your time making lots of useless things, i.e. junk! Charlotte Mason methods are the secret to doing the most you can in school in the shortest amount of time possible. I promise this is all we do, and my kids are zooming ahead! Try it and love it!

Now, the hardest part of doing an education such as what you see below in my curriculum plans, is that you, mom, have to plan it. Yes, it takes some prayer, some confidence, and some wonderful resources, but every mom can do it. Most often, you can’t buy a packaged curriculum and find total happiness. Sure, you feel happy that you “planned” out your year in a short time by letting the curriculum supplier make your choices for you. That feels good. Plus, they know your kids and what your kids need, better than anyone, right?? Oh wait, no, that’s you mom. So then the school year is spent in this quasi-happy-frustrating experience because you are tweaking stuff to make it work. Here is the answer to all the heart ache: you plan it, you plan it, you plan it. When? This summer! I am busy. Get busy now and relax later–like all school year long. This week my eyes are burning, my stomach is churning, and I long for my pillow–I up and decided its annual curriculum planning week. You may be wiser than me and spread your planning out, but I am determined to pull all nighters to get this done in 3 days flat. I am crazy, don’t do it like me. Do you hear the delirium in my voice? It takes time to click on blogs, check my bookmarked ideas, read lots of book samples, and type all this out! This is the hard part, but this is what makes our school materials a perfect fit for our family. There wasn’t anything about our school last year that we didn’t like or ended up needing to change. That is happiness!!

Its a trade off–work hard now (productively), or work hard later (tweaking); be happy now (someone else did all my planning) or be happy later (we love doing school). This sounds like a funny sales pitch where I am trying to get the world to homeschool like us, but seriously, you do what you need to! There are legitimate times and reasons for buying packaged curriculum, and I realize that. 🙂 So whatever choice you make, I am simply sharing my 2015-2016 curriculum plans to inspire you to greatness. I hope to sharpen you like iron sharpens iron, and that you will sharpen me in return. I am praying that God is literally strengthening your arms right now to do what He has called you to do. XOXOXO

Now its time to total this up and run it by my hubby! Gulp. 😉 Don’t forget friends, abebooks.com often has the best prices on used books. Please also see the following Annual Curriculum Plans for more ideas:

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My Precious Students

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NOAH–1st Grade! My Obedient Heart. My Bosom Soul.

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FAITH–Pre-K! My Nurturing Heart. My Living Fire.

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DANIEL–21 months! My Affectionate Heart. My Gift.

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Mother Study:

This classic has been called the “single best volume on the subject of child training ever written” and is recommended by Clay and Sally Clarkson.

Devotions:

Personal and Family Bible reading/study, prayer, and worship

Devotions: Devotions are where it all starts and where a successful school stems from. We try to really take our time in devotions in the morning and stay with Lord as long as we feel led to. We do personal devotions in the morning first thing, then together with mommy, and later, night time devotions together as a family. For personal devotion time, the kids select from a gamut of Bibles they have received over the years–everything from the Baby Bible to adult Bibles–really! Together, we love reading to our children straight from the Bible and from a “non-twaddle” Bible story book called The Children’s Bible Story Book by Catherine Vos. In the morning we also read a sweet devotional book called Leading Little Ones to God a couple times a week. Leading Little Ones to God covers the major doctrines of Christianity, which can be hard for most of us to put into words for children, but Marian Schooland does an excellent job. We are half-way through our copy now and really enjoying it! The language and concepts in this morning devotional are perfect. I plan on repeating this book after our first read so that my children’s hearts can steep even longer in the simple and wonderful presentation of profound Biblical theological truths. This was a book that almost stayed on my shelf collecting dust, but I am so glad finally we gave it a chance!

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Bible Study: We have an exhaustive concordance, but I would like to gather more Bible study helps such as Bible encyclopedias, Bible commentaries, and Bible dictionaries. I need to get some more personal recommendations in this area because I am unsure which ones are good. How the Bible Came to Us, recommended by the Clarksons, could be a start. See the “Habit Training” section below for a great idea on how to help a child begin his/her own personal topical Bible study.

Scripture Memory: We memorize one scripture verse or passage a month and also review the verses we learned during the same month in previous years. I usually pick a verse that is relevant to the character trait we are studying and I write the verse on our chalkboard over the kitchen table. We seem to go over the verse a few times a week, but I hope we can improve to closer to every day next year. IMG_9526          

Prayer Journal: We separate into separate rooms in the afternoon for a quiet/rest time, where we spend some time prayer journaling whatever the Holy Spirits put on our hearts. I failed pretty miserably at making time for my prayer journal last year, but I am aiming to improve next year! Noah on the other hand was very consistent with his journal and I was surprised to find that he was praying for various pastors and churches, and about angels and chariots of fire. Thank you Holy Spirit for praying through a little boy!

Prayer Wall: I would like to put up prayer requests, praise reports, scriptures, photos of people, vintage maps, name slips to draw, etc. on one wall of our house to inspire and guide our personal and family prayer times.

Prayer for the Nations: Part way through last school year, I realized what the missing component in our history/geography studies of Africa was: forming a heart for the people we are studying by praying for them! I found Window on the World for kids which provides great cultural information, photos, and prayer points for countries around the world. It is helping us to be more globally minded. Our hearts are in Africa. Last year we prayed for specific countries and people groups in Africa, and this year we will definitely use Window on the World to help us pray for the Middle East.

Worship: The kids and I sing praise and worship to the Lord every morning together! We sing family favorites a cappella while the kids run in circles in the living room, play their toy instruments, or just sit quietly. They also follow me in making spontaneous Spirit-led songs unto the Lord. Our hymn books, which are simply printed off hymns put into binders, started a couple years ago, are becoming a great resource of songs for us to use together in worship time. The words of hymns are poignant and the message is beautifully articulated! We have learned approximately 1 song a month; we always succeed at committing at least part of the hymn to memory by the end of the month. We are also hoping to start up a kids choir with friends next year that sings at nursing homes!

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Hymn books provide opportunity for reading practice as children follow along

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Literature:

Some all time classics and treasures from Lamplighter Publishing.

Teddy's ButtonFireside Readings (Vol. 1)Jessica's First PrayerFire in the Sky

Math:

We have been using Kathy Richardson’s Developing Number Concepts math series for PreK-3rd for several years now. Obviously we like it since it seems to be working, and Noah and Faith like math time. This year we will glean ideas from book 2 and 3 for Noah, and move into book 1 for Faith. Although I could have moved Noah on, we primarily worked with numbers 1-10 in kindergarten, as I believe its important not to hurry through basic math. The more flexibly children can work with numbers and manipulate them in many various ways, the better they will be at math. Kathy explains why its important not to rush children’s development of mathematical thinking in her article, “Too Easy for Kindergarten and Just Right for First Grade.” Such a smart lady! 

Making children memorize math facts with tables and flash cards can potentially be a damaging experience. However, having many of the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts memorized is no doubt very helpful. So Math Card Games by Right Start Math is supposed to provide the necessary drill in a fun way. It is compatible with any math curriculum, and comes highly rated. The cards are purchased separately from the book.

Activities for the AL Abacus is a manual showing how to use the abacus to teach arithmetic to children K-4 using hands-on and visual work. Topics include place value, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and strategies for mastering facts. We already own the AL abacus, because to me, it provides a new way to think about numbers (thus promoting “flexible thinking”). A book to guide us in some activities would be a nice supplement to our math studies.

Our hundreds chart was very useful this year. Place Value Cards may be helpful next year.

As if thats not enough, we will incorporate Open Ended Math Questions for mealtime table math. I have always posed little math challenges to the kids while sitting together at a meal, and these open ended questions are what we need more of. These are not easy, quick math problems. It will be fun to watch Noah work away at one problem and to see what he can come up with. “Math talks,” i.e. talking about math in an everyday situation, is one of the best things we can do with our young math students.

Oh and then there is this. Sigh. Understanding Geometry is teacher resource book that helps children develop in-depth understandings about 2-D and 3-D geometry concepts and spatial awareness.

 Understanding Geometry Book

History:

When studying history, as with any subject, there will be gaps in any curriculum we choose; we can never learn everything about anything. The main goal is to allow the children to “live” in a time period and get to know what people and ideas were like during that era; and that goal can be accomplished through simply reading a variety of living books. So if a history spine looks like a bit much, skip over the chapters that are not interesting to you, or simply use a variety of living books to give your young child a “feel” for whatever period you may be studying. Simply Charlotte Mason’s history manuals offer living book suggestions, and the bookfinder on their website can help you track down many more. Another good resource, All Through the Ages by Christine Miller, is an exhaustive guide to over 7000 of the best in quality historical narratives, historical fiction, literature, and “living books.” I don’t think that Simply Charlotte Mason’s history spines are a good fit for every family with young children. So far they have worked for us because Noah loves history and has high interest. To determine if they might work for your child, click through all the sample pages offered on their website. Keep in mind that the Bible, the first and best source of ancient history, was not particularly written for young children either, but many of us read it to them anyway because we know they will glean so much. If you do read scriptures directly from the Bible to your child, then I wouldn’t worry too much about other history books being “too much” either. Not watering things down makes for brighter children! When studying ancient history, encountering mythology is inevitable, but not something to dwell on in our literature selections. As Sonya Shafer explains, “Children need to know that people who lived in ancient times worshiped false gods and invented stories about them, but they do not need to spend large amounts of time studying those false gods and learning every detail about those stories. Instead, make sure your children have a firm foundation in the truth about the one true God and interpret mythology through what Scripture says about it.” I completely agree. Make sure your children are spending more time in the Bible than they are in mythology. The Simply Charlotte Mason curriculum includes 3 days a week of Greek history and 2 days of Bible history from the books Joshua-Malachi. After learning what worked best last year, I may begin this year to have Noah draw a picture after each reading so that he has a mental anchor for the information from each chapter, besides requiring oral narration. Sometimes just an image can help information about a topic to come flooding back that would otherwise be lost. The drawings can then be made into a book for him to look back and recall what he has learned about the history of Ancient Greece and Bible stories.

The Manual

Joshua through Malachi & Ancient Greece

The Spines

Make sure to purchase the 4th edition of The Story of the Greeks from Nothing New Press to get the Christian worldview version. We often read the Bible portions of our history lessons from The Child’s Story Bible, which is a really well done Bible story book for children.

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Living Books to Supplement the Spines (or to Use as an Alternative): D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, Men of Old Greece by Jennie Hall, A Story of the Golden Age of Greek Heroes – James Baldwin, Old Greek Stories by James Baldwin, Stories from Plato and Other Classic Writers by Mary E. Burt, Our Little Athenian Cousin of Long Ago by Julia Cowles, Our Little Spartan Cousin of Long Ago, Our Little Macedonian Cousin of Long Ago, Aesop for Children illustrated by Milo Winter, A Wonder Book, and Tanglewood Tales by Hawthorne on Audio

Geography:

Since history next year covers Old Testament books Joshua-Malachi, geography covers the Middle East where much of the Old Testament occurred. Visits to the Middle East includes map drill, making your own maps, living books, and seeing what a family from various countries eat and how they live. Also, to form God’s heart for the countries we are studying, we will pray. Whatever country we are locating on a map for the week, we will also read about and pray for using prayer points in Window on the World, a book by Operation World designed to help kids pray for the nations.

The Victorian era book Home Geography (free, online in public domain) teaches basic geography terms in a sweet conversational manner. Plus it teaches things like pacing distances, direction finding with a compass, reading maps, drawing a room to scale, etc.

Character Study:

The Miller Series is LOVED by many homeschoolers, including us!!!

Wisdom and the Millers: Proverbs for Children | Main photo (Cover)

YWAM Heroes and Trailblazer books (settings in Africa to keep feeding our hearts for Africa–last years history/geography)

Habit Training:

Now that Noah is reading, I am pretty excited about the opportunity for him to soon begin studying the Bible for himself! I would like to make this really cool idea: a tabbed “Child Training Bible” and “Virtue Training Bible,” to have at home to help with habit training, and also to gently ease my new reader into studying the Bible topically. Here is an example of how the tabbed Bible could work at home for habit training: When Noah tells a lie, he looks up the color coded tabbed verses (under “lying” in the child training Bible, or “honesty” in the virtue training Bible), and has a talk with mommy or daddy about the scriptures he/we read (helpful parent led questions are provided with the product). He then chooses one of the verses to handwrite/draw a picture of, and commits the verse to memory so that its hidden in his heart. Each time a similar infraction occurs, he reviews his previously learned verses about lying, and then he must choose one more to memorize. Memorizing habit training verses will be on top of any regularly assigned school memory work for my kids. Eventually he could have a whole arsenal of weapons in his heart to use against the temptation of lying!! To me, this seems like a “positive discipline” approach that teaches children and parents alike to go to the Word! Rather than use “time-outs,” why not implement “time-ins” with God? So much more effective! And don’t worry about the time it takes to accomplish a discipline session like this. We can feel good about going ahead and putting school or whatever else on hold every time a habit training opportunity pops up because we know its for a high purpose.

The Habit/Virtue training Bible is certainly something we can use with preschool children too (although on a less independent level) whenever possible, but here is another idea for your non-readers. An Oh-so-soothing book called Bedtime Prayers and Promises is what I use for “time-ins” for preschoolers (at all times of the day).” It has been the PERFECT discipline help for troubled little ones who can’t yet read, and therefore can’t fully benefit from sitting with a Bible during a “time-in” (and its nice for mommies who don’t want to “talk it through” for the umpteenth time either).

We will continue to use our Stewardship Street coin banks to hold earnings for Service Opportunities done at home (better known as chores). Kids learn huge responsibility and moms get a break from housework! Its awesome. Chores became a bigger part of our habit training last year and we will continue to slowly increase responsibility as the kids show readiness this year.

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You might be surprised how cute your Stewardship Street turns out!

Our Service board show kids what their daily assignments are. Noah is the green markers and Faith is the red markers (clay shaped into hearts).

Our Service board shows kids what their daily assignments are. Noah is the green markers and Faith is the red markers (clay shaped into hearts).

We will continue to use the following excellent resources for habit training and character study: IMG_8343

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Nature Study:

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Cultivate the joy of nature and discovery in your family. Nature Journals can be a wonderful shared family experience. Nature journals can also include written prose, poetry, hymns, painting, drawing, photographs, and even musical notation.

We often pray that God will open our eyes, ears, and hearts to more fully see all the special things of His creation. I want to have eyes to SEE! When we go out in nature, I want to come home having discovered something brand new each time. Well, prayers are being answered, God is good.  Right now at our house, we have a tadpole, a toad, a butterfly egg, and three caterpillars. Not from kits that we ordered–the real deal of searching, finding, collecting, and hand raising. Soooo fun!! When it comes to nature study, I am falling in love! Over the past 3 years while attempting to follow Charlotte Mason’s suggestion of spending lots of time in nature with the kids, I find that I am turning into a nature girl more and more. The love for ladybugs and flowers and fresh air that I had as a child has been reawakened, and is now exceeding the passion of my youth. I don’t know about the kids, but I am amazed by all the the little things. The kids do enjoy the outdoors and offer their observations (spider “skeleton”, a spider eating a fly, baby bees in paper wasp nest, etc. for example), but I am still the main contributor, not to mention the one jumping up and down when our caterpillar hatched (waiting 35 years to see this vs. 4 or 6 years may have something to do with it). We haven’t been that reliable with doing regular nature journal entries, or at using our nature handbook or field guides. Not that we don’t like nature journaling; I just think I am too perfectionist–like “I need 3 hours to do a drawing, so I guess we can’t do nature journals today.” But we do get out to hike, play, and observe the flora and fauna in various parks when the weather is nice. We definitely have nature study passion due to simple exposure, but now we should probably aim to increase the “study” part of “nature study.” 😉 We did do SCM’s Outdoor Secrets lessons last year, and it was wonderful!! This next school year we plan to use Simply Charlotte Mason’s Pond and Stream Companion curriculum which is suggested for 1st/2nd grade, but useful for lots of ages, and perhaps Peaceful Ponds and Incredible Creeks by NaturExplorers as well. The kids simply love any type of water so I want to take advantage of their interest. We probably have to toughen up and get outdoors throughout the winter to find seasonal streams this next year though. Praying for rain this year in this California drought! If you aren’t sure what Charlotte Mason nature study with children looks like, visit the blog Joyous Lessons, where a California mom does an excellent job with her 7 kids all under age 9! You will surely be inspired and challenged. If she can manage it, perhaps we can too with our 2 or 3 kids, right?

Creeks, Streams, and Lakes Fieldtrip Ideas:

  • Our favorite park naturalist is starting up a new nature study class once a month just for homeschoolers because we asked! Yay!!!
  • Delta Discoveries arts and crafts on weekends
  • Waterfall loop at Mount Diablo St Park
  • Migrating Trout in the creek at Redwood Regional Park
  • Tadpoles in Creek at Round Valley Regional Preserve
  • Salmon spawning at Muir Woods
  • Lagoon and seasonal streams at Briones Regional Park
  • Pond with Newts at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
  • Jewel Lake Trail/Wildcat Trail at Tilden
  • Lake at Hidden Lakes Park in Martinez
  • Various ponds and creeks with newts at Briones and Tilden
  • Pacific Tree Frogs and tadpoles at Arroyo Viejo Creek, running through the Oakland Zoo. (Tours and activities at the creek will take place at the Oakland Zoo’s Earth Day event, www.oaklandzoo.org)

Other Fun Nature Study Resources: [Cover]  . .

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Handwriting:

We are going to make the dive into cursive in 1st grade! Some people feel it is best to have printing mastered before starting cursive, some people believe that research shows younger children more readily adapt to cursive (before printing has been engrained in their muscle memory). They say that by the time children are introduced to cursive in the second or third grade, their writing habits are so fixed that children can resent having to learn an entirely new way of writing.

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Noah’s Handwriting Sample from Kindergarten

We know its true that our grandparents seem to generally have much better handwriting than we do, and it could very well be because they were taught cursive first or cursive only. ‘Cursive first’ proponents say, “If you teach cursive first, you can always develop a good print style later. But if you teach print first, you may never develop a good cursive style.” I guess we are taking a middle of the road approach to cursive–Noah has already been learning to print for a few years but hasn’t yet mastered it, so hopefully he is still flexible. Another reason that I would rather put the time in to learn cursive in 1st grade is that time is freer than when there is more to do academically in 2nd or 3rd grade. What I find really great about Simply Charlotte Mason’s “Print to Cursive” is that it provides children continued printing practice while learning cursive, and the the transition is very gradual and gentle. I also think its neat that we are studying verses from Proverbs both in handwriting and in our character studies with ‘Wisdom and the Millers’. I like the Proverbs theme that is emerging!

Spelling:

Learning how to spell and sound out

My preschooler Faith practices word building and sounding out using Lauri’s A-Z Puzzle

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Montessori moveable alphabet

Although its not “Charlotte Mason” methods to do spelling instruction before age 8, we have deviated in this area due to a natural progression of events, and done our own thing. And spelling is the area that has absolutely wowed me this year–Noah rocks! I believe success is due to a long process of building up this skill throughout preschool. Here is the history if you are interested, as well as our current methods. Noah could spell 3-6 letter phonetic words before kindergarten because of a couple years practice with word building–arranging wood letters to spell a word by sounding it out. I was delighted to find that our reading curriculum in Pre-K, Delightful Reading by Simply Charlotte Mason, also included word building as a way to familiarize students with each new reading word (with the goal of reading rather than spelling, but also to form an eye for paying attention to each letter in a word, which is useful for spelling). Many words in the curriculum were not phonetic and had to be memorized, which presented a big hurdle for Noah. Attempting this at such a young age, it felt like a long time before he could see a “sight” word, hide it or cover it, and then spell it correctly. However, progress did eventually occur, and word building has been increasingly easier for him once we crossed the hurdle of forming the habit of seeing.

“The gift of spelling depends upon the power the eye possesses to ‘take’ (in a photographic sense) a detailed picture of a word; and this is a power and habit, which must be cultivated in children from the first.” –Charlotte Mason

I kept my expectations relaxed in Pre-K as far as “spelling.” The goal was for Noah to become a reader, so spelling practice was just a side benefit. During Delightful Reading lessons, if he spelled a word incorrectly with his wooden letters (which he usually did), he corrected it (with no memorization of proper spelling required), and we moved on. By the end of the year, he was starting to spell words correctly more often, but his memorization was very short term, and he couldn’t tell me the correct spelling later that day when I asked. For this reason, my expectations for spelling were still relaxed when Kindergarten began. However, I did wonder why should we stop word building now after all these years?? Even though he can read now (which was the original purpose of our word building lessons), we can go ahead and word build the new words presented in each story of his reader to continue developing his spelling skills. It only seemed natural to continue after so many years of word building. And it was this year that I really saw his spelling skills blossom. Noah can remember how to spell 3 or so words correctly after studying, but best of all, he can retain them and spell them later in the day or week when I quiz him. Success! A young boy who can spell is a success in itself. 🙂 I think years of word building had a lot to do with it.

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Sample from Noah’s Pre-K Word Book Pages

Sample from Noah's Kindergarten Word Book pages. He likes to flip back and giggle at his Pre-K writing; even he can see clear progression in his Word Book.

Sample from Noah’s Kindergarten Word Book pages. He likes to flip back and giggle at his Pre-K writing; he can see a clear progression in his Word Book, which is encouraging to him.

Our spelling is easy peasy. There are no traditional long spelling lists, arduous studying periods, testing and re-testing. After, studying and spelling out 3 new words with wood letters, checking his work and making any necessary corrections, Noah writes from memory the words he just learned into his Word Book. A Word Book is simply a record of the words that are now his because he knows them (like the face of a friend would be recognized anywhere you go). Generally we read one story from his reader a week, and do two word building lessons a week to learn the spelling of all the new words presented in that story (usually 5-8 words). Some days he also draws a picture of one word simply for drawing practice and to make his book special. I enjoy the independent nature of word building these days and the quiet 10 minutes afforded me to go get something around the house done!

Vocabulary:

Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 Edition - By: Noah Webster

Produced during the years when the American home, church and school were established upon a Biblical and patriotic basis. The American Dictionary of the English Language is based upon God’s written word, for Noah Webster used the Bible as the foundation for his definitions. Scripture verses are referenced throughout.

So far we have used a very laid back approach to vocabulary– as in almost nil vocab study. Basically, I explain hard words that come up in our readings off the top of my head. This year I would like to teach Noah to start looking up words in the dictionary and writing out definitions of rich vocabulary selections. Which means I either have to do some pre-reading of material to select a list of words that Noah can define before we read, or we jot down words as we are reading and look them up later. Knowing me, doing lots of pre-reading doesn’t seem too realistic. However, its a dilemma, because pre-selecting and defining words is the only way to help Noah get the most out of his readings. Looking them up later helps him learn vocabulary but doesn’t do much to help him make sense of what we are reading in the moment. So we will see. I am thinking for this next year, I will probably continue to explain a lot of words off the top of my head, and jot down just a few key words while reading for Noah to define later (since he isn’t a fast at handwriting yet). I think we need a nice gentle start into the process of bringing vocabulary study into school for the both of us! I am wondering if next years vocabulary words should also be a part of Noah’s Word Book, or if they should have a separate book all their own. Something I need to think about a little more!

Reading:

Besides being wowed by Noah’s spelling abilities this year, I was awed by his reading–which I am sure is typical of any parent who sees the miracle of reading unfold in their child for the first time. So many new worlds await my son and its so exciting! When reading starts to click for a child, readers can start to seem unnecessary. When a child’s interest in reading increases, and he starts to practice reading many different books, a grade level reader can begin to seem too easy. This is what seems to be happening to Noah. He loves his Pathway Series Readers, but we could probably skip a book and move up a level. However, the readers are perfect for providing spelling words, and I wonder if we should skip so many spelling opportunities and lovely stories, to find the right reading level? We currently do 1 story a week to slowly absorb about 6 new spelling words, but without the spelling component, Noah could read at a much faster rate of more like 1 story a day. Perhaps I should think of the readers as a really fun spelling resource instead of reading instruction and just do each level in turn no matter how easy it is. Anyway, I am sure this is something that will work itself out as we continue on. There happens to be Pathway readers available up through an 8th grade reading level by the way. I do know that I want to continue reading on in the Pathway series of readers whether they help us more with spelling or reading, simply because they are delightful stories full of great character lessons. Love these readers!!!

Pathway readers are anything but boring. All the stories center around an Amish family’s farm life. Here children are expected to obey their parents, respect their teachers, ask forgiveness when they do wrong, and humbly submit to the discipline of those in authority! Yet they still enjoy life!!

Faith is right where Noah was a few years ago at her age with reading; she can read some words in her little reader already, but is ready for formal reading instruction next year in Pre-K. I am looking forward to doing Delightful Reading curriculum with Faith next year!

Art:

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I HEART ART. Our Favorite Art Projects from Last Year.

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So far our inspiration for our art projects comes from topics of current study (woodpeckers, cactuses, and butterflies), seasons (fall leaf and gardens), and personal interests (rocket ships). I admit that I like to direct children’s art projects. I show on my paper, they try to do the same on theirs. Perhaps not the best way to create true artists, but that is how we get most of our “frameable” art projects. Occasionally the kids will surprise me with a really nice looking finished product that they made on their own. I know that there is also much value in learning through the process of making art, not just in the product. So certainly not every piece needs to be a masterpiece. Besides mommy directed art, another method we have used is to look at a drawing/painting in a book to get inspiration. Like our desert cactus paintings that we made while looking at the beautiful pages of A Desert Scrapbook by Virginia Wright. This school year, we will continue to do free art, directed art projects, and picture book inspired art projects. Just like with writing, the more we draw the better we get. Requiring drawing in other areas of school (like nature journals, prayer journals, history and Bible narration drawings, and Word Book illustrations), ensures kids get lots of practice. Mona’s Drawing with Children is a book I have had on the shelf that I would like to add into our art plans for next year. We need help with basic drawing skills here. I think according to Mona, drawing consists simply of being able to draw five different kinds of lines and knowing how to put them together in the right way to make a picture. Sounds easy enough.

Some helpful drawing supplies to gather:

    • #2 pencil
    • Paper
    • Drawing pencil
    • Charcoal pencil
    • Black Sharpie
    • Colored pencils
    • White eraser
    • Kneaded eraser
    • Pencil sharpener
    • Tortillon or blender stump

I like these simple drawing lessons too. .

Art Appreciation, Music, and Poetry:

A Charlotte Mason school includes Picture Study, Classical Music Study, and Poetry Study. Basically, exposure is the main goal, and is all that is needed for young children. The blog All Things Bright and Beautiful is helpful for gleaning ideas. However, for picture study, we found that having an actual book in front of us was a lot easier than doing picture study on the computer. We look for books with large paintings so everyone can see. We are really enjoying the large animal paintings in Rien Poortvliet’s book Noah’s Ark. We look at a few pages during breakfast a couple times a week. We simply talk about the painting (what we like, what makes it interesting, where the light is, brush strokes, paint layers, shades of colors, etc.) and look up the animal if we don’t know what it is. Do you know what an Okapi is? Pretty cool book, especially because of the Noah’s Ark theme. Other Picture Study ideas for next year:

  • Monet (many waterscapes to compliment our pond and streams nature studies)
  • Winslow Homer (because we love to watercolor and Homer does many waterscapes as well)
  • Paul Cezanne (fruit still lifes that we can try to replicate in our drawing studies)

We will continue to memorize one poem a month to practice recitation, and try to read others from the following books: IMG_8346 . . . . . . . . . .

For music study, we simply turn on a classical music internet station (in itunes) that plays all music from one composer. Then I announce, “Today we are listening to Vivaldi!,” so that they kids can start forming an ear for each composer’s style.

Handicrafts:

My “Activity Brainstorm Page“, listed on my homepage menu has lots of crafty ideas. The craft projects include holiday, seasonal, and themed ideas which are an ongoing collection of various ideas I admire while searching around on the internet. We purposely save art projects, craft projects, and fieldtrips for “Fun Fridays,” our light day of school. The American Boys Handy Book could be a fun book to have.

Click to insert.

Spanish:

Spanish was the biggest flop of all this year. We only did a few lessons off the top of our heads towards the beginning of the school year, and then it all went by the wayside. So I think we will try a curriculum and see if Profesor Papa, with the better accent, would like to try again. Speaking Spanish by Charrydale Press is very true to Charlotte Mason methods for teaching foreign language and are as follows:

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  • Learn a short phrase in English while acting it out.
  • Identify the verb.
  • Learn the Spanish word for that verb.
  • Speak the Spanish translation of the whole phrase.

(acting throughout these steps to reinforce) . . . .

By coupling everyday phrases and actions, kids begin to think in the new language. More language growth occurs as kids use phrases they have learned interchangeably with new nouns. Here are sample lessons in the book Speaking Spanish. Speaking French curriculum is also available for French language students. Oh, and why not watch some crazy silly Spanish videos for kids? Salsa Videos!

Goals for 2015-2016 Improvement Summarized:

  • Ask and look for Bible Study helps, and begin to use them in my own study
  • Practice memory work more than 2 days a week
  • Do my prayer journal, keep Noah more accountable with his by checking in more often
  • Make a prayer wall in our home
  • Noah draw narrations for History and Bible
  • Make a Child Training Bible and perhaps a Virtue Training Bible
  • Nature Journal more, use Nature Handbook and field guides
  • Start up Vocabulary Study
  • Start up Spanish lessons again
  • Keep checking this list and my curriculum plans to stay on target

The End! Glory to God!!!!

“The end result of a Charlotte Mason education is the children ‘find knowledge so delightful that it becomes a pursuit and source of happiness for a lifetime.” –Catherine Levinson

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A special moment holding a bird that was stunned after running into our window (and saving it from our cat)

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Precious girl saves seeds everyday now, goes out and plants them in our garden, and waters them–all on her own.

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A much needed re-covering of our play table chairs with oilcloth (wipes clean!). Easy project requiring just $4 of cloth and a $16 staple gun.

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Breakfast time math using an everyday situation.

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We have done color mixing in May for years now. The kids reeeally enjoy making brand new colors and then using them to paint a picture.

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Daniel’s first painting. Awwww.

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Faith sweetly reading the baby Bible to Daniel (she has the story lines memorized).

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This years Easter garden basket goes back to succulents again.

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Daniel’s love language. He holds hands with Noah during car rides too.

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Mother’s Day Kisses

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Love our Grandma and Grandpa

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Painting again with Tayler, just like old times.

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Good math activity

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Tea Party Time!

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We had a lovely time!

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Neighbors all getting to know each other better.

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An undirected painting of a garden.

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Our directed paintings of a garden.

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The kids loved going to see WWII planes. Now they want to own some when they grow up.

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Noah and Faith performing the hymn “Conquering Now and Still to Conquer” at graduation. They also read to us from their readers; Noah recited all of his Stewardship Street verses and located and named the countries in Africa. We prayed over them and spoke words of love and blessing. We are SO proud!!!

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A monarch caterpillar egg about to hatch.

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A newborn caterpillar eats its egg first.

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Nature study at its best.

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Another little nature studier.

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The Chicken Chase is on because Faith left the gate open. Seriously good exercise.

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Gotcha Aner.

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A new doo for Daniel!

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Looking through their school portfolios was a happy time for remembering. “I remember thiiiiiis!!”

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Oh. my. goodness.

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Word building from her reader.

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Cherry picking is one of my most favorite family traditions.

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Love this picture of my sweet girl.

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Stupendous Fives and Sixes!

Kindergarten Curriculum Plans for 2014-2015

Hooray for Kinder and five and six year olds!!! What a fun age to teach! We are joyfully diving into living curriculum by Simply Charlotte Mason next school year, and will be using the books listed on SCM’s free curriculum guide (1st grade books, although much of SCM curriculum is designed for “family study” and can be used with any age). I hope that some of you will decide to join us in this exciting Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool adventure! If you need some ideas for next school year, whether your child is kindergarten age or not, I would love to show and tell all the wonderful books we plan to use in each subject next fall, so that you can glean for your own curriculum planning.

If you like Charlotte Mason ideas, but feel unsure about how to teach all the various subjects, brush up by checking out the post Teaching Subject by Subject on Simply Charlotte Mason’s blog. Or if you can, splurge on SCM’s thorough training DVDs, ‘Homeschooling the Charlotte Mason Way’. I do not have these DVDs but I would love to get them someday. However, reading Home Education, Volume 1 of Charlotte Masons series, has been the best thing I have done so far to gain a more solid understanding of Miss Mason’s methods, and quite inexpensive training to boot.

First and foremost, Charlotte Mason is a 12-year Christian Character Building curriculum. Books are chosen for the literary quality with which they were written, and even more, their ability to develop the whole person and inspire character. Just look into the curriculum materials I have pictured for each subject area–literature, poetry, Bible, history, geography, reading, and science–and you will find that it all teaches character development!!! For all those years that children are getting a CM education, what’s really being trained more than anything else, is their character. If you agree that character development is your aim as well, then go ahead and read on about Charlotte’s 20 guiding principles for education to see how aligned you are. Realize that some (perhaps many) of her principles go against our common educational sense, but since we know traditional modern pedagogy is failing our children, let us open our minds to trying something different, and trust that if God is leading us this direction, we will come to experience the wonderful fruits of a CM education with time and trust, just as SO many other homeschool family’s who fully adhered to CM principles have.

A Charlotte Mason education is more than using living books and going on nature walks. It is only when used as a balanced whole, that Charlotte’s methods give the best results. Many CM families will vouch that the ‘more or less’ way of following Charlotte Mason doesn’t yield nearly as excellent results. For best results, don’t pick and choose through her tried and tested principles and methods, making a novice assumption that some probably won’t work for you.

“Charlotte Mason was right and my assumptions were false”

Anne White, a seasoned CM homeschool mom, writes on Ambleside Online, “…..Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methods are so firmly rooted in the Christian view of a personal God, the created world, and people (as individuals created in God’s image) that they must work because they are true, because they fit the way the world works from a Biblical viewpoint.”

“When I began reading what Miss Mason herself had to say about her methods (rather than reading what others had to say about it), there were a few things she said that didn’t mesh with my own assumptions, so I did not at first try them. However, the more I used Charlotte Mason’s methods and saw good fruit, the more I began to wonder about those other things. One by one, I gave them a try, and I generally found that Charlotte Mason was right and my assumptions were false. Here are some of them:

Short lessons–I thought it best to keep going until we tired of a subject. But my kids are fresher and stay interested longer with short lessons (10-15 minutes for younger children)–they have better retention, too.

Slowly reading through a book a few pages at a time instead of sitting down for a gluttonous feast of cover to cover reading (it’s oh-so-fun that way!)–I thought it was ridiculous to make a child quit reading a school book if she was having fun with it. But I find that when I slow my children down with their schoolbooks, they think about the material longer, harder, and deeper. They remember details better, as well.

Unit studies–Charlotte Mason really did not much care for most unit studies. She has some very amusing things to say about them. I was using a unit study curriculum when I first read the six volume series, and I thought she was mistaken. But the fewer unit study projects I do, the more real learning my kids do, the more time I have, the less mess there is to pick up! Miss Mason talks about letting the kids make their own connections. The more I step back and let this happen, the more amazed I am at how many connections the kids make that I never thought of.

Dictation–I never did prepared dictation in a steady, organized fashion until around 2003. Since implementing it. I’ve seen big improvements in my girls’ spelling and writing skills.

Drawing–I thought drawing was something you either could do or you could not do–not a skill that could be taught. I tried some easy teaching programs, and found that the children who had the benefit of those programs did draw better than those who did not. They are not artists, and I didn’t stick to the programs as much as I should have, but there is definitely a difference.

Narration on every single reading–this is so important! I see much better retention, better interaction with the book, greater interest in the story, improved language skills, and better understanding of the material.

Show and Tell Time

Alright, let’s get to the point! Below I list all the areas of study we will cover in kindergarten and include pictures of lesson books, spines, reference books, living books, etc. that we plan to use for each area. I also include an “extras” section for most subjects– optional movies, links, CDs, games, extra books, etc., to further enrich our studies as time permits. My bookmarked research on the computer this year, emptied into one convenient place for you, and me too. The great thing about SCM lesson plans is that they are basic, like skeleton plans. Some people look at them and say that’s not enough, but many of us look at them and think perfect, they leave room and time to explore my child’s interests and lots of “extras” too. I think that’s important!

I basically bought all books pictured on this post from either Simply Charlotte Mason or AbeBooks. Most of the “living books,” I bought used very inexpensively from AbeBooks, and saved more than I could have by buying from Amazon used (I saved about $100, most books were half the price of Amazon). So try AbeBooks first!

For younger ages/lighter workload, foundational background, or alternative curriculum ideas, also see:

  • Welcome Back to School, my 2012-2013 curriculum post for “Thrilling Three’s and Fours.” Every area of study listed there has been the foundation of our Charlotte Mason preschool.
  • Fabulous Fours and Fives, my 2013-2014 curriculum post. Our Charlotte Mason curriculum plans are built up from the previous year to prepare us for kindergarten this year.

For a peek into our school supplies, other than books, like math manipulatives and art supplies, see last years post:

  • Getting Ready for School (A few of our supplies Noah doesn’t need anymore, but most will still be used in Kinder and beyond, and for next year I won’t need to add very much to what we already own.)

As far as a schedule for kindergarten for all you schedulers, I will blog later this summer, because I am still figuring that out right now! I can tell you this much: the plan is to do the next thing. Whenever we finish chapter one in a book is when we will move to chapter two. I will definitely not be scheduling out chapters and page numbers to cover each day 9 months out in advance just to make sure we squeeze every last drop out of our books by the end of the year. I feel suffocated by that kind of “planning”, and much prefer the flexibility of “do the next thing.” Life happens and staying flexible for important things that come up is an advantage of homeschool. We will just stay faithful to setting aside 4 mornings a week to do all of our book work, and 1 day a week to go out and have fun on a field trip or nature get away (Fun Fridays!). I will be planning which days of the week I plan to teach which subjects and a tentative time of day for each.

Bible, History and Geography:

“History is a subject which should be to the child an inexhaustible storehouse of ideas, should enrich the chambers of his House Beautiful with a thousand tableaux, pathetic and heroic, and should form in him, insensibly, principles whereby he will hereafter judge of the behavior of nations, and will rule his own conduct as one of a nation.”
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“The fatal mistake is in the notion that he must learn ‘outlines,’ or a baby edition of the whole history of England, or of Rome, just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”
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“….it is only as we have it in us to let a person or cause fill the whole stage of the mind, to the exclusion of self-occupation, that we are capable of large-hearted action on behalf of that person or cause.”
–Charlotte Mason
 

Click on pictures to find book descriptions.

Bible: Bible story book, commentaries, hymns, scripture memory (not pictured), and Bible/History lesson plan book.

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History and Geography: Lesson plan books, maps, history spine (Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors), and ……..

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Lots of living books!

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What’s great about the history spine, Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors:

“A living book that explores Ancient Egypt in a way that is suitable for younger students, yet interesting for older; that presents what the Egyptians believed, yet honors the one, true God; that doesn’t sensationalize the pagan customs, myths, or mummies; that traces the history of this ancient civilization, yet agrees with the Biblical account of creation and the beginning of mankind. The best part is that Lorene Lambert’s fascinating narrative also tells the stories of the other civilizations that existed alongside Ancient Egypt—her neighbors, near and far.” -Simply Charlotte Mason

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Bible Extras:

History Extras:

          More Ancient History Living Books:

         Movies to Supplement Ancient History:

          Well Written/Interesting Biographies :

. . . . . (we will deviate from ancient history here)

  • Childhood of Famous Americans series – Tells the stories of the childhood of many of our American heroes.
  • Landmark series – A most remarkable series of books about history written for children. The thing that makes them great is they asked real adult experts on each subject to write them. Irresistable. A very, very few mention       evolutionary ideas – the ancient history ones.

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Habits and Character:

“The habits of the child produce the character of the man.”
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“As has well been said, ‘Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.’ And a great function of theeducator is to secure that acts shall be so regularly, purposefully, and methodically sown that the child shall reap the habits of the good life, in thinking and doing, with the minimum of conscious effort.”
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“The mother devotes herself to the formation of one habit at a time, doing no more than keep watch over those already formed.”
–Charlotte Mason

We will devote ourselves to the development of one character trait a month as we have done all through preschool (see our preschool masterplan). I will choose traits that need the most development in my children from Charlotte’s list and then we will work on them over a 9 month school year. We will most likely focus on the following traits next year: neatness and order, courage, generosity, obedience, self-control, courtesy and kindness and manners, usefulness, truthfulness and prayer, thanksgiving and praise.

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We bought these two quick reference charts from Doorposts so that we can handle discipline situations Biblically and teach our children Bible verses that apply to the issue at hand.

Click to insert.

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Service opportunities (better known as chores) will become a big part of our habit training this year. Our children will learn how to be good “employees” through Service Opportunities (ie chores). With Stewardship Street, they can learn to be faithful stewards of their earnings. We will be crafting our own milk carton stewardship street this summer, which will resemble the scene you see on the front cover (7 houses or “piggy banks” to hold earnings from seven important categories of stewardship–tithe, charity, living expenses, spending, short term savings, long term savings, and dowry). Noah has his own wallet now and can’t wait to get started. With all the crafting and chore training required to get started, this is a great summer project. That way we will hopefully have our Service Opportunities system up and running more smoothly by fall.

Math:

This will be our third year using Kathy Richardson’s series, and although next year we will probably delve into all 3 books, the main focus will be on the newer content of addition and subtraction in book 2. Noah has always enjoyed our math lessons from these books because they are hands on, full of variety, and the author really does understand how kids develop number concepts. You can find all kinds of sample lessons from the Pre-K book and Book 1 in “monthly lesson plans” under “categories” on our homepage.

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      Math Extra:

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The Arts:

“…..the appreciation of the humanities (culture) is not a luxury, a tidbit, to be given to children now and then, but their very bread of life.” –Charlotte Mason
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“…..we grow accustomed to what we are surrounded by. Our children’s sense of beauty and appreciation is being formed by what is around them. If they are surrounded by fast-talking, fast-moving cartoons or touched-up photos of pouty, anorexic young people, that is what they will get used to. That is what will cultivate their tastes, and soon that is what they will prefer because it is familiar. Picture study gives us a simple yet powerful tool to influence our children’s sense of beauty, to cultivate within them a taste for what is good. Charlotte Mason said that one of the parents’ jobs is “the cultivation of the power to appreciate, to enjoy, whatever is just, true, and beautiful in thought and expression.” –Simply Charlotte Mason

All Things Bright and Beautiful — Free art, music, and poetry appreciation studies all done for you at the blog All Things Bright and Beautiful! I am excited about this wonderful site provided by a Charlotte Mason homeschooling mom who simply wants to share in order to help other homeschooling families who may not have time or motivation for the artsy extras. It looks great, costs nothing, and so I think we will use her studies to beautify our homeschool mornings everyday at breakfast. I will also try to grab a book from the library containing works from the current artist being studied on All Things Bright and Beautiful so that all our picture study doesn’t have to be done on the computer. Next school year we may choose to study artists from the site that depict animals and nature, such as Robert Bateman and James Audubon, since we are really looking forward to starting up our own nature notebooks.

Living Audubon biography picture book

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We will also choose one poem a month to memorize and recite.

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Handicrafts:

Love that Charlotte includes handicrafts as a school subject! The American Boys Handy Book looks like it could be an interesting resource to use with Noah, but so far the plan is to keep using our “Activity Brainstorm Page“, which is listed on our homepage menu. The craft projects include holiday, seasonal, and themed ideas which are an ongoing collection of various ideas I admire while searching around on the internet. We are somewhat winging handicrafts because our family enjoys crafting, and I think we will always have our hands in projects whether they are assigned or not. Ideas conveniently, and sometimes inconveniently, abound as Noah never seems to stop thinking of things to make and do (nor do I).

Click to insert.

Reading (with Readers):

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Pathway Readers

Sweet readers that teach morals and spiritual values while providing insight into the life of the Amish people. First Steps and Days Go By are the readers we will use in kindergarten. I also pictured the other two readers we have been using. (Don’t forget SCM offers Delightful Reading if you are looking for a complete reading curriculum too. It worked well for us last year!)

       Reading Extras:

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Literature:

“Ideas must reach us directly from the mind of the thinker, and it is chiefly by the means of the books they have written that we get in touch with the best minds.” –Charlotte Mason

“For the books that we read aloud as a family, I do not require a narration. I want us to simply enjoy these classics together, to share the experience, to build memories, and to store up common ideas that knit our hearts together” –Simply Charlotte Mason

Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

         Literature Extras:

  • Librivox — free audiobooks, like My Bookhouse, take some of the pressure off mom having to read aloud all day! (just watch out for poor readers since audiobooks are read by volunteers). Lots of classic, well written books here since many older books can be found free in the public domain.

          Literature suggestions for boys from Hal and Melanie Young:

  • Jungle Doctor series by Paul White – Absolutely fascinating! Very respectful of the indigenous people without pulling punches toward their enslaving false religion. Exciting, funny, engaging.
  • Sugar Creek Gang series by Paul Hutchens – Based on his life growing up with six brothers, the Sugar Creek Gang is a great way to show your boys what it means to be a Christian as a boy. Fun, funny, enjoyable, an essential part of childhood in our family. The new series by Pauline Hutchens Wilson and Sandy Dengler is not as good. (I hear the audiobook is great)
  • Little Britches series by Ralph Moody – The poignant, entertaining story of a boy whose father dies after they move to the West and how he helps support his family and then himself. He doesn’t always do what’s right, but he learns better! Great read alouds!

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Handwriting:

We will be spontaneous in selecting sentences to copy for handwriting practice. I think copywork phrases can be successfully chosen from favorite selections in literature books, scripture verses, poems, nature studies, or hymns–especially ones that really stand out to us, or our children. This way handwriting is more personal and inspiring. Picking selections ourselves should really only take a few more minutes than using pre-selected selections in a copybook.

We will continue to use the Draw and Write Notebook from Handwriting Without Tears because I like the simple lines, and because it was the next logical step after using HWT Double Line Chalkboard for the past two years of preschool (which proved to be a really great way to learn how to write letters). These two products from HWT have worked great and were all we really needed for handwriting!  This is a picture of Noah’s last handwriting sample from Pre-K this year in the Draw and Write Notebook:

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Creation Science and Nature Study:

“He must live hours daily in the open air, and, as far as possible, in the country; must look and touch and listen; must be quick to note, consciously, every peculiarity of habit or structure, in beast, bird, or insect; the manner of growth and fructification of every plant. He must be accustomed to ask why––Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is a leaf-bud sticky? And do not hurry to answer his questions for him; let him think his difficulties out so far as his small experience will carry him. Above all, when you come to the rescue, let it not be in the ‘cut and dried’ formula of some miserable little text-book………As I have already tried to point out, to get this sort of instruction for himself is simply the nature of a child: the business of the parent is to afford him abundant and varied opportunities, and to direct his observations, so that, knowing little of the principles of scientific classification, he is, unconsciously, furnishing himself with the materials for such classification.”
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“This is the mother’s chance to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of a child, which shall germinate, blossom and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge of hers.”
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“No-eyes comes home bored; he has seen nothing, been interested in nothing: while Eyes is all agog to discuss a hundred things that have interested him.”
–Charlotte Mason on Nature Study

I am thrilled about nature study! Outdoor Secrets is so very sweet for littles. And its so much fun getting out in the wild blue yonder on all kinds of outdoor adventures.

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Beautiful living books used with Outdoor Secrets Handbook.

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Field Guides and reference books for nature study/walks. I still need to get a lot more field guides.

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Nature Studies out in the field includes regularly notebooking a few words about intriguing nature finds, and learning to draw/paint one small find at a time with watercolor pencils, watercolors, or colored pencils. I plan to keep a notebook alongside Noah since Charlotte recommended mothers to experience notebooking alongside their children.

“Yes, you can take digital pictures instead or look at close-up illustrations on the Internet, but there is nothing that will encourage you to look so closely and carefully than trying to draw for yourself the object that you are looking at. Use the field guides to help you label your drawings. Over time you will gain at least a “nodding and naming acquaintance” with God’s creation in your yard. And that is time well spent.” (SCM)

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Highly acclaimed 106 Days of Creation and its companion books for whenever we finish Outdoor Secrets.

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Moody Science DVDS (set of 19)— I really want to get this set of great creation science videos!

        Science Extras:

        Nature Study Extras:

  • see “Fieldtrips” below for some fun local nature study ideas
  • Enature.com — Online Fieldguide to help ID all those nature finds
  • Great Living Books for young children that are free in the public domain:

……………..The Storybook of Science (Audiobook, E-book)
……………..Among the People Series (Audiobook, E-book)
……………..The Burgess Animal Book (Audiobook, E-book)
……………..The Burgess Bird Book (Audiobook, E-book)
……………..Arabella Buckley Books (Audiobook, E-book)

Fieldtrips:

Also see last year’s fieldtrip ideas, check bayareakidfun.com, and current East Bay Park Activities periodically for more fieldtrip ideas

Anytime Trips:

Discover and Go Program — Discounted museum admission offered through the library

Delta Discoveries — Every Saturday from 11am til 2pm at Big Break Regional Shoreline

Village Theatre in Danville — Preschool Performance Series

BMX Track at Memorial Park in San Ramon and Bike Park in Pleasanton

Diablo Rock Gym — Kids Weekend Belay

Worlds Biggest Dinosaurs — A creationist dinosaur museum in Southern California. See their recommended article and booklist.

Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos

Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek

Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland

anaturemom.com — a mom who blogs about fun bay area nature places to visit

On The Calendar Trips:

July

East Bay Parks Outdoor Discoveries — “Astro Summer” for ages 3-6

Family Theater Festival at Dean Lesher Center for the Arts

August

Japanese Cultural Festival August 10-11

California Symphony 6:30 pm Thursday, August 28th at Todos Santos Plaza (free)

September

Tarantula hikes on Mount Diablo

Visit an apple orchard in Apple Hill

October

Harvest Festival at Ardenwood Historic Farm

Fire station fieldtrip

November

Free homeschool days at Monterey Bay Aquarium (make reservations in Sept.)

Hike Stream Trail at Redwood Regional Park to find hibernating ladybugs

December

Visit creeks in winter to find frozen ice, and visit waterfalls after rainfall to find rushing waters (Noah’s ideas)

Attend a performance of The Nutcracker

January

Whale Watching at Point Reyes and other spots along the coast, early morning is best

Newt and Salamander walks hosted at various East Bay Parks, or get out right after a rain, and search in the stream behind Tilden’s Environmental Education Center (near Little Farm)

February

Monarchs for kids at Ardenwood Historic Farm; also can see monarchs over wintering at Pt. Pinole Regional Shoreline, Muir Beach, or Natural Bridges State Beach.

March

Johnny Appleseed Day at Ardenwood Historic Farm

Marsh Meander at Coyote Hills Regional Park

Daffodils and beautiful gardens at Fioli, a country estate in Woodside

April

Tadpoles in the creek at Round Valley Park

Sunol Regional Wilderness Spring Wildflower Festival

Bees/Honey tasting at Tilden

May

Search for ducklings, goslings, and their nests at Newhall Community Park

Bird Days provided by many East Bay Parks

Little Yosemite waterfall hike at Sunol Regional Wilderness

June

Butterfly Festival at Coyote Hills Regional park

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“The end result of a Charlotte Mason education is the children ‘find knowledge so delightful that it becomes a pursuit and source of happiness for a lifetime.” –Catherine Levinson

Love, Love, Love This Baby

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3rd Swing? Maybe 4th…..1st Picture (3rd Baby)

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Faith Did a Good Job With Her Watercolor, We Were All Happily Surprised

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An Honor to Have Tayler’s 94 Year Old Great Grandma Come to School One Day

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Tayler Loves How Her Family Drops By School Often

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We Crafted Gingerbread Boys to Help Us Retell the Story We Know Well

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Darling Little Lamb

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Girl Turning Brave

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Planting Our Garden

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Horseplay with Noah

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Cooking Project–Greek Honey Yogurt Mixed with Whip Cream and Topped with Dried Fruit, Toasted Coconut Flakes, Nutmeg, and Lime Zest

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Our Prayer Posters Serve as Visual Aids & Hang By Each Child’s Bed; I Love How Faith is Especially Faithful to Use Her Poster

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With Three Small Children I Think I Would Spend Every Last Second of My Day Cleaning and Cooking If It Weren’t for Help From Noah, My Right Hand Man

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I Guess Its Time for Some New Dress Up Clothes

Noah has never been into role playing until recently. Now he says he wants a Roman Soldier costume, an army uniform, an astronaut costume, a new fireman costume, and an armor of God/soldier of Christ costume. Oh my!

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An Easter Service Invitation for Our Neighbor

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Dying Easter Eggs

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Glittering Just a Few Eggs Was a Nice Touch

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 “Easter Eggs” From Our Chickens for Neighbor Lois

(She Has Moved Into Assisted Living Now and We Will Miss Her!)

The cute little basket we made from a pint sized cream carton and scrap book paper.

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Our Resurrection Egg Hunt At School

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Our Easter Garden Basket Tradition Was Revamped (And Thus Also Very Affordable) This Year

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We Invited Over This Wooly Hebrew Abba To Lead Our Messianic Passover Seder on Easter 😉

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Family Egg Hunt on Easter

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Book Lover

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Cutting Practice with Spiral Snakes

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Thanks Tayler, Cutting is Easier With Help

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Putting #1-59 in Order on Our Hundreds Chart

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Domino Addition

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Watering Our Sprouts

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“I am Sorry You Fell Down Faith,” Gift from Noah and Tayler, and then a minute later…..

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“I am Sorry You Tripped Over Me Tayler,” Gift From Faith (and Noah). A minute later Noah Gets hurt…..

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FYI: The Black Widow has a Brown Widow Cousin. Also pictured, the tiny harmless male Widow, killed by the female when Dean shook her web (all 3 found living under the kids’ sand table).

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My Sweet Attachment

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Special Nature Treasures Discovered: Leaf Skeleton and a Giant Puffball Mushroom

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My Chicken Girl

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Noah, “Mr. Eyes”, Found a Birds Nest in Our Side Yard

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Daniel Sitting by the Creek at Round Valley Park

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Noah Enjoys Throwing Boulders

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Water Snake!! Found by a calm, cool, and collected Mr. Eyes.

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Daniel Starting to Feel a Little Too at Home at the Creek

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So Much Fun Collecting Tadpoles and “Frog Eggs”!

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Bummer, Our Tadpoles Only Lived a Few Days 😦

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Scads of Snails in Our Yard…..Noah Follows a “Poop Trail” to Find Even More

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May Was Such a Fun Month of Art…..Color Mixing, Pantone Color Book, Painting Butterflies

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Noah’s Butterfly

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Noahs Second Butterfly

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 Very Pleased With Noah’s Final Butterfly Painting, Symmetry and Wing Shape being the Goals

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Our Method Of Achieving Symmetry: Freehand One Side, Trace the Other

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Color Mixing Involved Creating Lots of Shades of One Color; Tayler Mixing Up Shades of Green

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 Using Her Greens to Freehand a Butterfly

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Tayler’s Symmetrical Princess Like Butterfly

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 Two Families Blessed to Continually Experience the “World as Our Classroom”

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So Pleased with Kiddos Growth in the Area of Drawing; Noah’s “Train” and Faith’s “Family” for Grandma on Mother’s Day

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To My Shock, Chef Noah Decided to Pile Raisins On The Meatloaf When I Stepped Out of the Kitchen For a Minute (Believe it or Not, It Turned Out Quite Yummy)

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Roadmap For You

Do you have a roadmap yet for your next, or first, homeschool year? March is that time of year when I start planning, or more like dreaming, about next school year and I am especially eager this year, because Noah will be a kindergartner!!! I have already cried my tears as I realized that my Little Lamb is not so little anymore, and now that I have somewhat come to terms with the reality of my boy growing up, I am excited and ready for the next stage. My, my, my, what a big year ahead! The rails have been well laid for smooth and easy days at our preschool, and I am really looking forward to continuing preschool with Faith for a few more years, while at the same time, venturing out into the unexplored territory of ‘elementary school land’ with Noah. I am so thankful that by our all knowing God, we have been provided such a great roadmap for the years to come through Charlotte Mason. Discovering SimplyChalrotteMason.com was the light bulb moment that showed me how Charlotte Mason studies are just so beautifully different. If you aren’t totally sure where you are headed next year with your own homeschool, consider Charlotte Mason! And then peruse the exceptional curriculum offered at SimplyCharlotteMason.com!

Charlotte Mason studies can be done very inexpensively by using the library since living books, not scripted lesson plans and expensive curriculum, promote true learning. Learning really shouldn’t be outrageously expensive. However, great curriculum that uses Charlotte’s methods is certainly available for those of us who don’t want to be pioneers! I have looked into great curriculum such as Sonlight, My Fathers World, Heart of Wisdom, Veritas Press, etc. and they all have some nice aspects, but only Simply Charlotte Mason provides curriculum materials, guidance, flexibility, and freedom that I could just gush and gush about. Unlike the other curriculum mentioned, SCM material is perfectly true to Charlotte’s methods, not just adopting a few of her nicest ideas. After making some SCM purchases, plus perusing many of the free curriculum sample pages on the website, I have not found one thing that would disappoint. And I am not easy to please either. After all the years I have studied and worked in child education, I am not at all easily impressed by the array of educational materials available, and so I feel that I speak the truth when I say Simply Charlotte Mason is a gold mine to be discovered by homeschool families.

Another excellent resource on the Simply Charlotte Mason website is the discussion forum where moms have such wonderfully wise advice and tips, book suggestions, planning ideas in every subject area and grade, and lots more. Its like being mentored by other Charlotte Mason moms who have been there and done that already, and want to share it with you! I learn SO much on the discussion forum that I go there now just to read what other moms are saying of late. Another way I use it a lot is to Google “Simply Charlotte Mason, (plus whatever I want to know)”. Google seems to come up with more related posts, so I use their search engine rather than SCM’s for really specific inquiries. (For instance, look up that curriculum you are considering on the SCM discussion forum and you will find details from other moms who have used it, and often why they decided to use SCM materials instead)

Oh, and let’s not forget to mention SCM’s Bookfinder! So helpful for looking up Charlotte Mason type books to check out at the library or purchase at Amazon. I use it to find books on any subject at any grade level, and I can rest at ease that the books suggested are all delightfully written living books–never dry, never twaddle.

One Mom’s Really Organized Planner For Her 4th Grader Wow! I don’t know if I would ever be this organized but watching this little video clip certainly casts vision for me. Its done by a mom who regularly contributes on the SCM discussion board. You’ll see why I say these moms would make great mentors after you watch. 🙂

Happy Prayerful and Productive Planning to You, Fearless Road Mapping Homeschool Moms and Dads!!

You can find a lot of posts that I have written on my blog about my dear homeschool mentor Charlotte Mason. Here are a few:

Meet Miss Mason

Fabulous Fours and Fives–Curriculum Overview

Nature Study

Bible Study

We are behind on posting our pictures, so here are the ones from February when our theme was ‘I am Loving’ and ‘Valentines’, and even a few from January. Hopefully I can get March pics up a little sooner!

Happy 5th Birthday Noah!!!

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Love this Little Man!!!

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Best Gift From Christmas

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Push Me Please

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Hanging On For Dear Life

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Riding My Big Girl Bike

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Playing All Together

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After Babysitting Another Praying Mantis Egg Case for Months, One Day…..Babies!!

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Dapper Dan and His Red Balloon

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Lovin’ My Overalls

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Pretty Girl

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Soaking Him In Cause Swaddle Days Are Coming to an End

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Hilarious Stuff

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Building a Snowman

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“This is the Day that the Lord Has Made” Sung with Jumping and Lots of Gusto Every Morning After Calendar

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Faith Just Starting to Word Build

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Faith Gets Her Own Reading Words Too

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Adorable in Big Brother’s Sweater

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Hanging With Daddy

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Valentines Friendship Tea Party with Eliana and Ashira

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Wiffle Ball Golfing

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A Happy Valentines Visit with Lois

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Yay Faith!! Awesome Fine Motor Skills!

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Noah’s Very First Copywork Page! Writing His Memory Verse for the First Time

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So Proud of You Buddy!!!

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Everyone Trying to Love on Daniel

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Pretend Baking

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Learning to Build With Legos

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Learning to Write Numbers

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Tayler Worshiping in Spirit and in Truth

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Many Pictures of Late that Depict Noah’s Heartfelt Thoughts About Jesus

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Rain Gear Girl So Eager to Play Out in the Rain

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Faith Showing Kindness to Bubs on a Rainy Day

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Two of Our Sweet New Chickies (We have four total)

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Getting Ready for School!

Remember the happy feeling of going out to buy new school supplies when you were young? The feel of brand new markers and binders and folders and pencil boxes was so exhilarating for me. Plus, it was one aspect of school that we schooled children could control, one aspect that we could put a little personal flavor into. Now, as homeschool moms, some of us feel exhilarated with the grander scale of supply purchases we get to make for a brand new school year with our children, and some of us feel overwhelmed and anxious by it all……….most of us probably feel a bit of both.

So I thought it would be fun to do a visual tour of what materials I have been gathering together this summer in order to make our 2013-2014 school year at Jesus Precious Little Lambs organized, prepared, and successful. Its a tour designed for all of you visual learners (school supply lovers and worriers too)! I am so pleased that my “Fabulous Fours and Fives!” curriculum post from last April has been a very popular read here for months now!! (I love looking at what other homeschoolers are doing for their 2013-1014 curriculum too!) This post is definitely like Part II of my “Fabulous Fours and Fives!” post.

Please, try not to feel overwhelmed if this is your first year homeschooling. Just start simply and affordably. We certainly didn’t start with all these supplies our first year. This is our third year of homeschool and so we have been gathering supplies for awhile now. Yet, I am surprised how simple our supply list is compared to what I see some other homeschools with young children doing out there in blogland. Some people buy ALOTTA stuff! The kind of stuff you buy and only use a couple times. Anyway……….    K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple sweetness). 🙂

Math Supplies

Let’s start with how we have been preparing for Pre-K math since it is one of the most supply intensive subjects. Much of the supplies, but not all, are used with and recommended in our math curriculum book. However, puzzles, gears, and lacing supplies are for example, my personal additions to the preschool “math department”. Most of these supplies have a range of uses making them perfect for 3, 4, & 5 year olds– preschool, and even beyond.

(from top to bottom)

Left bin: Gears, Gears, Gears; collections (for sorting and counters) of buttons, keys, mosaic tiles, shells, and gemstone rocks; bowls for counting, sorting, and other “hidden number” type activities; Noah’s math binder; geoboards and rubber bands (under binder).

Middle Bin: Number set cards and beads on a string, Right Start abacus, Melissa and Doug pattern blocks and boards, unifix cubes, attribute blocks (under unifx cubes), Tangoes (tangram game).

Right Bin: Puzzles, lacing cards, and lacing beads.

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Some of the supplies pictured above can be used in conjunction with blackline masters from our Kathy Richardson math curriculum books. To be more organized this school year, I made copies this summer of all the blackline masters from both the Pre-K and Kinder curriculum books and stored them inside of lots and lots of sheet protectors in “my math binder”. After covering a specific math activity this year in school, I will transfer the corresponding blackline master into “Noah’s math binder” (decorated by Noah and stored in his math bins) so that he can go back and re-explore the activity anytime he pulls out the math bins. We specifically set aside 1/2 an hour before school for Noah and Faith to pull the math bins out from under the couch and play with the math materials of their choice.

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Art Supplies

I really love art so having a whole cupboard in the garage (since Noah was 1 year old) devoted to supplies was important to me. These are the things I like to have on hand: Elmer’s glue, tacky glue, Elmer’s glue sticks, hot glue, varnish spray (Krylon Clear Coat), scissors, markers, crayons, colored pencils, oil pastels, sulphite construction paper (finally organized with a pots and pans organizer from The Container Store!), white sulphite drawing paper, watercolor paper, finger paint paper, finger paints, tempera paint, acrylic paint (used with supervision), watercolors, dot paints, no-spill paint cups, other various paint cups and trays, smocks, air dry clay, oven bake clay, never-dries modeling clay, smocks. Plus we have small drawers full of small stuff (like glitter and paper punchers). How often do we personally use typical preschool craft supply stuff like pom poms and pipe cleaners? Almost never. So we invest in mainly the basics–what I would call “real art” supplies that can be used over and over again in various ways.

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Bible Supplies

The Child’s Story Bible is our main Bible supply with a comprehensive collection of 200 Bible stories that can be read to children in about a 20 minute time period. Noah does devotions on his own some mornings before our collective Bible time. He needed a Bible with something to look at because my little sweetie would spend considerable time flipping through all the pictureless pages of The Child’s Story Bible as his way of “reading” the Bible. So I bought The Family Bible by Dorling Kindersley for $2 off Amazon since it is 400 pages full of detailed pictures for Noah to spend time looking over during his personal devotions. The realistic pictures really give him something to look at compared to all the cartoon illustrated children’s Bible we own. (A couple warnings: Some reviewers of this Bible felt that DK had a very secular/inaccurate viewpoint on the retelling of the Bible stories. We won’t be using the text portion of this Bible. Also, the pictures are way more graphic than your typical children’s Bible since it depicts battles and murders realistically.) The Preschoolers Bible is Faith’s personal Bible, but also provides Noah a chance to practice narration, and could possibly serve as a Bible for Noah to read to himself once he starts reading more.

The Big Picture Timeline is really cool because its a timeline of all major Bible stories that can be colored. It shows kids, and clears up confusion for us adults too, about the order of when things happened throughout the Bible, and also provides some very general dates for events. Thru-the-Bible Coloring Pages was my idea for working a coloring time into our school day. It sounds funny, but I feel like Noah could benefit from more coloring since its a great way to develop fine motor skills (even if its not what I would call “real art”). And to make sure the experience is as beneficial as possible, mommy will be right there encouraging Noah, Tayler, and even Faith, to take their time, think about color choices to make it realistic, stay inside the lines, and color in certain directions when coloring spaces of certain shapes. So I think it will be quite unlike Sunday School or Children’s Church where kids spend two minutes pumping out a coloring sheet every week. Also, the coloring sheets will give our young ones hands something to do during a 20 minute read from The Children’s Story Bible, and something to remember the story by.

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Here is a picture of the inside of each Bible resource to give you an idea. The great thing is that the timeline and coloring pages match up really nicely with the stories in The Children’s Bible Storybook. I am still working on putting the timeline and coloring sheets into binders for the kids, but that is the plan. Somehow I will be storing the timeline accordion folded in their binders so that it can be unfolded as one huge timeline, and reviewed anytime.

As you can see, every Bible story coloring sheet has a corresponding “modern day life application” picture to color (like a picture of a boy giving away some toys to another boy which corresponds to the “we can obey God when its hard” theme of Noah’s Ark story). We will probably use our coloring binders to practice some handwriting by labeling pictures with the name of the Bible story character, writing one character trait the story taught, or a scripture reference that is meaningful, etc. I will also hand write word for word, the children’s cute budding attempts at narration during times that I ask them to tell the story back to me. The coloring binder will be like a special personal Bible journal of sorts, largely picture oriented since the children are so young.

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Pictured here is our hymnal from last year that we will keep adding songs to this year. Also, our scripture memory system–memory verses from the last two years finally organized by month on index cards and soon to go into a personalized ‘Jesus’ Precious Lambs’ index card box (from Etsy). This way we can easily review previous year’s verses that we learned in the same month (since each month’s verses fit into a theme such as “joy” or “courage”).

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Our Circle Time box holds all of our Bible supplies–hymnals, Bibles, and coloring sheet/timeline binders. We spend about 30 to 40 minutes in Circle Time and it is primarily devoted to prayer, worship, and Bible reading.

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Reading Supplies

Our 3’s and 4’s pre-reading supplies consist of a Lauri alphabet puzzle and montessori sandpaper letters that both teach lower case letters (over 90% of reading requires familiarity with lower case so we don’t bother with upper case since toys and other resources always seem to teach upper case). The alphabet puzzle teaches lower case alphabet identification, and also touches on beginning word sounds (each letter has a picture of a word that starts with its sound underneath). We also used the puzzle a lot last year to do word building of simple three letter words. The sandpaper letters are for tracing with a finger and saying the letter sound (as tracing finger reaches the endpoint). Sandpaper letters teach directionality of letters which later supports handwriting lessons. We also use them like flashcards every once in awhile to test which letters still need to be reviewed. We have used them for different active “name that sound” phonics games that we made up, like racing across the room for sounds, and musical chairs with secret letters placed underneath. However, if I had to pick one supply over the other, the alphabet puzzle has been hands down the more useful learning tool for us (as you can see us using it across my blog).

Our 4’s and 5’s reading curriculum for this fall is Delightful Reading by Simply Charlotte Mason. The curriculum uses rich reading selections such as “Rain” by Robert Louis Stevenson and a passage from Proverbs to teach the 100 most common sight words, plus hundreds more. Lesson #1, learning to read the poem’s first line, “The rain is falling all around”, we will cover in week #1. Each lesson consists of studying the words one at a time closely on the blackboard, identifying the words from a small pile of word tiles, then building each word with individual  letters from memory if possible, and finally reading that selection “all by myself” in the Delightful Reader. I purchased the montessori moveable alphabet, which comes with 5 of each consonant and 10 of each vowel, to do the word building portion of these lessons (rather than use the provided Delightful Reading letter tiles). Since word building was limited using the Lauri puzzle last year (but visually easy for beginners), I see the moveable alphabet as the next step for kids who are ready to move on from 3 letter phonetic words. Last school year, the focus was on building 3 letter phonetic words. This summer I introduced building 4 and 5 letter phonetic words with blends like -sh and -ch, as well as long vowel words with the silent “e” at the end. We are making good progress with phonics, and so this next school year, the reading curriculum will help us focus much more on building sight words (non-phonetic words that must be memorized such as “the”).

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Handwriting Supplies

Pictured here are words strip cards with words related to our theme of the month that our 3’s and 4’s learned to write last year– a total of 9 words, handy to hang onto for review. This year however, handwriting selections for our 4’s and 5’s derives from our Delightful Reading curriculum. We have spiral bound notebooks called “My Word Book” in which each child will record all the words he/she has learned to read. At the beginning of the year, I will record many of the words for them, as it would be too much work for them to do all the recording themselves. After doing reading lesson #1 on “The rain is falling all around”, I will do a quick handwriting lesson demonstrating how to write “rain” on my 2 line blackboard, and using chalk bits, the kids will write “rain” on their personal blackboards as precisely as possible, erasing as many times as needed until they are satisfied with their work. Then they will transfer “rain” into their Word Book practicing handwriting with paper and (golf size) pencils for the first time this year. Words that can be drawn, such as rain, will also be illustrated by the children. I may or may not have the kids trace the words that I record for them in their Word Book.

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Literature Supplies

Not a lot of supplies to buy for Literature since many books can be checked out from the library! We will be checking a lot of books out from the library, especially for History and Literature curriculum. However, the books pictured below are the ones I went ahead and purchased this summer for the upcoming school year. They are the ones from my 2013-2014 Curriculum plans that are not available at my local library (except for Little House in the Big Woods).

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I really enjoy having this book rack from Pottery Barn to store Bibles and library books so that they can be prominently displayed and promptly selected. During the school year, we have used this book rack to display library books that match our month by month school themes. I must say though that letting the kids pick out their own topics of interest from the library this summer has really put extra enthusiasm and ownership into them for reading materials. Here you can see pictured what type of things my little boy Noah is drawn to, and the books that my little girl Faith selected herself on the bottom shelf. We may need to continue letting the kids make a lot of their own selections from the library during the school year too instead of sticking only to themed literature. We also have a cupboard full of books of all topics that we own right next to this book rack. From these two areas, our kids select their own reading materials for free reading times, which we have built into our schedule each day.

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Portfolio Binders

I love Greenroom binders from Target, and they are where we store the year’s work. All of our school projects are thoughtfully planned and meaningful, so we don’t trash much of anything. Our preschool portfolio binders are full of such delightful memories, consisting mostly of artwork, and eventually our portfolios will evolve into much more with samples from all subject areas.

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Fabulous Fours and Fives!

Pre-K Curriculum Plans for 2013-2014

(Also see 2014-2015 Stupendous Fives and Sixes, and 2015-2016 Sweet Sixes and Sevens)

Wow, next school year will be the last year of preschool for our four year olds, Noah and Tayler! We are now entering our third year of preschool at Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs. We have built up our curriculum each successive year in order to gradually prepare our little ones for the demands and delights of the high reaching goals of a Charlotte Mason elementary homeschool (Noah will be 5 and 2/3 years old when we he begins elementary school in fall 2014). I have done much thought and research in order to come up with our Pre-K curriculum for next fall, and I am excited to be able to share it with those of you who may also have a four or five year old!! You will notice that there are no textbooks and no workbooks in our curriculum selection, but rather all living books (written by a single author passionate about his/her subject); a Charlotte Mason education is a “living education.”

Before we get into curriculum, I need to mention something important. Anyone can take a book list and a string of methods and put them into practice. What makes a Charlotte Mason education come alive is an internal agreement with Charlotte’s reasons for choosing those books, for using that method. The thought process and belief system behind the methodology give life to the method. So I give you our booklist for next school year to offer suggestions for your own homeschool, but I emphasize that this list is only a list, and not so effective unless you are familiar with Charlotte Mason methods. I highly recommend researching and meditating on Charlotte’s methods this summer: definitely read her 6 volume Original Homeschooling Series or at least a book by another author that brings light to her methods, consider taking a DVD course on planning a CM education by SimplyCharlotteMason.com (especially if you have a school age child), and join my Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club! You will feel more confident, inspired, motivated, and prepared if you know all about the “why” and “how” as you prepare for your first, or next, season of homeschool. Your education methods will be living when you truly understand Charlotte’s methods.

If you are interested in some guidance for next school year, first take a look at Welcome Back to School, my 2012-2013 curriculum post. Every area of study listed there is the foundation of our Charlotte Mason preschool. We will continue those same foundational studies in the 2013-2014 school year, and add some new things as well. This post previews the brand new things we will be building into our 2013-2014 school year.

Overview of Curriculum for 2013-2014

Mother Study

Mothers should cultivate their souls so that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children.

Home education begins with you staying educated and staying passionate about God, family, homemaking, and homeschool. Passion comes from cultivating yourself! Reading will feed your soul the ideas it hungers to grow upon, and keep your enthusiasm kindled. What you read will largely depend upon your own interests, but here are a couple essentials in my estimation:

Get a really good study Bible! I did some research recently and this is the Bible I ended up ordering. It has great reviews, and if you are in the market for a Bible, see what you think for yourself!

Charlotte Mason’s 6 Volume Original Homeschooling Series! I don’t know, have I made my point clear yet? 🙂

Bible

See my Teaching Children the Bible post for lots of teaching tips.

Is it your aim as a mom to really learn the Word of God? Perhaps you have realized, as I have, that God has given you children to disciple and raise up, and a large part of succeeding at the high calling of motherhood depends on your heart being filled with the knowledge of God? So preparing to teach our children the Bible can and should grow us as moms.

Next year, I plan on studying each Bible story of the week (from the Masterplan) from my adult Bible. Next I will either retell the story to the children in my own words and/or read portions from my Bible (preferably from the King James Version), and also read the story from a quality Children’s Bible storybook on another day. Having to tell a story in my own words really solidifies the details of stories in my own heart. Its amazing how God will shed light on different aspects of how the story relates to our lives if we will meditate on the story and pray about it. Oral storytelling allows the children to practice actively imagining the story themselves instead of passively taking in pictures from a Bible storybook all the time. Since we spend a week on each Bible story at Jesus Precious Little Lambs (actually only two days per week since we meet on T/Th), sometimes we mix things up by acting out a Bible story instead of rereading it (like making a boat on the floor out of the couch cushions and acting out the story of Jesus speaking to the Storm). This is narration in action!

The Child’s Story Bible is one of the few Bible storybooks that accurately retells, and includes over 200 stories told in simple language, yet not watered down. The Child’s Story Bible is great for teaching Bible to children of all grades at once, as a combined family subject, since its appropriate for 4 to 12 year olds. There are very few pictures, just to let you know. You can view the language of the stories at Christianbook.com. We plan to use this Bible storybook next school year.

The Preschoolers Bible is Faith, my two year old’s, Bible. The language is incredibly simple, yet there are a large variety of stories, and so its a great Bible for a 2-3 year old (other than having cartoon pictures, ugh). Noah really benefits from this Bible too because we have started asking him to narrate the story back to us when Daddy finishes reading. Although narration is not easy for a four year old, the stories in this Bible are simple enough that he is able to succeed. Thanks to Faith’s Bible, Noah is starting to practice the oh-so-important art of narration–the backbone of Charlotte Mason methods. Yay!

Besides reading children’s Bibles occasionally at school, we do read them every night with Daddy, and this is when Faith gets to hear from “her Bible”. Even though this devotional time is not during Little Lambs “school time”, it definitely still counts as “curriculum”. Family homeschool happens all throughout the day, and just before bed is a perfect time to include Dad in teaching some “curriculum”–whether its Bible, History, Literature, Science. However, I would say Bible tops the list in importance since it gives Dad the chance to be the spiritual leader of your home.

And don’t forget Scripture Memory and Hymns as part of your Bible curriculum! We will continue to memorize one scripture a month and learn 1-2 new hymns a month. Singing hymns for worship is pretty new for me, but I am loving it!!

History

Adding history studies will be the biggest change in our homeschool next year, and I am very excited to for our little ones hearts to be filled with a patriotic spirit as they learn about “My America”. For school age history studies, we will most likely be using Simply Charlotte Mason’s curriculum guide which contains all living book suggestions. Their history curriculum is divided into time periods, beginning with Bible history and how it fits into world history, which makes perfect sense. I look forward to starting this curriculum when Noah begins kindergarten. My only concern is that American history is not part of the curriculum until much later– like year 6. So my solution is to spend Noah’s Pre-K year studying American history. I want him to know some of the special stories about the history of his country while he is young, and my heart is pulled towards Early American studies, as both he and I love everything “old fashioned”.

Teaching history is about giving our children the right kind of heros to look up to. Boys especially need strong heros to admire and emulate in order to grow up into courageous honorable mighty men of valor. Charlotte strongly believed in focusing on the story part of history when teaching young children, and this completely resonates with me! Politics and philosophies can be examined later, but for now we should fill them with examples of good, noble, exemplary deeds of history heros. Our children will learn to discern the consequences of actions and their bearings upon that historical time period as well as life today. If we read them history in the form of inspiring biographies, we will find our children “playing” or acting out imaginary scenes from their history lessons. Charlotte so wisely stated, “….for it is only as we have it in us to let a person or cause fill the whole stage of the mind, to the exclusion of self-occupation, that we are capable of large-hearted action on behalf of that person or cause.” So true! Doesn’t the truth of that quote hit home as a Christian who relates to Christ in this very way? The more we become consumed with Christ, our hero, the more we become Christ-like.

Since we personally prefer not to have any kind of Spiderman or Batman or Captain America or Iron Man or Disney Princess type of paraphernalia around our house, our kids are unfamiliar with modern day kids “heros.” I have often wondered what will fill the gap for hero admiration in our home. So learning that Charlotte Mason’s method of teaching history is hero study was an “AHA!” moment for me. I am soooooo thankful that true hero admiration will fill the hearts of my children and no comic or TV heros will be needed. What a wonderful way to teach history!

Note: we will skip reading Leif the Lucky because the story revolves around Norse gods.

FYI, Beautiful Feet, a history through literature publisher, has a great K-3 Early American literature pack, as well as literature packs for other grades and historical time periods. High caliber books such as the ones pictured above are the type of books you receive in the literature pack……. but they are really pricey. I am not going to spend $200 on a literature pack to teach one subject! I have done some research and many of the books can be found at the library. Phew! (Plus, I do not recommend the Beautiful Feet teaching guide that goes with the Early American books because the activities are way too difficult for early elementary students.)

Here are some more optional living books that we may check out/buy:

Hands On Ideas for Colonial America Studies

A best friend for planning history studies!

Amazon and Rainbow Resource describe All Through the Ages:

Bring the “story” back into “history” by using this exhaustive guide to over 7000 of the best in quality historical narratives, historical fiction, literature, and “living books”! With nothing more than a library card, parents or educators can effectively teach their children both World and American history using this guide. No more hours of researching historical books that are accurate, engaging, and age-appropriate. All Through the Ages has rendered all that work unnecessary. They have created a comprehensive list from some of the best resources, including Beautiful Feet, Books Children Love, Honey for a Child’s Heart, Greenleaf Press, Newberry Award books, Great Books of Western Civilization, Let the Authors Speak, Veritas, and 18 other publishers. This book merely combines all these lists (along with some of the author’s personal finds) into one volume to save you the legwork of finding and comparing numerous book lists. It doesn’t matter whether the children are pre-readers or college-bound seniors; books of every reading level are included for every era, from picture books and beginning readers through the great books of Western Civilization.

Literature

American pioneer spirit, love of family and God, adventures in homesteading, hard working obedient children, siblings as playmates–Little House on the Prairie is a collection of heartwarming and wholesome stories that resonates so well with my own values. I am SO excited to read the Little House on the Prairie series to my children next year! I never read them as a child and I feel like I have missed out on something that I would have loved. I was so happy when it dawned on me that the Little House series complements our Early American Pioneer studies for history, and that the reading level is not difficult for young children (as a read aloud).

We will also continue reading other classic, non-twaddle literature such as:

Winnie the Pooh series

Beatrix Potter series

Aesop’s Fables

A Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa

Reading

Next fall, we will be using a complete reading curriculum kit that faithfully reproduces Charlotte Mason’s method of teaching reading. This curriculum uses a combination of word building (like we have been doing all along) and learning words by sight. For the convenience and easy storage, we may purchase a montessori moveable alphabet for word building rather than use Delightful Reading’s provided letter tiles. This curriculum is perfect for 5 and 6 year olds who have limited reading ability or no prior reading experience. If you are not familiar with Charlotte’s methods for teaching reading, here it is in a nutshell. However, reading up on why she believes these methods are superior to learning phonics and using readers (the most common modern day method), is important. I would encourage you to read p.199- p.222 in Home Education, Vol.1.

Math

This is the next book in the math curriculum series that we are already using and loving (we currently use Developing Math Concepts in Pre-Kindergarten by Kathy Richardson). I found this curriculum while working in the teaching world, loved it, and am happy to be using it in homeschool with my own children. By the way, I have an extra new copy of this book and I will send it to you if you let me know you would like it!

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SimplyCharlotteMason.com recommends two good math curriculums: Right Start Math and Math U See. For me, Math U See seems like it might be too worksheet based. Right Start Math seems a little one dimensional as all computations are made off of an abacus, the primary learning tool. So I will continue using Kathy Richardson’s curriculum for now since I am very happy with. However, I really like the idea of the Right Start abacus as a supplement to other hands on math activities. The abacus is grouped in fives and tens for quick recognition of quantities–genius! Children develop visual computation strategies as they use this manipulative. As the abacus can be purchased separately from the curriculum, we will purchase one to play around with next year as part of our math studies. This is a picture of a Rainbow colored Melissa and Doug abacus repainted by someone to look like the Right Start Math abacus:

Nature Study

Also see my Nature is For Kids post.

A science curriculum is not necessary for preschoolers, because science for young children should mostly be about getting out into nature and experiencing it! However, The Handbook of Nature Study, is a book that is used as the backbone of Charlotte Mason nature study throughout the school age years, so you might as well become familiarized with it now even if you don’t end up actually using it much during the preschool years.

Other optional Nature Study books suitable for Pre-K and up:

Handwriting

Next school year, we will likely begin to use pencil and paper while continuing to use chalkboard and chalk for handwriting.

I recently posted lots of info about our handwriting methods and materials:

-Use a chalkboard! Whether starting to print or do cursive, don’t let your child’s handwriting be chicken scratch on paper or the whiteboard. Everyday, your child is forming either chicken scratch habits or beautiful letter formation habits that may persist for a lifetime. The roughness of chalkboards provide the necessary tactile feedback for optimal letter formation.

-Use small chalk bits! Small writing utensils force children to use the correct tripod grip. An incorrect grip practiced for too long can be hard to change later. Even coloring matters–use small broken crayons to encourage the tripod grip. Always correct an incorrect grip so that a poor habit does not become engrained. When a child is ready to switch to pencil and paper for handwriting, do not use regular pencils or jumbo size kindergarten pencils, use golf size pencils. Small hands require small tools in order to write correctly. The weight of large pencils make the tripod grip more difficult.

-Two lines are the easiest format for writing. The standard three line kindergarten paper is very confusing for children, and very unnecessary. Make your own wide ruled two line paper if you want. Otherwise, two line paper, chalk bits, and two line chalkboards can be purchased at Handwriting without Tears.

-We choose to learn handwriting through one theme relevant word a month, rather than writing a string of letters one letter at a time, because it makes handwriting more meaningful. Review of known letters is automatically built in as well, which is great! By writing words rather than letters, the children see that handwriting is for the purpose of making words, which is for the purpose of reading. That is satisfying. We are in no hurry to try get all 26 letters covered in a certain time frame anyway.

-I started doing a mini lesson every time before the children write because I realized they need to be drilled in order to remember some things (and it makes handwriting practice go much smoother):

-I ask, “What letter comes first, next, next, last?,” to push them to recall the spelling of a word without looking at a reference. They were previously not remembering the spelling of a word after a whole month of practicing writing it. Children need to be able to close their eyes and visualize a word in order to be good spellers–so start this habit of observation now!

-I ask, “Where does ‘b’ start?” “Now what do I do?” (go down, up, over, and around) “Where does ‘i’ start?” “Now what do I do?” and so on. The correct starting point of each letter is the hardest thing to remember about each letter and requires special mention every time.

-I point out an area of concern if necessary: today, Noah I want you to work on making your ‘b’ and ‘d’ bellies nice and fat rather than skinny. Today, Tayler I want you to make sure your letters don’t have too much space in between.

-During practice time, the children use my written word sample as a reference while they are writing, even tracing my letters on my chalkboard first if needed to recall directionality. But they do little tracing because usually after all this thorough instruction, they do not require me to write letters on their board to trace, they just take off writing all on their own!

Habit Training

We will continue to choose one habit/character trait per moth to work on as a whole family. I would love to have this little Simply Charlotte Mason goody for teaching habits of good character.

Foreign Language

Whenever I think of it, I am going to throw in Spanish vocabulary here and there as we go about our day, just for fun. I may pull out my old Spanish textbook, if I can find it, so that I can brush up on “items around the house” type of vocabulary. Dean can help me out here since he speaks some Spanish to his crew at work everyday.

Geography

Since we are studying American history, we will follow the stories and journeys of our historical figures across the map of the US. I am talking about really simple geography here–simply pointing out the names of relevant states on a map and thats about it. Our map may in fact be a place mat of the US that we already own.

Handicrafts

We will just have fun with hands on crafts that may be related to a theme, a holiday, a season, or are done just because! Here is a great list of handicrafts to get you thinking.

Miss Mason’s students practiced “various handicrafts that he may know the feel of wood, clay, leather, and the joy of handling tools, that is, that he may establish a due relation with materials…”About the role of daily handiwork in her schools she wrote: The points to be borne in mind in children’s handicrafts are: (a) that they should not be employed in making futilities such as “pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like”; that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c) that slipshod work should not allowed.

Poetry, Art Appreciation, and Music Appreciation

Last, but not least, is the humanities, refreshingly central to a Charlotte Mason education. Charlotte Mason believed that children deserved direct contact with the best art.The great ideas of men and women of history are revealed in their works, whether paintings or writings or music.To quote Miss Mason, “Ideas must reach us directly from the mind of the thinker, and it is chiefly by the means of the books they have written that we get in touch with the best minds.” This includes all forms of human expression–paintings, poetry, music, dance, etc. This is why Charlotte said the Bible and “varied human reading as well as the appreciation of the humanities (culture) is not a luxury, a tidbit, to be given to children now and then, but their very bread of life.”

Welcome Back to School, my 2012-2013 curriculum post will show you how simple it is to incorporate humanities in preschool.

Phew! That’s it! So after all that, maybe you wonder, what else am I going to have to do once kindergarten starts!?! Nothing much actually–these are all the same areas Charlotte Mason kindergarteners study, just a little more in depth. The major difference in preschool is that I will require essentially little to no narration, but in kinder, Noah will be required to narrate back to me everything I read to him. If you are able to introduce all these areas of study listed for Pre-K, you will fly right into kindergarten without breaking a sweat. Go ahead and get your feet wet this year, and you will be so thankful for the ease with which you are able to start up your official homeschool kindergarten.

Basic Budget for Pre-K

So how much will this coming year of homeschool cost?

Necessary Books

The Child’s Story Bible $18

Delightful Reading $50

Developing Number Concepts $38

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Total: $106 

(+ shipping)

Very affordable for private school! The rest of the curriculum is optional and so purchasing more books than the “necessary ones” may depend on one’s budget. Plus, many books can be checked out for free from the library.

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See Part II: Getting Ready for School!

 Pretty Good Handwriting for Mid-Month

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Planting Tomatoes

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Planting a Giant Pumpkin

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Planting Sunflowers

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Building Our Playhouse

Scarlet Runner Beans and Birdhouse Gourds are planted at the bottom of each tree stake, and will hopefully cover the playhouse as the grow up.

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Simple Pleasures

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Cute Clay Mushrooms for the Garden

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Our First Crop Harvested

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Cooking Project: Cream, Berries, Honey, and Stevia “Frozen Yogurt”.

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Art Project: Sunflowers

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Look at Me Grow!

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Welcome Back to School! 2012-2013 Curriculum Overview

Thrilling Threes and Fours!

Its time for school!!! Yay! Welcome back Little Lambs and Little Lambs Blog Readers! Summer is over and so are my long winded blogs about homeschool philosophy…..maybe. (I think I lost some of my readers the last couple months ;)). Back to posting all the cute pictures of those cute faces at school you love seeing. This post happens to be another big one, but I assure you that my wordiness will slow down soon. 🙂

Fall, a Season of Change

This fall we are preparing a Charlotte Mason “mind food feast” for our 3 year olds at Jesus Precious Little Lambs. We are adding poems, hymns, fine art and classical music appreciation, and nature study to our curriculum. It will surely be a lovelier and richer experience at our school this fall! I am hoping dear friends that you are beginning to see the potential that a Charlotte Mason education holds for your children as well, no matter what age they are. Although a Charlotte Mason school does not officially begin until age 6, there are still elements worth introducing in the preschool years. Today I would like to give you a glimpse of a Charlotte Mason preschool, including a thorough show and tell of our first week curriculum at Little Lambs Preschool. Oh boy, sharing time at preschool! I hope you will find some inspiration for home studies with your preschooler in this post.

Guidance for a Living Education

First of all, let me say how HAPPY I am to have discovered Charlotte Mason and the role she will play in our studies this fall, and many falls to come. She is the human mouthpiece of God that is guiding the course of my children’s long term education in homeschool. Her enlightened words are literally one of the single most life changing discoveries of my life. I know education methods, because of my degree and all my past work experience as a teacher, but it is all stagnant and lifeless in comparison to Charlotte Mason methods. My prayer, and also the heart of this blog, is that you will find life for your child’s education too. Give Charlotte Mason some serious study and you just may find the guidance, motivation, and calling you are looking for too. To prove my love for Charlotte Mason as my guide, I will let you eavesdrop on a little email conversation I had this summer with my friend Mary:

Me, long winded: “I love how I am starting to feel like Charlotte Mason is my friend, because I look up to her so much already as if she was a living being in my daily life influencing me. I love that this education is connected to a real person, an excellent role model, a Godly woman inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is not a faceless meaningless way of educating like every other homeschool method. I feel like I have a wise authority over me on this journey to lead me. The way this education is set up under a shepherding person feels so Godly to me, so very right. And you can hear the respect for CM that oozes out of every followers mouth, its not just me.”

Mary, succinct: “I’m in LOVE!! I’m Hooked!”

Set Great Expectations

At Little Lambs we are appropriately raising the bar this fall to keep our children moving toward the 3 basic academic goals of reading, writing, and understanding numbers. Handwriting letters (and possibly words), building/spelling words, and reading words will now be a regular part of our school Centers and Circle time, as well as each child’s home study time with family. Our masterplan of themes is still our guide this fall as it was all preplanned through December (the end of our school year) long before we met up with Charlotte Mason. Our masterplan is truly a masterpiece of the Lord. However, themes will play a less significant role at school this fall as they are not as necessary (or necessarily beneficial) in a Charlotte Masons education (not to mention SO much work!). If you would like to see our new Charlotte Mason based Fall schedule for our cooperative preschool, go here. However, what I really want you to see is a sample Charlotte Mason based homeschool schedule I designed just for YOU at the bottom of this post!

At Little Lambs we aim high academically, but without placing undue pressure for uniform performance. There are many ways to differentiate the same activity so that it is accessible to each child. For example, at a handwriting center, one child may be ready to write one letter from his name, one may be ready to write his whole name, and one may be ready to write her name in a small sentence (even Faithy scribbles on the blackboard!). Each child in our homeschool preschool will be given a custom education as much as possible so that everyone can succeed in the midst of great expectations.

Areas of Study to Include in Preschool

Let me highlight all the Charlotte Mason areas of study that we are including this fall at Little Lambs (two areas are mine, not Charlotte’s just to let you know), and share some examples of how they have been fleshed out this very first week at preschool. If you have any ideas or resources for the following areas of study, we all would love to hear from you in the comments. (FYI Links to my previous relevant Charlotte Mason education posts are provided in a chart below for further details. These previous posts are each dedicated to an entire area of study, each being the backbone of a Charlotte Mason education, and really important to read for full comprehension. Here I am only providing snippets of each subject. See the chart at the bottom of this post for links with in depth info.):

Poetry

We are focusing on one poem a month this fall with no pressure to memorize, but perhaps the kids will memorize anyway due to repeated exposure. We will also try to read more poetry at home during our nightly read aloud time. I suspect we will be pulling poems from multiple resources. Classic poetry writers will be a part of our school, but also the poems written in The Christian Mother Goose Big Book. I adore this book because it is SO sweet and full of powerful Christian truths. Noah loves the book as well. Such a good find for us. Here is the poem we are using this month with our September theme: All About Me/I am a Child of God.

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This was really cute. Tayler, future teacher, suggested that we paint our feet and hands to make prints after reading the You Are Special poem. How could I say no? Homeschool can be full of child initiated projects which builds confidence, and ownership of their own learning.

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Music Appreciation

Preschoolers can very easily be exposed to classical music regularly while sitting down for snack, in the car, or during a meal. We use the radio in our itunes where we have a hundred different free classical music stations to choose from. Keeping the Beat is also a good CD of classical music for young kids.

Art Appreciation

I think a day by day calendar of fine art is a fine way to teach art appreciation to preschoolers. We have purchased the 2013 Metropolitan Museum of Art calendar which we will use during breakfast as our art study. Another great way to do art study is to check out books at the library that have full page illustrations of art created by the classic artists. Put it on a book stand in a prominent place where your child can stare at the work daily.

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How do you do Charlotte Mason art study? You just let the art speak to the child. You don’t say much if anything. Just let the art speak to the child. The little that you do say may include mentioning the name of the artist and the work of art. But by no means do you need to give a lecture about the work.

Decoding

You may want to cuddle up every night and read from a Primer/Reader as part of your daily routine like before bed or nap. However, decoding work in readers is my personal current preference, and not Charlotte’s–especially in preschool. She felt word building was enough to teach reading (at age 6), and in my estimation she is probably correct, but you will have to assess whether you will feel comfortable straying considerably from mainstream reading instruction methods or not after more fully researching Miss Mason’s reading methods. The problem with readers is that they are notorious for being written as twaddle (what Charlotte Mason called dry, dumbed down literature). If you do decide to use readers, try to choose ones that have a storyline and ideas to think upon. The Frog and Toad series is an example of a great set of readers, which I love. There really seems to be only a handful of readers that would qualify as non-twaddle. Look up “Beginning First Readers” on the Ambleside Online Year 0 Booklist for reader suggestions. I ordered the listed Treadwell Beginning Reader which is comprised of classic stories, like The Little Red Hen and The Gingerbread Boy, told in as simple language as possible. I selected this reader to start because it seems easier than Frog and Toad. Finally, just make sure time spent in readers does not take away from what should be the meat and potatoes of reading instruction: read aloud and word building.

Whether done in a reader or not, decoding work includes sounding out phonetic words (cat, frog, help), and memorizing sight words that can not be easily sounded out (said, one, the). If you work on sight words outside of readers (like drill with flashcards), it could be helpful to make word selections based on which ones will be coming up in your reader. A less custom approach would be to print off the dolch sight word list, have your child  build the words, and you could also make flashcards to go over. The Dolch word list includes the most common 220 words and 95 nouns encountered in children’s books. Dolch words, or sight words, represent high-frequency words that are difficult to sound out.

Read Aloud

This is basically the story time that we have always done, but with a new emphasis………use the best classic books illustrated by good artists. Definitely not your everyday run of the mill picture book! We want to find stories that inspire children to greatness with beautiful, noble, living ideas. Select books from a Charlotte Mason type of booklist so that you can intentionally discourage your child’s tastes for easy reading that will undermine their ability to read classics later.

We will not always be selecting theme related literature, but only as it happens to work out. This week I happen to have found Yellow and Pink, a picture book full of “living ideas” that will compliment our study of God’s creation. Yellow and Pink is a story for all ages about two wooden figures who attempt to figure out how they came to be. As they become conscious of their presence in the world, they begin to wonder how they got there and how they can know this for certain. Here is an interesting guide to philosophizing with children while reading the ideas of creationism vs. evolution introduced in Yellow and Pink.

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Word Building

This week we are learning about the Bible story of creation and found some easy animal words for the kids to build. The kids were instructed to choose an animal, sound out its name, spell the name, and then check their work by peeling back the blue tape. They are not fully independent with this task yet, but not totally reliant either. These animal cards are just about the only flashcards I own, and so I haven’t decided how we will proceed with our Word Building center next week. We may use actual objects when possible, or print off picture cards that could also have a “blue tape” answer key. Please find the word building link in the chart below to learn more how-to.

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Bible Stories, Memory Verses, and Hymns

Our Bible Story time is becoming more Charlotte Mason because I plan on telling stories from my own heart, rather than using picture Bibles. During personal devotions with Noah I am back to reading straight from the KJV.   Although written for all ages of children, see my last post “Teaching Children the Bible” for more information on a Charlotte Mason approach in spiritual areas (also linked in the chart below).

Hymns will now be a regular part of our co-op and family devotions. Hear our creation themed hymns we chose for this month: This is My Fathers World and How Great Thou Art. So beautiful……

“This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought

of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought……”

“I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed……”

This is where we will study our memory verses now–on a chalkboard next to the kitchen table! I love our new chalkboard that Dean built!! Thank you so much Daddy! And Tayler’s hand and footprint idea really helps bring the theme to life, and looks so cute too.

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Handwriting

We use blackboards at school right now since our 3 year olds are in the beginning stages of handwriting. Handwriting in preschool is my idea, and not necessary to a Charlotte Mason education. See the Handwriting link in the chart below for more information.

This month we will work on handwriting our names since we are doing an All About Me theme. This week we are starting with the first letter in our name. The top blackboard is the teacher’s board on which we write sample letters while the child is watching closely.

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Nature Play

Remember some of what is suggested in my Nature is For Kids post is for ages 6 and up. So with preschoolers, simply get out and make lots of observations, but consider holding off on more advanced things like nature journaling unless your child shows a lot of interest. At Little Lambs we will be going out into nature together for at least a couple hours 3 Thursdays a month. Yay! Plus, we as individual families will be going out plenty more times to enjoy God’s creation with our little ones. Time in nature is a very important aspect of a Charlotte Mason education that optimally occurs on every fair weather day for hours on end. What a blessing to do school in the great outdoors! See the Nature Play link in the chart below for more information.

By the way, on rainy days, when nature play is not possible, you could put the time towards other fun preschool activities not mentioned on this list–cooking, art projects, science experiments, etc.

Math

I have not studied much of Charlotte’s views on teaching math, but from the little I know, it sounds like they align with the hands on math curriculum book I use. See the Math link in the chart below for more information about a good Pre-K level math curriculum.

I was especially pleased with the math activity from off the top of my head this week because it provided the just right challenge for the kids. Noah actually said math was his favorite part of the first day of school (“math” happens to be a first time answer to this often asked question). The instructions were to copy my work: a rainbow staircase. It sounds pretty simple to us grown ups, but I could see the gears turning while our 3 year olds manipulated this math.

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Why You Should Start Homeschool This Year

The best part about starting homeschool early on, like in preschool or before, is yes, the time to plan your long term course, but also the luxury of gradually building up your curriculum year by year. The studies and methods that I have carried over from last year to this school year are simply our lifestyle now, second nature, and effortless in effect. Lets say Bible stories, memory verses, classic literature stories, classical music, poems, classical art, and nature play are all things you already do regularly with your child at home as part of your family life. You can pretty much check these areas off the “school to-do list” because its how you “do life” (albeit an uncommonly cultured one ;)) You don’t have to schedule “school time” for studies that are already a part of your life. So the goal is to make as much of your studies a part of your life as possible!…….And then it won’t feel like you are doing school at home. The special thing about homeschool is that so much of what you are learning becomes your life. Homeschool is not a separate department of life in which unrelated facts are derived from the classroom and soon subconsciously rejected for its lack of relevance, but rather a wealth of life shaping knowledge that makes itself at home in our minds, hearts, family, routines, philosophies, etc.

Optimally, studies gradually introduced in your homeschool would just naturally become a way of “life”. Starting a homeschool in the children’s early years, then adding depth and scope every year, will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the sudden full blown homeschool start-up required by a decision to start in the school age years. It seems many parents lament that homeschool would take too much dedication or work on their part. I would suggest that it is easy enough…….if you start early. Your homeschool will be built in stages if you give it time, and the foundation will be strong if you are not rushed. What seemed like a challenge to incorporate last year, will be smooth and easy this year, and so now you are able to take on more without it being too much. Starting homeschool later, in 3rd grade or even kindergarten for example, I think can drive families to seek out a boxed curriculum package (that I warn against), that is all “done” for you, because it can feel overwhelming to jump in midstream. I bring this up because many say “I have time to figure it all out” concerning their decision to homeschool their young ones, but if you want smooth and easy days, and a strong foundation, consider that now may be the best time to start.

Sample Charlotte Mason Preschool Schedule for You

I made the following chart for you who want to teach your own preschooler at home. This is not the schedule we at Little Lambs follow since school activities for us are heavy on Tuesday and Thursdays, days we meet. However, this is the schedule I would likely follow if I were flying solo with homeschool. I would have almost all the “Everyday” activities done before and during breakfast, and then go right into “school” after breakfast with word building, math, and handwriting (10-15 minutes each max). Then the rest of the morning and afternoon would be free. On Nature Play days we would be out of the house for the whole morning and early afternoon at a favorite nature place. Usually families read to their children at night, so the “Every Night” study is intended to flow naturally with your pre-established routines. Sounds like an easy peasy schedule, right?? After breakfast school seat work consists of only 15-30 minutes of work!

Of course, you can arrange your schedule however you like, this chart is just a sample to get you thinking. Thank the Lord, I have already discussed most of the subjects listed below in depth in past posts and won’t have to detail everything here. Yeah!!! Click on the following links to refresh your memory of relevant info, or so that you can find out more if you are not a regular here.

May Your School Be a Fountain of Life!

Everyday

Bible Story

Memory Verse

Poem

Song/Hymn

Art Study

Classical Music

Every Night

Decoding

Read Aloud

 

M

Word Building

Nature Play

T

Handwriting

Math

W

Word Building

Nature Play

Th

Handwriting

Math

F

Word Building

Nature Play

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Simple At Home Preschool

Homeschool is For Everyone

If our endless crafts and creativity at Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs School makes you say “I could never do homeschool like that!”, then this post is to show you the simple side of at home teaching. If you long for practical help, rather than lots of educational philosophy, then this post is for you! This post is also about the at home teaching that moms of preschooled children want to make sure they are providing as well. Whether you have chosen to preschool or not to preschool, you will always be homeschooling to some degree because as a parent, you are inherently designated as your child’s lifelong teacher. That is why this blog is written with EVERYONE in mind.

After all, parents are indispensable teachers with the largest and first responsibility for educating their children. Parents of school students still have the responsibility to educate their own children, and school is not a surrender of that responsibility. I was a preschool teacher 4 years ago, and the kids in my class who knew their numbers and letters were the ones being taught at home, the ones whose parents were not surrendering up everything to the teachers. The children faring poorly academically had some of the least involved parents. Learning in a large group environment at a pace set by the teacher, not by individual needs, is like learning by osmosis. I think my preschoolers picked up a few things academically here and there during school time, but not at all like a child does in a one on one tutoring type of environment at home with a parent. I especially don’t feel that preschool or kindergarten teachers teach a child to read (I know I never taught anyone to read in my years of teaching), it is really the parents who do so. Reading or otherwise, leaving education entirely up to the schools should not occur in preschool, elementary, middleschool, or highschool.

The Japanese Educational Challenge demonstrates the remarkable effect of a mothers’ total involvement in their children’s education. In Riverside, New York, school administrators were mystified to find many Japanese families purchasing two set of textbooks. Author Merry White recounts, “…..one set was for the mother, who would study the lessons ahead of her child to help him or her in schoolwork. The result was that Japanese children who entered school in September knowing little or no English often finished in June at the top of the class in all subjects.” Its time for our society as a whole to take more responsibility for teaching our own children instead of only bemoaning the sad state of our schools, and feeling “trapped” by it. Dean and I can attest that as soon as we said yes to homeschooling, our minds opened up to see how every little life experience together could be used to teach, and how this may not have so readily dawned on us otherwise. We surmised that if we had not made the homeschooling decision, eventually we may have unconsciously felt a little too released from our responsibility as our children’s main educators, lazily assuming school was teaching them most of what they needed to know, and lining up with the rest of status quo. This being said, more important than making a homeschooling decision, is a parents day in and day out mindset towards education, and the will to take on the largest share of her child’s education.

Keep it Simple

Ok, so onto the practical advice I promised! I felt that some of you would appreciate some explicit how-to teach lessons at home information. Here is homeschool preschool (and beyond!) academics pared down into what really matters: The 3 R’s–Arithmetic, Reading, Writing. Yup, that’s it. Everything else– science and history and art– is more optional, interest of the moment driven, and learned as you go (in books, on trips, on a nature walk; as it comes up). Yes, Precious Lambs does a lot of fun crafty fluff, unnecessary things even. I am probably too influenced by my structured preschool educator background; but for me, all the cutesy stuff is fun. However, what kids really need more than cutesy stuff is the basics and a strong attachment environment to learn it in. An emotionally warm, unrushed, somewhat unstructured, and often child-led morning of activities.

Teaching background, credentials or not, no matter; you can offer your child this: the academic basics in an attachment environment. Most of us can teach a young child the 3 R’s. I think most of us can handle teaching simple arithmetic by counting and adding up all kinds of things around the house with our children (sometimes taking things away too–subtraction). Handwriting is something that the child just kind of has to be ready for after working his muscles in play dough, gluing tiny object on paper, and things like that. Writing obviously can not be done by small children, but their “writing” is in the form of narration. Have your child tell you about the story you just read sometimes. Telling a story from beginning to end will prepare a child to write later. So that is all pretty easy, but teaching reading seems mystifying to most new parents. To me, the academic basic that really matters between ages 3 to 5 is learning to read (but this is not universally accepted as some parents feel that formal academics is unneeded before age 6). There is more than one right way to teach reading, but this post is where I will share what seems to be working for us so far.

One Must Have Product

First, its quite important to mention that we focus on lowercase letters and letter sounds because this is what matters for reading. (Most preschools learn it the reverse way first–uppercase and letter names– which doesn’t make a lot of sense) Having a lowercase alphabet that can be manipulated by the child’s hands is really good to have! The one we ordered from Rainbow Resource has been our one indispensable homeschool teaching tool thus far (see pics below). Beneath each letter puzzle piece is a picture of something that starts with the sound (like drum for d), which I have come to find is apparently an exciting and engaging surprise element for my children. Most of the following teaching ideas I am going to share with you evolved from working with this puzzle regularly over the last 6 months–rudimentary activities eventually evolving into more complex ones as new ideas for how to use the puzzle came to mind. When I say we work with the puzzle “regularly”, I mean just 10 or 15 minutes a day usually. So simple to complete some preschool learning during breakfast and have the rest of the day for play! This is all it really takes to learn the basics, not two or more full mornings of preschool a week like we are conditioned to think. This is not preschool classroom “osmosis” type of learning, this is golden one on one work which doesn’t take much time. I feel that having a good teaching tool like an alphabet puzzle is imperative for building your phonics activities upon at home.

Don’t Underestimate Yourself

Thinking up our alphabet learning activities myself, rather than using canned curriculum, has been a really rewarding part of schooling my children. It always seems to be true in life that whatever comes from you, is part of you, brought out to fill a need, is the most effective and strangely satisfying way to provide. Its also an unforgettable experience–literally. Use a curriculum to teach your first child how to read, and you will inevitably forget how to teach reading to your second child unless you dredge up the curriculum book again. Teach reading from your own ideas, and you will never forget, it will always be a part of you. The following ideas I will share were not part of my past preschool curriculum and teaching experience, the following activities were largely absent from my well regarded Pre-K classroom (and I daresay this would be the norm), and that is why I say parents have to teach their own children. In my former Pre-K class, phonics was like 2 minutes introducing the letter of the week at circle time and occasionally reading Alphtales, handwriting was worksheet style letter printing despite the lack of student readiness, math consisted mostly of counting the days of school (again despite the lack of readiness for grasping large numbers), and we did no student narrating as preparation for writing. Mostly, we were pretty much there to have fun–not provide a firm foundation in the basics of reading, writing, and math. If I went back to teach after homeschooling my own kids, I would be a MUCH better teacher, but still hardly able to make a dent in real learning due to the high student to teacher ratio. Most preschool teachers out there only know to do what I used know, or less. I say all this so that you will not overestimate the ability of your preschool teachers, nor underestimate your ability as parent teacher.

Keeping learning simple in the simple environment of home is exactly what cultivates true learning of the basics. Preschool is not a simple environment—learning the basics is complicated in the overly stimulating classroom, in the way an environment is structured in order to coral a group of 24; learning the basics competes against the high amount of entertainment required just to keep the attention of the large group.  I think you will love teaching reading simply from your own ideas in your own home, so I would like to get you started with some tangible activity examples for teaching reading.

Teaching 26 Letter Sounds

We started out with the idea of simply singing “ah, buh, cuh, duh….” while pointing to each letter on the alphabet puzzle, and then removing a few letters at a time to find pictures of things that start with those sounds. I would ask, “Can you think of/find something else that starts with that sound?” An appropriate question, but requiring a lot of help in the beginning. The process of teaching 26 different specific letter sounds is slow. The beginning of that process for Noah dates back to age 2 before we had the puzzle, but I can see that now at 3 1/2 yrs. letter sound learning is really picking up speed and finally sticking too (due to both the puzzle and his age). There are lots of ways to learn letter sounds–phonics toys, flashcard drill, starfall.com, letter puzzles, etc. Just don’t do too much at one time–try not to let your child’s eyes glaze over! As long as you are doing just a little bit each day, and it stays fun, have no worries that you are pushing academics too soon–it will be a slow natural progression leading your child into the wonderful world of reading (much sooner than his school taught peers).

Teaching First Sounds in Words

Several months ago my next idea was to start pointing out beginning sounds, in words of interest, randomly throughout the day. “I wonder what b-b-blueberry starts with?!” Pause, pause. “Say it slow. Bllluuuuebeeeerrrrryyyy. Can you hear it?” Of course I had to supply the answer for quite awhile. Now days when I ask, “What does tomato start with?”, most of the time Noah will respond with the correct beginning sound (I am always supplying new words, Noah’s answers are not memorized responses). Sometimes I hand him a letter from the puzzle and ask, “Can you find something that starts with this sound?”, (from a group of items sitting in front of him). Now we are moving along into hearing ending sounds which is looking very promising lately as well.

The next idea that came was to build words using the alphabet puzzle, spelling 3 letter words like cat, wig, and bug. In order to succeed at encoding (build words), a child should know several letter sounds, be sufficiently familiarized with the location of each letter on the puzzle board (or whatever you are using), and able to hear some of the sounds in a word. Once your child can do these 3 things, the idea of building words as the logical next step becomes apparent to the parent constantly contemplating, “where are we going from here?”. Building your child’s ear for first sounds, which are easiest to hear, then last sounds, which are next easiest to hear, and finally middle sounds can be a loose phonics guideline.

I am amazed at the growth I am beholding in Noah since we officially began homeschool last winter! I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be the one who is responsible for all this academic growth (like deciphering sounds in words) in my son!!! I know you will love it too!

Teaching Phonemic Awareness

Noah and I also just play around with words at the breakfast or lunch table. We tend to spend a lot of time at the table during meals together, but wherever you and your children happen to spend time together will probably work as well. Basically you want to build your child’s ear for sounds, and conveniently you don’t need any supplies to do these games. We clap out syllables just for fun. Or I ask, “How many buh’s do you hear in baby?” “Hey! Blueberry has two words in it! Do you hear what they are?” “Here is a silly sentence: Baby and Bubs eat blueberries for breakfast.” This rhyming game always makes Noah smile, “Baby, waby. Baby, saby. Baby, maybe.” “Can you guess what this word is: “cuh” “uh” “puh”? If you just do whatever silly sound game that comes to mind, it will be a phonics lesson. Phonemic awareness activities seem like goofy stuff, and young children eat it up (especially if you appear to be having a ball)! Eventually your child catches on and joins in, or even starts initiating the games.

Don’t get caught up in rigorous formal phonics packaged curriculums. It will take the spontaneous fun out of things for you and your child as it can never be ‘interest of the moment’ driven. If you are full time homeschooling, your child might as well go to school if you go the canned curriculum route. 😉 Trust me, ideas will come as you step out and just try it, and as you pray for them. Don’t worry, there is a natural progression to this stuff and you don’t need to be an expert to teach reading. But how do I know my child is learning everything? As your child starts to stand out head and shoulders academically, so to speak, amongst his same age school peers, your fears will be put to rest. Mine are already evaporating as I see Noah achieving what I know could never happen in a 3’s class at preschool.

Where Do We Go From Here?

This has probably been enough to think about for now, but if you are the kind of person who has to know what is up ahead, I will attempt to provide a glimpse. Its all a little foggy for me still right now, and that’s why homeschooling takes faith–the fog doesn’t clear up until you are in the midst of it. But it does clear as you take one step at a time, as I have shown you in this post how my own teaching reading methods are becoming more clear simply through experience. The appropriate idea never fails to come just as you arrive at the place of needing that next logical step, and your child’s readiness for the next step will conveniently happen to correspond, but before then it is much too hard and confusing to think it all through to places too far ahead. Try not to think too far ahead, especially outside of your prayer time. Curriculums seem to be the perfect answer for the confusion, for giving you that picture you crave of where you are headed, but they also bring on much confusion with their one size fits all scope and approach, not to mention ripping you off of an experience so rich and confidence building as you personally generate your own material. The rewards of personally and divinely generated provision can not be substituted for! This is the stuff that makes a person–allow God to use homeschool to form your life and shape your faith. Don’t be fainthearted, you can teach your children step by step too!

Soon enough I will need another alphabet manipulative with more than one of each letter so that we can build bigger words. Montessori students use something called a moveable alphabet that we will soon be purchasing. Look it up and you will see why it is a better choice than magnet letters or letter tiles. I think the alphabet puzzle is a better starter item because of the visibility and display of the letters, but it of course does not have indefinite usefulness. With the moveable alphabet, we will eventually move into building 4 and 5 letter words that can be sounded out. Additionally, I foresee us memorizing words that can’t be sounded out (sight words), and perhaps learning a phonics rule here or there if its really helpful (like the silent “e” at the end of a word makes the other vowel long as in “rake” or “poke”). But we will not be bogged down in learning every single phonics rule that I don’t remember anymore anyway (not sure if I learned them in the first place), because its simply not necessary for most children in order to learn how to read, and its way too tedious. But this is territory we have not yet ventured into yet. Perhaps we can keep you updated when we get into all this fun “advanced” kinder/1st grade level stuff!

Perhaps you have some reading or education wisdom to share yourself, and we welcome that here! I would love to have other contributing writers on this blog, as well as hear your comments regularly.

And So Then We Will Be Reading?

Building words (encoding, or spelling) is easier for kids than breaking down words (decoding, reading) and is thus our main focus right now. But from time to time we sound out some words in books as we are reading as well. My feeling is that lots of encoding work will turn a child into a good reader, and make decoding work less of a struggle. My aforementioned phonemic awareness/word play activities and encoding/word building activities are, in a nutshell, how I am currently teaching my children to read.

I hope teaching reading is no longer mystified for you.

(Let me know if you have any questions though as I am all too happy to help with whatever I might know. ;))

The whole Teaching Reading series of articles on SimplyCharlotteMason.com offers some great step by step instruction as well, with a low emphasis on tedious amounts of phonics. It will take you more into the “advanced” stuff too if that is where your child happens to be.

A Peek into our Jamma Preschool:

Mealtimes are Great Learning Times

We count berries or grapes or raisins all the time (math), or find a word of interest on our plate for deciphering beginning sounds (phonics).

Learning at Breakfast!

Noah successfully matched up some letters with fruits and veggies that start with the corresponding sounds after eating breakfast at his play kitchen table one day.

Building a Word

Another day, and still preschooling in our jammas. 😀 (Lest you think homeschoolers never emerge out of pajamas– we do get dressed before learning time on some of our summer days, and definitely during the school year since we co-op)

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