Thursday, February 26, 2015

From the Mind of M-girl: A "Souper" Supper

M-girl has asked if on occasion she can write some posts for the blog.  Who am I to say no? (Oh, her mommy and the owner of ladydusk) I won't say no because I think it's a grand idea!

She's 10 years old, loves to read, is excited about cooking once a week, loves words and her friends.  She is a favorite with the toddler crowd at church, with many of them hanging all over her whenever they can.  This may be because she reads them stories and romps with them.  It is likely because she's fun and creative. She's also a favorite with many of the adults in our congregation, particularly one of our great-grandmothers who thinks M-girl is amazing and wonderful simply because she talks with her regularly.

And her mommy thinks she's great because she plays piano and sings hymns for her whenever asked. Well that's not the only reason, but since she's sitting here blushing as she reads over my shoulder, we'll let it go at that.  Self-conscious I think we call that.  She comes by it naturally.

Without further ado, here's M-girl:


Recently, I've been trying to cook dinner every Tuesday.

This week, Mommy asked me to use Mrs. Winckler's new cookbook, Simplified Dinners for New Cooks.  Mommy printed it out for me, and I was looking through it when I saw 'Cheesy Potato Soup.'  I thought that sounded good, and it was.

After I chose the soup, I had to make a grocery list. Since soup isn't enough for dinner at my house, I had to find something to go with it, too. So we bought garlic bread and salad stuff and had salad, soup, and bread for dinner.

I would suggest cutting your potatoes and onions before starting your soup. It was relatively easy to make, it just takes a little effort. It's a fun thing to do with your siblings.

Here, N-boy and I are cutting potatoes.

R-girl helped by washing potatoes, peeling the onion most of the way, as well as adding  ingredients to and stirring the soup.

It works even if you don't follow the directions and just throw everything in, like I did. It was cool that I could make it all on my own.

Next time I think I would like to try some blue cheese in place of cheddar, but it was really good anyway.

I'm hoping that I can try more recipes from this book, next week and the week after that.


Dawn here, I'm so excited she wanted to post about her adventures in cooking! I'm almost as excited about her writing a blog post as I was about her cooking on Tuesday night!  I was not feeling my tip-top, and she took control of the meal while I sat on the couch.  She asked a few questions, but was able to execute almost everything by herself ... or with her siblings (but not execute said siblings!) 

If you're interested in the cookbook, you should go over to Mystie's place or Candace's place and buy Simplified Dinners for New Cooks! She has a coupon code for the pdf file right now (and Candace has an even better coupon *and* a chance to win a copy!)  You can also buy it for Kindle, like I did for M-girl's perusal. Mystie generously gave me a copy to review with no expectations of a review.  The opinions expressed in this post are totally mine or M-girl's.  Our opinion is that this is a great resource and it was worth the purchase price for me to put it on M-girl's Kindle.

Edit to add: Mystie gave us our own coupon code: 'ladydusk' for 25℅ off when you order the pdf at her link! The coupon is good through March 7, 2015. But you can still enter Candace's giveaway too :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesdays with Words: A Drudgery Rather Than a Delight

Karen Glass, in Consider This, traces the idea of literature - of grammar - in the Classical Tradition from the ancient Greeks through the Victorian age. Originally, the idea of literature had meant the necessity of reading in the Classical Languages in Latin and Greek. She shows how the idea of grammar evolved and changed during that time and how,
"It is easier for us to follow the letter rather than the spirit of the law." (pg 53)
Oh,how tragically true.

Latin and Greek went from a necessity in order to read the best in literature to the reasons we hear today - training the mind, logic, mental discipline, etc.

Studying Latin and Greek for these reasons brings about tedium.  Glass condemns this result:

The tedium did not instill a lifelong love of learning. ... The pupils might read some of the same worthy classic books, but if the reading were a drudgery, rather than a delight, the results would not be the same. If we implement classical practices without the impetus of the classical ideals, we will never achieve those ideals. (pg 55)
The tragedy is that this drudgery denudes the classics of their souls.  Mason shows,in School Education (as quoted in Consider This, pg 55), how reading Homer was originally intended to inspire heroic ideas in its readers but had become a tool such that its life was ground out of it.  Then Glass concludes:
If we pause a moment to consider the difference between these two approaches to the sae book, we can see that reading for "heroic ideas" is a synthetic approach, which encourages the apprehension of the whole story and all that it has to offer.  ... The sense and beauty of the whole story would be lost in the analysis of details.
So much of this speaks to our experience over the last year, both the bad and the good.

I remember many years ago listening to Mars Hill Audio (maybe Vol 93?).  One of the guests was being interviewed and said something to the effect of, "... I knew my Calvin. In the original languages." I believe he went on to talk about the vast amount of literature still in Latin that has never been translated.   I have since had this vision for my children to learn Latin in order to read Latin and Greek in order to read the scriptures.  Glass' discussion to remember the reason those languages was studied rather than the law to study the helps me to implement our study in a fitting manner.

As an aside, I didn't simply select these passages because of the argument they make, but I love the balance and symmetry Glass' writing has - the vocabulary and alliteration. It makes her writing a joy to read!

Wordless Wednesday: Schoolroom is closed for tentbuilding

Monday, February 23, 2015

2015 Homeschool Changes: Contemplating our First Six Weeks

My friend Heather asked me what worked in our first six weeks of the Big Changes we made for our Homeschool this year.

So, this is a good time to think through the good and the bad; the challenges.

Almost everything is good.

I've posted an update each week in which I've gushed about how much we're enjoying school:

  1. Weekly Report: The We Start Back Monday Edition
  2. Weekly Report: January 12-16, 2015
  3. Our Weekly Amble: January 19-23, 2015
  4. Our Weekly Amble: January 26-30, 2015
  5. Our Weekly Amble: February 2-6, 2015
  6. Our Weekly Amble: February 9-13, 2015
  7. Our Weekly Amble: February 16-20, 2015

But, I thought for this post, I'd think about things in the order I wrote my 2015 Homeschool Changes series:

1. Spiritual Changes: This is not our rousing success. However, I have enjoyed the Bible reading we've done as part of Ambleside Online - We're reading through parts of Joshua and Mark and the children narrate.  This is a challenge because we're using the KJV for this.  We've also reviewed our memory passages and catechism which has been very good.  Following the reading plan? Didn't make it out of January.  Time to pick back up and not try to catch up. Maybe during Quiet Time and not first thing in the morning when we're not at our best?

2. Philosophy Changes: This has been fantastic. I'm so thankful for our CM Group that we've begun, the first meeting was amazing.  The shorter readings have been great. I'm enjoying reading Consider This and For the Children's Sake and even CM herself in A Philosophy of Education. Brandy's book Start Here is a nice guide for our group's reading and discussion and the extra readings she includes are wonderful.

One of my dear friends from our CM Group said something during our meeting that has stuck with me.  She said, "CM isn't a method, it's a philosophy."   It's a way of thinking about education and cultivating what God has instilled in persons that's so beautiful and fitting.

3. To Ambleside or Not To Ambleside:  We decided To Ambleside and it is the best decision I made. We have always kept our children mostly together in the content areas (history, science, and last year literature) and I knew M-girl and N-boy would be able to handle AmblesideOnline's Year 4.  I also knew that R-girl could keep up mostly, especially if I modified it somewhat for her.  I asked a lot of people.  Had discussions with some others and we decided to go for it.  Some of the readings are a stretch for R-girl and she tunes out and doesn't narrate but the beginning or end of a passage, but we're working on that.

For me, I love that Ambleside offers pre-planned schedules for the readings and I just plug them into our weekly schedule grid.  I've had planning done each week ... or can get it filled in really quickly Monday morning if necessary.  Knowing what to do when has been a huge help.  There isn't the decision fatigue, the last-minute scramble to set assignments, the too-much to do everyday assignment sheets.  It's accomplishable.  As I learn more of CM Philosophy, I think it will be that much better.

As for the work that is scheduled, it has almost all been a hit. I asked the family Friday night at dinner how they thought the first six weeks went.  The children were all very happy! They like this so much better, it's fun! (While fun isn't what I'm going for, enjoyment is). They like most of the books.  They like knowing the expectations.  They like math being limited to 30 minutes a lesson. There are some books they haven't liked as much, but some - like Age of Fable - have grown on them once we got past the introductory information.

4. Narration Changes: My kids like oral narrations.  The older two are (somewhat) less resistant to one written narration per week than two per day (for each reading).  Their written narrations this week were good, obviously could be improved (we all could work on the idea that critique isn't personal), and saved for the last minute (procrastination comes naturally).

Narration is still an area I need to improve.  I need to improve teaching it, modeling it, and varying it.  This week, I hope to do some more study of narration, reading through those links in my original post and the AO Forum.  We have loved reading Poor Richard at dinner and Daddy has modeled narrating it (he's really good at narration!)

5. Schedule Changes (Big Blocks of Time): Knowing that six weeks was a finite period of time was huge to our success, I think.  The children knew this off week was coming. I was able to schedule all kinds of appointments for this week without feeling like we were "wasting" school time with them. We are going to get hair cuts this week.  I can learn more myself, we can rest, we can read some Robinson Crusoe at dinner and do some catching up, but I don't feel pressure to catch all the way up.

Before, when we took breaks when I thought I needed them, we either never took a break, or took too much of a break.  Having them pre-planned is going to be wonderful, I think.

6. Physical Changes: One of the best things I did was plan to start our day with exercise.  The children continue with their sports, it's basketball season for two more weeks.  I need to sign N-boy and R-girl up for baseball this week.  Soccer signups are done. But from 8-8:30 almost every day we do school, doing our pilates video has become a favorite part of the day. (Plus, I get a shower almost every day)  I'm excited for nicer weather when we can go outside in the morning.

7. Habits: A wonderful thing about habit-training in CM philosophy is that it is to be done slowly.  Our habit for the first six weeks was keeping our table and the area around it neat and clear.  We mostly did a great job with this! There were a couple of nights we had to go back and clean up, but so much better than it used to be!

Our next six weeks habit is going to be to refer to your own assignment sheet (to-do list).

And I can learn more about Habit training again.

8. Schedule Changes (Small Blocks of Time): Our Weekly Schedule, with only some school work on Thursdays, mostly Circle Time and our Extras (composer study, art study, Shakespeare, Folk Song), has gone well.  Except for getting to the library.  I would really prefer that be a regular part of our routine.  I was listening to the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, and was reminded how important regular visits at regularly scheduled times are.  My kids love the library and always ask to go, we need to get back into the habit and I want it to be on our schedule.

Getting moving at 7 isn't always easy.  Jason usually awakens the children, but we all struggle with up, dressed, grooming, breakfast, and chores in an hour.  This week I want to make a breakfast (and lunch) schedule for every day.

I already talked about how exercising first thing, about 8 am, is working great. The children love that they get a break while I shower.

Circle Time from 9-10:30 is wonderful. I'm thinking about moving Latin into Circle Time and snuggly read alouds to after lunch and right before Quiet Time during the next six weeks.  The children seem amenable to that idea.  This past term, Circle Time was mostly review, I hope it will remain as successful when we're working on new studies.  The children have *loved* having Circle Time notebooks with the things we're studying and memorizing.

Knowing that they get a break from 10:30-11:00 is also helpful.  They like getting a break.  I don't hate it because it is scheduled and planned. I know that they work better both before and after their break at least partially because they know they have to for it to continue being in the schedule.  It is supposed to be a break and snack.  During our off week, I hope to get some snacks packed away and ready to go. Making Homeschool more Homey, to use kort's words.

Limiting 30 minutes of math is helpful.  There have been few days any child hasn't completed a whole lesson in that amount of time. I would like to set a timer to better be sure I'm limiting it more carefully.  Toward the end of the six weeks, I made a schedule for our lesson time and that has helped us direct our time. Of course, I'm already thinking of making changes to it.


This exercise has been helpful to me, thinking about what has gone well and what challenges we need to address. You will note - as I do - that almost everything that needs to be changed pertains to things *I* need to do better.  Yikes.

The Simple Woman's Daybook for February 23, 2015


Outside my window... the sun is bright, the sky is blue, and the snow covers the ground.  It is cold. Very cold, but I am warm and cozy inside.

I am thinking... about our first six weeks. My friend Heather asked me about it, so look for a blog post later this morning.

I am thankful... that we have this morning to be home and quiet.  The children are all sleeping in. I slept in until 7:30.

I am wearing... still in my jammies, but we plan to go to the grocery store, so I'll change later.  Likely jeans and a sweater. Did I mention that it's cold?

I am creating... a list of snacks to pre-make and freeze for the next six weeks.  I'm referring to my Pinterest board:

I am going... to do more laundry as the children clean their rooms.

I am wondering... how next week will go after having this week off.

I am reading... my friend Karen's posts closely lately.  First, her guest post here about reveling in marriage; then her recent guest post at our friend Candace's site; finally her own blog - particularly 'Three Things I Don't Want My Daughters to Be' - but really everything at living, unabridged has been fantastic lately.

I am hoping... all of our appointments go well this week.

I am looking forward to... basketball tournaments begin over the weekend.  That's always fun!

I am learning... 

Had a great discussion on Saturday morning with kort and others about food and family school not being so schooley. I'll probably write more about that later, too.

Around the house... it is definitely time for our break.  Much cleaning to be done this week.

I am pondering... food lists.  Grocery list for this week, what snacks to make and freeze, ways to get lunches and breakfasts better under control.

A favorite quote for today... Karen, at living,unabridged posted this quote and graphic one recent Wednesday with Words and I keep thinking about it:

A few plans for the rest of the week... cleaning, baking, all kinds of medical appointments (doctor, dentist, optometrist), I'm hoping to make it to CoSI one last time before our membership expires.

A peek into my day... sledding at Mama & Papa's. I stayed nice and warm.

Hosted by The Simple Woman's Daybook

Friday, February 20, 2015

Our Weekly Amble for February 16-20, 2015

We have officially finished our first half-term of six weeks.  What a great first term it has been.  Don't get me wrong, we have had token fighting over school work and bad attitudes have been righted on a daily basis.  There is still a lot of detraining of bad habits to be done and retraining of good habits.

But we have a start.

It has taken me about six weeks to get my assignment sheet created and tweaked just how I want it.  I'm printing double-sided (manually because my printer does color not duplex. Totally worth it)  Plus, I make the children their own weekly sheets, so I can fill out my Circle Time sheet and then copy it to the back of their Weekly Assignment Sheet.

Here are blank views:

Circle Time looks something like this.  

Our Weekly Assignments get plugged in on this chart.
A big basket works for me!
I also have figured out how best to store our Circle Time and other school books so they're in easy reach.  In the back are my Circle Time binder and Pink Planning Notebook. I also have a white board.  On the side is our Prayer Box and our denomination's monthly magazine opened to the prayer requests page.  I think you can tell the rest of the books (which I turned on their side only for the picture) ...

I'd like to find a matching basket for the books set as free reads.

We had a good week this last week of the term.  A late night Sunday meant we skipped pilates on Monday morning. The fellowship celebration after Evening Service was worth it.  We also didn't exercise yesterday, although Thursdays are a planned day off we probably should have because cold shut down many of our planned activities.

We did manage to do Circle Time every day.  I am completely ecstatic about how Circle Time has been working for us this winter.  We prayed, sang our hymns, read the Bible, reviewed our catechism, and practiced 'The Charge of the Light Brigade.' We read about the atmosphere and charted the weather.  We read poetry, reviewed capitalization rules, and read aloud from Robinson Crusoe and about Gregor Mendel.  We usually had time to do at least one of our other assigned readings in the 1.5 hours I had scheduled.  On Thursday, we looked at and listened to our extras, although none of the children was pleased by Fra Angelica's 'Massacre of the Innocents' and N-boy flat refused to look at it.  They even did a drawing lesson; draw something without looking at your paper or lifting your pencil from your paper.

M-girl drawing her scissors.

N-boy drawing his stuffed dog, Nife.

R-girl focused, she's drawing the little speakers we use for Circle Time.

Wednesday was a difficult day.  N-boy's organ practice time (brief video) moved and threw our whole schedule off, so it was probably good that we got Thursday to finish Wednesday's work in a leisurely manner.

Everyone did four math lessons.  M-girl and N-boy are both working on units of measure, albeit for different reasons.  M-girl's are time, distance, mass, and volume.  N-boy is converting between mm, cm, and m ... and learning about place value.  We briefly introduced the idea of decimals today.  R-girl is working on multiplication.  This week she's worked on 2, 5 10, and 3.

They all did copywork.  The WSC uses the word 'whereinto' a lot.  It's good practice.  They also finished Lesson 12 in Latin for Children A.  Hooray!  We need to keep practicing vocabulary and conjugations and declensions, but it is going swimmingly.  I think I'll be paying for Headventureland when we return from break.

Latin for Children A Ch 12 Quiz
The readings this week were a bit darker than they've been in the past: Salem Witch Trials, the trial and sentences for the two Margarets in Trial and Triumph, Brutus' sons in Stories from the History of Rome, even Poor Richard had some dark places with war between the colonists and Native Americans.  Age of Fable wasn't better with Prometheus' liver being perpetually consumed by vultures.  The children held up pretty well, though it's no wonder N-boy didn't want to look at the 'Massacre of the Innocents!'

Storybook of Science remains a bright favorite.  They read about metals.  I found a short video that showed processing copper which the children all enjoyed.  They were also interested in the making of bronze.  They were less enthusiastic about Madam How and Lady Why, but we talked through the reading and the reason for reading the book both with Mommy and later with Daddy at dinner and I think things made better sense.  We're working on attitudes with this one and Age of Fable.  Both books started out heavy and hard to understand, and that impression is hard to let go.  They'll get better.  Choosing to hate it doesn't give your permission to ignore the reading; deciding to try to like it means you just might find you do.

M-girl and N-boy both chose to leave their written narrations for the end and both wrote on Stories from the History of Rome. I was pleased with their overall efforts, although we talked about some ways to improve their writing for style and clarity.

Did I mention yet how thrilled I am with AmblesideOnline? Thrilled.  And we didn't even accomplish everything, no handcraft, no nature walk (brrrrrr!), no library trip.  Piano lessons cancelled once again for sickness.  I'm still very pleased with the work - both amount and quality thereof - we accomplished

And, if you've managed to follow along so far, here are our completed Circle Time and Assignment Charts for this past week:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wednesdays with Words: The Medium of Ideas

Last week I shared a Charlotte Mason quote from For the Children's Sake. Today, I'd like to share Charlotte Mason directly from A Philosophy of Education.

In the second chapter, she deals quite extensively with the concept of ideas. She argues that ideas are what people latch onto and how they connect with other people and ideas.  These interconnections are integral to the education we wish to provide.

Mason tells us that the brain is not the mind, merely the means by which the mind plays with ideas:
I am anxious to bring before teachers the fact that a child comes into their hands with a mind of amazing potentialities: he has a brain too, no doubt, the organ and instrument of that same mind, as a piano is not music but the instrument of music. (pg 38)
But she goes on to expand; the brain is a part of that which a person's thoughts are thunk, but that:
It is still true that that which is born of the spirit is spirit.  The way to mind is quite a direct way.  Mind must come into contact with mind through the medium of ideas. (pg 39)
That which was born of the spirit, the idea, came first and demanded to confirm and illustrate ... Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen. (pg 39)
Our business is to give children the great ideas of life, of religion, history, science; but it is the ideas we must give, clothed upon with facts as they occur, and must leave the child to deal with these as he chooses.(pg 40, italics hers)
Happily, she expands upon this by showing, through a geography lesson, one way these ideas are communicated through the words and descriptions in well-written literature.  I've always been a little afraid of ideas --facts I get-- but ideas almost seem too big for me to conceptualize.  Her explanation that ideas are really how minds, how persons, connect helps clarify the concept of "idea" for me.