A Much Needed Break

This week was break week in our homeschool. Can I get a “holla” from all the homeschool mommas reading this? 😉 Let’s face it, as much as we love homeschooling our kids, it is not all sunshine and roses. Some days it’s just plain hard! The discipline to keep showing up and guiding our children through the work of learning is hard to cultivate, both in ourselves and in them. So it is good to take a break sometimes and step back to breathe, rest and re-evaluate how everything is going.

We just finished Term 1 of AmblesideOnline Year 2, so it was high time for a break after plugging along for 12 weeks without stopping. The funny thing was that this week, my kids acted like they didn’t even know what to do with themselves half the time. They are so accustomed to our normal daily routine on week days that not having that same structure left them wondering what to do. Even my 2 year old was asking for school! I take this as a good sign that our daily rhythm is working well for our family and that it is providing what they need to get their days off to a good start!

At the same time, though, I needed a break to recuperate, reevaluate and reorganize before plunging ahead into the next term. And I feel like I have accomplished that this week. Here’s how:

Recuperate:

The first thing I did after we finished school last Friday was to put all the school book in the homeschool cupboard, just as they were, and shut the doors. Then I proceeded to spend the next three days not even thinking about homeschool stuff. I didn’t plan or prep anything. I didn’t clean up anything other than to just shove it in the cupboard out of sight. I just let myself clear my head and not worry about what was done or what was coming up. It was lovely!

Reevaluate:

On Tuesday of break week, I finally sat down with my son to go through his Year 2 Term 1 exam questions. AmblesideOnline has these exams already all set up for us, so all I had to do what print off the questions! Then we sat on the couch and he told me as much as he could remember from different books, did a few oral math problems, recited some memory work, etc. It was pretty quick and painless. The important thing about these exams is that they give me a chance to look at some weak spots in my teaching. It is not so much about grading my student as it is grading myself. If he didn’t remember very much of his Spanish vocabulary or know a term we were supposed to have studied in Geography, it is not because he was not trying. (I can tell when he is just trying to get out of doing the work of narration or recall!) It shows me that we did not spend enough time in those areas to let him make the connections with the material. So I know that I need to shore up those subjects next term.

Reorganize:

Finally, on Wednesday, I sat down with all my school planning resources and got to work planning for the next term. Creating new memory work pages for April was first on the docket. Then I wrote out lesson plans for the first week of the next term. I printed out new math worksheets and the next month’s set of nature study lesson plans. Finally, when all the planning was finished, I set about the un-glamorous task of cleaning out and reorganizing the homeschool cupboard. I don’t know how these spaces get so cluttered so quickly, but it had become quite a mess! I sorted and tossed and filed and rearranged…I even sharpened all the colored pencils! Hours later, I finally had a neat and tidy home for all our school books and supplies once more, and I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders.

After that work was done, I was free to enjoy the rest of our break week catching up on other tasks around the house and online. Today we had a family fun day, since my husband is off from work for Good Friday. We let the kids use up some Toys R Us gift cards that they were saving before that store goes out of business. Then we explored the Cool Springs Galleria mall because I had not found the time to wander over there yet. We ended with lunch at a Chinese buffet, and we all came home happy, full and sleepy! I know to some people it doesn’t sound that exciting, but for us, it was just right.

That’s what break week looked like here in our neck of the woods. I’d love to hear what you do in your homeschool during breaks! Leave me a comment and tell me something you love to use your breaks for!

 

Memory Work Planning for March

Here in our homeschool we are entering week 8 of our term and school year. Normally, we would have had a break last week, but since we missed a lot of days due to moving last fall (and now we will likely need a break during our move this spring), I knew we would have to press on and do a full 12-week term before taking time off. I also started looking at the calendar and realized that I have a lot of work to do around here if we are going to get all the work done at our new house and still keep up with school at the same time. So yesterday I sat down and got our memory work for March planned out and ready to print, as well as lesson plans for the rest of the term! I am not usually this far ahead in my planning, so I am pretty proud of myself!

Since I have talked about memory work in our homeschool before, I thought I would share what we are going to be working on next month. I also updated my Memory Work Index to include the things we have recited together so far this year. Some of the selections are from AmblesideOnline‘s schedule, but others are things that I chose to reflect the season or what we are working on in other areas of school.

March Memory Work

Hymn: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Catechism: Questions 21, 24 and 25 of the New City Catechism (shorter version)

Motto: “I ought to do my duty to obey God, to submit to my parent and everyone in authority over me, to be of service to others, and to keep myself healthy with proper food and rest so my body is ready to serve.” (part of Charlotte Mason’s Student Motto)

Scripture: Isaiah 53:5-6

Poetry: The Yak by Hilaire Belloc

Folksong: Camptown Races by Stephen Foster

And that’s it! I always look forward to a new month in our homeschool since it means I get to introduce my kids to new songs, poems and scriptures. It adds a little variety to our days while still keeping in the rhythm that works well for us. And we are building a shared vocabulary of song and story that will last us the rest of our lives!

If you haven’t tried adding the practice of memorizing things like these in your home, I strongly encourage you to give it a shot! Even if you don’t homeschool, you can implement this practice at mealtimes or before bed or even on the drive to school in the morning! It is a valuable part of building a family culture, and it only takes 10-15 minutes a day. If you do use memory work in your home, I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Time for a little update

Wow, I really didn’t mean to take an almost 2-week long blogging break! Life around here has been a bit busier than normal, and I have had a lot going on in my head, too. I just could not seem to get my thoughts in order enough to even consider writing anything until tonight. It’s been a while since I just sat down and wrote a chatty post about what our family has been up to lately. So I thought I’d do that now. I hope you don’t mind!

House Updates:

In answer to many, many months of prayers, we finally have a buyer for our Illinois house! We will be closing that sale in 2 weeks or less, hallelujah! We are so ready to have that burden off our minds. We pray the house will be a blessing to the new family as it was for us as long as we lived there!

The really crazy house news, however, is that just a couple of week after we close on our Illinois house, we will be finalizing the purchase of a new home here in Tennessee! We were not originally planning on buying a house here quite this fast, but the right house in the right location for the right price came across our path. We will be downsizing a bit, so we plan to unload a few more boxes and pieces of furniture we haven’t used since moving to Tennessee. And we will be painting the whole house and replacing all the carpet before we move in, so…um…there may be more unintentional long blogging breaks coming up in the next few months!

Job Updates:

I am not sure if I’ve mentioned it before here or not, but I started working childcare one morning a week. We’ve been attending a large church in the area for several months, and I found out they needed more workers for their weekday morning Bible studies. It has been nice to have a little paycheck, and the kids are able to come with me and play with friends while I work.

Again, the bigger news is that my husband will be starting a part-time music pastor position in the next few weeks. We visited and led worship at the church this past Sunday and enjoyed meeting the congregation. It is a small church that was started just 7 years ago as a church plant, and the people seem to genuinely care for one another and to be seeking to grow together in Christ. I look forward to growing along with them for however long God has us there to serve!

Homeschool Updates:

Homeschooling is going along well, in spite of our usual morning schedule being interrupted at least once a week. I don’t enjoy doing school in the afternoon, but it does work on those days when we have to be out of the house in the morning. My son is reading so voraciously in our free time that I am having to be very resourceful in coming up with age-appropriate, quality books to check out from the library. Thank goodness for the AmblesideOnline Advisory lists of family favorites that are not part of the AO curriculum. I simply do not have time to read everything before my son does, so I have to find people I trust to give me good book recommendations!

Random Updates:

It’s spring consignment sale season here already. The timing is actually pretty good since I need to get rid of some more stuff before we move! This week I have been pulling boxes out of the basement and washing, ironing, and tagging the kids’ clothes from last spring. I also am going through old toys and books and DVDs to see what else we might be able to sell. Next I need to work on my kids’ spring capsule wardrobe list so I know what to look for when I do my own shopping!

And the best thing about having all this time sitting tagging items for sale? I get to sit and watch the Winter Olympics and not feel at all guilty that I’m wasting time!

Now that I’ve shared all my news, I would love to hear what’s new with you! Leave me a comment and let me know how 2018 has been treating you!

Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2018

Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2018

After I wrote my scheduling posts, I remembered that I had also wanted to write a little about what we are using for curriculum this year. We have made a few additions this year that are really helpful, so I wanted to talk about those a bit now that we have been using these materials for a little while.

The Curriculum Core:

As is clear from previous posts, we use AmblesideOnline for the core of our curriculum. The subjects that are fully covered under AO’s curriculum are as follows: Bible, History, Literature, Artist Study, Composer Study, and Geography. What I love about AO is that it is all laid out for what me as to what books to read and when. It is so much more than a booklist. Using AO actually has taught me more about Charlotte Mason education while I am immersed in doing it on the day-to-day basis.

Another great thing about AmblesideOnline is that it has links to free online versions of such a huge number of the books and resources because so many of them are in the public domain. So it is a very budget-friendly curriculum if you are in need of that. For us, the last two years we have actually bought all of the print books we needed for school for right around $100 just by buying used copies. That is still a lot less than most boxed curricula out there, even with the added cost a few other supplements! And that brings me to those extras…

The Extras:

Math

We have been using the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEP) for a couple of years now. It is a free curriculum from the UK available online to download and print. Being free to access, you might think it would not be very high quality, but we have been very happy with the results so far. It teaches arithmetic in a way that helps children understand why and how numbers function, instead of only teaching rote. It also has a good blend of logic, problem solving and mental math. MEP is not flashy, and the printing of materials is a bit of a job at the beginning of the year. But the skills my son is learning are so valuable that I have zero complaints about MEP thus far!

Handwriting/Copywork

We started my son out learning cursive using ABeka handwriting books, and we are still slowly working our way through the first one. ABeka moved WAY too fast in cursive for us at the beginning, and handwriting became a real pain point in our homeschool for a while. We slowed down a great deal and even took long breaks from doing any work on writing at times. Now it is no longer an issue, but I still only require a few lines of simple handwriting practice from my son each day. We are starting to incorporate some quotes from our Ambleside Year 2 books, as well, but when I do that he still only writes one short sentence a day.

Science/Nature Study

Nature Study is still something we are learning how to do well and consistently at this point. It was one of the things that dropped from our schedule most often last year. I decided that in 2018 we would start using Lynn Seddon’s wonderful guide, Exploring Nature with Children. It is such a lovely resource, and I fully expect us to reuse it again and again over the next few years. Right now we are using the curriculum sparingly, mainly noting the subject for us to observe each week and using perhaps one extension activity to help us give attention to whatever that is for the week. It is helping us have more structured nature study time, and I feel like I have more motivation to get to it each week. If you are struggling to incorporate nature study regularly in your homeschool, I highly recommend Exploring Nature with Children!

Foreign Language

Another subject I needed more consistency and structure to implement was foreign language. Even though I know a lot of Spanish grammar and vocabulary myself, I did not know how to actually teach it. So this year we began using Song School Spanish from Classical Academic Press, and it has been a big hit! Both of the kids look forward to our 5-10 minute daily Spanish lesson, and I have heard our 2-year-old singing the songs while playing on more than one occasion! One word of caution to Charlotte Mason homeschoolers…Song School Spanish does include some exercises in which the student is supposed to read and write words in Spanish. Charlotte Mason strongly recommended against children seeing words in a foreign language before they were fluently reading their own language. This is not a problem for us because my son IS a very fluent reader, but if your child is not reading well in English, you would have to adjust many of the activities in this book.

Drawing

My son LOVES doing art and drawing, but I was at a loss of where to begin when it comes to formal lessons. Although I would love to put him in a class with an art teacher some day, that just isn’t practical for us yet. So this year we started using Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks as a guide. I admit that I was highly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information presented in the book before she even gets to the first lesson! But after I got over that initial “shock” I decided to just dive in and start following some of the opening warm-ups and teaching the basic elements of drawing as she presents them. We only do one brief session each week, so we have not gotten very far. We will see how it goes throughout the year!

Solfa/Solfege

Although I know solfege and the Kodaly handsigns myself, this was another highly neglected part of our homeschool last year. I have taught children’s choirs and used solfa singing as presented in the curricula, but I did not know how to present it at home. Enter the sweet and helpful Heather and her Children of the Open Air Solfa lesson videos on YouTube! Each week we sit down and sing a little song and practice our hand signs and solfege along with Heather (and her adorable kids!) It is quick and painless for all of us, and again, it is something even the 2-year-old loves to do!

Swedish Drill

Don’t know what Swedish Drill is? Neither did I until I found Dawn Duran’s tutorials on the Afterthoughts blog! Essentially, it is an exercise practice that involves teaching good posture, following directions (training the habit of attention!) and using various muscle groups. Last year we did Swedish Drill nearly every day. This year we have been doing it weekly so far, but I think we may add it back in as a daily activity again soon. I need to teach the kids a few more new moves and make some cards for me to call out drills so I’m not always thinking on my feet and leaving something out. I really have appreciated Dawn’s work on creating video tutorials with her kids doing some of the moves. And now she has even created a complete open and go resource called Swedish Drill Revisited to help us implement Swedish Drill effectively in our homeschool! I really NEED to get my hands on this one!

So, there you have it! A complete run-down of what curricula we are using in our homeschool in 2018. Are you using any of the same things this year? I’d love to hear what you fellow classical Charlotte Mason moms (and dads!) are using to help you teach this year!

Scheduling AmblesideOnline Year 2, Pt. 2

As promised in my previous post, here are the rest of the details of my planning process for scheduling AmblesideOnline Year 2. If you missed that post, you will want to go back and check it out to see the first steps before moving on to these last few! If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments, and I will do my best to answer or help you find someone else who can!

How I Created Our Schedule for AmblesideOnline Year 2:

Steps 3 and 4: Decide how much time to spend (maximum) on each lesson and in what order to place each subject. I knew that no lesson at this point should go beyond the 20 minute mark. This is not usually a problem, unless we run into that aforementioned frustration over a math problem or have a longer than usual passage to read. Knowing ahead of time which books are likely to have those long chapters that need divided up, such as Parables of Nature and Understood Betsy, I can be prepared to divide up those lessons before accidentally running over-time.

•Recitation: 15-20 min.
•Spanish: 5-10 min.
•AO Reading 1: 20 min.
•Math: 20 min.
•Weekly Subject 1: 15-20 min.
•AO Reading 2: 20 min.
•Weekly Subject 2: 10 min.
•Copywork: 5-10 min.

As you can see, I tried to alternate shorter lessons with longer. Even when I have longer lessons back-to-back, I made sure that the subjects were going to be using different parts of the brain. This really seems to be working out well thus far.

Step 5: For my own sanity in planning, I also assigned specific days for specific types of books. Again, I looked at how many readings were required under each subject. I then spread those out over the week so that, for example, we would not be doing all our History and Tales one day or all Literature the next. I also assigned specific days to each of the weekly subjects, also trying to keep one longer subject paired with one of the shorter ones.

Our Finished Schedule:

I imagine that after all this, someone might want to know exactly how our schedule looks now that it is finished! Please note: This timetable is based on the AmblesideOnline curriculum, but it is not in any way a copy of the actual AmblesideOnline curriculum, which is under copyright. I simply offer this as an example of a way to create your own daily schedule for use the AO materials. 

So, there you have it! Now that I have this nifty schedule all written out, I am able to quickly and easily plan each day’s work and keep track of what we are doing next throughout the morning. I also printed off a copy for my student, so he can know what to expect next, too! I hope this example and these steps help you if you are trying to figure out how to create your own daily schedule!

Scheduling AmblesideOnline Year 2, Pt. 1

Now that we are almost a month into our second “official” year of using AmblesideOnline, I feel like we are really getting into the groove. Not that I don’t still have a lot to learn about teaching and living in a more Charlotte Mason-esque way! We certainly have not arrived! I do feel, however, that I have a handle on the flow of the academic portion of our school day, and that is a welcome change from last year. Many days I felt scattered, and I often could not remember what I was supposed to be doing from one day to the next.

Now, it could be partly that we were in the midst of pretty major upheaval all of last year, as opposed to feeling fairly settled here at the start of 2018. Another difference this year is that I have a much more mature, less destructive two-and-a-half year old along for the ride, than the high need 20 month old I had at the beginning of last year! But I honestly think that one of the biggest factor in my ability to juggle all the various subjects and moving parts is that I have a much better schedule this year!

Why I Created Our AO Year 2 Schedule:

This year I wanted to be more intentional about short lessons and varying the subjects to stick to the idea of “a change is as good as a rest.” But with so many moving parts (i.e.-some subjects daily, some bi-weekly, some only weekly) I was unsure how to make sure I got everything in the right place. Last year we tried looping some subjects, but inevitably, there was always one or more that got left off or skipped somehow. And some lessons seemed to get drawn out much longer than need be because of frustration or dawdling (I’m looking at you, Math!)  I knew I needed a set schedule for Every. Single. Subject. And I knew I needed to use a timetable to keep us on track.

How I Created Our AO Year 2 Schedule:

Step 1: First I listed out all the subjects, noting which are weekly and which are daily. Some of the subjects on the weekly list could be done more frequently, such as Swedish Drill and Solfege and Poetry. For us at this time, however, dividing them up with the weekly subject is working better.

Daily—
Recitation (this is where we do our memory work)
Spanish
Math
Copywork
Ambleside Readings and Narrations
Bible
History and Tales
Natural History
Literature

Weekly—
Artist Study
Composer Study
Solfege Practice
Swedish Drill Practice
Geography
Timeline
Nature Study
Drawing
Handicrafts
Poetry

Step 2: Figure out how many of each type of AO Reading there are typically in a week.

  • Bible: 1-2
  • History and Tales: 3 (We are skipping Trial and Triumph at this time, so there would be 4 here if you are including it.
  • Natural History: 2
  • Literature: 3 (although these are frequently long and need to be divided over 2 days)

Since this makes an average total of 10 readings in a week, it works out nicely for us to have 2 spots in our daily schedule for AO books and narration. I also plugged in 2 of the weekly subjects each day. With 4 additional daily subjects, I now know I need 8 total time slots in my timetable.

Because the rest of my planning process gets a bit more detailed, and this post is already long enough, I will continue with the rest of my steps in a new post tomorrow. Until then, I hope these beginning steps are helpful to anyone just starting out with scheduling with AmblesideOnline Year 2!

Planning Our Homeschool Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, it is Christmastime! And in our homeschool that means a more relaxed schedule with more fun and freedom. It also means it is planning time for me! Since we homeschool year-round and have a January start, this is the time of year I get all our new books ordered and figure out what our new school year is going to look like. I already got my first shipment on new-to-us classics, and I was so excited!

This year I decided to be a little more proactive and plan out more of the details than I have in the past, especially when it comes to our memory work and morning time subjects. That means I am choosing hymns, folksongs, poems, quotes and scriptures to memorize for each month of the year right now. Usually, I do that on a month-by-month basis, and inevitably I get down to the last day of the month and realize I have a bunch of work to do to choose, format and print the next set of memory work. I am hoping by getting all these things in order now, I will have a less stressful, more productive school year!

There are several other aspects of our homeschool that I am also currently evaluating and planning as we get ready for the new year, including curriculum choices and scheduling. The Plan Your Year kit from homeschool planning wizard Pam Barnhill is great for all this. She literally walks you through every step of homeschool planning, from the very beginning step of creating a vision for your homeschool all the way to organizing simple, streamlined school days. I have used some of Pam’s products for scheduling, and they really are helpful and well thought out.

Plan Your Year Ad

How about you? Are you making any plans for the new year? Even if you don’t start a new school calendar in January, this can be a great time of year to step back and reassess what has been working and what needs tweaked. It might even help avoid the dreaded February homeschool burn-out!

Memory, Hither Come: Memory Work in our Homeschool

“Memory, hither come,

And tune your merry notes;

And, while upon the wind

Your music floats,

I’ll pore upon the stream,

Where sighing lovers dream

And fish for fancies as they pass

Within the watery glass.”

~William Blake

When I first began homeschooling, we were using a popular neoclassical curriculum that involved a lot of rote memorization of facts and lists. At first we had fun with chants and songs and games to help us both remember these random tidbits of information. I was told that all these names and dates were pegs on which my son would later be able to hang more complex ideas. However, we both quickly became disillusioned and frustrated with the disconnected, seemingly meaningless nature of all these facts and figures. As I began researching the Charlotte Mason method, I realized that we needed to approach home education very differently, and we stopped using that particular curriculum.

At the same time, though, I was learning that memorization in and of itself is a beneficial exercise for the brain. (If you have not heard Andrew Pudewa speak on this subject, save this link to go back and listen to this podcast series as soon as you can. It is so fascinating!) So if I didn’t want to be teaching my son dry, disconnected factoids for the sake memorizing something, what should we be memorizing? My new knowledge of Charlotte Mason education led me to believe that I should be filling my child’s mind with ideas: true, good and beautiful ideas. So I set out furnish our minds with rich ideas through memorizing Scripture, hymns, poetry, a catechism, mottos/quotes, and folksongs.

How we go about this is as follows:
Each 6-week term we start new memory work, with the exception of hymns and folksongs, which are on a monthly rotation. I create and print pages to fit in a small binder for each of us, containing all the memory work we will be doing that term. At the opening of our Morning Time each day, we say our prayers, then sing our hymn, having a daily devotion, and then go over our memory work together. We simply read (expressively) through everything together daily. By the end of the term, without any further drilling or tricks, my son can almost always recite the selections from memory without help. But I do not press this. My goal is more to expose my children to worthy examples of beautiful language and have them become familiar with a wide variety of Scripture, poetry and song so that they will recognize and enjoy them better later on in life.

I sat down last night to catalogue a list of all the things we have memorized just over the past 18-24 months, and I was amazed at how much we have done! To think how many beautiful ideas with which we will have furnished our minds if we continue doing this for the durations of my son’s school years is simply overwhelming! The one thing I have yet to figure out and implement is a good method for reviewing some of the ground we have covered. I have heard of a few ways other families use, but I have not tried them for myself yet. That is something I want to improve on in the coming school year.

If you are curious to know what we have memorized or need some ideas for starting out your young students with memory work, I have created a new page containing our Memory Work Index with categorized lists of all the passages, poems, etc. we have worked on so far. I am looking forward to seeing how this list grows in the years to come!

A Year in the Books: Reviewing our First Year with Ambleside Online

book stack

Last week marked a big milestone in our homeschool, but it passed by pretty quietly and uneventfully. We finished our Ambleside Online Year One work, closing the books and bidding farewell (for now) to beloved friends such as Jenny Wren and Peter Rabbit, King Harald Halfdanson, and Paddle-to-the-Sea. In less than two short months, we will pick back up where we left off with some of these characters, and add new acquaintances and adventures to our happy little homeschool bookshelf! I am already quite excited about the books we will be reading in Year Two. But before I get too carried away with plans for 2018, I felt I should recap the year we just finished. Doing a little homeschool audit a la Mystie Winkler was helpful in celebrating our successes and recognizing our strengths as well as acknowledging areas that are weak and need shoring up. So, let’s dig in, shall we?

What Our Year Looked Like:

First of all, I consider it a huge success that we actually finished our Ambleside Year 1 work on schedule after a long, drawn out moving process. I did not know if we could really do it. But we did. And I am proud of myself and my son for pulling up our bootstraps and sticking it out.

Ambleside Online divides the year’s work up into three terms, ideally with exams at the end of each term. They also have a rotation for Artist and Composer study to coincide with each term, as well as monthly hymns and folk songs. Our daily “Morning Time” included these hymns and folk songs daily, as well as memory work, prayers and our “loop subjects.” The loop subjects were the ones we needed to get to weekly, rather than daily: art study, composer study, geography, handicrafts, solfa, nature study and poetry reading. I changed out our memory work by month or by term, depending on how long we needed to work on things. I could go more into detail about how I set up our Morning Time binders and memory work in another post. Suffice to say, it works pretty well for us.

After we did our morning time binder work and loop subjects, we started into math. We have been using MEP math, and I really am happy with what a solid curriculum it is. My son has a much better grasp of how numbers work and how to solve problems than he had before we started using MEP, even though he is a naturally math-y person. I do want to add in more fun math activities outside of MEP, and during our “Yuletide Term” (again, deserving of its own separate post), we are really enjoying reading Bedtime Math together.

After math, we did our Ambleside Online readings and narrations. Some books were more challenging for my son to grasp and retell the stories, but they were all well-worth the reading. I think the easiest and best narrations he gave this year were from Aesop’s Fables. I think he really enjoyed hearing the fairy tales from Lang’s Blue Fairy Book, but they were harder for him to tell back to me. He also loves all things written by Thonton W. Burgess, so the Burgess Bird Book was always a favorite. Our most recent favorite has been Viking Tales. It probably helps that it is a very manly book, and he is at an age where that is becoming more appealing. Plus, I love this one because with my own Scandinavian heritage and personal visit to Norway and Sweden, I have a lot of love for the Vikings, in spite of the burning and pillaging and all! Interspersed between reading and narration, we had copyworb (currently using a cursive writing practice workbook from a Beka), Swedish Drill practice, and Spanish lessons.

Some Successes and Some Room for Improvement:

I am pretty pleased with my son’s progress in his cursive handwriting over the past year. Now we need to work on getting him fluent enough that he will write in cursive when he is not doing school. He still prints (self-taught) when he is copying things or trying to spell things for his own personal projects outside of school time. Swedish Drill is hit or miss. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing it. Sometimes he flops and flails around instead of actual trying to do the right motions. Sometimes the toddler gets underfoot too much. But we keep trying to be more consistent and keep it fun and accurate at the same time. Spanish was a bit random because I did not have a curriculum. I know enough vocabulary and phrases to get my kids started with speaking, but I lack the direction to be consistent in my approach. We did watch Salsa episodes, which was really fun and may have given me a little direction in what vocab to work on, but it was not enough to really plan around. I am seriously considering buying a Spanish curriculum to give me the planning help and direction I need to make a consistent effort. I want my kids to really be pretty proficient in Spanish, and I am not doing well at pursuing this goal on my own.

I feel like in most areas we have improved and learned a lot. I know my son is making connections with things we have studied, and he is learning to care about nature and stories, which is pleasing to see. He used part of his 7th birthday money to buy a bird feeder and bird seed so that we can watch and learn more about our local feathered friends, all of his own accord. When reading some assorted poetry selections last week, he was excited to see one of the poems was by William Shakespeare. I guess he didn’t know the Bard also wrote poetry, not just slightly odd plays, hee-hee! And when tonight’s read aloud mentioned a print of Whistler’s Mother hanging over the mantle piece, he looked at me with wide, knowing eyes. I love that we are learning all sorts of new folk songs together, and even more that the 2 year old is getting exposed to the great hymns of the faith at such a young age. She really picks up on things surprisingly quickly! It is hard having a very busy but needy toddler wanting to be right in the middle of everything in our school day, but it is also a blessing.

All in all, I am very proud of my son and his accomplishments and hard work over the past year. And I am very thankful for Ambleside Online for providing the structure and direction to keep us on the path pursuing truth, goodness and beauty. Now we take a break for a more relaxed, paired down Yuletide Term. But I am truly anticipating great things when we begin Year 2 in January!

PS–If you want to know more about Mystie’s Homeschool Audit, click here. Even better, check out her Art of Homeschool e-course!

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The Life-giving Habit of Mother Culture

Mother culture

There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth.

from “Mother Culture” by “A.” in The Parents’ Review, vol. 3, no. 2, pgs. 92-95

I had never heard the term “mother culture” until about two years ago when I was listening to Leah Boden talk about it in one of her Periscope broadcasts. At the time, I was knee deep in the duties of caring for a young infant—diapering, nursing, feeding, bathing, soothing, and all the rest. I was also in the infant stages of homeschooling our son, and that in itself felt like a full time job. The rest of life did not stop, either, just because I had many demands at home. There were outside commitments snd situations that also depleted my physical and emotional energy. I was definitely feeling “used up” in those days!

Thankfully, since I had so much time to sit while nursing a baby, I started to read during those many hours each day. I don’t remember how intentional I was about it at first, but I knew I needed to give my mind something more nourishing to chew on than Facebook, Instagram and random blogs. I am not sure I had read Brandy Vencel’s wonderful post on Mother Culture then, but if not then, I know I read it sometime not too much later. She does a great job of pulling the meat from that article in the PR magazine from which I quoted earlier and distilling it down to give us a good working definition of this thing called “mother culture.”

Basically, mother culture is another way of saying that we as home educators, and arguably, even parents who do not keep their children home for their schooling, must continue to education ourselves even as we teach our children. If we do not, our minds will certainly stagnate, and lapse into unhealthy patterns of thinking. I do wonder if I had developed this habit of mother culture when my first child was born, perhaps I would have lessened the degree of my postpartum depression. We will never know, I guess, but I certainly believe it helped keep me out of the doldrums with my second baby! And now that my children are older and learning and growing in their education, wide reading and other habits of self-education are important for me to continue feeding my mind and growing as I pour out to teach and train them. Perhaps this will become even more crucial as they enter the high school years and are encountering books and ideas that I never had the chance to explore in my own formal education (Latin, for example).

There is no education but self-education.

Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.

Charlotte Mason

If the above statement about self-education are true for our children, how much more so are they true for us as adults, when we are no longer under a formal course of study? It seems that as mothers we must form habits of tending our own minds and hearts as much as we help tend to those of our children. Also, even though the original article on Mother Culture only mentions wide reading, I do think that these habits of self-education extend to other areas of study. I have found for myself that it is equally life-giving to practice handwriting, drawing, nature study, and watercolor as to read a book. It is refreshing to my soul when I listen with attention to an opera or symphony, when I knit or crochet or do needlework, and when I commonplace quotes from my own reading. The important thing is to do something which is expanding my mind and my skills, not mention my own habit of attention, so that I do not stagnate or drain myself dry.

So now I want to encourage you, whether you are in the toddler years, or the teen years, do something that gives life to your mind and soul. Read a stretching book to challenge you to think deeply. Learn a new skill to do with your hands. Take in a piece of art or music, paying close attention to the beauty in its details. Walk out in nature and take notes on what you find. Whatever small habits you can begin to cultivate your own education, I do believe that developing your own mother culture will be well worth the effort! What will you do to fill yourself up today?