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?

Podcast Round-Up: Classical Charlotte Mason Education Edition

Here we are back at last with the second post in my Podcast Round-up series! If you are a podcast addict like me, you are always looking for new listening material. And if you are anywhere on the classical homeschooling spectrum, you are going to love this list!

If you missed the first post in my Podcast Round-up series, it was focussed on some of my favorite podcasts for homeschool mom encouragement. This time around, I am narrowing that focus even more to podcasts specifically geared toward the subject of Classical, Charlotte Mason style home education. Some of these are more for the purpose of the mother’s education (I’m looking at you, Close Reads and Scholé Sisters!), while others are a bit more in the vein of how to actually teach using a classical or Charlotte Mason approach. In the end, though, that’s all educational for the homeschooling mom, no? I highly encourage you to give these folks a listen and let me know which ones are your favorites!

 
Circe Institute Podcast: Close Reads with David Kern, Angelina Stanford and Tim MacIntosh

The Classical Homeschool with Jennifer Dow and Ashley Woleben
The Delectable Education Podcast with Emily Kaiser, Nicole Williams, Liz Cotrill
The Simply Convivial Audio Blog with Mystie Winkler
AfterCast, an AfterThoughts audio blog with Brandy Vencel
Scholé Sisters with Brandy Vencel, Pam Barnhill and Mystie Winkler

It’s your turn! What are your podcast recommendations for mother’s education or classical Charlotte Mason homeschool helps? Did I miss any? Please leave me a comment and let me know!

Podcast Round-Up: Homeschool Mom Edition

If you know me in real life, you probably already know that I like to listen to podcasts quite a lot! I don’t listen to the radio much except when I am in the car, and even then, I will frequently choose an audio book the kids and I can enjoy together instead. I enjoy podcasts because I can listen and learn while getting other things done, like the laundry or dishes or meal planning. And I love that the podcast world is so big and broad these days that you can probably find a podcast on just about any niche interest you have! I started out listening to knitting and crochet podcasts, actually. Yes, people actually sit down and record themselves discussing their craft projects, and yes, it is actually really enjoyable to listen, at least if you are into the craft! But now that I don’t spend as much time playing with yarn as I do reading to small children, my podcast genre focus has shifted a bit.

Since I have a lot going on with our move from Illinois to Tennessee, as well as some Virtual Assistant work I just took on unexpectedly, I am going to be posting a little less for the next week or two. I thought it might be fun to do a quick series on some of my current favorite podcasts in a few different areas of interest. First, we have the Homeschool Mom Podcast Round-Up! These podcasts (listed in no particular order!) are mostly geared toward equipping and encouraging homeschooling parents, but I think some of them would be enjoyable listens for any mom, even if you don’t happen to homeschool or your kids are too young (or too old) for school!

Cultivating the Lovely with MacKenzie Monroe

Your Morning Basket with Pam Barnhill

Wild + Free with Ainsley Arment and Tina Ingold

Homeschool Solutions Show with Pam Barnhill

Homeschool Sanity Show with Dr. Melanie Wilson

Homeschool Snapshots with Pam Barnhill

Simplified Organization Audio Blog with Mystie Winkler

So, there you go! Some of my favorite recommendations for homeschool mom podcasts! What is your favorite, either from this list, or one that I did not mention?