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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100 Songs to Sing with Children

 

Singing Children, by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, 1858

Music has always been a big part of our family’s life. My husband and I met in college as music majors, and we have always been involved in some sort of church music ministry since we were married. We often play music of various style in our home, and our children have grown up going to choir and band practice since they were newborns! We sing and dance together whenever the mood strikes, and they both love to play rhythm instruments and play around at the piano. I have not, however, been as intentional about singing a wide variety of folk music with them as I would like. I realized this one day when I was reading a doctoral paper titled “The Extent to Which American Children’s Folk Songs are Taught by General Music Teachers Throughout the United States” written by Marilyn J. Ward. As I read over the lists of songs taught to children in previous generations, I realized just how many of the songs I knew but had never sung to my children. We did start daily folk song singing last year when we began using AmblesideOnline, but there are so many more songs I want my children to know! So, we will begin singing multiple songs in addition to the ones on the AmblesideOnline list for each month, because I don’t think we can ever have too much music in our little homeschool!

Drawing from Marilyn Ward’s doctoral dissertation, as well as my own memory, I compiled a (mostly alphabetical) master list of 100 songs that I want my children to be familiar with before they leave home. This list does not include all the common preschool songs and lullabies we already know and sing as a family, such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Old MacDonald. It is intended more to stretch our repertoire beyond those, while still including some more common children’s songs that I just have not yet sung with my kids on a regular basis. Some are simple and repetitive, perfect for the preschool and early elementary years. Others are longer and have more complex text and melodies that will take us longer to learn.

I have included a mixture of American and British folk music, as well as some African American Spirituals, patriotic songs, and a few of what I call “Sunday School songs.” I chose not to include any hymns in this list as that is a whole other list I need to compile soon! Some are upbeat and silly. Others are slow and melancholy. Many of the folk songs may also have play party dances or games that go along with them. I have added an asterisk next to the ones I know to have a dance or game corresponding with the song, but there may be more that I do not know about! (This is where a quick internet search could be helpful!) If you are looking for ideas to add some more singing fun to your homeschool or other school classroom, this list should get you headed in the right direction! (And I know it would be AWESOME if I had links to lyrics or recordings of all these, but just now I don’t have the time or wifi bandwidth to make that happen. I do hope to get that done in the future, though. For now, Google is your friend. 😀)

This post is linked at The Homeschool Nook Linkup Party!

 

100 Songs to Sing with Children

A
Aiken Drum
All Night, All Day
America
America, the Beautiful
Angel Band, The
Animal Fair
Ants Go Marching, The
Ash Grove, The
A Tisket, A Tasket
Auld Lang Syne

B
Baby Beluga
Bear Went over the Mountain, The
Believe Me if All those Endearing Young Charms
Billy Boy
B-I-N-G-O
Blow the Man Down
Bought Me A Cat
Buffalo Gals

C
Camptown Races
Children, Go Where I Send Thee
Clementine
Crawdad Song

D
Davy Crockett
Deep River
Dem Bones
Did You Ever See a Lassie
Do, a Deer
Down By the Riverside
Down by the Station
Down in the Valley

F
Farmer in Dell, The*
Frere Jacque
Froggy Went a Courtin’

G
Go Down Down, Moses
Go In and Out the Window*
Greensleeves
Green Grass Grew All Around, The

H
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Here We Come A’Wassailing
Hole in My Bucket
Hot Cross Buns

I
I Know An Old Lady
I Love You a Bushel and a Peck
I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

L
Lavender’s Blue
Little Liza Jane
Little Bird, Go Through My Window*
London Bridge*
Londonderry Air (Danny Boy)
Looby Loo*
Love Somebody
Lucy Locket*

M
Mairzy Doats
Make New Friends
Mary Had a Little Lamb
The Marine’s Hymn
Michael, Row the Boat Ashore
More We Get Together, The
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
My Paddle Keen and Bright (The Canoe Song)

N
New River Train
Noble Duke of York, The

O
Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow
Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?
Oh Susanna
Oh, Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
Old Brass Wagon
Old John the Rabbit
On Top of Old Smokey
Once I Caught a Fish Alive
One Elephant Went Out to Play
Over the River and Through the Woods

P
Polly, Put the Kettle On
Pop Goes the Weasel

R
Red River Valley
Rig-a-jig-jig*

S
Sailing, Sailing
Sally, Go Round the Sun
Scarborough Fair
She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
Shenandoah
Shoo Lie Loo*
Simple Gifts
Sing A Song of Sixpence
Skip, Skip, Skip to my Lou*
Star-Spangled Banner
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

T
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
There’s A Little Wheel a Turnin’
There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea
This Land is Your Land
This Little Light of Mine
This Old Man
Three Blind Mice

W
Wade in the Water
Water is Wide, The (O Wally, Wally)
Who Built the Ark?

Y
Yankee Doodle
You’re a Grand Old Flag

Z
Zippity Doo Dah

Homeschool Basics Series, Pt. 4: Homeschooling on a Budget

Welcome to Part 4 of my Homeschool Basics series! Missed the previous posts in this series? No worries! Part 1: Why We Homeschool is here, Part 2: How We Homeschool is here, and Part 3:Year-Round Schooling is here.

If you are thinking about homeschooling your child(ren), one of the things you will need to consider is the cost. Most families choosing to home educate are living on one full-time income, although I am hearing of a growing number of families in which both parents work full-time and still find ways to homeschool! Either way, you need to have a budget for your homeschool. If you are coming from a public school mindset, then the idea of paying extra for education may be a bit of a burden to you. But if you consider how much private school tuition generally costs, then you will likely be relieved! Homeschooling costs fall somewhere in the middle, and how you choose to home educate determines how much you will spend.

If you are anything like me, you need to cut costs and get the most bang for your buck in every area of your budget, homeschool included! Here are some ways that our family has drastically reduced our education expenses while still giving our children a fantastic learning experience.

  1. Use a free or inexpensive base curriculum. As I mentioned in previous posts, we use a free Charlotte Mason style curriculum available from AmblesideOnline.org. The booklists, reading schedules, parent resources and support, etc., are all completely free of charge! All you have to buy are the books, although even many of those can be found online for free (see next point). If you are not interested in a Charlotte Mason style education, I have heard many homeschool moms use and like the free curriculum from Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. If you know of other free or low-cost curriculum choices, I would love for you to leave a link to it in the comments!
  2. Get free books via Kindle, Gutenberg and Librivox. One of the things I love about AmblesideOnline is that the moms who created it were very careful to choose books that were widely available at a reasonable cost while still being high quality classics. This means that many of their choices are books that are old enough to be in the public domain. The AO booklists link to any book that has been converted into electronic format and is available for free online, whether via Gutenberg.org, Amazon Kindle, or in audio format on Librivox. I used these resources heavily when I was pre-reading for AO Year 1 before deciding to purchase in print books. Some people who have either serious space or budget limitations use these free e-books almost exclusively. This is a great way to have a great living books education without spending a lot on building a large home library.
  3. Make use of the library. Speaking of libraries, if you homeschool, you need to make your librarian your friend! No matter what style of homeschooling you choose, you can probably find most of the books, magazines, dvd’s and more that you need right there at your public library! Just be sure to return things on time so you don’t end up spending a fortune in overdue book fines!
  4. Shop for used books cheaper at thrift stores, library sales or online. Because I have 2 students that will be using the same books eventually, I decided that it was worth the cost for us to go ahead and purchase as many physical books as we can from the AO lists. However, I am rarely willing to pay full price for a new book unless I cannot find it cheaper used somewhere. I never stop in my local thrift stores without going over the book shelves pretty thoroughly. I have found some real gems for only $.50-$1! Another great place to find inexpensive used books is your local library’s book sales. Most libraries have these once or twice a year, and you can often find great titles at a fraction of the price you would pay elsewhere. If you prefer to shop online, I have had great success with finding used books via sellers on both Amazon and AbeBooks. You do need to check shipping prices and reviews, however.
  5. Use free reading and math curricula, at least for lower grades. If you do a little research, you will find a plethora of free or low-cost options for teaching basic phonics and reading skills, as well as math and handwriting. If I had known about these options my first year homeschooling, I probably would have saved a lot of money! Although I did not make use of a free reading curriculum, I have had a great experience using MEP math, a complete free math program from the UK. Amy Tuttle’s Discover Reading is a good, inexpensive guide to a Charlotte Mason method of teaching your child to read.
  6. Free or low-cost supplementary materials.  If you are going to do composer study, find free versions of the songs you will use on Youtube. Again, AmblesideOnline has links to videos of their chosen pieces for each term. Another choice, if you already have an Amazon Prime membership is to use the Amazon Prime Music app to find the songs for your composer and create a playlist for use in your homeschool. We will be trying this out in the coming year. For our artist study, we started out using the computer, but I soon decided I would prefer having physical prints for us to look at without staring at a screen. Instead I used document printing from our local Staples to get 8×11 prints of all our artwork and spent only $13 for the whole year. The same can be done at Office Depot.
  7. Cheap school supplies on clearance or at Dollar Tree. Of course, you will need some basic school supplies for the year, and the best time to buy these is when they are on clearance in the fall. You can also find some inexpensive school supplies at the Dollar Tree. Some of my favorite things to buy there for school are actually their little workbooks and flashcards that my toddler can play with and feel like she is “doing school” with her brother.
  8. Repurpose and reuse. When it comes to consumables, some things will just need replaced every year, like used up spiral notebooks and worn out folders. But if you can reuse more costly supplies like binders, page protectors, etc., do it! Most kids really don’t need completely brand new school supplies like pencils and crayons every single year. But when you do know your supplies are getting worn out or running low, try to plan ahead and buy when they are on clearance.
  9. Simplify. Even though there are some really wonderful options out there, you truly don’t need fancy curriculum to have a great education for your children. I know a lot of people like to decorate their school rooms and fill up their shelves with fun manipulatives, games and activities; but the fact of the matter is, you don’t need to do that. Read well-written, living books. Practice reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Go explore outside in nature. Listen to good music. Look at beautiful art. Teach your children how to cook and clean. Love on your kids and give them space to use their imaginations. Do these things, and your children will have a rich education. All the money in the world can’t buy what your children need most–your love and guidance.

 

Homeschool Basics Series, Pt. 2: How We Homeschool

Welcome to Part 2 of my Homeschool Basics series, “How We Homeschool.” If you missed Part 1, “Why We Homeschool,” you can go back and read that post now, then head on back here when you are finished!


I cannot tell you how many times I tried to start writing this post. The theme seemed simple enough. I just wanted to write about what style or method we are currently using in our homeschool. But for some reason I kept trying to come at it from the angle of retelling our journey and how we got where we are today, and that was just not working. But I still do want to tell that story, just some other time. So, without further ado, let’s dive in to how our family is home educating!

 We are human beings, persons, created to live. To have life more abundantly. Wonder together; grow together. Together share the struggles of knowing we cannot perfectly follow God’s law. We are fellow pilgrims. We walk side by side as human beings under the love and authority of Him who made us.

~Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

If you are familiar with the book For the Children’s Sake, you may have already guessed our preferred approach to homeschool. In it, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay discusses her own family’s journey to finding the Charlotte Mason method of education for their children. And that is the method we have chosen as well. If you have not heard of Charlotte Mason before, she was a British educator, teacher trainer, and author in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Miss Mason looked at the trends of the education system at the time and felt that they were not truly meeting the needs or the abilities of student, nor their God-given human nature. So she set out to craft a philosophy and methods based on both classical and modern insights. She then trained parents and teachers to use these ideas and methods with the children under their own tutelage. With the advent of the internet, Charlotte Mason’s own writing as well as several curricula are now readily available to today’s homeschool families as well!

What I love about Charlotte Mason education:

  • The emphasis on valuing the relationships and persons in the home classroom, not just the academic material.
  • The basis of texts called “living books” and hands on materials forming the curriculum rather than textbooks or workbooks.
  • The centrality of the fine arts (music, visual arts, poetry and plays) as parts of the curriculum rather than extra-curriculars.
  • The importance of nature study and time outdoors observing and interacting with creation as a foundation for the sciences.
  • The foundation in biblical Christian principles (although there are many secular CM-style homeschoolers out there, as well!)

Miss Mason’s ideas were both rooted in her understanding of classical education from the Greeks and Romans to Medieval times, as well as forward thinking using the latest theories in child development. When I look at the list above, it makes me chuckle because Mason was a huge proponent of a “multi-sensory” approach to learning before that was even a buzzword!

If you are interested in learning more about the Charlotte Mason method and her philosophy of education, there are a few great online resources you should check out.

  1. AmblesideOnline.org: This fabulous (and free!) website has not only the full text of Mason’s 6 volumes (her books on education) available to read online, as well as modern paraphrases of each, but also a vast number of articles published by her magazine “The Parents Review.” Even more than that, AmblesideOnline has a complete curriculum for FREE online! This is the curriculum we have been using over the past year, and I absolutely love it. Another great resource is the AmblesideOnline forum, where you can ask questions and have discussions with other AO parents, including the amazing women who created the curriculum in the first place. I really cannot say enough good things about AO!
  2. Charlotte Mason Institute: CMI seeks to promote education about Charlotte Mason and her principles to people all over the world. They host conference and retreats, have an informational blog and also have a new curriculum for sale. Although I personally have not used many resources offered by CMI, I know many homeschool families find it to be a help.
  3. Simply Charlotte Mason: Another great place to find not only information about Charlotte Mason education, but also curriculum for sale, as well as a discussion forum for parents using their curriculum.
  4. Charlotte Mason in Community: This is a little different than the previous 3 resources in that it is no much a place to get information, but rather a place to find other CM families in your local area. Whether you are looking for a nature group, book study group, or just a group to get together and chat with while your kids play at the park, this is one of the first place to check and see if there is a CM community established near you!

Those are just the beginning of the wealth of knowledge that is out there for those of us trying to incorporate Mason’s principles into our homes and lives. Sometime I will probably write a post including my favorite podcasts, blogs and other places online to get inspiration for a classical, living books education at home. But I think that will be all for today.

Thanks for joining me here at Tuning Hearts today! See you back here again next week for Part 3 of our Homeschool Basics Series all about how we schedule our year. In the mean time, I would love to hear from you about what style of homeschooling you follow!

P.S.–There are now a couple of new printings of Miss Mason’s original volumes available for purchase! One is from Simply Charlotte Mason, and the other is available via Amazon, reprinted by Living Books Press.

Read the next post in this series, Year-Round Schooling, here.