Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Goals for the Week

My primary goal this week is to reduce the amount of time Eleanor and I spend on school. I think its still too long of a day for her. Now that we are up to the right spot in her spelling workbook and that we are adding in spelling/vocabulary from CW Aesop we are going to cut back to one spelling unit per week. I toyed with the idea of eliminating her copywork/penmanship entirely as we are also doing dictation but I've decided against that. Typically her dictation is only 2-4 lines from a poem and her copywork is only a few sentences as well. That's not much for someone just beginning cursive writing.

I think the key is just to tighten up each subject a little bit. Math is taking way too long and the more I ponder it the more I think this is the fault of the teacher. I have expectations that might be reasonable but no matter how reasonable they are that doesn't mean that Eleanor is always going to meet them. I need to instruct when there's a lack of understanding instead of going on about why there should be understanding. New tactic: count ten, inhale, exhale, teach.

There is a continuing goal to do more French. This should be easy as its something she and I enjoy but because it is and will remain low on our priority list it often gets bumped by extracurriculars.

This week I will be adding Susannah into the mix. She will start a "formal" preschool program in January (I'm putting it together now) but tomorrow she will start with some of the early Kumon books and we will continue to reinforce her letters and numbers. She just insists on being at the table with us and we need for her to be doing something other than yelling at us and force feeding us plastic picnic food.

And as always, my personal goal is to keep a lid on my temper.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Weekly Report

We had a truncated week because of Thanksgiving. We didn't bother with our usual history and science schedules, opting instead for Thanksgiving related activities. I really overestimated how many we'd be able to do. There was a dentist appointment for the older kids on Monday and by the time we finished our core subjects after that I had to decide between projects and letting them play. Play won. On Tuesday, Eleanor had an early practice and we did some errands so that was where that time went. We finally did our "Thankful Turkeys" on Wednesday and we managed to read most of "If you Sailed on the Mayflower" and watched "This is America Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers" and "Its Thanksgiving Charlie Brown". The Charlie Brown holiday cartoons being the backbone of any good classical education, of course.

In our core subjects we did fine work. Henry started phonics work using Explode the Code 2 which he LOVES. Especially the very silly sentences with very silly drawings. He actually begged to do one more chapter. We also started doing Kumon's "Let's Cut Paper" book to try and help his fine motor skills which seem to be backsliding a bit. Even though its fantastically simple and designed for 2-year olds its hard for him and he hates it. In other words its perfect. Just the challenge he needs.

Eleanor is now memorizing the first part of the William Wordsworth poem "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud" and learned about some of the different types of verbs. The helping verbs were learned in the form of a 'chant' with claps which I called a 'cheer' which made certain sparkly, bejeweled ears perk up instantly. Go Verbs!:

Am (clap)
Is (clap)
Are, was, were (clap)
Be (clap)
Being (clap)
Been (clap clap)

etc, etc...

We continued to read, "Little Women" aloud and she read, "Thanksgiving on Thursday", and the companion guide, "Pilgrims", from the Magic Tree House series. Math has turned into a struggle for her which I don't understand as it came so easily to her before. Maybe its just a phase. Most of her errors strike me as just her being careless but maybe there's more to it than that. We only managed 2 measly days of French.

As early as tonight, I will begin the process of learning Latin in preparation for next year when Eleanor will begin her Latin education. I'm looking forward to it. I'm still on the fence as to which program I'll get for her. I have two in mind now and they have very different approaches (and prices!) so I need to think about what my goals are for the next year and for the long run.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Aquitaine Academy Unveiled

Here is the Aquitaine Academy (housed in the area formerly known as 'the dining room'). Thanks to Dr. Fredlund at the Institute for the Study of Western Civilization for the donation of the art work.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Weekly Report

We had a pretty good week. Not our best but not our worst by a long shot.

Henry :

I did something new with Henry this week. Typically, we do language arts first thing in the morning which consists of one or two lessons from First Language Lessons and then some copy work which also serves as our printing practice. Then he might have a break or we do our read-aloud (typically based on the history we're learning) and then he has a break. Then he'll come back and do history or science depending upon the day and then break for lunch and then math. Based on the experience of other homeschoolers from an online community, I cut out the morning breaks and just powered through all subjects until we were finished. This typically takes 1.5 to 2 hours. Remember, part of his time is spent listening to me read and then doing coloring and map work so its not 2 hours of instruction. This now means that instead of his school day ending at 1:oo or 1:30 he is done no later than 11:00 am. Not to mention that it just works better for everyone. He is more focused with fewer breaks and with less moving back and forth between kids everything is more streamlined.

He started learning pronouns this week and memorized his poem, "Mice" by Rose Fyleman. We read from "God's People: Stories From the Old Testament" retold by Geraldine McCaughrean (see what we're reading in the sidebar for all titles in this post), specifically the Jacob stories up to Joseph. Some of these stories are highly nuanced with adult themes so even with the cool pictures they didn't catch his interest and we struggled with that. We did look at different artists' renderings of the sacrifice of Isaac which interested me him. We also read, "The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story". He liked this one a lot.

In history he read about Hammurabi from Babylon and Shamshi-Adad from Assur. He didn't love either of these units but seemed to understand the contrast between the two ruling styles. He only did one narration for history this week:

Hammurabi was the king of Babylon. He wanted to make fair laws. Hammurabi was the first person to write down laws. He called these laws the Code of Hammurabi.

He studied otters and whales one day in science and monkeys and baboons on the other day. The only rhyme or reason to our animal studies is that we're covering mammals right now. He read from our text and watched some videos on He did narrations and coloring pages for each day.

In math we're trucking along with 3 days of Saxon and one day of Singapore. I did add a few Singapore Challenging Word Problems in everyday which has gone well.


Eleanor was just not fully present this week. As a result, we struggled a bit. We like having the late morning and afternoons to work together with the new schedule. In the early morning she does her independent work: piano, cursive, spelling, directed reading.

She continues to diagram sentences in FLL3, this week adding adverbs and direct objects to the mix. We do dictation most days. Lately we've been working on poems. Just a couple of lines from the poem each day.

We did lesson 3 of Classical Writing Aesop, "The Crow and the Pitcher", which is going very well. I'm pleased with the program. Her outlining and retellings are getting really tight and controlled.

There was once a thirsty crow who found a pitcher with a little water left in it. He tried to reach the water but he could not. He almost gave up when he came up with the idea of dropping pebbles in one by one until he could reach the water.

Do things little by little.

In history she studied the Yellow River Valley and ancient Africa. She read, "The Ch'i Lin Purse" as well as various short stories from ancient China and Africa. We continue to read, "Little Women" aloud.

In science she studied earthquakes and volcanoes including short videos on both from She really got into both topics so a lot of time was spent on them. Math was fine. We only did 3 days of Saxon and missed our Singapore day although we did add some Challenging Word Problems each day.

We only did one day of French. Too many afterschool things this week.


We looked at and discussed Goya's "Manuel Osorio de Zuniga" and the kids colored a coloring book version of the painting (in the sidebar on the right). Then we did some errands and came home and made Assyrian sebetu rolls which we used for our Assyrian feast dinner (grapes, dates, rolls, apple juice and grape juice...we added cheese to bulk it up for our American dinnertime sensibilities). The rolls were really good (flour, water, salt, milk, baking powder, garlic, olive oil) but Eleanor burned herself (not present again). While she soaked her fingers in ice water we played Othello and Go Fish.

I'm not sure what's going on with Eleanor. Maybe too many lectures. We sometimes get in these cycles of her being hard to deal with and us reacting to it which makes her anxious and even less present and we react to that and so on and so on. I'm going to try to back off and make sure she's having fun and getting lectured at a more reasonable ratio (which is why we played games today).

Friday, November 9, 2007

Weekly Report-ish

When I first imagined our homeschool I pictured a stream of consciousness kind of learning that would play to my children's creative energies. There I was, in my thoughts, a fresh faced young nun with a pixie haircut and a pert little nose and the voice of an angel; leading my flock through the fields of Austria, their sweet voices raised in song as we learned. Sure, we were wearing the drapes but did that stop us from putting on elaborate puppet shows? No. Only the Nazis could put an end to that.

I suspected, even then, that this might not be our reality. I was all for field trips but Austria seemed ambitious and I adore a pixie haircut but even if I had one, I'm a little too creaky and scowling to pass for a maiden governess. I also suspected that my children didn't need to learn to be creative. In fact, I learned very quickly that my children needed to learn how to put their business ends into a chair and be quiet.

Now that we've made some progress in the area of proper comportment for lessons we are back to sprinkling in some directed creativity. Is that even a thing? I think so. Today we spent about 10 minutes looking at a page in, "Come Look With Me: Enjoying Art with Children", which is a cool little book with beautiful representations of classic works of art. It includes a brief discussion of the artist and the piece and some questions to get them thinking about thinking about art. Henry looked bored, Susannah fell out of her chair twice (I think on purpose, out of boredom) but Eleanor played along.

Then we did our art project. We made sugar cube step pyramids to go along with our studies on ancient Egypt. It was not very challenging which made it perfect for me. Henry, again, was less than taken with it and when I said, "Well, if you don't want to do this you can go and stand in the corner instead." he said cheerfully, "Ok", and went and stood in the corner. Well played. That's my kid for sure.

I don't have much to add to the last post. I haven't discussed math very much. Probably because it hasn't been a problem. They get it. I don't. Good enough. This week, however, Eleanor really had a time with the Singapore math day. Easy stuff was tripping her up. 9 + 2. Just couldn't figure that one out. And forgot about borrowing in subtraction. That's not good. She was doing borrowing in 2nd grade at school but Saxon 3 hasn't incorporated it much, if at all. Was she having an off day in general (9 + 2 is certainly something we covered earlier in the week) or is she backsliding? Any ideas?

I'm so ready for soccer to be over. This Saturday is the Jamboree (aka disorganized last day of games) and its the weekend of the big dance recital. That's always equal parts great fun and tremendous ordeal. I would love to have ONE week off from extracurriculars. ONE. What would happen, do you think, if I just enforced one?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sing Verdi Very Loud

The week is zipping along. Rough start for Henry on Monday but he lost computer privileges because of it and that straightened him out but good for Tuesday which went a lot better.

In the first half of this week we're all reading the Gilgamesh story. The particular version we've chosen is a three picture book series by Ludmila Zeman. Its just lovely and the kids are really enjoying it.

In history, Eleanor is covering Assyria and India this week. Henry is working on Abraham and Joseph.

I'm going to try to make Friday our arts and crafts day. It just does not seem to fit into our week at all. I'm really hoping to make pyramids this week. I'd also like for them to start art appreciation. I've got some things ordered that I think will help kick start that.

One of the things I do miss about Eleanor's old school was the music program. The teacher was just first rate and Eleanor learned a lot. A lot more than she's going to learn here because I'm just not going to invest my time into learning about it (attention Mother of the Year panel judges, I think we have a winner!) What I will do is play music in the van (I know, its like I'm some sort of tireless, living saint). I've put some items in the sidebar to show what we're listening to but they really deserve some further attention.

We're listening to two series right now. Classical Kids and Beethoven's Wig. Classical Kids contains a story about the composer laid over tracks of the composer's pieces. In 'Mozart's Magnificent Voyage' there are equal parts fantasy and history while "Beethoven Lives Upstairs' is a poignant exchange between a young boy, whose mother has rented a room to the composer, and his uncle in letters. I actually found this CD to be incredibly moving. Click on the link to listen to clips.

Beethoven's Wig is a series of silly lyrics set to classical pieces but wait the writing is so clever that the concept ends up being far less annoying than it sounds. In fact, we've listened to the first two CDs almost constantly for the past two weeks. Some of my favorites with sample lyrics for those of you familiar with the pieces:

  • 'Sing Verdi Very Loud' set to 'La Donna e Mobile' from 'Rigoletto'
When you're an opera star
With a large repertoire
How do you please the crowd?
Sing Verdi very loud.
You may appear aloof
But you must raise the roof,
To keep the public wowed
Sing Verdi very loud.
Study your libretto,
Start with Rigoletto,
Raise up your falsetto,
Sing Verdi very loud!

  • 'It's the Same Every Verse' to 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' from 'Peer Gynt Suite'
Here's a piece that's quite perverse,
Its the same
Every verse,
So for better or for worse
We've 17 to go.
One by one we'll count them all,
It might seem
Off the wall
Just in case you don't recall
We've 16 more to go.
(skipping ahead)
Note that this recurring tune
Is performed
By bassoon
It will be repeated soon
14 to go!
Next the cello and the bass
Keep the pace
Just in case you lost your place
We've 13 more to go!
(more skipping)
Here's a bit more of the same
There is just one
Man to blame
Grieg is the composer's name
8 more to go!

You get the idea...there's a great one about the Viennese penchant for waltzes set to 'The Blue Danube'. Priceless.

I didn't expect my kids to like these as much as they do. Its worth a listen if you have the time.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Weekly Report II

Its been a good week. We got a lot done at a nice pace. Monday ran really long but because we didn't have to be anywhere until basketball at 6:30 it didn't really matter. Tuesday we finished up fairly early and had time to squeeze in a trip to Target before heading to our park day with the home school group. Wednesday was a little rushed with lessons but the welcome trade-off was a play date with good friends. Thursday was a surprise holiday. I'd forgotten that I'd planned for us to spend the day with friends who had a day off of school. We did lessons on Friday, our usual day off, instead.

Eleanor did two more chapters from Story of the World. She read the stories of Abraham and Joseph and did corresponding map work and narrations. We also covered Hammurabi and his code with more map work and a narration. Science was about weather. Spelling continues to be no problem as does language arts (adverbs and more sentence diagramming).

Cursive has taken a new path as Eleanor has requested ditching our plain but tidy script style for something more traditional and loopy. I downloaded a clever program that let's me print out practice worksheets using my own words and sentences in a variety of fonts. So now we can really overlap cursive with other subjects. Her practice sentences now reinforce other concepts she's learning. I can use it for Henry's printing and his copy work so it feels like it was a good investment.

We started our new writing program (Classical Writing: Aesop) which I had intended to alternate with the one we were using but I like the new one so well I might use it exclusively. We'll see. The new program teaches by employing the progymnasmata which are "An effectively graded sequence of exercises, from the simple to the more difficult or complex, from the concrete to the more abstract, that introduces speakers and writers to a genuinely rhetorical understanding of the invention and composition of arguments." In other words, blahblahblah blahblahblahblahblah. Give me a break, I was not progymnasmata'd.

Eleanor has even done 3 days of French. On a tip from Sarah I added an online component to our French lessons and the incentive of computer "games" in French has helped a great deal. Which is to say that she's motivated to learn French in theory but in practice she's reluctant and I can't blame her since its sometimes already been a long day by the time we get to it.

Her new directed reading is "The One-Eyed Giant", which she just finished and, "The Land of the Dead". These two are the first two in a series of re-tellings of "The Odyssey". She's really enjoying it. Her current free read is "Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand". I've started doing a read-aloud with her and our first is "Little Women". I have a coloring book that goes with it and I'm hoping to have it read in time to watch the movie this Christmas season. She also does some reading of picture book re-tellings of Middle Eastern folk tales.

Henry struggled a bit this week. He's still in a very grumpy cycle. But, he learned "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost. He finished his printing book. In history he learned about the Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx as well as Sargon and Akkadia. Our current read-aloud is Old Testament/Torah stories which he's really enjoying. For science we studied: beavers, raccoons, aardvarks and armadillos.

In other news, I have deconstructed the dining room/office by amputating the dining room part and I've turned it into the new school room. The whole thing was done on kind of a whim so let's hope I don't regret it. It solved a lot of problems. We no longer need a new kitchen table because the brand new barely used dining room set just happens to fit into the kitchen. Its a little snug but it gets the job done. I now have shelves and cabinets in the classroom and I'm waiting for a table and chairs, some bulletin boards and other accoutrement I've ordered. Pictures to follow.


M - E basketball practice.
T - Park day.
W - Play date, E piano, Halloween!
Th - Play date, E dance, E soccer.
F - H - OT, piano concert.
S - E basketball, E soccer.
S - E basketball, birthday party!