We Are Just Beginning ~ SOTW

I’ve seemingly been absent from the homeschooling/blogging realm lately. Marathon training and an online art class I’ve been taking to renew my teaching certificate have been overwhelming me a little lately. This is, perhaps, what I like best about homeschooling… the ability to relax and allow life and learning to happen naturally. We are not forced into some arbitrary schedule. Though I consider ourselves now to be a Classical/Charlotte Mason Homeschool, I am also very flexible and occasionally, our schooling looks more Unschoolish. For this reason, we won’t be taking the summer months off. We are a year-round school and take advantage of all learning opportunities that we are presented.

After recently reading The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, I did a little research online and was intrigued by The Story of the World. It is a four-volume series of books (with accompanying activity guides) that introduce the student to the history of the world. It is designed to be a read-aloud for parents and teachers to share with elementary school children.

The history of the world is divided into four time periods and ideally, the student would cycle through each time period three time during their school years (grades 1-12). We begin grade 1 with The Ancients and will revisit the same time period again in 5th and 9th grades. As we do so, more indepth (grade level) readings will be integrated and by the third cycle, she’ll be reading original works (i.e., The Odyssey)

Volume 1: Ancient Times

Volume 2: The Middle Ages

Volume 3: Early Modern Times

Volume 4: The Modern Age

I purchased the first volume and planned to get started when Sweetie would unofficially start first grade (Fall ’08). [Because her birthday falls after the Sept 1st cut-off, she would officially be in Kindergarten this fall, however, we started in Aug ’07.] She saw the books in our new homeschooling classroom and immediately started asking questions. She found images of Chinese script and Emperor Qin in the book and was excited (we did a small unit-study on Ancient China in January). She started begging me to start now! I thereby gave in and we got underway last week.

Each chapter is divided into two sections. I read-aloud each section and then stop to allow her time to narrate (re-tell what she heard). Narration is a learning method that can be used for any age and for any subject. The child simply ‘tells back’ what she just had read to her. This simple concept is the cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason homeschool. Essentially, after we’ve watched a movie or educational program or read-aloud a book, I will ask Sweetie to tell me what she can recall. As she does so, I write down her words. When she pauses, I read back what she told me, inquiring if there are any details or facts that she would like to add.

Occasionally, a weak narration can be the result of simple misunderstanding. There may be key vocabulary words that she is not understanding. Maybe a key event was not grasped. When this happens, I ask questions to identify where the problem lies and we may re-read the passage.

Here is a sample narration that Sweetie did after we read “The Earliest People” from The Story of the World, Volume 1: The Ancients. The purple indicates her words. The black italic typeface indicates areas where she paused and said, “That’s all I remember.” When she does this, I try to illicit more information by asking questions. I may also review key vocabulary with her if she uses a word incorrectly.

Indians moved their tents a lot to get food. They looked for lizards, honey, eggs, nuts, seeds, berries, and roots. [We reviewed the term ‘nomads’.] A nomad is a person who moves around a lot looking for food. [When do they decide to move on to a new place? How do they know when to move?] They move when there isn’t as much food anymore.

In the Fertile Crescent and other areas, nomads kept coming back because there was a lot of food there. So they stayed there and started building houses and walls to keep bad guys out. These were the first villages and cities. [What about the animals?] They also started planting crops, raising animals for food, and trading with other people.

Narration also provides a foundation for good writing skills. Right now, as her writing skills are just beginning, she gives oral narrations. But later, those exact same skills of articulation, analysis, application, and comprehension are used in writing expository paragraphs and essays. We will begin transitioning into written narrations (instead of verbal narrations) around age 10 or 11, when she is comfortable writing.

Another Great Book ~ A Classics Based Education It Will Be

I just finished another great book on homeschooling… Anyone considering homeschooling should read this book. Parents who are frustrated with the public school system but fear they wouldn’t be successful teaching their own should read this book.

Let me state for the record that when I decided to homeschool my children, I was honestly intimidated. All my teacher education had brainwashed me. I was convinced that parents couldn’t possibly teach their own children. It had to be done in an institutional setting… professionals with specialized training and expertise. I happen to have a teacher’s certificate. But even now, just 9 months into our homeschooling journey, I have learned more academic material, more about how to manage individual relationships with children, and more about how to teach than I did in any of my teacher-education courses. Teacher-education courses gave me a great deal of good information on how to manage large groups of children. I needed that in schools, but a parent doesn’t need it to teach at home.


The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home
by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. It is very similar to The Thomas Jefferson Education that I posted about a few weeks ago… an approach to my children’s education based upon the classics with a heavy emphasis on reading and writing. Teaching history, science and literature in a four-year pattern; a pattern that roughly corresponds to the periods of scientific discovery.

Ancients ~ 5000 BC-AD 400 ~ Biology/Plants/Human Body
Medieval/Early Renaissance ~ 400-1600 ~ Earth Science/Astronomy
Late Renaissance/Early Modern ~ 1600-1850 ~ Chemistry
Modern ~ 1850-Present ~ Physics/Computer Science

“This pattern lends coherence to the study of history, science, and literature – subjects that are too often fragmented and confusing. The pattern widens and deepens as the child matures and learns. A first grader may listen to you read the story of the Iliad from one of the picture-book versions available at any public library. Four years later, the fifth grader reads one of the popular middle-grade adaptations – Olivia Coolidge’s The Trojan War, or example. The ninth grader, faced with Homer’s Ilidad itself – plunges right in, undaunted. She already knows the story. What’s to be scared of?”

It is strongly based upon ancient approaches to education called the trivium, which covered grammar, logic, and rhetoric as the tools by which a student can then analyze and master every other subject. Loosely, logic is concerned with the thing as-it-is-known; grammar is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-symbolized; and rhetoric is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-communicated

One of the most impressive things about this book is that it doesn’t just provide the theories, reasons, and/or personal accounts for why this approach works. It provides a history of classical education, an overview of the methodology and philosophy of classical education, and best of all (at least in my mind) an annotated lists of books, divided by grade and topic, that list the best books for classical education in each category. In essence, the authors (both homeschoolers themselves!) have done the heavy lifting by filtering through all the materials available today. For math curriculum, for example, they even weigh the pros/cons for all the major curriculum materials (Saxon, A Beka, Singapore, Math-U-See, Calvert, etc.) and thereby make a suggestion for the one that they feel is the best and why. This is why the book is so huge – 810 pages!

Note: Some of their suggestions are of other books they have authored yet they make a strong point of assuring readers to go their own route… choosing what is best for the interests/maturity level/needs/etc. of the students – your children. Their suggestions are just that – suggestions. Potential starting points.

I am so excited to be on this journey with my children. I know there will be good days and bad – bring it on!

Carcassonne: Board Game Review

The kiddos received the Carcassonne Big Box Game for Christmas and Sweetie has been wanting to play it non-stop ever since. I suppose I can thank our friends Bar and Kong for her love of games. Every Labor Day Weekend since she was an infant, they have opened their home to all their friends/family for a weekend of gaming. From Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon – their home is a game-lovers haven. Wall to wall game tables and throughout the house, people are enjoying their favorite games, learning to play new ones, eating wonderful food (Kong is a fabulous cook and everyone brings treats & drinks to share), and enjoying one another’s company. Previously, we’ve played only the basic version. Since then, we’ve added two expansion sets – The River Expansion and The Princess & The Dragon – to our repertoire. It is a great game for young gamers because once they have been shown how to play, they don’t need to be able to read. At the games end, however, a little assistance is needed to help determine the score for each player or team.

We played twice yesterday; each game taking at least an hour to complete. Sweetie is catching on remarkably… I don’t have to help her with strategy anymore. She understands where to place her meeples to get the most points and works the charms of the fairy (Princess/Dragon expansion) to her advantage. On occasion, however, I do need to remind her of the rules (she’ll change her mind after her turn and want to move tiles or her meeples). She beat me yesterday by a huge margin!

Watch out, Bar & Kong! She is already asking, “How long until BarCon?”