How We Do Charlotte Mason: Literature

When we were doing Sonlight, I had 2 kids in Core D and one in Core B. The way Sonlight is set up, you use quite a few books on any given day, I would estimate 5-6 books per core. Many of the readings were fairly short, so it wasn’t that it was tedious, but more that having this list of books to get through everyday was turning me into a box checker. I felt like we were getting through each assignment just so I could check off that little box and move on. And if the boxes didn’t get checked off, I felt like we were behind. Also, I didn’t really like the scheduling of some of the books. A Child’s History of the World is a great book, for example, but it was often scheduled in a four days on, three weeks off pattern that I found kind of off-putting.

I like to stick with a book once I’ve started it, rather than jumping around to several different ones at once. I love books though, which is why  I seriously considered Ambleside. But three kids in three separate years times all the books Ambleside goes through in a week…well I felt like it was just not going to work for me.

I want simple. I crave a simple, yet deep education. Or maybe I’m just lazy and don’t want to keep track of so many books at a time. Either way,  I’ve taken a leap and made our lit. selection super simple.

My plan for literature consists of this:

One read-aloud at a time that everyone listens to.
One lit. selection at a time that each child reads independently.

That’s it. We do history and science readings too,and I’ll post about those another time.

For our read-aloud, since we have varying ages (6, 9, and 11), I have decided I will alternate between an easier book and a harder book. I read one chapter per day. We don’t narrate this, I just read. Occasionally we might discuss, but usually, we just read one chapter, first thing in the morning. We are currently reading Little House in the Big Woods.

Our lineup for the rest of the year (or however long it takes us) is:

The Wind in the Willows
Little House on the Prairie
Kidnapped
Farmer Boy
The Secret Garden
On the Banks of Plum Creek
Robinson Crusoe
By the Shores of Silver Lake

I chose a few of the Ambleside selections from Years 2-4 and added the Little House books in between for a break from the “heavier” reading. For the independent readers, I just took all the books from Sonlight that we hadn’t gotten to yet, and lined them up on a shelf. The kids pick one lit. book (or history biography) to read at a time. They read 1-3 chapters depending on age/length of chapter. Then I ask them to tell me what happened in their book that day.

At first, the narrations were like pulling teeth. But just a few weeks later, I am happy to say they are much better at it, and will now come to me to tell me what happened in their story that day. I think the fact that they get to choose the book plays a big part in this. In the future, I plan to make up a shelf of books I think are suitable, using suggestions from Ambleside, Sonlight, and The Well-Trained Mind, and let them have free reign in choosing.

For now, my six year old is reading Usborne’s Greek Myths, Christopher is reading Who was Daniel Boone, and Grace is reading Naya Nuki.

Our Three Season Room

The decking is all laid down on our three season room/screenporch. We are using stock screen doors for the walls of the room. The doors have interchangeable glass panels, making the room count as  a three season room. It’s got southern exposure too, so I have my fingers crossed that it will work well in spring/fall too…and maybe even those February thaw days.

I am so excited for this space. I’ve been dreaming of this space ever since we moved in 12 years ago, and now that we are doing it I am just oh-so-excited. I have so many plans for this lovely big space off the kitchen.

I think we will eat breakfast out there any day that it’s warm enough. We’re going to put a picnic table out there. It will be such a nice way to start the day, eating outdoors. And no bugs!! Naturally we will eat lunch out here whenever we can.  And dinner, whenever it is warm enough.

Our birdfeeders and suet holders are on a Japanese Maple tree that stands just outside the room. It will be a lovely place to watch birds and work on our nature journals.

And speaking of nature journals, the porch will be a lovely place to do our lessons too! We will have a dining area and a seating area with wicker couches. I love the idea of reading out here, both with the kids, and more importantly by myself. Hopefully that’s not wishful thinking. I realize I am waxing very poetic here. Feel free to snicker.

Game nights. We usually set aside one night a week as our family game night, when we break out a board game or two. The porch will be  a fun place to do this come summertime. And we can watch the bats too.

A sleeping place.  I picture the porch being a great place to sleep on a hot summer night or two. The kids could unfurl sleeping pads and bags right on the floor. I’m taking the couch, though. 

Those are just a few of the things I dream about while I watch the porch being built. And if you’re looking for specifics, as I was when we first started designing, this porch is about 21 feet by 15 feet. It’s attached to the back our Cape Cod style house. The back of a Cape is often quite bland, especially when the upstairs has a full dormer, as ours does. The porch really dresses up the back of the house, I think. I was afraid of the loss of light coming into the kitchen, but so far it seems fine. At times our kitchen was really too sunny, now it is a bit dimmer, but still plenty bright. Like I said, this is the south side of the house.

Now I am on  a mission to find something to call the room. Screen porch isn’t wholly accurate, since it will have the glass panels more often than not. Three season room is too wordy and…. blah. Maybe just “the porch”?

Something to think about.

How We Do Charlotte Mason: Lessons

I have come up with a routine for our lessons each day. I would call it a schedule, but there are not particular times associated with anything, nor do we necessarily do things in the same order each day. I would love to have everything happen according to my pretty plan…don’t plans always look so nice on paper? But naturally, each day is prone to it’s own chaos and with four children odds are one of them (at least) will be difficult….so the order of things is often screwed up. However,  this routine is so simple that even when issues crop up, we can still usually get our work done.

I do start each day with the read-aloud, because it’s easier to get everyone together for that before they go off in separate directions. And then we do follow with math. While I am working one on one with one child, the other kids are working on their independent lists. Or, more likely, fighting with each other, running around in circles, daydreaming in the bathroom, or sneaking off to play with Legos (!)…but they are supposed to be working on their independent lists. And for the most part, they do.

The independent list includes:

Poem Memory Work
Read a chapter or two from your lit. book
Read a chapter from either your science book or your history biography (alternate days)
Review Latin chants (Grace and Christopher only)
Piano Practice (Christopher and James only)
Typing (Grace) 2 times per week
Listen to a folksong on the computer daily

So our lesson routine (Monday-Thursday) goes like this:

Read Aloud Lit (all)
Math for all
Copywork and Dictation OR Latin and Phonics (alternate days)
Snack break with poem read-aloud
History or Science Reading (alternate days)
Write a paper on history (Monday) or science (Thursday). On Tuesdays we don’t write, but do picture study. And on Wednesdays we stop early for gymnastics.
Finish up independent work

Our Friday Schedule
Watch Spanish DVD
Do an Art Project while listening to our composer
Work on nature journals and nature study. If weather is poor, read and do experiments from Physics lab in a Housewares Store.

Friday is a short day because we have homeschool group.

And that’s our routine. It’s pretty simple, and so far at least, it’s working quite well. We are often finished in just three hours on Monday/Tuesday/Thursday and then Wednesday and Friday are slightly shorter. I do feel like a slacker when we’re all done and sitting down to lunch at noon…I’m trying to get over that feeling, because the lightened workload is also oh-so-freeing.

I will post details on how we do each of these subjects in future posts!

The Week Ahead

This week is starting out bitterly cold. Only 2 degrees F when I woke up this morning!

A few plans for the week….

Lessons…We will continue with our new Charlotte Mason style plan, which has been working so well and is such a breath of fresh air after following a more structured curriculum. I made up my checklists for the week yesterday afternoon, as I usually do, and was amazed that it took me only 15 minutes to plan the week!! It usually takes closer to an hour, so that was a big time win. I used up the extra time trying to force the frozen duck coop door to close. Ugh. Can winter be over….now? I am also hoping to start up nature study again. We’ll be beginning with the ideas for this week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge.

In the Kitchen…We’ve got Christopher’s 9th birthday coming up on Sunday, so naturally there’ll be two cakes in the works: one for our afternoon family get-together, and one for an after dinner treat. He wants a Swedish Fish cake, which is simply a yellow sheet cake with blue frosting decorated with Swedish Fish. And his other cake will be a chocolate cake with strawberry jam filling, topped with chocolate frosting and fresh strawberries. Man, I love birthday cake!

House Remodel….We’re plugging right along. This week we’ll get the carpet down in Rose’s purple room.  She’s been bunking with us her whole life so moving her out will be a bit bittersweet, but she’s excited. Our three season room is coming along nicely.  I cannot wait until they finish up and get out so I can start decorating it! It will have glass panes for the winter, screens for summer. Here’s an inprogress shot…

For myself…I’ve been trying to be good about including both reading and moments of creativity in my day. I find it’s easier if I plan for these. So this week, I am reading A Small Hotel and Keeping Bees (and pondering keeping bees….). I also hope to make some more heart barrettes, this time in Valentine colors, and practice sewing with my new machine. I’m making cloth napkins as my first project. And of course, I’ll be posting more here, on my new blog! I still haven’t told anyone I know that it exists. It’s like my secret hideway or something.

Farming Stuff …Aside from keeping poultry water from freezing and doing the usual chores, not much. I’m debating beekeeping, as I said and also reading up on tapping maple trees! Winter is a good time for reading.

Fun….The kids all got cookie cutters for Christmas and there’s a batch of sugar cookie dough chilling in the fridge, a nice activity for a chilly MLK afternoon. We will be taking a trip up to Maine for an early birthday lunch for Christopher. He wants fried clams:)

Hope anyone out there that might be reading has a great week!

Sweet Little Heart Barrettes

I made a New Year’s Resolution to learn to sew. And…I did my first handsewing project today! My daughter and I made these sweet little heart barrettes for her and her little sister.

 The tutorial made it super easy to follow. All we had to buy was some felt, embroidery floss, and the snap style barrettes. We weren’t able to find ones quite as small as the ones pictured in the tutorial, so our heart barrettes came out a bit larger…but I still love them. And so do the girls.

I am also loving The Purl Bee website. So many beautiful and inspiring projects! Many of them are way over my skill level right now, but I still enjoy looking:). I just added the blog to my google reader so that I won’t forget to click over and check out the new projects. I also subscribed to the Living Crafts Blog.

We made a few different versions of this barrette. This is my first real experience with the running stitch, and my daughter was right. Nothing to it. Of course they aren’t perfect or anything, but I’m telling myself it’s not bad for a first try. My biggest challenge, honestly, was with the cutting. I am not good at cutting straight lines or smooth curves or…. pretty much anything. Guess I missed too much kindergarten or something!

I am already planning to make more barrettes in pink and red for Valentine’s Day. And I just love the pinking shear version shown on the tutorial. Unfortunately my pinking shears have seen better (and sharper!) days. Note to self: add pinking shears to sewing wishlist.

I am still working on knitting a scarf for my son. I didn’t get around to trying the sewing machine again today, so hopefully tomorrow I will squeeze that in. I really want to get started on my first machine project!

Finally, a Snow Day

The kids have been waiting since the first of December for that first real snow, a snow that they could actually do something in. The day before Halloween we got a huge snowstorm that knocked out power for four days. And since then…nothing. But last night we finally got a couple of inches and, miraculously, it stayed all day, despite predictions of highs in the 50’s and rain.

So of course, we had to have a snow day.

We did our read-aloud, they did some copywork, then I told them what the deal was. Go out and play now before the rain comes, as long as you agree to finish lessons when you come in.

Cheers all ’round.

Isn’t that the whole point of homeschooling? The absolute, wonderful flexibility of it all?

Honestly, I would have taken the whole day as a snow day except that we’re coming off of quite a long break and I am hoping to have our year wrapped up the end of June. The more we can stay on track now, the better.

But the break in routine was very nice. The kids even went back outside this afternoon. Hopefully they will still be as fond of the snow in March as they were today. Somehow, I don’t think I will be!

It definitely feels like a day to turn the fireplace on, it’s already getting dark here. My son and I are wrapping up our reading in preparation for our bookclub meeting tomorrow. We’ve been reading City of Ember, which I highly recommend for anyone sixish and over. I myself am really enjoying it and looking forward to reading the sequel with him.

In the meantime, I’ve jumped up several times while writing this post to check on a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in the oven, and I think they’re finally ready to come out!

So I’ll sign off for now,

Have a wonderful evening, anyone out there reading:)

Making Ornaments

I really, really wanted to make ornaments with the kids today. I’ve been trying this holiday season to slow down, to live in the moment, to keep things simple….and I feel like I’m failing. Maybe it’s just having four kids…maybe it’s that I have a cold and am a little grouchy…maybe it’s because I have a type A personality and just can’t relax…I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking lately that my unease comes from having no routine in place, from the fact that we’re off school this week.

I do better with routine, I have found, and so do the kids. Therefore, I have decided that our vacation routine for the next few days will go like this:

Mornings- do chores, then work on cleaning one room of the house, for just 20 minutes. I like the house to be clean at Christmas, so no compromises here. After the chores are done, I will do a Christmas related activity with whomever is around and interested. And if no one is interested, I will do it by myself! After that, I know my three year old will be anxious to read Christmas books so I’ll sit down for an hour or so with her and read next to the Christmas tree. I love to read Christmas books. Our favorites are over there on the sidebar.

Then we will have lunch.

After lunch, if we aren’t driving around to kids’ activities or appointments (which unfortunately is more often than I’d like, even this week) I will be demanding encouraging everyone to take at least a half hour of quiet time. In their rooms, or reading. I am using this time to read A Christmas Carol, which I read every year. It’s the only Dickens book I’ve ever made it through, because it’s easy and short reading, so don’t think I’m some sort of genius or something because I’m reading Dickens. I need a break, that’s why the quiet time.

If you are asking why I need a break, you obviously don’t have four children, or your children are so perfect you never wish they were elsewhere. In which case, better find another blog to read.

After that, if it’s nice out, we might walk in the woods for a while, as long as it isn’t too cold. We don’t do this nearly often enough and even though the getting ready part is a total bore: Whaddya mean you can’t find your coat? Well, where is it? Look sonny, do you have any idea how much that coat COST??, the walking part always relaxes me. Well, so long as Rose is walking, and not making me carry her. And it isn’t too cold.

And after that I’m going to work on wrapping. I hate wrapping, but it must be done. Listening to Christmas carols makes it slightly more bearable, especially if they are played loud enough to drown out any squabbling children.  The kids can help if they want, or not, I really don’t care as long as they occupy themselves and leave me to it. They all have gifts they are making for aunts and uncles (their idea, not mine) and I stay out of that entirely.

So, anyway, today I wanted to be intentinonal, and I wanted to do something that would make me feel good later..if not during the actual process…because you know, making ornaments with four kids isn’t terribly relaxing, at least in our house! This is my struggle this holiday season, how to give the kids those good memories, while at the same time keeping things simple and preserving my sanity.

And I am reminded after all, that I can’t really give them memories, as though I were handing out party favors or something. They will remember what they remember and I can’t control that.

I just hope they remember making mice out of Hershey kisses and not the way all our paper pulp ornaments fell apart when we took them out of the oven. Where is the darn angel’s wing?? Anyway, because you know I am borderline type A and can’t do anything small, here are the three ornaments we made….

Disclamer: not all of the children made all of these ornaments… there was varying degrees of boredom among the crew and some escapees never got around to making a glitter pinecone. But it’s all good. And they look nice on the tree. Links at the bottom, for the mice and paper decorations.

Christmas Mice

Paper Pulp Ornaments. Our success with these was limited. The simpler shapes (the hearts) came out better than the angel and gingerbread boy who had to be hot-glued back to life.  These also had to bake at least an hour longer than directed.

The pinecones are just painted pinecones, rolled in glitter, with ribbon hot-glued to the top for a hanger. Very simple. Except for trying to clean up the glitter afterward. Good luck with that, I got no tips for you there, you’ll never eradicate it completely. Our table still has glitter on it from last Christmas.

I like to think of it as a well-loved table.