Thursday, 27 February 2014

Curriculum update and Atelier art lessons

We are well and truly stuck into the new school year! We haven't made many changes curriculum-wise and I've updated all our materials on the curriculum page. We've changed our spelling book and added in Latin study. This year is going to be a great year!

I wanted to share some of the things we have been learning about in our Atelier art classes. I did an introductory post on Atelier a while back and am so happy with it. I did also buy another separate book-based course as a supplement and ended up doing one lesson only to have it sit on the shelf for six months! I do feel Atelier is meeting and will continue to meet all our art needs in the future. We are all loving it so far and I'm looking forward to the later levels which expand on the techniques.

The lessons require the child to produce a specific piece of work and I think this is the best way to teach a skill. The idea is to have the child learn a specific technique and be able to draw on that later for their own future creative projects. Being on DVD they can watch and practice it over and over as needed.

Unfortunately I lost a couple of photos of the early projects, but continuing in level 1 which we began last year, we focused on different types of patterns as we created some clowns.

We learned about shape and how artists can overlap them. For this lesson we made two cats and a dog.

In producing art we can use a variety of media. In this lesson we used potatoes to create a family portrait.

Next up was a drawing lesson based on the Cat in the Hat.

Finally, another drawing lesson telling the action of a story with pictures, in this case an action strip on The Queen of Hearts.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

My Reading Update 01/14

It's no surprise I did NOT actually start all the original 10 books I had set for myself by the end of last year! One book (ebook) in particular I did finish rather quickly was Wisdom's Way of Learning. It has made a huge difference in the way I approach homeschooling. I've purposed this year to not make our home too school-ish and to not end up a curriculum junkie! WWOL has some wonderful ideas and in my search for ways of actually putting these principles into practice I came across a book called Project Based Homeschooling, which I am devouring at the moment. It also has a fantastic website. WWOL is one of many books put out by Lifestyle of Learning and I've since acquired Empowering the Transfer of Moral Values and Faith, which is a real gem. It emphasises the importance of the quality of our relationships and what love looks like. This is something I'll probably continually reread.

On account of the above I decided to put away The Writer's Jungle for a while. It's an awesome resource for "teaching" writing and I think it will be most useful in a couple of years from now. I do want to incorporate some of its ideas such as freewriting and transcribing my children's stories/narrations and then using that for their copywork.

Greg Deuble's They Never Told Me This in Church! is a book that will challenge any Christian. Again, it's something I am still reading because I want to fully immerse myself in and mull over. It's the kind of book that will make you get your Bible out and have plenty of a-ha! moments and encourage you to do a bit of research yourself. In the end no matter what your reaction to this book is, it's an encouraging reminder to never sit back and accept everything no matter who it's coming from, but to ask questions and check for yourself. TNTMTIC has led me to the works of Anthony Buzzard which I have lined up for my reading this year. These two authors are truly a breath of fresh air.

For a long time (when I just had babies and toddlers) I didn't bother reading fiction. Perhaps it was because I was too busy reading all those how-to baby/parenting books that I didn't have much time left over! I regret that because there's something about fiction that makes your brain switch gears, transports you to another place and makes you empathise and really feel something. I think that would have helped my parenting woes at the time! I don't know what prompted me to read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides but it was a really good read. The protagonist is a complex character, a hermaphrodite raised as a girl. The novel's setting begins in Asia Minor and makes reference to Greek mythology, which was timely as we were covering Ancient Greece for history then. A pleasure to read.

Speaking of history, I felt rather daunted when I first picked up Bauer's The History of the Ancient World. It's one massive tome! My intention was to use this as my own background reading while preparing SOTW readings. didn't happen! Mostly because I didn't have the time and I wanted to enjoy it in a relaxed way or not at all. I also began The Iliad (Rouse) but wish I had started it a lot earlier in the year. Although very readable, and from what I understand one of the better translations, for someone not acquainted with the background story of the Greeks and the Trojans, I would say it's still a difficult one to begin with. I decided to read Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliffe out loud to Katie. Even though this is geared for older children she was spellbound and so was I! I'd like to one day go back to Rouse's version of Homer, and also in our next cycle through the ancients read Sutcliffe's follow-up, The Wanderings of Odysseus.

At the moment for fiction I am reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This one will take me a while I know. I started it not knowing much about her philosophies but very much want to see the evolution of her characters in this complex and thoughtful work.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

SOTW - Egypt, Israel, Greece, Americas

We are officially on "holidays" but does that mean we have stopped our beloved history? Not at all! We have not finished Book 1: Ancient Times yet and are not in a hurry to. Katie is thoroughly enjoying the readings and I want to be sure we are taking it in slowly at our pace. After all, Story of the World is a story that will be continuously with us for a whole four years (at least). I plan to relish it even on the holidays! We won't start up school again for another few weeks so plenty of time before we begin Book 2: The Middle Ages. Project-wise this is what we've been up to (these are from a few months' back):

Here is a "gold" bracelet signifying Nubia in Africa, who Egypt invaded for its gold.

We then weaved a Moses basket (let's just say Mum did most of that!) after reading about Israel's flight from Egypt. Katie was already familiar with that but it was nice to see it mentioned in a secular text. 

Sam loved his Mycenaean shield which he still refuses to get rid of! 

We spent a few weeks on Ancient Greece. This is a timpanon, a tambourine the Greeks played. We had our own "Olympic Games" and made some yummy hummus! 

I then printed out a few Spartan and Greek paper dolls with removable clothes and armour.

There was a brief reading on the Americas and we made up some colourful Native American headbands and enjoyed some tapioca pudding.

Monday, 14 October 2013

SOTW projects: Babylon, India, China, Africa

The kids have absolutely not tired of their SOTW projects - I really love the integration of interesting activities to supplement the readings. If we weren't doing any other art I'd say we are definitely covering it in history!

We built our own ziggurat temple out of old boxes which the kids painted and glued. It was one of our better projects and we kept it for many weeks. We then read about one of the first cities in India, Mohenjo-Daro, and made our own clay bricks to create a miniature dwelling. Moving further east into China we learned about silk, pictograms and rice farming. We added in some additional literature, The Story About Ping and Tikki Tikki Tembo - the younger kids loved these and requested them over and over. We also made some blue and white Ming bowls. 

We then moved onto Africa and Miss K made a paper bead necklace which she couldn't resist wearing with our Djembe drum! Then it was my turn - I made an African stew but unfortunately I can't remember where I found the recipe from. I decided to give plantains a go as we read about it in one of the Anansi stories. I've been wanting to try plantain but couldn't justify buying basically a tasteless giant banana for four times the price - I didn't regret it when I tried this recipe!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Eclectic Learning and...Carrots

If you asked me what our homeschooling "style" was last year I would probably have said classical. In a lot of ways we still take on elements of this, although technically it is really neoclassical, and The Well Trained Mind is still my main go-to source in all things academic. However, I would say we now take a more eclectic approach. We really are spoiled for choice in how and what we can use to educate, and I've looked at a number of methods, sources, programs and curriculums. 

We looked at Before Five In A Row which is version of Five In A Row for younger children. I love the idea of taking a great literature package and using that as platform for coming up with related activities. For example we read Ruth Krauss' The Carrot Seed a number of times and went on to make carrot muffins and carrot soup. I wanted to show some carrots with their tops still on but unfortunately couldn't find any at the time (the internet solved that problem!). We also planted some different seeds and talked about them. 

I'm thrilled with our science book, Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. The four major fields are studied at the same time unlike that suggested in TWTM, but this is working very well for us. A little teacher-intensive but well worth it in my opinion. I did not want science to be purely read-aloud but very much hands-on and connected to real world experience. We will spend several weeks on a single lesson and supplement with library books on the topic. One of our very early lessons was distinguishing between living, natural non-living and human-made things. 

I've found that I've pulled back somewhat as I look at my second child and that's not just because he is a boy. My priorities have changed and some things I thought were important don't seem quite so anymore! Each child is different and we parents also are on a journey, we learn and grow also. I love that there is so much to explore and many ways to learn. I'm thankful for all the wonderful schooling helps we have access to these days, but I'm also appreciating the value of natural play. I also love it when my children find a genuine interest and I am free to make time for them to explore that also, even if it wasn't planned for. I'm learning how to have the curriculum serve me and not vice versa.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Sweet Potato Power

This is a now ever-present sight underneath my bottom shelf in my kitchen pantry! Sweet potatoes - not the prettiest of vegetables, but they have become our family's go-to protein accompaniment for most meals, very much a staple for us. Sometimes I will have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I'll probably never tire of them, and a good thing too as they have long replaced our old pasta, bread, cereal, rice and white potatoes. The last two we sometimes do have just for variety as they are safe starches anyway. There are many varieties of sweet potatoes but our local fruit shop pretty much constantly stocks the orange type so we tend to buy those. They are very nutrient dense and are a great baby food too. Our kids love them! I often boil a heap up in my largest stock pot so I have them on hand. We usually pair them with a protein and lots of vegetables. 

Although I haven't been too adventurous with sweet potatoes besides roasting them, did you know you can make brownies with them, and even ice popsicles? I found these recipes and more in a book devoted to this humble starch called Sweet Potato Power by Ashley Tudor. It discusses this powerful and inexpensive source of energy at length, how it is a super food, a smart carb, releasing energy slowly and steadily. You can read of its many benefits and history, and the health advantages of replacing modern grains with sweet potatoes.

Here is an example of what we would normally eat for lunch now - eggs scrambled with grated carrot and zucchini, tinned fish, salad and sweet potato, topped with salsa and some olives. Nothing like what I was eating less than two years ago! Do I get tired of eating the same kinds of things over and over? Sometimes. I have to agree though with "the luxury of no choice". I like having only a couple of dishes I cycle through most days. Not having to worry about what I'm going to eat for every single meal and snack takes away a lot of stress and brain power, which I could otherwise siphon into homeschool activities! I do follow the 80/20 rule, however, hmmm maybe it's actually 70/30...this is where I just chill on the weekend and enjoy pretty much all foods i want, except for gluten which takes me a long time to recover from. This tends to have a positive effect on the body, telling it it's not starving!!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Reading For Me

I've noticed, since becoming swamped in this homeschooling business and its endlessly wonderful options, how much less time I am spending on my own education. Yep, I need to continue learning too. In fact, I believe children need to see their parents also interested in extending their education and also enjoying old-fashioned physical books. Aside from a few personal specific skills/goals I am working towards, which I might share in the future, I've kept an Evernote list of must-read books I have continued to add to the last couple of years which I've never managed to really bite into. So I've decided, for accountability's sake, to make public a list of titles I'd like to read start by the end of this year. Forget 52 books in a year, I'd be lucky to manage getting through 10 properly! See them all below.

Amongst my picks, a mixed bag really, that I will hopefully report back on are: The history of the ancient world by Susan Wise Bauer. We are currently in the thick of the ancients for history/literature this year and I aim to keep up with some in-depth background reading on the topic. While we're in this time period I've picked up a copy of Homer's The Iliad. The Writer's Jungle by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer is something I'm intrigued in and hope to incorporate in our writing curriculum. Lastly, I've always been curious about Atlas Shrugged - I'm looking forward to a great read there!

Wisdom's way of learning - Marilyn Howshall
The Writer's jungle - Julie Bogart
The History of the ancient world - Susan Wise Bauer
They never told me this in church! - Greg Deuble
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
The Iliad - Homer
The Hidden art of homemaking: creative ideas for enriching everyday life - Edith Schaeffer
Primal body primal mind - Nora Gedgaudas
Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking - Susan Cain
Atlas shrugged - Ayn Rand