Loving the Moment! 

Its a new year! So many things to be excited for right?  I am especially excited to be a part of this. The Virtual Curriculum Fair. Whether you are new to homeschool or have a couple years under your belt this is truly a wonderful treat.  A homeschool convention….but you can stay in your jammies. Hehe

The one thing I love most about home education is also the one thing that I struggle with the most when it comes to home education. Can I hear an amen?

I love how free we can be. Here in Wisconsin there are very little requirements so we really do have so much freedom when it comes to learning at home with our children.
The challenge comes in not allowing ourselves to become overwhelmed or controlled. by all the good stuff that’s out there!

 

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Our first year or two as home educators we stuck to a very strict schedule. We got our curriculum in the mail every year (Love My Father’s World).  And while it was a wonderful program and I still use some of their materials to this day, at the same time it was stressful trying to keep up some days. Especially as I went from having one child to two and then three and then four!

 

 

As the years have gone by we have gone from box curriculum to classical schooling, Charlotte Mason style, unschooling and delight led learning. All of these are wonderful ways to encourage and inspire a love of learning in our children. And as each one of my for gets older and their needs change it is good to have so many different options out there. Again that is one of my favorite things about home education!

 

 

As we have grown and progressed Through the Years I have learned and I’m still learning how to use those materials we do invest in without thumb controlling our learning.  I have learned to slow down and worry less. It truly has been an exercise in my faith.  Most importantly I have learned to teach from a state of rest.

 

 

 

In the last few days I have pondered and prayed over what are home education ought to look like in the coming year. And if I have prayed again and again God has placed in my mind the value of rest and the value of mastery.  So this year as we slow down I’m focusing on living and loving and learning together as a family. I am focusing on stronger relationships and building greater character within my children ( and myself too)!

 

 

 

We will still do math drills and we will still do copywork each day.  We will study together and memorize from the Bible the Book of Acts.  We will read together draw and paint.  My girls and I will spend more time baking and learning to sew.  My boys will spend more time on coding. We will draw our way around the world.  We will do all kinds of crazy experiments and handicrafts.  We will write poetry and make music and go for a walk exploring God’s creation.

 

 

 

We will not be bound by a schedule or curriculum. Instead of worrying about staying on track instead we will learn together in a state of rest. We will not be afraid to take a day off to go to the museum or to explore a local park.  We will strive to have more conversation about what we are learning together.

 

 

 

 

For my oldest son I seek to become more of a mentor and less of a teacher. To inspire him instead of require of him.  In an attempt to encourage him to learn a bit more independently and to become a bit more responsible for his time we are setting goals. We are making a roadmap. In this way see how making his own video game or his own app really is possible by breaking it down into simple steps.

 

 

 

There’s so much for our kids to learn and aren’t kids naturally curious and eager to learn?  I think of the many things that I have learned simply by having the time to explore them on my own.  And I know that this is something that my children can getting a great deal from. Therefore in the year to come they shall have more time to really explore their own interests. And who knows what could happen when they are given time to find those fires within!

 

 

 

 

It has always been my goal to inspire my children to see learning as something that is life-long. And for them to see the great value and the opportunities that surround them everyday.  Because learning isn’t something that only happens for 12 years and it isn’t something that we can just fit in the hours of 9 and noon.  Learning is a blessing and a joy. It is a lifelong pursuit.. ❤

 

 

 

As you begin your New Year going home education be sure to take your time and enjoy the journey!

 

 

 

 

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Classical Academic Press’ French for Children {With an Amazing Giveaway!}

My eleven year old son has quite the love for foreign languages. Since we hosted an exchange student from France, he has been studying French informally, using various online videos and podcasts. He even started a notebook of his own with the words he knows but I know from my own experience studying languages, that at some point we need to formalize our learning. There is so much more than just memorizing words and having a proper pronunciation (as important as those things are).

 

 

 

In the last few years we have got through quite a bit of materials because of his interest in languages. We have studied Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese and a bit of Hebrew, some Latin and Greek…I was wary to invest in more materials for him while at the same time eager to encourage this interest of his. So when I happened to see that Classical Academic Press (whose materials I really do love!) had a program,  French for ChildrenI had to learn more.  Perhaps this would be “just right” for him.

 

 

 

Their motto is “Classical Subjects Creatively Taught,” which is something that really strikes me because, that is how I want to see learning happening. There is such power in learning that is engaging, and encourages creativity.  This kind of learning is what inspires and makes kids into lovers of lifelong learning too. And I want to see that as much as possible with my children.

 

 

The complete program of French for Children Primer A includes the following:

 

French for Children Primer AFrench for Children Answer KeyFrench for Children DVD

 

 

 

Classical Academic Press was so very generous in giving me a copy of this curriculum for review purposes, and so I here I am, sharing our experience with you!  French for Children, Primer A is recommended for grades 4 and up. There are 17 Chapters and they offer a variety of weekly schedules to help you complete this program in half a year or an academic year (thirty weeks).  We appreciated having these to use as guides as we study.  Especially since we tend to be so relaxed in our schooling; without incentive we can sometimes park on a topic for weeks! And while I love to encourage that too, there is great value in learning how to complete things in a timely fashion!

 

 

 

French for Children has a very immersion style feel to the program! They use lots of dialogue, translation, vocabulary, dictation, grammar, and there are quizzes too. We used this quite a bit since my oldest son really needs this kind of thing to reinforce what he is learning. Plus it encouraged him to start his own little “Book of French Vocabulary” to track his learning for himself. He even began to record himself “teaching other kids French” as he learns. Now they may seem impossible, too much – but it really isn’t at all. This is all presented in such a way that it really is quite enjoyable!

 

 

 

French for Children Primer: Chant and Audio Files contains all of the pronunciations as well as dialogues, grammar chart chants, complete vocabulary, conversation journal words and phrases, Say It Aloud exercises, dicteés, and lots more! These files are great to load onto an mp3 for listening to or even as we are in the car, for some of our longer drives. (And right now we do have a few of those!)  This was an especially great resource for my son!

 

This is a very involved and very thorough course. I admit when I saw everything that this was made up of, I was a bit concerned that my son was going to be in over his head.  I admit, I was not sure this would inspire my son to continue learning. I will say, I was thrilled to find my son eagerly completing lessons and watching the videos each day. Often I would even find him repeating lessons previously completed; again the fact that he chose to complete lessons repeatedly even, its a huge compliment to this program.  In a season in which he has really been struggling with a desire to learn those beautiful and good things, seeing this light a love within him, it warms this momma’s heart.

 

 

We jumped right in when this arrived. And we learned after the fact that it really is important to watch the first DVD before beginning. This will give you a better understanding of this course while helping you to understand the structure of the lessons and explaining all of the different aspects that are a part of it this program.

 

We really are enjoying our use of this program, there are just so many wonderful things about it. The level of immersion that is used within the program; the depth and yet the simplicity and fun that is had in the learning process too….It’s refreshing to see children having so much fun learning.

 

 

Listen to the Dialogue – There is a story being told; as you listen to the audio follows along while listening to the audio. This is partly in French, partly in English and introduces new vocabulary. She gets an idea of what the new words mean from the context and tells me what she thinks is happening. The dialogue translation is in the back of the Student Text.

 

 

Chant – phrases & sets of words to learn proper pronunciation. My son will put on his headphones and listen. I love hearing him speak he has quite good pronunciation if I may say so myself.

 

 

Vocabulary – There are about ten new words to each chapter. My son writes these in his notebook of French words he knows and he likes to go over these throughout the week.
Video – The videos are about 45 minutes long; these are full of information. There are times my son will watch one video in one sitting; other times he may watch a little here and there throughout the week. These are very helpful to my son (me too!) and there are times we will watch a video again because there really is so much you can get out of these.

 

Grammar – There is grammatical instruction involved in this course; this is taught very creatively so its not overwhelming at all.

 

Worksheets & Quizzes – Within these are exercises in translation, verb forms, grammar exercises, charts to complete.These are all great for reinforcing what is being learned.

 

La dictée – The dictation exercises are all on the CD. Interestingly, in France dictations are done similar to our version of the spelling bee. Sounds like a really fun thing to me!

 

 

 

I have been trying to be diligent in practicing more the methods of Miss Charlotte Mason in our home education and I have to say this is something that fits into her ways so very well. We are reading right now too (because it was mentioned in the Introduction, The Fables of Jean de La Fontaine) and seeing as we go along how the dialogues within this program weave together into these tales. What a wonderful and creative way to help engage our children as they learn!

 

 

 

As you begin your studies in Primer A learning subjects and verbs; infinitives, verb conjugation, tense and noun gender you not only learn these things but you write them and read them and say them. You use them so that they are more than just another lesson to complete but are a cultural immersion experience. As a former exchange student and a host mom to many exchange students along the way, immersion is a wonderful (probably the best) way to learn any language. And as you learn, you create your own conversation journals and fun dialogues to practice conversation, letter writing and so much more! I haven’t fund yet a better and more enjoyable way to learn than this.

 

 

 

 

Since we have been using this we have also been encouraging regular use of additional songs and stories in French, to listen and read along. We even have a couple primers we are using to read, online, in French, that my son is really enjoying.  I remember reading not long ago that if you really want to learn a foreign language, reading and writing it and hearing it again and again, is the way to go. This program is just that.

 

 

 

Classical Academic Press has for your review a 64 page pdf from French for Children: Primer A  the student text you can download and try out if you want to learn more about this program. There is also a free audio MP3 sample and the you can watch the video below, this is the first chapter in the program  (it is about 45 mins long). If you have a student who is interested in learning French, maybe they even learned a bit already, this is a wonderful program to consider.  And there is always www.HeadventureLand.com for some fun practice!

 

 

 

 

You have a chance to win!

Classical Academic Press are giving away two French for Children: Primer A bundles for USA residents! Just use the Rafflecopter form below —

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Train Up A Child

 

 

I am a huge reader! I love to read. And as a homeschool momma I strive to share that love of books with my children, every one of them from the oldest to the youngest (My children are 10 ,6, 4 and 10 months old).  Needless to say I believe very strongly in making sure that what we read matters too. I believe strongly that when we read the right the right things we are having fun and learning! And as my children get older, I hope that they will share in the joy and excitement of a good book too.

 

 

When it comes to choosing books though, and using them in our program, it can be a bit overwhelming. I mean, there are so many good books to choose from. And with outsuch a range of ages…How and where should I begin? I admit when it came to starting our literature based studies, I faltered. I started and stopped again and again. I choose too many books; my children’s interests were too varied. I thought for a time we were going to just have to go back to the way we were doing things and then I had the opportunity to review something that really made a difference for our home school.

 

 

Train up a Child Publishing, previously Epi Kardia, so generously blessed us with their literature based homeschool curriculum. Their mission is simple (one I think we can all agree with) is to help parents to raise godly and well-educated generations.  I love how their materials all seek to provide opportunities to teach to visual, auditory, kinesthetic and other avenues of learning as truly, every child is so very different and learns in a way different from others.  As the owner, Dana Wilson says so beautifully, “We want to train up a child in the way he should go; the way God made him or her.” 
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As it is written in Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  

 

This is a program which incorporates every way imaginable for our kids to learn. It is full of  projects, timelines, note booking and copywork, lap books, for our kids to learn and have fun and create too.  It also includes a great deal of opportunities to enjoy discussion and encourage narration!

 

 

 

The materials I was provided were presented so beautifully! I received a CD full of tools for K-5th grade as well as a binder of Unit Booklets for Teaching Primary Grades K-2. From the moment I began reviewing this material I was excited. I just knew that this was a method that I could use. As I began looking over the materials provided, I absolutely adored how there were numerous tips provided to help us mommas as we use the program with our children. Seeing as I tend to be rather organizational challenged, and even more technologically inept, I was so grateful for the many forms, charts and other organizing tools that were provided for my use. Its so refreshing, and encourages me to continue striving towards greater organization for myself and my homeschool, having tools like this so easily accessible. And so easy to use too!

 

 

 

The program itself uses these units every year, for three years, allowing everyone to go a bit deeper (layering history) in their learning the older they get. This method works great with my to boys especially. At the same time there are recommendations for how to study in chunks, since sometimes, we have to allow our kids to follow where their curiosity leads them. For example, we began with The Ancients (Creation – A.D. 476). Can I say the hardest part for me was choosing which books to read? I finally decided to let the kids choose and so off to the library we went to dig up whatever books we could find and spend the afternoon previewing them together. There was an excellent assortment provided for each unit; a number of books for listening and additional ones for independent reading. The list also separated the books based upon genre so there was a list of historical books, poetry & fine arts and science. Lastly every unit includes an amazing list of projects. Project based learning is something I have been pondering for my oldest son, so this was a great way to give it a bit of a try.

 

 

 

 

There were so many projects to choose from! My younger son (6) just loved making paper airplanes. I think there was a time we had at least 30 0f them filling up our living room as my son tried out different folds and sizes and papers ~ He loved testing them both inside and outside to see what went the furthest, which one flew fastest.  My boys created slingshots (which their sister didn’t really appreciate) but she enjoyed painting a couple pots and then planting some seeds too! As a family we enjoyed going for walks to collect leaves and bits of bark for rubbings!  We enjoy plenty of nature walks as a family when we have the chance. Wisconsin weather can make this a bit more challenging at times but thankfully we have had a few days here and there where we were able to get out and about.

 

 

 

For a season in our home school where we were really in need of something more inspiring for all of us, this has been such a huge blessing. This is not just a program that tells you what to do, but one that from the very moment you open the parent manual, inspires and reenergizes the desire for home education. There is much wisdom to be gained from the pages within this book. It has had me regularly revisiting and pondering the environment in which we educate. I ha e also been encouraged to regularly set realistic goals for my children and myself. My oldest son and I share the setting of goals; this is his opportunity to share and show what he is learning and what he is seeking to learn about. At the same time when he has a goal that is not realistic (such as wanting to play a song he sings in church on his guitar) we can together make simpler goals, ultimately leading up to this one big goal he has for himself. Together we can problem solve, think creatively, and explore the many options out there for learning! My younger son has even become a part of this, setting a couple goals himself for things he is eager to learn more about. As we set these goals and check in regularly on our progress, its fun to see what they are learning and how they are working together many times, to share what their learning and help one another in general. It won’t be long either before my daughter (4) will be sitting in her own goal setting session. She certainly loves to see and be a part of all of this learning and in some ways she already has learning goals (lots of ponies and flowers and ballet).

 
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Again and again I am reminded as I read, that there is no right or wrong way to use these materials. This is a great program for those who are completely new to home education; it is also a wonderful material to use when in a season of unrest (with a baby in the house it does change how things are done!). With this program we have been able to ignite a love of learning within our children. We also been able to step away from the formal “work” while at the same time knowing that my children are still being well fed.  As a momma of four children who are such blessings yet so very different in every way, this is an excellent reminder that we need to focus on tools of learning. I am really looking forward to our continued use of this program. In fact, as I am in the process of developing a program for a number of fellow homeschoolers in our church I am sure this is going to get so much use there as well! I really do love this one and encourage anyone who is looking for something that will engage our kids, of all ages, while also cultivating a love of learning within them, this is it!

Let’s Get Loopy

I am the type who needs to get things done.

 

I absolutely love schedules, routines, and time management (agendas and calendars and such) but the problem is, I prioritize getting things done over relationship building. Since I feel such a powerful drive to get things done, it tends to take over our homeschool and,  as you can surely imagine, this is not good.

Enter in looping.  Ever hear of it before? Me either.

 

Until I came across Sarah of Amongst Lovely Things. She has a great post on it and she also mentions it in her fabulous book, Teaching from Rest. Then I got this email, inviting me to a QuickStart Guide to Looping.  I had to know more….

 

 

The basic idea of looping is that you have specific hours for homeschooling, and no matter how many subjects were done the day before, each day begins with the next subject in the loop. It’s so simple, it’s brilliant! This totally allows homeschoolers to really enjoy all those things (music, art, latin/greek, creative writing, geography, lap booking) without rushing through each thing, or not having time for certain studies. Maybe you don’t have that problem, but I sure do  😛

 

 

The general concept of looping in a nutshell is this: rather than assigning daily tasks through the week, you instead list tasks and then attend to them in order, regardless of what the day is.  If there is a task you would like to see done more frequently, just write it more often on your list. I plan on having math and handwriting repeated on mine as well as grammar. Ideally I hope to see two chunks  being done each day, perhaps writing and math on one day and geography and Latin on the other. (just as an example) On those days when there are appointments or classes outside the home or field trips, we simply do what we can and just pick up where we left off on the list the following day.

 

You can do this with any tasks that need to be done on a regular basis too 🙂

 

 

As I imagine our looping will work (I am still getting it together – this is my rough draft):

 

We Shall Loop:

Language Arts Loop

Comprehension
Reading
Writing
Grammar
Narration
Reading
Writing
Grammar

I would include spelling and vocabulary in this loop but really, these are such a big part of reading and writing….I consider them done along with those tasks.

 

I also plan to loop our daily time reading aloud. Of course we read in the Bible each day; we also do daily devotions in the morning time. I expect that we will also incorporate our language studies (German, Latin and Chinese) into this loop.  I highly encourage with our foreign language studies time reading, writing and speaking (sometimes listening even).  I think it gives that experience of immersion and can make such a difference in how one progresses when it comes to this.

 

I would also like to slowly incorporate things like: picture study, composer study, arts and crafts instruction, poetry , and piano/guitar for a bit more variety.  Since my son takes guitar lessons too I think this could help with his progress musically too.

 

So again, to loop your homeschool take anything you would typically schedule on a certain day of the week (from nature studies, to science, to grammar and geography) and put them into a loop instead. Less stress; we don’t forget about that math work; mapping the states gets done as do all those other little things.

 

 

Loop the  Housework:

I do not like to clean (who does right?)  Since thats the case and since I have read and heard looping can be done for anything that needs to be done regularly, I want to give this a try for myself.

 

For me, making my bed, tidying the kitchen (approximately 3,000 times), wiping down the guest bathroom, doing laundry, and preparing meals are all done daily. I mop the kitchen floor on Saturday evening (for some reason having a sticky floor puts a damper on my Sunday mood, so that one stays where it is.) Those do not go on my loop.

I plan to put these tasks on my loop:
Clean the bathroom
Dust & vacuum
Water plants
Tidy Kitchen
Clean a bathroom
Decluttering/Organization
Mop Floors

 

Honestly, most of the time my kids do the vacuuming and mopping.  I encourage my oldest to help clean the bathroom and they are required to tidy their room twice a week, at least.

Its so important to me to have a clean and orderly house, yet with four children, one being a brand new sweet, snuggly, nursing baby, I need to manage my time. In this season everything doesn’t have to be spic and span but it must at least be clean-enough to be tolerable for our current crazy season of life.I recently had the idea to start looping meal plans. I don’t know what that would look like, exactly, so if you want to help me brainstorm in the comments, we could have some fun there.

 

 

Purge it!

I am what some might call a book hoarder. 😛

 

I love books. I hlove the feel of their pages; the sound of them turning. I love the smell of books.  Especially old ones.

They are a part of me.  A part of my family.  And there is always room for more of my babies.

 

But then my husband, the other day, suggested we consider purging some of them. And then there was this quote I read that spoke to “getting rid of books”.  ~gasp~

 

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing author Marie Kondo, says that we should get rid of everything that does not “spark joy in our hearts.”

 

Books DO spark joy in my heart though. Like little else does.

 

I have been wanting to purge our house – go minimalist – for some time now.  So I guess, my husband bringing it up, perhaps this was a sign that it was time. And perhaps it was time for me to give a bit too. So I did what was recommended.  I took every single book off of the shelves, out of the drawers and out from under the tables and chairs. Slowly I went through each one deciding what to keep and what pass on. Since we are home educators too, my other thought was for my kids; for our journey.

Did it spark joy in my heart? Was it perhaps, educational for my children or would it maybe, one day, spark joy or relief in their hearts?

 

This was hard. I admit it. Seeing space open up on the shelves, my natural desire is to fill those holes. But then looking at the boxes that are filling up; seeing so many books that none of us had a passion for. My children bringing me books (I was surprised at some of them that they chose to let go of too!) I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders.

 

There is power in the tongue. There is power in the pen. As we move forward, as a family, as a homeschool, as individuals – We must be careful what we allow eyes to see. We must be wise in how we spend our time. Even in literature, there is so much out there that no good can truly come from.  Charlotte Mason calls it twaddle.

 

If you are not familiar with this term, let me share some of what I feel, are the best definitions:

 

“. . . the sort of diluted twaddle which is commonly thrust upon children” (Vol. 1, p. 176).

 

  1. “They must grow up upon the best. There must never be a period in their lives when they are allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy. There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told” (Vol. 2, p. 263).

  2. Second-rate, stale, predictable

    “It is not possible to repeat this too often or too emphatically, for perhaps we err more in this respect than any other in bringing up children. We feed them upon the white ashes out of which the last spark of the fire of original thought has long since died. We give them second-rate story books, with stale phrases, stale situations, shreds of other people’s thoughts, stalest of stale sentiments. They complain that they know how the story will end! But that is not all; they know how every dreary page will unwind itself” (Vol. 3, p. 121).

  3. Goody-goody story books or highly-spiced adventures of poor quality, titillating

    “What manner of book will find its way with upheaving effect into the mind of an intelligent boy or girl? We need not ask what the girl or boy likes. She very often likes the twaddle of goody-goody story books, he likes condiments, highly-spiced tales of adventure. We are all capable of liking mental food of a poor quality and a titillating nature” (Vol. 3, p. 168).

  4. Scrappy, weak, light reading

    “Many who would not read even a brilliant novel of a certain type, sit down to read twaddle without scruple. Nothing is too scrappy, nothing is too weak to ‘pass the time!’ The ‘Scraps’ literature of railway bookstalls is symptomatic. We do not all read scraps, under whatever piquant title, but the locust-swarm of this class of literature points to the small reading power amongst us. The mischief begins in the nursery. No sooner can a child read at all than hosts of friendly people show their interest in him by a present of a ‘pretty book.’ A ‘pretty book’ is not necessarily a picture-book, but one in which the page is nicely broken up in talk or short paragraphs. Pretty books for the schoolroom age follow those for the nursery, and, nursery and schoolroom outgrown, we are ready for ‘Mudie’s’ lightest novels; the succession of ‘pretty books’ never fails us; we have no time for works of any intellectual fibre, and we have no more assimilating power than has the schoolgirl who feeds upon cheese-cakes” (Vol. 5, p. 214).

I admit, I have rather high goals for my kids’ when it comes to their learning.  I expect as they grow, that they would have a love of language(s) and the intricacies (also an understanding) of words and the power held within them, and a desire to increase in learning – a love of wisdom.

 

While I do not stop my son from reading Garfield now and again and we definitely enjoy a bit of Calvin & Hobbes here and there, it is important that what they do, how they spend their time, is real. May we encourage, ourselves too, to be surrounded by that which changes us – which breathes life into dry bones (or brings something to life!)  Truly we should never stop learning. And the greatest experiences are often the most powerful and life changing of them all.