Thursday, April 26, 2018

Charlotte Mason and Notebooking

In the educational world, progress is often assessed by worksheets full of true/false, multiple choice and fill in the blank worksheets.  It is easy to see what the child doesn't know from a set of pre-selected facts when we just mark right or wrong and move on.  In the Charlotte Mason world, however, progress is, for most subjects, assessed through narrations.  It seems like such a strange concept to allow our children to simply tell us what they know!  Asking them direct questions limits them to those pre-selected facts, but asking them to narrate gives them time to think over the material, form original thoughts, and share what they found important, memorable and worthy.  The idea behind an education, at least in our homeschool, isn't simply to know a set number of facts by their eighteenth birthday, but to make connections, form relationships, to have an interest in a wide variety of topics, and to be prepared as a lifelong learner.

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Now that we have left traditional worksheets and busy work behind, I have found our approach to language arts has changed drastically!  Narration is really one of the core methods behind the philosophy, but "tell me what you read" can get boring after a while.  To add variety to my children's narrations, and to jazz up their portfolios, I have found to be an great resource.

I have a Y2 student, who is still doing oral narrations, and a Y4 student, who is expected to do at least one written narration per week, and a Year 0 who is just along for the ride.  I have found quite a bit of useful material for all of them.

My Year 2 is studying mammals this year, and he loves for me to print out a relevant animal notebooking page for him.  He enjoys looking up the animal in his field guide and coloring while I read, but I make sure to print a page with a few lines for writing his narration or interesting facts.  (Or he dictates to me, since he is younger.)  If they don't have a specific mammal, I can always print a general mammal page with room to draw the animal, and he enjoys that too.

Of course, then my 5 year old wants a coloring page too - so she gets an animal coloring page of her choice!  There are so many options with different sized lines for printing (or no lines at all for non-writers), as well as the ABC animal pages or the ABC copywork pages (for the beginning writer), and a handful of history coloring pages that are appropriate for the precocious young one that likes to tag along but isn't easy for formal learning.  There really is something for all ages and skill levels.

My oldest son is transitioning into written narrations - one, sometimes two per week, and I like to alternate the book and subject each week for his narration, so he is writing about a diverse array of topics and has a variety of work represented at the end of the year.  Handwriting isn't his strong suit, so we do typed narrations often.  However, I still try to change things up and give him different types of notebooking pages to make him think about things differently.  Sometimes the page just asks for a summary.  This is great for shorter books (like the picture book biography from AO Y4) or family readings that don't require a lot of narrations throughout.

Then, each time I cycle back around to a subject, I try to choose a different type of written narration, which is super easy with these notebooking pages!  If he's done the book report, then a typed narration for science, I might choose the Science Experiment section when he does a hands-on activity, so he can do a write-up for his activities.

There is just so much depth to the website, that it really can be used by Charlotte Mason homeschoolers in different ways.
  • Famous Scientists: great to use after reading a biography 
  • History: many historical events can be documented through timeline or notebooking pages
  • Famous Poets: use as a copywork page for a favorite poem
  • Famous Artists:  contains notebooking pages and PRINTS for picture study!
  • Composers and Listening Pages: notebooking pages, coloring pages of the composer (great for little ones who like to join in), and Listening pages where they can write or draw what they thought/felt as they listened!  
  • Language Arts: There are a variety of Book Report pages, many of which can be used for a standard written narration
  • Geography: maps for following journeys in history and geography, and standard map drills 
  • Science/Nature Study: Wildflowers are on our list to study this spring.  There is a section that will work well...this is just a sampling of the different styles of pages.  If you have a dedicated nature journal, you can put these pages in, or customize your own complete nature journal with these pages.

Now, I know we don't need notebooking pages to dress up our narrations, but like I said, it gives us a little variety and keeps things fresh.  It works for us.  The pages are open-ended, meaning they aren't about right or wrong.  They are about the child's own connections and learning.  It can sometimes be hard to explain the Charlotte Mason methods, and how narration can convey so much, but carefully chosen pages for narrations can showcase the depth of the Charlotte Mason approach.

I feel like this is a solid investment at any time, but if you're unsure, you can check out my original review to see how we used NotebookingPages in the past (prior to committing fully to CM), and may I suggest you try out the Free Notebooking Pages Product Sampler first.  You can see a lot of the variety they have to offer and make an informed decision.

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Star Wars Day: Shakespeare Meets Star Wars

I'm sure you can imagine that, as Star Wars fans, my kids are looking forward to May 4th.  They have already declared Star Wars Day a holiday in our homeschool!

William Shakespeare's Star Wars
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We will be finished with co-op by then, so they are moving their off day to May 4th and making everything about Star Wars.  We'll be listening to John Williams' Greatest Hits, primarily the Star Wars tracks (free with Amazon Prime) for a fun modern composer study, and they want to find a fun craft or activity to do, before a Star Wars marathon.

I am surprising them with this William Shakespeare's Star Wars book though.  One of my kids loves reading Shakespeare, and the other looks at me with a pained expressed every time I pull out a Shakespeare book.  We've only been reading some lovely retellings at this point, because I want to warm the kids up to the stories before diving into the language of the full plays.  I have been eyeing these Star Wars books for awhile, and I have been waiting for the right time to introduce them.  Star Wars Day seems like a great way to pull them in!

They're nice little hardcover books, and would make a fun reader's theater type activity.  I am pretty sure we'll start this on Star Wars Day, and then carry it through the rest of the month in our Shakespeare slot.  How fun!

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saturday Snapshots: Dandelion Bouquets

What is it about dandelions?  When most adults see it as a wildflower at best, or a nuisance weed at worst, a three year old is automatically drawn to the dandelion.  I think it's the bright yellow that suddenly pops up, dotting the landscape.  It suddenly feels like spring when the dandelions make their first appearance.  It's an opportunity to pick a few flowers for mommy. 

This picture also exudes Eloise's spirit.   She's never been crazy about wearing shoes, but that sweet laugh as she kicks her shoes off and runs through the grass barefooted reminds me that they're only little once and the joys of their childhood are too precious to worry about carrying her shoes back in every day.

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Saturday Snapshots: Garden Helper

I am not good at doing full weekly wrap-ups for our homeschool (which is why I give A Peek into our Homeschool Monthly instead) but I wanted to start sharing more about those random moments, homeschool or not, that are special.  Wordless Wednesdays aren't always enough for me to really think out what the pictures means to me.  My hope is that I will spend a few minutes on Saturdays, sharing some of the special moments from the week.  Just to capture the memories.

My husband took these pictures, when he and the big kids were helping my father-in-law in the garden.  These are the memories I want for all my kids - to remember the lazy days, the work days, the fun moments with their family.  Eleanor especially exemplifies everything special about living near the grandparents.  She thinks her pawpaw hung the moon, and it's not a stretch of the imagination to say she's got him wrapped around her little finger.  They are certainly a pair!  Eleanor is a happy, joyful helper who always wears a smile, but to be able to spend the morning playing in the dirt and helping her pawpaw . . . well, you can't get any better than that!

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Music Appreciation with Memoria Press (review)

Music is a way to bring beauty and joy into our lives, and it seems obvious that we would use it in our homeschool as a way of connecting with the past and other cultures.  As part of a Charlotte Mason education, one element of music that we enjoy are composer studies, which is the focus on one composer at a time.  Recently, we were given the opportunity to review the Music Appreciation I course from Memoria Press, and though a different approach than what we were taking, I thought it might be a good way to supplement our composer studies.

What is Music Appreciation?

Music Appreciation I is designed for 3rd-5th students, and includes Music Appreciation Book I and the Audio Companion CD.  The course includes 26 Chapters, each covering a different piece of classical music, and they are roughly in chronological order to show the progression of music.  Then there are 7 Chapter Reviews.  This gives you 33 weeks of material: enough wiggle room for the average school year of 36 weeks.

The course covers many famous composers and popular works, like Vivaldi and The Four Seasons (focus on winter), but it also covers a few cultural pieces like The Twelve Days of Christmas (Chapter 12) and The Star Spangled Banner (Chapter 26).  A few composers are covered more than once, but there is a large variety, from Handel, to Beethoven, to Wagner, to Dukas and Gershwin.  Going through this course will expose students to a solid variety of composers and music theory.

Each chapter is divided into six or seven sections, and I found that two or three sections at a time is a reasonable pace for us.  My music background is limited to one middle school music elective and five years of clarinet.   While some of the theory was familiar to me, we aren't an overly musical family and I haven't passed on anything to my kids.  So for a 3rd and 5th grader with virtually no musical background, breaking the lesson up over a few days works better.

Listen - You listen to the selection, via a playlist on the Memoria Press website.

A Little History - This gives background information on the composer and the piece being studied.  It's written in an engaging manner, which we liked.

Musical Concept - Form, melody, rhythm, are all concepts we learn in early chapters.  By the end of the course, we'll be covering motif, tonal, meter and more.

About the Piece - This is where we find more specific information about the piece being studied, and how the musical concepts relate to the piece.

(The Audio Companion CD typically contains a few short tracks to help demonstrate the musical concepts being discussed; the scores are in the book and musicians are encouraged to play them if they wish.)

Music History - Sometimes we will find information about the progression of music, or how the composer we're studying began to try new things.  Chapter five's information about the broad term of classical music and the more specific style of music that is classical was very interesting to me.

Facts to Remember - We review the major concepts covered in the chapter, such as the composer and title of the piece we've studied, and the musical concepts we learned.  Important words are bolded in this review just as they are in the text, so these would be good "vocabulary" words if you stress that.

Listen Again - Finally, we're encouraged to listen to the full selection again.  We're given the suggestion to listen for the melody, or for the instrument(s) used, or for arpeggios, or whatever we're studying.  Essentially, the first listen is for pleasure and exposure to the piece, and the last listen is almost to train the ear to recognize everything discussed in the chapter.

How We Used Music Appreciation 

The introduction section states that concepts are introduced slowly, so no musical knowledge is needed to use the book.  However, those with knowledge of music theory can easily jump around between chapters.  Since we received the curriculum right as it was time to switch composers, I decided to temporary pause our composer study and focus on using the book, so we just started at the beginning.

There really weren't instructions on how to use use the program or pace the course, but after I looked over the number of chapters and tests, and determined it was probably one chapter per week, we just did some trial and error through the first few chapters to find the pace that worked best for us.  Listening to the piece each day that we do part of a lesson is a good idea though, to continue to listen for the musical concepts and become familiar with the piece if we're not already.  I also found that asking for narration after each section is helpful.

There are Review Tests, and these are standard fill in the blank and multiple choice type questions.  We don't "test" in this way, but I don't mind rewording the questions to encourage narration.  The last question for each test is a listening exercise where the student is to listen to a portion of each of the pieces and identify them on a chart.  I really liked this, and I think I'm going to tweak our regular composer study process in order to do this.

My kids don't play instruments or sing or have any particular interest in music theory right now, so they tolerated learning the musical concepts, but they did enjoy listening to the pieces and reading the historical sections.  They like learning random facts about composers and one of their favorite lessons was in Chapter 3 on Bach and the harpsichord.

This was our first year really doing composer studies, and I think my kids needed another year or so to build a more solid appreciation of classical music before diving into music theory.  Going forward, I still think this book will make a quality supplement to our composer studies.  I intend to resume our composer studies, utilizing the relevant chapters from this course whenever applicable.  The book will take longer to use this way, but I am fine with that.  Although the book is intended for 3rd-5th graders, I found a large difference in what my 3rd grader and 5th grader were getting out of it, so using it a little longer as they are older will be fine.  I feel the program is definitely rich enough for older students!

Memoria Press is well-known and respected for their classical curriculum.  We have used (and are still using) their New American Cursive curriculum.  More recently though, the Crew was given the opportunity to review a variety of subjects in addition to the music program, including Spelling and multiple levels of Latin.  If you are interested in finding out more about what Memoria Press offers, I highly suggest you check out the reviews!

Spelling, Music Appreciation & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Peek into our Homeschool: March 2018

Normally I feel like each month flies by, but March actually felt rather slow and steady.  Perhaps it was the weather and the sickness, as both kept us indoors quite a bit, so we didn't feel like we were going all the time.

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The boys did start a basketball class at co-op, which is an outside instructor that comes in and spends an hour (before co-op starts) working on different skills.  I guess it's more like a "camp" but they like it.

All of our school subjects are going well.  We're plodding along, making good progress, and of course, enjoying some books immensely while tolerating others.  I did make a change to Elliott's AOY4 literature.  We were struggling to get into Kidnapped, so I moved it to a free read and bumped up The Incredible Journey from Term 3.  He is already giving me great narrations with this book!

Then for his Term 3 literature, he will do Robin Hood from Y2 with Emory.  I made this choice before seeing AO's Pre-7 list, but after noticing that they have Robin Hood under literature and Kidnapped under free reads as suggested prerequisites, I feel comfortable with this decision.  Due to our late transition (October), I'm looking for ways to "lighten" our load for Term 3 as we near summer, without sacrificing overall quality, and I think this will help.

The kids and I have been listening to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the car, and they all love it, especially the 5 year old!  We've also been reading/listening to Peter Pan over lunch.


Then sometimes, I read something else entirely different at lunch, like these Carole P. Roman books we reviewed.

My Year 0 Kiddos
Eleanor has been enjoying watercolor crayons a lot right now!

Eloise is at that stage where she still loves pointing out every single thing in an illustration. The I Spy . . . Art books are great for this, and she loves them right now!

The Riches 

Poet - Songs of Childhood by Walter de la Mare
Picture Study - Peter Paul Rubens from Simply Charlotte Mason
Composer - Music Appreciation 1 {review coming}
Shakespeare - Romeo and Juliet by Bruce Coville
Hymn - Are You Washed in the Blood?
Folk Song - The Riddle Song
Art/Handicrafts - We took a couple weeks off (they do art at co-op, so I don't stress), then picked up with a week of Origami and a week of clay.

Eleanor got a little decorative with her pig and cat faces.

Random conversation with the 5 year old

Eleanor:  Momma, what's your favorite animal?
Me:  um...Cheetah?
Eleanor: takes picture with an old camera, then says very politely: "Um, momma, since you're slow you can be a slow animal."
Me:  Okay.  I'll be a sloth then.  {thanks kid!}

At first I thought I should be offended.  Then I thought, hey, if she's offering me the chance to slow down!  In all honesty, I don't think she meant that I'm slow, just that I'm not fast like a cheetah.  At least, I hope that's what she meant!

Free Curriculum Worth Mentioning!

WordBuildOnline - Free Vocabulary!
A few years ago, we reviewed WordBuildOnLine.  It is an online vocabulary enhancement program that focuses on prefixes and suffixes to quickly build vocabulary.  It is now offered completely free, ad supported, in an effort to relieve any financial burden on parents and schools, so as to reach more students.  The free option uses kid-friendly ads, but you can still purchase the premium (ad free) option for the same price.  The two programs are otherwise identical; WordBuildOnline just wants to extend more literacy options to children!

Critical Thinking Coloring Book Level 1 - This is currently free from The Critical Thinking Co.  This is a fun little Pre-K to 2nd grade level coloring book.  It encourages observation and attention to detail, while still allowing for creativity.  If you have a precocious little one who wants to "do school" or need to gently bolster these skills with an early elementary student, this is a fun little freebie!

Free Notebooking Pages Product Sampler from  We use this frequently to "dress up" our written narrations.  We use some of the mammal pages for Burgess Animals, and the science pages are good for demonstrations/experiments.  The variety looks good for portfolio fodder too.

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.