Posts Tagged ‘Homeschooling’

Our Week in Books: August 16-22

August 23, 2015 @ 3:19 pm | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, Graphic Novels, On My Bookshelves, Picture Book Spotlight

Books people read at my house this week | Here in the Bonny Glen

 

The Curious Garden by Peter BrownThe Curious Garden by Peter Brown. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. Review copy received from publisher.
Read to: Huck.

Gorgeous art in this sweetly captivating tale of a boy who, wandering the sterile streets of a bleak city, finds a little outpost of thriving weeds and wildflowers on an abandoned elevated rail track. This Is Your Garden by Maggie SmithHe begins quietly tending the green and growing things, and his found garden begins to spread, gradually transforming the city—and its people.

We’ve loved every Peter Brown book that has walked through our doors, and this was no exception. It’s the art that makes it magical, the wave of vibrant green creeping across the city. Makes a lovely companion to an older picture book that has long been a favorite here: This Is Your Garden by Maggie Smith (now out of print, alas, but available used).


 

Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing HahnTook: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn. Clarion Books, to be published Sept. 15, 2105. Advanced review copy received from publisher via Netgalley. Read by: me.

Middle-grade horror story about a (formerly) wealthy Connecticut family who moves into an old West Virginia house near a haunted cabin in the woods. Every fifty years an evil, ancient ghost—known locally as Auntie—kidnaps and ensorcels a young girl. The main character is Daniel, a 13-year-0ld boy who doesn’t believe the wild tales he hears from kids at school—until his little sister goes missing. A suitably creepy tale which will appeal to readers of Vivian Vande Velde’s Stolen.


 

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. HarperTrophy. My copy: purchased with my employee discount at the children’s bookstore I worked at during grad school—with a dream in my heart of one day having children to read it to. Read to: Huck and Rilla (chapters 1-4).

After we finished Winnie-the-Pooh, my youngests picked this for their next read-aloud. Great joy is mine because they are the perfect ages (six and nine), just absolutely perfect.

*In related news, I need to add another row to my Rillabooks post. Conversations ensuing its publication resulted in the addition of four more books to her already overstuffed shelf:

Charlotte’s Web (which it turns out she didn’t remember hearing before—she was probably pretty little last time it came around);

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (because OBVIOUSLY, and what was I thinking, leaving it off?);

The Mysterious Benedict Society (which I had thought to save for another year or two, but I am informed I was mistaken); and

The Two Princesses of Bamarre (whose appearance in a photo of books that almost-but-didn’t-quite make the original list sparked a flurry of happy reminiscences among Jane, her 21-year-old cousin, and Alice’s oldest daughter, aged 22, causing me to reconsider its omission).

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg  The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart  The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine


 

Ginger Pye by Eleanor EstesGinger Pye by Eleanor Estes. Harcourt Young Classics. My copy purchased when Jane was about eight years old. Read to: Rilla. 

This was Rilla’s first read-aloud pick from the Rillabook shelf. She was quite keen to have me read it just to her (no brothers involved). She giggled mightily over the meet-cute of Mr. and Mrs. Pye (with Jane popping in to shriek over the startling fact—which went over her head at age eight—that Mrs. Pye was just seventeen when she married. We began this book the day after Rose’s seventeenth birthday, which put it into stark perspective). Methinks Rilla and I will have fun with this. I’m not sure I’ve read it aloud since that first time (gulp) twelve years ago.


 

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek MythsD’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. Read to: Huck and Rilla. Rose’s copy, purchased some years ago to replace her first copy, which was read to tatters. Read to: Huck and Rilla.

Monday and Friday are our Greek Myths days. This week’s selections were about Hera and Io, and Hephaestus and Aphrodite.

The Lion Storyteller Bedtime BookThe Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book by Bob Hartman. Lion Children’s Books. Our copy, purchased for Beanie at age four. Read to: Huck and Rilla.

Tuesday and Thursday are folk and fairy tale days.* This week, they picked “Tortoise Brings Food: A Story from Africa.” A grumble with this otherwise charming book: that nonspecific from Africa. The other stories are “from Greece,” England, Finland, Puerto Rica, Australia, Wales, Japan, and so on. How about “from Kenya” or Ethiopia or Nigeria? Native American stories get a similarly vague treatment: “from North America.” I’d like a word with this book’s editor. But the stories themselves are amiably written and a good size for reading aloud.

*Any day is a great day for a fairy tale or Greek myth. I just assign them days in my head to ensure that I make the time. The kids don’t know about it.


 

among the dollsAmong the Dolls by William Sleator. Knopf Books for Young Readers. An old copy I brought home from work. Read by: Rilla.

Me: So how do you like it so far?
Rilla, emphatically: I DON’T.

Me: Too scary?

Rilla: It’s terrible! She’s trapped in the dollhouse and they’re being mean to her AND HER MOTHER WALKED RIGHT BY WITHOUT EVEN HEARING HER.

Me: Are you going to keep reading?

Rilla: ::doesn’t hear me, is already immersed again::


 

The Batman Adventures Rogues' GalleryBatman Adventures: Rogues Gallery by the devastatingly handsome Scott Peterson (oh, fine, and Dan Slott and Ty Templeton too). Read by: Wonderboy.

This is a digest-sized compilation of several Batman Adventures stories. The Batman Adventures and Gotham Adventures comics of the 90s were aimed at kids, unlike most Batman comics. It’s nice to see them a book-sized edition that can survive on a library shelf.

Huck enjoyed this collection too, and it only took him five times through to notice that his daddy was listed as an author.


 

The Story of the World Vol 4 Modern WorldThe Story of the World, Volume 4: The Modern Ages by Susan Wise Bauer. “The Boxer Rebellion” chapter. Read aloud to: Rose and Beanie.

The Usborne History of the Twentieth CenturyWhile aimed at slightly younger readers, I find the Bauer series to be useful in setting the stage for more advanced studies. We’re doing the 20th century this year, my teens and I.

The Usborne History of the Twentieth Century. Read/explored with: Rose and Beanie. Again, for context. Mostly we just pored over the overview page at the start of the century. We’d read about Teddy Roosevelt last week in Landmark History of the American People, and this week we found a few videos about him.


 

Boxers by Gene Luen YangBoxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang. First Second Books. Copies received from publisher. Read by: me. On deck for Rose this week. Bean has already read them.

Saints by Gene Luen YangGene is a friend of ours whom we see far too seldom (mainly at SDCC). He is spectacularly talented, but no one on the internet needs me to tell them that. I’d been meaning to read Boxers & Saints, his graphic novel duo about the Boxer Rebellion—told from two different points of view, thus the two books—since the day they were announced. Reaching this time period in my teen’s history studies meant now was the perfect time. Deeply absorbing, unsettling, moving, and educational. I always appreciate Gene’s thoughtful exploration of people’s motivations, and the fearless way he unpacks his characters flaws along with their strengths. Beautiful, beautiful books. Highly recommended.


 

Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild audiobookDancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Audiobook. Listened to by: Rilla and me.

The current pick for our Saturday night sketchbook date. After all the Roald Dahl we enjoyed all summer, this Streatfeild gem got off to a bit of a slow start for Rilla, but she’s well and truly hooked now. Hilary is about to perform her Dulcie-Pulsie dance in the talent competition. Pulses racing. Delicious.


 

Best of H.P. LovecraftThe Best of H.P. Lovecraft. Scott’s copy. Read by: Rose.

Her first encounter with his work. I haven’t heard her reaction yet—looking forward to it.

An Old-Fashioned Girl An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcottby Louisa May Alcott. My old copy. Read by: Beanie. (And I need to revisit it this week.)

A friend of hers is reading it for her homeschool program, so we and some other chums have joined in. We’ll be discussing it soon. I’d better revisit it right quick!


 

To the Lighthouse by Virginia WoolfTo the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Kindle copy. Read by: me.

Woolf is one of my gaps, which is odd when I think of it—she’s so right for me. I’m sure we did A Room of One’s Own in women’s lit, but somehow she never appeared on a syllabus after that. I’ve been determined to rectify this glaring omission and this summer I have finally found the time. And OH MY. She’s just…she…I want to quote everything. Her prose—I mean, I knew that about her. But only from the outside. Now I’m inside and I can barely speak. I’ve highlighted so many passages, it’s a bit ridiculous. I’ll pull some quotes into a commonplace book when I can.


 

Sandman by Neil GaimanT.A. Barron's Merlin novelsScott is rereading Sandman, and I couldn’t begin to tell you what my older girls are reading these days—I can only keep up with so much. Rose got a bunch of T.A. Barron’s Merlin novels for her birthday, I know that. (Since I wrapped them.) 😉 Beanie pops up with interesting tidbits gleaned from National Geographic (her favorite magazine). Jane was toiling through some Kant in preparation for a philosophy class she’ll take at school this year. I’ve also seen some Maggie Stiefvater in her library pile.


 

Do you know, I thought this would be a quick and easy post? I’d just dash off a list of things read around the house this past week. Turns out I am delusional. But it was fun!

Related:

books to read with my 9yo

Books on the Rilla Shelf

August 9, 2015 @ 5:08 pm | Filed under: Books, Charlotte Mason, Homeschooling, Literature

A giant list of books to read with my 9yo this year

These are the books I’ve collected in one place for Rilla to pull from this year. They may be read-alouds or read-alones, depending on what we’re in the mood for. I expect Huck will listen in on a lot of the read-alouds. (And probably the older kids too, sometimes, because we’re like that.)

No particular order here. This is how they landed on the shelf. Will we read them ALL? It’s a long list! Most likely we won’t, but the idea is to pull together a rich selection of books to choose from. The history, science, mythology, and poetry selections (second half of list) form a kind of homeschooling core library, and the fiction and picture book choices (up top) will provide read-aloud and solo reading options for months to come. I’ve listed those first because they’re what we’ll lead off with most mornings, to make sure life doesn’t crowd out the very best part of the day.

dorothywizardinozI’m quite sure other titles will join the list as we go. I can already think of a few I’ve left off, but which she may be ready for by the end of the year. (It doesn’t help that Jane keeps thrusting more books at me. “I loved this one at her age!” She’s my daughter, all right.) 😉

Naturally I expect Rilla will spend a lot of time revisiting some of her own favorites, especially the Oz graphic novel adaptations by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young and other comics.

Also!! We have Swallows and Amazons, Ballet Shoes, and Dancing Shoes on audio to listen to during our Saturday night art-and-audiobook sessions, now that we have made our way through most of Roald Dahl. (This, by the way, is the only reason Ransome, Streatfield, and Dahl aren’t on the list below. I imagine Rilla will return to Matilda, James, the BFG, and Charlie at some point during the year—they were great favorites.)

I suppose I should also mention that Scott is currently reading her my Charlotte series at bedtime. He reads all my novels to the kids. I can’t do it because I always want to tweak the writing. :)

For a look at what besides books will fill Rilla’s days, see “High Tide for Huck and Rilla.”

1

*An asterisk means the book has one or more sequels which may be added to this list

family under the bridgeencyclopedia brownthe rescuers by margery sharpturtle in paradise

The Family Under the Bridge, Natalie Savage Carlson
Encyclopedia Brown, Donald Sobol*
The Rescuers, Margery Sharp
Turtle in Paradise, Jennifer Holm

stories julian tellsgreen embercalpurnia tatepeterpan

The Stories Julian Tells, Ann Cameron*
The Green Ember, S. D. Smith
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly*
Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

akiko on the planet smoobook of threehomer pricepippi longstocking

Akiko on the Planet Smoo, Mark Crilley*
The Book of Three, Lloyd Alexander*
Homer Price, Robert McCloskey
Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren*

half magicgone-away lakeamong the dollsmiss happiness and miss flower

Half Magic, Edward Eager*
Gone-Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright
Among the Dolls, William Sleator
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, Rumer Godden

understood betsyall of a kind familybetsy-tacy treasurybeezus and ramona

Understood Betsy, Dorothy Canfield Fisher
All-Of-A-Kind Family, Sydney Taylor*
Betsy-Tacy series, Maud Hart Lovelace (see my Reader’s Guide to Betsy-Tacy)
Beezus and Ramona, Beverly Cleary*

ginger pyetwenty-one balloonssearch for deliciouslast of the sandwalkers

Ginger Pye, Eleanor Estes*
The Twenty-One Balloons, William Pene du Bois
The Search for Delicious, Natalie Babbitt
The Last of the Sandwalkers, Jay Hosler

penderwicksfive children and itfarmer boythe borrowers

The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall*
Five Children and It, E. Nesbit*
Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder*
The Borrowers, Mary Norton*

gammage cuprowan of rinlittle princesszita the spacegirl

The Gammage Cup, Carol Kendall* (my review)
Rowan of Rin, Emily Rodda*
A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke*

7

hattie and the wild waveseleanoronly opal

Hattie and the Wild Waves, Barbara Cooney
Eleanor, Barbara Cooney
Only Opal, Barbara Cooney

bedtime for francesbest friends for francesbread and jam for frances

Bedtime for Frances, Russell Hoban
Best Friends for Frances, Russell Hoban
Bread and Jam for Frances, Russell Hoban (nine years old is a perfect time to revisit Frances)

lady with ship on her headgiraffe that walked to parispleasant fieldmouse

The Lady with the Ship On Her Head, Deborah Nourse Lattimore
The Giraffe that Walked to Paris, Nancy Milton
Pleasant Fieldmouse, Jan Wahl

saint george and the dragonChanticleer and the FoxThe Mouse Bride
Saint George and the Dragon, Margaret Hodges
Chanticleer and the Fox, Barbara Cooney
The Mouse Bride, Judith Dupre

Chin Yu Min and the Ginger CatThe Swan MaidenMufaro's Beautiful Daughters

Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat, Jennifer Armstrong
The Swan Maiden, Howard Pyle
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, John Steptoe

(The folk and fairy tales could easily go with the group below, so I’ve stuck them kind of in between)

6

Barefoot Book of Animal TalesFavorite Greek MythsD'Aulaires' Book of Greek MythsA Wonder Book for Girls and Boys

Barefoot Book of Animal Tales, Naomi Adler
Favorite Greek Myths, Mary Pope Osborne
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths
A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys, Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Green Fairy BookThe King of Ireland's SonTatterhood and Other TalesAmerican Tall Tales

The Green Fairy Book, Andrew Lang*
The King of Ireland’s Son, Padraic Colum
Tatterhood and Other Tales, Ethel Johnston Phelps
American Tall Tales, Mary Pope Osborne (finishing this one up)

2

Handbook of Nature Studydrawing birds with colored pencilsUsborne Science Activities, Volume 1

Handbook of Nature Study, Anna Botsford Comstock (with some Outdoor Hour Challenges)
Drawing Birds with Colored Pencils, Kaaren Poole
Usborne Science Activities, Volume 1
Various field guides: Insects, Birds, Rocks

A Rock Is LivelyAn Egg Is QuietA Nest is Noisy

A Rock Is Lively, Dianna Aston & Sylvia Long
An Egg Is Quiet, Dianna Aston & Sylvia Long
A Nest is Noisy, Dianna Aston & Sylvia Long

Enid Blyton's Nature Lovers BookOne Small Square- BackyardOutside Your Window

Enid Blyton’s Nature Lovers Book
One Small Square: Backyard, Donald M. Silver
Outside Your Window, Nicola Davies (nature poems)

3

A Child's History of the WorldOne Day In Ancient RomeDetectives in TogasA Street Through Time

A Child’s History of the World, Virgil M. Hillyer (2-3 chapters a week)
One Day In Ancient Rome, G.B. Kirtland
Detectives in Togas, Henry Winterfield
A Street Through Time, Anne Millard

A World Full of HomesMaterial WorldTree in the TrailMinn of the Mississippi

A World Full of Homes, William A. Burns
Material World: A Global Family Portrait
Tree in the Trail, Holling Clancy Holling (finishing from the spring)
Minn of the Mississippi, Holling Clancy Holling (a lot of nature/science crossover here)

4

The Mouse of AmherstJoyful NoisePoetry for Young People- African American PoetryPoetry for Young People- William Butler Yeats

The Mouse of Amherst, Elizabeth Spires (yes, again)
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, Paul Fleischman
Poetry for Young People: African American Poetry
Poetry for Young People: William Butler Yeats

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's PoemsFavorite Poems Old & NewAll the Small Poems & Fourteen More

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems, Donald Hall
Favorite Poems Old & New, edited by Helen Ferris (a family treasure!)
All the Small Poems & Fourteen More, Valerie Worth

Poetry for Young People- William ShakespeareBeautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children

Poetry for Young People: William Shakespeare
Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children, E. Nesbit (one story a week)

5

MichaelangeloWhat Makes a Bruegel a BruegelWhat Makes a Picasso a Picasso

Michaelangelo, Diane Stanley
What Makes a Bruegel a Bruegel
What Makes a Picasso a Picasso

roundbuildingsA Short Walk Around the Pyramids & Through the World of ArtRound Trip

Round Buildings, Square Buildings, Buildings That Wriggle Like a Fish, Philip M. Isaacson (posted about here)
A Short Walk Around the Pyramids & Through the World of Art, Philip M. Isaacson
Round Trip, Ann Jonas (a favorite with my babies, but if you look at it you’ll see why it works for art as well)

Usborne Big Book of Things to Docreature campDraw Africa

Usborne Big Book of Things Do
Creature Camp: 18 Softies to Draw, Sew, & Stuff, Wendi Gratz
Draw Africa by Kristin J. Draeger

So many books!

As I said, I don’t expect to read this entire list in a single year, especially the fiction selections at the top. And I’m sure Rilla will encounter other enticing titles along the way. Or maybe she’ll get hooked on Redwall or Warriors like her sisters did at this age, and read those obsessively to the exclusion of things on this list. The point is for us to have a rich bounty to draw from, a shelf she knows she can go to whenever she needs something new. I would hazard we’ll manage 1-2 read-aloud novels per month, depending on length. The rest will be options for her to read on her own. I’ll let you know which ones we pick for read-aloud time.

The lower chunk of the list will serve as the spine for our high-tide mornings. A typical day’s reading looks something like:

• Chapter of current read-aloud novel
• A poem or two, sometimes to memorize
• A chapter of Child’s History of the World or a passage from Handbook of Nature Studies (alternating days)
• A Greek myth, folk tale, or Shakespeare story (about twice a week, and this may include longer picture books)
• Something from the art, science, or history lists (perhaps we do an experiment from Usborne Science Activities, or maybe we spend some time poring over Brueghel’s paintings, for example)
• Whatever other books she is reading on her own

Some days have more reading aloud, some days less. Some days I focus more on the teens. Or a big sister might read to Huck and Rilla while I work with the other teen. Some days (or weeks) we’ll follow a rabbit trail that may involve a library trip or two. But we always circle back to the tried-and-true favorites above (plus one or two new treasures). I love this list so much. These books live in that wonderful late-elementary space I love so dearly—as a writer, a reader, and a mom.

Next up: Huck’s list! (Give me a few days.) 😉

Companion post: High Tide for Huck and Rilla

Other Bonny Glen booklists:
Books to Read to Your Three-Year-Old
Books to Read to Your Four-Year-Old
My Big List of Book Recommendations
Science, Art, Game Ideas
What is Tidal Homeschooling?

High Tide for Huck and Rilla

August 8, 2015 @ 11:09 am | Filed under: Books, Family, Fun Learning Stuff, Homeschooling

tuesdayinmay

The other day I mentioned that I was putting together some shelves of books to use for Huck and Rilla this year. Huck is 6 1/2 and Rilla is 9, and according to the boxes I will have to check on the form I file in October, they are in the 1st and 4th grades respectively.

(Of course you know we have more of an Understood Betsy approach to grades around here.)

‘What’s the matter?’ asked the teacher, seeing her bewildered face.

‘Why–why,’ said Elizabeth Ann, ‘I don’t know what I am at all. If I’m second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade am I?’

The teacher laughed. ‘You aren’t any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You’re just yourself, aren’t you? What difference does it make what grade you’re in? And what’s the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don’t know your multiplication table?’

‘Well, for goodness’ sakes!’ ejaculated Elizabeth Ann, feeling very much as though somebody had stood her suddenly on her head.

I don’t think Rilla has any idea what grade she would be in if she went to school…my kids don’t usually pay attention to grade level until they reach an age—usually around 12 or 13—when they want an answer to the question that comes from just about every new adult they encounter.

But back to my booklists. I compiled these selections according to my patented, highly scientific method of Walking Around the House Grabbing Things Off Shelves™. These are books we already own, favorite tomes I have read with the older kids in the past but which my younger set haven’t yet heard or read—due in large part to the abundant inflow of new treasures that have come our way for review. (Oh you guys, I have so many good new books to share.)

I imagine there will be a lot of crossover: Huck will listen in on Rillabook readalouds and vice versa. Both collections also include a good many read-alone possibilities. If you’ve been reading Bonny Glen for a while, then you know that read-alouds are the core of my homeschooling method, especially in the younger years. (But continuing on, you know, into high school. We still read aloud together lots of history, science, and poetry.)

I know a lot of you are as addicted to booklists as I am, so my project this weekend is to type up these collections to share here on the blog. I hope to post them on Sunday or Monday. When they’re ready, I’ll update this post with links.

So what else does high tide look like in my house for ages 6 and 9?

In no particular order:

• Lots and lots of art, especially watercolor painting and Sculpey fun.

I keep watercolors handy on a shelf by the kitchen table for easy access. These days, the kids are also doing a lot with acrylic paints—I caught a sale at Michael’s when those little Folk Art bottles were three for a dollar. I grabbed a set of small plastic palettes (six for $2) and filled a jar with our older, more battered brushes. (We reserve the nicer brushes for watercolors.)

I’ve written about this before*, but for watercolor paper I use large sheets I bought in bulk a good many years ago, folded and torn into smaller sizes. And then cheap recycled paper for drawing. Plus everyone has a sketchbook to do whatever they want with.

About 15 years ago (!) I bought half a dozen scratch-and-dent whiteboard seconds from a discount site. We use these as painting boards. Not only do they protect the kitchen table from spatters, but they are large enough that I can stack them on toy blocks to save space while paintings dry.

painters2

* In that 2009 post, I mentioned that for littles I use good paper and cheap paints. That was back when Rilla was three years old. ::sniff:: Nowadays we tend to experiment with artist-quality tube watercolors quite often, because that is what I myself am learning to paint with, and both Rilla and I are pretty addicted to color-mixing and the way certain pigments granulate on the paper. We still keep basic Crayola or Prang kids’ paint sets around, though, like the ones in the photo, because they’re quick and fun and easy and portable. They’re what the kids use for casual, everyday painting.

Kortney has been posting some wonderful resources for doing art projects with kids. And I have a list of my best suggestions in this post.

• Poetry every day

I pulled some of my favorite anthologies for this year’s Huck and Rilla shelves. They’re also in the room for a good bit of the poetry reading and discussion I do with the older kids. I work in lots of opportunities for low-pressure memorization (if you read the same poem out loud a few days or weeks in a row, before you know it, everyone has it down)—including my recent brainstorm to require Huck to learn a new poem by heart before he gets a new iPad app. :)

• Handwriting practice* with fun materials like dip pens, markerboards, or slates-and-chalk. 

dip pen

I asterisked practice because I need to qualify that term. I subscribe to the John Holt school of thought about the misleading way we often use the word practice. He argued that when you are doing what we call “practicing” piano, you are really playing piano and we ought to think of it like that. You are making music. When I am “practicing” drawing, I am actually drawing. Huck is learning to write. When he sits down with a marker or crayon and makes some letters, he is writing—not some separate intermediate activity that leads up to writing. I think that word “practice” can set up a feeling that what I’m doing right now isn’t real, it doesn’t count. But it all “counts.” If you’re doing it, it’s real. Another way of putting it is that writing letters to friends is a form of handwriting “practice.”

For Rilla, a third year of group piano class 

And yes, despite the above paragraph, you will from time to time hear me ask her if she has practiced yet today. :)

• Nature study and narration. 

My old Charlotte Mason standbys. Re narration: casually for Huck, more deliberately and regularly for Rilla. All oral, still. We add written narration at age ten.

Nature study isn’t something we have to work at. Both Rilla and I enjoy adding new plants and bugs to our sketchbooks. You’ll see a fair number of nature-themed nonfiction on both booklists.

• A little bit of foreign language.

Beanie is ramping up her German studies this year. My younger set pick up whatever the older ones are working on, sponge-style.

• Math.

Via games, money, dice, and daily life for Huck; Math-U-See for Rilla. Works for us.

• Folk songs and other musical fun. 

Including daddy’s guitar-playing. The recorders seem to have made a comeback around here, too, and Rose came home from her Colorado trip with a pair of ocarinas.

• Baking, sewing, Snap Circuits, and other hands-on pursuits. 

Sometimes this is simply a part of daily life; in other cases we may undertake a special project, such as making clothes for a cloth doll with the Dress Up Bunch Club.

Beanie is venturing into candymaking this year and has already enlisted Huck, Rilla, and Wonderboy as helper-slash-tasters. Rose does quite a bit of baking—being one of those delightful people who love to bake but don’t much care to eat baked goods—and often includes younger sibs in the measuring, mixing, and bowl-licking stages.

• Games of all sorts.

Board games, word games, Wii games, iPad apps, you name it. Together or alone. And lots and lots of Minecraft.

• As much outdoor play as possible!

All the small fry on the block seem to congregate at my house in the afternoons: they know when my kids get their Wii time. 😉 Afterward, they troop outside to bike and scooter and make secret hideouts and chat with passing dogs and help Miss-Joanie-down-the-block rake leaves. (She’s a treasure. She keeps a stash of child-size yard tools in her garage! She saves all those little stickers and calendars and bookmarks that come in junk mail! She has cups labeled for all the kids on our street and sometimes mixes up fruit drinks to fill them with instead of water. Everyone should be so lucky as to grow up down the block from Miss Joanie.)

• What about history and science? 

See above re: readalouds and narration. Lots of good stuff on our booklists. :)

And if I don’t stop gabbing and start compiling, these booklists are never going to get written. More later, my dears. Feel free to fire away with questions below, if you have any!

Stuff that’s working

September 4, 2014 @ 7:19 pm | Filed under: Fun Learning Stuff

Okay, then. Blogging first, blogging freehand.

romewasntdrawninadayMy visual aids are world-class.

 Some things we’re having fun with these days:

Famous Men of Rome. Rilla’s first time. Rose and Beanie are listening in—they know these stories well and enjoy them, and it’s amusing to them to watch Rilla encounter them for the first time. She’s doing a lot of narration afterward, mostly at dinner in the guise of “tell Daddy all about Romulus and Remus.” Sometimes during or after a chapter, I use the whiteboard to help her remember names.

Whiteboards in general. You guys, I use them for EVERYTHING. A million years ago I made the brilliant move of buying a whole bunch of scratch-and-dent markerboards for a song. The larger size are perfect as painting boards, underneath our paper—they wipe up easily and can be moved elsewhere while the masterpieces dry. We also use the big ones for things we’re trying to learn by heart. Presidents and their terms, British monarch family trees, and so forth. The smaller ones fit handily beside my chair and are great for our Latin lessons. I’ll write out a sentence and let them parse it. Meanwhile, Huck is keeping himself busy nearby with another markerboard and my best dry-erase pens.

Horrible Histories Kings and Queens of England sing-along. Penny!!! I can’t thank you enough for mentioning this a while back when I wrote about using Memrise to learn British monarchs. This video—all the HH videos—delightful. Hilarious. We’ve been watching this one every morning for two weeks and today we got through the entire song without a hitch. I wish you could hear Huck imitate baby Henry VI. (Wah!) Spot on.


Charles II is my favorite.

Creativebug. The other day I happened upon this rather amazing site. It offers video tutorials in a zillion artsy and crafty pursuits, everything from embroidery to cake decorating. I signed up for a free two-week trial subscription, and if you’re my friend on Facebook you know I’ve been having a whale of a time. Rilla and I have already devoured illustrator Lisa Congdon’s Basic Line Drawing course, and we’re three-quarters of the way through Dawn Devries Sokol’s Art Journaling class. We have Art on our schedule twice a week after lunch, but that’s not been nearly enough to accommodate the creative outpourings inspired by our Creativebug explorations. I’m finding the Lisa Congdon class has been particularly inspirational and instructive, spurring me to do a bit of sketching when I hit a snag in writing. Sometimes my other jobs—raising kids, educating them, managing a household, editing—plant me pretty solidly in my left brain and I need a right-brain pursuit like drawing (even though I’m no visual artist, as the whiteboard above attests*) to exercise my creative muscles. I’m enjoying, too, painting backgrounds in the art journal and returning to them later to practice line drawing. Rose plans to watch all the cake decorating videos. Beanie’s interested in the embroidery. Right now Creativebug is offering a whole MONTH of free trial (use promo code “CRAFT,” good through Sept. 14, and thanks Kortney for the heads up on that!), so if your interest is piqued, now’s the time to give it a try. After the trial, a subscription is $9.95/month for unlimited courses, or $9.95 to buy individual courses that you can access forever.

tulipbook*In my defense, I did draw a lot of it upside down.

20 Ways to Draw a Tulip. Lisa Congdon mentioned this book of hers during her line drawing tutorial. I’m in love with it. It’s tulips and 44 other flowers. Twenty ways to draw each of them, from simple-and-sweet to highly detailed to stylized and folk-arty. Wonderful, wonderful, out of all hooping.

And guess what’s back. ModPo!!! The best Coursera class I’ve taken, and I’ve taken some darn good ones. Modern and Contemporary Poetry with Al Filreis and his MFA students at University of Pennsylvania. Last year I watched about 75% of the videos. This year I’m hoping to tune into the entire course, but listen, even if you only manage a single video all semester, you’ve gained something. The discussions are engaging, thoughtful, and lively. My highest recommendation.

Best of all: Wisteria and Sunshine, Lesley Austin’s lovely membership site, has reopened its doors. There’s nothing else like it on the web. Lesley’s posts and pictures are nourishment for the soul, and I always come away with something to ponder, something to act on, something to cherish—just like in the Charlotte Mason motto about how a child should always have Something to Love, Something to Think About, and Something to Do.

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Online Foreign Language Resources #1: Memrise

June 7, 2014 @ 12:31 pm | Filed under: Foreign Languages, Fun Learning Stuff

Post #2 in this series: italki.com.

Note: this is not a sponsored post and I’m not affiliated with Memrise in any way. It just turned out I had quite a lot to say about it!

To follow up on my post about memorizing monarchs and presidents, I thought I’d elaborate a bit further on how we’re using Memrise to learn languages, along with some other resources like Duolingo, iTalki, and Earworms, which I’ll talk about in subsequent posts. It’s kind of amazing how much you can do from your couch. :)

memrise

MEMRISE. Free for computer, iOS, Android. Excellent for building vocabulary, not so much a grammar tool. (But read on.) You pick any of a multitude of courses in your target language. In small batches, words appear on your screen along with “mems,” mnemonic devices created by other users to help you remember the word. The best mems create some kind of visual image that helps fix the word in your mind, the way I was taught as a kid in the 80s to remember that Caspar Weinberger was Secretary of Defense by picturing Caspar the Unfriendly Ghost defending a bottle of wine and a hamburger. I don’t remember which teacher planted that image, but the picture is still vivid. That’s what the Memrise folks call a mem.

You can scroll through all the existing user-created mems for each word or phrase, and if you don’t like any of the choices you can create one of your own. The interface makes it easy to select a public-domain image, and then you add whatever text you want. Here’s a mem I made to help me identify Chad on a map of the Countries of Africa:

chad

It’s corny but it works. Not all mems have an image attached; a good word-picture can help just as readily. I remember Ceuta on the map (a place I’d never heard of until taking this course; an autonomous Spanish city on the North African coast across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain) by thinking of the Spanish pronunciation —thay-uta—and using the mem “they oota be in Europe but they’re in Africa instead.” Again, not exactly the height of cleverness but it was the hook I needed to remember how to spell the name of the city.

As this image suggests, and as I described the other day, you can use Memrise to learn a lot of things besides foreign languages. Other topics I’m studying include British and English Monarchs, U.S. Presidents, and the World’s Tallest Buildings. (What can I say, I’m a junkie.) But foreign language is where Memrise really shines. The selection of languages is breathtaking in its scope. Lingala, anyone?

memriselanguagearray

Rose, whose favorite pastime, I kid you not, is learning the first chunk of a new language, has absorbed beginner vocab in Dutch, Welsh, Russian, Hungarian, Italian, and who knows what else, in between her longer-term progress through a 1000 Spanish Words course. I’m taking several different German courses simultaneously—you can move as quickly or as slowly as you want. I too have a “1000 Words” course I use as my primary focus to add vocabulary, but there’s a “German Conversation” course as well that has lots of useful longer phrases like “I couldn’t care less,” “I completely agree with you,” and “he’s so reliable you could build houses on him.” Then there’s the short course on prepositions I whisked through as a review, and a challenging one on verb conjugations. And then—slowly, oh so slowly! probably only a hundred words over the course of a year!—I’m using the vast and comprehensive 5000 German words course which is packed with upper-level vocabulary.

But then, I thrive on variety. Other users might prefer to move steadily through one course at a time. There’s a fair amount of overlap in my assortment of courses, which helps cement things in my mind, but I can see that it might feel redundant or confusing to others.

choosing a mem

Regarding mems for language, I’ve found that the best kind are those that help me work from the English to the German. I can usually remember the English meaning of a German word after a couple of repetitions, but it’s much harder for me to look at English and grope for its German counterpart. The majority of user-created mems seem to work the opposite direction—they’ll start with the German and use English puns to link the word to the English. For example, here’s a text-only mem I made for aufhören, German for “to stop doing something”:

aufhoren

It didn’t really work for me, not after some weeks away from the program. I couldn’t look at the English definition and get to the German word. What I really needed was something that starts with “stop doing something” and gets to “aufhören.” In this case, I tried to enhance the mental picture that goes with the above mem: I picture a Stop sign with Alf the TV alien perched on top holding a phone—the phone because the “hören” part reminds me of Auf Wiederhören, “until I talk to you again,” which you say when getting off the phone. Now, this revised image is working pretty well for me—but it requires me to remember to use the “stop” in “stop doing something” as my jumping-off point for memory. Will I remember that if I come across the word in another context a year from now? I don’t know. I do know that a vivid and specific mental image makes a tremendous difference in my ability to connect words in two different languages, and that after some repetition, the word is transferred to my permanent memory and I don’t need to rely on the mnemonic device anymore.

This repetition is part of what makes Memrise so successful: the program works by giving you the words at ever-increasing intervals as you demonstrate mastery. First you “plant” the words, a few at a time, and they give you a lot of interactions with it in different ways—English to German, German to English, multiple choice, type it in. This process only takes a few minutes for each new batch of words.

Here’s one example:

aufpassen

Here’s another:

payattention

Now the words are planted in your short-term memory. Memrise locks them for a few hours (sort of—you can override the lock by clicking “overwater” for extra practice). After that, they are ready for “watering”—you come back and review them again. If you get a word right on the first attempt, next time there will be a longer interval before it’s ready for watering. Eventually, as the words move from short-term to long-term memory, the intervals may be many days long.

memrisewatering

As you can see, most of the words in this lesson are in my long-term memory and don’t need “watering” (reviewing) for several days or even weeks. A phrase I missed yesterday, “auf diese Weise,” is ready for watering now. “Auf,” a common preposition I learned decades ago, is (obviously) in my long-term memory and only comes around every few weeks. If I wanted, I could tell Memrise to ignore it altogether—there’s a setting you can click that means I’ve got this one down and never need to review it again. I certainly don’t need “auch,” a word I learned on day one of German, popping up in my word list. I don’t always bother to mark words “ignore,” though, since it’s an extra step.

I mentioned above that what Memrise excels at is teaching you vocabulary, but it’s not as strong at conveying grammar. You won’t necessarily learn word order or grammatical cases from this program—for that we use other resources like Duolingo (about which, more in a future post). But what my kids and I have found is that Memrise is invaluable for building our vocabulary, and grammar is so much easier to nail down when you have a big word list to draw from. And when I was really struggling to keep straight which prepositions take which cases for object nouns, Memrise came to my rescue. I found a German course that focuses on that very thing—you have to enter +A or +D after each verb-preposition combo to indicate whether the noun will take accusative or dative. That’s the kind of drill I need to take me to the next level of fluency. I’ve been stuck in the middle of Level B1 (going by the Goethe Institut’s fluency scale) ever since college. My periodic reimmersions in German have prevented me from losing what skill I’d gained, but to move forward toward real fluency I need some more intensive drill. This course is helping shift my recall from groping to automatic.

How much time does Memrise take? It can be as little as five minutes a day, if you want—plant a couple of new words, maybe water some of your older ones. I tend to go in intense bursts of activity with long lulls between them—sometimes many weeks will pass without my checking in, and that’s fine. The whole point of the program is to plant the words in long-term memory. If I’ve forgotten them—the app can tell by how I answer—they get pushed back into a more active, frequent rotation in the list.

During my intense bursts, I add new words, level by level. Then, when my focus inevitably shifts elsewhere, I stop accruing new vocabulary but the program is there to help me maintain the vocab I’ve got. “Watering” your words can be really relaxing and addictive. Some people play Candy Crush; I water my German verbs.

The iPhone app is pretty sharp. I like to check in last thing before I go to sleep and see if any of my words need watering. It’s a good waiting-room activity, too, since the courses I’m taking work fine with the sound turned off.

1402171723.jpg  1402171655.jpg

Okay, I’ve talked a lot about how I use Memrise for my own learning. What about the kids?

My younger kids are very interested in it; Rilla begs to use it for French, but it’s a skitch above her level. Her spelling isn’t strong enough yet for her to be able to easily enter answers in English, let alone French. Also, and significantly, Memrise is designed for adults, and the mems are created by adult users, which means that occasionally you come across one that’s a bit off-color. For these reasons, I think it’s better saved for kids 13 and up, depending on your parental comfort level. For us, 12 or 13 is a good threshold.

For my younger set, we tend more toward apps specifically designed for children, like the ones I reviewed at GeekMom a while back.

Before heading off to college, Jane used Memrise to learn Japanese kanji. Rose, as I said, likes it best as a way to experience a wide variety of languages. She’s very interested in language and linguistics, and Memrise has allowed her easily to explore the rudiments of more tongues than I can keep track of. Meanwhile, she’s making steady progress through her Memrise Spanish course, which we supplement with a grammar workbook. (She’s not keen on Duolingo. Beanie and I love it.)

Also, Rose doesn’t bother with mems. She says she remembers better without them. What clicks for her is Memrise’s repetition cycle, the way the words you’re weakest on will appear more frequently in your practice sessions.

Beanie, like me, is into German. She does about 15 minutes of Memrise a day, 4-5 days a week. Her vocabulary is growing steadily and the program has the advantage of building excellent spelling skills as well.

There are also Memrise courses for the SAT and other college admissions tests, including SAT vocab builders. You can create brand new courses, too, and make them private or public as you choose. (Choose: wählen, she CHOOSES to wear a VEIL IN church. That’s someone else’s mem but it worked like a charm for me.) If I hadn’t found a course with the verb-preposition-case info I wanted, I was thinking about creating my own. I’m always happy, though, when someone else does the leg work. :)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 21 mems to water!

Quinn Cummings and I will be on Reader’s Advisory Twitter chat today

December 5, 2013 @ 9:00 am | Filed under: Events

From Liz Burns re the #ReadAdv Twitter chat for librarians and interested parties:

Our next chat takes place on Thursday, December 5 at 8 P.M. EST.

Sophie and Kelly and I were tossing around possible topics for our next chat, and homeschooling came up. Seems like librarians are always asking about and wondering about working with homeschoolers. What can they do? What should they do? What works?

So I said, oh, we should have guests. And I had a short dream list of possibilities: the two people who, in talking about homeschooling, makes me want to have kids just so I can homeschool them.

They are, of course, Melissa Wiley and Quinn Cummings. And both these terrific women said YES. So Melissa Wiley (@melissawiley on Twitter) and Quinn Cummings (@quinncy) will be joining us on December 5.

Got anything you’d like me to share with librarians who are wondering how best to serve  homeschoolers? Wish lists, etc? Send me your questions and I’ll share them this evening, 8pm EST, 5pm here on the West Coast. Follow #ReadAdv to see the discussion unfold.

Me thinketh that I shall rehearse it here

October 14, 2013 @ 5:09 pm | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, Homeschooling

canterburypilgrims

The girls and I are having a good time with Chaucer. We’re making our way through the Prologue—slowly; this is a slow reading—using the Norton Anthology of Poetry because it’s conveniently marked up with my notes from college, as well as having decent footnotes to help us along with the Middle English. I was delighted to discover I could still quote the opening lines, thanks to my wonderful Medieval Lit prof, Dr. John Krause. Now Rose and Beanie are learning them, which makes me six kinds of happy.

I’m reading aloud relevant bits of Marshall’s English Literature for Boys and Girls for background and color, some of which gives us a good laugh, since Marshall feels compelled to reassure her young readers that she isn’t going to scandalize them with the unsavory stuff, but perhaps they will appreciate it in context when they are older. Today this led to a discussion of Victorian* sensibilities and occasional outbursts of “Your ankle is showing!” (Perhaps you had to be there. We were crying laughing.)

(*English Literature for Boys and Girls was published in 1909, so isn’t itself Victorian, but Marshall’s tone very often is, and amusingly so. “Some of these stories you will like to read, but others are too coarse and rude to give you any pleasure. Even the roughness of these tales, however, helps us to picture the England of those far-off days. We see from them how hard and rough the life must have been when people found humor and fun in jokes in which we can feel only disgust.” Er, no, Henrietta, I think a casual meandering through YouTube will make a strong case for the enduring appeal of “coarse and rude” content.)

This morning’s passage was some more of the prologue—we haven’t met all the travelers yet; we’re doing a slow reading—and then “The Complaynt of Chaucer to His Purse,” which my daughters, the offspring of two freelance writers, understood all too well. 😉 After we finish the prologue, we’ll read two Tales together. Chanticleer, I think, because the girls know it from the Barbara Cooney book and I expect they’ll enjoy hearing the original, and one other I haven’t decided upon yet. And then they can read the rest on their own, if they like.

My favorite part of our discussion today was in regard to Chaucer’s apologia for the Miller’s Tale:

What should I more say but this miller
He would his words for no man forbear,
But told his churls tale in his manner.
Me thinketh that I shall rehearse it here;
And therefore every gently wight I pray,
For Goddes love deem not that I say
Of evil intent, but for I might rehearse
Their tales all, be they better or worse,
Or else falsen some of my matter…

(To borrow Marshall’s translation, since I had the tab open already)

We talked about how every writer of fiction (and biography, memoir, many other forms) has to grapple with this same challenge, and how gratifying it is to me to see Chaucer dealing with it way back in the 14th century. Sometimes our characters must say and do things we, personally, find distressing or even offensive. This has been the hardest part of writing my current novel, actually. It’s historical fiction and though I wish my characters were more enlightened on several points, I must be true to the time, must let these people tell their stories authentically “or else falsen some of my matter.” One of the chief parts of my job is climbing inside these unfamiliar skins and attempting to walk some miles in them. I inch my way in and find Chaucer has already been there.

There are no words to describe…

September 9, 2013 @ 9:09 am | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, Geography

…just how much this kid loves Paddle-to-the-Sea.

Paddle-to-the-Sea

“A bumpy line of buildings stretched like castles along the horizon. They were grain elevators at Port Arthur and Fort William filled with mountains of grain which trains had brought from the plains of western Canada. The ships now passing Paddle would carry the grain to other lake ports and other lands…”

(She decided to draw stalks of wheat to represent the grain. She’s charting Paddle’s journey through the Great Lakes in blue.)

Things That Are Working

January 30, 2013 @ 10:24 am | Filed under: Art, Books, Homeschooling

larsson detail

detail from “Girl at Desk,” Carl Larsson

1) I like to pull out a bunch of our poetry books and let each kid (from Rose on down) pick one, and while I’m busy with something else, the kids each choose a poem to read to the rest of us. They enjoy the hunt, and I love hearing which poems have captured their hearts.

2) The Art Puzzle HD app. Another mom on my local homeschooling list mentioned it—we were sharing our favorites—and I love love love this app. You select a puzzle  from paintings by artists like Van Gogh, Klimt, Bruegel*, Picasso, Renoir, and Dali. (More paintings are available via in-app purchase.) There are four levels of complexity and I’m finding even the second-easiest level to be challenging in some of these pieces—all Monet’s little dabs of color make for a puzzling puzzle indeed. There’s a gentle soundtrack of classical music (limited in repertoire but lovely choices—The Four Seasons, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, Clair de Lune, the Elgar cello concerto I love—things I’m happy to listen to over and over, and am happy to have my kids hear). You can toggle the music off whenever you like. If you like (or wanted to like but the kids’ interest flagged) Mommy, That’s a Renoir, you’ll like this app. Best picture study resource I’ve seen in a long time. My only complaint is: no Carl Larsson!

*Wikipedia tells me he dropped the H from his name at some point. Who knew?

3) Earworms continues to be a hit with my older girls. Rose and Bean are nearly done with German Volume 2 now. Rilla and Huck have picked up a lot along the way. Jane is enjoying the Japanese version.

4) A liberal dose of fairy tales and nursery rhymes for my younger set. Nothing new here, just noting it because it’s bringing me so much joy these days.

5) Winter Holiday as a read-aloud. Though I do still hanker after the Gabriel Woolf audio recordings that Alice’s gang fell in love with ages ago. (Scroll down to the final comment on that post—hilarious!)

6) Sunday family Shakespeare readings. Still working our way through The Tempest. Sunday can’t come fast enough.