Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Month: July 2018

The Story of My Tree

I have a tree in my backyard. It is my favorite tree. Happily, it can be seen through the french door windows as I sit in my reading chair in my room. It is quite tall, probably 30-40 feet high, with a moderately sized, 8-9 inch, light brown/gray trunk. It’s beautiful three-pointed leaves have a two-toned green color in the summer that become almost fluorescent after an afternoon summer shower. And right on the tip of certain branches are handfuls of leaves that are orange and red. I am filled with wonder at these little accents dotted around the tree, which give it such interest and beauty. As lovely as these leaves are in their luscious green dress, the beginning of winter is when this tree really shines. The leaves turn from green to a bright orange and red that glows as though it is on fire. It only lasts a week or two (sometimes longer if I’m lucky), but it is one of the most majestic, beautiful sights I have ever seen. Its color turns later in the season than one would expect, usually some time in December, likely because the weather isn’t cold enough here in Florida until then.

Through the years I have seen this tree provide refuge to many wild life in our neighborhood. I love watching the cardinals and wrens and chickadees alight in the tree, flitting from branch to branch in search of seeds. Mrs. Cardinal never far behind Mr. Cardinal as he leads her here and there among the branches. I have watched with amusement as squirrels have used the trunk of this tree as a stage for their drama of theft and retribution. And then there’s the laid-back lizards, who you can always find on the trunk or a branch, blending in as its color almost matches perfectly with the tree, with just its orange dewlap pulsing in and out to remind you that it is actually there. I have been under the boughs of this tree in the spring as green caterpillars and furry caterpillars have seemingly exploded from its leaves and dropped all over my table and chairs. And ladybug pupas crawling in and around, waiting for their time to come when they will enter their deep sleep and awake to find the world changed, bigger and wider and more glorious than they could have ever imagined, as they discover wings with which to see it all with.

This tree has been a silent companion to our family as we have sat on our log chairs around our fire pit, trading stories while roasting hotdogs and marshmallows. It has listened as we sat beneath its boughs teaching math, reading stories, painting flowers, crying over learning to read, and mom yelling at the kids to pick up their toys for the hundredth time. It has stood strong as my children have climbed it’s branches and seen the world from a different perspective, giving them a view that is beyond their usual scope, inspiring them and filling them with joy and comfort and hope.

It has affectionately become known as “Mom’s favorite tree.” This is because I love it. But also because we don’t actually know what kind of tree it is. Oh, I have been told half a dozen times or more, by clever people who remember facts about trees, what kind of tree it is. There have even been times when I have known its name, and many more times when I have promptly forgotten it. I would very much like to keep it in my memory permanently, and after I write this post I intend to look it up and write it down in an effort to commit it to memory. But not knowing right now what it is called does not preclude me from knowing the tree. I am more intimately acquainted with this tree than any of the other flowers or plants that are in my garden. Because the classification of this tree, while important for identification and clarification, is not the tree. The tree is what it is, whether I know what it is called or not. I have a relationship with this tree. I know this tree. I care about this tree. And therein lies the vision for the education I seek for my children: an education that is not about the memorization of facts for facts sake, but the nurturing of knowledge—through relationships, through the ordering of their affections. And ultimately pointing them to the knowledge Giver and Creator of all.

“The question is not,— how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education—but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” – Charlotte Mason, School Education

As we homeschoolers plan for the year to come, let us cultivate an environment that guides our children to build relationships with the knowledge that is set before them. Where facts are not presented as rote memorization in order to pass a test, only to be promptly forgotten when no longer required, but where our children come to a true understanding through relationship with the ideas that the facts are connected to.

“To know by rote, is no knowledge, and signifies no more but only to retain what one has entrusted to your memory. That which a man rightly knows and understands, he is the free disposer of his own full liberty, without any regard to the author from whence he had it, or fumbling over the leaves of his book. A mere bookish learning is a poor paltry learning, it may serve for ornament, but there is yet no foundation for any superstructure to be built upon it.” – Montainge quoted by Karen Glass, Consider This.

What have I gained by knowing the species classification of my tree if I do not care about it?

I plan to study and blog through Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles in a couple of weeks and I’d love for you to join me. If you would like to join me, let me know in the comments. Be sure to grab Brandy Vencel’s study guide, get your copy of For The Children’s Sake, and get reading!

2017/2018 End-of-Year Round Up

Last week was exam week and marked the end of the school year for my 3rd, 4th, and 6th graders. I interviewed my kids about their year and gave them an opportunity to reflect, in their own words, on what they had learned. I too, answered the questions.

G-Age-8 (AO3)

AO3 Books Read 2017/18

Kindle books not pictured: Michelangelo by Diane Stanley, Secrets of the Woods by William Long, Beautiful Tales From Shakespeare by E. Nesbit, The Heroes by Charles Kingsley, Children of the New Forest by F. Marryat, The Jungle Book 1 by Rudyard Kipling, Parables From Nature by Margaret Gatty.

Favorite subjects/books
The Jungle Book 1 and 2, Princess and the Goblin.

Area that I grew the most in this year
Writing.

Area I need to work on the most
Math

The most interesting topic in history
The guy who dressed up as a girl. (“Bonnie Prince Charlie,” Charles Edward Stuart)

The most interesting topic in science
Drop of Water. How the bubble is a hundred times thinner than a thread of hair. E didn’t know that. The deers in Secrets of the Woods.

What was the hardest thing this year?
Learning to read.

What I am most proud of
The story I wrote for Daddy. That I can climb trees.

I am pretty good at
Swimming and climbing and catching animals.

Next year I hope to…
Rock climb. Mum read more stories to me.

E-Age-9 (AO4)

AO4 Books Read 2017/18

Kindle books not pictured: The Storybook of Science by Jean-Henri Fabre

Favorite subjects/books
Age of Fable, Abigail Adams, Kidnapped, Incredible Journey, Shakespeare, George Washington’s World, and Ocean of Truth.

(To summarize these titles – History and Literature)

Area that I grew the most in this year
Storybook of Science taught me things that I didn’t know. Abigail Adams because she taught me how it felt like to be married and how it felt to have somebody die and how it feels to have a husband that goes away and you don’t see him for years. And it just shows how it can be really hard and how much she suffered.

Ocean of Truth taught me how it feels to be someone new at school and to have hardships and turn out to be the greatest man alive (biography of Isaac Newton).

Area I need to work on the most
History. Because it is hard concentrating and I want to learn more about what happened.

The most interesting topic in history
The Reign of Terror. I like to know how things happen.

The most interesting topic in science
When Isaac made the fake comet and everybody thought they saw a comet but it wasn’t. About the bees in Storybook of Science and pollen how there are poisonous plants.

What was the hardest thing this year?
Madam How and Lady Why and George Washington’s World. They were the two hardest things to concentrate on.

I am most proud of
Being able to read hard books and accomplishing things and being able to do a lot of math in my head.

I am pretty good at
Reading and writing and imagination.

Next year I hope to
Learn even more about history and sciency things.

A-Age-11 (AO6)

AO6 Books Read 2017/18

Kindle books not pictured: The Story of Mankind by Hendrick Van Loon, Galileo and the Magic Numbers by Sidney Rosen

Favorite subjects/books
Literature and History because I like learning about world history and ancient history, and I just like the books that Ambleside Online puts in literature.

Area that I grew the most in this year
Math and written narrations.

Area I need to work on the most
I would say written narrations. Because I would of said math but I have been working really hard on math and it is becoming easier for me now but I still have to work on expanding my written narrations from just saying the bare facts.

The most interesting topic in history
Ancient history. Just because I learn about all the ways that they used to fight and the ways that people would come into power and how the army elected new emperors.

The most interesting topic in science
Elements. Because it is interesting to learn all of the elements that are in humans and what they do and how they react with other elements and how poisonous some are. And I also enjoyed It Couldn’t Just Happen because it gave me, from the Bible, answers to questions that I had concerning evolution, and it gave me answers that were helpful and I will remember all my life.

What was the hardest thing this year?
Expanding on my written narrations because I always had this stress that I would take too long and go too late in the day. But late in term 3 I started to find it easier to write more detailed written narrations without freaking out.

What I am most proud of
The way I have improved in math. I am proud of this because math has always been a hard subject for me and now it is easier and easier to learn new subjects.

I am pretty good at
Reading. Which I find very helpful considering half of my school is reading books. It has made school a lot funner, more enjoyable and less stressful, knowing that there are subjects where I can relax, have snack, and read a book.

Next year I hope to
Improve my written narration skills and be able to write written narrations without stressing and make them as long and detailed as my oral narrations.

Next year I hope to learn that all the subjects I don’t like aren’t bad and that I can learn them if I put my heart into it.

Me

Mom Reading 2017/18

Kindle books not pictured: Toward a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason, The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain

Since I have made my children’s booklist my booklist (with a few more added in for myself), I have essentially completed AO6 this year alongside my daughter. And what a year it was. I have enjoyed learning so much and have read books I never would have picked up for myself. I have used Ambleside Online’s curriculum from the very beginning and AO6 has been my favorite year so far. I say that with every year that we complete because the curriculum is SO good.

Favorite subjects/books
Hands down my favorite subject was science. This was surprising to me because I am not a sciency person. The living science books kindled a wonder that I never had when I was at school. I think I will dedicate a whole post to AO6 science, because it was so good. If I had to pick a favorite it would have to be It couldn’t just happen by Lawrence Richards.  It was the book that I had the most “wow!” moments. I ended up narrating every chapter to my husband because I just had to tell someone what I had learned!

Area that I grew the most in this year
Parenting. Not a school subject, but “Education is a Life” and learning how to parent through new circumstances has been the biggest area for growth for me. Also, consistency in quiet time with the Lord.

Area I need to work on the most
Consistency in dictation lessons with my two oldest. Dictation is how we study spelling and punctuation. There were too many weeks when I left it off the schedule or I hadn’t prepared a lesson. (If anyone is interested in how studied dictation works let me know and I’ll write a blog post about it.)

The most interesting topic in history
I loved reading a biography of Winston Churchill while reading a general overview of the same time period. Also, reading ancient history, especially Story of The Greeks and Story of The Romans simultaneously with Ben Hur, has made the Bible come alive for me. I feel like, through these books, I stepped back in time and was an observer of the time of Christ.

The most interesting topic in science
Am I allowed to say all of it? I really loved the apologetic style of It Couldn’t Just Happen as it touched on multiple areas of scientific study arguing for a creationist view. Also, The Mystery of The Periodic Table made the elements and the history of the periodic table come alive for me.

What was the hardest thing this year?
Managing the emotions of 3 very passionate young girls.

What I am most proud of
Geography has been a subject that I feel we have been the most successful with. Ambleside Online does not provide step-by-step, week-by-week instructions for how to use the assigned book to study geography. So the map work and how we use the book had to be planned and implemented by me and I think that the plan I developed worked well.

I am pretty good at
Reading aloud.

Next year I hope to…
Be more consistent with studied dictation. Read all of the many books scheduled for AO7. Enjoy learning along side my children.

 

Note: The ages given of the children reflect the age they were for the majority of the school year. Some have since had their birthdays.

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