Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Category: Ambleside Online

Studied Dictation: Part 1

What is it and why would we use it?

Studied Dictation is a method to teach spelling that was developed by Charlotte Mason. It is outlined in Home Education (Volume 1). Briefly, it is where a child studies the spelling of unknown words and punctuation in an assigned passage of poetry or prose. When the student has learned the passage, the teacher dictates the passage for the student to write from memory. I will discuss the step-by-step method of what this looks like in my daily lessons soon, but first I feel it is important to discuss why we would choose to study spelling in this way. Why not grab the boxed spelling curriculum off the shelf and learn spelling through lists that have already been laid out for us? 10 or 20 words a week. No planning. Just learn the words and you know how to spell, right?

To answer this question, we must look at Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education. Out of the 20 principles of her philosophy, one stands out to me as the hinge to which all the others hang. It is the first principle: “children are born persons.” She begins her whole philosophy by thinking about who the child is. The child is not an empty vessel to be filled with information, they are a whole human being: mind, body, and spirit, whose whole being needs to be educated.

In her book Consider This, Karen Glass quotes David Hicks who puts it this way,

“The purpose of education is not the assimilation of facts or the retention of information, but the habituation of the mind and body to will and act in accordance with what one knows.”

Glass explains that,

“When our knowledge is transformed into action, it becomes virtue, and virtue was the goal of the classical educators … Our educational methods should inspire and lead children toward right thinking and acting…”

Charlotte Mason’s entire Language Arts approach is based on the premise that we are educating whole persons. The purpose of language is to communicate truth—to learn and understand ideas. If the purpose of education is to “inspire and lead children toward right thinking and acting,” then studying the spelling of a word within the context of the idea that it was used to convey will more directly achieve that purpose.

I can attest from personal experience the richness that can be found in a dictation lesson. An example is when we were learning the line “We should try to succeed by merit, not by favor.” I had planned the lesson to teach spelling, only to find that not only did my children focus on spelling, they discussed the ideas in the passage at the same time. They discussed what merit was and what favor was, and why it was better to succeed by merit. This was not in my mind when we began the lesson. It happened because the living ideas in the passage being considered were worthy of my children’s thought. Through dictation a child can grow in wisdom.

Putting it into practice

I encourage you to read Charlotte Mason’s own words on the steps of dictation lesson.

It is a very simple method. To summarize, the child looks at a passage for any words that they don’t know and spend time studying them by visualizing them in their mind.

“The teacher asks if there are any words he is not sure of. These she puts, one by one, on the blackboard, letting the child look till he has a picture, and then rubbing the word out.”

Charlotte Mason cautions teachers not to allow the child to see a misspelled word, which can confuse the child as to the correct spelling. I know there are still some words that I will often spell wrong because I have seen it misspelled too often.

For continued study of more difficult words, she says:

“If anyone is still doubtful he should be called to put the word he is not sure of on the board, the teacher watching to rub out the word when a wrong letter begins to appear, and again helping the child to get a mental picture.”

Charlotte Mason also emphasizes over and over in her volumes the importance of the child reading living books themselves.

“A lesson of this kind secures the hearty co-operation of children, who feel they take their due part in it; and it also prepares them for the second condition of good spelling, which is––much reading combined with the habit of imaging the words as they are read.”

“Illiterate spelling is usually a sign of sparse reading; but, sometimes, of hasty reading without the habit of seeing the words that are skimmed over.”

Studied dictation does not begin until around 4th grade, or when the child is 9 or 10. They have had 3 years of formal reading lessons and phonics instruction before this (Discover Reading is a comprehensive explanation and guide for the Charlotte Mason method of teaching reading). They have also been, from the time they can form their letters correctly, doing copywork. The habit of attention and visualizing words to learn them has (hopefully) already been established. Therefore, further phonics instruction is not necessary during dictation.

Below is a sample lesson. Next week I will share a couple of modified dictation lessons I developed for my oldest daughter, who fell into what Charlotte Mason calls “hasty reading.” Those lessons were a blend of ‘Spell to Write and Read’ and dictation, which emphasized phonics and spelling rules much more than Charlotte Mason prescribed.

The following lesson plan is a way to teach studied dictation. Others may break down the lessons differently to me. The lesson should not be longer than 10-15 minutes. Charlotte Mason (as far as I am aware) did not teach spelling rules. I have found teaching a few of them helpful, particularly for my first and third child, but you do not have to teach them. They are there simply as a reference for the teacher. The work of studying the words is for the students to do. The instructions are a guide to get the student going, but once the student has developed a good study practice, they will be able to do these steps automatically for themselves without much instruction from the teacher.

Dictation Lesson Plan Example

(Download PDF version. Updated.)

From The Birth of Britain by Winston Churchill:

“In the summer of the Roman year of 699, now described as the year 55 before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Proconsul of Gaul, Gaius Julius Caesar, turned his gaze upon Britain. In the midst of his wars in Germany and in Gaul he became conscious of this heavy Island which stirred his ambitions and already obstructed his designs.

Day 1

  1. Use for copywork
  2. Have student identify (circle, highlight, asterisk, etc) words likely to give her trouble. e.g. Proconsul, Gaul, Gaius, Julius, Caesar, Britain, conscious, island, stirred (double ‘r’ when adding suffix), ambitions, already, obstructed, designs, 
  3. Student study unknown words.
  • Study first word Gaul. Notice capital letter. It is a proper noun. Notice phonogram “au”. Student close eyes and picture the word in her mind (reference removed from sight). When sure of it, write the word down.
  • Study word Gaius. Notice capital letter. It is a proper noun. Notice it’s Latin masculine ending. Close eyes and picture the word in your mind. Remove reference. When you have it, write it down.
  • Study word Julius. Notice capital letter for proper noun. Notice Latin masculine ending. Close eyes and picture the word in your mind. Remove reference. When you have it, write it down.
  • Study word Caesar. Notice capital letter for proper noun. Notice Latin spelling ‘ae’. Notice phonogram ‘ar.’ Close eyes and picture the word in your mind. Remove reference. When you have it, write it down.
  • Study word Britain. Notice capital letter for proper noun. Notice phonogram ‘ai.’ Close eyes and picture the word in your mind. Remove reference. When you have it, write it down.
  • Study word conscious. Notice the phonogram ‘ci’ (Latin ‘sh’), notice the s before the ‘ci’ (like science), notice suffix ‘ous.’ Close eyes and picture the word in your mind. Remove reference. When you have it, write it down.

Rule: TI, CI, and SI are used only at the beginning of any syllable after the
first one.

  • Study word island. Notice silent ’s’. Notice the word ‘land’ (not emphasized in speech for spelling.) Close eyes and picture the word in your mind. Remove reference. When you have it, write it down.

Day 2

  1. Continue study of unknown words, Continue to notice phonograms and spelling rules (if applicable). Visualize each word and write them down when known. Teacher be mindful not to allow student to write down words misspelled. Erase mistake immediately and have them look at the word again to learn it accurately.
  • Stirred (double ‘r’ when adding suffix). Notice phonogram ‘ir’, notice suffix ‘ed’. Student close eyes and picture the word in her mind (reference removed from sight). When sure of it, write the word down.

Rule: Double the last consonant when adding a vowel suffix to words ending in one vowel followed by one consonant only if the syllable before the suffix is stressed.

  • ambitions. Notice Latin phonogram ‘ti’ (’sh’). Divide into syllables if needed.
  • already. Notice prefix ‘al’. Notice phonogram ‘ea’ (second sound), Notice ‘y’ at the end of the word.

Rule: ‘al’ is a prefix written with one L when preceding another syllable.
Rule: English words do not end in I,U,V, or J.

  • obstructed. Notice suffix ‘ed’. Divide into syllables.
  • designs.  Notice phonogram ‘gn’.
  • Day 3

    1. Teach punctuation
    • Commas 1 & 2. …, now described as the year 55 before the birth of Jesus Christ, – Modifier (p447, The Little Brown Handbook) “Commas around part of a sentence often signal that the element is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence.”
    • Commas 3&4 – … Gaul, Gaius Julius Caesar, – Nonessential appositives (p.451)

    Note: It is very likely that I would only choose one of these punctuation rules to explicitly teach during our lesson. The student will still study the text for correct placement for the purpose of dictation, but will not be taught the ‘why’ for every punctuation mark. These lessons will come up over and over in our dictation lessons. It is enough to just mention the rule in the context of learning the passage. Students will have plenty of opportunity to practice these rules when editing their own written narrations.

    Day 4

    1. Dictate

    If the passage that has been studied is long, you can just choose to dictate a portion of the studied selection. Select a portion that will keep the lesson to 10 minutes in length. The student will not know which portion you will dictate so must study the whole thing to be well prepared.

    Note: The division of days is just a suggestion. Depending on how many words the student needs to study and how long it takes them to study, you may move faster or slower. Allow the student to determine the pace.

    Resources used:
    The Little, Brown Handbook 12th edition by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron.
    Uncovering The Logic of English by Denise Eide.

A Journey Through Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles

As I mentioned last week, I will be studying Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles of education. To do this I will be using Brandy Vencel’s Start Here study guide. I invite you to study along with me. Here are the details for the study.

Required reading
In addition to the Start Here study guide, you will also need For The Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and A Philosophy of Education (Volume 6) by Charlotte Mason. Volume 6 is available to read for free online at Ambleside Online if you don’t own the hard copy.

Schedule
We will discuss a principle a month most of the time, except where Brandy has combined principles that are related. These are outlined in her Start Here study guide. I plan to post my thoughts on the 3rd Tuesday of every month. I will try really hard to keep to this schedule but I cannot guarantee that life will not get in the way from time to time. I highly recommend that you subscribe to the blog to get notified of the next post in the study. You can do this by entering your email address into the orange box on the right or the bottom of the page.

Participation
Once I’ve posted my thoughts about the principle, it is your turn. Post your thoughts, questions, and discussions points in the comments. Feel free to link to your own blog in the comments if you have a post that discusses the principle being considered.

Keeping it together
This page will serve as a landing page for the study. There will be a list of links to each post for easy navigation. I will continue to add links as we make our way through the study.

Who was Charlotte Mason?
Lastly, Brandy says it is a good idea to know who Charlotte Mason was and why it is worth our time to study her. Read this article to learn about Charlotte Mason herself.

 

A Journey Through Charlotte Mason 20 Principles Directory

  • Principle 1:
    Children are born persons.
  • Principle 2:
    [Children] are not born either good or bad, but with the possibilities for good and for evil.
  • Principle 3:
    The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental…
  • Principle 4:
    These principles [of authority and obedience] are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.
  • Principle 5a & 6:
    Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments – [the first is] the atmosphere of environment…
    (6)When we say that “education is an atmosphere,” we do not mean a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child environment’ especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child’s level.
  • Principles 5b & 7:
    Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments – [the second being] the discipline of habit…
    (7)By “education is a discipline,” we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structures to habitual lines of thought, i.e., to our habits.
  • Principles 5c & 8:
    Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments – [the third of which is] the presentation of living ideas…
    (8)In saying that “education is a life,” the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.
  • Principles 9,10, and 11:
    We hold that the child’s mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs.
    (10)Such a doctrine as e.g. the Herbartian, that the mind is a receptacle, lays the stress of education (the preparation of knowledge in enticing morsels duly ordered) upon the teacher. Children taught on this principle are in danger of receiving much teaching with little knowledge; and the teacher’s axiom is, ‘what a child learns matters less than how he learns it.’
    (11)But we, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas.
  • Principle 12:
    Out of this conception [that the child’s mind comes fit to deal with knowledge, and that facts must not be presented without their informing ideas] comes our principle that, – “Education is the Science of Relations”; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, naturelore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of–
    “Those first-born affinities
    “That fit our new existence to existing things.”
  • Principle 13:
    In devising a SYLLABUS for a normal child, of whatever social class, three points must be considered:
    (a) He requires much knowledge, for the mind needs sufficient food as much as does the body.
    (b) The knowledge should be various, for sameness in mental diet does not create appetite (i.e., curiosity).
    (c) Knowledge should be communicated in well-chosen language, because his attention responds naturally to what is conveyed in literary form.
  • Principles 14 & 15:
    As knowledge is not assimilated until it is reproduced, children should ‘tell back’ after a single reading or hearing: or should write on some part of what they have read.
    (15) A single reading is insisted on, because children have naturally great power of attention; but this force is dissipated by the re-reading of passages, and also, by questioning, summarizing, and the like.
    Acting upon these and some other points in the behaviour of mind, we find that the educability of children is enormously greater than has hitherto been supposed, and is but little dependent on such circumstances as heredity and environment.
    Nor is the accuracy of this statement limited to clever children or to children of the educated classes: thousands of children in Elementary Schools respond freely to this method, which is based on the behaviour of mind.
  • Principles 16a and 17:
    There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, [the first] we may call ‘the way of the will’…
    (17)The way of the will: Children should be taught, (a) to distinguish between ‘I want’ and ‘I will.’ (b) That the way to will effectively is to turn our thoughts from that which we desire but do not will. (c) That the best wayto turn our thoughts is to think of or do some quite different thing, entertaining or interesting. (d) That after a little rest in this way, the will returns to its work with new vigour. (This adjunct of the will is familiar to us as diversion, whose office it is to ease us for a time from will effort, that we may ‘will’ again with added power. The use of suggestion as an aid to the will is to be deprecated, as tending to stultify and stereotype character. It would seem that spontaneity is a condition of development, and that human nature needs the discipline of failure as well as of success.)
  • Principles 16b and 18:
    There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, [the second] we may call ‘the way of the reason’…
    (18)The way of reason: We teach children, too, not to ‘lean (too confidently) to their own understanding’; because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration (a) of mathematical truth, (b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will. In the former case, reason is, practically, an infallible guide, but in the latter, it is not always a safe one; for, whether that idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs.
  • Principle 19:
    Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests on them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas. To help them in this choice we give them principles of conduct, and a wide range of the knowledge fitted to them. These principles should save children from some of the loose thinking and heedless action which cause most of us to live at a lower level than we need.
  • Principle 20:
    We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.

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.

How To Add Pilgrim’s Progress To Your Homeschool Day

The Pilgrim’s Progress (unabridged) is a beautiful example of the best of English literature. An analogy of the Christian life, it combines truth with the beauty of the written word. Yet, due to its 17th-century prose, it can be an intimidating book to attempt to read aloud to your kids. When Ambleside Online (AO) scheduled it to be read in Year 2 and pleaded with us to read the unabridged version, I was a little worried. I had tried to read it for myself once before and struggled immensely. How was my 7-year-old going to understand it? Yet I trusted Ambleside and believed it a worthy book to read. Because I was convinced that the richness and beauty of John Bunyan’s original language were worth the effort, I scoured Ambleside’s website and forum for suggestions and advice on the best way to approach reading this book to give us the best opportunity of succeeding with it. With these suggestions, I came up with a plan. Lo, and behold, the year was a success! When it came time for my middle daughter to read it I decided the whole family would benefit from reading it together. For the last 2 years, we have read short sections of The Pilgrim’s Progress each week as a family in our Morning Time. This is the plan that I follow.

Read Dangerous Journey first

Dangerous Journey is an excellent picture book retelling of the main events of The Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s language and story are simplified but not dumbed down. It is very respectful of the original. I read this book over two to three weeks. After each reading one of the children narrated it. This means that they told back to me in their own words what had been read to them. By reading this retelling first, the children became familiar with the main events of the story and the illustrations gave them a picture of the story that they were able to draw on later when they heard the original. The children loved this book and looked forward to it every week.

Use an audiobook

When I first saw The Pilgrim’s Progress on the school schedule I did not believe I had the ability to read it aloud well myself. Since I didn’t want my inability to read it well to interfere with my children’s understanding, I bought this dramatized unabridged audiobook version from Answers in Genesis. It is excellent. Each character is read by a different reader and the music and sound effects enhance and bring clarity to the story.

Read small sections and Narrate

The Pilgrim’s Progress is a dense, theologically rich analogy of the Christian life. There are many ideas to ponder. We are benefited greatly by not rushing through, but instead by reading small sections at a time to allow the mind the space to think over the truths encountered in these pages. AO has a 1-year and a 2-year plan. We follow the 2-year schedule which has divided the book up into small sections of 700-800 words. After listening, I always ask one of the children to narrate. Resist the temptation to preach at them. Resist the temptation to narrate it for them. Allow the children’s minds to digest what they have heard for themselves. Accept whatever they have told you and leave it. If they ask questions, by all means, answer them. Have discussion after narration, but don’t reduce the children’s enjoyment or limit what they get out of the book, by using it as a springboard for why they should obey you when you ask them to tidy their rooms. This is a time for listening and the children processing what they have heard by telling it back in their own words. It is also worth noting that it is very likely that your children are internalizing a lot more than they are able to communicate verbally. Narration takes time and practice. Be patient and allow the words of the book to do their work. You will likely think that you will have to explain a lot because the language is difficult. But if you give the children a chance, their insights might surprise you. Remember, you have already prepared them for the story by reading the picture book retelling. Often my children make connections and understandings that I had not thought of. Even my less academic child, who I have often accused in my mind of not paying attention, has had some profound insights that have left me speechless. You will all get used to the language. My kid’s narrations aren’t always great, but that is ok. Every now and then, after their turn for narrating, if they have totally missed an integral point, I have given my own narration, but never in a way to make my children feel that they didn’t do it right. And I will never interrupt a child while they are narrating or correct them while they are still speaking. Give them a chance to figure it out for themselves. It will be much more meaningful for them that way. My kids did not love this book, to begin with, but after a while, they got used to the language and the style of the book and are now disappointed when I press stop, begging me to play another section.

Scaffold each reading

Prepare for the coming reading by telling what you read last time. This is called scaffolding. It is even better if the children can tell you what was read last time. I usually ask the children to tell me because I often can’t remember! When it’s time for The Pilgrim’s Progress I will ask something like, “so what did we get up to last time?” or “does anyone remember what happened last time we listened?” This part should only be a very short summary of the previous reading. It is part review, but also helps set the scene for the coming passage to be read, and helps to provide further understanding. After recapping what was read last time you can also prepare them for what they are going to hear by giving them a brief (one sentence) summary of the passage to be heard. I have never done this as I am not well enough prepared to look ahead before we all listen together.

Do my children understand every theological point made in this book? No. Neither do I, and probably neither will you on first reading. There is a reason Charles Spurgeon read and re-read The Pilgrim’s Progress over and over in his life. But my children do understand that without Christ we are in the City destined for Destruction; that it is only at the foot of the cross of Christ that the burden of sin can be lifted; that the Christian journey will not always be easy and we will likely face persecution and sometimes death for the sake of Christ; that even though the journey to the Celestial City is often fraught with danger and we make many missteps along the way, the destination is far glorious and beautiful than one could ever imagine and is the reason to press on in difficult times. I can’t tell you how many times Christian’s burden, or Christian falling into the Slough of Despond, or Christian falling asleep in the garden on his journey, or Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair has come up in discussions and conversations throughout the year or by the children in their play. I know that The Pilgrim’s Progress has enriched our family in more ways than I will ever even know. I encourage you to read or listen to The Pilgrim’s Progress with your family.

Best of 2017

The new year is a popular time on blogs for “best of” posts. As we are still in the first few weeks of a new year and today is also my birthday, it seemed a fitting time to reflect on my own “best of” for 2017.

Best 5 books read

I am a very slow reader. I mean, read-aloud-in-my-head slow. So I can’t fit too much more reading in after all the read-alouds and pre-reading I need to do for our homeschool. I am pre-reading at least 7-10 chapters a week. Because of this, I made the majority of my daughter’s school booklist my reading list. Ambleside Online’s booklists are so rich that I benefit greatly from pre-reading. I am learning too! As a result, most of my ‘best 5’ books are school books that were read in 2017. I also like to be reading a book on education as part of my ongoing vocational training… and because I really like reading and thinking about educational philosophy. It is also interesting to me that most of the books in my best 5 were read aloud to one of my family members.

Without any further ado:

1. A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason

Number one on my list because… it’s Charlotte Mason! It is the comprehensive discussion of her educational philosophy, written years after refining her philosophy and practically applying it successfully in her schools. This one I began in 2016 and finished mid 2017. I wish I were a faster reader so that I could read this every year. It is SO good.

2. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

This was assigned reading for AO4. I read it aloud to E-age-9 and it became our favorite time of the week. It is often tempting to combine the children’s literature selections for school so that I can read one book to all of them at the same time and free up some of my schedule. I’m so glad that I don’t do that. Having one-on-one reading time with each of my kids is time that I treasure. If this book had not been assigned in our curriculum, I probably wouldn’t have prioritized it, but I am glad it was because it is wonderfully rich. More than a story of shipwrecks and survival on a deserted island, it is a story about repentance and redemption. There were so many conversations that I enjoyed with my daughter about rebellion against God, feeling sorrow for our sin, the continual need for repentance, the joy and lightness we feel when we ask for forgiveness, God’s providence in our circumstances—even difficult circumstances—that are ultimately for our good. There were so many times when my daughter would interrupt my reading to interject her own thoughts on how Crusoe was thinking. She would tell me times when she had felt like that or what the right thing to think was when Crusoe was being selfish and ungrateful in his thoughts. She still rates it as one of her favorite books.

3. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

I loved this book so much that I wrote a whole blog post about it. You can read it here.

4. Never Give In by Stephen Mansfield

This is an excellent biography of Winston Churchill. It was assigned reading for AO6 which I pre-read. I actually pre-read it by reading it aloud to my husband. We both really enjoyed it. This book is divided up into 2 parts. The first part discusses the life of this fascinating man. The second part discusses characteristics of leadership, and examples of how Churchill displayed those characteristics. We gleaned a great deal of wisdom about leadership from this book.

5. The Princess and the Goblin by George Macdonald

Anything by George Macdonald is wonderful and this book is no exception. This is a story about faith and having faith when nobody else believes you. There are many allusions to the Christian faith in this book. This was assigned reading for AO3. This was the 2nd time I had read this book aloud, but the first time reading it to G-age-8. Reading this book was precious time with my youngest daughter and we enjoyed many conversations throughout the book.

 

It was hard to narrow down this list because my family enjoyed many lovely books this past year. So here are a few more honorable mentions:

Carry a Big Stick by George Grant
This is a biography of Theodore Roosevelt from the same series as Never Give In. It was tough to choose my favorite out of the two because they were both great. But having the experience of reading the Churchill bio aloud to my husband made it the winner.

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
Would definitely be in #1 position only we are reading it slowly and haven’t finished it yet.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri
We listened to the audiobook which you can get for $0.99. Just buy the kindle edition for $0.00 and select “Add Audible book to your purchase for just $0.99” underneath the “Buy Now” button before purchasing.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
We listened to the audiobook narrated by Rachel McAdams. McAdams is delightful to listen to.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I listened to the audiobook, which is only $3.95 at the moment! A great deal!

Best blogs

I don’t have as much time to read blogs as regularly as I used to. But there are 2 homeschooling blogs that I always find a few minutes to read because they are so encouraging and thought-provoking.

1. Afterthoughts

Brandi Vencel is a Charlotte Mason Classical homeschooler. She has written series of posts over the years discussing Charlotte Mason and her methods, which helped get me started when I first began homeschooling. I owe much of my early understanding and practice of Charlotte Mason educational principles to this blog. She also writes very meaningful posts about books, ideas, parenting, theology, Christian living, making connections between ideas through books, and loads more. She is always very thoughtful, and I know I am a better reader, thinker, and homeschooler because of her influence.

2. Simply Convivial

Mystie Winkler is a second-generation homeschooler who writes a lot about adjusting our attitude toward the mundane and repetitive work of homemaking, parenting, and educating our children. She has helped me a great deal, with practical organizational advice. I did her “Work the Plan” course a couple of years ago and it helped my organizationally-challenged mind to make order out of the chaos. She encourages and equips mothers in the work of the home. She also generously shares her lesson plans for various subjects. I unashamedly borrow ideas from her Shakespeare plans, and have copied her Memory Work Binder system (with modifications to suit our needs). I also regularly consult her Scripture Memory Work Index to pick the next Scripture that we will memorize.

 

The following blogs are on the honorable mention list simply because I don’t read them regularly enough to be in the top 5.

Modern Mrs. Darcy

A fun blog that is all things books. I especially like the daily kindle deal email that she sends out with kindle deals on more books than I could possibly read in a lifetime. I enjoy reading about good modern books and authors to look out for.

Joyous Lessons

Celeste Cruz writes a Charlotte Mason homeschooling blog. She shares wonderful, practical examples of the Charlotte Mason education that is happening in her home. Incidentally, If you are on Instagram, Celeste is one of the contributors of the @charlottemasonirl (Charlotte Mason in Real Life) account. It is amazing to me how much thought goes into each and every post that they make on that account. So much wisdom and practical advice. She is also the owner of @keepingcompanycm account on Instagram as well, which I enjoy following.

Karen Glass

Karen is one of the advisory of Ambleside Online and is the author of Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition. This month, hopefully, she will be releasing her much anticipated book on narration called Know and Tell. I can’t wait. She writes about Charlotte Mason education sporadically on her blog, but when she does write, you can be sure to learn a great deal and be challenged to think more deeply.

Circe Institute

Seeks to inspire, encourage, and provide resources for Classical Educators. They have so much content I can’t possibly keep up with them, but I do read a few articles a month that pique my interest and I find them to be thought-provoking and stretch how I think. I especially love their articles about fairytales, poetry, and other literary works.

Best 5 podcasts

1. Renewing Your Mind

Just in case you are tempted to accuse me of neglecting my spiritual encouragement and needs, I listen to the Renewing Your Mind podcast a few times a week. If you are a Christian and want to grow in your understanding of God and His Word, listen to this podcast. It’s founder (and our pastor), R.C. Sproul, passed away recently, but the truths that he taught have not. I am encouraged and stretched every time I tune in.

2. Schole Sisters

Without a doubt my favorite homeschooling podcast. Classical Mamas discussing how they can learn and grow while their children learn and grow. This podcast is hosted by my two favorite bloggers, Brandi Vencel and Mystie Winkler, as well as Pam Barnhill.

3. The Mason Jar

A close second to Schole Sisters, this is a podcast hosted by the wonderful homeschool veteran and author of Mere Motherhood, Cindy Rollins. It is about… you guessed it… Charlotte Mason education. She has lots of guests on to talk about different aspects of a CM education.

4. Your Morning Basket

Hosted by Pam Barnhill from Schole Sisters, YMB is a podcast dedicated to discussing the philosophy and practice of Morning Time. Pam also has guests on most episodes to discuss various aspects that can be involved in Morning Time.

5. Read Aloud Revival

I’m sure most of you already know about this one. Sarah Mackenzie, with her many guests, encourages us to read aloud with our kids. So good.

Best 5 educational apps

1. Squeebles

My favorite math fact app. This app has saved us from the tears and the monotony of memorizing multiplication facts. We bought the bundle a few years ago, which includes practice for all the basic math concepts (addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, fractions) as well as spelling. We have continued to use it almost every day. I add it to the children’s weekly schedule. I like how customizable it is. You can work just on one fact at a time, for example, the 3 x tables, or you can be quizzed on all of the timetables. There are rewards and games when the children achieve a certain amount of correct answers. There is step-by-step training which teaches one fact at a time, like 1×3, before moving on to teaching the next fact, 2×3. You can customize whether to use a timer, which was a big deal for one of my children who panics anytime there is a time limit. And you can customize which facts will be included in the quiz game. So if you have only learned the times tables for 1’s to 5’s, you can just quiz those multiplication facts.

2. Quizlet

A replacement and improvement on flashcards for learning Latin vocabulary (or any language for that matter). Visual Latin (our Latin curriculum) had pre-made sets that correspond with each of their lessons that I easily searched for and downloaded in the app.

3. Seterra

A fun and easy map quiz app for learning states of America, capital cities of America, countries of the world, and other geographical facts.

4. YouTube

I mean, you can pretty much use YouTube to learn anything. We use it to watch performances for composer study, learn folksongs, learn a new hymn, learn how to crochet, draw, paint, sew… Anything I don’t know how to do and we want to learn, we YouTube it.

5. Audible

Lots and lots and lots of audiobooks. I usually use an audiobook to pre-read the literature selection for AO6 and listen while vacuuming or cleaning the shower. We also listen to audiobooks as a family in the car.

Well, that wraps up my favorites for 2017. What were your favorites?

What Does Our Homeschool Look Like? – Our Schedule (Year 1)

A couple of weeks ago I shared our year 1 Booklist.
I thought perhaps it may be helpful to see how I have scheduled out our homeschool week. I have used Week 9 from the Ambleside Online weekly schedule which we follow, as a sample week, with the additional work which we actually did do in week 9, to hopefully make the schedule more meaningful.

So here it is:

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This schedule is pretty fluid. We don’t always do each subject in this exact order. Depending on what else is going on in life, we may switch the days on which certain subjects are done. But that’s one of the many joys of homeschooling, right? I don’t want a schedule to get in the way of the many educational opportunities that occur naturally everyday.

Even though I don’t always keep to exactly what’s here, all the work is completed by the end of the week. Well, almost all of it. I have been terrible at doing much with handicrafts. I need to be better organised. And while the goal for bible is to read a few verses everyday from an historical book and have daughter narrate, the reality is it often gets dropped off the schedule, and, to my shame, is really only once a week at the moment. This bible reading is not our family devotion time (which dear husband leads faithfully each night at the dinner table), but is in addition to our family devotion time. Just thinking about it now, perhaps every day is not necessary anyway, since devotions are everyday. Hmmm…I’ll have to think on that one.

Anyway, this is how it is at the moment. Hope it’s useful.

What Does My Homeschool Look Like? – Our Booklist (Year 1)

I mention in my bio that I am a homeschooler so I thought I would do a series of posts about what our homeschool looks like at the moment. I currently only homeschool my 6 year old and we are following the booklist and 36 week schedule (3 terms) for Year 1 at Ambleside Online (AO1).

Here is our AO1 booklist:

Bible
We are reading the book of Genesis.

Copywork
This is basically handwriting and spelling practice. I choose a short passage from one of the books that we are reading and she copies it out. Usually only one or two sentences a day. I try to vary the type of writing to expose her to a variety of writing styles. For example, for a couple of days she will copy a verse from a poem, the next day a line from Aesops fables, the next couple of days something from literature, the next something from a history book, etc.

Readers
Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik
Harriette Taylor Treadwell Readers (free online readers)

Math
Math-U-See

Science
Apologia’s Exploring Creation With Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright

Nature study
The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess (free online ebook)

Literature
The Aesop for Children by Milo Winters (free online ebook)
Beautiful stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit (free downloadable ebook)
The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang (free downloadable ebook)
Just so stories by Rudyard Kipling (free downloadable ebook)
Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty (free online ebook)

Poetry
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson Term 1
Now We Are Six/When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne Term 2
A Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa Term 3

History
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
An Island Story by H.E. Marshall (free downloadable ebook)
Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin Terms 1 & 2 (free downloadable ebook)
Viking Tales by Jennie Hall Terms 2 & 3 (free downloadable ebook)

American History Biography
Benjamin Franklin by Ingri D’Aulaire Term 1
George Washington by Ingri D’Aulaire Term 2
Buffalo Bill by Ingri D’Aulaire Term 3

Geography
Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling

French
First Step en Francais (free online beginner course)
Tres Bien app for iPad

Artist and Composer Study
Term1 – Renoir/Debussy
Term 2 – Ruisdale, de Hooch/Bach
Term 3 – Seurat/Opera Overtures
Wikipedia and other online resources
I will discuss how we do artist and composer study in another post.

P.E.
Classes run for homeschoolers at our local gym.

Free Reading
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (free downloadable ebook)
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne (especially for my younger girls who are 4 and 3 and not ready for chapter books, and 6 year old enjoys it too)
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (free downloadable ebook)
The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs (Australian)
The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall (Australian)

I may add more to the free reading list if we have time to read more than what is listed. There are a couple of books that I also may include for Australian History/Literature if I am able to get the books and can work out how to fit them into our schedule. These are: The Way of The Whirlwind by Mary Durack and Dot and the Kangaroo by Ethel Pedley. Thanks to my Aussie friend Jeanne at A Peaceful Day who drew my attention to these Australian books and has spent many years Australianizing AO by compiling great Australian literature to compliment the Ambleside Online curriculum.

I have linked to as many of the free ebooks that I could find, but obviously you can choose to purchase the paper version of these books instead if you preferred to. I started with all the ebooks that I could for budgeting reasons but have since gone back and purchased a few of the literature books in paper. While the ebooks are helpful, they are a poor substitute for a beautifully illustrated children’s book that the children can hold in their little hands and can pull off the shelf anytime they want to immerse themselves in the adventure it holds.

Well there it is. My next post I will show you what our weekly schedule looks like.

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