Thursday, July 21, 2022

Our Canadian History Choices in Forms 3 and Up

It has been a while since I've written about what we're doing in Canadian history. Last year I began using Canada, A People's History by Don Gillmor, Achille Michaud & Pierre Turgeon as my "spine" for my students in grades 6 and 8. I would normally recommend it for grades 7 or 8 and up through high school, but I had a precocious student in grade 6.

You may be familiar with Canada, A People's History as a video series put out by CBC TV. I believe the books are meant as a companion to the videos, but they easily stand on their own as "living books" on Canadian history. They are well-written and incorporate many first-hand accounts into the story. They are also well-illustrated with relevant art and photographs. They are in print, and very easy to find used at thrift stores.

This past year we were studying the time period between 1650 and 1800, so we began with "The Golden Age of New France" (Volume 1, page 75) to partway through "A Question of Loyalties" (we ended at page 162). Because we have three terms of 10 weeks each, and one 30-minute period per week for Canadian history (not counting supplemental reading of biographies and historical novels), I divided those pages by 30 to get our average weekly page count. My boys worked mostly independently, reading silently and then giving a written or oral narration.

This coming school year our time period is 1800-1900, and the page count (Volume 1 p. 162-292 and Volume 2 p. 1-50) is too high for the amount of time we have for it. I decided to skip "Journey to the Sea" (p. 180-216) because my boys have already covered the material fairly thoroughly using another book for Canadian geography (Five Roads to the Pacific by Neta Lohnes Frazier). It may still be a little much to cover in one study period per week, so we may have to adjust as we go along.

Please note that I have not read the parts of these volumes that I haven't specifically mentioned. As always, pre-read (or at least pre-skim!). These books are idea-rich and there are many things that you may wish to discuss with your students.

About half way through last school year, we started to watch the corresponding videos on YouTube with the whole family on Fridays, and we all really enjoyed that as a recap of our studies in Canadian history. While my younger students had been using other books, they were studying the same time period in history so they found the videos relevant to their studies as well. (Please note that there are battle scenes, so they may not be suitable for sensitive children.)

Some of you may wish to know how this compares with other Canadian history spines generally used around this age. I don't have many on my shelves, but I can compare briefly with Janet Lunn and Christopher Moore's The Story of Canada (often used around grade 6) and Robert Bothwell's The Penguin History of Canada (often used in high school). 

Lunn and Moore's The Story of Canada  is similar in beauty and illustration to Canada: A People's History. I think the reading level is very similar, but CaPH is considerably expanded both in length and in interest because of the first-hand accounts that are incorporated. If you have a grade 6 or 7 student that is a bit bored with SoC, you may find that CaPH will rekindle their interest. On the other hand, if you need less reading for a slower reader, SoC may be more suitable to your needs.

Unlike CaPH, Bothwell's The Penguin History of Canada is not illustrated and is not as immediately attractive as CaPH. The reading level of PHoC is higher, while still being engaging and rich in ideas. High school students who have grown up with the types of books in the Ambleside Online or the CMEC curricula will have no problem with PHoC. My own tentative plan for my oldest is to continue to use CaPH through grade 10, then switch to PHoC for grades 11 and 12. (I say tentative because I would like to look at the Ambleside Online recommended Short History of Canada by Desmond Morton before I decide.) However, I do think CaPH is robust enough to use through the end of high school if you only have time for one, or if history is not your student's first love and you want to stick with a colourful, high interest option.

I would love to hear what you have chosen for Canadian History in the upper grades, so please comment!

Friday, September 4, 2020

Easing In

I feel like I should put "Easing In" into quotation marks.

This year, my oldest is in Ambleside Online Year 7. I also have a Year 5 student, a Year 3 student, and an extremely eager Kindergartner. Add in a seven-month-old and you may begin to grasp the chaos here. 

Planning was a special challenge this year. I had gotten into a scheduling groove over the last few years, but babies and schedules don't mix, at least not at my house. I have had to regress to a routine. Don't get me wrong, I loved my easy-going routines when all my children were little. But I find it hard to get all the work done (without taking all day) now that my children are getting older.

I ended up with a loose plan, inspired by the schedules at Piney Woods Homeschool. I can be fairly inflexible about my plans, but this year I decided beforehand that I would keep tweaking every week until the days were going fairly smoothly. Each child has their AO schedule (order modified slightly and colour coded) plus a sheet of paper with their "Daily Independent Work" and "Work With Mama" lists. The idea is that everyone gets started on their independent work while I spend time with each one, youngest to oldest.

My Year 7's list looks like this (the colours refer to the way I've colour-coded his AO schedule):

Daily Independent Work (about 2 1/2 hours)

Enrichment Narration (purple): 15-20 min
Math 30 min
History Narration (red): 30 min
Copywork 10 min
Science (green) 20 min (Narration OR Science Journal or Nature Journal Entry)
Piano Practice 15 min
Narration (blue) 20-30 min
All of this work should be done before doing computer time (alternate  Duolingo and Typing and Coding practice)

Work with Mama (about 2 hours) (I expect an increase in independence in some of these areas over the year, but for now I need to be close by, anyway. Most of this is done at the same time as his Year 5 brother, so I "kill two birds with one stone".)

Poetry 10 min
Writing 20-30 min
    Written narrations each week will be done on
        -New Testament
        -One reading from red or blue category
        -One reading from green category
        -One current events topic from the past week
    Fridays will be a fun writing exercise (Bravewriter).
Shakespeare/Plutarch/Beowulf (alternating) 20 min
Dictation/Grammar (alternating) 20 min
Latin/French/Grammar of Poetry (alternating) 30 min
Map Drill 10 minutes once per week
News and Current Events story read and discussed at lunch

I also have a list of things they can choose to do in the afternoon, hoping to get to each item about four times per 12-week term.

Drawing Lesson (YouTube or from a book)
Microscope Activity, or field work from Signs and Seasons
Piano Lesson
Composer Study (YouTube)
Shakespeare Play (YouTube...we watch as far as we've read that week.)
Nature Journaling
Nature Walk
Painting Lesson (YouTube or from a book)
Baking Lesson 


Of course, his is the longest list. AJ(5), who also insists on his own list, has:
Poetry 5 min (A Child's Garden of Verses)
Miquon Math 10 min (we play with Cuisenaire rods and casually talk about math concepts that come up.)
Reading Time 10 min (I read him a story. Pinnochio is the current one.)
Learning to Read 5 min (He is learning to read three-letter words. I wouldn't push if he wasn't ready, but he is. Very.)
I spend time with AJ first. This fills his love tank so he is more happy to go off and play on his own when he's done.

I decided to "ease in" this week. I gave the boys their back to school presents on Monday morning (school supplies that somehow seem much more special for being wrapped up), and we started with everyone doing math plus one reading and narration. Somehow this managed to fill the whole morning, so I felt a bit of trepidation about the whole plan.

Tuesday was awful. But then, Day 2 is always terrible. I tried to have everyone work through their Daily Independent Work lists. Again, this more than filled the morning, and this was WITH the baby having a wonderfully long morning nap.

Wednesday morning I had to go to the doctor for some bloodwork. When I came back, everyone was working on their lists. I quietly started the "work with Mama" lists, youngest to oldest. It went really, really well! My oldest did not complete his independent list, but I was happy with what we accomplished.

Thursday morning I got up at 7:00 and found SA(12) doing his math. We hit it out of the park that day. Everything was done by lunch.

And then came Friday. It was a bit like Day 2 again. SA was extremely stressed about getting everything much so that he developed some hives. (He is a conscientious ISTJ who will put a lot of pressure on himself to follow the plan as written.) I will have to keep an eye on this.

So we had two good days out of five, though every day had things to be thankful for. I'll be tweaking a bit this weekend, but not hugely yet. I have to give us all time to settle into some sort of flow first. I will make a better (slightly simpler) checklist.

I took time to count three things I was thankful for every day. Here are some of my favourites:
-MM(8) fell in love with "Big Joe Mufferaw" (a Stompin Tom Connors song scheduled on Ambleside Online's Canada page.)
-Basic Christianity by John Stott seemed to touch a chord with SA(12). This was a personal substitution I made in the curriculum when I was unable to get How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig for a reasonable price. I think I've made a good choice there.
-Writing time went very well this week. This made me happy because I've decided that writing (written narrations, copywork, dictation) is going to be a particular focus this year. I saw some good advice as I was planning my year: "Choose one thing to do really well, and let everything else be good enough." Writing is that thing this year. Everyone had really good attitudes about it, and did really well with focusing on putting their ideas on paper without worrying too much about getting all the spelling and grammar correct. (This is a challenge we've been working on for a while, and we seem to have made a leap forward since last school year.)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Diary Entry

Once again it has been a while since I've written here. As you can see, there is a new baby at our house. Here is JP, almost two months old, on the day before the first day of Spring. It was about two degrees Celcius, and I wasn't sure how he was going to like it. Aside from a bit of gasping when the light breeze took his breath away, he really enjoyed every moment.

I just finished having a Facebook "watch party" with my Schole group. So many organizations have been offering free online resources this week as we all practice social distancing and/or isolation. We watched one of Wes Callihan's videos from Roman Roads Media, and had a video chat afterwards. It felt good to get together, even if it was only virtually.

We've been homeschooling at half power for several months now, first because of home renovations, and then because of the new baby. I've really been feeling the value of morning time, as that has been our constant, no matter what happens. Every single day, I've been reading aloud (and requiring narration from) a rotation of books: Pilgrim's Progress, The Odyssey, Until the Day Breaks (a biography of Lilias Trotter), and The Mystery of the Periodic Table. Then we review hymns and Scripture memory work/recitation in our "memory binders". Then I read the Bible, and the children narrate. We've been reading through Ezra and Nehemiah, alternating with Genesis a couple days a week using Ruth Beechick's Genesis: Finding Our Roots. (I use this book eclectically, picking and choosing things to share with the boys, or to spark discussion.) The boys also do math, and a few readings and narrations each day. This is all I seem to have time for with a newborn. I know it's a season, and we'll come back to full power again some day soon-ish.

While PEI is encouraging almost everything to shut down to try to "flatten the curve" of the coronavirus, there hasn't been a huge change in our daily lives yet. I had already been staying home most of the time, and the half-time homeschooling is going on as it was before. I have been very tempted by all the free resources that are being made available for the families who suddenly find themselves home together. For the most part I have decided to simply stay the course. Our lives are already full, and we'd have to take something out to add something in. Also, the lovely resources all seem to involve more screen time, of which the boys have enough already. (They have 20 minutes each after 4:00 every week day, except for summertime.) One thing I am considering: introducing the boys to the opera using the free streaming from The Metropolitan Opera House. However, since I'm not familiar with opera myself I will need to research which one would be best for children. I'm also considering a fitness app which is offering two free weeks. And lastly, audible is offering an impressive array of free children's audiobooks, and I will try very hard to squeeze some of those in if I can.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Time to Reflect

Hi, I'm back! I won't ask if you missed me. :)

It's that time of year again. Planning time. Before I really get into planning, I like to think about last year. I try to give thanks first for the wonderful things. Here are things I'm most thankful for this year:

1. Reading Time with AJ(4). Every morning after chores, I sat down with AJ and read a picture book (usually from the Ambleside Online Year 0 list) and shared some nursery rhymes and songs. In term 3 I also started reading Leading Little Ones to God with him, which is a book I remember enjoying when my parents read it to me when I was little! Reading Time with AJ was a way to try to fill his love and attention tank before I got really busy with the other boys' school time. I could see that it was hard for him this year as his playmate MM(6) started school and turned into a bookworm, but this special time of connection with me was a highlight of each day for both of us.

2. Morning Time (the lessons we do together) continued to be a strength and a joy to all of us. This year at breakfast each morning I read a rotation of literature (King Arthur and Oliver Twist) and biographies (Michael Faraday, George Washington Carver), followed by our Bible and hymn memory work, and our Bible reading and narration. We then separated for chores and some individual lessons (for the oldest) or play time (for the youngest) and came back together for poetry, picture study, or composer study; grammar; foreign language; and Canadian history. Not all of it was strong...foreign language got dropped in the third term and grammar lessons became few and far between at that point too, but...

3. We were able to keep plodding on even when I was not well. In January I started having heart palpitations. This led to being diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis in February. At that point, symptoms I had been ignoring for months suddenly got worse until the synthroid kicked in about four to six weeks later. I felt good for a month or so (just in time to go to AO Camp Meeting!), then went through another three weeks of symptoms in May (back pain, chest pain and blue lips). This time, pregnancy was increasing the strain on my thyroid and I felt better again a few weeks after my synthroid dose was increased. Why is this in my "thankful" list? Looking back, the entire season feels like a blur as I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. BUT my two oldest boys grew in independence in a way that I otherwise would not have pushed them to, and it was good for them. The well-established daily routine continued, one day at a time. Yes, there were things that we dropped. But I'm still so grateful to be able to have the boys at home, even when circumstances are difficult. I like what we're learning together even when all the boxes are not being checked. This imperfection is also part of "Education is an Atmosphere." The way we deal with trials within the family is as much part of their education as anything else.
"By these things children live and we may not keep them in glass cases; if we do, they develop in succulence and softness and will not become plants of renown." (-Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, p. 97)

4. Snowboarding every Friday afternoon this winter. This was a HUGE highlight! A group of homeschoolers got together for the school rate at Brookvale for skiing and snowboarding. We went as a family, and all learned to snowboard, even AJ(4). AJ and I were still on the bunny hill at the end of the winter, but everyone else moved on to more challenging hills. Having this commitment "forced" us to get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine even when it was cold. We all enjoyed it so much, and it made the winter fly by much faster than it normally does.

5. AO Camp Meeting was a huge blessing to me this April, especially as I was feeling down about what I was not accomplishing during my weakness and fatigue. The emphasis on applying Charlotte Mason's principles "however imperfectly" blessed me, as did the emphasis on prayer. I loved it, and can't wait for the audio files to come out so I can relive it. I met so many lovely people, too...Amber, Leslie, Emily, Becca, Sheena, Gabby, and Esther, who I stayed with the night before the conference; Anne, Jeannette, Brandy, and Dawn who before had only been online acquaintances.

These are the things I'm thankful for this year. I feel like #3 was the most significant, #4 was the most fun, and #5 might have the most potential (depending on how much I soak in and apply) but who can tell how they will all shake out over time?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Reading My Shelves in 2019: Literature Shelf 3

My shelf for March is a bit different. There are fewer classics, and more books that were popular in the 1940's and 1950's.

On this shelf, I have read:
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Silver Chalice by Thomas Costain
I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven
Beyond this Place by A. J. Cronin
Grand Canary by A. J. Cronin

I have not read:
The Nature of the Gods by Cicero
I am very interested in this, as we are studying Cicero in Plutarch this term. However, I feel I would need a guide through this book, and as I'm reading some other academic works with my study group, I may not have the mental energy to take this one on.

The Stumbling Shepherd by H.A. Cody
This is a vintage Canadian book found at a thrift store. I thought it looked interesting, but I suspect it may not be particularly well-written. I will probably choose it for light reading this month and decide if it deserves a place on my shelf.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

The Black Rose by Thomas Costain (his best seller, references Edward I/Roger Bacon/Kublai Khan)
The Chord of Steel by Thomas Costain (Alexander Graham Bell/invention of the telephone)
The Darkness and the Dawn by Thomas Costain (Atilla the Hun)
For My Great Folly by Thomas Costain (time of James I)
The Moneyman by Thomas Costain (time of Charles VII of France)
High Towers by Thomas Costain (New France)
Ride with Me by Thomas Costain (Sir Robert Wilson/Napoleon)
The Three Edwards by Thomas Costain (Edward I, Edward II, Edward III)
The Tontine (volume 2) by Thomas Costain
I have a lot of Costain books! As he was a historical fiction bestseller in Canada in the 40's and 50's, his books are abundant at used book sales here. I picked a lot of these up as a teenager, and may have read some of these already. I feel I need to read them again to see if they really deserve a forever place on my bookshelf. Also, some of these are mis-shelved...I had thought he wrote all historical fiction, but The Chord of Steel seems to be a biography, and High Towers a history.

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

The Citadel by A. J. Cronin
The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin
I have more Cronin books on the next shelf too... He is another bestseller from the 40's and 50's. Every book I read by Cronin makes me like him more. His stories are compelling page-turners, and yet they have a great deal of depth. The moral struggles his protagonists go through batter and break them, but ultimately leave them more human and more virtuous. 

What do you think I should read next? I'd love to hear your recommendations. 

I expect I will read two or three of these. I will also be reading along with my book club this month (Middlemarch), my study group (Beowulf), and my Charlotte Mason Boot Camp (random chapters from Charlotte Mason). I also have a few books in progress to finish: Eugenie Grandet (from my January shelf), The Illustrated Columcille, and The Voyage of Saint Brendan. In addition, I have several books waiting for me at the library on Hashimoto's, autoimmunity, and hypothyroidism (I was just diagnosed last month after having heart palpitations. The palpitations are gone now, thankfully.).  So it will be a busy reading month!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Reading My Shelves: February Update

I read six books from my February shelf! It feels so good to actually read books I've been intending to read for so long.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
One of my favourite Christmas picture books is Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. This book is of course nothing like that one, but it was equally good. I was completely transported to the China she wrote of.

My Antonia by Willa Cather
I loved this book. For some reason I was waiting for a tragedy to happen to Antonia in the end, I don't know why. And then it was so beautiful instead!

And in light reading, Agatha Christie:
Death on the Nile
Dumb Witness 
After the Funeral 
The Mystery of the Blue Train 
...of which my favourite was The Mystery of the Blue Train. I liked the inclusion of "Miss Grey," a very likeable character who helped Poirot solve the murder.

Also finished this month:

The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick by R.P.C. Hanson
The little biography at the front of this book was written by someone who obviously loved Saint Patrick, and his enthusiasm was catching. I also read most of a couple other books on Celtic saints: The Illustrated Columcille (on Columba) and The Voyage of Saint Brendan. I'll list them next month when I finish them.

Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics by Charles Ludwig
I read this aloud to the boys, and I think they will always remember Michael Faraday. I was a bit disappointed in the writing (or maybe in the editing). I read some Charles Ludwig as a child and remember enjoying his books then. Now I see his tendency to add irrelevant information to try to make the story come alive, and it doesn't work very well. You find Michael Faraday imparting scientific knowledge to his wife around bites of toast, for example. I ended up editing some of the more annoying irrelevancies as I was reading aloud.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson
I sometimes like listening to this sort of thing as I clean. I am not in the target demographic for this book, but I thought it was lovely anyway. The narration by Juliet Stevenson was particularly soothing.

Stephen Fry Presents A Selection of Anton Chekhov's Short Stories
You may remember that I was very interested in reading a collection of Chekhov's Short Stories that was on my February shelf. Unfortunately, that collection turned out to be a "bad" translation. It was really hard to get into and I gave up after one story. So that book is now off my shelf, and I listened to this selection to soothe my disappointment. It was well written, well translated (At least, it sounded good in English. I always love Constance Garnett.), and well narrated by Stephen Fry. All the same, I didn't love Chekhov the way I love Tolstoy, and wasn't fascinated the way I was fascinated by Dostoyevsky. Of course that's a very high bar.  It's as silly to think all Russian authors are equally good as to think that all English authors are equally good. The fact that the first two Russian authors I read were so amazing still manages to colour my expectations, though.

Total finished: 9 books
7 from my shelves, 2 borrowed
6 Fiction, 3 Nonfiction
7 Female, 2 Male Authors
1 written in the last 10 years, 6 written more than 50 years ago (and 1 more than 100 years ago if I count Saint Patrick's Confession contained in The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick).

I'll be back soon with my March shelf. I look forward to seeing what you recommend!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Reading My Shelves in 2019: Literature Shelf 2

As I settle into reading my shelves, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project. At the same time, I am really looking forward to making progress, small as it may be.

On my February Shelf, I have 8 read books and 21 unread books. (In volumes containing more than one book, I have counted each book separately.)

Read: (and these are all books I consider worth re-reading, otherwise I wouldn't be keeping them)
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Bridge on the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle
Lorna Doone by Blackmore
Prester John by John Buchan
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Arabian Nights - Sir Richard Burton
The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
The Plague by Camus
The Outsider by Camus
My Early Life (excerpt) by Churchill
The Island Race by Churchill
Call for the Dead by le Carre
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Don Quixote by Cervantes
Don Quixote (abridged by Susan Sheridan)
Don Quixote (retold by Judge Parry)
The Riverside Chaucer
Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie
After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Of these, I find myself particularly attracted to Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov, Don Quixote retold by Judge Parry, My Antonia, and The Good Earth. I will probably read one or two of the Agatha Christie titles when I need light reading, too. There's a lot of good reading on this shelf.

I expect that, like last month, I will only be able to get through a couple of these books. I have several additional books to read with my study group (on Saint Patrick and Saint Columba and the Brendan Voyage), and Middlemarch to read with my book club (though I have till the end of March for that).