Sunday, January 15, 2017

Living & Learning Update #6: Drawing, Math, Organization

Our first school week of the new year! It was not a bad week, considering that most of us were in some stage of sickness or recovery from colds and flu.

Learning
We did two drawing lessons this week from artforkidshub.com. What a great resource this is! I have decided that SA(8) needs some more time with a pencil in his hand, writing and drawing. Year 4 is coming up quickly, and he is still a very reluctant writer. He is currently at seven minutes of copywork per day, learning cursive italic. He does it very neatly, but very rarely writes anything else for any other reason. There is no ease in it for him even yet, though he has very slowly and steadily improved over the last couple of years. So I'm adding a workbook into his daily work as an excuse to make him write a little more. I'm also going to try to have all the boys do a drawing every day. All of the boys love the Art for Kids Hub, so I'm anticipating that no one will complain about that.

We have been studying Canadian artist Emily Carr for picture study. For some variety, I decided we would try to draw our narrations after trying to fix the painting in our mind's eye. That was pretty difficult. When we had done all we could, we looked again. There was so much we'd missed! JJ insisted on finishing his.

We have also been taking part in the 2017 Read Aloud Revival 31 Day Challenge. The challenge is that each reading child reads aloud for 15 minutes per day. They enjoy it immensely, as do the little children who get to listen. I love to see them all crowded together enjoying books without me. (I'm still reading plenty aloud myself, of course!)

I am very intrigued by a math program someone pointed out. It's called Mathematics with Numbers in Colour by Caleb Gattegno. I have been using Miquon with JJ(6), but in looking through this other program, it looks like it does a better job of showing a teacher how to guide exploration with the Cuisenaire rods.

Living
I have begun to work through Mystie Winckler's Simplified Organization program. My goal for the year is to give everything in my home a place. I need help with this, people.

My sister gave me a fitbit recently. Shockingly, I'm finding my reading goals are competing with my step goals. So far, the reading goals are winning. I am hoping to work up to 5,000 steps a day this week. I don't know how people do 10,000 steps. Audiobooks?

Reading
I finished Zinsser's On Writing Well and Gerald Bray's Augustine on the Christian Life. I also continued to work on the Iliad, and started The Karamazov Brothers. The latter is fascinating to me. I have a feeling it's going to be in my top ten for this year, but I won't get ahead of myself yet at only 200 pages in. In light reading, I read The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. I shouldn't have, but it came in at the library and I couldn't help myself. I liked it.

This week I have to finish the Iliad, as my discussion group is coming up on Friday. I also plan to read a couple of chapters of Side by Side for a Bible study coming up soon. For the rest, I suspect The Karamazov Brothers will keep me busy again this week.


Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 Reading Goals

I have joined Tim Challies' 2017 Christian Reading Challenge again. It was so helpful in getting me reading again last year. I went from reading almost nothing in 2015 to reading 65 books for the challenge (plus a few extra that didn't fit into the categories in the challenge.). Like last year, I will not follow the challenge in order, but read whatever I want and fit the books into whatever category seems best. However, I do have some specific goals for the year:

1. Learn from C.S. Lewis. I am beginning with a biography, then I will go through the C.S. Lewis books on my shelves in chronological order. I may not have every single one, but I have most of them. I am not putting an end date on this project. It may take more than a year or two, but this is the year I'll get started. I am working on my first book already, a biography entitled C.S. Lewis: His Life and Thought by Terry Glaspey. I came across it at a thrift store last week, and picked it up because the introduction was written by George Grant, a voice I trust. I'm not sure how it compares to other biographies, but so far it is concise and well-written, and it is inspiring me to read all of C.S. Lewis's books.

2. Keep up with my book clubs. I'm part of two local homeschool mom book clubs, though there is considerable overlap in the membership. In one, we are going through the Iliad. We will finish that this month, have a little break, then begin the Odyssey. In the other, we read mostly classics, though we've been known to throw in some Wendell Berry and Elizabeth Goudge. Our first book for the year will be The Brothers Karamazov. I have never read any Russian literature before, so this is exciting! I anticipate we will read five or six classics by the end of the year.

3. Keep reading Charlotte Mason. Right now I am doing that with an online study group using  Start Here by Brandy Vencel of Afterthoughts as a guide.

4. Pre-read at least some of next year's school books for SA(8). I'll be reading from Ambleside Online's Year 4 booklist. This is becoming more and more important as SA begins to read more of his own school books. I'll start with Kingsley's Madam How and Lady Why and Bulfinch's The Age of Fable.

5. Read through the ever-expanding list of books people have recommended and/or lent to me. This is where I start getting a bit overwhelmed. Number one on the list is pure fun, though: The Complete Father Brown by Chesterton. Then there is The Book That Made Your World, a gift from my parents. I also have a stack of John Eldredge books in my basket, earnestly recommended by a friend. I started Wild at Heart a while ago. Maybe I need to make a rule that I have to finish that before I get to read my Father Brown. At least it will fit neatly into a category in my reading challenge this year (ECPA bestseller). I also just added When Helping Hurts to my list, which I'm really looking forward to.

This month, I plan to finish a few books that are almost complete:
C.S. Lewis: His Life and Thought by Terry Glaspey
Augustine on the Christian Life by Gerald Bray
On Writing Well by William Zinsser (I love this one!)
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (slogging through this one.)
The Iliad by Homer

I plan to begin:
The Karamazov Brothers by Dostoevsky
The Complete Father Brown by Chesterton (I may spread this out over half a year)
The Pilgrim's Regress (depending on when I finish the Lewis biography)

I plan to continue slowly, along with a group:
For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer MacAulay
portions of Charlotte Mason's Original Home Schooling Series
Side by Side by Ed Welch

Reading all this at once is a little much for me...once I finish the loose ends from last year I will try to focus on no more than three books at once.

What are you planning to read in 2017?





Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Living (and Blogging) Coram Deo

We women are notorious for comparing ourselves with others, aren't we?
I know I struggle with it. I know in my head that we are all normal human beings, with our own strengths and weaknesses. Still, I can't seem to help myself.

I suspect that most women do a better job at keeping house than I do. On the other hand, I have mad skills at whipping up a meal when any other person would think there is nothing in the house to whip a meal up with. When it comes to homeschooling, I do none of the wonderful creative, crafty things so many seem to be able to do with their little ones. And yet we have a wonderful time with our nature study and our living books and our math games.

And I don't just compare myself and other women. I compare my children with theirs. It just seems like a natural reflex. How do their skills measure up against other children their own age? I feel encouraged in areas that they are doing better than their peers, discouraged when another skill doesn't seem to measure up.

To be honest, this is the one thing I struggle with when I blog. I know that homeschoolers are going to read what I write and compare their lives, their gifts, and their children's gifts with mine. I know this because I fall into that myself when I'm reading other people's blogs.

We all need to remember that we live coram Deo. As R.C. Sproul defines it, "To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God." 

It should not matter at all what anyone else is doing. It should be enough for us (more than enough!) to try to faithfully use the gifts God has given us for his glory. It should be enough to do daily the work He has set before us.

The gifts and the callings he has given us are different from those he has given our blogging friends. We are not called to faithfully use their gifts or to do what they are called to do. We are called to encourage one another and build each other up. I hope you see that heart here, and that when you visit this blog you look for encouragement to apply to your own calling as you live before God.

We do not live before the face of the internet. (coram interrÄ“te?) We live before the face of God.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Not Subjects, but Relationships

Dear Readers, I have just been going through old drafts that never got finished and published on the blog. This fragment is several months old, and I've long since lost that train of thought (It seems to have been a good one!). I want to save it, so I'm publishing it just as it is.

In a Charlotte Mason education, the so-called "extras" are not really extra. They are what make life rich. The poetry, the music, the handicrafts, the nature walks are all part of the "science of relations"...the relationships children are forming with the world around them. Yes, the core subjects of reading and math are essential, but not for any utilitarian reason. Reading is a skill that opens the door to even more relationships...with people from history, with places far away, with ideas. And yes, math is about relationships, too.
"a system of education should have for its aim, not the mastery of certain 'subjects,' but the establishment of these relations in as many directions as circumstances will allow." (vol. 3, p.88)

Monday, December 5, 2016

My Top Ten Books of the Year

Last year at about this time, Tim Challies put out a reading challenge on his blog. While I have always loved reading, my reading had slowed down considerably in the last few years. I blame my four rambunctious little boys. I was still reading childrens' books for them, and homeschooling books for me, but that was about it. Reading through the challenge last year, I was very inspired to begin to read intentionally again. I first set my goal at 26 books, then later changed it to 52. I would have liked to jump to the next category, but 104 still seemed a bit much for me! Right now I'm at 70 books (a few of them did not fit into the categories in the challenge), and I hope to finish a few more before December is over. I will definitely be joining the 2017 Christian Reading Challenge again.

I must admit, I did not work through the challenge in an orderly way. I used the categories as inspiration as I looked for books to read, but then I read whatever I wanted and found a category to fit. I am thinking I will do the same next year.

I recently charted all the books I'd read to see what I could find out about myself and my reading habits. Here's the breakdown:
I read 32 fiction books, and 38 nonfiction. Of the nonfiction, 22 were memoir, biography, or autobiography. Of the fiction, 14 were historical fiction. For some reason I expected that I would read more fiction, and before this I had no idea that memoir was a favourite category of mine. Only 16 of the books were explicitly Christian, though a few more were by Christian authors. I would have expected more than that at the beginning of the year. But there you are.

I also broke down when the books were written. I read six books that were over 100 years old, and eight more that were over 50 years old. Forty were written after 2000. The rest were in between. I was surprised at this, too. I also noticed that I started reading more newer books about halfway through the year (That's when I started to listen to Modern Mrs. Darcy's What Should I Read Next podcast. I'm thinking maybe I should stop, but I do enjoy it so much!)

Here are my top ten books of the year (Links for your convenience, not affiliate links. If you're buying, please find a blogger you want to support that way!):

1. The Island of the World by Michael O'Brien. I reviewed it here. I still think about it.

2. Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins. Here's my review. I know I will come back to this one again and again.

3. George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore. Here's my short goodreads review of the first volume. This was a set of two HUGE volumes, and they were definitely worth the time I put into them.

4. More Than Conquerors by William Hendriksen. I would never have expected an interpretation of the book of Revelation to be in my top ten, but it was wonderful. When I was finished, I wanted to start at the beginning again.

5. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. It was even better than Hannah Coulter, which I read last year. Lovely, lovely writing. My goodreads review is here.

6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I read this with the classics book club I'm a part of. I also narrated it to myself, which slowed me down and surprised me by allowing my imagination of the book to become much more vivid than it would normally be. I loved it.

7. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. There was a specific category for this author in the 2016 Reading Challenge, and I am so glad there was! I will be reading more by McCullough.

8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If you haven't read this before, you need to put it at the top of your to-read list now. I didn't review it, but Cindy Rollins gives it ten out of five stars, and I agree with her.

9. Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman. Jane Eyre is my favourite book of all time. This biography of the author is well written, and I found it fascinating.

10. Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener. I read this for the "Pulitzer Prize winner" category of the 2016 Reading Challenge. It transported me into a world that is completely foreign to me. This is another book that I would never have picked up without the reading challenge, and I am grateful.

Honourable mentions:
Persuasion by Jane Austen. This would have gone into the top ten at number 6, except that this is probably the fifth time I've read it, so I decided to give the space to the books I hadn't read before.

High Call, High Privilege by Gail MacDonald. Another re-read, and on a specialized topic that's not for everyone. If you're a pastor's wife (or will be one), this is well worth reading. For pastors, I'd recommend On Being a Pastor by Derek J. Prime and Alistair Begg.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer.
If all the above titles seem a bit over-serious to you, go for this bit of fluff. Just lovely.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Living & Learning Update # 5: Books, exams, more books

Living

Don't tell anyone, but I think I might be in trouble with my husband for using the word "minimalism" and "books" in the same sentence. I might have him a bit worried... he would be quite happy if every book that came into this house would never, ever leave. I tried to relieve his mind last week by buying four new bookcases and eagerly attending a library used book sale. Seriously, though, despite our growing collection of books, I am still comfortable using the word "minimalism" in connection with books. To me, minimalism is about keeping the things we truly value and getting rid of the excess. That is what I intentionally try to do with our books. Some might not understand how people like us could possibly value so many books so very highly, but we truly do. The thing that makes me a minimalist despite this is that I am intentional about evaluating each book that we keep. He feels a little more comfortable with the term "curated collection" so maybe I'll just go with that instead of "minimalism," at least in his hearing...

Learning

We finished Term 1 of our Ambleside Online years 3 and 1 this week. I haven't counted, but it took a bit longer than twelve weeks. We'll take this coming week off, with the exception of an exam question at breakfast every morning.

I asked SA(8) an exam question this week about "When Mary visited Elizabeth." I got only silence until he finally confessed that he was confused about whether I was asking about the Bible or Our Island Story (Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots)!

We finished The Princess and the Goblin on Friday. We had a bit of a rough start with it at the beginning of the term. I was having SA read it on his own, and he found it hard to narrate. Then halfway through I decided I'd read aloud to him, and I think he fell in love with it. In any case, he picked up the sequel The Princess and Curdie and has been reading non-stop since yesterday. He had only two chapters left to go this evening. This makes me very happy, because it is still very rare for him to pick up a chapter book and just read. He may turn into a bookworm yet! (JJ, on the other hand, is already a bookworm.)

Reading

I'm reading Caddie Woodlawn and Robin Hood with the boys at bedtime. SA and JJ rush to get ready so they can be the first to put their vote in as to what we will read. MM(4) has figured out that if he's last he can be the tie-breaker, though, so he takes his time!

I'm reading Side by Side by Ed Welch, a book about how we need the Lord, and how we need each other. I'm also deep into the Iliad again in preparation for my study group, and I've begun reading Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators, spurred on by Brandy at Afterthoughts blog. I also have a novel on the go: A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L'Engle. It's the second book I've read by L'Engle. The first I read was the fourth volume of her Crosswicks Journals. I'm starting on the opposite end than most people do with L'Engle (she is well known for her children's literature) but I am really enjoying these mature works. I will get to the children's books too someday.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Living & Learning Update #4: Flat Stanley, Shoeboxes, Scheduling App

Living

SA(8) had a cousin from Saskatchewan send him a Flat Stanley. On Tuesday we went out and took a couple of pictures at Peake's Quay (where the Fathers of Confederation landed) and Province House (where the Fathers of Confederation met and Canada was born.). The tiny figure on the step is SA, holding Flat Stanley.


Yesterday SA(8), JJ(6), niece I(9) and I went to the Operation Christmas Child packing party at our church. In the last few years we've just packed our own boxes, but the party was great fun! 82 boxes were packed in just over an hour.


Learning

This week was much nicer weather than last for our #FallOutside2016 nature challenge! We are trying to get outside every day for at least 15 minutes this month. This week started out gorgeous. On Wednesday we even had lessons outside because it was so warm... it actually went up to 13 degrees (about 55 Farenheit)! We stayed outside almost all day that day. We didn't get all the schoolwork done, but it will probably be June before it's that nice again and we wanted to enjoy it.

 
 
MM(4) has been very earnest lately about trying things on the piano. He looks very carefully at his brother's piano book and tries to figure it out with his fingers on the keys. Afterwards he comes to me and asks if I heard him playing.
 
 


In other news, I have discovered a lovely app for my iPhone called 30/30. It seems perfect for scheduling Charlotte Mason-style short lessons. I put in my "Daily List" of lessons we do together as a family. For each item on the list I can add a specific period of time. When the timer rings, our lesson is over and it goes on to the next item (I have it pause at that point until we're set to go with our next lesson.) So far it has worked really well to keep us on track. Because that list is quite similar for us every day, I just make minor adjustments to the list each evening. This may even end up replacing my paper and pen daily checklist!

I have lists for each child for the work they do separately as well. That works a little less well because they work at different things at the same time. (SA does copywork while I read to JJ, for example). I may figure out how to make it work yet, though.

Has anyone else tried this app for homeschooling to-do lists?


Reading

In light reading, I read Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires this week. I loved it. She was the New York Times restaurant critic for a while and this book is about her various disguises as she did that.

In slightly heavier reading, I started Kathleen Norris' Acedia & Me. It seems very promising. I read her Amazing Grace earlier this year and found it very thought provoking and worth reading, though I come from a very different background and disagree with some foundational things she seems to take for granted.

With the boys I started Caddie Woodlawn for their bedtime reading.