Saturday, September 21, 2013

Our Reading Adventure, Part 1

Homeschool life continues on and we get more and more into the groove each day. Each week that passes I am more pleased with this decision to have our children home with us. As a friend recently said, “The days are long, but the years are short.” I’m glad these short years get to be spent hanging out with my favorite people.

This week I want to start sharing our reading adventure. Reading has been a difficult area and probably the scariest part of homeschooling for me. Why it seems so hard to teach someone to read is beyond me. Charlotte Mason says, “Whereby it is plain, that this notion of the extreme difficulty of learning to read is begotten by the elders rather than by the children. There would be not little books entitled Reading without Tears, if tears were not sometimes shed over the reading lesson; but, really, when that is the case, the fault rests with the teacher.” (Vol. 1, p. 200, emphasis added) And over the last couple of years, tears have in fact been both my little one and myself. I, the teacher, pushed too fast and too soon. Lesson down, three to go.

Last year we started with Reading Made Easy. Which I believe is a good program but too much busy work for Momma with making a lot of cut up index cards. We learned some site words and it helped with word building. Lily learned her alphabet along the way using Leap Frog magnetic fridge letters. We would match the uppercase magnetic letters with lowercase wooden ones. We played games of “find the letter that makes the sound ____” until she was proficient at all the most important sounds.

This particular curriculum just didn’t excite either one of us very much. I purchased Delightful Reading, which is based on Charlotte Mason’s own ideas for teaching reading. I adore this curriculum and can’t wait to get more into the lessons. (I’ll share more on this later in Part 2.) To begin this school year we reviewed the harder letter sounds and did CVC word building. Lily finds reading hard but I believe it is due to the pressure I placed on her when I thought she should “get it” and she just wasn’t ready. Last year she had problems blending sounds even though she knew all the sounds. It was so frustrating but I now realize it is perfectly normal. She still was able to read some easy readers like Bob Books and Biscuit books.

As we began this year she whizzed through CVC word building. My sole purpose in going slow was to be her cheerleader and to build her confidence in reading. Delightful Reading’s list of possible CVC combinations is very large. Once we spent time in word building, I felt we could move beyond this word building and go a little faster but were not quite ready for the more in depth reading lessons in the program. I also began to realize Lily possibly learns a little more visually; and in fact, she was actually reading right on level for her age, (whatever that means).

So, I jumped the gun. I did something I swore I would never do. I bought Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  I possibly can’t explain to you how much I hated this book. To me, everything about it was anti-Charlotte Mason. Guess who loves it? Yes, Lily. She’s flying through this book. We quickly breezed through the first 15-20 lessons to get her to a point where I felt we could do one lesson a day. She gets excited about reading. She pulled Dr. Seuss's  Hop on Pop off the bookshelf and began to read it. How wonderful it was to see the excitement in her when she recognized the words on the page! Earlier this week, I decided to pick up A Storybook Treasury of Dick and Jane. Once again, she loved it. She really enjoys being able to read a book to me for a reading lesson. And I really enjoy watching her learn!

Once we are finished with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, I plan to move onto the full Delightful Reading program. (Remember, I’ll explain in Part 2, when the time comes.) My plan is also to have her practice reading out of the Treadwell Readers.

Why did I fret so when we started down this road? It truly is a beautiful thing to see this learning take place! My advice to anyone who is just beginning down this road is just what others told me, “don’t rush it.” When they are ready it will happen.


Monday, September 9, 2013

On The Go Nature Study

Our nature study happens more like this. We had a doctors appointment this morning so I packed up lunch and we stopped by a small park on the way home. (I planned ahead and took bread to feed the geese, which I knew would be there.)

Not only did we see geese, but we saw ducks, too. We got to observe the differences in their calls and the differences in their bodies, feet, and beaks. They'll take the bread right out of your hand. JJ was thrilled he was able to pet a goose!

Lily noticed the metal band on this guys leg. Can you see it?
Nature is all around if we just take the time to look. We got up close and personal with a variety of flowers, centipedes, and a squirrel who spied us quietly while we ate our lunch. We've spent enough time doing this sort of thing it has become habit for the kids to find subjects to observe without my prompts. They found the white, fuzzy centipede and the squirrel.

We also got to walk across the river on a suspension bridge. This was exciting and scary for the little ones!

Nature study: no journals or lectures required.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Nature Study for Real People

I considered titling this "Nature Study for Dummies." Because that is often how I feel when I'm doing Nature Study. Right now, I do Nature Study for myself more than the kids. I feel like I need to learn all these wonderful things about God's creation that I missed growing up.

So many people, including myself, are at a loss when it comes to Nature Study and how to do it. I pretty much wing it. I figure that is better than not doing it at all. Let me show you how maddening, (or amusing), nature study can be at our house. This is what it looks like...

I think there may be some goldenrod growing on the other side of our fence out back so I decide during naptime Lily and I will head out to draw it and get in our nature study. I remind Lily to only draw what you see and take your time to look before drawing. We commence to drawing with several interruptions about what are lie bumps and why do we get lie bumps. And are lie bumps contagious? After several prompts to focus on what we're drawing, we finally get results.


We go inside and take a peak a the Handbook of Nature Study. Only to realize this is probably not goldenrod like I thought. Oh dear then! What is it? So begins my search to find out just what this sweet, yellow flower is that is growing in our field. After a few Google attempts and visits to wildflower identification websites, I think I figure out it is actually a species of goldenrod called skunk goldenrod. I'm still not sure about this and after wasting away half of an afternoon trying to figure it out...I decided to say it is goldenrod, just some unknown species, possibly skunk goldenrod. Skunk goldenrod is only found in East Tennessee and North Carolina so the chances are high that this is what we have found, or at least a hybrid of some sort.
This is goldenrod. The real deal. I found it on the side of the road and stopped and picked some for us to see.
I also found these Asters on my road trip. At least that's what I think they are. There are over THIRTY species of Aster in Tennessee. Along with these I found another type of asters right beside them. They were a paler purple and all the flowers grew from one stem, on the stem. Sorry no picture, they withered away before I got home.
I hope to invest in some good field guides soon so I don't have to Google everything. The amount of species of every bug, tree, weed, and flower sometimes seems exhaustive. There are some really nice, free sites to help you identify your subjects. I hope to get better at this through the years! Hey, maybe one day I be like the Edwardian Lady. ;)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

After thoughts: One Month Later

As we finish up our first month of homeschool ever, I definitely see a different picture than I did four weeks ago. Allow me to just get them out there. They may be sporadic and random so bear with me.

At this season in my life, I just can’t do all I want to do. I’m holding onto the humanities/liberal arts for dear life though. The cultural perspective of the arts is something I want my children to learn, to value, and to carry on with them.

I felt relieved when a more experienced mom told me Nature Study was all my little ones need for science right now. She said “observation” is the beginning of all science. I thank God for that brief moment when through her I got the point that I don’t have to do a formal Science three days a week.

Habits. Habits. Habits. Habits are so much more important than academics. When I say habits I mean not just “clean your room and brush your teeth” but also “treat others with kindness” and “be diligent and glorify God in all you do”. We’re still working on the habit of obedience. And we are still working on our morning chore routine.

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children (Vol. 1, p. 136). Oh how very true this is!!!

I realize at this moment in my life I am not what some would call a Charlotte Mason “purist.” I believe that if something works for my child that isn’t specifically considered Charlotte Mason, I haven’t broke some educational law and that my child is still going to be fine.  I really believe in her philosophy of education. This philosophy of education speaks to me and I want to learn more and more.  But I also know she was human and everything she said might not be what God wanted for each and every one of my children.

I’m learning that despite the crazy kids, the moody mom, the bad habits, and the not so “smooth and easy days,” by the grace of God my children are going to be fine. In the end, it is not what philosophy of education I use, what curriculum I use, how much scripture we have memorized, or what method we use for discipline...but only the grace of God that will get us through this.

And most importantly, despite the hard days, crazy kids, and moody mom, I am so completely thankful to get the opportunity to see and be with my kids every day. It is hard and it is tiring but I can’t imagine them not being here with me. I can’t imagine sending them to school and not being able to watch them grow every day. I am really getting what it means to enjoy being with my children.

Now...on to month two.