Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back to the Books

Hello y’all.  After a hot, busy summer, it’s time to begin another school year at Arrow Academy.  (In case you are new to my blog, Arrow Academy is the name of our homeschool here on the creek.)

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Like most kids, my monkeys weren’t thrilled about getting back to the books.  Honestly I wasn’t jumping up and down to start school either.  I’ve really been enjoying my summer vacation, completing lots of sewing projects over the last few weeks.  But due to the fact that we have a couple of out-of-town trips planned in the next month or so, we really needed to get a jump on our schoolwork.

This school year, I am totally changing the way we do things.  Some of you may remember that last spring I became very interested in Miss Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy.  I spent most of my summer reading everything I could regarding her teaching methods and techniques.  Then I was lucky enough to find an awesome website with detailed lesson and curriculum guides (at no cost!) based on the Charlotte Mason (CM) method.  This website, Ambleside Online (AO), has been such a blessing, with wonderful advice for people like me who are new to the CM method.  Through AO, I was directed to yet another incredible site with access to over 400 classic children’s titles.  Finding this collection of free, Charlotte Mason-worthy literature has probably saved me hundreds of dollars on books this year.

So, armed with new knowledge, a detailed curriculum guide, and an online library of free books, I set to work this summer planning a much different, yet exciting school year.

My first challenge was to create a daily and weekly schedule for us.  I think a well-planned schedule is a vital part of the CM classroom, since her method hinges on concise, meaningful lessons and the development of good habits.  It probably took me three weeks of wiggling and finagling time slots and books and lessons, but I finally came up with a schedule I think will work for us.

Here’s the simplified version of our weekly schedule.  I tried to color coordinate subjects that correlate.

  M T W T F
9:00 Bible Bible Bible Bible Bible
9:20 Copywork Copywork Copywork Copywork Copywork
9:30 Math Math Math Math Math
10:00 History Science History Science History
10:30 Break Break Break Break Break
10:50 Literature Literature Literature Literature Literature
11:10 Shakes-peare Artist/ Composer Study Geography The Story of the Romans Timeline
11:30 Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
1:00 Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry
1:05 Spelling/ Vocabulary Spelling/ Vocabulary Spelling/ Vocabulary Spelling/
Spelling/ Vocabulary
1:20 Grammar/ Phonics Latin Grammar/ Phonics Latin Dictation
1:40 Nature Study Handi- crafts Science Extras Art 50Famous Stories Retold
Other Free Reading        

Since our school year will be divided in the three terms of 12 weeks, I also decided to plan the first twelve weeks of lessons for Ty and Lucy.  AO had the bulk of this work already done, but, like I mentioned earlier, I still needed to merge a first grader’s work with a sixth grader’s work.  There’s just no way I can teach two separate lessons for each subject in school, so it was essential for me to combine as many of Ty’s and Lucy’s lessons as possible.  Of course the monkeys work separately in subjects like spelling, grammar, and math, but for things like history, science, Bible, and nature study we do joint lessons.  Then the monkeys do age-appropriate work to supplement the lessons.

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As far as curriculum goes, I didn’t have to change as much of it as I expected.  For science, history, and math we are using the same publishers as last year.  The biggest curriculum changes for us have been in literature, spelling, and grammar.  I’ll bore you with the details of these on another day, but for now I will say that the new books are working quite well for us.

Now that we are two weeks into our first term, you may be wondering how it’s going.

Well, I am happy, nay thrilled, to report that things are going splendidly. It’s probably been our best first two weeks ever!  The weekly schedule has been worth every painstaking minute I spent making it.  What has surprised me most about the schedule is how much the monkeys like it.

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I printed a schedule for each of them to keep in the front of their binders, and they love being able to flip to it to see how much they’ve accomplished and what’s coming up next.  It really helps the monkeys to have a visual image of what is expected of them every day.  Ty even said that being able to turn to the schedule makes the day go by faster for him.  Heaven help me though if I try to do a lesson out of order, because Lucy gets me back in line lickety-split.  She’s the schedule police.

I think the biggest adjustment we’ve had to make this year is getting used to our new literature selections.  CM was BIG on choosing quality, classic, “living books” for her students to read.  One could write an entire essay on what CM meant by “living books,” but suffice it to say that instead of choosing meaningless “twaddle” for her students to read, Charlotte opted for timeless classics that taught valuable lessons and brought school subjects to life.  In other words, she would have chosen Robinson Crusoe over Harry Potter any day.  (No offense, HP fans.)  For us, this means that the books we are reading may sometimes be a little over the monkeys’ heads, but the idea is that they will glean whatever they are ready for whenever they are ready for it.  Feeding their minds with carefully selected literature will force them to stretch and grow in their vocabulary, knowledge, and comprehension.  It’s not always the fun and easy path, but I do believe the results will be worth it.  The process kind of reminds me of exercise.  If I don’t push them to strain their mental muscles, then they will never grow stronger.

So here’s a list of books we are reading the first semester.  The books were selected based largely on what we are studying in history this year – the early Christian Church and the Middle Ages.  Don’t freak out when you see the list.  Although it looks like an awful lot of books for 12 weeks, let me assure you that we are taking this very slowly – like one chapter from each book a week.  And at that pace it will take the entire school year or longer to complete some of these books.

For Lucy:

Aesop’s Fables
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Our Island Story by H. E. Marshall
Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle
The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess
Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling
The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children
A Child’s Garden of Verses
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
The Story of the Romans by Helene Guerber

For Ty:

Age of Fable by Thomas Bullfinch
Just So Stories
by Rudyard Kipling
Our Island Story by H. E. Marshall
Stories of Robin Hood Told to the Children by H. E. Marshall
Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle
Beowulf, a New Verse Translation
 by Seamus Heaney
Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling
Viking Tales by Jennie Hall
Robert Frost Poems
Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
The Story of the Romans by Helene Guerber

I know you must be terribly tired of reading by now, so I will wrap it up here.  Sorry I didn’t have more pictures to share.  I know that pictures of the monkeys are the best part of this blog.  I guess I have been so caught up in teaching that the idea of taking pictures hasn’t really crossed my mind.  But that’s how it should be I guess.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Three Little Monkeys

It’s only four months late, but I finally got around to taking “Easter” portraits of the monkeys.  Gimme a break!  It was raining on Easter Sunday.  Not that last Sunday’s weather was any more pleasant at an oppressive 103 degrees.  But I figured my time was running out, so I drug the monkeys outside after church and snapped a few pics.

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Picture day with the monkeys was, as always, a chore.  Honestly, these pictures are not the best the monkeys have ever taken.  None of the three of them was in a picture taking mood – heat or no heat.  And no one was quite as dressed up as on actual Easter Sunday.  Shirt…untucked.  Tie…AWOL.  Hair…finger combed. 

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And Tacy’s choice of jewelry?  Colorful to say the least.  Did I mentioned she decorated herself with a red ink pen just before picture time??

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Of the 48 pictures we took, I only got one decent picture of the three monkeys together.  But one is all you really need, right?

As a reward, we let the monkeys do a “funny face” picture at the end of the shoot.  I think Ty’s face perfectly expressed the overall mood of the day.   Disgust. 

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Now I have my sights set on a fall photo shoot.  I already have newly sewn dresses waiting in the closet for Tacy and Lucy to wear, and I’m hopeful that everyone’s attitude will be a bit more positive when things cool down, say 30 degrees or so.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mutton Busted

Hello, all.  I thought I’d take a few minutes today to tell you about our exciting rodeo weekend. 

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours informed us of a local rodeo in which children were invited to try riding sheep.  Mutton busting they call it.  Years ago the Tool Man was a part-time cowboy, so he jumped at the opportunity to sign Lucy up for a wild ride.  Even though Lucy is 99% princess, she willingly accepted the challenge.  So last weekend our family, along with my mom and dad, headed out in the triple digit heat to watch our little cowgirl in action.

Here’s a breakdown of how the evening progressed.

We arrived at the rodeo grounds an hour before show time to get Lucy signed up.  While Lucy busied herself sucking down a grape slush, Dad pinned the number on her back.

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Is this not the cutest little cowgirl you’ve ever seen?!  She was so anxious to ride, but we still had an hour to kill before the rodeo began.  I felt bad for Lucy having to wait so long in those dark, hot jeans, but such is the life of a cowgirl I guess.

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Did I mention that it was 100 degrees?  And not a cloud nor shade in sight!  At the ticket booth there was a sign that said there would be no refunds in the event of a rain-out.  We joked that we should be so lucky.

Then we waited and waited.

And we sweat, and we waited.

For an hour we melted and waited.

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Finally the time drew near for the rodeo to start, but just before show time something strange happened.  The wind started to blow, and the sky started to darken.  Here and there, we saw flashes of lightning.  It was at that point that I hopped off the metal bleachers and ushered the monkeys to the car.

Then the bottom fell out.

It rained and rained and rained.  A good old fashioned toad strangler.

It rained so much and so long that we decided to leave the rodeo grounds and go to dinner with my mom and dad.

About the time we finished our meal the rain let up.  It was nearly 8:30 at this point, so my mom and dad decided to call it a night, but we rode back over to the rodeo area to give it one more shot.

We made it back to the arena about five minutes before the rodeo got kicked off.  We tiptoed to the stands through the wet, squishy grass, carefully avoiding puddles that were deeper than the soles of our tennis shoes.  Luckily, we managed to find some plastic grocery sacks in my car, so we could sit on the bleachers without getting our bums wet.

After all the waiting, it was finally it was time for the show to start!  The rodeo drill team (who knew there was such a thing) opened things up by parading American flags around the arena on horseback.  Lucy and Tacy watched with wide eyes as the horses marched around in figure eights.

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First on the program were the boys riding the young horses.  The muddy ground made for quite an interesting show.

After a good half hour of horse bucking, we heard the long-awaited call for the sheep riders to get in line.  Yay!  For an instant Lucy hesitated and flung her arms tightly around my neck, but she was easily convinced to go line up with Dad.

Lucy was about 12th in line for mutton busting.  Ty, Tacy, and I waited in the stands watching as children, one by one, fell off their sheep to their muddy demise. 

Moments before it was Lucy’s turn, I snuck behind the fence and snapped a picture of the happy cowgirl…

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In retrospect, I think it was the mud that got to her.

Like I said earlier, she’s 99% princess, and about 30 seconds before her number was called, Lucy’s princess nature took over.  Wild horses couldn’t have drug Lucy onto one of those wet sheep.  She’s one of the most stubborn people I’ve ever known, and there was nothing the Tool Man or I could have said to convince Lucy to mount that sheep.

Trust me.

We tried.

It was a long, quiet ride home.  We pulled into our garage at 10:00 that night, wet, tired, and aggravated.  Nobody dared mention mutton busting.  In fact, it’s been two weeks since the rodeo, and we still don’t talk about it.  I’m sure this will be one of those tales that we will laugh about in the future, but we are not there yet.  Right now all we remember is how we paid good money to wait nearly 5 hours in the heat, humidity, lightning, and rain for a sheep ride that wasn’t.  Talk about anti-climatic!