Thursday, June 26, 2014

Olivia's Spring Term

So, we decided to make a bit of a change in our curriculum this Spring. We have used My Father's World for 3 1/2 years and still really love the curriculum. We were getting into the Middle Ages time period as 2014 began. When last we posted, she had reached as far as the vikings and William the Conqueror. We were speeding through history using several resources to tell the stories. We were letting her listen to Mystery of History and/or Story of the World. We were using Usborne books and many library books for further study and great pictures. However, we felt like Olivia wasn't retaining as much of the information as she should be.

We have been moving our homeschool style more and more towards Charlotte Mason's methods over the last couple of years. Rebecca and I attended a Simply Charlotte Mason conference in January and it gave us tons to think about. It was wonderful. On the second day of the conference, she actually took us through a day of school, as if we were students and Sonya was the teacher. We had already moved much of our language arts curriculum to CM style with copywork, SCM's Spelling Wisdom, and narrations for the kids. We also had family subjects including reading poetry, Bible memory work, and artist and composer studies. One of the things that we came away with was the CM way of teaching history slower and doing it using the lives of historical figures. Ultimately, we decided to transition to the SCM history, geography, and Bible curriculum right where we were in our history time period rather than waiting until the end of the year.

The SCM history curriculum uses a book called Famous Men of the Middle Ages, which has 3-to-4-page biographies of major historical figures like Rollo the Viking, William the Conqueror and Justinian the Great. The stories are easy to read and we often have the boys sit in with us. I will read the story aloud to them while writing key names, dates or places on a whiteboard and using a map to show where we are talking about. Once the story is done, Olivia has to take a few moments and then narrate back to us what she heard in her own words. Most of the time, she's nearly perfect, though sometimes the names and places get confusing. We do that 4 days a week and at the end of the week we ask her to choose a figure from that week and write a notebook page about him/her.

In addition to Famous Men, she has other books that go more in-depth on a topic. She read the books The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway, which was an in-depth story about Leif Ericsson and his eventual discovery of "Vineland" or North America, and Adam of the Road, which was more of an adventure story that gave a lot of insight into life in the Middle Ages She would read the story on her own and then come to us to narrate it to us. While this was fairly easy for us to give over to her, we had to make sure we had read the chapter before she narrated it so that we could verify her accuracy. Most of the time she was pretty good in her recall, though she sometimes left important details out or got things in the wrong order and had to back up.

Gabe and Ezra didn't get out of doing their share, either. They read stories about Leif Ericsson (Leif the Lucky), William Tell (The Apple and the Arrow), The Sword in the Tree, Viking Adventure and Minstrel in the Tower. We would read to them and then Gabe would narrate it back to us. While not perfect, he did very well in remembering the gist if the story. Occasionally, Ezra would pipe in with something Gabe forgot, so we know he was paying attention, too.

After finishing the Body, we began our study of Astronomy. We are using Apologia's curriculum just as MFW suggested but we slowed it down and are still currently working our way through it. We got the Junior notebook to go with the text and Olivia is doing a fantastic job. She Olivia loves to share with us the things that she is learning. She is a fountain of knowledge some days. :) So excited. The other day she said to me, " Didn't you learn about astronomy in school? Then how do you not know some of these things? I don't think I will ever forget. It is so interesting!" 

Our Solar System. She refuses to acknowledge that Pluto is no longer a planet and insists that we include it in the model, so it's there, just tiny. :)

Learning how craters are made.

How penetrating radar mapped the surface of Venus.

Once a week, we have a structured Bible Study. We studied the books of Galatians and James. When we read them, we are to be listening for the GOAL, which stands for:
            • Grasp this promise
            • Obey this command
            • Avoid this sin
            • Live this principle
When we finished a chapter, the kids had to tell me if they heard any of those things somewhere in the passage. I would say about 85% of the time, one or more of the kids comes up with something to talk about. On the same day, we also learn about an explorer like Columbus, Bartholomew Diaz or Henry the Navigator. She also does map drills where she studies a labelled map of Europe that has the countries, bodies of water and mountains for about 15 minutes. Then she has to fill in a blank map as completely as she can. By the last week, she was really quite impressive.

Olivia is continuing to teach herself cursive. She enjoys using it when she is writing cards or making lists. Here is a sample of her work...

We did decide to continue using the English Root Words curriculum included in MFW. Twice a week, she learns a new Latin root word and then 2 or 3 modern words that use that root. We did the Greek root words last year. Learning root words help us to understand the meanings of new words and increase vocabulary. 

Our composer this term was Beethoven. We listened to the story of his life and then many of his compositions. The kids easily identified most of the pieces we listened to as being on The Little Einsteins at one time or another.

I think we made the right choice in changing the style of learning the kids do. We recently reached the end of the term and did oral exams on the Vikings, Marco Polo, Bartholomew Diaz, The Cape of Good Hope and the Barbarian hordes that sacked Rome. Olivia did really well, even recalling details from the beginning of the term. For now, we will continue on with this plan for our homeschool

In addition to these studies, we attended our homeschool co-op group for 7 weeks this spring. Nature Study was animals common to NC, including the Eastern box turtle, Gray Squirrel, White-tailed Deer, opossum, Wood Duck, frog, and Cottontail Rabbit . The poet was Carl Sandburg. We both learned a bit about him and listened to his poetry. Then each week the kids recited a poem they had memorized. Olivia chose some really challenging long poems to memorize. She pretty much was in charge of choosing and learning them all on her own. I was impressed with her independence and follow through. Gabe joined in and learned a poem for just about every week. Ezra memorized a couple and would recite them at home but then became shy each time we were in the group. The character focus was generosity. We sang the songs Battle Hymn of the Republic and When They Ring the Golden Bells. Our artist Jacob Lawerence. He was a storyteller and was known for his portrayal of African-American life. We really enjoyed his work for picture study. We listened to composer Scott Joplin. Olivia enjoyed his ragtime music so much that she requested to learn The Entertainer on the piano. Of course she is learning a simplified version and she may be learning it for a while, but she is really trying and doing quite well. She is realizing how different the rhythm is from the classical pieces she has been playing up to this point and that is a challenge. We ended each co-op time with Swedish Drill and PE.

Here is a look at the kid's journals during nature study:

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