Thursday, August 29, 2013

Classical Conversations Conference Part 2

Last week I wrote about the CC conference that I recently attended in Casper.  I learned so much there that I'm breaking down the info into 6 parts to share with you here on my blog. 

One of the things we talked extensively about at the conference was the trivium.  I've read The Well-Trained Mind and studied a little bit in the past about classical education, so I knew what the trivium was.  For those of you who don't know what it is, the word trivium is Latin for "the three paths."  In medieval times, students were trained via the trivium in preparation for the quadrivium.  The quadrivium means "the four paths."  Together the trivium and the quadrivium comprise the 7 liberal arts.



Classical Conversations follows the model of the Trivium by training younger children grammar (words and facts), the older children logic (reasoning and understanding how facts work together), and the high schoolers rhetoric (understanding and the ability to express/teach/debate).

Leigh Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations, puts the Trivium into today's computer lingo in this way:


Our conference speaker, Andy, declared that EVERYTHING we've ever learned has been learned in this manner because this is how our brain works.   We learned to speak as infants from hearing words over and over and memorizing them.  We learn to read the same way, using the "grammar" of phonetic sounds, putting them together (logic), and understanding the words that they make (rhetoric).  In order to become rhetorical on any subject, you first need to have the grammar base.  Some people get confused by the term grammar and assume it means English grammar.  But grammar in classical education simply refers to "building blocks" or the foundations of education.

Think of a puzzle:

Grammar = puzzle pieces
Logic = putting the pieces together
Rhetoric = completing the puzzle

We had a math emphasis at the conference and as we were working through some math problems together, some us were feeling a bit stupid.  Andy told us that we are not dumb, we didn't know how to solve some of the problems because we didn't have the grammar (building blocks) for them.  So true!  The things I struggled with in school were things I had no grammar for.  I had not been taught the lingo or facts of science, or algebra, but was expected to figure out problems and come up with answers! 

You are never too old to become a grammarian.  If you want to learn to dance, to cook, to speak Chinese, to sew, to change a tire on your car, to homeschool, to ride horses, to do equations in physics, etc. you need to first get the building blocks before you begin to put them together and master them.  I am preparing to tutor my CC kids in Latin by immersing myself in as much of it as I can so that I can learn the terms, eventually understand them, and in turn, share them with my children.

In biblical terms, the trivium could be described as:

Knowledge (grammar)
Understanding (logic)
Wisdom (rhetoric)

Even as I write this post, I'm being rhetorical.  I've gained the information at the conference through taking notes, remembering things I heard and took into my memory bank, processed the info to understand it, and am now sharing it with my blog readers. 

I could write pages and pages about the trivium and the way we learn.  However, others have done far better than me at explaining the trivium in depth.  I suggest you read this article for more grammar on the subject! 

Also, Leigh Bortins has a WONDERFUL, free ebook online called Echo in Celebration, which is a great read!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Our Homeschool Curriculum 2013

I share our curriculum plan here to inspire and encourage, not to guilt anyone into thinking they should do it like us.  Every homeschool family is unique and there are a variety of ways to homeschool and many wonderful resources to choose from.
This year, we are trying Classical Conversations for the first time.
This whiteboard, a fun freebie I scored when our church was throwing out old junk, sits on our homeschool table and contains all the info the kids will memorize each week.  Each week, every student is required to give a presentation.  For the little kids, this is like Show n' Tell, but for the older kids, it is more like a speech, requiring thought and preparation.

The Foundations guide is ONE book, containing all the info the kids will learn from age 4 until the 6th grade.  Each half-page contains the week's worth of memory grammar.  There are 3 cycles of information so my 3 younger kids will end up going through all of the cycles twice; they will know the grammar well!
(I jotted down some notes to remember which color I am using for each subject on the white board and where each subject is placed so that I can be consistent each week).

My wonderful director, Kristi, totally spoils her tutors with laminated schedules, maps, etc.
The schedule contains the plan for our 3 hour school time together each Tuesday morning.

Kristi blessed each of the tutors with monogrammed Thirty-One bags specifically for CC.  These totes are LOADED with fun school supplies and projects for the kids to do.

Our geography and history focus this year (Cycle 2) is Europe.

Kristi made up little geography folders for each of the students so that they can trace the maps each week when we learn our new geography grammar.


I borrowed the 200+ Timeline Cards from Kristi not only so I could show the kids the picture that correlates to the Timeline info they are memorizing each week, but also because we are thirsty for the background info contained in the Timeline song.  I played the Timeline song (on our CC memory work cds) on our family camping trip a couple of weeks ago and now the kids beg for it every morning while I make breakfast.  My husband has surprised me by getting really into it and he is always googling different events from the song to find out more.  Now we have the cards on hand to study as we learn the song!

We have a Fine Arts lesson each week at CC.  There is a 6-week focus on drawing, a 6-week focus on playing the tin whistle and learning music theory, a 6-week focus on orchestra, and a 6-week focus on studying great artists from history.

A friend gave me this book as a gift and I can't wait to delve in.  This will be our first read-aloud to enjoy together after lunch and before Rest Time each day.  It's not part of the CC curriculum but it follows along perfectly with the Cycle 2 work on the Middle Ages this year.
For Phonics/English Ali and Jer will each do 2 pages per day in the Explode the Code Series.
Ali will also do 2 pages in her Prescripts Cursive Writing Book.
Jer will practice handwriting by copying sentences from Bob books.
For Math, I have several Math workbooks we've collected over the years and they will each do about 1 hour of Math per day in their grade level.
Daddy reads a few chapters of the Bible to the kids each evening before they go to bed.  We will practice Bible memory work and do a morning devotional over breakfast.
For reading, we will be doing the Book-It program again, with monthly reading goals.  Ali loves to read, so it won't be hard for her to read a lot of chapter books.  Jer will continue to build his skills by reading aloud to a parent or sibling for 15-20 minutes per day.  One book that is perfect for first graders is the Bible reader from MFW.  I plan to have him read from that daily.  I will read aloud to the kids after lunch.
Justus will not be doing anything formal beyond his CC memory work and practicing a little presentation for school each week.  He recently taught himself to read simple words, so sometimes he enjoys reading word lists off the white board.  He likes to practice writing his name and loves the little electronic handwriting game we got at a yard sale this summer.  Katri will be coloring pictures, doing puzzles, magnet dolls, watching Dora, etc. during our school time.
Borrowing from the incredible wisdom I've gained from Leigh Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations, this is how I plan to structure our school days this year:
Wake before the kids for prayer/Bible reading
Shower and dress
Kids wake and get dressed, make beds, use the restroom, and come upstairs
Play the Timeline song while Ali puts breakfast on the table
Practice Scripture memory and read a devotional while the kids eat breakfast
Meet in the living room to review the grammar for the week (use songs, review games, hand motions, etc. to make the memory work fun) approx. 20-30 min.
Work on Math lessons (1 hour)
Recess and snack
Phonics/Handwriting/English time (1 hour)
Reading (30 min)
Read-Aloud time
Rest Time
Free Time
Brief Review of weekly grammar (5-10 min)
We are on the online community of CC, called CC Connected, so I can go on and pull up the computer-version memory work tutorials.  Since my kids love computer games, this will be another fun way they can learn their memory work during their free time.  I'm glad that all of the memory work is on cds and online so that if I get sick, school can still go on without my voice being tortured, like last year!
Since most of the memory work is learned through songs, I don't feel the need to include extra music lessons.  Because we can't afford piano lessons, swim club membership, or ballet right now, our schedule is pretty simple and that's okay with me!  The kids will likely be involved in Lego Club and a creative writing class offered at the library this year, Ali will be in AWANA, and they will all be ecstatic about homeschooling swimming lessons this fall, but we will take each activity in stride as our schedule allows.
In my CC class, I have 8 students, ages 8-12.  Ali will be in my class this year.
My boys will be in my friend Lori's class with kids ages 5-7 and KK will be in the nursery with my friend Mindy and all the little tots in our group.
I haven't decided if we'll do school 3 or 4 mornings per week in addition to the morning of school together with our group.  I guess we'll see how things go.
I'm excited for a great year and can't wait to learn alongside the kids!

Goals for the Week

Last week I took a break from making and reaching goals so I could have some time to unwind after a busy summer.  I'm feeling refreshed and ready to "jump back on the horse" with goals.  I'm reading an INCREDIBLE book right now called The ONE Thing by Gary Kellar, and it has inspired me to pick just ONE thing to focus on in each area for greater success and simplicity of purpose.
I highly, highly recommend you read this book!  It's one of my favorite reads this year!
Spiritual Health

Read the book of Romans.



Enjoy a date weekend with my hubby as my mom takes the kids camping at the lake for a couple of days.  Time without the kids?  RARE!  AMAZING!


Begin doing 1-2 hours of school today this week in preparation for our "real" start of school next Monday.


Catch up on laundry.


Take a gift to a friend who just had a baby.


Bike 30 miles on my stationary bike.


Minimalist Living

Sell some things on the local Mom Swap Page.

Do a practice run of Week #1's Classical Conversations lessons so I'm ready to tutor next week when it starts.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gold Rush Days at South Pass City

My parents and I and the kids had a picnic at South Pass City during Gold Rush Days.

Jer in a jail cell.  It was very dark and dank in there (my camera flash is lighting it up here).
We all agreed that we'd have preferred a hanging to staying there long-term!

A blacksmith demonstrated how to make nails, then gave each of the kids one to take home.

In the "print shop" the kids got to make a South Pass City bookmark on the old printing press.

Ali, Jer, and I went for a wagon ride in a 100+ year old wagon.  We got to loop all around South Pass and go up and down a few hills and go really fast at one point.

My dad took these pics with my camera. 
(We're squished into the back row)

The Pony Express demonstration was cool.  One rider rode into town at a gallop, stopped just long enough to throw the leather saddlebags onto this guy's horse, and then he was off at a gallop!

A trip to Gold Rush Days wouldn't be complete without a chance to pan for gold.

Even my folks got really into it.  Dad found a few flecks of gold.

My lovely mom, searching for gold.

Jer seeking gold.

Anvil blasting is LOUD!!!  Every hour on the hour they blow the anvil into the sky.  And every time, I know what to expect but I end up screaming, because it's just that heart-thumping loud!!!

The anvil, up in the sky.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Classical Conversations Conference Part 1

I've only been homeschooling for 4 years, so I'm still new at this, but if there is one thing I've learned in my short time of homeschooling, it's that the homeschool mom has to be flexible.  Life circumstances change from year to year and not every method meshes with every child.  No homeschool mom out there can successfully make a 10-year, or even a 5-year plan, and expect things to go smoothly.  Homeschool plans need to be tweaked yearly, if not monthly!
This year, God has led us to do Classical Conversations.  I'm so excited and inspired by the recent CC convention that I attended with my friends, but I'm still open to whatever He has for us down the road.  There are days when I'm quite sure that my two strong-willed kids will find themselves in public school in a year or two.  Homeschooling is hard!  Being around your children day in and day out can be rugged, no matter what awesome curriculum you are using!
When I began homeschooling, I just assumed that we'd stick with My Father's World for the long haul.   I loved all of the fun projects we did together during our 2 years of MFW Kindergarten studies.  I still highly, highly recommend their curriculum, but know that with the number of  kids that I have, and their personalities, I personally am unable to do MFW anymore.  For my sanity, I need a more-streamlined curriculum.
I was soooo blessed by the recent CC parents' practicum in Casper that I drove home with eyes misty with gratitude at the encouragement I received.  Our speaker, Andy, was excellent and my fellow homeschool moms there were so helpful and amazing.  I was refreshed by the teachings and fellowship (and let's not forget time away from the kids!) and came home with over 23 notebook pages of handwritten notes from the 2 days I was there.  I was able to pinpoint where I could grow and how I'd been making my life harder than I needed to in my last year of homeschooling.
Because I have SO MUCH to share from the conference, I will break it into a 6-part series so as not to overwhelm you here!  So, expect a new post on Classical education every Tuesday here for awhile!
One of the first things our speaker, Andy, did was make fun of us.  There he was, in a room chock-full of zealous homeschool moms, and he began to rib us.
His affectionate term for homeschool moms, his own wife included, is "Freak-Out Homeschool Moms."  He described the typical enthusiastic homeschool mom with great ideas who wonders if she's doing enough for her kids.  He even caught some of us being "FOHMs" right there, frantically taking notes so as to absorb every word he said and planning homeschool book purchases from an ear-marked catalog.
Andy did a little skit in which he showed us a History timeline card and what the typical FOHM does.  Instead of just training their child to memorize the phrase (for example: The Fall of Rome) and perhaps read a brief description of it, the FOHM goes ballistic trying to get their kid to understand everything there is to know about the Fall of Rome.  They build a model of Rome, and/or read 10 books on Rome from the library, and/or try to do a play on the subject.  Meanwhile, the child's brain, in the grammar stage, is a sponge, ready to easily memorize the phrase in the timeline, but not ready to absorb all the extra info.  Later down the road, as the child matures and grows, he will enter into a stage where he can process more details and have an understanding of what we can learn from history, and if he has memorized the facts as a younger child, he will have the memory "peg" in his mind from which to start from.
Andy's little example really hit home for my friend Lori and I.  Lori has used Sonlight for many years.  We both try to make school as fun and interesting as we can and we go overboard trying to immerse the kids in literature and information, without realizing how simple school really can be!  Lori will be teaching my 2 boys this year in CC and I will be teaching 2 of her kids!  So, it was fun to learn together at the conference.  When Andy talked about how LESS IS MORE and KNOWING FEWER THINGS WELL rather than many things vaguely, I felt as though a 50# weight had been lifted from my back.  You mean, I don't have to add a bunch of extras to the weekly lessons to be doing an okay job as a homeschool mom?  You mean, we don't have to learn all of the "Why's?" right now, and we don't have to understand everything we are memorizing or studying?  You mean we don't have to do everything the curriculum suggests to succeed in homeschooling? 
Andy's solution to Freak-Out Homeschool Mom syndrome is:
Love God.
Love your husband.
Love your kids.
A few times during the conference, he had us repeat this with him to remind us what is truly important.
Regardless of what schooling method your family is doing.
Regardless of what curriculum you choose.
Regardless of how organized or academically proficient you are.
Love for God and our families is what is truly important.  Because we care about our families deeply, it's all too easy for us homeschool mamas to become FOHMs and forget the basics. 
Sometimes we need to just breathe and consider what is eternal.
This year, because of the conference, I am being the least like a FOHM than I have ever been.  Normally by this time of year, we'd have started school with a huge sh'bang and I'd have an hourly schedule neatly typed and ready to follow.  I'd be scouring the library for all kinds of supplemental books that I could read to add to the curriculum and trying to get a head-start on the school year so we don't fall behind.
But this year...I'm not.  I'm so thrilled with CC's simple method that I'm content to wait until mid-September when we start school with our group, knowing that we will still finish 6 weeks ahead of the public schools in the Spring.  I'm confident that my kids will learn everything they could possibly need to know with this program in our 24 weeks of school.  As for Lori, Kristi, and I, and the 6 other moms doing CC with us, we are excited to be learning along with the kids.  I have a college degree, and I do not know 1/24 of the information that my kids will be memorizing this year, so I can't wait to dive into it myself and learn, learn, learn! 
If you are a FOHM, or just a FOM in general, take a quiet moment to breathe deeply and focus on what really matters.
Love God.
Love your husband.
Love your kids.
God is with you friend!
Next Tuesday:  Part 2--The Way Our Brains Learn

Monday, August 19, 2013

Goals for the Week

Last Week's Goals

Spiritual Health
1. Read through the book of Acts
Finished a little over half of the book.
2. Catch up on Bible Study chapters/homework.
3. Study theology in prep for a couple of different discussions with friends, for fun!
4. Give my husband a really nice massage with essential oils as he's been having shoulder pain.

3. Finish our read-aloud this week.
4. Have the kids deep-clean their bedrooms which look like the sites of a bean-bag explosion and a bead tornado.
5. Wash all the sleeping bags and laundry from our camping trip.

6. Clean the guest room out when company leaves.

7. Visit a cousin and her sweet kids in another town, a fun "summer get-together" both of our kids requested this year.

8. Write to our sponsored child, Worke.

9. Water my mom's garden for her while she's out of town.
Ended up not needing to do this, since my Dad, who was supposed to do it, actually did it!

9. Be in bed every night at 11pm.
Most nights, but not all!
10. Do Pilates 1x, go for two 20-30 min. walks, jog 1x
Only jogged once!  I was pretty tired and not feeling 100% this week so exercise got put off.

Minimalist Living
11. Delete 2,000 photos.
I got on a roll and deleted at least 10,000 photos. 
But still hundreds of thousands more to go!
12. Re-organize the homeschool closet.
Came away with another apple-box full of stuff to get rid of.
13. Wrap Justus' birthday gift and prepare birthday meals/decorations for his family party on Friday.
14. Tally my receipts and figure out my monthly budget.
This week's goal:
Have fun!!!
After 3 straight weeks of hosting company and being as busy as bees, I'm taking a week of Sabbath to be refreshed before we begin the rigors of academics again.  So, my goal for this week is to rest, relax, enjoy the kids, read a lot of fun books to them, play some board games with them, have lots of playdates and try to beat the heat as it is supposed to be 95 every day this week.  Of course, as a Mom, I'm never truly "off duty" and there will be plenty of things I need to do, like the never-ending mountain of laundry, but I'm going to have a week of calm and rest insofar as I'm able!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Word to the wise:
When you are craving chocolate chip cookies, it's not a good idea to stick a frozen ball of dough in the microwave for 4 minutes!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Justus is 5!!!

It's hard to believe our "Little J" is 5 years old today!
5 Reasons I'm glad to have him in our family:
1.  His hugs are the tightest and most enthusiastic.
2.  He smiles a LOT.
3.  He gets excited over the tiniest things (like the boxes his gifts come in or a special snack)
4.  He's always thinking, creating, and conquering.  He taught himself to read last week!
5.  He keeps us laughing with his funny statements and outrageous antics.
Ali made him a birthday hat that says, "Sir Justus the First."

One day, when checking on the kids in the backyard, Josiah and I found Justus launching buckets of water on a make-shift catapault.

Justus wears swimming trunks every day in the summer!

Always climbing, running, jumping, biking, or scootering around!

When we celebrated his birthday a few days early with his grandparents from MN, he plugged his ears for the birthday song.  Typical Justus!
He was thrilled with some cool, new shoes that light up.
He needed some new shoes!

A blue hat with a bear on it, from Yellowstone.

Justus requested sprinkled donuts for breakfast, Ham n' Cheese Pockets for lunch, and Chili for supper for his birthday.  He wants a Spiderman cake for the family party tonight.  My folks went in with us to get him a Ziggle for his birthday, which I know he will love!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Summer Shoot

My mom made these darling pillowcase dresses for the girls.  Matching dresses for our far-apart-in-age girls always inspire a photo shoot!



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