The Joy of LEGOs

For a boy, is there anything quite like a bin full colorful, plastic, building blocks?  I think not.  Unless you count Spongebob Squarepants push-ups.

My hubs has been stealing away each evening to the boys' room to construct a mammoth-sized castle with them.  It just needs some final touches, but he asked that I come up and document the deed.
My photography doesn't do it justice of course, but you get the idea...

My visual/spatial son will build for hours on end alone in his room.  The younger son loves them too, but not to the extent as his brother.  They actually play really decently together with LEGOs for the most part...so long as Harry Potter is playing in the background on CD.  :)

In other quick news, I was awarded the  Versatile Blogger from Becky Jean over at Sweet Bee Hollow

...to accept, I need to tell you all 7 things about myself.  Well, I've done this kinda thing several times at my other blog several times in the last year, so iff'n you're interested, you can learn all kinds of random stuff about me HERE, HERE, HERE.

I'm also 'sposed to pass the award along to another 7 blogs I read.  Well folks, I haven't even had time to find 7 new homeschooling blogs yet, so if you're reading this and have a blog, consider yourself tagged-a-rooed.

Lastly, I've gotten a few questions in the comments, via email, and from other venues about my homeschooling.  I thought I might answer them every Friday.  I might even come up with a snazzy name for it like, um, Questions Answered Every Friday.  You know, something catchy and original. *rolling eyes*


History. A Plan.

We haven't started this yet, but as usual, we will be using a 'road map' whilst studying Medieval history this year with da boyz.  I have it in a Word document, and will print it out, stuff it in my soft-cover binder (will write about this another day, but basically it's where I keep a ready reference of 'how-to's for each subject that I've gleaned from TWTM).

Firstly, enter the usual suspects books that will guide us in our study... 

A most excellent curriculum.  Haven't met it's match yet.  Yes, written by SWB.

I tore out all the student activity pages from the Activity Guide, then stored them in my box of hanging files.  Here's what my pages look like:

Don't forget you can click on these pics to make them bigger.

Like the Writing with Ease workbooks, these pages walk the teacher/mom thru questions to prepare for narration, map activities, reading and literature suggestions, and hands-on crafty stuff.  A plethora of ideas.

Here's *mom's* resource....just to get me up to speed on the Medieval period....SWB's newest offering, written for high school and up.  Yes.  Most fabulous:

In the first edition of The Well Trained Mind, Susan and her mom recommended logic age students (5th-8th) use The Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World.  It is now out of print, and it used to be darn hard to find a copy under $60...in fact, I owned a copy way back when as my oldest were working thru history, and I sold it for a pretty penny when we finished.  (And thus it happens with homeschoolers....buying/selling, buying again/selling, etc. ad nauseum)  Luckily I found a copy recently at Half Price Books (excellent place to find this kind of thing).  $6 buckaroos.  Happy happy.
 The logic age kiddo uses this as a spine text, outlining it, finding items to list, and discovering topics for further study.  It also has a running timeline along the side of most pages making timeline activities a breeze.
When the KIHW went OOP, the newer Kingfisher History Encyclopedia took it's place, and boy howdy did it make outlining difficult.  Ask me how I know.  Ugh.  Double ugh.  So glad to have found this OOP one, and even better, the Activity Guide even has it scheduled so they correspond with our reading in SOTW.  I'm all about easy planning whenever I find it.

Some other stuff I have, sideways.  Logic age kids need 'eyewitness' accounts.  They're called 'primary resources'.  I got this from Rainbow.

This is recommended for rhetoric students, so Jason will prolly use it....but I think it's dandy too.

I also have the Usborne Internet-linked History Encyclopedia of World History for Sam.  Jason is reading it over the summer.

In the TWTM, there are lots of recommended non-fiction books and literature for history study, as well as in the Activity Guide.  Most of these I'll pinch from the library, but when I come across titles at used bookstores or garage sales or Goodwill, I snag 'em.

We'll be using the timeline that comes with these History Through the Ages timeline figures:

So....finally, here is the plan.  I mostly c & p'ed  this from my Word document, and as I said, it's a plan set in jello. Or pudding, whichever.

~Read a chapter in SOTW and have each kid narrate a separate section using method in WWE.
~Sam colors picture in activity guide.  Ben reads additional info in KIHW.  Makes list of 6-8 facts in sentence form. Add dates to timeline.
~Do mapwork by comparing map in book to atlas, world map and globe. Sam does map exercise in activity guide. Benj does MapTrek assignment.
~That evening, go to library to pick out books on topics/people of interest related to chapter. Some can be read-alouds, and pay attention to biographies and primary sources. Use Activity Guide for suggestions.

~Dictation of Monday’s narration.
~Sam reads one of the library books and coordinating section in Usborne History Encyclopedia. Can make a narration page (optional).
~Ben reads library books and primary resources when applicable, then outlines from one resource (5-6 paragraphs-one level outline).

~Sam read another book from library. Ben prepares a written summary of info on chosen topic of 4-6 sentences. (help extract info…)
~Use projects and games to reinforce. Make narration pages on some of the books/projects.
~File all in chronological order in notebook or in appropriate section in logic stage notebook: biographical pages, arts and books pages, etc.

Review Notebook once a month.

I also made a list of suggested memory work, books/bios to read, and people to study.  All of this was gleaned straight from the Medieval sections of TWTM.  BTW, memory work is recorded, then practiced alone during the chunk of time I'm working with the other kiddo.

That's the plan.  Other necessary equipment will include Little Debbie oatmeal cakes for the teacher.


Narration, Smarration.

Over the course of my homeschooling journey, I continually came across this term NARRATION.  I'm talking it popped up everywhere.  If one was attempting to avoid the 'school-at-home' scenario, meaning no textbooks and fill-in-the-blank schoolwork, narration was described as a way to 'test' your child's comprehension of something they'd read or heard read to them without the busywork or sometimes difficult physical task of writing. (By the way, I'm not a hater of all things text-book-y, but that will be another post.)

The term is attributed to Charlotte Mason, a turn-of-the-19th-century school marm in Britain, whose teaching methods were considered quite liberal by the cultural standards at the time.  Children were considered little persons, to be respected and honored (imagine that), and were given short lessons, much play and discovery time, appreciation for the arts and nature, and practiced narration within every lesson.  Narration in Miss Mason's school, in it's simplest form, was a re-telling in one's own words what was just heard or read.  When little, these were done orally, gradually working up to written narrations on whole chapters of books or lessons.

When Susan Wise Bauer, of The Well Trained Mind fame,  began adding her voice to the chorus of 'experts' in homeschooling, she also promoted narration as a fabulous way for children to learn.  Because it requires them to focus in order to remember, and it trains their little brains to hold a thought then articulate it first orally, then in written form, it fits like a glove into her neo-classical methodolgy.  SWB takes narration, and hones it to a more narrow focus....using it as a  necessary tool in the process of learning how to write, not just as a way to test a child's memory and comprehension.

I'm using her grammar stage Writing with Ease text with my boys, in hopes of cementing the art of narration (as well as dictation, which I'll discuss later).  Eventually the series will contain a text for the logic stage then the rhetoric stage.  I purchased the workbook to make my job easier.  Not only do I not have to find my own appropriate passages, but it's all scripted. It holds my hand when I need to ask questions that will help lead my boys to discovering the main point.....in other words, summarizing....NARRATING.  Here is a screen shot of the PDF download I purchased.  I printed off one copy of the student pages for Sam, but Benj does his work on regular notebook paper.

I store the printed copies in hanging file folders....
I store all my hanging folders containing anything I've printed off for school in this here box...Math Mammoth student pages, Story of the World Activity pages, Writing With Ease Student pages...

While I'm at it, I also HIGHLY recommend purchasing her el cheapo Mp3's from Peace Hill Press about writing.  It details exactly what to do when as you teach your children how to write, and will give you the 'big picture goal' of writing thru 12th grade.  She gives you examples of what a beginning session of narration might look like, which is extremely helpful (and hilarious).  There is an essay in the Writing with Ease text right at the beginning that says the samething, but the audios go into more detail....and Susan's a crack-up.  Also, Peace Hill Press's youtube channel offers videos of Susan answering specific questions about not only writing, but all manner of questions about her methodology. Oh, and there's a bazillion articles on her blog too....click 'site resources' at the top of the page.

So, today I began our WWE workbooks with the boys.  I'm adding a subject per week over the summer.  Last week was 30 minutes of reading and daily chores. This week it's writing/narration/dictation.  Next week is cursive copywork and typing.

I did this lesson with each boy separately, as in the other kid was off listening to Harry Potter on CD upstairs.  I began letting them know I was going to read a passage, they needed to listen carefully and make a pictureor movie in their mind of what I was saying, then I would ask some questions which they needed to answer in complete sentences.  (At this point, they're sighing and rolling their eyes, already thinking this is going to be 'so hard'.  Like a steamroller, I move forward with nary a recognition of their complaints.)  Here are screen shots of my teacher pages: (Remember you can click on these to enlarge them.)
After they'd answered the questions to my satisfaction....if they didn't remember, Susan says go back and read that portion again....they were instructed to come up with a narration describing the Patchwork Girl.  I told them to use the answers they'd given previously to make ONE complete sentence in their mind SILENTLY, then to tell me it out loud so I could write it down.  Here's what Sam came up with:
 And here is Benj's.  Below is the copywork assignment for the next day.  We're doing 2 days of assignments each lesson period to hopefully get thru at least 2 levels of WWE this year.  Obviously, I forgot to check it over with him....mom is supposed to catch errors as they're happening, but I was prolly snitching some Mackinac fudge while he finished.  Don't hate.
Here's Sam's copywork.  I told him he could do half in print if he wanted.  He was also left to his own devices.  Tomorrow I will sit with them and watch.  Someone remind me to bring the fudge with me.

Getting complete sentences and narrations from the boys is difficult.  I have to ask leading questions, correct, and suggest.  You'll notice in Sam's narration, I wrote exactly what he said....but there was an extra word (were).  I had him read it back to me so he'd catch the mistake, and we erased the word.  It's tedious, frustrating, and not easy to form a complete sentence in your head, then articulate it.  But it is a foundational skill to getting thoughts organized in the brain, remembering those thoughts, and then writing them down.  I love that Susan's method breaks this all down into tiny steps to be practiced.  And practiced.  AND PRACTICED. Thankfully the lessons don't take more than 10-15 minutes.  Again, fudge comes in handy.