Category Archives: Classical

Proofread Carefully to See if You Any Words Out.

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. – Gene Fowler

The last few weeks of our homeschool have been focused on how to write a formal essay. We follow a loose Classical/Charlotte Mason homeschool philosophy, and are transitioning from copywork and dictation exercises to more formal outlining and essay writing. Though we will be doing much more of this more formal style of writing next year, the opportunity came up to attend a writer’s camp through the DL school we are enrolled with. The camp was conducted in a small group atmosphere, and provided an opportunity for each of the kids to brainstorm their ideas together. 

Writing an Essay

Writing an Essay

I don’t generally insist on formal writing exercises with my kids (they write naturally, why make it feel like drudgery?), but over the years, I have gently introduced them to different styles and methods of writing.  As they get older, there is a need for more intermediate writing skills. One of my children is a natural creative writer, but seems to dislike formal writing for information exercises. My other child seems to be the opposite, being somewhat displeased with having learn the formalities of creative writing, but managed to write longer paragraphs than her older sister when it came to essay writing. This is often the way it goes, no? Sigh….

Gluing it on Poster Board

Gluing it on Poster Board

What I discovered during this little writing camp though, was an essay writing method that was easy for the kids to learn and follow along with. In fact, it is a method that seems to work well with children as young as 4th grade! Because the method was shared at a writing camp, I searched the web to try and find a replication of this method in order to share with you. You can take a look here, and here – they are very similar. I would also recommend conducting a little writing camp of your own. Using the steps in the above mentioned web sites, a small group of 6 kids would probably work really well with ages between 10 & 12, or grades 4-6.  Once set up, try to pick topics the kids are passionate, or somewhat knowledgable about, this kick starts their creativity and can inspire them to dig deeper into their research. Most importantly, don’t forget to communicate to your kids the purpose of a persuasive essay:  to persuade their audience to accept their idea or point of view.

Include Some Pictures!

Include Some Pictures!

The finished essay can then be typed, or handwritten, or if you wish (as my kids did), cut and pasted onto poster board complete with drawings. Schedule the final week of your writing camp to be a presentation week – the kids can present and read aloud their reports, and encourage one another. If time allows provide some snacks and time for play afterwards. Don’t know what to do with a giant poster board when you get home? Before you recycle, take a photo of the project, and either burn it to a disc, or print the photo and keep for your homeschool records. This way, you can keep the project and do away with the clutter!

In the interim, I’ll leave you with this:

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. – Arthur Polotnik

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Filed under Charlotte Mason, Classical, Encouragement, Language Arts, Learning, Writing

A Fresh Dose of Enthusiasm!

drudgeryI’ve been absent in the blogosphere lately, due to a number of things – but primarily I think I was suffering from dronitis. Occasionally, during summer months, my kids pick up a dose of what I call Imboreditis, but I’m pretty sure I had developed what I’m going to coin as dronitis. Dronitis, (pronounced drone-eye-tis) usually affects parent-teachers who have been homeschooling for more than 5 years. Symptoms include: lack of enthusiasm, diminished ability to focus, decreased concentration, and visible drone-like behaviour. If you find yourself affected by dronitis then I highly recommend a good dose of fresh enthusiasm.

But, how praytell, does one come across such enthusiam? Where can it be found? I have seen many a good soul fall victim to dronitis, and have witnessed them search high and low for such enthusiasm, only to come up empty handed – inheriting instead a case of newly developed chronic dronitis

What is needed in these cases to stimulate said enthusiasm is a switching of educational gears. That’s right – I’m switching gears.enthusiasm Eventually there comes a time when one needs to re-evaluate their homeschooling methods and approaches, and sometimes even the curriculum. For me, it means going back to what I love:  following primarily, a Charlotte Mason (with a twist of classical) approach to homeschooling. I’ve always considered myself a bit eclectic in my homeschooling methods, and have tried various approaches and curricula, but lately I had been feeling that our learning plan was lacking something. The learning plan looked good on paper and promised to meet many learning outcomes, but there seemed to be something fundamental that was missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Then I remembered – there hasn’t been enough time to read the rich literature that I want my children to experience, or go for a nature walk and turn the afternoon into a science lesson – sparked by a particular species of bird whch was sighted, insect discovered, or wild flower found. There was no time for rich stories of history influenced by fascinating  figures making historical discoveries in science, mathematics, or  geography. Subjects had become segregated from one another, and were starting to resemble what I’d call drudgery. Drudgery of course has been known to bring on a sure case of dronitis, and for educational and creative purposes, must be dealt with swiftly.

So I now have my prescription – Enthusiasm: take as often as needed,  food is optional, make sure to take entire prescription –  failing to due so could influence this prescription’s effectiveness. Side effects include: increased productivity, overall happiness, peace of mind, and increased desire to learn all we can.

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Filed under Charlotte Mason, Classical, Encouragement, Learning, Subjects

Frustrated with Grammar?

Do all those grammar workbooks seem far too laborious? Are you frustrated with the lack of flow between grammar and writing? Wondering how to connect the two? I know I was.

Last week I attended the BCHEC Homeschool conference in Kelowna. Come September, my children will be entering grades 4 and 6. Naturally, I found myself searching the curriculum floor at said conference for appropriate 4th and 6th grade material. One of the things I went searching for was a grammar program that actually bridged grammar skills with writing skills. I looked at various grammar programs only to come up: empty handed.

When my children were younger I used programs like English for the Thoughtful Child, First Language Lessons, and copywork, narration and dictation exercises in the style of The Well Trained Mind. I used these programs quite successfully, then somehow we ended up on the workbook train. This grammar workbook train did not do much to further my children’s learning about the mechanics of writing – in fact it seemed an awful lot like (gasp) busywork.

A friend of mine, also on the same monotonous workbook train and looking for the nearest station to get off, asked me if I had heard of Queen’s Homeschooling. Queens Homeschooling looked very appealing to me. Finally, something that looked like the previous programs I had used but for higher grade levels. It struck the Charlotte Mason chord in me.  I did in fact, almost order it. I was only prevented from doing so by a gut feeling – a feeling like I was missing something.

I gave up thinking about it and went a sat down with a cup of tea and my newest Ruth Beechick book that I had picked up at the conference. A book called You Can Teach Your Child Successfully. I opened to the section on writing lessons, only to find myself face to face with something that looked like the perfect grammar program lying withing the pages of this wonderful little book. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Ruth cleverly takes literary passages from various sources, then suggests several activities that can be gleamed from said passages. There are nearly 20 pages providing at least 50 language lessons that can be catered to individual learning styles and grade levels. As quoted in the book by Ruth herself:

The following lessons integrate grammar, puntuation, spelling, writing, and thinking, for a well rounded approach to language learning….Each topic can be studied for a week, but if they don’t work out that way, adjust in any way you wish. Some activities can be developed into long projects, such as writing a play, and if interest is high, you should not cut the project short just to keep up with a schedule.

For example, in one exercise students are asked to either copy or write a literary passage from dictation. They are then asked to proof their own work and compare it against the original. What words did they spell wrong? Did they get the punctuation in the right place? Did they indent the paragraph? Are the capital letters in their appropriate spots? They can then progress to memorizing a line or two from the same passage and try writing it again – continuing to proof their finished work against the original. Among other things, they are taught to identify personal pronouns, search for adjectives, and discern whether to create simple or compound sentences in the context of a well written paragraph.

Both copying and dictation require close attention to detail, and that is why they are effective.

There are many, many more ideas within these pages, but best of all, the book only cost me $12. If you have the opportunity to check out these lessons, by all means do so. Even if you find the lessons aren’t the fit your looking for, the book itself is a tremendous resource. It certainly provided me with a great tool to marry grammar with writing – finally.

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Filed under Books, Classical, Curriculum, Language Arts, Writing

What I wish I’d known my first year of homeschooling.

memeThe Friday meme over at Heart of the Matter is along the theme of – What I wish I’d known. I always make a point of not reading others posts on the meme before I write my own. I hope for originality- it’s more like  surprise. Like the grey hair I pulled out of my head yesterday. Or the lottery ticket I won. Okay, I made that one up – so don’t be calling pretending your my new best friend. So, without further ado, here’s my post.

Thing’s I wish I’d known:

1. Trust your instincts:  they’re right 95% of the time. Really. Honest.

2. Take cues from your kids!  Tears are bad – if there are tears then back off, go for a walk, try again later, but use a different approach.

3. If your kids aren’t getting it, this is a sign to change your approach. It’s up to the teacher/parent to find the right approach that helps the child make the connection. If you fail to do this, there may be tears. See #2.

4. Look for ways to incorporate natural learning situations whenever possible. This is the stuff that makes kids excited about learning. Nature walks, field trips, learning games, workshops, experiments. It generally isn’t the latest workbook – generally.

5. Make an effort to discover your child’s learning style. Most of us are made up of a little bit of each – but almost always, there is an inborn preference to favor one particular learning style.

6. Purchase curriculum that is geared towards your child’s learning style. This makes learning (and teaching) well, easier. See #5.

7. Don’t be a lone tree. Get plugged in to your homeschool community. Meet people and encourage one another. Whether you attend a virtual or community based  homeschool support group – make use of it.

8. Don’t get stuck on any one homeschool method – different methods work for different kids and different families. Most of us are somewhat eclectic in our homeschool approach. Be prepared for change. Homeschooling is like an old sweater. It may be your favorite and you may not throw it out, but then one day you decide your ready for something new and fresh.

9. Read, read read read. Read out loud, read for your own pleasure and encourage your kids to read as much as possible. Keep television, video games and comic books to a minimum – or do without. Reading forms the basis of writing, spelling, grammar. It can be used to teach beginning essay and report writing skills through narration. Penmanship and grammar skills can be improved upon through dictation.

10. Read good books to your children. Start building a library of good literature. Once your child is reading, move away from simple readers. Advance them slowly, progressing to well written literature. Well written books cause us to think deeply, question our moral values, and stir emotions inside of us. These are the books that get read over and over and over again – you’ll know when you see it.

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Filed under Classical, Community, Encouragement, Life, Meme, Reading

Note to homeschoolers: Don’t be psychotic!

soap boxHorray for critical thinkers! I came across this post this afternoon while having my cup of tea (and taking respite from attacking monster sized dust balls hiding underneath things) and I just had to share it with you. It is a rebuttal to Steven Downes argument. Stephen Downes, a senior researcher with the National Research Council who also writes and speaks extensively on education issues, published a brief entry on the court ruling in California in which he essentially equated homeschooling with abuse.

What I love about this rebuttal is this blogger’s ability to expose this argument for what it is. Weak. She has creatively and intellectually explored both sides of this weak argument and is able to clearly back up her statements. Her thought process is clear, coherent, complete and even funny. Please take the time to hop on over to Principled Discovery and read her post – Note: to homeschoolers: Don’t be psychotic! This is exactly the kind of critical thinking that I posted about the other day.

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Filed under Classical, Community, Learning, Ramblings

Critical Thinking – Not Magical Thinking!

logic puzzleWhen I first started homeschooling five years ago, I picked up a book called The Well Trained Mind – a guide to giving your child a classical education at home. This book set the foundation for my homeschool approach and gave me a solid plan to start out on this homeschooling adventure. Since then I have moved away slightly from the classical methods outlined in this book and have now become somewhat eclectic in my homeschool approach.

Filed away in the recess of my mind though was some information I gleamed from the book about teaching our children to think critically once they reach a certain age. Since my oldest daughter is now eleven I’ve been keeping a keen eye out for signs that she may be ready to start thinking on a more critical level. According to most classical models, this logic stage can happen between the ages 10 and 13. This is not a post so much about The Well Trained Mind, nor is it a post about the classical model of teaching. It is a post however, about the importance of instructing our children in the skill of being able to think logically – through deduction and reasoning. We refer to this as critical thinking. It is a skill that is not taught in most schools, and it is a skill that is absolutely foundational in order to support an argument or belief system…..

Come visit me over at The Heart of the Matter Online Magazine to finish reading my post.

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Filed under Classical, Encouragement, Learning, Science