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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Creating a course of study--"Art and Anatomy"

Patience pondering
Folks are always asking me--"If I am only concentrating on the basics, then how will I ever cover all of the other subjects, such as history and science?"

There are a number of ways to cover such things, none of which need curriculum (especially in the younger years), or even a "scope and sequence", and most of which can be done by a child independently through the reading of good books.

Just think about any topic of study; while modern textbooks can give a person a good overview, they can also kill a person's natural inquisitiveness, since only the facts the writers and publishers deem necessary are published, and are presented in an often dry, matter-of-fact way that makes anything seem dull.

Learning with real books is a totally different approach. Charlotte Mason was very much in favor of such a method, and this is the most natural way to explore the universe of knowledge and understanding. Modern homeschoolers such as Dr. Robinson (of the Robinson Curriculum), and Marilyn Howshall are also in great favor of such an approach.

Just reading aloud a good book over lunchtime, such as a historical biography, or even a nature book such as The Handbook of Nature Study, and discussing it, with a dictionary and encyclopedia (or the Internet) at hand is one of the most natural ways of covering many of the things that will spark the interest and light the fires of a child's imagination.

While waiting for the repairman the other day, I made good use of the time and read to my tiny girls from The Story Book of Knowledge, to be found in the Dollar Homeschool discs. We were covering the grandfather's explanation about clouds and snow. In discussing what we had read, I went over the point about snow being a natural insulator against the cold, which caused us to think of Igloos. We immediately went over to the computer and looked for videos on Igloo building, and found quite a few. We were all fascinated by the traditional way these snow huts were created, and it was such a profitable time for us all!

My eldest daughter (at home) is naturally inclined to take a subject and study until she has almost exhausted it. She has a drawer in her room that is full of notebooks, sketchbooks, and other collections of her notes, outlines, drawings, etc. in her various areas of interest. It hasn't been necessary for me to assign or keep track of what she was learning, other than to look over her findings and listen to her when she described her discoveries. She has known intuitively how to gather the best books, and we all know where to look if one of our favorite tomes is missing!

But there are times and circumstances that create for us the need to have a plan in place. One such instance may be when one is under the oversight of government officials who require something written in the form of a "plan", or when we have a child that, despite all the best intentions, is just a little bit too addled and needs to learn to be more studious.

This is why I have developed the idea of creating a "course of study". It is akin to a unit study, but does not rely on extensive pre-work by the parent/teacher. It uses notebooking techniques, but is not dependent on loads of research from all sorts of sources that would be beyond most early readers. It uses real books, but gives just a bit more structure and delves a bit deeper into a subject.

A course of study is basically using the contents page of a real book on any worthy subject adding in other books related to the subject, and then assigning notebooking projects after intervals of reading. All of this is listed on a sheet, with space for assigned times for completion (we don't assign grades for completed work around here--if someone's work is sub-par, they do the whole thing over, besides, why would someone do something that was not their best, anyway--isn't learning have enough merit of its own without attaching any carrot on the end of the stick?). 

It is very important to pick subjects that are interesting to each prospective child. I am not convinced that my artistically gifted son needs to do research on truck engines, nor do I believe my other history-buff son needs to study oil painting techniques. I am not going to try and cover every subject ever conceived during their time with me. Instead, I am going to train them in ways to study the subjects that will be of real worth to them throughout their lives, so that they will be able to teach themselves what they need to know as the need arises. We already spend a great amount of time touching on general and pertinent knowledge during our family discussions, which can last for hours at a time!

For an instance, my very gifted and talented son would do well to further study human anatomy for his artwork. I thought it would also be a good idea for him to have a greater understanding of how his body works, and how to better take care of himself.

I have chosen to use the book, Guide to Health from the Dollar Homeschool science collection for the main framework of his study. I am also including the book, Cyclopedia Anatomicae, which gives instruction in the art of sketching human and animal forms,  and the Dorling Kindersley book, The Visual Dictionary of Human Anatomy (please note; I did not go out and purchase these books just for this study. We have owned most of these books for a long time--and bought them from various sources, including from thrift stores and garage sales. What we often term as "coffee table books" are wonderful resources for these types of studies). 

For each chapter in the main book, I have made assignments; some in the form of keeping sketches, and also writing assignments and copy work. I have put my plan in a form that is color-coded, so that he knows what is expected with each chapter. Here is what it looks like:


This is only the first page, of course

I have left myself room to embellish the assignments, since I plan on using the writing assignments to teach things such as outlining, essay writing, etc. We are using notebooking pages in various forms as the need arises. Of course, if we find any other resources that are interesting to us, we also add those as we go along.  He is keeping his finished work in a three-ring binder.

This system could also be implemented by filling in only the main chapter headings, and filling in the other reading/studying materials as the child progresses. This is great for keeping track of high school credits for a transcript, etc.

I have also created courses of study in other areas, with more well-defined notebooking pages for the younger ones, which I plan on sharing in the future, perhaps with a PDF download of our study based on the McGuffey book, "Familiar Animals".

Homeschool Sanity--Planner Spring Special!

Receive the 127 page Homeschool Planner Free!

Here is the offer so many of you have been waiting for--beginning February 26th, and continuing until April 30th, when you purchase my new book, Homeschool Sanity, you will also receive the updated 2012-2013 Large Family Mothering's Home-School Planner--Free!!! Yes, that's right. Beginning 2/26/2012 - 4/30/2012 when you purchase "Homeschool Sanity" for $11.50 we will follow up by sending you the homeschooling planner below--absolutely FREE!!! (A total savings of $7.50!)

It is already the end of February 2012, isn't it amazing how fast the days pass by! So why not begin your homeschooling year with a new Home-Schooling Planner?

Last year my old “brain” (the moniker I used when I was referring to my prized home-school journal) was looking quite tattered and shabby. There was no distinct correlation in the layout and design of its pages (it was a menagerie of forms I had found for free and subject matter I had created from scratch) so I asked the Lord for guidance and renewed inspiration to make my planner more practical and better organized.
Just updated for the New Year!
With this very idea in mind, I began to research the Internet in order to see just what was out there—and to look for a new layout. I thought to myself, "Surely I'm not the only home schooling mother of many who is in need of a well-designed planner."

After a few intense hours of researching, I came away disappointed. If one planner was practical, it was also plain. If another was beautiful, it was too expensive. One of the planners most advertised boasted of being useful “for up to four children” —which made it inadequate for home-schooling mothers of many, especially this one, who now has nine children at home (we have graduated six of our 15 children from our home-school as of the date of this publication).

What is more, none of the planners I found were appropriate for the way I think, the methods I like to use, or the manner in which my home actually operates.

What I required was something that had the following components and...

Diligent record-keeping just had to be:
  • Inexpensive
  • Expandable for use with families of many children
  • Open-ended enough to use with a variety of applications 
  • Beautiful—so as to appeal to feminine sensibilities—yet practical enough to encourage continued use
At the end of the day, I believed God wanted me to make my own, and, in so doing, make it available to others.

If you would like to view some sample pages of the new eBook (click right), Large Family Mothering Home-School Planner. This home-school planner has 127 pages that can be printed for both half-sheet or full sized pages with detailed instructions.

If you would like to purchase this new planner click on the "Buy Now" button under the title page on my blog side bar. We hope that this new resource is a blessing to you in your home-school experience. If you have any questions please let me know.



PS- If you download the FREE Nitro PDF Reader you can actually type on the pages of your copy of the home-school planner before you print your copy at home.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pictures of new books, notebooking pages, and fun ABC craft {Brag Thursday}

Here are some things I would like to brag about:

Here are some novels I printed and bound from the Internet. The first is from Google Books, the other two are from Gutenburg, after I reformatted them to fit better for space, etc. I tried a little different technique with the covers, printing them out on card stock, then using duct tape as a stabilizer after I used the hot glue gun on the spines to hold the groups of pages together--see my tutorial for more information.

Two McGuffey readers I printed and bound from the Dollar Homeschool reading collection--I am trying some colored file folders this time--so much fun to create these books that will last! I also cut the folders a little bit bigger so I could round the corners (I have a notebooking tool for this).

The other day Faith had the idea of cutting out all of the letters of the alphabet and placing them along the table--I was all for it! She got all the way to "w" before lunchtime!

This is Lorilee's work--she is a few years behind Faith, but just as eager--I loved watching her letters unfold. 

Here is a notebooking page I assigned to my dear Olivia. She is doing a study on animals based on the McGuffey book, "Familiar Animals" found in the Dollar Homeschool McGuffey Readers collection. I am so impressed with her creativity and thoroughness (She has since filled in all of the captions below the pictures she drew). 

Have anything you're proud of? Want to share something that will lend sanity to someone else? Put a link below:

Homeschool Sanity Brag Thuesday

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Assignment sheet

Ever want to know just what it would look like to put your own "plan" together? It can seem too daunting, to feel as thought things are just not "right" until you have some sort of idea of what you will be doing daily, etc. This is why we really love those boxes of pretty books we can order and pay through the nose for--at least we feel "legitimate"!

If your are having one of those times when you just don't feel it can be done, relax. Even if your life is so hectic, such as after the birth of a baby, that you barely have time to comb your hair in the morning, you can let things "happen"--read aloud a good book over lunch, discuss it, and assign a general notebooking assignment, or whatever works, and then record it after-the-fact. You can even plan ahead using a huge calendar hanging on the all of your kitchen--give God room to help you plan your life, and it will be more blessed than the most comprehensive scope-and-sequence ever devised! Just keep the basics in mind, then fill your home and your life with the best of learning (without fluff and nonsense) and have fun.

I had to turn a recently-created check-off sheet into a picture, so I thought I would share it with everyone.

Keep in mind, I have changed these things many times, mostly because I am very creative--:)--but also because, if there is anything we can count on, things are gonna' change! So don't go thinking that there is only one way to skin the homeschooling cat--there are as many ways as there are people!

Here is the picture:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reading, writing, and discussion--the best tools for an education

Consider this quote from John Taylor Gatto in his book, The Underground History of American Education:

Reading, and rigorous discussion of that reading in a way that obliges you to formulate a position and support it against objections, is an operational definition of education in its most fundamental civilized sense. No one can do this very well without learning ways of paying attention:  from a knowledge of of diction and syntax, figures of speech, etymology, and so on, to a sharp ability to separate the primary from the subordinate, understand allusion, master a range of modes of presentation, test truth and penetrate beyond the obvious to the profound messages of text. Reading, analysis and discussion is the way we develop reliable judgment, the principal way we come to penetrate covert movements behind the facade of public appearances. Without the ability to read and argue we're just geese to be plucked.

This is a wonderful validation to what most homeschoolers do naturally, although sometimes they feel a little guilty for it, especially if they get behind on their work in "textbooks" because they have taken too long discussing ideas at the breakfast table!

But it is these table discussions that are the best parts of what we do daily. Allowing time for children to ask questions, or to explain what they have been reading about or thinking about is a way in which they process and make their learning more a part of their thinking.

When one of my dear daughters was called upon to write a paper in college, she would feel very lost and confused until she sat down and discussed her ideas with me, while I was silent and mostly nodded my head. Within a few minutes of "talking it all out", she was refreshed and ready to write! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Preparing our kids for what? {Brag Thursday}

Here's a wonderful news flash:

Not everyone is meant to have a college degree.

There, I said it.

I know folks are supposed to think of college as the "end of all ends", but education used to be thought of as a "means" to an end.

If there is anything that strikes fear in the hearts of homeschooling parents, it is the pressure to get one's children ready for college.

But what if a young man is more interested in building things? What if he just can not help but want to tear down all the appliances and build them back again? What if higher math escapes him? Is there any hope?

Absolutely! Just think of all of the workers in this country--the ones who really make it run. These are the plumbers, the street workers, the appliance repairmen, the painters, even the garbage truck drivers. If you will read this post over at Smockity Frocks, and pay especial attention to the comment thread, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that there are many with sheepskins that would rather get their hands dirty!

Here is an essay that has been passed along among homeschoolers for quite a while:

Of Daffodils and Diesels

Author Unknown

I'm not very good in school. This is my second year in the seventh grade, and I'm bigger than most of the other kids. The kids like me all right, even though I don't say much in class, and that sort of makes up for what goes on in school. I don't know why the teachers don't like me. They never have. It seems like they don't think you know anything unless you can name the book it comes out of.

I read a lot at home-things like Popular Mechanics and Sports Illustrated and the Sears catalog-but I don't just sit down and read them through like they make us do in school. I use them when I want to find something out, like a batting average or when Mom buys something secondhand and wants to know if she's getting a good price.

In school, though, we've got to learn whatever is in the book and I just can't memorize the stuff. Last year I stayed after school every night for two weeks trying to learn the names of the presidents. Some of them were easy, like Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln, but there must have been 30 names altogether and I never did get them straight. I'm not too sorry, though, because the kids who learned the presidents had to turn right around and learn all the vice presidents.

I am taking the seventh grade over, but our teacher this year isn't interested in the names of the presidents. She has us trying to learn the names of all the great American inventors. I guess I just can't remember the names in history. Anyway, I've been trying to learn about trucks because my uncle owns three and he says I can drive one when I'm 16. I know the horsepower and gear ratios of 26 American trucks and want to operate a diesel. Those diesels are really something. I started to tell my teacher about them in science class last week when the pump we were using to make a vacuum in a bell jar got hot, but she said she didn't see what a diesel engine has to do with our experiment on air pressure, so I just shut up. The kids seemed interested, though. I took four of them around to my uncle's garage after school and we watched his mechanic tear down a big diesel engine. He really knew his stuff.

I'm not very good in geography, either. They call it economic geography this year. We've been studying the imports and exports of Turkey all week, but I couldn't tell you what they are. Maybe the reason is that I missed school for a couple of days when my uncle took me downstate to pick up some livestock. He told me where we were headed and I had to figure out the best way to get there and back. He just drove and turned where I told him. It was over 500 miles round trip and I'm figuring now what his oil cost and the wear and tear on the truck-he calls it depreciation-so we'll know how much we made. When we got back I wrote up all the bills and sent letters to the farmers about what their pigs and cattle brought at the stockyard. My aunt said I only made three mistakes in 17 letters, all commas. I wish I could write school themes that way. The last one I had to write was on "What a daffodil thinks of Spring," and I just couldn't get going.

I don't do very well in arithmetic, either. Seems I just can't keep my mind on the problems. We had one the other day like this: If a 57 foot telephone pole falls across a highway so that 17 and 3/4 feet extend from one side and 14 and 16/17 feet extend from the other, how wide is the highway? That seemed to me like an awfully silly way to get the size of a highway. I didn't even try to answer it because it didn't say whether the pole had fallen straight across or not.

Even in shop class I don't get very good grades. All of us kids made a broom holder and a bookend this semester and mine were sloppy. I just couldn't get interested. Mom doesn't use a broom anymore with her new vacuum cleaner, and all of our books are in a bookcase with glass doors in the family room. Anyway, I wanted to make a tailgate for my uncle's trailer, but the shop teacher said that meant using metal and wood both, and I'd have to learn how to work with wood first. I didn't see why, but I kept quiet and made a tie tack even though my dad doesn't wear ties. I made the tailgate after school in my uncle's garage, and he said I saved him $20. Government class is hard for me, too.

I've been staying after school trying to learn the Articles of Confederation for almost a week, because the teacher said we couldn't be a good citizen unless we did. I really tried because I want to be a good citizen. I did hate to stay after school, though, because a bunch of us guys from Southend have been cleaning up the old lot across from Taylor's Machine Shop to make a playground out of it for the little kids from the Methodist home. I made the jungle gym out of the old pipe, and the guys put me in charge of things. We raised enough money collecting scrap this month to build a wire fence clear around the lot.

Dad says I can quit school when I'm 16. I'm sort of anxious to because there are a lot of things I want to learn.

Do you have something wonderful you'd like to brag about? How about a machine your child has fixed, or even something wonderful that has been built around your house? Leave a link below and let us all enjoy!

Here is something we are all proud of--the time all of our kids got together and built a playset in our back yard:

Homeschool Sanity Brag Thuesday