Thursday, July 30, 2015

Journey to Narnia - Omnibus I Literature Study

If you've been following me for a while you know my deep love of books. Like Benjamin Franklin I'd far prefer to have money for books than food. I can't really survive without either, but sometimes my book budget shows my greater love (don't worry, my kids aren't starving.) We have so enjoyed all the books we have read in our school studies, but I really wanted to dig a little deeper this year for 7th grade.

My husband read several of the The Chronicles of Narnia books to the boys. It has been a long time ago though. Aedan hasn't read through them himself.  I found a way to study these fabulous books that I'm super excited about!

I did buy the full color set even though I didn't need to - yes, I sure did. I already had a few copies, but not the full set. I really love the original illustrations, and full color just makes my little bibliophile heart skip a beat. Hubba hubba!

We will be having a C.S. Lewis read-a-thon extravaganza! We may leave off Screwtape Letters and Till We Have Faces. I've read these before, but I need to read them again with fresh eyes (and a 13 year old boy in mind.) At first I wondered if reading all these this year would get monotonous. However, as soon as I started digging though I found dozens of fabulous ideas to make this year so fun! I have so many ideas swimming in my head. If you follow me on Pinterest, you're sure to see me pinning away in the land of Narnia! I plan to have a Narnia party at the end of the year to celebrate. Do not put it beyond me to make start begging appliance stores for refrigerator boxes to make wardrobes -- And cake - how fun does a Narnia cake sound? The wheels of my mind they are a' turnin!

I set aside my plans for this year, and that opened up dozens of possibilities for us. At first it was overwhelming, but I think I'm starting to see more of who I am as a homeschooler. I'm not perfectly Charlotte Mason nor am I Classical. I'm somewhere in between. I love the beauty of a Charlotte Mason education, but I also love the great books of classical. Neither are mutually exclusive, but people feel they have to step both feet firmly in one camp. This year I'm realizing that I don't have to declare or label myself one thing or the other. It's been so fun picking and choosing this year based on the things I love in both philosophies.

I had seen Omnibus before at homeschool conventions and stores. When I picked it up at first I thought "OH heck to the no!" It looked way too serious and way too intense. To be honest, it is if you use it exactly the way it is written. But, guess who is going rogue and making her own plans? This girl right here! I had never looked at Veritas Press until Michelle over at Delightful Learning used it with her son this year. I was so sold on what I was doing that the blinders I was wearing did a pretty good job. It wasn't until I got the catalog that I saw their fabulous book lists. Many were ones I would like to cover, but would be intimidating without a great resource.

Omnibus I is Ancient History, Theology and Literature. Because we are in Early American we will not be using the history portion this year. There are 2 Tracks in Omnibus - Primary and Secondary. The Primary Track includes Primary Source Text books written during the period being studied i.e. The Code of Hammurabi, Plutarch's Lives Volume I etc. The Secondary readings are often less intense and may or may not be Primary Source texts. Omnibus I covers all of Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia books plus The Screwtape Letters and Till We have Faces as their literature portion. We will only be using these specific books.

It took me quite a while to navigate through how to use Omnibus. Their website doesn't make a lot clear. I called them and they were super helpful in answering my questions. They have Self-Paced courses and Online Classes that are also available. For us I chose the You Teach version. We didn't want to get eyeball deep yet this year. I will say that when you call Veritas Press that they may ask questions that make you feel like they don't think you can teach your own child. It wasn't just me. A friend also called with questions and got the same impression without my having said anything to her about it. It kind of tickled me. I'm such a can-do kind of girl, as are many homeschoolers. I'm of the mind that one can teach themselves anything just like Abraham Lincoln taught himself law by reading borrowed books.

This TM isn't cheap, but it is gorgeous. I do have to say that some of the pictures are "interesting." If you've ever held this in your hands you'll know what I mean. We visit the museum often though, and my boys have seen much classical art. I'm not really one who worries about that stuff. 

I may be more excited about Omnibus for me honestly. I have read through some of the books scheduled and have learned so much. It's basically a college course that you can do at home if you never got the chance. I love that each book has a ton of background presented not only on the time period, but on the author himself (or herself.) There are many books I wouldn't have my kids read this early - like no way. I read Gilgamesh (which is scheduled in this volume.) It is an absolutely and completely fascinating picture of the culture of the time. Do I want my pubescent teen reading it? Umm...nope.

There are 2 versions of the TM. One doesn't have the CD, and for $25 more you can get one that does. The CD has resources plus the whole TM with the answers written out. There are also exams, exam keys and a reading schedule. We plan to schedule this way slower than Omnibus does. They are kinda hard core. I'm not trying to kill my 7th grader - not yet anyway. I do have my eye on using Omnibus III a little more fully when we turn the bend on High School.

Bless my little favorite printer's heart. Is it just me that gets that excited about a printer that prints in full bleed? I mean, have you ever? I chose to print out just the books we would be using and I bound them (with my handy ProClick) for my reference. When Aedan writes essays or answers questions I'll be able to check to see if he was even close to getting it right.

The student text looks like this. It has assignments with questions. There are sometimes essays or activities scheduled as well.

The printable Teacher Text has the same questions as the Student Text, but the answers are written in green. This is such a huge help if you are pinched for time and can't read the books before hand.

Those of you who saw my Beautiful Feet post know I love to make things to go along with our studies. I made something very similar for Omnibus for just the books we will be reading. I have no idea if any of you out there would ever use this, but if you do you can find this Free Literature Notebook Here.

It is even less specific than the version I made for Beautiful Feet. It's just a place to answer questions and write essays plus a little box for illustrations. You will have to print as many pages as you need for each book. I printed about 6 front and back for each book.

The CD has this awesome printable map. It was 9 pages that I taped together. Sweet Silas helped me paint it for his brother.

There is also a printable game board we will use.

A Complete Guide to the Magical World of C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia (boy is that a mouthful) is suggested but not required.

The companion is used in optional activities.

The kids are directed to look up more information about characters or places in the book.

They are also directed to make maps from each book they read.  There are a maps from each book in the companion. It's going to be fun to travel through these places in a more experiential way.

Ummm....This might be dangerous, but I'm SO excited about it. Unfortunately The Official Narnia Cookbook is only available in the Kindle form. 

 It doesn't give the specific chapter for each recipe, but it does give you the book. In this case Lucy was roasting apples. If you find the picture in the book you can find the chapter. I plan to add a little flavor to our journey through Narnia. Oh how I love to cook though books! Have you noticed? I plan to make this more of a grown up FIAR. I'm SO excited! 

That's all for literature for now! We'll see if I get around to posting what else I have up my sleeve.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Beautiful Feet - Early American and World

If you read my last post you know I have been making new plans for next year. Have you ever felt like Goldilocks when planning your school year? That's how I had been feeling. I got all prepared for the year using what we had used and loved for 3 years, but it just didn't feel quite right. One thing was too much, one thing was too little, but nothing felt fall asleep in the coziest-bed restful to me.

I wasn't looking for perfection. I was really just looking for peace.

 
Enter Beautiful Feet. I had looked at this curriculum provider many times. I adore their books and already had many of them on my shelf. A dear friend of mine and I had talked about the Early American Primary would be so perfect for her. I was so excited for her - all those lovely books. They run a full time foster and adoption ministry with 3 little ones under the age of 7 (while also making plans to build an orphanage and school in Africa.) Her life is full to say the least. I was so in love with this idea for her - A simple and beautiful curriculum for a mom who needs a breath of fresh air every now and again. It didn't dawn on me that I could use that same fresh breath too.

This year I needed to simplify our plans. Aedan really needs more time to focus on math, science and writing. I also wanted more time for a more in depth literature study. We absolutely adore history (like a whole lot!) I was finding, however, that we were spending so much time in history that his skills were lacking. Our skills needing improvement wasn't necessarily a fault of our curriculum before, but maybe on my lack of experience. Either way, I wanted to dial back how many history elements we would be using. And let's be honest...How many history majors do you know anyway? I'm pretty sure the engineers are the ones making the big bucks - just sayin'.

At first glance, Beautiful Feet's Early American and World set looks more simple than it really is. This program is written for 7th - 9th grade kids and is high school credit worthy for 1 credit of History and 1/2 credit of literature. While it is the more simple I'm looking for it is no cake walk. It for me was the perfect balance for the goals I had in mind for this year. We will employ a few of the HOD elements I already had from Rev to Rev, but not so many that it leaves us feeling overwhelmed. My goal is to have more time for spontaneous learning, but more importantly more time together. We will combine storytime this year, so we get more snuggle time together on the couch. I do plan to make a book basket of unrequired books for American history. Aedan loves to read. He read all of his little brother's MFW book basket books last year without me ever telling him to read them. I'll share that list if I get my act together!

This year our homeschool convention hosted Sonya from Simply Charlotte Mason. I learned so much from her sessions. I already knew what a living book was, but at her session on living books it made even more sense why one would choose a living book over a textbook. She read a living book and then read a dry text book. Of course the living book was far more engaging. I love the Genevieve Foster books. They are the real deal when it comes to living books. A text book would simply state the facts i.e. Abraham Lincoln was born in February of 1809. A living book would read "He was born on the twelfth day of the month. A lonely day it was. The cloud-swept sky was cold, and the forest trees spoke with strange voices in the wind. A one-room cabin was his birthplace, made of mud-plastered logs, standing stark and solitary on a clearing cut, not so long before, into the wilderness of western Kentucky." Yes, please <3

This is the TM for EA & W. I have to admit HOD had me very spoiled. We knew exactly what to do each day for each subject. It was all planned out for me. However, one of the greatest things I learned to love so much after our year in MFW was freedom. I grew in confidence to know how to add the things I knew would speak to my own child's heart and had so much fun doing so.

Some of the readings are rather long, so I scheduled them in half throughout the year. I love that there is mapping, drawing and essays to write throughout the year. I was starting to see that written narrations without direction weren't getting my Aedan very far. He was very good at finding the humor in history and making me laugh, but I'd like to see him stretch a little. The comprehension questions can be used as a guide for discussion or written narrations. I like the flexibility to choose either.

The one thing I loved so much about our years in HOD was the gorgeous notebook pages. There really is nothing out there like them. BF doesn't provide notebook pages and most people simply use a composition notebook. That is the more simple way and would still create a gorgeous notebook at the end of the year. I, however, can't help myself in wanting to create things to go along with our year (and you know I love to waste a little ink. Guilty.) I decided to make a simple notebook to go with our studies. Out of respect for BF they don't have any of the questions nor do they giveaway the lesson plans. I was also trying to give myself (and any of you who could perhaps use these pages) the freedom to pick and choose what assignments you would like your child to complete. 


Most of the pages are like this. They are simply lined pages just like you would have in a composition notebook. My son loves to draw. I can often tell more of what he learned by his illustrations than from his writing, so I added a box every other page for an illustration. I made pages for each lesson, but if you need more you can always just print more pages. I actually think we will use far less than I made. There are 220 total!

Every once in a while there are directions to draw something. There aren't as many pages like this. My son really hates drawing on lined paper, and I didn't want to fuss with cutting and pasting stuff.

There are also mapping assignments.  Rather than drawing them on separate pages and pasting it in, he can draw them right in the notebook.

There are vocabulary assignments in the literature books. I didn't make boxes for all the words assigned. I don't plan to have him do very many. I wish I had separated the vocabulary from the lessons, but I'm not crying over it. I'll just skip the ones we don't want to use.

One of the things I love about Beautiful Feet books is their gorgeous illustrations. There isn't any color in the Genevieve Foster books, but they don't need it. I love these vintage images! My son was very taken with them too :)

I think they will inspire my little artist as he studies these famous Americans again.

 Here I am wasting ink again. This particular guide doesn't have a timeline book. My son loved so much to draw the timeline figures last year. I wanted to give him a chance to do that this year, but at first I couldn't figure out how to do it.

The Foster books have about 4-5 timeline pages in each book. As we are reading the books I plan to have him add a few events and figures to the timeline. This book correlates to the timeline pages on the Foster books. I'm so looking forward to seeing how he interprets these events and people. He so tickles my funny bone. I love seeing his artistic abilities develop through our studies. I hope these creations of mine can help you have "smooth and easy days" as Charlotte Mason once said.  


I will share more of our plans later. This summer is going by far too quickly. I think I'm almost ready to let go of the lazy days of summer. When we round the bend to the last month of summer we all start craving routine. My kids wouldn't know it, but it really is the best thing for them. If you have any questions about BF or have any suggestions for me, please do comment. I love hearing from you <3

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rest-ling with Myself

 Have you ever been cruising a long in life and thinking everything was fine and dandy, but then something just gets in your way and makes you re-evaluate the scenery? Well, I have. Maybe I'm turning 40 this year and having a mid-life crisis, or maybe I just needed to stop and think of where I was heading with this whole circus we call homeschool. But things they are a changin'.

A few months back a friend sent me the link to the Amongst Lovely Things blog. It happened to be one of her posts on Teaching from Rest. I think I took one look at her profile pic and thought, "What does a mom of 3 beautiful corn silk haired girls have to say to this mom of 2 very rowdy stinky boys about rest?" Two dainty girls = 1 rowdy boy for the record. Well, it turns out she had a whole lot to say. Actually, she has SIX kids, and so she probably knows a whole lot more about needing rest than I ever could, so I gave her book a chance. I had dismissed the thought at first - Rest - is it really possible for a homeschooler?

We had been doing really well, or so I thought. I actually enjoyed our studies last year. We had a lot of fun, but when I started really thinking about it there were things I wanted to add or subtract. There were maybe goals we hadn't met, but I wasn't giving myself permission to re-adjust. I had gotten so comfortable doing what I was doing that I had stopped really asking what was important. The greatest thing of importance was this: relationships. Relationships first to God and then to one another. I was feeling like we were doing so much good that little good was coming of it. Sure, we had great fun and still learned a whole lot, but I was starting to see how isolated my oldest had to be to accomplish all that he had to do each day. So not how I envisioned things. Yes, independence is good and should be built each year, but maybe not necessarily as much for a 12 year old as he had last year.

Sooo...that's when I gave this little book a chance. I had skimmed through Teaching from Rest and happened upon a few paragraphs that made me throw all my plans out the window (enter mid-life crisis.) I loved her thoughts about being who you are. What makes me tick as a homeschooler will make someone else crazy, but isn't that the beauty of God's creation? There are mountains & valleys and oceans & streams. All are so different, but all are so lovely too. If you hate projects and art, for goodness' sake I release you from them. Woman be loosed lol! If you are a dork about office supplies like me then let's go to the local Staples Back to School extravaganza together! But first can we stop for coffee? Double-tall, Iced, Soy latte with one raw sugar, please and thank you very much! We are all created in his image, but we are all so different too. Please don't come to my blog and leave being anyone but who you are, or ever feel the burden to be like me. I'm just as flawed as the rest of everyone else just in case you didn't already know it. I would love to see moms be able to appreciate those differences in one another. We are all on the same team when it all comes right down to it right?

I also loved her thoughts on simplifying: "Who says you need to do math, writing, literature, science, history, foreign language, religion, vocabulary, handwriting, art, music, and poetry all year long? Here's a little secret: you don't. And chances are, if you are trying to do all those subjects, you very likely aren't doing a very good job of them."

Ouch.

Oh, yes. I know this one well. That's how I was felling - like we were doing it all, but none of it very well. This thought was very freeing to me. You mean I don't have to do that stuff all year long, and could possibly cover it even better than if I had? What about trying to have a more relaxed poetry study that is around the table together just for fun? My kids adored it when we did poetry tea time rather than reading poetry for "school."  Reading it to enjoy it together was so much better. Nope that never got checked off a list, but it was far more meaningful that way. When we ate food from different countries or visited international stores wasn't that far better than reading about cultures in a book that we marked on our schedule? Yes, of course it was. And those things weren't even planned. GASP. Having less on the schedule leaves room for those memorable experiences. I want more of that. Don't you?

I'm still sort of digesting all of this. There were far more thoughts I haven't yet let sink in, but mostly I'm just taking a little time to breathe and really ask again - Why am I doing this in the first place? I'm kind of quick to listen, but slow to change. But, if you see me changing things around here it's because I'm starting to listen more to who I am and who my kids are when planning our year, listening first of course to the one who made us all. It will have nothing to do with anything I had done before not being good - I just need to approach school with a more open heart and free spirit maybe. You will still see me planning. That's just who I am (remember we are being who we are), but maybe I'll not be so hard on myself in the future. I hope you will do the same for you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Of Pioneers and Early Summer Days

Well, hello there! We are enjoying our summer break around here thank you very much :) My husband hasn't been able to take much time off, so we were long overdue for a little trip. We normally love to take a road trip to Colorado, but this time we decided to head for Branson, MO. If you ever need to capture American Kitchy-ness at its finest this is the place to go. We wanted to go somewhere the kids would really enjoy. I'm thankful we got to go before all the tourists arrive. It was a beautiful week and so nice to spend time alone as a family.

One of the things I really wanted to do was visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder home in Mansfield, MO. It is about an hour drive from Branson, so I asked my husband if he wouldn't mind driving Miss Daisy a little way into the country.

We haven't yet read all the Little House books, but my boys really loved Little House in the Big Woods and especially Farmer Boy. It was fun to see where Laura and Almanzo made their final home.

I had read a few biographies of Laura Ingalls Wilder before going which made it especially fun to see all the details of her life in person.

I was so impressed by the simplicity of this home, but also with each detail that made it their very own. She insisted that everything be made from materials from the land. There was a point that Almanzo declared that he would no longer haul rock. He showed up at the house with bricks for the fireplace, and Laura cried when she saw them. She insisted that he build the fireplace out of rock. She got her way apparently. There is a great stone fireplace with very, very heavy rock. That man must have loved his woman!

I was really sad that I wasn't able to take pictures of the inside of the house. I purchased some postcards for memories. This is her little bedroom and a peak into the bathroom. This house started off small. Almanzo added on to it as funds became available.

One of my favorite things in the home was the Wilder's library nook. I would love to have something like this in my living room.

 Another really special piece they have on display is Pa's actual fiddle. He told her before he died that it would belong to her. True to his word it was sent to her at his death. They play it once a year.

I don't know if it's morbid or not, but we visited the cemetery to see their final resting place.

Her daughter Rose is laid to rest right next to them. One of the things that was so interesting to learn is that Rose had a huge part of making Laura's books possible. They were very close and worked side by side. Laura was very inspired by her daughter Rose's writing career. She didn't publish her first book until she was 65! That was very inspiring to me. Sometimes I feel like I'm pouring all my creative energies into this whole homeschool venture. I would love to produce something worthwhile after these kids fly off into the great wide yonder.

One of my kids' favorite part about Little House books is all the food. My boys insisted that they had snacks during read aloud time when were were reading Farmer Boy. I'm a lover of cooking and great cookbooks. This is the cookbook that was made from Laura's personal recipes. There are a lot great of old-timey recipes in here.

As soon as I got home I just had to make Laura's Gingerbread which is her favorite recipe (of course.) She made it on special occasions.

I thought this was a pretty decadent cake for the time. There isn't any dairy in it, but there is a lot of spice. There is a teaspoon each of all these spices and a whole cup of molasses! 

This cake smells amazing when it's baking in the oven. Delish!

This is the recipe that is in the book except the book says 1 c. of molasses. Next time I make it I will probably dust it with a bit of powdered sugar for good measure. The order of mixing this cake is all backwards compared to most cakes today. You normally cream the eggs with the sugar. In this cake you add the eggs in at the end. I may try it the other way around next time to see if it actually makes a difference.

This was another recipe I'll have to try. Basically fried dough and sugar - I really need to stop!

Laura's original manuscript was called Pioneer Girl. Rose tried to get it published, but it was rejected multiple times. I didn't know this book was out. It is the original Pioneer Girl manuscript but is an extensive commentary of the history that ran along side what she wrote. It is  BIG beautiful book. I didn't buy it there and was bummed to find it was out of stock at Amazon. I found it on B&N and it's on its way! This will be on my summer reading list.

I normally do something light for school over the summer. We definitely brush up on math, but this year we are going to do one Prairie Primer unit for Little House on the Prairie. I'm SO excited. I found this at a used curriculum sale for dirt cheap. I had never looked at it because I thought it might be too girly, but there is a ton that appeals to boys as well. Of course the food is always fun, but I have some fun field trips planned. We are going to go to a real Osage Indian Pow Wow, the Pony Express Museum and who knows what else I have up my sleeve. I wish I had found Prairie Primer sooner. I think I may have been compelled to use it a few years ago. Ah well.

While on vacation we went to Silver Dollar City. It's so rare for us to have a family picture because I'm always the one behind the camera. Some nice stranger offered to take our picture there. I love Silver Dollar City. It's an amusement park, but has tons of trees. There is a great cave tour that we have done before. We were going to do it this time but the waterfall room was flooded. We got season passes and will head down again this summer I'm sure.


 Nate and Silas sat out on a lot of the rides. Guess what that means? That means I am Aedan's amazing mom who will ride anything, yes anything - even Outlaw Run.

 We wrote all the big rides, but this was our favorite.

Aedan and I rode it multiple times. This is what his hair looked like after riding this crazy ride and us getting in line right after the first time we rode it. So fun!

Another thing we did that we have never done is go to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. It's a Civil War dinner show. We were on the north side and won (as the north should!) They serve you dinner with no utensils which means you eat a whole chicken with your fingers. My boys thought that was the best part.

Even though Silas chose to skip the big rides this year he did, however, go ziplining. I don't know what the difference between going upside down on a roller coaster or jumping to your death from tall trees is, but apparently this was OK to him. He rode all the big rides back when he was little, but part of his frontal lobe must be developing. Apparently there's no hope for mine. This was really fun. I especially loved the beautiful land this site was on.

This is a sweet friend's cabin. It is set up in the hills and was such a treat to stay in.

It felt like we were up in a tree house. We were so thankful to stay here. God is good :) Thanks for sharing some of our memories with us!