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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Writing Woes: Where's the Path?

I want my children to study the progymnasmata and later rhetoric, the path is not clear as to what to effectively use and when. Here's the list of the programs I'm contemplating and what the problem is:

Writing Tales: If we were to start in 3rd grade, I feel this would best fit my child and create an easy transition into writing without bumping into too many misunderstandings due to terms and the way the program is structured. My only concern is how much of the progymnasmata is covered and whether it would be easy to transition to another program like Classical Composition or Classical Writing if we needed to.

Classical Writing: If this were finished I would feel more comfortable using it, I'm concerned with the timetable of this program, at their website they have

3-4th grade Aesop (Fable)
5-6th grade Homer (Narrative)
7-8th grade Diogenes: Maxim
8-9th grade Diogenes: Chreia

But what about the Refutation, Confirmation, Commonplace, Encomium (praise and blame), Comparison, Speech-in-character, Description, Thesis and Proposal of a Law stages of the progymnasmata?

Their website does have these levels (to come)
Level 4: Classical Writing - Herodotus which is basic argumentation for or against an issue (10th grade?)
Level 5: Classical Writing - Plutarch Description, praise, blame, and commonplace (11th grade?)
Level 6: Classical Writing - Demosthenes, thesis, research, and law. (12th grade?)

Classical Composition
- Jim Selby is a teacher at Whitefield Academy who has devised a progymnasmata curriculum that he has used with his students. I feel the most comfortable using this but I feel the format of the lessons will be a learning curve for me.

4th grade- Fable
5th grade- Narrative
6th grade- Chreia/Maxim, may begin Refutation/Confirmation
7th grade- Refutation/Confirmation, Common Topic, may begin Encomium/Invective/Comparison
8th grade- Encomium/Invective/Comparison, may begin Characterization and Description
9th grade- Characterization and Description, Thesis/Law

Honestly I like this timetable better, I would love to focus 10-12 grades on practical use of what has been learned. Whether or not my children will be able to follow the timetable is a different matter altogether. I have Frank D'Angelo's Composition in the Classical Tradition so I have a reference to use at any time outside of a curriculum, as well as websites. This timetable also allows us to start rhetoric without attempting to do a writing program.

Rhetoric & Logic- the general thoughts: I don't know how timely this path will be until we get closer.
3rd-5th - (Dandy Lion) Puzzles and workbooks
6th- Informal logic possibly with Critical Thinking Books 1 & 2
7th grade- The Art of Argument (Classical Academic Press)
8th grade- Traditional Logic I & II
9th grade- Traditional Logic II or Material Logic I
10th - Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle
11th & 12- Classical Rhetoric with the Modern Student, The Rules of Argument?

I do feel writing, logic and rhetoric blend in certain ways- think, speak, write. I want the materials to mesh well with each other.

I don't feel comfortable making a decision about 3rd grade writing until I feel comfortable about where we'll go after 3rd grade. With Classical Writing, we would not cover the progymnasmata in its entirety, with Classical Composition, I can see that happening. I'm not sure what the best course of action is which make this decision difficult. This is where I find homeschooling difficult, trying to make decisions based on others' opinions and from an uneducated point of view but still do the best for your child without allowing your short-comings to get in the way.

3rd grade: Writing Tales 1, while going through Classical Composition's Fable myself. Writing Tales has grammar in the program so I can skip a grammar program next year. I think Writing Tales will be a wonderful transition for us into a writing program. In 4th grade, we'll start Junior Analytical Grammar alongside Classical Composition (if that works out for me the way I think it will.) Subject to change, of course.


Our 2007-08 Learning Room

Welcome to our Learning Room!

Our learning room is actually our formal living room and because we live in a parsonage, I have work around the parsonage's furniture and other various guidelines for living in a parsonage. This room would look very different if it were our house. I use the flipchart for our longer memorization pieces, right now it's on The Apostles Creed.

NEW PHOTO as of 9/30/07 - (ALL the new stuff is in this color)
The side chairs are gone, Danny's table is now the math table and the raw silk heavy drapes have been removed to allow natural light into the room. I squeezed the side chairs into the formal dining room, pictured at the end of the room. Next picture is new too, different angle.

Sideview of the learning room, Danny wanted to get in the picture. Camille, 7 and Danny, 3 have their own little tables. It is just easier to separate their work space. What am I saying, Camille's work space from Danny's play space.
The rug underneath is to make the room fun and catch any spills without damage to the carpet.

NEW PHOTO as of 9/30/07
We've been studying water so I put a water/river map I found over our US Map.

Two folding bookcases that are in the formal dining room, the green area is CD/DVDs that will be put into binders for storage, and will take up significantly less space than they currently do. Our french reading books will be transferred to here, they are currently in Camille's bedroom. UPDATE 9/30/07: These have been moved, Camille's piano is now here.

The other sideview of our room.

NEW PHOTO as of 9/30/07 of side views of the room. Next 2 pictures

My new home for our computer, I LOVE it! I can print stuff without leaving the room, watch United Streaming, etc.
The desk area is the same

This is the view from our couch, which mostly Camille's view. I never sit at that desk, it's just a place to put our books while I teach and it looks weird without the chair there. The chair also provides buffer from Danny getting into the drawer filled with supplies. In between the desk and bookcase is a 3 drawer cart that contains magnetic letters & numbers and art supplies.

I love our maps, these markings are from our Ancient studies- I circle where we are studying right after reading our history selection.

This is our main storage area for our daily stuff. This is right below the dry erase board. I keep a bin just for library books so that we don't misplace any. The bottom shelf is still under construction, I just received Tapestry of Grace that needs to be transferred into notebooks.

Here's the breakdown of our large bookcase.

I have created a LOT of storage in this room, under each side table is a basket - one for me and the other is for magazines to be cut up as we wish. Under the chair pictured is sheet protectors and empty notebooks. Behind this chair is our nature study backpacks and various other things I don't want stuffed into a closet.

I didn't take a close-up picture but behind the other chair is another little bookcase that houses our additional poetry books, preschool workbooks, and a 3 drawer cart that houses math manipulatives, science manipulatives and more art supplies.


NEW: French word wall, tv, plant, no drapes, better organization.
Math area
A little reorganization, took the stuff out that we weren't using to make room for games,
activities, art supplies- you know- things we'll use.


The next two pictures is our learning room in July 2006, when we first started. Can you tell I have a year's worth of experience under my belt? It's changed so much!

That's it, our 2007-08 Learning Room. I hope you enjoyed the tour!


Friday, September 28, 2007

Our Math Lab

It's Sarah's fault (see her math lab too), well not entirely but the kids have had so much fun! It looks a little classroom-ish but if they like it, I don't care. Our whole room has changed, I'll share more photos once the dust has been cleared. It was amazing how many math items we have once we collected them together!


Rambling, rambling, rambling

I admit, I'm a bit of a mess right now. Dh is home until Monday and then he's going to be with his mom until the end, however long that is. We've been touch and go with our lessons this week, we certainly have not been "on" schedule, just doing what we want, when we want. It's 9:00 am and kids are outside playing while I finish putting TOG's Redesigned Year 2, Unit 1 in sheet protectors. Since I'm not using TOG this year, I'm taking it out of our lesson room so I can put our games within sight/reach.

I guess when circumstances outside of me are a little out of control, like MIL's cancer and dh's grief, I need to have something in control. So this week I'm tackling our home library both our online catalog and our shelves, reorganizing our school room because it gets hot which I think is due to the A/C ducts being on the floor with too much stuff around them, and handling just regular household stuff.

I've been in "fix-it" mode, I know it's because I can't fix MIL or Dh's pain- I'll fix anything around me. Camille's math woes have been fixed with the math facts copywork, and I've read about math in every homeschool book I have here at the house and read various websites, enough to relax and realize she doesn't have to have immediate recall in 2nd grade. After reading about Sarah's math lab, I realize I have a lot of things we already have I could collect and make something similar for my children- a little math corner. Which is another reason for the learning room reorganization.

I'm not the only one trying to figure out how to deal with MIL's cancer, while Dh was with them last week, MIL looked around at her boys (grown men now but always will be her boys) and saw that Dh was the only one without logos on his shirt, she made a comment about it and *poof*, FIL took Dh shopping for shirts that had logos on them. When MIL came home from hospice, they put a hospital bed in one of the bedrooms and there is a little tv in there, she said she couldn't see the tv and *poof*, FIL went out and got a huge flat screen tv. Dh brought home the little tv and now we have 3 tvs! (Keep in mind, I don't like the kids to watch tv in the first place unless it's educational or for G rated movies). We're all coping in our own ways, some more funny than others but still just trying to cope.

We now have a tv in our learning room on an experimental basis, for educational viewing purposes only. There is not cable access so the viewing options are severely limited to my control. We have one of those small DVD players that we can easily move from tv to tv if we wish. We have a tv in our bedroom and in our den, I can't say Dh and I agree on what to watch at night, chuckle. I'm just not sure about the tv in the learning room. If it were up to me, I would say no tvs at all but dh isn't on board with that yet, maybe with some more time, who knows.

In my coping, I plan on clearing out the kids' closets of clothes that don't fit anymore and making a list of winter clothes they may need. Both of the kids have gone through a growth spurt in the last month of so and it's not noticeable until you put pants on them that are 3 -4 inches from their ankles! See, summer shorts are deceiving. We have about 2-3 months before the cold weather will hit here in south Georgia, we're still having 90 degree days right now and the humidity...oh the humidity.

It seems the interlibrary loan system has been fixed and we finally received the books I requested 3 months ago, which means a lot of reading. It's hard to decide not to read these books, the kids love them and I love reading to them so we're just squeezing in all we can.

Okay, I'm done with my rambling for now.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Virtually Organized

Our Library Thing library is now deemed organized! 1,315 (+/-) books now are under these categories only

UG (458),
LG (339),
D (251),
Middle Ages 400-1600 (156),
religion (132),
Late Renaissance 1600-1850 (130),
TOG2 (123),
life science (108),
Ancients 5000-400 (92),
TOG1 (86),
earth science (79),
R (72),
life skills (67),
TOG3 (66),
multi-level (63),
geography (62),
Modern Times 1850-1994 (62),
TOG4 (61),
art (57),
poetry (49),
music (49),
Foreign language (47),
multi-period (46),
French (46),
mythology and folklore (43),
language arts (32),
crafts (32),
education (29),
coloring book (28),
general science (27),
PreK (27),
junior literature (26),
math (17),
classic literature (15),
astronomy (11),
Logic-Philosophy (11),
physics (10),
inventions (7),
grammar and writing (6),
dictionary (6),
audiobook (6),
chemistry (5),
holidays (5),
United Methodism (4),
spelling (4),
Latin (3),
cookbook (3),
duplicate (3),
Mom's fiction (1)

It's not done, I'm still going through the shelves but I no longer have to mess around with useless categories. This may be a personal victory, but organzing 1300 books by subject is not easy!


Quick Thoughts on Elementary Math

Doing the math fact copywork is a major way of relaxing about math facts, it's getting done but it's not a pressure situation. I realized that I need to learn more about teaching math moreso than just blindly following a curriculum. It's not that I don't like or trust Horizons but how can you teach the whys if you don't know them yourself. The answer, "it is just the way I was taught or how I learned" isn't good enough for me.

Second grade isn't that hard to teach, it is the years beyond where my non-math mind will fail. Plus it is always good to have reference resources at hand for any subject you teach, in my opinion. I have oodles of books on foreign language, french, grammar, writing, reading, art and music but math almost has a non-existent presence in our home as far as teaching reference resources.

I'll post more about this as I learn more- about what titles are good resources and about any gems I find. Can I just say upper elementary and middle school math scares the dickens out of me? Lol.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Memorizing Math Facts

I don't know which has been the biggest thorn in my side, figuring out narrations or trying to find an effective way to teach Camille her math facts that actually absorbs in. Flashcards haven't been working, worksheets haven't really helped and take forever, games do help but they take a lot of time. I don't want to spend 30 minutes a day doing math facts, nothing kills the enthusiasm faster so only focusing on math facts isn't a solution for us.

Manipulatives slow things down here too and I can't say Camille really gets much from them. We did use popsicle sticks in 1st grade which helped but if I turned my back from her she would organize the sticks by color or make some sort of pattern with the sticks rather than use them for addition and subtraction. Skip counting is better for us now that we're using Intelli-Tunes Skip Counting songs.

We read children's math literature such as Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares, Sea Sums- here's a list of more titles with the concepts they cover. You can also view it as a HTML page here. It is better to download the pdf file and view it that way, I have this chart in my teacher's book. There are many children's math literature lists on the web, I like this one because it is for K-6 and tells me exactly what grade level and concept the book covers so I'm not blindly checking out books.

Math games are very useful for us but it needs to be outside of our lesson time, done informally just for fun. Playing math games with a time limit negates the joy of playing in our house. Camille would play for hours so putting this in the middle of our lessons creates behavior problems, which I'm all for addressing behavior issues but I don't see the need to create any. That said we are having fun playing with the inflatable dice.

Another thing is there are different teaching approaches for math facts (addition).


or memorizing groups of numbers that make the equation
3, 2, 1
2, 2, 4
1, 1, 2
2, 4, 6

memorizing by math familes


and there are different approaches for memorizing by math families, see Michele's Math which teaches math families but in a specific order.

Drilling with flashcards or worksheets, playing with games, and real-life math (which we do when we can). All of these ways may work for a child but they don't work for every child. This is where a teacher's frustration comes in. We're going to try math fact copywork since copywork has been successful for us, plus with Camille being a visual learner- writing something down helps cement the ideas in her head. The copywork has the child copy math facts within the math families until they are mastered- how simple is that?

I'll post about how it goes, but I am grateful for such an easy, simple solution right now.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Day of Fun

Nobody else cared but I thought these 'glitter' fish were cool.


Old Candy Car- two reasons for the kids to like it.

1912 Automobile, Danny says, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, we love you."

A mother's view, the kids loved the turtles and alligators.

I don't know who was moving more, the train or Danny. Model Train exhibit

"Do we really drink dinosaur urine?" - Winner of the Question of the Day Award


Huge illuminated globe showing the average rainfall- how cool is that?

Camille and I tied at the Weather Game.

"Danny, look a rattlesnake!" said Camille. "If you see one of those run!" said Mom. "Run? Danny has to run!" Danny said and then immediately got up and started running. Winner of the Literal Moment of the Day Award

Aren't they beautiful? I could have watched them longer but Danny and Camille saw this sleeping eel intertwined.

I suspected the eel was dead because he (or she) is sleeping upside down. I didn't want to tell the kids, I just found someone who worked there and found out it wasn't dead. We did check on it again before we left.

Camille and a rattlesnake, oh fun. Taking a picture through scratched plexiglass is no fun either- this is photo 6.

Yes, I'm too tired to put the pictures in the correct order.


Our Week Off

Our ongoing book purge, we pulled the books and organized them by subject. Our LibraryThing online library needs some TLC, there are books cataloged that we no longer have and some we have that are not listed. I'm also purging books I don't feel we need which will be listed at for the taking. It's a project that doesn't require much thought, which I needed this week.

I have taken the week off, which included reading to the kids- Camille has been reading to Danny all week. I usually read anywhere from an hour to two hours daily to the kids, it's nice to take a break. This is our first week off since starting 2nd grade and technically we're in our 9th week.

DH is still at his parents' and MIL is about the same- she's home from hospice though. We miss DH. It's going to be wierd going to church without him there. Today (Sat.) we're going to a museum to look at exhibits about the water cycle, which will get us out of the house. We did have a playdate yesterday which was fun. We will start our Week 9 on Monday and Camille is ready to get back to our lessons.

Our church has started up youth again and Camille's age group is memorizing the books of the Bible as well as songs to sing for the church. Camille is excited and already has the first 10 books memorized.

It's been an emotional week here and I'm not one to talk about it much. Any and all prayers have been greatly appreciated.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Are you comfortable?

These are the moments you want to reprimand but the sight keeps you from doing it. I hope you laugh like I did. I saw him out our back porch door and told Camille to get the camera, hoping he was comfortable enough to stay there for a minute. He's looking at me wondering what I'm going to do, he knows the camera is a good thing but he has a little worry on his face. Keep them guessing...


Updating Our Year

Our goal is to be done with everything in 40 weeks. We started July 23, 2007. 40 weeks non-stop would give us an end date of May 26, 2008. Our ideal is to be done by the end of June 2008. We'd like to take July off and start back up in August 2008 in 3rd grade. The white areas are DONE. We are on schedule right now. Yes, I notice the science column needs to be fixed. :)


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Having Fun with French

I need to post about something positive so I thought I would share the combination of products we are using for our french studies. I was scared at first that we wouldn't be able to have fun while studying french or that I would have to be fluent before I taught Camille or Danny- this is not the case. We're having a lot of fun and I'm very grateful.

I firmly believe that any foreign language learning needs to have multiple approaches: speaking/interaction, listening, reading and writing as well as learning about the culture and history of the language. Likewise, I'm not a huge advocate for computer learning and I haven't heard enough praises for this learning method to take the financial leap to try it. Here's what is working for us:

- LingaFun French Learning card game: $11.66 at
There is a CD that comes with the cards that pronounces each word that is on the cards. There are two decks of 54 cards and one is more advanced than the other. The cards themselves have numbers in french with pronunciation, a picture in the middle of the card that illustrates the french words which also have pronunciation and the english equivalent. The cards have multiple games to play: Solitaire, Crazy Colors (like Crazy Eights), Concentration, Gin Rummy, Go Fish! and War with detailed instructions. There are 3 Basic Rules that apply to each game:

1. Each sentence played must have three cards- 1 red, 1 white and 1 blue card.
2. The cards must be played in that order: red, white, blue
3. The player must attempt to pronounce the words on each card every time a card is played.
We're having a lot of fun with this, we can use the CD to check our pronunciation and Camille feels like we're playing a game instead of learning.

-French for Children by Catherine Bruzzone (with CD): $17.97 at
This book is fabulous for interactive learning, the CD is engaging and fun. This is by far the best product out there that I've found for children which I would use with any child of any age. The only drawback is that the book is non-consumable but has consumable activities within it. I just cut a plastic sheet protector to place over the page for Camille to work on. I don't feel the need to store worksheets of her work for this. The audio is fantastic, it's conversational, it is interactive and the songs are engaging and clearly understood.

-Berlitz French Language Pack: $17.79 at
Each language pack comes with The Missing Cat storybook and CD which also contains songs, First 100 Words: a vocabulary building book that features more than a hundred humorous illustrations. Also included are a Language Club Certificate that children can proudly display and Help Your Child with a Foreign Language, a practical guide for parents. We love this, we can read the book in English, try to read the French and then listen to the story in french as we follow along. I have purchased other Berlitz books with CDs since getting this but the Help Your Child with a Foreign Language book has been invaluable to me. This is the perfect start to building a french library for your child.

There are a lot of audio interactive games for learning french on the market, we are enjoying Hop, Skip and Sing French ($10.36), Twin Sisters French ($14.99 average price) and Springboard to French (out of print and uses cassettes).

Bonjour Les Amis videos, First Fun with French by Usborne Publishing are wonderful at our house too. We also like to play our movies in French with English subtitles when we can or just in French. We have audio CDs just for music but really the ones mentioned above fit our needs. If I had to suggest a start-up kit of products with prices it would be:

Lingua Fun French $11.66
French for Children $17.97
Berlitz French Language Pack $17.97
Twin Sisters French $14.99
Hop Skip, Sing French $10.36
Total price: $72.77

Of course the cost really doesn't end there but it also depends on how resourceful you are, the amount of free resources you have at your library, etc. We were able to get the three Bonjour Les Amis videos from a library sale for $5.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm just sad.

I'm terribly sad and a little emotionally overwhelmed. I can't even properly describe the sadness I feel. My MIL do I say this? She's at the end of her journey with cancer. It's in her brain now as well as throughout her body. She is in hospice now and dh is with his immediate family while I'm here at home with the kids.

Angry. Upset. Sad. Scared. Hurt. Feeling Useless.



Can Learning be FUN?

The top two yellow inflatable dice with black numbers are what I found in an education store before I saw Math for Kicks at ($4.99) Tuesday Morning. Math for Kicks includes the black dice, the red and yellow one with stars and the cards below, plus game instructions, and sidewalk chalk for playing outside.

I am so happy with Math for Kicks, we're having a lot of fun! What a lifesaver. We can use it for drill, play it just for fun- which both Danny (3) and Camille (7) are loving. Safetyville Child's Safety Game - I bought this from D.A.R.E. officers while visiting my parents. We also have the Safe Side DVD on Stranger Safety which has been a HUGE hit at our house. Camille and I played the Safetyville game and it is great, I can also play it with Danny with a preschool focus- added bonus!

There are three sets of questions Beginner (for ages 3-7), Intermediate (7-10) and Advanced (10-13). Preschoolers can also use the game to get familar with key places in their town such as the fire department, police department, etc.

Questions range from stranger safety, keeping secrets, safe practices in the home (chemicals, outdoor dangers, etc.)- it's very wide in it's range.

These are awesome! I just wanted to say...well-worth the $35.00.