Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Charlotte Mason: Useful Crafts

Charlotte Mason advised homeschooling parents to teach children how to do useful crafts rather than the cut and paste paper crafts that children are most often given to do. First of all, you will be very surprised by what a child can do. I bought Tarja, who will be four years old in about three weeks, a small knitting spool. In order to knit on this round knitting spool, she must take a hook and lift off loops from pegs over and over again. She's not coordinated enough to string the yarn around the spool, so we work as a team. I string, and she knits. Since she is working with a short attention span, she might only knit one row at a time, but it's ok. There is no hurry, and she feels like she really accomplished something. I have this setup out in the open for her to use any time she feels the urge. If it were put away, she would forget about the whole thing.

A fellow homeschooler and dear friend gave Melody a sewing machine for her sweet 16 birthday. As I write this post, she is repurposing old t-shirts into baby hats, and an old pair of jeans into a new purse for herself.

Abbey got a wood burning set for Christmas, and Melody taught her how to use it. Today, she practiced her skills on projects that came in the kit, and then she plans to try her hand at some leather bracelets, that she might be able to sell in the future. After that, I had her look up zentangles, and then gave she and Tarja 3x5 cards so that they could try this art technique. We belong to a local art association, and I found out about zentangles during a program that was given by a local artist.

Useful crafts, in my opinion, are crafts that enhance one's life in some way. A good example of this is that my grandmother taught me how to crochet when I was in about the fourth grade, and today, I can not only provide my own family with warm clothing, blankets, and home decor, but I can also earn money by making these things for others rather than having to sacrifice valuable time away from my family by getting a "real" job. A little time spent by my grandmother trying to entertain me on an afternoon when I was home sick from school, has actually been a great addition to the quality of life for my family.

Therefore, to enhance the home education of your children, teach them to make things, cook, bake, decorate, repurpose, recycle, draw, paint, plant, and anything else that you can think of that will stimulate their minds, and give them something to love, something to do, and something to think about.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tag! You're It!

One of my very special friends, Loralei tagged me for this fun game. I love, love, love doing these.

This round is the tag of 11's.
The deal is that I have to
1. Post the rules
2. Share 11 random things about myself
3. Answer the 11 questions from the post in which I was tagged
4. Create 11 new questions for my tagees to answer
5. Tag 11 people-legitly

Eleven Random Things About Laurel:

1. I have homeschooled my family for over 10 years. It's been an amazing ride!
2. My hair is so long that I don't even really now how long it is anymore, but it is at least to my knees. My last hair cut was in January of 2000.
3. I was a baton twirler during my middle and high school years. Since high school, I have taught many, many.....manymanymanymany other girls to twirl. Every time that I think that I'm about ready to hang up my batons, something or someone comes along to keep it going. I am beginning to think that God is at work there.
4. I married into a Hispanic family. They think that I don't understand Spanish, even though I sold insurance in Spanish for three years, and have been teaching the Princess Spanish lessons even though they choose not to use the language at this time. There are a few people in this world that should be embarrassed after learning this fact about me, but don't worry. I have a great sense of humor.
5. After ending my little rein as a bilingual insurance agent, I began to explore options for working at home. Mind you, there is nothing that I am doing that will make me "get rich quick," but I have been working for a mobile search engine, crocheting up a storm, and teaching baton twirling. Being able to homeschool and work from home is an amazing experience.
6. The consequence of being a homeschooling, and work at home mom is that some not so well meaning people like to whisper and gossip about how lazy I am. The truth is that I don't need anybody to tell me what to do or encourage me to get up and get things done every day. Now you know how that goes.
7. A few years ago, I thought that I couldn't have any more children, and I have had two more since then. How funny is that?
8. Everybody in our house is female except my hubs, the King. Even our watchdog is a girl, and we don't know if the parrot that we are about to have is a girl or not, but the odds are the he/she is a girl.
9. Here lately, I have been on a major Pitbull jag. He's crude and a little bit vulgar, but I love his attitude.
10. Speaking of musicians and singers, I must add that Bon Jovi was my first love. I discovered him sometime around the 5th grade, and now the Princesses love him just as much as I do.
11. My house is very loud, but not because my children are screaming or anything like that. In front of my, I have Ivana in her musical baby swing. In the kitchen, the clothes dryer is going at full speed. Melody and her friend are listening to music on youtube. My husband is watching a movie, and Tarja is laughing about something. None of that sounds like much until you put it all together for an orchestra of household noise. As I write, Ivana is working on waking up so that she can chime in.

Here are my eleven questions to answer:

1. What is one of your earliest memories?
I remember the view of the inside of my baby crib when I was the baby that was in it.
2. What is a hidden talent that you have?
I lot of people today, don't know that I was once an amazing percussionist.

3. If you had to choose only 1 food to eat for a week....ONLY ONE....what would it be? Any cooking and "free" stuff (seasonings) is OK. It can't be a type of food, or a mixed dish.... but one food.... like chicken.
I could eat pork ribs every day for the rest of my life.
4. If you could change your ethnicity, what would you choose to become?
I would become something like Brazilian or Columbian.
5. Money and time being no object, what career do you wish you had?
I wish that I had stayed in music.
6. You have to move. But, you are given your choice of location. The thing is, you have to stay there for the rest of your life. Where are you moving?
7. You get a "walk on" for a TV show. What show? What do you do?
I expect that I would either do something related to homeschooling or diabetes.
8. What is your guilty indulgence?
Potatoes, which is something that I should never eat.
9. In what subject, in school, were you just HORRIBLE?
I was literally kicked out of chemistry when I was a junior in high school.
10.What is your favorite household chore? Why?
Taking care of the kids is my favorite household chore.
11. We're missing a question.

I'm tagging these 11 people:
Jennifer H
Heather M
Jennifer L
Touch of Home Learning
Our Crazy Blessed Life
Stuff I Make My Husband
The Attached Mama
Homeschooling Belle
Lie According to the Beardslee's

NOW, I have some questions for you!

1. What is one of your earliest memories?
2. What is a hidden talent that you have?
3. If you had to choose only 1 food to eat for a week....ONLY ONE....what would it be? Any cooking and "free" stuff (seasonings) is OK. It can't be a type of food, or a mixed dish.... but one food.... like chicken.
4. If you could change your ethnicity, what would you choose to become?
5. Money and time being no object, what career do you wish you had?
6. You have to move. But, you are given your choice of location. The thing is, you have to stay there for the rest of your life. Where are you moving?
7. You get a "walk on" for a TV show. What show? What do you do?
8. What is your guilty indulgence?
9. In what subject, in school, were you just HORRIBLE?
10.What is your favorite household chore? Why?

Homeschooling Reality Check

There is far too much nicey nicey stuff circulating the internet about the idyllic lives of huge families having perfectly planned out school days, complete with fun filled field trips to the local farmer's market....so forth.........and so on. Here is a short little truthful byte of the Santiago homeschool.

We start out with some housework, and breakfast. Nobody wants what I made for breakfast, with the exception of the coffee. I'm not an expert in nutrition, so I don't force them to eat at a particular time. We don't live by the clock, and nobody here is suffering from malnutrition. The food is cooked, it's there, they know what to do.

Princess Abbey needs something from the store, so Princess Melody babysits while she and I go to hunt for this item. This was meant to be a quick trip so that we could get to the business of school work. The first store doesn't have what we need. The second store doesn't have what we need...........the third store has it, but the lazy woman at the register isn't in the mood to sell it. What a waste of valuable time that could have been spent learning the 3R's.

As soon as we get home, I see that Melody is already almost through with the lesson that she needed to do. Tarja gets out her workbook and plops down next to me on the sofa so that I can help her, and Abbey plops down on the other sofa with her spiral notebook and math book. The next dialogue will only happen in a homeschooling house.

Melody: Mom, come here.
Me: Why?
Melody: I need you to help me.
Tarja: Melody! Mom's helping ME.
Me: What do you need help with?
Melody: I can't find the answer to (certain something she is searching for).
Tarja: MELODY! I told Mom first!
Abbey: Since this math lesson is short, do you want me to do the next one?
Me: No. Just do today's lesson.
Abbey: But....it's really short, and so is the next one. I could do two or three of them today.
Me: You don't need to do that. Just do one lesson per day. If it's short, it's a bonus, right?
Abbey: (a little stressed at this point)BUT......but.....I LIKE doing math. I really want to do more.
Melody: (looks at Abbey, shakes her head and rolls her eyes)
Tarja: MOM! Are you gonna help me?????
Abbey: I'm hungry!
Tarja: ME too!
Me: Breakfast is still on the stove.
Abbey: OH yeah!!!
Melody: Does my hair look all right?
Me: Yes.
Tarja: Melody, you look like a wienie!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Charlotte Mason: What Drew Me to a Charlotte Mason Education

There is a list of reasons why so many people are drawn toward giving their children a Charlotte Mason education. Since Karen Andreola lists many of the same reasons as I would list, I will use her list from "A Charlotte Mason Companion", and then give you the reasons why I share them.

1. Living Books: Living books are whole books about particular subjects, unlike textbooks, which cover a variety of subjects. I have never enjoyed forcing my children to use textbooks. Textbooks bore me as much as they do the girls, but in the beginning of our homeschooling, I thought that textbooks were the only way to teach anything. Ditching the history, English, and science books has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders, and the girls get far more out of a lesson than I ever thought possible.

2. Narration: Narration is literally the retelling of a story, in the child's words. This can happen in a variety of ways. For the most part, those who aren't old enough to write, will give oral narrations, and those that write, give written narrations. This method replaces fill in the blank and multiple choice tests that plague most types of canned curriculum. Looking back on my own education, the fact is that I was very good at taking tests, but I don't remember a whole lot about what those lessons were about as of today. Anybody can memorize and regurgitate answers, but that doesn't mean that much was truly learned. At times when teachers added discussion or essay questions, I had to work and think much harder to generate an answer. Narration is a lot like essay or discussion questions. Therefore, I test my children by asking them to get a piece of blank paper, and fill it with everything that they know about the subject being tested. Misspelled words become the new words to practice for spelling. It's really that easy.

3.No Homework: Why would homeschoolers need to be assigned homework, anyway? We don't have to learn according to when the clock or whistles or bells dictate, so there isn't any real "homework". On the other side of the coin, one could say that everything that we do is homework.

4. No Grades-Short Lessons: No grades and short lessons is another one of my favorite things about Charlotte Mason. Short lessons mean doing a little bit of excellent work, rather than a lot of sloppy work. There is no need for letter or numerical grades, because the work isn't finished if it isn't done correctly. How easy is that?

5. Free Afternoons: This doesn't apply as much to us, because our schedule is just to get up and get busy. Here's where my kids might be up until 2:00am researching the parrot that is about to join our family, and then they sleep in the next morning, even though it's a "school day".

6. Few Lectures: The living books pretty much do the teaching for me. My job, at least for the older kids, is just to assign the books, and help if they don't understand something.

7. Ideas and Culture: Public schools simply don't have the time for the extreme music and art education that we have as homeschoolers. Exposure to fine arts is a vital part of the Charlotte Mason experience. Do your kids know what a Davinci or Monet painting is by sight? Do they know Bach from Vivaldi just by hearing a piece?

8. Education is a discipline: There is no real "school hours" like one would expect. The kids don't behave one way at school and another way at home. Also, lessons and learning are in everything that we do, including cooking, housekeeping, recreation, pet care, baby care, shopping, paying bills, etc. We don't need to set aside an hour a day for artificial classes like home economics.

9. Sane Education: Since we started using the Charlotte Mason method, our days are so much easier and more peaceful. We don't feel confined to a special curriculum that works for one child and not the other. We don't feel like we are chained to a clock. Learning is simple and fast. We have time to do things that we love, without sacrificing time spent on things that we "have" to do.

"The mother needs to acquire her own habit of training her children so that, by and by, it is not troublesome to her, but a pleasure. She devotes herself to the formation of one habit in her children at time, doing no more than watch over those already formed." Charlotte Mason

Monday, February 6, 2012

Charlotte Mason Method: The 3 R's

I've been keeping up this blog for quite a long time, so for those of you that have been following all along, you can see how much the Princesses have grown in such a short time. I took this picture this morning right after they decided that it would be fun to put the cute little tiger pajamas on Ivana. From left to right, we have Melody, Abbey, Ivana, and Tarja.

Charlotte Mason didn't really like the use of textbooks for homeschooling, and I completely understand why. She believed that we should use what is called the "living books" approach. Living books are entire books on specific subjects that are written by experts. Textbooks are books that contain chapters and paragraphs about a whole lot of different topics for a given subject such as history, government, science, etc. The child will learn from a textbook, but living books let the child delve very deeply into a subject, exposing her to everything that the author shares about it.

For example, when we learned about astronomy, I borrowed as many books about astronomy as I could from the library. Some books were about astronomy in general and others were written specifically about the sun, the stars, galaxies, various planets, etc. Instead of doing worksheets and reading chapters with questions and answers at the ends of common textbook units, we enjoyed reading out loud and looking at the pictures each day. Some "lessons" were retold to me orally, and some were written. A narration is literally the retelling of the story by the child at the end of the lesson, and this serves as our way of testing.

We use living books for every subject except math, grammar and spelling. For math, we have websites with free lesson plans that we use. For grammar and spelling, we have online lesson plans, but we also include the simplicity of spending more than average amounts of time reading great literature along with related dictation and copywork exercises. This is a win-win situation for homeschooling parents and students, because the simplicity makes it affordable and simple to do, while learning and retention is maximized. How do you teach reading? Read to the children and let them read. How do you teach literature? Read classic and modern literature. How do you teach current events? Read news articles. How do you teach history or science? Read books about history or science. How do you, as mother, establish a habit of reading in your homeschool? Let the children see their mother reading good, quality books that teach her something.

If you have a question, leave a comment, because I promise to answer.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Charlotte Mason Method: Something to Do

"What is the best curriculum for a well brought up person? Whatever the specifics for the curriculum used in your home, be sure that your children each day have:
*Something or someone to love
*Something to do
*Something to think about."-Karen Andreola

Since the above statement is what turned me into a die hard fan of the Charlotte Mason method, I would like to expound on the idea even further. We'll skip "something or someone to love," because I am pretty sure that if you are homeschooling, then you have a love for your family and for God that runs deep, and you will have no trouble creating a loving learning environment in your home. However, I would like to include that giving your children service projects can help them to offer comfort and love to others in their community. This year, the Princesses set up a temporary tattoo booth during the community Halloween festivities to raise money and non perishable food items for the local food bank. Before the event was over, they were already making huge plans among themselves for similar projects. The next item that we need to have in our Charlotte Mason education is something to do.

It is our job as home educators to expose our children to beneficial activities. There has to be more to school than paperwork and books. Here are some ideas of things to do that can be incorporated into the school day:

*Community service projects
*Organized activities (church groups, scouting, playgroups, 4H, sports, etc)
*Running errands
*Family event planning
*After school jobs

There are thousands of things that could be added to my list, but I included things that the Princesses do on a regular basis. If you started a journal to help organize your homeschool, you might create a page of ideas of things to do that your children already do, and those things that you would like for them to do for the upcoming term. I am not a big fan of over scheduling (although I have been guilty of this many times), but I do think that if we provide our children with plenty of quality activities, it makes learning more fun and keeps them out of trouble. As I type out this blog, you must know that Melody is working at her after school job. Abbey is making bracelets that she will sell when she has enough made, and Tarja is trying to take apart something with a screwdriver that she found in the kitchen. For the next term, what are your children going to do? Next time that we get together, we will discuss "something to think about."