Wednesday, November 4, 2009

French - Littles

The littler three were having trouble keeping up with the grammar of Les Oeufs Verts and the French phonics were a bafflement, so I switched them over to oral French lessons until they're more solid with English phonics and spelling.

They're learning the same paradigms as their older siblings, but at a bit of a slower pace.

They've begun learning the parts of the body and left and right. We play Simon dites … or sing Alouette, pointing to various body parts. They've also begun learning the verbs lever (lift up), baisser (put down), toucher (touch), and montrer (show). Sometimes I'll ask them, 'Où est la main gauche?' and they answer, 'Voilà la main gauche!' while pointing to it or holding it up.

They're learning how to count to ten. I'll hold up fingers and they have to tell me as quickly as they can how many I'm holding up. I pulled out the old pre-school number flashcards and they use those for practice, too. I've heard them counting things in French - plates when setting the table, or cups of flour for a batch of pancakes.

Les Couleurs. I simply point to something or hold something up and ask , 'Quelle couleur est-il?' and they answer by saying, 'Il est …', naming as many colors as they can.

Yesterday, we also started working on the names of rooms in the house and parts of a room (floor, door, ceiling, window, etc.). They're most recent paradigm is aller, so we'll be able soon to talk about going into different rooms in the house or touching the wall or the floor.

I have a list of topical vocabulary I want to teach them, along with verbs and some aural constructions (il est … vs. ils sont …, la main droite vs. le pied droit, etc.). We'll simply move through them as we can. I'm also astounded at how much they're learning and how much they all seem to be enjoying it.

An added benefit is that I'm reviewing my French and am filling in some of those holes that have cropped up through my years of not using it.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Negative Numbers

Benjamin has gotten up to adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers. Some of it makes sense, but subtracting a negative has been a bear to wrap our minds around. If zero is nothing, then how can you take away even less than nothing? I was really struggling to find a real life example. Drew came up with a great one and a friend tied it into English for me. I'll be going over this with Ben today - we'll see if he sees it as clearly as I'm beginning to.

Drew's thought - He compared it to heating and air conditioning. Heating is positive numbers and cooling is negative numbers. Turning either the furnace or the AC up (more power) is adding and turning them down (less power) is subtracting. So, turning up the heat is like adding a positive and it gets warmer. Turning down the heat is like subtracting a positive and it gets cooler. Turning up the air is like adding a negative and it gets cooler. Here's the tricky one: turning down the air is subtracting a negative and it gets warmer. I can see this organized on a chart with up & down on the sides and heat & AC on the top (like Mendel's sweet pea genetics), but I don't know how to reproduce it here.

My friend reminded me that, just as in English, two negatives make a positive.

A bunch of other friends sent me other examples that I haven't had time to look closely at yet, but we'll tackle them this afternoon.


Monday, November 2, 2009

French - Olders

We're reading Les Oeufs Verts au Jambon (Green Eggs and Ham). This was a great book to start with because of the sheer amount of repetition. I went through the book and listed out the vocabulary and grammar my students would need to know to puzzle out and understand each section. I pulled paradigms from the verbs in the book and homework assignments were transformations of sentences in the book or the composing of original sentences and questions using the grammar, vocabulary, and paradigms we'd already covered. We're almost finished. So far, here's the grammar we've covered:

basic -er verb conjugation and subject pronouns
negation with ne … pas (Je n'aime pas ce Sam-c'est moi!)
masculine and feminine nouns and articles
singular and plural nouns nouns and articles
making questions with est-ce que …
making questions by inversion
negative questions and subject pronoun placement (N'aimes-tu pas les oeufs verts au jambon?)
elision and liaison
using an infinitive with another noun (J'aime manger les oeufs.)
introduced direct object pronouns (les, en, me) and their placement
future tense
faux future
introduced passé composé

All this will continue to be reviewed as we come across it in our next book: Histoire de Babar.

Our paradigms, so far, include


The transformations I mentioned above were my friend's idea - I'd take a sentence from the book and have the girls re-write it according to a pattern. For example:

Je n'aime pas les oeufs verts au jambon.

The assignment would include:

make positive
change the subject to second person, singular
use est-ce que to make a question
make question with inversion
make the subject plural
make the subject third person, singular or plural
change to false future
change to future
change to passé composé

Sometimes we'd do it as a chain, after one change, the new sentence would become the basis for the next change. Sometimes we'd change the original sentence over and over. This is how the above assignment might look upon completion:

Je n'aime pas les oeufs verts au jambon.

positive: J'aime les oeufs verts au jambon.
2nd person: Tu aimes les oeufs verts au jambon.
question: Est-ce que tu aimes les oeufs verts au jambon?
inversion: Aimes-tu les oeufs verts au jambon?
plural subject: Aimez-vous les oeufs verts au jambon?
3rd person, s: Aime-t-il les oeufs verts au jambon?
false future: Va-t-il aimer les oeufs verts au jambon?
future: Aimera-t-elle les oeufs verts au jambon?
passé composé: A-t-il aimé les oeufs verts au jambon?

I'm stunned at how much we've covered in only six weeks and am looking forward to Babar. Since it was originally written in French, I think we'll all learn a lot! And we're having fun, which means we're actually doing it!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I've tried different French curricula through the years, both for high school and for younger kids, and have hated them all! The books feel like a strait-jacket, sapping creativity and the joy of teaching (which definitely diminishes the joy of learning on the other side of it).

So, with the hand-holding and encouragement of a friend, we're tackling French differently this year and it's going very, very well.

I thought I could start my olders and youngers together and split them after about six weeks, but that didn't work. I ended up splitting them after only about two weeks, but it's been good. I'll outline what I'm doing for each level in future posts.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Okay, so I haven't been planning on the blog. I've been playing around with Numbers and finally figured out how to use it (thanks to a friend who is much smarter than I am!).

School has been moving along well for 12 weeks now (with two Sabbath weeks) and I thought I'd post an update.

Our routine looks like this:

Morning Time: prayer, Scripture (the same one all week, the text of next Sunday's sermon if I can figure out what it is); reading from either Piper's Don't Waste Your Life or Spurgeon's All of Grace; either a paragraph of three from Plutarch's Lives or a few poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, our poet of the session. On Fridays, after reading Scripture, I hand out a copy of a work of art (associated with our history study, if possible, but not always) for the kids to sketch while listening to a piece of music I want them to become familiar with: this six weeks it's Vivaldi's Four Seasons: Spring.

English: altogether we parse and diagram one sentence, right now we're working through the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V; when we get to the figures, we'll do one each day. We needed to spend less time on this each day so we'd have time for their other work.

Spelling with the littles: I'm combining Tricks of the Trade, Touch-Phonics, and The Natural Speller; we do three words each day, one rule per child, but they all learn the rules the others need; we'll have a spelling bee soon, which the kids are really looking forward to. The kids look in their reading or other work for words to go with their particular rule.

Math with the little girls: I've been working with the girls, letting them solve their equations on the dry-erase board and attitudes are quickly improving, as are skills and enthusiasm for math; I'm also finding that it's contributing toward better relationships. And now that we've been doing this for several weeks, they're beginning to work more independently and do more in their books.

After lunch, we tackle French (both upper and lower levels - more about that in another post), reading aloud, reading silently, correcting math with the older kids, listening to history narrations, Gileskirk lectures, science lectures, and anything else we need to finish up.

Whew! It sounds like a lot, but we're getting so much done and enjoying the time together!

I'll try to post more about planning and French, soon.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

This Week's Plan

We'll jump back into school on Tuesday.

My basic plan for our days is as follows:

Morning Time 
Spelling with my littles
Reading aloud 

This order is based on the number of kids working in each discipline.  We all do Morning Time and English together.  I'm still not sure if Nathan and Ben will want to study French with us.  If not, they'll use that time for their Latin studies.  Then we peel off Judith and Rebekah while I work with Joel, Melody, and Eliza in spelling and read aloud to the three of them.  After that, it's independent work time for everyone.  If I can corral my teaching time into a solid block, it's more likely to happen consistently than if I try to break it up through the day.

Next week we'll start everything but science (still on order or undecided). Latin starts in mid-September.

I'm basically prepared for everything I'll be teaching. I hope to use the kids' independent work time for the next few weeks to get our physical surroundings more organized and de-cluttered. It's a slow, slow process.

Monday, August 24, 2009

School Starts Today

I thought I'd be starting school for reals this week, but something came up that'll take up most of Wednesday through Friday, so we're just starting math (after a week off) and Gileskirk (Antiquity this year).

We watched the first Gk lecture on Friday.  Second one this afternoon (kids are reading and working on vocabulary to prepare) and number three Thursday.  We're tackling as much math as we can this week, too.

Next week, we'll start English, French, and history for my middles and littles.   Latin doesn't start until mid-September and I'll finalize science sometime in the next couple of weeks and we'll start a little later.  We have lots of time.

I spent a lot of time this summer learning Numbers so I could set up more-easily maintained plan books and grade books.  I think those are practically ready (although I may need to tweak just a bit more).

We also started morning time, à la Cindy at Dominion Family, but with my own flavour.  After Nathan opened us in prayer, we read Psalm 107 (99% sure that'll be the topic of next week's sermon), which we'll re-read and discuss all week.  Also read a page of The Gospel Primer and finished a chapter of Fellowship of the Ring.

I wasn't able to attend the CiRCE Conference in July, but lots of friends did and have shared.  I'm inspired and encouraged and am eagerly awaiting my conference CD's, which should be here soon!


Thursday, June 4, 2009


Yesterday went well, but not as well as I'd hoped.  We're still making progress, so I'll view yesterday as half-full, rather than half-empty.

I played with Numbers and am tweaking their gradebook template.  I think it'll work.  I'll play with it this summer and hope to have my gradebook settled by the time we start our real school year in August.

We had a great time in English.  We've parsed the first three sentences of Psalm 1.  We've diagrammed the first one and will diagram the next two today.  The three little ones are copying it for handwriting and our pastor will preach on it in two Sundays.  We learned about some cool rhetorical figures - antanaclasis (or a clashing of words) and hyperbaton (changing word order for effect and emphasis).  We're also looking at the difference between the seven basic parts of speech and the different jobs that are done in a sentence by words, phrases, and clauses.

We haven't tackled logic yet this week, and we have more economics to do.  We're about half-way through Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, reading it aloud and watching Jeffrey Tucker's interviews with various economists about the book.  When we're done with that, we'll begin watching the Teaching Company's Economics lectures and reading Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics.

We also started working on learning to sing in parts.  We're starting with 'Happy Working Song' from Enchanted and I'm thinking of adding in 'How Will She Know?' from the same movie.  And we've started doing some exercises that I remember from my high school theatre classes.  We may do a readers' theatre or else choose a scene or two from a play and block it as both a play and a film.

It's time to head to the salt mines!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Session

Last week was a Sabbath week, and boy did we need it!

I spent some time messing around with PlanBook and had great hopes for it, but I don't think it's going to work.  I'm tired of writing our all the kids' lessons by hand in their planbooks, so when PB didn't pan out, I began messing around with Numbers and finally got it figured out - thanks to a friend who graciously answered all my stupid questions.  Now to see if I can get my money back for PlanBook - I'm not holding my breath.

I had hoped to audition for a summer play, but that didn't get off the ground.  I also had hoped to teach at least one film class, but I'm not sure if that's going to fly either (I'm still waiting to hear).

So, what to do with my summer?  I decided that I want to teach the kids to sing parts and I want to start doing some theatre exercises with them.  We'll also continue with English, math, logic, economics, and Latin review.

I hoped to get us up earlier so we could finish our academics and have time for extra stuff like sewing, more gardening, and baking.  Didn't work out yesterday - restless night on Sunday caused me to wake up late on Monday.  I didn't give up and we did some of what I had planned.

Today was better.  We started a bit earlier and I got more of my to-do list done.  We dove into Psalm 1 for English (our pastor is preaching on it in a couple of weeks), parsing and diagramming the first sentence.  Also discussed nouns: definition, categories (abstract vs. concrete, proper vs. common), and the many jobs of nouns in sentences.  Will tackle verbs tomorrow.

Began our singing with a lecture on posture, opening our mouths, and abdominal breathing, then warmed up and played around with singing different notes of a chord together.  Found that our 'Happy Working Song' sheet music has parts, so we started there.  Need to call Music Mart and order another song to work on.  Nathan is hoping for Handel's 'Messiah' (yeah, right), but the others are hoping for a song from a Broadway musical.  We'll see what Ross has to offer.

Also went through some stretches and posture and drama exercises - made the kids move across the room as if depressed.  I've got a few more in mind, but I found a book with theatre exercises for kids at B&N which I hope we can pick up tonight.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Annual Reading List, 2008/2009: Nathan

Fiction and Literature:
Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen (read aloud by Mama)
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë (August)
Silas Marner, by George Eliot
Inferno, by Dante (July)
Purgatorio, by Dante (September 23)
Paradisio, by Dante
The Antiquary, by Sir Walter Scott
The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis (September)
Eldest, by Christopher Paolini (August)
The Man Who was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton (August)
Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis (August)
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
1984, by George Orwell
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Song of Albion, by Stephen Lawhead
The Edge of Eternity, by Randy Alcorn
Taliesin, by Stephen Lawhead
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

More than Dates and Dead People, by Stephen Mansfield
Empire, Niall Ferguson
Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton
What's Wrong with the World, by G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Annual Reading List, 2008/2009: Eliza

Literature (read by herself):
Mouse Soup, by Arnold Lobel
Serving in the Shadow of Death, by Laura Blakey
Bright Night, by Nancy Wilson
The Chick and the Duckling, translated from the Russian of V. Suteyev by Mirra Ginsburg (10/8/08)
The Little Bear Treasury, by Else Holmelund Minarik (including Little Bear's Visit, Little Bear, and Little Bear's Friend

Literature (read to her):
Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen (read by Mama)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis (read by Judith, finished 28 Sept.)
Grimms' Fairy Tales, by the Brothers Grimm (read by Joel)
Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis (read by Judith)
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster (read by Jared)

A Child's History of the World, by V.M. Hillyer (read by Mama)

Jack's Insects, by Edmund Selous (read by Mama)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Rhetoric, Logic, Grammar Update

It took us a week and a half to parse and diagram our way through Portia's courtroom monologue from The Merchant of Venice, but we made it.  

Then we shifted to looking at the flow of argument in the speech.  I pulled in the basic list of topics from Andrew Kern's Lost Tools of Writing.  We also found a couple more figures of speech: simile and metonymy.  

The younger kids have been working on copywork while the older are beginning a writing assignment.  They have to come up with a conflict (from a book or film) and step into the shoes of one of the characters and write a speech, letter, or persuasive essay based on the passage we've been studying.  Nathan chose a situation from a book he's writing.  Judith chose Cars, the conflict between Lightning McQueen's self-centered desire for fame and Sally's desire for him to help her save the community of Radiator Springs.  Benjamin got a bit stuck, so I chose The Patriot for him, the conflict between Lord Cornwallis's desire to defend civilization from the rebels against the king's authority and Tavington's desire for personal advancement by any means available.  

These may not seem like conflicts of opposites, but that's part of how Portia approached Shylock's request for 'justice' (which was really personal vengeance dressed up pretty).  She placed mercy over against justice and showed how mercy really is the greater virtue.  

The little ones still seem to be listening in and paying attention.  This morning, as they worked on copywork, they continually asked questions about what the older kids and I discussed as we looked at the topic questions in LT.  I'm amazed at the depth of the questions I'm getting from my 10, 9, and 7 year olds.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Annual Reading List, 2008/2009: Joel

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen (read by Mama)
Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy (finished in August)
Fairy Tales
, by the Brothers Grimm
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
Pearls of Letra, by Brian Jacques
Redwall, by Brian Jacques
Martyrs of the Catacombs, by anonymous
Martin the Warrior, by Brian Jacques
Salamandastron, by Brian Jacques

George Washington Carver, by Geoff Benge
Cameron Townsend, by Geoff Benge
Amy Carmichael, by Geoff Benge

Christian Liberty Nature Reader, Grade 3 (finished in August)
Christian Liberty Nature Reader, Grade 4
How the Weather Works, Reader's Digest Books

Rhetoric, Logic, Grammar

I know it's been forever since I've posted anything, but life's been settling down and I have a bit of time today.

We took last week off, and I've added in a few things this week.  It's only Tuesday, but we're off to a bang-up start.

We used to parse passages of literature together each day.  I stopped because it was taking so much time that we seemed to have time for little else (I was aiming for an entire passage each day - too much!).  However, a conversation with a friend got me thinking about reinstituting and expanding this idea.  Debra commented, when I told her that I thought I might need to abandon rhetoric for awhile while covering logic with the older kids, that the trivium used to be taught in an integrated manner, instead of separated out into different subjects.  This really got me thinking (the more lumping together I can do, the happier we all are).  She also mentioned that the trivium was taught in one-room schoolhouses and that the younger learned much from listening in on the olders' lessons.  We work for an hour each day and pick up the next day where we left off the day before - line upon line, precept upon precept.

So far this week, we've parsed and diagrammed the first four sentences of Portia's courtroom speech from The Merchant of Venice.  We've also learned about ellipsis (leaving out a repeated a word or phrase or clause in a sentence).  We've been dealing with subordinate clauses, predicate adjectives, direct objects, etc. - pretty advanced stuff.  I use the Shurley question and answer flow, but we then parse according to Ed Vavra's KISS Grammar, (Google it, it's available free online) and diagram with the help of Mary Daly's Big Book of Diagrams.  We've jumped into the deep end of the pool and none of us seem to be drowning, yet; although yesterday, I had to ask for a life preserver from ClassEd when I hit a sentence that I just didn't know what to do with.

Once we're done parsing and diagramming, we'll look at the flow of argument in the speech and we'll look for rhetorical figures, tropes, and schemes.  The kids have started notebooks with their parsed and diagrammed sentences, a page for each figure with the definition and examples, and vocabulary.  The little ones will add copywork, which I set up using Educational Fontware.

We're having a really good time and we'll all learning bunches.  We'll be alternating between Shakespeare and the KJV Bible (for the poetic language) for awhile, but I'd like to be able to look at some of Churchill's speeches, our founding documents, and modern political speeches, as well as literature from Antiquity (where we'll be in history next year).


Monday, January 5, 2009

Economics Lectures

To go along with Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson for second semester!

The Campaign for Liberty has posted 12 lectures expanding on and explaining the chapters in the book.