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    Home Education

    Growing an Education

    February 26, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap] just love homeschooling. I really, truly do. Granted there are days when it gets tough and I’m ready to mail the children to my mother-in-law, but overall, I fervently love that our home is the center of our education. I say “our” because even Si and I are learning. In fact, one of the significant things about homeschooling is that it doesn’t allow the parents to be stagnant, either. Which means that everyone’s character, body, and soul is being improved upon daily.

    Growing an Education

    Or, at least this is ideally so.

    I feel like I am growing a school. We have a predetermined pace {or at least, a “plan”}, and yet we have the power to stop and focus when we need to, to spend an extra week practicing, to move the day around, and so on. I can have things on hand but not add them until the children are ripe for it. I am learning to pray for something new, and that is the wisdom to see when they are ready, what they are ready for, and so on.

    This year is our first official year. Official means that I am now keeping records and such. It also means that my oldest is old enough for real, solid structure and rigor {but not too much}. We started with the basics: reading, narration, math, copywork, and so on. But lately, it became apparent that all of my students were ready to add things. Q. was ready for a short time, perhaps ten minutes, devoted to learning something interesting, like the names of animals, shapes or colors. She is a sponge, soaking up all the nouns in the language right now. A. was ready for time devoted to fine motor skill development and learning her letter symbols. E. was ready for a change in math and also some special time on spelling.

    Here are some of the changes we’ve made, things we’ve added, things we’ve modified, things we’ve left undone, to revisit later:


    For Q.

    Like I said, she wants to master her nouns. Some days, we start Circle Time with a chunky wooden shapes puzzle. All of us practice teaching her the names of the various shapes. Other days, we have a shapes matching game that we play together {also during Circle Time}. Yesterday, our AmblesideOnline reading for Year One was James Herriot’s Treasury for Children. The reading was punctuated by Q. pointing at the pictures and asking for the names of each animal. This didn’t hamper narration at all, and Q. was very excited about baby lambs.


    For A.

    As A. approached four, she was suddenly ready for more. I also think she needs time alone with me each day, and the best way to spend that time for now is learning the things she wants to learn. So we started Half-Hour Preschool. This is almost every day right before lunch. Usually lunch is in the oven heating up while we are doing our thing.

    Right now, we are working on fine motors with:

    More Let’s Cut Paper

    Let’s Fold

    We are studying our letters using Tasha Tudor’s beautiful book:

    A is for Annabelle
    Annabelle is the name of Grandmother’s doll who is to become a cake when A. learns all of her letters perfectly.

    And for now we are reading Johanna Spyri’s Heidi in a version that is no longer in print but is beautifully illustrated.

    Besides this special time, I also added to Circle Time a book we gave to A. for her birthday:

    The Big Picture Story Bible
    A. loves that part of Circle Time is spent reading a book which belongs to her. This book is written for very young children and traces God’s “big picture,” the promises He has made and kept and will keep in history. Even though my son is past this reading level, I think the connections this book makes between the individual Bible stories is good for him. And Q. is learning bits and pieces, too.


    For E.

    We’ve had some changes with E., also. He is ready for more, and so I’m, naturally, going to give it to him. We added in an almost-daily reading {during Circle Time} of Beacon Lights of History, the volume entitled History of the Jews {Jewish Heroes and Prophets}. Here we are studying the Biblical patriarchs within their historical context. E. is comprehending way more than I expected.

    Though E. has been doing daily copywork for many, many months now, his spelling hasn’t much improved. Even though traditional Charlotte Mason homeschoolers don’t use a spelling curriculum, I decided to check into something my sister had suggested. I think that long lists of spelling words memorized in order to pass a test {and then mostly forgotten thereafter} are a general waste of time. So my question was whether there was something out there which wasn’t a list, but more of a way to actually learn to spell? After all, memorizing spelling words seems akin to whole-word reading {as compared to phonics}.

    Enter this lovely work:

    Sequential Spelling 1
    This is the spelling equivalent of phonics. I was reading the reviews, and it sounds like exactly what I was looking for. This text teaches spelling within word families. So, for instance, a child would learn all and then ball, call, stall, install, and even installment. Children are actually mastering the way our language is coded. My sister assures me that Sequential Spelling is the best, and we cannot wait for our copy to arrive. E. is totally on board, by the way, because he wants to be able to correctly write a letter to out-of-state relatives. Even though he doesn’t spell very well, he wants to, and his lack of skill bothers him.

    In math, E. reached a mental block. I expected this. If I were asking him to just memorize a list of sentences {2+2=4, etc.}, it would probably be easy, but instead I was asking him to understand the relationship between addition and subtraction {he did fine learning each function, but once I asked him to go back and forth, as in 2+2=4 and then 4-2=2, put the groups together, take the groups apart, he was lost}. He was getting it, and then he ungot it.

    So we decided to take a break {something MathMammoth suggests in times like these} and come back to it later. I explained to him that little brains aren’t always ready for all of this, that someday math will probably seem “easy,” and that it is important to breathe when we get overloaded. So I offered lessons in reading a clock instead, and he accepted with joy. My mother-in-law bought us a little learning clock over a year ago, and now we are using it daily.


    And Mommy, Too

    On a Yahoo group I subscribe to, I posted questions about Latin, as far as when we should start and how to go about teaching it when I myself have a limited knowledge {translation: practically none} of Latin. One woman replied and said that, with E. being so young, my times was best spent in learning Latin myself. I was assured that if I could master the first twenty to twenty-four chapters of Wheelock’s Latin, I would know all the Latin there is to learn in elementary school.

    So I think I’m going to take the plunge. But before I do, I plan to spend a week or so trying to convince Si to join me. I always wanted to have a secret language.


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  • Reply Brandy February 28, 2009 at 4:06 am


    Lucky you, with a Latin instructor right there in the house! Of course, I am married to Grammar Guy, which also has its perks. It is nice to be married to someone who is able to take on a subject or two, isn’t it? Actually, I’m trying to expand our staff and coerce my dad into teaching astronomy next year. 🙂


    I’m glad you’re enjoying Ambleside! We love it. Funny, I was also wondering about my daughter with some of the readings. She’ll love Aesop and James Herriot–the stuff she shows an interest in now. But the war stories? Probably not so much. If you DO modify your selections, I’d love to hear what you choose! One thing I definitely want to do is throw in the D’Aulaire’s Pocahontas.

    If you ever detail out what you’re doing on your blog, feel free to leave a link here. 🙂

  • Reply Wendi February 27, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    I just recently changed up our homeschool too. We added the Ambleside Year 1 readings into our day (your blog inspired me) and my 1st grade boy is really loving these read-alouds.

    I am not quite sure how some of these books will go over with my daughter when it’s her turn – but that’s the great thing about homeschooling – I can change the lit selections if I want to 🙂

    I also need to carve some time out to work with my daughter – I think she’s ready for some “school-time” with mom.

    Thanks for your willingness to share the workings of your homeschool with us!

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 27, 2009 at 3:35 am

    Kansas Dad taught himself enough Latin with Wheelock for his comps in theology (and used it quite extensively for his dissertation), so I think it’s a good bet.

    I’m not that interested myself so he’s already been installed as Latin Instructor, for some unspecified time in the future. (He’s also the explosion guy, for those adventurous chemistry and physics experiments.)

    Thanks for all the great ideas. I’m storing them up for our own little school!

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