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    Pondering Next Year

    April 29, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I‘m taking a sick day today. I’ve been treading water all week, and when our Friday activity was cancelled last night, I decided I was going to rejoice in being handed the downtime I needed on a silver platter.

    Or something like that.

    I find myself pondering next year {while the children are playing Legos and working on their needlepoint}.

    I’m excited for it, even though there will be a number of new things headed our way. First, we are supposed to add these things in Year Four: learning a musical instrument, Latin, Plutarch {one Life per term}, Shakespeare {one play per term}, formal grammar study, and using a Century Book {rather than a wall timeline}. In addition to this, I have Daughter A. entering Year 1.

    I think I’ve decided to ease into these changes. We began piano lessons midway through Year 3, so that helps. At the beginning of the year, I’ll commence with Plutarch and Shakespeare. I still need to read up on what is suggested for grammar. We have already tried doing organic grammar, but I can see that formal lessons would be complimentary {and therefore helpful} if they are done correctly. Using a Century Book should be an easy transition, as E.-Age-Eight is accustomed to a wall timeline.

    And then there is Latin. I’m pretty sure I’m adding Latin last, after we’ve adjusted to all of the other additions. I’m still not sure what I think is the best age for adding Latin {other than Song School, of course, which we love}, and so I suppose I’m not in a hurry. {Does anyone have other Latin songs they listen to? I’d like to add some more…}

    A.-Age-Six will be commencing with Year One, as I said, and she’s pretty excited about it. I know that my main focus with her will be slow and steady narration training. This really is my goal for the first year. Naturally, I want her to keep progressing in her reading ability, I’ll begin working with her on penmanship, we’ll play some math games, and so on, but I have one main goal: narration. If we finish up Year One with a good handle on narration, I’ll consider it a success. Having one main goal helps me to know where to focus my efforts.

    My one issue with Year 1 is Parables from Nature. I have read it faithfully {mostly aloud} throughout Year 1…and Year 2…and now Year 3. No matter what I do, I still do not really connect with it, and that seems to be the case {for the most part} with Son E. as well. I would say only about a third of the book has resulted in good narrations and discussion.

    Frankly, I dread the days we read that book.

    I hate saying this because I really do think that education is, in one aspect, an ordering of the affections. We are to learn to love what is Good, True, and Beautiful. I have learned to trust the AO Advisory, and whenever I struggle with a book, I consider it my duty to try and learn to love it. With every. single. book. {except this one} that has happened. Within a few chapters, I have discovered that it was my own insufficient education which caused me to initially dislike the book.

    But no matter how faithful I’ve been with Parables from Nature, that hasn’t happened. I’m really starting to think that it is just the writing style. I usually don’t mind Victorian writing, but perhaps this is a little over the top for me?


    I still fully admit the problem might be me, but I also can’t imagine spending twelve years of my life {4 children x 3 years each = 12 years total} reading this book. It is categorized as Literature on the schedule. We read plenty of that in the younger years, with read alouds in addition to the full schedule. The note on the book, however, mentions the teaching of morals, so I think perhaps this was also supposed to fulfill the character development portion of the curriculum.

    I was digging around Simply Charlotte Mason, trying to see if I could find another option, which I noticed their Personal Development page. Finally, I think we have a solution! Right now, my plan is to pull this into Circle Time and have all of the children hear these readings. We’ll start with Wisdom and the Millers. I noticed that Peter Leithard wrote something based upon Proverbs also called Wise Words: Family Stories That Bring the Proverbs to Life, but I don’t know if they are written with the high literary quality required by our standards. {Does anybody know?}

    Reading these together will help the children focus on developing the same character qualities at the same time. I have noticed that when they are doing this, they help one another through gentle {and not-so-gentle reminders}. So, for instance, the other day I heard one daughter yell to another across the yard, “God says to share but not to steal!” {And this in reference to stealing from another child while justifying it by telling the poor victim that God says to share.}

    So this is my plan {for now}.

    Is anyone else shaking things up for next year?

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  • Reply Kristine May 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    We haven’t touched Parables in two years. Yes, leave it out. There aren’t many books that have that effect, so I’m okay with leaving out those that don’t resonate or are so laborious to read. I didn’t love Parables either, but could appreciate some of the stories. I actually bought two parts of it on audio, hoping to have someone else’s reading do it more justice, but my boys actually hated the audio. The voices were not that great. I thought Parables might be something like Pilgrim’s Progress that they would get more by hearing it year after year, but I’m over that idea.

    By the way, I will not be reading Madam How Lady Why again. I kept wondering why I would continue reading it instead of Voscamp’s geography books or Hillyer’s. But we kept going. I loved the introduction and was looking forward to it, but there was too much reading of specific English locales to get to the few nuggets worth reading.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts May 5, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Okay, so I think I’ll be skipping Wise Words {at least for now}. It doesn’t sound like it’s exactly what I’m looking for. I think I’ll stick with The Millers books and see how that goes.

    I’d like to thank you all for making me feel better about my aversion to Parables of Nature. At least I’m in good company, even if I’m wrong! πŸ™‚

    Meredith, I do remember you mentioned First Language Lessons to me before, and I was actually trying to remember the name! I was going to dig through my old email, but thanks to your comment, I don’t have to. πŸ™‚ I have some grammar books that I look forward to using at a bit older ages, but I think I will try the FLL this year. I wonder if it would work for Circle Time. Hmmm…

    Kelly and Kristine, thank you for the Latin links. I will be checking them out.

    And Kristine…I agree that PoN was not predictable, and in a delightful way. I think the book was just a little over the top for me, if that makes sense. My children didn’t always get the moral, either, which was a little frustrating because in Aesop that was never a problem, and I was hoping for a similar feeling of triumph. πŸ™‚

    Do you think I make a mistake if I cut PoN entirely, Kristine? Your honest opinion…I just noticed that you aren’t cutting it, so I’m curious…

  • Reply Kristine May 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Brandy!
    I found this link to some songs from Minimus Latin.
    We used that last year (third grade) for a fun introduction to Latin. This year we are using Getting Started with Latin, which is a more systematic approach. The student translates ten sentences each day after a brief lesson. I like it. We do it orally and because they are short lessons, we do them. We are getting more grammar with this curriculum too, but I don’t think it is enough without a separate English grammar program. We used Easy Grammar for a year which did some simple sentence diagramming: cross out prepositional phrases, underline subject once, verb twice, label direct object with D.O., etc. IT wasn’t strictly grammar in that it covered possessives, contractions, abreviations, but all of those extras weren’t necessarily coming up in our dictations or copywork regularly or at all, so it was helpful. Yet I may use Rod and Staff next year. I bought their year 4 English and may use it for my 4th and 5th graders. I’m going to look it over before next year and decide.
    I’ve read a few of the stories from Wise Words to my kids. (I enjoyed His Brightest Heaven of Invention.) Mystie is right. The literary quality is not high. But the stories are adequate for its purpose. My children would rather listen to Wise Words than Parables of Nature! And they get the point of them, which was iffy sometimes with Parables of Nature. I actually like many of the Parables stories though. It wasn’t predictable reading. Often in the middle of a story I would realize that the story was heading in a different direction from what I thought and have a completely different point. I found it a difficult book to stop midway and narrate because often even I couldn’t figure it out until the story was about over. If that makes sense. I think it is a bit taxing on the mind and seems more appropriate for an older child, but we did read it. I don’t plan on reading it with every child. My second got whatever he got by listening to it with his older brother, but I may start it again when my third gets to year 2 or 3.
    I love hearing your plans. You always have well-thought out goals and seem to accomplish them. Even though I have one child a year ahead of your oldest, I love to glean from you and your plans!

  • Reply Mystie April 30, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Oh, for other grammar ideas, I know several people who like Rod and Staff for elementary grammar. I also know several who *love* Shirley grammar, but it’s much more of a “program.” πŸ™‚ From what I saw in my grammar classes, though, it is possible with Shirley to learn how to get the right answer without understanding how and why, so actually several of my Shirley-trained students had a hard time transitioning to sentence diagramming because they thought they knew it, but they didn’t actually understand it enough to play with it.

    Kinda like me and Saxon. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Meredith in Aus April 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Hi Brandy,

    Have you had a look at First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise. I LOVE it!

    In Him


  • Reply Silvia April 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    I meant ON me

  • Reply Silvia April 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    If I encounter difficulties with Parables of Nature, I won’t blame it to me being a Spaniard. To me, you are the ultimate advisory, ha ha ha. I’m serious!

  • Reply Mystie April 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Wise Words is ok. I just read it in our fairy tale round and didn’t require narrations. It didn’t seem to be particularly engaging to my children at the time, but they were good stories. I wouldn’t say it’s “high literary quality,” though. πŸ™‚

    We’re doing Hillyer’s CHOW this next year, so we’ll do a Book of Centuries, too. I’m sad I’m doing it the same year as you and not a year after so I can just steal your version. πŸ™‚ I’m planning on using SCM’s free printable version, but mostly because I didn’t know what else to do. I bought the timeline figures set last year, so we’ll use those for entries, but it’s just the setting-up of the things (ok, well, and the making sure it actually happens, too) that has me somewhat stumped.

    My second-born is pleading for independent work, so even though I didn’t start my oldest until he was 7, both boys will have independent work this coming year. And during our couch reading time each of them will have to read aloud, too, and I am calling it (in my own head only) “elocution practice.” πŸ™‚

    Penmanship is still foiling me and I haven’t solved that dilemma. My kids write so much on their own that their bad habits are thoroughly engrained. Yet their writing is still legible, so I haven’t decided how much I care or how hard to work at it (which means I haven’t been).

    We’ll be doing Nesbit’s Shakespeare for Children and I’m excited. πŸ™‚

    We’ll attempt Latin and that’s our biggest thing. My hope and plan is to do grammar entirely through Latin, and my friends tell me that is easy to do with Latin for Children. But when I taught grammar to 7th & 8th graders, by the end of the year previous grammar study was not at all a predictor of understanding and ability. Real grammar is logic study, so I’m not sweating it until middle school.

    Can I skip the rest of this year and move straight into the new plans? Pretty please? πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kelly April 29, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Oh, Parables of Nature! I got so carried away talking about music I forgot to mention it. I read three of those stories to my kids, then read a few more to myself, and frankly I found them so treacly I gave them up. My attitude is pretty much like Brandy’s, so I assume it’s my fault I don’t like them, but I just couldn’t read the stories without scorn coming into my voice, so I put the book on a shelf in the living room — the kids can read it if they want to, but I simply can’t do it.

  • Reply Silvia April 29, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I feel fortunate beyond description. To have you, Kelly, Mystie, and many others who have older children and have been to these books we have in our imminent future before us, TOTALLY SPOILED.

    So, should we encounter some insuperable problems with Parables of Nature, we have alternatives that others have tried with success.

    Girl, now you’ve totally conditioned me. I’m going to pre read the book soon, like… now! πŸ™‚ I’m serious. I’m feeling all comfy here, and I’m realizing I’d better be reading the AO year 1 books in these two months before we have the official start.


  • Reply Kelly April 29, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I like Wise Words, even for younger children. Like with Aesop, I don’t read the moral to them right away. The children all like the stories even if they don’t get a moral out of it, but I think that’s fine.

    For Latin, I have Memoria Press’s Lingua Angelica I. That’s the only thing I have that’s a suitable singalong work. That one has some very simple songs, a fairly easy round, Adeste Fideles, and one called Gaudeamus Igitur that you ought to at least learn to recognize as it turns up in old movies on occasion and when you know what the music is it’s much more meaningful.

    For listening (and for learning, if you care to purchase the vocal/piano score) I have three Masses (Bach’s B minor, Dvorak’s D Major, and Mozart’s Great Mass) and two Requiems (Faure’s Op. 48 and Durufle’s Op.9) plus Saint-Saens’s Christmas Oratorio and Vivaldi’s Gloria.

    And then there are several Latin songs on a few other CDs I have, like The Dufay Collective’s Miri it Is, which was recommended by Ambleside for Year 1, I think, and a collections of hymns from the English church, which begins with five Latin songs.

    At your children’s ages, those last two paragraphs would mainly be for listening, but they are really wonderful, especially the Masses et al. If I had to recommend only one of those it would be Dvorak’s. I know John Hodges would recommend the Bach, but I’m particularly fond of the Dvorak because I sang it with our community choir three years ago.

  • Reply dawn April 29, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I read Wise Words on my own last year and thought it was pretty well done, albeit for older children. Here is my review, such as it is.

    My good friend read it to her children this year and posted about it here.

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