We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

We have been enjoying the summer, but I felt it was time to get back into the groove this week.  Although we inserted as much education into our outings and the weekly trips to the library served us well in not totally abandoning all things educational for the past few weeks, it’s time to officially begin our “school year.”

This years topics: Middle Ages, Colonial Times, the 50 States, various genres of literature/poetry, Intro to Spanish, various Science topics, Singapore and Life of Fred mathematics. Follow along as I will always share quality books I find to go along with the different topics we are studying!

First Book:

“When Knights Were Bold”by Eva March Tappan

Squires Castle in the Fall

Squires Castle in the Fall (Photo credit: Tim_Arai)

This is the first book we are starting on the Middle Ages. Before I began to read aloud the first few pages, I asked him what he knew about this time period already. Apparently at boyscout camp a few weeks ago, this topic came up, as part of the camp was named “The Sherwood Forest” and his favorite activity of the week was archery! (I love it when one thing unexpectedly leads to the next!) So, he knew of a few things as we started.

Before jumping into the first chapter, I asked him if he knew the difference between a Page, Squire and Knight. I have to say I liked the explanation (8yrs): ” Well a Knight he’s like the ultimate guy, the Squire is his right hand man and I’m not sure what a Page is.”  By the end of the first chapter he had comprehended that a  Page was a boy close to his same age and found that scary and intriguing all at once! He said that it sounded like it was pretty hard to live back then, but fun too if you can become a Knight, hmmm?!
As we finished he said “I like this year better already, all the new books, even the math is better!”  ….SCORE!

Next highlight of today:

‘Wonder Struck”by Brian Selznick – JFiction

This book was recommended by a fellow home school parent at our “Happy Homeschool Hikers” group meeting last week. We’ve only just begun the first chapter on this one as well, but AMAZING! It is “A Novel in Words and Pictures.”  The basis is two children 50 years apart in time,  each tell a story, Ben’s in words, Rose’s in pictures and they begin to weave back and forth and unfold the symmetry. This quote in the first chapter that appeared more than once  “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”  had us both thinking and wondering what it might mean as we see the two characters coming together, a little foreshadowing perhaps! This was a great opportunity to teach him about foreshadowing and what it means as well as great grounds for narrative speaking on his part.

Once again, I love the Charlotte Mason approach of using living books for learning it is so effective and enjoyable!

Reflections and Forthcomings!


Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The children’s lessons should provide material for their mental growth, should exercise the several powers of their minds, should furnish them with fruitful ideas, and should afford them knowledge, really valuable for its own sake, accurate, and interesting, of the kind that the child may recall as a man with profit and pleasure.” – Charlotte Mason

As I begin to get my thoughts finalized for this coming “school year” I tend to get overwhelmed and want to plan too much. This quote comes in handy for me to reflect on as I choose books and make an outline of subjects to cover. I find once I start to think of the year ahead I want to choose interesting, fun and engaging materials and topics, always hoping to get that spark out of my children.  My initial reaction is to browse my favorite sites and bookmark  pages and all kinds of activities to use throughout the year. However, when I go to look back I tend to confuse my self as well as become overwhelmed! I know many of us go through the same process each year. Here are my thoughts:

This is our second official year of homeschooling, we were eclectic last year as it was our first year getting our feet wet and I was honestly not sure what we were doing, only knowing a new challenge and lifestyle lie ahead of us. My oldest asked me to homeschool him and I knew in my heart I did not want to send him back to public school, it was not suiting him in the least! So, after little thought…. I said ok, let’s jump aboard and do this! I knew of a few families who homeschooled,  got some advice and so it began.

As we progressed through the year and I found out more about my teaching style, even though I had by trait been a teacher for over 15 years this was new territory and we were like most things figuring it out as we went along.  This year I knew we were going to follow the Charlotte Mason method after much reading and research during last year.  I found we all love to go to the library and left so excited with new literature in hand, which is one of the methods that stands out most in the CM method- using “living books” to teach. Instead of using dry text books with a typical Q and A, instead after a subject has been taught, you use books written by an author who has a true passion for the topic at hand told in a story form, which seems to come alive and have a deeper connection to the student. As we read, we pause and discuss through dialogue and narration for an evaluation of understanding, which requires a deeper understanding as the child process the information, re-calls facts by speaking or makes drawings of details that stand out in his/her mind.

The other method that stood out for us was the philosophy of spending time outdoors. My oldest son thrives on nature and sciences! I discovered that most topics he became excited about were related to science topics and he indeed began his own nature notebook before I was truly aware of what one was. He really became infatuated with birds by the end of winter last year and asked for some books on birds and conducted his own research and recordings! He grabbed his field guide every time he saw a “new bird” and memorized lots of the names of the birds he had spotted.

So, in short, with the quote in mind, and the philosophy of Charlotte Mason I see actually in play and working so well for my children, I am reeling my self back in for my final outline of the year ahead.  Being who I am however, I am not 100% CM, I tend to always look for balance in everything and therefore we will be tweaking things here and there as we go I’m sure, as not all of CM’s strategies work for all of us. I will use some workbooks with Q and A’s, and computer technology for some of my teachings and any other idea that surface.

Hope this was a bit helpful for some of you just starting out on your own journey- I can honestly say I LOVE homeschooling and if you would’ve told me that I’d be homeschooling years ago I would have thought you were crazy! It never even entered my mind until, like most major life changes, BAM! here’s a curve ball for you!

So, if you are thinking of homeschooling- You CAN do it! It just takes a will and some dedication, but the results and self- fulfillment are indescribable!

Noodles and Marbles


What started out as a fun game, quickly grew into so much more! I was so happy to see the boys working together and taking the reins on this one.  Then watching it all spiral! A lesson for me- let the boys take from it what they will!

As Charlotte Mason said:

The child, though under supervision, should be left much to himself–both that he may go to work in his own way on the ideas that he receives, and also that he may be the more open to natural influences.
(Vol 1, Part V Lessons As Instruments Of Education, p.178)

I originally found the idea of this “race track and marble” game on pinterest, and my first thought was fun and we can make it into a math game! Let’s measure the tracks, time the marbles, try different layouts and compare.  So we set it all up.  All that is needed is a foam noodle cut in half, some marbles and a box to catch them at the bottom!

I gave my oldest the paper and pen and asked him to write down any data he thought was important as he played that would have to do with math skills (leaving it wide open to see his reaction). Well, he took that and ran with it, documenting so much more than I had planned. He made up his own chart and then the ideas for different things and ways to chart just came pouring out of him!  As an example, he thought to try using the large marble to hold a line of smaller marbles in place and let them all go at once to see what would happen. 

My youngest son made up his own games as well, he’s two years old,  so it was pretty much him rolling the marbles followed by a  yell, then a chase after the marbles around the room! However, he kept manipulating his foam noodle as well and tried rolling the marble down it to discover if it worked or not.  We moved the noodles around to different places for variations of heights and had some competitive racing as well.

Finally, my older son asked ” now can we do marble painting?!”

and so we did….. with an impromtu Jackson Pollock lesson! (next post!) 🙂