Archive for August, 2011

Off to a Great Start!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

For the past several years we’ve attempted studying a Classical curriculum called Tapestry of Grace. Regretfully, this very rich and thorough material has been little more than a reading list for our family. Good intentions are there, but I simply don’t have time to engage my high schoolers in Socratic discussions in literature, history and philosophy and simultaneously teach my younger children to read, spell and perform basic math operations. Thus, we’ve read some Tapestry recommended books while many books, those that demand explanation and discussion, have collected dust on my overflowing bookshelves.

Last year I knew something had to change with our homeschooling. Four out of six of my children had moved beyond the early years where I felt comfortable “sticking with the basics” and “dropping the extras.” The problem was, they simply lacked the motivation to study the more difficult subjects. Don’t get me wrong. My children are excellent students, but tackling high-school-level courses was just plain hard for them. No longer did my bragging on them to dad and grandma provide extrinsic motivation and the intrinsic motivation for Algebra and Literature Analysis just wasn’t there.

In our small town, we do have a high school learning co-op that is excellent. However, I could not justify spending two days a week driving around town during school hours for two children. While my high schoolers would benefit for sure, the other four would be stuck in the van. Not good.

So, my husband I began praying. Should we put our three grade-school/jr. high – aged children at our local Classical private school so I could have more time for my older children? Should we investigate the many online high-school options? Could we possibly find ways to help our older children “own” their education and become intrinsically motivated, even with those harder courses? None of these options were bad ones, but the expense of private school or multiple online classes seemed prohibitive. My high schoolers love home schooling but they admitted that they struggled to memorize vocabulary and study history when their musical instruments, hobbies or even their little sister continually called their name.

Over several months, the Lord put together a new adventure for our family. Several friends of mine were experiencing the same homeschooling frustrations. Out of that, a new idea was born… a Tapestry of Grace co-op! Two of my friends had used the curriculum with more success than I, but they both agreed discussing the material in a group would be extremely beneficial. For me, having ALL my children engaged in age-appropriate classes was important. So, this year, once a week, all of our children head to our church for a 5-hour co-op. Esther loves her new preschool classes. Sarah is delighted to not only discuss history and literature, but to have art, science and Latin. My twins are dialectics (junior high) and they now have motivation to finish the history and literature selections as well as memorize their Geography. After all, they will discuss everything in class! Anna and Christina are writing essays and participating in excellent Socratic discussions. Knowing they must come prepared on Mondays is making a huge difference!

The other day, I found this on our coffee table in the den:

I consider pyramid sketchings during free time a good thing 🙂 And there is more…

Last weekend,I requested the children watch an ancient history documentary during our family movie time. Yes, they groaned. But… after turning it off because it was getting late, Nathan requested to wake up early so he could finish it 🙂

Our geography teachers have been using wipe on/wipe off maps of ancient Africa. My non-geography (in the past) girls asked if it would be too expensive for me to purchase a set of these maps so they can practice at home. (I said yes, of course!)

Bethany met two friends at the library today so she could work on a bonus history assignment.

The only down side so far is that my natural self is a bit lazy. With all this accountability comes work at home. Yes, we are having to get up a little earlier so we can get this work done! However, this is exactly the change I felt was needed last year.

I am excited about this new learning adventure with some very special people. There is much, much to learn, and we’re off to a great start!

Tapestry of Grace Notebooks

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

5 ToG notebooks... ready for co-op~

Other than a few ballet posts, I’ve been pretty quiet this summer. That is not because we’ve not been living life 🙂 What a wonderful summer this has been! One of the most exciting “time consumers” of this season has been a new Tapestry of Grace co-op I’ve helped organize. Tapestry of Grace (ToG) is a Classical curriculum that I’ve used sporadically over the past few years. I love it! However, a good Classical curriculum must utilize Socratic discussion, and that is where I’ve failed. Our new co-op will change all that. I’m so excited. There are 13 families participating and I know it is going to be a fantastic year! All ages (preschool through high school) are included. The enrollment is closed for this year because the structure demands a planning weekend to organize. While the tuition is free, all participating parents must teach and assist the classes. Yet, it has all come together and I am so excited about our new academic learning adventure.

These pictures are primarily for those trying to get their notebooks organized for our co-op. I stayed up until 3 am last night putting 5 of these together (only because I was determined they’d be done before Daniel and I leave for a conference.) Some of the structure I adapted from Marcia Somerville’s training talks. Keep in mind this is not THE only way to do this, but if it helps – go for it!

Notebook is about 2" size. This is Anna's (rhetoric level)

Next I have weekly assignments. You could use any sheets you like. I took these from a planning book I purchased.

These are the assignment sheets opened up. Each double spread is one week. I include all subjects here - math, latin, science and ToG. My kids need a checklist.

Behind the assignment sheets, I have tabs numbered 1-9. I will only put 9 weeks of ToG in the notebooks at a time. Next unit, I'll cover these with #s 10-18.

The first sheet behind each numbered tab is the reading assignment sheet for the week. I'll highlight the books each child needs to read and then they can break the reading assignments down into pages/chapters per day on their weekly assignment sheets (in front of notebooks.)

Behind the reading assignment sheets, I have the SAP's (Student activity pages) for that particular week. Here, my children will find the overview of material, history/church history discussion questions, literature worksheets, geography and philosophy assignments. Behind the SAP's (AND NOT PICTURED) are the week's evaluations for each week.

Next I have subject dividers. For Anna's this includes, history/church history, literature, geography, SAT prep, writing and philosophy. She has separate notebooks for Science and Math.

Behind the Geography tab, I have all the maps for the unit. I put them behind sheet protectors so my children can label them daily with fine tipped dry-erase to test their knowledge.

So, I basically divided the SAP’s into the 9 weeks and printed all the geography and evaluations for the first unit. I put them behind the 1-9 tabs. In the past, I’ve found if don’t assemble all the papers the children need, I end up skipping them. It seems it should only take 5 minutes to make a copy… but those 5 minuts have been the end of our school day at times. The geography maps could go behind the #1-9 as well, but I separated them because I liked the way the sleeves looked in their own section. I did clearly label on each sleeve what week each map would be used. Also, the #1-9 is new for me this year. In the past, I’d file each sheet behind subjects. The problem I found was that my children misfiled them. I like the idea of all the sheets for each week being in one place.

I may put a zippered plastic sleeve in the front with pencils, erasers, a small ruler, dry erase marker, etc.

Hope this helps some of you ToG moms! Happy planning!

Ballet Mag and a Birthday Party

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Anna at Ballet Magnificat!

Anna was blessed to be able to attend Ballet Magnificat‘s summer dance intensive this past July. She learned so much, made many friends and most importantly, was challenged in her walk with the Lord. Not surprisingly, she desires to attend again next summer and would love to stay a month. Because this was her first time away at a dance intensive, she had no idea what to expect. With a blistered foot and a nervous “newness,” she placed in a level 6 – just about right in the middle of the skill levels. While not at all upset with her placement, she’d love to work hard this year and place higher and stay longer next year. However, staying a month is out of our budget. So, since Anna’s return, we’ve been brainstorming ways for her to raise a little extra money this school year. One idea mentioned on the Ballet Magnificat! website is hosting ballet birthday parties. We are so thankful for Ms. Wendy, the owner of Northwestern Studios where Anna takes here in Boone. She is such an encourager and has offered Anna Northwestern Studio to host ballerina birthdays. So, with the help of her sisters, Anna has a new little business! With all the ballet party talk, Sarah, who turns 9 on Tuesday, decided she’d like to give the ballet party a test run – on her! Thus, on Friday, Anna hosted her first party. It was great fun, and we have Christina to thank for this video. Enjoy!