Friday, June 14, 2013

Just a side note ...

These are some quotes that were in an email I received for the Homeschooling ABCs Mini Class today:

Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality. - Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain (1835-1910)

I thought these were rather interesting. I'm not saying that homeschooling is for everyone and you're nuts not to do it. But I do think that many school systems are lacking, and it's nice when famous people have realized it, too. It makes me feel validated. :)

If you're interested in taking the mini class, too, you can find it at

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book review: Last Child in the Woods

This was a fantastic book! In it Richard Louv writes about the "third frontier," where children are alienated from nature by well-intentioned environmentalists, technology reigns in education, children know lots of biology facts but don't understand the biology in their own backyard and raising food is unfamiliar. He calls this "nature-deficit disorder."

Louv cites many benefits of being in close contact (NOT digital contact) with nature every day: mental, physical and spiritual health; increased confidence and awareness of the environment; and increased creativity.

He gives lots of suggestions and ideas for getting a child out in nature more, such as gardening, fishing, hiking, keeping a nature journal, etc.

It's interesting how former generations realized the great need for children to be outside. In Understood Betsy and The Secret Garden and Heidi, nature and being outside were critical for health and healing. Charlotte Mason suggests in Home Education that children should be outside as many hours in a day as possible, even on cold and wet days. She makes a big deal about children being in nature and learning natural history. How did we lose that? Kids spend so much of their lives indoors at school, watching TV and playing computer games. How has our culture forgot how important nature is?

His description of how technology "narrows the senses" resonated with me. After reading The Well-Trained Mind and Last Child in the Woods, I am thoroughly convinced that limiting technology in our home and education is the best thing for my kids.

Louv is a proponent of experiential education. I have to say that a balance between experiential or place-based education and language-based or classical education (as described in The Well-Trained Mind) will probably the best thing for my children. I can see benefit in both.

I would highly recommend this book to all parents.

Book review: The Well-Trained Mind

So, after talking to my sister-in-law, I decided to look at Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise's book, The Well-Trained Mind. I have to say that after reading this I felt like I just about had my curriculum figured out for me. The book covers educating your children from preschool through high school. It proclaims to be a guide to classical education.

In a lot of ways it is similar to Charlotte Mason's book. But instead of just being a philosophy, it's a whole program with suggested schedules and materials. They have some fantastic lists of resources.

I love how they divide history and science into four segments: Ancient times (5000 b.c.- a.d. 400), Medieval-Early Renaissance (400-1600), pre-Modern (1600-1850), and Modern (1850-present); and biology, earth science and astronomy, chemistry, and physics and computer science. Each of the four segments is covered in a year, and each segment has been covered three times when the student graduates from high school. Reading and science are correlated with history.

They divide a child's education into three main segments. The first four grades are called the "grammar" stage, where a student learns the "grammar," or basics, of each subject. Language is the main focus during those years. Grades 5-8 are called the "logic" stage. During this time a child's reasoning capacity is developing, and so it is time to teach them formal logic and critical thinking skills. The "rhetoric" stage is high school, and the main focus is teaching a student how to effectively express themselves in multiple ways, but particularly with language.

I highly agree with what they say about technology in education. It makes a lot of sense to me, and it really has helped solidify my opinion on childhood development and technology.

I can understand why some critics say this should be a reference book for every homeschooler. It really helps you develop a holistic plan for educating your child. It makes it seem quite doable to teach your child whatever he/she needs to know.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book review: Charlotte Mason's Home Education

While many people pinpoint the start modern homeschooling movement in the 1960s and 70s, Christians call Charlotte Mason the founder of the modern homeschooling movement. She wrote Home Education, which describes education for kids from birth to age 9, in 1886. I'd say it was definitely a monumental work in education.

In fact, I can see a lot of current educational principles in her books. My favorite part is how she emphasizes children need to be outside in nature--and not just in a city park. She thinks they should be out in the country. She cites many health reasons for this, as well as the peace that a connection with nature produces. (Is this sounding familiar?) She encourages parents to get their kids out every day, if possible, for as long as possible.

I have decided that I want to incorporate her ideas in teaching first grade biology and second grade earth science and  astronomy. Kids should experience the world to learn about it. Mason describes games to help a kid pay attention and learn about their environment, like "sightseeing" and mental "picture painting." She suggests that kids keep a nature journal of things they see every day. She suggests bird watching and listening; choosing a few trees to keep track of all year; picking, pressing, mounting, researching and labeling flowers and plants; and having animals and insects, like ants or fish, in the house or schoolroom that the kids can observe.

Mason says that when kids become familiar with nature at a young age by experiencing it hands-on, it makes it easier for them to learn science principles when they are older and have developed the capacity to reason. I can relate to that. I used to garden all the time when I was a kid, and when I was a teenager I worked at a greenhouse. Not only did high school biology make more sense to me, but my college soil, ecology and botany classes were a breeze. I remember surprising my teachers more than once. But it all made sense to me because I was familiar with it.

I also like what Mason says about training children in habits--for the most part. I do believe that a child's will is strong when they want something. She thinks it is weak, so the child must be trained in habits until their will is strong. But establishing good habits at a young age is essential for success in work, school and relationships later in life.

Mason notes that if a child has good habits, they can direct themselves and don't have to be directed or nagged by you all the time. She suggests you work on one habit at a time, and be friendly and encouraging. You have to use tact and be consistent and persistent. She says to use natural consequences as much as possible to teach the child.

This is a fantastic read for any homeschool mom.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Update and explanation

So, a while ago both my husband's computer and my computer had some issues. Without a computer it's nearly impossible to blog. And silly me, the only copy of my study schedule was on my blog. But I have a whole list of books that I want to read, and when our computers were down, I went to the library and checked out a bunch of them. So I've not been idle. I wanted to finish them, so although my computer has been running, I have still been reading them. I will work on putting up a summary and what I learned for each book soon. Then I will finally get back to my study schedule ...