Homeschooling

Handcart list- language arts box

We live in pioneer country; this list is a result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on language arts and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery level-

  • McGuffey’s Readers (Revised Edition, set of seven books)- the Primer begins with the alphabet and very basic beginning reading.  The books progress through to the Sixth Reader, which is a great text for teaching vocabulary, comprehension, elocution, and vocal reading on a high school level.  I have used the books as readers,  a dictation source,  presentation pieces, and a resource for excerpts to incorporate into our history study.
  • McGuffey’s Speller- The companion to the McGuffey Readers, this book covers spelling lists beginning with basic reading/spelling words through vocabulary for high school learners.  I don’t have my students study every word on every list.  Some are archaic, and unnecessary; others are already known by the students, and can be skipped.  The lists in the back of the book contains foreign words and words that are not used every day.  These lists are some of my favorites.  Look them up in a dictionary, and you can have a vocabulary list for Mom for that week!
  • Phonics rule flash cards- the English language is much more phonetic than most people think.  Over 90% of the words we use follow phonics rules, and if your children are taught  the sounds of each letter and the rules that govern that letter, reading and writing will be so much simpler.  Phonogram cards should have both the sounds for the individual letters and the rules for them, as well as the sounds and rules for the most common blends i.e. “ea”, “th”, “ough”, etc.
  • Reading phone- two elbows, and one straight 3 inch piece of PVC makes one of the handiest reading/elocution tools ever!  Put them together so they look like a phone receiver and talk into it.  If your young one is struggling to move from decoding to fluency, or your teen needs help cleaning up the “um”, “like”, and “you know” from there public speaking pieces, have them speak into it as they talk.  They will be able to hear themselves clearly; it will make smoothing things out much easier.  My daughter even discovered that having her son use it on the days when he can’t seem to “quiet down” works wonders.  He can hear how loud he actually is and is able to correct it.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.  Use these with older discovery learners.
  • Mad-Libs- I love these priceless, silly gems in tablet form.  You can find them at book stores, second-hand, or on the web.  Help your children learn the proper terms for the various parts of speech as you giggle your way through these fill-in stories.  I am still giving them as gifts to my adult children.  They are just fun.
  • Lots of paper (lined and unlined), pencils, erasers, crayons- having the tools for writing, creating, and experimenting with letters and words encourages growth;  not having them can prove to be frustrating to Moms and budding authors.  Doesn’t look good?  No problem.  Toss it, and start over.
  • Quality picture books- look for well-constructed phrases, clear pictures, and text that is fun to read.  Illustrations can be watercolor, photographs, pencil drawings, or any other media.  Be aware of harsh, creepy, or distasteful pictures, or texts that are mindless, dark, or introduce unsavory topics.

Analysis level-

  • 1828 Webster’s Dictionary- the ORIGINAL American Dictionary.  Definitions change with time and usage.  In order to understand what was meant in centuries’ old documents, you need a dictionary that defines words the way they were defined when used.  Make use of it when studying early European or American documents/speeches, or even your scriptures.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.
  • Solid literature- There is so much great literature out there.  From board books to the classic books for adult reading, there is no way to read it all.  Don’t even try.  Not everyone will fall in love with the same book, or author, or genre; that is as it should be.  Dabble a bit, and find the ones that you love, just make sure that it is good reading, not twaddle.   Does it connect with you on an emotional level?  Does it teach you something?  Does it have real words, complex sentences, and require thought?  Then enjoy!  Leave the dumbed-down, dark, and junky books alone.  Don’t waste your time.  Great reads are out there!
  • Lit. cube- I have two.  One for discovery learners.  One for older learners.  Using them can encourage discussion about the books you are reading, and can take the fear out of writing about them.  (See post dated 4/12/2013 on Lit. Cubes for full instruction.)

Application level-

  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White- This small book will help keep your writing clean, clear, and readable.  It covers the fundamentals of writing better than anything else I have found.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.
  • Classic literature- See solid literature above.
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Homeschooling

Handcard list- history box

We live in pioneer country; this list is a result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on history and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

All levels

  • A timeline- timelines allow for review each time they are used.  They organize  human history into an intelligible series of causes and effects, and allow for connections to be made.   There are some massive pre-printed timelines available for purchase (and they can be very helpful).  I recommend creating one as you study.  Whether it is on your wall or in a binder, building a timeline as you learn about people and places takes on the feeling of putting a great puzzle together.  Take apart old books, and encyclopedias which have boring texts, and use the maps, pictures, and documents to add interest to your timeline.
  • Biographies- learn about the heroes who made great decisions and, consequently, changes for the better throughout history.  Read about their less-than-stellar decisions and the resulting effects.  We need to have an understanding of the principles of this life, not just a knowledge of celebrities.
  • Well-written history books- textbooks are a dry, uninteresting way to learn history.  Look for books with great narratives, engaging photographs, and accurate information.  Read primary source materials, and draw your own conclusions.

Discovery level

  • Books by Genevieve Foster- I have never found one of her books that was not worth reading.  Foster’s writing style is easy-going, and informative.  Definitely a favorite among my family members!
  • The Story of Mankind series by Olive Beaupre Miller- currently out-of-print.  I have found copies of the series at used book sellers and on the internet.  Another good narrative.
  • America is My Country  by Brown, Guadagnolo-  found this at a used book clearing house.  Great information on American symbols and patriotic themes.
  • Books from the Childhood of Famous American series- written for middle grades, but my teenagers loved reading them “just for fun”.  Focuses on the early years of men and women who accomplished great things for America.  Some have been republished; many are out of print.
  • Books from the If You Had Lived….. series- published by Scholastic.  This series asks and answers questions about various time periods, and events in history (What did they eat aboard the Mayflower?  Did the pioneers have fun? Etc.)  Informative, and engaging.
  • Dover history coloring books- Dover Publishing produces lots of coloring books in various subjects, but my favorites are those relating to history.  I use them in conjunction with historical read-alouds.  Photo-copy a picture from the book (I only use the books as a master) and the kids can color while I read.  Great for visual, and kinesthetic learners!

Analysis level

  • 1828 Webster’s Dictionary- the first dictionary published for American English.  When you are reading original, founding documents and speeches it is invaluable.  The definitions of words change over time, and having a source that references how those who helped create our nation understood things makes all the difference in the world.  It is also very helpful when reading scriptures.
  • The Story of Mankind series by Olive Beaupre Miller- (see note in “all levels”)  These books cover early human life through the explorers.  I like the narrative style in these books.  I use the portions that apply to what we are currently working on; I do not read them straight through as read-alouds.  They do require something like the Eyewitness Books from DK publishing for visuals.  There are few illustrations to accompany the text.
  • Books from the American and World Landmark history series- written for late elementary and junior high school-aged youth.  These books are interesting, well-researched, and much-loved.  They cover both historical events, and individuals in history.  Some are back in print currently.   I have found many of them through second-hand sources.
  • DK World History Encyclopedia– Great overview for world history.  Does contain some evolutionary information (we simply start further on in the text).  Use the two page spreads for outlining basic information, and supplement with biographies, maps, and other sources for in-depth study.
  • Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury- Love this book!  If you have ever wanted to understand the basics of economics, this book covers it in a simple, easy-to-understand format.  Ten year-olds can understand the information, but Maybury’s writing style is interesting enough for adults to enjoy the books (see below) as well.  A MUST READ!
  • Whatever Happened to Justice? by Richard J. Maybury- Same style as above.  This book explains the genesis for common law, and how our legal system has evolved including the difference between scientific, and common law.  Fascinating!  *NOTE*  Richard Maybury has written numerous other books.  I enjoyed the first four in the Uncle Eric series.  The later ones are interesting reads, and thought-provoking, but not as highly recommended (at least, not by me). Maybury has decided views on history and I disagree with many political, and social stands he takes, i.e. we should have stayed out of WWII, etc.
  • Sunday Editorial page (newspaper)- Read with your youth to help them as they become more aware of current issues.  Discuss the views expressed, and help your young people develop the ability to express a well-worded opinion.

Application level

  • A Basic History of the United States  by Clarence Carson- currently out-of-print.  I have found it on Amazon, and Ebay.  Carson’s history is clear, politically incorrect, and well-written.  There is a teacher’s guide available which I found helpful for discussion. (Often I don’t bother with teacher’s guides.)   While I do not endorse everything this author has written, I found this set to be helpful and easy-to-use.
  • Are You Liberal? Conservative? or Confused? by Richard Maybury- Not sure what all the labels in our political system mean?  This book explains the labels, and the philosophies of past, and present parties, and potential effects for businesses and the economy.
  • Evaluating Books: What Would Thomas Jefferson Think About This? by Richard Maybury- Learning to be a discerning reader is vital for everyone.  This book deals with the various philosophical slants of different writers, and gives suggestions of things against which to guard as you choose books for yourself and your family.
  • The Making of America and Study Guide number one, published through the National Center for Constitutional Studies.  The book is divided into halves.  The first half discusses the Founding Fathers; the second half discusses The Constitution.  If you are interested in what the writers of The Constitution thought, wrote, and said, this book is for you.
Homeschooling

The reason we study history

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided and that is the lamp of experience.  I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.   –Patrick Henry

I hear from so many moms who dread history.  I remember taking it in school, and it was definitely on the bottom of my list of preferences!  Here are some thoughts that might help make it FUN! (If you are unfamiliar with the different learning stages, check out my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

History is the story of anything that has ever happened.  Science, art, music, religious history, family history all contribute to the history of the human family.

Use good books-real books-rather than textbooks for your history study.  Biographies, auto-biographies, family histories, scriptural history, historical fiction, maps; documents and speeches are great places to find inspiring and edifying stories.  Scour second-hand stores, grandma’s attic, sales, etc. for great finds.  Before you spend money, ask around or check resource lists to find history worth reading and re-reading.  Some older books may have uninspiring texts but wonderful pictures.  Save the pictures for a time line and discard the text.  Look at maps, atlases, photographs, literature, or the arts and music of the period and/or region you are studying, or the books will have great information but no illustrations.  Find related pictures in other books and combine them to help bring history alive.  Help your children see that all people are worth our understanding and respect.

Many have found it helpful to study history in a four year rotation.  Ancient history, medieval and renaissance/reformation, early modern history, late modern is a fairly common division.  Our family adds summer units on anything not given enough time during the school year.  Constitutional studies, worldviews, religious history are just a few things we have found can use extra attention.  Having a plan lessens the probability that one time period will be studied at the expense of another.  (i.e. American history without world history, or getting stuck on the Civil War and never moving on to the 20th Century, for example.)

All levels

Memorize poetry, speeches or short documents.   Perform scenes from history in period dress.

Play the games of previous eras.  Try foods from different ages and cultures.

Study the origins of the holidays we celebrate.  Study the special celebrations of other cultures and times.

Cook unfamiliar foods.  Listen to music that corresponds with what you are studying.  Learn to identify different cultures and periods through the senses.

Interview someone with a first-hand account of events you are studying.  The Depression, the Second World War, the home front during war-time.  Write it down!  Take pictures!  Or make up questions to ask those in the more distant past and research to find answers.  Hold a Q &A dressed in the costume of the time.  What did they learn?  What was hardest?  What do they miss?

Keep a written time line to help younger children understand the passage of time. (Grandpa, Martin Luther and George Washington did NOT all live at the same time.)  It also orders events as you learn, helps you understand how events relate to one another, and is a way to review what you have covered in a moment.

Discovery level

Dress up and re-enact famous (or not so famous) events of the past.

Read biographies.  Our children need more heroes!  We live in a day of celebrities; we need to find true heroes to learn about and emulate. Helping them see what made great people great can encourage correct choices and character development.  Help them start their autobiography.

Study maps of various times.  Draw some with changes in political divisions or include voyages, battles, etc.

Focus on the basics of the history.  Save negative or controversial topics for older learners!

Analysis level

Now is the time to begin writing papers and researching events in history.  Begin by aiming for two-three pages per week (or so) of researched, relevant, cohesive writing.

Look for documents, drawings, and maps in their original form.    Writing and printing changed over centuries.   Try reproducing some methods used in the past.

Study maps and geography as you study history.  Political boundaries change.  Our world evolves in surprising ways.

Outlining a short section of a book helps with study skills and retention.  The two page sections in a DK or Kingfisher History book are great for this.

Look at relationships between events in history.  Discuss how they interrelate.  (Example-the American, French and Russian Revolutions are all within a relatively short time.)

Have a history notebook with a time line and a place for longer reports and papers.

Get and use a copy of the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.  Definitions change with usage.  Some words fall out of use.  To read what Washington really meant in his Farewell Address you may well need it.  Scripture study reaches new depths as you use it!

Study current events.  Introduce the “tweenies” to the world around them and some of the issues they will face.

Remember how young these children are.  Use wisdom in introducing troubling events-the Holocaust, the terrors of war, the darker side of slavery, etc.-to your family.  It may be wiser to save these topics until your children are a little older.  There will be time.

Application level

Read primary sources from the various times and place.  Use an 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.

Read the literature, mythology, and poetry.  Read speeches and philosophy.  And talk, talk, talk.

Write papers using argument and opinion.  Learn to make comparisons and to express viewpoints with clarity.  Write a letter to the editor or become involved in cause you feel strongly about.

Learn about our Constitution, and the laws of other lands.  Read the Richard Maybury “Uncle Eric” books if you haven’t already.  Become aware of how government works and what our part is in it.  They’ll be voting soon.

This is the time for your adult-in-training to internalize the deeper lessons of history.

Homeschooling

Routines vs. schedules, part 2

When my children were at home, I think everyone’s favorite part of the academic day was “group time.”  We would gather for our morning devotional, pledge, and work on as much together as differing ages and such would allow.  Here is a very general outline of what it entailed.

Group time:

Poetry-No big plan.  Just pulled a book of the shelf and read one or two poems.  Sometimes they were nonsense; sometimes they were a more serious work.  Nothing morbid/too deep for early learners.  Not everyone will love poetry, but everyone should be given the chance to hear it.

History reading-A passage from whichever book we are currently using.  This was often accompanied by a book with great illustrations/photographs to help the visual learners.  Often they would color a picture as I read.  (Dover coloring books-doverpublishing.com-were great resources for this.)

Character or ethics study-We would discuss manners, courtesy, heroes, or whatever Mom felt she needed to address in a non-confrontational format.  Sometimes I would use a picture book or fable.  Sometimes we would pull things from the scriptures or history.  A VITAL part of our school day!

Drill-3×5 cards are a must for the way we schooled.  Classical education requires foundational concepts be memorized, and flashcards are one of the easiest ways to do that!  States/capitols, presidents, phonograms, Latin and Greek roots, scientific facts, you name it.  Younger children often memorize more quickly than older ones, so this can be a great time for them to shine!

Memorization work-Poetry, scriptures, music, quotes.  Fill their bucket with the words and images of those who can help them in good times or bad.  What will they sing as they watch the sunrise over the mountain for the first time?  Whose words will come to them as they face the next mountain?

Literature reading-Picture books.  Chapter books.  Great literature is sometimes best shared as a family.  Some books we read for fun (see blog on our favorite read-aloud books).  Some we read as part of our academic studies-and for fun.  If your children have a hard time sitting still as you read, try allowing them to color, or build with legos, or dance.  If they are kinesthetic, they will learn more that way!

Hands-on activities-If you are going to make a mess, you may as well involve everyone!  Try to have something for each child to do so that they can all contribute.

Whatever Mom wants to throw into the mix-The above list is in no way comprehensive.  Add life skills, other academics, or whatever you feel would benefit your own children.  After all, you are the Mom!

Once group time was over, everyone needed to finish their individual lists.  I have included the subjects I assigned for each level.  (For more information on learning levels, check the archives on this blog.)

Individual work for discovery learners:

Penmanship/copy work

Oral narration

Basic grammar study

Spelling

Hands-on math and science

Science collections

Reading-with Mom or individually

Learning games

Art or music

Scripture study

History, math or science bio

Chores with an older helper

Individual work for analysis learners:

Penmanship book with quotes or poetry

Narration

Outlining

Hands-on activities

Reading for history, science, literature, etc.

Grammar study

Logic study

Vocabulary/syntax study

Current events

Mathematics

Art or music

Scripture study

Latin or other language study

Chores

Individual work for application learners:

Upper level mathematics

Continuing logic study

Writing, writing, and more writing

Reading, reading, and more reading

Prep for the SAT/ACT

Great literature

Primary source history

Real-life experience

Chores