It seems that technology is the theme of our week. My oldest son has been working off and on to buy a wiiU but when he finally save up enough money last year to buy it, we found out that the wiiU was no longer being produced because it was being replaced with the Nintendo Switch. Long story short, we talked him out of ordering the last wiiU in California and encouraged him to be patient and wait for the Switch, which finally arrived at our doorstep this week. He's been spending most of his allotted screen time playing the new Zelda game, but when he puts on Snipperclips to play with his little brother and sister, I hear nothing but belly laughs coming from the living room while I cook dinner.
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The sun has been out and the winter doldroms have finally left my house. My son commented the other day, "I have the same amount of school work, but I just seem to be finishing it so much faster!"
I'm so excited that it's finally time to plant my summer garden. The first tomatoes off of the vine are something we all get excited about!
My baby drew "a guy" and isn't this one of the cutest first stick figures ever! He even has hair and feet!
We explored some trails not far from our home. Aren't they gorgeous--so many shades of green!
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The latest book that I've started reading is Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall and I am thouroughly enjoying it. I had read his book Born to Run previously and was fascinated. Born to Run explores the capacity humans have for extreme endurance running and centers on a race staged between some of the greatest living endurance runners and a tribe of native Mexican runners in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. Born to Run made me want to toss my running shoes and run.
Natural Born Heroes explores the human capacity for heroism. This book specifically focuses on a band of resistance fighters composed of rag tag Cretians descended from the culture that produced Odysseus, Achilles, and Hercules, farm boys from New Zeland, and British professors and poets who had spent their life studying the heroic epics and were dropped behind enemy lines to cause havoc. This unlikely group of heroes made a stand against a Nazi invasion of elite forces that were specially trained, heavily armed, and given a dose of meth-like drugs before being dropped onto the island of Crete. Then they went and kidnapped the head of the Nazi forces on the island. McDougall doesn't just tell their story, he explores how what they did was even humanly possible, which is a different take than most books like this. So far it's a fascinating read.
I have been Singapore Math with my oldest son starting with level 3B and we are currently on level 6B. Since level 6 is a little different than the previous levels, I thought that I'd write about what I've learned about Singapore 6 based on my experience with the program. If you scroll to the end of the article, I also show some of the math programs that I am considering for next year.
Both books of Singapore 6 can be completed in a single semester
The reason for the shortSingapore 6 program is that year 6 is a testing year in Singapore, so a lot of review and test prep happens. While Singapore 6 does contain many review topics, they are not "easy" reviews, rather they take the same topics to a more challenging level. (On a side note, I think it's important to note that Singapore kids are some of the top students in the world and they aren't subjected to test pressure every. single. year.)
If your student struggles in Singapore 4 or 5, like many students do, the short books of level 6 leave room to go sideways and take time to get those challenging concepts down before moving on. (I really like this series for working on difficult concepts.) Even if you and your student fall a half a year behind, you can catch up in sixth grade. And if you fall even further behind, that's OK too because:
Singapore 6 is well ahead of the US math sequence
If you look at this chart, especially in the latter grades, you will see that the course of study in Singapore Math is more advanced than what is expected of public school students in the the US under Common Core.
The word problems in Singapore 6 are challenging
Granted, all of Singapore Math's word problems are challenging, but the ones in level six seem to be even more challenging than the previous books. You will really have to think through them and do several steps to find the solution, which is a good thing. However, you may want to buy the teacher's manual if you aren't confident in your math skills.
The Teacher's Manual is different than the HIG you may be used to
While many of the same elements are present, the set up is a little different. While it has the same elements as the HIG, it is geared for classroom teaching. Except for the answers, I'm hardly using the Teacher's Manual at all. As a matter of fact, I didn't even order the teacher's manual for 6B.
Some homeschoolers skip Singapore 6 and go straight to prealgebra
This seems fat to me but they feel like level 6 is too short and they also believe their kids are ready for an early start on the advanced math sequence.
Other homeschoolers go straight to Algebra after Singapore 6
I learned this fact from the Well Trained Mind forums. Not all of them do, of course, but since Singapore 6 covers many of the concepts covered in a traditional American pre-algebra course, they feel comfortable diving into Algebra, especially with a textbook that has enough review at the beginning.
Of course, many homeschoolers do Singapore 6 and then go on to pre-algebra or 7th grade math
This is what we are doing. Even though my son has done the work that qualifies him to move on to advanced math, I feel that he needs another year before starting Algebra and then all of the other classes that follow.
There are a lot of other options on what math program to use after Singapore 6B
One thing that I am loving about the Singapore Math program is that it sets students up to succeed in a variety of math programs. You can continue with Singapore's middle school series, go straight to a supportive Algebra textbook, or go on to a formal pre-algebra program. Here are a few potential directions that you can go after Singapore 6 with math programs that are marketed to homeschoolers.
Singapore 6 isn't really that much different from the rest of the Singapore Math Program
I love Singapore Math because in a short amount of time, I can teach a challenging concept and have my son understand it enough to work independently. (And I love short lessons!) I like that the workbooks challenge the students without requiring them to do dozens and dozens of problems. I also love that I feel like my son is well prepared for the upper levels of math!
To learn more about Singapore Math, visit their website.
Read More from Freely Learned
The week before last, I wrote about taking an hour of deep down, sabbath and scholé type rest every day. This week I'm pondering what real, renewing rest looks like.
Perhaps spending an hour exerting minimal possible effort is not rest at all. Who, after all, is truly rested after a session of phone scrolling or binge watching a new show?
Perhaps rest is spending an hour doing something you really and truly are good at so that you can grow in your gifts to be the person God made you to be.
Perhaps rest is living part of the day in the presence of beauty...
Perhaps rest isn't stillness, but movement forward on a path just to see what is around the corner.
Perhaps rest is trying to create something that captures a moment, even though you know that you'll never come close to making your hand obey the vision in your head.
Perhaps rest is combining knowledge and creativity to make something new and meaningful, even if it is only for yourself
Perhaps rest is falling to our knees in the dust where we can cast our troubles at the feet of the One who promised to bear our burdens for us so when we rise up it will be in the power of the One who can do more that we can ask or imagine.
Perhaps rest isn't stopping, but growing and becoming whole.
Thank you for reading. If you didn't read my first article on daily sabbath rests for busy moms, check it out here.
For Further Reading:
We try to make sure that we get our kids out of our usual area at least once a month so last weekend we drove to the foothills to see Daffodil Hill. Daffodil Hill is a private ranch that opens its gates once a year to tourists for daffodil season:
Now that we are nearing the final stretch of the year, homeschooling has fallen into a comfortable routine. I realized that I am a bit behind our history schedule compared to where I want to be. We are only in the middle of studying the Greeks and I was hoping to be onto the Romans for the last part of the year. Of course, I'm stressing where I don't need to be stressing, because whatever I don't finish, I can pick up next year. Anyway, I like the Greeks better than the Romans so I guess it will be OK if I abbreviate that unit.
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I was wandering the bookstore and came across the title Of Other Worlds by CS Lewis and was delighted when I found out that it was a collection of his essays about stories. I think these essays focus specifically on historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. But I haven't had a chance to read it yet since I'm in the middle of several other books. Anyhow, I bought it and I'm excited to read it. The end.
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In case you missed it, this week I wrote about the importance of a knowledge based education. Subjects like literature, history, and science aren't just nice things to know about, they are also an important foundation for reading skills and critical thinking.
Linked to Weekly Wrap Up
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Technology is remarkable. On my phone, I can access a dictionary, a calculator, weather and traffic reports, the Bible, the news, what people are thinking about any given topic at this very moment, a field guide, a whole library of eBooks, and of course, if I don't know the answer to a question, I can just ask Siri to google it.
With all of that knowledge accessible from my phone, why learn anything at all?
I recently reread an article titled "How Knowledge Helps" by Daniel T Willingham, who is the author of a whole slew of books about how people learn and education in America. During a time when I was researching what really worked in education, I was influenced enough by the conclusions of articles like this and books like The Knowledge Deficit, by E D Hirsch to make more time in our homeschool day for literature, history, and science than I did for the three Rs.
A wide base of general knowledge is key to unlocking the doors of learning. Here are a few takeaways from "How Knowledge Helps" to support why:
Knowledge is Essential for Reading Comprehension
"The ability to read a text and make sense of it is highly correlated to background knowledge." --from "How Knowledge Helps" by Daniel T Willingham
When I read, there is a wide gap in my understanding of topics that I know about and topics I don't know much about at all despite the fact that my reading ability is very high. I can read a play by Shakespeare with better comprehension than a scientific article written in modern English because of the presence or lack of background knowledge.
If I were to read several recaps of sporting events, I would understand an article about baseball better than an article about football. And I would understand the football article better than the article about cricket.
Kids are no different than adults. They read with greater understanding when they already know the topic they are reading about. Is your child into dinosaurs, astronomy, or birds? She probably is a stronger reader on that topic than she is on any other scientific topic.
"People with rich general knowledge rarely have to interrupt reading in order to consciously search for connections." --from "How Knowledge Helps" by Daniel T Willingham
General knowledge means not having to google a fact or a definition in the middle of reading just to understand what is going on. When we can read uninterrupted, we understand more and learn more.
A Base of Knowledge Makes Future Learning Easier
"(Knowledge) makes learning easier. Knowledge is not only cumulative, it grows exponentially. Those with a rich base of factual knowledge find it easier to learn more--the rich get richer." --from "How Knowledge Helps" by Daniel T Willingham
The child who learned about the history of Ancient Israel in sunday school will have an easier time fitting the histories of Ancient Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece, and Rome into his understanding of ancient history, because all of their histories are intertwined.
A child well acquainted with mythology through a book like D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, will have an easier time understanding many literary allusions in literature and poetry.
A child with knowledge of the natural world around her will have a much easier time when she studies biology formally that a child who does not have similar experience.
Simply knowing something about a subject makes it more likely that new knowledge will "stick."
Knowledge is a Prerequisite for Critcal Thinking
"If we want our students to think critically, they must have something to think about." --from "How Knowledge Helps" by Daniel T Willingham
In other words, if you don't know anything, you really don't have much to think about. Workbooks and activities that promote critical thinking skills are generally bunk since they are usually separated from the real building of the knowledge base for actual critical thinking.
In real life, we can't critically think about something that we know nothing about. I can't throw together a dinner with whatever-is-in-the-fridge if I don't have a basic knowledge of cooking. I can't pop the hood of my car and figure out what is making that weird sound if I have no knowledge of the inner workings of cars. I can't form a real opinion on the daily news if I don't have a knowledge of politics and history. Day to day life requires critical thinking and problem solving to make it through and without the right knowledge, we can't think or problem solve our way through life.
Application: What I do to Ensure My Kids have a Broad Base of Knowledge
I adopted Charlotte Mason style short lessons around the same time I decided that I was going to make sure that my kids had a content rich education. This ensured that I could hit every subject, every day and still be done by lunch.
Being exposed to a wide variety of books is the best way to increase a child's knowledge. We visit the library weekly, and for my younger kids I check out a variety of picture books from a variety of sections including: general picture books, folktales and fairy tales, natural science, art and hobbies, poetry, and history.
My my oldest son loves reading about imaginary worlds, funny stories about kids his age, war stories, and mythology. When I plan his reading list for the school year, I intentionally include types of books and topics he wouldn't pick up on his own such as, biographies, historical fiction, and classic children's literature.
I also cycle through eras of history and science topics with the whole family so we can build a broad base of knowledge that will be foundational to the rest of their education.
For Further Reading
ED Hirsch Jr also addresses the need for a knowledge based education in The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children
I really want to read the book When Can You Trust the Experts?: How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education, by Daniel T Willingham because I am so tired of seeing crazy educational practices that are supposedly "research based" but in real life seem to be confusing students.
Thanks for reading!
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This post is linked to: Hip Homeschool Moms and Homeschool Blog and Tell
My baby boy turned four this week. I feel like I can think of a three year old as my baby, but a four year old, I have to think of as my little boy.
He wanted to do just what his big brother did for his last birthday so we played laser tag. Since he's not big enough to carry all of the laser tag gear himself, my husband and I took turns carrying his pack while he carried the laser. Of course, that was followed by dinner and cake and presents and the usual birthday joy.
We spent a lot of time outside this week with the extra daylight time. Am I the only one who likes daylight savings? One of my boy's favorite presents was the Y Glider scooter we bought him. Our daughter had the same scooter, but in pink. We like it for young kids because it's easy for kids to learn to ride, hard for them to fall off of, and fast enough to be fun!
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We have been studying the same topics and using the same books that we did in February, but the sun is out this month and everyone is so much happier and productive.
Our favorite read aloud right now is Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick.
We have had some laugh out loud moments as we learn about the fascinating life of one of the greatest minds of all time and his contributions to science. This book has sparked more conversation than any other read aloud we have used this year. The science is so well explained, too, which I appreciate as a non-sciencey person.
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I have several books going at once. I am finding that I read more often if I have a few to choose from. These are the titles I have on my bedstand and kindle app:
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
The Scartett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (this one's a freebie for Kindle)
Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
Home Education by Charlotte Mason
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This week, I wrote abouthow I am helping my very dysgraphic son write somewhat legibly in notebooks and I also wrote about taking a little time everyday for myself for real rest (the Sabbath/Schole type of rest we need.)
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I hit the end of last week and I was exhausted. In addition to five days of cycling through my typical duties of feeding my family, running a homeschool, keeping the house and yard clean enough, transporting to and from activities, and monitoring my kid's behavior and hygiene, I also had a couple of evenings where my husband was home really late from work , a birthday to plan for, a math unit that turned out to be much harder that I hand anticipated, and we had just been camping, so I had the after camping chores to do, too. I was on my feet for nearly five days straight and the work still wasn't done. It's no wonder I could barely think by the time Friday rolled around so I texted my husband to please plan on my not being around for a stretch of time on Saturday.
After a walk and a visit to the bookstore, my mind cleared enough to realize that I had not taken a single hour during the week to just read a book or write a little or draw a picture or sit in the garden to soak up some sunshine and enjoy the signs of spring. I had neither renewed my mind nor my soul.
I needed rest. Not the zone out on the couch with the TV or smartphone type of relaxing that is merely an escape from life, but the deep soul rest that Christians call Sabbath and classical educators call scholé. I thought about how I could work in a little scholé time in during the week.
A couple of friends in college had introduced me to the concept of a 24 hour Sabbath, where a person could choose a 24 hour block of time, preferably overlapping Sunday church services, during which no regular work (such as studying or a job) could be done. If you started your Sabbath after dinner Saturday night, you would have 24 hours of rest before hitting the books on Sunday evening. I tested out the 24 hour Sabbath before I committed to it, and after a few week of getting a lot of work done while always having a Sunday to devote to leisure, I was sold and kept a Sabbath all through college.
As a full time mom, a 24 hour Sabbath would be impossible for my work was always before me as I had young kids who need feeding, and dressing, and bathing, and loving attention whether it was Tuesday or Sunday.
The Lord models rest for us in the very first chapter of Genesis. He creates for six days and on the seventh he rests. Later, we read in the Gospels that Jesus spends his days healing and preaching and spending time with children, but he also slips away from the crowds to pray. If the God of the universe takes time to rest, perhaps I should, too.
God shows us that there is a proper cycle of work and leisure. Work is followed by rest. The next round of work should not start until rest has been taken.
What if, within each 24 hour period, I were to carve out one hour for rest for every six hours of work? What would my day look like if I intentionally followed a schedule of work and rest? It would probably look something like this schedule where I the leisure time is blue and the work time is orange:
6:00 Quiet. Coffee. Read the Bible. Pray. Journal. Read.
7:00-1:00 Breakfast. Dishes. Get kids ready for the day. Homeschool. Laundry. Lunch. Dishes.
1:00-2:00 Read or Paint or Write or Gather a bouquet of flowers or Talk to a friend or Sit in the sun and daydream.
2:00-8:00 Laundry. Clean. Exercise. Plan. Make phone calls. Dinner. Baths. Put kids to bed.
8:00-10:00 Get ready for bed. Talk to husband. Read. Watch a show.
That hour of rest in the middle of the day is huge, but I have to be intentional not to flop on the couch and waste time on Instagram because even though it occupies my attention, it is not restful.
Without that carefully placed hour of leisure in the middle of the schedule, my day would probably look something like this:
6:00 Drag myself out of bed to read the Bible and hopefully pray.
7:00-8:00 Breakfast. Dishes. Get kids ready for the day. Homeschool. Laundry. Lunch. Dishes. More laundry. Clean. Plan. Be grumpy. Forget something. Dinner. Baths. Put kids to bed.
8:00-11:00 Get ready for bed. Complain to husband. Instagram. Watch a show. Stay up too late.
The first schedule is so much better than the second and I can say so because I've tested both. I've probably spent far too many days following the rest-less schedule than the first, but the days when I follow the first are so much better.
Linked to: Monday Musings, Mommy Monday, Hip Homeschool Moms and Homeschool Blog and Tell
Stay tuned for part 2 where I write about adding rest to your student's homeschool days.
For Further Reading
One of the reasons I began homeschooling my oldest son was that, despite being a bright kid, he was shutting down in school due to his struggles with severe dysgraphia. This post highlights just a little of what I have done to help him learn with dysgraphia.
One of the biggest challenges with helping a dysgraphic student is getting him to the point where he can write legibly and independently.
While my dysgraphic son will happily write stories and comics for fun (he wants to be an author someday), it is difficult for anyone to read what he has written.
While typing is the best option for accommodating dysgphia, I consider being able to write with a pencil or pen an essential skill for learning and communicating. Keeping a notebook of research and ideas is such an effective tool for lifelong learning. No computer program or phone/tablet app comes close to the creative power of a pen and pencil.
So I am on a journey to help my son be able to write legibly enough to be able to read his own writing. The biggest success I have had helping my son write legibly was the day I handed him a graph paper notebook and instructed him to put one letter inside of each square.
In the same day his handwriting went from this journal entry on presidents day:
To this science notebook entry later in the day:
You can see that the top example is a jumbled mess of letters. His dysgraphia makes it hard for him to stay on the lines and space his letters. The second example, while he still couldn't stay on the lines, he could more or less stay in the box. The spacing took care of itself. I was ecstatic that he could write a short narration that was also readable, that I did a happy mom dance. Since then, graph paper has been a life saver for us. We use graph paper for math and his science notebook (pictured above) and a few other things. (I have found 4 squares per inch graph paper to be the best to help with handwriting.)
We have recently added a commonplace book to my son's set of learning tools, mainly because it was a part of Writing and Rhetoric Book 6. Otherwise, I would have put it off a couple of years since legible handwriting would seem to be a prerequisite to that type of book.
For his commonplace book, I decided to simultaneously work on writing on lined paper with him. Thankfully, I have figured out a way for him to keep a legible commonplace book without making him feel like I'm helping him too much.
I very lightly write out my son's commonplace passage for him in pencil and he traces it with pencil. This becomes his handwriting practice since he still has issues forming some letters and with placing words on regular, lined paper. I'm hoping this practice will help him get a feel for writing on lined paper and spacing correctly between letters and words. You can see the difference between what he traces and what he writes on his own below.
I leave a space after each entry so he can either rewrite the passage in his own words, comment on the passage, or interpret the passage however he chooses.
As you can see, he always chooses to write a short comic illustrating the truth of the passage.
This is just a little of what I do to help my son learn well with dysgraphia. I hope to write more about dysgraphia and homeschooling in the near future.
If you are interested in notebooking with a dysgraphic student, I have a set of 1 centimeter square notebook pages available at teachers pay teachers for young elementary students. I also have a set for upper elementary and middle school students with a smaller grid.
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Linked to Hip Homeschool Moms, Monday Musings, Mommy Monday, Keeping Company and Homeschool Blog and Tell
I have determined that I would be very unhappy if I lived any further north than I do. Another month without regular intervals of warm sunshine would be too rough on my mental health. Happily, spring is coming even though it seems like the clouds keep rolling in.
We managed to go on a short camping trip to Half Moon Bay this past weekend and were graced with better weather than was forecasted for the weekend. On the day we left, we battled rain, hail, and high winds as we packed up to go home. A few pictures from the fair weather end of our trip:
Meanwhile, on the homeschool front, I have been thinking ahead to what math program to move my son to next year since he will be done with the Singapore Math elementary series. Do I press forward with Singapore's middle school program which is an integrated math program where he will end up somewhere between Geometry and Algebra II when he finishes in 8th grade? Do I leave Singapore and go straight to pre-Algebra (and then which one?) or work on math skills for a year in a 7th grade math before moving on to pre-Algebra next year? Grrr. Too many choices!
I am pretty much settled on putting my daughter in Singapore Math for her first grade year. We did the first half of Saxon 1 for her kindergarten year. I don't like the teacher's manual because it's bulky and scripted and she doesn't like the workbook pages because they are all kind of the same. Right now we are doing the daily hands on activity and one side of every other workbook page. She also does an online math program called ST Math that we have a subscription to through our charter school. It's cute and fun and involves a lot of problem solving.
I really need an hour sans kids in a bookstore or a library so I can make a list of books I want to read. The booktable at Costco hasn't been cutting it lately. In the mornings, I have been working through this read through the Bible in a year plan...for almost two years now. But I'm almost done with it, so yay!
Lately, I feel like going through some of the classics that I read in high school and college just to see what I get out of them with, ahem, two more decades of life experience under my belt. On my phone, I am reading The Scarlett Letter but got bogged down in the first part. There is an awful lot of rambling before the actual story of Hester Prynne even starts. While the writing was interesting, part I left me not that excited to open my Kindle app when so many other apps were right there.
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When it comes to finding supplements for history lessons, my best friend is the library and my second best friend is Amazon. Of course, the reason for that is that reading a book is far easier, less expensive, and less messy than doing a hands on project. Here are some of my favorite picture books for learning Greek History with my kiddos.
Short quotes from Socrates are interwoven thoroughout his life story in the picture book, Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates by MD Usher. For older students, historical information is included in side "scrolls."
Young Pythagoras is always working out the problems he sees in the world around him sith math in What's Your Angle Pythagoras and Pythagoras and the Ratios by Julie Ellis.
The Librarian who Measured the Earth tells the story of Eratosthenes his life of curiosity and his great accomplishment of figuring out the circumference of the Earth.
A gorgeously illustrated work to introduce children to Homer's most famous work is The Odyssey adapted by Rosemary Sutcliff, illustrated by Alan Lee (originally called The Wanderings of Odysseus)
Also check out the gorgeously illustrated The Illiad by Rosemary Sutcliff, illustrated by Alan Lee (also called Black Ships Before Troy)
The Trojan Horse is a simplified version of the Illiad for independent readers.
I admire all works by Demi and Alexander the Great is no exception. It is a well written and well illustrated book.
Pegasus is a lovely retelling of the Greek myth.
Atlanta's Race by Shirley Climo is another enjoyable tale for listeners of all ages.
"Is this a story or poetry?" my daughter asked when I first began reading D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. If you buy one book from this list for your library, choose this one.
I saved the best for last! The Hero and the Minotaur is a fabulously illustrated retelling of the legend of Theseus. I probably had more fun reading it than my kids had listening to it!
How about you?
What are your favorite illustrated books about ancient Greek history?
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