April is national poetry month! To help you share some poetry with your kids, I compiled a page of poetry that you can share with your kids at the beginning of your school days, over a delightful tea, or for a literature lesson. You may use these poems for copywork, memorization and recitation practice, or as inspiration for an art project.
Poetry is a beautiful way to help kids put words to the experiences around them and the sky is the limit on how you can incorporate a poem into your day!
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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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In a perfect homeschooling world, we'd always have a couple of uninterrupted hours at the end of the week to gather materials and plan out the upcoming weeks, no one would get sick, December would only be a little bit chaotic, Mom would always get eight hours of sleep, and family crises would just not happen during the school year.
Unfortunately, life is unpredictable and uncontrollable. Giving our kids a good education means that sometimes we have to flip on the autopilot switch and homeschool the best we can in the middle of our crazy lives. Here are a few thing that I've found help me educate my kids well during the busiest times of the year.
Have a Routine to Fall Back On
Having a routine means that even when I fall short of sleep because I'm up most of the night with a sick kid or because I'm a bad sleeper, I can fall into the pattern of breakfast, get kids ready for the day, read aloud time, math lessons, then supervise the kids' independent work. A routine saves our homeschool day more often than I care to admit.
My kids have their routines that they fall into, too. My oldest son is so in the habit of narrating what he read in his history and literature readers that even if I am in the middle of cleaning up a big spill, he will be telling me about the Panama Canal while getting me another towel. He knows that he can't check history off his list and move on to the next subject until that part of the lesson is done. Believe me, he doesn't like to be doing a lot of work after lunch, so he is motivated to move forward.
My daughter (age 5) is still learning her schedule but she knows that she has to write something, read something, and do a math activity before she is free to do drag out her art supplies to make yet another messy mixed media collage/drawing/painting/masterpiece. So she will ask to do her math before she asks to do art.
Always Be in the Middle of a Few Longer Books
For a while, a few subjects in our homeschool week were solely dependent on shorter books from the library. This meant that if I didn't reserve my books or couldn't go to the library, we didn't have anything to do for history, art, or science.
While I still depend on the library to round out our curriculum and to add richness to our homeschool day, I am careful to have a few longer books that we are reading aloud at all times.Genevieve Foster's books and the D'Aulaires books are great read for reading aloud to a wide range of ages and they are long enough to last several weeks. My kids all time favorite science book was Birds do the Strangest Things. We would read about one bird a day over the course of a few weeks and they still talk about the crazy birds we read about. Often, I will take a book from theLets-Read-And-Find-Out series, divide it into quarters, and read it over the course of a week.
Currently, during our morning read aloud time, we are always working through a book of the Bible, a history book, a poetry book, and a science book. Even on the craziest days, if I just continue to read a chapter or section of each of those and add in math, give the kids free reading time, and ask each child to write in their journal, we've still covered seven subjects in our homeschool. That's what we call a minimum day!
Map Out Subjects So It's Easy to "Do the Next Thing"
While with some curriculum may be easy to open the book and do the next section, some subjects are a little more difficult to do without a little planning. A math book may need change for a lesson on money or a compass for a geometry lesson. A history lesson may require a trip to the library for a research project. Science labs always require materials. A writing curriculum may have some lessons that take less than 20 minutes while others take close to an hour.
There are many ways to plan ahead, without investing a lot of time. Spending a little time periodically to look ahead to make note of which shorter lessons could be combined and which longer lessons will require extra days is a great practice. Jotting down a list of materials that will be needed for each unit on post it notes at the beginning of the year and sticking them in the book is super helpful.
Technology as a Substitute Teacher
When I was a substitute teacher, I usually had to take students to the computer lab or pop in a movie. When I was a teacher, I usually kept a few VHS tapes in my top right hand drawer for emergencies. As a homeschool teacher, why should I feel guilty about occasionally relying on technology to fill in the gaps in my kids education?
There are enough great documentaries, movie adaptations of literature, websites, and apps out there that in a pinch I can call in a technological substitute teacher to help me through a pinch. ABCya, Duolingo, Xtra Math, Starfall, and Typing.com are a few websites I can count on to fill in the gaps on rough days. As a matter of fact, most of those websites show up on our homeschool on a rotating basis anyway! We just spend more time on them when Mom or the baby is sick. As for apps, we have Stack the States (geography), Zeus vs the Monsters (mythology and math), Moose Math, and Starfall (reading and phonics). I try to record documentaries on Animal Planet for rainy days. I can also pull up an episode of Salsa Spanish for the little ones.
How About You?
How do you homeschool on autopilot?
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Studying art history is fairly simple to accomplish during the homeschool day, provided I have done a little prior research and gathering of materials. All of the art that we study comes from the time period in history that we are already studying as a family. Currently, we are studying Ancient Greece, so once a week we study a sculpture, piece of architecture or pottery, mosaic, or building from that time.
Finding Pictures to Use
Before we begin a unit (or a week after, since I'm usually running behind), I start searching for images pertaining to the art of the period of history that we are studying and that I can legally make a print of. Just because something is online and it is easy to download, doesn't mean that it is legal to do so. Always check the copyright first. If a picture is "public domain" or "creative commons", you can download it and make a photo print of it for your own personal use. Creative commons photos have their own requirements that can vary image by image, so be sure to check. Usually, you just need to attribute the creator of the image. (More info on Public Domain and Creative Commons here).
Once I find usable images that I can make prints of, I save them to my computer and then download them to my Costco photo account and order three of each picture, one for each of my children.
How We Do Picture Study
When we do a picture study, we study a single picture at a time. My son (12) and daughter (5) each get a picture to study at the table and my youngest (3) and I head to the couch to quietly talk about our picture together.
Once we we have our pictures, I set the timer and we study our pictures. I ask my youngest about the colors and shapes of the picture. I also ask him what is happening in the picture.
When the the timer runs out we flip the pictures over and then take turns, from youngest to oldest, to retell everything we remember about the picture without peeking. My daughter knows that she has to observe more than her little brother and my oldest has to observe even more. I try to remember something above and beyond what my son retells.
After narrating our observations, I give the title of the artwork, the artist, and the medium used. If there is any vocabulary to learn, we talk about that, too. Since we are already studying the historical time period, I don't usually have to give a lot of "historical background." Occasionally, we discuss what we liked about the picture and why we think the artist made certain choices.
Finally, the kids glue their picture onto a piece of paper and label it with the title of the artwork and artist. The paper goes into their history binder.
Other Ways We Study Art
Occasionally, I will pull out our art supplies and sketchbooks and pass around picture of the week. I let the kids choose the medium of their choice and paint or draw their own version of the art that we are studying. Here is an example of this exercise after the Rio Olympics where we drew the Christ our Redeemer Statue:
The kids each chose to use oil pastels (they usually do) and I used acrylic paint...and then quickly filled in the background with pastels. I helped my youngest by drawing an outline of the statue before they began.
I like this exercise because it combines art history with the actual practice of art. It gets my drawing something they usually wouldn't choose to draw and encourages them to make creative, artistic choices.
Just recently we have been reading The Great Art Treasure Hunt, which is kind of an I spy book with great works of art. My two youngest and I have been going through this book sporadically a couple paintings a day. Even though they think reading it is a big game, they are also being introduced to art concepts at the same time.
How do you study art in your homeschool?
Art Supplies Mentioned in This Post
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It isn't very often that a five-year-old turns to her mom and says:
"If God is... what's the word for no beginning and no end again? ... Eternal. If he is that then what about this?" She then points to the letters BC in a children's history encyclopedia. "This means Before Christ. So how does that work?"
It isn't often that a child make a connection between theology and history and the only reason is that, as a general rule, children are taught neither history nor theology. In the schools, at her age, students are taught about community helpers for social science and in church, they are familiarized with Bible stories, the same ones that faithful parents should be exposing them to anyway.
But, against the unspoken rules, I have included both theology and history in our curriculum for both my five year old and my eleven year old. They learn the same history and they learn the same theology, and each takes what they can from the books we read and the discussions we have.
Now, I wasn't surprised that she made this connection and used a question about history to clarify her understanding of God. She was processing some of the ideas that we had been learning about in school and in life. The week prior, we had read about the eternalness of God in The Ology (Read my review here) and we have just spent nearly six weeks celebrating the birth of Jesus during Advent and the twelve days of Christmas following, so both ideas were fresh in her mind. (I was a little surprised that she had remembered what BC stood for because it had been months since I remember telling her what those two letters meant.)
I should also point out that I wasn't planning on her making this connection either. I know that she absorbs a little of every lesson that is presented to her, but I don't know what little part she's absorbing. She could be absorbing a fact, an idea, a new word, a new way to use the English language, or all of the above. Whenever she connects two dots across subject lines on her own, she is demonstrating her comprehension of what she has learned, but more importantly she makes a little bit of her learning permanently part of her understanding of the world.
The reason that I had introduced my five-year-old to theology in the first place is because I have been putting more and more of Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy to the test. Theology and history are a part of the "full and generous curriculum" that I am spreading before my kids as a part of our morning read alouds and as a part of their assigned reading.
Even thought they had never met, Charlotte Mason understood that my daughter is a "born person" who is capable of wrestling with big ideas even though she has just begun the process of learning the skills of reading and writing. Mason's philosophy of education is a strong contrast to our public schools, where the emphasis is working on skill development while subjects like science and history take a back burner until middle school, and theology is, of course, completely absent.
Subjects like theology, history, and literature help young people put words to the interesting things they are seeing, the big emotions they are feeling, and the big thoughts they are thinking. They should be included in every child's life even if it means the mastery of writing and reading comes a little later.
This post is a part of a series I am writing about Charlotte Mason. Read the rest of the series here.
This post was shared with Weekly Wrap Up, Homeschool Blog and Tell, and Homeschool Coffee Break.
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One of my goals in homeschooling is to help my kids make meaningful connections with all of the knowledge that they are receiving. When it comes to Biblical knowledge, there is just so much to synthesize that even adults need help connecting the dots between what we learn about God in Genesis and Revelations and every book in between.
I came across The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New, and it seemed like a fun introduction to the overarching themes of the bible for my age range of kids, so I added it to my cart with a few other books I was purchasing for our homeschool.
How The Ology is Set Up
The Ology has a total of 71 chapters divided into 11 sections that teach about God and his relationship to us. The eleven major sections are:
Each chapter is four pages long. Two pages contain a short, yet example-rich explanation of a truth from the Bible with several verses included in the margins. The other two pages have simple illustrations that are symbolic of some part of the text. The illustrations also have verses that further support the text and can be looked up by the parent or older students.
At the back of the book, there is a glossary for the theological terms that are used in the book. Each term is explained with a kid friendly definition. There is also a section titled "Think Theology, Talk Theology" which has discussion questions for each of the chapters.
How We are Using The Ology as a Family
At the beginning of the book is a parent guide on how to use The Ology with different age groups: Early Elementary (ages 6-9), Upper Elementary (ages 10-12) and Teens and Adults. Since the recommendation for both Early and Upper Elementary is to read the book straight through to get an overview, that is what we are doing.
As we read each chapter, I remind my kids about what the prior chapter was about. Then I ask my youngest (3 years old) about the illustration for the current chapter. Next. I read the first page of text and ask my daughter (5 years old) why she thinks they picked the first picture for that chapter. Then I read the verse that is alongside of the main text and ask my oldest son (12 years old) if he can tell me how the verse relates to what the chapter was about. We then turn the page and repeat with the second half of the chapter.
There is more that we could do with The Ology. We could memorize the verses each week, spend more time with the questions in the back, or we could look up all of the verses from the pictures, but in this season of life, what we are doing is working just right for our family.
Our readings from The Ology are a part of our morning family devotions, which also include prayers and readings from the Bible.
It is easy to teach who's who in the Bible and to memorize a few verses, but as our culture moves more and more into secularism, it is important that our children know the truths of the Bible and how they are connected. I believe that The Ology is a good tool towards that end.
Before reading The Ology to my kids, I read them The Jesus Storybook Bible since it is a good introduction to how everything in the Bible points to Jesus. After reading The Ology, I will probably get my oldest son Big Truths for Young Hearts to read on his own while rereading The Jesus Storybook Bible to my youngest two before moving on to The Ology again.
Disclaimer: I purchased The Ology with my own money to use within my own family. All opinions in this article are my own. Links in this article are affiliate links.
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I find that my biggest challenge in choosing book to read aloud to my kids is accomodating the wide age range. This winter my kids are 12, 5, and 3 but with upcoming birthdays, they will soon be 12, 6, and 4.
It would make sense, with the gaps in my kid's ages, to read separately to my son and then to the younger two, but they all like starting the day out together with a little bit of family learning before they go their own ways in their independent subjects. The burden falls on me to find books that won't be ridiculously easy for my oldest or too far over the heads of my youngest two.
The selection of books that I came up with center around my oldest son's history unit (Ancient Greece), my daughter's science interests, and poetry selections for all ages.
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We are currently reading the Book of Daniel for our daily Bible reading. When we are finished with Daniel, we will read the Gospel of Mark. Also, we are reading a chapter a week from The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New to help us understand the overarching themes of the Bible.
I am planning on spending a big chunk of time studying Greek history and culture this winter. Some of the read alouds I plan to use include:
I will be reading short selections from Dorothy Mill's The Book of the Ancient Greeks at time and at times having my son read from it on his own so that we can get through the book in a reasonable amount of time. It is hard for the younger kids to sit through history readings even though they really want to share in their older brother's lessons, so I just read aloud very short sections to everyone while assigning the rest to my son to read independently.
D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths is a hit with both of my kids. My daughter asked me if it was "poetry or a story" and my oldest son asked to bring it to his room to look at it during his break.
After we finish D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, I plan on reading Archimedes and the Door of Science, I will also be requesting picture book copies of Aesop's Fables from the library to appeal to my youngest boy.
Most of our science selections are picture books that come from the library. Learning about the natural world appeals to all of my kids, so this winter I am looking for books about animals that live in snowy climates, changing weather, and the solar system.
When my little ones start to lose interest, I read a nursery rhyme or a poem. Our nursery rhyme book is the Tall Book of Mother Goose and the poetry book I am using is the Random House Book of Poetry.
Those are just our school read alouds. Of course, it would be unreasonable to read every book every day, so each morning, I pick a few books and read a few pages from each. I really only spend about 20 minutes a day reading aloud at the beginning of our day. It's amazing how much ground we cover in such a small amount of time.