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Literature

We’re moving away from adaptations of classical stories. These books are not written to be great literature, they’re written to explain what happens in great literature. They have a sort of this happened, and then this happened, and finally, this happened feel. They’re boring. The vocabulary is stilted. The language is bland and does not excite the imagination. They leave us feeling cold.

Yes, it’s great that Isa knows who Robinson Crusoe is and understands that Nemo isn’t just the name of a fish, but he doesn’t need to know all that now. I’d rather he read great books that were written specifically for children. You really only get one shot at capturing that magic. Once he’s older, he’s not going to want to read those stories. If he does, he may enjoy them, but they just won’t have the same effect.

I remember re-reading some childhood favourites as an adult, and while they were great books, I didn’t get that captivated, swept-away feeling that I did as a child.

So, what’s on Isa’s reading list now? Here are a few:

  • The Family Under the Bridge
  • The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
  • The Door in the Wall
  • Follow My Leader
  • The Great Brain
  • Bunnicula
  • Henry Huggins

I think being exposed to great literature, rich language…learning to think and analyse on a basic level, using stories that children can sink their literary teeth into, is far better preparation for the grown up classics to come than reading adaptations, even good adaptations.

I read Deconstructing Penguins a while back, but I didn’t completely “get” what they were teaching until I started studying creative writing, so if you need help, pick up a few books on writing, such as The Art & Craft of Fiction (also available in Kindle).

We use the following three questions when analysing literature:

  1. Who are the main characters?
  2. What is the problem or problems they are facing?
  3. How do they solve their problems?

We began by analysing favourite movies and books. Now Isa can pick out the “problem” (or lack of) easily. He looks purposely for it. Doing this is also teaching him about creative writing and he understands some of the elements that he needs to have in his own stories.

In time, you can add more elements. Here is a more expanded list:

  1. Who are the main characters? (protagonist/ antagonist/ contagonist/ guardian, etc. more info here)
  2. What is the viewpoint? First person, second person, third person? (viewpoint)
  3. What are the characters like? (characterisation)
  4. Where are they? (setting)
  5. What is the problem or problems they are facing? (conflict)
  6. What obstacles are in their way? (tension)
  7. How do they solve their problems? (climax & resolution)
  8. Did the protagonist changed in any way? (character arcs)
  9. Was it a good ending? (Most often, if an ending is poor, it’s because the protagonist did not solve his or her own problems. Did someone else swoop in and save the day? Did the protagonist come into a bit of luck? Stories that end this way are often a let-down.)
  10. What kind of book was this? Funny? Serious? Fantasy? Science fiction? Historical fiction? (genre)
 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Books We Love, Reading

 

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Midway Through Third Grade

I thought I’d do a little update. I’ve been super-duper mega busy lately. I’m working on a degree in English, taking a short story course, and writing as much as I can, all while homeschooling. I’ve entered a few writing competitions and have works in progress and ideas for more.

Our curricula has changed quite a bit. We’re no longer using as many of  Susan Wise Bauer’s and Jessie Wise’s books.

History

We’re still using Story of the World, but we’re not nearly as happy with volume 3 as we were with the previous 2 volumes. The narrative isn’t as good, the illustrations are poor, and there isn’t a pronunciation guide in the book itself; it’s in the activity book. It’s sad, really, because history used to be Isa’s favourite subject.

Writing & Grammar

For writing we’ve switched to Classical Writing. We were getting so bored with Writing with Ease. It just didn’t seem to be progressing and I didn’t usually like the selections. I found it strange that one day the lesson included practice writing direct quotes, and then that was it for a few weeks. It’s a bit like teaching multiplication one day and then not doing it again for two months. Some of the dictation sentences were ridiculously difficult to memorise. The whole purpose of buying the workbook was so I didn’t have to go searching for dictation sentences or choose selections for narration, but I ended up doing just that, and quickly tired of it.

I’ve had Classical Writing sitting in a box for about a year, so I thought we’d give it a spin.

First impressions are good. It is quite teacher intensive and is not pick up and go. There’s a lot of prep work when you first get it out, but it’s worth it. I feel like we’re really digging into the literature selections. I’ve incorporated what I’ve learned about writing, so we discuss conflict, motivation, plot, resolution, etc. Classical Writing also includes grammar work, which is good because we gave up on First Language Lessons a long time ago. I’m very pleased to see it includes sentence diagramming.

First Language Lessons was another disappointment. Isa dreaded it (and so did I, actually.) It either skipped around too much, or made your eyes glaze over with boredom. He retained nothing from it. I decided grammar wasn’t a matter of life or death at that moment in our schooling, but that saving ourselves from drowning in a sea of ennui was.

Spelling

We’re still using All About Spelling, which is without a doubt my favourite curriculum. We’re just starting level 3, and I love it. Isa’s spelling is progressing and he’s retaining what he learns. The customer service is amazing, too. I placed my last order on a Friday and it arrived on Tuesday. From the States. To England. The shipping’s not cheap, but I order 2 levels at once and it’s more economical. I also emailed them because I’d run out of magnets and didn’t realise I’d need more. I didn’t want to pay over $20 for magnets and shipping. I received a reply within a few hours, offering a half sheet of magnets for free plus a nominal fee for shipping. They then shipped the magnets the same day. With tracking. I can’t recommend AAS highly enough (and I’m not being paid to endorse them).

Math

We’re on level 3 of Singapore Math. It’s going well, and would have gone better over the past 2 years if I’d had my head screwed on tighter. Isa was forgetting skills. We’d do addition for a few weeks, then subtraction, then multiplication, etc. Then when we came back to addition, he’d forget how to carry over. Or how to borrow when subtracting. Whenever we’d come to review pages, I’d have Isa do them all that day. It occurred to me that instead of having him do all of the review on one day, I’d have him do a few problems everyday as a warm up. Problem solved. Seriously wish I’d thought of it sooner.

Science

Science has been kind of lacking. We hit a point with Building Foundations where we were getting confused. Not just Isa, but me as well. We were reviewing things, but it just felt too complicated. I got tired of wading through the text to figure out what we were supposed to do. I’d really like an outline or some bullet-points and some little boxes that paraphrase the scientific concepts being taught. I’d created study sheets as we went on, and they were helpful, but only up to a point. BFSU is high on concepts, but low on content. I think we need some factual learning on which to hang the concepts; it’s too intensive as-is. All of these scientific concepts are going in, but falling out. We’re not engaged. We’ve put it away for now and we’re reading through the Usborne Complete Book of the Human Body. He reads a 2-page spread, then gives me an oral narration. I’ll push science more in 5th grade when we use Joy Hakim’s The Story of Science series.

Reading

His reading skills are good–to the point where I can give him something to read, like science, and he can go off and do it by himself, and he can give me a written narration without help.

Latin

We’re using Lively Latin. As it should be, Isa hates it and I love it. Okay, he doesn’t hate it, but he doesn’t enjoy all the drill. No matter what programme you’re using, there’s drill in Latin. But it’s good for him. Although, I told him the other day that when we have our next break from lessons, he still needs to do his math review and he said, “I’d rather do Latin!” Not sure if he was kidding or not.

So, yeah, our lessons aren’t fun-filled laugh extravaganzas. They’re hard work. For both of us. But it’s one of those “it’s hard work because it’s worth doing” kind of scenarios. Hard work, but rewarding. We love it more than we hate it.

Looking to the future

I do think Isa will go to school, but not for another 4 years. There are some excellent secondary schools in our area, and I want him to have more of a social life. I’m not very good at getting him into activities. We don’t have time during the day and weekends are hit and miss. The schools also provide academic opportunities that I cannot. We’ll see. It’s a long way off yet. But I know it will go quickly.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Latin, Math, Reading, Science, Third Grade, Writing

 

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Still Tickin’

It’s been months and months since I last posted. I haven’t forgotten about all my blogging friends, I promise. In all honesty, I just don’t want to blog about homeschooling anymore. I’m still reading hs blogs and we’re still enjoying our learning adventures, but I found myself running out of things to say about it. In summary, we’re using the curricula and books that work for us, getting rid of what doesn’t, and pursuing our hobbies. Oh, and my husband is renovating our bathroom. Did I mention that he knows very little about building work and plumbing? Yeah. Fun times.

I’m going to leave this blog up, for anyone who can benefit from my old posts and resources. And who knows, I may want to blog about homeschooling again some day.

 

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in Second Grade

 

Dear Icelandic Volcano…

…I see you took my warning seriously. Wise decision. I’m going in 2 days, so please behave yourself. Now, once I’m there, if you feel the need to let loose with some ash, be my guest. I wouldn’t mind being stranded there for a few extra weeks.

Goin’ home to Ohio for 3 weeks…see ya’ll later! ♥

 

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Spring Fever

I’m still trying to figure the direction in which this blog is moving. I just can’t bring myself to do weekly round up-type posts. Although I enjoy reading them at other blogs, I find them boring to write. I already do something similar for my records, albeit in a very abbreviated format, and cannot get myself to do another, more detailed version here. I prefer to have something interesting and stimulating to write about; witty if I can manage it. But lately our homeschooling just isn’t providing adequate material for posts. We have a routine, and to be honest our homeschooling is a bit like an old married couple: comfortable, unexciting (usually), and a little dull. You might even say we’re in a little bit of a rut.

We’re really enjoying spelling (cause it’s new) and science, but everything else is just a little stale. Even history isn’t thrilling us anymore. Esa’s disappointed with the colouring pages in the Story of the World Volume 2 activity book, and I have to agree that they’re not that great. (The ones in activity book 3 are even worse; the drawing is terrible.) Math is going well, but we’re not doing much supplementing with stories or activities. We’ve not done art or poetry in weeks. He really dislikes Writing with Ease, in particular dictation. I think it’s a fantastic curriculum, but it can be a little dull. Okay, very dull. He enjoys the narration, and the reading selections have provided us with introductions to books that we otherwise might not have discovered, which is great. Handwriting is a boring but necessary evil. We’ll be starting cursive writing soon, which will liven things up a bit.

I think the real problem is that we’re feeling a little burnt out. If I made a little more effort to supplement, or take him on educational visit somewhere, we might be able to inject some life into our homeschool. But I just don’t have the “umph” for it right now. Spring is here, the garden is blooming, we’re planning to go to the US in a few days, and my mind is just elsewhere. Maybe what we need is to just unschool for a while. Lots of read alouds (also lacking right now), lots of time in the garden (if only it would stop RAINING!), read about herbs using A Kid’s Herb Book, maybe do some nature journaling, and just have an overall relaxed approach for now.

In other news, I have started yet another blog.🙂 My interest in veganism is providing me with a lot of material to write about, and since I don’t want to bore my readers, who mainly come here to read about homeschooling, I thought a separate blog was a good idea. If you’re interested, here’s the link: http://spillinthebeans.wordpress.com/

 

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Dear Icelandic Volcano,

Please stop spewing out volcanic ash. I know it’s a bit like asking Mathew Mcconaughey to stop taking his shirt off, but I beg you to just *try*. I haven’t seen my family in 3 years, and I’d really like to see my mother before she gets too old for me to recognise. I mean, you already threw up all over us last year for crying out loud! How much ash can one little hole-in-the-ground produce?!!?!?! Never mind, forget I asked; I don’t really want to know. I’ve got nothing against Iceland, really, even if you did produce Bjork and inflict that madness on the rest of us…but this volcano business is enough to make me think really poorly of Iceland. And don’t start whining about forces  of nature and give me this “it’s not our fault” nonsense…put a cork in it. If my flight, which is in less than 2 weeks, gets cancelled, you’ll be receiving a very strongly worded letter of complaint from me. I mean it. I’ll be using words like “inexcusable” and “furious” and “boycott everything from Iceland,” (which may be quite a short list of items, but that’s *not* the point.) If you can’t stop all the spewing ash, then you’d better gather up all your electric fans or wind turbines or whatever and start fanning it towards Greenland or something. Nobody lives in Greenland, anyway…only vikings and the like, and they prefer to travel by boat. They won’t mind.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Family Life, Michelle

 

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Goin’ Vegan

Reader discretion is advised…seriously.

Another note: this post isn’t meant to be a lecture; I’m not out to push others into veganism. I just wanted to share my story and talk about my personal reasons for going vegan.

There’s this blog that I love: Twist365. Jackie is smart, witty, funny, informative, and entertaining. She mentioned a book called Skinny Bitch, and how she went vegetarian for 8 months after reading it. I was curious, so I had a sample sent to my Kindle. After just a few paragraphs, I knew I’d stumbled upon a great book.  All the claims the authors make are backed up with cited references. I love its no-nonsense, kick your a** approach. Being an overgrown kid, the witty swearisms made me giggle.

The food you put into your body works its way through your organs and bloodstream and is actually part of who you are. So every time you put crap in our body, you are crap.

This book was seriously shocking. I was expecting a diet book and what I got was a wake up call.

Dioxin, one of the most toxic substances in the world, is often found in dairy products.

Not only that, but rocket fuel is also found in milk, often at levels well above those considered “safe.”

Rocket fuel!

I know that meat, eggs, and dairy products are full of crap (often literally), that livestock animals are treated badly, that they’re diseased, deformed, pumped full of hormones, steroids, and antibiotics. I’ve seen the watchdog programmes. But the news reports and watchdog programmes only give you the PG-rated bits.

I’m going to get a little graphic now.

I went on to read about how cows are slaughtered…how the “stunning” they receive isn’t always effective…how they’re often still alive as they are taken apart piece by piece. Hogs, which are dunked into 140-degree scalding water to remove their hair, are sometimes still alive for this process.

Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places.
—Leonardo Da Vinci

And those free-range eggs aren’t as ethical as I thought they were. “Free Range” doesn’t always mean all that free, In the hatcheries for the egg industry, the unwanted males are dumped in the trash or thrown into grinders. Here’s how the chicks are stored in the hatcheries:

Photo from Our Planet Today: The Cruel Life Inside a Factory Farm: http://www.ourplanettoday.com/the-cruel-life-inside-a-factory-farm

Speaking of chickens…

Here are two quotes from poultry plant workers:

‘Every day, I saw black chicken, green chicken, chicken that stank, and chicken with feces on it. Chicken like this is supposed to be thrown away, but instead it would be sent down the line to be processed.’

‘I personally have seen rotten meat-you can tell by the odor. This rotten meat is mixed with the fresh meat and sold for baby food. We are asked to mix it with the fresh food, and this is the way it is sold. You can see the worms inside the meat.’

Dear God in Heaven.

And don’t even get me started on how dairy cows are treated.

So, I turned aspiring, yet unsure vegan. I began doing more research, looking at vegan recipes and books, setting up a vegan notebook…the usual things we enthusiastic types do.

A few days ago, during my web travels, I happened upon a website, http://www.vegsource.com/. I clicked on the tab about celebrities and watched the video of Ellen Degeneres talking about why she became a vegan. She mentioned watching a documentary called “Earthlings” which documents our dependence on animals for food and other products and how those animals are treated. I Googled it. I clicked “view trailer.”

Okay, I’m going to get dramatic, but I’m also being truthful.

It was one of those life-changing moments.

I’ve never been so stunned, ashamed, sickened, frightened, appalled, transfixed, horrified, and angry in my life. Shaking, I closed the computer and gave in to some hearty sobbing.

Thankfully, no one was at home to witness my moment. It was one of those times when you just need to be alone.

I don’t think I could handle watching the entire film. I don’t think I want to. The trailer was enough to convince me to swear off all animal  products for life. No meat, eggs, dairy, leather, or anything else containing animal products.

I haven’t included the link yet intentionally because I wanted to give ample warning first. It’s very, very graphic. Scenes of animals being stripped of fur whilst still alive, dogs being stepped on, poles shoved down the throats of animals to force feed them, animals being beaten, crying out in pain…and the blood. Lots of blood. If you want to view the trailer and/or watch the film, here it is: http://www.earthlings.com/.

Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore.
—Franz Kafka, while admiring fish in an aquarium

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2011 in Family Life, Inspiration, Michelle, Vegan

 

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