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Category Archives: Latin

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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Half-Way Through the Year

We’ve been plugging away happily with our school work, and we’re three weeks shy of the midpoint. Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to:

Math

We have just begun Singapore level 2. I cannot emphasise enough how great his curriculum is. It truly does develop mental arithmetic skills. Esa does not work out math facts on his fingers; he is able to add and subtract 2-digit numbers in his head. My own math skills have even improved. He has nearly all of his addition facts memorised now.

Latin

Song School Latin is such a light and fun introduction to Latin. The little stories with Latin words mixed in help to bring it to life. If there isn’t a story for the chapter we’re doing, I make one up. Esa really enjoys doing SSL, and he especially enjoys the online drill.


Science

We’ve done lesson B-4 of BFSU, but this one was a bit of a dud for us. It was on life cycles and it didn’t really cover anything Esa doesn’t already know. However, I chose not to go into too much detail with regards to human life cycles. Esa’s very innocent when it comes to the differences between boys and girls and knows nothing about the birds and the bees, and I’d like to keep it that way for a while; I’m just not ready for that innocence to be quashed, and I honestly don’t think he’s ready yet, either. He’s not asking questions. Well, a while back he did ask me where babies came from, and I just told him, “from God,” which is the truth according to our beliefs. When kids ask this question, they aren’t always looking for a full breakdown, complete with diagrams and a viewing of “The Miracle of Life”. He was satisfied with this answer and hasn’t shown any further curiosity. When he does, I’ll go into a little more detail.

Lesson B-4A is one of those on-going ones, so I’ve taken a few notes and I’m preparing for lesson D-4. I’ve posted the study sheets for B-4 and D-4 on the curricula page. I’ve also posted our sequence of study.

Handwriting

Esa’s moved on to book C in the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting series. In all honesty Esa’s handwriting isn’t great. It can be beautiful when he takes his time, but it’s often a mess. The italic font is lovely, I just wish he’d make more of an effort to use it when he’s doing his spelling, copywork, and dictation.

Reading

Esa’s reading well, but he gets sloppy sometimes. He often forgets some of the phonemes, so we’re going through The Road to Reading and reviewing everything briefly, focusing on weak areas.

He’s currently reading Fantastic Mr. Fox and is addicted to The Secret Garden. He listens to the audio book for at least an hour a day and he has me reading it aloud in the evenings. It’s his new favourite.

I knew some things needed to be cut out of our schedule, and although I was loathe to do it, I have put the axe to a few things. Here’s what we’ve cut and why:

British History: This was always scheduled for Friday, and for the past several weeks it’s been omitted because we’ve needed to finish up something else that got bumped earlier in the week. I’ve decided to leave British History until we’ve finished our survey of world history, then do a year of BH, go through world history again, then do BH again. By that point Esa will probably be doing A-levels..

  • Picture Study: This was such a great addition to our homeschool last year. But for some reason we’re just not into it any more. ARTistic Pursuits contains some picture study, so for now we’ll content ourselves with that.
  • Handicrafts: This has been on my lesson plans sheet since we began homeschooling 3 years ago. We’ve never done any handicrafts, so I’m ditching it until Esa’s older.

I’d like to say that these cuts have lightened our load, but they haven’t; these things weren’t getting done anyway. However, I feel less over-scheduled and less guilt over missing so much out, now that there’s less to miss out.

 

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Grammar for Grown-Ups, Wasting Time, and Pop-Factor Novelists

We had a week off from lessons the week before last, and during that time I did a fair bit of grammar. I’ve set Harvey’s Grammar aside for now. I got to a lesson and had little idea what I was doing. The lesson gave a one-sentence definition of some grammar term (that I now can’t recall), then launched in with the exercises. I was pretty lost. I managed to muddle my my through and get about half of the exercises correct, but it was really frustrating and I don’t feel I learned anything.

The other thing I realised was that I still don’t quite understand what a predicate is. The definitions in Harvey’s are difficult to decipher, there isn’t enough explanation, and few examples are given. I’ve decided to work through some other resources, then maybe use Harvey’s for further practice. I’ve recently purchased:

The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need (Kindle edition)  I’m not sure if I agree with the title here, but it does look like a sufficient book for my needs. Eventually I may purchase the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the be all and end all of grammar and usage manuals, but I think it would just overwhelm me if I had it now.

If I’m struggling with that book, I’ve got Painless Grammar to fall back on. This is a children’s book that explains grammar in a delightful, and as the title suggests, painless way. This will also make a great resource for Esa when he’s a little older.

But my favourite resource, the one I keep picking up and drooling over flicking through is Grammar by Diagram. I ordered this workbook, only to discover that you need an accompanying textbook. The only place I could find it at a reasonable price was from Alibris. Apparently, the book shipped on the 14th, but it’s been a week and it still hasn’t arrived.

This chunky workbook is packed with diagramming exercises. Fortunately, the key is at the back, so there’s no emailing publishers, trying to strike a balance between sufficient grovelling and proving that I’m not a pimply teenager looking for a cheat sheet.

I’m convinced that the best way to gain a thorough understanding of grammar is through diagramming. I liken it to translating exercises when learning a foreign language. If you’re learning say, French, you aren’t just going to memorise lists of words everyday. You’re going to spend a good amount of time translating stuff. That, after all, is the whole point: to be able to read and understand French (or take some English, wave your translating wand, and turn it into French.) Diagramming is the same. It’s taking what you’ve learned and putting it to use. Okay, it may not be useful in a practical sense, but it will cement those grammar points. Then, when you sit down to do some real writing, you’ll have the necessary grammar know-how. After diagramming a few hundred thousand sentences of increasing complexity, you’ll have a firm grasp of grammar.

Alright, you don’t need to diagram that  many…just a few hundred. (I ♥ grammar.)

If you’re wondering whether grammar is worth studying, you’ve got to listen to this podcast; it’s informative and humorous: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/does-grammar-matter.aspx

Sadly, I did waste a lot of time on the computer during our week off, playing Green Farm, Zen Garden, Flower House, and Barn Buddy on hi5,  but it was nice to have that luxury, and I think it was therapeutic. I can sometimes stress myself out by trying to make every minute count. I have so little free time and I have so many things that I have to/want to do…I need to get the most out of every day and it can get tiring. I enjoyed lazing about a little. I also spent a lot of time looking at Latin curricula for myself, sorting out answer keys, reading, and working on my grammar study, so it wasn’t a total waste.

This week I began my Latin study. I spent a good 20 minutes lovingly covering my copies of Wheelock’s Latin, Wheelock’s Latin Workbook, and Collins Latin Dictionary with book-covering film. The softcover Wheelock’s books are quite thick and not sturdily-bound, so they will need the reinforcement. I’m happy I didn’t go for the Kindle edition, because I find myself flipping back and forth a lot in this book.

I’ve also put a notebook together using a 4-ring binder (they come in 2- and 4-rings in the UK), dividers, a snap pocket (they don’t have the kind of folders you get for binders in the US), and paper. (I ♥ notebooks.)

I’ve finished How Not To Write a Novel. This book could have been subtitled How to Piss Off Crappy Writers. While I found this book helpful (somewhat) and hilarious, at times it felt like a bit of a rant. I think the editors were tired of seeing certain things in the novels presented to them, and this book was a way to vent that annoyance. I found many of their writing faux-pas to be no-brainers. Take, for example:

  • Men Are from Cliché; Women Are from Stereotype: Wherein the characters are built solely of broad gender stereotypes

Melinda picked up Joe’s beer-stained sports  section with a wry smile, replacing it with another saccharine-berry scented candle. As she sat on the pouffe to enjoy her copy of Brides’ Shoe Monthly, she wondered if he would remember to call for their third-date anniversary.

Meanwhile, across town, Joe gave the jailbait waitress a sly wink, letting the caveman in him take over…

The passage goes on a bit, but you get the idea. A few others:

  • I Mean This!! It’s Important!!: Wherein the author punctuates hysterically
  • Linearity Shrugged: In which the author assembles the novel in no particular order
  • Gibberish for Art’s Sake: Wherein indecipherable lyricism baffles the reader

These writers aren’t going to get published even if they do fix these problems; these are merely symptoms of a bigger writing malady. I also suspect that some people writing in this way won’t even admit that they’re making such hideous blunders. It reminds me of those people who audition for shows like X Idol and Pop-Factor. They launch into heartfelt, yet horrendous and interminable renditions of I Will Always Love You, and when they are booed off the stage they throw themselves at the presenter, crying angry, hysterical tears, and insisting that they CAN sing ’cause  mamma said, and they are going-to-be-famous…just-you-wait.

Clueless…the lot of ’em.

Having said that, the book was an entertaining read and I did make a few notes. But it certainly won’t be the only book I read on how to write a novel.

I will be posting about homeschooling soon…I promise.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2011 in Grammar, Latin, Michelle, Resolutions: 2011

 

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Latin for Older Students

I had a go with the Latinum curricula, but it’s not for me. It’s more geared for learning to speak Latin, which isn’t really what I’m interested in. I do plan to learn pronunciation as I go along, but it’s reading-fluency that I’m after.

I was planning to purchase So You Really Want to Learn Latin,  but decided to go with something a little more grown up. I’m almost tempted to delay Esa’s Latin instruction for a few years; there are some great programmes available for older learners.

Lingua Latina

I’ve not looked in depth at this set of books, but from what I understand, it kind of throws you into the deep end as it’s completely written in Latin with no English instruction. Something like this just won’t work for me just yet. I need a systematic approach. I want a combination of reading and drill.

So then I looked at:

Wheelock’s Latin

This programme has been around for donkeys’ years and is well-loved by many. There’s a plethora of supplementary resources available for Wheelock’s, some of which are free:

The text includes answers to some of the exercises, but not all. You can request the answer keys by filling in the forms here: http://files.harpercollins.com/Wheelock/wheelockslatin.html. (I was given approval within hours, although I had to set up an account, download Adobe Digital Edition, AND discovered that I’ll have to re-download the files every 60 days.)

There’s an online study group that I’ve joined here: http://www.quasillum.com/study/index.php, and a new beginner’s group starts in a week or two.

One frequent complaint about Wheelock’s is its heavy emphasis on decoding rather than reading. Many students come out of the programme knowing lots of grammar, but unable to read fluently. In an Amazon review, one reader recommended:

Learn to Read Latin

(Bless you, dear Reviewer!) This, from what I gather, is an amazing Latin programme that teaches grammar and vocabulary, and has you reading lots and lots of original Latin literature.  It comes with a workbook for drill and seems to me to be the best combination of reading and drill. Together, the set is over 1,000 pages.

More information, including how to get hold of the answer keys, can be found here: http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/latinfaqs.html#top (again, I was given approval within just a few hours and the files were simple, saveable pdfs.)

I’ve decided to go with Learn to Read Latin. It isn’t cheap, but for what you get, I think it’s amazing value.

Knowing what to buy is a little confusing. You can purchase it as:

  1. A complete paperback set (ISBN: 0300103549)
  2. A complete hardback set (ISBB: 0300109377)
  3. Paperback Textbook OR Hardback Textbook PLUS workbook (paperback)
  4. A two-part set, each, for the textbook and workbook:

It took me quite a while to figure all this out, so I thought I’d post it here for anyone looking to buy this programme. I know I have UK links, but you can search your preferred seller by copying and pasting the ISBN that appears on the page to which I’ve linked.

I’ve gone for option #3, with a paperback textbook. Wheelock’s 500+ page book was only £3.99, so I threw that one in with my order to provide extra practice, clarify any areas on which I may be stuck, and give me the spoken element as well, with the audio files. A Kindle edition is available, but for something like this, I want a hardcopy that I can flip through and mark up easily.  Later, I will use the Wheelock’s reader and Lingua Latina.

AND…the authors of Learn to Read Latin are putting out a similar series for Greek! It’s due to be released in June of this year.

If, like myself, you’re of an enthusiastic nature, or just looking for some good Latin resources, here is a great page bursting with links: http://www.frcoulter.com/latin/links.html

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in Latin, Michelle, Resolutions: 2011

 

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My Many Enthusiasms

I’m one of those people who always needs a hobby and a project. I have to be reading a non-fiction book about some passion of mine. My Amazon wishlist is miles long…well, really I should say wishlists; I have several (20, to be precise), divided into categories like art, Kindle books, Esa reading, math, high priority, third grade, etc. I keep lists, notes, and journals related to my hobbies, too.

I’ve always been this way, but I think it really took off when I learned to knit. I joined knitting groups, both virtual and real, bought several books, needles in every size, and amassed a collection of yarn so vast I could  have opened my own shop (well, almost). (However, I wasn’t as enthusiastic as this lady.) The same thing happened when I learned to sew. And then I got started with homeschooling. That has been my biggest project to date.

Some of my interests die out. Sewing is pretty much dead. This is partly due to the fact that there aren’t any decent places around here from which to buy fabric. The main reason is that I can’t sew the kinds of clothing that I like. I prefer sweaters (too expensive to knit), jeans, and corduroys. I can sew tunics and simple tops, but how many tops does one need? Sewing also began to feel too much like work. I’m not saying I’ll never sew again, but it’s not a regular thing.

Knitting is sporadic. It’s one of those things that I kind of forget about. Then, when I pick up the needles again, I rediscover how enjoyable it is. After a few weeks, something will happen to break the habit and the needles start collecting dust again. I spent months knitting a beautiful, cotton, cable-knit and moss-stitch sweater for my son only to get so completely burned out on it that I gave up after knitting everything except the hood, but I just could not bring myself to do it. It’s still sitting in a bag somewhere, and even if I did finish it, it certainly wouldn’t fit him, although I have a few nephews that might like to have it. One of these days…

Some of my passions, however, endure. If anything, they grow stronger with time. The biggest of those is reading. I enjoy reading now more than I ever have, and as long as I have the use of my eyes, I will read. The others include writing, grammar, foreign languages, homeschooling, art, and baking.

No project excites  me more than a new project. So, as you can imagine, my list of resolutions has me nearly ecstatic.

Which reminds me, I’ve also added gardening to my list. Last year I really neglected the garden and this spring I want to get back out there and get my hands dirty.

I’ve recently discovered My Yahoo!. I’ve had a Yahoo! account for some time now, but I had no idea I could customise the My Yahoo! page. You can add and remove content, move things around, change the background, and add pages. I discovered all of this when one of my enthusiasms, grammar, had me subscribing to podcasts. I was able to add the podcast to the My Yahoo! page.

A grammar podcast?! Yes, indeed! (I told you I was obsessive…er, enthusiastic.) Grammar Girl has many podcasts that are entertaining and informative. I’ve learned a great deal already from browsing the site, and I plan to listen to at least one podcast a week (and take notes!) to improve my usage.

Let’s leave grammar for a minute so I can tell you about another great resource I discovered.

Getting excited about this podcast thing, I started searching around for other podcasts. Here are a few goodies:

I’m still looking for more, so if you have any good ones, I’d love to hear about them.

Another amazing one that I found was for a website called Latinum that uses an out-of-copyright book called A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language, as well as other books and resources in the public domain, to teach Latin.

From this page of the site:

Summary:
Latinum teaches Latin. The site opens a pathway to full command of the language.

All of our course materials are available for free, and are based on out of copyright textbooks, or copyright-free materials.

You will find everything you need here to learn Latin to an advanced level. There is no need to even buy textbooks, if you are prepared to use digital books. Everything you need is also available on DVD on my little store – prices are very low.

Method:
Molendinarius (Evan der Millner) has constructed Latinum as an audio course, based directly on the course of progress followed by students in the Renaissance, at a time when Latin was used regularly by educated people across Europe for reading, writing, and speaking.

The goal of Latinum  to give you the tools to master Latin, in all its forms.  To this end, textbooks that were written for teaching Latin as a ‘workhorse’ language are used – Comenius‘ 17th century course ( possibly the most complete Latin course yet written, covering 4 years of full-time education), Adler‘s Practical Grammar, and various Structured Dialogues, and simple stories.

You can follow the steps  broadly outlined here – but feel free to use the materials in any order. You are encouraged to begin working with Adler (step two) at the same time as working with elements from step one.

Okay, this all sounds great. But I have enough experience with old books to know they’re not always user-friendly. I’ve not had a good look at this programme yet, but I’ll definitely give it a try.

Speaking of old texts, let’s get back to grammar now. I’m a quarter of the way through Harvey’s Elementary Grammar and Composition, and it’s hard…really hard. I sometimes have to read some bits several times, out loud, before I get it. I’m just not used to the antiquated language. My brain is really getting a workout, but there’s one problem: the answer key has several inaccuracies. Here’s an example from an exercise I recently did:

Point out the participial nouns (gerunds) and participles in the following exercises.

2. Looking over the wall, we saw a fox caught in a trap.

I identified “looking” as a present participle and “caught” as a perfect participle. The answer key lists “looking” as a gerund. I really didn’t feel that was correct. I went online to read a little more about the difference between gerunds and participles and it confirmed what I thought to be true: gerunds are the noun forms of words (walking stick, looking glass [a kind reader has pointed out that walking and looking, as used here, are adjectives; quite right!] I like skating. [That one is correct]) and participles are verbs used as adjectives (Situated on a high hill, the fort was easy to capture).

As further proof, if I were to say: “Looking over the wall, the fox was caught in a trap” I would have the famous dangling participle. The sentence implies that the fox was looking over the wall, not we.

I’m 99% sure that “looking” isn’t a gerund in that sentence. If you, dear reader, know for sure, please let me know.

There are several other mistakes, some of which are glaring, and some, because I’m not quite Grammar Girl, have me scratching my head. This makes me very reluctant to use this programme with Esa. However, Classical Writing has put together a workbook and answer key to go along with Harvey’s. For some reason, I feel more confident using their materials.

I’ve been taking a closer look at First Language Lessons levels 3 & 4 and I’ve decided we’ll definitely use them prior to Harvey’s. I suspected it wasn’t necessary to do levels 1 & 2 prior to level 3, and according to this review, I’m right. In a few months, when I order it, I’ll take an in-depth look at it. We can always do some prep work beforehand with level 2, if need be.

FLL 3 & 4 covers so much and is a lovely, gentle way to learn grammar. I also love that it has sentence diagramming, which truly helps with understanding the parts of speech and how sentences are put together. I’ve been diagramming with Harvey’s, and it’s been my favourite type of exercise.

I’m going to continue with Harvey’s, and I’ve also found these resources at the library:

I’ve reserved English Grammar In Use. I’m hopeful it will prove more user-friendly than Harvey’s.

Currently Reading:

  • A Woman’s Place: An Illustrated History of Women at Home, from the Roman Villa to the Victorian Town House
  • Great Expectations
 

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A New Year…Time for Me to Focus

I love January.

Oh…I’ve just had a strong feeling of deja-vu; I know I’ve talked about liking January before, but I can’t seem to find it in the archives.

Anyway, I love it when January rolls around. The days slowly begin to lengthen and I can see the light at the end of the long, cold wintry tunnel; spring doesn’t seem as far away as it did on the other side of the calendar. And my birthday is close and I love birthdays.

For my birthday, I’ve asked my husband for a Kindle. I really, really want one of these things. For a book lover with very limited space, an e-reader is a dream come true.

If I do get a Kindle, here are some of the books I plan to get for it:

  1. All of the Twilight books
  2. The Well-Educated Mind
  3. As many classics as I can fit onto it
  4. The History of the Ancient World
  5. Sequential Spelling 2

No, those are not in random order; Twilight is #1. I’m addicted.

Another great thing about the Kindle is that you can download pdf files onto it, so I can download the SOTW activity book and other homeschooling pdf’s and not be so reliant on the computer.

The official story that I’m putting out for why I want a Kindle is that I’ve recently set a few goals for myself. After reading the article Stop Cleaning the Kitchen and Read a Book by Susan Wise Bauer, I was inspired to expand my horizons regarding self-education. I’ve spent a lot of time learning to draw and paint (which I plan to continue), but I also want to do several other things…I want to read at least 6 classics this year, and most classics are available free for the Kindle. I can have a huge library of classics at my fingertips and not have to worry about returning books to the library before I’m done.

Always the list-maker, I decided to compile my goals into a list of New Year’s resolutions.

  • Lose 24 pounds.

Ok, I’m going to be open and honest here. I feel fat and my smaller-sized clothes don’t fit. I’m 5’2″ and I weigh 134 pounds (9.5 stones). That’s borderline overweight. I have a small frame, so for me, 134 pounds is just too much. In my teens and 20’s I was quite slim…well, I was too slim in my teens (98 pounds). I tried to put on weight,  but I was quite anaemic and I couldn’t get much past 100 pounds. In my 20’s I hovered between 110-120. I’m hoping, through healthier eating and exercise, to get down to 110-115, which is a healthy weight and one at which I feel comfortable.

I’ve got a nice set of girlie weights and this Cindy Crawford DVD set, which is excellent. Despite being gorgeous and having a perfect body, Cindy Crawford has a great personality and just seems like one of the gals. She’s not annoyingly smiley and perky. By the end of the workout, she’s just as sweaty and tired as you are…and just as relieved that it’s done. I look forward to my workouts and love it when I get up the next morning and all of my muscles are so sore I can barely move.

  • The Big One: Start writing.

My first foray into creative writing was in first grade. I hated going outside for recess in the winter. Hated it. I decided to do something about it. Students were allowed to stay indoors if a parent wrote a letter stating that said child was ill. And that’s just what I did. Lacking real stationary, I used the back of a little alphabet card, about 2″x2″ in size and crafted the missive in pencil. My teacher was not impressed. She gave me a stern look and sent me outside.

Thus began my illustrious career in writing (at school, that is). Thankfully, I improved with time. So much so, that by 9th grade my teachers were telling me I had the makings of a professional writer. I took AP English classes and wrote endlessly in my spare time: journals galore, poems, stories, and I always had a novel in the works. At 14 I actually did write a novel: 400 pages hand-written on loose-leaf paper…in pencil.

Unsure as to how to launch a career in writing, I gave up writing for Psychology (which I didn’t finish), and then nursing (again, unfinished). Now, I’d like to get back into writing. I don’t think I have what it takes to make it professionally, but I’d love to write a novel anyway. For me, writing is compulsive…just as an artist must make marks, I must put words on paper. And although I’ll probably rely on the computer for the bulk of my writing, my notes will be in my favoured pencil. 🙂

This is to be my main focus. Art is a much-enjoyed hobby and is refreshing after spending lots of time writing, but writing is what I do.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about, but a few days ago, as I was lying in bed, a few lines came to me. It wasn’t an idea of a book as such, but a few good lines and a good start. I’ll see where it takes me.

I’m also planning to work alongside Esa with Classical Writing.

  • Learn Latin.

Song School Latin is great for Esa, but I’d like to work ahead. I’m thinking of using Galore Park’s So You Really Want to Learn Latin. This is designed for teens, but I think it will be perfect for me.

  • Read (at least) 6 classics, 4 of which should be new.

I remember someone in one of my Yahoo! Groups saying that she was looking for something to read because she’d read all the classics, and I thought to myself, Really? ALL of them? And then I thought, What? Just ONCE? I can’t imagine anyone reading everything that’s considered a classic, and even if one had, classics are meant to be read over and over.

I’ve read a few classics, but not many. I love my Jane Austen, I’ve read a few books from the Brontes, and one or two others, so I really need to work on this.

I’ve already made a start on this one. I’m re-reading Great Expectations, which is a favourite of mine. I read this in 9th grade and absolutely loved it. I’m loving it even more the second time around.

Here’s my tentative reading list:

  • —Great Expectations
  • David Copperfield
  • —Sense and Sensibility
  • —Animal Farm
  • —Wuthering Heights
  • —1 Shakespeare Play
  • —Sherlock Holmes

These, of course, are to aid my self-education. Although I’m a pretty good reader, I want to get more from my reading. I’m also a forgetter; I read something from a non-fiction book and then I forget it. I often take notes, which helps, but I want to really own the information. I’m hoping How to Read a Book will help with this. I also plan to start narrating what I read.

  • Improve my grammar.

I love grammar. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the orderliness…who knows, but I really like to see good grammar. When a writer has good grammar, it tells me that the person cares about his writing and sees it as a part of himself…a bit like good grooming and careful dressing. I think good grammar is like cleanliness: a grammatically correct piece of writing is clean and tidy, whereas a piece of writing full of errors is sloppy and has a lazy feel to it.

My grammar isn’t horrendous, but I’ve forgotten a lot. So, I’m working my way through Harvey’s Elementary Grammar and Composition. This is a very thorough and very (!) challenging book and I’m relearning lots of things, such as predicates and participles. However, it does use some out of date words, such as copula for linking verbs, but I can easily work around this. Going through the material myself will make it easier when it comes time for Esa to use it. Although, I’m now starting to think that we may need to preface this text with something easier first, so we may use FLL 3 & 4.

Every day, I sit for about 20 minutes and do a lesson or two. I’ve also ordered the book Woe is I, which looks not only informative, but entertaining. Once I’m finished with my grammar study (or mostly finished), I’ll start on Latin.

  • Delve into history. SOTW is great, but I’d like to read a bit more deeply. The following three books are what I’m hoping to read this year:
  • Get rid of many possessions.

I’m planning a project. I want to go through my entire house, room-by-room, and clean it from top to bottom. My house isn’t a mess, but there are things that need attention and due to our limited space, I want to clear out the things we don’t need and organise the rest. I’m going to empty every drawer, every cupboard, and every shelf; go through each and every item we own; clean, scrub, and dust every surface; wash all the curtains…I’m going to go through the house with a fine-tooth comb and get rid of all the stuff we don’t need, and thoroughly clean every inch of our home. I’m both excited about this and dreading it. I’m worried that I’m going to run out steam part-way through.

Where on earth am I going to find the time to do everything? Really, I should be finding ways to cut back on what I have to do, not add in more stuff. Well, Esa is becoming more independent with his school work. There are many times when I can duck out of the room for short periods to wash up the dishes, or start a load of laundry, or do some quick vacuuming in another room. The result of this is that once lessons are finished for the day, I have less housework to do, which gives me a little extra time in the afternoons (most days, anyway).

I’m not intending to tackle everything at once. I’ll work slowly through my list. The reading I will do alongside the more academic pursuits.

Here’s the plan:

  • Exercising: This is the easy one (in terms of scheduling). Whenever I exercise, it has to be done in the morning, otherwise it just won’t happen. I’ve given up a little computer time 3 days a week to pump iron with Cindy before everyone else is up.
  • Project Winter Power Clean: I’m either going to take a full week to do this, or do a room here and there on bank holidays. I’ve got to be in the mood to do this.
  • Art: I get some time for art during our homeschooling art lessons and when we’re on holiday. We tend to take one week off every 5th week, so I do get some time for my art. It is going to have to take a bit of a backseat for now. Once Esa is older and more independent with his work I’m hoping to pursue art more in depth. For now, my academic enrichment is more important to me and will improve our homeschooling.
  • History and other non-fiction reading: I’m going to designate 20 minutes each afternoon for this.
  • Latin: If I can’t find time on the weekdays, I may do this on the weekends, with little bits of review on the weekdays.
  • Writing: I haven’t quite figured this one out yet. Instead of checking email and reading blogs in the morning, I may devote that time to writing and do the other stuff in the evening. I’m very much a morning person, so I need to do the writing while my mind is fresh. I’ll also try to do a little writing here and there when I can squeeze it in, and on the weekends.
  • Follow the advice in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. This is a gem of a book and the advice presented can be applied to any discipline.

I’ll keep you posted with progress on my resolutions.

What about you? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?

Happy New Year!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on December 31, 2010 in Latin, Michelle, Resolutions: 2011

 

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Focus (Part II) (Or: I’ve Always Gotta Be Tinkering…)

I’ve been thinking a lot about where we’re headed as well as Classical Writing and Harvey’s Elementary Grammar and Composition (which I hadn’t heard of until recently…Harvey’s, that is) which we plan on using later, and realised that we’re leaning more towards a Latin-Centred approach, which I’m quite happy with. I strongly believe in the concept of multum non multa– not many, but much…in other words, quality, not quantity.

Although our homeschooling is going well, I think it could be better. We’re doing a lot, and sometimes we’re digging in deeply…but not as often, and not as deeply, as I’d like us to.

I was looking through the curriculum presented in The Latin-Centered Curriculum (refered to here as The LCC, which is different from LCC, which just means a Latin-centred curriculum) and I found myself, eyebrows furrowed, frown in place, searching the table of contents and index for any mention of spelling. There’s no spelling! I hissed. No grammar, either, from what I can see!

No, there’s no spelling or grammar curriculum in The LCC, because those things aren’t needed when you’re using Classical Writing, although the authors of CW recommend Harvey’s and the use of a spelling programme…so I’ll have to take a closer look and evaluate as we go.

Could we really drop spelling and grammar?

Well, we’ve dropped grammar (First Language Lessons) for now, until Homer, then we’ll begin using Harvey’s, which is supposed to be the best, most thorough grammar programme ever written.

Spelling? Yes. We are going to drop spelling when we begin CW. Sequential Spelling is fantastic, but I think with CW it’s just going to be overkill. Plus, spelling takes about 30 minutes each day. That’s a lot of time in a homeschooler’s day. If I see a need for a separate spelling programme, we can always add Sequential Spelling back in. But with all the writing and Latin he’ll be doing, I don’t think we will need it. CW takes a total of an hour a day, plus we’ll be spending about 30-45 minutes each day using Lively Latin and Minimus. Plus we’ll have handwriting practice and reading. That’s around 2.5 hours each day of English and Latin, and we’ll still need to do science, history, and math. Something’s gotta give, and it’s going to have to be spelling.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, what I’m about to say may come as quite a shock, but here it is: I don’t think studying grammar at this age is necessary. We’ve spent over a year doing grammar, and Esa pretty much knows what a noun is, but he’s still shaky with verbs and shakier still with pronouns.  I’ve been taking a close look at Harvey’s, and it starts from the very beginning with nouns, what a sentence is, and the different types of sentences. What is point of doing it now and doing it later, when we can just do it later? I’m not going to teach him to read twice, so why should I have to teach grammar twice? When he’s a little older, it’ll all make much more sense and the information will stick, because he’ll be able to practice the concepts more. The time previously spent on grammar will be much more wisely spent on something like math or reading.

I’m also thinking of making some changes to our history studies. Well, more so when we begin our studies of the ancients again, in fifth grade. I like some of the resources recommended in The LCC, and I’d like to take a slower, more in-depth study of the great books. The Well-Trained Mind recommends a dizzying number of books to read each year. I know they don’t intend for the student to read all of them, but when I look at that list, it suddenly becomes a necessity and I feel I’m leaving something vital out if I don’t.

I really like the idea of taking our time and going slowly through the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths. I also want to learn more about Greek and Roman history, and  from next year make Latin our main focus, now that phonics instruction is complete. The following passage from The LCC really struck a chord with me:

Classical language study increases our knowledge of the past and of our own history. It’s quite impossible to study classical languages without delving into classical history. What is a ‘gladiator’? (If you know the meaning of the common second-declension noun gladius, you’ll have an important clue.) Who was Caesar? What is an aqueduct and why were they built? What is the meaning of ‘democracy,’ and where was it first practiced? This history is our history, the history of the West. We cannot understand the roots of our own government, legal system, or religious traditions without reference to Greece and Rome. (emphasis my own)

Many of the resources recommended in The LCC are Christian, so inappropriate for us, and the study of science isn’t seen as important and is fact-based in the early grades, so The Latin-Centered Curriculum won’t be our homeschooling bible, as such, but we will probably follow it more than we do WTM (which I still love).

The changes I’d like to make aren’t huge, really. We’ve already begun leaning towards a Latin-centred approach without really trying. I’m just going to give it a little nudge. To sum up, here’s what I’m planning:

  • Math: Continue with Singapore. This programme really instils and promotes mathematical thinking and mental math skills. This curriculum comes highly recommended in The LCC.
  • Writing: Continue with Writing with Ease for now. Re-evaluate at the end of second grade. Move on to WWE level 3, or progress to Classical Writing.
  • Poetry: Continue enjoying and memorising poems. Begin Poetry for Beginners in fifth grade.
  • Handwriting: Continue as we are with Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting. We have just begun book C.
  • Grammar: Stop FLL. Restart grammar in fifth grade using Harvey’s.
  • Spelling: Stop spelling when we begin CW. If spelling becomes an issue, resume Sequential Spelling and omit the spelling element of CW.
  • Latin:
  • Science: Continue with Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, having one lesson per week, or every two weeks and one day of science reading.
  • History: Continue as we are with SOTW, cutting back on the supplementary reading. Instead, we will read Greek and Norse myths, medieval tales, and fairy tales this year. We will also continue working through British history, very slowly, using Our Island Story audio book, The Usborne History of Britain, and Britannia: 100 Great Stories from British History
  • Reading: Phonics instruction is complete. We are going to make a phonics chart to help cement learning. I allow Esa to choose his own reading material, but he often goes for the same books over and over, so I occasionally choose for him.
  • Art & Music: Weekly art lesson from Artistic Pursuits, plus plenty of self-initiated art projects. Esa’s recently expressed an interest in learning to draw realistically, so we may pick up Drawing with Children again. We play classical music during art times. For picture study, we’ll be using the Page-a-Day Art calendar.
 

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