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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)
 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Books We Love, Reading

 

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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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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.

 
2 Comments

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

 
4 Comments

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!

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

 

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