Friday, August 23, 2013

Narration for Young Children

A big part of a Charlotte Mason education is narration. The idea is that when a child knows they will have to recite a story or lesson after it has been read, they will pay better attention to detail.  The process of narration also helps solidify the lesson in their memory as they work to re-tell it.

Charlotte Mason does not recommend narration before the age of 6 as it can be difficult at first and can dampen a young child's natural curiosity and love of learning.  I was noticing though, that as I read to my children, there were many times it was obvious that they weren't paying attention.  I realized that some simple narration might help so I brainstormed techniques that would be age appropriate and fun. 

Puppet Shows and Plays

The first way we have started working narration into our days is through plays and puppet shows!  They naturally tend to do this anyway, so I knew it would be something they enjoy. 

Last week they were obviously zoning out as I read to them so after I finished I suggested we do a puppet show.  Michaela, my little perfectionist gave me a look of horror and then sheepishly asked me to re-read it to her.  After a couple of readings, she finally attempted a puppet show and did so well!  I was impressed at what she was able to recall, and we will definitely be doing this more in the future as the need arises!


We journal pretty much everything.  We found these wonderful primary composition books with space to draw on top and manuscript lines underneath.  They love to journal items they found in nature, or about what they did that day.  At this age, they basically draw everything and ask me to label it for them.  We recently started journaling their weekly bible stories as a way to help them remember them a little bit better and I am impressed by the details they remember.

Do you do narration with your young children?  Please share in the comments if you do, I'd love to get more ideas!  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Habit Training: Starting the Day off Right

Habit training is a big part of the Charlotte Mason philosophy as an essential step in building character.  It's also VERY important in making sure that our homeschool days run smoothly!

As we geared up for starting school in late June/early July, the first step I took in habit training was in making sure that our days started off on the right foot!  It seemed like our mornings were always painfully dragging as I nagged the kids to JUST.  GET.  DRESSED.  ALREADY!

Then I would start the day off angry and annoyed, with my patience level dangerously low.  Not a good way to start every day.  So I implemented a simple wake up system that had the bonus of giving me a little extra time to get ready in the morning without the kids bothering me for a snack.

I created a simple sign and put it on the back of the big kids bedroom door.  Before the kids come out of their room each morning they have to do their 3 things:

1.  Say a simple morning prayer: "Thank you for this day Lord, help me to be good."
2.  Make their beds.
3.  Get dressed.

Simple, right?  And yet it has done so so much to save our sanity!  The kids start the day completely prepared and all I have to do is get the baby dressed after breakfast while the kids work on handwriting.  I'll be posting our Chore Chart soon to show more ways we have been working on habit training.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Students

Meet the stars of our homeschool: the students!
Michaela - 5
She loves math and science and craves order in her day.
(Did NOT get that from me!)
Wants to be a teacher in a school when she grows up.

Rafael - 3
He loves handwriting and math.
He is a total bundle of energy!
Wants to be a Grandpa when he grows up.
Gabrielle - 18 months
She's not a student yet, but she certainly tries!
On any given day she can be found climbing furniture and emptying out all our school bins!
We are participating in the "Not" Back to School Blog Hop!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Term 1 & 2 At a Glance

As most students around the country, both home and public schooled, are gearing up to return to school, we just finished our second "term" of the year. We are trying our hand at year round homeschooling and have broken our year up into 3-4 week "terms" with a week break in between.  Here's what we've been up to the last couple of months.

In Our Homeschool
Term 1 - Finding our Groove
We went through three or four complete transformations in our schedule as we tried to figure out our new normal. By the end of the term we had finally figured out what seems to be working for now. I'm sure this will change again at some point as the children grow.
Term 2 - On a Roll
These past 3 weeks have been much easier for us.  We've figured out a good routine, and are slowly learning that everything doesn't have to go exactly as planned for it to be a good week.  The kids are surprising me with their inquisitiveness and we are spending far longer on certain lessons because they really want to go into detail.  The only negative is that our math curriculum doesn't seem to be working out for us very well (RightStart Math) so I am looking into changing to MEP soon.  Other than that, I'm really starting to enjoy this homeschool thing!

In our Life
My husband is a teacher and was thankfully able to be home for most of our first term. It was nice having him at the beginning as I was figuring everything out. He returned to work as we started our second turn and thankfully our schedule worked just fine, even without him home to help with the baby!

I've also spent the last couple of months joining various homeschool groups and trying to figure out which will work best for our family. I am an EXTREMELY social creature, as are the children, so I know a good homeschool group will be a huge bonus for all of us.

Around Town

Even though we started in July, our schedule still allowed us to enjoy plenty of summer fun!  Trips to the splash pad, 4th of July parade & picnic, field trips to the nature center and biopark, storytimes, and a week of VBS kept us plenty busy!  In August, we've been enjoying spending time with our MOMS Club friends at various playdates, and getting to know some new friends through a Catholic moms group I joined.  We're looking forward to starting a couple of co-ops this month too!
My Kitchen
This is probably my biggest struggle of the day. By the end of the day, instead of cooking dinner, I just want to sit down and zone out. I've been getting through by trying to make simple, easy meals. They are not always the most nutritious though, so that is definitely something we'll have to work on!

I'm Grateful For
The ability and the freedom to stay home with my kids and be their teacher.

I'm Praying For
Patience!  Some days are wonderful, but I have had my fair share of mommy tantrums.  I am praying that I can keep calm through the rough days and show my children the face of Jesus instead of the anger that so easily comes to me.

Things I'm Working On
This week we have off from school, so I have LOTS of projects I am working on right now, including a pen-pal template for my beginning writers (which I plan to share as a free printable!).  I'm also pulling together a preschool-1st grade level science class for one of my co-ops that starts this week.

Sharing is Caring
Here are some awesome posts that I found recently.  I hope you will find inspiration or humor in some of them as well.
The Homeschooling Mom's Prayer at So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler
The Forgotten Mom at Hip Homeschool Moms
When You Think Your Love Story is Boring at Lisa-Jo Baker
Raspberry Cheesecake Jars at Weelicious

I'm Linking Up

Thanks for reading!

Geography: Maps

We aren't following a Geography curriculum, but as we will be doing many hikes and nature walks this year, I wanted to make sure they understood how to read a map and what cardinal directions were.


We used this book as an introduction to maps and all their important features including symbols, compass rose, legend, etc.  It is so well written, and absolutely perfect for their age range.


After spending the week learning about maps, we made a small house with dollhouse furniture and popsicle sticks as walls.  Then I asked her to make a map of her house, including a compass rose, symbols, and a legend.  It was a perfect activity to end our map lessons!

I also asked her to navigate our way through the botanic gardens a couple of days later using the provided map.  I'm sure we'll be doing more of that in the future!  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Signs of Progress

When we made the decision to homeschool, we went full steam ahead, no looking back.  I memorized my responses to questions such as "what are you going to do for socialization?" and made sure that I NEVER seemed unsure of our decision.  But of course, as I'm sure is the case with the vast majority of homeschoolers in their first year, there has always been a tiny nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that maybe I made the wrong decision.  That maybe I will end up screwing up my kids in some unforeseen way.  Especially having chosen a "non-traditional" style and curriculum.

So you can imagine my surprise and happiness (and no small amount of "Ha ha!  I can do it!") when I started seeing signs of progress.  After almost 2 months of homeschooling, I can tell that what I am teaching is sticking and that my kids are getting the kind of education that I wanted them to have.

Rafael asked if he could write his name.  He is 3!  I didn't ask him to, and have certainly never had him do handwriting drills of any sort.  He practices forming letters with playdough and wikkistix though, so I was quite impressed to see it translate to writing. 

Reading to her brother.
Michaela is reading short stories on her own.  We do a simple 10 minute lesson a day, and apparently it is working!  She was skyping with her Grandma on Sunday and everyone was impressed with how well she is doing!
Making Connections
She makes so many connections on a daily basis that I can tell her little brain is working and learning all the time.  We were using equilateral triangles to make other shapes, and she noticed that in making a larger triangle, each row was a series of consecutive odd numbers.  (1 in the top row, 3 next, 5 next, etc.).  I love seeing her figure things out without me interfering in the slightest!

I'm looking forward to where else this year takes us!  Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Homeschooling Through Sickness

St. Blaise, pray for us that we may not suffer from illnesses of the throat and
pray that all who are suffering be healed by God's love.  Amen.

I woke up feeling awful.  I've had a tickle in my throat for several days that I was attributing to allergies, but the way I feel today I'm pretty sure it's a cold.  The kids are also complaining of sore throats, though their energy levels don't seem to be affected like mine is.  (Of course, isn't that the way it always works?!)  Though this is my first experience homeschooling through feeling yucky, I thought I'd share some things that I am trying to do to make sure I can make it through the day and give my littles the attention they need!

I don't know about you, but I always feel better after I exercise, especially when I am sick!  I definitely did NOT feel up to it, but I woke up this morning and went running before Philip went to work.  Being outside first thing in the morning and getting my endorphins flowing definitely got me into a much better frame of mind than if I had slept later and woke up groggy and in a bad mood!

Take Extra Care of Yourself
It's easy to skip meals and snacks when my mind is preoccupied with feeding the kids, doing last minute prep work for lessons, and making sure the house doesn't explode with toys and books while the toddler runs around wreaking havoc.  I am trying to be extra conscientious today about eating well and drinking plenty of fluids.

Take Lots of Breaks
My mind just doesn't work the same when I am sick.  Both my mind and my body need breaks to get back to optimum running level so the kids are getting plenty of extra playtime in between lessons today!

Be Honest with the Kids
With the exception of the baby, my kids are old enough to understand that mommy is feeling bad, they need to give me a little break.  I tell them I am not feeling great and ask them to do their best to stay out of trouble.  Does it always work?  No, but all in all, I think they definitely work a little harder at being good when they see how miserable I am!

Give Yourself (and your Students!) a Break
My kids love school.  They love learning and reading and journaling, and everything else associated with school.  At the same time, it is really hard to concentrate and learn while you don't feel good.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak!  While I don't want to get behind in lessons, it's not a big deal if we do.  We can catch up on a weekend or on any of the several break weeks that I have planned in to our year.  Homeschooling is so awesome!  When kids go to school and are sick for a day, they just miss out on whatever is learned!  At home, we can make it up whenever we have a free moment!  While we've managed to take care of almost everything today, my goal was the three R's (reading, writing, a'rithmetic) - everything else is bonus in a house full of sickos!

Mandatory Quiet Time
The older two haven't napped in years, but as soon as the baby went down, they were sent to their room for mandatory quiet time.  I need rest, and it wouldn't hurt them either!  I don't care if they actually sleep or not, as long as they stay in their room!

Speaking of's time for me to try to squeeze in a nap!  Any other tips on how to make it through a homeschool day when you and/or your kids are sick?  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Nature Studies: Tadpoles and Caterpillars

Ever since we "discovered" the Charlotte Mason way of teaching, we have been immersing ourselves in nature and trying to be more aware to the world around us.  Thankfully God is helping us out a little bit by presenting us with amazing opportunities!

A few weeks ago, Philip discovered hundreds of tadpoles in the little seasonal pond that forms in the arroyo near our house during monsoon season.  He took the kids to see them and it was a unanimous decision to bring some home so that we could see their life cycle first hand!

Top Left: Hundreds of tadpoles in the pond, Top Right: Tadpoles Day 1
Bottom Left: Tadpoles Day 3 (Legs and shortening tail!), Bottom Left: Tadpoles Day 5 (Almost no tail!) 
We were out playing in the front yard earlier this week and saw a HUGE caterpillar inching along a patch of dirt.  I quickly ran inside to grab a large empty pasta jar, scooped some dirt and grass inside and picked up the caterpillar with a stick and placed it in the jar.  We did some research later in the day and discovered that this gorgeous caterpillar is actually going to turn into a dull brown moth.  The kids didn't care; they were thrilled that we might have a chance to see it pupate and change - even if it wasn't becoming a butterfly!

This particular caterpillar pupates underground so we made a habitat with tons of dirt and are hoping that it will pupate soon!  I did warn the kids that more often than not, caterpillars in captivity die so they are well prepared for that eventuality, but we are doing our best to encourage the natural life cycle of this little creature!

Thanks for reading!

I'm linking up!