Imparting a classical education at home. Check out the Edwards Academy.

Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Plugging into Poetry

Three of my favorite years of school were spent at a small Christian school in my home town. My teacher presided over a handful of kids in several grades. One of my sharpest memories from those years in upper elementary school is of my teacher, standing before the cluster of desks, a folder in his hand, leading us in the recitation of poems.

I remember "The Charge of the Light Brigade," "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Little Orphant Annie," "To a Skylark," and "O Captain, My Captain" most of all. I can only recite snatches of these poems any more, but I can still hear, like yesterday, the voice of my teacher calling out,

Gustave Dore's illustration of the mariner (Wikipedia)
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
(excerpt from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner")

and...


An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you
Don't
Watch
Out!
(From "Little Orphant Annie", by James Whitcomb Riley)

I've always intended to emphasize poetry in our home school, but when we are a bit behind schedule for the day the poetry reading seems to be something I usually skip. I needed a better plan.

Last week I saw on another homeschooling blog that a mom made a memory work CD for her kids, ripping on her computer the tracks she needed for the week. Taking that idea, I did a similar thing using our iPod. Instead of creating a CD, I created a playlist for the iPod (which plugs into our stereo). Although there are some excellent poetry recordings available (Andrew Pudewa's poetry program, Developing Linguistic Patterns Through Poetry Memorization, comes to mind, not to mention audio tracks available on iTunes), this wasn't in my budget.

I found a free software program called Audacity and soon transformed my laptop and living room into a recording studio. The kids and I recorded several poems, a memory verse, and some math counting (by 2s and 10s). After a week of that playlist, the kids can recite large portions, if not all, of several poems.

We started with (a few selections are excerpts):
The Tale of Custard the Dragon (Ogden Nash) (Link to illustrated book at Amazon.com)
Little Orphant Annie (James Whitcomb Riley)
To a Skylark (Percy Bysshe Shelley)
Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore (William Brighty Rands)
All Things Bright and Beautiful (Cecil Frances Alexander)
There was an old person whose habits (Edward Lear)
My Gift (Christina Rossetti)

As we have our lunch or snack we often listen to the poetry playlist. I'm amazed how quickly they are picking up the poems.

Our favorite book of poetry is Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris Tibbits.

Do you make your own recordings of Scripture, poetry, or songs? What poems are your family's favorite?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Preparing for Summer


Are you working on your summer schedule? Marking your calendar with VBS dates, day camp dates, swimming lessons, sports teams, and vacations? Planning to keep plugging away at math drills? Signing up for the library's summer reading plan?

How are you prepared to get through the summer spiritually?

We have several things we do to keep us in the Word of God throughout the school year. Mr. Edwards and I both do Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), which is a tremendous Bible study that gives accountability and daily time in the Word. We have come to rely on BSF to help keep us faithful in our individual walk with Jesus. This past year, our second graders also did BSF with us. We give glory to God because we have seen Him transform our daughters through this past year, largely through the BSF study.

For Christian parents, the primary aim of imparting an education to our kids is so that they may be equipped to study the Word of God for themselves. We have been in awe this past year as we watched our daughters mature in their reading until they were able to work through their BSF lesson mostly on their own. It is so exciting to see them gradually growing into a daily habit of individual study of the Bible.

But what about this summer? We won't have BSF to keep us accountable.

For me, this will be my second summer since I developed a faithful early-morning devotional habit. I use the Victory Bible Reading Plan throughout the year and finally my morning routine is settled enough that summer break doesn't change it.

I'm looking ahead to the summer, however, and wondering about my kids. Our school year evenings are busy with BSF and AWANA, so our family devotion habit at bedtime fell by the wayside this year. We plan to restore that evening habit. For this, we like to combine some catechism practice with Bible stories. With our two year old developing better listening skills, this will be an important training time for him.

I ordered a kids devotional book by John MacArthur, called A Faith to Grow On to help fill the BSF gap for our daughters' personal Bible study. One thing that I hope will help us stay faithful in the summer is a change in our school schedule that I made after spring break. Before spring break, our BSF lesson time was the first item on our school agenda. When I re-worked our school schedule at spring break, I moved the kids' BSF time out of the school schedule and told them they needed to do it first thing in the morning.

This worked for us, since usually they wander out in the living room in the morning and find me still finishing up my own quiet time with the Lord. To protect my prayer and worship, and to help them imitate the practice, I decided they should use those moments working on their BSF. Now I'm seeing how God used that change (which I made to help our school day, actually) to teach the girls that their personal time with God isn't a school subject--it is a life habit.

God is so good.
Here is our memory verse for the week:
Matthew 26:41
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wrapping Up

Lane's Midwest Map

The Edwards Academy school year is wrapping up. We are on week 35 of Tapestry of Grace and will finish the year next week. We finished Shurley English 2 a few weeks back and have been supplementing with "Daily Guided Teaching and Review for 2nd and 3rd Grades" by Wanda Phillips. We're still going strong with Explode the Code assignments and Math U See assignments.

This week for TOG we are learning about Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, and germs. The final literature assignment for our second graders is reading Anna Sewell's Black Beauty. We are combining that with some other horse studies, but that is for another post.

In wrapping up the year, we are tidying up our notebooks and school work. Our year's paperwork is in a bit of disarray! In sorting through papers, I came across this map that Lane made during our TOG studies of Texas, cattle trails, the Santa Fe trail and the Oregon trail. This map is an example of the sort of thing that Lane creates while I read history assignments aloud. (Lane is five years old.)

He's titled the map "Lane's Police Southwest." ("Ples" = "police') You can see his map, going south, of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Near Kansas he has drawn Missouri (Mi) and Iowa (Io). He's drawn raindrops on Kansas and Oklahoma because "a storm was coming." Out west (left hand side) you can see California (Ca) and Nevada (Ne). And, of course, you see his illustration of the Alamo. Just to the left of Texas you can see Lane's illustration of Stephen Austin, for whom the Texas capital is named. Sam Houston is shown to the right of Texas.*

This map helps to explain why I love homeschooling.

*Lane was mostly inspired by our readings from Abraham Lincoln's World, by Genevieve Foster regarding Texas. A great book that summarizes world events during the lifetime of Abraham Lincoln.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Outside Beckons



Here you see a few Edwards Academy kids and several neighborhood friends taking in the sunshine. I snapped this earlier in the week, but it could have been today. In our part of the plains the sun was shining gloriously, the flags were hanging blessedly limp, and it was warm enough to exchange jeans for shorts. It was the first day the kids really needed their sun screen--and I forgot all about it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Announcing a Tapestry of Grace Co-op Launch

Tapestry of Grace Co-op
Discovering God’s Truth in Scripture and in History
2008-2009 School Year: TOG Year 4

In preparation for the 2008-2009 school year, I am launching a Tapestry of Grace Year 4 Co-op that will meet in west Wichita, Kansas about twice a month from September to May. If you are interested in joining this group, please email me at TOGWichitaCoop@gmail.com and I will send you an application. (If there is enough interest, I will be glad to oversee a Year 1 co-op that would meet at the same time and place as the Year 4 co-op and operate under this organization. Let me know if this interests you.)

What is Tapestry of Grace and Year 4?
Tapestry of Grace is a classical-method curriculum that covers history, geography, church history, fine arts, writing, and literature. For more information, please follow the Tapestry link below. TOG cycles through history chronologically over four years. The Year 4 study covers the 20th century (1900s). Our family has used Tapestry of Grace for Years 1-3 with lower grammar students, so I am very familiar with the Tapestry curriculum. If you are new to Tapestry and are transferring from another history curriculum, it is still okay to begin with Year 4, the 20th century. (A child beginning in first grade will go through four years of chronological history three times by 12th grade.)*

Explore Tapestry of Grace by clicking here.

Purpose Statement
We purpose to:
• Bring honor and glory to our Lord Jesus Christ
• Support and encourage families that use Tapestry of Grace curriculum
• Help families use TOG successfully in their home school
• Meet regularly for TOG activities and discussion
• Join together for quarterly unit celebrations

Becoming a Member
To join our group, you must complete a member application, a family fact sheet, and commit to participate for one year. Renewing members must update a family fact sheet each school year.

Membership Expectations
Group members are expected to:
• Believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and agree to our group’s statement of faith.
• Faithfully attend and participate in a local church.
• Register as a private school with the State of Kansas as required by law and preferably maintain membership in HSLDA.
• Faithfully home school their children and stay current in their Tapestry of Grace studies.
• Regularly attend co-op meetings and serve the group.
• Honor the group’s code of conduct.

Scope and Objectives
The Tapestry of Grace Wichita co-op seeks to provide accountability to you in your TOG studies. Group meetings are narrowly focused on the topic of that week’s TOG subject matter.

• Crafts and hands-on activities come from the week plan’s assignments or directly relate to that week plan’s topic.
• Discussion topics for older kids come directly from Tapestry of Grace’s co-op discussion questions.
• Presentations of writing assignments or book reports must be from the TOG week plan or else directly relate to that subject.
• Occasional official field trips must connect to the Tapestry Unit.
• Quarterly celebrations that include a display of TOG projects and work.
• Rhetoric level Pageant of Philosophy play
• Assistance with preparing rhetoric level (high school) transcripts.

Limitations
The group’s narrow academic focus requires that all official co-op meetings and activities be related to Tapestry of Grace studies. The group does not intend to stand alone as an academic class; it is supplementary to your home Tapestry of Grace studies. Students must be prepared for group meetings by completing week plan assignments, as designated by Mom. Older students need to be prepared for participating in meaningful discussions by reading all assignments prior to discussion time.

Code of Conduct
At the Tapestry of Grace Wichita co-op each student is expected to honor God and others at all times. Students should address adults with the appropriate title and their surname.

• Students should not bring toys, electronic toys or devices, or music players unless it directly relates to that week’s co-op meeting.

• Dress should be modest and neat and clean. Please avoid wearing t-shirts with slogans, licensed characters or sayings that dishonor God or others.

*(Note: As you look at the Tapestry of Grace website you will notice Year 1 & 2 are "Redesigned." The redesigned edition of Year 3 is coming out in the 2007-2008 school year and Year 4 is due the year after that. The Classic Year 4 Tapestry is available at a lower price than the redesigned years. It is an excellent product. The redesign project is updating book lists, changing formats slightly, and implementing other improvements. The essentials are unchanged.)

GRACE Family Night

Lane and Toby sing along to "Three in One"
Sydney in front of the "Pond Life" display
Hope in front of the "Pond Life" display
Hope and Sydney show us their artwork.
Lane shows us his favorite poem, "Cowboys"

On Tuesday night we had our home school co-op year-end program. Both sets of grandparents were on hand to see the Edwards Academy kids participate in the event. There were on-stage presentations as well as a gallery displaying their work throughout the year.

Lane presented a show and tell item, a picture of his pet Nemo. We practiced together what he would say about Nemo, "This is a picture of me and my pet fish Nemo. He is a blue Beta fish." In the nervousness of the actual presentation, however, Lane merely said, "This is my pet Nemo!" and nearly fled form the microphone!

Sydney and Hope presented push-ups for a P.E. demonstration. Lane presented the "sit and reach." Lane also was a part of the poetry class recitation of "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear.

We enjoyed seeing all the art, the lapbooks about Asia that Hope and Sydney made, the books Hope and Sydney had on display, and Lane's poems.

Lane's couplet poem is inspired by Lois Lenski's Mr. Small books.

Cowboys
by Lane
Cowboy Small puts on the saddle.
Then he rounds up the cattle.

Thanks to all the GRACE moms who served as teachers this year!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Testing Week, Paper Toys, and Burt Dow

Toby and Lane show us Burt Dow and his Tidely-Idely
The Edwards Academy kids are taking standardized tests this week, which means that our schedule is turned on its head. Having plenty of mental energy for testing is the top priority, so the rest of our days will be pretty unstructured. Enjoying that extra measure of freedom, the kids are spending this afternoon working on making paper toys.

Two weeks ago during our study of immigration, the kids made paper toys of the Statue of Liberty. In finding that project we found two paper toy websites that have some great free projects. Free except for using ink! (We don't use the color ink for these little projects, even though some are in full color. Once again, I'm feeling good about that laser printer.)

This afternoon Hope is making a Mississippi riverboat, Sydney is making a girl paper doll, and Lane is making a karate kid. We found papertoys.com and Canon 3D Papercraft. Have you found any paper toy sites?

I mentioned the author and illustrator Robert McCloskey a few posts back. I'm sure your familiar with his Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal, but what about Burt Dow: Deep Water Man?

We found this book because we go on streaks where we like to read everything by the author of one of our favorites. Our boys like Burt Dow more fondly than even Make Way for Ducklings.* Burt Dow takes his beloved double-ender boat, the Tidely-Idely out to sea and encounters a whale.

The he started the make-and-break, clackety-BANG! clackety-BANG! And, firm hand on the tiller, giggling gull flying along behind, he headed out of the cove, going clackety-bangety down the bay to fish for cod.


This book even inspired us to google "make-and-break engines." Robert McCloskey books are great no matter how you slice it, but for landlocked Kansas kids, McCloskey books (Time of Wonder, One Morning in Maine, Blueberries for Sal, Burt Dow: Deep Water Man) give a taste of New England life.

*By the way, growing up reading Make Way for Ducklings laid a good foundation for studying birds in zoology. Last week when we read about molting and preening, the kids immediately remembered Mr. and Mrs. Mallard doing this. I'm sure you experience the same thing with this and other stories. That's another anecdotal reason for reading to preschoolers over and over, but that's a whole different subject.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Edwards Academy Book Review

Our second grade Academy students worked hard on writing book reviews of Owls in the Family. We will use this space to publish their efforts.

Mapping out the review

First, Sydney and Hope worked together to plan their three-paragraph book reviews. They used the clustering diagram tool (from Tapestry of Grace's Writing Aids) to map out paragraphs one and two together and then separately they each mapped out the third paragraph, which is their opinion about the book.

Owls in the Family: A Book Review by Sydney Edwards

Owls in the Family is a fiction book by Farley Mowat. The story is based on real events that happened to Farley Mowat. Billy is the main character in the Owls in the Family book. Billy lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which is in Canada. Wol and Weeps are his Great Horned Owl pets.

This book tells the story of Billy's friendship with two pet owls. Billy's family was Billy, his mother and father, and his two owls. Wol came from a bluff and Weeps was in a bucket being stoned when Billy saved him. Weeps thinks Mutt is a guardian to him. Billy goes to a parade and he brings Wol and Weeps. Bruce is Billy's best friend.

I like Owls in the Family because it is a cool book. I think it is cool that Weeps was friends with Mutt, the dog. It is funny because Wol and Weeps think of themselves as people And it is funny because Billy had thirty gophers and I don't know how many white rats he had.



Owls in the Family: A Book Review by Hope Edwards

Owls in the Family is a fiction book by Farley Mowat. The story's based on real events that happened to Farley Mowat. Billy is the main character in this book. Billy lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Wol and Weeps are Billy's pet owls.

This book tells the story of Billy's friendship with his two pet Great Horned Owls. Billy's family was Billy, his mother, his father, and his two owls. Billy goes to a parade and brings his owls Wol and Weeps. Weeps think Mutt the dog is his guardian. Wol came from a bluff and Weeps was in a bucket getting stoned when Billy rescued him. Bruce is Billy's close friend.

I like Owls in the Family because Billy likes nature and I do too. I like it because it's funny. I think it would be fun to have a lot of pets. I also like it because it teaches you about nature.

A Good Deal

Running a homeschool uses up a lot of paper and a lot of printer ink. We use an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier and we are forever buying ink cartridges.

It never occurred to me that there might be an alternative to this until I saw a homeschool forum posting recommending using a laser printer. Laser printers use toner rather than ink cartridges, and although toner cartridges cost more than ink (about $35 depending on the brand), toner lasts for 3,000 or more pages before it needs to be replaced. (Some laser printers also need to have the drum cartridge replaced, but this lasts for about 25,000 pages.)

I asked my husband to look into it. He is an expert Internet shopper, and within days the UPS man brought a $100 refurbished Brother HL-5250DN to my door. (I can't find this deal anymore, but here is the printer on Amazon for $150--still well below the $250 price for a new one.)

If only we had done this sooner! The printer is fast, better quality than inkjet, and uses only black-and-white so it doesn't constantly waste precious color ink cartridges when we print Internet pages. (You know how all those free worksheets have color in them that isn't necessary.) If you look into this, go with a duplex printer. So many of the things I print (library book lists, for instance) use pages and pages of paper. With the duplex feature it is a breeze to print things on both sides (no more flipping the paper and re-feeding it through).

It's a good deal!
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