Saturday, December 23, 2006

Advent 2006

This year, the CEO and I decided to change our Advent approach.  We wanted to follow the traditional formula of using Advent to prepare for the coming of the Saviour, not as an infant but as a King.  We wanted to put the focus more on preparing our hearts for Christ when He returns.  We used a couple of resources to help us with this.

Celebrating the Church Year With Young Children
The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas

Based on the recommendations in the Celebrating the Church Year book, but then also trying to follow a more traditional Advent schedule (such as described here), we created a schedule for the Advent and Christmas season.  Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, and then the 12 days of Christmas each had a separate scripture reading, hymn, thought to ponder, ornament for the tree, and art.  We also listened to Part I of Handel’s Messiah.

We may rearrange the hymns and art next time around, but overall this worked well for our children, ages 1, 3, and 5.  Each night we lit the candle(s), read the scripture, talked about the thought, and sang our hymn.  Each week we put up the appropriate ornament, and displayed the new art selection. After the candle lighting each night, the children took turns using the candle snuffer to put out the candles (with our help, of course).  At supper we listened to the Messiah, and the children are now spontaneously singing some of the pieces at other times.

With the oldest, almost 6, we used the assigned text in the Jesse Tree book referenced above during her Bible time each day.  We did not use the daily Jesse Tree ornaments because last year that was too much for the middle child, and I think it would still be too much for her this year too.  We wanted to keep our focus very narrow this year, and that seems to have been effective.  We did read the devotional from the Jesse Tree book to the kids each night before bed.

We’re still fine-tuning this, but so far this has been a reverent Advent season.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Eeeevil Electronic Toys

We avoid electronic toys at our house, even though we have enough computers that each child has her own.  I don’t care for the constant noise of the electronics, or the way play is limited to whatever was programmed into the toy.  A couple of our toys that are electonic but still have play value simply live at our house without batteries.  Not everyone understands why we are so resistant to these toys, but today an article in the Wall Street Journal explains why:
Too Many Batteries Included

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Term 2 Selections – January through March 2007

ART: J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) English Landscape Painter
Short biography
1. Rain, Steam and Speed
2. Fighting Temeraire, with commentary by Ruskin
This work was chosen as the best painting in Britain
by popular vote at some radio program:
3. The Boys Catching Crabs
4. Rome from the Vatican
(painters seen with Rome as backdrop)
5. Fisherman at Sea
6. The Fifth Plague of Egypt
Boys might enjoy seeing this:
Sunrise with Sea Monsters
Turner was John Ruskin’s favorite artist. Here’s some of Ruskin’s
writing about Turner; there are more:
Please go to
for Picture Study helps, to purchase prints of the term selections,
and to make your own screensavers using images you choose (free).
The Term 1 Selections will be posted there for your future reference.
COMPOSER STUDY: Robert Schumann (1848) (Early Romantic)
Listening selections for this term:
Carnaval (for piano)
Scenes from Childhood for piano
Symphony no 1 in B flat Op 38 "Spring"
Symphony no 2 in C Op 61
an arabeske or humoreske
Liederkreis or other song cycle
Recordings of these pieces may be available at public libraries. If
your local branch doesn’t have them, ask for them through interlibrary
loan. You should also be able to find many used copies available at
local used bookstores or internet sites such as or .
Opal Wheeler has a book in (re)print:
Check our website for helpful suggestions on classical music study:
FOLK SONG: Minstrel Boy
This is track #17 on the Homestead Pickers cd set of the Ambleside
Online folk song selections.
Suggestions for ways to use folk songs are given here, toward the end
of the page:
December: Star in the East
January: Thus Far The Lord Has Led Me On
February: Blest Be the Tie That Binds
March: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Hymns make wonderful copywork selections. You may also wish to ask
your students to recite the words to the hymns (as they do their
poetry recitations) at the end of the month in which they are
learned–an excellent mental exercise, and one which Charlotte Mason
suggested herself!


Christmas lasts from Christmas Day through January 6.  We’ll continue to light all the Advent candles, including the Christ candle, every night during this period.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Advent Week 4

Week 4 this year consists solely of Christmas Eve.

  • Isaiah 9:6
 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

  • Peace candle
  • Jesus brought peace to our hearts.
    When He returns He will bring peace to the world.

Advent Week 3

  • Isaiah 12:2-6
 2 Surely God is my salvation;
       I will trust and not be afraid.
       The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song;
       he has become my salvation."

 3 With joy you will draw water
       from the wells of salvation.

 4 In that day you will say:
       "Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
       make known among the nations what he has done,
       and proclaim that his name is exalted.

 5 Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things;
       let this be known to all the world.

 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
       for great is the Holy One of Israel among you."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Starting "Real School" Later

This post was originally a reply to a mom who was asking about starting first grade (Ambleside‘s Year 1) with her children age 4-1/2 and almost 6.  Normally the 6 year old would start Year 1 about 6 months from now, in the fall.  This was my reasoning for why it would be good to wait.

I don’t say this to imply that anyone is wrong for pressing on with Year 1 early, but just to let you know that there are good reasons for waiting.  You may decide that despite those reasons it is worth starting in, and that’s ok.

Year 0 is a lot more than just read-alouds.  (In fact, read-alouds are really a very small part of it. CM didn’t recommend spending huge amounts of time reading to the children in the early years anyway.  She wanted them to be up and around.)  There’s so much more to focus on, including habit training and nature study (and lots and lots of time spent outside just running around), and those things are *extremely important*, not just nice-to-haves or something to kill time before the kids are ready for "real school".  If you start doing Year 1, you may find that you are keeping the kids inside much of the time to "do school" and robbing them of the outside time they need.  There isn’t really a Year 0 booklist; those books are just some suggestions to get you started.  The Year 0 Yahoo group has some booklists, or you could use FIAR as many do.  But I’ve found that as we’ve emphasized outside time more (the goal is 4-6 hours *a day* remember!) we don’t need so many books to read because we’re not inside reading.

One of the benefits to waiting until age 6 (or thereabouts) to start Year 1 is having time to get the extras firmly entrenched in your family schedule before you have the pressure of school.  For instance, this is a great time to start doing art study, composer study, poetry, tea time, physical education, foreign language, hymns, folk music, etc.  If you get those subjects going smoothly, then you can add in the Year 1 subjects without so much stress.  Habit training makes life easier for everyone, and this is a great time to work on it intensively.  You can still teach many of the concepts you want to teach without making it school.  Math is easily covered through games, cooking, and other real life situations.  Pre-reading and even early reading lessons can be done very casually, but you could even do a formal reading program without having to start Year 1.

Starting Year 1 early may lead you to have to slow things down later, when the readings get much more intense.  That’s another factor to consider.  In a few years the readings take a big jump in difficulty and in the maturity of the themes, so you may find that you need to do one of those years for two years to give your kids time to mature before moving on.

CM very strongly encouraged parents to delay formal education until approximately age 6, for a whole host of reasons.  Children need time to really play, to imagine, to run and jump and breathe fresh air, to explore the world around them without interference, to let their brains mature without a lot of strain.  She’s not alone in recommending this, and research supports her.  So I guess I am just suggesting that it might be worth looking at this time not as "wasted" but as valuable preparation for the later years, even if the preparation doesn’t look like school.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Advent Week 2

  • 1 John 4:9-12
 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

  • Love candle
  • God sent Jesus because He loves us.
    Jesus came because He loves us.
    We show love to God by loving other people.
  • O Holy Night 
  • Heart ornament
  • Handel’s Messiah, Part I, 5-7
  • Art:  Chancel Cross
[Update:  Alternatively, use van Eyck's Adoration of the Lamb, which you can find at the Web Gallery of Art.]

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Advent Week 1

This is our current plan for Advent, Week 1:

  • Jeremiah 33:14-16
    14 " ‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.
     15 " ‘In those days and at that time
           I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
           he will do what is just and right in the land.
     16 In those days Judah will be saved
           and Jerusalem will live in safety.
           This is the name by which it will be called:
           The LORD Our Righteousness.
  • Hope (prophecy) candle
  • God keeps His promises
    God promised to send a savior
    Jesus promised to return
  • Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus 
  • Noah’s Ark ornament
  • Handel’s Messiah, Part I, 1-4
  • Art:  Jesus, Light of the World