Monday, December 24, 2007

Operation Send-a-Box

I think I’ve found a new school/charitable project for our family:
Operation Send-a-Box

"Operation Send-a-Box aspires to send a care package to every soldier in the Sabre squadron over a one month period — ambitious since there are over a thousand soldiers serving in this strategic location.  The squadron’s chaplain has agreed to distribute packages to soldiers who have not yet received mail from home, beginning with the lowest ranked soldiers."

In the past we sent a couple of packages to a college friend while he was in Iraq, which really helped personalize the war for the kids.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pork or Beef Stew Freezer Kits

Put meat in freezer bag.  Add the flour, salt and pepper, then seal the bag and shake to mix up.  Add all the remaining ingredients except the potatoes and the chicken broth.  (I used garlic powder instead of the clove.)  Mix this up and seal the bag.

On the bag, write instructions (or put them on a piece of tape or a label to put on the bag).
"Add 1 can (1-1/2 cups) of chicken broth and 5 diced potatoes.  Cover; cook on Low 10-12 hours (High 4-6 hours). Stir stew thoroughly before serving."

Put this bag in the freezer.  It does not have to be thawed before cooking, just thawed sufficiently to get the mixture out of the bag.  If it is still frozen, cooking time may be an hour longer.

I am thinking that a couple of cans of potatoes might work so that you don’t have to dice potatoes at the last minute.

After trying this once, make lots of these kits at the same time and freeze them.  This is also handy when needing to take a meal to someone.  You can take them the kit even so they can make it at their convenience.

Year 0 Introduction

There is an update here.

The early years with Charlotte Mason require a bit of a different focus than most of us are used to.  Instead of academic goals, we focus on the "many relations waiting to be established; relations with places far and near, with the wide universe, with the past of history, with the social economics of the present, with the earth they live on and all its delightful progeny of beast and bird, plant and tree; with the sweet human affinities they entered into at birth; with their own country and other countries, and, above all, with that most sublime of human relationships–their relation to God." (Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, Volume 6, pp. 72-73)  The rest will come!  I do know that even this sounds like a lot, but I think the key is that they will get these relations through the living books we’re reading and the time (lots and lots of time) spent outside.  We don’t have to plan out a scope and sequence!

The most important Year 0 goal, according to Charlotte Mason, is time spent outside.  “. . .[T]he chief function of the child––his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life––is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects. . . .”  (CM’s OHS, V1, p.96)

A close second in priority behind outside time is habit formation.  “. . . [T]he education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions––a running fire of Do and Don’t; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way, and grow to fruitful purpose.” (CM’s OHS, V1, p.134)  CM has much to say about the why, what, and how of habit formation, which involves far more than just establishing a routine.  CM refers to such habits as obedience, attention, imagining, cleanliness, and more.  Suffice to say it is the key to CM’s methods.  Take the time now to learn about it and implement it.

As for scheduling, that depends on the age of the child.  Many moms (or dads, grandparents, etc.) on this list have one or more children in Year 1 or higher.  For those children they are probably planning 2 or 3 hours (or so) of formal lessons each school day.  Sometimes when a post talks about scheduling and planning, it’s referring to children in that age range (6 or 7 and up).

Year 0 is sort of a kindergarten year, so some moms are using it for a 5 or 6 year old.  Those moms may be beginning some formal lessons, like reading. Generally those wouldn’t be more than 1 hour a day.  Year 0 doesn’t require this sort of structure, but as long as it is kept short and lots of time is left for time outside and other non-academic pursuits, it’s still in line with CM.

Year 0 also encompasses the preschool years, below the ages of 5 or 6.  Those years should not have formal academics, but some moms may plan short activities each day.  The most important objectives at this age, though, are lots of time outside and habit formation.  Reading is good, but select only the very best books, and don’t let reading keep you from time outside and habit training.

If you want to cover academics, the best thing to do is read a few really great books.  We have some booklists on the Yahoo group site (see below).  Children in these early years should be working with concrete objects from the real world, like planting a flower and watching it grow. Between reading great books and spending time with nature, you’ll be amazed what they’ll learn.  For more learning goals for the preschool years, look at the items on the Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six, an excerpt from a curriculum outline from one of CM’s schools.  You can read it at the bottom of the page here:  Remember that this list was meant to be addressed after a child turned six, not prior to the child turning six.

In my family, we do the Ambleside art appreciation, hymn study, folk song, and classical music (although we sometimes don’t use the assigned selection).  We work on Spanish and sign language on an occasional basis.  My dd’s know quite a few folk songs, including lots of patriotic songs and a few obscure ones.  They recognize some classical selections and musical instruments.  They know a handful of hymns at least.  They can recognize several of the art selections from previous terms.  They memorize Psalms and other scriptures, not through drill but through my reading it every morning and then after a few days of that we all try to say it together.  We read some of the Ambleside poetry selections, particularly AA Milne and Robert Louis Stevenson.  They have (infrequent) tea times.  The older dd is learning to sew and draw.  We play card games and board games.  These are all CM friendly activities for the Year 0 ages.

Check out our Yahoo group site at . Look in the Links section, the Files, and the Database. All three sections have the content categorized by subject, so be sure to look at more than one category.  You’ll find many helpful resources.  Then read Charlotte Mason’s writings.  They are the key to implementing a Charlotte Mason education.

***UPDATED to reflect a new understanding of the relative priority of outside time versus habit formation.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Even More Book Closeouts

Here are some books curently at that might interest you.  The key to shopping here is to spend at least $35 and use a coupon, which will offset the shipping charges.  You can Google for coupon codes or get one here:

Look up reviews on for more information about specific titles.

The FeederWatcher’s Guide to Bird Feeding
The Giving Tree
The Giving Tree
Gluten-Free Baking
God’s Kids Workshop (Orange )
Good Enough To Eat: A Kid’s Guide To Food And Nutrition
Goodnight Moon Board Book & Bunny
The Guide To Good Manners For Kids
A Handful of Beans: Six Fairy Tales
The Harpercollins Concise Atlas of the Bible
HarperCollins French Concise Dictionary (Third Edition)
HarperCollins Spanish College Dictionary (Thumb Indexed, 5th Edition)
HarperCollins Student Notebook Webster’s Dictionary
HarperCollins Student World Atlas
Henry The Christmas Cat
How to Paint Like the Impressionists
 The Illustrated Book of Heraldry
A Kids’ Guide To America’s Bill Of Rights
The Kings & Queens Of England (Don’t Know Much About)
Laura Ingalls Wilder Country
Letters From Father Christmas
The Life Of Our Lord
Little Bear’s New Friend
Little House In The Big Woods (Special Read-Aloud Edition)
A Little House Traveler
Math Magic for Your Kids
Medieval Lives
Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers
Monet (Artists in Focus)
My Map Book
New York Post Difficult Sudoku
The Night Before Christmas
Norway (Frommer’s, 2nd Edition)
The Old Dog
The Owl and the Pussycat
Ozma of Oz (Books of Wonder)
Parenting: From Surviving to Thriving
Paul Bunyan
Pete’s A Pizza
The Portable Pediatrician (Revised and Updated)
The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life
Scrapbook / Photo Album – 006 White Flower
Scrapbook / Photo Album – 007 Sunflower
The Secret Garden
A Separate Peace
Seymour Simon’s Book Of Trains
Seymour Simon’s Book Of Trains - Library Binding
Seymour Simon’s Book Of Trucks
The Shrub Identification Book
Simple Stargazing
The Slow-Cooker Ready & Waiting Cookbook
Solar System Observer’s Guide (Firefly)
States (Time for Learning)
Strawberry Girl
Stuart Little (Special Read-Aloud Edition)
Sugar Snow (My First Little House Book)
The Ties That Bind…
Tik-Tok of Oz (Books of Wonder)
Toads And Diamonds
The Two Towers (50th Anniversary Edition)
The Way to Christ
Webster’s New World Dictionary
Wheelock’s Latin (6th Edition)
Wheelock’s Latin Reader (2nd Edition)
When Children Grieve
White Fang (Aladdin Classics)
White Tiger, Blue Serpent
The Wizard Of Oz (Aladdin CLassics)
Workbook for Wheelock’s Latin (3rd Edition, Revised)
The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (The Classic Tale)
Bard Of Avon (The Story Of William Shakespeare)

More Book Closeouts

Here are some books curently at that might interest you.  The key to shopping here is to spend at least $35 and use a coupon, which will offset the shipping charges.  You can Google for coupon codes or get one here:

Look up reviews on for more information about specific titles.

The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher
Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar
The Bee-Man Of Orn
Big Red Barn
Black Beauty (Aladdin Classics)
Black Beauty (Charming Classics)
Canterbury Tales
A Child’s Anthology Of Poetry
Collins Atlas of 20th Century History
Collins Atlas of Military History
Collins Italian Dictionary (Express Edition)
Collins Robert French-English Dictionary
Cubes, Cones, Cylinders, & Spheres
Days With Frog And Toad (An I Can Read Book)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Book Closeouts

Here are some books currently at that might interest you.  The key to shopping here is to spend at least $35 and use a coupon, which will offset the shipping charges.  You can Google for coupon codes or get one here:

Look up reviews on for more information about specific titles.

The Children’s Treasury Of Virtues
The Chronicles of Narnia
Cook Once, Eat Twice Slow Cooker Recipes
The Remarkable Journey Of Prince Jen – Probably not Year0, though
Fields Of Fury – Definitely not Year 0
In the Garden Activity Book
The Pledge Of Allegiance
Companion to Narnia
McGraw-Hill’s Spanish for Educators w/Audio CD
McGraw-Hill’s Spanish for Educators
Our Solar System
The Big Red Book of Spanish Idioms
Spanish Around the House
A Notebook of Trees
The Nativity

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

Our church observed IDOP last Sunday.  I used the Powerpoint from the VOM website, with "This Road" by Jars of Clay playing behind it.  I timed it to take up the whole song, leaving enough time on each slide so people could read it and pray for it.  I added slides at the end, with no music, with some of the points from a VOM doc called How to Pray for the Persecuted.  (That doc was the front side of the bulletin insert I made.  The back side of the insert listed some web addresses and also some prayer items from a recent VOM prayer update email.) I intro’d the Powerpoint, let the slides with music play on their own, then prayed aloud through the remaining slides, leaving time after each for people to pray silently.

The whole service, from announcements to special music, focused on IDOP.  The sermon wasn’t about persecution per se because we’re in the middle of a series, but the pastor went to pains to tie it in anyway.  The bulletin cover had an IDOP graphic and in addition to the insert I had a note with a shortened form of this IDOP devotional.  I set up a table with literature in the foyer as well, and the Children’s Church had a mock underground church meeting.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chess for Juniors

Chess for Juniors, by Robert M. Snyder, covers basic and intermediate chess concepts for young people.  We are using the book with our 6yo dd, who started learning chess when she was 4 or 5.  She’s been reading kids chess books since she learned to read over a year ago, and she’s been playing chess against the computer for over a year as well.  However, I am not qualified to teach her anything more than just how the pieces move, and without instruction she becomes discouraged as the computer repeatedly wins their games because she is not using strategy.  So we bought this book to work through together so that she would have a better foundation in chess.  I am working through it with her, about one chapter or half of a chapter each week.  We get the chess board out so that we can set it up to match the illustrations in the book.  So far (we are just on chapter 6), I have found the presentation very clear and easy to follow, and the topics move slowly enough for us without being plodding.  The book covers the very basics, such as how each piece moves, as well as more advanced topics such as specific openings to learn and employ.

Parenting with Love and Logic

Parenting with Love and Logic, by Jim Fay and Foster Cline, presents many of the same parenting concepts recommended by Charlotte Mason 100 years ago.  The first half of the book covers the philosophy while the second half provides specific examples of the philosophy in action.  The relatively simple philosophy centers on natural consequences, allowing children to learn from their own mistakes.  The book clearly lays out principles to follow and provides guidelines for knowing how to use natural consequences (or logical consequences if natural consequences are not appropriate).  I found a great deal of resonance between this book and Charlotte Mason’s principles for child training.  If you have read Charlotte Mason but need to see her principles in action or if you needed more explanation of her principles from a modern perspective, this book can help.  The book does not really deal with habit training, which is a key component of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, but right at the very end of the first half of the book it gives a brief explanation of how to apply their principles that hints at the habit training aspects of CM.  Of all the many parenting books I’ve read, this one seems the most compatible with CM’s philosophy and also the most practically helpful.  However, the advice, if taken to an extreme, could lead to callous parenting.  I don’t think that’s the authors’ intent, but it’s certainly possible.  Also, some of the example consequences were not ones which I was comfortable allowing in my own home, and some just wouldn’t work with homeschooling.


I’ve been thinking about this, and I think maybe I should amend my review to add a little clarification.  I really did get a CM-comfortable vibe while reading the first half of this book, the philosophy half.  Many of her principles were there, such as not pestering the children with endless demands and commands, setting a good example yourself, using natural (or logical) consequences, not manipulating the children but allowing them to make their own choices, and others.

However, when I mentioned that habit training was missing, I should have emphasized that more.  CM wanted us to use even natural consequences only when absolutely necessary.  If we are consistently training the children via habit training, consequences of any kind should be rarely necessary.  Also, the training process should ideally be almost invisible to the children, happening below their radar so to speak.  This book does not acknowledge any of that, so it relies very much on the consequences to do the work.

Depending on where you and your children are in this process, you might need to really use consequences for awhile to get the kids on track before you can focus on more gentle habit training.  But long term, you wouldn’t want to stay primarily in the consequences mode if you were following CM’s recommendations.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Math Progress

Our formal math lessons are still working through addition and subtraction.  We’ve covered up through the 7′s, I think.  I don’t present more advanced math concepts usually because I want to make sure we follow an orderly progression that helps develop strong numeracy.  Sometimes, though, dd figures things out on her own (which is fine).

A week or so ago she told me that she really preferred numbers that had two in them, like 4, which had two 2′s, or 6, which had 4 and 2.  After we talked about this a bit, I told her about even and odd numbers.  She was able to explain the difference in the result when you add two even numbers versus two odd numbers or one of each.

Another night in the car she asked me what half of 2 was.  We talked about that and how to figure it, and she went on to tell me what half was for all the even numbers up through twenty.  Then she asked about half of 9, so we talked about why we couldn’t do half of 9 without using a number in between 4 and 5.  I didn’t bring up whole numbers as a concept.

DH surreptitiously asked me if we had covered this stuff in school, and I told him we had not.  Sometimes these concepts come up while we are doing other things, so it’s not as though we never discuss them, but we aren’t formally learning them.  For instance, dd offered up the fact that 16 and 16 are 32.  Well, upon questioning her, I learned that she got that fact from a lullaby on a CD they listen to at night sometimes.  I knew that but had forgotten, and she took that lyric and filed it away in her math facts.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Freezer Kit Pork Chops

This recipe is an amalgam of several from different sources.  When I make it, I am not precise about most of the quantities and amounts.



2 Tbl butter, melted
1/4 Cup water, warmed
6 8-ounce boneless pork chops (I usually put about 4 in because of our family size)
1 medium onions, cut in rings
1/4 Cup brown sugar, not packed
Garlic Powder (equal To 1 Clove garlic)
Paprika, To Taste
2 To 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Marjoram
Salt, To Taste
Pepper, To Taste


To freeze, place the pork chops into a freezer bag.  Add all the ingredients except the melted butter and the warm water. 

 On the freezer bag, write the following:

Add 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1/4 cup warm water.  Cook 3-4 hours on low.

 You only have to thaw this just enough to get it out of the bag before putting it in the slow cooker.  If it’s still frozen, it might take up to an hour longer to cook, but in my experience it doesn’t.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Charlotte Mason Reading Lessons

Reading lessons should not begin until the child knows his letters thoroughly and ideally until some beginning word building work has been done:

Volume 1, p. 202

Word-making. The first exercises in the making of words will be just as pleasant to the child. Exercises treated as a game, which yet teach the powers of the letters, will be better to begin with than actual sentences. Take up two of his letters and make the syllable ‘at’: tell him it is the word we use when we say ‘at home,’ ‘at school.’ Then put b to ‘at’– bat; c to ‘at’–cat; fat, hat, mat, sat, rat, and so on. First, let the child say what the word becomes with each initial consonant to ‘at,’ in order to make hat, pat, cat. Let the syllables all be actual words which he knows. Set the words in a row, and let him read them off. Do this with the short vowel sounds in combination with each of the consonants, and the child will learn to read off dozens of words of three letters, and will master the short-vowel sounds with initial and final consonants without effort. Before long he will do the lesson for himself. ‘How many words can you make with "en" and another letter, with "od" and another letter?’ etc. Do not hurry him.

Word-making with Long Vowels, etc.–When this sort of exercise becomes so easy that it is no longer interesting, let the long sounds of the vowels be learnt in the same way: use the same syllables as before with a final e; thus ‘at’ becomes ‘ate,’ and we get late, pate, rate, etc. The child may be told that a in ‘rate’ is long a; a in ‘rat’ is short a. He will make the new sets of words with much facility, helped by the experience he gained in the former lessons.
Then the same sort of thing with final ‘ng’–’ing,’ ‘ang,’ ‘ong,’ ‘ung’; as in ring, fang, long, sung: initial ‘th,’ as then, that: final ‘th,’ as with, pith, hath, lath, and so on, through endless combinations which will suggest themselves. This is not reading, but it preparing the ground for reading; words will be no longer unfamiliar, perplexing objects, when the child meets with them in a line of print. Require him to pronounce the words he makes with such finish and distinctness that he can himself hear and count the sounds in given way.

And then some spelling work:

Volume 1, p. 203

Early Spelling.–Accustom him from the first to shut his eyes and spell the word he has made. This is important. Reading is not spelling, nor is it necessary to spell in order to read well; but the good speller is the child whose eye is quick enough to take in the letters which compose it, in the act of reading off a word, and this is a habit to be acquired from the first: accustom him to see the letters in the word, and he will do without effort.

If words were always made on a given pattern in English, if the same letter always represented the same sounds, learning to read would be an easy matter; for the child would soon acquire the few elements of which all words would, in that case, be composed. But many of our English words are, each, a law unto itself: there is nothing for it, but the child must learn to know them at sight; he must recognise ‘which,’ precisely as he recognises ‘B,’ because he has seen it before, been made to look at it with interest, so that the pattern of the word is stamped upon his retentive brain. This process should go on side by side with the other–the learning of the powers of the letters; for the more variety you can throw into his reading lessons, the more will the child enjoy them. Lessons in word-making help him to take intelligent interest in words; but his progress in the art of reading depends chiefly on the ‘reading at sight’ lessons.


Now we are ready to read.

1) Pick a text–something meaty but not too too hard. Some of the classic children’s poetry works well for this, especially shorter selections like Christina Rossetti or some Robert Louis Stephenson selections. The Treadwell readers or A Primary Reader by E. Louise Smythe may also work well for this.

2) Identify a handful of probably new words in the text (or for the first lesson just take the first few words since they’ll all be new).

3) Write one of the words on a board, then tell him what it is, and have him really look at it.

4) Erase the word, then put out a bunch of cards with different words on them. Six of the cards should have that word on them, and he needs to find them all.

5) Do the same thing with each of the other words.

6) Then have him spell the words using letter tiles or magnet letters or something similar. Write the word (if he can’t remember it), then have him study it, and then erase it. Then he spells it with his letters.

7) Then take the words one at a time. Write the word on the board. Then under it write, one at a time, other words that have the same ending but a different beginning (like "cloud", "loud", "proud", etc.). As you write each one, have him tell you the word.  (Use a rhyming dictionary to help you make your list ahead of time–but only use words with the same spelling.)

8)  Write the words in a column on the board, in any order.  Have him arrange the word cards in the same order, then have him read them.

9)  Have him arrange the word cards in columns of his own devising and have him read down the column, then rearrange and do it again.

10)  Then you make sentences by dictating the words to him and he looks for the cards and arranges them into sentences. That gets easier as you learn more words, because you can use any cards from previous lessons too. CM suggested leaving blanks when you need a word that you don’t yet know, which helps to pique the child’s interest in learning more words.

11)  Dictate the actual text from the reading and have him create it with the word cards.  Have him read the text from the word cards.

12)  Have him read the text from the book.

Now, there’s more to it than that. You can get it all (or most–you’ll get more if you comb through Parents Review articles) if you go carefully through the Volume 1 sections on reading and just jot down notes about what CM says to do.

Also, you don’t do all those steps in the same lesson. Keep it to 15 minutes at a time.
Notice how that simple process covers sight reading (and paying attention to the actual word rather than guessing), spelling, and phonics.


Here’s the part about the Twinkle lesson:

Vol 1 p. 204

Read the passage for the child, very slowly, sweetly, with just expression, so that it is pleasant to him to listen. Point to each word as you read. Then point to ‘twinkle,’ ‘wonder,’ ‘star,’ ‘what,’–and expect the child to pronounce each word in the verse taken promiscuously; then, when he shows that he knows each word by itself, and not before, let him read the two lines with clear enunciation and expression: insist from the first on clear, beautiful reading, and do not let the child fall into a dreary monotone, no more pleasant to himself than to his listener. Of course, by this time he is able to say the two lines; and let him say them clearly and beautifully. In his after lesson he will learn the rest of the little poem.


Then this:

Vol 1 pp. 205-6

But we have not yet finished the reading lesson on ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star.’ The child should hunt through two or three pages of good clear type for ‘little,’ star,’ you,’ are,’ each of the words he has learned, until the word he knows looks out upon him like the face of a friend in a crowd of strangers, and he is able to pounce upon it anywhere. Lest he grow weary of the search, the teacher should guide him, unawares, to the line or paragraph where the word he wants occurs. Already the child has accumulated a little capital; he knows eight or ten words so well that he will recognise them anywhere, and the lesson has occupied probably ten minutes. The next ‘reading at sight’ lesson will begin with a hunt for the familiar words, and then–

"Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky,"

should be gone through in the same way. As spelling is simply the art of seeing, seeing the letters in a word as we see the features of a face–say to the child, ‘Can you spell sky?’–or any of the shorter words. He is put on his mettle, and if he fails this time, be sure he will be able to spell the word when you ask him next; but do not let him learn to spell or even say the letters aloud with the word before him.


What I described above is more like the Cock Robin lesson, starting on p. 212:

Now for the lesson. Bobbie and I are shut in by ourselves in the morning room. I always use a black-board in teaching the children. I write up, in good clear ‘print’ hand,

Cock Robin

Bobbie watches with more interest because he knows his letters. I say, pointing to the word, ‘cock robin,’ which he repeats.
"Then the words in the box are scattered on the table, and he finds half a dozen ‘cock robins’ with great ease.

We do the same thing with ‘sparrow,’ ‘arrow,’ ‘said,’ ‘killed,’ ‘who,’ and so on, till all the words in the verse have been learned. The words on the black-board grow into a column, which Bob reads backwards and forwards, and every way, except as the words run in the verse.

Then Bobbie arranges the loose words into columns like that on the board.

Then into columns of his own devising, which he reads off.

Lastly, culminating joy (the whole lesson has been a delight!), he finds among the loose words, at my dictation,
‘Who killed Cock Robin
I said the sparrow
With my bow and arrow
I killed Cock Robin,’

Arranging the words in verse form.

Then I had still one unmutilated copy, out of which Bob had the pleasure of reading the verse, and he read it forwards and backwards. So long as he lives he will know those twelve words."

When we have mastered the words of the second verse, Bob runs through the first in the book, naming words here and there as I point to them. It takes less than a minute, and the ground is secured."


Then in the Little Pussy lesson we see a more complete picture, from p.218:

Steps.–And now, we begin. Material: Tommy’s box of loose letters, the new ‘Little Pussy’ box, pencil and paper, or much better, blackboard and chalk. We write up in good big print hand ‘Pussy.’ Tommy watches with interest: he knows the letters, and probably says them as we write. Besides, he is prepared for the great event of his life; he knows he is going to begin to learn to read to-day. But we do not ask anything yet of his previous knowledge. We simply tell him that the word is ‘Pussy.’ Interest at once; he knows the thing, Pussy, and the written symbol is pleasant in his eyes because it is associated with an existing idea in his mind. He is told to look at the word ‘Pussy’ until he is sure he would know it again. Then he makes ‘Pussy’ from memory with his own loose letters. Then the little bag containing our two lines in loose words is turned out, and he finds the word ‘Pussy’; and, lastly, the little sheet with the poem printed on it is shown to him, and he finds ‘Pussy,’ but is not allowed yet to find out the run of the rhyme. ‘Coat, little, like, is, her, warm, I, so,’ are taught in the same way, in less time than it takes to describe the lesson. When each new word is learned, Tommy makes a column of the old ones, and reads up and down and cris-cras, the column on the blackboard.

Reading Sentences–He knows words now, but he cannot yet read sentences. Now for the delight of reading. He finds at our dictation, amongst his loose words, ‘Pussy–is–warm,’ places them in ‘reading’ order, one after the other, and then reads off the sentence. Joy, as of one who has found a new planet! And Tommy has indeed found a new poet. Then, ‘her-little-coat-is-warm,’ ‘Pussy-is-so-little,’ ‘I-like-Pussy,’ ‘Pussy-is-little-like-her-coat,’ and so on through a dozen more little arrangements. If the rhyme can be kept a secret till the whole is worked out, so much the better. To make the verses up with his own loose words will give Tommy such a delicious sense that knowledge is power, as few occasions in after life will afford. Anyway, reading is to him a delight henceforth, and it will require very bad management indeed to make him hate it.

Tommy’s Second Lesson.–Tommy promises himself another reading lesson next day, but he has instead a spelling lesson, conducted somewhat in this way:

He makes the word ‘coat’ with his letters, from memory if he can; if not, with the pattern word. Say ‘coat’ slowly; give the sound of the c. ‘Take away c, and what have we left?’ A little help will get ‘oat’ from him. How would you make ‘boat’ (say the word very slowly, bringing out the sound of b). He knows the sounds of the letters, and says b-oat readily; fl-oat, two added sounds, which you lead him to find out; g-oat, he will give you the g, and find goat a charming new word to know; m-oat, he easily decides on the sound of m; a little talk about moat; the other words are too familiar to need explanation. Tommy will, no doubt, offer ‘note’ and we must make a clean breast of it and say, ‘No, note is spelt with other letters’; but what other letters we do not tell him now. Thus he comes to learn incidentally and very gradually that different groups of letters may stand for the same sounds. But we do not ask him to generalise; we only let him have the fact that n-oat does not spell the symbol we express by ‘note.’ ‘Stoat’–he will be able to give the sounds of the initial letters, and stoat again calls for a little talk–another interesting word. He has made a group of words with his letters, and there they are on the black-board in a column, thus


He reads the column up and down and cris-cras; every word has a meaning and carries an idea. Then the loose words he knows are turned out, and we dictate new sentences, which he arranges: ‘I-like-her-goat’; ‘her-little-stoat-is-warm,’ and so on, making the new words with loose letters.

Unknown Words–Now for a new experience. We dictate ‘Pussy in the boat.’ Consternation! Tommy does not know ‘in’ nor ‘the.’ ‘Put counters for the words you don’t know; they may soon come in our lessons,’ and Tommy has a desire and a need–that is, an appetite for learning.

Like Combinations have Different Sounds.–We deal with the remaining words in the same way–’little’ gives brittle, tittle, skittle: Pussy, is, I, and her, give no new words. ‘Like’ gives mike and pike. ‘so’ gives no, do (the musical ‘do’), and lo! From ‘warm’ we get arm, harm, charm, barm, alarm; we pronounced warm as arm. Tommy perceives that such a pronunciation is wrong and vulgar, and sees that all these words are sounded like ‘arm,’ but not one of them like ‘warm’–that is, he sees that the same group of letters need not always have the same sound. But we do not ask him to make a note of this new piece of knowledge; we let it grow into him gradually, after many experiences.

By this time he has eighteen new words on the blackboard of which to make sentences with the nine loose words of ‘Pussy.’ Her skittle is little, her charm is brittle, her arm is warm, and so on. But we take care that the sentences make sense. Her goat is brittle, is ‘silly,’ and not to be thought of at all. Tommy’s new words are written in his ‘note-book’ in print hand, so that he can take stock of his possessions in the way of words.

Moral Training in Reading Lessons–The next day we do the last two lines of the stanza, as at first. These lines afford hardly any material for a spelling lesson, so in our next lesson we go on with the second verse. But our stock of words is growing; we are able, as we go on, to make an almost unlimited number of little sentences. If we have to use counters now and then, why, that only whets our appetite for knowledge. By the time Tommy has worked ‘Little Pussy’ through he has quite a large stock of words; has considerable power to attack new words with familiar combinations; what is more, he has achieved; he has courage to attack all ‘learning,’ and has a sense that delightful results are quite within reach. Moreover, he learns to read in a way that affords him some moral training. There is no stumbling, no hesitation from the first, but bright attention and perfect achievement. His reading lesson is a delight, of which he is deprived when he comes to his lesson in a lazy, drawling mood. Perfect enunciation and precision are insisted on, and when he comes to arrange the whole of the little rhyme in his loose words and read it off (most delightful of all the lessons) his reading must be a perfect and finished recitation. [Spirited nursery rhymes form the best material for such reading lessons. A 'Delightful Reading Box' has been issued on similar plan to the 'Pussy' Box, whose one fault is that the verses are a little dull. But this 'Box' should be of great use]. I believe that this is a practical common-sense way to teach reading in English. It may be profitable for the little German child to work through all possibly dreary combinations of letters before he is permitted to have any joy in ‘reading,’ because wherever these combinations occur they will have the sounds the child has learned laboriously. The fact that English is anomalous as regards the connection between sign and sound, happily exonerates us from enforcing this dreary grind. [It is desirable that 'Tommy' should not begin to 'read' until his intelligence is equal to the effort required by these lessons. Even then, it may be well to break up one into two, or half a dozen, as he is able to take it].

Sunday, September 9, 2007


From CM Volume 1, Preface:

This adjunct of the will is familiar to us as diversion, whose office is to ease us for a time from will effort, that we may ‘will’ again with added power. The use of suggestion–even self suggestion–as an aid to the will, is to be deprecated, as tending to stultify and stereotype character. It would seem that spontaneity is a condition of development, and that human nature needs the discipline of failure as well as of success.

Diversion, giving ourselves something else to think about for a little while, is ok. Suggestion, which according to Wikipedia means to "guide the thoughts, feelings or behaviour", either of oneself or of someone else, is not ok. Trying to manipulate the child, or get the child to manipulate himself, out of the undesired behavior into the desired behavior is not recommended because it does nothing to train and strengthen the will. Instead, we must work with diversion, which requires us to be creative in coming up with diversions, and take our chances that sometimes we will fail. Failure may be necessary as part of the learning process.

Pages 82-83 of Volume 6 (the following parts of the passage, beyond this quote, also deal with suggestion):

’Suggestion’ goes to work more subtly. The teacher has mastered the gamut of motives which play upon human nature and every suggestion is aimed at one or other of these. He may not use the nursery suggestions of lollipops or bogies but he does in reality employ these if expressed in more spiritual values, suggestions subtly applied to the idiosyncrasies of a given child. ‘Suggestion’ is too subtle to be illustrated with advantage: Dr. Stephen Paget holds that it should be used only as a surgeon uses an anesthetic; but it is an instrument easy to handle, and unconsidered suggestion plays on a child’s mind as the winds on a weathercock.

Pages 129-130 of Volume 6 (there is more about suggestion in this section than what I am quoting):
From the cradle to the grave suggestions crowd upon us, and such suggestions become part of our education because we must choose between them. But a suggestion given by intent and supported by an outside personality has an added strength which few are able to resist, just because the choice has been made by another and not by ourselves, and our tendency is to accept this vicarious choice and follow the path of least resistance. No doubt much of this vicarious choosing is done for our good, whether for our health of body or amenableness of mind; but those who propose suggestion as a means of education do not consider that with every such attempt upon a child they weaken that which should make a man of him, his own power of choice.

When you enforce a natural consequence, that allows him a choice. I can be quiet and hear a story, or I can choose to make noise and miss the story. "Suggesting" a better course of behavior is not "suggestion" in this sense. It’s ok to suggest things. It’s not ok to use the specific tool of suggestion to try to manipulate a child. Stumped for a better explanation, I just called my dad, who has a degree in psychology. After talking with him, here’s my best attempt at a definition:

Suggestion is using irrational fears or hopes to coerce a desired behavior.


If you don’t eat your broccoli, you’ll grow up to be sickly.

If you eat your spinach, you’ll grow up to be strong like Popeye.

Those are silly, but they hopefully convey a bit of the sense of it. The child isn’t eating the food because he should but because he is afraid of some bogeyman or hopeful for some unnatural reward (being strong like Popeye is not a natural consequence of eating spinach nor is being sickly a natural consequence of not eating broccoli). Natural consequences allow the will to become stronger, and they respect the personality of the child and his right to choose, even if his choice carries with it negative consequences.

I’m not entirely satisfied with that explanation, though.

CM Volume 1 – Preface

Here are some thoughts I had while reading.

But we have no unifying principle, no definite aim; in fact, no philosophy of education. As a stream can rise no higher than its source, so it is probable that no educational effort can rise above the whole scheme of thought which gives it birth; and perhaps this is the reason of all the fallings from us, vanishings, failures, and disappointments which mark our educational records.

This is true of many homeschoolers as well. I try to emphasize to new homeschoolers the importance of settling on a philosophy first, before choosing a curriculum and starting school, but they usually look at me like I’m crazy. But your philosophy determines the assumptions from which you are working and the priorities you will have. Different assumptions and priorities will lead to different choices about what to do, when, and how.

And the path indicated by the law is continuous and progressive, with no transition stage from the cradle to the grave, except that maturity takes up the regular self direction to which immaturity has been trained.

Not to belabor the point, but to my mind (and feel free to contradict me here) this quote shows one place where CM parts company with Classical trivium-based curricula. The trivium presupposes different stages of education, with a different focus at each stage. CM here explicitly rejects that idea.

I think #18 is my favorite:

18. We should allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children; but should teach them that the divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.

But just in proportion as a mother has this peculiar insight as regards her own children she will, I think, feel her need of a knowledge of the general principles of education, founded upon the nature and the needs of all children. And this knowledge of the science of education, not the best of mothers will get from above, seeing that we do not often receive as a gift that which we have the means of getting by our own efforts.

It is common for people who criticize CM to fault her for not having children herself and yet daring to suggest to us how we should raise and/or educate our children. I think the above quote explains something of why merely having children does not give us everything we need to be able to raise them and/or educate them as well as we might. God expects us to do our part, which means learning all we can about best practices, what works, what doesn’t work. Trial and error with our own families, which even for the biggest families means no more than ~20 individuals, will not necessarily provide us with enough experiences to make the best judgments about what works and what doesn’t, and certainly relying on personal trial and error means that we will make some mistakes that might be costly and that could have been avoided if we had learned from the trial and error of others.

CM certainly gives honor to us as parents and expects that we will, with the help of the Holy Spirit, make the best judgments about our own children. She is merely passing on to us the accumulated wisdom of years of working with many, many children, so that we can consider it and see how it might apply to our own situations.

This period of a child’s life between his sixth and his ninth year should be used to lay the basis of a liberal education, and of the habit of reading for instruction. During these years the child should enter upon the domain of knowledge, in a good many directions, in a reposeful, consecutive way, which is not to be attained through the somewhat exciting medium of oral lessons.

Some parts of Volume 1 will not apply to Year 0. They will apply to years 1-3, when a child is from 6 to 9 years old.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Help Your Child with a Foreign Language

Help Your Child With a Foreign Language (Berlitz Kids) by Opal Dunn provides a simple guide for teaching a child the beginnings of any foreign language. She outlines the process, but also gives a great deal of explanation of how children learn foreign language as well as many examples of how to proceed.

Certainly this small volume embodies Charlotte Mason’s advice from Volume 1, p.300: "French should be acquired as English is, not as a grammar, but as a living speech." My familiarity with Gouin is limited to CM’s description in that same section of Volume 1. I would say based on that description that Dunn’s work applies some of Gouin’s principles:

  • ". . . we must acquire a new language as a child acquires his mother tongue . . ."  (And CM follows this remark with an observation that Gouin’s application of this principle may or may not be the best way to apply it.)
  • ". . . the ear, and not the eye, is the physical organ for apprehending a language. . ."
  • ". . . the child thinks in sentences, not in words. . ."
Dunn encourages us, just as CM did, to delay exposure to the written form of the target language until the child is reading and writing the native language fluently.  I believe CM also encouraged waiting until the target language is *spoken* fluently, which is not something Dunn addresses.

Dunn’s method uses immersion, even when the parent doesn’t speak the target language.  It uses whole sentences primarily, rather than individual words.  It uses real activities.  It uses rhymes and songs.  She shows you how to do this yourself, and explains the principles behind the method so you can see why it works.

Although Dunn’s method is not the same as Gouin’s, I don’t believe that represents a conflict with CM.  In my reading of the Volume 1 comments on teaching French, at any rate, I sense that CM was ambivalent about Gouin’s actual method.  She thought his principles were well founded, but she suggested his method might have to be significantly revised to be practical.  I would suggest that Dunn’s method might fill in for Gouin’s in the homeschool of today.

I'll Tell You a Story, I'll Sing You a Song

I’ll Tell You a Story, I’ll Sing You a Song by Christine Allison should be a great help to any parent
wishing to incorporate story-telling and singing. For Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, telling stories in the early years is a must, since Charlotte Mason herself emphasized its importance:
Every father and mother should have a repertoire of stories––a dozen will do, beautiful stories beautifully told . . . .   Away with books, and "reading to"––for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child’s vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets. It is contrary to nature, too. . . . And here is another advantage of the story told over the story read. Lightly come, lightly go, is the rule for the latter. But if you have to make a study of your story, if you mean to appropriate it as bread of life for your children, why, you select with the caution of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls. Again, in the story read, the parent is no more than the middleman; but the story told is food as directly and deliberately given as milk from the mother’s breast. Wise parents, whose children sit with big eyes pondering the oft-told tale, could tell us about this.
Volume 5, p. 216
Allison’s book provides the tools a parent needs to begin to develop that repertoire of stories in an age in which storytelling is not a common skill.  She provides sample stories, songs, rhymes–material to help you get started.  She also provides tips on how to present this material and make it your own.

The material in the book is aimed at preschool-age children and younger.  However, while the stories might change for older children the tips would still apply.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Revised Plan for Ray's New Primary Arithmetic

***Update:  I no longer use the Beechick guide.  Instead I use the original teacher guide published in the Eclectic Manual of Methods.  As a result, our early math lessons look much different from what I planned here.***

How much of this is completed in Year 1 remains to be seen.  Ruth Beechick’s Parent-Teacher Guide assumes only addition and subtraction are covered in first grade, but she also uses lessons I-X, which I am omitting as not being in line with CM’s recommendations.  Besides which, we don’t need the practice learning the actual numbers conceptually that those lessons would provide, and I don’t want to work on writing numbers before moving on.  I’ll fold that into our penmanship work.  The concrete lessons on weights and measures will follow the model outlined by CM in Volume 1 and described in a post below.

_____ Lesson XI – Addition 1
_____ Lesson XXV – Subtraction 1
_____ Lesson XII – Addition 2
_____ Lesson XXVI – Subtraction 2
_____ Lesson XIII – Addition 3
_____ Lesson XXVII – Subtraction 3
_____ Lesson XIV – Addition 4
_____ Lesson XXVIII – Subtraction 4
_____ Lesson XV – Addition 5
_____ Lesson XXIX – Subtraction 5
_____ Lesson XVI – Addition 6
_____ Lesson XXX – Subtraction 6
_____ Lesson XVII – Addition 7
_____ Lesson XXXI – Subtraction 7
_____ Lesson XVIII – Addition 8
_____ Lesson XXXII – Subtraction 8
_____ Lesson XIX – Addition 9
_____ Lesson XXXIII – Subtraction 9
_____ Lesson XX – Addition 10
_____ Lesson XXXIV – Subtraction 10
_____ Lesson XXI – Addition Review
_____ Lesson XXXV – Sub Review
_____ Lesson XXII – Addition Review
_____ Lesson XXXVI – Sub Review
_____ Lesson XXIII – Addition Review
_____ Lesson XXXVII – Sub Review
_____ Lesson XXXIX – Multiplication 1
_____ Lesson XL – Multiplication 2
_____ Lesson LIII – Division 2
_____ Lesson XLI – Multiplication 3
_____ Lesson LIV – Division 3
_____ Lesson XLII – Multiplication 4
_____ Lesson LV – Division 4
_____ Lesson XLIII – Multiplication 5
_____ Lesson LVI – Division 5
_____ Lesson XLIV – Multiplication 6
_____ Lesson LVII – Division 6
_____ Lesson XLV – Multiplication 7
_____ Lesson LVIII – Division 7
_____ Lesson XLVI – Multiplication 8
_____ Lesson LIX – Division 8
_____ Lesson XLVII – Multiplication 9
_____ Lesson LX – Division 9
_____ Lesson XLVIII – Multiplication 10
_____ Lesson LXI – Division 10
_____ Lesson XLIX – Mult review
_____ Lesson LXII – Division review
_____ Lesson L – Multiplication review
_____ Lesson LI – Multiplication review
_____ Lesson LXIII – Mult/Div review
_____ Lesson LXXIX – US money
_____ Lesson LXXX – British money

Add concrete exercises in weights and measures.

More CM Math from Volume 1, pp. 259-60 – Weighing and Measuring

We are to work with measures by actually measuring.

"On the same principle, let him learn ‘weights and measures’ by measuring and weighing; let him have scales and weights, sand or rice, paper and twine, and weigh, and do up, in perfectly made parcels, ounces, pounds, etc. The parcels, though they are not arithmetic, are educative, and afford considerable exercise of judgment as well as of neatness, deftness, and quickness."

I’m not sure I even know how to do up such a parcel, but maybe it would be sufficient to do it in plastic containers without actually wrapping a parcel?  Or would that be leaving out an important part of the process?  I suppose it would since CM mentions that the parcels themselves provide training in valuable skills.

"In like manner, let him work with foot-rule and yard measure, and draw up his tables for himself."

What does it mean to let him draw up his tables himself?

"Let him not only measure and weigh everything about him that admits of such treatment, but let him use his judgment on questions of measure and weight. How many yards long is the tablecloth? How many feet long and broad a map, or picture? What does he suppose a book weighs that is to go by parcel post? The sort of readiness to be gained thus is valuable in the affairs of life, and, if only for that reason, should be cultivated in the child."

We should take every opportunity to estimate and then test the accuracy of the estimate.

"While engaged in measuring and weighing concrete quantities, the scholar is prepared to take in his first idea of a ‘fraction,’ half a pound, a quarter of a yard, etc."

And we should use these exercises to introduce fractions in a gentle way.

All my Charlotte Mason math posts.

More CM Math from Volume 1, pp. 258-259 – Place Value

"When the child is able to work pretty freely with small numbers, a serious difficulty must be faced, upon his thorough mastery of which will depend his appreciation of arithmetic as a science; in other words, will depend the educational value of all the sums he may henceforth do. He must be made to understand our system of notation. Here, as before, it is best to begin with the concrete: let the child get the idea of ten units in one ten after he has mastered the more easily demonstrable idea of twelve pence in one shilling."

So after we work with basic arithmetic and achieve mastery of the four operations with small numbers, we move to working with money for a time to introduce the concept of place value.  Two skills are drilled during this process:  converting a quantity of one coin into larger coins, and noting on paper the value of the whole.
"Let him have a heap of pennies, say fifty: point out the inconvenience of carrying such weighty money to shops. Lighter money is used––shillings. How many pennies is a shilling worth? How many shillings, then, might he have for his fifty pennies? He divides them into heaps of twelve, and finds that he has four such heaps, and two pennies over; that is to say, fifty pence are (or are worth) four shillings and two pence. I buy ten pounds of biscuits at fivepence a pound; they cost fifty pence, but the shopman gives me a bill for 4s. 2d.; show the child how to put down: the pennies, which are worth least, to the right; the shillings, which are worth more, to the left."

Then we introduce place value.

"When the child is able to work freely with shillings and pence, and to understand that 2 in the right-hand column of figures is pence, 2 in the left-hand column, shillings, introduce him to the notion of tens and units, being content to work very gradually."

"We have but nine figures and a nought: we take the first figure and the nought to express another number, ten; but after that we must begin again until we get two tens, then, again, till we reach three tens, and so on. We call two tens, twenty, three tens, thirty, because ‘ty’ (tig) means ten. But if I see figure 4, how am I to know whether it means four tens or four ones? By a very simple plan. The tens have a place of their own; if you see figure 6 in the ten-place, you know it means sixty. The tens are always put behind the units: when you see two figures standing side by side, thus, ’55,’ the left-hand figure stands for so many tens; that is, the second 5 stands for ten times as many as the first."

We must drill with this concept, just using the tens and ones, for a time until the child is completely comfortable with the idea.

"Let the child work with tens and units only until he has mastered the idea of the tenfold value of the second figure to the left, and would laugh at the folly of writing 7 in the second column of figures, knowing that thereby it becomes seventy. Then he is ready for the same sort of drill in hundreds, and picks up the new idea readily if the principle have been made clear to him, that each remove to the left means a tenfold increase in the value of a number."

Then we move on to larger units, and drill again.  However, we do not work any problems with large numbers until the concept of place value for that number has been mastered.

"Meantime, ‘set’ him no sums. Let him never work with figures the notation of which is beyond him, and when he comes to ‘carry’ in an addition or multiplication sum, let him not say he carries ‘two,’ or ‘three,’ but ‘two tens,’ or ‘three hundreds,’ as the case may be."

All my Charlotte Mason math posts.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Tentative Plan for Ray's New Primary Arithmetic

***Update:  I no longer use the Beechick guide.  Instead I use the original teacher guide published in the Eclectic Manual of Methods.  As a result, our early math lessons look much different from what I planned here.***

Here’s my tentative plan for Ray’s New Primary Arithmetic, just through multiplication and division.

_____ Lesson XI – Addition 1
_____ Lesson XXV – Subtraction 1
_____ Lesson XII – Addition 2
_____ Lesson XXVI – Subtraction 2
_____ Lesson XIII – Addition 3
_____ Lesson XXVII – Subtraction 3
_____ Lesson XIV – Addition 4
_____ Lesson XXVIII – Subtraction 4
_____ Lesson XV – Addition 5
_____ Lesson XXIX – Subtraction 5
_____ Lesson XVI – Addition 6
_____ Lesson XXX – Subtraction 6
_____ Lesson XVII – Addition 7
_____ Lesson XXXI – Subtraction 7
_____ Lesson XVIII – Addition 8
_____ Lesson XXXII – Subtraction 8
_____ Lesson XIX – Addition 9
_____ Lesson XXXIII – Subtraction 9
_____ Lesson XX – Addition 10
_____ Lesson XXXIV – Subtraction 10
_____ Lesson XXI – Addition Review
_____ Lesson XXXV – Sub Review
_____ Lesson XXII – Addition Review
_____ Lesson XXXVI – Sub Review
_____ Lesson XXIII – Addition Review
_____ Lesson XXXVII – Sub Review
_____ Lesson XXXIX – Multiplication 1
_____ Lesson XL – Multiplication 2
_____ Lesson LIII – Division 2
_____ Lesson XLI – Multiplication 3
_____ Lesson LIV – Division 3
_____ Lesson XLII – Multiplication 4
_____ Lesson LV – Division 4
_____ Lesson XLIII – Multiplication 5
_____ Lesson LVI – Division 5
_____ Lesson XLIV – Multiplication 6
_____ Lesson LVII – Division 6
_____ Lesson XLV – Multiplication 7
_____ Lesson LVIII – Division 7
_____ Lesson XLVI – Multiplication 8
_____ Lesson LIX – Division 8
_____ Lesson XLVII – Multiplication 9
_____ Lesson LX – Division 9
_____ Lesson XLVIII – Multiplication 10
_____ Lesson LXI – Division 10
_____ Lesson XLIX – Mult review
_____ Lesson LXII – Division review
_____ Lesson L – Multiplication review
_____ Lesson LI – Multiplication review
_____ Lesson LXIII – Mult/Div review

Each lesson will be covered in at least three parts, first with manipulatives, then with word problems, then with numeric problems worked mentally (without manipulatives).  I tentatively plan to do one lesson each week, but some lessons will probably move faster than that while others will take more time.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

CM Multiplication and Division Question

I’m trying to go through Volume 1′s arithmetic section and make an outline of the steps recommended.  I can get through the addition and subtraction parts just fine (I think – see this post for my analysis), but I have a question about the multiplication and division parts from pages 256-257.

For addition and subtraction, there’s a three-step process for each line of the addition table, followed by the same three-step process for the same line of the subtraction table.  First work the whole line with counters, then with word problems, then with mental numbers.

For multiplication and division (page 257), there appears to be just a one-step process for each line of the multiplication table, followed by a one-step process for the same line of the division table.  It seems we’re just supposed to work out the line using counters and then go on to the next one.  But after working out both tables all the way through, with counters, then she recommends moving to complex word problems that involve both multiplication and division within one problem, without any mention of ever having done the simpler word problems in the course of working through the multiplication and division tables.

Do you think this is what she meant or did she mean us to do the three-step process here as well before moving on and just omitted mention of it?

Modifying Ray's Arithmetic

***Update:  I no longer use the Beechick guide.  Instead I use the original teacher guide published in the Eclectic Manual of Methods.  As a result, our early math lessons look much different from what I planned here.  And the Eclectic Manual meshes well with Charlotte Mason! ***

I have for years now planned to use Ray’s Arithmetic when my dd was ready for formal math.  That time is now, and I’m finding as I look closely at both Ray’s New Primary Arithmetic (this links to a copy of the actual text) and Charlotte Mason’s math recommendations (page 253 at the link) that the two are not exactly in sync.  I prefer to follow CM’s recommendations, but I’m hoping I can modify Ray’s to fit so that I don’t have to create the whole shebang from scratch.

I think we can follow this course for the first several lessons.  My lessons are numbered with Arabic numerals; Ray’s are numbered with Roman numerals.

Lesson 1 - Lesson XI – work out the table at the top with counters and drill over that, with counters

Lesson 2 – Lesson XI – drill on the word problems, orally

Lesson 3 – Lesson XI – drill on the word problems, orally, but phrase them as arithmetic problems (2+1 instead of using the word problem format)

Lessons 4-6 – Lesson XXV – repeat three steps above

Lessons 7-60 – Repeat this process for each of the next arithmetic lessons, alternating addition and subtraction lessons.  Optionally skip the last arithmetic lesson since it works with 10 and the implication from CM is that we would stop at 9.

Lesson 61 – Lesson XXXIX – work out the table at the top with counters and drill over that, with counters

Here I’m at a loss because I’m not sure if we should drill with word problems, as above, or continue straight to addition.  Any thoughts are welcome.

More Charlotte Mason Math, Volume 1 pp. 253-264

As I prepare to begin formal math instruction next week, I’m looking at my curriculum choice in more detail, and I’m finding that I need to look more closely at CM’s actual recommendations for the beginnings of math instruction.

"The next point is to demonstrate everything demonstrable."  This part seemed straightforward enough that in my original analysis this was the only part of the entire section that I noted.  Demonstrating everything demonstrable means using counters of some sort to actually show the problem while working it until the child has internalized the concept.

"A bag of beans, counters, or buttons should be used in all the early arithmetic lessons, and the child should be able to work with these freely, and even to add, subtract, multiply, and divide mentally, without the aid of buttons or beans, before he is set to ‘do sums’ on his slate."

No sheets of problems until the same problems have been successfully, and repeatedly, worked with counters and without written numbers.

"He may arrange an addition table with his beans, thus––
          0 0          0          = 3 beans
          0 0          0 0       = 4 "
          0 0          0 0 0    = 5 "

and be exercised upon it until he can tell, first without counting, and then without looking at the beans, that 2+7=9, etc."

Addition Table

We need to create that table, but do it with counters, one line at a time, working with that line until it is known without needing the counters.

"Thus with 3, 4, 5,––each of the digits: as he learns each line of his addition table he is exercised upon imaginary objects, ’4 apples and 9 apples,’ ’4 nuts and 6 nuts’ etc.; and lastly, with abstract numbers––6+5, 6+8."

After we have learned one line from the table, we then repeat the exercise using imaginary objects instead of counters.  After that is learned well, we do the same process with actual numbers, but orally rather than written. (She does mention that the child might write out the problems on his slate after each line of the table is finished, but only if he is already writing figures.)

"A subtraction table is worked out simultaneously with the addition table. As he works out each line of additions, he goes over the same ground, only taking away one bean, or two beans, instead of adding, until he is able to answer quite readily, 2 from 7? 2 from 5?"

After we have learned a line from the addition table, presumably all the way through the abstract numbers step, we then repeat the process using the same line from the subtraction table.

"When the child can add and subtract numbers pretty freely up to twenty, the multiplication and division tables may be worked out with beans, as far as 6×12; that is, ‘twice six are 12′ will be ascertained by means of two rows of beans, six beans in a row."

When we have learned the addition and subtraction tables with digits, we move on to multiplication, but it appears that here we just learn each line of the table using counters and don’t continue on to the mental work yet.

"When the child can say readily, without even a glance at his beans, 2×8=16, 2×7=14, etc. , he will take 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 beans, and divide them into groups of two: then, how many twos in 10, in 12, in 20? And so on, with each line of the multiplication table that he works out."

Once the line from the multiplication table has been learned, we do the same line from the division table.
"Now he is ready for more ambitious problems: thus, ‘A boy had twice ten apples; how many heaps of 4 could he make?’ He will be able to work with promiscuous numbers, as 7+5-3. If he must use beans to get his answer, let him; but encourage him to work with imaginary beans, as a step towards working with abstract numbers."

Then it looks like we start working with mental word problems, followed by actual numeric problems, using counters when needed by trying not to.

"Carefully graduated teaching and daily mental effort on the child’s part at this early stage may be the means of developing real mathematical power, and will certainly promote the habits of concentration and effort of mind."

This part does seem key.  We have to take it slow and steady, and keep working at it a little at a time.

All my Charlotte Mason math posts.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bird Songs

I just wanted to share a birdsong CD we purchased in preparation for starting Year 1.  We love it!  Instead of being simply a list of bird names followed by the song, this one groups the birds by similar sounds, then a narrator explains how to tell the birds in the group apart.  This is critical for us, because once the leaves appear on the trees (and we have leaves for the vast majority of the year) we see very few birds, although we can hear a great variety.  Once we go through this CD thoroughly, I think we’ll be ready for one that follows the list format, but for beginners like us, this seems perfect.

Birding by Ear: Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guides(R))

Beating the Heat

Educating the Charlotte Mason way means spending lots of time outside.  I’m 5-1/2 months pregnant,
so I’m anticipating a hot summer.  My last baby, two years ago, was born in early September so we did the whole pregnant-all-summer thing then too.  Having a tiny baby in the summer is harder than being pregnant all summer, imo, because although I’m uncomfortable I’m not in danger in a reasonable amount of heat, but with a baby, particularly keeping it protected from mosquitoes, you do have to be careful.

We go out early, and then again late.  There is one local park that has some shade for the play equipment, so we can play there.  There’s another park that has a water feature the kids can run through, and I think the last two summers (since we’ve lived here) we spent time almost every week at that park.  There’s a local walking trail that feels like we’re in the woods, and last time around we spent many mornings walking there, slowly, the kids riding their scooters/bikes and looking for flora and fauna.  We sometimes went to one of the area state parks, where we could walk in the woods (so it was shaded) or swim in the lake.  Some swimming areas are not suited for little ones, but one local lake has a beach and doesn’t really ever get deep in the swimming area.  They looked for shells, watched vultures, saw a turtle on the road and rescued it, etc.

We have a big yard, with a swingset that’s shaded almost all day and parts of the yard that are shaded throughout the day, so that’s a big help.  But with that previous pregnancy, we were in a rental house and didn’t have that.  I do think that in the really, really hot parts of the summer (which haven’t arrived yet–yay!), we stayed inside except early mornings and evenings.  It’s similar to the way people in really cold places have to handle winter weather.  But with a little conditioning, you’ll find you can tolerate hotter temperatures than you would have expected.  I kept the house really cold all winter, and the kids were comfortable, but now that it’s hot outside (sort of) they’ve adjusted and tell me they’re freezing when it’s 78 in the house!

We live in east Texas.  When we started with CM, we lived in the Houston area.  So much of the year is extremely hot that if we don’t adjust, we’ll end up spending most of the year inside.  It probably won’t get cooler until November, and it’s going to get a lot hotter before then!