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The Minimalist Guide to the Holidays

  |   Holidays, Music Study, Teaching - all grades, Time Mangagement   |   2 Comments

the minimalist guide to the holidays

 As soon as the crisp morning breeze hits your cheek, it seems like it’s just a few weeks before you’re facing the holidays and all the juggling of activities that brings.

Trying to homeschool while planning and preparing for the onslaught of company, huge, intricate meals, decorating, holiday crafts, homemade Christmas gifts, special holiday ministry events, parties, traveling, entertaining and holiday correspondence…

It’s enough to make you climb back under the covers just thinking about it.

But you aren’t in the middle of things YET.  Before holiday mode hits, consider approaching the holidays from a simpler perspective this year. Follow our 5 tip minimalist guide to the holidays to help you relax, enjoy and celebrate.

1. Take a longer break from homeschooling.

Our holiday break started the week of Thanksgiving and ran through New Year’s Day.   Yes, that’s about six weeks.  For that period of time we didn’t do “formal” school. We slept later and participated in church and community events without worrying about late nights and resulting cranky, sleep-deprived kids.

Just because we didn’t follow our routine doesn’t mean that I couldn’t count many activities as school.   We just focused on holiday preparations and service rather than completing math lessons and writing essays. Here’s an example of what we did during November and December:

  • planned and made holiday meals/company meals/meals for others (nutrition,  home economics, practical math,  service)
  • read aloud as a family from our collection of classic Christmas books
  • had daily independent reading time (children’s choice of material for youngers, olders caught up or read ahead for the following semester)
  • crafted projects to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and to make gifts for neighbors, friends, family and others (art, service)
  • participated in and attended concerts, cantatas, plays and other holiday events (music/drama)

2.  Scale back on gift-buying.

You watch your budget and carefully plan your spending all year, but somehow it all goes out the window at holiday time. Ask yourself if you REALLY have to buy as many gifts as you do.  Perhaps it is time to change it up:

  • decide to forgo spending so much on gifts for your kids and instead bless another family with a life-giving gift from Samaritan’s Purse’s Christmas catalog 
  • give everyone a spending limit
  • make gifts instead of buying them
  • do “family” gifts for your siblings and their kids instead of individual gifts
  • choose names for gift buying instead of getting everyone something

3. Don’t go to every event you are invited to.

Isn’t it true that every group each member of your family belongs to has a Christmas event?  And not only do you try and attend them all, you sometimes double or even triple-book when they  inevitably occur on the same dates.

Contrary to what you may have done in the past, you don’t have to attend all of these events. Just stop.

Look at the calendar and plan ahead to have a manageable schedule, planning in down time so you aren’t running somewhere different every night of the week.

4. Simplify the meals.

Growing up, at Thanksgiving and Christmas we had to have so many different dishes that it was exhausting and expensive for all involved.  Instead, at our house everyone chooses ONE dish that they can’t have Thanksgiving without. =D (If you have a large family you might have to take a vote instead.)

I have vivid memories of starting preparations for Christmas breakfast after getting home from Christmas Eve services and being up until 1:00 am or later making this particular item that we had to have for Christmas morning, while readying a 25 pound turkey for the oven at the crack of dawn the next day.

Now, Christmas breakfast is something simple we can make together, and we have a later, large meal for Christmas dinner so the turkey doesn’t have to start cooking so early. We’ve even been known to skip the turkey altogether or cooking just the turkey breast instead of messing with the entire bird.

So rather than having special menus for Christmas Eve and every meal on Christmas, we focus on one main meal.

I’m all for family traditions, but don’t try to do so many that you are exhausted. Pick and choose.

Make your crockpot your friend for November and December, and keep those regular meals extra simple and light to help compensate for the heavier eating that usually happens at all of the holiday events.

5.  Slow down and savor the time.

Take some time for yourself during these busy days.

  • Meet a friend for coffee. 
  • Go for a walk outside by yourself as often as possible.
  • Trade childcare time with a friend so you can shop, clean or cook by yourself or with your husband without the kids. Make it into a date!
  • Read a book. (Not a school book.)

In his book,  In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honore wrote:

“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better…. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”

Make the choice to SLOW DOWN and SAVOR. Enjoy being together with your loved ones, cooking together, crafting together, playing board games and watching holiday movies.  You are allowed to plan relaxation time into your schedule and say “no” to those things that will put you over the edge.

REIGN IN YOUR HOLIDAY TO DOS.  Use the time and money you save to reconnect with yourself and your loved ones and to peacefully celebrate!

 

 

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Paper Crafts for Thanksgiving!

  |   American History, Books!, Hands on Activities, Holidays, Teaching Elementary School   |   2 Comments

I LOVE making holiday crafts with our kids. So much so that we collect different colored paper, ribbon, stamps, and other craft supplies throughout the year. We’ve often checked out craft books from the library, but we also collect some of our favorites from Amazon and local used book stores.

Holiday craft time is the perfect occasion to talk about a holiday’s origin and why it is important. You can even consider this time as school (history and social studies).

We can also count down the days until the holiday as we prepare various projects (calendar review and math).

Crafting fulfills those “hands on” needs elementary children (and older children!) have and provides a happy break from some of the more academic things we do. And if you have a child that’s more artistically inclined, even better!

The presence of extended family and friends and the chance to make and eat our special holiday recipes (like our family’s huge pumpkin gingerbread cookies) all make Thanksgiving special, but the chance to examine and talk about what we are grateful for leading up to Thanksgiving is a not-to-be-missed opportunity (character training).

As far as crafts go I especially LOVE paper crafts – they are fun for multi-age siblings (and mom!) , inexpensive, and not terribly time-consuming.

If you love them, too, here is a must-have book that has simple, inexpensive Thanksgiving crafts that kids (and moms) love to make.


This useful Thanksgiving craft book has plenty of patterns and clear, simple, illustrated instructions for making turkey pop-up cards, a “Happy Thanksgiving” table greeting, a 3D “I am Thankful for my Family” sculpture, a cute reuseable turkey stencil, and much more.

The book begins with a easy-to-understand history of the Thanksgiving holiday and suggestions for using recycled paper to complete the projects.

In the “Read About” section at the back there are further book suggestions and website links to places where you can read more about Thanksgiving and see additional Thanksgiving crafts.

My favorite project is the pop-up turkey card.

turkey pop-up card

I love the crafts in this book!

Does your family have specific crafts you love to make for Thanksgiving?  I would love to hear about them in the comments!

 

 

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A Homeschool Mom’s Devotion: Keeping a Calm and Quiet Heart

  |   Christian Parenting, Curriculum, Encouragement   |   No comment

 

A Homeschool Mom's Devotion: Keeping a Calm and Quiet Heart

One of the many blessings I received from writing our newest high school course, World History I, was reading through the entire Bible again, as the Bible is one of our primary references for the first two units of the course.

My reading plan directed me to read the books in chronological order, with a psalm at the end of each day’s reading. Finishing with a psalm every day gave me a chance to cycle through the psalms a number of times. I loved it!

I have continued the habit of ending my morning Bible reading with a psalm, and in my quiet time this morning I was encouraged — I hope you will be encouraged, too.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, 

like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child with its mother.

Psalm 131: 1-2

 What a beautiful picture.

…no worries about all the  undone things I see around me

.…no worries about a loved one who will soon be with Jesus

….no worries about another loved one who doesn’t know Jesus

Your Worries Might be Different…

... not getting enough sleep because of the baby

…the eight year old who still can’t read, the middle schooler who won’t write, or the high schooler who just isn’t getting algebra

…month left at the end of the money

…starting homeschool later than planned

…not knowing whether your kids are learning

not sure you are doing “enough” in your schooling

I’m praying for you and for me.  That we would just be content to know we are safe and secure in the arms of Jesus, and be reassured that He is Sovereign.

Pray with me…

Oh Lord, help us to calm and quiet our minds and our hearts. Remind us that this is how you want us to live, able to step back from the circumstances of our lives, especially those we don’t understand and have no ability to control … and choose to be calm, relaxed, peaceful and as reliant upon You as a baby in her mother’s arms, not wanting for or worrying about anything…  just content to be held. 

What worries would you add to the list?  Do you have difficulties stepping back, as I do, and keeping a  calm and quiet soul in the middle of difficult circumstances?

Image credit: David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.com

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What Subjects do we Cover?

  |   Christian Parenting, Curriculum, Geography study, Language Arts, Music Study, Picture Study, Teaching - all grades, Teaching Science, Teaching Writing   |   No comment

What subjects do we cover

And how do we cover them?

We get this question all the time, so here is our extended answer.  =D

BIBLE

Although we do not cover the Bible as a subject, we do use the Bible for teaching history. Our curriculum often refers to the Bible, particularly during the Ancient and Renaissance and Reformation historical periods.  We cover the days of Creation (in science) and include Scripture memory work during the Ancients, as well.

Particularly with your younger children it’s important to use the real words of the Bible when teaching history (actually, we see it as HIS-story). In our Christian homeschooling curricula we refer to Biblical events as Bible ‘accounts,’ rather than Bible ‘stories,’  to help smaller children to understand that these events actually happened.

In our middle school daily lesson plans, as students mature, we help them start thinking about author’s bias and learning to examine what they read, hear and watch according to biblical standards.

In our high school courses we often examine leadership, author’s lives and works, and historical characters and events in relation to what God tells us in His Word.  In fact, in our World History I high school course, which covers the Ancients through the Renaissance & Reformation, we read significant portions of the Old and New Testaments.

When we include memory work or Scripture within our curricula, we have used the NIV or the ESV.  We hope you include the Bible and Scripture memory work in your homeschool, using the translation you are most comfortable with. Our curricula, though sometimes used by people of different backgrounds, are written from a Reformed, biblical worldview.

HISTORY

Train up a Child Publishing (formerly Epi Kardia) uses whole, living books as recommended by Charlotte Mason to teach the subjects of reading, history, science, language arts and fine arts.

We divide history chronologically into nine periods, and use that as a framework from which to teach the other subjects we cover.

Timeline, globe, map, and other geography activities, as well as projects for individuals and groups, are suggested in each historical unit of our Unit Programs using the books listed and round out the subjects included in our curricula.

Our book selections are based on the quality of literary value, Biblical relevance, historical correctness and depth, and/or outstanding illustrations. Our homeschooling curriculum utilizes the best of the best children/young adult literature we can find. One or more of the authors of this homeschooling curriculum has read each book recommended in our programs and high school courses.

To see the history topics covered in our Daily Lesson Plans, view our scope and sequences for each of the grade levels.

SCIENCE

We include science from kindergarten through eighth grade, but do not include science in our high school programs, since colleges want to see specific courses with labs covering specific topics in a particular way. We leave that to others’ expertise!

For kindergarten through eighth grade, science topics are integrated into the history focus, but not forced. For example – for science during the Ancients unit, we study Creation Science, the Desert (where much of the action takes place in history), and Science in the Ancient World. During the Middle Ages unit, we study Plants and Herbs, Herbal Medicine, and Forests/Trees – all part of daily life during that time period. Where ever possible, the science topics relate to the core history reading.

We read non-fiction science-based books as well as ones that include hands-on experiments, projects and other science-related activities. The books in our programs are recommended and selected based on strong science concepts, excellent graphics and examples, and/or valuable experiments.

Like Charlotte Mason, we encourage parents to spend time outdoors in nature observation as well as inside reading. Nature journals were a big hit with our kids, so we describe in our curriculum how to keep nature journals and encourage you to get outside as often as the weather where you live allows.

To read more about the science topics covered in our Daily Lesson Plans, view our scope and sequences for each of the grade levels.

LANGUAGE ARTS

Language arts consists of reading, phonics, composition, literature, grammar, poetry, vocabulary and spelling.  Whew!

Copy work and dictation integrate history, literature and science with grammar studies and other language arts. Copy work, reading assignments, narration prompts and discussion questions are provided in our structured Daily Lesson Plans and are taken directly from history and science reading and from Scripture.

With our unstructured Unit Programs, you choose the books you want to read (from our pre-read book suggestions), the copywork, spelling and vocabulary. Our Unit Program Teacher’s Manuals include detailed instructions for you describing how to teach phonics, spelling, grammar, punctuation and handwriting. In addition, spelling, grammar and handwriting checklists are provided to assist parents in selecting copy work. Writing skills beyond copying are established beginning in the intermediate grades. Memorization of poetry and excerpts from literature are also part of the language arts design.

FINE ARTS

Music and art (painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture) from each time period is studied not only to give students a clearer picture of the historical period, but also to develop a love of the gifts that God has given to His children. Materials selected for these subject areas were based on developing a desire to learn more about the arts without exposing children to more “worldly” materials.

Our structured Daily Lesson Plans include regular picture study and music study as well as a look at architectural innovations during the different periods of history.

In our daily lesson plans we often provide web links featuring art of a particular time period. (Make sure you supervise your kids on the web.) Also note the links to art museums around the world on our Helpful Links page.

In our high school literature and history courses, we include the arts in the variety of assignment choices provided. We have plenty of writing assignments, it’s true; but we also include assignment choices such as drawing a diagram or building a model of the Tabernacle (World History), illustrating a scene from a book (our literature courses), creating a musical piece (World History), so you can truly customize your high schooler’s learning experience by including the arts.

For food for thought on  how to view the teaching of the fine arts, please see a blog post in our archives by one of the curriculum’s authors, Beth Hempton: How Fine are the Fine Arts?

Do you have any questions about what we cover or how we do it? List them in the comments (and we will answer every one) or email us at infodesk@trainupachildpub.com. =D

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Anxious about Homeschooling? Don’t Do These Three Things

  |   Curriculum, Parenting/Homeschooling in General, Personal Growth, Teaching - all grades   |   No comment

anxious about homeschooling

You are getting ready to start school again (or just started) and already the anxiety is building.

You have homeschooled awhile, but you still don’t think you are doing it right. Your oldest is telling anyone who will listen she wants to go back to ‘real’ school. Your kids are groaning about starting back again.  You are on the defensive and feel your inner ogre taking over.

You were sure when you started that homeschooling was the best route to take, but now that you are on that path, you are plagued with doubts: am I covering the right things? Am I doing enough?  Are my kids actually learning anything? Am I really cut out to do this on my own?

What should you do?

Don’t do these three things!

  1. Throw in the towel and stop homeschooling. Put the kids back in public school. Make your relatives happy. Just give it up and do what “everybody else” is doing. After all, you went to public school, didn’t you? You made a few mistakes and wandered down some wrong paths, but you eventually got back on track, right? (I’m talking about myself here.)
  2. Take out a second mortgage and put your kids in a hybrid homeschool program you can’t afford. Then THEY can make all those decisions about how to teach your kids and at what pace they need to learn. Yes, it will be stressful to have to conform to someone else’s schedule for your family and your slower learner will have some problems keeping up, but he will just have to conform….or you will have to help do his work….
  3. Buy another boxed textbook curriculum. You know it is dull and feels like “public school at home,” but at least you’ll know you are covering enough. All the worksheets and tests you need are there so you won’t have to worry about evaluation. Whether the kids are actually learning anything is another matter, but maybe it will feel less like torture be better this year….

STOP!

Before you do anything rash, just stop and think a minute.  I want you to write down what you would like your homeschool to be like. How do you envision it working? What would you be studying? How would your kids be?  How would you be? What would be different?

After you have described what you would like your homeschool to “look like,” I want you to send your description to me at dana@trainupachildpub.com .

The first step toward making things better is identifying how you would LIKE things to be!

Soon we will talk about some additional steps to take to bridge that gap!

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How to Help your Student Choose a College Major

  |   Christian Parenting, Parenting/Homeschooling in General, Teaching High School   |   2 Comments

ID:26206463

by Dorita Deierlein

Did you know that according to Gallup poll data people who use their strengths are six times more likely to be engaged in their work and three times more likely to say they have an excellent quality of life?

One important step in the process of identifying a career based on your student’s strengths is choosing the right college major.

Is your high school student undecided when it comes to choosing a college major, or does he know what he wants to do? Selecting college majors and careers is exciting, but often involves uncertainty and questions. However, there are ways you as a parent can assist your student in selecting a college major.   Begin by seeking God’s direction as you and your student explore his God given strengths, values, and interests.

Explore Strengths

Strengths involve skills, qualities, and personal characteristics that come naturally. They are part of the way God designs us. In what area does your student naturally excel? Strengths can be hard for us to identify in ourselves so it can be helpful for your student to ask others to assist him in discovering strengths. What do friends, family members, and authority figures respect and appreciate in your student? Look for places of excitement, energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. Working in areas that utilize our strengths is motivating and energizing.

Identify Interests and Passions

What does your student love to do? What are his favorite courses in school? Think about activities where he has been so engaged that he lost all track of time. Have your student describe his ideal job. What would he find joy in doing each day? Also ask him what he doesn’t enjoy doing.  Being aware of what you don’t enjoy doing is helpful in giving direction.  Is it realistic that this interest can support your student, or is it more appropriate as a hobby?  Even if it is better suited as a hobby, there is often an element or theme of that interest that can be part of a college major or future job.

 Discover Core Values

What matters most to your student? Core values are traits or qualities that represent an individual’s highest priorities, fundamental beliefs, and core driving forces.  Knowing your core values makes decision-making easier and more effective. When we are in alignment with our core values we are living authentically and stress and frustration are reduced.

Practical suggestions for exploring careers and college majors

  • Have him identify three jobs that use his interests, values, and strengths
  • Talk with people who work in careers that interest him and encourage him to make appointments to shadow some of them
  • When he talks with people in careers of interest, suggest he find out what college majors prepared them for their work
  • Look for volunteer opportunities in areas that interest him
  • Research together the field he is considering

As you approach this season in your student’s life, be encouraged. Explore together and have fun discovering how God uniquely created your student. Approach this with a learner’s mindset and remember that your student will continue to acquire and build skills throughout his life. Encourage your student to also seek God’s direction.  He created your child with specific interests, values, and strengths and will lead you both as you seek His guidance.

What have you and your student discovered as you explored college majors?

Dorita Deierlein, former home schooling mom, now life coach, partners with students, young adults, parents, and empty nesters as they navigate life’s transitions and seek God’s next best step. To find out more about how Dorita can assist you contact her at dorita@doritalifecoaching or visit her website http://www.doritalifecoaching.com.

 

 

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Seven Ways to be a Rock Star Homeschool Mom

  |   Encouragement, Personal Growth, Time Mangagement   |   5 Comments

seven ways to be a rock star mom

This is one of our most popular back-to-school posts! If there is any point here that you are going to be working on this year — or that you think you SHOULD be working on, will you tell me in the comments?

It’s back to school time!

The summer is winding down, and for some of you the new school year has already begun!  Reflecting upon my many back-to-school years, I offer you some food for thought about being a Rock Star homeschool mom.  :)

1. Academics are important – but relationships are more important.

Always remember that the child is more important than the work.  I know you agree, in theory… but sometimes when one is correcting a wiggly, uncooperative kid – for the fourth time in an hour – it is hard to remember.  Put away the math book.  Stop and talk for a while with your child and try to determine what is going on in his head instead of just lowering the boom.

In the same vein, relationships with siblings are more important than the work.  In our house it is not permissible for siblings to fight and tear each other down physically or verbally.  Stop and referee, require apologies and make things right before trying to get back to work.

One more relationship  to talk about – the one between you and your husband.  Don’t put that on the back burner for 15 years while you teach school.  It is SO easy for us to put the kids before our marriage, and when we do so we are not doing ourselves or our children any favors.

2. Don’t stress over things you can’t control.

Allow a little margin in your life.  I say this from experience!  I am the Queen of Overcommitment.  As soon as you squeeze too many responsibilities on your plate, the most inconsequential thing can put you into a tailspin – and everyone in your path suffers.  Uh huh.  You can relate.  When you homeschool there are things to which you need to say “no.”  Beneficial things.  Fun things.  Learn to say no.  If you have trouble with this, learn not to commit without talking with your husband about it first. (Then you can blame it on him when you say no.)  Just kidding. =D

3.  Worry about the big things and let the little things take care of themselves.

You are not going to teach them everything they need to know and they certainly are not going to remember everything you teach them. In my view the important things are:

  • Where are are your children in terms of their spiritual life?  This is of utmost importance in our home. If it is in yours, too, is it reflected in your daily conversation and how you spend your time?
  • Teach your kids how to discipline their minds to listen, to learn and to find information on their own.
  • Train them to own their own work, manage their own belongings (including school supplies) and their own spaces.
  • Give your children opportunities to serve others and rub shoulders with people of all ages.
  • Teach them to communicate with others politely, tactfully and kindly.

Let me ask you — what do you remember about what you learned in school (the academic part, I mean)?  If you are like most of us, you don’t remember all that well.  What you do remember is what engaged your interest.  The projects you worked on, research you did, some of the papers you wrote. Which leads me to number 4:

4.  Study your children; identify their passions and how they learn best.

What do they enjoy the most? What do they do in their play time?  What grabs their attention?  What do they talk about?  What do they like to read or learn about in their free time?  What do they learn quickly and easily? Do they automatically grab a book or search the Internet to learn something?  Do they like to listen to music?  Do they like to talk about what they are learning?  Do they frequently move around a lot while they are learning something?  Do they like drama?  Art?  Music?  Playing with Lego blocks?  Educate yourself about learning styles and try to identify yours and theirs.

5.  Cultivate a love for learning.

The best way to do this is to be an enthusiastic learner yourself.  Generate some excitement about learning new things.  READ.  Let them see you read.  Provide lots of stimulating reading material – at or below your children’s reading level.  Let them choose whatever they want to read for a daily fun-reading time.  (Shh- this will also improve their reading comprehension and fluency, but don’t tell them.)  This is not a school thing, it is a fun thing. (It is all in the marketing.)  Go to the library frequently.  Choose to buy magazine subscriptions in the areas of your child’s interests for Christmas and birthdays. Talk about what you are learning.  Regularly go around the table at dinner telling each other about the most interesting or surprising thing you learned that day.

6.  Take the time to be prepared.

You don’t always have to be perfectly organized and prepared to homeschool.  BUT, it make school much easier if you make an effort to be ready.  If you are prepared, you are more confident.  If you have confidence in yourself, your children will have more confidence in you as their teacher. This is especially important if you have recently taken your child out of public or private school.  Strategies that help:

  • Put your things away and teach your kids to do the same. (See #3)
  • Avoid clutter like the plague.
  • Take time to prepare lessons in advance.  Ask yourself — do I understand this?  Do I need to look anything up first?  Do I have the supplies I need?  Have I allowed enough time for this lesson?  What are the younger ones going to do while I teach this?
  • Take an occasional “teacher work day” and spend some concentrated time during holiday/summer breaks to get ready for school
  • Ask your husband or a friend to take the kids for a few hours a week so you can plan and prepare for the next week.

7.  Don’t try to be a friend to your kids.  They need you to be a parent first.

I’m not suggesting that you be an authoritarian or dictator, or that you shouldn’t worry about ‘getting along’ with your children.  I’m just recommending that you  be a parent first – set clear expectations of what is acceptable behavior in your home and how children are going to behave when school is in session. When you assign school work, make sure your children understand exactly what you expect.  Be consistent with your discipline. Expect children to always be respectful to you and other adults.  You are laying a foundation for them to be secure, for school to be successful and for friendship as they become older.

Do any of these particularly resonate with you this year? Which one(s)?

 

 

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The Question Box – a lesson plan you can use over and over!

  |   Curriculum, Hands on Activities, Language Arts, Lesson Plan, Parenting/Homeschooling in General, Teaching Elementary School, Teaching History   |   3 Comments

fun idea for any unit

I am not sure where it came from or where it went, to be honest, but we used to have a small, shoebox-sized square box.  It had large red and green paisleys running around the outside and at one time probably held a yummy food gift.

But this was no ordinary box—this was the Question Box.  Using it MADE EACH UNIT MORE FUN by:

  • getting my kids excited about what they were going to be learning
  • starting our school day/history study with a fun, challenging activity  
  • helping our kids actually see how much they were learning as the unit progressed

Win-win!

After morning devotions, our routine was to head to the schoolroom and start the academic day with the kids taking their turns excitedly pulling a question pertaining to our unit study from the box.  Here’s how it worked.

How to do it.

Customarily, I would make up numbered history and science fill-in-the blank and short answer questions on the computer and print them out, making them different colors.  

I also made myself a key on a separate sheet of paper. Don’t forget that. 

I cut the questions apart and into the box they went.  I coded them so we knew which were the ‘younger student’ questions and which were the ‘older.’ 

We would have a new boxful at the beginning of every unit, and a big box full of new questions was always something my kids looked forward to.

Typically, at the start of a new unit they wouldn’t know many of the answers. (If they did not know the answer, the question went back into the box.)

But they had fun guessing and, at the same time, became more interested in what they would be learning. As we progressed through the unit, they were jazzed about how they were getting more and more of the questions right, and how I had to throw in some harder questions just to keep things interesting. 

By the end of the unit they usually had all of the questions, even the hard ones, answered correctly. We also had contests and sometimes received prizes (like a piece of gum or an M&M) for answering, for example, three questions in a row correctly. 

This simple idea could be adapted in a variety of ways:

·The kids could create and decorate the box

·Older students could make up questions for the younger ones

·Kids could pull a ‘seat work’ assignment out of the box, such as a verse to copy or memorize, a sentence with errors to edit, a short word problem to figure out, etc.

·An older elementary, middle or high school student could pull out a person, place or event to research, write about, and present to the group (or to you)

·Even household chores for that day could be chosen from the box.

As I have been slowly cleaning my way through the school room this summer, I came across some of our Middle Ages questions that would be appropriate for late Primary (K-2nd), Intermediate (3rd – 5th) or early Preparatory (6th-8th) students. The last five or so would be suitable for Preparatory and/or Secondary (9th-12th) students.

Sample Middle Ages Questions and Answers

The answers are in bold type and in parentheses after the questions:

1.  What is the name of the part of a castle that is a tower, often round, with many stories?  There, nobles slept, ate and planned.  Soldiers lived on lower stories with the dungeon below.  (keep)

2.   Between 1100 and 1300 AD, large groups of knights, nobles and even some peasants (and children!) traveled from Europe to the Middle East to try and take possession of the Holy Lands from the Turks.  These trips were called the ___________.  (Crusades)

3.  What are two popular games played today that originated during the Middle Ages? (chess and checkers)

4.  During the Middle Ages, craft _________ were set up to make sure their members were properly trained as apprentices and produced high quality goods. (guilds)

5.  From what disease in the 1300’s did about a third of all the people in Europe die? (the Black Death or Bubonic Plague)

6. What was the name of a legendary king who ruled a Kingdom where people were peaceful and content? He came to represent the ideals of justice, peace and honor.  (King Arthur)

7.  Large, rural estates were called _________.  (manors)

8.  A craftsman who made tools, weapons and cooking utensils from iron was called a _______. (blacksmith)

9.  Books were copied by hand, one by one, usually by ___________.  (monks)

10.  In manor houses, people used ___________ to cover walls, to keep out drafts, and/or to divide rooms.  (carpets and tapestries)

11. What were musicians called who traveled around the country, played, sang and told stories at special feasts and other events? (minstrels)

12.  ________ traveled great distances to buy and sell goods. (Traders or merchants)

13.  A special design each knight carried on a shield or his clothing that helped knights tell each other apart in battle was called a  _____ __ ____. (coat of arms)

14.  What were pictures called that were painted directly onto wet plaster?  (frescoes)

15.  What was a mechanical device called that hurled heavy objects into the air, at or over castle walls during an attack?  (a catapult)

16.  The ________ ________ was a survey completed in 1086 of nearly all the lands in England and was conducted by officials of King William the First (also known as William the Conqueror).  (the Domesday Book)

17.  Dried plant seeds, roots and/or leaves that were used to flavor foods or make not-so-fresh meat taste better (and were quiet expensive) were called ________.  (spices)

18.  The _________ was one of the most highly skilled craftsman of the middle ages, combining the jobs of architect, builder, engineer, and sculptor today, working on all stages of a building project.  (mason)

19.  Many ________ and _________ were used as medieval remedies for sickness and disease.  (plants and herbs)

20. What was depicted by the famous Bayeux Tapestry? (The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066, when the Norman invader William, Duke of Normandy, challenged Saxon King Harold.William’s forces won the battle; henceforth, he was called William the Conqueror.)

21.  Briefly describe the feudal system. (Vassals gave loyalty and service to lords in exchange for land and military protection)

22. Describe the concept of chivalry. (Chivalry is a group of character qualities thought to be exhibited by the perfect knight, including loyalty, honesty, courage, and courteousness—especially towards women.)

23. Describe the Magna Carta and its significance, as well as the circumstances under which it was signed. (The “Great Charter” was the first document in English history that forced a monarch to be subject to the law and provided for the creation of a strong parliament.King John, a wicked and greedy king who had levied incredibly high taxes, was forced to sign it by his rebellious barons in 1215 in Runnymede, England.Once it was signed, the barons again swore fealty to King John, not realizing the king had no intention of keeping the agreement.)

24. Name at least one key character from the Middle Ages and describe why he or she was historically significant. (This has many possible answers! Among them:

  • Alfred the Great: a noble and wise ruler who bought about an educational revival in England; 
  • King John: [see above]; 
  • Joan of Arc:a young French girl who rallied the French against the English and who victoriously led the French army in battle.She was eventually captured and burned at the stake as a witch; 
  • Charlemagne: French ruler, Charles the Great, who controlled most of west and central Europe and presided over what was called the Carolingian Renaissance; 
  • Genghis and Kublai Khan:Grandfather and Grandson, these Mongolian leaders ruled over much of Asia and almost to Europe.Although Buddhist, they were tolerant of most religions other than Islam.Kublai did much to encourage literature and the arts.)

25. Who were the Moors? (A nomadic people from Northern Africa, the Moors descended from Arabs and Berbers who had moved into the Holy Lands and spent many years fighting the English during the Crusades.They are known for their goal to spread Islam across the world and for their magnificent, unusual architecture.)

Please feel free to use these questions in your school, and have fun making up some of your own!  (And if anyone wants to send in their questions, we will post them.  Many hands make light work, you know.)

How do you think your kids would do at this? Do you see how it could spark some interest in what were studying?

 

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Kudos – Another Year Done!

  |   Charlotte Mason Mondays, Curriculum, Language Arts, Lesson Plan, Music Study, Picture Study, Review   |   No comment

Kudos mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have worked hard this year, homeschool mom! You are winding down or maybe even finished for this year, finally.  Great job!

If you homeschooled for the first time, you may be feeling a little… well, inadequate. A little disappointed that you didn’t finish all you wanted to do. You might be thinking it was harder than you thought it would be and that you might not be up to the task.

 

Please don’t beat yourself up — it truly gets easier as you learn more about homeschooling and how your kids learn.  You will “settle in” between years two and three — so don’t feel badly about it!  You are learning as you go, and that is okay!

 

Use the summer, or your next break, if you homeschool year round, to relax and regroup. Once you have had a chance to rest, carve out some time to yourself to evaluate your school year. Grab something cold to drink and something to write or type on to capture your answers and ideas as you respond to the following questions:

 

Meditate on these wise words from Elisabeth Elliot:

wheelbarrow to work in the garden on a background of green plants

You can do it!  I have faith in you!  Believe me, if I could do it, you can, too.  =D
Dana

 

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Poetry Study: Anne Bradstreet, Puritan Poet

  |   Charlotte Mason Mondays, Language Arts, Lesson Plan, Teaching Elementary School, Teaching High School, Teaching History, Teaching Middle School   |   16 Comments

Literature is hardly a distinct subject, so closely is it associated with history, whether general or English…and it is astonishing how much sound learning children acquire when the thought of an age is made to synchronise with its political and social developments.

 A point which I should like to bring before the reader is the peculiar part which poetry plays in making us aware of this thought of the ages, including our own.                      —Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6

 

Our history and literature study, including poetry, is intertwined. As Charlotte Mason suggests, poetry helps illuminate history for us by letting us peek over the shoulder at the thoughts of those who came before us.

Please take advantage of this rich primary source material by including poetry — the very words of those living in the particular time period you are studying  in history — into your homeschooling.

 Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Poet

The first woman to be published in the U.S. and considered by many to be America’s first poet, Anne Bradstreet was actually born in England. Two years married, Anne braved the Atlantic and moved with her young Puritan family to Massachusetts Bay, where her husband and father were eventually each governors of this new United States colony.

Anne’s vivid, beautiful poetry is a window into the intentional strength and faith of the Puritan soul in response to the hardship of life in Colonial America.

Below is one of Anne’s poignant poems followed by lesson plan ideas to use for your elementary to high school-aged students.

Here followes some verses upon the burning of our house, July 10th, 1666.

by Anne Bradstreet

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken’d was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse
And not to leave me succourlesse.
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so ’twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall ‘ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adieu, Adeiu; All’s vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And didst thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram’d by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho’ this bee fled.
It’s purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther’s wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.

How to Read Poetry

No matter the age of your students, there are basic steps to reading poetry, as presented in How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. (This is a classic that should be read by all homeschooled high school students, in my opinion!) :-)

First, read the poem through the first time without stopping. Even though there are unfamiliar words and phrases, you will glean much more by first reading the poem through without stopping to figure out  the vocabulary.

Then, read the poem through a second time, but this time read it aloud.

Poetry’s inherent rhythm brings the words and phrases to life.  Now, you may start asking what the poem is saying.

The more you read it, the more the poem can speak to you.

For Younger Students

In true Charlotte Mason fashion, resist the urge to “teach” this poem. Instead, allow the poem to speak directly to your student. And this particular  poem will be more suitable for older elementary children than younger.

For elementary students, just focus on reading the poem. If you anticipate your student becoming frightened about your house burning down, remind him that during colonial times candles were used for light and most household items were of wood, so house fires were much more common than today. (Although we ALWAYS have to be careful of fire, etc…)

For an older elementary or middle school-aged student, read a stanza aloud, one at a time, and have your student narrate (tell back) what s/he has heard.  Record your student’s thoughts for each stanza.

After the narration is complete, you may ask your student to describe how the author feels about what happened, especially if this was not included in the original narration.  Your student  may also ask you questions about the poem, which is fine, but try to be brief in your answers. If your student shows particular interest in any poem, encourage questions, re-reading and further observation.

Of course, younger students will  miss the biblical allusions and will focus on the more ‘concrete’ aspects of this poem, as is normal for their stage of development.

You may choose to read other poems by Anne Bradstreet while studying the American Colonial period, as Charlotte Mason advocated reading one poet at a time, for six weeks or more.  For the younger set, focus mainly on reading and enjoying the poems.

For High School Students

High school students should initially approach the poem in the same way recommended earlier: first by reading the poem  in its entirety, without stopping; then reading the poem a second time, aloud, again without stopping.

Most high school students would benefit by reading this poem through every day for a week or more. As it is rich in biblical allusions and principles and Puritan theology, there is much here to be gleaned by the discerning student.

Assignment Possibilities (High School)

These are written to the student.

  • As you read through the poem, note at least eight examples of the dialect of the time period. Draw a line down the center of a piece of notebook paper and write the phrase or word on the left, as gleaned by your examination of the poem, and the meaning or spelling of the sample on the right, as it might be expressed in today’s language.
  • Read through each stanza of the poem, then write a summary of each in your own words.
  • As you read through each stanza, note any biblical allusions/principles. (There are several.) Make sure to identify and explain the allusion and for extra or Honors credit – add a Scripture reference.

Additional Assignment Ideas from our American Literature course:

  • Read an additional book of poetry by Anne Bradstreet, such as To My Husband and Other Poems.
  • Read at least one poem from each of the sections of the book and be prepared to discuss with your teacher what you learn about Anne from the sample of poems that you read.
  • After reading at least five of her poems, write two to three paragraphs about what you learn about Anne as a person. What is important to her? What did she believe? What did she love? What kind of person do you think she was?
  • Research Anne Bradstreet’s life and compare what you learn to what you discovered from her poetry. Were your observations accurate? How did they differ, if at all, from what you learned through research? Write two to three paragraphs discussing how your research compares to your observations from reading her poetry.
For additional reading on Anne Bradstreet:
For excellent reading concerning the Puritans, consider reading:

 

Is poetry something you enjoy reading at your house, or do you struggle to include it?

Christian literature based homeschool curriclum

 

 

 

 

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Why do “public school at home” using textbook curricula, when you can use innovative programs that are based on the way children actually learn?

 
Learn more about our curricula’s subject integration and our unique history cycle and see our curriculum options.  Explore our blog and receive two free gifts for subscribing to our free homeschool helps.

Train up a Child Publishing offers literature-based homeschool curriculum from Kindergarten through High School, all written from a Christian worldview. From our unstructured, Charlotte Mason-style Unit Programs, to our structured Daily Lesson Plans and our popular High School Courses, we have you covered.

Uniquely engaging with assignments appealing to different learning styles, Train up a Child Publishing curriculum makes homeschooling fun and effective.