Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Some Books on Brain Development

Following is a list of my favorite books on how people learn. (As always, I also recommend Charlotte Mason's insights found in the CM Series, but these others are good too.)

A caveat-- This post mainly addresses brain development, but people are more than matter. Children have souls which need to be fed, they have relationships with the Holy Spirit that we are not necessarily privy to, and "their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 18:10), so although I do not deal with it here, it is best to remember the spiritual aspect of development.

A Mind at a Time by Dr. Mel Levine (this is my hands-down go-to book when I am trying to figure out what might be going wrong)

Discover Your Child's Learning Style: Children Learn in Unique Ways (a set of questionnaires designed to determine a person's strengths and talents-- I like this as a jumping-off place, but find I need to temper learning style ideas with the idea that we are to continually grow and become more well-rounded)

Driven to Distraction/Delivered from Distraction by Dr. Edward M. Hallowell (two books on recognizing and dealing with AD/HD)

Sometimes we want to label certain behaviors as dysfunctions when they are really normal brain development for the age/stage of the child. Following are a couple of books on "ages and stages":

The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters by Michael Gurian (a chronology of brain development unique to girls-- he has another one called The Wonder of Boys, but I haven't read it)

Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain

And the following are two books that address neural plasticity and the idea that our brains really are formed by the influences we allow around us:

Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think and What We Can Do About It by Jane Healey (this is more a book about modern influences on the brain-- she has another book on Internet and more recent technology but I haven't read it and I really want to)

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman (a book on the dangers of television)

(Note: I'm sure someone has written a book about the detrimental effect on the brain of constant trivial-- and not so trivial-- snippets of information and rabbit trails, ie., Facebook, Twitter, etc., and if you know of a book on that subject, would you please leave the name and author in the comments? Thanks.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Italian Style Pasta Toss

We currently have much company and many plans (in fact, at this moment I should be ushering my crew out the door for Ye Next Thynge) but someone asked for this nice summer salad recipe, so I thought I would post it. You almost can't ruin this recipe-- I change things and leave stuff out depending on what I do and don't have. The cheese and salami or pepperoni are musts, though.

7 ounces corkscrew pasta or tortellini
1 1/2 cups cubed Swiss or provolone cheese
6 ounces sliced salami (I use pepperoni)
1 cup cauliflower flowerets, thinly sliced (I use broccoli)
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped green or red pepper
1 small onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1/2 cup sliced pitted ripe olives
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup snipped parsley (I use dry and just sprinkle it like salt until it looks right)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tspns dried basil
1 tspn dried oregano
1/2 tspn pepper
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges

1. Cook pasta, drain, rinse and drain
2. In a large bowl, toss pasta, cubed cheese, salami, cauliflower, zucchini, green or red pepper, onion, olives, Parmesan and parsley.
3. (Leave out tomatoes)
4. Make dressing in a screw top jar: combine oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano and pepper; cover and shake well. Pour over salad and toss salad.
5. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours Add tomatoes just before serving and toss gently.

6 main dish servings
From the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, Tenth Ring-Bound Edition

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Language Arts Plan for This Year

I had a request for my language arts lesson plans, so I am putting my ideas out for whoever wants them. At best, this post is a rough idea of what we will do this year, as I am still trying to figure out some things for the older two kids. These ideas are based on where the kids are at the moment and my intuition as far as what they need for the future. I suspect these plans will alter somewhat as the year progresses. I tend to follow the AO Language Arts Scope and Sequence.

3rd Grade Language Arts for Cornflower

Grammar: Grammar Songs from Audio Memory. I used these songs with each of my older kids, and they both have a strong foundation in parts of speech. (The kids also love to play Mad Libs, which must have had a role in their grammar learning.) There is a workbook that goes along with the songs and I may or may not get one for Cornflower. I haven't decided yet. I probably will, because she is always looking for something else to do while I finish school with her sisters. My goal with these songs is memorization, so as she memorizes a song, I will let her move on to the next one, reviewing the songs she has already memorized. We find these songs really easy to memorizes, although the recording is somewhat annoying to listen to. (You'd think that would bother me, as I was a music major in college, but I guess I am pragmatic when music can help learning.)

Composition/Reading: I have her tell back her school books every day. We generally read two to three selections each day, and the combination of reading and narration takes approximately twenty to thirty minutes per selection. She began reading Holling's Seabird independently and writing narrations at the end of last school year, so I will have her continue writing narrations for one of the simpler reading selections, and possibly expand to two or three books by the end of the year. She does a lot of reading on her own too, at around a 4th-6th grade level, and I will have her continue that. (Cornflower regularly asks me to pull new books from the shelves for her free reading enjoyment. Each time I pull another book for her, I think, "This is the last time one of my kids will read this book for the first time." :sigh: Silly, I know.)

She is also doing a project for the science fair this year, which will be her first experience in writing a report and giving an oral presentation. This is the website we use for science fair projects, and here is a rundown on the final report. I will use the Bravewriter method of freewriting to help her collect her thoughts and generate a rough draft.

Copywork: Every day. She writes around three to five words *perfectly* per session at this point. I only allow her to do as much as she can do with excellence. This makes for slow going, but her George Washington's Rules of Civility are looking pretty good, and she is learning to slow down and do the job well. We take turns selecting things, and right now she is committed to copying a good portion of the Rules of Civility (her choice-- I introduced it, but she wanted to keep going). Here is a discussion on copywork that has influenced my thoughts on the subject.

Penmanship: Last year I had her doing copywork twice per week and a penmanship workbook twice per week, but this year she will do at least a term of just copywork and then start a cursive penmanship workbook. We use Getty Dubay Italic. She knows how to form all of her letters in printing, but hasn't done anything with cursive yet, and the workbook will help me introduce the cursive forms later on this year. Next year (fourth grade), if all goes well, she will do her copywork in cursive. (Gee, I wish I had been this deliberate with my older two. I'm finally figuring out penmanship with my third one. Makes me wish I had a couple more kids around to benefit from my growth of knowledge, lol.)

Poetry/Recitation: We will read three poets together this year-- I want to read them aloud to her so she can catch intonation, etc. I will also have her memorize some poetry and scriptures, but I haven't figured out which ones yet. (We also do memory work for history and science facts, but that isn't exactly CM recitation.)

6th grade Language Arts for Mariel

Grammar: Finish Winston Basic Grammar this year and start on Winston Advanced Grammar. She does one worksheet per week-- I have her analyze around three sentences per day rather than doing the whole worksheet at once, and I correct her previous sentences before she starts the next three. That way if she is having trouble with a concept, I can catch and correct it before she runs out of worksheet. Winston Grammar does not go over the four basic types of sentences, so I need to explain those to her as well.

Composition/Reading: She reads most of her schoolbooks on her own now. I am planning to read her science selections and literature selections with her, and she will read and discuss Shakespeare and Plutarch with the family. If I read the selection aloud to her, she tells back orally. If she reads the selection on her own, she either writes a narration or records an oral retelling. She is required to write one narration per day, and these are generally between three and six sentences long. Rather than requiring her to write more initially, I am going to let her select narrations and have her do a freewrite in addition, then write a rough draft based on the reading, initial narration and freewrite. My focus will be on the process. I hope she will have six to twelve papers written by the end of the school year, but I am really feeling my way through on this, and that may even be too many. I want her to have a well-written end product without too much frustration, not necessarily lots of finished papers. I expect the process on each paper to take several weeks, and we may start and not finish some of them. My goal is to encourage her to write more, and more completely, without frustrating her.

She will also be doing a science fair project this year (her fourth), which at the sixth grade level requires a written report, display board, and seven-minute oral presentation. We will be using the "dreaded elementary school report" suggestions from The Writer's Jungle for this process. (I will also use The Writer's Jungle to help me keep things in perspective as we work through the composition/written narration goals above.)

I will continue to monitor her independent reading, but she reads so much on her own that I am really not worried. For free reading, I take the AO additional reading lists (found at the bottom of each year's book list) from each year the child has finished and mark off the books the child has read. The resulting list is what we refer to when she needs free reading suggestions, along with anything else I find that I think would be good for her.

Dictation/Copywork: Mariel is moving into Spelling Wisdom Book 2 this year, which is a book of selections from great literature to transcribe. She will do two dictation assignments per week. I have the child study the selection, taking note of difficult spellings and punctuations. Mariel is far enough along in dictation that I don't have her do the selection for copywork first, but when they are beginning I have them do it for copywork the first day, and then I dictate it to them the second day. If there are mistakes, they do it again the next day until it is correct.

In addition, I will have her copy, in her best penmanship, selections from her reading that she wants to save, or that I want her to save (ie., a Commonplace Book). I expect two to three copywork entries per week.

Typing: I need to give her a typing test and see where she is. She has done a program, but I wonder if she is as efficient with typing as she could be.

Poetry/Recitation: See Cornflower's poetry/recitation entry above. The only difference for Mariel is that I allow her to read most of her poetry on her own.

9th Grade Language Arts for Triss

Grammar: She is in the middle of Our Mother Tongue, and I plan to have her finish in the next year or so. I have to sit down and look at her workload and see how much we can fit in this year.

Composition/Reading: She reads the bulk of her material on her own, although we still read history together (she takes notes and then tells back what we have read and then we discuss). We are working slowly through How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler, which comprises most of her critical reading skill development at this point. (This is such a great book. I highly recommend a very slow reading and application of it for jr high/high school students.) My goal for her reading skills this year is for her to recognize the form and structure of the books she reads. She is just beginning to develop this skill where her schoolbooks are concerned, but then, she reads really hard books for school!

She writes a lot on her own in her free time, all fiction and mostly fantasy, and has begun seeking insight on what makes a good fiction writer. (Yes, it was an exciting day for me when she came and asked me to be on the lookout for good books on improving fiction writing skills. I gave her everything I have on the subject, and she has already read them and wants more, so I am on the look out. Suggestions welcome.) She has currently decided that rewriting is most important, and is engaged in rewriting (and rewriting) her stories. (I'm pretty happy about this development-- she used to deplore rewriting. O. Henry was her hero. But no more.)

My goal for her writing skills this year is for her to practice nonfiction writing. She does written summaries or outlines on most of her schoolbooks, and I am having her use those to write more formal papers. So far it has been slow going-- I suspect this is because the fiction writing has taken most of her focus for the past couple of years. She completed three compositions based on schoolbooks last year. This year I want her to take her summaries and notes and write a finished composition every two weeks. I plan to use a combination of The Writer's Jungle and Jensen's Format Writing to accomplish this. (Ideally, I would purchase Bravewriter's Help for High School, but it would be the straw that broke the budget camel's back, and I *have* Jensen's already.) I just don't know how this is going to work. I have been playing around with the writer's workshop idea this summer, and we are probably going to sit down for an hour every day in the new school year and do "writer's workshop". (I have read portions of a book on developing student writer's workshops at Mardel, but I can't for the life of me remember what the book is called.) I have discovered this summer that it takes a long time to get from rough draft to final draft, and patience is vital, so I am carving out that hour for slow, patient work each day if I can. (I am not a patient person, and neither are my children. It's so funny that we use CM method, which is slow, but probably the reason it works so well for us is because we need to be reminded to go slow in order to do our work well.) If this doesn't get us from Point A to Point B, then next year I will seek a format writing class outside of the home.

She will also do a science fair project this year-- her first year in the 9th-12th grade category. She will be required to have a written report, display board and ten-minute oral presentation.

Dictation/Copywork: She will be using the Essays of Francis Bacon for dictation this year. I think. She read and summarized these last year, so she is already familiar with them. Either that will be a good thing or a bad thing. If it turns out to be a bad thing, I will have her use these essays instead. I plan to have her study an essay every week, using the following process-- 1) Read essay and take notes, 2) Put essay into outline form, 3) Rewrite essay using just your outline and notes, the goal being to get it back to its original form as best you can, 4) Compare the original essay and rewritten essay. This seems pretty daunting to me, so we will start slowly and work together. But I think this exercise will be key to learning what makes a great essay. (Like I said earlier, I am still feeling my way through on this-- suggestions are most welcome.)

Poetry/Recitation: Same as Mariel, but she also started The Roar on the Other Side last year and wants to continue it if there is room in the schedule. We'll see. I think maybe she should hold off on finishing it until after she finishes Our Mother Tongue. I plan to have her memorize Romans 8 this year, and some other things too, but we haven't planned the other things yet.

So that is what I have at the moment. Your mileage may vary. Keep in mind that these plans are customized to my children, and that we have a peculiar language arts history that may or may not line up with your family's. I hope this helps someone. :O)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lighting Fires

I have a new post up at Homeschool Cafe based on this quote from Yeats:

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

AO Year 3 Term 1

Here is Cornflower's book list for the first term of the new school year. My baby is growing up.

An Island Story by H.E. Marshall (continued)
This Country of ours by H.E. Marshall (continued)
A Child's History of the World by Hillyer (continued)
Da Vinci by Emily Hahn (Landmark biography)
Marco Polo by Carol Greene
Secrets of the Woods by William J. Long
Science Lab in a Supermarket by Friedhoffer
All About Famous Inventors and Their Inventions by Fletcher Pratt
Poetry of William Blake
Parables from Nature by Margarate Gatty (continued)
American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb (continued)
The Heroes by Charles Kingsley
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

We have all of these, but I cannot locate our book on inventors. It's got to be around here somewhere. It is my *favorite* book in Year 3. I hope I can find it. I have a bad habit of lending books to people and forgetting that I lent them, so if you have our book on inventors, will you please let me know? :O)

AO Year 6 Term 1

Updated-- Evidently, I was not finished selecting Mariel's books, because I had to make some changes today.

Here is Mariel's list of books for the first term of the new school year. (It might be helpful to note that math and writing/grammar programs are not listed on these lists. These are just book books.)

(Also, I am not including our family Bible reading on these lists either, because it isn't quite solidified. We are beginning at Genesis again for the Old Testament, and will read a Gospel for the first term, perhaps Luke and then Acts. Triss does her own Bible reading on the side as well, and Mariel is working on that habit. Since individual Bible reading is a personal habit that should be continued outside of school time, I don't put it on the list.)

Story of the World Volume 4 by Susan Wise Bauer
What Everyone Needs to Know About the 20th Century (excerpts)
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
The Story of David Livingstone by Vautier Golding
Jungle Pilot by Russell T. Hitt
School of the Woods by William J. Long
Christian Liberty Nature Reader 5 (continued)
Galen and the Gateway to Medicine
The Sciences by Edward Holden
Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity by Robert Cwiklik
Poetry of Robert Frost
Age of Fable by Thomas Bulfinch
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (changed my mind and will substitute Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain-- she'll still read the Rawls book for free reading)
The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare
Plutarch (tbd)

And, yay! We own or can access for free all of these books, too. Gotta love homeschooling on a shoestring. :O)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Year 9 Term 1 Book List

I am planning Triss' HEO Year 9, and have the first term mapped out. Here are the books as of right now.

Oh, and by the way-- Read Hard Books. :O)

The God Who Is There by Francis Schaeffer
Oxford Book of American History by Samuel Eliot Morison
Salem Witch Trial Transcript (1692)
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington by Richard Brookhiser
Following the Equator by Mark Twain
Ourselves by Charlotte Mason (continued)
An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope
Are You Liberal, Conservative or Confused? by Richard Maybury
The English Constitution by Richard Bagehot
Postmodern Times by Gene Edward Veith
Isaac Bickerstaff by Richard Steele
Days with Sir Roger de Coverly by Richard Steele
Simond's History of American Lit./History of English Lit. for Boys and Girls (cont.)
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
The Battle of the Books by Jonathan Swift
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (I think)
Roar on the Other Side (continued)
Poetry of Alexander Pope
Apologia Biology
The Microbe Hunters (two chapters)
Ethics of the Dust by John Ruskin
How to Read a Book
Introduction to Logic (Nance/Wilson)
Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson
The Story of Painting (continued)

Thankfully, we either own these or they are available for free as e-books.

I am also planning Mariel's and Cornflower's first terms, and then I will begin on Term 2 for each. I'll post Mariel's and Cornflowers first term lists when I get them done.

Homeschool Cafe

I have been invited to contribute to a new blog, Homeschool Cafe, which has been up and running for a few months. I just posted an article on Adler's classic, How to Read a Book. Go and see! :O)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Postmodern Times

Red Lion Row in Washington, D.C.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I am just floored by all the new things I am learning for Triss' next school year. I am going through her book list, and every time I open another book, I think, "Wow, this is great!" and then "Whoa, this is deep!" and then "Gee, I wonder how far she has to understand this in order for me to count it 'done'?"

I am currently reading Postmodern Times by Veith, The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, and I started skimming The God Who is There by Schaeffer last night. I need to slow down, but the clock is ticking. Between out-of-town guests and out-of-town trips, I've only got a couple more weeks open this summer to get the tracks laid down for next year.

Ever since I started Postmodern Times, I have found myself playing with the term "postmodern" like a shiny new toy, labeling everything with it:

--Architecture-- the mall nearest to us has got the mismatched little-bit-of-every-era design.

--The children's library books-- they just discovered the Choose Your Own Adventure series.

--Musical theater-- the Stephen Sondheim musical, "Into the Woods," keeps popping into my head as I read. (We haven't allowed the kids to see that one, but perhaps it might be a proper illustration of nihilism, if I'm using the word correctly. Actually, Seinfeld would be more to the point, but what does "Into the Woods" illustrate, I wonder? Despair?)

--Movies-- "Edward Scissorhands" is one I haven't seen in years, but keep thinking about.

--The two subdivisions on either side of our neighborhood, each boasting a water park, fanciful Disneyland styling, and an out-of-Texas Main Street experience-- one is modeled after a nonexistent Rhode Island neighborhood, and the other emulates a village on the coast of Georgia, complete with palm trees. Before we bought this house in its sensible subdivision, we thought it would be infinitely more interesting to live in one of those neighborhoods (we call them the Disney neighborhoods, although they are not affiliated with Disney). But in the fanciful homes we could afford, the closets were too small.

--the Internet-- between social networking sites and blogging, it is the ultimate narrative generator. (For instance, all you are getting from me in this post is my interest in school-- I'm not telling you about the dirty laundry awaiting my attention, the children's little squabbles, my struggles with unforgiveness and temptation, or the number of flies that are currently in our house. I haven't shared those things on FB either. ;o)

At this point, I wonder if these things really do reflect postmodernism, or if this word is simply the flavor of the month for me. They probably do, because from what I have read so far, it sounds like we are in the thick of postmodern times.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident...

Happy 4th of July, Independence Day!

Our family is starting out the day listening to John Philip Sousa radio on Pandora.com, and reading the Declaration of Independence. Then we are going to a church meeting to hear some great singing and preaching, and then on to our church for a Bible study, and finally ending the day watching fireworks. God bless the USA!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Writer Workshop: Finished Product!

Triss has posted her finished composition on dragons over at her blog, Mossflower.

Mariel decided to take a break from her composition on hobbits. She worked very hard getting all her thoughts into it, and the idea of revising just seemed a bit too much for now, so I told her she could set it aside for a bit. It is so cute that I hope she will revise and edit it at some point, and if she does, I will post it here.

Although her composition is not finished, I am pleased with her work: she conceived an idea, wrote on it, researched more than once to add elements she wanted, wrote some more, and focused on this one composition for more than a week. Great job, Mariel!