Monday, June 20, 2011

Classical Conversations--My Way

I first heard about Classical Conversations last year when I was "thinking" about homeschooling.  I did what I always do.  I went online and researched everything about Classical Conversations (CC) for several hours until my eyes were bloodshot.  I have to admit--I was enthralled with the structure and the material.  I wasn't, however, so keen on the pricetag.  Tuition for Foundations was $312 per child.  Tuition for the afternoon class, "Essentials" was also $312.  This didn't include the $20 supply fee, the $50 art supply fee, and the $100 in registration fees to be involved in Foundations and Essentials.  All of this is PER CHILD and due IN FULL before the year begins according to their website.  We knew we were looking at almost $1600 per year for our two children to attend the weekly sessions, something I wasn't ready to do.  Admiring the program as I did, I didn't want to enroll my two boys for a year, have them love it, and then have to pull out for financial reasons.  Keep in mind:  Homeschooling means that one parent has to give up their salary and be prepared to give it up for the next decade or more.  My husband supports us fabulously, but I try to be mindful of our expenses when it comes to curricula, field trips, museum passes, and extra programs.  It all adds up, and you know as well as I do, we want our kids to have EVERY opportunity that presents itself.  It's hard to make it all work.

Be aware that CC is not a full curriculum.  Instead, it is an supplemental enrichment program, designed to work alongside the things you provide at home:  mainly math, science and literature. 

So, I ordered the Foundations Curriculum Guide for CC off of their website for $50.  This provides the structure of the Memory Work for the three 1-year cycles.  I was pleased to see that Cycle One dealt with memory work from the Ancient Civilizations, which we were studying at the time.  So, for starters, I began posting on chart paper a memory sentence, a science sentence, and a skip-counting chart for a particular multiplication table.  The boys copied the memory work in their notebooks on Monday.  Then I introduced a song, chant or some sort of motions to help them remember their facts.  We would repeat it throughout the school day, at dinner for Dad, in the car, at bedtime--just randomly shouting it out.  Because we made up crazy songs and silly motions, they never balked about practicing their memory work--it was just another wacky thing that they did with Mom.

For example, Cycle One, Week 4 uses the following as a History Sentence:
     "The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World are:   Colussus of Rhodes, The Great Pyramids, The Mausoleum, The Temple of Artemis, The Hanging Gardens, Pharos Lighthouse and the Temple of Zeus".

Here are the motions we made up for this week: 

Classical Conversations sells audio CDs of memory work that you can listen to in the car or at home.  Mine was on back-order so we had to get a little creative and make up our own for the first few weeks!  Go to YouTube and search "Classical Conversations Science Memory Work" or whatever your working on.  There will be several CC students shown there singing their memory work.  It's a great place to start, but don't get locked in to their versions.  Making it your own is going to make it stick for a lifetime and that's really the whole point. 

Another vital piece of their memory work includes the beautiful--and I mean GORGEOUS-- history timeline cards from Veritas Press.  Really, everything from Veritas Press is of the upmost quality and beauty.  I even want some of their products that my children have long outgrown!  Any-hoo, the timeline cards are a great tool for memorizing the order of major historical facts.  Starting with Creation, and going all the way up to modern times, your children can learn the events in order, but also flip the cards over for more details and see other books they can read to expand their knowledge of that topic.

Veritas Press sells these cards in 5 different sets according to historical periods.  Or you can order just the Bible cards in different sets.  If you order the history cards, the Bible cards will be included as they pertain to history.  The first thing you will want to do is get them laminated!  They can be used, well basically, forever and you'll want to keep them in top-notch condition. Check with your local school board's professional development center.  I was pleased to find out that any teacher (including homeschool teachers) can use the heavy duty laminating machines for a tiny cost.  The 5 mil weighted machine (which is the seriously heavy lamination that you'll want), was only 60 cents per foot.  I got all 150 cards laminated for $15.00!  Cutting them apart will take you a whole night--but don't complain.  You got a steal of a deal!  Then, just get some oversized metal rings and thread them through the cards into 5 distinct sets.  Voila! 

The curriculum guide will also tell you which experiments they use from "201 Awesome Experiments" by Janet VanCleave.  I happened to already own a copy of this book, so we plan on doing many of these projects through the summer!

Classical Conversations uses the Institute of Excellence in Writing (IEW).  I found a used copy at a curriculum sale for 1/3 the price!  I was planning on using it anyway for the upcoming year.  So looking forward to this!

The Geography portion is a great guide to your study of the world.  We use Tapestry of Grace and its Geography section is very thorough as well.  As we study a place, we map it and label it using Amy Pak's phenomenal Ancient Maps.  Check out her products here!  My kids love doing mapwork because everything looks like a treasure map.  I've even let them burn the edges of a few to look like authentic archeological finds :)

We are skipping the Latin grammar portion right now and focusing on Greek and Latin root words.  Plus, we live in Florida and have got to get started with Spanish (even though my heart is in French--sigh).

It is helpful (and I believe healthy) for your child to share written essays or oral memory work that they are proud of, to an audience.  This can be done at quarterly unit celebrations with family and friends, publishing in your group's newsletter, student blogs, Teacher Tube, etc.  This is something that CC advocates at their meetings and I wholeheartedly agree.

So, don't be discouraged if Classical Conversations is a little out of your budget right now.  You can still incorporate some of its beauty into your regular homeschool week.  Just be sure to do in-depth study for some of the things that you memorize--at least somewhere down the road.  Memory Work is only good for so long--it is lost unless it is expanded upon, in my opinion.  Again, I am in no way discounting the quality of Classical Conversations.  Most of the people that I have talked to that have gone through the program love it.  This is just another road to a similar destination.  And you'll be left with a little extra pocket money along the journey. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Charlotte Mason-style Picture Study: A Three Year Plan

I simply love the Fine Arts aspect of Homeschooling!  It fulfills something in me that I feel like I have been missing since being enrolled in college Humanities classes.  And even though most people think that boys won't enjoy Art Appreciation or classical music, I believe that every soul needs a little beauty to balance out the harsh realities of living in this world.  Art History is also "History" and it can coincide nicely with your timeline of the world. 

All you need to get started is an inexpensive photo album from Michael's (the ones with the sidebars for captions are ideal) and some photo prints of the masterpieces. 

Simply log on to  Click "Images" at the top of the page.  Now type in the name of the artwork you are looking for.  Find just the right image that you like and click on it to see it at full-size.  Now right-click and save it to your computer (i.e. Renoir Girl With A Watering Can).  Now, go to Kodak Gallery, Snapfish, or any other photo website and upload your selections for the year.  I order one 4x6 photos for each of my boys so that they can make their own Masterpiece Portfolio. 

I started out printing images from the computer onto photo paper.  Yikes!  That could get pricey!  The picture on the far right is a Botticelli that I saved from the computer and had printed for just a few pennies from Snapfish.

Usually, the week before we study a new artist, I try to find a child-friendly story about the artist's life, such as "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists", found here or "Smart About Art" found here.  These have great narratives about the artist's childhood or their struggles to become successful, etc.  They read really well as opposed to the college-style text of most art books. 

However, if I can't find one, and don't want to order one, I'll get one of those ginormous art books from the library and find large representations of the paintings/sculptures that we are going to spotlight.  Be warned that some of the other selections in the book may not be child friendly.  I learned this the hard way with a Picasso book (blush).

When introducing a new piece, I'll tell the kids the name of the artist and ask them what they see.  Sometimes I'll have one child close his eyes and have the other child describe it to his brother.  As we learn more in the artist biographies about different art movements such as Cubism, Impressionism, etc., I'll ask more detailed questions:  Is this a portrait?  Is it a landscape?  Is it a still-life?  What do you see in the foreground? What colors did the artist use?  Is it realistic? Abstract?  Distorted by light?  Is the artist trying to make a statement about politics?  You can make this as basic or as complicated as their ages and interest level dictate.  If you see their eyes wandering....wrap it up.  You want to always leave them wanting more. 

The last part of the day is taking their personal copy of the artwork (their photo you ordered for them) and placing it in a photo sleeve of the album.  Write the name of the work on a whiteboard/chalkboard so that they can copy it neatly beside the picture in their book.  That's it!  You've shown them something beautiful, given them a chance to talk about it, compare it to a previous work or a previous artist, and now they have tucked it away for further review later. 

I thought we'd take a sampling of all the periods, simply because I wanted to touch mainly on the "Masters" and Year One of our History studies would have been a little sparse just studying Greek vases! 

So, without further adeiu, here is our 3-year Plan of Artists for study.  Note that some artists (like Kandinsky) might take 2 weeks to study, while others like VanGogh, might take 4 or 5, depending on the available number of resources and kid-friendly selections for them to enjoy.

Year One
Michelangelo (Say MICK-El-Angelo!):
  The Sistine Chapel, The Pieta, David, Tomb of Pope Julius II

   Primavera, Birth of Venus, Portrait of a Man with a Medallion

   The Milk Maid, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Girl Reading a Letter,  The Lady and the Two Gentlemen, The Geographer

   Girl with a Watering Can, By the Seashore, The Umbrellas, Dance at Baugival, The Luncheon of the Boating Party, Ballat the Moulin de La Galette, The Theatre Box, The Dancer, The Parisian, Claude Monet Painting in his Garden

   Water Lily Pond, Water Lilies, Rouen Cathedral, Haystacks, Jean Monet on his Tricycle, The Promenade, A Corner of the Apartment

Van Gogh:
   Cypresses, The Starry Night, Vincent's Bedroom at Arles, The Night Cafe, The Postman, Self Portrait, Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, Irises

Denver's representation of "Self Portrait With Bandaged Ear"

Solomon's "Starry Night"

   The Yellow Christ, Night Cafe at Arles (yes, Vincent painted this too--they were friends/rivals), Landscape with Peacocks {We like the book "The Yellow House: Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin Side By Side" sold here}

Girl with a Mandolin, The Three Musicians, Three Women at the Spring, Les Demoiselles d'Auvignon, The Weeping Woman, The Acrobats (We had fun here with crazy cubist collages from magazine clippings)

Kandinsky:  Calm Bend, Composition VII, Overcast, Kandinsky's mobiles--there are several that are notable (we made our own mobiles from recycled objects from the "beautiful junk box" in the garage)

Year Two

DaVinci:  Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, Lady with an Ermine

Rubens:  The Hippopotamus and Crocodile Hunt, Slaying of Goliath, Daniel in the Lion's Den, The Three Graces (this last one may be objectional, as it contains nudity--hower, I wanted to show how Rubens potrayed women in a more shapely manner than we see women today in art/media.  It's where we got the term "A Rubenesque Figure"--obviously, use your best judgement)

Bruegel:  The Tower of Babel, Netherlandish Proverbs --this is awesome!, Peasant Wedding, The Hunters in the Snow

Cassatt:  The Boating Party, The Child's Bath, Children on the Beach, Summertime

Toulouse-LaTrec:  Chat Noir, Moulin Rouge(poster),  At The Moulin Rouge (painting),  Divan Japonais, At the Cirque Fernando:  The Ringmaster

Matisse:  The Dance, Red Fish, Two Girls in a Yellow and Red Interior, Madame Matisse in a Red Headress

Dali:  The Persistance of Memory, Lobster Telephone (sculpture), Metamorphasis of Narcissus, Swans Reflecting Elephants

Leichtenstein:  The Kiss, Spray, Blam!, Look Mickey

Warhol:  Ten Marilyns, 100 Cans, Ice Cream Dessert, Dollar Sign 1981 (this is a great time to study print-making or to play around with the kids' photography using a Photo Imaging program like Photoshop)

Year Three
Rembrandt: The Angel Stopping Abraham from Sacrificing Isaac to God, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, Christ in the Storm, The Night Watch

Degas:  The Dance Class, Dancers in Blue, Two Dancers on Stage, La La at the Cirque Fernando

Seurat:  Sunday Afternoon in the Park on the Island of Grande Jatte, Bathers at Asnieres, Models, Invitation to the Sideshow, Boats, Young Woman Powerdering Herself

Cezanne: Still Life with Apples and Oranges, Pierrot and Harlequin, The Mounte Sainte-Victoire, Bread and Eggs

Rousseau:  Sleeping Gypsy, The Football Players, Tiger in A Tropical Storm (Surprised!), The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope, Traumgarten

Chagall: The Birthday, I and the Village, Mariee, Circus, Lovers and Flowers, View of Paris

Grandma Moses:  Sugaring Off, Country Fair, The Quilting Bee, The Tramp At Christmas (don't worry--it's about a hobo--LOL), Halloween

Hopper: Cape Cod Evening, Nighthawks, The Lee Shore, Morning Sun, Gas

There are so many great art projects that you can do while studying these artists!  A wonderful website is Kathy Barbro's blog Art Projects For Kids.  You can search by artist, style, art movement, etc. and find fantastic projects here.  Also, we enjoy Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn Kohl.

Other great resources that you may find at your local library:  The "Dropping in" series....We enjoyed "Dropping in on the Impressionists" and are looking forward to "Dropping in on Grandma Moses".  It is very bright and friendly, with a puffin-bird narrating a walk through an exhibit at a museum and giving a really child-appropriate look at the artists' lives and styles.

I hope you will enjoy your Art Appreciation time as much as we do.  I love that my kids can see something in a museum or recognize something in Pop Culture and say, "Look!  That's a Vermeer!"  Viva La Art!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Chicks Are Here!!

Yesterday, our world changed.  The alarm went off at 5am--which is excruciatingly painful for a late sleeper like me.  I called the post office to see if our "special delivery" had arrived.  No.  Not on the early truck.  After a few more cups of coffee, and a few more hours of waiting with my two boys, the phone rang.  Denver answered on the first half-ring and we got the good news!  Our baby chicks had arrived from My Pet Chicken and were ready to be picked up. 

They peeped all the way home.  In fact we could hear them peeping when we walked into the post office.  When we got them to the kitchen table and cut the tape off of the lid, it was a huge thrill--like a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the upmost importance.  They were here and in our care now (both exciting and intimidating at the same time). 

Luckily, my husband is only a few weeks away from finishing our backyard chicken coop.  Until then, the chicks need special care that can be provided in their brooder box.  It is simply an extra-large metal dog crate that we borrowed from a friend and then lined with cardboard sides about 18 inches up the sides to protect them from drafts (also to prevent the bedding from flying out the sides when they start to kick up things--we've discovered that the kicking up starts early aka Day 2).  The bottom is lined with newspapers and then pine bedding.  If you just put down newspapers, we read that the chicks can get "splayed foot", which prevents them from ever walking correctly and hence, getting picked on and possibly pecked to death by the others.  Basically, newspapers are a giant ice rink for chicks.  The pine bedding is much better and it gives them something soft to lay down in for their naps. 

Chicks have special needs when it comes to food and water.  They need a special feed just for them.  We use Purina Chick Starter Feed.  Plastic feeders are under $5 and provide several openings for them to use at the same time, although they will all fight over the same tiny hole in the beginning (this is where you start to see dominating tendencies in the bossy ones).  A special waterer is also essential.  You can't just put down a bowl of water.  They will knock it over or worse, drown in it.  The plastic one that we borrowed only lets a certain amount of water into the dish at a time. 

A Baby Chick Feeder

We purchased a brooder light kit from the local feed store for $18.  It has a shield and a guard, and a clip for hanging, but you will need to get a red heating bulb seperately.  Again, a "chicken friend" let us borrow hers.  (It is so great to get to know people in the chicken community--they are great at lending to newbies!)  We zip-tied our lamp to a wood plank that we move around as needed.  It will take a day or so to get the right position for your lamp.  We live in Florida, so it can easily get to 95 in the brooder box on our back porch without the aid of the heat lamp.  You don't want to roast your babies!  But at sundown, it becomes necessary to turn on the warmth.  Be sure that you don't have any towels or tarps or anything hanging on your brooder near the lamp, for fire safety reasons.  A simple outdoor thermometer mounted at chick-level in the box helps you keep an eye on the temperature. 
Happily peeping and exploring the new pad
The first thing you need to do before putting them in the brooder, though, is to gently dip their beaks into their water dish and watch for them to swallow.  It's been almost 48 hours since they hatched and they haven't had anything in their bellies.  After they've swallowed, then introduce them to their feeder.  Ours weren't interested at first, but later they returned to the dish once they were settled into the brooder box.  They will grow fast, so that's why we opted for the largest dog crate possible.  We actually had a Rubbermaid container in mind for the first few weeks.  I'm still laughing over that RIDICULOUS idea (which I have to say, was mine).  Good thing my husband thinks rationally.  LOL. the peeps!

Pierogi is a White Crested Black Polish.  She will eventually have one crazy hairdo.

Kate is a New Hampshire Red.  She is the quietest, most low-maintenance chick in the flock (So far--haha)

Chanel ("Nellie") is a beautiful Buff Orpington.  She is by far, the largest chick, but don't tell her that.

Flo is a Speckled Sussex.  She is THE FASTEST CHICK EVER!  Zip! Zip!

This tiny girl is Gypsy.  She is a Silver-Laced Wyandotte.
Lois is a Barred Plymouth Rock.  She will eventually be one of those "zebra striped" chickens! 

Stay tuned for more adventures with The Brooder Box Babes!  We just boarded a crazy, lovely rollercoaster here in the Smith household--where we now have 2 sons and 10 pets.  Whew!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Make your own "Mini-Frescoes"

We had already studied frescoes a bit when we learned about Michaelangelo earlier this year.  It was interesting to see how frescoes went all the way back to Ancient Greece.  First, we looked at some frescoes online
here and in this book:

I had the boys copy their favorite fresco paintings on nice drawing paper the first day, coloring them in with colored pencils.  This was their "study" for the following day's fresco project.

Denver's representation of "Dolphins of the Aegean"

Solomon's copy of an Olympic torch from one of the vases found in Ancient Rome.
My interpretation of the "Bull Leapers of Knossos".  I love doing their art projects with them!

Then, using Plaster of Paris, that you can usually find at discount stores or craft stores, mix up a little batch and pour them into styrofoam vegetable trays (we saved the ones from asparagus and broccoli).  While the plaster is still wet (but not gooey), paint your design right onto the surface.  Basically, you want it to harden slightly, but still have a wet sheen to the surface.  The plaster will dry with your image soaked right in.  The kids can even take a steel wool pad and rough up some of the surface of their fresco to give it an aged appearance.  Just store them right in the styrofoam trays to keep them from breaking.

The finished frescoes on display at the Year End Celebration

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wow Your Friends With This Great Wall!

The only criticism I have of Tapestry of Grace's schedule is that they only allow one week to study Ancient China and Ancient India.  We stretched both of these units into two-weeks.  China could have been stretched further to three weeks, but we decided to save something for the next time we tour this time period.

The kids spent two weeks just making their model of the Great Wall of China.  Of course, it's just a sample of the wall, but it's still pretty big.  It takes up almost the whole dining table and will soon have to live in the attic for awhile as we keep bumping into it!

We started with FloraCraft's foam project bricks.  It took approximately 4 boxes to complete the project.  We bought them at Michael's, however I don't see them on the Michael's website.  I do see them available through Amazon.  If you are in WalMart, Hobby Lobby or any other craft store, this is what the box looks like: 

The kids started with a standard science project tri-fold board.  They drew a curvy line with pencil that stretched the length of the board and then drew another line alongside it to represent the boundaries of the wall on both sides.  They started building up the bricks on each side, using hot glue, staggering them like real bricks until they were about 4 or 5 rows high.  At this point they laid cardboard from a Freschetta Pizza box on top to represent the place where one might walk.  They had some trouble with getting the cardboard to fit just right, so this is where a parent comes in handy!  The tunnels are just built up a little higher than the rest of the wall.  You can use toothpicks or pieces of a skewer for the tops of the tunnels.  You can't simply hot glue them together--they will sag and droop before they have a chance to dry.  The flames are just construction paper shapes glued to jar lids from the recycle bin.
You can find papier mache-type modeling cloth to complete your scenery.  It's just something you would wet and place atop crumpled newspapers to form mountains and hills.  This is in the model-building section of any hobby store.  After it dries, the kids can paint it to look like real mountains.  You can also add fake greenery to represent trees and shrubs.  Don't forget to paint the surrounding bodies of water!