Friday, June 13, 2014

{Book} Review: Panama Girl

We love books.  (You probably know that by now.)  And my kids love to be read to while they eat lunch or play with clay or sit in the hammock chair on a gorgeous spring day.  One of the latest books we read together is Panama Girl by Ida (pronounced EE-duh) Freer.

Panama Girl
Written by Ida Freer
ISBN: 978-1480076792
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
156 pages

This is a story about a 12-year-old girl named Surni from the Embera people in the Darien jungle of Panama.  As you read, you get a clear picture of life in the village and how the Embera have lived for generations by finding everything they need for food, clothing, shelter, and transportation in the jungle.  But change is coming to the jungle.  Visitors from Panama City are arriving with increasing frequency and Surni and her people must learn to adapt to new ideas, new technology, and new beliefs.  Surni herself faces many challenges and proves that she is a girl of great courage, love, and intelligence.

Panama Girl is a self-published book and though it is in its second edition, it could use a good scrubbing by an editor to correct some annoying blunders (missing words, completely random and useless commas, etc).  Several times I was halted in the midst of my reading by these errors which distract from the flow of the story.  But typographical issues aside, it is a great story!  

Ida Freer's website seems to indicate that this book is geared toward the middle school aged child, but that seems a bit old for me. It was perfect for my 4 and 7 year olds to listen to aloud and would be a great book for an 8 or 9 year old to read, in my opinion.  That isn't to say an older child might not enjoy it, but the vocabulary is a bit simplistic and repetitive.  It'd be easy reading for an older child; not challenging literature.  Of course, everyone needs some easy reading mixed in with their challenging stuff too!

There are a Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook for this book available from www.idafreer.com.  We didn't "do" anything academic with the book...just enjoyed the story.

Go here for more information about the Embera. Note: from that page there are links to photos of the Embera people, some of whom are a bit too nekkid for Western liking.  Just saying'.  You've been warned.

Disclaimer: I did not get this book free for review; I bought it with my own money from Amazon like a regular person. I just wanted to write a review since we enjoyed it so much.  Guess I didn't need a disclaimer after all.






Friday, May 30, 2014

Copywork & Dictation

I’ve had several people ask me lately about how we use copywork and dictation in our homeschool. I'm still learning about both of these simple-yet-powerful tools, but I'm happy to share what we've done up to now and what I hope to do in the future.



Copywork


Copywork is an excellent tool to teach children a whole bunch of things at once. At its most basic it is handwriting practice, and as we all know "practice makes perfect!” But it is ever so much more than just a handwriting worksheet. Good copywork passages will be taken from good sources and will include lofty thoughts and rich vocabulary. A well-crafted sentence will introduce basic punctuation, capitalization rules, and even grammar that the child will internalize as they spend time with it. The concept of copying beautiful passages of poetry and prose is immensely appealing to me. I want to sit down and fill up a journal with pretty passages! Unfortunately, Miss M is not of the same mine as I am at this stage. Charlotte Mason advocated achieving perfection in copywork, requiring perfection from her students. I fail in that regard. I accept “neat” but do not require perfect. Whether for good or for bad, I can’t bring myself to be that critical of a seven-year-old’s penmanship. Maybe when she’s 10 I’ll be meaner...?

So, what does copywork look like at Sycamore Hill Academy? Well, this year I’ve been using the printables from Mama Jenn for our Matthew memory verses, Hero Tales character qualities, and geography vocabulary. Since the passage is printed at the top of each of these sheets, that’s what Miss M copies from and onto. It also makes it easy for me to have a “do-over” if she’s too sloppy; I can just print out another copy! She is not a perfectionist the way I am, so her tendency is to do quick, sloppy work just to call it done. I am not as consistent as I should be in requiring excellent quality, but I do see improvement from last year, so something must be going right, huh? I hope to improve both of us in this area by a year from now! (Also, I seem to remember the same sort of slap-shod attitude when I was her age, so hopefully a few more years will mellow her out a little!)

I would like to see her copying from more rich passages than I find in Hero Tales and Geography from A to Z, so I’ve been creating some nice copywork pages and putting them up on CurrClick. So far she’s only used "The Rooks," but I have a few others in the works I will be giving her soon.



Dictation


Now let’s talk about dictation. Honestly, I think I jumped into dictation a little too early. I’ve since learned more about what Charlotte Mason’s methods actually were and I think we would have been better served by holding off on dictation a year or two, but I’ll share what we’ve done and how it worked.

Dictation is about paying attention. That is most definitely an area Miss M could use some work on. So last year I started her on weekly dictation lessons. These were usually met with quite a bit of push-back. But, as time went on, she grew accustomed to the process and learned to listen better. I would let her look at the passage I had chosen for dictation; they mostly came from PLL but sometimes were from whatever book we had been reading. We would discuss spelling (rarely an issue for her) and punctuation in the passage. When she was ready, I would have her sit quietly with a piece of lined paper in front of her and listen for the dictation. Sometimes she would rush ahead and write things I hadn’t said yet because she knew what was coming next, which drove me nuts! But her ability to listen and reproduce what she heard did improve.

This year I’ve cut back some on our dictation and have focused more on copywork because I think it’s more appropriate for her age and development. I plan to re-introduce dictation midway through ECC, which will be the beginning of our next school year. The dictation we have done this year has been during our memorization of the passages from Matthew. I usually have her copy the passage the first day we introduce it, then write it from dictation midweek, and by the end of the week she needs to recite it to me from memory. This system has been working well for us!

Here’s how I envision dictation going forward:

  • Ask which of two sources (usually read-alouds we’ve been working on) she’d prefer her dictation from.
  • Skim a recent chapter and pick a short paragraph without quotation marks and with some new or interesting vocabulary.
  • Have her read the passage aloud to me and ask her about any words she thinks she may have trouble spelling.
  • Review punctuation marks used in the passage with, perhaps, a word or two about their purpose.
  • Sit her down with a piece of lined paper and instructions to listen and not talk. (That last bit is particularly hard for my Miss M since she is always running commentary on her life!)
  • Read aloud the passage, a few words at a time, not repeating anything.
  • Instruct her to review what she’s written, making any necessary changes.
  • Have her look at the passage and make corrections to as many errors as she can identify herself.
  • Go over it with her, pointing out any errors she missed.
  • File it away in her three-ring binder.
  • Let her sit on my lap and snuggle. (She always tells me, “Mama, I’m so glad I’m homeschooled ‘cause if I went to school I couldn’t cuddle my teacher like this!”)

If you have any thoughts on copywork pages, either passages you’d like to see made available or formats you’d like to see (I’ve had requests for copywork pages with each line written directly above the line to write on so that early writers can see the letters and words modeled directly above where they are writing), please let me know! I’d be more than happy to work with you to design just what you want/need for your kiddos!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

{Book} Review: 101 Color & Sing Bible Stories

I've never been a particular fan of Bible storybooks or toddler Bibles.  See, nothing can quite compete with my memories of my own childhood Bible storybook.  (I spent lots of time pouring over The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Kenneth Taylor, which has since been "updated" with cartoonish illustrations rather than the beautiful artwork of the original.)  Even before I could read, I would feast my eyes on the artwork; later when I could read, I revisited an old familiar friend.  In spite of this, I've always been drawn to children's Bibles, perhaps hoping the next one I pick up will be as good as the one I remember from my past.  They're cheery and cute and appealing, even if I never do become a big fan of them.

When I received a copy of 101 Color & Sing Bible Stories, I wasn't overly enthusiastic.  Still, I vowed to give it a chance and keep an open mind.

This Bible storybook is a bit different than others I've browsed.  Through the use of two accompanying CDs, this book incorporates book, coloring pages, and music -- all things small children love!


Features


  • hardcover (which means a stitched binding to withstand the rigors of harsh handling)
  • 2 CDs with a song and a coloring page for each story
  • 66 original songs by Stephen Elkins
  • 14 traditional hymns including some Christmas carols
  • 21 familiar Bible songs
  • lyrics for all the songs are available here
  • song track numbers (and which CD) are printed right on the story page

I have to say, these are some pretty impressive features!  And I know for certain my kids will enjoy the coloring pages and songs (even the 7 year old!).  If I were teaching Sunday School or VBS or a backyard Bible study for kids, this book would be a tremendous resource.  In fact, for preschool, you really wouldn't need anything else (other than crayons, a printer, and a CD player).

I accessed the songs and printables on both PC and Mac with no problems at all.


The description on Tyndale's website says that each coloring sheet includes a key Bible verse that can be colored along with the picture; unfortunately, that is not the case.  The pictures for coloring do not include any words at all.  If you were intending this for preschool children, no Bible verses is not really a big deal since they can't read anyway; but if you were planning to use the pages with older kids, it's a bit of a problem.  I'd have really liked to see the Bible verses included as the description states.

If you're in the market for a Bible storybook, this one is as good as (possibly even better than) any I've seen on the market today.  The 101 well-done songs alone are worth the price tag!

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for free in exchange for my honest opinion. If you'd like to get free books too, please sign up here.




Monday, April 14, 2014

ECC: Canada


Welcome back!  We spent a couple weeks setting the stage for our year (Part 1Part 2) before learning about our own country (Part 1 and Part 2).  We decided to visit our neighbors to the north before heading south to Mexico.  That way we could study several Spanish-speaking countries at once instead of splitting them up.  We "flew" into Ottawa and spent three weeks exploring Canada.

School under the table for a mid-winter change of pace!

Bible


We listened to John 3:16 in French and read about the Garifuna in Window on the World.  We read about William and Catherine Booth in Hero Tales.  There isn't much hands-on to show you, but the kids do enjoy the readings very much!

Language Arts


Most of our language arts have been integrated in other subjects these past weeks.  We're still using the copywork pages from Mama Jenn for Hero Tales and geography terms.  Between that, spelling, and memorizing a poem, we've got it covered!  To go along with our study of caniforms and our stay in Canada, we read The Bears on Hemlock Mountain.  It was a huge hit with the kids!










Geography

The kids made Canadian flags with handprints for the maple leaf.


And we carved polar bears out of ivory soap the way the Inuit people carve from bone or soapstone.  Did you know the term Eskimo is now considered offensive?  When I was a kid we learned about Indians and Eskimos; now kids learn about Native Americans and First Nations.  It's sometimes difficult to keep up with the changes in semantics (starfish, anyone?), but it's important to make a lifetime habit of learning...even for old mamas!





Science


In science we've nearly wrapped up our study of caniforms.  To celebrate, we took a trip to the zoo!  There we looked for as many caniforms as we could find.  Miss M even rode a caniform on the carousel!  (It was an African Wild Dog.)


Of course, the highlight of our zoo field trip was visiting Nikita and Berlin the polar bears!  Such magnificent creatures!  We're hoping along with the rest of Kansas City that sometime soon we'll have wee polar bear cubs to visit. 


Did you know that polar bears' skin is black?  God had a good reason for designing them that way.  We did an experiment to show that black is warmer than white!


To wind up our stay in Canada, we ate poutine, a dish of French fries and cheese curds with gravy. It was delicious!


We had lots of fun learning about Canada, its geography and culture, and we're looking forward to our travels South of the Border!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ECC: USA, Part 2


We spent two weeks introducing our year (Part 1, Part 2) and shared Part 1 of our travels in the USA. Here's part two before heading off to visit our neighbors to the north.

Bible


This year we are reading through the book of Matthew.  To help us along the way, we made bookmarks featuring the name Matthew or Matthaios in ancient Greek.  This is the language the book of Matthew was originally written in.  The back of our bookmarks have the readings for the year broken down into portions with a space for checking off each one as we go.


Miss M never reads her Bible without a dry highlighter in her hand…and she highlights everything she reads.  I think she would eventually like to have her entire Bible highlighted.  Hey, if that's what it takes to get her in the Word, then it's fine by me!

Music


Somedays when you wake up and it's bitter cold outside, you just need some fresh scones and a tea party to get ya going!


For USA we listened to some Wee Sing Around the World: a song in the language of the Omaha Tribe and the Eentsy Weentsy Spider.  (We always sing it Itsy-Bitsy though).  The kids loved them both!  Lots of good excuses to dance and prance around, going over and under, around and through.  We also studied the hymn Rescue the Perishing that we enjoyed very much!

Art

We continued our study of Van Gogh in our final weeks of USA.  You can see our art "wall" in the kitchen where we posted our new works as we studied them.  Little Guy was particularly bothered by the red color on Van Gogh's ear in his self portrait.  He thought he must have gotten sunburned and that it looked yucky.  In fact, he repeatedly told me how much he didn't like the self portrait at first, but a few weeks later he told me that he changed his mind and he likes that one best.
We used this sunflower project as a springboard to make our own.  Miss M used acrylic paint, crayon, and chalk pastels.  I'm getting a nice frame to put her finished product in!



Farewell USA Picnic


To wind up our stay in the USA, we had an indoor picnic!  It was much too cold to have a real picnic, but we had fun.  My mom came to visit that day and joined our festivities.  We served hamburgers with all the fixin's, carrot sticks, potato salad, grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese pearls, and pink lemonade!  I had a few toothpick pinwheels in patriotic colors from when we celebrated the one year anniversary of Hubby becoming a US citizen.  They added the perfect touch to our burgers!


We enjoyed learning about our own country -- Miss M said her favorite new thing she learned was about the colors of our flag, their meaning, and that Congress did not establish a meaning for them -- but we're excited to move on to another country!  We'll be "flying" to Canada soon!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ECC: USA, Part 1


After our first two weeks (Part 1, Part 2) of introductory material, we were ready to start out on our traveling adventures! We spent the next three weeks "traveling" around the USA, learning about it's geographical significance.

Bible

One of our texts for this year is Window on the World.  In it we read about a couple different people groups in North America where Bible translation work is on-going.  The kids loved that each section includes a list of items to pray about and to praise the Lord for!  We each take turns lifting these items before the Lord.

We also started reading about Christian heroes from Hero Tales, beginning with Dwight L. Moody.  I printed the copywork pages from Mama Jenn.  Miss M enjoys illustrating these pages.  Though at times her zany sense of humor comes through rather strongly!


Math

Miss M has been trucking along through Singapore Math 2B.  I've been faithfully remembering to have her drill her basic math facts: addition on Mondays, subtraction on Tuesdays, multiplication on Wednesdays, and division on Thursdays. Fridays we forego our Singapore lessons and play math games -- often involving dice or spinners or timers or something of that nature.  I got a set of Wrap-Ups from a deal on Zulily that have been a big hit with Miss M.  But the favorite activity of all is playing Timez Attack! (And sometimes math lessons require ensconcing oneself in a little nook somewhere!)


Language Arts

I mentioned last time that we may end formal spelling lessons when we complete Spelling Power.  Well, I was thinking about that more and decided that once we reach that point I'm going to focus more on vocabulary (including proper spelling).  Miss M is very good at reading and spelling words, but she's only 7, so she hasn't been around long enough to learn all the words in the English language. *wink*  In other words, there's plenty of material out there for her to learn even though she is an excellent speller!  I ordered this book used from Amazon and I think it'll be an excellent place to start.  If you have a vocabulary resource you love, please let me know about it in the comments section!



Read Aloud


To enhance our "travels" in the USA, I selected The Cricket in Times Square to read aloud to the kids. They *loved* it!  Even Little Guy didn't want to miss a single word as we read.  I found some interesting resources on Pinterest to go along with it:




No one ever said that only the kids are allowed to be inspired by good literature, right?  'Cause I was inspired by The Cricket in Times Square to make a Chester Cricket stuffed toy.  Cute, no?



Geography


Since we spent most of last year studying the USA and all 50 states, this was nearly all review.  I quizzed Miss M on the states by handing her a blank map of the USA.  She correctly filled in every single state! That's pretty impressive, if you ask me!  We also looked up some facts about our flag and tried some regional recipes.  The New England Pumpkin Cake we made was gone so fast I didn't even have a chance to take a picture!

Science


To complement our study of the countries of the world, we began studying the biomes of earth as well. We started with forests.  Miss M made a large poster of the layers of a forest, did a forest vocabulary page, and pasted some pictures of forest dwellers to the layer of the forest in which they'd likely spend most of their time.  We also watched some films about forests on Netflix -- my favorite was called Moving Art: Forests because it had no talking, just pretty pictures and pretty music!




Tagalog


We've been slowly working through our Tagalog flashcards working our way through the family members.  The kids love it!  It feels like a snail's pace to me, but they don't seem to mind!


I'll have to share the other books we enjoyed and our studies in art and music in Part 2.  We have certainly been enjoying our travels in the good old USA, but we're getting ready to move on to other parts of the world.  But as always, "Good things come to those who wait."

Friday, February 28, 2014

Happy birthday, Zaemn!

My nephew Zaemn is having a birthday today!

It's been quite a while since we've seen him; he lives with his mom in another state.  But we think about him often and speak of him to one another.

Today we're going to eat pie in his honor…and sing "Happy Birthday" too!


Happy birthday, Zaemn!  We love you and pray for you always!  And we look forward to the day when we will see you again!  Miss M always says she misses you -- you two are best buds!