"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

John 10:10

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Circle Time 2013-2014

 The first part of our school day is Circle Time.  The bell is rung, and we all head to the basement, where we gather together to nourish our souls.  Here are the elements and order of Circle Time:

We start off with corporate prayer.  I have printed off a handful of beautiful prayers from the 1962 Common Book of Prayer.  Every day a different girl gets to pick what prayer we will recite together.  Then, everyone chooses a request from our ongoing prayer list (ministries we support, pregnant friends, sick friends, family members, and specific requests we receive) to pray for.  We go around the circle praying for those items, and I finish with whatever items were not chosen by the girls.

We read one psalm each day, rotating through Psalm 1, 23, 51, 95, 100, and 127.  I wanted to include a variety of Psalms, with different themes yet a small enough number that the words of these psalms become entrenched in their hearts through the repetition.

We read either a fable, Shakespeare story, or fairy tale each day.  One day we read a fable, the next we start a Shakespeare story, and so on.  The Shakespeare and fairy tale stories are both too long to read in one sitting of circle time, so they are often continued the next day.



Michael Clay Thompson's English Series
This year I hope to read through Grammar Island, Sentence Island, and Music of the Hemispheres.  We do not do a lot of discussion or any activity with these books, but simply treat it like a storybook read aloud.

Everyday we recite a new poem together.  Some days we may read it through just once, other day we say it over and over.  Once we know it by heart, we move on to a new poem.  Each day we also say a review poem together, systematically working through one review poem per day.  The review poems are poems that we learned in previous years, but want to keep alive in our brains.  I try to include fun poems, serious poems, short poems, and longer poems in the mix for everyone to be able to enjoy.  Our new poems for this year are:
Little Things by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer
Grungy Grace by Jack Prelutsky
Sick by Shel Silverstein
In Flanders Field by John McCrae
St. Patrick's Prayer
Always Finish, author unknown
Mr. Nobody by anonymous
Snowball by Shel Silverstein
The Builders by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Timeline Cards
Each day I read aloud two Classical Conversation Classical Acts and Facts Cards, working our way through the entire timeline of world history.  Some days we have a lot of discussion about these, including what certain words mean, what history sentence they remember coinciding with that card, what the picture on the front of the card is showing, where in the world this would be taking place, why this happened, what happened previously in history that would contribute to this, and so on.  Other days, I simply read them and we move on.

New Classical Conversations Memorization
We talk about and work on the new CC work we learned in the previous week's class.  The girls share what they did in their class to learn the material.  Then, we read the facts together, sing, use hand motions, trace geography places on maps, and whatever else is necessary for me to drill the information.  They have a copy of the Foundations Guide Cycle sheets in their binders.  On Thursdays, we play a review game together for the new work and they receive candy for successfully reciting the information.

Classical Conversations Review
They view the online tutorials for the previous 6 weeks' information.  On Monday, they watch math and english.  On Tuesday, they watch history and science.  On Wednesday, they watch latin and geography.

We are learning "Love Divine all Loves Excelling" and "All Creatures of our God and King" this year.  We sing a new hymn everyday, except the last day of the week when we sing a review hymn from last year.

Things I've learned about making Circle Time a joy more than a burden:  
It is the first thing we do everyday.  There is no question about whether it will happen or not.
It lasts anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour.  I try not to rush it, but savor it.
I make a binder for each child, with all the memory work in it for the year.  Cora cannot read yet, but she has her own binder.  This makes her feel included.  For the older kids, I think it helps to read, view, and say the information.
Every sheet is in a page protector.  These binders get a lot of love from busy hands, so I want to make it as sturdy as possible.  I use a brightly colored sheet as a divider between the section.  Then I can instruct my non readers to turn two pages after the specific color so we can all be on the same page.
I spent a fair amount of time formatting the sheets in the binder to look appealing.  I don't want too many words on a page so it is not intimidating.  Yet if possible, I want an entire poem or prayer to fit on one page for convenience's sake.
I do all the printing and assembling of the binder at the beginning of the year, before school begins.  Then it is just pick up and go.  If has to be easy for me to use and continue to use for it to happen.  Towards the end of last year we reached a point where I needed to do additional printing for the binder.  Because of that, circle time fell off the rest of the year.
I would normally include Bible reading in Circle Time.  But, Daddy has been reading "The Golden Children's Bible" to us immediately after supper before everyone gets up.  We have tried this at different times over the years, but for some reason it seems to be effective now.  He reads a story, asks questions, and we discuss.  I love it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Little Town on the Prairie Trip

When Madeline started kindergarten in 2006, I read the entire Little House on the Prairie series out loud to her.  It is one of my dearest memories.  Cuddling together on the couch, we shared the excitement and heartbreak of pioneering with the Ingalls family together.  That started our love affair.

 Ever since then, we have been big fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We have watched the TV series on DVD.  (Beware, after the first season hardly any of the TV series is close to accurate.)  Madeline and Lydia have both read the whole series on their own.  And now I am reading them aloud once again to our little girls.  It is a joy.

We can identify with a family of girls.  We love Pa's need to forge ahead, and sympathize with Ma's selflessness in moving her family for her man.  We can't believe how hard they have to work just to survive.  We feel ashamed for our own complaining about modern hardships.  And of course, we admire Laura's writing.  Every word counts.  You feel like you are part of their family, and we feel like they are part of ours.

Thus, we have been thinking about this trip for quite some time.  This was the summer to do it.

We left for DeSmet the morning of Saturday, July 20.  It was an easy 5 and a half hour drive to De Smet.  With a short lunch break in Sioux Falls, we got there in time for the 2:00 tour of the Ingalls' homes in town. While we were waiting for the tour to begin, the girls played in the Discovery Center across the street.  The tour brought us through the Surveyor's House, replica of the DeSmet school, replica of the Brewster school, and the house that Ma and Pa lived their final years in.  This tour took about 2 hours.  We then drove out to the cemetery to see where Ma and Pa are buried.

Then we went to our Bed and Breakfast to check in and relax for a while.  We stayed at Heritage House Bed and Breakfast.  We had a suite with plenty of room for our family.  For supper, we ate across the street in the bakery, which was serving supper on pageant weekends.

We went out to the pageant a little before 7:00 for the 8:00 show of Little Town on the Prairie.  We had plenty of time to find a seat, ride in the wagon, get treats from the concession stand, and look through the program.  It was an absolutely beautiful night out on the prairie.

The next morning we ate breakfast at our B and B, then let Julia take a much needed nap while we watched the British Open.  Once everyone was revived, we went to the homestead.  This was the actual land that Pa bought.  There, we were able to climb on a covered wagon, go in a dug out home, a claim shanty, a replica of the home Pa built on their homestead, a barn, and a school house.  There were many hands on activities such as washing clothes, playing Mary's organ, pumping the well, riding a pony, riding in a covered wagon, and making corncob dolls.  We spent about 3 hours there.

I went to DeSmet with low expectations.  Although I knew we would enjoy the trip, I wasn't sure how much time we would need to spend on the tours or how much there would actually be able to "do."  My expectations were surpassed.  DeSmet is a small, sleepy South Dakota town.  It is not commercialized or crawling with people.  Yet all the Little House places and activities were well done. I thought I had an accurate picture in my head of what the Ingalls family encountered in their adventures before visiting.  But when you walk in to that small dugout you simply cannot imagine the hope that they had to have to live in such circumstances.  When you look around the Surveyor's House and remember Laura's inflated perception of how spacious it was, gaze across the prairie and imagine no trees or people anywhere, or ride in a covered wagon and listen to the slow clomping of the horses, you are astounded by their courage.  I had tears in my eyes as I stood in the replicated house that Pa built for his family, thinking of the hard work he put in to provide for his family and pursue freedom.

We had a late lunch at the Subway in town, then left DeSmet.  We made a quick stop in Brookings to run in to the South Dakota Art Museum where we were able to view the stunning Harvey Dunn painting "The Prairie is My Garden."  Then we traveled on to Sioux Falls to stay the night.  We arrived at the Staybridge Suites, let Julia crawl around the hotel room unecumbered while the big girls went swimming with Daddy, then went out for supper.  The night was complete by piling in to beds and watching HGTV.  (Another reason to not pay for cable at home, it is a treat when you go to a hotel.)  The next day we had breakfast at the hotel then drove to Falls Park.  We explored the water and rocks for about an hour.  Then we went to the noon church service at the beautiful St. Joseph Cathedral.  After church, we went to Phillips Avenue to eat at the Phillips Avenue Diner.  We walked along the street looking at the sculptures, played in a great toy store for a while, grabbed an iced latte, and piled in the van for home.  We were home by about 7:00.