Friday, April 25, 2008

The Girl Who Cried Wolf

Pamela does not cry wolf in the true sense of the phrase (to get attention). She likes to pretend play about certain injuries. Sometimes, she wraps her foot in tape and tells me she broke her leg, or she puts a bandage on her boo-boo for me to kiss when there is no cut. So, today, when she wrapped up her hand while I was in the shower, I assumed it was pretend. She told me a bee stung her and I kissed it to help her feel better. Only when the wraps came off, her finger was swollen! I pressed for solid details, and she told me she had gotten stung while walking to the mailbox. I asked her if she cried and she answered in the affirmative. I did not hear her for I was in the shower. She was very patient and brave and tolerated the ice packs I gave her quite nicely. Notice that her wound did not prevent her from using the remote control!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Break for Birds!

Pamela can be pretty pathetic when she has a cold. Today, she took two naps, and Pamela never naps! She also spit up some mucus on her shirt in the afternoon. I canceled school for her and spend a good deal of the day reading David's books (to prepare for his narrations). The weather was gorgeous, so I perched myself on the back porch rocker with camera in hand to catch my feathered friends and others on film. I saw a gecko (green anole), house finch, blue jay, female northern cardinal, ruby-throated hummingbird, neighborhood cat, and eastern gray squirrel. In between animals, I squeezed in two chapters of The Birth of Britain

I sat in awe of all the beauty before me, recalling what I learned in the movie Expelled and a passage from Unshakable Faith (a biography about Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver). How can you not see God in the miracle of nature?
In 1907, a group of Carver's agriculture students who enjoyed his class commentaries on the Creator, asked him to organize a Sunday evening Bible study to be held between the end of supper and the beginning of evening chapel. Carver gladly agreed and held the first session in a room at the Carnegie Library on campus. Though the thirty-five minutes after Sunday supper was one of the few unstructured times in the students' entire week, fifty or so boys came the first night to hear Carver's presentation on the creation story, complete with maps, rock and plant samples, and other illustrations.

In spite of his experience and education, Carver took the same back-to-basics approach to Bible study as he did in explaining cowpeas to a farmer who had grown cotton all his life. He preached messages that were as easy to grasp as the lessons in his old McGuffey speller, the precious blue-backed book his mother had somehow gotten for him. He could almost life the essence of his religious belief from selections in the speller such as "The Cool Shade":
The grass is soft to our feat, and the clear brook washes the roots of the trees. The sheep and cows can lie down to sleep in the cool shade, but we can do better, we can praise the great God who made us. He made the warm sun, and the cool shade; the trees that grow upward, and the brooks that run along . . . All that live get life from God. He made the poor man as well as the rich man. He made the dark man as well as the fair man . . . All that move on the land are his; and so are all that fly in the air, and all that swim in the sea. . .
After three months, attendance at the professor's Bible class topped a hundred; eager participants wolfed down their supper so they could get to the library early and get a good seat. Carver's optimistic, beneficent view of the world presented religion in a way some students had never seen. One later remembered his first night in the class: "For the first time in my life I was witnessing no gloom surrounding the Bible. I began to feel as I had back home when we went to a candy-pulling party--happy that I had come." (pages 249-250)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream

The other day we had a blast making ice cream for the first time using an idea I found at Kaboose Crafts. On our shopping trip for ingredients, I turned it into a guessing game. As we picked each item, I heightened the anticipation by telling her we were going to try a new recipe and she will be so surprised. Her eyes lit up each time and, with every item, she modified her guess to no avail. Since she has never made ice cream, the rock salt did not give away the mystery.

While we were making the ice cream, a recipe from Rachel's Recipe Box, the guessing game started anew. While stirring, Pamela thought of pudding, so I encouraged her that she was very close! Even while putting ice in the Ziploc bag, she went through a guess or two before she figured it out. We all enjoyed the ice cream and found that this handmade, homemade way of making ice cream promotes fun and emotion sharing.

Coconut Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum
1/2 cup gf/cf chocolate chips/chunks
1 pint Ziploc bags
1 gallon Ziploc bags
2/3 cup rock salt
ice cubes
canister or coffee can (optional)

Put first five ingredients in a bowl and stir with a whisk until smooth and creamy. Put half of the mixture into a pint-sized Ziploc bag. Add half of the chocolate chips/chunks to the bag. Zip the bag tight. You may want to double bag it. Put half of the rock salt in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and fill the bag half full of ice. Put the pint bag inside the gallan bag containing the rock salt and ice. Zip the bag. Gently flip, toss, rock, twist, shake the bag until the ice cream texture meets the consistency you prefer.

For another RDI variation the next day, double-bag the remaining mixture and place it in a canister with the remaining rock salt and more ice. The freeze will happen faster because ingredients stored in the refrigerator are closer to the desired temperature. Roll the canister back and forth as a game and see if the child can guess what is inside the canister. Kaboose recommends using coffee cans, but all I had onhand was a sugar canister. With a bigger group of kids, a large can, and plenty of duct tape, you can try playing kick the can.

Now, we are taking time to reflect upon this experience to imagine other recipes for ice cream. Pamela has already chosen Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream for our next batch.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Adventures with Ambleside Online

I have not blogged much about David lately. He is reading books from Ambleside Online (to say the year would be a give-away to my guessing game). I love this way of learning because *I*, *the teacher*, get so much out of it, too. I guess I forgot way too much history since high school. In some cases, my textbooks never covered this material!

Guessing Game Number One
For example, do you know when, where, and who was involved with the first European experiment with communism on North American soil? I will let you guess and reveal the source and answer later in the comments! Here are the conclusions from the Governor about his constituents' brush with communal living:
The failure of this experiment of communal service, which was tried for several years, and by good and honest men proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times,--That the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community, by a commonwealth, would make a state happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For in this instance, community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort.
  • For the young men who were most able and fit for service objected to being forced to spend their time and strength in working for other men's wives and children, without any recompense.
  • The strongman or the resourceful man had no more share of food, clothes, etc., than the weak man who was not able to do a quarter the other could. This was thought injustice.
  • The aged and graver men, who were ranked and equalized in labour, food, clothes, etc., with the humbler and younger ones, thought it some indignity and disrespect to them.
  • As for men's wives who were obliged to do service for other men, such as cooking, washing their clothes, etc., they considered it a kind of slavery, and many husbands would not brook it. This feature of it would have been worth still, if they had been men of an inferior class.
If (it was thought) all were to share alike, and all were to do alike, then all were on an equality throughout, and one was as good as another; and so, if it did not actually abolish those very relations which God himself has set among men, it did at least greatly diminish the mutual respect that is so important should be preserved amongst them. let none argue that this is due to human failing, rather than to this communistic plan of life in itself. I answer, seeing that all men have this failing in them, that God in His wisdom saw that another plan of life was fitter for them.
Guessing Game Number Two
David and I came across an interesting quote in a biography of a great American yesterday. It sounds so much like Charlotte Mason's view nature, but these are not her words. You can cheat and google it, or have fun and guess!

1. The awakening of a greater interest in practical nature lessons in the public schools of our section.

The thoughtful educator realizes that a very large part of the child's education must be gotten outside of the four walls designated as class room. He also understands that the most effective and lasting education is the one that makes the pupil handle, discuss and familiarize himself with the real things about him, of which the majority are surprisingly ignorant.

2. To bring before our young people in an attractive way a few of the cardinal principles of agriculture, with which nature study is synonymous.

If properly taught the practical Nature study method cannot fail to both entertain and instruct.

It is the only true method that leads up to a clear understanding of the fundamental principles which surround every branch of business in which we may engage. It also stimulates thought, investigation, and encourages originality.

Who has not watched with delight the wee tots with their toy set of garden tools and faces all aglow with happiness and the yearning expectations of the coming harvest as they dug up the earth and dropped in a few seed or illy set an equal number of plants--with what joy and satisfaction they called it their garden or with what enthusiasm they hailed the first warm days of spring with their refreshing showers which bespoke emphatically the opening of the mud pie and doughnut season, and how, even though they were water-soaked and mud-bespattered from top to toe, how very happy they were at the close of such a day's work. So on through the whole list of childish amusements. Instinctively, they prefer to deal with natural objects and real things.
Mystery Science Theater Shakespeare
The last thing we did yesterday, before David headed off to a beach retreat for the weekend, was reading aloud the last act of A Midsummer's Night Dream. David, a tenth grader, has already read five of Shakespeare's plays; I had only read one my entire year of high school. I could hardly understand the plot line, much less get the jokes.

In Scene I of Act V, the four happily-united couples watch a play to celebrate the nuptials of King Theseus and his Amazon Queen Hippolyta. Shakespeare loved sneaking a play within a play, or, at the very least, having one or more character in disguise. Unfortunately, the men acting the tragical moments of the classic story of Pyramus and Thisbe were craftsmen, but their trade was NOT the theater. In a nutshell, the hero Pyramus and his secret love Thisbe are to meet at a wall and talk through a chink in the wall to one another. When Thisbe does not arrive, Pyramus searches for her and finds her bloody cloak. He hears a lion roar and, assuming the lion took his love for a midnight snack, stabs himself. Thisbe finds her love dying, and she stabs herself.

Tragedy turns into comedy because the play within a play is so poorly performed. The first hint of this is when Philostrate warns the king how the scene affected him, "And tragical, my noble lord, it is; for Pyramus therein doth kill himself: which when I saw rehears'd, I must confess, made mine eyes water; but more merry tears the passion of loud laughter never shed." After the king demands to see the play anyway, Philostrate warns him again, "No, my noble lord, it is not for you: I have heard it over, and it is nothing, nothing in the world; unless you can find sport in their intents, extremely stretch'd and conn'd with cruel pain, to do you service."

Thanks to a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education and Ambleside Online, David not only gets Shakespeare, but he gives me better stage direction than I can think of myself! When I read the prologue, he told me I was not reading it right because I sounded good. One character's comment told me how to read--fast with no breaks, except in the wrong places, "He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt; he knows not the stop." I read the lion too loud and scary, David stopped me and suggested a wimpy lion a la Oz's cowardly lion. And, later on, the royal barbs confirm his instinct, "A very gentle beast, and of a good conscience" and "a goose for his discretion." He did approve of my Ethel Merman voice for Thisbe.

The king and his queen found sport indeed! The couples found sport! We found sport at the badly done scene. As we read through the scene, David and I half-expected the robots from Mystery Science Theater 3000 to pop in and add their own barbs to the ones being tossed out by the couples watching the play:
"Indeed he hath played on this prologue like a child on a recorder!"
"His speech was like a tangled chain; nothing impaired, but all disordered."
"This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard."
Right before Thisbe's death, "I hope she will be brief."
"No epilogue, I pray you; for your play needs no excuse!"

Philostrate was right! The poor wall forms his fingers to be the chink (tells the audience what it is) and spends so much time on exposition he spoils the whole scene. Some keep butchering "Ninus' tomb" to "Ninny's tomb." At times, the actors answered the hecklers back in all seriousness a la Ferris Bueller. At one point, the couples spend more lines criticizing the poor moon than the moon has dialog! Who knew the bard could be so much fun?

P.S. I am not passing out prizes for my guessing games because the pursuit of knowledge is inherently delightful and rewarding in and of itself!

P.S.S. No rotten tomatoes please!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Star-Studded State House

Somewhere along the way, Pamela became interested in the South Carolina State House. I think ETV's coverage of the General Assembly, which is almost as exciting as C-SPAN, has something to do with it. And, if that is not enough excitement for you, try the online gavel-to-gavel coverage. Since she has talked about it for months, I jumped at the chance to join a friend and her family for Homeschool Day at the Capitol. (By the way, you can click on all pictures for a larger version.)

Here are our kids, ready to storm the Capitol and explore it for all its worth! The State House cost 3.45 million dollars to build at the turn of the last century. The dome is made up of eight million pennies worth of copper alone! The first thing we hit was all fifty-two steps in front of the Capitol. Why fifty-two? It took that many years to build the thing because a little thing called the Civil War and Reconstruction got in the way; you can read more at Let's Go, where you can view a six-minute movie. Even though the signs pointed to side entrances for the public, we just had to climb those stairs.

I am not joking about the Civil War getting in the way! General Sherman and his army burned about one-third of the buildings in Columbia, including the old wooden state house. When he and his men arrived, part of the capitol building had been already constructed. The six bronze stars mark spots on the Capitol hit by Sherman's cannonballs on February 17, 1865.

Yes, I could kick myself because I forgot to take a picture of George Washington's statue. Sherman and his crew were so enchanted with destroying the Capitol that they nearly knocked the cane out from him. Those brick-tossing lumberheads did not realize they were pock-marking the United States first Commander-in-Chief! And, of course, the statue still stands today, cane suspended in mid-air, for proof positive of Yankee aggression.

Once we were inside the building, we took a guided tour that started with a fifteen-minute film about the history of the Capitol Building. We learned about some of the architectural features such as the fabric wall covering (not wall paper), maximization of metal, glass, and marble, and minimization of things that burn, namely wood. You can see some of the highlights below. The most interesting story was an eleven-pound gold-burnished silver mace that represents the authority of the house. It disappeared during the American Revolution but turned up in a vault in Philadelphia (the Yankees had it, of course) in 1819. It fared better than the Senate's sword, which disappeared in 1941 for good. I wonder what it would go for on eBay . . . By the way, the dome pictured below is a fake put there for decoration!

The funniest moment happened when we sat down in the front row of the auditorium. One mother had left a jacket draped over David's seat. She quietly said to him, "Excuse me, sir!" SIR? I know he is big and tall, but he already looks like a SIR? She must not have heard him say, "Hey, Mom! It's the red hat mafia!" when he saw a group of Red Hat Society ladies enter the building. Next time, I'll tell him he can wear his shades and baseball cap inside the Capitol so that no one will mistake him for a gentleman.

The oddest thing I saw today was this public school read-in! To celebrate National Library Week, 1,100 students assemble here on the steps of the Capitol to see a magic show and read. (Hmmm . . . I wonder if one has anything to do with the other.) They marched up to the Capitol with their little protest signs Kids Who Read Succeed, chanted their little slogans, cheered for the state mascots (a tiger and completely illegal fighting gamecock), and held their sit-in, I mean read-in. That juxtaposed against homeschoolers, wandering the grounds exploring the monuments, meeting and leaving business cards with their legislators, taking guided and unguided tours, etc. The difference in how the two groups take political action is stunning!

My County's Shame
Briggs vs. Elliot

One in Every Crowd
John C. Calhoun Statue!

Video Games of Yesteryear

Law Enforcement Memorial
Ode to Andre Bauer

I'll Take a Palmetto Tree over a Palmetto Bug

My Favorite Picture: Girl Studying an Atlas

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Big Announcement

No! I ain't birthin' no baby! And, we did not win the lottery. To win the lottery, you have to play the lottery, which I don't.

The funds needed for us to work with an RDI consultant appeared much sooner that we had anticipated. We were originally shooting for seeing a consultant late 2008 or early 2009. We had hoped for a consultant, about whom I only hear wonderful comments. She was booked solid, but promised to keep us in mind. A family recently dropped out, so she has an opening. (Talk about God's timing being perfect!) We scheduled Pamela's very first, official RDA (assessment) for May 7 and May 8. We crave all of your prayers as we start to fill out all of the lovely paperwork!

P.S. I am putting in a plug for the monogram and silk-screen business of my Coastie IRL friend. God has blessed me with two IRL friends, and kindred spirits get harder to find with each of our many moves!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Car Games, NOT Car Wars!

Before I launch into this more light hearted post after the sturm and drang of my graphic organizer monologues, I want to know who gave my address to anti-Charlotte-Mason publishers like A Beka and BJU Press! I have my suspicions . . . ahem, the buccaneer blogster who took me in with her April Fool's Day prank. Of course, it could be all coincidental . . .

Today, the kids and I took our two dogs to the vet's office for a follow-up to their checkup. Loa, the eldest dog, has a thyroid condition that caused her to balloon to almost fifty pounds last year (now she is a svelte 37 pounds). She sings arias about this bizarre place where aliens abduct her, poke and prod her, and do all kinds of horrible things to her. From the moment we hit the parking lot until she's back in the car, she howls and moans nonstop (except when we shove a dog biscuit in her mouth).

The other one, the Arwenator (or Beastie Girl), is so hyperactive that she foams at the mouth at the sight of any and all newcomers. Don't let that sweet innocent look on her face deceive you. The moment she sees a new person her tail starts banging everything in sight and ought to be registered as a legal weapon. She is the poster dog for canine Ritalin. If I could bottle her energy, I could feel twenty-years-old!

Today in the 150-mile round trip to the vet's office, Pamela and I enjoyed playing the newest game invented at the spur of the moment on the road. We spent our time looking at license plates: when I stick to the speed limit of 70 MPH, cars pass frequently enough to maintain Pamela's attention. As soon as a car passed, we played our game and reacted. Then, Pamela turned back to look over her left shoulder and peered at the next car or truck planning to pass. The jackpot was spotting unusual states like Illinois or Oregon. Quebec and Puerto Rico completely perplexed both of us. We felt the suspense every time a car was about to pass and laughed and giggled with excitement if the car was out of state. This was emotion sharing at its best!

We have different variations of the game. The most exciting thing about them is that we made them up and often find ourselves thinking of new variations. (1) Figure out if you would fly or drive to that state. If you drive, then you state whether or not you would need to stay in a hotel. (2) Figure out if the car is from a different time zone. Pamela's latest self-taught accomplishment is learning all of the states and time zones and how to calculate times in other zones. (3) Figure out if the car is going in the wrong or right direction. Pamela's sense of direction is so sharp we call her GPS!

I began thinking about what good travelers Pamela and David are. They have never required massive doses of electronics in the car. For example, today, Pamela had her classical CD's and kept the music flowing, while David listened to his iPod. He also narrated some books for me and read a book for pleasure: How to Stay Christian in College. Back in 2001, we survived a 4,500-mile journey from Colorado to Homer, Alaska without a DVD player or video games (okay, I do admit that David wielded his Game Boy until he left it at a rest stop in Washington and did not realize it until an hour down the road). Listening to an audio version of Trumpet of the Swan helped him recover from his loss. They have enjoyed many long, long trips with amusing little games we invent when the mood strikes.

Now, I am the first to admit some kids are such miserable travelers that only a DVD player can keep the peace. One thing I did with three-year-old David to break the habit of whining when the kids and I traveled from Louisiana down the Florida peninsula and up to Connecticut was to play stop the action. If he began complaining, I warned him I would pull over and stop so he could see the real meaning of boring. After a couple of stops, he got the message. When I was a tween, my parents traveled from Washington state to Illinois to North Carolina and back to Illinois with six kids, camping equipment, and a dog with three puppies. When Bill Cosby did the "he touched me" bit, I knew he had bugged our brown van. I spent that trip escaping to the gritty world of Oliver Twist.

Rather than share with you all of the tricks we have learned throughout our years of traveling, I will let masterly inactivity rule the day. The best games are the ones your children invent for themselves. For more ponderings on play, read Rebekah Brown's post called The Art of Play.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Wrapping Up Written Narration of One Chapter


Pamela is a paradox! She can read and somewhat understand books at a 5th/6th grade level of reading. She may not "get" every little nuance, but she understands enough to make reading at that level worth her while. (Think about how Helen Keller delighted in reading books above her head, but within reach). So, we are reading Miracles on Maple Hill plus some history plus some other pleasure books, all at about that level to practice oral narration. The purpose of the graphic organizers is to scaffold Pamela in organizing material and typing narrations for Miracles on Maple Hill and some history readings (a post for another day).

The purpose of the "impertinent" questions and answers I do during readings, which are not part of a typical Charlotte Mason philosophy, is to practice syntax in Pamela's speech therapy program. She has syntactic aphasia, so her expressive language is probably at a 1st/2nd grade level. The Reading Milestones primers (not the workbooks) are PERFECT for speech therapy ala the association method because they are syntax controlled. She does not need vocabulary-controlled primers; like deaf children, she needs syntax-controlled ones for acquiring correct syntax.


Last year, I attended a talk by Jennifer Spencer in which she explained her thesis for her master's degree about retelling. She recommended using graphic organizers to help children organize their thoughts before writing. Jennifer did another presentation called "Developmentally Appropriate Use of Narration." I was disappointed to miss it because we presented at the same time. From what I understand she discussed graphic organizers in greater detail. ChildLightUSA just posted the audio file for the one I missed.

This series of posts cover blending Charlotte Mason, the association method, and Relationship Development Intervention with reading, orally narrating, graphic organizers, syntax practice, and writing. I have spent almost a month for me to digest and record it. I have described how we worked through Chapter 3 of Miracles on Maple Hill. The last post covers how we organize the graphic organizers and type a written narration. If you are a new reader, the following links takes you through what I have already covered!

Before a Reading:

Asking Questions

During a Reading:

Answering Questions

Collecting Information

Before a Typed Narration:
Before I sat down with Pamela, I organized all of the graphic organizers and made two main idea/details concept webs with the diagram feature of Microsoft Word. Because the story introduced only one new character, I did not make a concept web for that. I guided Pamela in filling out these webs from memory. I avoid letting her review the graphic organizers because I want to spotlight relying on memory of earlier readings. After we completed the setting concept web, she typed up her written narration. She did not review the graphic organizers before or during the typed narration.




Pamela's Typed Narration
(No Corrections):

The downstairs had the kitchen, and dining room. The upstairs had three bedrooms. Outside had some trees, grass, and melted snow.

The kitchen had a bath. It had some some chairs. It had a table. It had a drawer with spoons, folks, and knives. It had some dishes.

Bedroom had some pillows. It had some blankets. It had some window. It had some doors. It had some floors with walls.

The mice are dirty, and ugly. The mice feel bad. The mice had some old noses, dirty bodies, short tails, and short ears. The mice made a mess. It made squeaks.

Dad wanted to get rid of the mice. Marley kept the mice. The mice are crawling in the house. The mice had some babies.

Friz is a man. He had some children. They drove to the sugar camp. The suger camp is pretty. It had some hot pots. It had some syrups. It had some trees, too. It had some snow. They feel happy.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Prediction Graphic Organizers--Homegrown and Otherwise!

Happy Tenth Birthday, Hannah!!! (Hannah's mom Sonya is the Charlotte Mason momma who's website first got me interested in RDI.)

Yesterday, I promised to share how we do predictions in a story. Before reading the next chapter of a book, we recall any dangling problems. We fill out a prediction graphic organizer like the one below. The video clip shows Pamela and I discussing the problem that came to light in Chapter 3 of Miracles on Maple Hill and filling out the sheet:

Chapter 4 held the answer to the problem, posted below in case you lost sleep over Marly's poor mice!

Sometimes, the problem occurs in the middle of the reading. If it is an over-arching problem, I hold off filling out the sheet until the next chapter because I can lead off the chapter with the unsolved problem. I also preview the chapter in the morning to figure out what graphic organizers to use. Today, I realized the first three pages of Chapter 5 had four separate little problems (more like daily annoyances). Pamela ended up filling out the following four organizers and we worked on sorting relevant versus irrelevant information.

For every story in the Reading Milestones primers, I have Pamela make a prediction for every single story in the book before she ever cracks the book open. She spends the first day of a new primer identifying potential problems and solutions for all six stories. I make up the graphic organizer show below in Excel. We read one story per day, and, at the end of a story, she records the actual problem and solution and assesses her prediction.