Time for Reflection: A Time for Ideas

“Education is a life. That life needs ideas to keep it alive. Ideas come from a spiritual place, and God has created us so that we get ideas in the same way we pass them on to others: by expressing them in talk, or printed words, or the text of Scripture, or music.” Charlotte Mason, volume 6, page 109

Eighth grade is finished for the fourth time in our house. It is bittersweet.

All four times we taught this grade, usually American history, in different ways with different books and different styles. Nine years ago we taught with textbooks, seven years ago we did unit studies, last year we used The Well-Trained Mind suggestions since we had covered American history using Sonlight a few years earlier, and this year we used Ambleside Online’s year 9 with some modifications for my son’s interests. Can you guess which year I liked best?

That really is an unfair question because for each child the experience was tailored to meet their personality. For instance with my oldest child we used a textbook for eighth grade history but there were lots of things we did to supplement her learning. That was the year of learning American history through the lens of women in history. We based the year on making a quilt and learned all about the history of quilting in the early colonies, for women who were slaves, and then pioneer women. We read lots of biographies of women in American history like Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, and Amelia Earhart and discussed admirable qualities that each woman possessed. We read about colonial women, pioneer women, women of faith, and women in science and the arts. We baked, sewed, sang, and read about that period of time and both of us still remember that year with fond memories because it may have included reading a textbook but it was so much more than that because we got to know the time period and the people and what made them tick.

You get the idea. Even though I had never heard of Charlotte Mason when I was homeschooling eighth grade with my oldest two, I was still looking for living books, real stories, and trying to get to know the real people we were reading about in our text. It was really about hearing their ideas through our reading and activities.

” When a child is very young, it doesn’t seem to make any difference what philosophical idea we had when we educated them, whether we had the notion of filling a bucket, writing on a blank slate, molding a lump of clay, or nourishing a life. But as the child grows, we’ll come to find that the only things that are assimilated into who he becomes are the ideas that fed and nourished his mind.”
Charlotte Mason volume 6, page 108

Some days I want to call for a “do over” and start from the very beginning again homeschooling my children, not because I regret the methods I used but rather because I want to savor each year again. Reading the books, sharing the minute details of each day, watching the light bulb moments, watching them grow spiritually, and sharing the adventure all over.

It seems I blinked and arrived somehow at the present day where I realize my children have become four intelligent, thinking, creative, loving, God-fearing beings. They are people I love to be with.

There is still an unfamiliar path ahead of us but it is nice to be sitting here at this moment feeling like I have already accomplished more than I ever set out to accomplish in the homeschooling world….both within my family, in my community, and with others around the globe. As the saying goes, “It has been some ride.”

Four more years lie ahead to be filled with lots more learning alongside my boys. This is the spot in the road that we have been working for all these years. So many directions to explore and people both past and present to get to know in the days to come. I will try to remind myself that it is the ideas that matter, not the particular books or plans.

I can see the finish line of in the distance but somehow I don’t feel in a hurry to get there.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Yosemite Falls in the Spring

I forgot all about sharing our video from Yosemite Falls. We were there three weeks ago and the water was just roaring over the falls. Here is a short video that will give you just a taste of an idea of how beautiful but at the same time powerful the water coming over the falls is. Near the end of the video you will see the trees blowing and that is just from the rush of the air with the water as it comes over the granite. I didn’t want to get any closer to the falls since we were already getting really wet with the mist and spray. This is just the lower part of the falls so you will have to imagine how spectacular it is in person with the upper and lower falls in view.

Here is a photo of what it looks like.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Complete a Sketch – Two Thumbs Up from Our Family

This is the time of year when I do a clean sweep of our shelves and make portfolios with the boys. We often discuss as we do this what we liked and didn’t like from the past school year. The boys unanimously agree that they like the Complete-A-Sketch workbooks from Insight Technical Education.

These have been a great tool for my boys in their drawing skills curriculum. The workbook is set up so there is a small completed sketch in one corner and then there are several guides marks on the larger portion of the page where the child will duplicate the sketch at the top. The back of the book describes it as “complex dot-to-dot” but I have found them to be challenging for my very technically apt middle and high school age boys.

Edit to add 2/17/10: You can now purchase a CD with all of the drawing assignments to print out for multiple students. This will save you some money. I actually purchased the Advanced Complete a Sketch CD for my high school age boys. It includes not only drawing assignments but 3D paper models to build and access to bonus projects.

They have learned to use a straight edge and circle template with these workbooks. I have expected neat and careful work. These assignments are considered “fun” by my boys.

We have completed:
Orthographic Volume 1
Perspective Volume 3

We will be ordering and completing the Advanced Complete-A-Sketch program for next year.

Here are some samples.

Here is a “before” sample.

Here is an “after” sample.

I would recommend these workbooks for middle schoolers and above. I purchased the first book from Rainbow Resource and the second one I purchased from Miller Pads and Papers. You might look for these at your local homeschooling convention. I would recommend getting one workbook for each child since this is something you can not share.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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