Mother Culture

Is there not some need for “mother culture”? But how is the state of things to be altered? So many mothers say, “I simply have no time for myself!” “I never read a book!” Or else, “I don’t think it is right to think of myself!” They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification. There are, moreover, unfortunately, only too many people who think that sort of thing so lovely that public opinion appears to justify it. But does public opinion justify anything? Does it justify tight-lacing–or high heels–or bearing-reins for horses? It can never justify anything which leads to the “Oh, it’s only mother” tone in any young person. 

I will start by fully acknowledging that I am a nerd. But even if you are not, that is no excuse to not be learning. And mothers, especially, should be investing in themselves because they have such important work in the investing of little ones (and big ones, as they eventually become!). We want to have much to offer our children, but we must have something to give. Yes, ‘self care’ is a part of this, but its not pedicures and massages (though those have a place, for sure!) that I speak of. It’s Mother Culture.

What is Mother Culture?

This is a mother investing in her own mind by various means. Study, reading, drawing, creating. Ideas are food for the mind, and if she doesn’t seek to feed her mind, her mind will atrophy. Just as the body atrophies when it isn’t fed, so the mind does. With all the demands on a mother’s attention and time, she has to be intentional about feeding her mind. When she doesn’t, she risks having nothing to offer her children as they seek to feed their own minds. And as children grow, the kind of ideas they want and need grow with them.

Productive labor, Reproductive labor, Scholé and Entertainment

Most people will be able to identify productive labor and entertainment as categories for how to spend your time. Scholé is that time when you are seeking refreshment and enrichment. From handicrafts to reading to art, scholé is a broad category. Mother Culture, however, falls into the reproductive labor category*. Generally, this is the labor of investing in others, caring for others, loving others. Sounds like a mother’s job, yes? And for a mother to love her children especially well, she can grow her own mind by feeding it with good quality stuff.

How I do Mother Culture

I will fully acknowledge that for me, Mother Culture overlaps with Schole. I find the time I spend reading, thinking and writing refreshing and rejuvenating. And not everyone will find this true for them (though I expect it won’t be a draining as many think it will be). I got this idea from a podcast episode on Your Morning Basket by Pam Barnhill, about Mother’s Morning Basket. It’s not a basket, and I don’t work from it the morning, but you’ll see the connection.

I found that a medium flat rate box (from USPS), with flaps cut off, fit wonderfully in a worn out reusable grocery bag. The bag by itself is good for getting wet and dirty, but doesn’t provide much support and books, journals, etc would topple it. I like stuff that will stand up and I don’t have to dig to find anything. On the other hand, a box on its own isn’t great for one handed transportation. I’ve got a toddler, and I need one handed transportation abilities. And a box that was already used to ship something is great for ‘can get wet and dirty’. I get most of my reading time when I’m outside with the boys. If I’m inside I always seem able to have something more urgent calling me.

I can be very hap-hazard about picking out the books I’m going to work through. I picked out my current set by… inspiration. I want to be more intentional, but really, there are SOOOO MANY books, and not nearly enough time. And these (the SOOOO MANY) are only the books worth reading (as one part of a good education is knowing what NOT to read). :::sigh:::

Currently, I’m reading Know and Tell by Karen Glass, and Planet Narnia by Michael Ward. And there is Start Here by Brandy Vencel with For the Children’s Sake. I often toss things I print out into this box so that the next time I sit down to read, I can read it. I keep my common place journal in the box, also.

But there are other standard items that will just live in the box.

  • matches for lighting the bug candle when outside
    water bottle, ’cause I always need to drink more water
    sunscreen, b/c we live in central Texas
    chap stick, b/c we live in central Texas
    pens, as you totally need a large selection to choose from when writing in your journal, even though you always choose the same one
  • note cards
  • book darts
  • post it notes
  • extra bookmark (’cause the toddler likes them, too!)

Where to find good reading material?

There are a few places I find good options for reading that has good, strong ideas that feed my mind. In general, its good to have 3 types of books: a stiff book, a moderately hard book, and an easy book, aka a novel. Now, I know myself well enough to know that I can’t just always have a novel going, or novels are all I’ll ready. Especially, a good murder mystery by Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers.

I have found good book lists from Brandy at afterthoughtsblog.net, from listening to the Scholé Sister’s podcast, other podcasts, a slew of different sites, facebook friends, instagram…. I do know that I aim to know who the recommendation comes from, as that informs me of what kind of book it will be. Ann Bogel has book recommendations out the wa-zoo, but I know that I’m not going to be interested in most of it. But, when Mystie Winkler or Pam Barnhill recommends the book, there is a better chance it’s up my alley. As you start paying attention, you’ll find a good source of book recommendations. Here is my goodreads, but I’m a hoarder of to-read books, so be warned!

So, go and do likewise! How can I help you get your Mother Culture on?

Please note that all my links for things are just links. I get no kickback and nothing but goodwill (maybe) for linking to other’s sites.


*I got this idea from an article by Sybil Schwarzenbach, called “On Civic Friendship”. Here is the citation:
Sibyl A. Schwarzenbach, “On Civic Friendship,” Ethics 107, no. 1 (Oct., 1996): 97-128.
https://doi.org/10.1086/233698

Home educating…but not homeschooling

Completely unrelated photo from a field trip this month. Just thought it was pretty!

I have long desired to have the opportunity to homeschool my children, but God has clearly said NO (perhaps He is really saying “wait”, but only time will tell…). The irony of this is that both of my husband’s siblings homeschool their children and my own sister homeschools her own. To further the irony, out of all of them, I am the only one who was actually homeschooled! I was homeschooled from seventh grade through graduation. When I met and married my husband, we didn’t really discuss education plans for future children, though if we did, I probably didn’t really have an opinion. Honestly, I was so head over heels for him that I would have moved to Timbuktu if he said so (and I still love him that much!). Fortunately, he was clear in informing me that he never wanted to live anywhere other than Texas…but I digress.

This desire has been on my heart for a long time, and I’ve spent a lot of time praying about it – that God would somehow change hearts so that I can do it. However, I sometimes wonder what I’m really desiring – a chance to teach my children or just something other than what I have right now?

A few months ago as I was praying about this (or rather, complaining to God about it), I could clearly hear God speak. Not an audible voice, but a clear voice inside my mind:

 Me: O Lord, please let me homeschool!

Voice: WHY do you want to be able to homeschool?

Me: I want to be able to teach my children, Lord! Is that not a good desire?

Voice: Then teach your children.

Me: What? I asked to be able to homeschool my kids…oh, wait.

After that brief exchange, I remembered what is often said “You are your child’s first teacher“. Yes, I had them with me for the first five or so years, and I was their first teacher. My role as their teacher didn’t end just because they have now started attending school. I began to be convicted that I had neglected this responsibility. That snarky attitude that my son has developed? It is not just from the influence of kids at school. It is my responsibility to teach him how to interact with others and respect those in authority. The violence and disregard for human life that has become evident in their imaginative play? I need to consider how they are spending their time after school each day – who let them have so much exposure to media that promotes those ideas? I wish I could say that I immediately came up with a plan and began to address issues I noticed in my parenting. Instead, I’ve spent most of the time making a plan. I’ve made a few changes here and there, but nothing of really to speak.

I’m not sure who first introduced me to Charlotte Mason, but I was quickly enamored with her ideas. I mean, who cannot love a woman who emphasized reading books, spending time in nature, and keeping journals??? I searched high and low for someone who had walked the path before me – someone who had taken Miss Mason’s ideas and applied them to their life, with kids attending the local public school (that does not follow CM principles). I struggled with what I should do, and focused on gathering information rather than taking any real steps.

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the Charlotte Mason Boot Camp (CMBC) that Brandy Vencel from Afterthoughts runs a couple times a year.  At first, I worried about how it would go since I’m not a real “homeschooler”. However, it gave me a good introduction to Miss Mason, and each week has focused on key areas of her methods and principles. It was the first time I’ve read large chunks of her writing. I began to understand what her ideas and principles really mean, and it’s given me a chance to figure out what changes I need to make with my children. I am so thankful that I had a chance to complete CMBC, and I’m looking forward to studying Miss Mason’s 20 Principles further with my CMBC group this summer.

I’m still figuring out exactly what this looks like for us, but I can now say that I am home educating my children…but not homeschooling. I hope I can share more about what this looks like – my plans as well as how it actually works out – sometime soon!

From Rachael: Welcome, sweet sister in all kinds of ways. I enjoy what you write, and look forward to reading more!

Protists

This is a high school Biology post, if you didn’t figure that out from the title. I realized most people don’t know what a “protist” is. It is a eukaryotic, usually single celled, organism that just doesn’t fit in any other kingdom group. These guys are a ton of fun, b/c you can see them in the microscope fairly easy, unlike bacteria which are just too small to see in a regular microscope.

For our protista module (module 3 in the Apologia Biology book) we put together pond jars, but they were a bust. We couldn’t find anything in them and they do start to stink. In the book, these are for the bacteria module, but we had much better results with the petri dishes. And, yes, these are worth doing, I’ll explain how in a future post.

2017-09-30 11.03.43

what you don’t think bacteria cultures are really cool?

So, I decided to go ahead and get some ready made protists from homesciencetools.com (I am not an affiliate, but so far this is the best place I’ve found to get specialized supplies. Carolina.com is another place, but they are better for teachers who have a class of 30 students.)

This is what you want:

2017-10-06 17.46.35

please ignore all the other stuff, and notice the “mixed protozoa” container

This stuff is the bomb. We found all 4 of the organisms that are suppose to be in there easily, and I kept hearing “It’s moving!” “Wow, that guy is fast.” and other such explanations.

And I have plenty of it left over, and no microscope at home to enjoy it with. :::pouty face::::

This is much cheaper than buying the set of 3 protozoa cultures, and you get 4 organisms. Yes, you have to pay the $13.95 drop ship fee, but that’s because these are living specimens. And yes, it comes from carolina.com, which I just said was better for teachers with a full class. Homesciencetools.com is acting as a go between for us, they get us the good deals (or something like that…). You set the date for them to be delivered, and they come by UPS. And even with the $13.95 drop ship fee, these are still a better deal than the Basic protozoa culture (the set with cultures for 3 organisms).

Now to grow fungus…..

 

Your child’s first teacher — yes, you.

This is a draft of a post I wrote years ago. I’m struggling to get much writing done, so thought I’d get an old draft together and published.


I have been thinking more about my last rant on children’s books and such things. Of course, I often think about what I’m teaching Doctor Destructo (who is now known as Little Man) and what I want to teach him. I am an educator by nature and education, so I think a lot about educating. And I can be a bit odd, so Hubby tells me, so that might be it, too.

My very own sister made a good point, that these Curious George books are ones I read growing up and have I embraced the irresponsible life style? No, I escape unscathed. However, when chatting with my Dad, I learn that he and Mom had similar misgivings about the books. Thus, I suspect that a fair number of conversations and teaching moments were about logical consequences and being responsible.

All this to say that you have GOT to talk with your child. Yes, yes, every parent who bothers to seek out and read any parenting magazine or website will be told “talk to your child. When you are giving them a bath, talk to them about what you are doing. When you are changing their diaper, tell them what you are doing.”  This is a good starting point, for sure, when you are looking at this little bundle of unfinished neural connections (not my words, got that from someone else) and you have no idea what they are thinking or even if they are thinking (but they probably are, ’cause that is what kids do).


Yeah, I can have strong opinions….. And now, I know that sometimes, I just want quiet. My quiet. Little Man quiet. All quiet. It’s good to not talk sometimes. Sometimes a few years of experience brings perspective, right?

Projects for 10th, 11th and 12th grade

In my biology class, I’m requiring upper level students to do an additional outside project. I came across a few ideas on homesciencetools.com. I’ve fleshed them out for students here.

First, a leaf collection is a possibility. Here are options for preserving your leaves. You should preserve and label each leaf with name of tree, scientific name of tree, date and location of collection, and method of preservation. You should collect at least 25 examples of different trees (as in 25 different trees), though you may have more. I recommend putting together a journal or book of your collection.

Next, an insect collection is an option. Here is an article that gives you a good outline and many directions for collecting, preserving and displaying. You should plan to collect at least 25 different insects, identify them and label them with common name, scientific name, and date and location of collection.

Last, a rock collection might be what interests you. Here is an article that gives a good description of how to go about collecting and identifying rocks and minerals you find. Again, plan to collect at least 10 different types of rocks, label with type of rock, date and location of collection. Display as you desire.

There are so many projects that a big kid could undertake, and I think it’s worth it for big kids to take on these projects. They will learn about planning, getting supplies and following through. I suspect there will be other aspects of character formation, depending on your students general character, disposition, strengths and weaknesses. These kind of projects will help prepare your student for a more formal lab setting or field setting opportunities that will, hopefully, come along later.

I am open to other ideas, should a student have an area they are particularly interested in. Please, present those options, and lets talk about it!

Class Time Routine

I have found, and heard from others, that a basic procedure that is followed for class time makes planning easier and then students just know what is coming and happening. Co-op classes start this Friday, so I gotta get my button gear and start planning class time. This structure should make it easy to plan several weeks out (which helps make sure I’ve got the supplies I need).

Each class is 50 minutes. And, of course, the very first class will be a bit different just because it’s the first class. But, in general:

  • 10 minutes: Group narration of the reading.
  • 10 minutes: Questions from students about reading and/or socratic questioning from me
  • 30 minutes: activity time. “Centers” style: 3 to 4 activities set up in different parts of the room that students can move between. OR dissection time!

I struggle with keeping track of time, so I’m thinking I’ll set up alarms on my tablet (since I ain’t got a smartphone!) for each transition. When doing an activity at home your time constraints might not be as tight, but to make sure we get to everything I’m going to have cut off narrations and questions after the 10 minutes. To make sure we don’t go too long on any one subject, here at home, we use a timer. Alarms means I don’t have to reset the timer and the specific time isn’t going to change week to week (unlike at home, where one day we start at 830 and next day we start at 845…)

There are weeks/topics that don’t have any sort of activity to take from the book (I tend to either use the activity from the book or upgrade it, not come up with some new activity). If I can’t come up with anything, we will spend the “activity” time discussing the topic, with structure in the form of a bit of extra reading, alternative viewpoints and questions.

Pam Barnhill of https://edsnapshots.com/blog talks about ‘procedure lists’ and even offers neat looking forms for writing out procedures for your subjects in the Plan Your Year set. She talks about using these in history, geography and all sorts of subjects.

If you are doing a more formal science course this year, at home or elsewhere, what procedures do you foresee needing? I’m planning to write out procedures for

  • activity stations
  • dissections
  • microscope use
  • cleaning up

And I’ll have that procedure list out for students to reference each week.

 

General Science Syllabus

Here is my syllabus for the junior high general science class. Remember that we meet once per week, September through April. There are a few weeks we skip due to holidays, but it ends up being 28 weeks.

The Apologia textbooks are all 16 modules. So, most modules get 2 weeks while 2 modules get only 1 week.

The Syllabus

1. Each week, I expect you to read the assigned readings before class, and narrate them, either to yourself or someone else. Here is a video that explains narration really well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ubrs3cSHpw

2. Your nature journal is an important part of your education. Bring it to class every week, as we will add to it every week. You are welcome to add to it during the week, on your own.

3. As you can, take a walk and work to notice how the world around you works. Work to NOTICE, its a practiced skill.

4. I will not tolerate cheating of any sort. There are times you will work with a partner, but you each must do the work. If it is something to be done alone, I expect you to do it on your own. If it is to be done without access to book, I expect you to respect this.

5. If something doesn’t make sense, ASK! I cannot read your mind, and I don’t know when you don’t understand. Exposing your ignorance is the best way to rid yourself of that ignorance.

6. For those students that are interest in delving more deeply into a topic: you may ask for an additional project to do on your time, based on your interest. Or you may propose an addition project/collection (e.g. insect, flower/leaf, rock). Participating in Science Fair will require a fair bit from you. I am available to guide and assist as needed.

7. I will post addition resources on my blog: mamarachael.wordpress.com. Follow the link ‘General Science’ at the top.

8. If you are late to class, there will be a consequence according to the frequency of your lateness, the extremity of your lateness, and the general effectiveness of the consequence according to your character and personality. In other words, don’t be late.

Book: Exploring Creation with General Science, 2nd edition (by Wile)

Assigned reading (pages) Topic
Sept 8 1-15 History of Science
Sept 15 16-23 History of Science
Sept 22 24-34 History of Science
Sept 29 35-58 Scientific Inquiry
Oct 6 Scientific Inquiry
Oct 13 59-82 Doing Experiments
Oct 20 83-94 Science and Technology, aka Simple Machines
Oct 27 95-108 Science and Technology, aka Simple Machines
Nov 3 109-134 Archeology vs Geology vs Paleontology
Nov 10 135-158 Geology
Nov 17 Geology
Dec 1 Geology
Dec 8 159-184 Paleontology
Dec 15 185-214 More Geology
Jan 12 215-222 Life, what is it? Not merely DNA
Jan 19 223-233 Ecology of Life
Jan 26 233-240 Life, what is it? Could be just a cell
Feb 2 241-264 How do we classify life?
Feb 9 293-318 Life takes Energy….
Feb 16 Life takes Energy…
Feb 23 265-292 Human Physical Form
Mar 2 319-342 Human Physical Form
Mar 16 343-357 Human Physical Form
Mar 23 358-366 Human Physical Form
April 6 367-386 Human Physical Form
April 13 387-404, 417-418 Human Physical Form
April 20 405-416 Human Physical Form
April 27 418 Human Physical Form

General comments

Yes, this one looks a lot like the Biology one. Consistency makes it all easier for me.

Do you like my late policy? This gives me the flexibility I need when it’s not the student’s fault they are late, e.g. an older sibling is dropping them off and older sibling is the one running late.

I don’t list all the activities of that day because I found students don’t really read/remember those bits anyways. And this gives me the flexibility to set up each week as I feel is most helpful. This will change, likely, as the year progresses and I learn more of who these students are, their academic levels and personalities.

On the other hand, I do have a good idea of what activities we will do over this year. I will plan these out more specifically over this next week. Baby-steps!

I’ll cover how I plan to run class time in a later post. But please, feel free to ask questions!

Biology Class Syllabus

Here is my syllabus for the high school Biology class. Remember that we meet once per week, September through April. There are a few weeks we skip due to holidays, but it ends up being 28 weeks.

The Apologia textbooks are all 16 modules. So, most modules get 2 weeks while 2 modules get only 1 week.

The Syllabus

1. Each week, I expect you to read the assigned readings before class, and narrate them, either to yourself or someone else. Here is a video that explains narration really well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ubrs3cSHpw

2. Your nature journal is an important part of your education. Bring it to class every week, as we will add to it every week. You are welcome to add to it during the week, on your own.

3. As you can, take a walk and work to notice the living things around you. Trees, grass, bugs, birds. NOTICE them and aim to really see them. See how they interact with their surroundings. For example, you most often see dragonflies around water. See what you can add to your nature journal after that walk.

4. I will not tolerate cheating of any sort. There are times you will work with a partner, but you each must do the work. If it is something to be done alone, I expect you to do it on your own. If it is to be done without access to book, I expect you to respect this.

5. If something doesn’t make sense, ASK! I cannot read your mind, and I don’t know when you don’t understand. Exposing your ignorance is the best way to rid yourself of that ignorance.

6. For students in Grades 10, 11 and 12: You will do an additional outside project. You may chose from doing an insect collection or a leaf/flower collection. If you have another idea, ask me about it. Students in grade 9 may do this additional work, but it is not required.

7. I will post addition resources on my blog: mamarachael.wordpress.com. Follow the link ‘Science CM-Style’ at the top.

8. If you are late to class, there will be a consequence according to the frequency of your lateness, the extremity of your lateness, and the general effectiveness of the consequence according to your character and personality. In other words, don’t be late.

Book: Exploring Creation with Biology, 2nd Edition (by Wile and Durnell)

Assigned readings (pages) Topic
Sept 8 1-32 The Study of Life
Sept 15 37-53 Monera
Sept 22 53-62 Monera
Sept 29 67-79 Protista
Oct 6 79-92 Protista
Oct 13 97-120 Fungi
Oct 20 120-138 Chemistry of Life
Oct 27 139-156 Chemistry of life
Nov 3 161-176 The Cell
Nov 10 176-189 The Cell
Nov 17 195-222 Cell reproduction/DNA
Dec 1 Cell reproduction/DNA
Dec 8 227-256 Genetics
Dec 15 Genetics
Jan 12 261-280 Evolution/creation/the start of life
Jan 19 280-294 Evolution/creation/the start of life
Jan 26 299-324 Ecology
Feb 2 Ecology
Feb 9 429-462 Plantae
Feb 16 463-494 Plantae
Feb 23 392-360 Invertebrates
Mar 2 Invertebrates
Mar 16 361-376 Arthropoda
Mar 23 376-392 Arthropoda
April 6 393-403 Chordata: fishes
April 13 403-428 Chordata: amphibian
April 20 495-518 Reptiles, Birds and Mammals
April 27 518-530 Reptiles, Birds and Mammals

General comments

Do you like my late policy? This gives me the flexibility I need when it’s not the student’s fault they are late, e.g. an older sibling is dropping them off and older sibling is the one running late.

I don’t list all the activities of that day because I found students don’t really read/remember those bits anyways. And this gives me the flexibility to set up each week as I feel is most helpful. This will change, likely, as the year progresses and I learn more of who these students are, their academic levels and personalities.

On the other hand, I do have a good idea of what activities we will do over this year. I will plan these out more specifically over this next week. Baby-steps!

I’ll cover how I plan to run class time in a later post. But please, feel free to ask questions!

Traveling for Totality

Last week, we took a road trip to see totality. Totally. 😀

We could have stayed home and seen about 75% coverage of the sun, but since both Hubby and I turned 40 this year and we’ve never seen a total eclipse with our own eyes, we decided to drive. And this was going to be a location “easy” to get to (compared to get to some random island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean…)

And hubby really wanted to see the sun blotted out, at least for a time.

And it was worth it.

We drove up to Nebraska, and on that Monday, we drove west along with a great number of others seeking clear skies to see the eclipse.

IMG_0681

I-80 West

Yes, it was a “veritable river of plastic, steel and glass” said Hubby. And he was right.

We finally found our spot on intersecting dirt roads in the middle of corn fields.

 

It smelled *awful*. Stinky fertilizer. Of course, I think I was the only one that noticed.

It was awe inspiring. I wish I could have gotten a good picture of the eclipse, but I learned that getting a good photograph of the sun was really hard. But the 360′ sunset was quite photogenic. It was dark; you could feel the temp drop. It was eerie.

Our boys are getting good at road trips. Neither are ideal long distance car travelers yet, but at each road trip, they do better than the last one. I thought this blog post was great at expressing our ideas. From a greatly loved camping book, we learned the idea of 3 types of fun. Type 1 fun is stuff that is fun to do and fun to talk about it. Type 2 fun is no fun at the time but fun to talk about later. Type 3 fun is no fun at the time and not fun to talk about it later. We have found that when something is hard, labeling it as “Type 2 fun” is helpful. We can even begin to enjoy the experience at the moment.

And really, even if you have toddlers, it can still work. Maybe the toddler screams for hours or the baby doesn’t sleep. It can still be a good trip, because the toddler/baby isn’t going to remember and think of the stories! “Do you remember that trip where so-and-so refused to sleep at night? Oh, that was rough.”

Plus, the more you travel with the kids, the better everyone gets at it. Kids learn to travel well (or camp well, or hotel well) and parents learn what these specific kids need to do well. So, start young and do it often. It’s worth the work. At least, I think so!

Did you enjoy the solar eclipse? Did you travel? Do you think you’ll travel for the 2024 eclipse? We won’t…. because we are all ready in the path of totality!

General Science & Other Thoughts

In my last science post, I wrote up the list of supplies I was ordering for high school Biology. This time, I’ll tell you about the supplies for General Science.

Please keep in mind that there are also supplies I’ll purchase at the grocery store or hardware store, especially for general science. This a jr high level course, for 7th, 8th and 9th graders, so is more of a broad introduction to a variety of areas of science. The higher level the course, the more specialized materials you’ll need. For doing science with my own Year 1 student, unless we want to do something super crazy fun (which we do sometimes!) it’s all stuff we just have around the house.

For more on doing science with Littles, check out this post I wrote several years ago.

General Science Supplies

So, for general science, I plan to get from homesciencetools.com:

(1) Know Your Minerals Kit

(2) Know Your Rocks Kit

(3) Geology Field Trip in a Bag Kit

After going through the book, these were what I thought I couldn’t just get from a local store, but would be beneficial for students to work with. They are extras and the whole class will use the kits, but I think it will expand the student’s knowledge of geology in a fun way. Hands-on is always good!

There will be some sharing between Biology and General Science. I’m not set on what those things are, but it will likely be the frog hatchery kit, the root viewer kit and the carnivorous fungi. I’ll make sure that the schedules for the courses line up so both classes can experience what these things offer.

They will all get a nature journal for keeping track of what they learn. This is one form of narration that is super useful in science.

Homesciencetools.com is having a 10% off sale if your order through Aug 15.

Science Fair!

These are the years for science fair! Around here, the local homeschool organization hosts a science fair, and many schools will host one also. I know 7th grade is when most students do science fair, though older students can participate also. Your student will need to decide soon on a topic, as the local fair is usually held in the fall. Should your student place in 1st, 2nd or 3rd, they will get to go to the regional fair. Even if your student has no desire to really pursue doing science fair, it can be a good experience for doing an extended experiment with the requirements of keeping good records, documenting the steps and the results and presenting the results to others. Here in Texas, the fair is “The Science & Engineering Fair”, so most any topic within the sciences or engineering is acceptable. If you are in the Waco area and your students wants to participate, there is a teacher/parent informational meeting on Sept 12 at Baylor University. There is a cost to attend, but its minimal if you are a homeschooling parent. Contact me if you want more information about this.

 

 

High School Biology, CM-style

This next school year (2017 – 2018), I’m teaching 2 classes at one of the local co-ops. We meet once a week, on Friday from Sept through April. I’m teaching high school Biology and jr high general science. For both classes, we are using the Apologia text, which students are required to obtain for themselves.

I plan to run this class as Charlotte Mason-esque as I can muster. I’m familiar with CM philosophies when it comes to teaching, but this is the first time I’m teaching a high school class and applying those philosophies. So, there will be some muddling through, because I still need the class to be rigorous enough to prepare these students for an AP-Biology class or a entrance level college class. I don’t think CM means it can’t be this, but when she was writing 100 years ago, science was a different animal. (ha! pun intended!)

I have set up a page that you can find the link to at the top that will have links to all my CM science class notes.

There are some supplies that are high dollar, but are also for long term use. Like a microscope. Really, you gotta have a microscope. You can get one on amazon for between $100 and $200, you can get a nicer one for $300 to $400. And this is the sort of thing you will use through out jr high and high school. This one is a good beginning scope, as you can use it for a greater variety of objects, and its less than $150.

I also have a sets of slides (for microscope use) purchased in previous years. Homesciencetools.com has slides specifically for Apologia Biology. They have sets designed for other curriculums also.

In fact, Homesciencetools.com has bundles with the basics of what you need to do the Apologia Biology. I’m not getting those for my co-op because I already have slides, and because of our schedule, I cannot just get all the dissection specimens at once. If you order the bundle, e.g. the dissection bundle for Apologia Biology, you will get the dissection kit (nice!) and the 4 specimens all in one bag (ooky!). Unless you are going to dissect all 4 in 1 month, you will want to get stuff separately. And don’t buy dissection specimens until you are within 6 months of using them. Yes, you get stuck with more shipping charges, unfortunately, but this is science. And you don’t want your child or students dissecting a partially decayed specimen. Of course, if you are doing this just within your family, you can schedule your time so that you do the dissections all in one month.

I will link to the items I’m getting for my class. I compared prices and availability between homesciencetools.com, amazon.com and carolina.com.

The advantage of doing a class like this in a class is that the cost of some items are shared across the class. I will (or have) purchase a set of petri dishes, agar (2 bottles), corral, sponge specimen, pond jars and protozoa mixture that the whole class will use. Scalpel blades and pins for dissection come in numbers for the whole class.

I want to get, for the whole class use, a frog hatchery kit, a root viewer kit and a carnivorous fungi kit. I think the supply fee will allow for these 3.

Per set of 2 students, I will get these items. Frog, crayfish, earthworm, perch, scalpel, probe and dissection tray. As funds and time allow, I’ll also get grasshopper, clam, starfish and pig. The pig is a higher priority than the others, so if it turns out that time or funds are tight, I’ll skip grasshopper, clam and starfish and just do a pig. And if I need to do it more as a demonstration, we can do that.

The ‘as time and funds allow’ items are things not specifically talked about in the book, but I think would add to the students understanding of the biological world. And should add to their ‘wow’ factor for the biological world. Because the biological world is just crazy awesome and worth going “wow” for.

And, of course, a nature notebook. I found ones I liked better on amazon, but the one offered here is a better price and still good enough for the beginning nature journaller. I have basic colored pencils, which I know are not ideal, but I’d rather spend more on the biology supplies than on the colored pencils. Yes, I know my CM priorities might be off, but we will deal. This will serve as their ‘lab notebook’ as they draw what they see in the microscope or on the dissection tray. This is another reason to have students work in pairs… one person works the specimens, the other draws, then they switch.

Don’t forget to get gloves. Any time you work with a live specimen or dead one, wear gloves. The formaldehyde that dissection specimens are in will stink up your skin horribly, and, really, you don’t want some random whatever on your skin. And always wash hands with soap well after dealing in these things.

There are books that will help along the way. There are dissection guides for anything you might dissect. There are good books and articles to round out the reading. I will talk about these as we reach that part of the year.

Are there supplies you’d add to this list? What is scary or overwhelming for you? How can I help you be a better biology teacher?

schedule adjustments and help sleeping

Ah, I missed getting this post up as I had scheduled in my mind. Sure, a sick baby doesn’t help, but really, I am my worst enemy on these things.

Adjusting the schedule

I realized very quickly, that although my laid out schedule was well received, due to various factors, we rarely get through one whole day’s worth of stuff. Laying it out like this made sure I got the weekly subjects in on a reasonable schedule, but we couldn’t just start at the top for the new day. Yes, Little Man might like that, but we would miss much of the feast that comes later in the list. So, Loop it, I did. This changed nothing but my own thinking on this, really. I have a little sticky arrow that I stick on where-ever we happen to stop when we do stop, and that’s where we start up the next time we start up. Yes, we want to be more consistent, but with swim parties and park playdates… and sick baby brother, life happens. This is something I love about homeschooling, and about Charlotte Mason and AmblesideOnline, if something ain’t working, adjust and try again.

Sleep

Did you know that sleep is the “little death”? I think this is a philosopher’s thing, for when we need to talk about what it is to be a person and other ethical arguments¹. But in our house, the littles seems to think that sleep is something to be avoided at nearly all costs. At least, this is what Little Man’s 6 years of life has been like. I was reading an ad-disguised-as-a-blog-post about ‘weighted blankets’, and thought this might help him sleep well (and longer). Commercially, these blankets are over $100, and I was not about to drop that much on a ‘it might help’. So, what does this mama do? She looks up how to make it! It’s not complicated but it takes a bit of finesse to stitch the rows after filling will the beads². And after 2 nights with it, Little Man slept a bit later both mornings! He says he likes it, which counts for a lot. Hubby wanted one and now I want one, too. Weighted blankets all around!

 


¹ I would be happy to talk more this, but this section wasn’t the place for it. Consider such questions: What makes someone a person? As in, they have personhood? This has impact on how we might treat them and what rights they have. Does someone in a coma have personhood? Does an embryo have personhood? Is consciousness needed for personhood? What about when you are asleep, do you still have personhood? This drastically simplifies the issue, but I am not a philosopher… I’m just married to one.

² I’d be happy to point you to where I figured these things out. Start with this link. Let me know if you have more questions.

Timelines and Schedules, CM style

I am so proud of myself! I got our timeline up and got a schedule laid out for our school time. I have felt so busy with a lot to do, and I’m struggling to keep the important separate from the merely urgent. But, in my struggle, I’m overcoming, so feeling some success.

Timeline

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Charlotte Mason talks about helping children gain a sense of history:

Once Intellect admits us into the realms of History, we live in a great and stirring world, full of entertainment and sometimes of regret; and at last we begin to understand that we, too, are making History, and that we are all part of the whole; that the people who went before us were all very like ourselves, or else we should not be able to understand them. (Ourselves, pg 37)

Plan to work with Little Man to create a personal timeline of a sort, but I think our timeline on the wall will help put all the various things we read about into perspective. As we come across something in our reading, I’m creating little 2 inch pictures (images gleaned via an online search… you’ll have to go find your own) that we can tape on the timeline in the appropriate spot. And I have a picture of us, as a family, to also go up in the appropriate place.

I chose a format that has it out in the open, as opposed to in a book, as I think it’s something that will get looked at more often. We often stop and look at the maps we have out on the wall, but sometimes getting a book out to look is just too much work, or a guest might not know we have that in a book. This timeline, however, is free for anyone to inspect, and will likely start some conversations, just as our maps have. And this is for the next few years. I know I’ll want my own book of centuries and timeline book for my own use soon enough. (yeah, I’m a nerd.)

A Schedule

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Well, it’s not a “schedule” with times on it, but it does give an order. We found that Little Man works better have a clearly defined set of tasks, though he does argue if it’s not an ordering he likes. Having “free read” last is not something he would choose.

‘Content Read’ is a reading that varies each day, and I wasn’t sure what to call it. Today we read “The Brave 300” from Fifty Famous Stories Retold and yesterday the reading was from The Burgess Bird Book.

I wrote out, on index card, each subject for a week’s worth of school. I did this for 4 days a week, since (1) I’m not worried about finishing all of Year 1 in one year and (2) when co-op starts in Sept, we will only have the 4 days, assuming we do school every weekday. Yes, I’ll have to figure out doing our errand running and doing school both on one day. Others have figured this out, I can, too.

I color coded each subject by the ‘type’ of work it required. For example, those subjects that require oral narration*, I coded blue. I grouped all the music study, picture study, poetry and free read together (red) since they are a lot of input type work, and less output. Copy work, nature study, drawing, timeline (which has replaced recitation), and geography were grouped b/c they require some kind of hand work (writing, etc). Bob Book (phonics/reading) and Chinese are group because they are both strongly language learning focused. Recitation got moved to the bottom, and timeline was put in its place, as I feel it will happen outside of school time most weeks.

My laying out of the subjects in the order they are in is designed to separate like subjects. When I was happy with the ordering, I taped them to the poster board.  I’ve seen this type of scheduling in other places, and you can even buy cards from at least one place. I’m more happy with the index cards… I didn’t have to buy anything new to do, and it also means I didn’t feel bad when Little Man decided to draw an arrow on one in an attempt to trade 2 subjects. He wanted “Free Read” to come earlier in the line up. This affirms my thought that the free read is a motivation to get through the other, less loved things.

I like doing stuff with my own hands, so both these items were right up my alley. I hope the ideas help others figure out what will work in their homes. What ways have you done a history timeline? How do you organize your school time?


*narration, at its simplest, is telling back what you read or heard. This is a central part of the student both showing that they were paying attention and giving the student the chance to process the ideas he heard/read. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. At this age, in year 1, students do oral narration, such that they tell about what they heard or read. Later, students will begin written narrations, such that they write down about what they heard or read.

A week in review, June 23 to 29

A fun week. A full week. I hope not every week is this busy.

We built a fort from ‘craft sticks’. Yes, Little Man wielded the glue for most of the building.

Glue!

Glue!

Concentrate...

Concentrate…

Towards the end, I just let him build it himself. It has a very creative design, I must say.

The fort.

The fort.

He decided at one point that he didn’t have enough blocks.

Look at what I built!

Look at what I built!

We tried some ‘giant bubble solution’. It might be because I wasn’t using actual blue Dawn, but they most all popped as soon as they came off the bubble blowing device. The string-straw device didn’t work all that great, though perhaps my straws were wimpier than the ones another blogger used.

string and straw bubble blowing

string and straw bubble blowing

The PVC pipe made the best bubbles and was easiest to use. I knew I was keeping that short bit around for some reason!

PVC pipe bubble blowing

PVC pipe bubble blowing

Standing on ones hands has become a key skill to be developed in our house these days.

I LOVE standing on my hands!

I LOVE standing on my hands!

I finally got *both* of my sewing machines in for repairs. Though while checking them in at the store, I found that one machine didn’t have a pressure foot. So, back the next day we went to drop off the pressure foot. We had some time, so we stayed to look. I was totally eyeing up a serger and the gal offered to demonstrate it for me. Little Man wasn’t being the most cooperative, so she said to an early-teens-or-so gal to go get the box of toys. Then the gal sat down and played with Little Man while her mom, turns out, demonstrated the use of the serger. When the gal got bored, her brother stepped in and he and Little Man built trucks, trains and buildings from duplos. And I got to see a new serger in action. If you are in Waco, and are in need of sewing machine service or are wanting to buy a machine, go to the Bernina store on Waco Drive. I was very impressed with their service.

I ended up tossing the water bottle. I found a crack along the bottom, which sealed its fate. :::sigh:::