A Daring Question, One Remarkable Discussion

Inspired by Miss Penelope Lumley (see The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place), I decided to attempt to read a beautiful poem to my children today.

I didn’t know how it would go. But Miss Lumley often reads poetry to children raised by wolves, so I thought it could not be as bad as that.

Or perhaps it could be as bad as that, but certainly not worse than that. My kids haven’t been raised by wolves, at least. So I told my kids to gather ’round.

Note: They did complain. But I scolded them a little and they have learned to just go along with Mom when she gets in these moods.

So I started with the first poem in the book Christmas Poems called Ring Out, Wild Bells by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

I cleared my throat and read out the title of the poem, the poet’s name, and the dates he lived, which happen to be 1809-1892.

Then, before thinking, on an impulse, I asked a daring question that came to my mind, “Do we know about anything that happened when the poet was alive?”

My oldest (14) said, “The war of 1812 would have happened when he was really young, like three or four.”

My middle child (9) said, “Next comes the Missouri Compromise.”

Then all three children, 6, 9, and 14, proceeded to say the Classical Conversations timeline from the Missouri Compromise through World War 1.

Some of you will know what this includes. For those who do not, they said from memory:

“Immigrants flock to America, the Monroe Doctrine, Romantic Period of the Arts…”

At this, I looked down at the poem and asked the girls, “I wonder if Tennyson is considered a Romantic poet. He wrote this in the Romantic period of the arts.”

They all nodded. We all continued.

“Cherokee Trail of Tears, US Westward Expansion, Marx publishes the Communist Manifesto, the Compromise of 1850 and the Dread Scott Decision, US restores trade with Japan, British Queen Victoria’s rule of over India, Darwin publishes the Origin of Species, Lincoln’s war between the states.”

At this, my fourteen year old noted out loud that he would have lived through the Civil War!

We all said, “Wow!” and then kept going with the timeline:

“Reconstruction of the Southern States, Dominion of Canada, Otto Von Bismarck Unified Germany, Boar Wars in Africa, the Spanish American War, the Progressive Era, Australia becomes a commonwealth, Mexican Revolution, World War 1.”

Once we got to World War 1, they said, “He would not have been alive anymore. That was the early 1900s.” Note that they said this to one another and I only agreed with them.

So we stopped reciting the timeline.

Then my oldest said, “He wouldn’t have been alive in the Mexican Revolution either.”

“How would she know that?” I thought to myself.

Then I answered my own question when I remembered that she’s in Challenge 1 this year and she has to read and annotate original American documents, including Defense of the Alamo and Taney’s Dread Scott Decision, two documents about events that would’ve happened around the time, so her understanding of America’s timeline is being refined and filled in beautifully- That’s how.

Note: I have since checked her dates and she’s right. The Mexican Revolution happened in 1910-20, so Tennyson wasn’t alive then.

So then, after this brief discussion, which was mostly a recitation of the timeline we have all memorized, we read the poem, now with an idea of when the poet lived. I didn’t know if this would matter, since it was a poem about Christmas/ New Year, etc.

But I read it.

And I did not read it well.

And the children wiggled.

When it was over, we sat in silence for a few moments.

Then my middle child (9), said, “Isn’t there a part of the poem that mentions war?”

I found where it says, “Ring out the thousand wars of old” and pointed it out to her.

She said, “Yes. I thought so. He lived through many wars.”

Then my oldest (14) said, “He mentions ‘lust for gold.’ The westward expansion would have happened in his life time. That includes the gold rush.”

Now, since this conversation happened a few hours ago, I can look at the poem and see so much more, too.

Tennyson mentions the “feud of rich and poor.” The Communist Manifesto, published in his lifetime, must speak of that some, too.

I’m so glad I attempted to read the poem today!

And I am glad that I dared to ask that question!

It lead us into one remarkable discussion I don’t want to ever forget! (So I am posting it here.)

Credit goes to CC’s memory work, specifically, their timeline and my daughter’s Challenge 1 reading assignments.

Adele Is Doing Some Preschool Work


My youngest is so proud to be doing school work with her big sisters now. She is learning her letters and their sounds, learning to use scissors, and doing some counting, up to thirty at this point, using various and sundry items like buttons, etc. And just look at that face!  She’s so cute and enthusiastic that it is quite difficult not to have a class favorite at times!

Our Second Year of Classical Conversations Comes to an End

We’ve finished our second year of Classical Conversations.

Here’s a photo of the Essentials students on their final day of class when they presented their Faces of History essays.  They all dressed up as the famous American they did their reports on.  My daughter is in the Native American costume. She did her report on Sacagawea.


My oldest daughter also prepared for Memory Masters testing this year, our first experience with that process.  She made it through the tutor proof, arguably the hardest part, but in the weeks between the tutor test and the final, director proof, she decided to quit. There were many tears and much confusion, but I decided to let her have her way and drop out.  I didn’t push her to finish, badly as I wanted to, easy as it would have been to do so.

Looking back, I can see that she didn’t really want to do Memory Masters badly enough all along. She said she did.  But I was the one who reminded her to study everyday.  I was confused by this, but I thought it was just immaturity on her part and she needed the structure I provided. But, I was a tutor this year for the first time, too. And now that I have tested a few of the other students during this process, I can compare her performance with theirs and now there is no doubt in my mind that her heart wasn’t in it. The answers flew out of those kids’ mouths. They were eager to perform. They were frustrated when they made even the smallest mistake.  Though my daughter knew the material, she was always slow to respond, quick to make mistakes because she wasn’t really focusing, slow to correct her mistakes, etc. All of these should have been tell-tale signs that she wasn’t really interested in Memory Masters. I share this experience because it may help another mom and child out there avoid the drama we went through. A kid can be able to do it all day long, but they also have to want to do it without prodding.

Lesson learned.

Next year, I’m not reminding any of my children to study.  If they want to test for Memory Masters, they’ll be reminding me that it’s time.


I attended a Classical Conversations Webinar called “Cultivating Learning: Creating a Parent Practical Learning Plan.” I am already doing what the webinar suggested because I have been working through a Saxon math text the last few months.  I wrote down a bunch of notes and titles of books I want to read.  It was a very encouraging, inspiring, motivating Webinar.


My middle daughter recently finished one of her Kumon books. When she started the book, her scissor skills were appalling. There would be nothing left of anything she tried to cut out! She has greatly improved.  I love these books.


I am trying another spelling program with my oldest.  This will be the forth spelling program we’ve tried.


This time, we’re doing Phonetic Zoo Spelling. I’m going to let my daughter use it for a while before I really rave about it, but I am hopeful this one will work for us longterm and in ways the other programs have not.


Our Classical Conversations group had it’s Field Day and Awards Ceremony yesterday. I gave the kids in my class some handmade bookmarks with their names on them.IMG_0676

One of the dads cooked burgers and dogs and we all brought sides.  The weather was perfect. It was a glorious day.

The older Challenge kids lead the Foundations kids in games.  Here’s a photo of my middle daughter running in a game that I think they called Pony Express. She looks very intense, but she was trying to get through before a big kid caught her.  She told me later, “I want you to sign me up for a real race like you do sometimes, because I’m fast, Mom.”  10993121_10206126147020171_46973248203671107_oI brought my parachute and took the kids through some games at the end of the day.  Here we are playing “catapult” with my teddy bear.


11246852_10206126132739814_6477253407371351563_nHere’s a picture of my middle daughter and one of her classmates. They were Abecedarians in the youngest class on campus this year.

One of the things I love most about Classical Conversations is the community. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, kids of all ages from high school to infants, are together for “school” events like this. Or is it a “family” event? I guess it’s both! I imagine this is what school events were like in early American villages.  Classical Conversations allows kids to go to school while also remaining a part of their families. I feel so incredibly thankful for this unique, healthy, intelligent, spirit-filled community my kids and I are enjoying.

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My youngest child was worn out from all the fun.  Here she’s sleeping, holding the bear on the way home from the park.


Review Games For Classical Conversations- Revised

I have been tutoring the Apprentice class for my Classical Conversations group since January.  Here are some review games I’ve used in class.



I had this Silly Socks game by Pressman Chimp and Zee. The game comes with a bunch of cardboard socks and some underwear.  Note: I didn’t use the underwear.  First, I cut out a few more pairs of socks from craft foam so that I had enough pairs to cover six weeks of memory work.  Then I attached memory cards to the back of the socks with tape and put the socks in the dryer.  When it was time to play, I held the dryer and students took turns coming up and pulling out one of the socks.  They had to try and recite the memory work one the card attached to the sock they pulled.  We laid their socks out on the floor in front of us and worked together to see how many matches the class could make before the time was up. I brought a little basket for storing the matches.




I wore a black eye patch and tried to talk like a pirate while I introduced this game to the class. Avast!  I brought a velvet bag full of acrylic gems, a treasure chest, and the memory cards for the six weeks we needed to review arranged randomly on a ring.  Students took turns answering the review cards. If they could recite the information on the card without help, I gave the scaly wags two of me gems. Arg! If they needed help, I gave them only one of me precious gems.  They worked together to collect as many gems as possible in the treasure chest by the end of class.

Build a puzzle.

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I purchased a large floor puzzle of the United States and attached the memory cards to the back of the states.  Before the game began, I had the students work together to quickly build the border of the puzzle on the floor.  Then students took turns pulling the states from a bag and trying to recite the information from the card attached to the state they pulled.  We reviewed the capitals as we went and I let the student put their state in place when they were done with their turn. This was a great game after we finished all states and capitals.

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?


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In winter, when there was a bunch of snow on the ground, I cut out a bunch of snow man pieces from poster board and construction paper.  I attached one or more magnets to the back of each piece as needed, depending on size.  I folded and stored them in a box used for gift-wrapping garments left over from Christmas.  I brought in six weeks of memory cards in a ring and students took turns.  If they could recite the memory work without help, they got two pieces of snowman.  If they needed help, they got one.  We built the snow man from the snow up.



Near Easter, I brought in an Easter basket, a plush, bunny ball, and six weeks of memory cards arranged randomly on a ring. I split the group into two teams. I went back and forth, team to team, giving each student a turn. Students who were able to recite the memory work on the next card without help got two tries at the basket. If they needed any help, they got one shot.  We kept score on the board with tally marks.

Climb The Mountain



I printed a mountain climber from Google images, attached a magnet to his back, and covered him with contact paper.  I drew a diagonal line up my board and marked off approximately twenty four steps. (By experience, that’s about how many questions we manage to get through in thirty minutes.) I brought in six weeks of memory cards and gave the students turns. If they could recite the information on the next card on the ring, they moved the mountain climber twice.  If they needed my help, they moved him one step closer.  This game was great when we were learning mountains in geography.

Dot to Dot





Using a dot to dot from one of my daughters’ books, I created a dot to dot on my board.  I arranged the memory cards at random on a key ring.  Kids who could recite the memory work on the card without help, got to connect two dots.  Students who needed help, got to do one.

To the Moon!

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I printed a space shuttle and a moon, attached magnets to the back with tape, and then covered them both with contact paper.  I drew approximately twenty marks straight up the side of the board.  Students took turns trying to recite the memory work at random from the last six weeks. If they did it without help, they moved the shuttle two spaces. If they needed help, they moved it one.  This game was great after we learned about astronauts.

Homeschool Update

It’s been a while since I have posted on here.  I thought I’d give an update of our homeschool right now.

We’re almost finished with this year of Classical Conversations.  It’s the second year of Foundations for my two oldest children, the second year of Essentials for my oldest.

My oldest daughter wants to try for Memory Masters.  She isn’t testing as well as she should at this point in the process, but she still has a few weeks to prepare and she has a knack for memorizing, so she may yet accomplish it.  I do not do a consistent enough job reviewing the memory work with my kids at home. If I did, she would be in a much better position to test for Memory Masters at this point.  Reviewing memory work is something I’d like to improve on as we continue with Classical Conversations in the future.


My oldest daughter has also finished up some of her textbooks. This is a North American bird book she put together when she finished Abeka’s Understanding God’s World 4.IMG_0525 IMG_0526

She also finished Math U See’s Delta and has already moved into Epsilon.  We will eventually make the switch over the Saxon Math as their 8/7 book is what she will use in Classical Conversations Challenge Level A.  But we have at least one full year before that is necessary, so I want to continue with Math U See through their book Zeta, at least.


Our analytical task sheets are growing more challenging as the year’s end approaches, especially now that we are doing Quid Et Quo with each sentence.  My daughter recently broke both her arms playing with an active group of pre-teens at the YMCA, so she changed one of the sentences that was about a boy breaking a leg to make it more personal.  IMG_0524

We are working on her final paper for this year now. She’s writing about Sacagawea and she has to be in costume when she reads it for her class on the final day, so we already purchased that.  (I love Amazon Prime.)  IMG_0458

My middle daughter is six and she is learning to read.  She’s a different kid than my first and I’m a different mom now, so it’s taking longer and I am not as stressed about that.  We’re on our second tour of the short vowel pages in Abeka’s Handbook for Reading.  We read a page everyday.  We also use Bob’s Books here and there.

She’s also working through Math U See’s Primer, Writing With Ease 1, Zanier Bloser Handwriting 1, and First Language Lessons 1.  IMG_0537

I’ve been tutoring for the second half of this year at Classical Conversations. Not much is different because I tutor, but some weeks my kids presentations suffer because I don’t have as much time as I used to to help them prepare the day before.  I find it helps to look at the presentation schedule weeks in advance and work ahead.  This coming week, both my daughters are reciting something from memory.  My oldest is doing the Gettysburg Address and my middle child is reciting Dapple Grey, one of favorite Mother Goose Rhymes that she also happens to like.




The reality of homeschooling three kids in addition to all that I am already responsible for begins to sink in. Needless to say, homeschooling was much easier when I had younger and fewer kids. I am sometimes overwhelmed to be honest. But then I think it through and for many old reasons and some new ones, I commit myself anew to this good, worthwhile work.

Learning The Grammar For Myself- Cycle 3 Week 13


Like I said in the previous post, I will start tutoring when we return to Classical Conversations after winter break.  Tutoring is already forcing me to take learning the grammar much more seriously.  As a mom, I just didn’t have to really know the grammar. But, as a tutor, I feel I’ve got to know it, because the kids will be looking to me to help them when they get stuck.

I have been brainstorming and solidifying my plans for Week 13 Cycle 3.  I went a little “A Beautiful Mind” on the grammar for week 13.  I’m a visual learner.  These print outs aren’t for my class. They’re just for me. I enjoy looking up at this board so much more than the lists of facts. The pictures are serving to trigger my memory and I find that I can just sit and admire this board and review the memory work for week 13 in my mind.  But I keep my Foundations guide nearby, so I can review the material word for word whenever I get hung up.

A Word About Presentations


This week my kids are supposed to come up with a persuasive speech for Classical Conversations.

I asked them what they thought they would like to try and persuade people to do and the best idea they came up with was “watch Star Wars.”


I decided to just go ahead and pick the topic myself.

I picked “Why You Should Exercise.”  I teach exercise classes part-time, so it is something I am passionate about and I thought my kids ought to know why I bother.

We discussed what we already know about exercise and then together, around the computer, we did a little research on Google and we came up with a list of ten reasons why people should exercise. This turned our presentation preparation into an impromptu science lesson of sorts.

Next, I found one image on Google images to use for each reason.  Depending on the images, I let the kids come over and help me choose.

Note: I use a lot of Google images for presentations, especially for my five year old, since pictures help her remember the points of her presentation because she isn’t reading well enough to use notes.

You can see my daughter above holding up the image for “Exercise helps reduce excess body fat.”

This week, I am also letting my ten year old use pictures for the sake of ease and humor. She thinks her friends are going to laugh hysterically at the image of a toothless old man running in a track suit that we are using for “Exercise helps you live a longer life.”

I will often help my kids create these little books using sheet protectors and ring binders. These little books can be slippery, but with some practice, my kids have gotten used to holding them up for their class to see and turning the pages without too much trouble. It has been a way to create visuals for presentations with little trouble.



Building Forts


When my kids wanted to build a fort today, I told them “Fine.” But then I yelled downstairs, “Only two blankets!”

You see, quite often, in the past, my kids have spent so much time and energy building their forts that they never actually have the energy or interest to play inside them before it is time to take their forts down.

As important as their creativity is, I also think it’s sad that in all that fort-building, they may never actually leave their childhood with vivid memories of being in their forts. So I try and help them by limiting how many blankets they get to use and it seems to work. From my seat upstairs, I can hear them now giggling and chatting from underneath their covers, playing games with their imagination.

If you will follow me for a moment, I’d like to say that the same kind of thing is often true for homeschooling moms. We home school moms can easily spend too much time “building our forts” like our kids.  We research, shop, organize, fuss, and plan so long and when everything is finally ready, we have very little energy or enthusiasm left over to actually teach our children every day, day in and day out, at home.

Moms of grade school children will approach me, wringing their hands, asking, “What math do you use?”  I don’t often answer this question directly. I usually ask them, “What have you been using?”  Many times, they answer me, “Nothing.” and their children are too old for them to be asking this question. That’s when I tell them to choose the program they’ve heard about, whatever it is, (it’s usually always a good one) and just start doing it.

I have to be very careful with this in my own life and by the grace of God, at times, I have often felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart and restrain me when I was tempted to get caught up in details that aren’t essential. As a homeschooling mom, I want to actually teach my kids at home, not just play school with my kids.

The worst that could happen, that has happened to me, is the program I pay so much for doesn’t work.

No, actually, the worst that could happen is I don’t ever choose a program and my kids don’t learn something they need to learn and I fail them. (That sounds harsh, but I think that is true.)

The Lord has taught me to just choose a resource and teach from it, teach from it, teach from it everyday, day in, day out. Consistency is more important than novelty.

If something isn’t working well for whatever reason, the Lord has taught me the freedom to just throw it out right away and get started on something different as soon as possible (and often that is as soon as I can afford to replace it, which might be a while).

It’s like when your kids build a fort, climb into it, and it collapses for some reason.  The effort isn’t wasted.   Your kids learn from that experience and quickly adjust and build it differently the next time.

I’ve learned most of what I know about home schooling by just doing it. I know other home school moms would say the same thing.

Researching, planning, building, improving, organizing, and even decorating a home school can be fun (and overwhelming at times). But teaching my kids how to read or write or divide at home- that is the authentic home schooling experience I actually want. It’s like building forts, then crawling in them and making memories.