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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Facepalm.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Socks!

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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.

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Pirates! 

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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.

Basketball

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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

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.”

So…

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.

 

 

Classical Conversations Weekly Presentations- I Help My Kids Prepare and Practice

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Every week at Classical Conversations my kids do a presentation for their group of peers. I help them prepare these presentations at home and then we practice their presentations at least once before going to Classical Conversations.

So I help my kids, but I try not to help too much.  It’s a delicate balance, one that I am still perfecting with practice every week and adjusting as they become more and more capable.

Experience is the best teacher.

I have tried to send my kids into the next room to prepare their presentations on their own without any guidance from me…  Psh!  That created frustration and serious drama and in the end, tears.

There were other times when I helped them prepare at home, but I didn’t make them practice their presentations at least once at home.  That also ended badly with growing anxiety in class as the time for presentations approached and tears welling up in their eyes as they stood in front of their peers feeling unprepared.

So I find I have to help them prepare or at the very least, guide their preparation, and we have to practice, at least once, but after that, I relax and so do they and presentations are more of a joy and less of a stress.

How I Teach the Classical Conversations Bible Memory Verse and Timeline

This year I am teaching the Bible memory verse and timeline facts during our Classical Conversations groups’ assembly time.

Note: I don’t think every single CC group teaches the memory verse or timeline during the assembly time, but ours does.

I’ve come up with a system, of sorts, that works for me. Maybe it will help other CC moms who are responsible for the same job.

First, let’s talk about tools.  Every job, however little, needs the right tools.

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I use:

  • a very basic 2 foot by 3 foot white board with an oak frame and trey (the trey is very important because that’s where I prop up the timeline cards)
  • a black and blue dry erase marker (I use these colors for specific reasons that I will explain below)
  • a white-board eraser (so I won’t have to use my fingers- I hate that- if I need to erase something)
  • timeline cards (available through CC’s catalog/ website)
  • a small binder clip (to hold the seven timeline cards I need each week)
  • a photo copy of page 135 of my Foundations guide in a sheet protector (so I can review the verses without pulling out my Foundations guide)
  • a tote bag (to carry everything but the white board)

I pack all this up the night before and bring it with me to CC.

Note: I may ask to keep the white board in a closet at the church where we do CC, since after only three weeks, the oak frame is already getting loose. I am very careful with it, but the white board is still beginning to show signs of wear since it is not made to travel.

When I get to CC, I prop the white board against a little desk on the stage. That puts it at eye level for most of the audience.

Then I write out the verse in black. That’s always the easiest color to see.

Then I underline the words in the verse that have motions to them in blue. This helps me remember at a glance which words have motions and which motions to teach.

I have been using the hand motions on Andrea Jordan’s You Tube videos.

Note: I chose to start with the English translation of John 1:1-7 first, even though CC says to start with the Latin.  I thought the English would be more meaningful to a group of people who don’t speak or understand Latin yet. And when we learn the Latin translation of John 1:1-7 the second part of the year, the kids and parents will know the motions, so that way, they will better understand what the Latin means as they say it.

After I say the verse out loud for everyone, everyone repeats the verse at least once, maybe twice, and then I teach motions one at a time, and then we do the motions as we say the verse.

After that, I pull out my timeline cards and I say them in order, loudly, as I line them up on the trey. The seven cards fit perfectly across the trey on the 2 foot by 3 foot white board I have.

Then I quickly teach the motions to each timeline fact/ timeline card.  I try to use the same motions that Classical Conversations uses in the official timeline video on their website for consistency. When I don’t understand the motions or when I can’t tell what they are exactly, I watch CCRockStarz You Tube videos to get a better idea.

I usually practice going through all the new material the night before.  It takes me about twenty minutes to watch the videos and then rehearse everything once.

 

 

A Mom’s Review of PreScripts- American History Edition

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My nine almost ten year old is using the American History Prescripts book this year.

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Each week, she will copy a history sentence twice and then complete an art lesson/ drawing activity to illustrate and go along with that sentence.

This first week of Classical Conversations, she copied a sentence about Columbus and completed a drawing of a sailing vessel at sea.

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This book is a good fit for my particular daughter for three, particular reasons:

  • She is enrolled in Classical Conversations
  • She already knows how to write in cursive and
  • She likes to draw

The history sentences in this book are the same history sentences my daughter is learning and memorizing through Classical Conversations each week. If she were not a part of a Classical Conversations group, the sentences might not be meaningful to her and they probably would not be timed with what we were doing in history, so I probably would not choose to use this book if we were not a part of Classical Conversations.  I would just find another source for copy work ideas.

My daughter has already completed Zanier Bloser Handwriting workbooks K, 1, 2, and is almost done with workbook 3, so she knows how to write in cursive well enough and does not need much instruction, review, or practice in forming each letter and then putting those letters together to make words. This book provides only one page of review for cursive letters a-z, so it is a more advanced book and kids really should have a firm grasp on forming their cursive letters and making words before using this book.

My daughter also loves to draw and is very confident when given a pencil, pen, paper, paints, etc.  She can copy and even customize just about any image. When she chose peregrine falcons for her presentation this week, she was able to draw a peregrine falcon from a image I found on the computer. That is something she does with regularity and enthusiasm. If she were not that confident of an artist, I might hesitate to give her this book because the drawings students are asked to reproduce are complicated.

There is a good reason for this.  The drawings in the book are based on real artwork done by real artists.  For instance, a drawing lesson on Point of View that my daughter will do in two weeks shows Native Americans watching colonists build a fort from where they are standing in the woods.

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Apparently, this drawing is based on a real piece of artwork by Sidney E. King.  I did a quick search on Google and I found a painting that is almost identical to the drawing.

I like this because it follows the classical model: teach kids how to draw by letting them model great drawings.  Don’t expect them to just know how to make a good piece of artwork innately.  Teach kids to write by letting them model great pieces of writing. Don’t expect small children to be capable of writing amazing stories innately.

But if my daughter were less confident and more apt to stress because she could not reproduce the drawings in this book, I might choose something else or tell her to skip the drawing exercises all together. I sit next to her and tutor her at elbow for many, many subjects that often stress her out like math and spelling and writing, etc. so drawing is not another subject I, personally, would want to have to sit and walk her through step by step.  I like the fact that this copy work book provides her with meaningful, yet independent practice. But if my daughter couldn’t do this book independently, I am not sure it would be worth the trouble of adding it to our home school day.

That said, as it is, it is a perfect fit for my daughter, so this book is a blessing to us.  It provides some review of the history sentences we want to memorize, it provides practice in cursive handwriting, and it models lessons in drawing from real works of art- all good things that work for us.