Thursday, July 28, 2011

Art Appreciation

We've been following the ideas I gathered from Charlotte Mason Help regarding picture study this year. I chose to study Renior for our first 12 week term, since he painted quite a few pictures of little girls, ladies holding cats and other "cute" images my daughter would love.

Each Friday I sit down with Chloe and we view the art print on my laptop screen. I ask her questions about the painting and we talk about how it makes her feel. I lead her in a discussion of the painters use of color and how he created the focal point of the painting. I tell her when the painting was created, the medium used to create it and what was going on in the world at that time.

The past two weeks, after Chloe has described to me as many details of the painting that she can without looking, she jumped up and exclaimed, "Okay. It's time to paint!" I allow her this pleasure. I feel that this is a wonderful time for her to express herself. We've discussed painting and methods and colors and all that, so I guess I feel its natural to desire to paint something yourself.

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It's funny because she never tries to copy the painting we have been studying. She always picks some other random object she finds in close proximity to her art easel and paints that. This week it was a ballerina cat toy.

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I am so thankful I found this website. What a wonderful way to teach my daughter a love of fine art. She enjoys it too. That's the benefit of the gentle, easy way of a Charlotte Mason education. And I am finding myself with a desire to paint too. Funny how that works.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nature Study Challenge #2 - Using Your Words

Our challenge this week was to get outside and use words to describe what we see, feel and hear. I read the recommended pages from Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study and found a couple of interesting things to note.

"This danger (of seeing too much or not seeing anything at all while on a nature walk) can be obviated if the teacher plans the work definitely before starting, and demands certain results."


I find quite often that I don't know where to start or what to look for or at while wandering through nature. I tend to point out an interesting tree, knowing absolutely nothing more than the fact that it looks pretty up against the blue sky with the clouds behind it. While it is beautiful for me to gaze upon, it doesn't really teach Chloe anything beyond appreciation of beauty. Then I point out a bird flying through the air, and "Oh! Look at the chipmunk over there!" I see beautiful flowers that beg to be photographed and an interesting bug flies across my vision. But there is no real learning happening. That is why the above quote struck me. I should have a semblance of a plan before venturing out for a nature study.

"Make the lesson an investigation and make the pupils feel that they are investigators."


We packed up our backpack with nature journals and water and headed up the hill behind our neighborhood. On the way, we stopped by a bird nest we knew was in a tree there to see if anyone claimed it. We didn't see any birds coming or going from the nest so we decided it must be a vacant nest. This is our third time watching the nest and we have never seen any birds fly to or from it.

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We came to our resting spot and sat down on the ground. I had instructed Chloe before we left the house that she needed to remain quiet so she could hear the sounds of nature (through the background city noise we are surrounded with) and see things and feel things. I explained that it's hard to hear, see or really feel things if we are busy yakking about the storybook we read last night or the trip we are planning to take to the beach. I was amazed at how quiet Chloe was. When we needed to speak (to point out the location of a mockingbird or some other interesting find) we whispered quietly to each other.

Part of this challenge was to write one word that describes what we heard, two words to describe something we felt and three words to describe something we saw. Here are Chloe's words.

I heard a bird tweet.

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hard, smooth rock

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green, poky, movable grass

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And my words.

rustling

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smooth, dry

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tiny, white, lace

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I see now that I got the second and third parts switched around. But that's okay. We enjoyed trying to come up with words to describe these various things. We struggled a bit with choosing what to describe. I found too many things, so I listed a few for each in my nature journal. Chloe, on the other hand, had a hard time "seeing" anything to describe. "I see mosquitoes on you, but I don't want to describe it," she announced. We'd been brushing the pests off for a few minutes which lent aid to her inability to see much else to describe. She finally settled on describing the grass we were sitting on.

I am looking forward to our next nature study. I feel as though we are starting on an adventurous journey together and that we will learn so much about the world around us. How can that not excite a person? I have just learned that those lacy white weeds are none other than the infamous Queen Anne's Lace. I have heard of the weed flower my entire life but never knew what it was when I saw it. Now I do.

Until next time, look around you. Watch and listen. Investigate. The world is an amazing place.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Consequence Chart

I implemented a pyramid consequence chart in our home a couple of years ago to help with some discipline issues. Those issues resolved and we haven't needed the chart for quite some time, although it still hangs on the fridge in case that need arises again.

We've been having a bit of trouble with schoolwork this summer. It seems that spelling words are extremely difficult to write and so we end up spending over an hour (sometimes two) crying over our 10 words. Realizing that the reason for the fits steamed from laziness and rebellion and not the inability to write or remember the words, I decided it was time to implement the consequence chart once again. Only this time I varied it for school time.

Instead of a pyramid, I make colored pockets out of construction paper and adhered them by the edges to a piece of poster board. We made a marker with a dolphin sticker (per Chloe's request)and placed it in the first pocket, which is a wonderful place to be.

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Each time tears start, the marker moves up to the next pocket and thus the next consequence. If we can finish the school day with no tears or fits (which is a wonderful place to be) then she receives a Good Behavior Ticket which she saves up for a special treat.

The first week didn't work as well as I imagined it would. I thought up several "treats" and printed them up on slips of paper and placed them in a jar. The idea was that if Chloe could earn five tickets (one for every day of the week) at the end of the week she would exchange the ticket for a slip of paper in the jar. The treat would be a surprise. Some of the ideas I added were: go out for ice cream, have pizza at Chuck E Cheese, buy a new book, slumber party in Mama's room, Mama does 1 chore for Chloe, carousal ride at the mall, eat dessert first, etc.

After a whole week and not a single ticket in a wonderful place to be, I knew we needed a new motivator. I allowed Chloe to pick a treat she would like to earn herself, instead of a random treat that she has no clue what is. I figured if she knew exactly what it was she was earning and if she had picked it herself, she might feel more motivation to earn it.

She picked an Ariel (Little Mermaid) costume.

It worked.

We have seen no tears or fits since that day.

The only change I made though was that she needed TWO weeks of tickets (10 total) and two weeks of finished chore charts in order to earn the costume. (They are slightly more expensive than an ice cream cone from McDonald's.) But I must say that it worked. We are happy and she now knows her spelling words by the time we take our test on Thursdays. Hooray!

We will not be purchasing an expensive item every time, but I figured to get us started we could splurge with a bigger ticket item and next time she can pick a slumber party in my room or a chore she would like me to do for her.

What ideas do you incorporate into your classroom for discipline issues? How do you motivate your children?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nature Study Challenge #1 - Getting Started

I found a fabulous blog that will surely help us as we attempt to introduce proper nature studies into our week. Handbook of Nature Study. I purchased Anna Comstock's Handbook for Nature Study so I could utilize it this year in our science curriculum. But just looking at the size of this book daunted me. I had a hard time even opening the cover to it. It is such a massive book!

Well, when I googled "Handbook of Nature Study", lo and behold the aforementioned blog popped up second in the queue. Wow! What a neat find! I decided to start off with the First Outdoor Hour Weekly Challenge.

And so here we are.

The first portion of the challenge was to first read pages 1-8 of "Handbook of Nature Study" and highlight anything that stands out to me so I can return later when I need encouragement. Here are a couple of things I found that I felt pertinent to where we are at in our journey.

"If nature-study as taught does not make the child love nature and the out-of-doors, then it should cease."


Yup. That's definitely us. But hey! We are just getting started, right? How quickly should I give up? Well, the next thing that jumped out at me was this...

"However, if the love of nature is in the teacher's heart, there is no danger; such a teacher, no matter by what method, takes the child gently by the hand and walks with him in paths that lead to the seeing and comprehending of what he may find beneath his feet or above his head."


Ah yes. That there is the solution. I must first foster a love of nature in my own heart, then take Chloe's hand and walk through nature, the two of us, learning and discovering together.

Something else popped out at me as I was reading. It had to do with "when the teacher should say 'I don't know.'"

"Moreover, the teacher, in confessing her ignorance and at the same time her interest in a subject, establishes between herself and her pupils a sense of companionship which relieves the strain of discipline, and gives her a new and intimate relation with her pupils which will surely prove a potent element in her success."


Okay. So on to the second half of the challenge. GET OUTSIDE and explore for 15 minutes.

Now I must be honest with regard to two things. One. We kind of already decided to study birds when we started school three weeks ago. We've been feeding them in the backyard and trying to attract them so that is currently where our interest lies. Two. It is hard for us to only spend 15 minutes outside. When we go out, we get lost in what we are doing. I guess nature studies are already a part of us. (I didn't realize that before today. We came inside before I realized we had spent two hours watching the birds.)

So, our mission today was to collect feathers from our yard. Amazingly enough we found plenty. I was a bit surprised at how many we found. Here is picture of some of them.

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I pulled out a resource book from the library so we could learn about the various kinds of feathers. We put them into our nature journals and labeled them. We even found one tail feather to add to Chloe's journal. I didn't think we would be able to find all of them in our backyard but we did. Hooray!

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I decided I would like to keep my own journal right along with Chloe. I love learning new things which is one of the many reason I enjoy homeschooling so much. So, I added some feathers to my page too.

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Chloe then decided she would like to learn more about pigeons this week. She drew a couple of pictures in her journal and we read part of a book about pigeons I borrowed from our library.

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I thought this photo I captured looked pretty cool. Can you see the red head and breast of the House Finch as he is flying away with the Pigeons? They flew so fast I caught only a blur of them, but you might be able to make him out above the pigeons if you look closely.

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We tried to entice some birds with a buffet. We put out grapes, tangerines, peanut butter, raisins and banana chunks in little dishes. So far we've had no takers. A Pigeon came close but then opted for the nearby black oiled sunflower seeds I placed in a terracotta saucer. A Cowbird walked through the dishes and eyed them a time or two before heading over for a bath. A couple of House Sparrows seemed tempted as they walked by as well as a Robin but the mealworms proved more to her immediate liking.

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So, all in all, I would say this nature study was a success. We will probably keep an eye on our buffet over the next couple of days to see if we get any takers, bringing in it each night so we don't accidentally feed the rats by mistake. Chloe enjoyed herself and we both learned something new. I think we will take some walks around our neighborhood this week to see if we can find more feathers. Chloe would like to start a collection.

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