Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 27

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Chapter 27 deals with the beginning of the industrial revolution: the cotton gin in the US and Watt’s steam engine in the UK. My son is into technology, so he was eager to learn more about these events. My daughter came along for the ride. As long as there is a coloring page, she is happy.

Boy draws invention on paper

For our activity, my son drew his own invention

The world has changed dramatically since the invention of the steam engine and this chapter describes very well the lives of people before and after Watt’s invention. I like Ms. Bauer’s writing and my children do, too. Continue reading »

It was touching to read about the children who helped in coal mines. I brought home the point to my children. They sometimes complain they have to “do school” but these nineteenth century children would have given anything to be spared the work in the mine. It is a sobering thought and it had the right effect on them for a few hours.

The next day we were back to the moaning and groaning about math and other subjects. I don’t want you to think that my children are enthused with learning every single moment of every day. They are normal children who would rather play when they should be studying.

Sister watches as brother draws his invention

My daughter watches as my son draws his invention

They obey and put their toys away and come to the table so we can study, but not without a bit of coaxing on my part. Obedience is important and I am still working on getting them to obey the first time I say something. Even Ms. Bauer shared that her children mutter things under their breath as they are asked to start a lesson or do a chore. But they go and do it.

I acknowledge their feelings and re-direct them to their task by saying something like, “I know you feel like playing a bit more, but it is 10:30 already and we really need to get started with math, otherwise we will be here studying at 6pm and who wants to do that? The sooner we get it all done, the more time in the day there is for you to play.”

If your child does not obey you when you ask them to come to the table and it takes more than a minute to convince them, it is time to take some of their privileges away. Obedience comes first.

The crazy thing is, once they get going, mine start saying, “I really like this! This is so cool! So glad we are learning about this!” or an equivalent. Like a train that starts slowly moving its wheels and then goes faster and faster, some children need to warm up to the idea of learning.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 25

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The French Revolution is the subject of Chapter 25. It gets gory at times, the story line, but thankfully Susan Wise Bauer kept those details to a minimum.

Patriotic button during the French Revolution

Patriotic button during the French Revolution

My son is very interested in wars and battles so he was excited to hear our chapter dealt with fighting and conflict. Of course, they felt for the kids of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI. Continue reading »

One of their friends is named Maximilian so Robespierre stood out for them – as if what Robespierre did was not enough to stand out. But, you know, it helps when you can make connections.

The first story was strictly about the conditions in France which lead to the French Revolution, while the second dealt with the aftermath of the Revolution, i.e. the Reign of Terror.

Tricolor felt buttons

We used felt pads with sticky backs instead of the recommended foam

In all honesty, the way suspicion reigned supreme reminds me of Communism and, also, this political correctness required today in everything you do and say. Obviously, what happened in France in the late 1700s was pushed to the extreme, but the atmosphere is the same.

If you show less-than-enthusiastic support for Syrian migrants these days, you are a heartless person. Never mind that European women are raped by migrants and terrorist attacks happen almost every month in Europe. Never mind that. In the name of globalism, we should open all borders and let mayhem take over the West.

If your jar of peanut butter says “Made in the USA” or “Peanuts grown in the USA,” you are in trouble with the political correctness police. You are a bigot and a horrible person who causes people to seek counseling. We are living in strange times. History repeats itself.

All the more reasons to keep on keeping on with our history lessons. I am behind with printing out our history timeline figures, but I promise to catch up next week. Maybe.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 22

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Chapter 22 is titled “Revolution!” and it presents two stories about the American Revolution. The first, Discontent in the British Colonies, shows the reasons why Americans became more and more dissatisfied with England. The second, The American Revolution, presents the beginning of the War of Independence, highlights of it, and its outcome.

American flag craft

American flag craft made by my daughter

This is a rich chapter and we dwelt on the Review Questions to make sure most facts stuck. I read to them Longfellow’s poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” but decided against memorizing it. Not only is it too long, it is historically inaccurate. Longfellow took a lot of poetic licenses (artistic liberties) and only mentioned Revere, completely leaving out his worthy fellow rider, William Dawes. Also, he makes Revere into the recipient of the message by lanterns instead of being the one who actually gave the signal. And so on. Continue reading »

However, I believe we should memorize the introduction to the American Declaration of Independence, so I have made a copy and added it to our morning basket of memory work. Susan Wise Bauer has a very simple formula for memorization: have the child read the passage five times in the morning and five times in the evening. In a few days, the child should know it by heart.

American flag craft

My son putting together his American flag

I have not found success in having my children repeat something five times in a row. We do three times in the morning. No evening memory work – sorry, it just does not work for our family’s schedule. But I still find that they can memorize a poem in about five days of repeating it three times in the morning. It’s quite neat!

For a craft, we made the original flag of the American colonies. Who has talent to draw a star stencil? Not me. Who has the patience to cut out 13 stars for the original 13 colonies? Not me, nor my children.

Star Stickers for American flag

My daughter using star stickers on her flag craft

Instead, I gave them some of my sticker stars, which I use to reward their good paperwork. My daughter chose pink and purple stars, while my son worked with gold stars. Not exactly historically accurate, but they had fun and got a bit of artistic endeavor in for the day. Plus, they were proud of their flags.


Well-Trained Mind Binder System

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We have been using the Well-Trained Mind binder system recommended by Susan Wise Bauer in her seminal book for several years now. It occurred to me that there might be homeschoolers out there who would like to see it in action. In fact, I have seen this question over and over in support groups for classical homeschoolers.

Well-Trained Mind binder system

My daughter’s binders

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So let’s start with a few pictures. Their binders sit on separate shelves in our school room. I am not a perfectionist when it comes to appearance. I don’t go all out when it comes to layout and design. A simple label on the outside of the binder helps us identify the name of the child and the subject matter. Continue reading »

If you want to beautify the binders, by all means, make them as pretty as you want. I grew up under Communism (think austerity measures) and don’t need things around me to be super-glitzy. As long as it works, I run with it.

We have four binders for each child: Science, History, Language, and Math. They also have an Art binder and a Travel binder. My son has two additional binders which are empty. He meant to do something with them and then forgot all about it. See? We are not perfect.

The Math is simple: we use Math Mammoth and every year I print out their curriculum, which I have in PDF format. Their math binders don’t even have a label. His is black and hers is purple.

Well-Trained Mind school binder system

My son’s school binders

Science is easy, as well. We take nature walks and if we find anything interesting to study, we use notebooking pages to draw or write about our findings. Sometimes I follow Handbook of Nature Study weekly challenges, and most of them come with their own notebooking pages. Other times we just study something out of an animal encyclopedia and we simply draw or narrate two sentences about a particular animal.

If we do science experiments, I have a simple page which details the scientific method used, as Ms. Bauer suggests. Those pages also go in the Science binder. I think I should also record the science books they read, but that’s a little too much for me. If you feel like it, that’s another thing you could put in their binder.

Well-Trained mind binders

Their binders sit on different shelves. He is taller.

The History binder used to have four tabs corresponding to the four volumes of Story of the World, which is our curriculum. What I have found over the years is that the binder gets really full by the end of the school year. There are maps and coloring pages, plus paper dolls and other paper crafts. At the end of the year, I simply get a new binder and take my tab page (which I created four years ago when we got started with this curriculum) to the front of this new binder, so I know which period we are in.

The Language binder is divided by tabs as recommended by Ms. Bauer. Our spelling curriculum comes with its own workbook, but we still find we created separate pages of spelling lists, so it all goes into the Spelling tab of the Language binder. When they memorize a poem, I have them write it out and it goes into their Memory Work tab.

It’s simple, really, and it’s meant to be simple, because you have to keep track of all this work. Ms. Bauer has a box – a simple, unassuming box for her children’s work, where all their work goes. Check out her YouTube videos about it. I do not think she has binders for her children. I might be wrong on this, but I have not seen anything about it.

I find binders easier to handle than a box if I should need to retrieve any of their work at a later date. It does not happen often, but it has happened enough where I know I could not function with boxes.

I hope this helps you visualize the binder system described in Well-Trained Mind. It works for us and it can work for anybody who is organized enough to put pages away once the student has finished with them.

For now, I am keeping the discarded binders and their contents in plastic bins, on shelves in our garage. My children are in second and fourth grade. Who knows if I will have enough room to keep all their work by high school? I think not. When I start culling, I will blog about it.

An important detail, or tip, shared at the end of the post, to reward those who have had the patience to read the entire post (or did you just skip to the end?): file the pages yourself.

Do not trust your child will put their work away if they are in grades K-6. They will learn to do it themselves after age 12, trust me. For now, for your own sanity, just file it yourself. It will keep things organized and give you a sense of accomplishment, too. One other thing done and filed away. Check. What’s next?


Tuesday Tome Week 18 – Madame Bovary

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I read Madame Bovary painstakingly. It took me longer than a week because I had to put it down over and over again. I was not sure I could finish it. It pains me to see characters – especially women – making foolish mistakes again and again. When I finally came to about 80% of the book, – yes, I read it on my Kindle – I started enjoying it. Why? Because Emma Bovary was finally hitting rock bottom.

Madame Bovary

I don’t like reckless behavior, whether in real life or in literary fiction. I understand why Susan Wise Bauer included this novel in her list of 32 best novels to read from Western literature. It is the first novel chronologically which puts an end to Romanticism and starts Realism as a current in literature.

Gustave Flaubert shocked many people with the realistic depictions of every day life and the adultery Madame Bovary engaged in while married to Charles Bovary, a country doctor in Yonville, France. Flaubert even got sued over the book, which shocked the sensibilities of many in the 19th century.

Continue reading »

Anyway, I am glad I read it because (1) I read it in French, in the original, and I saw it as a way to practice my French; (2) now I can tell you about it; (3) I can keep going down the list in The Well-Educated Mind without feeling like I skipped over something; (4) it is always good to finish what you start.

And (5), I found several pearls – any book has them, you just have to be willing to look for them. The pharmacist was one of the few characters who ends well by the time the story is over. He said a few things and just the way he was, the way Flaubert described him, I gained insight into somebody I know – we won’t mention any names.

So Emma Bovary reads too many romantic novels for her own good and wants to live her life on an emotional high. The daughter of a farmer, she gets sent to a Catholic convent for education. As a Protestant, I have never thought sending children to a Catholic school is a good idea and this book proves it – and this 200 years ago! Of course, we are dealing with fiction, but art imitates life most of the time.

The books we read and what we make of them can really influence our thinking. No wonder many Puritanical educators do away with fiction altogether. They don’t know how to handle them or how to teach them to their children.

Our heroine Emma Rouault marries Dr. Bovary, a widower, and becomes completely disgusted with her husband because he is not refined. She craves expensive goodies and launches into not one but two affairs (not simultaneously) with men who could not have been more different from each other. The woman is confused to say the least and ends her own life in the most horrible way, by eating arsenic. Her daughter becomes an orphan not long after that, as Dr. Bovary dies of a broken heart once he finds Emma’s love correspondence with the two men – although he told one of the men that he did not hate him.

So what’s the good in such a novel? First of all, the form. Flaubert invented the art of telling it like it is – a reaction against the Romantic novels up until that time. It is not by accident that Emma’s sad life and tragic end are caused by reading romantic novels. Secondly, if you can read it in French, it would help you tremendously. Don’t stop to look up every word you don’t know. As long as you can get the gist of what is happening, move on. Thirdly, read it so you can count yourself warned – adultery and living beyond your means never take you down a good path. At least Flaubert did not reward Emma by letting her live on and somehow glorifying her mistakes.

For me, “tout à coup” remains the main expression I learned after reading Madame Bovary. I saw it many, many times throughout the book. I should have counted it. Glad it’s over though.


Tuesday Tome Week 6 – Jane Eyre

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Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a masterpiece. No wonder then that of all the things the Bronte sisters wrote, Susan Wise Bauer included only Jane Eyre into her list of 32 novels produced by the Western world since the genre was created, around the 1600s. Jane is way ahead of her time. She makes herself the equal of a man (a wealthy gentleman, too) – great feat in 1847! – through conversation and wit and attitude.

Jane Eyre

But Jane Eyre is more than just an early feminist. She is a Christian who is grappling with injustice, hypocrisy, delusion, and missionarism in the people around her. Some have said this book is anti-Christian because of characters like Mr. Brocklehurst and St John Rivers. These men seem more like caricatures, but have you not met hypocritical characters in your local congregation? Have you not met exalted young missionaries who are deluded into thinking they are doing God and the world a favor through their daily sacrifices? I know I have met my fair share of such people. So this book spoke to me on a very personal level.  Continue reading »

I have also enjoyed reading the development of Jane herself. This book is written as an autobiography, so we hear Jane speak in the first person. She takes us on a journey about her life from the time she was 10 until her late 20s.

And then, there is the love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester. I will not give away much of the plot, but suffice it to say that it is fascinating. Personally, I have never liked men my father’s age in a romantic way. But I know several women who enjoyed relationships with men who were older by 13-25 years. In that aspect, I did not “get” Jane. Everything else about the evolution of their relationship though was very believable and I could come to terms with.

I liked how Charlotte Bronte described the landscape and the rest of the characters. I enjoyed looking into the metaphors hidden in the names of the different places Jane stayed at: from Lowood to Ferndean, the author hid a message and a description in each location name.

This has been such a powerful book, I need a break from fiction for the next week, so that I can still bask in the atmosphere of Jane’s universe while I read a nonfiction book.

By the way, I watched the 1970 production of Jane Eyre, which is available for free on Amazon Prime, but did not like it very much. A lot was left out of the book – big chunks, which gave a lot of insight into the development of Jane’s thoughts and feelings. Several things were changed from the book, to fit a simpler plot. It is really not worth your time unless you want to have a visual of what some of the scenes might look like – and even then, would you not like to stick to what your mind imagined by reading the book?

This movie is definitely not a replacement for reading the book. Oh, and you can get Jane Eyre free on Kindle. Your local library probably carries it too, in the Classics section.


The Well-Educated Mind

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When I purchased my copy of The Well-Trained Mind three years ago, I thought I would never be interested in The Well-Educated Mind. I thought I would be reading right along my children as we followed suggestions from The Well-Trained Mind. Who would have time for anything else? I was wrong.

The Well-Educated Mind

The book for homeschooling parents who are thirsty for more

Not that I find myself with “vast chasms of time” on my hands, to use Thomas Jefferson’s expression. But I got my kids on track with their assignments from The Well-Trained Mind and now I find myself curious, hungry, and eager for filling in the gaps in my own education. When I heard The Well-Educated Mind was being revised and re-published in October 2015, I placed my pre-order in September and waited (im)patiently for it to come out.  Continue reading »

Right from the introduction, I was very impressed. The book offers tremendous information about how to read a book. I read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler last summer and learned a lot, but The Well-Educated Mind offers more precise advice, better organized ideas, and information geared specifically toward the homeschooling parent. Sorry, Mr. Adler!

I have already started down the list of 32 novels, which are listed in chronological order and have been chosen for their meaning in the history of novel evolution. I keep The Well-Educated Mind nearby and refer to it often, as I am still learning how to mark each book and how to read it on the three levels of classical education. And while I do not have the time to do everything Susan Wise Bauer recommends, I think I follow 90% of her suggestions in this book.


Smithsonian Associates Event

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The Smithsonian Associates is the largest museum-based educational program in the world. They offer over 750 events in a calendar year: workshops, tours, lectures, performances, summer camps etc.

My educational guru, Susan Wise Bauer, will be lecturing there on December 5, about one of her books – The Story of Western Science. I have read the book and learned a lot from it. I highly recommend it. It will give you an overview of the scientific themes humanity grappled with over the centuries. The book also contains enough details about each important scientific manuscript to help you understand specific topics.

Her all-day lecture (with lunch break) at the Smithsonian it titled Reading the Great Books of Science. The cost to attend is $150 if you are not a Smithsonian Associate member.  Continue reading »

I own this book because I think it makes for a great reference tome. But if your budget for traveling to DC or for reference books is short this year, I say get the book from your library, curl up with a cup of hot tea and count your blessings. Keep your $150 for an annual membership at your local zoo or science-technology center.

It would be fun though. And very, very fascinating, no doubt. Sigh. I live eight hours from DC and so my equation of time-space just does not allow for such jaunts. Sigh again.


Story of the World, Vol. 2, Chapter 1

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We started the second volume of Story of the World during what is officially our summer break because (1) my children asked for history and (2) the textbook has 42 chapters while the school year only has 36 weeks. It is recommended that we cover one chapter per week, so we need to cover six chapters before we start our new school year in August. Of course, nothing bad happens if we get behind or if we finish the textbook after we close our 180 days of school next year…

But when my five-year-old says, “Mommy, we have not done history in a long time. We need to do history!” and when my son says, “When do we start studying about the Middle Ages, mom?” I know it is time to start photocopying the activity pages and order extra reading material from the library.

Magic carpet craft activity

I printed out a picture of them so we can glue their faces onto the page provided.

Just to clarify, the Activity Book gives parents permission to photocopy activity pages (maps, coloring, craft patterns, paper dolls etc) for the needs of their family. Also in the Activity Book one can find lists of corresponding literature, fiction and non fiction, which one can purchase or borrow from the library, to enhance the study of each chapter.  Continue reading »

When I met Susan Wise Bauer, the author of the Story of the World curriculum, at the recent Appalachian Home Educators Conference in Knoxville, I asked her how many books she thinks my seven-year-old should be reading for each chapter. She said, “One a week. And maybe alternate each week, one fiction and one non fiction.”

Flying over the Mediterranean

Flying over the Mediterranean

I asked her because I used to order a lot of books, almost all of them. And I noticed a trend: some books were intended for middle schoolers going through this program and, as such, they were completely inappropriate for us. On the other hand, too many books on one subject makes one sick and tired of the topic. But I am a rather thorough person and if you give me a list of six book I will read all of them… I needed some clarification and I received it. Now I have the author’s permission to only get one extra book on the topic we are studying. Sigh of relief.

Teddybear flying over the Roman Empire

Teddybear flying over the Roman Empire

So the first chapter of this second volume, which deals with the Middle Ages, was a recap of the fall of Rome. We traveled all around the Roman Empire on an imaginary magic carpet, which allowed us a chance to review geography. My kids both noted that the activity page provided was too large for our wall map or for the atlas pages. They came up with other solutions to represent themselves: my son picked a LEGO brick, my daughter one of the counting teddy bears.


Thoughtful Thursday Week 27 – Homeschool Conferences

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I have said it before, and I will say it again: homeschooling parents should attend a homeschool conference at least once a year. Sorry for should-ing all over you, but you should. I am not saying you should spend money on transportation, hotels and restaurants to get to one. But if you have a local event, by all means change your schedule, get a second job to pay for the fee, volunteer at the conference for discounts, do whatever it takes and attend.

Adriana Zoder and Susan Wise Bauer at the Appalachian Home Educators Conference in Knoxville, June 2015

With Susan Wise Bauer at the Appalachian Home Educators Conference in Knoxville, June 2015

The reason people don’t attend homeschool conferences is that they don’t think they will get enough value out of them. I know, I know, some of you are saying, “That’s not true. Some actually can’t afford a conference.” I can agree with that only for the extremely poor, but even they make an effort to earn some extra money for something they deem valuable.

Ultimately, it is human nature to choose activity A over activity B because activity B does not offer as much satisfaction or perceived value as activity A. Sure, I understand schedule conflicts. I also understand lack of resources. I even understand the fact that homeschooling parents are afraid of being made to feel inadequate in their efforts by so-called homeschooling experts.  Continue reading »

And yet, I say, homeschooling parents should attend a homeschool conference once a year. If you think you are doing great and don’t need any help, you should go. Pride comes before a fall… If you are in need of help, you should go. You just might find the right workshop that will get you out of trouble. If you don’t care because you feel blah and hailing down the yellow school bus seems more and more attractive, you should definitely go.

Thoughtful Thursday Week 27 - Homeschool Conferences

The Appalachian Home Educators Conference came and went. Attendance was low. Vendors got in the red after they paid for their expenses to be there for two days. Organizers appeared disappointed. Susan Wise Bauer said this was the slowest conference she has ever attended.

But numbers aren’t everything. I saw some sales being made, parents learning new teaching methods, questions posed and answers given. I saw networking happening, friendships started, and new partnerships forged. Things happen at homeschooling conferences even when they are small.

As for me, I gave my two workshops as scheduled to small but very attentive audiences. I was excited to answer questions and help people. I met my educational guru, Susan Wise Bauer, and spent some time asking her questions of my own. I purchased Peace Hill Press curriculum at 60% off and some really cool science gadgets and field guides for my kids.

My husband got to listen to Ms. Bauer and received a final confirmation that my choices for our homeschool are right for our family. Last but not least, I discovered Virginia Soaps do not give me allergic reactions, despite the fact that I am allergic to fragrance. Their ingredients must be so far from parabens and other chemicals used in commercial soaps, that it actually makes a difference even for those of us who must have everything fragrance-free.

All in all, it was a great weekend we spent together as a family. I wish more of you could have been there, but… again, I understand. There is always next year. Or, why not? There is this online homeschool conference sponsored by Well-Trained Mind Online Academy.