Sunday, February 1, 2015

FREE Dictation Resources for Grades 2nd-8th {Charlotte Mason Basics}

I love Copywork and Dictation for teaching Language Arts!  It truly is a natural way to teach children how to structure a sentence and spell correctly.  Only exposing children to correctly spelled words, then having them copy and dictate those words in sentences that have meaning makes our Language Arts study easy and rigorous at the same time.

As someone who started off using a Traditional style of homeschool, when I wanted to switch to Charlotte Mason's style I had to ease into it and doing Language Arts this way was probably the last thing on that list of things to do like Miss Mason.  It's funny how I used to think that the more daunting the lesson the more effective it was, not true!  It almost seems too easy to teach like this!  And it is! And, why not!?!  Lessons should be enjoyable for both the student and the teacher.  

The Why's and How's of Spelling and Dictation:

Ambleside Online has been an invaluable resource to our homeschool journey and all of these links are to their website!

Spelling and Dictation excerpt from Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschool Series Volume 1: Home Education written in Modern English HERE.

Ambleside Online's Language Arts Scope and Sequence, where they give an overview of what Charlotte Mason would have taught for Language Arts at every grade level.

The Parents' Review article on how to do a dictation lesson Step-by-Step. (There are four steps, and that's how we like it!)

Okay, now that you know the importance of dictation and are equipped with the knowledge of how to run a dictation lesson, let's get to the resources already!

Dictation Day By Day is a series of books by Kate Van Wagenen.  They are now in the Public Domain and were published from 1909-1916.  She was a teacher in New York City, so the words are spelled in American English.

There are quotes, poems, and living book excerpts to copy and dictate.  Although, Miss Mason didn't suggest dictation until 10 or 11 years of age, the 2nd grade in these books are really easy enough to have the kids get used to dictation.  Dictation is something my son has done with his dyslexia therapy since he was 5, so I feel comfortable with starting at 2nd grade with short passages like the ones found in these books.

Here is a breakdown of the books from Archive.Org

Now, you can download all of these as a PDF and, as I have just discovered, print and bind them on your own. Say what!?!  This information is changing my LIFE and you can find the how-to HERE and it's cheap or I wouldn't be sharing it with you! :-)

In this post she uses a ginormous stapler to bind the pages, but I read on a forum where someone had just sewed down the middle with regular thread and a regular sewing machine. I have not done this yet, but I think it could be a great handicraft to do with the kids.  Although, not sure how fun they would think printing and binding books we had to use for schoolwork would be.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Workbox System for our Charlotte Mason Style Homeschool

As I was researching ways to make our homeschooling days run a bit smoother, I came across the idea of using workboxes.  This was such a great idea!  But, I do not have the budget or space to have a huge rolly cart with drawers for each subject, and one cart for every one of my children.  Still, I was intrigued by the idea of having the kids be accountable for what they need to complete for the day.  So, the search continued!

I kept looking into different examples of workboxes and finally was inspired to come up with my own way of utilizing the workbox system in a way that would fit our needs and our budget.  We have used this system in the last few weeks of school last year and our days did run smoother, the kids enjoyed it, and I did not have to dictate every single thing they needed to do throughout the day.  It has kept them on task and instead of me feeling like I am running a three ring circus.  I know they are doing what they are supposed be doing and I am enjoying their ability to work together and take charge of their school day.

So, in each file I put the work that needs to be done at that time along with a post-it of the specifics.  For example, "Read one chapter then narrate to Mom.", or "Read one chapter as a family."

If we have to do things as a family, the kids know to communicate with each other to see how long they will be so that they can do their family readings together.  If they need me for dictation or narration, they would wait until I am done with their sibling, or move on to something in their box that they can do independently.

Our number grid has 16 spots and I make sure that ALL of them are filled!  This is not only for school work, as we don't go through that many subjects a day, but this also includes chores, educational game time, music practice, computer time, hadicraft time, anything you want them to do throughout the day.

In the evening time or early morning, I will fill the crates in the order in which I want the subjects to go through the day.  I use my CM style Weekly Schedule along with my lesson plans for the day and it only takes a few minutes to set up the day's work for the kids.  Then it's set-it and forget-it!  The kids know to go through all their numbers and I can see what they have done and what needs to be done.  Also, saves me from them constantly asking what they need to do next.

Here is the breakdown of how I put together the box:

Crate - These I had just laying around the house
Hanging File Folders - I found a huge pack of these at the thrift store.
Velcro Dots - I found a 16 pack of these at our 99 cents store.
Hooks for Number Grid - I also found these at the 99 cents store
Pencil Holders - The ones that I used are from IKEA, I bought them years ago and never used them
Number Grid - FREE printable here. I didn't use all the days of the week, I only printed one per child
Numbers - FREE printable here, but it only goes up to 12, so I hand wrote the rest.

I laminated the number grid and numbers, but it could also work if you print them on cardstock.

I have uploaded a video on my YouTube channel, walking you through the workbox system. Please like, comment and subscribe of you found it useful!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Virtual Summer Science Camp Week 2: Bristle Bots

This is a project I would have never thought of on my own, so I am so grateful to have found the Virtual Summer Science Camp on YouTube.

Bristle bots are and easy and frugal way to introduce electronics to your kids.  The kids and I watched several YouTubes on how to make one, and I looked up a few online and on Instructables.

My plan was to stop by the dollar store to get the toothbrushes and then go to Radio Shack to pick up the vibrating motors, but while at the dollar store we spotted electric toothbrushes that had vibrating motors in them.  So we ended up getting those, paying $1 for the toothbrush, motor, and AA battery.  Not bad!

Here is what you need for the Bristle Bots:

  • Vibrating Motor
  • Toothbrush Head (we needed 2 per bot)
  • Double Stick Tape
  • Electrical Tape
  • Wires (we used 12 gauge)
  • Battery

Here is how we put the Bristle Bots together:

You can make tracks for them.  My kids ended up using them to paint with and that was a fun activity.  This is a great introduction to electronics and circuits!  Fun for the littles and the big kids too!


Monday, June 9, 2014

Virtual Summer Science Camp Week 1: Soda Bottle Rocket Launcher

This week the kids and I participated in a Virtual STEAM Summer Science Camp on my YouTube channel.  This week's project theme was rockets, so we did a little research and came up with a project we wanted to do and share.

First, we decorated our empty soda bottle to look like a rocket.  I made a template for a fin and the kids cut some out of cardboard and taped them onto the bottle.  Next, I made a cone shape out of some cardstock and that got taped to the top of our rocket.

They then started to spray paint their rocket and added some more paint detail with acrylic paint.

Now for the launcher!  I just Googled how to make a launcher and found a design online.  Here is a link to the PDF: How to Make a Soda Bottle Rocket Launcher

I went with this design because it seemed easy enough to make and gather supplies for.  I got all the PVC, connectors, and PVC cement at the hardware store for about $12, and the tire valve stem at the auto parts store was $4 for two of them.  My son cut all the PVC himself and was able to follow the directions on his own to cement all the connectors on.  We used a 3/8" drill bit to drill a hole for the valve stem and ended up having to add some plumbers tape on the male adapter that the soda bottle fits onto just to make sure there were no leaks and that we had a good tight seal.

Voila!! All done and ready to launch!!  Check out our launch below!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Homeschooling Year Round

When I first started homeschooling I never even thought of schooling year round.  I just wanted our schooling to be so much like traditional school that it really never occurred to me to do anything different.

Well, just finishing up our fourth year now and the main reason why I wanted to start schooling year round is that we are home anyway and we do all our learning at home it just feels weird to be home and not learning.

We have taken these last couple of weeks completely off of school and I plan on schooling "light" for the rest of the Summer.  I also want to get some of next year's schoolwork done before baby #4 get here, and she is due one day before the start of our traditional school year calendar.  I want to be prepared for taking some extra time off with the whole family in welcoming our newest addition.

Since we homeschool through a local Charter school we do have certain requirements to adhere to throughout the traditional school year, so  when we are in the Summer mode we get some freedom from all that and just get to do whatever we feel like doing!

This Summer we are participating in a Virtual Summer Science Camp on my YouTube channel, so I look forward to sharing our science experiments with you and hope that you can participate along with us!  Our first experiment will be a soda bottle rocket and launcher.  We will be studying the power of air pressure!  I am heading out to the hardware store today (wish me luck) and I should have the video and post up by the end of this week.

I have already shared what our Weekly Charlotte Mason Schedule looks like and for the Summer I will stick with that same subject schedule, but just not as intense with all the books we will be using throughout the week.  For instance, in History, we usually read 3-4 books per week on that subject and for the Summer I will pare it down to just one or two.

I also hope to do more Nature Studies this Summer since all of our classes are on break, we will have more time for Fun School!  I would love to hear what everyone else does for their Summer Break!


Friday, May 30, 2014

End of the Year Wrap Up

This marks the end of our fourth year of homeschooling!  We are done with 5th, 2nd, and Kindergarten and every year posts new challenges for us and by the end of the year I am amazed at my children's accomplishments.

Kindergarten always makes me nervous because everything is new.  I am always nervous about teaching the kids how to read, but I have never invested into a phonics program.  I just teach them in a way that is natural for me and for them.

With my youngest, we did not teach her the names of the letters at all when she was little, but called the letters by their phonetic sound instead.  This made teaching her how to read so much easier.  For instance, she would see the word BAT and sound out the letters B-A-T, there you go she just read that word.  Teaching her to read was easy-peasy and now she can sound out bigger words on her own just fine.

2nd grade was super easy this year.  I think the only thing my son really struggled with was rounding numbers.  I have no idea why that concept was so hard for him, but we spent time and time again going over it until it finally clicked and I wanted to celebrate with a ticker-tape parade when it did!  He is in 2nd grade, but finished 3rd grade math.

I also have never purchased a math curriculum.  I feel comfortable teaching them on my own and the math programs I have looked into have seemed like more review and not as challenging as I would like them to be.  I may change my tune once we have to get into Algebra!  We just use Khan Academy as a way to keep tack of what they are learning in math.

My 2nd grader has also accomplished being able to sound out words.  This may be an easy concept for most kids, but he has dyslexia, so this is a HUGE milestone for us.  His ability to break apart a word in to syllables has improved thanks to his wonderful tutor and his daily lessons, exercises, and therapy.  He is now confident in reading, something that he wasn't at the beginning of the year.  As a mother and his teacher it makes my heart warm to know that he has not lost a love for reading just because he has to deal with dyslexia.  He has to work twice as hard to achieve what most people would call "normal" results.

5th grade this year was interesting since we just fully implemented the Charlotte Mason method there was a learning curve, not just for me but for the kids too.  The younger ones dealt with the change more easily, but my 5th grader had to re-learn some things from doing things more traditional though our previous years.

Narration was tough for him at first, not so much with the younger kids.  We ended up breaking his readings apart into very small sections and having him narrate one sentence at a time.  He has improved over the year though, but it has not become second nature to him yet.

We are going to have a short break for Summer and start up again with school soon, but I cannot wait as I learn more about Charlotte Mason I want to incorporate her style more into our homeschool.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Our Weekly Schedule Using Ambleside Online

I know this is the time of year when all us homeschoolers are planning and preparing for the next school year.  Actually, I start the planning process sometime around January, but right now is when I start the putting-plans-on-paper stage and I wanted to share how we go about our weekly schedule.

I was sold on the Charlotte Mason method when I heard about how she encouraged short lessons.  Say what!?!  Yes, SHORT lessons!  The idea is to get the kids into the habit of paying attention, and in the beginning it may mean lessons as short as 5-10 minutes.  You will gradually increase the lessons times as their habit of giving their lessons their best attention builds.  But, even an older student would only have 25-30 minute lessons.  If they are giving it their all, they don't need much more time.

I just started fully implementing the Charlotte Mason style at the beginning of this year and at first I set a timer and did 15 minute lessons all day.  Now, I don't set a timer for each subject as I have a feel for how long the lessons should be, but I do set a timer for when the kids read on their own.  Right now I have my 10 year old reading 10 minutes then narrating, and my 8 year old gets 5 minutes then narration.  This goes for every subject that requires reading and narration throughout the day.

Putting our daily schedule together took a lot of thought and I am really happy about how it came out.  We have been sticking to this schedule all year long.  One of the things I read about the CM method was to vary the subjects throughout the day, alternating the parts of the brain being worked and moving from one subject to the next won't tire the child's mind.  We used to take breaks in between subjects, now we cruise on through.  Again, I used the subjects listed on the Ambleside Online Curriculum as a guide.

Click to download PDF
Now, it may look like and ambitious list, and it is, but we are able to do most of what is listed on here in as little as 4 hours of schooling.  We also don't get to every subject on the list, and that is my fault.  I simply have not prepared for all the weekly subjects, so that is one of my goals for next school year.  I really want to be prepared and hit all of our weekly subjects, hymn study and Plutarch always seem to make it to the back burner and I just can't seem to get them off.  We were doing a weekly nature study with a couple of other CM families in the beginning of this school year, but after the winter we have not got back on track with those, and that is another goal of mine for this fall.

I have already shared how we do our Bible Studies, and am looking forward to sharing a little about every subject we cover over our school week.  I also recently started implementing workboxes into our homeschool routine, so look for that in an upcoming blog post and video on my YouTube channel .