Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On Shoes

Last weekend, my mother-in-law and I took all four kids shoe shopping. We needed six pairs of shoes: sneakers and sandals for each of the boys and summer church shoes for each of the girls.

Imagine what it was like going to four different stores and getting all four kids sized and trying on shoes in the toddler, girls' and mens' sections.

Yeah, that's how well it went. 

At the end of it, we went home with four pairs of shoes, five pairs of clip-on earrings, two sets of hair bows for Easter, and Second Daughter picked out a stuffed unicorn to buy with her own money.

I sent Kansas Dad to a different location of one of the stores the next day to pick up the two other pairs of shoes. So while we didn't get them all in one swoop, I'm counting it a success because the kids didn't have to go to another store (and neither did I).

Additional information you didn't need to know about our shoes:
  • First Son, who is ten, is now wearing a mens' seven and a half. Mens. 7.5.
  • Second Son, who is three, is now wearing a half size larger than Second Daughter, who is five.
  • Said three year old now adores the shoes he refused to try on at the last store. 
  • First Son really hates shoe shopping, so much so that his old pair had about six holes spread across the two shoes, but he would rather keep wearing them than get new ones.
  • Second Daughter will only wear shoes that sparkle somewhere or somehow.
Is it wrong to pray no one needs shoes for about two years? I may need that long to recover from a phobia of shoe stores with small children in tow.

I anticipate keeping the blog quiet through Holy Week and maybe through Divine Mercy Sunday. Have a blessed Easter!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Quote: The Idea of a University (Fifth Discourse)

Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman in the fifth discourse of The Idea of a University, in part one:
It is a great point then to enlarge the range of studies which a University professes, even for the sake of the students; and, though they cannot pursue every subject which is open to them, they will be the gainers by living among those and under those who represent the whole circle. This I conceive to be the advantage of a seat of universal learning, considered as a place of education. An assemblage of learned men, zealous for their own sciences, and rivals of each other, are brought, by familiar intercourse and for the sake of intellectual peace, to adjust together the claims and relations of their respective subjects of investigation. They learn to respect, to consult, to aid each other. Thus is created a pure and clear atmosphere of thought, which the student also breathes, though in his own case he only pursues a few sciences out of the multitude....A habit of mind is formed which lasts through life, of which the attributes are, freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom; or what in a former Discourse I have ventured to call a philosophical habit.
In part two:
Knowledge is capable of being its own end. Such is the constitution of the human mind, that any kind of knowledge, if it be really such, is its own reward. And if this is true of all knowledge, it is true also of that special Philosophy, which I have made to consist in a comprehensive view of truth in all is branches, of the relations of science to science, of their mutual bearings, and their respective values. What the worth of such an acquirement is, compared with other objects which we seek,--wealth or power or honour or the conveniences and comforts of life, I do not profess here to discuss; but I would maintain, and mean to show, that it is an object, in its own nature so really and undeniably good, as to be the compensation of a great deal of thought in the compassing, and a great deal of trouble in the attaining.
In part six:
We are instructed, for instance, in manual exercises, in the fine and useful arts, in trades, and in ways of business; for these are methods, which have little or no effect upon the mind itself, are contained in rules committed to memory, to tradition, or to use, and bear upon an end external to themselves. But education is a higher word; it implies an action upon our mental nature, and the formation of a character; it is something individual and permanent, and is commonly spoken of in connexion with religion and virtue. When, then, we speak of the communication of Knowledge as being Education, we thereby really imply that that Knowledge is a state or condition of mind; and since cultivation of mind is surely worth seeking for its own sake, we are thus brought once more to the conclusion, which the word "Liberal" and the word "Philosophy" have already suggested, that there is a Knowledge, which is desirable, though nothing come of it, as being of itself a treasure, and a sufficient remuneration of years of labour.
In part nine:
Surely it is very intelligible to say, and that is what I say here, that Liberal Education, viewed in itself, is simply the cultivation of the intellect, as such, and its object is nothing more or less than intellectual excellence. Every thing has its own perfection, be it higher or lower in the scale of things; and the perfection of one is not the perfection of another. Things animate, inanimate, visible, invisible, all are good in their kind, and have a best of themselves, which is an object of pursuit.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

March 2014 Book Reports

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley is a classic tale, one I read long ago but thought I'd review before asking First Son to read it. I'll probably offer it as a choice for summer reading or independent reading in fifth grade. (playaway from the library) 

Anomaly and  Luminary by Krista McGee falls into the unexpected genre of Christian dystopian fiction. It's written for teens and was interesting enough for me to keep reading. I think it's a good choice for younger teens or those who are interested in thinking about what a remnant of the Church might look like after a planet-wide catastrophe (natural or otherwise). If you're an adult interested in something like that, you can't do better than A Canticle for Leibowitz. The third book of the trilogy comes out this summer and I'll read it because it's nearly impossible for me to not know what happens in a series. (first book purchased for Kindle when it was one of the daily deals, the sequel purchased for the Kindle)

The Thieves of Ostia and The Secrets of Vesuvius by Caroline Lawrence are the first and second of the Roman Mysteries. I found these recommended on the Mater Amabilis site. Though the idea of this diverse group of young people become close friends in the year 79 is a bit far-fetched (a rich Roman girl, a slave, a Jewish-Christian, and a homeless boy whose tongue had been cut out), the daily life otherwise seems to be well described. The mysteries are enjoyable, but contain elements appropriate for more mature readers like beheaded dogs, murder, and accusations of infidelity. I wouldn't read it aloud to my family, but I think First Son would find them enjoyable (I did) and intend to provide the series as an option for summer reading the year after fifth grade. (I received the first four volumes in the series from members of PaperBackSwap.com)


Unplanned by Abby Johnson (parish library copy)

The Gecko and Sticky: Villain's Lair by Wendelin Van Draanen is the first book in a series. It's a funny easy read that might be great for boys reluctant to read chapter books, but it's not high literature. I was a little disappointed in the main character's relationship with his little sister. Kids need all the examples and encouragement possible for kind and loving attitudes towards siblings (especially boys for younger ones), but the author emphasized Dave's goodness and his loving parents overall. This series isn't going on the list of books I present to my children, but it would be fine for some relaxing personal reading. (library copy)

The Dead of Night by John Marsden is the second book of the Tomorrow series for young adults, in which a completely improbably invasion is made on Australia. The second book is better than the first, but quite graphic both in violence and romantic activities. I'm reviewing this series for another website so plan to read them all, but I don't think it's the kind of series that's worth reading as an adult unless you want to read along with your mature teenager. (library copy)

Victory on the Walls: A Story of Nehemiah by Frieda Clark Hyman is a fabulous book published by Bethlehem Books and recommended by RC History for Connecting with History volume 1 (grammar level and above, not at affiliate link). I read it in preparation for the coming year, anticipating assigning it to First Son as independent reading, but later opted to only cover the first seven units of volume 1 next year. So First Son will read it in sixth grade instead of fifth grade. Set in the time of Nehemiah, it's a story of courage and faith, and a young man who matures in the course of the book. (purchased from Bethlehem Books)

Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson is also published by Bethlehem Books and recommended by RC History for Connecting with History volume 1. First Son will read this book next year in fourth grade. Like Victory on the Walls, it's recommended for grammar level and above, and I think it's even more important to follow the recommendation. There are great battles, destruction of Uriah's home and the murder of his mother and sister, and human sacrifice. I wouldn't read it aloud to my young girls, but it's a wonderful book showing life in Israel during the time of Judith in a way I had never understood myself before reading it. Highly recommended. (purchased from Bethlehem Books)

Unwind, UnWholly, and UnSouled by Neal Shusterman are the first three books in the Unwind Dystology, a world in which abortion is illegal but teenagers can be "unwound," a procedure in which they are dismantled bit by bit and their body used as transplants for diseases and cosmetic procedures. If you can get past the completely unrealistic premise that such a practice would be accepted on a broad scale, the questions raised regarding abortion, faith, the value of a person, what it means to be human, the commercialization of medical procedures, and so much more, are fascinating. It's a perfect series to read along with your teenagers. Though it's quite violent, I like it better than almost any dystopian fiction I've read in a long time. One of these days I might get around to writing a more complete post on the reasons why. The Catholic faith is not depicted as I think it would really be in such a situation, but I don't think it's insurmountable. Sadly, I have to wait for the next book to come out in October. (library copies) 

Books in Progress (and date started)

Monday, April 7, 2014

American History Picture Books in 2012-2013 Post 5 of 5: Civil Rights, Hawai'i, Alaska, and Space Exploration

This is the fifth and last post in a series on the picture books we read along with our American History studies in 2012-2013 when First Son was in  third grade, First Daughter was in kindergarten, Second Daughter was four and Second Son wasn't paying attention.

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford, is one of First Daughter's favorite books. Ruby is such a sweet and brave girl in the story.


Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina, illustrations by Eric Velasquez, is the inspiring story of the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal (in 1948). The illustrations are wonderful and there are pictures of Alice on the last couple of pages. This is a great book to read when talking about sports, perseverance, racism, and hope.

Akiak: A Tale From the Iditarod by Robert J. Blake is the book we read to celebrate Alaska joining the United States. It's the exciting tale of a one dog who was determined to finish the grueling Iditarod, even after she was injured.

I really wanted to read a Hawai'ian history picture book to the girls to celebrate it as the fiftieth state, but I couldn't find anything appropriate at our library. I did give First Son The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka'iulani of Hawai'i by Fay Stanley, illustrated by Diane Stanley, to read independently before he made a notebook page of Princess Ka'iulani. The story of Hawai'i's annexation is a sad one, I think. This book is excellent, but is much more of a proper biography than a picture book, too detailed for the girls.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier, is the biography I chose to read to the children. It's a little gritty for young children, but my girls didn't seem to mind. After our unit, I discovered I Have a Dream, which is one of my favorite picture books. We also read We March by Shane W. Evans, which gives a powerful witness not only to the March in 1963, but to our civic responsibilities and freedoms to peacefully demonstrate.

I've just recently discovered Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles, illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue, which tells of the friendship between a white boy and a black boy in 1964, after the Civil Rights Act passed into law. For older children, this could be a good introduction to a discussion about how changing the law was in some way just the beginning, that the struggle for real change meant changing hearts and attitudes.


Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, is one of my favorite picture books. I think it puts Rosa Parks's actions in perspective for young children. We also have the book Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. I love Bryan Collier's illustrations in this book, but I think the text doesn't do Rosa Parks justice; she was an intelligent and savvy woman who coordinated with others an effort to force Montgomery to change.


Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin with paintings by Wendell Minor is an autobiography written for young children. I thought it was a little text heavy for my girls, so I asked First Son to read it independently before creating a notebook page on Buzz Aldrin. I enjoyed reading it myself and found it inspiring, as I'm sure the author intended. The illustrations are marvelous.

One Small Step: Celebrating the First Men On the Moon by Jerry Stone is full of bits of paper that unfold like a scrapbook. It's overflowing with information on the astronauts and the space program. It would have been too overwhelming to read out loud to the girls, but I put it in our book basket for First Son to peruse at his leisure.

Posts in This Series - I'll update this list with links to all the others after they post.
#1: Slavery and the Civil War
#2: Progressive Era and Immigration
#3: World War I, Women's Suffrage, and the 1920s
#4: The Great Depression and World War II
#5: Civil Rights, Hawai'i, Alaska, and Space Exploration (this post)

You can see some of the books we read on this era when First Son was in kindergarten here. In addition, you can find links to all the picture books we read through American history in 2009-2010, when First Son was in kindergarten. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

7 Quick Takes Vol. 4




I wasn't going to post anything today because I just haven't written anything. For some reason I can't explain, the past few weeks have been the kind that leave me no time at the computer during the day and too drained to contemplate writing a complete sentence after the kids are in bed.

However, Kansas Dad was up during the night with a sick girl and I finally made him shut the door and let me stay in the living room so she wouldn't keep waking him when he has a full day of class and presentations and meetings and all that sort of professory-stuff. She's sitting on the sofa now staring at the cars going by and I've given up any hope of sleep.

So now you'll get the super-sleep-deprived edition of Seven Quick Takes.


I see the light at the end of our school year tunnel! We surpassed our required number of hours this week and that always makes me want to say, "We're done!" But I don't. We have two or three more weeks of math for First Son and First Daughter. After that it'll be even harder to stay focused, so I'm guessing we'll finish everything up in the next four weeks, though I haven't figured out yet how to manage the week we were going to take off for Easter.

 
My parents were here for a visit last week. The kids always love this special time with their grandparents and I always think of how many pictures I'm going to take before they come. Then I don't take any. I have no excuses.


Speaking of pictures, there are literally hundreds of them on my computer to go through and upload and make into albums. I am so overwhelmed at the thought of them, I haven't been able to convince myself to even look at a few of them each night (which would quickly manage all of them).

I'm also frustrated at a spot or something on my lens. I've tried cleaning it, but so far no luck.
Can you see it, floating up there in the top left corner?
 

The day the picture above was taken, I made the kids sit in a chair for photographs before we went to our church to have a family picture taken for a new church directory. They provided a free copy of the selected picture for us to keep. It's on our mantel now and I'm so proud to say we now have a professional family picture in which all four kids are present. (Our previous one had only two.)


A few weeks ago, the window in the driver's side door of our van broke. It fell all the way down into the door. Now, that window hasn't gone up or down in at least five years, but it was obviously not as big a deal when it was stuck in the up position than when it was essentially gone.

Kansas Dad managed to lift it out and duct tape it closed. I drove it like that for two weeks or so which should have been a great Lenten penance, but, through my own bad attitude, I think I failed to learn anything spiritually productive.

Then Kansas Dad spent some time on Youtube, ordered a large window-type-contraption, took the door apart, replaced said window-type-contraption, put the door back together again, and, being the amazing man he is, fixed that window! That's right, dear readers, he didn't just eliminate the need to hold our window up with duct tape; he made paying tolls and ordering Starbucks at a drive-through something I might actually want to do again. I told him we should go through a drive-through to celebrate, just because we could, but we couldn't think of anything we wanted.

I drove around with the window down all week, though, just because I could.


I sense a movie day in our future.


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Homeschool Review: Jesus and I

Jesus and I by Aloysius J. Heeg, S.J.

I started this year using this book in addition to Our Heavenly Father (Faith and Life 1) with First Daughter, but early in the year dropped our Faith and Life readings and focused only on this book. I thought Jesus and I covered new material for her in a way that worked perfectly in a Charlotte Mason environment and she was hearing the most important parts of the Faith and Life book at her CCD class.

The short chapters, often just a few paragraphs, follow the Baltimore Catechism and present all the important information for First Communicants and those preparing for First Reconciliation. A simple narration after the reading would be perfect, but there are questions provided for those who are uncomfortable with child-led narration or who want to be sure the child has mastered all of the information. A few sections at the back combine the information from earlier chapters into a single space for "When I Go to Confession" and "When I Go to Holy Communion" as well as a section of review questions for First Communion.

I originally expected this to be a small simple little catechism and therefore thought it would be fine to do this year in first grade even though we weren't preparing for First Communion yet. It's certainly gentle enough for a first graders (and yet complete enough for much older students as well), but it's absolutely perfect for First Communion preparation and I almost wish we'd saved it for next year. It's small and inexpensive, too, which only make it better.

For most of the year, we read this book together once a week. Each lesson probably took about five minutes including both the reading and the narration, though we had some interesting conversations about venial and mortal sins that extended the time of those lessons. After we finished Clare's Costly Cookie, we replaced that reading with an additional one from this book, so we finished in less than 30 weeks.

I highly recommend this book for First Communion Preparation and think it could replace any other catechism during that year (though you may want to have other times for Scripture study, saints stories, and celebrating the liturgical year).

I purchased this book at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts (linked above directly to the book). The owner very kindly began carrying it after I asked her if she would consider adding it to her store. She did and I'm so very grateful! (I receive nothing if you purchase this or anything else at Sacred Heart.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

American History Picture Books in 2012-2013 Post 4 of 5: The Great Depression and World War II

This is the fourth post in a series on the picture books we read along with our American History studies in 2012-2013 when First Son was in  third grade, First Daughter was in kindergarten, Second Daughter was four and Second Son wasn't paying attention.


Leah's Pony by Elizabeth Friedrich, illustrated by Michael Garland, is the sweet story of a girl's sacrifice for her family. There are a number of picture books featuring "penny auctions," but this one is my favorite.

Angels in the Dust by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Roger Essley, is based on a true story of a woman growing up in Oklahoma during the worst of the dust storms. It's description of the daily lives of people living through in the Dust Bowl is real, including the death of her mother from dust pneumonia. The girl and her sister create a dust angel, like a snow angel, to remember her mother. The times were hard, but the family was together and there are examples of how all the people helped each other live.

Hannah and the Perfect Picture Pony: A Story of the Great Depression by Sara Goodman Zimet, illustrations by Sandy Ferguson Fuller, is (I think) based on a true story of the author's grandmother of one day when a photographer with a pony came to the neighborhood, offering to take pictures for a small fee. The illustration at the end showing a grandmother holding a real photograph of a sweet little girl on a pony. It's a fine story but the illustrations were just alright and there were so many books to read! So I didn't read it aloud, but I did put it in the book basket because I thought the girls would like to see the pony.

Born and Bred in the Great Depression by Jonah Winter and Kimberly Bulcken Root is about growing up in East Texas during the Great Depression. It is full of information about what life was like for the large family without indoor plumbing and electricity. There's one scene in which the mother cries, "Oh Lord, we're all gonna die!" while a storm rages above the family huddled in the storm cellar that seemed a little scary for my kids who do have to huddle in a storm shelter sometimes, so I decided to leave this one in the book basket. It's a really nice book, though, for people with older kids or ones that won't remember that particular phrase the once every year or so they have to run to the storm shelter. The last page is especially good - the text and the illustration.

Uncle Jed's Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell, illustrated by James Ransome, is one of my favorite picture books. Uncle Jed saves for many years for his own barbershop before he loses everything during the Great Depression. Undaunted, he begins saving again. It's a wonderful book of perseverance and good stewardship, including the important truth that the people we love are always more important than money.

Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan, pictures by Brian Selznick, is just a fun story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart and a crazy ride they took together. It's fictionalized, but based on a true story. Little girls will love it because it's crazy and fun, but the women were also strong and courageous (though that doesn't play into this story quite as much).


Eleanor story and pictures by Barbara Cooney is a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, whose young life was not a very pleasant one, though quite inspiring. I decided against reading it aloud, though I think I will the next time we come around to this time in American history. I left it in the book basket for the kids to look through.


Mr. Williams by Karen Barbour is one of my favorite picture books. It's about a simple man with a hard life, but one lived fully and appreciated.


A new book I've discovered is Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, which is now one of my favorite pictures books. Set in the 1930s, it shows an era of adventure and discovery when most of the focus was on poverty, hunger, and dust.

Across the Blue Pacific: A World War II Story by Louise Borden, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, was my first choice of a World War II story to share with the children. Told from the perspective of a young girl at home who connects with a single Naval officer in a way that made the far away war more real, it's a book that was still focused on the war experience of children. It is a little sad, but nothing I thought the children would not appreciate. Sadly, it was checked out during our study.


Lisette's Angel by Amy Littlesugar, paintings by Max Ginsburg, is a book set in Normandy. The arrival of World War II has shrouded Lisette's world in shadows and fear of the soldiers. Her family is relatively safe, though they face hardship, but a friend is arrested and shown held at gunpoint by soldiers. The arrival of an angel, though, changes everything: an American paratrooper who floats down into their yard. Lisette and her brother help him, becoming a part of the D-Day invasion. This could be a difficult book to read to young children, but my girls were entranced, especially by the beautiful illustrations.

Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot: A True Story of the Berlin Airlift and the Candy that Dropped from the Sky by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, is another great book connecting a European child with American servicemen. Unfortunately, our library has only one copy and it seems there are always people waiting for it so I didn't request it for our studies.

The Farm Summer 1942 by Donald Hall, pictures by Barry Moser, is the quiet story of a young boy who lives with his grandparents on a farm in New Hampshire while his father was on a destroyer in the Navy and his mother worked for the government. It shows clearly what life was like for the farm families at that intersection of modern and more traditional farm life. I love this book, but it is a little slow for young children, with lots of text. The illustrations are lovely, though, and it is a nice way to counteract a lot of the scarier stories of World War II. There was still sunshine and family and quiet somewhere during that time of war.

Wind Flyers by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Loren Long, tells the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. It focuses more on the joy of one man (the narrator's uncle) when he flies rather than the harshness of the war. It's a great book to share, incorporating history, aviation, racism, but most of all, the celebration of the achievement of a dream.

Mama Played Baseball by David A. Adler, illustrated by Christ O'Leary, tells of Amy's mother who becomes a professional baseball player during World War II. It's a sweet little story and one my girls enjoyed. The illustrations are done in a style reminiscent of 1940s war posters.


So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet, tells of a visit to Manzanar by a family whose parents had lived in the camp during World War II. In the end, I didn't cover the Japanese internship camps with the children this time through American History, but this would be a wonderfully illustrated poignant book to accompany that discussion. It manages to convey the isolation, fear, confusion, and anger of the Japanese-Americans without being too overwhelming for children.

Another book that touches on the Japanese internment camps is The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida, illustrated by Joanna Yardley. This story focuses on the confusion and anxiety of a family as they are being moved to the internment camps, but also highlights a special friendship between Emi, a young Japanese girl, and her white friend. The book ends soon after they arrive at the camp, so it doesn't talk about what life was like there, but it does show the strength and courage of the Japanese people who lived there as well as a good lesson on the importance of our relationships rather than connections to material belongings.

The Unbreakable Code by Sara Hoagland Hunter, illustrated by Julia Miner, is the fascinating true story of the Navajo code talkers that risked their lives in the Pacific in World War II. I put this in the book basket for First Son to read on his own because I didn't think the girls would be very interested.

One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II written and illustrated by Lita Judge is a sweet tale of reaching out to people in a war-ravaged Europe after World War II. I put it in our book basket for them to look through.

Posts in This Series - I'll update this list with links to all the others after they post.
#1: Slavery and the Civil War
#2: Progressive Era and Immigration
#3: World War I, Women's Suffrage, and the 1920s
#4: The Great Depression and World War II (this post)
#5: Civil Rights, Hawai'i, Alaska, and Space Exploration

Some of the books we've read set during the Great Depression are here and some post-1930s picture  books are here. In addition, you can find links to all the picture books we read through American history in 2009-2010, when First Son was in kindergarten.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Homeschool Review: Latin for Children Primer A


This Latin program is absolutely one of the best additions I made to our homeschool this year.

Really! We all love it!

Primer A, written for students in fourth grade, is comprised of seven units, each with a review chapter and a final end-of-book review chapter at the end, for a total of 32 chapters. We've done one each week and while each chapter seems focused and small in scope, the overall progress is rather amazing. We still have a couple of chapters left, but I feel confident enough to go ahead and post a review.

Each chapter has a memory page with a chapter maxim, a chant (a verb conjugation, noun declension, or prepositions, etc.), and vocabulary (usually ten words, but it varies a little). Then there's a single page called Grammar that presents the material for the chapter, like sentence patters or direct objects. The third page is a Worksheet. The fourth page shows some of the English derivatives based on the Latin vocabulary for the week. The fifth page is a quiz. The final page usually covers something interesting like military names or some Roman history.

I chose this book over Latina Christiana after using Prima Latina because I was confused myself reading through Latina Christiana. Many people had said I could use it without any Latin knowledge myself, but I was struggling with the most basic lessons! A friend of mine reminded me of this program from Classical Academic Press (from which we used Song School Latin) and I decided to give it a try.

The main disadvantage of this program is the cost. It's made up of a number of pieces that go together and is followed by Primer B and Primer C, meaning the higher cost continues for three years.

Latin for Children, Primer A (Latin Edition) is the main text and is absolutely essential to the program. It contains all the vocabulary, lessons, worksheets, and quizzes. We use this book as a non-consumable. I started the year asking First Son to write the answers in a notebook, but quickly discovered he was hampered by his slow handwriting, so we switched to oral exercises instead.

Latin for Children, Primer A Answer Key is just that, an answer key. Because I was doing the lessons alongside First Son and he answered everything orally, I rarely needed to consult it. It was nice to have, however, on the few times I wasn't sure of an answer.

Primer A DVD and CD set  (also available on Amazon, but it's difficult to tell if the set there is complete) contains DVDs with a short program for each chapter as well as CDs with chants in ecclesiastical and classical pronunciations for all the maxims, chants, and vocabulary words. Personally, I found the CDs invaluable. First Son and I listened and chanted the chapter's track, usually only 3-4 minutes long, twice each day. (He asked about half-way through the year if we could do them only once a day and we gave it a try. After a few weeks, it was obvious to him that his retention had decreased, so he agreed to go back to twice a day.) The DVDs are less important, I think. The chant on the DVD is the same as on the CD but not quite as clear. The lessons seem quite good but really just reiterate exactly what's in the book. Because First Son and I read this together, watching the DVD lesson was redundant. It would be more valuable for a student completing the primer alone. There was often a short skit at the end which all the children enjoyed, but it's a little expensive for just that bit of fun. The only place I have seen to purchase the CD without the DVDs is on Classical Academic Press's website. I really think I could have taught this program without the DVDs at all even though I have no Latin background. I would not have wanted to attempt it without the CDs, but I have a friend with some Latin background and I think she taught it without either the DVDs or the CDs.

Latin for Children, Primer A - Activity Book! is completely optional, but I think it's a wonderful addition to this program. The activity book is full of crossword puzzles, matching exercises, and other little word games, all using the Latin vocabulary for the week, including pages for the review chapters. For the most part, First Son loved these pages. They were fun and quirky. Every once in a while, he would become frustrated by an error in the puzzle. One crossword puzzle in particular seemed to be numbered incorrectly and he was very upset, so I told him to just skip that one. Problem solved! (First Son also found a few errors in the text, but nothing we couldn't figure out.) I think you could easily do the program without the activity book, but I also think the activity pages helped First Son develop an increased fluency with the vocabulary, which was a major goal for the year.

Latin for Children, Primer A History Reader (Libellus de Historia) is another optional book. This small book provides four to six sentences in each of the fifteen chapters written entirely in Latin for the student to translate. An introduction in the beginning gives some good ideas on how to use the book and there are even discussion questions (in Latin) for each chapter. We started this book about half-way through the year and read through one chapter each week. First Son would probably rather just skip it, but I think it provides a great boost to realize we're really reading Latin, even if it's akin to an early reader in English. Some of the chapters are about Jesus, just as a warning. There is an answer key for this available for download at Classical Academy Press, which I often found useful.

Classical Academic Press provides a free website of resources at HeadventureLand.com that my children enjoyed a great deal at the beginning of the year. Mainly, they liked the videos, especially this one on the three little pigs. We didn't spend very much time there, but I think some students might find the online games and videos inspiring.

This is how we structured our Latin study:
  • Monday - Go through the chant together twice (8-10 minutes), read through the grammar page together (5-10 minutes), watch the DVD (15 minutes).
  • Tuesday - Chant twice (8-10 minutes), complete the worksheet orally (5-10 minutes).
  • Wednesday - Chant twice (8-10 minutes), read through the derivatives page together (5-10 minutes), First Son usually looked up a few of the derivatives or wrote some sentences independently (5 minutes), read a few sentences in the history reader (starting about half-way through the year, 5 minutes).
  • Thursday - Chant twice (8-10 minutes), complete the quiz orally (5-10 minutes), read a few more sentences in the history reader (5 minutes)
  • Friday - Chant twice (8-10 minutes), read the final page in the chapter together, or First Son would read it independently (5-10 minutes), finish the history reader (5 minutes). We could easily combine Thursday and Friday's work if we needed a shorter week.
Independently, First Son made vocabulary flash cards each week. He'd write about half of them on Monday and the other half on Tuesday. He would review them every day, using the same system I have for memory verses (daily, every other day, weekly, and monthly practice). Once a week or so, I would go through the flash cards with him and move them back as he mastered them. He was responsible for finishing the activity book pages by the end of the day on Friday and would sometimes save them all for one day or do a page or two on different days.

It seems like a lot, but most of the days I would spend only 15-20 minutes with him on Latin. I personally think daily practice is essential for learning a language and was willing to devote that time to the subject. (Latin and Math are the only two things we did five days a week.) His Latin vocabulary has grown tremendously (as has mine!) and I have caught him wandering the house conjugating verbs or declining nouns absentmindedly. The derivatives work was probably the most difficult for him, but the most beneficial for me. I often found I could remember the Latin vocabulary because I knew the English derivatives.

I think you could use this program with a range of ages, but First Daughter in first grade was not yet ready for a program with this much grammar. She went through the first book of Song School Latin this year, independently, and I will probably buy the second book for her to use next year. I will probably then start Primer A with her in third grade though we might go more slowly. When she's ready for it, I will only need to purchase the activity book.

As I said, we've been really pleased and we'll be starting Latin for Children Primer B in the fall. In addition to Amazon (all the affiliate links above) and Classical Academic Press, I've found competitive prices on these products at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts (not an affiliate link). I also purchased some of my books used on Cathswap, though there aren't many available there.

Docendo, discimus. - Seneca
By teaching, we learn.
Chapter maxum for chapters 24 and 25

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bethlehem Books Print Sale Friday Only!

For anyone who missed the ebook sale or just prefers holding a real live book, Bethlehem Books is having a sale on their print books. Everything in stock will be 35% off. I think the sale starts at midnight, but maybe the coupon code would already work. Find the details here. I know I keep talking about this publisher, but I really cannot recommend them highly enough!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Homeschool Review: Clare's Costly Cookie

Clare's Costly Cookie: A Young Heart Discovers the Way of Love
by Julie Kelly, illustrated by Mary MacArthur

The owner of Sacred Heart Books and Gifts recommended this book to me when I emailed her requesting recommendations for First Communion preparation and first grade catechism. I am often leery of books from new small Christian (in this case, Catholic) publishers because many of them are simply books of a weaker quality, but I was wonderfully surprised by this gem!

The twenty chapters each have at least one illustration and end with a Bible verse, which could be used for memory verses. We read one chapter each week, taking a break during Advent.

In the book, Clare speaks to Jesus after encounters with her family or parents in which she has often misbehaved. She talks about what happened, how she felt, and asks for help in understanding how Jesus wants her to behave and for the strength to follow his will. The chapters often include stories of a saint or two as well. Clare listens quietly to what Jesus says and then responds with insight and growth.

We were not preparing for First Communion this year, as our parish celebrates that sacrament in second grade and we decided to include our children in the regular program (which is excellent and includes presentations from Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), but this book is more about teaching children how to pray and listen for God's response to prayer than First Communion. (In the book, Clare has already received her First Communion.) 

First Daughter adored this book. It was far and away her favorite lesson time book in all of first grade. Clare's struggled are very much those of any young girl with brothers and sisters, so First Daughter understood exactly how she felt. More than a catechism, it provides an example of how a child could grow in her faith and then put that growth into action with a subsequent change in her behavior. What does it mean to live as a Christian when you are a nine-year-old American living today? This book can help a child answer that question.

I read this book aloud to First Daughter, but she could have easily read it herself (and did, once we finished it). I think this book could be particularly good for families who have just entered the Catholic church, as stories of the saints and practices like adoration are incorporated into the story. A new convert could receive an introduction while sharing a wonderful book with the family.

I purchased this book from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts (linked directly to the book above) and highly recommend the store. It's also available from third party sellers at Amazon and directly from the publisher at Nativity Press. I receive nothing if you purchase from Sacred Heart of Nativity Press and receive a small commission if you follow the link to Amazon, put something in your cart, and make a purchase.