Friday, June 22, 2018

Narration for Every Child: Know and Tell

by Karen Glass

Anyone who wants to understand and follow Charlotte Mason's philosophy in education today, in a home or in a school, should read this book. I selected it for our book club a few months ago and read it over a few days myself. Three friends have already borrowed and read it as well.

It begins with an explanation of what narration is and how the practice integrates ideas and knowledge in a mind. She quotes Charlotte Mason extensively, but a reader would need no prior introduction to Ms. Mason to appreciate and understand the author's assertions.
To make an art of narration, we begin with children's natural interest and ability to tell about something. We accustom them to tell accurately, consecutively, and fully. In due time, we encourage them to write narrations. They begin by learning to write the same thing they would have said in an oral narration, and when that becomes natural, we teach them to take what they have written and shape it into familiar forms of writing, such as essay.
Ms. Glass explains the difference between narration and the kind of assessment we find in many classrooms today.
The usual kind of test with predetermined right and wrong answers is essentially contrived to discover what children do not know, rather than what they do. 
Rather than asking children to figure out what someone else (a teacher or textbook publisher) thinks is important in a text, narration requires a student to read, comprehend, and incorporate knowledge into their own understanding of a book or text. It is deceptively simplistic to ask a child, "Tell me what you remember about this reading." In reality, it is incredibly challenging and rewarding.

I've been reading and living the Charlotte Mason philosophy, at least in part, for almost a decade. There was not very much in the early chapters that I had not already read or learned, but I have never had a source in my hands that outlined everything as clearly and thoroughly as this book. A newcomer to Mason's methods will glean from these chapters a rich understanding of narration in its ideal form.

In later chapters, Karen Glass provides examples and explanations of exactly how to implement the methods of narration from the youngest children to the most experienced in high school and college.

The examples are taken from real narrations by real children. Some of them are magnificent, but some of them are much less impressive. I have had children give what can only be described as "abysmal" narrations; including the struggling narrators in the examples is a great asset to teachers whose children are early in the journey or struggling narrators.

Consistently requiring narration is difficult, but essential. Reading or listening alone is only the beginning. The narration is the work of learning.
It may be difficult to accept at first, but what a child recalls in any single narration is of small importance in the greater scheme of nourishing the child's mind...What a child takes in and makes her own will be unique for each one.
There's an excellent graphic on page 85 that shows a spectrum of the skills of oral and written narrations aligned with fourth through seventh grades, providing a clear picture of the expectations a teacher should have and the goals as children perfect their narration gradually over the years. Ms. Glass even provides word counts, which help immensely when trying to determine a long-term goal for a student in a years-long process.

There are also specific chapters in the book addressing beginning narration with older children, narration and special needs, and narration in a classroom.

After reading this book, I intend to adjust our homeschool narrations. First of all, we're going to add exams. (I actually added a few at the end of the year last year.) Ms. Glass explains that narrations are for the child, not the instructor, and therefore can be great advantage in learning.
[The] real value lies in the children's mental effort to think back and relate again the material they have learned. It is the process, not the product, that is most valuable, although the product--the collected narrations of a child who has attended to his work--can be impressive.
There's also another wonderful resource in the book: a table a student can use to record briefly what happens in each chapter of a book as he or she reads in, providing the scaffolding for a longer narration at the end and guiding a thoughtful understanding of the basic events in the book. I intend to use this chart for the books I ask my children to read that are more challenging or thought-provoking but from which I don't require regular narrations.

On page 100, Ms. Glass has written a note to students, explaining narration and how integral it is. I intend to copy this and share it with all my students next year. There's another such explanation on page 127 on introductions and conclusions. My daughter may be ready for this page sometime in the coming year, but I intend to share it with my high schooler at the beginning of the year.

I have a commonplace book and my children receive two books at the beginning of sixth grade, one for copying poetry and one for prose. (They decide which book is which and whether a quote is poetry or prose.) I'm not sure I've every really explained the purpose of the books, though, other than to say it's for copying quotes of things they like, so we're going to talk about that as well.
Encourage your students to appreciate a well-written sentence as they would appreciate the brushwork of a fine painting or the enchanting flourish of a musical composition.
Over the page few years, I've used a variety of writing and composition programs and resources. With this book in hand, I feel much more confident in my ability to guide my children as they read and narrate and write and I feel more confidence in their abilities as well. The chapter entitled "Becoming a Writer" is going to be the backbone of our writing curriculum from now on and will be mainly implemented in the high school years. I'm certain I'll struggle as we make this adjustment, but Karen Glass has outlined a simple but profound plan that covers everything we need.

I will be returning to the processes and strategies outlined in Know and Tell for years to come. I recommend it to anyone and everyone interested in Charlotte Mason's ideas and philosophy and I'm sure you'll see me repeatedly refer to it in the Mater Amabilis™ facebook discussions.

I purchased this book myself and have received nothing in exchange for this review. The link to Amazon is an affiliate link.

Monday, June 18, 2018

An Update for Chemistry on the Range in Third Grade

Last summer, I revised our third grade science plans for chemistry and posted them on the blog. I wanted to follow up and let you know how the went (and make a reminder for myself for the few modifications I plan for Second Son).

Overall, these plans worked very well for us and we enjoyed learning about chemistry together. There are a lot of fun activities that are the sort of thing the kids remember long after the study is over, like the experiment we do together at the end of the year.

As I anticipated, The Elements is a little difficult for a third grader to read and narrate on her own. An older student, even just by one year, would be able to handle this book more easily. On the days pages from that book were assigned, we read them together and narrated them one or two paragraphs at a time during her lesson time with me. I often helped her with the activities from that book as well. Because we spent much of our "exploration time" going through what I had planned as independent lessons, we sometimes missed those. So for Second Son, I'm going to take the "exploration activities" from the weeks we read from The Elements and incorporate them into the independent lessons even though I anticipate they will not be done independently. That way, we won't miss that. There's plenty of time in the lesson plans to extend the study a few weeks.

The periodic table connecting tiles were colorful, well-made, and came with a little booklet of activities. I think we waited too long to get it out and intend to add it to the schedule every time we read about the periodic table in The Elements. Especially if the teacher is reading aloud, the student can be connecting the tiles as he or she listens.

After we finish The Elements and before we start How to Think Like a Scientist, I'm going to assign a biograpy of Marie Curie, because I like her and we own it: Marie Curie's Search for Radium by Beverly Birch and Christian Birmingham. This is one most third graders would be able to read independently. (It's one of a number by the same author that we have enjoyed.)

Second Daughter didn't seem to care for the activities and ideas in Super Science Concoctions. As we went through the year, I felt like we had a good number of activities planned, so we often just looked through the pages together without doing the activities. I still like this book and will use it with Second Son, but I may consider it more of a supplement, a source for more information and more activities if he is especially excited or interested.

So, to sum up:

  • Be prepared to read The Elements together.
  • Move the exploration activities for the weeks we are reading The Elements to the independent plans so we have extra time scheduled for them.
  • Add the periodic table connecting tiles to the following chapters / assignments for The Elements:
    • Ch 2 pp. 12-15 (week 10)
    • Ch 4 pp. 39-40 (week 14)
    • Ch 5, each day (weeks 15 and 16)
    • Ch 6, each day (weeks 16 and 17)
    • Ch 7, each day (weeks 18 and 19)
    • Ch 8, each day (weeks 19 and 20)
  • Add Marie Curie's Search for Radium between The Elements and How to Think Like a Scientist (week 20 or 21)
  • Use Super Science Concoctions more as a supplement to avoid overwhelming the student.

It's hard to believe next summer I'll be preparing for the last round of third grade chemistry, but these children keep growing up.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Communism in the Barn: Animal Farm

Animal Farm
by George Orwell

This book has been on my shelf for years but I had never read it so I picked it for our book club in May.

In the book, animals on a farm rise up against their human owner and start a cooperative, closely mirroring events as they transpired in the October 1917 revolution in Russia. (My plans for this unit are posted in the Mater Amabilis™ facebook group.) I'm going to add it to our Level 4 schedule for my future students because it so well parallels what they read in the Rise and Fall of Communism term. To be honest, without the Level 4 reading I did this year, much of the book would have been meaningless to me!

I read this particular edition: the Everyman's Library one with an introduction by Julian Symons. After reading the book itself, I read the appendices and the introduction, all of which deepened my understanding of the author, the book, and what the author intended.

Highly recommended.

I received nothing to write this post; all opinions are my own. Links to Amazon are affiliate links. I think my mom gave me this book.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Art and Wonder: Our Lady's Feast

Our Lady's Feasts
by Sister Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P.

This book is recommended by Mater Amabilis™for Level 3 Year 2 Easter reading, seventh grade. I don't remember where I found this book, but I'm sure I bought it used. Right now (June 2018), the online prices for a print copy of this book are outrageously high, but it is available in free downloads for a variety of devices.

The book is divided into chapters for ten of the most important Marian feasts:
  • The Immaculate Conception
  • The Nativity of Our Lady
  • The Annunciation
  • The Visitation
  • The Nativity of Christ
  • Feast of the Holy Family
  • Our Lady of Sorrows
  • The Assumption
  • Our Lady and the Rosary
  • Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces
  • short chapters / appendices: Devotion to Our Lady, Source of Quotations, Appendix: Mary, the Mother of God
Each of the ten feasts is illustrated with a lovely silhouette; the one on the cover shown here does not do them justice. Contemplating the silhouette while reading the text encourages the reader to slow down and contemplate the words while looking at the illustration.

The book was originally published in 1945, so some of the dates when the feasts are celebrated have changed and some Marian feasts have been added.

The chapters invite us to contemplate Mary's life. For example, in the chapter on the Annunciation:

Where was Mary when the angel came to her? We do not know. She was in prayer, for Mary never was separated from God in her thoughts and affections, which means she was always at prayer. She might have been spinning, or weaving, or reading the Scriptures: the Gospel does not tell us.
In simple words, the author describes some of the most miraculous events.
With the word of a humble little maiden in an unknown corner of the world, the most tremendous occurrence of all time took place, and God became man. Not in His sublime majesty, from which man would hide his face in terror, but in the humble way that all children of Adam are brought into being, by means of an earthly mother, who was to give Him His human needs of flesh and blood.
Sister Mary Jean Dorcy compares the mark of the Incarnation on Mary's soul with the mark baptism leaves on all of our souls.
The Incarnation placed upon her soul a mark that will glow forever with a beauty that all eternity will not dim.
When describing the Visitation, Mary's zeal to share the joy of her cousin Elizabeth with that of missionaries unable to stop themselves from rushing to share the love of Christ.

The language is fairly careful when describing the doctrines surrounding Mary, which are much less followed, defined, or understood by our Protestant brethren. (I might argue some Catholics are mistaken in some of their Marian beliefs.)
Mary is a creature, and as such, is separated by infinite distance from the God Who made her. But as His Mother she has become a co-helper in our redemption. Through her free consent at the Annunciation, God took from her the flesh and blood needful for His Incarnation.
In regard to our spiritual life, Mary does not act independently of Christ, and she is never honored apart from her offie as His Mother. She was herself redeemed by His sacrifice. But Mary cooperated in the Redemption by her free consent. Without Christ, Mary would be as poor as any other creature, but with Him she is immensely rich in grace.
This is definitely a book for Catholics, though not necessarily for those who already have a devotion to Mary. This book is clear and good even for those who might not be inclined to Marian devotions. Except for one sentence, which I thought went a little too far:
Devotion to Our Lady is the least common denominator under which all human sanctity is measured; it would be impossible to find a saint who was not devoted to her.
We believe people with aren't Catholic can lead good and holy lives and even (gasp) go to heaven. It's not even clear that all the declared saints had an explicit devotion to Mary. However, a devotion to Mary can bring us closer to Christ and this little book is a lovely one to share. I personally thought it would appeal more to a female student, but First Son read it without complaint.

This post contains my own opinions. I purchased the book, Our Lady's Feasts. Links to Amazon in the post are affiliate links.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Water and Life in First Grade: Rivers and Oceans

Young Discoverers series
by Barbara Taylor
(also part of The Earth: The Geography of our World)

This is the book recommended for Mater Amabilis™ Level 1B (first grade) Earth Studies. I've now used it four times with four different children along with the excellent schedule of lessons as recommended by Mater Amabilis™, which we follow almost exactly.

In this little book are the very basics of understanding water on earth: the water cycle, underground water, rivers, lakes, oceans, waves, and water pollution. The topics are mainly covered in one or two main paragraphs and lots of full-color illustrations and diagrams. There are many suggestions for little demonstrations you can do at home with materials you probably have on hand, most of which are included in the Mater Amabilis™schedule for you.

In addition, Mater Amabilis™ recommends regular visits (six or seven) to a local water environment. We've been lucky for the last few years to have access to a friend's bit of river which we visited regularly during our nature study time; it's easily the favorite place of the children. Over time, we've seen the river running high, overflowing its banks, and running drastically low. We've seen prints of deer, raccoons, and dogs in the sand near the river, frogs leaping from the edge, and surprises like an armadillo and a bald eagle. The children tried building bridges of sand and crossing rivulets with logs...which I tell myself must be educational somehow. Visiting some other local water environments encouraged comparisons and allowed us to see other phenomena, like the ice forming on top of the water of a little pond and only at the edges (when ice never formed on the river). It can be difficult to find an appropriate place or to make the effort to go where children are likely to get sandy and wet, but the fruits are worth it.

Years ago, I collected a few picture book titles from the library that match up with the topics in the Rivers and Oceans study. In the beginning, I put these in a picture book basket. We don't have a picture book basket anymore (pause for no-more-preschoolers-sigh). For Second Son, I sometimes read them aloud, sometimes gave them to him to read, and sometimes just let them sit on the library book shelf.

On the water cycle:

Water Is Water by Miranda Paul (on the blog here, library copy)

Rivers of Sunlight by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm - This book is a little busy in its illustrations for my taste, but it shows how water moves, changes, and flows throughout the world. It's much more than the water cycle. (library copy)

On freshwater life:

A Drop of Water by Gordon Morrison - on the blog here. (library copy)

Pond by Gordon Morrison - This book follows the life of a pond through the seasons of a year. It's a lovely picture book of the natural world. (library copy)

On great rivers of the world:

Sacred River: The Ganges of India by Ted Lewin - Lewin is a masterful illustrator and world traveler who treats subjects around the world with respect and grace. (purchased at a library book sale)

Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest by Steven Jenkins - This book covers more than just water around the world, but Jenkins provides illustrations that place geographical features in perspective in his excellent style. (library copy)

On municipal water:

The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen - a typical Magic School Bus book with good descriptions and illustrations of how cities clean and manage water. (library copy)

Just for fun:

Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo So - The poems are enjoyable, but the illustrations are perfect. (library copy)

Wave by Suzy Lee - a wordless picture book of a girl and a wave, surprisingly wonderful. (used copy from

The Big Big Sea by Martin Waddell (on the blog here, used copy from

I purchased Rivers and Oceans long long ago, used, from somewhere. This review is my own opinion and I did not receive anything for it. Links to Amazon and PaperBackSwap are affiliate links.)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Greek Myths, Illustrated: D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths

Mater Amabilis™Level 1A recommends Classic Myths to Read Aloud in Level 1A (second and third grade) and we loved it. But after reading it aloud for the first two children, I was ready for a change. So Second Daughter and I read Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire instead.

We had already listened to the audiobook from our library, which is wonderful and a book even Kansas Dad enjoyed hearing. The book we also had on the shelves, a gift from dear friends of ours many years ago.

In the first year, second grade, I read the stories aloud to Second Daughter. In the second year, third grade, I started out reading them aloud, but she asked if she could read them independently and then narrate them. The disadvantage of independent reading is that many of the names are difficult to pronounce and even more difficult to remember. So I would usually try to model the name for her during her narration if not before her reading. (I also learned from the audiobook that there are multiple acceptable pronunciations for many of the names.)

These stories are exciting and entertaining. They are wonderfully illustrated, of course, in the d'Aulaire style you might recognize from one of their many books. Many incidents in the Greek myths are not appropriate for young ears, but the d'Aulaires manage to phrase them in a general and circumspect manner that makes them acceptable for all ages.

For those that are interested, I'll post our schedule. It's easy to spread the stories over the two years leaving plenty of extra time for breaks during Advent or for important things like trips to the zoo.

Year One (second grade), reading once a week:

  • In Olden Times and Gaea pp 9-11
  • The Titans pp 12-15
  • Zeus and His Family pp 16-23
  • Hera pp 24-27
  • Hephaestus pp 28-29
  • Aphrodite pp 30-31
  • Ares pp 32-33
  • Athena pp 34-37
  • Poseidon pp 38-39
  • Poseidon cont pp 40-43
  • Apollo pp 42-43
  • Artemis pp 44-49
  • Hermes pp 50-55
  • Hades pp 56-57
  • Persephone and Demeter pp 58-63
  • Dionysus pp 64-69
  • Minor Gods and Prometheus pp 70-73
  • Pandora pp 74-75
  • Deucalion pp 76-79
  • Eos pp 80-81
  • Helios and Phaethon pp 82-85
Year Two (third grade), reading once a week:
  • Selene pp 86-89
  • Pan pp 90-91
  • Echo pp 92-93
  • Syrinx pp 94-95
  • The Wild and Vulgar Centaurs and Asclepius pp 96-99
  • The Nine Muses pp 100-101
  • Orpheus pp 102-107
  • Europa and Cadmus pp 108-111
  • Tantalus and Pelops pp 112-113
  • Danaus, Perseus, and the Gorgon pp 114-122
  • King Midas pp 123-125
  • Sisyphus pp 126-127
  • Bellerophon pp 128-129
  • Melampus pp 130-131
  • Heracles pp 132-139 (stop before 11th labor)
  • Heracles pp 139-147
  • Theseus pp 148-157
  • Oedipus pp 158-161
  • The Golden Fleece pp 162-166 (stop before "The Black Sea was a dangerous…"
  • The Golden Fleece pp 166-175
  • The Calydonian Boar Hunt p 176-177
  • The Apples of Love and the Apple of Discord p 178-184
  • To the End p 186-189
I have never really done exams with the kids, but inspired by Know and Tell, which I had recently read, I asked Second Daughter to tell me her favorite Greek myth at the end of this book and she beautifully narrated more than one of them. It was one of those moments when you think perhaps this homeschooling thing will work out alright after all.

I wouldn't say this book of Greek myths is better than Classic Myths to Read Aloud, but if you happen to have it on your shelves it can make an excellent substitute.

I received nothing for writing this post which contains only my honest opinions. I purchased a used copy of Classic Myths to Read Aloud and we received the d'Aulaire book as a gift. Links to Amazon are affiliate links.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

May 2018 Book Reports

World Peacemakers: Mahatma Gandhi by Michael Nicholson - link to my post. (library copy)

The Korean War (Snapshots in History) by Brian Fitzgerald - link to my post. (library copy)

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (and the Grisha trilogy) - link to my post. (gift copy of Shadow and Bone, library copies of the second and third books)

The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy - link to my post. (purchased used copy)

10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War by Philip Caputo - link to my post. (library copy)

The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski - This is the second book of the Witcher series and the third featuring him. It's politics and fantasy and ethics and mostly enjoyable, but contains an episode centered on the rape myth so, though I do intend to read the remaining books, I'm not going to recommend it. (library copy)

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting - link to my post. (received from a member of

1984 by George Orwell - I enjoyed revisiting this classic with the audiobook. It was more interesting for me after listening to the lecture on Winston in Heroes and Legends. I was able to place the story in context of post-World War II England much better than I had understood previously. (purchased on Audible)

Afghanistan (Global Hot Spots) by David Downing, September 11: Attack on America (Snapshots in History) by Andrew Langley, and The Arrival by Shaun Tan - link to my post. (all library copies)

Nino by Valenti Angelo - link to my post. (purchased used)

How Great Science Fiction Works by Gary K. Wolfe, one of The Great Courses - I thoroughly enjoyed these lectures on science fiction. It is a broad overview of the field. There's one lecture, for example, on science fiction and religion, but Kansas Dad co-teaches a science fiction and theology course that examines only Christianity in science fiction and lasts an entire semester. I recognized many of the authors, stories, and books mentioned, but also discovered many new ones. Hopefully I find some time to read some of them. (purchased on Audible with a credit)

Books in Progress (and date started)

The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). Links to RC History and PaperBackSwap.comare also affiliate links to their respective stores. Other links (like those to Bethlehem Books) are not affiliate links.

These reports are my honest opinions.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Second Daughter's Masterpieces: Early Elementary Artistic Pursuits

Artistic Pursuits
Early Elementary K-3, Book One
An Introduction to the Visual Arts

This book is not recommended in the Mater Amabilis™ curriculum but some others in the series are. After using one of the later books with First Son and First Daughter, I decided to try this one to make sure I was getting art time with Second Daughter and to provider her with an opportunity to use something besides crayons and markers.

I have 2013 edition. This is just a book. There is a new edition that includes a book and a DVD illustrating artistic techniques. See the new edition and video lessons here. I can see how the DVD might be nice, but Second Daughter didn't have any trouble trying out the techniques in her book and it's nice not to have to be always going over to the TV to watch something.

This book provided lots of opportunities for Second Daughter to focus on artistic skills with materials unfamiliar to me (water-soluble wax pastels) or ones I might have anticipated as too daunting on my own (like the sculpture). Every lesson provides some background and a connection to real artists and their work, including artists lost in antiquity whose work remains in archeological digs, and an example of student work that encouraged my daughter in an attempt that might not match what she sees in her mind's eye.

Each lesson follows a similar pattern:
  • A page on how and why artists make art,
  • A page showing a piece of art with a few guided discussion questions,
  • And a project page with a project for the student and a very few simple descriptions of artistic techniques or instructions for a new kind of media.

I read this pages with Second Daughter and then set her up for her art project. I think by the end of third grade, she probably could have read and worked without me.

There are 36 lessons in the book, enough for one lesson every week, but rarely have I done a full 36 weeks for a K-3 student. Plus, it's nice to have more flexibility with younger students to skip lessons during Advent or Lent, for example. So I spread Book One over two years for Second Daughter (second and third grade). We both enjoyed it so much, though, that I did purchase Book Two in the hopes that Second Son will be able to do even more. I probably wouldn't bother with a formal study like this in kindergarten, but it might be fun to start it in first grade as long as a student didn't get frustrated.

Second Son will use this book next year, in second grade. Second Daughter is going to move on to Elementary 4-5 Book One. First Daughter has completed the Elementary 4-5 book and we liked it, but I haven't written a full review on the blog.

This is an example of art produced by Second Daughter in lesson 5, when she was early in her second grade year. She was supposed to paint a picture from a photograph and chose a kangaroo rat.

Near the end of the book, Second Daughter (nearing the end of third grade) was able to create a handful of sculptures.

Above, we have Kansas Dad. Below is her rendition of her bearded dragon. (I nicked a bit of his tail off, but Kansas Dad fixed it later.)

The picture at the beginning of the post shows Second Son's art box almost ready for school. I bought four boxes like this, one for each student, and they work beautifully. Everything they need is right in the box (excluding things like water or newspaper, etc.) and they can carry it to the table or even outside. I labeled the sides with different washi tape to make it easy to see which one they need.

Here's the list of supplies with my notes:
  • ebony pencil - I bought this box of ebony pencils about three years ago and we've been using them ever since. The kids each have one in their art boxes and most of us have them in our nature study bags. They've held up really well and I still have extras in our art supplies.
  • vinyl eraser - We use this kind of eraser for everything. I've always bought them when back to school shopping in the fall at our local super-store. They each have one in their art boxes and in their pencil boxes and I keep one with my supplies.
  • set of soft pastels - I bought this set on Amazon. We've had success with this brand in the past. It is easy for pastels to get broken and smushed together so the colors are mussed, but this box stayed safely in Second Daughter's art box and survived the study quite well. (We have a larger communal set that's always with our art supplies for "whenever" use.) She used about a third of the black, but the others are all still nice and long, definitely plenty for another child or two. I'm just moving this set to Second Son's box.
  • sketch or drawing paper pad - I generally buy a few of these when they're on sale at our local Hobby Lobby. While the kids do most of their drawing on cheap printer paper, I like to have some nicer paper if they want to make a serious drawing or make a gift. Second Daughter didn't use her whole pad for this study, but she absconded with it for her own person use, so Second Son will need a new one.
  • a set of watercolor crayons - I bought this set of water-soluble wax pastels and they are fantastic. The colors are bright and blend well. After the course, they have barely any use so there is lots of life left in them for Second Son.
  • #8 round watercolor brush - I had trouble finding one at our local hobby store, so I bought this one on Amazon. I'm no expert on paintbrushes, but it seems nice. All three older kids have one and they have used them for the past two years on various projects; they just live in their art boxes.
  • watercolor paper pad - I bought this one, though at our local hobby store during a sale. Second Daughter used exactly 15 of the 30 pages, so I anticipate Second Son having enough paper for the study. However...these are such great pages for all watercolor work, I might get an extra one so they can make more than the minimum paintings.
  • heavyweight construction paper - I bought a assorted package at our local hobby store and have plenty left for Second Son. (I kept this stash separate for our "everyday" cheap construction paper.)
  • assorted tissue paper - I bought a package at our local super-store, which was kept with our gift wrap and had to be frequently replaced. If I had kept it separate, one package would probably have been sufficient for both Second Daughter and Second Son.
  • a pair of scissors - We have lots of these roaming around.
  • 4 or 5 lb of gray self-hardening clay - I bought this at our local hobby store, but I think it was the same as this one on Amazon. You could probably stretch this for two children if they were doing the study at the same time, and were satisfied with small sculptures. Second Daughter used it all and would happily have used more.
  • cotton cloth - The project for lesson 33 is an oil pastel painting on cotton cloth. We skipped this one because a piece of cotton cloth is the only supply I didn't buy and stock at the beginning of the study. It happens in the lesson talking about embroidery and I decided it was alright to skip it since Second Daughter does actual embroidery. I may try to figure something out for Second Son.
  • glue stick - This isn't listed with the official supplies, but there are a few lesson activities that require some kind of adhesive.
  • binding materials - The last activity is the making of a book that requires some kind of binding: stapler, hole punch, etc. I would imagine most homeschooling families would have something appropriate available.

I noticed a lot of art supplies go on sale during Amazon's Prime Day last summer (in 2017), so it might be worth checking to see if that happens in the future.

I purchased Artistic Pursuits Early Elementary K-3 Book One new and have received nothing in exchange for writing this post. All opinions are my own. Any links to Amazon are affiliate links. Links to the Artistic Pursuits site are not affiliate links.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

An Italian Childhood: Nino

written and illustrated by Valenti Angelo

I picked up this book at a book sale because I saw Valenti Angelo's name. I have two books illustrated by him which are both lovely (The Book of Psalms and The Long Christmas) and decided I wanted this one no matter what the story was like. Luckily, it's just as wonderful as the illustrations.

Nino does not have much of a plot; there's no dramatic crisis or trauma. It tenderly describes Nino's early childhood on his grandfather's farm in Italy in 1905. Nino and his dedicated mother and grandfather work the prosperous farm and run the household. His father is away in America and has been for many years, planning to earn the money for his wife and child to join him. There is no such tension in the book, but I feared the impending separation which the book resolves perfectly.

Over the course of the book, Nino has "adventures" like traveling to a larger town to have his picture taken, the Easter celebration, attending a fair, and Christmas. His family attends the local Catholic church, which is a part of their lives in an integral way. Their home is often open as they host friends and neighbors, revealing a rich life of relationships and joy.

Nino is an aspiring artist and often experiences a great joy in the simple beauty of his world.
The boat sped through the water with sudden jerks. Nino watched the sky, fascinated by the flashes of lightning. The wind that had risen all in a moment moaned and swept over the marshes, whipping the tall grass with rustling sounds. The tall poplars bent as though turning their backs to its fury; they looked like black giants in the night. It began to rain, big drops that glistened like pearls as they fell, and the surface of the canal, so still a moment ago, broke into a thousand dancing bubbles.
There are many descriptions of life on the farm and in the village to show how people lived in Italy in the early 1900s. There are olives to be pressed, grapes to be stomped, pigs to feed, and grain to harvest.

There is a description of gypsies in the fair chapter that doesn't quite meet today's standards. I suppose the substandard treatment of gypsies in literature is an accurate reflection of yesterday's prejudices, even why they are not purposefully being derogatory. My kids have heard about gypsies before (from when we read The Good Master), but I think I'm going to see out a book we can to counteract some of this disrespect. (Suggestions welcome.)

Mater Amabilis™ Level 1A year 1 includes Italy in the list of countries for People and Places with Red Sails to Capri. I adore Red Sails to Capri and will not give up my last chance of reading it aloud to Second Son. It's unlikely anyone would want to substitute Nino for Red Sails to Capri because Red Sails to Capri is likely much easier to find at a more reasonable price. But...if you had to make a substitution, this book would be delightful. I intend to read both of them aloud next year. I've also found a used copy of what appears to be a sequel to Nino called Golden Gate and I bought it. Just because I wanted it.

I purchased Nino used (and Golden Gate) and received nothing in exchange for writing this post. These opinions are my own. Links to Amazon are affiliate links and will grand a small commission if you follow a link and make a purchase.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Proverbs, Shakespeare, and an Education of Connections

I was feeling disappointed toward the end of our school year, when I realized my grand plans for Shakespeare would not be realized. We would not read Henry V. We would not even read As You Like It. Instead, we would barely finish memorizing the passages from Henry IV, Part I from How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.

First Son surprised me in the last weeks of school, though. We were reading through some passages of conversation between Falstaff and Prince Hal quoted in How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare where Prince Hal says:
Thou didst well, for wisdom cries out in the streets and no man regards it.
Immediately, First Son announced, "That's in Proverbs."

And we all learned on the following page:
And here we have another one of those remarkable epigrams that Shakespeare drops into the dialogue like an extra piece of candy that we didn't expect. It is an allusion to Proverbs, 1:20:
Wisdom cries out in the streets and no man regards it.
"How did you recognize that?" I asked First Son.

"Oh, I just remembered it."

Somewhere, at some time, in our years of reading Scripture or in the hours he's spent in classes or at adoration in our parish, that bit of Proverbs nestled in his mind, ready to be sparked by a bit of Shakespeare.

We will begin next year with As You Like It and hopefully make it through that play and Henry V, but if we don't, I will console myself that my children are storing up what we do read somewhere in their hearts and minds. Perhaps someday, years from now, they will be reading or listening or watching and will recognize an allusion to Shakespeare. Perhaps they may even remember fondly the dramatic scenes re-enacted by such illustrious action figures as Darth Vader in the role of Macbeth.