30 January 2010

Saturday's Quote

"The chief function of the child - his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life - is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that. therefore, the endeavor of his parents should be to put in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects; that in fact, the intellectual education of the young child should lie in the free exercise of perceptive power, because the first stages of mental effort are marked by the extreme activity of this power; and the wisdom of the educator is to follow the lead of Nature in the evolution of the complete human being."
                                                                                                                  Charlotte Mason
                                                                                                                  Home Education

So much goodness in just one sentence!  When a child has "an insatiable appetite for knowledge" our job is 99% done.  One of the most important things we can do is introduce our young children to nature and give them opportunities to learn for themselves.  There will be plenty of time for essays, timelines, and addition facts, but having that thirst for knowledge is really a strong foundation that will benefit a child on to adulthood.

25 January 2010

Homeschooling: The Charter School Option

I admit it.

I homeschool through a  public charter school. 

So according to the state of California, my daughter is a public school student.  Even though I am her only instructor and she spends all her days with me.

There is a lot of negativity in Christian circles toward charter schools.  I can talk about that another day.  Today I want to talk about some of the pros and cons of homeschooling through a charter school and how things have worked  for us during the last year and a half.


Funds are available to buy curriculum, supplies and to pay for classes.
(To be honest, this is the biggest pro for us.)  We are allotted a significant amount of money each semester to request curriculum, supplies, and to pay for various classes.  This is not a blank check.  In fact I never actually see the money.  I submit my requests to our "teacher," and she will order the items requested.  The funds available have been enough to cover all our curriculum, dance classes, and lots of supplemental materials as well.  

We meet with my daughter's "teacher" once a month for about an hour to review progress.  These meetings are a really good way to take an objective look at what we've done the previous month.  My daughter gets to talk about what she's accomplished and learned.  Knowing we have a scheduled meeting is a good kick in the pants for me on those days when school gets lost in the shuffle of life.  Since I get along great with my daughter's teacher it's like having a friendly coffee date with a friend!

Freedom to choose different methods, curriculum, or scope and sequence.
I am not required to use a California-adopted curriculum.  I have been following the classical scope and sequence, which means we are currently studying life science and ancient history.  This is fairly different than what is being taught in California public schools in first grade.  The job of our "teacher" is to take what we've learned, and see where it fits the state standards.  In the long run, I believe we will have covered all the same state standards (and then some), but in a different sequence.  I have the freedom to teach what I want when I want and the charter school allows me to do that.

Field trips (though limited socialization)
The charter school offers several field trip opportunities throughout the year.  Since there are so many students from all over southern California, we've found that it's not the best way to meet new friends.  It is, however, a great way to see friends we already know and spend the day with them while learning some things at the same time.

No daily requirement of instructional hours:
We are required to do school each day, but when we're done, we're done.  We typically spend 2-3 hours doing direct "schooling" during which we cover Bible, reading, phonics or grammar, math, science or history, and either art, music, Shakespeare, or hymn study.  The charter school recognizes the efficiency of homeschooling and thankfully does not mandate set hours.


Mandatory state testing (although no mandatory test prep)
This one is painful.  Next year my daughter will be old enough for state testing.  I do not believe high-stakes assessment are a good indicator of student progress, especially at such a young age.  The positive side of it is that I am not required to do test prep.  As my daughter's teacher, I will not "teach to the test" nor do any significant test prep with her.   In public schools much time is spent doing mandatory test prep rather than real instruction, which I think is a greater detriment than the test itself.

Four other tests throughout the year.
There are several other tests my daughter must take throughout the year.  Fortunately most of these are given during our monthly "teacher" meetings.  There is also a writing test administered at home, which I am not excited about at such a young age.  I view these as $400 tests that "earn" us our funding.  Am I selling out?  Maybe.

Limitations on what funds can be used for
There are definitely restrictions on what can be purchased.  Things can only be purchased through approved vendors and that are grade-level appropriate.  They must also be non-sectarian (not Christian).  I purchase or find my own materials for our Bible lessons and hymn study.

Follow the set school calendar
The charter school has as set calendar that follows closely to a traditional school calendar, starting in late August and ending at the end of May.  It's not really a negative for us, but it could be for some families.  We can and have taken vacations during school days and called them field trips and brought our school work with us. 

Limited socialization
Other than the field trips, being a part of a public charter has not directly provided us with social opportunities.  (Some public charter schools offer drop-off classes.  Ours does not.)  Fortunately, we have plenty of other activities to meet this need such as co-op, church activities, library storytime, and park days.


With all that said, the public charter school option has been the best choice for us.  I have spent much time and thought weighing all of our options for education, and this option is the the best one for us at this point in time.  It is not perfect.  It is not the best choice for everyone.  I do, however, feel that it it is an option that deserves consideration. 

I know this can be a touchy subject, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Comments, questions, and discussions are always welcome!

23 January 2010

Saturday's Quote

"They (children) must be left alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of the heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this - that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder - and grow."

                                                                         Charlotte Mason from "Home Education"

21 January 2010

Just Do It.

At the beginning of the school year in August I planned to officially follow the Charlotte Mason method for the first time.  And though we have done this in many ways, there are some glaring holes in our curriculum.  No hymn study.  No poetry.  No Shakespeare.  No formal picture study. 

It would have been a huge change to get used to, adding so many new subjects to our school day.  I think I made a good choice by not getting myself in too deep on day one.  But now it is half-way through the school year, and I have yet to add one of those subjects.

Next week I will dive in.  Completely.

We're simply adding one subject a day.  Shouldn't take more than 15 minutes each day.  Monday is hymn study.  Tuesday is poetry.  Wednesday is picture study.  Friday is Shakespeare.

I'm still trying to keep it simple.  Our church has started having a hymn of the month.  I am simply going to piggy back on that.  Our poet is A.A. Milne because I found a few of his books of poetry (When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six) at the library bookstore last month.  For picture study we'll simply spend a little time looking seriously at and talking about the work of our current artist, Joan Miro.  The pictures are even already printed and ready to go up on the wall.  Friday we'll start reading A Midsummer Night's Dream from Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, since our local Shakespeare festival will be performing that one this spring.

There's a lot I don't know.  I don't know anything about the history of the hymn we're studying.  I don't know about the life of A.A. Milne.  I don't know how well Shakespeare will go over.   I don't even know how to pronounce Joan correctly.  (Although now I know that he was a he and not a she!)

But I'm doing it.

I'm sure I'll tweak it.  And adjust it.  And these studies will somehow evolve.  They'll probably look very different a year from now.  But that's how homeschooling goes.  We try and we adapt.  But in the end we'll all have learned something.

What do you need to leap into and just do?

20 January 2010

Welcome to Two!

Can't wait to spend this year with you, my sweet boy!
Happy Birthday!

19 January 2010

Seminar highlights

I went to great seminar a while ago presented by Carole Joy Seid.  I was encouraged by the wonderful ideas presented.  I wish I had time to go into more depth, but a list of bullet points will have to suffice to keep them in my memory.

  • Think about what is the best thing for your child, not your ego.  (More on that here.)
  • It is vital to have books (and I would add educational resources) available to your children.  "Provide them with a banquet of book."  I love that!
  • Teach them to love books before teaching them how to read.
  • Keep reading as a treat, not a chore.
  • Christian biographies are are a great and underused resource.
  • Media is a powerful thing that we should get rid of!
  • Spend some time at the end of the day getting the "castle ready for the king."
  • Teach children to have a strong work ethic.
  • Go outside with your childen.
  • Relax!  There's plenty of time to teach them Latin and poetry and grammar and geometry and all the other things you want them to know.
Carole is great speaker and encourager.  If you have an opportunity to hear her speak, don't miss it!

16 January 2010

Saturday's Quote

Charlotte Mason had much to say about time outdoors:
"Let me repeat, that I venture to suggest not what is practicable in any household, but what seems to me absolutely best for the children; and that in the faith that mothers work wonders once that are convinced what is demanded of them.  A journey of twenty minutes by rail or omnibus, and a luncheon basket, will make a day in the country possible to most town-dwellers:  and if one day, why not many, even every suitable day?"
                                                                                                                   Charlotte Mason from "Home Education"

So instead of asking why we should go outside, we should rather ask ourselves why not?  It can seem that there is simply no time with all the reading and math and worksheets and projects, but it is such valuable time, and so much good comes from it.  We should make it a goal to spend more time outside, rather than less. 

I'm excited to be making my way through these books.  Watch for more bits of wisdom as I come across them!

15 January 2010

Pride & Homeschooling

No matter what it sounds like, it's not a Jane Austen novel.

Pride is an easy sin for homeschooling families to succumb to. 

I was reminded by this recently in a few ways.  (Have you ever noticed that God often sends the same message through various vessels to really get your attention?)

First was this post by Jasmine Baucham.  It's a movie review, but she talks about how easy it is to be prideful as homeschoolers.

Then I went to a full-day seminar by Carole Joy Seid.  Lots of good stuff there.  But one of the points that stuck out to me was that we need to do things that are best for our kids, not things that make us look good as parents.


Homeschooling is a good thing.  It requires major commitment, time, and energy.  And it really is a noble calling.

But it is very easy to be prideful in all of that.

And I need to keep myself and my pride in check.

In his pride the wicked does not seek him;

in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
Psalm 10:4

14 January 2010

First Haiku from a First-Grader

I love my wallet.
I love my bunk bed today.
I love my toy too.

11 January 2010

Educating Myself

Between my birthday and Christmas I've been blessed to add the "Homeschool Trifecta" to my personal library.  These are the books that any Charlotte Mason or Classical homeschooler either has read, owns, or wants to read or own.  I am now happily in the owner category!

Last year I borrowed A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learningfrom a friend and really gained an understanding for what the Charlotte Mason was all about.  I restrained myself from underlining meaningful passages and reluctantly (after several months) returned it.  Reading it as well as some other online research was enough to make me officially switch from unit studies to CM.  (I still love unit studies for kindergarten, though!)

The Original Home Schooling Series is not an easy read, and I've been slowly working my way through it.  Thank goodness for ballet classes during which I can sit and read uninterupted!  I'm still on the first volume, and am loving reading about Mason's thoughts on "Out-of-Door Life for the Children."  Such good stuff.  Sometimes a little off scientifically, but pretty much always hits the nail on the head in a practical sense

I still have a lot to learn about the classical method, but I know I like its scope and sequence.  I first read The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Editition) when I checked it out from the library.  Three weeks was enough to know that it was a book I wanted to own so I could refer to it for it's resources and read it more deeply and slowly. 

At the rate I'm going it may well be a year before I get through all of these, but I'm loving soaking them in at a leisurely pace without worrying about due dates! 

What books are in your homeschooling trifecta?

09 January 2010

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

One year ago was my first post at Apples and Jammies.

I imported a post from an older blog from 8 months prior.

Last month I posted once.  Once!!
And the month before, only three times.

That somehow shouldn't count.

But if the calendar says it's my blogiversary, who am I to disagree?

Happy Blogiversary to me!

08 January 2010


Art Supplies:
We finally broke out our pastels and had fun experimenting with them.

Field trip:
Read more about our trip to the Norton Simon Museum here.

And our art "wall":

07 January 2010

January 18 is MLK Jr. Day

Are you planning on learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in time for his birthday?  Now is the time to request those books from the library!

Here's what we did last year.  There's several posts, so don't forget to scroll down.

05 January 2010


Tchaikovsky is a wondeful composer to study around the holidays, especially if you can squeeze in a performance of The Nutcracker!  Degas is a great artist to study with Tchaikovsky due to all his works featuring ballerinas.

Here's some resources we found helpful:

Tchaikovsky Discovers America
Peter Tchaikovsky (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers)
Swan Lake
The Nutcracker

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker; Prokofiev: Cinderella

Tchaikovsky - The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet (available through Netflix)
The Nutcracker Ballet (available through Netflix)
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake - Moscow Classical Ballet (available through Netflix)

And if you're a sucker like me:
Sleeping Beauty (Two-Disc Platinum Edition) I was pleased to discover this features much of Tchaikovsky's music from his ballet.
Barbie in The Nutcracker
Barbie of Swan Lake

But the biggest highlight was seeing a performance of Swan Lake and getting to meet Clara!

Degas at the Norton Simon

The Norton Simon Museum is a great place to go to see the art of Edgar Degas.  There are more than 100 of the pieces in their collection, many of which are on permanent display. 

Gracie made a beeline toward this piece, "Little Dancer of 14 Years," which has been on our artist wall.  We also read a book inspired by this piece, so we feel we've come to know this little dancer and her pose quite well!

Another piece in the same gallery was "Dancers in the Rotunda at the Paris Opera."  A fellow Degas enthusiast pointed out that you can actually see Degas' fingerprints in the paint on this picture.  So amazing!  Can you see it?  Look closely on the dancer's legs and the skirt.

Well, there's nothing like being surrounded by the works of the great masters to inspire a little art creation!

And the finished product...

Since my husband isn't back at work until Wednesday, this was able to be a "just the two of us" trip, a very special treat, indeed!  My girl is turning into quite an art appreciator and I love our museum outings!

04 January 2010

Southern California Seminar for Homeschooling Parents

This Saturday I'm excited to be attending a seminar entitled "A Literature Based Approach to Education" presented by Carole Joy Seid.  This will be my first opportunity to hear her speak, but she comes highly recommended by several friends of mine, who try to attend her seminars every time she's nearby! 

If you're in the Southern California area, this should be a very uplifting day!  I know at this time of  the year it can be very helpful to get a little motivational boost.  I think this seminar should do the trick!

Any one else planning on attending?

Get more information here (click on the Chino seminar on 1.09.2010).

Back into the swing

Today is our first official day back at school after a wonderful break.  But we're easing our way into it slowly.  We'll  be taking a trip to the Norton Simon Museum to see some works by Degas up close.  We might even do some sketching. 

If today is your first day back, I hope it's a great one!