Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Using Narration in Your Homeschool

I didn’t set out to be a "Charlotte Mason Homeschooler." I’m not one of those moms who researched all the various methods before choosing the perfect one. In fact, following someone else’s method of teaching goes against what I believe is one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling- education which is tailored to the needs and styles of the learners. But over time I discovered that many of the things which I began doing simply because they worked, were things which Charlotte Mason also used. One of these things was narration.

When I first started homeschooling our large family, it was easier to teach the children as a group whenever possible. Science, geography, and history were, until the older children began to work on their own, done together. Even the toddlers sat in on these lessons. The young ones were often fidgety and it was hard to know whether they were actually listening. In order to make sure they paid attention, I stopped often to ask questions. Thus, my children ended up narrating throughout the lesson. When we finished our reading, I asked one or two of the older children to tell me what we just learned. This gave the little ones a chance to hear the material one more time (they usually listened better to brother or sister) and they often wanted to add their own narrations as well. Having the children do narrations offered them an opportunity for friendly competition, as everyone wanted to be able to mention that one important fact that everyone else forgot.

I think the problem with using the term "narration" is that it takes something that is really very simple and makes it seem more complex. To me narration is nothing more than having a discussion about something you have learned. It is a tool for measuring learning, not a permanent record of that learning. It is a memory shared between two people, not something that must be recorded for all posterity. Most of the time I don’t require a written narration, especially if the child is still learning to read and write. However, when my children are old enough to begin working on their own, they do more written narrations. I still feel it is my duty to respond to these narrations, to guide them with more questions if necessary. That way we can still have that "discussion", even though it is on paper rather than being spoken.

Oral narration is one of the most effective methods of education, and yet one of the simplest. In the past it has been referred to as the Socratic method. In the Church, it is known as catechising. It basically involves asking questions and listening to the answers. When you are reading to your child or speaking to them about something, stop often to ask questions. Ask them to tell you what you have just said. Ask them their opinion of it. Ask them to apply it to their lives.

In his book Rediscovering Catechism, Donald Van Dyken explains it this way:

"To germinate the idea we can imagine ourselves on a ship looking for a submarine. The submarine hides below the surface of the ocean.Our ship is equiped with sonar, and our operator sends out sharp sounds into the dark waters. Those sound waves travel down through the water until they hit something. Sometimes they strike a school of fish, or the bottom, or the sub we are searching for. When those sound waves bounce off the hull of that sub, the sonar device picks up the echo. From that the operator can get a fix on the submarine’s position.

"That illustration introduces us to the teaching concept known as catechizing- sending out questions and listening for the echo, the answer that fixes the depth of knowledge and understanding."

The modern definition of teaching involves very little interaction between the student and the teacher. But as Van Dyken points out "Teaching is not only telling the truth but also making someone know the truth. . . We fall short of fulfilling the role of teacher if our students fail to know what we have presented." And how will we know whether we have failed without that "echo"?

The benefit of narration is that it gives almost instant feedback. There is no need to review months of material after a poor test score. If the student doesn’t understand, the echo will reveal it and more probes can be sent out until he is gently led to understanding. Narration also forces the child to internalize the lesson as he takes the information and puts it into his own words.

Narration doesn’t take a lot of time, and it isn’t complicated. It does, however, require a teacher who is willing to spend time listening to and interacting with her students. But that describes most home educators anyway, doesn’t it?

Creating a Geography Notebook, Part 1 {free printables}

What Should You Include?
Have you ever wondered what to put in a geography notebook? While the *exact* contents are totally up to you, perhaps you'd enjoy taking a peek inside some notebooks created by another family. Here are some of item we have included in our notebooks. I've included some pictures, as well as links to printables we used or printables that could be used instead of what we used.  

Our binders are divided into eight sections, one for general geography information and one for each continent. This is what you'll find in that first section:

*This post contains affiliate links.

Maps, Globes, & Explorers

  • World Explorer Biography Pages (If you are looking for info on explorers, you can find biographies of notable explorers at the Fact Monster website.)

  • Geography Terms and Definitions: Our list was actually a page copied from a library book, but I think it would be much more educational to have the children create their own list. As my younger children study geography this year, I will have them use Geography Terms Notebook Pages to make their own glossary.

  • Landforms Ready Reference: I picked up this card at Walmart during their back-to-school sales. I could probably have had the kids do some Landform Notebook Pages, but I liked this one-page handy reference guide. It looks nice, and it was inexpensive.

  • Notebook Atlas: Also purchased at Walmart (for a lot less than the Amazon price). Although it is small and details are sometimes hard to see, it can be used for most things that need to be looked up.

  • Compass Rose Worksheet

  • Latitude & Longitude Worksheets

  • Continents Map and List

  • Oceans of the World Map and List

  • World Map (drawn using Draw Right Now)

  • Map showing Plant Life on our Planet (pg. 76 of Considering God's Creation by Susan Mortimer)

  • Columbus pages (drawn using Draw Right Now)

  • Notebook pages and lapbook from Amy Pak's New World Explorer's study

Maps, Globes, & Explorers Freebies on Other Sites

Scroll down to the geography section for Geography Terms Tab Books and Geography Terms Notebook pages with Primary Lines or Basic Lines. (There are also some State Study Notebooking Pages and Country Study pages.)

Printable games and worksheets to teach students about landforms, such as plains, plateaus, mountains, and hills. There are two freebies, as well as many that come with membership to the site.

Montessori learning activity with free printable for learning about the compass rose. Includes cardinal points, half cardinal points, and false points.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Notgrass (Revised American History) Literature Selections In the Public Domain

In addition to revising their World History texts last year, the Notgrass company also revised their American History textbooks and brought them up to date. 

Even though the text has been updated, only one of the literature selections has been changed. This means, if you already own this program and decide to update, you will only need to buy one additional literature books in addition to the new textbooks. The new list substitutes Miracle In the Hills by Mary Sloop for Christy
1 new book and 1 removed

990695: Exploring America, Updated Edition -- Curriculum Package Exploring America, Updated Edition -- Curriculum Package
By Ray Notgrass / Notgrass Company
Updated Literature Titles:

  • The Scarlet Letter   Kindle   EPUB   Audio
  • Narrative of the Life of Davy Crockett   Kindle   EPUB 
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass   Kindle   EPUB   Audio
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin   Kindle   EPUB   Audio
  • Co. Aytch  Kindle   EPUB   Audio
  • Little Women   Kindle   EPUB   Audio
  • Humorous Stories & Sketches (not available for free online)
  • Up From Slavery  Kindle   EPUB   Audio
  • In His Steps   Kindle   EPUB   Audio
  • Mama's Bank Account  (not available for free online)
  • Miracle In the Hills (not available for free online)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird  (not available for free online)
  • The Giver (not available for free online)

*This post contains affiliate links.

Remember to check your local library for print or audio versions of the books not available in the public domain. You can also purchase used versions of the literature books through sites like Amazon, Ebay, or Paperback Swap.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Notgrass (Revised World History) Literature Selections In the Public Domain

First, the good news: The Notgrass company has revised their World History textbooks and brought them up to date. The new version is currently at the printer, and they expect to start shipping the first week of April. 

Now, the bad news: As might be expected with an update like this, several of the literature selections have been changed. This means, if you already own this program and decide to update, you will need to buy some additional literature books in addition to the new textbooks. Actually, it really isn't that bad. The new list consists of just four new books, and two of these are available in the public domain. Five books which were previously included have been dropped from the list, including: Mere Christianity (this is still recommended as additional reading), Pilgrim's Progress, Pride and Prejudice, Heart of Darkness (my daughter was very pleased with this as she HATED this book), and Eric Liddell: Pure Gold. 

4 new books and 5 removed

Exploring World History
By Ray Notgrass / Notgrass Company

Updated Literature Titles:

  • The Cat of Bubastes   Kindle   EPUB   Audio
  • The Art of War Kindle  EPUB  Audio
  • Julius Caesar   Kindle  EPUB  Audio
  • The Imitation of Christ   Kindle  EPUB   Audio
  • Here I Stand   Kindle  EPUB   
  • A Tale of Two Cities  Kindle   EPUB   Audio
  • North and South  Kindle  EPUB  Audio
  • The Hiding Place (not available for free online)
  • Animal Farm (not available for free online)
  • Bridge To The Sun (not available for free online)
  • Cry, the Beloved Country (not available for free online)
  • The Abolition of Man  Kindle  EPUB   
    *This post contains affiliate links.

    Remember to check your local library for print or audio versions of the books not available in the public domain. You can also purchase used versions of the literature books through sites like Amazon, Ebay, or Paperback Swap.

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Preserving Homeschool Memories With a Yearbook

    At the end of third grade, my parents removed my sister and me from the private Christian school we had been attending and began home schooling. While I eventually grew to like being at home, I still to this day enjoy looking at my old school year books from the private school. I'm sure I would enjoy looking at my home school year books as well, but there aren't any. Nor are there any pictures. Not one single photo to prove that I ever attended school after the third grade. So, when I was paging through an old Teaching Home Magazine and read about the yearbooks someone else had done, I knew this was a tradition I was going to start.

    Memories created while learning at home are just as important as those created in a traditional school environment and have just as much right to be preserved. Just because you are a home educator doesn't mean you can't have a school yearbook. Making a homeschool yearbook is easy and it's almost as much fun as looking at one.

    How Do You Make a Home School Yearbook?

    Making a home school year book is a little more complicated than making a yearbook for your average school. There are no pages of class pictures to fill it with. There's few athletic teams and such. Instead, there are your children. That's wonderful, ofcourse, but it does require a little more creativity. It requires you to think about the things your children will want to remember from their school years and to be active in documenting them. Meaning, whatever they are doing, remember to take pictures.

    Things To Include:

    *Class pictures - I put a family picture on one page along with our theme verse for the year. I also do a separate page for each child. Some years I take a posed picture of each of them, some years I just put in few pictures I have taken throughout the year. Some years we include their signature, hand prints, lists of favorites, things they've learned, reduced copies of art work. One year I pasted pictures of their heads onto bodies cut from magazines to make caricatures.

    *Sports - if your child plays organized sports, make a page or two for that. Add team photos, pictures of games, or a picture of them hanging out with friends after the game. If your home school group has a field day, scrapbook that. Or take pictures of your kids riding bikes, playing tag, and shooting hoops in the driveway.

    *Clubs - Our kids are in AWANA, so we always include a couple of pages with pictures of cowboy night, crazy hair night, grand prix, closing program, etc. If your children are in a church program or scouts or such, make pages for those.

    *Extra curricular activities- co op classes, library or museum programs, music classes, their Sunday school class. Field trips, vacations, special occasions (weddings and holidays) The arrival or first birthday of a younger child.

    *Academics - I do a page for each subject with pictures of the kids working or doing projects or holding their books or dressed in costumes (for history or geography). Sometimes I've also put reduced copies of notebook pages or added journaling about what we've studied. I also have done special pages for things like "________ learns the alphabet" and "We like to listen to stories" (with pictures of friends and family reading to them.)

    *Friends - we always include a page with pictures of friends and family. The definition of "friend" can be as broad as you want to make it. The librarian, the mailman, the kids next door? If it is someone your kids may remember years from now, they would probably enjoy having a picture of them. And years from now when that person is no longer around you may be thankful for the pictures you have of those people you now take for granted. A signature page is also a fun way to collect remembrances.

    The Benefits of a Homeschool Yearbook

    While our school year books are primarily for my children's benefit, they also have some extra advantages. They are a great way to share our lives with our family and friends. They are a great way to show doubters what a wonderful education our children are receiving. They are a good way for me to exercise my creative talents. And looking through books from past years is wonderful encouragement for me as a teacher. It is also a nice review for my children.

    I would encourage you to start this practice in your own home. Sure, it takes a little time, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. I work on ours a little here and there as I have time. I don't try to make it perfect, so my cuts aren't always straight and I may have smudges here and there, but no one really notices. The important thing is just to have something, so put into it as much or as little as you are able.

    Monday, August 5, 2013

    9th Grade {course plans}

    These are the plans I have put together for my children's freshman year. The classes were chosen based on the guidelines for graduation in the state of Virginia, but may be varied based on each child's personal needs.   * This post contains affiliate links.

    Algebra 1
    Prerequisites: Pre Algebra
    Grade Level: 9
    Credit: 1

    Option #1: 
    329715: Saxon Algebra 1 Homeschool Kit with Solutions Manual, 3rd EditionThis course provides a comprehensive teaching of the fundamental aspects of problem solving. It offers a substantial review of pre algebra fundamentals while also offering  a basic overview of geometry concepts of area, volume, angles, Pythagorean Theorem, and perimeter of geometric figures. Major topics include evaluation of algebraic equations, thorough coverage of exponents, polynomials, solving and graphing linear equations, complex fractions, solving systems of equations, radicals, word problems, solving and graphing quadratic equations, solving systems of equations, and solving equations by factoring. With Algebra 1, students begin developing the understanding required for entrance into Algebra 2 or Geometry courses and will solve problems with practical applications for use in carpentry, construction, consumer economics, investing, and more.

    Curriculum List


    • Virtual Home School Group (free self-paced course using the Saxon text)
      • Recorded Lectures
      • Computer-Scored Problem Sets
      • Computer-scored weekly tests

    Notes: As a homeschool  student, I hated Saxon math and vowed to never use it with my children. However, my children began looking through my old books and decided that they enjoyed the Saxon approach. My 2nd born son is really good at math, and was able to get himself through algebra, as well as answering any questions his brothers and sisters might have. But since he is now working full time, I decided I needed something extra to help the next set of children to make it through. In my search, I found three different sets of teaching videos for the Saxon series: DIVE, Mastering Algebra John Saxon's Way (by Art Reed), and Saxon's own DVD's. After reading numerous reviews, I decided that the Art Reed set would be a better fit for our family.                                     

    Option #2: 
    This course introduces students to the language through which we describe patterns. It provides students with the foundation needed to understand higher-level math subjects. Some of the topics include linear equations, linear inequalities, linear functions, systems of equations, factoring expressions, quadratic expressions, exponents, functions, and ratios.

    • Khan Academy (free self-paced course)
      • Practice Exercises
      • Instructional Videos
      • Personal Learning Dashboard
    Notes: My fifth born son has not done well using Saxon. As a result, he has needed to do some remedial math to strengthen areas where he struggles. We began using Khan's academy out of desperation, but will continue using it because it makes my job so much easier. The whole program is based on mastery, so he doesn't move on until he knows the material. And since everything is graded by the computer, I can just look at his dashboard to see how he is doing, rather than trying to find time to grade all his lessons. The best part is that he LOVES doing his math lessons this way. 

    Physical Science
    Prerequisites: none (Pre Algebra recommended)
    Grade Level: 8-9
    Credit: 1

    337402: Exploring Creation with Physical Science Student Textbook, 2nd EditionThis course is designed to be the last science course the student takes before high school biology. It discusses such topics as the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, weather, the structure of the earth, environmentalism, the physics of motion, Newton’s Laws, gravity, and astrophysics. Students will participate in weekly  laboratory  experiments.

    Curriculum List


    • Recorded Lectures
    • Computer-Scored Lecture Quizzes (OYO and study guide questions)
    • Lab Report Starters
    • Computer-scored module exams

    Notes: I don't see any of my children pursuing a career path which involves science, so I have decided to follow Apologia's slower track for science. If you plan to take Physical Science during highschool, keep in mind that it must be completed in 9th grade to count for credit.  

    English 9
    Prerequisites: English 8
    Grade Level: 9
    Credit: 1

    Option #1:

    This course focuses on further developing basic skills in reading, writing, listening, speaking, and critical thinking. In addition to a review of basic grammar concepts, several new concepts will be introduced. Additional topics include lessons on outlining, poetry, letter writing, and practice in the five essay formats used in high school writing. Research and editing skills will also be taught and practiced.

    Curriculum List

    Option #2:
    Students will focus this year on analyzing literature including poetry, short stories, novels, and plays. Students will develop their understanding of literary devices and terminology to be able to express researched critiques of literature. Students will produce a number of literary analysis papers as well as other essays. Additionally, students will be engaged creatively in writing short stories and poetry. Students will use the complete writing process and submit work for peer editing. Students will also read a variety of nonfiction and will be expected to produce a newspaper, newsletter and podcast as part of their nonfiction studies. To improve in their writing, students will study spelling, vocabulary, grammar, suspense, irony, metaphor, theme, mood and foreshadowing.   


    History & Social Sciences (1/2 or full credit of choice)

    Option #1:  
    Geography: Map Skills
    Prerequisites: none
    Grade Level: 9-12
    Credit: .5

    In this course students will learn the basics of reading maps, the history of cartography, and how to draw maps of the places they study. After completing all of the mapping activities, the student will have drawn practically every area of the world, including many of the Pacific islands and Antarctica. Additional skills covered include using a compass, reading latitude and longitude lines, drawing map symbols, using time zone maps,  and understanding political, physical, road, city, weather, and product maps. The five themes of geography will also be covered. 

    Curriculum List

    Option #2:
    Virginia State History
    Prerequisites: none
    Grade Level: 9-12
    Credit: .5

    This course covers state government and leaders, historical events, growth and population, natural resources, economics and business, tourism, and cultural distinctions. Students will reinforce research skills as they prepare essays, employ math skills, enhance their writing, and learn about business. 

    Curriculum List

    Prerequisites: none
    Grade Level: 9-11
    Credit: .5

    See my Keyboarding {course plan} for more details.

    Prerequisites: none
    Grade Level: 9-12
    Credit: .5

    See my Foods {course plan} for more details.

    Health: Safety & Personal Care
    Prerequisites: none
    Grade Level: 9-12
    Credit: 1

    (I haven't finished planning this class yet.)

    Additional Activities

    • homeschool co-op classes on fridays
    • Bible copywork: beginning to copy the book of Genesis
    • Penmanship using Writing For Your Future
    • reading from assigned book list, as able

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...