Week 13 Nitty Gritty

16 Nov

We are now on Week 13 of school, Week 7 of Tapestry of Grace. I haven’t given an update in a long time, but fortunately, that has been because we’ve been busy with…school (and other things).  Let me try to catch you up:

  • We finally ordered and received Math U See Beta.  Making up worksheets or finding them on the Internet was just too tedious and not directed enough for my comfort, although Mustard Seed was doing quite well with multiple-digit addition, requiring carrying.  I also introduced her to borrowing in multiple-digit subtraction, which is also coming along more slowly.  She is much more confident in her addition facts, and now we need to consolidate her subtraction facts.  Meanwhile, she loves to learn “math tricks,” like commutative squares and division rules.
  • We are working in Building Christian English as our grammar book.  A lot of it, so far, is stuff Mustard Seed knew already, but the copy work is good, and I love the simple, conversational style they have, and the way they distinguish: incomplete sentences (phrases) are okay for speaking sometimes, but for writing, we need to use complete sentences.  It takes Mustard Seed a long time to copy and exercise, and something that we are working on is concentration.  I.e., when you finish writing a word of your sentence, it is not time to look at the ceiling, out the window, make a squawking noise or ask me an unrelated question: copy the next word!  Likewise when you finish a sentence!  As always, the timer is not a well-loved tool, but certainly an effective one.
  • We’ve read a lot of great stories this year.  I think I already told you about Arabian Nights.  Then we read a children’s adaptation of Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo that does a really great job of preserving the original voice , the lofty, heroic, dramatic, but also at times, casual and off-handed way the story is told and the characters speak.  Mustard Seed had a BLAST! playing Grendel’s mother at co-op one day (and I think, generally, the kids enjoyed do a (rather chaotic) enactment of the story, complete with 3-year-old younger sister as Grendel).
  • We read an adaptation of Canterbury Tales by Barbara Cohen that manages to do for it what Morpurgo did for Beowulf.  There were parts that I felt I had to censor a bit: in particular the Franklin’s Tale about a young wife who is faced with a decision to either be unfaithful to her husband or go back on her word and who is contemplating suicide to avoid those two options.  Yeah, it’s in the original, but still…
  • We’re now in the middle of the Eyewitness version of King Arthur, as well as Robin of Sherwood, another gripping Morpurgo title that tells the Robin Hood legend.  (He’s retold a number of these classic tales for kids.  We’re going to read his version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight  next!)  I’m kind of jealous of Mustard See; I didn’t really find out about these stories until I was much older.  I sort half absorbed the better-known ones from the culture around me, so that by the time I really read them, the good parts were kind of given away.  Others, I didn’t even hear until college!  She’s getting them at such a young age, and I think it’s great because she’s just the right age to be riveted and captivated with their magic.
  • Astronomy is Mustard Seed’s favorite subject.  She will sit for an entire chapter in our “text book,” though it’s way cooler than a text book.  She memorizes facts, like that she would be 29 on Mercury (at least I think I calculated that right) or why the sky looks blue on earth or why Venus is uninhabitable.  We’re all caught up on our reading, and she really knows her stuff, but we really need to go back and do the activities/experiments and work on her notebook.
  • History is her other favorite subject.  Maybe because last year I felt like we trailed off in History at some point in the year, we’re swinging back the opposite direction this year.  Famous Men of the Middle Ages has been a godsend.  It covers all the people and most of the words or concepts we need to cover, and the information is given in story form.  I wasn’t comfortable with Story of the World, the CDs for which we used some last year.  I didn’t like having to explain why they said B.C.E. or referred to millions of years sometimes.  There were other things in there that to me showed a subtle secular bias.  We’re up to John Lackland and Richard the Lionhearted now.  I’m making up a set of “trivia questions” (read: flash cards) for Mustard Seed, based on Famous Men and Trial and Triumph, which is our Church history book that covers many of the same people and events.  I don’t expect she’ll remember the answers when she first sees the questions, but I’m hoping the trivia cards will actually teach her and make those facts stick in her head.
  • We went to the Texas Renaissance Festival School Days two weeks ago, and my mom got Mustard Seed THE most beautiful Renaissance dress.  The kids got to see spinning, coin pressing, weaving, and jousting and got to shoot bows and arrows, as well as get a feel for what it might have felt like to live then.  Granted, RenFest can be a bit inclusive with the term “Renaissance” (for example, the young man in the Dickens-era get-up, the shirtless adolescent faun, the Greek Acropolis, the Goths, the unicorn lovers), but okay, whatever.  Their favorite part was talking to the queen of France toward then end of the day and then being personally piped out of the festival grounds by a bagpiper, who stuck around for quite some afterwards jamming with the high school band kids.
  • We still haven’t gotten to doing Latin or any more music appreciation (other than always listening to classical in the car), but Mustard Seed is very interested in French and her accent is improving.  We’re loving looking at The Story of Painting  for Art, though.
  • We’ve had some other stuff happening, such as hosting Book Club last week, where we read a delightful book called A Song for Lena, made Hungarian heart crafts, and Hungarian dolls, packed care packages for the homeless and ate apple strudel.  Also, there was the Amercian Heritage Girl campout to Ink’s Lake, and few weeks ago we got to return to the George Historical Ranch for the Texian Market Days, where Mustard Seed and her friend got to see spinning, weaving, how to start a fire with flint, how to cure ailments with herbs, toys from the 1800s, tour a Victorian home, see old guns, and find out how women quilted before sewing machines.

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