Thursday, May 28, 2015

Family Fun and Culture

A few years ago I participated in an online discussion with a woman who said that she wanted to work outside the home because her family wanted to provide extra cultural experiences for the children, and that could not be done on most single incomes. I'm not really sure what she meant - she was rather vague about it all. It's possible that the kinds of things she had in mind could not be done on one income. For my family, if it can't be done on one income, then we won't be doing it. But it's surprising what can be done on a limited single income.

Here are some ideas for including culture on a modest income.

Instead of eating out, fix a fancy dinner at home. Set the table with the best dishes and candles. Have everybody dress up and pretend to be eating out, practicing table and restaurant manners.
Invite people over often. Make sure to include interesting, fun people; eccentric, odd people; tourists and immigrants, and unusual people. Include old people with stories to tell and young people with dreams to share. Include missionaries, former and current. Include your minister and the elders of your church. Ask for stories of faith, stories of when God blessed them, and stories of dark days.

Art museums often have free days. Check out the one nearest you. We've often taken advantage of this, even when the museum was an hour or two away. We packed a nice picnic lunch and ate at a park when the weather was nice, in the car on the way home if it wasn't. Always keep your eyes open for free or inexpensive attractions.

We buy a year's family pass to a different attraction each year. It may be the zoo, the children's museum, the children's theater, or the symphony. We can't afford to do them all at once, and with a family our size the cost of a yearly pass is seldom more than it would cost us to get in once, so we choose one each year and immerse ourselves in that one, attending at least a dozen times a year.

Study another country/culture in our homeschool once a year, learning the customs, meals, holidays, and so on, and incorporating something of your studies into your daily lives.

We study art and artists using old art calendars. We hang works by a particular artist each month, discussing the paintings and the artists.

Take advantage of NPR and other radio stations. Listen to classical music all the time, studying the lives of composers at the same time.

Call local colleges and ask if there are any international students who would like a home-cooked meal with an American family.

Volunteer at the nursing home. We have met natives of several different European countries in a small Midwestern nursing home (I won't embarrass myself by trying to spell them).

Read, read, read. Spend lots of time at the local library. Once we lived in a home that was not was not very near to any library. Paying the extra fee for a library card was my birthday present from husband and I loved it.

Every once in a while the older children and I get out the Shakespeare and read it aloud together, each taking a few parts.

My husband chooses a different classic to read aloud to the kidlets at bedtime. He's done Pilgrim's Progress, Farmer Boy, Bread and Butter Indian, some of the Childhood of Famous American books, and many, many more.

Vacations? As a military family every time we moved we tried to make part of the move include visiting an interesting spot. We did stay in two locations for five years each so we took lots of short jaunts to places of historical or environmental interest. We prefer camping to staying in motels (family size, again. With a family this large most hotels want us to pay for two rooms.

Have poetry recitations at home.

Plant a garden, perhaps an historical herb garden.

Collect sea shells, stones, or pressed flowers - label them with their Latin names.

Many libraries in larger cities like Chicago and Boston hold passes to museums and other educational attractions, and sign them out to local residents.

If you live near a college, look into their music and drama productions. Sometimes tickets are very inexpensive. Sometimes you can attend rehearsals for free.

Host a hymn singing.

And, as I said, read, read, read. Discuss what you read together. And then read some more.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Secrets of the Woods, Which Animals?

 Secrets of the Woods, by William J. Long  is used in year 3, terms 2 and 3.  

I started this post to help out somebody who asked how she could categorize it for school purposes (some states insist on this), and also what animals were covered.  
Secrets of the Woods is a little similar to the Burgess Animal book, but more detailed about the habitat described.  It also addresses more 'nature red of tooth and claw' issues.  

Secrets of the woods does usually cover one animal in a chapter, but sometimes a chapter is more about the woodlands habitat or ecosystem, particularly that part of the woods that meets the rivershore.

For those who need the refresher, Habitats are the specific areas different creatures need to live, basically, where all their needs are found. The children learned about a different habitat in term 1, when they read Pagoo.

  But you don't need to be that technical with them. The Charlotte Mason method places the emphasis on letting the children read about a topic, explore it in person if at all possible,  and learn to observe firsthand.  Technical terms can be added later.  

Now to the book itself.  Chapter titles are in all caps.  They are presented here in the order you will find them in the book.


A WILDERNESS BYWAY: Some mention is made of several animals of woods and stream, but mainly, this is a description of the habitat where woods meet riverbank and what you might observe there.


KOSKOMENOS THE OUTCAST: Kingfisher- a small but fierce wetlands bird.  This picture is a little dull.  In the right time of year and with the sun cast just right, kingfishers sparkle and are irridescent, hence the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins that begins:
"AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme..."

   MEEKO THE MISCHIEF-MAKER: The American Red Squirrel, one of three members of the pine squirrel family.

  THE OL' BEECH PA'TRIDGE : The Ruffed Grouse. 

There are many species of grouse, but they are elusive and secretive and hard to observe, and at the time Long wrote this chapter, he believed there was really just one kind.   The best value in Long's, to my mind, is his observations.  I love the little things he notices and brings to the reader's attention, and it is our hope that reading Long will inspire our young scholars to go forth and do likewise- stop, look, observe, search the landscape with their eyes.  His conclusions are less important, although there is value in seeing this example of pulling together one's observations and drawing a conclusion- and making a mistake that will be corrected later by more time and experience.

 FOLLOWING THE DEER: This is straightforward enough.  Given that Long is in the eastern woods, I think it's safe to say he's talking bout white tails.

 STILL HUNTING-  Seasonal changes in the woodland habitat- specifically, the forest in October 

 WINTER TRAILS - a little more about grouse, a lot more about deer (he's hunting them), and mainly the woodlands in winter.

 SNOW BOUND- Several animals are mentioned, but the broader scope of the chapter is summed up in the first sentence: "March is a weary month for the wood folk."

All the above pictures except the red squirrel and the ruffed grouse are from Pixabay.

On finding the book: I think I'll take a moment to explain something about our website that sometimes people miss.  Anytime a book title in our curriculum list is hyperlinked, that is to a free title- usually Gutenberg.   But we also offer other options.  To save time and space on the pages, we use the same key as a shortcut to other hyperlinks.  You can find Secrets of the Woods at these links as well: 

 β-, which is another source for free books. Δ -'s free text version($)- A place to buy it- usually Amazon, and these are affiliate links. It's how we pay AO's bills and some of our bills. Κ-  Free Kindle version at Amazon (if it's a pay for it version, the K will be in parenthesis)
Don't worry- you don't have to memorize that.  Our wonderful Leslie Laurio put a key on each of the main curriculum pages.  But we have so much information that sometimes people miss it.

It's been many years since I read this aloud to my youngest children (the baby is now in year 11).  I really enjoyed skimming through it again for this post. It brought back many cozy memories, and I suspect this may have sparked my son's interest in hunting (don't worry, not every reader will take that from the book).  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.