Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cycle 3 Week 21 Weekly Link-Up

The Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Weekly Link-up is a place for bloggers to share their ideas and activities with other CC parents and tutors for each week during Cycle 3 (2014-2015 school year). Unlike most weekly link-ups, this link-up will not be organized according to date but will be organized according to the week of CC. As such, these weekly link-ups will remain open for several months to accommodate for all the different schedules implemented by various CC Communities.  

This Link-Up is for Cycle 3:  Week 21

For all other weeks of the Cycle 3 Link-Up, click here.

If you are looking for the Cycle 2 Weekly Link-Up, click here.
If you are looking for the Cycle 1 Weekly Link-Up, click here.

For bloggers who'd like a button, just copy and
paste the following html code into your webpage.

Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

<a href="" target="_self"><img src="" alt="Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood" width="225" height="225" /></a>

Would you like to participate? 
For bloggers:  Feel free to share either 1) your plans for the week listed above or 2) what you did for this particular week of CC. When submitting your entry, please include the name of your blog or blog post and link directly to your post for the week noted in the post heading (so we can find it!) rather than to your entire blog. Also please link back to this page in your blog post so that your readers can check others' websites who are participating as well.  My hope is that this link-up encourages a feeling of community and friendship in the CC blogging world.

For non-bloggers:  Bookmark or pin this page and remember to visit the fabulous Cycle 3 blog entries that will be posted in the near future - all kinds of ideas for supplementing Classical Conversations. Check back often to see if others have submitted their ideas!

Bloggers:  By participating in this link-up, you agree that you will not post the words (in text, audio, or video format) of the history, science, timeline, or other specific wording found within the Foundations Guide in your blog post. You also agree to not post links to youtube videos, on-line Quizlet flashcards, or other material containing memory work sentences from the Foundations Guide.  Please do not post any material you have downloaded from CC Connected if it is not your own creation. You may include a reference to a specific file you have found useful by stating the name of the file so that it may be searched on CC Connected. This website strives to maintain the highest degree of integrity in honoring copyrights owned by Classical Conversations (or any other person or company, for that matter). Thank you for being honorable and trustworthy in your participation in this link-up!

This link-up is intended to be used with the Foundations Guide 4th Edition.  

For those receiving this in your email inbox, just click on the heading of this post to access the "Add Your Link" button or to access links that have been submitted. (But be patient, as it will take some time for bloggers to get their posts written and their links up!)

This will help all of us to easily find the ideas others have shared for each week of Classical Conversations! Thank you for participating!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Where my Love of Books Has Led Me {Heart Talk}

Booklists, Reading Correlations, and Reviews, Oh My!

By now it's probably pretty obvious that I love books. I love to read them. I love to review them. I love to share good ones with others.

Because of the reviews I do, I sometimes even get to give stuff away, and boy, howdy! I just love passing on a blessing to someone else! 

Honestly, when I set out to select a winner for a giveaway, not only do I say a little prayer (as silly as it sounds), I am also filled with joy as I write my little note to the winner. My hope is that whatever they have won will bless them and help them in their homeschooling endeavors.

So... after about the tenth person contacted me about Usborne books for various reasons (asking for reviews, match-ups, etc.), I decided maybe I should start looking into it more.

I noticed a few things immediately.
  1. The boys and I love the Usborne books we have (although I admit that I had purchased them through Amazon in the past because I never realized that Usborne was a book company with consultants you could order through). 
  2. I have always thoroughly enjoyed home shows (remember Home Interiors? I was one of those home-decorator people!). And can I tell you? I am just BESIDE myself thinking about getting together with others to look through books. What could be more fun that that?!? (I would love to create a monthly chock-lit guild just to sit around and talk about books with other people! Maybe I'll do that in my spare time.)
  3. Usborne has a program where you can offer free books to others. You can actually work with others to stock their library. To think I might be able to help others (maybe even a few who are facing a financial setback?) to build an entire library of books? That would be a thrill!
  4. By joining Usborne myself, I may be able to help someone else start a business that will provide the finances for them in a time of need (or maybe provide some extra cash just to take a family vacation?). 
  5. This fits into what I'm already doing.
So here is where my love of books has taken me. I'm branching out here. I'm now an Usborne Consultant.

I'm still considering where this may take us one day. For now, I really hope to extend the giveaway aspect so that I can bless others with a great library of books. I'd love to get together with friends and friends of friends to look through and chat about books. And of course I want to add some more Usborne books to our own personal library.

But... can I share my heart with you? Can I share my dream? Can I?
[It scares me half out of my wits to put this into words. Really, it does.]

My dream... is that one day, maybe one day, my husband will be able to choose to board a helicopter that lands on the helideck of a drillship,

travel back home to Tennessee, and stay home with us.

Please don't get me wrong. I am so thankful for his wonderful career. I really, really am. God has performed mighty works in Gary's job, and I know he has made such an impact in the places the Lord has taken him. But I sure do miss him when he's gone. Oh, how I miss him! And my heart breaks when the boys have to say goodbye every other month. It breaks when he misses a performance, or a a Memory Master achievement, or a birthday, or our anniversary, or Christmas. It breaks when Gary fears that Isaac won't remember him when he returns.

So maybe starting a new business will one day allow him to return home to stay home. He won't need to head back to Tanzania, or Angola, or South Korea, or Brazil anymore. I expect that it will one day happen [retirement], but my hope is that it will happen before we become empty nesters.

Really, this is a huge dream. And if you use any of our affiliate links, you are already a part of it. Right now, I still use our affiliates to pay the costs associated with this website (the huge migration to Wordpress is actually in the works right now!), to give to missions and other financial needs in the world around us, and to provide funds for Amazon and other Half-a-Hundred-Acre-Wood-funded giveaways.

But then there's this dream that it will one day be something more.

That's another reason I'm prayerfully embarking on this Usborne journey as well. If you'd like to be a part of this dream, you can! I currently have a Facebook Kick-off Party Group that you can join before March 3rd (and win free books!) or you can shop on-line at my Usborne store anytime. You can check out the current monthly and biweekly Customer Specials, which you can only get by going to an Usborne party or by being invited to a specific eShow like this one that ends next Wednesday.

Click here to view the catalog of over 1400 engaging, educational, and exciting children's books that your kids will love to read!  And then click here to shop from my very first ever launch party eShow and get those exclusive Customer Specials!

In the future, stay tuned for reviews of specific books. Whether you choose to shop our Usborne store or not, thank you for being a part of our lives!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Mystery of History Volume IV: A Review

It's chronological. It's Christian. And now it's complete!

For those who have been searching for a comprehensive, Christ-centered history curriculum, the fourth and final volume of The Mystery of History (MOH) has arrived, and I'm blessed to give you a glimpse of what's in store!

As we wrap up our reading of the four volumes of Story of the World this month, I find myself once again reconsidering our history choices in preparation for next year. For the past four years, we've used Story of the World audios alongside our Classical Conversations memory work, and we certainly can repeat the readings from those four volumes now that we are finished. After all, repetition is at the heart of classical education! Nevertheless, I have eagerly anticipated The Mystery of History's completion for the past three or four years, and it seems fitting that we would look further into The Mystery of History now that we've finished our first journey through the pages of all four volumes of Story of the World.

The Mystery of History

Although we enjoyed reading through the first volume of The Mystery of History about three years ago, I had not purchased any of the other volumes because the The Mystery of History series was (at that time) incomplete. That same year we had also enjoyed listening to the first two volumes of Story of the World. Yes, Story of the World provided engaging narratives (i.e., "living history") from ancient times. But The Mystery of History provided us with deeper Biblical connections that I had failed to notice as I continue to overcome my segmented and compartmentalized understanding of history. That year, it was a wonderful thing to dovetail Story of the World with The Mystery of History, which is why I'm considering it once again. Simply put, The Mystery of History tends to fill a gap that exists in our homeschool due to my own lack of knowledge and understanding. Now that the final volume of The Mystery of History is published, I'm elated that we have another option to consider for a complete, chronological, and classical history study - one that presents history from a Biblical worldview.

Written by homeschooling mom Linda Hobar, the four volumes of The Mystery of History include:
Volume 1 Creation to the Resurrection (c. 4004 BC - c AD 33)
Volume II The Early Church and the Middle Ages (c. AD 33 - 1456)
Volume III The Renaissance, Reformation, and Growth of Nations (C 1455-1707)
Volume IV Wars of Independence to Modern Times (1708 - 2014)

This review is specifically for Volume IV Wars of Independence to Modern Timesan illustrated hardbound student reading text...

...which also includes a CD-ROM that includes a 600+ page Companion Guide with pretests, multi-age activities, quizzes, mapping exercises, timeline directions, and more.

Recommended for grades 6 and above due to reading level and emotional intensity (as also mentioned by Susan Wise Bauer for Story of the World Volume 4 re: the nature of the events from this time period), The Mystery of History Volume IV covers the wars of independence to modern times, including Wars of Independence, Wars of Ideologies, Wars of the World, Wars of Modern Times, and the Hope of Mankind. Other historical figures highlighted include Napoleon, Beethoven, Simon Bolivar, George Muller, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, and other notable persons ranging from artists and composers to revolutionaries and missionaries. As the author weaves Biblical history into secular world history, she provides an integrated view of the one story of mankind and the message of the Gospel through the ages.

Volume IV provides everything needed to teach this period of history from a Christian perspective, along with multi-age activities, book and video recommendations, timeline suggestions, map work, and assessments. It is composed of 84 lessons to be completed in a 28-week period, with each week containing three reading lessons. This allows for an extra day or two each week to complete extra activities or suggested field trips.

The Mystery of History Pros

The breadth of history covered.  Even the lives of composers and artists are woven into the story. This reminds me of a certain goal of a Classical, Christian education:  all subjects relate to one another, and they all point back to our Creator. 

Maps and illustrations. The color maps, illustrations, portraits, and paintings help with understanding the history of each person and event.

Transitions and connections. When the author covers a subject connected to something previously mentioned, she gives a brief synopsis to remind us of it instead of jolting us from one event to the next without a transition. It builds in some repetition (without seeming repetitious), which also helps with retention.
Classical in its approach. History is not just read and subsequently forgotten.  Each week a reminder is provided for the student to create "Challenge Cards" which are used for oral drills, games, or independent review.
Companion Guide includes a variety of ideas with instructions for multi-age, multi-sensory activities. This could be seen as a plus or a minus. It provides flexibility to do as much or as little as you'd like. Dig in way-deep or just read the lesson - it's your choice! There's no doubt the number of activities and suggestions can make the text adaptable to a much wider age span. 
Companion Guide is on CD instead of within text. This could also be seen as a plus or a minus. Personally, I tend to like things pre-printed. But having the extra activities on the Companion Guide allows for the making of multiple copies easily when needed, and it keeps this volume at a size that is not overwhelming. So... what is included in the Companion Guide? The Companion Guide contains...
  • Quarter Summaries
  • Pretests
  • Instructions for making timelines, memory cards, and a history notebook
  • Map work
  • Quarterly worksheets
  • Quizzes and semester tests
  • Answer keys
  • Supplemental reading/video list
  • Extra activities and instructions for using The Mystery of History for high school students to gain a high school history credit
Treats non-Christian topics respectfully while sharing the truth and hope of the Gospel. The author touches on the Christian faith in a beautiful, non-condemning way and references the scriptures where appropriate (e.g., How Marxist principles go against God's Word). In some cases, the author suggests that younger students stop reading at a certain point due to sensitive content, in which case a note to the teacher is usually included so that you won't be caught off guard. Although it is recommended for grades 6 and above, this volume can be read to children, though parents may want to skip some of the more intense subjects. 

The Mystery of History Cons

Although mostly engaging, it is generally only engaging for specific areas of history. (This applies to almost all history texts.) Some of the topics are not written in as interesting or engaging a manner as others. Although the author does insert quotes into the historical summaries, most of it is not written in a story format, which makes it more difficult to engage the interest of young children.
Colloquial phraseology.  This is such a petty complaint, but all the "in-case-you-didn't-know" and "in-my-opinion" phrases seem distracting to me. The writing would be so much better without so many of those colloquial phrases inserted into it.
Not sufficient for American History study. Even though a great deal of American history is covered within this volume, it is not a comprehensive study of American history for those who wish to study U.S. history in depth.
{Variety of ideas included in companion guide and Companion Guide is on CD instead of within text, as noted in The Mystery of History Pros.}

Story of the World vs. The Mystery of History: A Short Comparison

Although it would take me several more months of reading to complete (or even start) a thorough comparison of the content of these two programs, I'd like to offer a short comparison for those who are trying to make a decision between the two.
  • Both are a four-year, classical, chronological studies of world history.
  • The first volume of both Story of the World and The Mystery of History were simple and engaging enough for our boys (at the time aged 4, 6, and 9) to understand. Overall, The Mystery of History seems to be written at a higher level than the earlier volumes of Story of the World.
  • To expand upon the previous point:  The format of Story of the World is geared towards a younger audience. Susan Wise Bauer uses fictional stories told from a child's point of view to show what life was like in ancient civilizations. The Mystery of History is not written in this historical-fiction story-like format, but many times it goes into greater depth/breadth.
  • While Story of the World is a world history book with Biblical history incorporated into the text, The Mystery of History is a Biblical history book with world history interwoven throughout. As such, The Mystery of History gives a greater and deeper connection to the Christian faith and includes scripture references throughout the volumes. 
  • When listening to or reading Volume 1 and 2 of Story of the World, I often felt the need to stop and explain the text, such as the difference between myths and legends and actual historical accounts, since the presentation of Biblical people & events is treated in much the same way as Greek myths and ancient legends. Parts about the Islamic pillars of faith were also somewhat confusing for our children. While we enjoyed the narrative style of Story of the World, I honestly wrestled with these things and would have preferred a Christ-centered history curriculum (even though it was somewhat beneficial to wrestle through those things together). 

As I consider which of these programs I would recommend, I can't help but recommend both for different reasons. Beginning with 
Story of the World better engages a young child in the story of mankind due to its story-like qualities (but may cause some confusion as mentioned above), but reading The Mystery of History helps to bridge the gap in understanding how history relates to scripture. 

Finally, it's important to note that all history is written from someone's point of view. While our children are young, I want them to learn history from a Christian perspective even though my historical literacy and understanding is quite limited. My hope is that my children will not wrestle with the same segmented and compartmentalized understanding of history that I've experienced. Eventually, we will delve into secular perspectives and apologetics as my children mature, but for now, The Mystery of History fills a gap in our homeschool, and we will likely be using it as our history "spine" in the coming years. 

Are you curious to see more?  Click here to download the TOC for The Mystery of History Volume IV, or click here to watch a video about the program and/or purchase The Mystery of History from Bright Ideas Press.

Other related posts:
Calendar Quest (a very fun and engaging study which I still very highly recommend and we may return to next year.)

I was given a copy of The Mystery of History Volume IV for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions expressed here are my own and have not been influenced by any outside source.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Orchestra & Famous Composers

Bumping this post up from the archives in anticipation of our final six weeks of Classical Conversations, when we study Orchestra and Composers in greater depth.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Woodwinds and Brass and Percussion and Strings,
These are a few of my favorite things!

Once upon a time, I played flute, piccolo, bass drum, cymbals and baritone (but... not all at the same time).

In high school, I placed my flute on a shelf to collect years of dust and walked away from a God-given talent, mainly because I never developed a love of the music I played. In the midst of playing solos and ensembles, memorizing many pieces, and leading an entire section of instruments, I had never actually studied classical music or composers. I never appreciated the music I played. I never enjoyed it. Even when I played solos with band accompaniments, I could not tell you anything about a composer or even recognize a piece (except Stars & Stripes Forever). That was two decades ago (TWO DECADES?!?!?). And yet I have thought back longingly to those moments when conductor unified chaos. (Really, I wish I could raise my hands and conduct my home in such a way.  Sometimes I try to, but mostly I just sing Amy Joy Tofte's Catastrophism song (from Cycle 3) until the boys realize I'm talking about their rooms...)

And so now we return to the formal study of such things. I personally have come to appreciate this aspect of Fine Arts more in the past year, albeit through The Nutcracker and Disney's Little Einsteins. (If you're like me and want an easy way to incorporate Fine Arts into your home, visit Wikipedia's List of Little Einsteins Episodes for a list of Little Einstein's episodes along with each art/music focus and then go to this list to find out which episodes are on which DVD. Last year prior to our official composer study, our boys already knew the names "Stravinsky" and "Tchaikovsky" and were familiar with their music due to Disney’s Little Einsteins, specifically, Rocket's Firebird Rescue (Stravinsky's Firebird Suite) and Christmas Wish (Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite).) And despite the fact that I ran away from this classical music stuff at one time, now I look forward to it. It's fun! (And maybe - just maybe - I will be brave enough this year to take the boys to the Symphony!)

The main thing for composer study is to simply listen to the music to become familiar with the composer's sound and style, and to learn the vocabulary.  You can supplement with biographies and notebooking pages, or coloring pages, or let your child draw or scribble, but the most important thing is to listen to the music and gain a basic understanding of classical music!

Towards the bottom of this post, you'll find a list of the resources I've found, but before I get to that point, here's my filtered, less intimidating list of things we might use this semester (ha!  This one looks intimidating, too, but so you know, I will NOT be using all of this stuff! I might use one or two things, like the very cool and funny multiplication connect-the-dots for the composers' wigs. But mostly we will just try to listen to the music of each composer.  And if you come across broken links, please let me know.  I had to re-redo this post several times because I'm Mac-mouse-challenged and Apple-intolerant.)

For Cycle 3, feel free to use our composer notebooking pages from our Cycle 3 Fine Arts Notebooking Packet!

Download Cycle 2 Fine Arts Notebooking Packet here.
Download Cycle 3 Fine Arts Notebooking Packet here.

The following image is from our Cycle 2 packet, just to show you what the composer pages look like.

Each composer page includes a place to write something about the composer or the music at the top, and a section along the bottom to draw as you listen.

For Classical Conversations CC Connected Subscribers:  Some great resources for Cycle 3 await you! My favorite method of listening to classical music is by using listening flowcharts. From the File Sharing Center drop-down menu, select category "Cycle " and "Fine Arts" and search for the following files:

Cycle 3 Files on CC Connected
Stravinsky Flow Chart-1 by Discarbunch
Debussy Flow Chart by Discarbunch
Tchaikovsky Flow Chart by Discarbunch
Orchestra booklet by Suzirsmith
CC C3 Composer Cards by lorigreene
C3_FineArt_wk01-24_a_starting_point by Knoxfamily

And that's just a few! There are currently around 30 or so files for Cycle 3 composers & orchestra, including vocabulary cards, composer and orchestra slides, and notebooking pages.

Cycle 3 Resources
Cycle 3 Fine Arts Notebooking Packet
Classical Conversations Orchestra Song (Free the Free Learning Center of CC Connected)

As a parent…

Time Periods of Classical Music Song and Game
Let's Go to the Symphony Video
The Orchestra Song
{Classical Conversations Orchestra MP3 Song (Free Public Library - CC Connected))
Printable Activities:
A study of Prokofiev and Peter and the Wolf
Periods of Music History Summary Page
Music Fun Facts Book
Free SQUILT Lessons to practice music appreciation
Orchestra Lapbook
See above Cycle 3 resource list
And some of the symphony websites for kids or interactives listed at the bottom of this post

If I were a CC tutor or co-op teacher…
Classical Conversations Orchestra Song (Public Library - CC Connected)
Instruments of the Orchestra Posters
OrchestraSeating Charts (Printable)
Musical Instrument Bingo & Flashcards
Online Interactive – Match the instruments to the sounds

Coloring Sheets:
My Musical Instrument Book
Extension activities - Pick and choose something to do!

Orchestra & Famous Composers: Weeks 19-24 of Classical Conversations
My Musical Instrument Book
Handel Biography on Artsalive website
Mozart Biography on Artsalive website
Mozart Lapbook
Bach Lapbook
Handel Water Music Activity Page
Mozart and Bach Coloring Page, Wordsearch, and Multiplication Connect-the-Dots
Bach Coloring Page
Let's Go Mozart pdf book by Artsalive- includes biography and so much more!
A-BACH-cadbra pdf book by ArtsAlive
Handel: His Life, His Times, and His Music pdf book by Artsalive
Bach Study
Mozart Study

Cycle 1 Music:

Classical Conversations Orchestra Song (Public Library - CC Connected)
Musopen: offers free Classical Music MP3s and Classical Composer Bios
Handel Water Music MP3 or streaming audio
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-Flat video

Cycle 2 Biographies, Printables, & Resources:
Cycle 2 Fine Arts Notebooking Packet
Beethoven Coloring Page
Beethoven Printable Biography Page
Beethoven Unit Study & Lapbook
Brahms Coloring Page
Brahms Printable Biography Page
Dvorak Coloring Page
Dvorak Printable Biography Page
Beethoven Multiplication Dot-to-Dot
Beethoven, Brahms, and Dvorak Coloring Pages, Wordsearch, and Multiplication Connect-the-Dots
Beethoven: The Story of a Little Boy Who Was Forced to Practice (Booklet with Q&A)

Cycle 2 Files on CC Connected (not hyperlinked)

Beethoven Musician Flow Chart.pdf
Beethoven Cycle 2 Week 20 Revised.pdf
Brahms Flow Chart.pdf
Brahms Cycle 2 Week 21.pdf
Dvorak Flow Chart copy.pdf
Dvorak Cycle 2 Week 22.pdf
Composers Timeline.pdf

Cycle 2 Music:
Musopen: offers free Classical Music MP3s and Classical Composer Bios

These resources are not recommended or endorsed by Classical Conversations.  Classical Conversations recommends Classical Music for Dummies for composer study during Weeks 19-24, and a complete six-week guide (with schedule and activities) may be found in the appendix of the Foundations Guide 4th Edition.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Three-Week Binge, Once Again

I'm afraid it's been a while since I last featured what's happening in our family. Once Gary returned from Brazil, we hit life at full-speed-double-time. The only way I was able to catch back up around here was to order a gigantic snowed-in snow-week!

As soon as Gary returned, we unveiled our big surprise for the boys...

Monster + Jam + Las Vegas, NV = Monster Jam World Finals 2015

In March we are indeed headed out west... to see the real-life Monster Jam World Finals in Las Vegas. While this is not necessarily the intended highlight of our Wild-Wild-West trip (I am looking forward to seeing the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and all the beautiful handiwork of God over on that side of the nation!), the boys are super-duper excited about watching the grand finale of the Monster Jam Freestyle competition. Maybe they will remember seeing the Grand Canyon when they went to Monster Jam World Finals? Maybe?

This month we headed west one weekend to see Gary's family in Northwest Tennessee (top photo in this post) and then headed east another weekend to go to Wilderness of the Smokies for David's birthday.

Notice that I took something educational along (haha). Not only did we play Scrabble in the evenings, we listened to the entire audiobook of Carry On, Mr. Bowditch on the way over to Sevierville. This has got to be one of our all time absolute favorite books!! If you're wondering what it would look like to enjoy a real-life, classical, Thomas Jefferson education, I think this book comes pretty close to experiencing an adventure of learning just for the joy of learning. Wonderful! (By the way, audiobooks have been our lifeline for keeping on top of reading this year. It has been extra-tough to have our normal read-aloud times with the boisterous baby in our midst. We even finished up Story of the World Volume 4 while on our trips this past month.)

David asked for some interesting things for his birthday this year. He is very much a weather man, so he ended up with weather kits, along with a microscope and slides (with things like "Dog Stomach"), and a grossology lab that comes with a toilet mixer (shown below upper right). 

We even made fake snow with one of the weather kits, after which we experienced real snow here in the "holler."

An entire 5 days of sledding!  These boys were just beside themselves, overcome with joy! They have waited five years for this!  The view off the front porch was simply amazing. {Thank you, Lord, for all of this.}

So... it is taking me much longer nowadays to collect my thoughts and memories. I can't seem to sit down for long to write up posts about what we've been doing. So, here's another three weeks in review!

Educational Pursuits: A Three Four Week Overview

As we ventured into studying the Periodic Table of Elements (Week 16 of Classical Conversations)...

Stephen read (cover to cover!) The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe and Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything by Theodore Gray. He even took them on our trip because he did not want to have to wait to finish them. These books are so engaging and down-to-earth! I consider these to be "living books" for chemistry and am definitely glad to have them in our personal library, as I know we will return to them often in the coming years. We also added the matching Photographic Card Deck of The Elements to our homeschool supplies, but given the choice between the two, I would opt for the books rather than the cards. After all, you can make homemade flashcards, or you can even download these from the EllenJMcHenry Basement Workshop (which is what we did last time we were in Cycle 3).

At the other extreme, we have David, who prefers the more playful Periodic Table: Elements with Style! book and cards. He enjoyed "building" the periodic table with the cards, and then singing the first twelve elements of the periodic table by atomic number, element, and atomic mass.

I've found that this book is much shorter and easier for younger children to understand overall, but instead of a photograph of each element (as in Gray's books), it has a cartoon illustration for each of the elements. (It also does not include all of the elements - just a selection of them.) Note: We found the corresponding cards for $3 at an Ollie's, (along with other Basher Science cards).

Other books we enjoyed during Week 16 were The Memory Coat, and When Jessie Came Across the Sea, two precious picture books that give a glimpse at what it may have been like to be an immigrant coming to America.

As far as week 17 and 18 were concerned... let's just say I'm glad we had a snow week to "catch up" on some reading!  

Written by the discoverer of the Titanic, Ghost Liners: Exploring the World's Greatest Lost Ships is the most fascinating book I have come across related to World War I, with stories about real passengers who boarded the Lusitania, Titanic, Empress of Ireland, Britannic, and Andrea Doria, along with images from the shipwreck investigations. An added benefit: We now have a presentation topic for each of the next five weeks!

Remember the Lusitania is an engaging account of the Lusitania as well, but it is emotional and a bit too graphic for young children. DK Readers: Disasters at Sea is a great reader that includes an account of the Lusitania's tragic end.

The only book that we struggled with finishing was Minn of the Mississippi. It just has not been as engaging for us as Paddle-to-the-Sea was, although the illustrations and geography-science-history connections are great.

Two of our books for this week are books we stored on the shelves from last year's study of WWI: Where Poppies Grow: A World War I Companion and In Flander's Fields. 

While In Flander's Fields is more of an illustrated children's book (with background info at various points in the book as shown in the photo on the left), Where Poppies Grow offers an overview of various aspects of WWI, including the poem "In Flander's Fields:"

Finally, we arrive at Week 18...

Our favorite books for World War II were 26 Fairmount Avenue, which isn't about the war but is a hilarious account of Tomie DePaola's childhood during that time period, and Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World, which is a favorite picture book for our family. The boys were also very interested in The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey, a biography about the authors of Curious George, which happens to be one of their favorite children's book series.

Garfield is a major "thang" in our family, so another must-have in our collection is In Dog Years I'd Be Dead: Garfield at 25. My mom bought me this book years ago because of my own obsession with Garfield. What I did not realize until this year is how the book ties in to Norman Rockwell...

Other books for Week 18 included DK Readers L4: D-Day Landings: The Story of the Allied InvasionPearl Harbor (National Geographic Collector's Edition), and a short biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In addition to reading, we do a lot of brainstorming on the whiteboard together. I have discovered that... when Essentials (or any other subject) is becoming tedious for us, the whiteboard is such a great tool to use! It is so much fun to discuss books or grammar or writing together!  Not only that, it is such an excellent tool for keeping up with the independent reading our oldest child is doing.

The above photo is called a "Plot Diagram," where you list (or your child lists) the setting, characters, events/plot, climax and resolution. It's a great way to keep up with your independent reader and stay connected with what they're reading. You can read more about it in the article, "Starting a Classical Conversation with Literature: The Plot Diagram."

Speaking of articles, I've started my latest series, "Letter to a New CC Mom," which can be read over at Writer's Circle. If you are new to homeschooling or Classical Conversations (or know someone who is), I'm hoping that these four or so articles will be helpful! (Only two have been written up to this point!)

About Community

I love our Classical Conversations community. They are some of my best friends. They are like family. I hurt when they hurt. I rejoice when they rejoice. We sometimes have disagreements and have to seek or offer forgiveness, just as families often do. But through it all they remain my best friends (and my children's best friends), and I love to share joy and laughter with them.

Because I am not a tutor, I can easily fall prey to the false idea that I don't matter much. But... the strengths I offer are not tied up in whether or not I tutor - they lie in the fact that I love to host parties, and I love to help behind the scenes, and I love to plan field trips. (Of course planning made it in there, right?!?) We have taken a few field trips this year - not as a complete community due to varying commitments - but we enjoy our moments of exploring together inside and outside of our community day! Our trip to the Nashville Symphony gave us a chance to explore a bit of Tchaikovsky and then visit over Chick-fil-A sandwiches and IceDreams on the way home. If you are not a tutor in your community and you feel a disconnect, what about planning such an activity for your group?  If it is your gift, it is a wonderful one to give to others! If it is not, maybe your gift is offering a genuine smile or word of encouragement, or making a pot of coffee, or writing a note to send through the mail every now and then?  I have discovered the more I give to my community, the more a part of it I become. Just a thought I'm considering as I think of how much my community means to me!

Well, it looks like I've made it a tradition to write a post about our family every three weeks now, which makes for some awfully long posts! Nevertheless, here's hoping you have also enjoyed the past month! Stay warm!

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