Friday, December 21, 2012

Update from Samantha!

Today we have a special treat for you! Samantha is back and is sharing her thoughts from her first semester of using BFB. If you missed Samantha's first post, you can read it here. And here's Sam:

Let me start by saying, I love history.  This is a new development for me.  Social Studies, as it was called when I was in school, was always so boring.  It seems like so many facts and dates I had to memorize about boring dead people.  But now as we have been studying Early American History this past fall, we have found it is full of amazing people, far from dead, who struggled and failed and triumphed in their quest for a better life for themselves and their children.  As a mother I can relate to this.  I had a well-to-do upbringing with my parents still married.  I went to a private school and had the opportunity to go on to college.  But education is so much more than just the degree after the work.  It should be about the journey, and this is the “better life” I want for my children: to fall in love with the learning process, to know the joy of a job well done, and to develop the character of perseverance when working on hard subjects.
This is our third year homeschooling.  In the first two years, kindergarten and first grade, we focused on what I felt were the essentials: reading, writing and math.  We also did a national classical program that included memory work.  I really felt that if we could get a great foundation of reading under our belts, everything else would come easier. So this year I decided to branch out and do history and other subjects.  I was so grateful to come across Rea at the Great Homeschool Convention in California this past summer.  As my boys (twin 7 year-olds and a 3 year-old) loved the group setting we had, and as I am the “starter” among my group of friends, I decided to start a group.  Here is what we have done:
  • We decided to start with the Early American History pack, primary edition.  The kids involved are from 3 years old to 8.  The 3 and 4 year olds spend half the time with Playdoh, but they do spend half of the time with the group.  We did two lessons together in class, and then everyone did one at home on their own.  We wanted to get to Pilgrim Stories by Thanksgiving.
  • As I told my friends about this group there were many that wanted to join us.  We had 11 in the beginning.  For scheduling reasons, we are now down to 9, which include my 3 year old and a 4 year old.  This size group really is perfect.  At 11 kids, it was a bit more to manage.  The kids who also stopped coming were younger, in kindergarten. I think this pack would still be great for kindergarteners, but the level the rest of the kids were working at, the majority being 2nd and 3rd graders, made them feel a bit behind.  It may also be my lack of experience in working with a multi-age group.  It might just take someone who is more experienced with an age gap. 
  • When we started, we also wanted to do a bit of music and art.  I had read For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schafer Macauley and wanted to do it the way she described. 
  •  For art, I went to the Getty and tried to find one specific artist, got copies of four of his works and then had the kids narrate the art for me.  Then we did reproductions of the work in different mediums.  Then we would go back and visit the museum and the kids would have an instant connection to the artwork.  The artist I picked was Anthony Van Dyck.  The works I picked I think were a bit too advanced for these kids and they struggled with reproducing them, but they did enjoy narrating them.  So we kept  that portion and I let the two artistic children in the group draw them for me after everyone else was done. 
  • For music, the initial idea was to have the kids color while listening to the Music Masters CDs.  I think the problem we encountered with this, as this was the last thing we did, was the kids couldn’t sit still anymore and wanted to play with their friends.  I also think we needed to spend more time on each composer.  One week was just not enough time.  The last couple of weeks of class we decided to study Beethoven.  So they all listed to the Music Masters CD, colored pages, and we watched a movie called “Beethoven Lives Upstairs”. 
So here are some highlights from the year.

  • Leif the Lucky – We loved studying Leif Erickson.  The sense of adventure and courage that Leif seemed to embody really came across to the boys.  And then to see him believe as a Christian and want to bring the faith back to his people was part of that adventure.  Of course the illustrations were amazing and the writing was done so beautifully that it captured and kept their attention easily. 

  • Columbus – Again, we loved studying Columbus.  The book was wonderful and so beautifully done.  You can’t praise the D’Aulaire’s enough for all their beautiful books, the wonderful writing and the amazing detailed pictures.  We loved the Your Story Hour CD’s and the expansion of Columbus’ story.  Each child prepared an amazing oral presentation of the book.  Some were more detailed than others.  But all seemed to have a very full experience of who Columbus was and the type of man he was.  It was so much more than “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”.  I loved how they all got that he had to wait for his adventure, how he was turned down by Portugal, and even after he ventured to the Americas, things did not always go well.  It was definitely not a fairy tale version. 
  •  Pocahontas– Since I have 7 year old boys, I was wondering how I was going to sell the whole Indian princess thing to them.  But as it turned out, this was their favorite book.  In these lessons, they visited the library and learned more about John Smith, which was really neat for them.  I almost would say, they thought the whole Pocahontas lessons were more about John Smith.  What an amazing character to study.  Here was a man with many talents and abilities.  His natural drive and sense of adventure led him all over the world as it was known then, and elevated him in the ranks of foreign military.  It is believed that if Jamestown had any success, it was due to his leadership.  But because of his harsh nature, he was hindered.  It wasn’t actually known if the injury he sustained to his leg was by accident or was a failed attempt on his life.  It was a great study for my growing boys to see how the undeveloped portions of a man’s character can hold him back from becoming all that he can be. 
  •  Jamestown, New World Adventure – This was a great book to read. I loved how all the children were able to connect to the children in the story...   It was a good portrayal of how hard life was for these early settlers.  It again chronicled how hard John Smith was to the people.  But at times it seemed he needed to be stern with the gentlemen who didn’t want to do their share of the work. 
  • Pilgrim Stories – As I write this, we are only halfway thru this book.  Our group only met thru November.  We would have met thru the middle of December, but my family moved and we needed to take some time off to get re-settled.  But I will say, I was shocked to find out the Pilgrims did not come straight to America from England, but first escaped to Holland.  It’s realizations like this that have me further convinced of my own poor education.  The boys think the names of the children in the book are funny, Patience, Fear and Faith.  But I remind them that I am sure those children would think their names equally strange.  It has been interesting to watch them wrestle through the idea that both the pilgrims and King James were all “Christians” yet they did not worship the same or believe the same.  It is a foreign idea to them to not be able to worship God the way you want and need to escape to another land to do so.  The descriptions of Holland have been so interesting that I have been wanting to do more study on this distant  country.  The mental picture of the frozen canals and the boats on runners is fascinating.  And the boys love the idea of a little boy walking by a dike and seeing a small leak, and the boy putting his chewing gum in the hole to save the town.  We are now just leaving England on the Mayflower and can’t wait for the rest of the book. 

I can’t wait to share more with you all on our adventure thru history in the coming.

Thank you Samantha! It's such a joy to read about your adventures. If anyone has any questions about the books mentioned in this post, feel free to leave a comment below and we will get right back to you.

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  1. Thank you for this, Samantha! We, too, are in our first year with BFB, though my boys are a bit younger (first and kindergarten). My first grader has been requested Pilgrim Stories for his reading hour and enjoyed it so much he completed it on his own! Thank you for the added information about John Smith...we might jump into a character study after Christmas. He sounds like a good one to research. Merry Christmas!

  2. Thank you, so much Samantha. Your experiences and reflections are as always, insightful and interesting! Since you've been taken by the story of John Smith, do read the World of Captain John Smith to get an even fuller picture of this truly fascinating man! He lived a life so packed with adventure, so full of death defying escapades that he packed the lives of ten men into one! Also, your boys would probably enjoy Blood on the River: The Story of Jamestown 1607. Another perspective on Smith! Merry Christmas to all the Lams!

    1. Thanks Rea for the recommendations. They are both on hold at the library for me. We just finished Squanto, which the boys begged me to keep reading, so I did 4 lessons in one afternoon. I love how a good book really captures them! I can't wait to share more in my next post!!