Teaching by Example

Life is easier when we model the behavior we want to see in our children. Reading becomes what we do in our house if our kids see us reading. Writing becomes just something that happens if our kids see us writing. Likewise, if they see us take time to figure out calculations on paper, they learn that everyone uses math, but if we just grab a smartphone and do the math on the calculator, they don’t see us do math at all because there was nothing to see.
But our kids do as we do a whole lot better than they do as we say.
Evidence: Jon and I both read quite a bit. He listens to audiobooks as he commutes to his day job. We are both frequently found with a book, and we both have books sprinkled throughout the house near our spots (in the bathroom, on our  nightstands, by our spots in the living room, on our desks….).  Our kids have added their own books to the rooms of our house. There is a fixer-upper manual with Jon’s theology read because Jon and Micah like the same chair in the living room, a Ranger’s Apprentice book that Gideon is enjoying is on top of the my novel in the living room because if I sit down in my spot, he snuggles up next to me with his book.
Further evidence: We own a publishing company. My husband has several books published. I write quite often, though all my thoughts are published on blogs instead of books. My 15 year old is writing a series of short stories. Guess what my younger boys decided to do? For the past few days, they have been laying on the floor in my office handwriting or typing their own stories.
That is not to say that we don’t play games, watch TV, exercise, play on the computer and do all sorts of other things. But no matter what we are doing, our kids are watching. While they also have their own interests, they gravitate toward what they see us doing.




What to Memorize

“In terms of education, this means that the best way to communicate morality is not thorough endless dry lists of what should and should not be done, but once again through the imagination — through stories , drama, and living examples capable of engaging the will and the emotions and thus inspiring us to be better people” (Caldecott, Beauty in the Word 87).

These “living examples” are found in scripture, hymns, poetry, and folk songs, written by men and reflecting on their experiences.  We learn to be better humans by meditating on the words of those who have gone before us. The captured emotion and carefully chosen words convey ideas in such a way that they are easily brought to mind later.

Scripture: Hiding God’s word in your heart (and in your kids’ hearts) is a way to always have it with you

Poetry: A storehouse of beautiful words beautifully said makes a better reader and a better writer. This storehouse challenges what words sound good and challenges the owner to choose his words carefully when speaking or writing.

Hymns: Great hymns of the church, whether they are ancient or recent, tend to declare Biblical truths in a memorable and accessible way.

Folk Songs: Folk songs connect us to the past through music. These songs typically tell stories that are timeless and not to be forgotten, fleshing out entries on a timeline or stories in a history book into a retelling of real life.

Other things to consider memorizing:

  • Classical Conversations Foundations memory work
  • Speeches from famous leaders
  • Multiplication facts
  • Spelling and Punctuation Rules
  • Foreign language vocabulary or grammar rules






Why Memory Work?


One afternoon, I rode behind my husband on an ATV up a mountain path. We wove through shadows, around trees, and past wildflowers until we burst into sunshine and this vista spread out before us. A song memorized long ago sprang from my lips, “To God be the glory, great things He has done!” In my childhood, this was our music minister’s favorite hymn. He’s roll the R on the “great” as if he were singing in his native Spanish. That is still how I hear it in my head.

On another afternoon, a few years before, I sat next to Isaac’s bed in the PICU with no words of my own. In my desperation to cling to hope in spite of the prognosis we’d just received, I clung to other long-ago memorized words, “Even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me. Your Rod and your Staff, they comfort me.”

Repeatedly, when I have no words of my own, it is phrases written by others, but stored in my mind, that come forth to express hope or faith or even desperation. These experiences are what convince me that it is necessary to hide words of Truth and Beauty in the hearts of my children as well as in my own heart. These words provide a link to the past, a reminder that we aren’t alone in our experiences… that others before us have felt like we do, have had similar thoughts, and written similar stories. These words remembered, whether light verse or heavy hymn, remind us that God is. That He, mighty and sovereign, lovingly holds His creations in His hands, while His Word moves mountains for our good and His glory.





How and When and Where to Memorize

We each have a memory work notebook, and we just work through the day’s stuff together. Each day we will visit the daily tab, even or odd according to the date, the day of the week, and the date. This isn’t my original idea, but I morphed Sonya Shafer’s plan for a memory work box into this notebook.

It takes about twenty-five minutes if we all keep our happy hearts and just do the job. If I take a phone call or answer a text, the routine is broken and everyone is cranky. If we follow the rails of habit we have created, all is well, and we move on to the Loop of Beautiful Things and then our individual studies.

Even though each boy has a notebook and turns pages to keep on track with where we are, only one of the three strictly follows each line and reads every word aloud until he doesn’t need to anymore.  That’s the one who remembers what he SEES (like I do). Another remembers what he HEARS, and he mostly listens and recites along, looking down at his page as he stumbles. The third is constantly moving as we work through the material… tapping or bouncing as he recites. He isn’t distracting, but he isn’t still. It is the movement that helps him remember.

Keep in mind that my youngest is ten years old. I’ve been using the same methods for morning time for the last four years, and for most of that time all of my boys have been readers. If I were going to memorize as a group with children who could not yet read fluently, I’d have to change my methods. There was a time when I was the only one with a notebook. Then, I would read a line or sentence, and they would recite it back to me. Or we would sing together, and the songs would quickly become familiar. We accomplished less material in a year, only switching up poems, hymns, scripture and songs every twelve weeks or so.

But there is a lot of progress that is made in those little bits. Every line learned makes the next easier and adds to the storehouse of language in the mind – new images, vocabulary, phrases.



The Must Haves for homeschooling

I was scrolling through Facebook this morning, and I saw, once again, five different homeschool moms asking “what are your must-have’s for homeschooling?”

Here are the Must Haves that I see: 

1. The Belief that parents are the best teachers for their children: You have to believe that the fact that your child is yours makes you the best teacher for him or her. This is the force that will keep you going.
2. Time:  You have to be willing to make teaching your children a priority in your day, laying aside your own desires for a time in order to invest in your children.

3. Determination: You have to consistently determine that the best thing for your family is for you to pass on knowledge that you have to your children. And once you need to pass on knowledge that you don’t have, you have to be willing to learn that information yourself or connect your child with someone who already knows it.

Whether you homeschool with hundreds of dollars worth of curricula and co-ops or the 1970s Saxon texts ($2 used), a library card, and paper and pencil, these are the three things that you Must Have.  

Everything else is ice cream.

Coming soon: Memory Work Printable Packs

I am sure you have noticed that my family’s school day is heavily dependent on our morning meeting time, now dubbed “Council of Oaks,” and on memory work. We add to our family culture and furnish the rooms of our minds with beautiful words beautifully said from scripture, poetry, hymns, and folk songs.

I am building a series of printable packs for the memory work we will do this year. If you want to join us, you can download a pack for a couple of dollars and print it off for your Memory Work Binder.  All of this year’s memory work will be part of the American Feast I will spread for my children to go along with the Cycle 3 Memory Work from Classical Conversations Foundations Guide. (No information from the guide will be in the download. These pieces are related, but separate.) I have a solid plan for each four to six week section of the year, and each pack will have a resource page available. (The page for August is here.)

If I accomplish all that I have in my head, you also may get cursive copywork for these poems and American history related book lists. It all is dependent on how fast I can get ideas on paper the screen.

The end of the term

Since I last posted, we made a lovely trip to the mountains to see my brother and his family. The boys are all finishing up their math books. We haven’t had our regular school days because we have been embracing the freedom that comes with the end of the school year and the beauty that is Oklahoma in May.

I made a list of the lessons we need to finish to be where we need to be in August, when our school year starts with our Classical Conversations community.  We will work on the list as we ebb and flow through the next eight weeks. I’ll decide how to run our day in the fall, and how to tell you about it.  I have a list of “how to” articles I’d like to write and plans for next year’s Morning Meetings to make.

I just made my own work plan for the summer. I have several projects in the works, and I need to have a firm grasp on the Chemistry and Trigonometry I will study with my Challenge 3 class in the fall.  I have a list of Shakespeare movies I’d like to watch and a long list of books to read. We are working on house projects that got delayed while we were working through the late winter and early spring.

How does your school year end? Do you tie things up in a tidy way or just stop abruptly?

Spring Term Week 4 Intentions

May Hymn: “Redeemed! How I Love to Proclaim it!” by Fanny Crosby (Link to printable Hymnal)  (Link to YouTube)

April Folksong: “Blow the Man Down” (Link to printable)  (Link to YouTube)

Winter Term Poet B: Sara Teasdale (link to poems on AmblesideOnline) (One poem per Morning Meeting)

This Year’s Shakespeare: Henry V (We are reading through Henry with friends outside of our Morning Meeting.)

Morning Meeting Day 1:

  • Bible: (yr 8 week 5)  Judges 18-19
  • American History: This Country of Ours chapter 42: North and South Carolina
  • Science: Madam How and Lady Why pages 43-46
  • Picture Study: Francisco Jose Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828; Spanish)    Girl’s Head,

Morning Meeting Day 2:

  • Bible:(yr 8 week 3)  Judges 20-21
  • Myths: Age of Fable chapter 5a
  • Biography: Abigail Adams half of Chapter 2
  • Composer Study: Franz Liszt (1811-1886; Romantic) Piano Sonata in B Minor (link to YouTube)  (We still haven’t managed to complete this.)

Morning Meeting Day 3:

  • Bible:(yr 8 week 3)   Matthew 6, Proverbs 4
  • Biography: Abigail Adams half of Chapter 2

I am going to OCHEC (our state homeschool convention) on Friday, so we may not get all three Morning Meetings in this week. We also have our last CC Community Day of the year and a party and some regular stuff.

Reflections on Spring Term 2017 Week 3

Rejoice:  I am really enjoying She Reads Truth’s Bible studies. I did the Isaiah study over Lent, and I think I am hooked.

Relate: We did a lot this week. The regular stuff feels like a lot right now, and some days I struggled. It also rained a lot this week, and all of the chaos of energetic boys had to be contained inside. Several times, the more sensitive members of the house needed headphones so that the noise of the rest wasn’t so overwhelming.

Remember:  We read stories and other things, and we did memory work and had morning meetings.

Reason:  We did math and grammar, logic and Latin.

Read:  I finished a couple of books (Chasing Slow and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.) (Disclosure: those are affiliate links, but as I write this, Chasing Slow is $1.99 for Kindle. The author has some interesting insights. I recommend the book.) I hope to finish Willa Cather’s O Pioneers before Book Club. Josiah finished up Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Powerful Weapon. 

Record:  I did some journalling and a lot of editing of work for Micah. Micah did a lot of writing because he had two projects to finish. I have a project I’d like to start, but I am not sure it is time yet.

Restore:  Josiah noticed that we haven’t had a family game night in a very long time. I think that has to be on the plan for next week.

Margin:  Here, I am very proud of myself. I did say Yes to one thing this week that I probably should have not agreed to.  However, I was asked to commit eight hours to something on Saturday, and I said, “No.” I actually would have enjoyed it, but my body was demanding rest instead.

Spring Term 2017 Week 3 Intentions

April Hymn: “Up from the Grave He Arose” by Robert Lowry (Link to printable Hymnal)  (Link to YouTube)

April Folksong: “Greensleeves” (Link to printable)  (Link to YouTube)

Winter Term Poet B: Sara Teasdale (link to poems on AmblesideOnline) (One poem per Morning Meeting)

This Year’s Shakespeare: Henry V (We are reading through Henry with friends outside of our Morning Meeting.)

Morning Meeting Day 1:

  • Bible: (yr 8 week 4)  Judges 16-17
  • Church History : Trial and Triumph Jonathan Edwards
  • American History: This Country of Ours chapter 41: Franklin to Philadelphia
  • Science: Madam How and Lady Why pages 36-38,
  • Picture Study: Francisco Jose Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828; Spanish)    Portrait of a Young Man, ca. 1820

Morning Meeting Day 2:

Morning Meeting Day 3:

  • Bible:(yr 8 week 3)   Matthew 5, Psalm 108
  • Science: Madam How and Lady Why pages 43-46
  • Shakespeare: friends are coming to finish Henry V

We are going to play catch-up with Madam How and Lady Why this week. I am trying to decide if I want to drop it or not. This is the only book I’ve ever read that my boys whine about listening to. My inclination is to push through, as it usually only ten minutes a week with five minutes of remembering where we are before and five minutes of narration and talking about it after (a 20 minute lesson, tops).