Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eastern Hemisphere books

I'm in the process of replacing some books within Sonlight's Core 5, which is probably the hardest Core to secularize, due to the emphasis on missions and missionaries.  I picked a good one to start with, it seems.  But the subject matter (the Eastern Hemisphere) held the most appeal for my kids, and the non-missionary books all seem to be excellent titles, so away we go!

Here is what I've got so far:

To replace 100 Gateway Cities and the Unreached Peoples dvd, we're going to use Material World: a Global Family Portait, Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, Women in the Material World, Houses and Homes around the World, and possibly some of Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 Days, which is currently available through Netflix streaming.

To replace or supplement (I haven't decided which yet) Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere Explorer, I'm looking at McDougal Littell's Eastern Hemisphere middle school text, the Enchantment of the World series, and/or the Trail Guide to World Geography.  The 2003 version of the McDougal Littell student text is available chapter-by-chapter in a pdf version here.

National Geographic Society Exploration Experience: The Heroic Exploits of the World's Greatest ExplorersAnother book we'll be substituting that is central to this core is called Exploring Planet Earth.  We already have the Usborne Explorers book, so we'll use that, but I'm planning to take a look at Around the World in A Hundred Years, Explorers Who Got Lost, and the NatGeo publication Exploration Experience, which uses primary source materials and reminds me of those 'ology books that were so popular a few years ago (though it's not listed in the children's section).

From what I can tell without the Instructor's Guide in front of me just yet, Torches of Joy is one of the first read-alouds, if not the very first.  The book tells of the Dani people of Irian Jaya, who were a Stone Age tribe that first came into contact with "modern" people in 1960, from the perspective of a missionary couple who traveled there to convert the native people to Christianity.  While there does seem to be one secular children's book about the Dani (The Fighting for Survival: the Dani of Irian, by Liz Thompson, 1998) , it is OOP and not available anywhere that I could find.  I'm thinking there must be a National Geographic issue about the tribe from the 1960's, but my cd-rom drive is down so I can't check our Complete National Geographic (Every Issue Since 1888).  So far I am planning to substitute with Indonesian folktales such as The Gift of the Crocodile (an Indonesian Cinderella story), The Adventures of Mouse Deer or Indonesian Children's Favorite Stories, and possibly parts of Child of the Jungle, a true account of the daughter of linguist parents who grew up among the Fayu tribe in western Papua New Guinea, and with websites like this one from and a DVD called Cosmos Global: Dani, which claims to be "global edu-tainment."

More at a later date. . .

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Sharing Monday - Ulysses Moore, farewell!

A few weeks ago I posted about an audiobook we were planning to listen to, The Door to Time.  Originally written in Italian by P.D. Baccalario, the series is comprised of nine books.  Four of them have been translated into English, and the publisher, Scholastic, doesn't plan to translate the rest of the books!  (Insert much weeping and gnashing of teeth here.)

We are currently listening to disc two (of four) in the last translated book, The Isle of Masks.  The series has been fun and engaging for all three of my children (who range in age from 5 to 12, with quite different personalities and tastes), and I've enjoyed listening along, as well, plus we've recommended the series to other families, some of whom got a taste of the story by being in the car with my children going somewhere or other over the course of the last few weeks.

Paul Debraski, librarian and blog author of I Just Read About That, is trying to get a grass roots campaign going to convince Scholastic to translate and publish the remaining books in the series.  The contact person at Scholastic is Linda Schenker, and she can be reached at  Visit Paul's site to see what he had to say to her.  I've already sent email to both Scholastic and Brilliance Audio, who release the audiobooks here in the U.S., but plan to send another email to Scholastic addressed specifically to Ms. Schenker and one to Scholastic UK (, just to cover all my bases.

I was thinking we might have to learn Italian as a family to finish the rest of the series, but books 5 & 6 have been translated into French and German (and are available through, as well, so we may very well have several options for foreign language study now.  I had a year of French in college, but we have several German-speaking friends, so I don't know which is the best way to go.  Jazz is, of course, hoping the books will be a) translated into Japanese and b) made into a movie by Hayao Miyazaki.  ☺

Book Sharing Monday is hosted by Serendipity Homeschool.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Curriculum plans - Fall 2010

Over on the Secular Charlotte Mason yahoo group a recent, much-replied to thread has been titled "Less is More," as it applies to life in general and to homeschooling specifically.  Let me first say, I agree wholeheartedly.  For example, I definitely want less stuff in my house, with the "more" being that my kids actually see and use what's left.  For me, however, "less is more" is not taking on quite the flavor that is being discussed on the email list.  "Take what you've already got (for homeschooling) and go with it" seems to be the general consensus over there.  But I've finally come to the realization, after seven years of homeschooling, that I need more structure, in order to spend less time planning and researching and more time learning alongside my kids.  So I will be getting rid of some of the miscellaneous resources I've collected over the course of our at-home education, and replacing them with a pre-packaged core curriculum for history, which is one subject I've felt especially bad about not hitting with more consistency or thoroughness.  (Case-in-point: Rome fell in early September and the Vikings had not yet landed in May.  And not because we were following bunny trails, but because I was getting sidetracked by too many things to name).

This history core is literature-based, which means I'll be reading aloud a lot more this coming year than I did this past year.  That's another one of those things that has to be scheduled in for me not to let it slide when life gets in the way.  The older two kids get to read more, too, which shouldn't be a problem as they are both very avid readers.

Of course, I can't resist tweaking somewhat.  My three kids have two 3.5-year spaces between them, so no one level is going to be perfect.  I'm trying to hit the middle of the older two's levels (circa 5th grade--DD has a July birthday and would be in 4th this year, and DS #1 has a January birthday and would be in 7th), with substitutions made as needed.  Folktales are a must, IMO, and the package has practically none.  And the core we've chosen, Sonlight Core 5, must be secularized in order to meet my needs and those of my family.  But I'm already well underway with those specific substitutions and should have all my ducks in a row by the time the big yellow bus starts picking up the neighborhood kids again.

Our plans for fall, as they currently stand--

Jazzman (age in September - 12.5):

Language Arts:
Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts, probably the "Town" level, some of which he may find fairly easy, but I've been advised this would be a good place to start, even if we breeze through it quickly.  Jazz looked at the samples online and was enthused (not a regular occurrence during his pre-adolescence, I must say), especially about the poetry books.

A friend and I have been talking about getting our twelve-year-olds together for some hands-on science projects to go with The Story of Science by Joy Hakim.  If I can convince Jazz that a) girls don't have cooties and b) it's really okay to make mistakes in front of other people (he is quite the Perfectionist-with-a-capital-P) and the friend is still willing (are you, are you?), I think this could be really good for him and that he would enjoy it and learn a lot as well.  If those parameters can't be met, then I'll probably do Oak Meadow Grade 5 Environmental Science for both of my older two, doing that "meeting in the middle" thing again.

???  I can't decide if Jazz should continue on with RightStart and do the last level--the geometry course--or if he should transition into a different program that will reinforce the fundamentals he's learned.  I need to start paying attention on the Homeschooling Creatively list (which is largely for hs parents of right-brained or non-linear learners) when math for older kids comes up now, I guess.

The aforementioned Sonlight Core 5, which focuses on the Eastern Hemisphere.  I talked with both of the older two about our options (American History for a year or the countries of Asia, et. al.) and the more exotic choice was the overwhelming favorite with both kids.  We are substituting Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere Explorer with suggestions from a poster on the Well-Trained Mind Forum (Enchantment of the World books, the Trail Guide to World Geography, and/or the Eastern Hemisphere middle school text from McDougal Littel).

Foreign Language:
Instant Immersion Japanese, the software version, and/or the software edition of Japanese in 10 Minutes a Day, to introduce the language to Jazz and see if Rosetta Stone or hiring a tutor and hauling ourselves close to the city to get to her is worth the time and money.

JaneG. (age in September - 9):

Language Arts:
JaneG. will continue with First Language Lessons (level 3 into level 4) and Writing with Ease (level 2 into 3), and add Vocabulary from Classical Roots (level 4) and Music of the Hemispheres (part of MCT LA, Island level) for poetry (Jazz may start here for poetry, as well).  If the Town level of MCT LA turns out to be a big hit with Jazz, I might just spring for the Island level for JaneG., though, as she doesn't *love* FLL or WWE.

Either Living Learning Books Chemistry (which I have on hand from when Jazz did it four years ago) or Oak Meadow Environmental Science if Jazz is joining us.

JaneG. has decided she wants to learn her multiplication tables this summer, so we are going to be working on this project and playing some games to help her along with that goal.  If she manages to learn them pretty well, we may try to slide right into RightStart Level D.

Sonlight Core 5, with selections from these books that I posted about last Book Sharing Monday plus other world folk tales taking the place of any readers or read-alouds that I think might be beyond her, either emotionally or intellectually.

Foreign Language:
Look for a post this coming Monday on why JaneG. and I want to learn Italian.  We may make the endeavor a family affair, but will be starting slowly with something like Italian for Children and possibly Learn Italian through Fairy Tales.

J.J. (age in September - close to 6):

J.J. hasn't done much in the way of formal schooling at all yet, but he may be ready for some slow and steady phonics via The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and some BOB books.  If not, we'll put them away for a later time.  He loves to listen in on what the older two are learning and could probably diagram sentences if he could read.  I know he remembers where more countries on the globe are than I do.  I've thought about doing a little Five in a Row with him, and plan to try it out and see how it goes.  He loved the Montessori activities I put in his workboxes this year, so those will likely continue, as well.

Hey--I think I've just completed my education plan for 2010-2011.  ☺  I'll substitute real names for the (new) nicknames and pop them in the mail, once I've completed this past year's progress reports.  Though perhaps I should settle on a math curriculum for Jazz first.  Sending them in this early in the summer might be a new record for me.  I'm pretty sure last year's went in, oh, about two weeks before the public schools in our town were back in session.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Sharing Monday - Tales Alive!

Tales of the Shimmering Sky: Ten Global Folktales With Activities (Tales Alive! Series, Vol 2)A couple of books caught my eye at a used curricula sale this past weekend.  I mightily restrained myself from buying very much, as I am mostly happy with what we are currently using and I also have a burning desire to de-clutter, but these two books I could not resist:

Tales of the Shimmering Sky


Bird Tales from Far and Near

Bird Tales from Near & Far (Tales Alive!)both retold by Susan Milord.  The first has paintings by JoAnn Kitchel and the second's are by Linda S. Wingerter, and both have simple activities to go with each folktale.

Being a bit picky about the style writers use to retell old stories, I read a bit in both books to see if I would enjoy reading these tales aloud.  Milord's words are varied, and she also pays attention to rhythm:

Long, long ago, when time was measured by the trickle of sand, there ruled a wise and goodly king named Solomon.
It so happened that the birthday of King Solomon's wife was approaching, and that one gift--the only gift--the queen fancied was a palace made from the beaks of birds.
from "The Palace of Beaks" in Bird Tales.
Milord also wrote one other Tales Alive! book, and that is Tales Alive!: Ten Multicultural Folktales with Activities.

Book Sharing Monday is hosted at Serendipity Home School.  I always get great recommendations from the participants--head on over and check them out!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Currently reading and TBR stack

The Lady and the PoetThe Lady and the Poetby Maeve Haran.  It was really the cover that caught my attention, but this description--
Set against the sumptiousness and intrigues of Queen Elizabeth I's court, this powerful novel reveals the untold love affair between the famous poet John Donne and Ann More, the passionate woman who, against all odds, became his wife.
--from inside the dust jacket didn't hurt.

The Letters of Fanny Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, collected, edited, and translated by Marcia J. Citron.  While I'm focusing on a single year in Mendelssohn's life for my own personal study, I find the collection representing twenty-six years of letters between the siblings fascinating reading.

The Life of Mendelssohn, by Peter Mercer-Taylor.  Well written and easily digested by music lovers, this book makes me feel almost as if the author had known the composer personally.  Very engaging!

Angelology, by Danielle Trussoni.  Recommended by a friend and fellow YA reader.  Thanks, Laura--I needed something to read after I finish the latest Amelia Peabody book.  Or maybe even before, if the story doesn't get going soon.

The Thrive Diet, by Brendan Brazier.  The updated paperback from 2008 is titled Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life.  While I don't think I'll ever label myself an athlete (does sitting on a balance ball to type count?), this book is making a lot of sense so far.  Can a pair of running shoes be far behind?

Visual-Spatial Learners, by Alexandra Shires Golon. Written for the classroom teacher, this book may offer some visual-spatial strategies we can use here at home.  Here's hoping.

Different Minds--Gifted Children with AD/HD. Asperger Syndrome, and Other Learning Deficits, by Deirdre V. Lovecky.  A Providence, RI child psychologist, Dr. Lovecky was mentioned in the same breath with Brock and Fernette Eide in a message on a 2-E (twice exceptional) email list I'm on.  Since she's much closer to us than the Eides, I thought that reading her book might give me an idea of whether or not she or her resource center might be helpful to us in the future.

The Thich Nhat Hanh Collection: Peace is Every Step, Teachings on Love, and The Stone Boy and Other Stories.  Another friend reminded me of this famous Buddhist author when she mentioned another of his books: Old Path, White Clouds.  I've had the collection for years and decided to finish reading it before moving on to the other title recommended by my friend.  The section in Peace is Every Step on mindful eating has made me look not only at my food differently, but also at the people eating with me around the table with new eyes.

The Ninth Daughter (An Abigail Adams Mystery)The Ninth Daughter, by Barbara Hamilton.  First in a new series featuring Abigail Adams as the unlikely sleuth setting out to clear her husband's good name after a murder is committed.

A Traveller in Time, by Alison Uttley.  This author was recommended on the Secular Charlotte Mason yahoo group, and I'm pretty sure I read the book as a child.  I've gotten it from the library as a possible summer read-aloud, though its story of a girl who can see other layers of time may be too spooky for one of my three kiddos.