Hello everyone – I’m popping in to say that I got a chance to chat with Cindy Rollins about Sloyd on the Mason Jar Podcast and the episode is available today! If you haven’t tried Sloyd in your homeschool yet, I hope the interview gives you some inspiration and help.
It has been delightfully busy on our end of the blog, so we haven’t been posting but we have been doing all sorts of things we can share in snippets! Here we go:
This is exam week for Amy and next week is exam week for me. It was a blessing to watch Celeste’s webinar first – I feel ready and excited! I don’t have my questions prepped quite yet, and the party isn’t planned, so there is some work to do this weekend, but it should be a great week.
That means summer begins and it is time for the CMI conference. Amy and I will be doing a shared session on Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life in the home. Amy will also be presenting a session (similar to her presentation at UVA that was moderated by David Brooks of the NYT) on Character Development in a CM education. She’ll also be doing a chat on Shakespeare! I’ll have a section on Sloyd called “The Next Steps” but we will definitely cover the foundational principles of Sloyd so anyone is welcome, even if you’ve never tried it. Lastly, I’ll have a chat the first evening on Architecture, which is one thing I love to learn about and I hope you will too after we chat about it!
It also means summer travels. Amy is heading to the mountains to enjoy some time with her family and I am heading to Philadelphia later this summer to spend time with family and friends (Amy!) and see the ocean after a too long hiatus.
With the coming of summer, it means planning for next school year! I will have only two “official” students for the last time in a long time, but I am looking out for good resources for teaching literacy and numeracy to a five year old. That is a part of my summer planning, in addition to getting ready to have a sixth grader and fourth grader! Amy will have four official students next year and one sweet toddling girl walking around the house. Thank heavens for shared subjects!
I also have a couple of weeks booked in my schedule for “home projects and fun reading”. Moms need a break too and I want to enjoy my deck in the morning while sipping iced tea and reading a book. The kids can play in the yard! I’m hoping I end up painting that bookshelf that needs it because there are some serious piles starting in our book loft.
This year, I think I will also continue the habit of nap school. We put the little boys to bed and clean up from lunch and then we can do some math, read some scripture and a couple of good books and then go about our day. That will help us use the hottest part of the day well and ease the transition back to the school day come next term.
Next term! We will start back up in August this year – it’s too hot to enjoy the outdoors at that point so why not get things started and take some days off in fall when it is beautiful out? At least, that has been my thinking the past few years. What about you – how do you plan out your school year?
I can’t tell you how excited we are! We know this wasn’t part of our original line-up, but we have a special surprise addition to our spring webinar lineup. You’ll want to be there – we have yet to find someone so knowlegable and well-spoken on the topic of exams in a Charlotte Mason homeschool. We are thrilled to have Celeste Cruz come talk with us!
We both started reading Celeste’s blog, Joyous Lessons, years ago. On her site, she shares a wealth of knowledge when it comes to both practicalities and philosophy. She shares school planning tips and worksheets, nature study and notebooking ideas (and a great link up!), great ideas for teaching foreign language, annual plans for each of her students, and so much more. Did we mention she has eight children (with number nine on the way!) and that they are all under the age of 11? Oh, and she hosts a conference every year for the CM mamas on the west coast. Her calm and kind demeanor will absolutely give you the confidence you need to sort of how to do exams well in your home, even if you’ve never done them before.
We are thrilled to have befriended Celeste through our shared Instagram account, @CharlotteMasonIRL and she is such a lovely person. We so appreciate that she will able to come join us May 23rd at 8pm EST to chat about Exams in the CM Homeschool. We invite all of you to come join us as well!
The webinar will be approximately an hour long and is $10.
In this webinar, we will discuss Charlotte Mason-style exams from both a philosophical and a practical perspective. We will talk about general principles governing PNEU exams, how questions and expectations changed through the Forms, how Miss Mason’s schools managed the exam process, and how students (and teachers!) were assessed using the results.
We will then take that understanding and consider it in the context of the homeschool. How might Exam Week look in the home? What subjects should be covered, and how can we prepare questions and set the proper atmosphere for best work? How can exam performance help us assess our students’ progress and our own methods and materials? Can exams really be enjoyable and fruitful, helping us to be better teachers and our children to be better students? (Hint: the answer to that last question is yes!)
Afterward, Celeste invites your questions and concerns for a short Q&A session to follow.
I’m preparing a talk on paper sloyd that I am giving in June, and I can’t help but think about the fact that each time I mention it I get one of two reactions: a blank stare, which is most common, and a sheepishness. The sheepishness usually comes from CM moms who have heard of sloyd, but are either too confused or intimidated to try it. I thought I’d type out a bit about what sloyd is and how to start in order to ease the confusion and intimidation. It is really quite simple, but at the same time so foundational for geometry, measurement, and precision in math as well as the intellectual habits of accuracy, honesty, and diligence.
Now, I’ve written a bit about this before, and you’re welcome to check that out as well. At the time, I was teaching sloyd in a classroom environment at a Charlotte Mason school, but doing it at home with my kids isn’t much different.
What is sloyd? It is a Swedish word meaning the rough equivalent of handiwork. It is also a system developed by Otto Salomon that incorporated the use of paper, then wood, and metals. It was a staple in Nordic schools, and is still taught in that area of the world. Yes, all those articles about how schools in Finland are the best? The kids do sloyd.
Let’s not get put off by the idea of woodwork and metalwork quite yet. At first, it is as easy as finding paper that is a bit thicker than printer paper (though, printer paper will work in a pinch) and some other basic supplies – scissors, pencil, and perhaps some stickers or a hole punch if you want to decorate or hang up your creation. See, this is easy already.
Next, there is a book in the public domain that is worth printing called Paper Sloyd for Primary Grades by Ednah Anne Rich. I say print it, even though you could buy it printed for a reasonable price only because the one you would print at home is not compressed or stretched and so the examples print in the proper size. The copy I purchased has compressed the writing to half size to use fewer pages and so all the diagrams are now half as wide as they should be… which makes it a bit confusing. However, if your printer is broken and you know you’ll start in two days if Amazon Prime does the work for you, by all means just do that. Well begun is half done, after all and so it is better to start than to procrastinate because you need ink or you keep forgetting to print it.
Now, the beauty of this book is that it works for all beginners and it is fully scripted. The two keys to success I have found lie in these two important points:
Don’t skip the intro. The intro holds all of the information you need as teacher. If you skip it, you will mostly likely not understand enough about the method to actually be doing sloyd and you’ll just be folding paper. Techniques are outlined well in the introduction.
Take your time. 10-15 minutes is probably enough and it may take 6 sessions to get through the first project. That is ok. Learning to create straight lines, tiny pencil dots, and safe cuts is key to the process. Don’t rush through. All of this work now lays the foundation for future projects.
Now, try the first project out on your own using the instructions. See where you find the language confusing (if at all), and work through it on your own. The questions you have are often the ones your students will have too, so find the answers now.
It’s time. Bring in the kids. If you have kids middle school aged and up, your pace will be faster than with the 4th grade and under crowd. I find kids in 1st and 2nd grade need a lot of time. If you have a wide age range in your home, this is a great time to do one project with the older kids and allow one of them to teach the younger ones. They will learn it even better when they teach it.
Your first project will be delightful – it is an envelope. There is a scrap of paper left over that is perfect for making a note to fit in the envelope. It is not only a lovely creation, but a lovely gift and Charlotte encouraged handicrafts to be given away whenever possible so this fits the bill nicely. Kids will naturally practice on their own time as they want to send these envelopes to more siblings, friends, and family members. Let them play with the materials – different thicknesses and glossiness of paper, stickers to seal the envelope, and artwork on top if they’d like. This should be a delight to them and fully their own creation.
That seems like a good way for you to start, though I’ll be back with more on this topic soon. Would a video be helpful to walk you through the first project?
We are back after our Lenten break (it wasn’t as restful as it sounds!).
Don’t forget we are offering a two-part webinar on Composition which begins this Wednesday.
Writing is one of those areas, like science and math, where parents are afraid to depart from traditional schools’ methods. Sadly, parents hold on to these old practices, even while admitting they didn’t learn how to write well themselves and had such negative experiences that they dread teaching composition to their own children. These fears drive them to adopt a curriculum or hire a tutor, and the shinier and more expensive the more it allays their fears (they think).
Charlotte Mason offers us another way, just like she does for the study of history and art and nature.
We can lead our children in paths of delight, where writing becomes second-nature, something that must burst forth from the inside out. A student who is passionate about an idea, and has followed Mason’s course of study, can express their thoughts with precision and care.
Join us for this Two-Session Webinar Bundle for just $20.
From Oral Narration to Composition with Amy Snell.
Session One. Preparing for Written Narration in the Mason Method.
April 19. 7:00-8:30pm.
What steps should you be taking from the earliest years to help your student develop good communication? Is just “Oral Narration” enough? How can you make the most of transcription, notebooks, and dictation to scaffold your child for written narration. And what about the kids in my neighborhood who are writing “the Five-Paragraph Essay” in 5th grade?
This workshop will cover the elements of strong writing and how they can become a natural and enjoyable part of your child’s life.
Session Two. The Nuts and Bolts of Written Narration.
April 26. 7:00-8:30pm.
With Mason’s philosophy and methods you don’t need a separate writing curriculum to achieve good writing and real learning! In fact, Mason believed Composition lessons should be avoided! This doesn’t mean, however, that she didn’t have definite ideas about how students should learn to write. This session will tackle the common questions and give you the practical information you need for good writing.
Amy’s background allows her to provide a unique perspective on the Charlotte Mason approach to Composition:
-As a former high school and college English Literature, public speaking and composition classes for students of many learning types and ability, including special needs and honors, Amy knows what good communication is all about and what is expected at the highest levels of writing.
-Implemented narration in a wide variety of classes and subjects, including artist study, Plutarch, and Shakespeare and so has led narrations in a wide variety of forms, varying according to the subject taught. Narration is narration and yet a science narration differs from one in literature or history or artist study.
-Worked with children who’ve just begun Charlotte Mason as well as those steeped in the method.
-Guided parents and mentored teachers at The Mason Academy (a K-12 blended model school in the Philadelphia area) in implementing narration at home and in the classroom.
-Uses Mason’s practices on a daily basis with her own five children in their home schoolroom.
We don’t do link-ups often, but with a few busy weeks under our belts, it seems like we need some sort of catch-up post, so Seven Quick Takes with Kelly it is.
There is a new Charlotte Mason Instagram account to add to your follow list @charlottemasonIRL. Aconglomerationofsomeofyourfavorite CMers showing what homeschooling looks like in their home. We aren’t professional photographers with pristine homes – rather than aspirational, we are calling it practical inspiration.
So… we are past the ides of March and still haven’t talked abut the next room in the Delightful Home. Let’s just say the stomach bug has made our home less than delightful recently. Then we had very delightful visitors, which meant living life rather than writing about it. We haven’t forgotten though!
Hair braiding. That’s a handicraft, right? I’ve only got one daughter (and Amy with her four daughters is too far away to give us in person tutorials) and we’ve been using YouTube to figure out how to make fun braids.
Last term of school starts Monday! We are officially on the downhill. Does anyone want a post of what books we are using? I always like seeing what other families use in their home schools and thought you might also.
Happy St. Patrick’s day. No corned beef around here because it is also Friday, which means we abstain from meat. I am feeling rather more authentically Irish about the holiday though, since the Irish are great fisherman. I mean, they invented the proper woolen sweater just for fishing. Fish and chips it is!
The giveaway closes on Monday! Head over there to enter – you have three chances, so the odds are good one of those Riverbend Press prints could be on your wall soon! Also, the webinar registration is still open for our tuesday webinar on that painting. I can’t wait!
Lastly, would you say a prayer or two for Amy – she is part of a panel on Monday discussing character formation in schools and she is the representative of Home Schools. The discussion is being moderated by David Brooks of the New York Times, so its pretty exciting. If anyone wants to know more, maybe Amy will write up her experience here. She will be presenting her research on CM and character formation at the National CMI Conference in Kentucky this June, if you’ll be there.