Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to school

This is my first post of 2013 and the post that will knock my last back-to-school post off the front page!

We've had an unusually long summer break. The kids visited their grandmother in Arkansas for a month, I went to CiRCE's conference in Baltimore, and accompanied my husband (just the two of us, alone for several days -- first time in nearly twenty years) to his 30 year high school reunion in Florida.  I also got to visit an out-of-state friend I haven't seen in more than a year, and another out-of-state friend I haven't seen in eighteen years.  This is the first summer we've ever had where I really felt like I had a vacation -- not just a break from school work.

We were all eager to start back, but I usually ease back into the routine with a half-day schedule for the first week, so as not to shock the system. My system, that is. So this week we've been having our Morning Time, which takes about an hour and a half. Here's the MT routine:

Prayers and Bible
We use the "Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families" from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which I blogged about here. Most years we get our Bible readings from the Lectionary, which gives us a Psalm, and an Old Testament and a New Testament reading, but this year I decided to read straight through a few books. We're currently reading the Gospel of Luke, generally reading from one paragraph mark [¶] to the next. The Prayer Book has all of the Psalms, marked so that they can be read responsively by the half-verse, but it's a modern translation and we always used the King James Version for our memory work and the kids were wanting to read that version, so we're reading straight from our Bibles.

Currently reading a collection of Tennyson's poetry which I bought from Eighth Day Books at the conference. I've read his Idylls of the King and a few of his shorter works, but this book contains several I'd never read before. The first poem in the book is "The Mermaid," which starts off sweet and light and takes a dark turn at the last, which I didn't see coming. One of the main benefits I get in reading poetry aloud is that it forces me to slow down and really notice what's happening. If you're reading in your head you might not notice that the poet has changed from words that are quick and light to slow, heavy words. When you're reading aloud, those words take longer to pronounce so you're forced to slow down -- you can feel the change in tone. (And of course, reading poetry aloud and discussing it with your kids is good for them, too. Have I mentioned before that I'm getting an education by home schooling my kids?)

The last biography we read was Pericles; this time we're reading Fabius.  I use Anne White's study guides found at Ambleside Online.  This year I'm reading from Plutarch every day instead of once a week.  We have so many unexpected interruptions that it usually takes me a year to read one life, instead of the expected twelve weeks... which is dumb, but there it is.

Something new this year.  I've had these books for years and have used them as an afternoon read-aloud at least once in the past, but it was before my younger children came along.  I'd recommend you get this version if at all possible -- Rosemary Sutcliff's retelling is beautiful and of course Alan Lee's illustrations are gorgeous.  We're reading a chapter a day and I pause occasionally to let one of the children narrate.  After reading our chapter we talk about whatever interested us in the day's reading.

This retelling of the Trojan War begins with the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, who become the parents of Achilles, and tells how the angry, uninvited Goddess of Discord showed up and spoiled the festivities, so the story is told in chronological order.  Today I finally got to the part nine years into the war where Achilles is sitting on the beach raging about Agamemnon's bad treatment of him, so after our reading and discussion I took out the grown up version translated by WHD Rouse, and read the first page.  It begins, "An angry man -- there is my story:  the bitter rancor of Achilles, prince of the house of Peleus, which brought a thousand troubles upon the Achaian host.  Many a strong soul it sent down to Hades, and left the heroes themselves a prey to dogs and carrion birds, while the will of God moved on to fulfillment."

They thought it was exciting to start in the middle of the story and wanted me to read more, but it was time to send them...

This has always been a vital part of my children's upbringing, just playing or loafing.  Of course, they have chores now, but this outside time is meant to be leisure time.  When we're doing a full day of school work, I try to give them at least half an hour during this break before calling them in for lunch and their individual studies.

That's it.

Like I said, everything up to the outside time takes about an hour and a half, not because the readings take that long, but because we meander and talk so much.

Things to be added next week
Morning Time is also when we do our memory work, going over what we're currently memorizing and reviewing what we've already accomplished. That usually takes five or ten minutes.

MT is also when we listen to particular pieces for our Composer Study and Artist Study.  In previous years I've done Prayers, Poetry, and Memory every day, and have had Plutarch, Literature, Music, and Art on separate days.  As I said, I'm planning on doing Plutarch and Literature daily this year, and I'm also doing something different for Music and Art.  I've subscribed to Professor Carol's Circle of Scholars so that we can take her Discovering Music course, which "takes you through the history of music, the arts, and Western Culture from 1600 to 1914."  I'll probably need to drop Plutarch and Homer on the day we're doing Discovering Music.  We'll see.

And of course there's all the individual work that the children do, but that's another post for another day.  Or year. ;-)

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