Homeschooling

Summer School 2021

The beginning of summer is always a little busy with establishing the gardens, but this year seems exceptionally so due to travel. As you know, we’ve only just returned from North Dakota and next week, we’ll be on the road again, visiting a few traditional religious orders–the Benedictines of Mary in Missouri and the monks at Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma.

So, where does Summer School fit into our busy schedule?

Summer School occupies all those other hot, lazy days at home. In fact, I don’t know what I’d do with the children if they didn’t have a little school to fill their time. No, Summer School is absolutely necessary and yet fun, too.

In order to determine what each child will do for the summer, I just look back at the previous academic year and see if something was missing. As mentioned above, I try to keep it light and fun.

Although sometimes it can’t be helped if a particular child is behind in a particular subject. For example, Paul and his brother are still catching up on Math from missing so many days during the last two years for Paul’s 15 or so surgeries. Consequently, they haven’t stopped their Saxon Math, which still begins at 7am with Dad and will continue through the summer. If all goes well, they’ll be completely caught up by August.

During the school year, Mid-Morning Prayer Time is normally when we review Latin vocabulary and practice our memory work. This summer, however, the children will not have any Latin to review, but will continue memorizing poetry and/or Bible verses. Currently, the older ones are memorizing Matthew 6:25-7:12. (“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…”) The younger children are working on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “My Shadow.”

During Mid-Morning Prayer Time, we are also perusing Emily Kiser’s Picture Study Portfolios. These are packets that contain fun short stories of famous artists with pictures of their works to look at. We love them and always display them for a time on our windowsills.

This week we studied the Italian Medieval artist, Giotto.

All the older children are also doing a little geography, or Map Work. We just finished the countries in South America and are currently working on Europe. In order to help with this, we listen to the Catholic Schoolhouse CDs to familiarize them, especially the younger children, with the names of the countries.

Working on a map of Europe.

And for individual work…

The Eldest is off the hook, as she is working her first ever job babysitting a little boy this summer. When she is around, she’s generally baking food for the rest of us to enjoy.

The Twins, in addition to Math, are finishing up a Writing and Rhetoric book from Classical Academic Press.

The Next Boy Down is learning to type.

And the three Little Girls? Hmmm…they’re just along for the ride.

Happy Summer!

Homeschooling

Memory Work

Most of you know that we’re a homeschooling family, and from time to time I like to review what we’re doing for memory work, which consists mostly of poetry. As some of you may be new to this, I’ll answer a few questions first.

Question #1:  How do you choose your memory work?

We memorize those poems, public addresses, Bible verses, or other literary works that we like. It’s as simple as that, but I think it’s an important point.  Your children will sniff it out immediately if they think you think a poem is dull or lame.  And you’ll hate teaching it. So don’t choose memory work that you don’t like.

For example, if all your friends’ kids are memorizing Shakespeare, but you don’t understand Shakespeare, and it makes you break out in hives just thinking about reading all that “foreign” language, then don’t do Shakespeare!  Quit stressing yourself out and pick something you do enjoy and understand.

Furthermore, If you’ve never memorized anything with your family at all, ever, don’t panic, but do begin somewhere. It’s worth it. We cannot truly own something until we’ve interiorized it, or memorized it. If you really don’t know where to begin, crack open your Bible to the book of Psalms and pick one. Go for Psalm 23 if you’re completely lost. There are obvious reasons why everyone used to have that thing memorized.

Or, if you want a book of poetry for your small children, but don’t know where to start, buy Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.  He’s just plain fun, and we love reciting Where Go the Boats and Foreign Lands this time of year. Or belting out The Swing while pushing those little sweeties back and forth on swings.

Question #2:  How do you teach a poem?

For a number of years, we always did our reciting at the breakfast table.  Usually I’d begin by reading the poem first and then let everyone else have a shot at it.  If you have five children memorizing the same poem, it really doesn’t take that long before everyone has it memorized.  Think about it.  That’s six times of hearing the same thing every morning.

A few years ago, however, we began reading the Bible at breakfast, so now our poetry has become a part of “Morning Time.” This is a half hour slot in the mid-morning when everyone comes together to review Latin vocabulary, pray, and recite.

Question #3:  Are you always memorizing new poetry?

Yes and no.  There are certain poems that we always return to because they’re family favorites.  For example, every Fall the little ones recite Autumn Fires because it’s what we’re living.  We’re really raking leaves and burning them.  And every winter we revisit Stevenson’s Wintertime and Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods on Snowy Evening.  In the spring, we return to the great Catholic priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins, which I mentioned in a previous post.  The summer always brings us around to a more patriotic theme with Paul Revere’s Ride and the Declaration of Independence.

But again, throughout the year, we do whatever strikes me or the children.

I also keep a running list of the poems that we’ve memorized over the years.  It’s fun to see what the children have done, and it’s good to review our favorite ones from time to time. I don’t have a problem with repeating again and again our favorites.

Question #4: What are you memorizing now?

Three Must Haves: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Shakespeare, and Stevenson

At this very moment, the boys are memorizing and loving Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech. It’s from his play, Henry V. In this selection, King Henry V is encouraging his English soldiers to fight valiantly against the French, on the feast day of St. Crispin. In spite of terrible odds, they do win.

One of my little girls is reciting Hopkins’ Pied Beauty, and the other little girls are enjoying Stevenson’s Foreign Lands.

The Eldest is required to recite at her school, but she isn’t home at the moment, so I don’t know what she’s working on. (Although I think it might be some Edgar Allan Poe.)

I hope that clears a few things up.  Just ask, if you have any more questions.

Lastly…The Well Read Poem

For those of you who might want more, I came across a lovely podcast that features one poem a week, read and explained by Mr. Thomas Banks. I’m greatly enjoying it.