Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Advent Homeschooling 1

I hesitated to type that 1, for fear that it might lead someone to presume that there will be, in sequence, an Advent 2, 3 & 4. In real life there will be, of course, and thank goodness. But don't expect any sequence here. See that "unschooly" in the blog description above? It means we don't do sequence so much.

What we are doing right now is Advent. What does "doing Advent" mean at my house? Well, this week it means the following:

1. business as usual, mostly. Epiphany is focusing on Latin, for her final exam next week, and on math while she has a tutor available to help her. Once the college term is over, at the end of next week, we'll devote the next week or so to biology, English, and history. She's also knitting up a storm and doing some drawing.

Amicus also has been concentrating on Latin -- Father wanted them to have Lessons VII and VIII in Latina Christiana 2 finished by Thursday -- and on math and independent reading for science and history. We're in Chapter 3 of From Sea to Shining Sea, but he's been more preoccupied with National Review (civics, history, government, culture) and with his new National Geographic. The politics of the former and the politics of the latter should more or less cancel each other out, should anyone be worrying that we don't offer our children a well-rounded worldview, or that Amicus's political views are anything but his own. He's also still working on his Redwall fan-fiction story-with-no-end, and I'm letting Latin, since he has needed to get a good bit done for class, stand in for English grammar this week, as he's covering more or less the same territory as the diagramming text. Later we'll go back and diagram similar sentences by way of reinforcement.

Helier and Crispina and I have continued to read The Hobbit and to do Miquon Math. I love Cuisenaire rods: it's so easy to illustrate simple addition using them. You put, say, the two rod and the three rod together, and then you find the rod which matches them in length, and hey presto: you've just seen, in concrete terms, what 2+3=5 means. So we run through maybe four problems a day, two for each child, and they take turns putting the rods together and writing the correct number in the answer box. Today we took a break from the rods, however, and played our way through about half the games in the Funbrain Math Arcade. See "unschooly," above.

2. Special Advent stuff. I've been using collects for Advent instead of the usual prayers at the end of Terce, Vespers and Compline, and I've replaced the hymns which always begin the office hours in my prayer book with an Advent hymn for us to learn. This week it's Hark, a Thrilling Voice Is Sounding. The lovely thing about learning hymns is that they count as poetry, too; in this case, we're imbibing the poetry of Edward Caswall, translating a 5th-century Latin text. We're also reading some Christmas stories using a book from my childhood: The Tall Book of Christmas.

This is my best-remembered childhood Christmas book, full of lovely and evocative stories from around the world. Today we read "Everywhere Christmas," which details many Advent feasts and traditions including St. Nicholas Day, the feast of Saint Lucia, and Las Posadas. I also remember with great fondness the stories of Babouscka, the Christmas Rose, and Granny Glittens who makes incredible edible mittens at Christmastime. There are also poems: today we read an old Czech carol, "The Birds." This book was first published in 1954; the stories and poems are charming and I guess what we'd call "multicultural," though they utterly lack the political overtones which usually accompany that term, perhaps because what they're about is not pluralism, but mutual rejoicing -- in both overtly religious and quasi-secular "folk" manifestations -- in the birth of Jesus. Highly recommended!

We've also begun "making our house fair" for the coming of our great Guest, cleaning and dusting and putting away our everyday clutter in preparation for festive decorations. And though we've already made one round of Christmas gifts, we'll be making many, many more as the weeks progress: artwork, cooking, needlework, etc. It's my favorite season of the liturgical year, the most beautiful, full-filled time to be learning with children.

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