Monday, April 27, 2009

Men of Iron by Howard Pyle is historical fiction that transports us back to the 1400’s, a time of knighthood and chivalry. Myles Falworth is eight years old when news comes they must flee their home. His blind father is accused of treason. We see Myles grow up, train as a knight, and with perseverance, clear his father of any wrong-doing and restore their family name.

(Summary by Laura Caldwell)

Today is a rainy day on the farm. It is perfect for listening to a story while sipping hot tea. I couldn't find some of the extra reading choices in LBC at the library this week. Rarely do we get to the additional reading, but this week the reading was short. I decided to see what Ambleside Online is reading. Immediately, I noticed that in year 3 (Renaissance-Reformation) they had listed Men of Iron by Howard Pyle. I had heard that it was really good and after reading the summary, realized it would fit right in with this week's study on knights.

I found it on librivox and we are enjoying listening to it. If you don't have the book, but still would like to read it, then click here to find the text online. Of course, you could buy it as well if you are book poor and bookshelf rich. ;-) It is still being published even though it was first printed in 1891. To me that is a good sign that the book is worth my time.

I also found copy work from this book. Those AO folks are just so organized. They have a yahoo group that is just copywork to go with each year on their website. So I joined the yahoo group and found a 171 page pdf file of copywork for year 3 which included several copywork selections from Men of Iron, nicely organized by chapter. I just love it when I don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Here is what I assigned Ashley for today's copywork:

I think this particular passage would lend itself well to a narration that the child draws instead of telling. The language gives a very clear picture of that knight riding up on his horse.

Men of Iron by Howard Pyle

The year 1400 opened with more than usual peacefulness in Englad. Only a few months before, Richard II - weak, wicked, and treacherous - had been dethroned, and Henry IV declared King in his stead.

Chapter 1

Myles Falworth was but eight years of age at that time, and it was only afterwards, and when he grew old enough to know more of the ins and outs of the matter, that he could remember by bits and pieces the things that afterwards happened; how one evening a knight came clattering into the court-yard upon a horse, red-nostrilled and smeared with the sweat and foam of a desperate ride- Sir John Dale, a dear friend of the blind Lord.

Friday, April 24, 2009

When Knights Were Bold, Eva March Tappan

This book is in no degree an attempt to relate the involved and intricate history of the Middle Ages. Its plan is, rather, to present pictures of the manner of life and habits of thought of the people who lived between the eighth and fifteenth centuries. Our writings and our everyday conversation are full of their phrases and of allusions to their ideas. Many of our thoughts and feelings and instincts, of our very follies and superstitions, have descended to us from them. To become better acquainted with them is to explain ourselves. (Summary from the Preface of When Knights Were Bold)

Librivox is my new favorites website. A nice bonus is that I can have librivox running in one tab and then click on another tab and see what the Nester is doing on her blog or rearrange my virtual bedroom on Better Homes and Gardens. This is sort of the equivalent of having your cake and eating it too. Seriously, I do have another reason for loving librivox and it has to do with dyslexia. If you have child who struggles with reading (dyslexic or not) listening to books read aloud is a great way to improve their reading. In fact, it improves all kid's reading, but is especially helpful for those with dyslexia or other reading difficulties. [I'll try to edit this post later with some research to support that statement. ]

I did a quick google this morning and found that librivox has recorded When Knights Were Bold. This is a book used in the Living Books Curriculum Middle Ages study. Being dyslexic, my daughter really benefits from reading along while I (or librivox) read aloud. This helps a great deal with fluency as well as comprehension. It is sort of like when you are teaching a child to write and you hold their hand to help them make the letters. With dyslexia, they often struggle with the decoding enough that by the end of a paragraph (sometimes even the end of a sentence) they may have entirely forgotten what they read because the decoding required such effort. Read it aloud, while they read along, and you are holding their hand through the decoding so to speak. The correct decoding is reinforced, the comprehension is better, and they enjoy that reading instead of dreading it. There are lots of reasons why this helps, but I'll not bore you with all of that. :-)

Although this is my 11 year old daughter's school work, my 7 year old son insists on listening along. He is now officially over his obsession with dinosaurs and it is firmly replaced with a new one of dragons, knights, and castles. I love how he puts on armor, a helmet and shield and holds his plastic sword while we read it aloud. For fun, I think I'll have the girls put on their dress up clothes and instead of our usual narration, I'll have them act out today's chapter from When Knights Were Bold. It's Friday after all and they have worked really hard all week.

If you would like to read this book, it can be purchased from Living Books Curriculum here or found as an e-text here. I would say that a child that can read independently on a 4th grade level (or can read a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book easily) could read this book alone (although I did not do an official readability on it). It is 312 pages, but the text is larger than usual and the chapters are not too long. You could also easily read part or all of the book as the chapters each stand alone in content.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Book of Dragons, E. Nesbit

What a fun surprise I have for you today. I found The Book of Dragons read aloud on librivox today. Of course, I found it after I'd already read most of what has been recorded. But if you have not started this book yet, you may be able to listen to the book in it's entirety. for free. online. It doesn't get much better than that. I don't mind reading aloud at all. It is just that I currently read aloud 1-2 hours a day. Anytime we can listen to a story it is a welcome blessing to my voice.

Anyway, if you have not heard of The Book of Dragons, I say that you MUST read it. It is a collection of 8 dragon short stories. You can find it at your library,, or also as an e-text on the gutenberg project. It fits in nicely with this week's lessons on castles, knights and such. And if you have boys, especially if you have boys, just read it because all boys love dragon stories. Connor, my 7 year old son thinks it is the best book I've ever read. In fact, I don't even have to ask for a narration. He freely gives a lengthy narration the minute my husband walks in from work. The short stories are also nice and short, perfect for even the youngest child's attention.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Real Math

Moola Moola from the magical land of Lotta Loot
Mascot for Our Banks Savings Account for children

Today, Miss A and I went to the bank. She set up a "Moola Moola Account" at our credit union. A "Moola Moola Account" is a special account for children under thirteen. The idea is to let them learn to save money and earn "moola moola bucks" toward fun prizes, like pencils, water bottles, posters, etc. She put her youth fair check in and will be learning to keep a record of her money. This is a good skill for real life and a nice bonus for her 4-H record book as she needs to know how much money she spends/earns on her fair projects. You may have a similar program at your bank for children. Generally it is pretty easy to set up, requires a small amount of money (ours is $5) to start an account, and the parent signs for them as they are a minor. The two younger children are contemplating starting an account with their tooth fairy money after seeing the (cheesey to a mom) (cool to a 5 year old) moola backpack and pencil. Well at least one of the children has tooth fairy money...the youngest one has "Meme" I guess if they decide to part with their money, then I'll be headed back to the bank to let the younger two have their own "Moola Moola Accounts."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Learning Grammar is FUN!

Yes, you read that correctly. Learning the parts of speech can be fun if you use this lovely book from 1878. It teaches the 9 parts of speech in a story format. Each part of speech appears before a judge to plead his case and tell which words belong to him. My dd (age 11) is really enjoying it and learning a lot. Each chapter ends with a very short passage where the children can practice what they learned. It fits nicely with a Charlotte Mason education or if you follow the Bluedorn's book Teaching the Trivium.

Grammar Land was so interesting that my dd was not too happy to find that she had completed all her grammar for the week and it would be next week before she could read about Mr. Pronoun. She thought the sad little Mr. Article was funny and and also loved the rich and wealthy Mr. Noun. We did the exercises assigned to the children of Schoolroom-shire by the judge and found them to be nice short lessons. I knew right away if she understood the part of speech in that short oral language lesson. You could easily make a short worksheet to go with each chapter with very little effort, if you need a worksheet for some reason.

I got my copy as a free e-book from a while back. I found it online here as a free online text since that freebie has long since expired. You can also purchase it from Either way, it is a nice, informal way to enjoy learning your grammar.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Castles, Pages, Squires, and Knights.

My dd (age 11) is working through the Living Books Curriculum guide to The Middle Ages. We have enjoyed all of the literature that came with it and today spent some time oohing and ahhing at castles and learning more about feudal life in the Middle Ages. It appears from our little bit of research that due to the high quality of materials a lot of castles are still standing. Many have been updated and restored and some are now museums. We read about one castle that took 100 years to complete. Looking at the detailed photos you can see how that is possible. I'm amazed at all of the intricate carvings in stone as well as gorgeous paintings on ceilings and walls. All time consuming jobs that require great talent as well as patience.

Today's reading was from When Knights were Bold by Eva March Tappan. This book as well as other great books on the Middle Ages are available from LBC. The chapters are fairly short and interesting enough for a 7 year old boy to sit and listen intently even though it isn't part of his school work. I count that a definate plus. A boy listening is a boy not antagonizing his other sister or making a mess. ;-) The books in this unit are geared for the intermediate to middle school aged child. I'd say they are for grades 5-8. In this unit, we have especially enjoyed reading Son of Charlemagne and The Lantern Bearer. This unit from LBC is a history unit and you will still need to supplement with other sources for your math, language, copywork, etc. I use Ambleside Online for a lot, Writing Road to Reading (not a CM type resource) and Math U See. It's been fun to create my own lesson plans, but I think next year I will just go ahead and order the LBC curriculum for the grade and get all the lesson plans and books in one box. The idea of having everything all mapped out for the year just sounds very nice as I try my best to write lesson plans instead of walking around outside smelling the roses and soaking up the sunshine.

Here are some links to websites with information on life in the Feudal Middle Ages. I hope it is a help to your study of the Middle Ages.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Starry Night

The Starry Night
Vincent Van Gogh

Here is a coloring sheet so that your children can color their own Starry Night. This is one of my all time favorite art works. My children are coloring it in water colors to achieve a look similar to the original. I think it would be fun with pastels, pencil colors or even crayons.


As I spend more time reading about the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling, I get a little giddy. As a young adult, I chose to become a teacher. I spent most of my childhood forcing my poor siblings into "playing" school. I loved every moment of school, well except for those junior high years, but even then the school part was good. I love the smell of new crayons and the sound of chalk on a board. I especially love little desks with ugly plastic chairs that are just the right height for little children just learning to write. Brown paper with little dotted lines just makes me smile. The process of children learning is fascinating to me. I loved to read about all of the theories of education then and still do. What I am finding about Charlotte Mason is that her philosophy utilizes those elements that I liked about various trends that have been seen in education over the years. She really did understand children. She understood how they learned and she understood how to peak their natural curiosity and desire to learn.

I'm implementing a Charlotte Mason approach in my home school. Every so often I am adding in elements that I think will benefit my children in their learning. Two weeks ago I was reading about storytelling. Somehow I had not read about this before or at least I don't remember much if I did read it. I decided it would be an easy addition to our school day. Children are natural born storytellers. I think that is part of why they love to hear stories so much. The children have loved this single addition so much that they remind me if I happen to forget about storytelling. They especially love to retell their stories at the dinner table to their father. So if you are thinking about starting to implement a Charlotte Mason education, this is a good place to start. The children will naturally love it and with that success you will be spurred on to try other Charlotte Mason ideas.