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18 May 2018

It's Working: Foreign Language Learning the Charlotte Mason Way

I've put a lot of time and effort in the past month or two into studying the method that Francois Gouin developed for studying foreign languages, and about 2 or 3 weeks ago, I started putting some of what I learned into practice in our home. Oh wow, guys, this is amazing. I am learning so much! And my kids are learning quite a bit! This is definitely something that we're going to continue to do.

Our first efforts have been in learning what I think of as my "Applesauce Series": we're learning to talk about what happens as you make applesauce. These are our main props (the bowl was handy, and it's pretending to be a pot today)

A progress report our efforts to use a Charlotte Mason approach to foreign language learning: it's working!

17 May 2018

Words of Christ: Suffer It To Be So

President Nelson gave us a lot to think about this last Conference! I suspect that people are going to be chewing on the things he said and did for quite some time to come. Looking over his Saturday morning talk, Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into our Lives, he gave us a concrete thing to do:

"...consecrate a portion of [our] time each week to study everything Jesus said and did as recorded in the standard works... let the scriptural citations about Jesus Christ in the Topical Guide become [our] personal core curriculum."

I was half toying with adding a red letter Bible to my collection, but then it occurred to me: I can do the same thing with my pen, little by little, in the time he's asking for each week, and turn my regular scriptures into a red letter Bible, and by searching out and pondering the things that He says, I'll get a lot more out of it than I would by just buying a book that someone else has already pre-marked. So I started in Matthew.

15 May 2018

Latin Resources for Your Homeschool

We're learning Latin. I suppose this this shouldn't surprise me, but it kind of does. Still. Six months after we started: I hadn't planned to have the kids do Latin, much less to do it myself. God had other plans, so here we are.

Turns out, there's lots of resources out there.

The kids are using Latina Christiana I, which I still like.

I decided that I need to know a little more than they do, so I picked myself up a copy of Wheelock's Latin, which I also like. It's got a bit of a learning curve on it: Latin has a lot of grammar. A lot a lot. But I'm getting it figured out, and I think I'm going to really enjoy this, oddly enough. I'm looking forward to reading Horace, someday. That's where I want to go with this, now that I'm doing it.

04 May 2018

Experimenting with the Gouin Method of Foreign Language Instruction

As I was writing about the intersection of Charlotte Mason and foreign language instruction, I discovered that the author she looks to for her instruction method, Francois Gouin, has a book -- and that it's online for free. So I've been reading it, and as a result I'm making some tweaks to how we are doing our language instruction. They're not huge tweaks, the biggest changes is the level of intentionality that I'm able to bring to our instruction. I'm pretty excited. Even better, I've got a group of people who are also experimenting with Gouin's methods, so we can all talk it over an see what works and all help each other improve the instruction in our homes.

In a lot of ways, what Gouin suggests is really pretty close to what we've been doing: he suggests making the ear the primary "organ of learning" rather than the eye: listening, rather than reading or writing, is at the heart of his method. We have long made it a priority to keep Japanese in the atmosphere of our home to train our accent, help establish native patterns in our mind, and remind us to use our language; it's remarkable what a difference it makes to have a playlist going in the background! I have tried to teach my younger kids what I can through speaking to them out of what I know. This has been slow, in part because I'm a non-native speaker, and when we started this several years ago, I was really not fluent. At all. I've come far in the time since then, and the kids have come a fair distance, but we still have a long way to go before we're fluent. What Gouin offers us is a way to be more systematic about our instruction, and that's pretty exciting:

02 May 2018

Trying Foreign Language Narration

I got this cute little book a while back at a very cool Japanese mall that I occasionally get to visit. It's a fun little book of "Why do things work like they do" kind of questions, with little 4 page essays (big type) about things like why stoplights are red, yellow, and green (did you know that's standard all over the whole world?), and why train stations and railroad crossings have rocks under them. Big "First Grade" on the front of the cover... I'm slowly growing into first grade, lol. Those kids would talk circles around me, for sure. But I am reading their book, little by little. It's small and simple things that get the job done; baby steps, right? It's gradually working and adding up in an exciting way.

Quite a while before I got the book, I remember hearing about Charlotte Mason recommending that students do narrations of their foreign language readings... in the foreign language. At the time, I thought that was crazy talk. It sounded so far off. But it occurred to me tonight that my little Japanese "Why Book" is perfect for attempting that, now that I'm growing into it. So I took the essay that I've been reading and rereading this week, and I tried it out.

01 May 2018

Commonplace Book: April

A sample from my commonplace book, and brief instructions for how to keep one.

A commonplace is a traditional self-education tool: as you read, grab a notebook. Write down things that embody Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Write down notable quotes, with or without your own thoughts about them. Write down the questions you have as a result of the text you are reading. You will find the book becomes a record of your own growth, and it becomes a touchstone for memory of things you have studied in the past. This is what Mother Culture is all about: self-directed, conscious self-education. 

19 April 2018

Learning Languages: Moving Beyond the Textbook {part 2}

This post is part of a series.
Part One: Listen, Listen, Listen
Part Two: What To Read {this post}
Part Three (coming soon)

Not only to satisfy the necessities of travelers in far countries has the study of language ever been desirable, but to penetrate the spirit and genius of Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Goethe, Hugo, Dante, it has become, to the cultured of every country, a necessity for the full gift of a liberal education. Since language became literature, the necessity for mastery over other tongues than his own has forced the attention of student and of professor to the problem of the study of languages…
-Howard Swan, Preface to The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages by M. Francois Gouin

In part one of this series, we looked at considerations for the beginning language learner: in particular, the need for vast quantities of exposure to spoken language as an indispensable aspect of successful language learning. As the student begins to progress, in addition to the aural input and lessons, books begin to take on a much greater importance. Just like learning to read in your native tongue, start with simple books. Miss Mason recognized that parents wishing to teach a language they do not know at a native level face particular challenges, but she reminds us that even in this case we should not lose sight of the importance of Gouin’s concept of imitating the natural acquisition of the first child’s first language:

16 April 2018

DIY Simple Book Binding for Homemade Books {Tutorial}

I looked at my copy of Pilgrim's Progress the other day... and realized it's a retelling and not the original. Drat. I suppose that I could buy a new one, but the book budget is currently used up, so I decided to make my own homemade copy. Since I'm doing one, I may as well do another, so I am also doing a copy of the poems my older son ought to be doing, but isn't because the whole etext thing isn't working for me right now. I greatly prefer a real book in my hand!

First, I went and grabbed the Project Guttenberg PlainText UTF-8 version of the text  of Pilgrim's Progress that Ambleside Online links to, copied and pasted it into Open Office. I'm also making a copy of the recommended poems for Ambleside Online Year 5, which are not public domain, but are made available to the public free of charge because the women of AO are amazing and generous. Both of these texts copy and paste nicely to my word processor, so I don't have to go through and delete weird characters or anything like that. Next, I picked out a cool special character (Open Office has special characters on the Insert menu), bolded it, and used the word count tool to help me break it up The Pilgrim's Progress into readings, putting my special character about every 800 words, which is the length of reading the AO recommends for this book; the poems we'll just do one in a sitting so they don't need that kind of thing.

I also added a pretty title page with fancy font, and made sure that all my text was at least 12pt font: too much smaller and you'll have a small print edition of your text, as it's going to shrink when it's printed. If you like your text a little on the larger side, you might go 14. I typically print at about 10, so I'm happy with a smallish font. You can add in illustrations if you want, but I didn't; this version that I'm doing this time is a very functional book, but it's not really elegant. It is, however, cheap and tough: the ones that I did for Our Island Story and Secrets of the Woods have held up beautifully as I've read to my son over the past year and a bit.

DIY Simple Book Binding for Homemade Books {Tutorial}


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