Friday, April 30, 2010

Aeneid Class: Week 11: Horatio at the Bridge

This post relates to my literature class for children at Homeschool Out of the Box co-op in Norfolk, VA. This semester we are reading The Aeneid, using Penelope Lively's book In Search of a Homeland, and other supplemental materials. For other lessons, please click the Aeneid tag at the bottom of this post.

Welcome: Last week was so gloriously exciting that we needed this week to catch up a bit and regroup. We had some recitations to hear, some songs to review, and we needed to get back in touch with the story of the Aeneid.

Underworld Travel Guides: I checked the kids' work on their Underworld Travel Guides (or Underworld Bestiaries) and awarded citizenship coins to those who had finished the job. Some of these kids did absolutely amazing work on their illustrations and showed a great command of the material and real creativity in presenting the information. I hope these will be keepsakes for your child to remember their experience with this text for years to come. When they revisit the Aeneid in college, hopefully they'll remember their first interaction with it, as kids.

Scrapbooking: Speaking of memories, I had photos printed for the children to paste into their scrapbooks. We took some time to do that today, and look back over the activities they did in class: the dinner party, the gladiator games, and the chariot races. Some of them wrote captions and notes for themselves to look back on. I encouraged them to include their own drawings, their own pictures from home, or any other little keepsakes or memories that they might have collected during the class.

Horatio at the Bridge: We've been working on a dramatic recitation of this poem, and today we solidified the parts. There are four individual parts: Consul (Emily, Julia), Horatio (Sarah R, Stephen), Spurius Lartius (Shira, Martina), and Herminius (Louis, Basi). Ask your kids whether they have an individual part, and make sure they know what they are supposed to be reciting. All of us together will recite the first two and last two stanzas.

Reading Assignments: For next week, read The Flames of War and The Future Foretold.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Welcome to the New Address!

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Aeneid Class: Week 10: Chariot Races

This post relates to my literature class for children at Homeschool Out of the Box co-op in Norfolk, VA. This semester we are reading The Aeneid, using Penelope Lively's book In Search of a Homeland, and other supplemental materials. For other lessons, please click the Aeneid tag at the bottom of this post.

Welcome: Today we met outside! The weather was beautiful, perfect for our purposes. We sat on the grass and spent a little bit of time taking the quiz on the Underworld. The enrichment class sang through a few of our songs. Then we learned about the Circus Maximus, the organization of a chariot race, and other relevant facts.

Chariot Race Philosophy Lecture: We focused our discussion on one significant difference between our culture and the culture of Ancient Rome, as illustrated by the clip from "Ben Hur." In the old days, if someone fell out of the chariot, do you think the emperor clapped his hands and called a halt to the race? "Hold on guys, let's take a break and make sure that Maximus is ok! Can we get a stretcher out here?" NO! If Maximus fell out of his chariot, that was his own dumb luck, and if his friends managed to drag him out of the way before the horses came around again, good for them. If not, bad for him.

At this point it's important to do whatever is necessary to communicate to your students that you are about to say something very serious. Maybe stand on a chair. Maybe flap your arms around. Maybe glower. Then tell them that in this respect our culture is *VERY DIFFERENT* from the Roman culture. While the Roman's primary interest in chariot races was entertainment (and they found gruesome injuries profoundly entertaining), our primary interest in chariot races is SURVIVAL. Have them say it out loud: SURVIVAL. I actually had each one individually say it back to me. What is the most important thing today? SURVIVAL. And what constitutes survival? Not falling down, not falling out of your chariot, not causing your charioteer to fall out of his/her chariot, not causing your co-horse to fall over.

I told them clearly that we were creating a spectacle, not a real race, and that while no prizes would be awarded for winning, I would be awarding citizenship coins for safe behavior. As it turns out we only had one injury -- one of our horses scraped up her ankle -- and everyone got their citizenship coin. Looking back on the experience, I'm pretty amazed that someone didn't fall in the Hague or something, but we all had helmets on, and you know that often prevents excitement. Right?

Chariot Race Activity:

To carry off a chariot race the way we did, you will need a wide open space, preferably without traffic. We had a low traffic street that we were able to stop the few cars from coming through during the races. You'll need a mom at the start, a mom at the turn, a mom to help the emperor do his/her job, a mom to orchestrate the horn blowers, a mom to man the first aid station, etc. Then you need the following items:

2 large wagons.
8 dog leashes (four on each wagon, two pairs clipped together to harness the "horses")
Safety helmets
Traffic cones
Emperor chair, costume, and a hankerchief to drop to begin the race
Horns (gift paper tubes, pvc pipe, etc)

Here are pictures:

And here's one video:

For many more pictures and videos, please visit the chariot race Flickr set.

As you can see, we had a great time. Thanks to all the parents and helpers that made it a safe and happy experience for the kids, and thanks to all the kids who really adopted a spirit of cooperation and fun. Yay for chariot races!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Explode the Code Blends Phonics and Fun

My mother taught first grade for a million years. In her career, she saw trends in pedagogy come and go, including whole word reading, context support, invented spelling, etc. She was a firm believer in the phonics method, and even hoarded old textbooks, saved phonics-based readers from dumpsters, and rebelled against her school system in order to continue teaching first graders to read with phonics. She believed that all other methods were, to use her word, "bunk."

I know my mother would have loved Explode the Code. It is not flashy, and it is not slick == it is solid, reliable, old-school phonics and it will teach your child to read. In this it reminds me of the Bob Books -- also hand drawn, also based on progressive phonics, also reliable as dirt. Now, for those who love learning on the computer, there's even an online version of Explode the Code, which translates the excellent phonics foundation to a fun, flash-based learning environment. Using the web site independently or together with the workbooks, it's a win win. Go here to explore this new online phonics curriculum.

My daughter Sadie has been struggling with reading for years. She is now six, but since she was four she knew all her letters and the sounds they make. She had the tools, the knowledge, to read first grade material, and yet she would look at a word and say "I can't read." This was extremely frustrating for me as a teacher. I am a book person, my older child is a strong reader, how could this be happening? I'm still not sure exactly what's going on in Sadie's head when she says "I can't read." I think it might have to do with her persistent suspicion that if she learns to read we'll send her to college.
Explode the Code workbooks and online games have been miraculous for her. The repetition, the spiralling returns to familiar material, the very very slow steps forward accompanied by many iterations of the words the child can confidently do, have made it absolutely impossible for her to tell herself she can't read. She can. It's undeniable. The words she knows with Explode the Code she knows inside out, upside down, backwards, and sideways. When she looks at me, shocked, and says, "I can read that!" it's amazing! Explode the Code works for us, and if you have a brand new reader that needs the confidence that comes from practice, I bet it will work for you too!

Aeneid Class: Week 9: Travel Guide to the Underworld

This post relates to my literature class for children at Homeschool Out of the Box co-op in Norfolk, VA. This semester we are reading The Aeneid, using Penelope Lively's book In Search of a Homeland, and other supplemental materials. For other lessons, please click the Aeneid tag at the bottom of this post.

Welcome: Today's quiz was about Carthage and Dido, and we sang all our songs in their entirety. We had a successful memorization of Mark Antony's speech, and a very close call with Arma Virumque Cano -- next week for sure! Encourage your children to work on these poems at home, and recite them for friends, relatives, whoever will listen. Nothing builds confidence like repetition and also applause from Grandma.

Memory Work: Today we practiced "Horatio at the Bridge" as a dramatic reading. Horatios are Sarah R and Stephen K. I know they are hard at work memorizing their lines! The consuls and other brave Romans with speaking parts are encouraged to memorize their parts too, and EVERYONE should be memorizing the last bit, from "Romans in Rome's quarrel" to the end. The children are doing a magnificent job delivering their lines with feeling and ferocity! Great job, all.

The Underworld:

Today's project for the academic track classes is a travel guide to the underworld. I gave them the title page and chapter list, which we pasted into their scrapbooks near the end. Their assignment, which they worked on in class, was to complete the travel guide, one chapter per page, in their books. They can do it however they want to do it -- as a comic book, all text, all pictures, etc. They can do it humorously, seriously, standing on their heads, whatever. Next week I'm going to have a look at them, and the students who have fulfilled the assignment will receive a citizenship coin!

The enrichment track kids are creating a bestiary. They also received a title page and chapter list, and they also should complete the pages of their bestiary (including harpies, gorgons, a chimaera, Cerberus, and the Furies) to receive a citizenship coin. If you have lost your scrapbook, you can do this on separate pages stapled together.

Chariot Races Preparation:

Next week we are going to turn Grace Street into the Circus Maximus and hold our own chariot races. We have already arranged wagons to be chariots, but we need many more volunteers and items. The chariots will be run two at a time, from the end of the street by the apartment buildings down to the intersection at Yarmouth. We will have the green team (supported by the emperor and the Roman people), the blue team (supported by the Senate) and the red team, (supported by the political resistance). Please dress your children in one of these colors, if possible.

The children will play three roles -- horn blowers, horses, and charioteers. If your child is going to be a charioteer, he or she must MUST must have a bike helmet. Any horses that spill out their charioteers are going to be disqualified, but we still want to be ridiculously safe. If you want, you can also bring along elbow and knee pads -- that would be completely appropriate. We also need dog leashes, two per horse. Please label everything that you bring. We will need volunteers to stand at the ends of the Circus Maximus and hold traffic when necessary. We will also need a first aid kit with bandaids and bactine in case anyone falls over and gets scraped up. So please let me know if you can:

___ Be a traffic guard
___ Bring bandaids and bactine and be the first aid station
___ Bring dog leashes -- the basic kind with a snap on one end and a loop on the other.
___ Bring helmets and knee pads and elbow pads
___ Be an official

If you do not want your child to participate, that is totally fine. He or she can be a horn blower and still have fun. Please email me with any questions you have, to volunteer to help, or with any issues you want me to address.

If you like, you can watch the video of the chariot race from Ben Hur! If you have trouble with the embedded video, here is the link. Be warned: it is violent -- people get run over by horses, for example. But it is a bit of classic movie history and still after all these years a very exciting scene.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Aeneid Class: Week 8: Dido's Trick

This post relates to my literature class for children at Homeschool Out of the Box co-op in Norfolk, VA. This semester we are reading The Aeneid, using Penelope Lively's book In Search of a Homeland, and other supplemental materials. For other lessons, please click the Aeneid tag at the bottom of this post.

Welcome: Our quiz today covered the Law of the Twelve Tables, so we had twelve questions in the quiz. I experimented today with letting one of the children make up the quiz, and it was fun! All you have to do is read some of the fast facts as they are, for true answers, and mess up some of them in amusing ways, for false answers. After a few halts and restarts, we got the hang of it and had a great quiz. So, this is yet another way of reviewing the facts -- make them wrong on purpose. If you are working on this curriculum with one child at home, I encourage you to let them quiz *you* by creating some false answers to trip you up. Always entertaining. I was relieved to find that one of the kids making a false answer included laundry detergent among the incorrect details. Hehehe.

Memory Work: Today we sang our "Arma Virumque Cano" song all the way to the end, and also our "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" song all the way to the end. Children are memorizing! Citizenship coins are being earned! Congratulations to all of you moms for following up at home and making this happen. The kids will have a chance to show off their oratorial skills at the Rostra on May 11.

Dido's Trick:

We used scissors and a piece of paper to recreate the legendary trick that Dido supposedly played on a local king, when trying to get land on which to build her city of Carthage. Keep in mind, this trick has also been attributed to Alexander the Great and probably other historical figures as well, but it makes a great parlor trick so we learned it anyway! Thanks to Miranda and Louis' dad for pointing me to a place online where we could print out a template to use for this -- it made the project so much easier.

The idea is that you can cut a hole in a small piece of paper that you can walk through standing up. Here is the template from As long as you never cut through a T, and stay on the lines, you will end up with a huge circle of paper that you can, indeed, step through. I would love to see some enterprising young person try this trick with an even smaller piece of paper and even smaller strips -- it would be neat to see how close we could get to encompassing Carthage!


The fast facts for this week are about Carthage, and we talked a lot about its geography and history of animosity to Rome. Did it all start with a failed romance between Dido and Aeneas? Who knows?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ballad of the Latin Verbs: A Song for Teaching 1st Conjugation Verb Endings

This song includes the names of the children in your class, so depending on how many kids you have and how many syllables their names have, you may have to switch things around a little. You can always repeat names or add Latin endings to their names. That is permitted.

The tune is from an Irish tune called Fox Hunter's Jig but I play it in A. The first chord is like A major except you take your finger off the B string and play that open. My favorite recording of it is by Cherish the Ladies, Ballad of the Foxhunter. Cherish the Ladies lyrics are a W.B. Yeats poem, but mine are kind of an anthem for our Latin Club. This is the first song we learned, to go along with Chapter 1 in Primer Level A of Latin for Children from Classical Academic Press.

Ballad of Latin Verbs

Link to the video on YouTube.

Amo amas amat, amamis amatis amant
Do das dat, damis, datis, dant
Narro, narras narrat, narramis narratis narrant
Intro, intras intrat, intramis intratis intrant

Shira, conjugate!
Ben, make the nouns decline!
Adjective endings are our food,
Verb tense our wine!

Brayton, the ablative
tells where and when and how
Stephen the genetive
can classify a noun

Erro erras errat, erramis erratis errant
Specto, spectas, spectat, spectamis, spectatis, spectant
Sto stas stat, stamis statis stant
Paro paras parat, paramis paratis parant

Martina conjugate!
Nicholas decline!
Benny and Sarah
Let your vocabulary shine!

Dative tells us just for whom
the verb is done
Acccustive tells us who
the verb is done upon.

She Will Be Latin: A Song for Teaching Noun Declensions

She Will Be Latin

Words by Lydia Netzer
Grammar by Classical Academic Press
Music by Maroon 5

Link to the video on YouTube.

First declension nouns are mostly girls
-a -ae -ae -am -a -ae -arum -is -as -is
The word for fatherland is patria
Tell me how that’s feminine please?

Mensa mensae mensae mensam mensa
Mensae mensarum mensis mensas mensis yeah!
Via viae viae viam via
Viae viarum viis vias viis

Fewer words, more endings
That’s how Latin is lending
Our derivative blendings
So our English is bending

Second declension nouns are men now
-us –i -o -um -o –i –orum -is -os -is
There’s a lupus in my ludus
Do not sit him next to me

Ludus ludi ludo ludum ludo
Ludi ludorum ludis ludos ludis
Hortus horti horto hortum horto
Horti hortorum hortis hortos hortis

Fewer words, more endings
That’s how Latin is lending
Our derivative blendings
So our English is bending

Second declension neuter nouns
-um –i -o -um -o -a –orum -is -a -is
Thanks for the donum in the forum but
Did it have to be your helmet grease?

Donum doni dono donum dono
Dona donorum donis dona donis
Astrum astri astro astrum astro
Astra astrorum astris astra astris

Saturday, April 03, 2010

What's the Deal with Sentences? A Song for Learning Latin Sentence Patterns

In our Latin Club, we use the Latin for Children curriculum from Classical Academic Press. In level A, the children learn chants for sentence patterns that they can use to start translating and easily creating Latin sentences. Here's a song I wrote about the sentence patterns to help the kids remember them, and just for fun!

Here's the link to the video on YouTube.

What’s the Deal with Sentences?

What’s the deal with Pattern A?
What does SNV mean?
Like “Sweep no vents” or “See no views” Or “Steal no victories”?
SN stands for “Subject noun”
And V for action verb.
So SNV is pattern A
Now you’ve heard the word.

So “Vir intrat” and “Vir Mutat” and then “Viri pugnant”
“Magister clamat” and then “Magister ambulat”

What’s the deal with Pattern B?
A linking verb like sum, “to be”
Connects two nouns together
The subject and the predicate
Are linked and then equated
I’m a girl(boy) and you’re a boy(girl),
With pattern B we state it.

So “Filii sunt amicae” and “Marcus est amicus”
“Dominus est socius” and “Servus est filius”

What’s the deal with Pattern C?
It’s just the same as Pattern B
Except for one small way
In the predicate we see
An adjective is waiting
To be linked with the subject noun,
In Pattern C relating.

So “Vir est bonus” “Vir est malus” “Viri sunt ignoti”
“Magistra est antiqua” “Discipuli sunt novi”

Enjoy! Here's the video:

Arma Virumque Cano: A Song to Teach The Aeneid in Latin

I Sing of Arms and the Man

Link to the video on YouTube.
Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus,
I sing of arms and the man who came from Troy to Italy
Exiled by fate, that’s what I’m singing.

Laviniaque, venit litora, multum
ille et terris iactatus et alto Vi
superum saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram;

I sing of arms and the man who came from Troy to Italy
Exiled by fate, that’s what I’m singing.
Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam fato profugus.

Multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem,
inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum,
Albanique patres, atque altae moenia Romae.

I sing of arms and the man who came from Troy to Italy
exiled by fate, that’s what I’m singing
Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam fato profugus

Musa, mihi causas memora, quo numine laeso,
quidve dolens, regina deum tot volvere casus
insignem pietate virum, tot adire labores
impulerit. Tantaene animis caelestibus irae?

I sing of arms and the man who came from Troy to Italy
exiled by fate, that’s what I’m singing
Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam fato profugus

I use this song to teach the first twelve lines of the Aeneid in Latin to our Latin club and also to my Aeneid literature class. Who says The Aeneid can't be a country song? Italy is a country.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Book Arts Bash 2010: Why Teach a Child to Write a Novel?

In encouraging a child to write a novel, you're not just asking them to produce a book. You're promoting several important benefits in their education, and in their development as a person. Writing a novel, for kids and teens, really has very little to do with the final product, you see. While their books are fantastic and we love to read them, the true purpose of writing at this age is not to create the Next Big Book that will bring the publishing industry to its knees. It's all about the process, and kids learn much from the process of writing a novel. It's why we love NaNoWriMo. It's why I wrote my curriculum, "How to Teach a Child to Write a Novel." It's why I encourage my own kids to get their ideas into stories, their stories onto paper, to share with the world.

Firstly, children work out ideas and dreams in their novels, trying out different identities, exploring fantasies, and toying with systems and situations they may have run into in real life. A work of fiction is a giant "What if?" and it's a safe place to postulate. My son Benny created, for example, a "little brother" character in his novel. This kid was invested with all the sass, defiance, naughty behavior, and arrogance that he himself is not allowed to exhibit. The character, "Duane," was constantly in trouble, a permanent drain on his mother's patience. I could sense the glee that Benny was experiencing while writing Duane, and while it was hilarious I also thought it was useful. In writing the mother character as well, he was putting himself in the position of both parent and child, and in expressing this relationship, he understood better the way our relationship sometimes works.

Second, children (or adults) who write novels become better readers. A person who picks up a brush and begins to put paint on a canvas instantly knows about painting - the brush strokes, the paint consistency, the composition of a painting - on a much deeper level than they could have by just looking at art. In the same way, someone who has written, or even attempted to write, a novel reads novels with a new understanding of their construction. They watch movies differently. They construct their anecdotes differently. Once they've been taught about plot, climax, character goals, significant objects in the setting, and the rest of it, they see the books they're reading in a different way -- they're reading as insiders now, privy to all that information that only writers know, and appreciative of the effort and dedication that goes into writing a book.

Finally, a child who has written a novel has put his feet on a very elevated path. Having entered this elite "club" of novel-writers, he or she stands next to greats like Woolf, Faulkner, Asimov, Morrison, and Joyce. Writing a novel is one of the grand things you can do, as a person in this modern world, like running a marathon or scaling a mountain. It's an item on lots of people's list of things to do before they die, and doing such a large thing at such a young age gives an enormous sense of accomplishment. A kid should feel, stamping "THE END" onto the final page of a long hard effort, that having written a novel, he or she can accomplish anything.

For these reasons, and for the fun of it, Sherene and I put together the Book Arts Bash, a writing contest for homeschooled authors, where we hoped to encourage young novelists by taking their efforts seriously, and putting their work on the desks of real authors, agents, and editors. We recruited judges from the top tiers of the publishing industry: Sara Gruen, Holly Black, Joshilyn Jackson, Karen Abbott, and more. We offered a top prize of $100 in each grade group, and critiques from literary agents from the top three. It has been an astonishing success, and here are the results:

Kindergarten and First Grade:

A Big Problem by Brianna T.
Runners up:
Adventures of Big D and BMC by Emma W.
Zoo With A Strange Zookeeper by Vivian L.

Second and Third Grade:

The Adventures of Blue Flame the Heroic Giant Squid-Fighting Hero by Sage M.
Runners Up:
Ruby, A Twisting Tale by Emilie M.
Mittens the Cat by Melea von T.

Fourth and Fifth Grade:

1 by Nicci M.
Runners up:
One Girl Revolution by Sadie Z.
Blaze by Alexandra S.

Sixth Grade:

The Princess by Lena G.
Runners up:
Becoming Callie by Lena G.
Trixie by Lydia A.

Seventh Grade:

Happy Ending is a Place by Mandy H.
Runners up:
Violet Fire by Bryn B.
Kite by Hannah S.

Eighth Grade:

Hollin by Garrett R.
Runners up:
Common Animals by Thomas B.
Little Angel by Adayla S.

Ninth Grade:

Why I Missed the Second Set by Rose C.
Runners up:
Untitled by Larissa S.
Tales of the Humbats: The Seventh Piece by Raven M.

Tenth Grade:

Children of the Stars by Holden M.
Runners up:
Shattering Darkness by Vienna H.
The Scouser Cap by Emily V.

Eleventh Grade:

Cadence by Scout G.
Runners up:
Vengeance: 25 cents by Kathleen M.
Don't Look Down by Tanya S

Twelfth Grade:

If Pearls Could Sing by Pamela C.
Runners up:
Broken Things by Emily D.
Falling Night by Anna W.

Big thank you to our generous sponsors:

Dreambox: Visit Dreambox for an incredible interactive math curriculum for kids from preschool through third grade. For kindergarten math, Dreambox is unparalleled in fun and pedagogical value. Check out the free trial and see what you think!

Shurley Grammar: A grammar curriculum that takes your child from first through seventh grade, using drills and jingles to teach writing skills (and also reading skills!) along the way. A trusted name in home education, Shurley will not steer you wrong.

Classical Academic Press: If you're contemplating teaching Latin or Greek in your homeschool, you definitely need this system. With audio, video, fun activities, and online Latin games, as well as standard workbooks and quizzes, anyone can teach Latin.

Prufrock Press: Parents of gifted children often have difficulty finding work that will challenge their kids' abilities while still being fun. Prufrock's gifted education materials are a godsend. Kids see them as a treat!

Explode the Code: Many of us have used Explode the Code workbooks with our kids and enjoyed the progressive phonics curriculum. Now Explode the Code has launched an online version, taking their reading education to a whole new level.

Can you help us by republishing the results and sponsor links on your blog, supporting homeschooled writers and this novel-writing contest? Please email us or leave a comment to let us know you can help. We need twenty blogs to participate. Would you donate a post on yours? You can use this text file to copy and paste into your blog editing software. Right click to download.