Our Relaxed Homeschool: After Classical Conversations has Ended

Are you amazed at how QUICKLY this school year has gone?  

It is so hard for me to believe I will be the mother of a high schooler (YIKES!) and a 5th grader next year.

We pursue an intense Classical education during the bulk of our homeschool year, but I do enjoy relaxing a bit as we enter the last month of official "school". I love the mix that we now have in our homeschool. It seems to be what our family was looking for all along. 

Our Relaxed Homeschool: What School Looks like After Classical Conversations has ended for the year

The next month will be delight-directed, literature rich, and mostly spent OUT OF DOORS! 

* This post contains affiliate links.

( But first, a recap of our last community day: )

Last Day of Foundations & Essentials

What School Looks Like After Foundations and Essentials have ended for the year

The last community day of the year was such fun! 

The Foundations classes introduced the final week of memory work, and then had an hour long review time, consisting of rotating from state to state for review games! I was also so impressed to hear of the children in Grant's class recite the Preamble to the Constitution for their presentation on the last day. 

I will probably say this a thousand times, but I am BLOWN AWAY by the memorization of facts -- and watching how those facts eventually resurface again (and are expanded upon) in Challenge!  

Our community celebrated a milestone:  the first group of kids that started this CC Community are moving to Challenge next year. Our community started with the vision of three families - and now it is so much bigger than that. God is so good. 

Essentials consisted of the last week of English Grammar instruction, followed by stations of fun grammar and math games.

These kids have covered so much in just 24 weeks, and the fact that Grant will get it all over again next year (but DEEPER) just excites me so much.  

I'm not sure if Grant or I learned more - I just know that I am a richer person for having done Essentials this year. 

Not only can I see the benefits NOW, I can also see how much an intensive study of English Grammar will prepare Grant for Latin in the Challenge years.

The hard work done in IEW has pushed his writing to amazing places. 

I'm just basking in the glow of a year of much learning, accomplishment, and fun. 


The Challenge B Home Stretch

My daughter's Challenge B class still has two more meetings.  They continue with math, logic, science, Latin, Mock Trial, and Short Stories until the very last day. 

The more I sit and observe the Challenge program, the more the Classical method sinks in with me, and the more I am immensely thankful we found this way of learning. 

Wrapping Up The Year in Challenge B

These kids are working until the very last second. Next week is mock trial; when I had heard that mock trial was a big deal I wasn't sure if people were just exaggerating. 

Mock Trial is a BIG DEAL! 

( I'm sure I will be sharing more in a post soon. )

I think Anna's favorite thing right now is Discovering Atomos - which is a brief introduction to the grammar of Chemistry. Her tutor has the kids play fun games to help memorize the elements and the kids are getting just enough of a taste of Chemistry so they will be prepared for a deeper study later in their Challenge years. 

Logic was a HUGE struggle this year (it must be - because do you see I included the picture of Logic proofs TWICE in the collage above?  Yikes!). And, while the struggle wasn't always painless, that was the point: we could struggle through something hard and pick up the grammar of the subject, knowing we didn't have to master Logic (or always understand it, either). 

So much of the Challenge curriculum is tackling hard ideas - tackling them with your tutor and peers in a safe environment - knowing that you can learn anything you set your mind to. Our children are LEARNING HOW TO LEARN, not learning to perform on a test. There is a HUGE difference. 


Relaxed Homeschool AFTER CC Ends

I so enjoy these first days of gorgeous spring weather. We have been outside on the deck A LOT, reading aloud, doing math, and just relaxing. 

School still is "in session" (isn't it always?) and while Anna is still plugging away at Challenge work, Grant is reading a lot, helping his dad with projects in the yard, helping me in the kitchen (He helped me put together a yummy Baked Peach French Toast for a family in our CC community), finishing math, and pursuing some of his interests. 

We took a leisurely trip to the library, did a couple of puzzles, and rode bikes. 

I was in awe of what a great lifestyle homeschooling is, and posted this pic and comment on the blog FB page this week. It resonated with so many of you:

I appreciate these relaxed days and know that this "magical" time won't last forever - I am savoring every minute!  

Here are some other things Grant has been exploring, and will continue to explore over the next month as his big sister finishes her formal school year in Challenge B: 


So, you can see that we're winding down our homeschool... still a couple of weeks to go for my oldest, and my youngest is now relaxing to finish the school year.

Talk to me about how you finish your school year -- or do you school year round?  I love that we can do what works best for us as a family, and that this doesn't have to look like what the homeschooler next door does. If that were the case, then we should just all put the kids in public school where they could do the same thing, right?

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Teaching Children the Grammar of Music Appreciation

Are you children able to converse about the finer points of a piece of music?

If you were to take them to the symphony, could they talk with you about the instruments being used or the tempo of a piece being played?

Just as we teach our children the GRAMMAR of math and science, so we should also be teaching them about the grammar of music appreciation. 


I am on a mission to get children talking about and enjoying GREAT music! 

AND - I want to shout this from the rooftops - teaching your children about music appreciation is EASY. It is ENJOYABLE.   It will be something that stays with your children for their entire lives and it will ENRICH their lives in so many ways. 

How to START Teaching the Grammar of Music Appreciation

If you were to simply play a piece of music for a child and ask them what they hear it might be a difficult question for them to answer.

There is A LOT that goes on in a piece of music, so it is best to start with ONE THING.

For example, if you ask your child to listen to The Flight of the Bumblebee, simply ask them to listen for the TEMPO of the music (does it go FAST or SLOW?).  Simply starting a conversation with your child about the tempo of a piece of music is a very easy place to start - not intimidating at all.  

In this piece, the TEMPO is fast - or PRESTO. 


After that, you might have them listen again - this time asking them to listen for the sound of the STRINGS, which create the buzzing of the bees. 

If we teach our children the vocabulary - or GRAMMAR - of music, slowly and methodically, repeating the same process over and over with different pieces of music, eventually they will learn the grammar and then be able to apply it to pieces on their own when they listen. 

What if You Know NOTHING About Music?

The one stumbling block  many parents encounter in teaching their children about music education is that THEIR musical knowledge is lacking. 

I heard this fear expressed so often when I would write posts about music appreciation, so I took that consideration to heart and began crafting a music appreciation curriculum specifically for the NON MUSICAL!  (Of course, you can use it if you have musical knowledge, too!)

I thought about subjects that are foreign to me (art appreciation, Latin, etc....) and thought about how I teach these to my children.

I search out resources that are simple and that walk me through the GRAMMAR of the subject little by little. 

Using my experience as an elementary music teacher (where we used SQUILT daily in all grades), I decided to create a music appreciation curriculum for multiple ages that teaches children the GRAMMAR of music, while making music fun, engaging, and SIMPLE. 


SQUILT Music Appreciation

Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time  teaches children the grammar of music.

It helps  children learn about great pieces of music (from all eras) and gives them the ability to articulate what they are hearing. 

SQUILT also gives children the gift of SLOWING DOWN and LISTENING - something many children (and ADULTS!) have a hard time doing.

The centerpiece of  SQUILT is a simple notebooking page which encourages children to write about the elements of music. If your child is too young to write or writing is a struggle, there is a simple "Draw What You Hear" notebooking page as well. 

SQUILT Basics:

  • 100% internet based curriculum - no need to purchase music - all you need are basic school supplies and a computer or tablet/iPad
  • Each volume corresponds with a musical era (Baroque, Classical, Romantic & Modern) and consists of 10 representative pieces of music
  • Students notebook their musical findings - and I talk you - the parent - through each piece! Parents are learning with SQUILT, too!
  • SQUILT is AFFORDABLE - each volume is $12 - which means you pay only $12 for AT LEAST 10 (normally 20) weeks of music appreciation
  • SQUILT meets kids where they are - each volume includes many fun enrichment activities and unique performances of pieces to keep children engaged, intrigued, and laughing!
  • Multiple Ages can use SQUILT - I provide notebooking pages and activities for ALL ages (preschool - middle school), so the whole family can learn together.
  • Bind only the pages you want together into a music appreciation notebook for your child - great for portfolios and as a record of learning.

This video tour of SQUILT walks you through a typical volume in the series: 

Do you teach music appreciation in your home?  Are you a SQUILT user?   Leave me a comment below and talk to me about music in your homeschool. 


Finishing Our Homeschool Year STRONG!

How does a somewhat exhausted, mentally drained homeschool mom find the energy to finish the school year STRONG?

Oh, it's very easy to START the school year strong.

Finishing strong is another story. 

This year, as I sat and looked at the calendar for April and May, I realized  we have a lot to get through, but it's all GOOD, and (surprisingly) our whole family is energized for the final push towards the finish line. 

I don't feel like this part of the year has been as successful in past years, and I can pinpoint the reasons why. This year is just a different ballgame, and I'm actually looking forward to these last 4 weeks of school -- looking forward to FINISHING STRONG.


*This post contains affiliate links. 

Steps to Finishing Strong

  • Be organized:  We share a family calendar through our iPhones and this ensures that no one misses something

  • Get REST : This is especially important for MOM... our house closes shop around 9-10 each night!

  • Keep a Schedule and Commit to WORK:  Yes, I know that one of the benefits of homeschool is sometimes sleeping in, but with the volume of work my kids have right now, they are waking up to alarm clocks for the next few weeks. We work  from 8:30-3:00 (sometimes later for Anna) and stick to what is on the planner for each day. 

Finishing Strong in Foundations, Essentials, & Challenge

*One of the biggest benefits of our family being involved with Classical Conversations is the accountability and motivation it provides. I believe in the Classical model and appreciate having everything laid out as a GUIDE by CC. In the Challenge years, accountability to the tutor and peers is also extremely helpful. We are finishing strong because material is being learned until the very last day of class! 

In our homeschool this week we have enjoyed seeing all of the birds come back to their feeders on our deck. Grant works right by the deck windows and can tell each bird by their song. I LOVE THAT!  His math lesson each morning is punctuated by bird identification! 

He is working on memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution with the Preamble Scramble, and also reviewing all of the other areas of the memory work. We watched a video about the Okefenokee Swamp and the Olympic Rainforest.  We have also been reading out of the Kingfisher Book of Great Boy Stories each night. 

We've diagrammed our last week of sentences for Essentials and are reviewing our grammar charts.  Maybe you will think we're crazy, but Grant and I are going to MISS Essentials each Tuesday. I am so thankful for the gift of our tutor and how she makes grammar fun and engaging. 

Tinker Crate took center stage this week with a project about hydraulics. We LOVE the Tinker Crate!  With the 25% off sale going on right now it might be a good time for you to try it - I think it is a great summer learning activity for kids. 

Anna has three more weeks of  Challenge B and they are BUSY weeks. She is memorizing parts of the Periodic Table of Elements and completing an Adopt An Element project. She is also preparing for Mock Trial (what a HUGE undertaking, but much fun!), which has included extra study groups at the library. Finally, she is editing her short story and working on designing a cover and formatting the story. Somehow, in addition to her work, she is reading incessantly. She really enjoys reading about history, which prompted my post this week:  Historical Fiction for Teen Girls.

  • Give your kids an outlet - With everything that we need to complete, it is important that my kids have an outlet. Both of my them love music. Playing piano actually relaxes them (plus I know it's just great for them in so many areas). Grant also enjoys basketball, riding his bike, and just about anything outside. 

Music in Our Homeschool

I believe in giving my kids the gift of TIME so they can master things. Playing piano is something their dad and I want them to MASTER. Yes, we've had bumps in the road and times when they don't want to practice, but we persevere and we are seeing the fruits of that perseverance. 

Practicing daily is just a part of our homeschool routine, as is music theory.

Grant has been learning about Tchaikovsky a little more this week, using my SQUILT curriculum. We are working through Volume 3: Romantic Era, and he has been learning all about music of the Romantic Era. 

(If you use the discount code SCORE, you can receive 25% off any volume - or BUNDLE - of  SQUILT!)

  • Make Time for Fun : With all of the work (especially for my Challenge B student) required, the temptation would be to just buckle down and DO it and forget about everything else. With a teenager, however, having fun is  just good for the soul, plus it energizes her to get the rest of that work accomplished. 

Make Time For Fun In Your Homeschool

We did so many fun things in the past week! 

*  We took an afternoon and went bowling with our friend, Eddie.  And - no matter how you bowl - Eddie tells you it's awesome, and after a while you KNOW it's awesome because of the people you are with, not the score on the computer screen! We topped it off with shakes at Steak 'n Shake. 

* We went to a screening of  Beyond The Mask - what a wonderful, Christian movie! The theater was FULL of homeschoolers, many of them our Classical Conversations friends. One of our Challenge students was the theater captain, who was responsible for bringing the showing to our local theater.  (Of course, I could only snap a shot of Grant and his friend - it was hard to catch the Challenge kids long enough for a picture!)

* One day on the weekend was spent solely OUTSIDE - Grant had a friend over and they played baseball in the backyard the entire afternoon. Anna crept outside at one point and those kids were laughing so hard, just having fun together. We all enjoyed a great meal on the deck that evening and went to bed happy.

That was our VERY busy week in a nutshell. 

We are one more week closer to the end of our school year, and we are finishing STRONG.

Are you close to the end of your year?  Tell me about how you are finishing the year in the comments below! 


Join Me For #CollageFriday

Collage Friday

Feel free to grab this graphic (right click and save to your computer) and include it with your photo collage post. Use the widget below to add your post with photo collages for the week. Visit other bloggers in the link-up to gain ideas and offer encouragement and support.

The #CollageFriday community is my favorite place to be each Friday!