Wednesday, 16 November 2011

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

I love Ambleside Online's December hymn, How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds!  This accompaniment is piano/ organ, the way the church in which I was raised (Westminster PCA in Lancaster, PA) would have played it.

Here are the links:
My version, free MP3 download:
Cyber hymnal has the PDF & Midi File. (Thanks again for the Midi File!):

I couldn't find a You Tube version I was happy with.  This one is beautiful to listen to, but not best to sing along with since the singer changes the melody a bit:
This one is fine for singing, but a bit slow:
This one has a fun up-tempo arrangement:

Remember, I'm just a Mom & not perfect myself!  My recording is made for my family - I hope it's helpful to you, too.  Feel free to use it for personal, educational, or church use - but contact me if you would like to use if for anything else.

Thanks!  :)  Jen

Sunday, 30 October 2011

He Hideth My Soul (AO Hymn - November 2011)

Here is Ambleside Online's November 2011 hymn!  He Hideth My Soul is a hymn I remember singing every summer at Paisano, the Southern Baptist church camp my family has attended for at least 6 generations.  Compared to the operatic baritone leading a tabernacle full of people and accompanied by an organ and piano, I did not do this song justice - but I did my best with the basic recording equipment that I have!  Thanks again to CyberHymnal for use of their midi files (based on the public domain hymn score), which I edited for the accompaniment.

As usual, this recording is essentially public domain.  Feel free to use it for private, educational or church uses.  For any other uses, please contact me first.

Also, here is a link to a good You Tube version of this (with words!).  I still recommend printing & reading from the music, instead of relying on an overhead, since that builds music reading skills.  However, many busy moms don't have time or a passion about that.  Here it is:

Best wishes!
:)  Jen

LINK to Hymn:

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

Here is the link to my second hymn recording, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.  This is the hymn of the month for Ambleside Online October 2011.  Once again, thanks to Cyber Hymnal for their Midi file (which I of course edited so that it sounds a little more realistic.) I do wish I had a better microphone - with this one I sort of have to sing under my breath!  But, it will serve the purpose for now.  I do hope to upgrade eventually. 

I fell in love with the Anglican version of this song.  Who wouldn't?  So that's the version I'm recording.  If you live in the US, you might find it a little more difficult than your average hymn, simply because it goes all over the place.  But it truly is beautiful! 

Here are a few additional resources for this hymn.  I liked them so much I just had to share:
Katherine Jenkins on You Tube
Westminster Abbey on You Tube

Also, this month I'm adding a version without me singing - just the accompaniment, in case your family gets tired of singing along with me!

Link with me singing:

Link with just organ accompaniment:

Reminder, my recordings are essentially public domain - feel free to use them for private, educational or church use.  Please contact me if you would like to use them for anything else.  Thanks!  

Again, let me know if you would like to see additional harmonies or anything!  My kids are still small, so they're not quite ready for harmonies yet. 

Have fun!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

AO Hymns - He Leadeth Me

Here I am at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year and I have FINALLY started a project I had in mind for last year's school year!  What I'm doing is recording the hymns for the school year so that I can play them during our family worship time each morning.

Thanks to the Cyber Hymnal for use of their midi files, which I edited just to change the tempo & make fully piano (no organ) (Isn't it so nice that they let people use their files?!).  Then, I added my voice and voila!  Family hymn practice MP3s at no cost!

Here is the link to my homemade MP3 for He Leadeth Me.  Just download and you're set to go.  Please, no harsh comments - remember I'm just a Mom, not a professional (and my good microphone is packed away - we just moved)!  Also, as to copyright - I'm happy for others to use this recording of my voice for private, educational, or church use.  Beyond that, please contact me.  Thanks! 

Do let me know, however, if you would like to see more AO hymns, and if you're interested in more harmonies.  If this is popular, I'll keep it up and maybe expand the harmonies.  And if anyone is a great pianist & would like to provide real live piano recordings in the future, let me know!

Oh, I would also recommend printing out the sheet music for He Leadeth Me.  I suggest one copy per reading member of your family so everyone can follow along.  Here is the history, too, if you're interested. 

Link to MP3 He Leadeth Me (AO's hymn for September):

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

My Favorite Home Education Resources

For those of you who have asked...  here it is!  My favorite homeschooling resources! 

Best overall book (to see if you want to home educate):  When Children Love to Learn

Main curriculum site (I follow this to the letter where possible - though for some things you choose your own program, like math): (at least keep this on file for the excellent book lists)
(you can also read all of Charlotte Mason's books for free here, which I super highly recommend)

Free audio books:

Right Start Math (This is an EXCELLENT program!!!!!  If you use a different program, at least get the Math Games set for math facts practice, since flash cards turn most children off to math.): (We started slowly in level B in Kindergarten.)

Nature Study (4-6 hours a day outside in good weather for children 9 & under was Charlotte Mason's recommendation!):

Spanish: Rosetta Stone

Art resources:  (look at Sketch Tuesday, too)

I like how this mom does things:  (especially look at her early reading lessons!!)

Reading Lessons (your library might have this):

Phonics & Spelling (most comprehensive program out there, IMHO):

Science (not doing this quite yet, planning to start with Astronomy soon):

Free Handwriting Worksheets:

I recommend teaching children cursive first, for a multitude of reasons!  BUT get the teacher's manual for Handwriting Without Tears K for lots of hands-on ideas for introducing children to writing in a tactile manner.  I've not used the cursive first curriculum yet, but am planning to with my second child.  I didn't know how important it was to start with cursive when I did print with my first child, using Handwriting Without Tears. 
Cursive First:
Handwriting Without Tears:

Another great resource following Charlotte Mason's philosophy: (also has some great free e-books)

Good for the booklist:

Get books about musicians by Opal Wheeler at Zeezok Publisher, online.

Other good sites to see how they do things (not Charlotte Mason, though)
Veritas Press (classical -  I've heard good things about their reading program)

For ordering almost anything home school related:  Rainbow Resources (free shipping $150 + orders)

That's all, folks! 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Young Children's Praise of God

An encouraging reminder from Psalm 8.... 

"From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." 

I am in awe of the fact that God ordains praise from our very little children - even babies who cannot yet talk - and that this praise from the weakest of humans silences spiritual and human opponents to God! 

I don't understand how this works - but somehow our children have extremely strong spiritual strength in their trusting praises of God, even when we ourselves don't know whether or not they have a relationship with God. 

To me, this is wonderful motivation to surround them with Bible scripture and songs of praise to God - because somehow, they catch on and really join in - and it is powerful. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Scripture Memorization for Young Children

(This was a response to a question about the propriety of scripture memorization for young children on the Ambleside Year 0 Yahoo Group.)  

Bible memorization is great for young children! 

The Bible is clear that it is our responsibility, as parents, to fill our children's lives with scripture.  Deuteronomy 6:5-10 says:
5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

I can't think of any better way than these verses to express just how much we are to inundate our Children with scripture!  Naturally, humans will not tend toward God or the things of God.  This is why we must teach our children about God.  This includes memorizing scriptures ("tie them... on your hands and bind them on your foreheads").  Passing on the Word of God is one way we prove that we love God. 

One thing I've noticed is that Bible memorization actually makes my children think more deeply about God.  My 6 year old son often asks me questions about the verses we're memorizing, such as "what does (this particular phrase) mean?"  And my 4 year old just thinks and thinks about things without necessarily saying much about them, but I know he is pondering. 

We use a lot of motions when we memorize verses.  I find this makes the experience more appropriate for young children, as they often learn through motions.  We just finished Psalm 8 with my 6 year old and 4 year old.  For instance, the first verse went like this:

Lord our Lord (point to sky, since God & Jesus reign in Heaven)
How majestic is your name (spread hands in front of us to show something amazing/majestic)
In all the earth. (make a large round earth shape with our arms)
You have set your glory (big burst above our heads with our hands to show "glory")
Above the heavens (point upwards with both hands)

We do similar motions when we learn hymns, too. 

We memorize in the NIV, since that's the most widely used translation.  However, we usually read our daily morning Bible reading from the KJV for literary purposes (and we do an easy Bible storybook at night so that even the 2 year old can understand what's going on.) 

Charlotte Mason did not recommend large quantities of memorization for the young.  She also recommended learning it somewhat differently - just reading and re-reading the passage until the child picked it up.  This reading would take place while the child was doing something else - for instance, playing quietly, eating a meal, etc.  Many people on this list have tried this method with success.  So, this is a method you could try if you like. 

As to quantity - we usually learn one verse from a passage every week.  Then we add another the following week, and review the part of the passage we've already learned.  If they're really short, I'll do 2 a week.  We work on this M-F mornings just after breakfast. 

We're also learning the children's catechism.  So, really, we do Bible verses one week, and switch to catechism the next, and back to Bible verses the following.  Catechism requires a lot of explaining about God! 

I do like learning a longer passage (such as a short Psalm or the Christmas passage from Luke) because when you take weeks & weeks to learn it, and keep reviewing all the verses, they really stick!  If you choose to do shorter verses to start (which would be fine, especially with ages 3-5), just make sure to review often. 

Speaking of ages 3-5:  You can try memorization at this age, but no need to push it.  If they are resistant in any way, you might do more harm than good.  Some 3 year olds might not be ready for such a lesson-ish thing.  On the other hand, it doesn't hurt to try, since they might enjoy it - especially with the motions.  I did not start until my oldest was 5.  And I just recently asked my 4 year old to join in saying things out loud (he was just listening before, or running off to play).  I feel confident that this is appropriate for both of them - but you really have to know your children to know if requiring this of them is appropriate.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Treasure Hunting with The Burgess Flower Book for Children

A significant part of a good Charlotte Mason education consists of large quantities of outdoor time, especially for children ages nine and under.  So, here we are, just barely out of winter and I am dancing in the rain (literally)!  My kids and I spent a good two hours outside today, half of which was in the rain.  Charlotte Mason recommends 2-3 hours a day in poor weather, 4-6 in good weather.  Hard to attain!

Now that spring has (barely) arrived, I've decided to go treasure hunting with my kids, ages 6, 4 & 2. What for?  Good question.  Flowers, via The Burgess Flower Book for Children (BFBC).  My oldest son *loves* anything written by Thornton W. Burgess.  It seems to be the only avenue into nature study down which he will voluntarily venture with me.  I feel like otherwise I'm dragging him away from his soccer ball or other game.  He's not often interested in looking closely at nature on his own.  (With his Dad he will - and I'm grateful for that!  But Dad's not always available.) 

But today was a different story.  Today we started by reading the first chapter in BFBC.  It was about Peter Rabbit discovering the first flower of spring (the skunk cabbage flower!).  As usual, my son really enjoyed the chapter.  We even looked up more pictures of the skunk cabbage online, and he drew the outline of one for part of his beginning to draw lessons.

Then, I took my two sons (ages 6 & 4) outside for a creek tramp to see if we could find the flower Peter Rabbit found.  According to the book, they like wet, swampy areas such as low-lying edges of creeks or spring sites.  Fortunately, there is a creek in our back yard that extends north into a wilderness area of an adjoining park.  So, after 45 minutes of searching (and playing), we (I) found it!  I was completely elated.  I felt like an explorer discovering a treasure chest full of gold!

Previously I had had no idea if we even had skunk cabbage near us, and it was probably no more than 300 yards away from our house (though it takes awhile to get there with boys that age - and when you're scouring the ground for something quite small).  What we found was no more than 6 inches wide and 4 inches across, and probably no more than 3-4 inches high.  It blended in nicely with the decaying leaves around it, and honestly, we almost stepped on it.  Here it is:

Skunk Cabbage spathe containing yellow flowers

Beautiful, isn't it?  We took the book's word that if you get really close it smells like a skunk!  It's interesting that this is the first flower of spring, and that it is so very protected by the hood (spathe) that the flowers can survive the frosts of February. A more in-depth description is here:
Skunk Cabbage flowers on yellow spadix
While we were heading back, I challenged my boys:  "I was the one who found that.  Do you think you will be able to look closely enough to find the flower before Mommy next time?"  They looked at me with twinkles in their eyes.

Later, I asked my elder son as I was kissing him goodnight:  "Do you think you would like to keep reading The Burgess Flower Book and go treasure hunting to find the flowers?"  He looked at me with a very contented, loving smile, and nodded his head.  That's when I knew he had really enjoyed the afternoon (even though I sort of made them do it).

I'm looking forward to more treasure hunts. 

(PS:  Too bad The Burgess Flower Book for Children doesn't seem to be available free online anywhere!  It may not be public domain yet.  Used copies aren't cheap, but are available.  There is also a reprint available.)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Charlotte Mason and Spell to Write and Read

Wanda Sanseri (author of Spell to Write and Read) & Charlotte Mason have several elements in common in their theories: 

They both believe(d) reading & spelling should be taught at the same time. 
They both believe(d) children should draw the words out of their mind and write them down, in the process of learning how to read & spell. 
They both believe(d) quality literature should be used hand-in-hand with reading work. 

Where they differ is in *how* the children get those words out of their minds.  Charlotte Mason believed that the child should "see the word in his mind's eye" and then write it from what they have "visualized".  Sanseri believes that children should be able to sound out the word by the phonetic sounds, one sound at a time, and write it from what they have sounded out - more of an "auditory" method. 

An additional researcher, Nanci Bell, has put another piece in place - that children who successfully learn to read can actually visualize the phonetic sounds as they sound out words, and then the children write the word.  This, to me, ties together Charlotte Mason & Sanseri, visual & auditory components. 

So, I personally don't find Spell to Write and Read as out of line with Charlotte Mason's recommendations as some might at first glance.  In fact, in light of all the additional research which has been done since Charlotte Mason's time, and the findings that phonetic-based reading lessons are highly effective (more so than whole-word, in most studies), I personally think that Spell to Write and Read is a helpful supplement to a Charlotte Mason education. 

I asked Wanda about these differences on the Spell to Write and Read Yahoo group, and here are her answers, which I found very helpful:

Dear Jen,

Q. Your program (which, by the way, I'm using with very good success with my first child who is 6 - so thank you!) assumes that when we spell words, we hear them or sound them out to spell them. However, what about children who are not strong auditory learners? Is it possible that there are some children who would do
best to close their eyes, visualize the letters in their brain, and draw those down to the paper (rather than the sounds)?

A. This is a great question. I can personally speak for the visual learners. I was a strong visual learner with very weak auditory skills. I had no phonics instruction growing up. I learned English, French, and German by letter names and visual appearance. Without my visual memory, I would have been lost. However, total reliance on visual cues handicapped me and kept me from my full potential in high school and college. I was ahead of most of my peers with the same limitations but amazed by the seeming genius of people that I met in college who were trained with a phonics foundation.

Sadly most educators today teach spelling by sight alone. I compare that to that transportation by unicycle. Balancing on one wheel takes more energy, training, and intense concentration. Selecting that mode of travel unnecessarily restricts those who can ride. A four wheel vehicle can reach the needs of a wider audience. The less agile, even the lame, can come on board.

We teach spelling using all four "wheels" (hearing, saying, writing, and reading) plus logical analysis. In so doing, we can open language skills to all learning styles and IQ levels.

Q. Charlotte Mason believed in visualization of the words "in your mind's eye" before spelling them out (so, compared with your first statement, she would say "When we spell words, we see them in our mind's eye
first"). She, also, believed in background phonogram work. But when it came to the actual reading lessons, she used a whole-word approach.

Is there any research which shows the answer to this question?

A. Whole-word instruction consistently delivers a weaker outcome, even for the visual learners. The National Advisory Council on Adult Education reports, "Since 1911, a total of 124 studies have compared look-say approaches with phonics-first programs. Not one found look-say superior. The research director of the Reading Reform Foundation reviewed 36 studies and her team concluded that rigorous controlled research clearly favors teaching all the main sound-sumbol relationships from the start of formal reading instruction. Such teaching benefits comprehension as well as vocabulary and spelling. Phonetic groups are usually superior in grades 3 and above." Some strong visual learners appear to excel with beginning level words but visual alone does not support the added needs of a growing vocabulary. These findings totally match my experience in my own learning as well as with the students that I have had to joy of teaching and the students of teachers that I have taught.

Q. Is it an auditory, or visual process?

The ideal language approach is to strengthen all the senses in concert. Language is a skill that needs to progress to the most automatic subconscious level. When we teach with all four areas at the same time, we help each learner draw from his greatest strength while building up his weaker areas. I am no longer just a visual learner. I am playing catch up for all that I missed years ago. My visual ability is stronger than ever but it enjoys the support of the other senses. Aren't you glad?


Wanda Sanseri
Author of Spell to Write and Read