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We have been immersing ourselves in the Middle Ages for a little over a week now, and I am really loving how it is growing and evolving. Not only have we been learning about the history of Europe, but we have picked up on a few other learning opportunities as well. We started out with a huge stack of books, which was a little intimidating at first, but is turning out to be a great experience.

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We began with an overview of the time period of the Middle Ages, the general state of the world as a whole at that time, and the geography of Europe both during that time and present day. Brody started off his journal with a fun illustration, what he already know about the topic, and a map.

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We are beginning our study with the history of the church in Europe by reading Kathryn Hinds’ The Church (Life in the Middle Ages). Each day we read from it together and then utilize what we have read about for a journal entry (or two, or none, depending on the content and the day).

Here is an example of a dictation exercise. I selected a passage from our reading and reread it aloud to Brody while he wrote it down (in print). Then we looked back over it and made any spelling, punctuation, or grammar corrections that were necessary. Any misspelled words got circled, and any punctuation or grammar errors were discussed. Then he re-wrote the corrected passage in cursive, and we used the misspelled words (plus a few extra words that he chose from the text) as spelling and vocabulary words.

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On these pages he wrote out a meat pie recipe that he researched (and then insisted that we make and eat!) and jotted down information about an impromptu lesson on Roman numerals that we decided to do when Brody’s interest was piqued.

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And lastly, we have a vocabulary page with words that we took note of during our reading (so that we can work on spelling and vocabulary without being tied to dictation) and a little study on personification in poetry from the lyrics of a hymn that were a part of our reading (in relation to St. Francis of Assisi).

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That is it for this week, but I look forward to what is to come and I am glad you are following along with our little journey!

After our last baby was born, we took a break from our schooling activities to get settled in as a family of six. Since we started back up again, I had been feeling disenchanted with how it was going. We were getting things done, checking off what needed to be, but not living or loving our learning.

As I’m sure it is for every homeschooling family, our journey has been a bit of an evolutionary process. We have tried different techniques and approaches, some which have been more or less successful than others, and have varied the way that we learn while sticking with the Core Knowledge curriculum. I love Core Knowledge, I feel like the quality and quantity of information that it has to offer is exactly what our family is looking for in a curriculum. In addition, they have a very content rich website to support their products as well as many resources (both free and paid) available. All that said, something just wasn’t working right for us. And then it hit me. We weren’t homeschooling in the way that I had imagined it when we began this journey. We were doing school at home. I felt like we were just mimicking what the kids would be experiencing in a classroom environment, and it wasn’t benefiting any of us (despite all of the checking of boxes that was happening). Then I realized that I wanted to transform how we were learning, and come at it from an entirely new angle.

I wanted to move away from the textbook and worksheet feel of what we were doing. I wanted to immerse ourselves in what we were learning, not just to learn it but to feel it and experience it and open ourselves up to whatever opportunities that may bring. So I shifted my focus to literature (which was an easy choice because Brody is a voracious reader), and the concept of unit studies (with some loosely adapted Charlotte Mason ideas and techniques). It was a eureka moment for me. It just made so much sense for us to look at each topic as a whole and explore every aspect of it (history, art, science, language arts, music, grammar, etc.) at a time. Then that would afford us the opportunity to take our time to experience and absorb it all together, which I expect will help with both comprehension and retention.

I did some research and wasn’t able to find any information linking Core Knowledge and unit studies, so I figured I would just need go from the ground up. Using the Core Knowledge Sequence as a backbone, I determined where we needed to go next. I chose to use a chronological rearrangement of the history topics (fully realizing this will throw off what “grade” we’re in, but I’m ok with that–although three years ago me would not be!). The next step was to explore all of the cross curricular connections within the topics, so we could tie the unit together as a whole. I found resource lists in the Core Knowledge Teacher’s Handbook, as well as E.D. Hirsch’s Books To Build On. A search of each book on Goodreads and Amazon opened the door to many more related resources, and I was able to build a solid list of quality literature for us to explore. From there, I was able to search for activity ideas to complement aspects of what we’d be covering. Instead of worksheets and pre-made activities, I wanted something open ended and creative. I decided to use a composition book to document our journey (I realize I have used that word many times already, but it just feels so fitting for the process). We can fill it with anything and everything as we progress, and at the end have a tangible resource that the kids can thumb back through or use for reference later on down the road (like those handy lapbooks that they still love!). And that brought me to the point where I felt like I had a solid plan to move forward with.

We are currently beginning our exploration of Europe during the Middle Ages, and I will post more on that soon!

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