Category Archives: Homeschool

Classical Conversations Orchestra Cycle 3

Classical Conversations Orchestra

I say this every year, but . . . . I really ENJOY the Orchestra 6-weeks of CC! If you need some ideas for things to do in class or to expand on things outside of class, I’ve got some suggestions! I’m always on the look out for new ideas myself, so please feel free to share yours in the comments below!

Activities for Class

Orchestra-ImageIf you’re a tutor out there who is stressing about this particular portion of the year, I’ll give you my layman’s two cents (and empathize with you . . . Tin Whistle is the hardest for me!): Don’t get bogged down in whether or not you love the music, or whether or not the children do. You’re task is largely the same with the Orchestra as it is with any other subject – teach (and drill) the grammar.

Introduce the time period, explain what a symphony is, what an orchestra is, what the instrument families are (more on all of this below). Then spend some time listening for those things you’ve discussed in the musical pieces (what kind of emotion do you hear? what instrument families? etc.).

Melody from has a great song (with video) and file folder game for reinforcing the different musical periods.  I also like to put something up on the wall in the classroom and make sure we tie the musical periods back to their place in our timeline (it’s a good time to pull those particular timeline cards out again), and a picture of each composer as we discuss him (my picture above is from Cycle 2). We’ll review those things each week and then build on that knowledge. If it’s at all helpful to you, you’re welcome to download and print off my “Period Headers” and pictures of composers here

Bulletin Board and Wall ideas for teaching about the Orchestra. CC Weeks 19-24

When I first started tutoring, I purchased a bulletin board set with nice pictures of the instruments. While I recognize that this might not be entirely in keeping with the “stick-in-the-sand” method of CC (which I do truly respect and generally try to adhere to), having these visuals has worked well for me. The particular set that I have is large, and the sheets can be left as 4 large posters, or they’re made to do some accordion folding. I choose just to slap them up on the wall in our classroom (or at home) each week. They get the kids’ attention and make the Orchestra study different from the other studies. I think I paid $12 or $13 for this set in a Parent/Teacher store somewhere and this is the fourth year I’ll use it. It’s definitely been worth it to me to have it around!

In teaching Orchestra I will spend time each week talking about the instrument families (If you’re looking for more information on instrument families, this website has a great overview to give you information to share with you kids!). We will cover one family each week. Our community learns the Orchestra song in our assembly time in the morning and we add an instrument each week, so I sync our class time up with our assembly time – Week 19: Violin (Introduce all 4 families and focus on the Strings), Week 20: Clarinet (Woodwinds), Week 21: Trumpet (Brass), Week 22: The Horn (Review Brass), Week 23: Drum (Percussion). We’ll use the posters above to assist us as we discuss the instrument families, and we’ll also use these worksheets I’ve created to reinforce some of the facts about the instrument families:

FUN worksheets for learning (or reinforcing) facts about the instrument families. CC Weeks 19-24

I like to play Bingo with the Instrument Families for at least the first week (Week 19) of Orchestra. It’s popular, so we usually play it again during the review weeks (Weeks 23 and 24) if there is time available. It’s a great way for kids to get familiar with the instruments and their families.  I downloaded a black and white version off CC Connected a couple of years ago, but I prefer the version that I’m using this year. It’s color, and the images are labeled with the names of the instruments, so it reinforces the names and cuts down on confusion. I downloaded it here.

Once we’ve reviewed the orchestra, our vocabulary, and the instrument families, we’ll talk about that week’s composer and add his picture to the wall. Classical Music for Dummies has some great information about the composer and the timer period in which he composed. I often tell people that I underutilized this book the first year or two that I tutored. It’s not just informative about the composer and the piece of music . . . it also has lots of GREAT information in the back section on the instrument families and it’s presented in a really approachable and interesting way. I also like to use the books I’ve included in the “Books” section below to add more information and visuals to our few minutes discussing the composer.

When it comes to time to listen to the music, I REALLY appreciate the CC moms who put the listening flow charts together and post them on CC Connected each year. This is when I’m thankful to have my “Classical Music for Dummies” CD ripped and loaded on my iPhone, so I can play the songs and watch the time to see where we are in the piece. It helps me to engage the children in class if I can say, “Okay, listen for the . . .  (ex:”Oboe to start playing”, “the strings to all come in”, “the horn to start crying”, etc.)” And, it’s helpful to have moms in class with the younger ones to point to where we are on the flowchart (I usually print enough copies for there to be one for every two children to share). Some pieces of music lend themselves really well to this. Others lend themselves better to just listening quietly and drawing/coloring a picture of what the music makes you think of or feel like. There’s usually a sheet for this out on CC Connected, as well, usually with a little bio of the composer, but of course a blank piece of paper works fine, too. In years past, I’ve also taken paint sticks or large popsicle sticks and cut crepe paper streamers to tape/glue to them and we’ve whirled and twirled to music that had that feel to it.

If time permits, and things are going well, we might listen to a piece (or a portion of a piece) more than once. When a piece has very distinct sections played by certain instrument families, it can be fun to hand out popsicle stick “puppets” of the instruments and ask the children to raise the family that they hear (this can range from easy to very tough . . . and can be quite funny when the pieces get complex!).


Well, if you’ve been spending ANY time on this blog at ALL, you already know that I love the books from the “Getting to Know” series by Mike Venezia. Seriously, I should be paid for my endorsement at this point. But alas, I am not. I just really, really like these books and think they work BEAUTIFULLY for Foundations age kids. Particularly the preschool/elementary ones, but these books are meaty enough to work on up into middle and high school; they’re just easy to read. I actually like to take them to class with me when I tutor. The facts are interesting and some of the pictures are helpful to the more visual kids. They’re a great supplement to the information in Classical Music for Dummies.

Wonderful book for learning about Tchaikovsky  Wonderful book for teaching children about Stavinsky

Sadly, there is no book on Debussy in the “Getting to Know” series (Get on that, Mike!), and I haven’t had any luck finding another book that would appeal to children.

This is a great book (with CD included) for learning about the Orchestra. It also touches on the different musical periods, so it dovetails nicely with how we cover the Orchestra in CC.

Great book (and accompanying CD) for learning about the Orchestra. CC Weeks 19-24

CD’s/MP3 downloads and Videos

I really like this entire series of CDs (you can also download the MP3 files). They’re inexpensive, and they mix the biography in with the music of the composer in a way that makes it really easy to listen to. You can treat it like an audio book and pay rapt attention to the narrator with the biography, or it’s fairly easy to just focus on the music and tune out the spoken word, if you prefer. These can be nice to have playing in the background while your children are playing or working on school work at home. You can pick up an awful lot of information (and hear a lot of classical music!) that way.For this cycle, Tchaikovsky is the only composer this series covers.

Excellent resource for learning about Tchaikovsky


This series is also wonderful. Again, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is the only piece represented (the series does cover a different piece of Stravinky’s)

Fun resource for learning about classical music!

Of course, the classic way to teach children about the different instruments in the orchestra is via some version of Peter and the Wolf, composed by Prokofiev. My favorite version of this is the one narrated by Sting.

My favorite version of this composition! The classic way to expose children to the different instruments in an orchestra. CC Weeks 19-24.

Fun book for learning about the different instrument families!Three years ago, I discovered The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket, which I actually like more than Peter and the Wolf for actually explaining the instruments in the orchestra to children. It’s got a lot of dry humor (much of which goes over children’s heads, but adults will find amusing), and does a great job of introducing the orchestra. I’m a VERY visual person, and I’ve got to tell you that the book that accompanies the CD did nothing for me. I think the CD or MP3 files stand on their own just fine, but I’ve had pretty much no luck locating them for purchase by themselves. I’ll include a link to the book here at Amazon so you can see the reviews or look at it for yourself, but I was also able to find a series of youtube videos that someone created using the book and the audio. You can access my playlist of them here.

Games and Apps

The New York Philharmonic website has an entire area for kids that is AWESOME! Definitely check it out and explore. Here are two games from this site that you definitely won’t want to miss:

  • Sort the musical instruments by family:
  • A classic “memory” game with musical instrument images. Nice thing about this one is that the images are labeled and when you flip the cards they play, so you experience the sound of each instrument. Brilliant!

Carnegie Hall has also created an online Safari adventure for learning about the orchestra.

At this website you must correctly answer the questions about the instrument families or your ship will be sunk! 

At this website you can listen to a sample of music and guess which instrument performed it.

This is just another good all around website. It has games and uses Benjamin Britten’s Young People’s Guide to the Orchestra to illustrate the sounds of the different instrument families.

This is a free iPad app for learning about the Orchestra:

Classical Conversations Statistics Labs from Cycle 3

Elementary Statistics Labs

We are entering Weeks 19-24 of Classical Conversations Cycle 3. ThAwesome ideas for teaching kids about statistics!is is the second time I’ve been through this cycle, and I have a better appreciation for the Statistics Labs. For the youngest, the abecedarians, this will probably be their first exposure to tally marks and making charts. I realized, having experienced with my own daughter, how much easier this made some of our math lessons a year after we were actually done with this cycle. Many of the concepts taught in these labs are challenging to our Foundations-age students (and their mothers!), but if we’ll slow down, try not to get intimidated, and take the time to try and understand them, these labs are great exposure to the grammar of basic statistics.

This time around, I’m more determined than I was last time to make them meaningful for my students at CC and for my kiddos at home. I thought I’d share with you some of the resources that I’ve found for expanding on the labs that we’ll be doing during our CC Community days.

For those of you on CC Connected who might find them helpful, I’ll be uploading the lab sheets that I’ve created for these weeks in the next few days.


Younger Students

Wonderful book for teaching young children about probability!I’ve found some awesome books for making statistics concepts approachable for even the youngest of our students! My favorite is “probably” It’s Probably Penny. The first few pages do an EXCELLENT job of teaching the concepts of the Week 23 lab in a way that works well for elementary age students.

These three books are also fun books for elaborating on the concepts of probability (although I will warn you that the last of these, A Very Improbable Story uses the terms probability and odds interchangeably, as do many of us, while mathematically that is incorrect. I had to work pretty hard to get these two term and their use straight in my head in preparation for these labs, so I did stumble on that in this otherwise entertaining and educational book):

Great elementary age book about probability!  Entertaining book about probability for elementary-aged kids!  An entertaining way to learn about odds and probability for children

This video covers Mean, Median, and Mode. Honestly, I found it a little annoying, but the aspects that annoyed me may very well be what help it stick in a child’s head.

If you prefer something musical (and who doesn’t?), there are multiple versions of this little diddy out there, but this is one of the more creative recordings. It teaches the concept of “Range,” which isn’t covered in our CC labs, but it’s still a very handy way of remembering the basic definitions of these terms. Here’s the poem:

Hey Diddle Diddle,

the Median’s the middle.

You add, then divide for the Mean.

The Mode is the one

that you see the most,

and the Range is the difference between.


Older Students

If your kids would like a fun rap song to help them with understanding Mean, Median and Mode, this one absolutely fits that bill!

If your child is ready to expand on their knowledge of statistics (or you are), but still wants it to be fun, both of these books contain some great information about statistics, but present it in fun ways. I’ll bet a few of you out there have a child who will read anything as long as it involves a comic-book/graphic-novel approach (I do!). Start with the first one – The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics, and if that isn’t meaty enough, or your child is ready for even more, try The Cartoon Guide to Statistics (which is like a college course, but with cartoons).

A fun book for older elementary kids to learn about statistics!  Cartoons make learning about statistics fun!

The following video (see link below) is a little too complex for all but the oldest (or most mathematically-oriented) of our Foundations-level students, but it is basically a class on probability done in a very conversational and approachable way. The kids in the video are pretty adept at mental math, which might even inspire a few students to embrace math with more gusto.

There are also some good courses available at Khan Academy for learning about probability and statistics.


I know this isn’t the end of the good resources for these subjects out there, so please share in the comments if you have other suggestions! I’d love to hear them!

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. for kids

About two weeks ago, our family went to the local art museum. We were there primarily to see an exhibit of Norman Rockwell’s work, but also on display was an exhibit that highlighted art by some of our country’s African American artists.

We wandered through this exhibit first, and as we went along, we came to this piece.

Duck Duck Noose by Gary Simmons (1992)

Neither of my children (5 and 7) understood the piece at all. And so, I found myself in the middle of a museum trying to explain to my children how people can choose to judge each other entirely by the outside appearance rather than by looking at the heart. Truth be told, I started explaining, but started tearing up about it (somehow having children has turned me into a really easy crier). I was EXTREMELY thankful that my husband was with us on this particular day because he took one look at me trying to breathe deeply (lest I become a true weepy mess, which NONE of us wanted. Trust me.) and just picked up where I had trailed of. So, between the two of us, we talked about racism and the Klu Klux Klan and how horribly wrong it is to make assumptions about people based on what they look like.

My 5 year old looked up at us and asked “What color are WE?”

It was one of those rare FANTASTIC parenting moments where I thought we’d done something right. That’s EXACTLY what I would have chosen for him to have asked.

He looked down at his arm and thought for a second and said “Are we white . . . you know, white-ish?”

So, I explained to him that if we had to check a box on a form, we’d probably check the “white” box. I was in the middle of following that up with something deep and meaningful when he said:

“Yay! We’re white!”

(and for about a second I wanted to die)

And then he said:

“They [meaning the KKK] couldn’t do anything like that to us, right?”

And then, I just REALLY wanted to cry.

Obviously, more discussion was required. It’s a hard thing to explain to a 5 year old that “couldn’t” and “probably wouldn’t” are not the same thing and that just choosing to disagree with people who use violence as their means of settling arguments might make you a target regardless of your skin color. And of course, just because someone might not treat us as badly as someone else, it’s still just wrong in the first place, and not something we want to celebrate having been spared. That kind of violence just shouldn’t happen in the first place.

It was one of those days when you know that your children’s view of the world has expanded and changed . . . a lot. And it makes you sad on some levels, because you know that the world the way they knew it before that experience was much more innocent and straight-forward (and color-blind). And yet, it’s important to develop empathy and to begin to understand that life continues to be about choices and about how we choose to treat one another. That’s not something reserved just for childhood.

So, even though we watched Martin Luther King Jr’s speech during the 1963 March on Washington last year on this day, this year it meant even more to me and more to my children, and my husband joined us on the couch as we watched. And we talked about how ordinary people can choose to make a difference. And about how no human being (save one, and He died on a cross 2000 years ago) is perfect, but there ARE such things as heroes, and the people who deserve that title are the ones who do the hard stuff and make the world a better place.

And now, since I’m all about a good book, here’s the one we read today. Do read the reviews. There’s a shadowy drawing of a man who has been lynched. If you have very young children or aren’t ready to get into that kind of detail, this may not be the right book for you. It is a very informative book about the Civil Rights movement in general and written in a very straight-forward style.





Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 9

CC Week 9

We got to go to our local children’s science center this week. To be honest, I wasn’t actually thinking in advance about how well their “Space” section fit in with what we were covering in CC, but it sure worked out perfectly! It was very cool to see the relative size of the planets on a larger scale and see lots of facts about them, the sun and the stars. It was just an excellent tie-in to the science grammar we’re covering in CC . . . reinforcing and adding to those memory pegs!

Science Grammar

Our cup overrunneth with ways to expand on this week’s Science Grammar! I’ll keep my suggestions to a minimum since there really is SO much stuff out there on the planets.

We were lucky enough a year or so ago to stumble upon a solar system mobile kit at a thrift store for about $3. It’s a lot like the one below (and yet, old enough that it included Pluto as a planet). My husband and son had SO much fun painting it and putting it together. It hung in his room until it got knocked down, but it’s still on display hanging down in the kids’ basement “play area” (or the dungeon, as I sometimes like to refer to it). The glow-in-the-dark paint in our thrift store kit had pretty much dried up. It was the only thing in the kit not in brand new condition. But the “glow” is a MUST with one of these, so whether you buy one, or just create one yourself (I doubt that it would be that hard to do . . . I just am much more likely to put it together from a kit!), be sure and get one with glow-in-the-dark paint, or plan to pick up a bottle separately!

Product Details

About that same time, we checked this book out from the library and my son LOVED it. We renewed it as many times as we were allowed (meaning we had it for over 2 months!) and have checked it out once or twice since then.

This video is a good overview of the Solar System, probably best for younger children (8 and under):

This video is very simple and just shows the rotation of the planets around the Sun, but it’s very interesting to see the different speed at which each moves:

Most of us are probably using a song in our CC communities to help our kids remember the names of the planets, but there are several versions out there on youtube:

And then here is one more book:

A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky   -             By: Michael Driscoll

I realized that there are a lot of Solar System puzzles out there, and I was thinking we would add one to our collection around here. The one below looks like exactly what I’d like – planet names, relative size, and in the proper

order, but I don’t love this price. If you happen to see one that’s a better price, let me know!

Product Details



This week, I created a Skip Counting Maze for the 15s. You can download it by clicking on the image to the right.

Also, posting the skip counting numbers on the stairs was a GREAT success and I’ve been trying to figure out somewhere else that I can post the 15’s this week, just to shake things up a bit. We’ll go back to the stairs for either the Squares or the Cubes in a future week, but for this week I’m actually going to tape down the 15s in my kitchen in a hopscotch pattern. My kids LOVE hopscotch.  I’ve tried using hopscotch in my CC class in the past, but it usually either 1) takes to long to let everyone have a turn or 2) the kids get a little too crazy with it. I think here at home we might be able to control it a little better (and if we don’t, it won’t make our “class” run too long!).


There is a wonderful video that shows Versailles at the following link. There’s also a good biography to read. If you let the video play on through, there are actually 6 videos about Louis XIV (each separated from the next by and ad). Or, you can click the link on the right under the video that says “watch more videos” and pick and choose which of the 6 you’d like to watch.  WARNING: The second video, “Louis XIV-Marriage” contains some discussion that may not be appropriate for children. You’ll definitely want to preview it first.

There are also good videos at that same website about Peter the Great and Henry VIII, but since the Age of Absolute Monarchs is largely known for how the monarchs abused their power, were promiscuous and used violence as a means to an end, you will definitely want to preview these first! If you have young children, they probably work better as a 2 minute history refresher for you as a parent, rather than as something you’ll want to watch with them. Your call. I’m thinking in my house we’ll wait until we get to the Challenge level to get into some of these details.

It’s HARD to find books and videos to expand on this particular history sentence for younger kids! Here are a couple that do actually look good for Elementary age kiddos:

Product Details   

Tin Whistle (Music Theory)

Last week, I gave you a few Apps for reviewing the notes.  This week, I’d like to give you a cute online game for doing that. I think I got better at note recognition by playing this one!


Music Theory GamesAlso, I LOVED the idea of the relay game from this pin on my Tin Whistle Pinterest Board so much, that I made up my own (you can download it by clicking the image on the right).  We haven’t played it in class yet, but hopefully we will sometime this next week, and in the meantime, we’ll be playing it at home. It’s a wonderful reinforcement of both the Tin Whistle section of CC and of what my children have been learning in their piano class, as well.  Actually, that reminds me of a game my children’s piano teacher has been playing with them that dovetails with Tin Whistle beautifully: “Beethoven, May I?”  She has the children line up on one side of the room. Either she plays Beethoven and one of them does. Beethoven stands across the room from the players. Each player mush ask Beethoven if they may move a quarter note (1 step), a half note (2 steps), a whole note (4 steps), an eighth note (1/2 a step), or some combination of those. The goal is to be the first to reach Beethoven. We’ve played this at home in our kitchen where we have square tiles and it works wonderfully! Each square is a quarter note, so we all know exactly how far to step. My children have LOVED it! The especially love when I play as a contestant and one of them gets to be Beethoven and rig the game so that only the kids win. It gives me a chance to try and beat them with more complicated combinations of notes, which just gives them more opportunities to think about the note value (and what an excellent math lesson, too!). Kudos to their piano teacher for a great game. I highly recommend it!

And now, I’ll leave you with one last picture from our trip to the science center. I have absolutely NO idea what these poses have to do with the arch they built, but I am pretty sure it will end up someday in an internet photo collection that causes people to laugh and wonder what kind of family these poor children were from.

Crazy Kids

This post is linked to:
Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood


Classical Conversations Cycle 2 . . . ummmmm, wait . . . FALL BREAK!

Classical Conversations Tin Whistle
At the Symphony Hall

At the Symphony Hall to hear Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid

Tin Whistle

While we’ve been on break this week, I did a little browsing around for new (and fun!) ways to teach and reinforce the music theory that we’re learning during the 6 weeks of Tin Whistle at CC. Our CC Community just started Tin Whistle this past week, so we have 5 more weeks to go. I’ll be honest, Tin Whistle is not my favorite part of CC. I actually don’t mind the music theory, although I would NEVER, seriously NEVER, call myself particularly proficient in this area.  Really, what I am is a great APPRECIATOR of music.  Pre-kids we had season tickets to the Symphony for a couple of years.  Once our daughter arrived, we realized that we didn’t want the rare occasion on which we got out of the house and left the baby behind to always be spent at the symphony. When you’re not getting enough sleep, it doesn’t matter how much you like music or what they play . . . just sitting still for that long will put you to sleep.  A couple of weeks ago, we reached a real milestone, and decided our kiddos were old enough to go to the Symphony WITH us. We had an AMAZING family outing and REALLY enjoyed ourselves (although, admittedly, my son took a nap through one of the pieces, but in his defense, the entire event started at his bedtime). And, just because we had one good night, I don’t think we’ll be buying season tickets for the whole family anytime soon. Anyway, I really, really love the 6 weeks during which we cover Orchestra in CC. That “Music Appreciation” time of the year is much more my speed.  But, I do learn more about music theory every year when we go through the Tin Whistle section, and (hopefully!!!!!) I get a little better at teaching it, too.

I created a Pinterest board to keep all the things that I’ve found that might be a great addition to the Tin Whistle section at CC or at home. You can find it here –
Follow My Favorite Kind of Crazy CC Fine Arts: Tin Whistle on Pinterest
I also love all of the resources that Brandy at has pulled together!


I discovered that a CC mom has put together some great looking geography cards.  These look like they might be another very helpful way to review Geography, and I went ahead and purchased them (download is $5 and goes toward funding their upcoming adoption of three children from Africa):


And finally, just for fun, if you happen to be on break yourself from your CC Community (or not) and you’re just really craving seeing some science experiments in action, here is a great video in which Grover does 5 Science Experiments.  I really, really love Grover.


This post was linked-up at:
Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 7

Children reading in a living room fort

One more great week of CC in the books!


There are three very simple games on the following website for reviewing Possessive Adjectives –

This is a fun little picture book about pronouns.  If you’ll go to the link at Amazon, you can flip through some sample pages of the book and see what it’s like.

Mine, All Mine: A Book About Pronouns


FAIR WARNING! I haven’t actually read ANY of the following books.  I have most of them on order, so I can come back and adequately review them, but right now, please consider this to be a very uneducated recommendation (there are reviews of them at Amazon, if you’d like to see those).

Martin Luther:

Martin Luther Children's Book  Spy for the Night Rider's Children's Book  

The following is a video, available for download:

Martin! God Loves You.  Video about Martin Luther


The video is about 35 minutes long.  It’s a little dry. There isn’t active animation, just still images. It reminds me of Scholastic videos, but the quality of the script and narration is not quite as good as the books selected for that. But, on the whole, it’s a good biography of Martin Luther for children. It’s probably most useful for children ages 5-10.

John Calvin:

John Calvin. Children's book about John CalvinJohn Calvin: After Darkness


If you are on CC connected, “sarasmommy06” has uploaded a nice review sheet for the kinds of stars in the Science section. It has images of the star types, and a description, which I think is helpful.

Practicing Skip Counting


The following are really intend for help with multiplication, but they would also work with just skip counting (and might be a good introduction to how skip counting and multiplication are related.

I just discovered . . . one week too late to be of use for us during class . . . that Confessions of a Homeschooler has created Skip Counting Mazes for the numbers 2-12. They might still be helpful to you for review at home (or you might be following along from another community where they would still be helpful), so here’s the link:

You can actually create your own skip counting worksheets at the following website. The only downside is that you can’t tell it where you want it to STOP. Typically, in CC, we skip count the first 12 (or in the case of 13-15, we go to 13×13, 14×14, and 15×15), and this may skip count further than that to get to the end of the maze.

Tin Whistle

If you’d like to expand on what we’re learning with the Tin Whistle, there’s a handy lapbook at this link:

Math board gameGeneral

Keep in mind that anything can really become a review game.  Earlier this week, my son was begging to play a math board game that he enjoys while we ate lunch. I explained to him that we were planning to review CC at lunch, but told him we could play a CC review game. I really meant something already set up to be a CC review game. He suggested (read: begged) to do CC review and the math game at the same time, and he made up the rules: Answer a CC review question right and you get to take your turn. Answer it incorrectly, and you lose a turn.  Addition and Subtraction review. CC review.  All combined into one.  Simple. Brilliant. And as it turned out, quite fun.  We played two rounds.

A Journey Through Learning has several lapbooks that supplement what we’re learning in Cycle 2:

If you and your family DO enjoy lapbooks, or want to try one out, Wisdom and Righteousness makes a BEAUTIFUL one specifically for CC.  I’ve not seen the one for the current year, but last year’s was VERY nice. You can download one for each quarter of the CC school year, so now is a good time to download Weeks 7-12, if you’re interested.


And, now seems like a good time to tell you that our Community is on Fall Break next week, so there won’t be an update.  It’s been a great 7 weeks, but I think we’re ready for a break.  Last week, my husband kindly offered to watch the kids during their afternoon activities at CC so I could go home and grab a nap. I fell so soundly asleep that I neglected to go back and pick up my family and slept through the subsequent texts and phone calls. Oh yes, and I locked them out of the house since I drove home using his keys. I don’t think I’ll be earning “Mommy of the Year” or, for that matter “Wife of Year,” either. I am SO VERY grateful for good friends who actually made sure my poor abandoned family got a ride home. Sigh . . . so, yes, I think a week’s break is called for. See you in two weeks!

Learning can be exhausting

A little background: This is our family’s fourth year to participate in a Classical Conversations (CC) community. We participate in the Foundations portion of the program, which is designed for children ages 4 to about 11. The Foundations program lasts for 24 weeks each year. Each week the children cover 7 different grammar subjects (Timeline, History, Math, Science, English, Latin, and Geography), do a short (2-3 minutes) presentation, participate in one or more Science experiments and cover some area of Fine Arts.  It’s a VERY busy morning!

This post is linked to:
Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 6


Whew! We got to spend a really great weekend with my parents, visited a wonderful farm, and took a trip to a nearby aquarium in route home. We rushed back into town on Monday night and then spent quite a bit of time preparing my husband to teach three new (to him) online high school level classes on Tuesday, so this is the least attention that CC has gotten around here in a long time! This post might turn out to be short . . . hopefully it will be sweet, or at least slightly helpful.


It’s around this time (skip counting 11’s-15’s, squares and cubes) in the math grammar that I become VERY glad that CC repeats the same math each year, and this is when I start looking for ways to creatively get my children to work on their skip counting review without my having to drill it with them over and over.  This week, I’ll be putting numbers on our stairs. The 11’s will be on the risers and I’ll put the 12’s on the actual stair, just over to the side so it’s fairly easy to NOT step on it if you choose to do so (I’m sure my son will choose TO step on it EVERY time no matter WHERE I put the card with the number). So, they’ll count 11’s going up and 12’s coming down.  This was VERY successful last year, and I would often hear my (then) 4 year-old working on the 11’s when I sent him upstairs for something. He just really couldn’t help himself when the numbers were right in front of him!



Last year, I taped up every single timeline card to the walls around our dining room table. From an interior design perspective we call that the “School” look.  You’re not going to see that mentioned in any magazine and it’s definitely NOT the most attractive look for your home.  Buuuuutttt, it was incredibly effective.  The kids reviewed the timeline on their own about half of the times they sat down at the table, and it was a natural source of conversation anytime we were gathered there together. Our dining room is pretty small (read: tiny!) and we ran out of room on the walls WAY before we ran out of timeline cards. My husband thought it was so effective that he suggested I remove a framed wall gallery we have hanging on one wall and use it for more timeline cards, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I probably should have.  Instead, I hung the cards around the ceiling area in our “school” room (timeline crown molding, if you will).  It worked, but not nearly as well. I really needed to BE there to make the review happen and so we just didn’t do it as often and the kids didn’t enjoy it as much.  This year, we’re going to go back and use the dining room walls again. We’ve actually done some rearranging and have more wall space. Also, I don’t plan to start hanging the timeline from the very beginning because both of my children seem to be really comfortable with the first 5 or 6 weeks.  But starting on week 6 or 7, I plan to start decorating with timeline cards again.  A little painter’s tape does a GREAT job of holding the cards (mine are even in plastic sleeves, so they’re even heavier) up.  There’s a post here, by another CC mom, about how she mounted hers using the trifold presentation boards.  I may have to go that route.  Hers look MUCH neater than mine did last year!

Pronoun Platypus


The more time we’ve spent working on reviewing the pronoun lists from Weeks 4 and 5, the more convinced I am that my children are going to struggle with knowing which list of pronouns or adjectives to recite when asked. Or, maybe it’s just ME that’s already struggling. Regardless, I’ve expanded the File Folder game I included in last week’s post to include a series of sentence hints with our “Pronoun Platypus” to help us in our review. I’ll also be changing our hand motions somewhat to help us remember which are which.


There is an EXCELLENT series of books and videos by Mike Venezia on famous artists, presidents, and scientists (including some related to recent presentations in our class – The Wright Brothers and Seurat, and one on Norman Rockwell, who has an upcoming exhibit at the Frist Center). They make these individuals very approachable.  Later this year, I’ll be recommending the Rembrandt book and video when we cover him in Fine Arts as well as some of the other books in this series on artists and composers we’ll be discussing, but right now, I’ll suggest the books and videos about da Vinci and Michelangelo.  Many of these books and videos are available at the local library, or via the Getting To Know website, or (of course) via Amazon.

Product DetailsProduct Details


There are some really wonderful audio CDs by Jim Weiss (he narrates the more recent versions of Story of the World, if you’re familiar with those) that touch on the other individuals from the Renaissance Period – Copernicus and Shakespeare.  We have nearly a dozen of his CDs and I can’t say enough good things about them.  My daughter, in particular loves them and listens to one nearly every night and has for several years.  I’d be willing to guess that she’s listened to the one that discusses Copernicus a hundred times.  The Shakespeare one listed below is a story version of two of his plays adapted for children, not a history of the man himself. They’re even available from Amazon via mp3 (click on the images below) if you’d like to order and download them instead of waiting for the actual CD to arrive.

Product Details  Product Details


There is a review game for weeks 2-6 at PurposeGames.Com. If your children have enjoyed the review games on the Purpose Games website when they’ve covered just a week or two of information, they may enjoy the challenge of covering most of what we’ve learned so far this year!

General Review

My children like to play all the same games at home to review that we play in class, plus a few others.  On Tuesday, during lunch, we reviewed all the information to date playing a super simple game of hangman. Our rules: Answer a question correctly with virtually no help and get a point (my children REALLY like to keep score). Answer a question incorrectly (or with significant help) and the poor hangman gets another body part.  My daughter’s sweet Bible class teacher told me a couple of week’s ago that they’d played hangman in class and she’d never heard of it, so we’re working on remedying the “gap” in her education now . . . and she loves it!

Firecracker3Another game my children LOVE, and that has been very popular in class, is the game of Firecracker (it can also be called “Dynamite”). It can be played by individuals or teams, and you can choose to allow cards to be drawn only for correct answers or for each turn regardless of whether or not the question is answered correctly.  Whatever works for you. You can hand-write your own game pieces, or you can click on the image to the left to download a version you can print. This is a GREAT game to take to a restaurant along with your memory flash cards and play while you’re waiting for dinner.  We had a very effective boys vs. girls session in our favorite Mexican restaurant one day last week!

A little background: This is our family’s fourth year to participate in a Classical Conversations (CC) community. We participate in the Foundations portion of the program, which is designed for children ages 4 to about 11. The Foundations program lasts for 24 weeks each year. Each week the children cover 7 different grammar subjects (Timeline, History, Math, Science, English, Latin, and Geography), do a short (2-3 minutes) presentation, participate in one or more Science experiments and cover some area of Fine Arts.  It’s a VERY busy morning!

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 5

G Presentation

Are you familiar with the 10-24-7 rule? It isn’t exactly the method that we employ with Classical Conversations, but it’s similar. It basically says that to move something new from your short-term to your long-term memory you need to review the information 10 minutes after you’ve first learned it, then 24 hours later, and then 7 days later.

If things were to go according to plan in a CC classroom, we’d introduce the new grammar information to the children earlier in class, then review it at the end of class (not exactly 10 minutes later, but within an hour or two). Then, outside of the classroom, the information is theoretically being reviewed again the next day (so approximately 24 hours later), possibly throughout the following week, and then again in the CC classroom during review time a week (or 7 days) later.  I think it’s interesting that CC fairly closely follows this model, and anecdotally, I’ll say that around my house, our memory review work seems to go much more smoothly and be more effective if we focus on reviewing the new grammar the day after our CC Community day.  So, this school year our schedule goes something like this:

Wednesday: CC Community Day
Thursday: Review and master this week’s memory work and pick a topic for next week’s presentation
Friday:   Review ALL of the memory work (we usually play a game or have a competition over lunch) and do a rough outline of next week’s presentation
Monday: Review ALL of the memory work and finish putting together this week’s presentation
Tuesday: Review ALL of the memory work and practice tomorrow’s presentation

 If we don’t get a day of review in there, I don’t sweat it too much, and then sometimes we review on Saturday, too.

Learning Pronouns


Last week we began a 5 week-long run of pronouns and adjectives. I decided to create a little file folder game help review these. You can download it to use at home by clicking on the image to the right.


This week’s grammar items were Adaptation, Migration, and Hibernation.  Below are a few ways to expand on these topics.


Here is a link to a fascinating video about how cephalopods (like the octopus) adapt via camouflage.


Interesting video about the adaptations of camels, giraffes, and penguins:


A quick little game about a few animal adaptations:


A video about monarch butterfly migration:

A video about the migration of Christmas Island crabs:


10 Coolest Hibernating Animals:


There are several videos put out by “Horrible Histories” on the BBC on Joan of Arc and the Bubonic Plague. They’re videos that you’ll probably want to preview before you show any of them to children, particularly younger children (they’re meant to be funny, in a dark humor sort of way, not particularly scary). Since some of the content probably isn’t appropriate for all viewers, I won’t post any links here; I’ll just leave that up to you. Anyone who has a dark sense of humor or a love of Monty Python will probably really love the Horrible Histories take on history!

A little background: This is our family’s fourth year to participate in a Classical Conversations (CC) community. We participate in the Foundations portion of the program, which is designed for children ages 4 to about 11. The Foundations program lasts for 24 weeks each year. Each week the children cover 7 different grammar subjects (Timeline, History, Math, Science, English, Latin, and Geography), do a short (2-3 minutes) presentation, participate in one or more Science experiments and cover some area of Fine Arts.  It’s a VERY busy morning!

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 4

Keep Calm Featured

The Schoolhouse Rocks video about Pronouns (which we’ll continue to cover in grammar thru week 6) is very entertaining . . . and possibly educational.  You can find it via a search of YouTube.


Just to keep in simple, I made a little cycle hand out that can be used while we’re going over the cycles. If you’d like to use it, you may download it by clicking on the image below.

Natural Cycles Image

The Magic Schoolbus Episode and Book “Wet All Over” covers the water cycle really well.  Both the DVD and the book are available at Amazon, and the video is also available on you tube:The-Magic-School-Bus-Wet-All-Over-Scholastic-Books-9780590508339

There are also about a billion videos on You Tube about the Water Cycle, most of which I found INCREDIBLY annoying or downright weird.  These are the ones I found the least-weird and annoying

This one is a rap (and may be better for older elementary/middle school)

Abstract Art

IshAs a follow up to today’s art lesson, there’s a great easy reader/picture book called Ish, by Peter Reynolds (also good is Dot by this same author).

DotThese are available both in traditional hard copy form as well as through Tumblebooks. On Tumblebooks, you can create a playlist of several books for your child to watch/listen to or just watch an individual one online. You can get a 30 day free trial directly from Tumblebooks –


Our (ridiculous, I know) story to help us with the rivers this week:

Freddy the Fish wanted to swim the EUROPEAN WATERS. He swam in the rain on the SEINE RIVER in France, and then decided to dine on the RHINE RIVER, before hopping on an inner tube on the DANUBE RIVER. After that, he was so tired that he needed to go slow on the PO RIVER. After he was rested up, he decided to try to scuba on the ELBE RIVER before wrapping up the day by doing some yoga on the VOLGA RIVER.


This Latin File Folder review game is similar to something posted on CC Connected, but it available for download here free, if you don’t have access to CC Connected.


A little background: This is our family’s fourth year to participate in a Classical Conversations (CC) community. We participate in the Foundations portion of the program, which is designed for children ages 4 to about 11. The Foundations program lasts for 24 weeks each year. Each week the children cover 7 different grammar subjects (Timeline, History, Math, Science, English, Latin, and Geography), do a short (2-3 minutes) presentation, participate in one or more Science experiments and cover some area of Fine Arts.  It’s a VERY busy morning!

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 3

A little background: This is our family’s fourth year to participate in a Classical Conversations (CC) community. We participate in the Foundations portion of the program, which is designed for children ages 4 to about 11. The Foundations program lasts for 24 weeks each year. Each week the children cover 7 different grammar subjects (Timeline, History, Math, Science, English, Latin, and Geography), do a short (2-3 minutes) presentation, participate in one or more Science experiments and cover some area of Fine Arts.  It’s a VERY busy morning!

This week, we focused on reviewing geography. Here are some resources:

  1. If you have access to CC Connected, there’s nice little packet put together by another parent for the first six weeks of Geography.  It’s similar to the simple computer game below, but more portable and doesn’t involve screen time (if you’re interested in limiting that). It’s called “Geography Game weeks 1-6.pdf” and it was posted by ReneeH under Cycle 2, Week 1.
  2. This is a link to a simple quiz game for this week’s geography, Western European Countries:
  3. And here is a link to another simple quiz game with  both weeks of European geography on it:
  4. I believe I’ve mentioned this app for reviewing the continents and oceans before, but just in case: (Keep in mind that the app includes the “Southern Ocean” while CC’s information does not.)
  5. And, in case you aren’t an Apple iOS person, here’s a Continents and Oceans quiz that you can run on your computer:
  6. I decided to continue asking my kiddos to practice the Blob map once a week at home. We trace it once, then flip it over and draw it from memory once.  It doesn’t take long and I think/hope they’ll continue to get better and more accurate over time. :-)
  7. I bought CC’s Trivium Tables for Geography this year for the first time for us to have to use at home. I’ve been very happy with them. They’re easy to pull out and use (but easier to store than the bigger maps we use in class), and they’ve both got one, so they can work simultaneously.  They were $10/each. They’re one thing that I’ll definitely plan on purchasing again for the next Cycle.

In addition to geography review, I always enjoy seeing how other people are handling their review of CC material, in general.  So, if you’re just curious, or if you’re struggling to find a way to systematically review your CC material, these are just a couple of suggestions, both based on Charlotte Mason’s memory system.

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