A New “Come Sit By Me”!

It’s been a while since I wrote to you all last and this is why!  I have been busily at work on some exciting new developments here Under the Maple Tree.  Take a look at the preface to the newly revised edition of Come Sit by Me:
 
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It was over ten years ago that I found myself, for the first time, in the living room at Cyndy Regeling’s house for a “Newby Meeting” as my hubby and I were just beginning to consider educational options for our then three year old and soon to be newborn.  Mark and I really hadn’t considered homeschooling but I had a few friends that were looking into it and so I decided to join them for a fun evening out.  I’m sure that if I had known then what an incredible world homeschooling and Maple Tree would open to my family and to me, I would not have believed it.

That evening we had a cozy visit with yummy treats, hot tea and great conversation and it wasn’t until weeks later that I found out that I had been in the home of a nationally loved and respected author and educator.  Cyndy is a humble woman but so gifted to have produced resources that have become something of a household name among Canadian homeschoolers.

I guess you can imagine that, in time, we did decide that homeschooling was the right route for our family and when we finally make that leap, Come Sit by Me was a natural first learning tool for our little ones.  After all, what child doesn’t love a good picture book and this teacher-mama’s heart was certainly pleased with the caliber of the books selected and absolutely delighted that they were all products of “the True North strong and free”.  We knew that, for our family, we didn’t just want Christian content but we were looking for materials which were built on a worldview that was foundationally biblical and Come Sit by Me also fit the bill here.  Add to these the fact that we had just gone into full-time ministry, and therefore had severely restricted our pocket book, the general availability of the books at our small local library was impressive.  I didn’t have to make a large investment.  Smiles-per-dollar, Cyndy’s curriculum was a great deal compared to other boxed curriculums which were likely also of spectacular quality but out of our price range.  What a treat to know that home educating my children didn’t need to cost an arm and a leg but that armed with a few good books we could learn so much together.  Finally, feeling like a fish out of water, Come Sit by Me was a gentle introduction to being both the teacher and the mama at the same time.  The curriculum was thorough and yet very simple. 

            Well, over the years, several young ladies at the exclusive all-girls’ school that we call home have begun their learning with Come Sit by Me and, in the meantime, I had the privilege of working alongside Cyndy here and there, doing a bit of editing and chattering over writing ideas and outlines.  So it seemed a natural transition, in 2008, when Cyndy’s boys had finished their homeschooling journey and she had taken on a teaching position in a local Christian school, for me to take over Maple Tree Publications.  Cyndy’s books remained popular but she just couldn’t keep up with the demand.  It was a perfect fit as I had books and articles that were bubbling up, wanting to be printed, and had already begun to be involved in speaking to groups of homeschoolers and to lead workshops.  Maple Tree was a perfect fit for our little family, allowing me to make a few pennies to cover the costs of piano lessons and the occasional field trip while still being with my children fulltime.

            I have loved every aspect of being involved with Maple Tree as I have been able to interact with customers, to deal with the printing and publishing end and to travel across the country speaking at homeschool conferences and in local support groups.  In the wee hours of the night I even have fun writing books, articles and blog posts.  All in all, what I love the best is getting to know people coast to coast and hearing your stories, why you’ve chosen the educational route that you have, what makes your family unique and what you love to do together.

            Consistently, over the years, the people I run into have shouted their praises for Cyndy’s books and for Come Sit by Me in particular.  So many of you feel the way that I do!  It was with this in mind that I embarked on the task of updating and improving this resource so that it can be enjoyed all the more by the next generation of homeschoolers. 

 

So What’s New?

            You may be saying, “I know the old Come Sit by Me.  It’s great!  What needed changing?”  Well, not much, but lots.  Not much because the books that were covered in the unit studies are no less great now than they were when they were chosen years ago and the unit study format remains a fun, popular and effective way to start out schooling your young ones.  The general layout hasn’t changed but here is what is new:

  • 6 new book studies.  It has always been our goal at Maple Tree to make sure that the books that you are looking for to do these unit studies are accessible.  With the advent of the digital age and so many websites that sell both new and used books, as well as the widespread availability of interlibrary loan, even books that are out of print are often quite close to your fingertips.  Even so, we did replace a few books to make sure that the books that are studied are the most available. 
  • Dozens of new activities.  Besides the new activities that accompany the new books studies, you will find lots of other updated, freshened and added activities.  You’ll even find that a few books that weren’t previously available and now are in print again have returned with new activities.
  • Expended additional reading lists.  Let’s face it, I could write a book of good books alone so this is still a very limited list.  I couldn’t resist, however, a few additions – especially some scrumptious Canadian offerings.
  • New photography and graphics.  With all of this new material came the need for a new look.  Everyone likes a new outfit every so often and Come Sit by Me wanted to celebrate its new look with a new jacket and some bling on the inside too.  Crystal Hounsome, at Crystal Xpressions Photography (www.crystalxpressions.com) was the creative genius behind the new look and style.  She would love to hear your kudos.  Stop on by her site and show her some love. 
  • Updated Bible verses.  Come Sit by Me has always used the New International Version for Bible verse quotations and now both the NIV and Come Sit by Me  have been updated so we made sure that wording will match your newer copy of the NIV Bible (copyright 2011).  If you find the wording of some verses slightly different than your NIV Bible at home then the difference is probably due to a different copyright date.  As always, you are welcome to use whichever version of the Bible your family chooses to study.  
  • Updated charts and planners.  You asked me to make them better and I’ve taken your suggestions.
  • Lots of little tweaks and fixes that you suggested.  Let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes and some of you have graciously shared your time and energy in making those fixes that will make Come Sit by Me even better.  Thanks to many independent editors, parents, friends and Maple Tree fans for proof reading over and over.  I’m sure you will still find typos and errors here and there and I appreciate your help in tracking them down.  If you find an error in the text then please send me a note and, as your prize, I will send you a list of the corrections that we have accrued to date.  If you have a contribution to make to this prize please email me at mapletreepublications@sympatico.ca.  I am always glad to hear from you. 

 

I certainly hope that you enjoy this new edition of Canada’s classic homeschool curriculum for your younger children and more than that, I hope that you enjoy the activities and adventures that it helps you along with.  I look forward to hearing about some of your adventures.

 

Enjoy!

 

Cori
 
P.S. – In the next day or two you should be able to check out the new cover under “Product Catalogue” on our website at www.mapletreepublications.ca!

Mother Culture: Language Arts

Practice makes perfect, they say, and while many of the things that we learn in life don’t need to build on previous learning there are some subjects that are more skill based and where learning builds on learning.  You couldn’t ask a child to learn to multiply fractions who didn’t already know a thing or two about adding and then multiplying and fractions and so on.  Piano students and athletes know only too well that you can’t expect to excel without a lot of consistent practice.  Language Arts also falls under this disciplined study banner.  (When labeling the subject “Language Arts” we are really encompassing several sub-categories of learning like phonics, grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary and handwriting.)

In Educating the WholeHearted Child, the Clarksons, like most, advocate a happy medium in approach between the traditional “phonics” and “whole language” approach.  They do this, as expected by encouraging lots of reading time with our children and while still using a phonics based programme to learn to read.  They do however stress that you should focus on phonics principles rather than on memorizing many phonics rules.

Don’t schedule reading success!  (While extended family, neighbours, and church acquaintances may define educational success by how well your kiddos are reading don’t fall into that trap yourself.)  What freedom this word of advice gave me when my oldest was learning to read.  She, like me, is a bit of a perfectionist and was often reluctant to read without knowing exactly what to expect, she wanted to know all of the rules before she would read just for fun.  It wasn’t until she finished grade three that that special time came along. My second daughter on the other hand wasn’t terribly concerned with rules and just started reading and writing at about age four.  She quickly beginning reading well above where we expected she would having had a reluctant first reader but was not terribly concerned with the specifics.  (She used to write long letters using an “a” everywhere that a vowel seemed appropriate before she knew all of her vowels.  Very entertaining: “I lav u mom.  U r mi bast frand.”)

In language arts, as with most learning areas, the Clarkson’s stress that you don’t need age-graded curricula.  They advocate for a simple phonics based learned to read programme and they say that most spelling, vocabulary, grammar and so on can be learned through quality literature and Bible reading.

They used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons because it was simple and straight forward but stressed that it wasn’t the only or best curriculum.

In our little gathering, other mama’s praised Teach Your Child to Read Well as being very similar.

I found the Clarkson’s ideas to closely echo those of Ruth Beechick and have used her very simple little book, The Three R’s, as the starting point for reading for all of my girlies.  After that, we really like Learning Language Arts Through Literature for a few reasons.  The first is that I don’t want to have to be a grammar and vocabulary and composition and …  expert.  LLATL ties together all of the important disciplines and helps us to make sure we are covering all the bases all while getting into some of the amazing literature that we have been raving about.  With very few exceptions, my kids love the chosen books.  It’s not hard to use great literature to learn from.  Learning Language Arts is actually based on Ruth Beechick’s principles and as such is a systematized version of what the Clarkson’s advocate.  The drawbacks: as with so many resources, it is a very American curriculum and so I always feel the need to refocus on Canadian history and geography every so often.  It is also pretty grammar heavy and I don’t think that we need to get bogged down in the fine print of grammar rules too young.  (I solve this by treating the grammar segments lightly, knowing that there is a lot of review and so we will be able to better assimilate ideas again later.)

I don’t know that anyone mentioned any other comprehensive curricula so here are a few of the other favourite resources that folks mentioned (since most of us aren’t able to throw out the idea of curricula completely as the Clarkson’s would like us to do.)

*** Please lend us your comments on the resources below or add your favourite resources to them so that we can all shop a little more wisely.***

Spelling:

All About Spelling

Spelling Wisdom
Spelling Workout
Spelling Power (Okay, this is the one we use.  It really isn’t Charlotte Mason style because it is just lists of “related” words but they are arranged by frequency so I’ve always figured that we have reached the same end as other curricula but in a very comprehensive and systematic way.)

Composition:

Writing Jungle by Brave Writer

Write Shop
Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer
Story Starters by Karen Andreola (My oldest daughter is enjoying this one for a change here and there.  It is what it says, many story starters that the student is encouraged to finish creatively.)
The Daily Journal Series by Cyndy Regeling and CoriDean (These booklets each contain a year’s worth – or more – of journal or creative writing prompts that help to get the creative juices flowing.  Gotta love the Canadian content – yes, I’m biased.)

Handwriting and Vocabulary:


Draw, Write, Now (This is a yummy set of learn to draw books that incorporates handwriting practice, learning about various topics.  My kids have always picked them up as fun time drawing books with the added learning and handwriting just a bonus for teacher-mamma,)
There are also a lot of copywork books out there.  I like to start my girlies with My Character Printing Workbook and My Keepsake Book both by Andrea McLellan at Ontario’s Joy Center of Learning as they integrate character training with handwriting lessons.  After they complete these, I like to get my kids a nice notebook to record their best handwriting in by way of nice poems, quotes and scriptures.

Grammar:

English for the Thoughtful Child by Mary F. Hyde and Cyndy Shearer.  A more primary look at grammar.  Cathy Duffy calls is a good introductory course for children (in grades 1 or 2?) who can write and print but need to learn to write complete sentences.  She recommends following this with Simply Grammar.

Simply Grammar written by Charlotte Mason and rewritten and published by Karen Andreola.  This was Charlotte Mason’s own grammar curriculum which she later decided was best left to older grades (4-8) rather than younger. 

Vocabulary:

Really, we all agreed that the best vocabulary builders were lots and lots of good books!

How’s that for a starter on the Language Arts and some of the resources that we have out there for our students?  I look forward to hearing your input, comments, and other resources suggestions… 

Wishing you a wonderful day as you enjoy the world of reading and literature with your own tribe today!

Cori