Reformation Wrap-Up

Today marks the end of our month-long study of the Reformation. Here’s a review of all the things we learned and the fun we had!

We read lots of books, some out loud, and others as book basket selections. One of our favorites every year is the Luther biography by Paul Maier.

We made eight lapbooks, one as an overview of the people and events of the Reformation, and the other seven focusing on different Reformers.

We also learned about seven rulers (plus Pope Leo X), and completed a notebooking sheet for each.

Of course, everyone’s favorite part of our studies were the crafts. We designed our own coat-of-arms:

Made stained “glass” windows:

Illuminated letters and practiced being scribes:

Made a banner to hang in our school room:

And, of course, made Luther’s Seal:

We also listened to a lot of music, some by Luther, some by Bach, and some by other Lutheran hymn writers.

We were supposed to go on two field trips this month. The first one was a visit to the Saxon Lutheran Memorial Fall Festival in Frohna, MO, I had to cancel that on account of fog, which was disappointing because it’s one of our favorite events every year. Our other field trip, that actually worked out, was going to the Seminary in St. Louis to hear Ryan sing “Ein Feste Burg” with the American Kantorei as part of the Bach at the Sem series. That same day, we also got to attend a fun Reformation Celebration at our church.

We even enjoyed a German meal at home on Reformation Day! Jägerschnitzel with buttered noodles and sauerkraut for dinner (with Leinie’s Oktoberfest beer for those of drinking age!), and homemade apple strudel for dessert…delicious!

This was a fun way to spend the month of October, and I’m glad I finally came up with an in-depth unit for us to learn all about the Reformation!

2012-13 School Year–Week Nine

This was kind of a weird week, as varying children were under the weather with some kind of upper respiratory something or another. We did still have school, but I cut back on what we were doing so as to accommodate those people who were feeling lethargic. For Ladybug, that meant taking the week off from Language Arts, although she did insist on trying (with surprising success!) to read everything she encountered. We also took a break from science, which is the easiest thing to step away from, both because we were at a natural break anyway, having finished the digestive system and nutrition chapters, and because there is more wiggle room in the science schedule than in any other of our subjects.

We’re finally starting to move into some new territory in math. Ladybug is working on finding the number that comes between two other numbers…totally easy for her, but still good practice. She loves numbers and counting, so math is very natural for her. Turkey and Bunny are working on factor trees, and the difference between prime and composite numbers. I wish there was an easier way for them to skip ahead a bit, because the stuff they’ve been working on (mostly review) has been so easy…I think that’s one of the challenges of working with a spiral curriculum ..there’s no good place to just leap forward!

In our Reformation studies, we finished our last lapbook, the one for John Knox. We also learned about several rulers, including Protestant-friendly Edward VI, and Catholic supporters Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”) and Philip II. We read about C.F.W. Walther, as well…this would have been even more interesting had we actually been able to go to the Saxon Lutheran Memorial a few weeks ago, but we are planning on visiting his gravesite before the month is over. For our craft project, we made a banner for our school room. Over the next year or so, I plan for us to make banners appropriate for each of the major church seasons/festivals, so we can have a constant visual reminder of the church season we’re in. Since it’s Reformation time, we made a red banner, which looks a little more Pentecost-y than Reformation-y, but will work for our purposes…at least the color is right! The children really enjoyed going through the banner book and choosing the pattern they wanted, and then arranging the pieces just so on the banner. I’m really looking forward to making the rest of the banners with them, starting in Advent!

In history, we finished up the Reconstruction era. Next week, we’re going to suspend our regular American history lessons altogether, so that in addition to wrapping up the Reformation, we can take some time to learn about elections and how government works.I’m hoping this gives the children some idea of our electoral process that is not the constant barrage of commercials, phone calls, and junk mail we’ve been receiving! We’ll also be starting our November “thankful tree” on the first. I’m looking forward to all of the fun Thanksgiving things we’ll be doing in the coming weeks!

2012-13 School Year–Week Six

This week, we started an in-depth study of the Reformation, and our first attempt at lapbooking, besides! We’ve already read a picture book about Martin Luther, started a Reformation lapbook, designed our own coat of arms using the language of blazonry, and learned about John Wycliffe/created a lapbook dedicated to him. Some days, our Reformation lessons are replacing our regular history lessons, because they take so long, but I’m not abandoning American history altogether for the month–we’re just alternating which time period we’re learning about!

Turkey and Bunny have really been enjoying their work in Writing Strands this week. They’ve been practicing writing and embellishing “core sentences.” They started with sentences and questions dictated by the text, which they completed with their own answers, then graduated to making their own sentences and questions, along with answers. I have to admit, some of what they’ve been writing is a little on the silly side, but their sentences make sense, and they’re getting the idea of how to write a more complex, interesting sentence, so if that sentence turns out to be silly, well, I’m OK with that!

Speaking of being silly, we starting learning about the digestive system in our Apologia Anatomy and Physiology lessons this week. It is impossible to discuss the G.I. tract with a nine-year-old, an eight-year-old, and a five-year-old without copious amounts of giggling. At the beginning of every lesson, I told them what we’d be studying, and gave them a chance to laugh about it. This helped curtail the giggles while I was trying to teach, but there were still a few random chuckles here and there. Oh well…I blame this on their father, our kind homeschool “headmaster.”

The biggest news of the week is that Ladybug has started reading! Simple consonant-vowel-consonant words, but reading is reading. She was able to read all of the words in her lesson, as well as some additional words I gave her, and then even went in search of more words on her own, some of which she found she could actually read. This is always a very exciting time in the life of a homeschool, but frustrating, as well, because when a child learns how to read a few words, she is always disappointed to realize that she can’t read all of the words yet. We’ll get there, though.

I’m looking forward to Monday, when, in addition to our Reformation studies, we’ll also be learning about Christopher Columbus, in honor of Columbus Day!

Learning About the Reformation

Every year that we’ve been homeschooling, we’ve had some sort of special lesson on Reformation Day. It usually involved reading a book about Martin Luther and doing a craft (often some kind of Luther’s Seal). I realized this year, though, that while the children know a lot about Martin Luther’s corner of the Reformation (of course), they don’t know much about the rest of what was going on in the Church. So, I’ve decided that this year, throughout the month of October, we’re going to replace our regular religion lessons with a special unit on the Reformation, as well as some general Lutheran history!

I started by replacing our Olympics “Special Event Wall” with one on the Reformation. The central focus of the wall is a “Reformation Era Timeline” I picked up at CPH. While the focus of this timeline is the Lutheran Reformation (naturally), other world and Reformation events are included on it, and I really like having a visual representation of just how much was going on in Europe at that time, from exploring the New World to the creation of famous works of art and literature. I added the “Solas” to the wall, as well as a list of key reformers, a map of Europe with key Reformation countries highlighted, a copy of Luther’s seal, and the LCMS seal. We’ll also be adding some things to the wall as the month goes on.

There are 23 school days in October this year, including five Wednesdays, which culminate on Reformation Day itself. I’ve planned something special for each of those Wednesdays, having each Wednesday be a special craft day:

  • Personal Coat of Arms
  • Stained “Glass”
  • Illuminated Letters/Scribe for a Day
  • Reformation Day Banner (to be used in the schoolroom for occasions such as future Reformation Days and Pentecost)
  • Tissue Paper Luther’s Seal

There are a few books I’ll be reading aloud, either in part or whole:

And book basket selections from the “Hero of Faith” series for the children to choose from:

Plus a few other book basket choices:

As well as workbooks for varying ages:

The bulk of our lessons will come in the form of a lapbook (actually several lapbooks)…our first ever! We’ll be learning the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the Reformation while we make these books. We’ll focus on seven reformers (John Wycliffe, John Huss, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, William Tyndale, John Calvin, and John Knox), who will each have a mini-unit and lapbook dedicated to him.

We’ll also learn about seven rulers (Charles V, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, Philip II, Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots) who were either supporters or opponents of the Reformation. Instead of a lapbook, the rulers will each have a dedicated notebooking sheet.

Over the course of the month, we’ll make a lapbook that provides an overview of the Reformation, including where each of the rulers fits, and their relationships to the reformers, where applicable.

Since Ladybug is too young for a lot of the lapbook activities, I got her the previously mentioned The Story of Martin Luther Activity Book to color in while Turkey and Bunny complete their books. It’s technically a preschool book, but I thought she’d have fun doing the sticker activities, and it will give her something of her own to work on, so she doesn’t feel left out…very important for a little girl who has two older siblings who “get to have all the fun!”

And field trips are a must. We’ll be visiting the Saxon Lutheran Memorial and attending a Bach at the Sem concert, where “Ein Feste Burg” will be performed. I don’t think we’re going to visit the International Center to see the Concordia Historical Institute Museum, but it has been a few years since we’ve been there, so we’ll see. We’re also going to be having a special Reformation Family Night at church, which, while not technically a field trip, should help reinforce some of the things we’ve been learning at home, and maybe even teach us some new things!

Music is a huge part of the Lutheran church (just ask the “fifth evangelist, J.S. Bach!), so we’ll be listening to some special selections throughout the month. We have both the Martin Luther: Hymns, Ballads, Chants, Truth and the Heirs of the Reformation collections from CPH. We’ll also be listening to various works by Bach…I’ll let Ryan pick which ones. To reinforce what we’ve learned in Luther’s Small Catechism, we’ll also be playing our copy of Sing the Faith.

Our children are a little too young for these kind of strategy games, but I do have some good ideas for games that have a Reformation-era or theological feel. I’m looking forward to future game nights in keeping with this theme!

I’m very excited to get started on this, and really dive into church, and Lutheran, history. It should be a fun month!

Quote of the Day

Since Your Majesty and your lordships want a simple, clear and true answer, I will give it. Unless I am convinced by the teachings of Holy Scripture or by sound reasoning–for I do not believe either the pope or councils alone, since they have often made mistakes and have even said the exact opposite about the same point–I am tied by the Scriptures I have quoted and by my conscience. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither safe nor right. Here I stand. God help me! Amen. Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, April 18, 1521

Book Review: “Katharina Von Bora”

I guess in the interest of full disclosure, I should admit right off the bat that I was biased going into this book, being a Missouri Synod Lutheran and all.  That being said, I love Rudolf and Marilynn Markwald’s biography of the wife of the famous Martin Luther.

This is probably the easiest to read biography I have ever come across.  I’m sure part of that is the material, but it is also due to factors such as the fact that it reads more like a novel than a biography, and the fact that there is so much humor laced into the letters shared between the Luther family that were printed in the book.

Not only did this book give me a better understanding of Katie Luther’s life–the type of family she came from, her willingness to take desperate measures to leave the convent, how she came to marry Martin, and the family and home life she built for herself–I also gained a greater understanding of Martin Luther, as well as other key players in the Reformation, and the general political and religious climate of that time.

I also discovered how glad I am not to have been a wife and mother during the Reformation.  From the burden that fell on Katie’s shoulders in managing a very large household, full of family, friends, visitors and refugees (and with a very limited amount of money!), to the way she was treated by people who should have been kind to her following her husband’s death–she lived a life that I’m pretty sure I could not handle.

This is an excellent biography for anyone interested in the Reformation, the life of the Luther’s, or the birth of the Lutheran Church.

Martin Luther School

That’s what Turkey and Bunny called our school time on Friday.  I condensed our regular lessons into four days so we could focus solely on the Reformation on Friday.  Actually, had they not gone to the fantastic Fall Bible School in Freeburg (alliteration, anyone?), we would have had a full week’s worth of Reformation School.  As it turned out, though, they learned so much there, and did enough projects that overlapped with what I had been planning, that I only needed one day to do the stuff that I considered particularly important for their age level.

I love our special units.  It was so fun to come up with stuff to do to help them understand who Martin Luther was, and why he was important to the church.  As it turns out, there is a lot of stuff you can teach, even at the kindergarten level, about the events of the Reformation.

We started by listening to a recording of “A Mighty Fortress” in German.  We talked about what country speaks German, and then located Germany on the map (which Bunny actually found with no help–we must have pointed it out before.  I figured Turkey would be the geography minded one, but Bunny is really great at remembering where countries are!  Sadly, I bet she knows more about world locations than a lot of adults…).  I also told them that some of their own ancestors are from Germany, along with Martin Luther and other key players in the Reformation.

We read Psalm 46 (verse one was our memory verse for the week), and talked about how “A Mighty Fortress” was based partly on that part of the Bible.  We continued to listen to some hymns that were written by Luther (I snuck a few Christmas hymns in there!), while putting our Luther’s coat-of-arms project together.  I was particularly proud of that, because I came up with the idea myself.  On Wednesday, we had used gold glitter to cover the outer ring of the seal, and white glitter to cover the rose.  After they had plenty of time to dry, we were able to layer the different elements of the coat-of-arms, while talking about the symbolism behind each part.  They cut the blue circle out of construction paper (I had cut out the heart for them), and we also had a black felt cross to put on last.  They look really cool–the glitter really makes them stand out, I think.

We read “Martin Luther:  A Man Who Changed the World,” by Paul Maier, and then went back through and looked at the pictures and retold the story that way.  We also practiced counting by fives (to 95, of course!), and then writing the number five, as well as the word five.

At the end of “Martin Luther School,” we sang the verse of “A Mighty Fortress” that they had learned at Fall Bible School, and then listened to a different recording of the hymn in English.

It never ceases to amaze me the way you can use one topic to teach so many subjects.  Just in talking about the Reformation, we covered math, world cultures, music, arts and crafts, religion, and the obvious history lesson.  That’s one of my favorite things about homeschooling–it’s a much more natural approach to learning.  No need to force certain subjects, when they cross over each other so easily!

Lesson Planning

My love for Sonlight is two-sided, I’ve discovered.  First of all, and most obviously, I love their curriculum because I don’t have to worry about writing lesson plans.  Back in my early childhood ed. days at CURF (am I still allowed to call it that?  Or do I have to go with the somewhat irritating, and, in my opinion, horribly inaccurate, CUC?), and even into my DCE studies (you’d be surprised how many lesson plans DCEs in training have to write!) I hated writing lesson plans, unless it was a topic that I was really interested in or passionate about.  I just dreaded sitting down and putting in the time and effort (but mostly the time!) it took to make a good lesson.  Now, if I taught full-time, or even if I was still working as a DCE, and writing my own Bible studies, I’m sure I would have gotten better, or at least more efficient at it, but still…

As it is, though, I’m glad I don’t have that task to worry about!  Sonlight has provided me with fantastic (in my opinion, at least) lesson plans for all my subjects.  I just review what we’re going to be doing the week before we do it, and I’m ready to go!  Such a burden lifted…I doubt I’d make it as a homeschooling mom if I had to write all my own lessons (or at least I wouldn’t be doing a very good job of it!).

But, the flip-side of that is this–because I’m not bogged down with daily lesson plans for things like history, math, and language arts, I can use my time to create lessons for the extra stuff I actually want to do.  Like my Olympics unit, which I basically put together by myself, that we did before school started.  Fun holidays, extra topics we want to study, more in-depth religion (and doctrine, if you will–gotta raise those little Lutherans right!), those things I actually enjoy planning lessons for.  Yeah, they’re probably not formatted “correctly,” and I’m sure I’m not covering all the things I’m supposed to.  But I don’t have to worry about that, because I have 36 weeks of good, solid lesson plans for all the subjects prepared for me, and anything else I add to that is just icing on the cake (good thing we’re inclined toward year-round schooling, because I have a feeling I’m going to be tacking on a month or more of my own lessons!).

Between now and the end of the year, I have a special one-day unit on the Reformation planned (another fantastic thing about Sonlight–because of the way the curriculum is organized, it’s super easy to compress five days worth of lessons into four if you want to or need to–as a matter of fact, if I understand it correctly, I’ll have the option of having four or five days worth of curriculum starting next year.  Still planning on using the full five, but it’s nice to have the option…), a three-day Thanksgiving unit (along with an extra five days of Thanksgiving readers in place of our normal Little House readers the week before Thanksgiving), and a five to ten day Christmas unit.  (What can I say?  I love Christmas, and I have a ton of ideas involving the history of Christmas celebrations, world cultures, and, of course, the birth of Christ. And no Santa!  Another plus to homeschooling!)

So, I can love Sonlight both because I don’t have to plan lessons, and because, since they have prepared the lessons for me, I have extra time and I get to plan the fun stuff.  The best of both worlds–I love it!