Category Archives: Resources and Organising

Our New Writing Program

This year, we have moved away from using IEW and have switched to “The Lost Tools of Writing” (LTW).  Not because we didn’t like IEW (we love IEW), but because we had a different writing goal this year.  IEW has been instrumental in teaching my boys how to structure and improve their writing and now we need to focus on content and thought and that’s what I think LTW does well.

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There are three components to LTW curriculum: there’s a teacher’s guide, a student book and streamed videos.  For almost all of the 9 essays, there are three videos, streamed through Vimeo, intended for the teacher, not the student.  The way I use the program is to watch the three videos for the essay I’m teaching and then read through the detailed lesson information in the teacher’s guide.  I do all of this on the weekend prior to teaching the new essay.  I love the amount of support that the LTW curriculum gives the instructor.

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I also love the amount of freedom that the program allows.  While the teaching is structured, the teacher and the student are given the freedom to chose what they will write about.  I appreciate this as it allows our writing to be related to what we are learning in other subject areas.

The persuasive essay is the genre that LTW teaches.  Prior to starting the curriculum, I thought I knew most of what there was to know about the persuasive genre.  I mean, I’m a qualified teacher and I’ve taught this genre a number of times, even for the infamous Naplan tests.  But LTW has taught me so much that I now know how little I actually knew about the persuasive essay.  I was on the right track, but I was only just scrapping at the surface.  LTW has opened a door I didn’t even know to look for.  I’d never heard of things like exordiums and amplifications.  I’m so glad I chose a writing program to help me teach my boys.

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The main reason I chose LTW for this stage of writing instruction is its focus on invention, or creation of ideas.  IEW taught my boys to structure their writing well but they needed more work on creation of ideas.  They preferred report writing, retelling what they knew after some research.  But, when asked for their thoughts on a topic, they were uncomfortable with identifying and expressing their own ideas.  LTW teaches students how to draw forth those thoughts and how to organise them.  In the ‘invention’ stage of writing, an often overlooked stage of writing, the students are taught five common topics: comparison, definition, circumstance, relation and testimony.   These five common topics lead to powerful questions that help students gather their ideas and thoughts.  Invention (or thinking) is a critical part of the LTW writing process and given equal importance with the outlining, drafting and editing processes.

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The ideas and thoughts that the students form and discover are collected on an ANI chart.  (This ANI chart is a brilliant device.  I can think of so many uses for it).  In LTW, after devising a thesis, the students’ thoughts are organised into: ideas that affirm the thesis, ideas that negate the thesis and ideas that are merely interesting to the topic but perhaps not yet relevant.  I particularly appreciate that the student is required to consider both sides of an argument, not merely their own.   This is an important skill if we are to teach our children to critically think through issues.

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Next, the students are moved into the arrangement stage of writing.  Here the students are taught to sort and group their ideas within their ANI chart in order to transfer them to an essay outline.  LTW does not overwhelm the students in this stage of writing, consequently, the initial essays are very rudimentary.  Do not be disturbed by the simplicity of the first couple of essays.  It’s part of the process and I assure you that the students will be writing good quality essays before long.

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In their student books, the students are supported with leading questions and prompts while transferring information from their organised ANI charts to an outline.  Then the students transcribe their outline onto their own page, using the template provided in their student books.  At first, this process seemed cumbersome to my boys but LTW has quickly taught them to appreciate the process that creates a high quality outline.  Writing from such an outline makes writing so much easier.

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Next, the students are given lessons in ‘elocution’, quality language expression.   I liken this stage to IEW’s dress-ups.  With each new LTW essay, the students are given skills to improve their written expression.  Some of the skills in LTW’s level 1 include parallelism, similes, alliteration and assonance.  I tend to teach these lessons after my students have drafted their essay so that they can edit their own writing to include the new element.

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With a little preparation each week, the program is very easy to use and incredibly supportive of both teacher and student.  Because of this support and the freedom to select our own writing topics, the writing skills we are learning should be easy to continue to use once we have finished the program.  My boys have just finished essay five in LTW and I’m already declaring the merits of this program high and low, and far and wide.  As evidence of why I’m falling in love with LTW, I’d like to leave you with the introduction paragraph of one of my sons’ essays.  For him, writing this paragraph was as easy as following the advice of the Lost Tools of Writing.

“One Small Step”

On the moon, Neil Armstrong said, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind” but was he actually on the moon when he said this?  The truth is important to both sides of the argument.  One side believes that man walked on the moon and the other believes that the moon walk and landing were all just a hoax.  Evidence, however, indicates that man did walk on the moon in 1969.  There are five prominent reasons to believe that man went to the moon.  The Apollo astronauts themselves were eyewitnesses, who documented their experiences on the moon through photos and videos.  They also returned to Earth with a large number of moon rocks and soil samples to study.  The Apollo missions were not just tracked by NASA and other American organisations; they were also tracked by third-parties around the world.  Science has also explained the anomalies that the conspiracy theorists use as evidence against a moon landing.  In recent years, unmanned missions have been sent to the moon and have photographed the landing sites of the Apollo missions and the equipment they left behind.  With this clear evidence, it can safely be said that Neil Armstrong did walk on the moon.



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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in Language, Resources and Organising


Kind of Ready for School

Look what the postie left at my door today!

When the day starts with books, it’s gotta be good.

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Nope, no school textbooks in this bundle of goodies (ick!),

just real books (and a couple of dvds).

I think you can kind of guess what area of Science we plan on studying this year.

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I’ve slowly been getting ready for the start of the school year.

First, I did the important thing and ordered books.

You can’t learn stuff without books.

Then I printed out my diary planner.

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As you can see, we’re well planned.

But, then again, I’m not one of those ‘plan-out-every-single-lesson’ gals.

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I plan as we go,

based on what we just learned

and where our questions are leading us.

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Oh and I’ve spruced up our homeschool area.

You should have seen it before.

Thank yourself lucky that you didn’t!

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See my nice new book bag.

My mum made it for me for Christmas.

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I’ve even done some bookshelf cleaning.

Well, the shelves in the homeschool area.

The rest are still waiting for some attention.

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This is the shelf where I store all of the stuff we are currently using

(plus a hodge podge of stuff that doesn’t live anywhere else).

Our current stuff is on the shelf with the horse head bookend.

Okay, so there’s a lot of hodge podge stuff in this shelf.

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We’ve kind of already started school actually.

Well, technically we never stopped.

We’ve continued reading aloud through the holidays.

The books we’re currently working through are in these book baskets.

Today we finished off “Black Potatoes” about the Irish Famine (excellent read)

and continued working through “Spices and the Devil’s Cave” (excellent book about 15th century explorers).

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Check out the mini bookself I made with baskets.

I’m feeling pretty clever about it.


And, finally, because I know everyone loves a good ‘shelfie’,

here are my two favourites from this room.

(You should be able to click on them and get a closer view).

Shelf One…


And Shelf Two…


Well, that’s enough thought about school for today.

I’m still on holidays after all.



Posted by on January 19, 2017 in Resources and Organising


CIRCE – One of My Favourite Websites

Have you discovered the CIRCE Institute?
CIRCE is a treasure trove for educators looking to educate Classically
(that is, educating with the primary goal of cultivating wisdom and virtue).

CIRCE is one of my most visited websites during the week.

I’m always reading something from CIRCE.
There are lots of articles and posts to read

(Mostly recently I read “From Arts to Subjects“.)

I listen to all of their Mason Jar podcasts,
where Cindy Rollins shares her wisdom and experience.
I’ve also started listening to the Close Reads podcasts.
(I’ve recently been listening into their discussions about Jane Austen’s book “Pride and Prejudice”).

And that’s just two of their six podcast channels!

I also love, love, love their audios.
There’s a whole bunch of free audio,
Lately, I’ve been listening to everything by Angelina Stanford.
(Most recently, I listened to her “The Ancients versus the Moderns” audio about Gulliver’s Travels,
so, now you know what I have to read next).
I don’t get into my car, if I’m going to be driving by myself, without an audio from CIRCE!

CIRCE also has a free magazine,
(although for non-US residents, it’s only an online publication, that doesn’t have a print option,
which breaks my heart and I’m still trying to get over).
Every year I hang out for this magazine, and, then, I read it more than once.

(If you are looking for something good to read over the holidays, the latest issue was just released.)

CIRCE even has books and curriculum for you to buy.
I know!  These people have all my favourite things.
Next year, we’ll be starting their writing curriculum, “The Lost Tools of Writing“.
I’ve also ordered their literature guide for “The Iliad”.
I’m very keen to have a look at that.

Oh and I loved their two recently released books by Cindy Rollins,”Mere Motherhood” and “A Handbook for Morning Time“.

At CIRCE, I find pointers towards all my Classical Education needs

– Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

If you haven’t visited their website,
you should.
(No, this is not a paid promotion.  I just wondered what I could share today and decided that I should share one of my favourite website.)

Holidays = Cleaning

Now that the holidays are finally here,

they don’t seem like as much fun as I had anticipated.

Why is it that we look forward to holidays?

We should think this thing through more thoroughly,

as holidays at my house always mean cleaning –

doing all those chores that built up during the year

So, then, how is a holiday an actual holiday??

And when do we get one of those real holidays,

where we lie back on a lounge, being fed grapes

(although chocolate would be better)

while we do nothing but read??

Well, while I was sorting out this dilemma in my head,

I attacked some of our very messy cupboards.

Every cupboard and drawer in the house needs attention,

but, I started in the family room.

This is our kind of Sciencey cupboard.

Talk about disaster zone.

Stuff has to be just tossed in

because there’s no neat way of doing it.

Brace yourself –

This was before,

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and this is after.

Much better

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The top shelf has a lot of miscellaneous things,

but, since they are ‘often used’ things,

they go into accessible baskets.

There are also a few collections in dishes

– shells, marbles, optical toys, gems etc.

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On the second shelf,

there are various Science kits and resources,

plus seemingly a lot of rocks

(New homeschoolers – You too will have collections of rocks in your house soon.)

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The bottom shelf has more Science kits,

plus some technology and design kits to make up,

a whole dish full of currency from around the world,

some 3D shapes (some plastic ones and some handmade by my FIL),

some pulleys, thermometers, magnets, a puzzle

and even a bird’s nest.

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The Math and Games cupboard was just as horrid as the Science cupboard

but look at it now.

All nice and organised

(although there’s plenty of stuff in this cupboard just waiting to go and live at my nieces’ house).

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The top shelf has all sorts of card games and flashcards.

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The second shelf has various Math supplies

like clocks with moveable hands, scales, fraction pieces, more games, hot dot cards,

plus a toy microscope and even a skeleton (in the plastic white box)

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The bottom shelf has more games and Math type activities.

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We found a few old favourites in this cupboard,

and it took us twice as long to clean it

as we had to stop and have a game or ten.

We played with the Logic Links.

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You use counters to try and solve the puzzles.

Some are very easy

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and others are much harder.

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We built the soma cube.

(Do you know how?)

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Then we pulled out the soma cube card challenges.

One of my sons is excellent with these sorts of spatial challenges.

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We played Shape By Shape,

which is a tangram-like game,

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and Top This, another spatial game,

which requires you to make the same arrangement using different blocks.

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The kids were also reacquainted with Rushhour Junior.

After a few rounds, I remembered that we also own the original Rushhour game,

which I’d put away when the kids were little,

waiting for them to be big enough to play.

They are more than big enough now.

So pulling that out was a bit like Christmas coming early.
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I suppose that’s a good thing about cleaning

– reacquainting yourself for all your goodies.

We also filled a bag with goodies to share with others.

Now, to attack the bedroom cupboards.

If you don’t hear from me again,

I’ve gone into my WIR,

never to be seen again.

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Posted by on December 12, 2016 in Family Life, Resources and Organising