Casteluzzo Academy 2011, Term 1

I’ve been meaning to post our curriculum for months, but between one thing and another, we are almost finished with it, and I am just now getting around to posting about it. Better late than never, though!

This was our first term using the Ambleside Online curriculum, since it begins at age 6. And we love it even more than I had anticipated. If you’d like the unadulterated version of the curriculum, you can find it on the official website. Here is my own version, adapted for us:

History – Our Island Story (H.E. Marshall) is Ambleside’s history spine for the early years. It is a history of Britain for young readers, and an absolute treasure of a book from a Charlotte Mason standpoint, meaning that Axa gives incredible narrations (i.e. nearly verbatim) of the stories after just a single hearing. My most moving experience this term was hearing her narrate the story of Boadicea, the warrior queen. Her rendition was sensitive, precise, and beautiful. Obviously, she was highly affected by the proud, powerful, but very human heroine of the story. I remember being similarly affected when I read about Boadicea as a child. I guess we can put her right up there with Jadis.

50 Famous Stories (James Baldwin) recounts the most famous episodes from history as readable stories for young children. This term contained stories such as The Sword of Damocles, Alexander and Bucephalas, and Horatius at the Bridge.

The Discovery of New Worlds (M.B. Synge) is Book 2 in the Synge Story of the World series (not to be confused with the unmentionable Susan Wise Bauer series of the same name). I’m having Axa continue listening to this series in parallel with Our Island Story. It does an excellent job of continuing to cover classical history and then moving on to general European history. Since for us the Mediterranean is the center of the world, this approach to history works well for us. I am also in search of a good book about the history of the Islamic Middle East from a Muslim perspective. These 19th century British books are great, but when we come to the Crusades, I am definitely going to need some dissenting opinions.

Religion – We are reading the Book of Mormon as a family. We read four or five verses per day, and it works amazingly well. Axa and Raj ask for more every single day, and they remember everything that happens. Because we read so little, we also have plenty of time to talk about what we read.

Geography – Tony just found a little globe, which was a long overdue purchase. Axa has been teaching Dominique about the different countries. They know that North Africa from left to right consists in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, and what has been going on in each of those countries over the past several months. A few weeks ago, Tony taught Axa to draw a simplified map of the Mediterranean, including Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and North Africa. Someday we’ll teach them the fifty states too, but for now this is more relevant to our life. I need to do a better job about finding maps of ancient Britain, Carthage and Rome to go along with our readings. Any suggestions?

Natural History/Science – The Burgess Bird Book (Thornton Burgess). An Adorable book that tells cute personified stories about different species of birds. Axa remembers these stories very well. The other day she told me that Chippy the sparrow uses horse hair from Farmer Brown’s field to line his nest.

Hands on nature study has included many beach creatures, including jellyfish, sand dollars, various sea snails, crabs, dolphins, fish I did not identify (both on plates and in the ocean), and sea birds. At home in our yard we have found geckos, turtles, a funny kind of bee with wing coverings like a beetle, stink bugs, and gigantic ants. Axa and Dominique each begged some sprouting garlic off of me, and planted it in little patches in the yard, where it happily soaked up the rains we’ve had over the past few months, and grew tall and green. The avocado pit we propped in a jar with toothpicks fared worse. I think I let it dry out too many times.

Reading – Axa is still working through her readers, mostly hampered by parental lack of consistency. Reading has not quite “clicked” yet for her, although she does also make out signs and other incidental reading material. The other day she asked me to teach her to write her name in Arabic.

Mathematics – We don’t do anything formal for math yet, just lots of real-life measuring, seeing vegetables weighed with weights at the fruit stand, fractions (how to divide the cookies or strawberries), addition and subtraction on fingers, etc.

Foreign Language – All around here. The children are regularly spoken to in French, less commonly in Arabic. Orkin still sounds like Italian, though. We bought a bunch of movies in French, which they happily watch. (We even have Star Wars in French, and I am excited to see how Han Solo sounds in French. Kind of.) We’ve switched from Italian primary songs to French ones, but we’ve only managed to learn one verse of I am a Child of God. For some reason, we find the pronunciation more difficult in French . . . We’re hoping it clicks sometime soon.

Poetry – We’ve already read A Child’s Garden of Verses, and I just don’t really like A. A. Milne, so we are enjoying the Ambleside poetry anthology, We read a poem a day at tea time. Yes, our tea set looks like this:

Literature – Tales from Shakespeare (Charles and Mary Lamb). We are reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest this term. Axa says if she were a character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she would be Titania.
The Blue Fairy Book (Andrew Lang) – All the classic fairy tales. Lang has a book of fairy tales for each color, but these are the best-known. We have been reading his books for years, but Axa and Dominique both like having a fairy tale for bedtime, even if they’ve heard it before.
Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling) – The children love these stories. In fact, they like them so much that I let them listen to one per week, rather than every three weeks like on the Ambleside schedule. I will let them listen to another Kipling book next term. We already read The Jungle Book, Rikki Tikki Tavi, and assorted other Kipling tales when we were in Ireland.
Parables from Nature (Margaret Gatty) – Stories about animals with a little moral. This was the first book that I converted to Kindle all by myself, since I couldn’t find it anywhere except on a long html page.
The Story of Aeneas (Michael Clarke) – We are in Tunisia. We have to read the Aeneid, even though its portrayal of Dido seems to be a Roman caricature, and it sheds much more light on Rome than it does on Carthage. I was fascinated to find that not only did the Roman Emperors trace their lineage back to Aeneas (that, after all, is why Caesar commissioned Virgil to write the poem in the first place), but so did the early British. One Brutus, an early ruler of Britain, is supposed to be the grandson of Aeneas. Some people even go so far as to put Aeneas in King Arthur’s genealogy. I suppose this is no stranger than the fact that Queen Victoria was lauded by Tennyson as Boadicea’s namesake. It made me think of what a powerful tool History is, and how often exploited for political ends. I read Josephine Tay’s engrossing Daughter of Time a week or so ago. It debunks the conventional story (immortalized by Shakespeare) that the princes in the tower were murdered by their quintessentially wicked uncle, Richard III. But I digress.
Art – I’ve already blogged about our lovely experience at the incomparable Bardo Museum in Tunis. Every day at tea time we look at another Roman Carthaginian mosaic. We also spent a few mornings at the Nabeul souq (souvenir market), where we saw some lovely examples of Tunisian handicrafts. Especially notable were the beautiful tea sets like the one pictured above. We went for the metal teapot as less likely to break. But they also had some breathtaking blown glass teapots. We’re planning a visit to the glass factory, which is here in Hammamet. I love seeing glass-blowing.
Photo credit: tea time

One thought on “Casteluzzo Academy 2011, Term 1

  • April 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Wow. I took a break from lesson plan writing for third graders in a public elementary school to read your blog. I must admit their curriculum is far inferior to yours. This makes me excited to begin homeschooling one day.


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