April 27, 2011

Where are we now?

Once upon a time, almost exactly five years ago, I drew up a tentative plan for our classical homeschooling journey.

Since then, I've largely ignored the plan. I don't keep it in front of me on my desk. I don't even look at it once a year. The plan was drawn up based on my philosophy of education; in theory, if I held to my philosophy, we'd stay on track.

After I drew up the plan, I had that moment that many classical homeschoolers face - that moment in which we realize that our plans our grand, and our kids are, well, maybe average. We have ideas of reading Plato together, when the reality is that our 5th grader can't write, still struggles with multiplication, and won't read anything more complex than a second-grade Star Wars novel. We realize that we are going to be hopeless at teaching Greek. Who are we kidding?

Some people switch tracks at that point, believing that they are shooting for something unattainable. I decided that whether or not the goal was unattainable, we'd still benefit from trying, from getting as close as we could. We stuck with the philosophy, but ... slowly.

Now, five years later, I want to drag out my plan and see where we are, compared to where I decided we should be.

Here is my original plan for Connor's 9th grade year:

Math - Euclid. Aidan - Dolciani pre-algebra. Griffin - Singapore 5. Lachlan - Right Start C.

Latin - Henle I I. For Aidan - Henle I, Units 6-10. For Griffin, Henle I Units 1-2. Theoretically time for Lachlan to begin LC I.

Greek - First Greek Book or switch to Spanish or other modern language. Possibly start Griffin in Elementary Greek.

Logic - Material Logic I

Writing - Progym CW Chreia and Shakespeare
Younger children will finish CW Aesop and begin Homer. Or something.

Literature Studies - Gilgamesh and undecided

Classical Studies - Sophocles, Euripides

History - er ... two younger children will do History Odyssey ancients this year. Aidan may do so as well.

So, where are we, really?

Math - Euclid didn't happen. And may never happen. Connor is doing geometry this year, though. Aidan is ahead of the plan, as he's in algebra this year. Griffin, on the other hand, is in Singapore 3, not 5. Lachlan is right with the plan in Right Start C.

Latin - We're way off the grid. Connor has nearly finished Lingua Latina: Familia Romana. Aidan has done two units of Cambridge Latin. Griffin and Lachlan are doing Minimus.

Greek - Because we are in our wonderful co-op, we are still doing Greek. I assure you, if we'd not found the co-op, we'd not be doing Greek. Connor just finished Elementary Greek 3. Aidan just finished Elementary Greek 2. Griffin may start EG I next year.

Logic - None. Haven't done a bit of it.

Writing - The down side to our co-op is that it became to much to do that and Classical Writing. The younger kids are using Writing With Ease. The older boys are ... er ... doing whatever essay assignments I throw at them. I was sorry to drop Classical Writing. I still love the program. We just could not manage both.

Literature/Classical studies - These were combined this year into a Great Books Ancients study for Connor, which covered Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Plato, and Marcus Aurelius. Both Connor and Aidan also read literature for their humanities class, which focused on Medieval writings (Chaucer, Machiavelli, etc.)

Lachlan and Griffin had a classical studies class that focused on the Romans, and read Famous Men of Rome.

And we've really kind of dropped history. Or, rather, it's rolled in with classical studies/humanities/great books.

In other words, we're amazingly close to the original plan, even though I haven't looked at it in years.

Why do I post this? Not to brag (honestly)! I'm posting it to point out two very important things:

1) It's your overall philosophy of education, not your curriculum, that is important.

2) Even though I had those moments of realizing that my kids are not geniuses, and my plans were perhaps too lofty - even though we struggled and were behind the curve - we are achieving the goal. The work is bearing fruit, and it's even the fruit we expected and hoped for. Stick with it! Even if you have a bad year, or three; don't give up, don't throw out your plans. You can do this. You may have to move ahead at a snail's pace for awhile, but that's okay. Stick with it. Odds are, you'll be amazed at the results.

Posted by lynx at 10:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 21, 2011

Latin Centered Curriculum vs. The Well-Trained Mind

I posted this earlier tonight on the Well-Trained Mind forums, in response to a query about LCC and how it might be different from WTM; the poster was also asking questions about how we manage an LCC homeschool, and what our days might look like. Reposting here:

How does it compare to SWB's approach to classical education? SWB's approach is based on the trivium as stages of learning. SWB's approach is rigorous, and complete, and advocates a strong study of grammar, history, and Great Books.

LCC does not use the trivium as an organizing principle. LCC boldly states that a classical education means classical languages, classical works, classical subjects, and the foundational works of our civilization.

In practice, though, the two types of days don't look substantially different.

I am lucky enough to belong to a Latin-Centered co-op. We meet one day a week, and those classes drive our curriculum. At co-op my younger children (3rd and 4th grade) take art, science, classical studies, and Latin. Then at home during the week we do Writing With Ease, First Language Lessons, Right Start math, and I read to them using Ambleside Online's lists (and they narrate).

At co-op my 7th grader takes Greek (Elementary Greek 2), Latin (Cambridge 2), science (Rainbow), and humanities. At home he does Life of Fred, and supplemental reading for history and literature.

At co-op my 9th grader takes Greek (Elementary Greek 3/some other New Testament text), Latin (Lingua Latina - we're on chapter 22), humanities, biology, and Great Books. At home he does Life of Fred for math.

As a group at co-op we all do music, recitation, and drama.

As you can see, all my children do Latin, and the older ones do Latin and Greek. Our Great Books work is in ancients, and we have so far read the Iliad, Herodotus' Histories, and the Oresteia.

Where do we "fall short" of an LCC education? Well, right now we don't have a good writing program going. We have done Classical Writing, but it's been too difficult for me to implement with all of the co-op work. Writing is an area we desperately need to address. Our students do have writing assignments in Great Books and humanities.

We will also be following a four-year Great Books rotation, where are more literal LCC education would keep us in the classics for longer.

It's working *very* well for us. That said, I'm so very glad I found other moms to handle the Greek for me I don't know that we would have kept up with the Greek otherwise.

This year my high schooler will have credits for English 9 (literature selections, recitation, writing); World History (not entirely sure what to do with this, as this year he's studied both ancient history and had a survey of history from the early middle ages to the Enlightenment), Latin II, Biology, Geometry ... and I'm not sure what to do about his Greek and the arts portion of humanities. I'm not sure if his Greek work equals a high school credit, and I need to figure that out. I may give him half a humanities or arts credit this year, and half next year.

Posted by lynx at 8:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 21, 2010

Weekly Report, Week 11

Remember these? Weekly reports? Do you like how I actually know what week of school we're on? It doesn't seem like Week 11, though. It seems more like week 92.

My biggest challenge in homeschooling right now is the fact that I am also working part-time. (I think I've said this before.) It's difficult to manage the job, the house, and the schoolwork. The upshot is that the younger children are not getting the academic attention from me that they need. Obviously, I have to fix that.

So, what did we do this week? The younger two worked in Right Start C and D, respectively. I wish I could tell you what lessons we're on, but we have this problem: when I'm at work, they grab the workbooks and do whatever pages they feel like doing. Then I come home and have to flip all around in the books to see what they've done, what lessons we SHOULD be doing, what I need to teach them, and where they're fine.

They're working very nicely through Handwriting Without Tears (Yes, Susie, can you believe it? I gave up and went back.) and their handwriting is improving. Finally.

Griffin and I did a little bit of Writing With Ease. Not a full week.

We did not do spelling.

However, they impressed me with how much vocabulary they remembered from Minimus. They are working in chapter 4 of Minimus, and have the conjugation of "sum" down nicely.

We did learn that we need to be paying more attention to the stories they are reading for Classical Studies. It is not enough to read or listen to these stories; we must review them if they're going to remember them for class.

The older children, it turns out, hadn't done math in the last week. Ahem. This week, in addition to their Latin and Greek work, they had an actual creative writing assignment from their humanities teacher. Connor dashed his off quickly, and hasn't let me see it. Aidan ... well. We have an extension for the Thanksgiving break.

We're reading Herodotus in Great Books, and we've made it up to the Battle of Marathon. I showed the boys a History Channel special on the battle. They were most impressed by the fact that the History Channel used Rome: Total War to model the battle. I'm really not sure that I'm teaching them much in this class; however, because of the class they're reading the works, comprehending, discussing, and moving forward. I keep trying to hang on to a bigger perspective. Yes, they could have a much more knowledgable teacher here and a much better class; on the other hand, the 9th graders have read the Iliad and Herodotus this year. Not excerpts. The real thing. And they understand what they're reading, and can talk about it. This must be good.

And the week was punctuated with lengthy dentist appointments, and orthodontist appointments, and D&D, and mom working, and ... I can't remember Wednesday. We did something on Wednesday. I can't remember what. And Scouts. Thank goodness fall soccer is finally over.

Whew. When did it get so busy?

Posted by lynx at 1:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

November 10, 2010

This, This is Good.

I love this life.

It's 9:30 in the morning. I've already been out of the house, tutoring a boy who at first was a very difficult student, but who has come around to being cooperative and fun.

On my way home, I was able to use the miracles of modern technology to listen to an excellent recording of the last concert I went to.

I walked in the door to find my children up, dressed, and fed. Two were setting up a game of Munchkin. Another asked me to help him better understand the piece of Dante he's reading.

The sky is blue and the leaves are brilliant.

This is good.

Posted by lynx at 12:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 8, 2010

New School Year!

April. Really? I haven't blogged since April? That's very sad.

But hey, it's a new school year! Okay, it's nearly halfway through a new school year. I thought I might finally share what we're doing, in this year that includes our first year of homeschooling high school.

This year my co-op has moved from enrichment to running the show. The co-op classes are academic one day classes, with homework to fill the rest of the week. This is one reason we are not currently using TOG - it just doesn't make much sense with our new format.

For his first year of high school, Connor is taking Latin, Greek, humanities (literature, history, and the arts) and Great Books (covers history, literature, rhetoric) with the co-op. And biology, sort of. We do math at home.

I'm teaching Latin, and for that we're using Lingua Latina plus Galore Park's So You Really Want to Learn Latin series. Currently the class is in Cap. 19 of Lingua Latina, and halfway through book 2 of SYR. They'll finish all three SYR books this year. We'll get through as much Lingua Latina as we get through.

I'm also teaching the Great Books class. This is a very experimental class; my main focus is on teaching the students to not be afraid of these works. We mainly read and discuss. So far we've read the Iliad, and are halfway through Herodotus' Histories. We are having a blast with these texts!

For biology, after some false starts and trial and error, we are using the plan laid out at Quarks and Quirks, complete with labs.

For 7th grade, Aidan is taking Greek (Elementary Greek II), Latin (Cambridge Unit 2), humanities and science (Rainbow Science) at the co-op, and we do math and, theoretically, writing at home. (Right now he's participating in NaNoWriMo.)

The younger boys are in 3rd and 4th grades this year - can you believe it? At co-op they have Latin (Minimus), Classical Studies (Rome), art, and science (Singapore). We do math (Right Start), handwriting, writing (Writing With Ease and CW Aesop), and spelling (All About Spelling) at home, plus we are reading through some of the Ambleside Online reading lists. (When the library and I are on speaking terms, that is.)

We're using some Ambleside Online recommendations for the older kids, too such as reading through Plutarch's Lives aloud, as a family, slowly. This is fun. Honest! Try it!

Posted by lynx at 7:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 13, 2010

Using TOG Secularly

I get many, many questions about using Tapestry of Grace in a secular manner.

TOG is extremely protective of copyright, so I will use sample material that they make available. Click on the link to find samples from Year 3. This is a three-week sample that focuses on the early British colonies in America.

The sample begins with Week 20. The topic is "Early New World Colonies and Eastern Europe." Here is the reading list for that week. Take a look at it.

The left-hand page shows the most important readings, history core and in-depth, and literature. None of the texts listed are religious in focus, with the possible exception of "The Age of Religious Wars," a rhetoric-level in-depth history text. Further down the page, under the "Worldview" heading, you will find several age-appropriate religiously-oriented texts. However, all you have to do is skip this section.

Now take a look at the right-hand page. It lists alternate texts, which you may use if you 1) don't care for the primary texts, or 2) want additional reading on those topics.

As you can see, there are several books to choose from at each level, and in each category. You can customize to your heart's delight.

The Student Activity Pages are keyed to the primary recommended books. However, a little creativity can fix that. Most of the SAPs in the curriculum focus on literature; TOG provides pdfs of blank response sheets that can be used with any history topic or text.

Here you can find samples of the Student Activity Pages for Week 20. Scroll down until you find the page with the Dialectic level history questions. Read the "Thinking Questions."

Yes, some of those questions have religious content. We either skip them, or we run with them. It's important to understand why Galileo's telescope threatened the Catholic Church! The answers we find are always interesting, and spark great discussions.

You might argue that by doing so we are not using TOG secularly. It is not my goal to strip all religious references and ideas out of our learning. My kids live in a world full of religion - they ought to understand it, and have at least some familiarity with the ideas of the great religions. We don't find that doing so threatens our beliefs.

And, religious questions such as the ones in the sample do not pop up every week.

TOG does not preach. They give you a good deal of choice in the readings, thoughtful questions to ponder, and yes, some questions about the Bible, or how events or people should be looked at through the lens of the Bible. These are never woven into the readings or the content of the program, and so they are easy to skip, modify, or discuss, as you wish.

We find it very easy to work with.

Year 1, however, is different. Year 1, ancient history, is explicitly Bible history. Many weeks use the Bible as the only reading for history. This will not suit our purposes, and it is not easy to modify; and so we will not be using Year 1 for ancient history. We have used the second half of Year 2, all of Year 3, and are about to start Year 4, and have been pleased so far.

Posted by lynx at 4:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 7, 2010

How We Use Tapestry of Grace, and Will We Continue?

My sig line at The Well-Trained Mind forums states that we use Tapestry of Grace, as well as Classical Writing and a general curriculum that follows, more or less, the LCC philosophy - all of which are teacher-intensive and take up a great deal of time.

Lately I've received a slew of questions, asking me how I can possibly manage all that? Specifically, people want to know how I can use Tapestry of Grace and everything else?

I feel almost guilty answering, because I'm not sure that my answer will help anyone. The short answer is that we only use the parts of TOG (or any curriculum) that serve us. We don't use it as fully as it is intended to be used, and so the way we use it may not be cost-effective for many.

TOG is meant to be a full-service curriculum: history, literature, worldview, geography, philosophy, government, and even some fine arts. In fact, the reason it is so popular is because it is an all-in-one program. If you use TOG, all you have to do is add in some science, math, and a foreign language, and you're done! But we use it for the history, and some of the literature and geography. And that's it.

I have one student in TOG's Dialectic level, and one in the Upper Grammar level. Our process is the same for both: I assign them the readings, they read them, and then we discuss. I use TOG's teacher notes and discussion questions/answers, and our discussions are excellent. Occasionally, I will have them write out the answers to the history questions on the Dialectic Student Activity Page.

And that's it. It's a small part of our day, which is largely taken up with Latin, math, Greek, and reading.

I know that many people spend hours of their day on TOG. It's certainly meaty enough to do so. However, I just needed a solid dialectic history schedule, one that held my hand through discussions. TOG serves that purpose well. We have very much enjoyed our TOG history.

Will we continue to use it? I don't yet know. This year we are studying modern history, which means that next year it's back to ancients. TOG Year 1, which covers ancient history, will not work for us. Year 1 is overtly, inescapably religious, with a full 14 weeks out of the year spent in reading only the Bible for history. While I do plan on giving my poor heathen children some Bible literacy, that's a little much for us.

Next year is also our first year of high school. For high school, we plan to try The Well-Trained Mind's plan of doing a Great Books study, combining history and literature. If that goes well, we will probably just continue in that vein throughout high school. History is Connor's favorite subject, so I am willing to largely leave the decision-making up to him. He has many options - returning to TOG for the rhetoric level, continuing with Great Books, sampling community college courses, or creating his own course.

For my younger students, we'll go back to our tried and true Story of the World. They will also get Classical Studies through our wonderful co-op, which dovetails nicely.

For my rising 7th grader? I don't yet know. Stay tuned.

Posted by lynx at 10:03 PM

November 22, 2009

...And Then The Server Died/ The Co-Op

It looks like blogging ability is back, now. O hai!

People keep asking me, "how's school going?" It's going well, thank you, but let me say that working outside the home makes things challenging. I'm not working that many hours, but still, the fact that I'm working at all seems to affect everything.

My instructional time with the kids is limited to Monday mornings, four hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and all of Wednesdays (except that's also the day we'll have to fit in most doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments). Friday we have our all-day co-op, and while that is a full day of school it's not my school.

So it's challenging. The kids are having to learn to work more independently.

On the one hand, my lack of direct time with them means that what we're doing is not as rich or complete as before. For instance, the older kids are completing their history readings, but we now lack the time to do projects, or much in-depth discussion. (Although thanks to Tapestry of Grace the older kids always end up with some form of meaningful history discussion.)

On the other hand, our fledgeling co-op is fantastic! We co-op teachers are still learning, and finding our way, but already this is a huge benefit to us. The older two are getting weekly Latin and Greek instruction, plus drama, science and a fantastic Greek history course in which they read "Antigone" and discuss Plato. The younger two have art, spelling, baby Latin, natural history, geography, and science.

All of the kids have weekly recitation, at which we also work on singing.

We pulled all this together based solely on a bunch of moms who have never been involved with a co-op, but who had the same goals and were willing to jump in and do it. I teach the lower-level geography class, and the upper-level Latin (Lingua Latina).

Aren't you jealous?

I have fantasies of this continuing and eventually developing into a cottage school. I haven't spoken these words out loud to the other moms, though, and I don't know if they share that dream, or if they will run screaming at the thought. I also don't know if any of them read my blog. I guess I'll find out.

Posted by lynx at 5:29 PM | Comments (1)

September 14, 2009

Reading Lists

Our 2009-2010 reading lists:

Connor - 8th Grade

  • Literature

    • Great Expectations

    • Huckleberry Finn

    • The Red Badge of Courage

    • Kidnapped

    • The Hound of the Baskervilles

    • The Invisible Man

    • All Quiet On The Western Front

    • Animal Farm

    • Lord of the Flies

    • Our Town

  • Classical Studies

    • The Odyssey

    • Antigone

    • Agamemnon

  • History

    • Abraham Lincoln's World

    • The Gilded Age - A History in Documents

    • The Cold War - A History in Documents

    • The Good Fight - How World War II Was Won

  • Science

    • Science Matters - Hazen

Aidan - 6th Grade

  • Literature

    • Tom Sawyer

    • Alice in Wonderland

    • The Invisible Man

    • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

    • Lord of the Flies

    • Our Town

  • History

    • Story of the World 4

This is all subject to change. Nor do I expect everything on these lists to get read. Plus, the boys may be involved in a monthly book club, which would read books like Ender's Game, Childhood's End, Watership Down, etc. and where I find the selections worth it, I will modify their school reading so that they can participate in the book club. Plus, I see that we don't really have anything on the Holocaust ... and Connor would love to read biographies of the people involved in WWII.

Call it a reading list in progress :) But aren't they all?

Posted by lynx at 6:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 28, 2009

I'm Back!

It's been a rough year, but we're still here, and still homeschooling. This year I'm teaching 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 8th grade, and we're gearing up for the Great High School Adventure next year (eek).

And we're busy. This year we have a weekly D&D group, Lego League, Scouts for everyone, and a new co-op. Plus, I am working part-time as a tutor for Kaplan. So ... it's going to be interesting.

Our plans for this year include:

2nd and 3rd Grades
Right Start Math/Singapore Math
Writing With Ease 2
First Language Lessons
2 (2nd Grade)
Rod and Staff English 3 (3rd Grade, until I can buy FLL 3 - OR I may go with the incomparable Kathy Jo's Language Lessons Through Literature - just published! Do yourself a favor, and check this out!
History/Literature selections drawn from The Latin-Centered Curriculum

The Writing Road to Reading (co-op)
Song School Latin (co-op)
Song School Greek (co-op)
Geography (co-op)
Science/Nature/Art (co-op)

6th Grade
Latin Prep 1 (plus Cambridge Latin at co-op)
Elementary Greek 1 (co-op)
Singapore Math 5-6
Classical Writing Homer B
Tapestry of Grace Upper Grammar/Dialectic Year 3/4 (modern history 1850-present)
Literature and Classical Studies drawn from The Well-Trained Mind, TOG and LCC
Greek History (co-op)
Science (co-op)
Drama (co-op)

8th Grade
Latin Prep 2/3 (plus Lingua Latina at co-op)
Elementary Greek 2 (co-op)
Dolciani Algebra I/II (he's about 2/3 finished with algebra I)
Classical Writing Diogenes Chreia
TOG Dialectic/Rhetoric Year 3/4 (modern history 1850-present)
Literature and Classical Studies drawn from WTM, LCC, TOG
Greek History (co-op)
Drama (co-op)
Science - Science Matters (Hazen) and The Joy of Science lectures, also by Hazen, from The Teaching Company, plus experiments for a general overview of science.

I think this means we will have no time for drawing, this year, which is irritating. You can't do everything, though. We're going to be in the car a great deal, which is where I will pull out music appreciation and poetry CDs.

We've just finished week 3. So far, so good. The older two are currently reading:

Aidan - Tom Sawyer, D'Aulaire's Norse Myths, Story of the World 4
Connor - Great Expectations, The Odyssey, Abraham Lincoln's World, and This Country Of Ours

I would link more for you, but MT is not behaving, and I just want to post. something.

Posted by lynx at 4:29 PM | Comments (5)