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

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

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

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

March 11, 2009

Simon Bolivar, Redux

Okay, I'm sold.

The three-week study of Simon Bolivar is, in reality, an excuse to jump into the study of South America for a few weeks. We can do that.

I broke down and bought the main recommended text:

I highly recommend this book. It covers the history of each country in South America in a style that is easily readable, but not condescending. It includes information about local flora and fauna, and resources. It does not shy away from discussing the drug trade. I'm glad I bought it, as the library system simply has nothing comparable.

And South America is fun, and interesting. So we will, after all, follow the progam.

Posted by lynx at 8:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 9, 2009

Simon Bolivar

Tapestry of Grace has us scheduled for a three-week study of Simon Bolivar's life and deeds.

We plan to read about him, yes; but can anyone give me a compelling reason for spending three weeks on him? Right now, I'm thinking we will condense the study into one week, and move on.

Am I missing some reason to go in-depth here? In 5th and 7th grade?

Posted by lynx at 12:04 AM | Comments (3)

April 30, 2008

This Made My Day

Q: “How do you keep from getting overwhelmed and frustrated?”

A:
Well, I get up pretty early and get started. So by 9:30 or 10:00 when we’re working on math — which is the subject we have the most trouble with — I’m already pretty drunk.

I so wish I'd written that.

The entire list can be found here.

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April 10, 2008

On Book Lists

I look forward to homeschooling high school. We plan to do a Great Books program, and I'm excited about reading classics I've never read, such as Paradise Lost.

A few months ago I was rummaging through boxes in our basement, and I came across the box that holds all my college papers. Imagine my surprise when I came across a paper on Paradise Lost. A paper that I had written. A paper that meant that I had read Paradise Lost. Read it, wrote about it, and, apparently, wiped it from my memory. It left no impact whatsoever.

The other day, a somewhat distraught woman posted on the Well-Trained Mind board. Homeschooling was stressing her out; she was unhappy. She found no fun or joy in educating her children, only stress and pressure. Instead of being able to enjoy the process and the journey, she could only see what she hadn't gotten done: What books her children hadn't read, what assignments they hadn't done, what educational markers they hadn't checked off. One specific thing that caused her stress was book lists. She said that whenever she saw a book list, she felt that her children had to read all the books on the list, in order to be well-educated. She did not feel that she was well-educated, and did not want to risk that for her kids.

I can relate. Although I'm generally pretty relaxed about what we do, I've fallen prey to the stress of book lists. I'm a type-A overachiever, at least when it comes to academics (not, unfortunately, when it comes to housework). (Or is that fortunately?) However, I've been saved by two things:

1) Connor is a slow reader, when it is not a book of his choosing; and

2) I refuse to have a stressful homeschool. If he's a slow reader, I absolutely will not allow putting pressure on him to read faster to result in stress or guilt.

Long book lists are great. There are so many, many wonderful books to read that we can't read them all in 12 short years. And that's the point ... we can't read them all. We can't. And what a shame if we could! It's only high school. That's the longest we will homeschool. High school. It's not college. It's not life. We do not have to cram the collective wisdom of the ages down the throats of our children by the end of 12th grade.

Reading five Great Books, by the end of high school, is immesurably better than reading none. Reading ten is even better, and is more than I read in high school, certainly. How many are being read in your local high school?

It's got to be better to read what you can, at the speed you can, with depth and understanding. I'm certain the reason I've forgotten reading Paradise Lost is that I read it in a survey class, as part of a huge reading list. What is the point of plowing through a long list, without depth and retention? What is the benefit of having read a book you go on to forget, except to check off a box that says you did? In a homeschool, doing so does nothing but put band-aids on your insecurities. I'm not saying that we don't sometimes need those band-aids, but let's call them by their name.

So don't let the long readings lists haunt you. Don't let them be a source of stress, or guilt. Do what you can, and do it well. You will be a thousand times better off than the student who reads quickly, without depth; checks the box, and dumps it all right out of her brain.

For more on this idea, see "Multum non Multa."

Posted by lynx at 8:47 PM | Comments (3)

March 26, 2008

No Homeschooler Left Unknown

The State of Michigan, in its infinite wisdom, has put forth a bill to require homeschoolers to register with your local school superintendent.

HB5912 says thusly (new, proposed material in bold):

(4) For a child being educated at the child's home by his or

her parent or legal guardian, both of the following apply:

(a) The exemption from the requirement to attend public school

may exist under either subsection (3)(a) or (3)(f), or both.

(b) The exemption from the requirement to attend public school

exists only if the child's attendance is appropriately reported to

public school officials as required under section 1578.

Sec. 1578. (1) The appropriate authority of each nonpublic

school at the beginning of the each school year shall furnish all

of the following to the superintendent of schools of the school

district in which the nonpublic school is situated or the

intermediate superintendent:

(a) The name and age of each child who is enrolled at the

school.

(b) The number or name of the school district and the city or

township and county in which the parent, guardian, or person in

parental relation resides.

(c) The name and address of the parent, guardian, or other

person in parental relation.

(d) The name and age of each child enrolled in the school who

is not in regular attendance.

(2) The parent or legal guardian of a child being educated at

the child's home by his or her parent or legal guardian as

described in section 1561(3)(f) shall at the beginning of each

school year furnish all of the following to the superintendent of

schools of the school district in which the child's home is

situated or the intermediate superintendent of the intermediate

school district in which the child's home is situated:

(a) The name and age of each child who is being educated at

the home.

(b) The number or name of the school district and the city or

township and county in which the parent or legal guardian resides.

(c) The name and address of the parent or legal guardian.

HB 5912 was introduced in the state
house on March 19, 2008, by Reps. Clack (D), Hammon(D), Constan (D), Johnson
(D), Hammel (D), Vagnozzi (D), Alma Smith (D), Meadows (D), LeBlanc (D),
Simpson(D), Robert Jones (D), Virgil Smith (D), Jackson (D), Leland (D),
Bauer (D), Kathleen Law (D), Polidori (D), Corriveau (D), Ebli (D),
Sheltrown (D), Wojno (D), Farrah (D), Miller (D), and Dean (D).

My goodness, look at all the "D"s.

I'm not that worried. This is stupid and unnecessary, but the homeschoolers are rallying and I don't think it will go anywhere. Apparently the government tried this 10 years ago, and failed. Still, if you homeschool in Michigan, you can use this link to contact your representative and let them know that Michigan can bite your shiny metal you strongly disagree with such legislation.

Posted by lynx at 11:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 26, 2007

Science

Yes, as I said before, we're using a formal science curriculum. Scary, eh?

I chose Singapore's Interactive Science because, well, it didn't make me run screaming off into the night the way most science programs do. I chose it for Connor, on the premise that 1) middle school was a good time to start into more formal science, and 2) Interactive Science would be challenging, but not overwhelming.

I didn't really expect Aidan to do this course as well. However, I gave him the option of doing science with his little brothers or with his big brother, and he chose the way of running away from school with the little brothers.

Interactive Science is solid. I can't abide fluff in a science program, and this has none. The text itself is written in a lighthearted manner, often with cute pictures that belie the level of the material. We had a bit of a hurdle at first, because the first few chapters are very math-heavy: unit conversions, calculating the volume of various objects, calculating area, finding rate and speed, etc. The math is right at Connor's level, but I had to teach Aidan (not a big deal, as he picks up math concepts quickly). But being math-heavy, I was afraid the boys would be bored. They're not. Go figure.

The experiments are good. Again, no fluff. So far we've covered lab safety, learned how to safely boil water in a test tube, used water to calculate volume, and observed what happens to the oscillation of a pendulum when you add weight, or change the length of the string (pendulum = ball on the end of a string). We've also tested individual reaction times, and calculated averages of said times. Next we're going to do the unit on speed and rate.

The experiments are meant for a classroom with a fully equipped science lab, so we have to do some finagling. Some labs we will have to skip altogether, but we can still read through the instructions and discuss possible outcomes. Others are easy: We don't have the materials a science lab would use to measure speed, but we do have Hot Wheels cars, and a piece of wood for a ramp. The experiments clearly demonstrate the text material, and are always relevant.

However, on top of all that, the text asks students to think. For instance, after a reading on volume and displacement, the students were asked how they might find the volume of a cork (which floats on water). Ah, problem solving!

Much attention is giving to different ways of measuring and calculating, so that the students can compare methods and find which is most accurate.

It is good stuff. I plan on moving slowly, and supplementing with lots of library books for topics we have never delved into before.

Because I am insane, we are also doing some of the experiments from The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. So far all we've done has been th lesson on bending and glazing glass tubing. Both Connor and Aidan managed to burn themselves by touching the glass when it was hot. I was feeling pretty frustrated about having boys who were not smart enough to not touch the hot glass, until I did it myself. Well. Would any of you like to come by and handle lab safety for us when we get to the dangerous chemicals bits?

Posted by lynx at 9:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 31, 2007

It's that time of year ...

... when I would normally be up to my eyeballs in planning the school year.

I love to plan. Planning is calming. It is so nice to see everything laid out and lined up so neatly on paper, like little blocks of perfection. Thankfully, years ago I learned that although I love to plan, it ends there; I do not love actually making the plan a reality. And that's fine. I can indulge my love of planning, and then feel free to toss the plan aside and do something else. Just because I love to plan does not mean that a highly-structured plan works for our homeschooling.

This year, I don't even have the urge to plan. Nope, that urge is just not there. Nor is the urge to actually start school. This is the first year we've ever taken a summer break, and now that we're into it I really have no desire to stop it.

Well, mostly no desire.

Although what we do in our homeschool works well, we did get into a rut there by the end of last year. I believe in what we're doing. What we're doing works. And yet ... it was a rut and I was bored. A bored Mama teacher is never a good thing. Frankly, any time you are bored with your homeschool, that should be a huge signal, in flashing neon lights, with sirens and the Hallelujah chorus, that you should Do. Something. Else.

If you are bored, imagine how your kids feel.

And yet ... I don't want to change anything. Like I said, what we're going works. So.

So we're easing back into school, although the "s" word hasn't been mentioned in earnest yet. It's not "school," it's reading on the deck. And it's science. Yes, folks, we are doing formal science this year: Singapore's Interactive Science for Connor and Aidan, and R.E.A.L. Science Project Life for the little kids. (Interactive Science is meant for 7th graders. I gave Aidan the option of doing that with Connor, or doing the R.E.A.L. science with the little kids. He opted for the more challenging science. Gotta love that kid.)

I figure we'll do science solidly for a few weeks, and slowly ease into math, Latin, etc. I find myself most reluctant to jump back into Classical Writing, which is odd because I love that program passionately. However, it is a lot of work, and I'm not really interested in work right now. No ... the sun is out, the sky is blue, it's beautiful, and since there's no one around here named Prudence, I'll just say that Michigan summers are not conducive to "work."

We picked berries today. It was hot.

Posted by lynx at 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's that time of year ...

... when I would normally be up to my eyeballs in planning the school year.

I love to plan. Planning is calming. It is so nice to see everything laid out and lined up so neatly on paper, like little blocks of perfection. Thankfully, years ago I learned that although I love to plan, it ends there; I do not love actually making the plan a reality. And that's fine. I can indulge my love of planning, and then feel free to toss the plan aside and do something else. Just because I love to plan does not mean that a highly-structured plan works for our homeschooling.

This year, I don't even have the urge to plan. Nope, that urge is just not there. Nor is the urge to actually start school. This is the first year we've ever taken a summer break, and now that we're into it I really have no desire to stop it.

Well, mostly no desire.

Although what we do in our homeschool works well, we did get into a rut there by the end of last year. I believe in what we're doing. What we're doing works. And yet ... it was a rut and I was bored. A bored Mama teacher is never a good thing. Frankly, any time you are bored with your homeschool, that should be a huge signal, in flashing neon lights, with sirens and the Hallelujah chorus, that you should Do. Something. Else.

If you are bored, imagine how your kids feel.

And yet ... I don't want to change anything. Like I said, what we're going works. So.

So we're easing back into school, although the "s" word hasn't been mentioned in earnest yet. It's not "school," it's reading on the deck. And it's science. Yes, folks, we are doing formal science this year: Singapore's Interactive Science for Connor and Aidan, and R.E.A.L. Science Project Life for the little kids. (Interactive Science is meant for 7th graders. I gave Aidan the option of doing that with Connor, or doing the R.E.A.L. science with the little kids. He opted for the more challenging science. Gotta love that kid.)

I figure we'll do science solidly for a few weeks, and slowly ease into math, Latin, etc. I find myself most reluctant to jump back into Classical Writing, which is odd because I love that program passionately. However, it is a lot of work, and I'm not really interested in work right now. No ... the sun is out, the sky is blue, it's beautiful, and since there's no one around here named Prudence, I'll just say that Michigan summers are not conducive to "work."

We picked berries today. It was hot.

Posted by lynx at 10:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 27, 2007

Testing

We did our first-ever standardized testing in May. I got the scores today.

Connor took the IOWA test for 5th grade; Aidan took the IOWA for 3rd grade. This was their first standardized test of any type, and was certainly their first experience taking a test outside the home, given by someone who was not me.

The results? Connor's Composite National Percentile Rank was 92, Grade Equivalent 9.9, 8th stanine.

Aidan's Composite National Percentile Rank was 95, Grade Equivalent 6.4, 8th stanine.

I think this homeschooling thing is going pretty well. Don't you? These tests didn't tell me anything I don't already know, but it is nice to have the numbers.

Posted by lynx at 11:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 8, 2007

Languages

I've known about Muzzy for years. It's expensive, though, and reviews did not convince me that it would be worth the money.

However, it turns out that my local library as several of them. You can't beat free, can you?

The videos themselves are nothing special, but my kids, especially my 5 and 6 year old, love them. Love them. They sit and watch, over and over again - which, of course, is exactly the point.

Muzzy is a cartoon in a foreign language, done in such a way that it teaches and reinforces specific beginning vocabulary. It's immersion learning. With our main study focus on Latin, I wanted some kind of immersion/exposure thing for the kids. I throw a few Spanish phrases around the house, but that's not enough. I don't know that Muzzy is enough either, but it's something. The kids watch the cartoon in the target language over and over. The package also comes with a cartoon book of the same story, in English and various other languages. You also get a CD with the audio track of the story, an extra DVD (or video) for vocabulary building, and a DVD (or video) of the story in English.

We began with the Spanish, but last week the little kids asked for the German version. Next week they want the French. Muzzy also comes in Italian and Mandarin Chinese, according to the website, although my library also has a Japanese version. I imagine we'll rotate through them all. I don't expect the kids to walk away from the TV spouting German or Spanish, but at least they're hearing the language and making those connections in their brains. That's all I want. I don't expect us to really study a modern foreign language until high school, or late junior high. This kind of exposure is perfect for the little kids, and it won't hurt my 9 and 11 year olds.

Speaking of Latin, I am thrilled at the progress Connor and Aidan are making! At this point I have several different Latin books and programs, and we rotate through them however it seems best. Connor is working in Henle I, and Aidan has finished LCI and has picked up Using Latin Book One. Every week the three of us sit down and read Lingua Latina together, which has done wonders for their comprehension and enjoyment. It's fun.. (Lingua Latina is a wonderful little beginning Latin book, written entirely in Latin. There's not a word of English in the book, including in the grammar explanations, index, vocabulary defintions ... not a word.)

Myself, I'm about to tackle Homeric Greek, but I expect it to be very, very slow going. Did I mention slow? Slow.

Posted by lynx at 9:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 29, 2007

Tip For New Homeschoolers - Do Your Homework

Pet Peeve: People who post on homeschooling boards to ask questions like "What should my 3rd grader be doing for English?"

Bigger Pet Peeve: People who answer them with specific skills/content matter.

I can appreciate and understand that people homeschool for many different reasons. Perhaps you pulled your child from school suddenly, because of a bad situation. Perhaps you haven't yet had time to think. Okay. There are two things you can do.

First, you know what your child has been studying in school up until that point. (You should know.) Take that as a temporary starting point and carry on. Second, you can give them spring/summer/fall/winter break while you figure things out.

But whatever you do, you've got to take some time to think about this schooling thing. Please.

When you decide to homeschool, you are taking on the responsibility of the education of your children. That's a big responsibility. Huge. It's second only to the responsibility of caring for them and keeping them alive and healthy.

When you decide to homeschool, you become the one in charge. You. It's all up to you. You make the decisions. How do you make those decisions? You do your own homework. Right now, start reading everything you can get your hands on about education, and homeschooling. Right now, start talking to your children. What are their interests? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What do they want to do? Right now, start talking to your spouse about what he/she thinks is important about education and the children.

You can decide to stick with the state standards, and teach your kids as they would be taught in public school. You can decide to let your children direct their own education, while you facilitate. You can decide to do something else entirely. School in your home will not, and should not, look like school at anyone else's home.

What should your kid be doing in 3rd grade? I don't know. And no one else on that message board does, either. We don't know your kid. We don't know your philosophy of education. We don't know your goals. We don't know your lifestyle. No one can answer that, and no one should try. Please don't take anyone else's version of education into your home.

But if you don't give it any further thought than to ask some random people on a message board to direct the education of your child, you're going to do a terrible job.

Posted by lynx at 9:37 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 2, 2007

Why We Homeschool - Lego Freedom!

As if we needed another reason to be glad we homeschool. Check out this piece entitled Why We Banned Legos.

A group of teachers of children ages 5-9 fostered unstructured play with Legos, resulting in a structure they called "Legotown." Children built, traded Legos, and created a large, creative town. But then, you see:

Occasionally, Legotown leaders explicitly rebuffed children, telling them that they couldn't play. Typically the exclusion was more subtle, growing from a climate in which Legotown was seen as the turf of particular kids. The other children didn't complain much about this; when asked about Legos, they'd often comment vaguely that they just weren't interested in playing with Legos anymore. As they closed doors to other children, the Legotown builders turned their attention to complex negotiations among themselves about what sorts of structures to build, whether these ought to be primarily privately owned or collectively used, and how "cool pieces" would be distributed and protected. These negotiations gave rise to heated conflict and to insightful conversation. Into their coffee shops and houses, the children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive. As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.

Which is sad, because that's how life works.

I wonder what the rebuffed children did with the time they were not spending on Legos. Did they find other activities? Did they get involved in an interesting project that meant more to them? Did they sit on the sidelines, watching and moping? I'm guessing they left the Lego barons to themselves, and found something else to do. Which, again, is how life works. Not everyone is good at everything, or suited for everything. And golly, that's okay.

But no, the children must be stopped before they realize that capitalism works. The teachers banned the Legos and embarked on a re-education program. In the end:

From this framework, the children made a number of specific proposals for rules about Legos, engaged in some collegial debate about those proposals, and worked through their differing suggestions until they reached consensus about three core agreements:

All structures are public structures. Everyone can use all the Lego structures. But only the builder or people who have her or his permission are allowed to change a structure.

Lego people can be saved only by a "team" of kids, not by individuals.

All structures will be standard sizes.

With these three agreements — which distilled months of social justice exploration into a few simple tenets of community use of resources — we returned the Legos to their place of honor in the classroom.

Oh, you poor kids. You thought you were having fun and being creative with toys. Now you know just how wrong you were. But through a careful examination of how bad power is, what a bad person you are if you have any power (even if you have the power/wealth by pure chance) and how creativity might hurt someone's feelings, you can be cured. Now that you're free from the ideas of competition, ownership and creativity, and full of guilt for your previous successes, now you can play correctly. Go on, kids. Have fun!

I'll make you a deal, folks. You teach the kids socialism and guilt. I'll teach mine to be creative, resourceful and successful. I have a feeling I know how both groups will end up.

Posted by lynx at 7:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 30, 2007

About that socialization thing ...

So let me get this straight: My homeschooled kids are presumably not "properly socialized." However, the two little boys at the park who ran around asking all the other kids, "Do you think we're idiots?" are presumably fine.

It's probably a good thing they didn't ask me. We'd have had to leave the park.

Posted by lynx at 3:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Science

Previously, on My Blog ...

(Sorry, too much BSG.)

I mentioned, in my What We Do and How We Do It post, that we don't do much formal science. I said that at the elementary level, science is really just reading and playing; you can't really get into meaty science until you have the math.

And Dave responded, in the comments:

You wrote, “However, science at the elementary level is just reading and playing - you can't really delve into most branches of science until you have the math to do so.” I think this is slightly too pessimistic. Have you looked at Hoagland’s “The Way Life Works”? Bright grade-schoolers can understand this, and I myself am learning some biology too going through it.

Of course, you cannot really fully grasp physics until you know calculus: indeed, although I have a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, I’m not sure I, or anyone else, _fully_ grasps phyiscs!

But science is not primarily plugging and grinding to calculate. The math and the calculations should follow upon conceptual understanding. After all, Galileo did not have calculus, and I think we can fairly say that he grasped some aspects of physics. (There were a number of serious but conceptually oriented books on math and physics written decades ago by Irving Adler: I find “The Wonders of Physics” and “The Giant Golden Book of Mathematics” particularly useful. Adler had a gift for explaining sophisticated ideas in terms bright grade-schoolers could grasp.)

I agree with you, Dave, but gaining a conceptual understanding falls under my category of "reading and playing," and you don't need any kind of formal program to do it.

We read a great deal of science - at least two of our kids have asked for our Kingfisher science encyclopedia as bedtime reading. We watch science documentaries. We go to science museums - that's one of our favorite things to do, as a family. We go on nature walks. Our family passion is space flight and exploration. But that's all informal - it's playing. A traditionally schooled person might very well look at what we do and conclude that my kids are lacking in science, because it's all informal.

Have you looked at the various science programs and curricula that are available at the elementary level? Gag me. With a spoon. There are a couple that are good, but most turn my stomach, at worst, or just seem silly and unnecessary, at best. Chemistry is the worst. I had to look long and hard to find anything for elementary chemistry that didn't send me screaming off into the night. Honestly. Most of what I found were "ooh and ahh" programs, designed to be fun and not to teach anything. (For the record, there are two programs I eventually found to be useful: Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry, and the material at How to Teach Science. We did use the Pre Level 1 RS4K chemistry, and are about to spend a few weeks on Level 1. A few weeks is all it takes, and it doesn't assume that kids are idiots who can't understand chemistry. How refreshing.)

Occasionally I find something good and we use it, like the programs I mentioned above, but mostly we just read and go to museums. And through doing so, I think they are actually getting a good grasp of concepts. We're a little light on biology, so I'm going to check out "The Way Life Works," that Dave references above.

As we head into jr. high I'll do something more formal, as a prep for high school lab courses. I do want them to have a very good conceptual understanding before high school. But at the elementary level, I can't waste time on formal science if "formal science" means dumbed-down information, coloring pages, cutsey crafts, and combining vinegar and baking soda AGAIN ... nor if it means "read and outline/fill in the blank."

I bet we're really on the same page here, Dave.

Posted by lynx at 7:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling


The new Carnival of Homeschooling is up, and it's pretty. Nice job, Dana!

Posted by lynx at 5:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2007

What We Do and How We Do It

Greg Laden, an anthropology professor at the University of Minnesota, is curious about homeschooling. I thought I'd answer his questions here, rather than dump all of this into his comments.

Let me introduce my family, Greg. We have four sons, none of whom have ever gone to school. I have a degree in English; my husband studied aerospace engineering and computer science, and works in IT. I also have several undergraduate and graduate credits in education (teaching and curriculum design). We are Pagan. Politically we are libertarian and conservative. We move and travel frequently with my husband's job.

We began homeschooling because I felt that my oldest was too young to spend most of his day at a school; I thought he was better off at home until he was older. I was also concerned about the quality of public school education and thought I could do better.

Now we continue to homeschool largely for the same reasons Chris does: "It’s really not about education with us anymore. It’s about the freedom not follow an arbitrary schedule that controls our lives." Exactly. That, and I believe that schools waste too much time, and focus too much on irrelevancies. I believe that schools more often train kids to not think.

We attempt a form of classical liberal education. We place importance on learning Latin (we'll start ancient Greek next year), classical history, math, and logic. We're pretty relaxed in our actual approach. Like Chris said - it really only takes two or three hours a day.

I'll address Greg's comments, one by one:

First, he's interested in learning about some of our typical days. My kids get up around 8 am, and we start school by 10. In the mornings we work on math, Latin, and writing/grammar. During or after lunch I read to them, a different subject every day - classical studies (mythology and ancient history), world history, literature, math/science, etc. Tuesdays and Thursdays, that's all we do. Tuesday afternoons we spend at homeschool classes, where my kids take Lego Engineering, a P.E. class and an American history class. Thursday afternoons we spend at karate classes. Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon we work more on literature, or art, or history projects, or science. Or, we might go on a field trip (museum, orchard, state park, organized field trip, playdate), or work on project for Scouts. They also have assigned reading every day, and are required to read a book of their choice every day. Their Dad reads to them some more at night, anything from "Harry Potter" to "Alice in Wonderland" to "Hunt for Red October."

In the evenings and weekends they are involved in Scouts and First Lego League.

I have kids who would be in preschool, 1st grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade. The 1st grader's schoolwork is completed in about half an hour, not counting read-alouds. The 3rd grader takes an hour to an hour and a half. The 5th grader has 2-3 hours of work a day, not counting reading.

Greg says: "It seems to me that one of the great advantages of the traditional system is that courses divide the topics into a certain size range of material, and individual classes, with assignments, periodic tests or quizzes, etc. keep everyone on track (both teacher and students) to get a certain amount of work on specific topics done over a specific time."

It might help to think of homeschooling more as a tutoring arrangement. I might find it helpful to divide topics into a certain range of material, but then again, we are not as controlled by schedules as a school is. A course does not have to fit into a semester. We can spend as long as we need to, or desire to, on any topic.

Tests and quizzes are generally unnecessary, because as my child's tutor, I know exactly what he understands and does not understand. We do review work in math, and if a child reveals a weak spot, we go back to that topic. I do give quizzes in Latin, and if a child reveals a weak spot, we go back to it. Tests in the other subjects are simply not necessary, at least not at our level. We discuss history, science, and literature; if they don't know the material, they can't keep up with our discussion. It becomes obvious. We do a great deal of teaching by Socratic questioning, as well.

"Nonetheless, “courses and classes” provide useful structure, or at least a useful framework. How do you get these benefits in a home school setting?"

Usually by going outside for them. It is useful for the kids to become used to that structure and framework, as it is what they will be expected to deal with in college. So we take outside classes. When we reach high school level, they will more than likely take community college classes.

Do home schoolers use textbooks? What do you think about textbooks? What are the alternatives?

We use a textbook for math, along with supplementary materials. We will eventually use textbooks for science. In general, we prefer to avoid textbooks. Textbooks at the elementary level have the side effect of training the child to think in bite-sized nuggets, and are often biased, bland and boring. I would have no problem using a textbook that is thoughtful, interesting, well-written and engaging, but I have found very few of them. We sometimes we use textbooks written pre-1970s, where the information is not time-sensitive (such as Latin or English grammar, or math).

How does teacher training work in a home school environment? In other words, how to you determine when there is an area of knowledge that you want to develop with the child that the parent(s) are not comfortable with, and then what do you do about it? Learn it? Seek outside resources, and if so what? With older kids, do you send the kid off on their own with the task of coming back and teaching the parent? (That’s a technique we use for graduate training that sometimes goes very well!)

Very often, I learn it. I did not know Latin before I began homeschooling. My math education was abysmal, and I feel as though I'm learning math for the first time. I can learn anything and, in fact, that's one of the most important pieces of knowledge I can pass on to my students - that they can learn anything.

That said, soon my oldest will be at or beyond my level in math, and then he (or we) will go to my husband for teaching. If his Latin ability outstrips mine, he (we) will either take classes online, or seek a local tutor. He may well take science classes at a community college. If he develops an interest that is simply not within my desire to learn, he can go learn it himself or I will arrange a class or tutor.

Since we began homeschooling I have spent countless hours researching what I need to teach, how, how best to do so.

Do some home schoolers develop and use highly advanced IT resources, while others avoid these things, figuring that kids will have a huge amount of exposure to electronic gadgetry in this society anyway?

We run our own web server out of the house, and our kids have their own computer. I'll be teaching them HTML this summer.


Are there specific useful IT resources (software, hardware) that everybody else should know about because they are so good? Is there a sense or knowledge of OpenSource resources in the Home School community?

Not really. Many homeschoolers like to use planning software, but there's a dearth of that for the Mac. In fact, often curriculum publishers do not publish for the Mac.

Are there themes that work their way through all (or many) aspects of what you do, over the years? For instance, in my family, we are interested in birds, so birds get woven through a lot of different areas of exploration. Birds have shown up in my daughter’s science fair projects in a couple of places, we have a collective family level knowledge of bird behavioral biology and evolution to which we can refer. In some families this kind of thing may gravitate around horses (COD?) or some other theme. Is this common?

Yes, it's common! For my family it's space flight and certain periods of history.

I’m sure testing has it’s uses. But what about in a home school setting? (Other than having the home schoolers take standardized tests, etc.) How do you handle evaluation?

Testing is very useful when you are teaching a class of students. It is difficult to know exactly how much each student out of 25 has retained. Again, since I teach one on one, I don't have that problem. Nor do I grade. We simply don't move on until they've mastered the material.

For evaluation purposes, I look ahead to college. What skills, and what knowledge base, will they need to get into a good college? Are we on track for that?

Many homeschoolers do test. I just don't see the point.

In my opinion, a large amount of what is learned in a traditional setting is lost within weeks or months. In other words, just because a student got a passing grade in algebra last year, the calculus teacher cannot assume that the student has algebra knowledge …

… Other than saying “home schooling is better therefore the students learn more….” I’d love to hear how this works in home schooling. How is knowledge developed for the longer term, how do you review, how do you know what the kids know, how do you integrate earlier with later learned materials?

First, understand that I divide knowledge between skill areas and content areas. I am not particularly concerned with retention of content area subjects (such as history, and, at this level, science). How much history do you remember from high school? None of us remember much, if any, and yet we've still gone on to do well in college and be productive citizens. Strike that - productive members of society. "History retention" and "citizens" is a whole other rant.

Skill areas include math, foreign languages, grammar, spelling, writing mechanics, etc. First of all, we do not adhere to a traditional school schedule, so we do not have a lengthy summer break. That helps. Our math program incorporates regular review sessions. Our Latin and English grammar programs are cumulative; if they flounder, I go back and re-teach the area they're having trouble with. Avoiding a lengthy gap means that we don't have to waste as much time on re-teaching.

For everything else, we read and discuss, read and discuss. No, they don't remember everything, but that's okay. If you can read and discuss well, you can learn. Don't make the mistake of thinking this means that we think history and science are not important. We place a high value on both. However, science at the elementary level is just reading and playing - you can't really delve into most branches of science until you have the math to do so. You don't need tests and quizzes to learn history - you read, read, read and discuss, discuss, discuss; you watch documentaries, you travel, and then you read and discuss some more.

In the content areas, kids will remember what interests them. It is my job to engage them, to make the subject as relevant as possible, and to give them as much of a broad overview, a framework, as I can. But then, they take off. For instance, I take all the kids through a four-year cycle of world history. My oldest loves history, has been through this cycle once already, and reads our history encylopedia for fun. This year he has begged to be let out of the regular history rotation (we're doing ancients this year) so that he can study World War II instead. And so he is. You can bet he's going to remember a great deal about World War II, because that's his current passion.

And, of course, whatever else you think is interesting and important that I have not mentioned.

Now that I've answered your specific questions, your general question was about methods, what do we do and how do we do it. As I mentioned before, I've done a great deal of research into education, into what I think they kids should be taught, what I think constitutes an excellent education, and how we can give them one. I developed a general philosophy of education, and then from that made some more specific goals. Keeping both my goals and college in mind, I drafted a tentative plan of education for the kids. Tentative! Maybe my plan won't be a good fit for one child. Maybe it won't be enough for one, or too much for another. As they get older and want more say in their education, perhaps my plan won't fit their needs. Education wears many different faces.

Every year I review the plan, and make note of where we are in relation to it. Based on this I make a more specific plan for the upcoming year, but again, it's always flexible. However, this way I know if we're "on track." A flexible plan, and year-round schooling, means that we have the freedom to chuck the plan here and there to do something else - to travel, to play, to follow other interests.

I generally use programs specifically made for homeschoolers, at least at the elementary level. However any program, any curriculum is a tool. I never use any program as written, but always adapt it to our needs. I might use two or three different programs for any subject, pulling from each what we need and ignoring the rest.

If you, or anyone else, has any questions, I'm more than happy to answer.

Posted by lynx at 6:57 AM | Comments (5)

February 6, 2007

If you were following the math discussion below ....

Go back into the comments to read Dave M.'s addition. Dave, I was hoping you'd chime in. When it comes to math, I have the goal dimly in my sight; but I have no answers, because I don't even know what the questions are. I do know that I don't want to sail through the standard math sequence to have my kids pass the SAT and call it done. We're pursuing classical education, and doing math in that way misses the whole point, doesn't it? But I don't know where to stop and do something else.

I've had Liping Ma's Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics recommended to me many times. Let's be honest, I've always assumed it would put me to sleep. I'm ordering it now.

Posted by lynx at 10:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 30, 2007

Homeschoolers Are Funny

Today I had to kill some time away from the house, with my two younger children. So we did what most of America does when they need to kill time with young children: We went to McDonald's.

Today there were two other women in the play area. Woman #3 (by entry into the area) began the conversation by asking me and Woman #2 if our children were not in preschool. W2 replied that her child was only four, and no, no preschool. I mumbled something along the same lines, not wanting to bring up homeschooling.

W3 asked a few more questions, and it finally came out that W2 was also killing time, until her children got out of a class at the same time that my children were getting out of a class. It turned out we were both homeschoolers, and had kids in the same co-op classes.

W3 was sore amazed, and began to pepper us with questions about homeschooling, mainly "WHY do you do it? Don't you think the schools are good?" So W2 and I began, hesitantly, gingerly, to explain about negative socialization issues, large class sizes, etc.

W3 asked me what I used to teach them, and I ducked. I gave her vague answers about how I pull from different sources, and there's all kinds of things you can do ... W2 said the same things.

All in all, W3 was friendly and interested, and I think we gave her some food for thought. But what struck me as funny about the whole incident is how cagey W2 and I were about the details.

Have you ever witnessed a first-time meeting of homeschoolers? Neither of us really wants to admit, at first, without knowing where the other stands, how we handle our children's education. Neither of us wants to come out and say what sides we fall into on the various homeschooling camps. Certainly I've had the experience of saying that we do a form of classical education, and seeing eyes roll at me in return. Or sometimes, I get a lecture on the benefits of unschooling, with the thinly veiled accusation that I must be stifling my kids and robbing of their childhoods and natural desire to learn. Gosh, I love that. I've learned to only utter the dreaded "classical" after I'm on a fairly good social footing. I imagine unschoolers get the same kinds of responses. I also imagine most people are somewhere in the middle.

And there we were, with so much potentially in common, but too wary to admit it. Funny, and sad. Who's to say we weren't being cagey about the exact same things?

And all the while, this Emo Philips routine kept running through my head.

Posted by lynx at 10:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 29, 2007

A Little Light Schooling

Take a look at this curriculum for a late 18-century Latin grammar school in Pennsylvania. It's scary. I'm scared. Well, I'm scared because I know I'm not working hard enough at making sure my kids have the Latin grammar down pat, and I know we won't ascend those higher heights until I do. But wow.

However, this was the part I found the most interesting:

Through the whole course no book shall be laid aside upon having had but one reading. There may, indeed, be but few books which can be read through, because time will not permit, but whatever part of a book is read once, it shall be the practice of this school to read twice.

I think this is excellent advice. Most booklists for most schools, or most curricula, leave no time for re-reading and re-studying; if a book is worth studying, it surely must be worth studying twice. Or three, or four, or ten times. This is one of the reasons I appreciate the sparse book lists, and the concept of multum non multa, in "The Latin-Centered Curriculum"; focusing on a few great works gives us time, time to re-read and re-study.

I hope I remember to make that time.

Posted by lynx at 9:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 27, 2007

Real Numbers

In the comments, Pensguys asked me how we combine Right Start and Singapore Math.

In the beginning, I switched back and forth and actually tried to coordinate them. Now, I've switched Aidan completely over to Right Start, but we use Singapore's Challenging Word Problems as a supplement. Connor's program is primarily Singapore, but I teach him anything interesting that Aidan and I come across in Right Start. I also frequently do the Right Start warmups with him, and use their method of teaching the multiplication tables to help Connor memorize and understand them better.

I plan to have the next two kids do Right Start primarily, but will use Singapore's Challenging Word problems as a supplement. As Right Start only goes through 4th grade, I may have them complete Singapore 5 and 6 after Right Start Level E.

Now.

Over at Drat These Greeks, Myrtle has been wrestling with a problem for me. (Although she thinks she's wrestling with it for herself and her child. It's all part of my subtle plan.) The problem is this: In general, American math programs from elementary through high school tend to focus on operations and algorithms, not theory. American students don't learn how to prove theorems. They might well not even learn what a theorem is. They don't learn anything about number theory, probably not until college, and then only if their major requires it or they have the interest. In other countries, however, proofs are standard classroom fare.

Since my boys are likely to end up in some type of engineering or scientific field, I would like to go beyond the standard American math sequence. But how? How do we take a student who has learned arithmetic and is ready for algebra, and guide him to be ready and able to handle proofs?

Myrtle is having her son start to write his work in a more formal manner, such as you'd see at higher levels of math ("let x be ..."). Once he had practiced this, he was better able to understand the wording of problems in a lesson on proofs. He already knew the mathematical language, and could concentrate on the math.

I know I have a few math folks amongst my readers. What other things can you suggest to prep a child for more theoretical math? For doing proofs? Mom has to learn, too.

Posted by lynx at 11:50 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 26, 2007

Why I Am a CW Goddess

Yes, I have figured out how to teach Classical Writing to my kids at two different levels, using the same models.

At the moment, Connor is finishing up Aesop B, while Aidan is just starting. Here is what I do: Connor works in the Aesop B workbook. Each week I turn to the lesson in the Aesop B workbook that Aidan would we doing, and write up a sheet describing the skills that the workbook focuses on for that week. Then I apply those lessons to Connor's model, coming up with simplified sentences out of the model for Aidan to work with for grammar.

When it comes to the writing project, I will often have Aidan retell part of the model, instead of the entire story.

It's that easy. I spent months thinking it would be difficult. I spent months agonizing over how to manage. And it's that easy.

Next week, Connor will work on the Week 14 lessons in his workbook; Aidan will use the same model, but do the Week 3 lessons. When Connor moves up to Homer, I'll use the Homer models and the same process.

This program has quite the learning curve for teachers. It is worth it, however, and once you grok it, it is amazingly flexible.

The Singapore/Right Start combo is the best elementary math program ever. Classical Writing is the best writing program. Ever. Lene, Tracy and Kathy deserve to be put on a pedestal and lauded.

And Aidan thinks diagramming is fun. Heh. Excellent.

Posted by lynx at 10:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 24, 2007

What Non-Homeschoolers Don't Know

Since I've been feeling a little overwhelmed lately, I appreciated this list. There are obvious religious differences, such as the fact that I am not homeschooling because I feel Scripturally led to do so. Not exactly. As such. But you knew that.

It's a HomeschoolBlogger link, though, so don't click if you're boycotting.

Posted by lynx at 10:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 23, 2007

Boys and Girls

This semester, my boys are in a homeschool PE class. They were in one last year, in Texas.

As in Texas, this class is co-ed. Unlike in Texas, this class always splits up into teams of boys vs. girls. This is vountary; actually, the kids insist on it. No girl wants a boy on her team, and no boy wants a girl on his! This is odd for my boys. They've always had girl friends, and any PE they've been involved in has been with fully integrated teams. My kids think it's weird.

Some of the girls in the class are a little older, say in their early teens. Apparently, whenever the teacher is not looking at them, these girls cheat. If they're tagged out by a boy, they pretend it didn't happen. They deny it. They make excuses. Then they laugh about how dumb boys are, and how great girls are. Meanwhile, my boys are getting more and more irritated, and having less and less fun.

I know this is normal behavior. I remember it well. But, well ... we never saw it in Texas. Then again, they were never in a class with teens. I'm out of experience with kids in their early teens: Is this kind of thing inevitable? It seems to me that were I the teacher, I would integrate the teams and insist on good sportsmanship while in class. I've seen this work beautifully with younger kids; is it just too much to expect with the teens, or tweens? Are my expectations out of line here, or is the teacher perhaps not handling the class as well as it might be handled?

Posted by lynx at 10:53 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 12, 2006

Comparisons

The moment a homeschooler admits to doing productive work, the rest of us compare ourselves to that family. It's automatic.

We did have a pretty darned productive nine weeks. This productivity is the result of us finding a really good groove for schooling. And the good groove is the result of years of figuring out what works for us.

Plus, I'm, er, very goal-oriented.

What have we done now that we've finished this productive nine weeks? We've taken a break. That's hard for me to do, when we are in the groove. I want to keep going, keep checking off lesson numbers in my planner, keep crossing items off lists. There's more to life, and education, than that, though, and so I make myself put the planner down and walk away.

I appreciate the kind comments, but for all of you who look at my list and think you didn't do much, think again. You just did different things. You probably did many things that would send me into fits of homeschooling envy. And Dy? Sheesh! You renovated a house while pregnant and caring for three young children! That would not have happened in my world. Ever.

Comparisons are fine, as long as we take the right lesson from them: We can't do everything, but we can choose what we are going to do, and do it. That which we don't choose might look nice in someone else's lawn, but would probably choke out the flowers over on this side of the fence. Or whatever metaphor you can mangle after midnight. (I go out mangling ... after midnight ... out in the moonlight ...)

Posted by lynx at 11:13 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 5, 2006

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Michigan

I'm not blogging much because I'm busy. As I've said before, I hate busy. I know it's only going to get worse. I still hate it.

The kids don't like being out of the house all day, two days a week, either. They like the classes and activities, but they've inherited my dislike of having to be somewhere every week. (Do you begin to see why I hated working?)

Our days at home go like this:

The kids get up around 8, and eat breakfast while listening to the XM Kids morning show. We used to listen to classical. But heck, even I like that morning show.

On a good day we start schoolwork at 9; on other days at 10. We do math first, then Latin. After that Aidan does copywork and piano, and is free. Connor does Classical Writing. This usually takes us until lunchtime.

While they eat I read to them: Monday I read Classical Studies materials, Wednesday I read history. My goal is to read science on Fridays, but that hasn't happened yet. After that we do any maps or projects or activities. I do housework. If it's a good day, we go play somewhere. They read. They play. Connor writes whatever I'm' having him write this week. Sometimes we'll do spelling. Somewhere in there I'll grab Griffin for a math lesson, or a spelling lesson. And then there's more housework.

On our class days, we get up at the same time. We rush through math and Latin, and maybe some CW analysis work. Then we get everyone together and in the car. We come back in the late afternoon, and are too tired to do anything productive. I'd like to still do history on those days, but housework calls. Again.

We're doing all the important things, but even having classes on only two days a week, I feel that too much of the fun stuff is squeezed out. Maybe not for the kids - they love their classes! But for me!

At least one night a week, and most weekends, belongs to Scouts. I'm not complaining about our activities, I just wish I could learn to handle them in a way that doesn't leave me feeling pressured. The classes and activities are good, and worthwhile. But I really treasure, and apparently need, lots and lots of downtime. It must be that introvert thing again.

Posted by lynx at 7:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 2, 2006

You Might be a Homeschool Mom If ...

This landed in my Inbox today. Might I be a homeschool(ing) Mom? Let's see ...

When a child busts a lip, and after seeing she's okay, you round up
some Scotch tape to capture some blood and look at it under the
microscope.

Eh, maybe. I could see doing that. If you're studying biology, you've got to capture the opportunities as they come.


You find dead animals and actually consider saving them to dissect
later.

Yep. Or consider saving the skeletons.


Your children never, ever leave the "why?" stage.

No kidding.


You look at every room in your home to try and imagine how to squeeze
in another bookshelf.

Guilty.


You turn your china cabinet into book shelves.

China cabinet?


You ask for, and get, a copier instead of a diamond tennis bracelet
for your wedding anniversary.

I hope so. I'd much rather have the copier.


Your kids think reading history is best accomplished while lying on
the floor with their head resting on the side of their patient dog.

We don't have a dog, so I had the kids test this out with our cats. I don't know how comfortable the kids were, but the cats were definitely not enthused. I think my kids think learning history is best accomplished via "Age of Empires" or "Civilization."


Your husband can walk in at the end of a long day and tell how the
science experiment went just by looking at the house.

A bad science experiment wouldn't look much different from a normal day.


You never have to drive your child's forgotten lunch to school.

This is a nice perk, admittedly.


Your child will never suffer the embarrassment of group showers after
PE.

Err ... there were no group showers when I had PE. Where did you people go to school?


You never have to face the dilemma of whether to take your child's
side or the teacher's side in a dispute at school.

No, but you have to be both the parent and the teacher in any student dispute.


If your child gets drugs at school, it's probably Tylenol.

That's right, only the teacher gets the bourbon.


Your kids learn new vocabulary from their extensive collection of
"Calvin & Hobbes" books.

Kids? I learn new vocabulary from Calvin and Hobbes.


Your formal dining room now has a computer, copy machine, and many
book shelves and there are educational posters and maps all over the
walls.

We don't have a formal dining room, but that does describe our decor.


You have meal worms growing in a container....on purpose.

Eww! No! Gross!


If you get caught talking to yourself, you can claim you're having a
PTA meeting.

Yeah. Okay. Sure.


You take off for a teacher in-service day because the principal needs
clean underwear.

No, actually I can do laundry and teach the kids.


You can't make it through a movie without pointing out the historical
inaccuracies.

True, but we did that before we had kids.


You step on math manipulatives on your pre-dawn stumble to the
bathroom.

Sigh. True.


The teacher gets to kiss the principal in the faculty lounge and no
one gossips.

Sure, no one but the kids, who will tell the neighbors, your parents, and anyone else it would be sure to embarrass.


If your child claims that the dog ate his homework, you can ask the
dog.

Again, the cat is not so much into eating paper. Nor are they particularly helpful in subversive plots.


Someday your children will consider you to be a miracle-working
expert and will turn to you for advice.

This is where the author veers off into fantasy land ...


Your kids refer to the neighbor kids as "government school inmates."

Actually, they usually refer to them as "kids."


You can't make it through the grocery produce department without
asking your preschooler the name and color of every vegetable.

This was true, with the first kid. The fourth kid is lucky to know what a vegetable is.


You can't put your produce in your cart without asking your older
student to estimate its weight and verify its accuracy.

No, I can't put produce in my cart without at least two children begging to weigh it, while I make a run away from the scales, so that I don't end up in the supermarket for three hours.

Posted by lynx at 9:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 23, 2006

More About Math

I know we've been discussing how it's good to be imperfect, but I've got to tell you: I've hit upon the perfect combination of math curricula.

Right Start math is brilliant. I am continually impressed by the way it teaches concepts. I wish I had found it earlier, so that I could have used it with Connor. It teaches concepts in a very concrete manner, and relies heavily on teaching patterns and strategies. For instance, Aidan is learning multiplication. His last lesson involved using the abacus to see why any even number multiplied by 5 will always be a multiple of 10, and will always end with 0; and why any odd number multiplied by 5 will always end with 5. In taking Aidan through this program, I've learned strategies for easy mental addition, subtraction and multiplication that I never knew existed. My math ability has been greatly enhanced by the information I've learned in the 2nd and 3rd grade book.

As fantastic as it is, we will continue to use Singapore Math as well. I used to think that Right Start did not provide enough practice, so we'd use Singapore as practice and drill. Now I see that Right Start doesn't need supplementation in that area - it's enough on its own. However, Singapore's strength is in its word problems. If we do nothing else, we will go through the Singapore workbooks and pull out all the word problems.

Singapore's word problems are real world problems. They are, in general, the kinds of problems we're all likely to run into, and scratch our heads over. They require creative thinking. They require learning how to take the facts, and structure a problem in such a way that it makes sense.

I recently bought a supplementary Singapore workbook for Connor: Primary Mathematics Challenging Word Problems. Challenging is right. Each chapter in this book starts with a few worked problems as examples. After the worked problems are a series of word problems. After the regular word problems is a series of "challenging" word problems. Oh, my.

Here's an example of one of their challenging problems: Laura had 400 stamps. She gave 3/20 of them to Sam, 5/16 of them to Joe and 1/5 of the remainder to Jim. How many stamps did she have left?

Or: Valery bought some apples and oranges for $13.80 altogether. Each apple cost $0.40 and each orange cost $0.20 more than each apple. If she bought 3 more oranges than apples, how many oranges did she buy?

For 5th grade, these are great problems, aren't they? Again, Connor is just about at my level of math. I can compute faster than he can, and I can do simple algebra. I am likely to get these problems right, but for the most part I do have to think about them first. Unless I'm extremely busy, I make it a point to work the problem myself, instead of just reaching for the answer key.

I had originally thought we'd go on to other math series, instead of using Singapore's New Elementary Math. I am reconsidering that decision. I hear that New Elementary Math is very difficult unless you're a "math person," or have a tutor; sounds like a challenge.

Posted by lynx at 9:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 19, 2006

Imperfect Homeschoolers, Untie!

Wait ... sorry, that's the line for the dyslexic homeschoolers.

Poppins, that smart, smart Mama, has got it exactly right. There is no such thing as doing homeschooling perfectly right. There is no right method, schedule, curriculum. None. Zip. Nada. Just like real life, there are no magic pills.

Frankly, you're insane to homeschool unless you have a wickedly strong independent streak. You've got to use that trait to develop confidence in what you're doing, knowing full well perfection is not possible. Embrace the imperfection and run with it. Dance around the living room with it. Conjugate Latin verbs with it. (It's late, I'm punchy.)

Look, the modern public school system is nearly the most inefficient way of educating children that we've been able to come up with in the last 100 years. And even so, it does provide a decent education for many kids, complete with state-approved gaps. If there are children who come out of the public school system with a decent education, in spite of that inefficiency, you're going to do just fine. Whatever method you choose, whatever curriculum you use, or don't use; you're going to do just fine.

It's the imperfections that make life interesting, anyway.

Posted by lynx at 10:56 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 6, 2006

Latin for the Year

Let me try this again. I had a post all typed up this morning, and my kids killed it.

If, this year, you are venturing forth with Fr. Henle, as Dy is, you need not walk alone: Here's the handy-dandy Henle Latin Yahoo list! The folks on this list are endlessly patient, and willing to answer all your questions.

I am offically a Henle drop-out. I made it through Unit 7, then crashed and burned. I'm not distressed, though. I learned enough to get the kids through basic curricula, and then I can learn with them. I've got four kids to get through Latin. I'll learn it.

Connor is using an old, out of print text called Using Latin Book One. My printing is from the early 1950s. It's a fantastic text. The grammar is solid, it is filled with many interesting readings, and it's secular! Okay, so there's no current support. I have an answer key from a different version that's almost the same. I make up the tests. I can't recommend it widely because who know how many copies are around. I'm glad we found it, though.

If we hadn't found this book, we probably would have stuck with Latin for Children. "Latin for Children" is a nice, solid introductory program. It's a solid as Latina Christiana, but less religious and, frankly, more varied and interesting for the kids.

Speaking of LfC, Aidan has hit a wall in "Latina Christiana I," in the same spot Connor did. Is it the program? Is it a coincidence? Is it my teaching? I don't know, but I'm going to switch Aidan over to LfC Primer A to see if that's any better. If he struggles, we may ditch Latin for the year and wait. He's only in 3rd grade. We can afford to wait.

I must admit that our experiences are swaying us to the side of not starting Latin early. I do think there is some value in teaching young children the grammar chants, and whatever vocabulary interests them. However, when you start tossing in the grammar and expecting students to recognize direct objects from predicate nominatives, my kids do much better when they're older. I may not bother with any Latin for Griffin until he's in 4th grade.

I still think Henle is an truly excellent program. I love the systematic grammar, and the way it leads the student through step by step. I don't know, though, if I'm going to lead Connor into it. We may opt, after we've gone as far as we want to with "Using Latin Book One"/"Using Latin Book Two," to try Cambridge Latin. I think he'll like it better. The systematic grammar of Henle, while excellent, will simply drive some students batty, and the religious aspects will certainly irritate my kids.

Posted by lynx at 8:41 PM | Comments (9)

August 12, 2006

That Old Let's-Test-All-Homeschoolers Thing Again

But why should I write about it when there's Kathy Jo? The bit about how the government knows we're not breaking the law is especially good.

Posted by lynx at 8:37 AM | Comments (3)

June 27, 2006

Let's Homeschool - But Leave Me Alone!

Let's talk about introverts.

Introverts are people who recharge, who get energized, by solitude. (Deep down, we all got very excited over the whole "Fortress of Solitude" bit in "Superman." Nice quiet place, up in the Arctic? that would be fine, thanks.) Extroverts are energized by interacting with people. It's not that introverts don't like to be around people, it's just that after a few hours of it we need to be alone. We need a break. If we can't actually get a break, we need to zone out.

I never understood this when I had an outside the home job. All I knew was that I spent the first week of each new job figuring out my escape routes: Where could I hide? How could I get sent on errands out of the office? Just how long could I stay in the bathroom without attracting attention? Ironically, every job I had involved sitting in a big, open room, without even a cubicle to protect me. To say I found work stressful is a staggering understatement.

And so now I find myself surrounded by children, all day. All night. All the time. Not only that, but I don't even send them off to school. Can you imagine how relaxed and efficient I'd be if I sent them away for several hours each day? I can. Of course, I can also imagine how bored and sad I'd be, and how much fun I'd miss. And so they stay.

But it is hard. We do our lessons in the morning, and by lunchtime I am drained. I need an out. I need quiet. I need to Go. Away. And of course, by lunchtime all my work is not done, and all the children's needs are not met. If I am not paying attention and don't have good coping mechanisms in place the day will end in one of two ways: 1) I will lose my temper and yell at everyone, or 2) I will zone out on the computer, lose track of time, and waste the rest of the day.

I've talked to several homeschooling moms who end up doing one or the other, and then feel like bad homeschooling moms for not being able to keep it together. Don't beat yourselves up. The need of an introvert to get that break is both powerful and sneaky. And you do need it. You cannot talk yourself out of it. A better schedule is not the answer (unless it includes more breaks for you). Your temper and organizational skills are not the true culprit. You need to spend time away, or focused on things rather than people.

I am convinced this is why so many of us spend so much time researching curricula or planning. It's work we can justify, and it's so much easier to face homeschooling in the abstract form of ideas and things, than to go interact with the kids on that level again.

You must recognize your need to recharge in quiet, and honor it. Some families schedule family quiet time. That doesn't work well for us. (Do you hear the hysterical laughter in the background?) I cope by:

1) Getting up earlier than the kids. This is essential.

2) Having the kids fix lunch after lessons, so that I can zone out on the computer while they eat; then they play while I have my lunch with a book.

3) Not planning much school in the afternoons, and being very flexible with what I do plan. All important things happen in the morning. I might do science or read books in the afternoon, but I don't push it.

4) Streamlining my curricula/educational plan. I have decided what is essential. I make sure we do that, and then I don't stress about the rest. Okay, I try hard not to stress about the rest.

5) Having my husband handle bedtime reading and routines.

6) Keeping books in the bathroom and near the dining table. Seriously. Focusing on a book, even for a few minutes, can help. And for me, a book at lunchtime is essential. My mother used to turn into a raving lunatic if she could not eat lunch alone. Now I know why.

I'm still working on #7: Computer self-discipline, or "How to Use the Computer as a Recharging Tool Without Letting it Take Over Your Life."

You could also delegate some subjects to workbooks or books on tape, and send the little darlings to do that work during your more sensitive points of the day. I seem to choose large amounts of teacher-intensive curricula and so don't have that option. But if it works for you, use the tools intentionally to give you the down time you need, so that you can provide quality teaching for the other subjects.

Goodnight, now, and don't talk to me any more.

Posted by lynx at 9:55 PM | Comments (13)

June 21, 2006

The Death of Energetic Fun Educator Mom

When Connor "started school" I was both excited and creative. I taught him most of his math through games. I created opportunities throughout the day to help him learn to read. Whatever his interests were, I used those as excuses, opportunities, for learning. Creative Energetic Fun Educator Mom was on the job! The best part about homeschooling was how much you could learn just by playing games. And we played!

Fast forward five short years. Connor and Aidan have both become obsessed with interested in a game called Star Fleet Battles. They map out their campaigns, and create strange little graphics called SSDs. Jeff mentioned that this would be a great game to use to teach they boys decimals, percentages, and statistics.

I blinked. And told him no.

No. Nope. I can't do it. Not any more. Five years later, I have three levels of "school" to keep track of. I have four kids, two houses, two cats, and a bird. Energetic Fun Educator Mom just doesn't have that much energy. They can play the game. They can do the math in the game. I think it's wonderful that they love a game that requires math, and that will inspire them to learn to use math they have not yet encountered in formal instruction. I am all for that. And they still have to do the math in their books, because that's all I have the time and energy to keep track of.

This is, in a nutshell, why we don't unschool. (Well, one reason of several.) It's actually easier for me to manage classical education than the intense engagement and creativity of unschooling or child-led learning. No, that Mom is gone. I only mourn her a tiny bit. After all, they don't need me in all their games, making sure they're learning. They'll do that without me. I'll teach them what I teach, they'll play what they play; and, as a bonus, I don't have to memorize how many disruptors are attached to the dilithium crystals in ships from the Triangulum Galaxy.

Posted by lynx at 8:09 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 6, 2006

Note to Homeschoolers

Curriculum is a tool.

Come on, say it with me. Curriculum is a tool. Repeat. Say it over and over and over, until you get it.

Your job, as a homeschooling parent, is to make the educational decisions for your children. Your job is to teach. Your job is to know your children, and yourself, and act accordingly. The curriculum is the tool you use to get the job done.

The curriculum is not magic. We all like to think it is, I know. It's not.

Your children will not suffer if you change it, delete whole parts of it, or combine it with something else. In fact, they will probably be better off, as the curriculum author did not have your family in mind when designing the program. You don't need permission to do any of this. You don't need to base your decisions on what others have done. Advice and experience are good things to seek out; permission is not.

It is your tool. You use it as you see fit. Use it as it's written. Use half of it. Use it as a doorstop on windy days. Change all the religious references. Insert religious references. Stop every other sentence to say "Okay, the author says this, but I think ..." And if doing that too often drives you nuts, change your curriculum to one that will make you less crazy.

Are you frantically trying to catch up, and finish the work in the time allotted? Go into your book and change the dates. Delete things you feel are less worthy of your study time. Do what's important, then enjoy yourself.

You don't even have to use a curriculum. Any curriculum.

No program will be perfect. None will do everything you want. Zip. Zero. Nada. You will have to make it do what you want it to do. You are the key there.

And by the way ... it's also a mistake to assume that you are, or will be, bounded by your curriculum. The choice to use a certain program or plan does not mean that your very life and soul will be defined by its pages. You can, and people do, read outside the curriculum. You can travel. You can discuss things with each other. You can, in short, have quite the education outside of your curriculum. In fact, that's the way it's supposed to work. There's your tool, which you use for certain things, and then there is reading and personal study and life and experience. You like "The Well-Trained Mind's" four-year history cycle, but you're deeply concerned about your children not doing any American history before the third year? Do American history, as much as you want, whenever you please. You're considering "The Latin-Centered Curriculum" but fear its focus is so exclusively western that your kids will not learn about other cultures? Teach them!

It's that simple. Honest. Don't expect the curriculum writers to do it for you. Do it yourself. Expect to do it yourself. It's easier than you think.

Posted by lynx at 7:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 22, 2006

The Tentative Plan

I've been trying to take everything I've learned and read over the past few years, and put it into a plan for our kids.

So voila! Here is The Plan So Far. Click if you want all the gory details.

Question marks further down in the math, Latin and Greek areas are largely because so much is going to depend on ability and aptitude up to that point. It's too soon to tell if high school is going to see us zipping through calculus, or finally mastering algebra. And who knows how long it will take to get through the Latin texts - not I! Maybe Greek will be a bust. Maybe we'll be sick of Latin by 9th grade. If we only get through CW Herodotus, that will be FINE. There is much to be seen. I am going for "ambitious, but doable" here.

No science is on the list. That doesn't mean we won't study science. It does mean I have no idea, yet, what we'll study when. I think, though, that a good, solid grounding in math, logic, and Latin and Greek vocabulary will put us in a good position for science.

This is pulled largely from the Highlands Latin School curriculum, with input from The Latin-Centered Curriculum, and keeping with The Well-Trained Mind four-year history rotation. Whew. This is also based on Connor's school years; the other kids will be folded in as their time comes. I do not yet know to what extent I can combine Connor and Aidan for literature studies, or how long I will be able to keep them in the same level of the progymnasmata.

I reserve the right to change anything, at any time, or to scrap the whole thing and go bowling. This plan is not meant to be thought of as exhaustive or complete. In fact, it's meant to be a bare minimum tied to the kite tail of hope. This plan does not represent the fact that there will be lots of reading happening outside the plan (Stevenson, Poe, Orwell, Heinlein, Calvin and Hobbes).

Plus, this is the first time that their father will have seen The Plan, and I imagine he might have some comments.

5th Grade:

Math - Singapore 4B/5A, Right Start D
Connor surprised me by working more quickly through math, and is in Singapore 5B at midyear. Aidan is in Right Start D almost exclusively, and Singapore 3 is a supplement for him.

Latin - Latin Book One (Scott and Horn)
We've switched to Using Latin Book One, by the same authors. The text moves at a slightly slower pace. At midyear, we're about a quarter of the way through the book. It's going well.

Writing - Progym Fable and Narrative (Classical Writing - finish Aesop, possibly begin Homer),
Updated to remove Spell to Write and Read as a separate program. No need, we can use the techniques to spell words from our Classical Writing assignments. Also updated to rearrange the sequence to start CW Poetry later, so that Aidan can join in as well. 3rd grade will be a bit young to start this, apparently.

Second update: I'm an idiot, Connor needs the spelling. Aidan does not - Aidan frequently tells Connor how to spell words. Connor has zipped through Aesop B. After the start of the year, I'm going to try starting him in Homer, and Aidan in Aesop B, using the same models.

Literature Studies - Connor: Narnia, Shakespeare Stories, The Children's Homer
Aidan: Narnia, Tanglewood Tales/A Wonder Book. Aidan may perhaps do Shakespeare Stories with us.

At midyear, we've finished the Narnia series. Aidan's read Charlotte's Web and Black Ships Before Troy, and Connor's read The Hobbit. We've read some of Bruce Coville's Shakespeare. And Star Trek. They've both read lots and lots of Star Trek. Connor has read Timothy Zahn's Thrawn series (Star Wars).

Classical Studies - Caesar's Gallic War, Famous Men of Greece or Herodotus for Children

Mmmm ... we're still trying to finish D'Aulaire's Greek Myths and Famous Men of Rome. After those, we're going to move into Famous Men of Greece and D'Aulaire's Norse Myths. Connor might read Caesar's Gallic War on his own. Or not.

History - Ancient History (History Odyssey) (The Children's Homer is scheduled in the history readings)

However, Connor hates History Odyssey. I'm reading Story of the World to the younger ones, and Connor is reading through the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia - his choice. Along with that he wants to study World War II, so that's what he's doing.

End-of-Year Assessment: We ditched our Latin plans. At year's end, Connor's doing Unit 1 of Henle, Aidan has completed Latina Christiana I, and both are working through Lingua Latina (in Cap. IV).

Connor has completed Singapore 6A, and says math is his favorite subject. Aidan is 3/4 through Right Start D, and is bored, so is also working through Singapore 3.

Connor has finished through Week 5 of Classical Writing Homer; Aidan is about a quarter of the way into Aesop B. Classical Writing is Aidan's favorite subject.

We've pretty much read what we set out to read. I also read "Archimedes and the Door of Science" to them. Aidan is currently reading "Theras and His Town," and Connor is reading "Caesar's Gallic Wars." We didn't finish "Famous Men of Greece," but, eh, we will.

We worked through Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry.

Connor is still working on his independent study of World War II. Both boys ended up in an American history class this semester, quite by accident. It was a good class, though. Aidan and Griffin did SOTW 1.

And there you are.


6th Grade

Math - Singapore 5B/6A, Right Start E Singapore 6B/Dolciani Pre-Algebra. 4th Grade Aidan will be doing Right Start D and E, along with Singapore's Challenging Word Problems. 2nd Grade-ish Griffin and K-ish Lachlan will be doing Right Start B. Everyone will be doing living math lessons.

8/26/07 Well, right off the bat we've ditched Right Start, the math program I love so dearly. I still love it. However, Aidan wanted a break from it. I ran into an odd problem with Griffin; Right Start, with its manipulatives and brilliant concrete teaching, could not help Griffin understand place value. He simply doesn't get it. I was not able to teach it to him (a first). We cannot move forward with RS until he gets it. So we've all moved back to the (comparatively) more conventional Singapore.

Latin - Latin Book One continued, or Two, depending on our pace Henle I Units 2-5, with readings from Using Latin Book One Lingua Latina. 4th Grade Aidan will continue with Latin for Children and/or Latina Christiana is currently using Using Latin Book One and Lingua Latina. Frankly, I imagine we'll hop from program to program until he starts Henle in 5th. whenever he's ready for it.

Writing - Progym Narrative (Classical Writing, Homer A) Classical Writing Elementary Poetry 4th Grade Aidan will do Classical Writing Aesop B and Poetry. It's entirely possible that Aidan will move into Homer A. Lachlan and Griffin will do copywork.

Greek - Elementary Greek I (Aidan might start this too.) Haven't even bought this yet, don't know if I will. I'm considering waiting for Galore Park to finish their Greek program.

Literature Studies - Horatius at the Bridge, The Hobbit, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Beowulf.

Classical Studies - Famous Men of the Middle Ages, Horatius at the Bridge

History - Medieval History for everyone but Connor. Connor will do whatever he wants to.


7th Grade

Math - Singapore 6B, Right Start Geometry NEM and Dolciani Algebra, taking it very slowly. 5th Grade Aidan will finish Right Start and go into Singapore 4A. Griffin will do Right Start C. B.

Latin - Henle I, Units 6-10, readings from Using Latin Book Two. Aidan will move into Henle 1, Units 1-2. If he's ready, Griffin (3rd) will begin Latina Christiana. Lively Latin.

Well, our original Latin plan is shot. A quarter into 7th grade, Connor is finishing up book one of Galore Park's "Latin Prep." A quarter into 5th grade, Aidan is nearly done with Henle Unit 1. And Griffin is in 2nd grade this year, not 3rd.

Greek - Elementary Greek II I

Logic - Traditional Logic I We have decided to not start logic yet.

Writing - Classical Writing Homer B Diogenes Maxim. Aidan will be doing CW Homer A/B. If he's ready, Griffin will begin Classical Writing Aesop. Shoot me now. On second thought, we could always push this off to next year. We pushed this off until next year. At least.

Literature Studies - Iliad and Odyssey

Classical Studies - Readings from Cambridge History of Mankind series We ditched this, figuring that the Lit readings cover Classical Studies.

History - Early Modern. Griffin and Lachlan will use SOTW, which will likely be over Lachlan's head, so ...

We've started using Tapestry of Grace for history, for all the children.


8th Grade

Math - NEM, more Dolciani's Algebra, play around with ideas from Gelfand's Algebra and Introduction to Number Theory. Aidan - Singapore 6. Griffin should be in Right Start E, which means Lachlan would be somewhere around B or C.

Latin - Henle I, Units 11-14. For Aidan, Henle I, Units 3-5. For Griffin, more Latina Christiana.

Greek - Elementary Greek III

Logic - Traditional Logic II

Writing - Progym - Maxim (CW Diogenes), Intermediate Poetry. Aidan will work on Homer B. (This year should also see us beginning Fable/CW Aesop with the two younger children)

Literature Studies - Lord of the Rings (Literary Lessons from Lord of the Rings)

Classical Studies - The Aeneid

History - Modern History (History Odyssey)


9th Grade

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.


10th Grade


Latin - Henle II (Caesar). Aidan - 11-14 of Henle I. Griffin - 3-5 of Henle I. I will be so sick of Henle that I will want to scream. Lachlan - Latina Christiana.

Math - NEM and Algebra II, Dolciani. Griffin - Singapore 6. Lachlan - RS E.

Greek - First Greek Book or modern foreign language

Logic - Material Logic II

Writing - Progym CW Herodotus and Shakespeare
Younger children will finish Homer and begin Diogenes

Literature Studies - Macbeth, Henry IV, Henry V, Hamlet

Classical Studies - Thucydides (Peloponnesian War), Tacitus or Cicero or Aristophanes

History - Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples. The three younger children will do History Odyssey Level 2 medieval.


11th Grade

Latin - Henle III (Cicero)

Math - ??

Greek - Anabasis or modern foreign language

Logic/Rhetoric - Rhetoric with Aristotle

Writing - CW Plutarch, Poetry

Literature Studies - The Divine Comedy

Classical Studies - Aristotle - Nichomachean Ethics, Marcus Aurelius - Meditations

History - An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Common Sense, The Rights of Man, Federalist/Antifederalist Papers, Churchill

12th Grade

The same question marks as before. The goal for Latin is to read a little Cicero and Virgil in the original, or possibly to study for the AP Catullus exam. If we're still going strong in Greek, we'll attempt a little Homer this year.

Latin - Henle IV (Virgil)

Modern foreign language

Writing - CW Demosthenes, Poetry

Literature Studies - I suppose we need some American authors in here somewhere, for the transcript

Classical Studies - Plato's Republic, Gibbon (abridged, for the love of God).

History - The Communist Manifesto, Churchill


Are you scared? I am. Some of you are laughing. Some of you are overwhelmed. Some of you think I'm insane. Some of you think I'm being too highbrow. Some of you are impressed. And SOME of you have planned twice as much. I know who you are.

I encourage the impressed and inspired ones to leave the most comments :)

I had some trouble with the more advanced classical studies, because ... I haven't read most of these things. I had to look the authors up to see what in heck we'd be reading, because people tend to list "Thucydides" with the understanding that everyone knows that means the history of the Peloponnesian War. And now so do you. I'd like a good mix, and I hope I've done that.

Updated 5/28/06 to add Euclid in 9th grade, and to fill out the high school Latin plan.

Updated 3/07 for progress, to change our math plans, and to flesh out some plans for the other kids.

Posted by lynx at 10:23 AM | Comments (15)

May 9, 2006

You do What?

Think I get funny looks from people when I say that we homeschool? I get far funnier ones when they ask me about howwe homeschool. We do a form of classical education that we call Latin-centered education.

Now, Drew Campbell has a new book, and a new website, dedicated to this strange thing we do.

We also have a nifty mailing list with over 500 members. Gosh, maybe there's something to this Latin stuff after all.

So instead of looking at me as if I've grown an extra head, you can see for yourself what it is we do, and what we strive for. Plus, Drew gets bonus points for using the word "renascence" on his site.

Posted by lynx at 9:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 1, 2006

Decluttering Education

KathyJo says everything I would say about my philosophy of education, if I were saying anything about my philosophy of education. Okay, not everything, because I can go on quite a bit. But yeah, what she said. She's right. All of it.

Posted by lynx at 9:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2006

Am I Crazy?

Certain arguments circle and re-circle through the homeschooling community. One that has reared its head on one of my message boards today is "What level of homeschooling oversight should there be?"

To which my answer is, of course, none.

The arguments for oversight are all predicated on the idea that we can't trust parents to work for their children's education. We can't trust that they are smart enough to teach. We can't trust that they'll teach the right things. We can't trust that they'll teach at all. We can't trust that they are not abusive or neglectful. And so the government must step in to make sure that all is well.

Today's argument stems from a fear that if there were no homeschooling regulation, and/or no compulsory attendance across the board, a large percentage of parents would just not bother. Kids would stay home in droves, and our society would suffer. We'd become (?) a nation of illiterate idiots. One poster asked me if I truly believe that the overwhelming majority of parents really do care enough about their kids' education that the above situation would not happen.

I do. I do believe that the overwhelming majority of parents care about their children's education. I believe that the overwhelming majority of parents care about their children, period. And I choose not to live in states in which the government feels I cannot be trusted with my own kids.

I don't think I'm an idealist. We hear all the time about parents who don't bother, who are abusive and neglectful; but we hear about these cases because they are sensational. We don't hear about the millions of parents who get up every morning and take their kids to school, or even about the ones who get up every morning and teach their kids algebra. That would be boring. It's boring because it's the norm.

What do you think? Do most parents care? Would most parents see to their kids' education even if there were no compulsory attendance laws? Or am I a crazy idealist? (Keep your answer pertinent to this question, please. No sense in pointing out all the areas in which we know I'm a loon. Unless you just feel like it.)

Posted by lynx at 9:38 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 23, 2006

"Yes, I know what it looks like, but ..."

Griffin is very interested in ancient Egypt right now. I told him that we could make a chicken mummy. He's very excited. He asked where we would be getting the chicken from. I explained that we would get the chicken from the store, where we typically buy chickens.

"But," he wailed, "It will already be dead!"

"Uh ... yes. Of course it will already be dead. You don't want to kill a chicken, do you?"

"Yes, I do!"

Oooo-kay. Let's lay my son's potential psychological issues aside for the moment (he's only 5, don't panic), and picture the scene:

It's a lovely afternoon. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. The chicken clucks merrily around our back yard. But the chicken's hour has come, and we advance upon it.

The chicken senses that we're up to no good. It runs.

Now, you can probably guess that we have no experience with chickens. We don't know how to catch them. We certainly don't know how to kill one. We have a vague idea of catching it and breaking it's little neck. Children scatter in all directions, diving after our unfortunate feathered friend. The happy children scream. The screaming, running children frightens the chicken, who makes ever-louder frightened chicken noises.

Our back yard is small, and surrounded by houses.

Let's say that eventually, someone does actually catch the poor chicken. The chicken pecks the children. The children scream louder. We don't manage to break the chicken's neck, and feel terribly guilty that the chicken is experiencing this much stress and terror. But the chicken is also probably pretty well wounded by this time, so let's say that in desperation I take a knife and put it out of its poor chicken misery.

Chickens have blood. Well, the ancient Egyptians had to drain the body, so this is all in the line of realism, right? Yeah, right. The children scream even louder, thoroughly traumatized. I'm feeling pretty ill myself.

But now we have a dead chicken, so we begin the rest of the procedure, removing organs, putting them in little jars. Some of the children have made Egyptian robes to wear during the making of the mummy. They convince Mommy to don one as well. We also have scented oil, and spices arrayed around the table.

What's that? The doorbell? Hmmm, we're not expecting anyone, let me see ...

"Excuse me, Ma'am, but we've had a complaint of children screaming here. Is everything all right?"

"Huh? Oh, yes, Officer, everything's fine! We were just -"

"Is that BLOOD on your ... uh ... would you mind if I came in and had a look around?"

Can you see it? Can you hear the rest of the conversation?

"No, Officer, it's just a history project ... ancient Egypt ... well, yes, I guess it does look a little ritualistic, but the jars and spices are just ... well, yes, we are homeschoolers, but .... well, actually, we are Pagans, but ..."

(Please don't get the idea that I'd ever seriously consider killing an animal in order to do a school project. In fact, at this point, I don't think I can pick up a chicken from the grocery store to mummify either. We may have to stick with fruit mummies. In fact, I may not eat meat for the next week, unless it's Kosher ...)

Posted by lynx at 8:05 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

January 29, 2006

Classical ... yeah ...

The Crib Chick has been writing about "Classical Education by Way of Cartoons."

Yep, here's a mom after my own heart ... or at least one who has peeked into our living room. (Though in our case, our affinity is for Jimmy Neutron, and we can be convinced to watch The Fairly OddParents.)

As the boys get older we're moving more into our "Classical Education by Way of Science Fiction" curriculum: Babylon 5, classic Trek, comparisons between classic Trek and Next Gen,, and nearly constant analysis of why episodes IV-VI are good, while episodes I-III bite.

As a matter of fact, this past week we did a Classical Writing assignment based on "A Laconic Answer." They immediately recognized the natural kinship between an answer from a Lacon and an answer from, say, Kosh. This week's assignment will be to rewrite the tale with a message to the Vorlons.

Anything to get them to enjoy writing something. Anything.

Maybe next week we can toss some Bionicles into the Roman republic, eh?

Posted by lynx at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 7, 2005

Laughing Out Loud

For real.

Our preparatory monologue would include "And if they ask you about religion, don't say we're not Christian, and don't say 'Pagan,' just say 'Unitarian.'"

HT to Mungo.

Posted by lynx at 9:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 5, 2005

Hey all you homeschooling types ...

Our ever-creative Poppins has launched The Denim Jumper, a secular place to play where you will not be expected to be EITHER Christian and structured OR secular (or Pagan) and unschooling. Irreverence, snarkiness and civil debate will be welcomed and encouraged.

It's also the only place you can buy an official Denim Jumper thong to complete your homeschooling wardrobe ensemble. Check it out!

Posted by lynx at 11:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 17, 2005

Won't this bill die, already?

Ah, Chris did it for me, and better than I would have.

Repeat after me: HONDA bad. No federal involvement good. This is nothing more than the federal government desperately trying to get its fingers on something it has no control over. Let's make it go away, m'kay?


Update: More information, and some excellent links. Please read them.

Posted by lynx at 9:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2005

For. Crying. Out. Loud.

Hello, my name is Stephanie and I'm attempting to give my kids a classical education.

The images that come into people's heads with the term "classical education" are apparently pretty bizarre.

And if I say that we do a Latin-based classical education, well, those images are apparently even more bizarre. (Funny eh? Because "classical education" today does not necessarily mean that there's any Latin involved, ever. So you have to add the qualifier.)

It's like people think I chain my kids up in the dining room and make them chant declensions all day long. They worry about how my kids are going to be able to cope in the wide world. They worry that their education will be one-sided. They worry about exposure to art, music, history, literature.

And I look at them like they have six eyes and four heads.

Ahem. Look, folks. I teach the kids Latin. Latin and math are our two most important subjects. Latin and math take up about an hour and a half of our day, leaving the rest of the day to, I don't know ... read, write, study history, learn about geography, do science experiments, go to museums, listen to music, practice music lessons, read, play, learn to spell ...

What are we missing here, exactly?

It's funny how one little subject can get people so riled up. If I said that I made Spanish a focus of our homeschool, I think the reactions would be greatly different.

I also seem to see a trend amongst the folks who are concerned about my kids' one-sided education, in that they seem to think that my kids are going to be lacking in a subject if I don't teach it formally and explicitly. Maybe I won't teach modern world history this year as a formal subject. Will my kids be one-sided and lacking? Did you know that my 9 year old has already read Story of the World 4 on his own, for fun? Modern children's literature? Well, they read every day, and we read to them ... so ... ?

And on and on, of course, because kids learn so much more than we teach them. One of the greatest mistakes we can make is to assume that only learning done in a class or a structured program "counts." But that's another rant for another day.

Posted by lynx at 2:25 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

May 30, 2005

Scared by Science

This post title is actually a song title. If anyone out there gets it, I'll be amazed and terribly, terribly impressed. I'm not at all scared by science - I just wanted to use the title.

The first time I read "The Well-Trained Mind," I fell in love. Except for the science parts. It seemed to me as if the wonderful Susan Wise Bauer managed to suck the very life out of science, and turn it into just another content area with which we can practice our outlining and writing skills.

Ugh. No. Even though I was enamored with the rest of her program, I knew we'd never do science like that.

And we haven't. In fact, through reading "Climbing Parnassus" and "A Thomas Jefferson Education," I don't believe that formal science is necessary in the elementary years at all. I'm not convinced it has a place in the middle grades, either. I am convinced that it has a very important place in high school, preferably after a child has grappled with algebra.

We all love science, though, so of course we're going to "do science." It's not science that I have a problem with, it's a formal course. To begin with, at the elementary level these courses are largely composed of inane content. These are a waste of everyone's time, and teaching them does not create scientists.

I flirted with the ideas in "Nebel's Elementary Education" for awhile. Dr. Nebel's science chapters are superb, packed with information I never knew; his approach is to teach science experientially, and only as the child shows interest. I still use Nebel's as a reference, but it didn't turn out to do much for us otherwise.

Last year I stumbled across this free workshop: How to Teach Science. Teresa, the brains behind the workshop, has a different approach to science. She says we should start with chemistry, and teaching the skills of observation and accurate description. She says we start with chemistry because chemistry is the basis for so many other things, such as biology, and much of physics. Nebel, for contrast, believes that young elementary students cannot grasp something as abstract as atoms and molecules, and suggests leaving chemistry alone until later.

I liked Teresa's workshop, so I have decided to give her ideas a try. My kids beg for a formal science program. By happy coincidence they beg for chemistry, and Teresa suggests starting with chemistry. So far so good.

Next problem: Have you ever looked at elementary-level chemistry programs? Ninety-nine percent of them are crap! Most of them don't get more advanced than combining vinegar and baking soda. Oooh. They discuss the three states of matter, but that's often it. Then they wrap up with a bunch of experiments that have ooh, shiny results, but don't teach ANYTHING.

I decided on Real Science 4 Kids chemistry, Pre-Level 1. RS4K is a solid program that presents actual, good scientific information in a way young children can understand. It turns out that Pre-Level 1 is a little young for my kids, but still, the information is good and the experiments actually teach something.

I want to strike a balance, though, between my kids' need to feel like we are "doing a chemistry program" and teaching via the ideas in Teresa's workshop. So like everything else (except math and Latin), we are approaching this casually.

Last week we read through the chapter that teaches about how atoms combine into molecules. The experiment had us taking large and small marshmallows and toothpicks, and making molecules. The instructions had us combine them according to different rules, teaching the kids that atoms only combine according to certain rules. I brought out a periodic table for them to look at, as well.

Voila! That afternoon we were the homeschooling poster family. They made molecules for hours (except for the three year old who, predictably, ate all of his). Then they discovered the periodic table.

"Mom, what does 'atomic number' mean?"

"Mom, does this table tell me how many connections an atom can make?"

"Mom, what does 'element' mean?"

"Look, platinum is on here. Does that mean there are platinum atoms?"

"What happens if I put hydrogen and chlorine together?"

Heh heh heh.

How about that: the little kids do grasp this abstract chemisty stuff. Set 'em up with a periodic table and turn 'em loose. Who knew?

Since then I've ordered this Molecular Model Set (though I was disappointed; I thought it would come with some kind of pamphlet or activities, but it doesnt), and Teresa's version of the periodic table. Now I need to find a good chemistry reference so we can look up the answers to their questions. I remember a little chemistry, but not enough!

Posted by lynx at 10:08 PM | Comments (11)

May 26, 2005

Gosh, that's a relief!

Hat tip to Daryl: Socialization is no longer an "issue" for home-schooled kids.

So there. Don't you feel better now that an expert said it?

Funny socialization note: Earlier in the week we went to a birthday party at the Build-A-Bear Workshop. The party attendees were all homeschooled kids. The poor party facilitator had no idea what to do with us. She tried to start up a game in which the kids had to guess which "Sponge Bob" character they were. The trouble was that not one child there had ever seen "Sponge Bob." Not. One.

Really, the lady was disheartened and confused. It didn't seem to perk her up that all the kids had a fair knowledge of Disney characters. I think we just reinforced the "homeschooled kids are weirdos who don't watch TV" stereotype. I don't forbid the kids from watching Bob, though - they just don't. They prefer Scooby. Rebels.

Posted by lynx at 7:24 AM | Comments (3)