November 21, 2010
Weekly Report, Week 11
Remember these? Weekly reports? Do you like how I actually know what week of school we're on? It doesn't seem like Week 11, though. It seems more like week 92.
My biggest challenge in homeschooling right now is the fact that I am also working part-time. (I think I've said this before.) It's difficult to manage the job, the house, and the schoolwork. The upshot is that the younger children are not getting the academic attention from me that they need. Obviously, I have to fix that.
So, what did we do this week? The younger two worked in Right Start C and D, respectively. I wish I could tell you what lessons we're on, but we have this problem: when I'm at work, they grab the workbooks and do whatever pages they feel like doing. Then I come home and have to flip all around in the books to see what they've done, what lessons we SHOULD be doing, what I need to teach them, and where they're fine.
They're working very nicely through Handwriting Without Tears (Yes, Susie, can you believe it? I gave up and went back.) and their handwriting is improving. Finally.
Griffin and I did a little bit of Writing With Ease. Not a full week.
We did not do spelling.
However, they impressed me with how much vocabulary they remembered from Minimus. They are working in chapter 4 of Minimus, and have the conjugation of "sum" down nicely.
We did learn that we need to be paying more attention to the stories they are reading for Classical Studies. It is not enough to read or listen to these stories; we must review them if they're going to remember them for class.
The older children, it turns out, hadn't done math in the last week. Ahem. This week, in addition to their Latin and Greek work, they had an actual creative writing assignment from their humanities teacher. Connor dashed his off quickly, and hasn't let me see it. Aidan ... well. We have an extension for the Thanksgiving break.
We're reading Herodotus in Great Books, and we've made it up to the Battle of Marathon. I showed the boys a History Channel special on the battle. They were most impressed by the fact that the History Channel used Rome: Total War to model the battle. I'm really not sure that I'm teaching them much in this class; however, because of the class they're reading the works, comprehending, discussing, and moving forward. I keep trying to hang on to a bigger perspective. Yes, they could have a much more knowledgable teacher here and a much better class; on the other hand, the 9th graders have read the Iliad and Herodotus this year. Not excerpts. The real thing. And they understand what they're reading, and can talk about it. This must be good.
And the week was punctuated with lengthy dentist appointments, and orthodontist appointments, and D&D, and mom working, and ... I can't remember Wednesday. We did something on Wednesday. I can't remember what. And Scouts. Thank goodness fall soccer is finally over.
Whew. When did it get so busy?
November 10, 2010
This, This is Good.
I love this life.
It's 9:30 in the morning. I've already been out of the house, tutoring a boy who at first was a very difficult student, but who has come around to being cooperative and fun.
On my way home, I was able to use the miracles of modern technology to listen to an excellent recording of the last concert I went to.
I walked in the door to find my children up, dressed, and fed. Two were setting up a game of Munchkin. Another asked me to help him better understand the piece of Dante he's reading.
The sky is blue and the leaves are brilliant.
This is good.
November 8, 2010
New School Year!
April. Really? I haven't blogged since April? That's very sad.
But hey, it's a new school year! Okay, it's nearly halfway through a new school year. I thought I might finally share what we're doing, in this year that includes our first year of homeschooling high school.
This year my co-op has moved from enrichment to running the show. The co-op classes are academic one day classes, with homework to fill the rest of the week. This is one reason we are not currently using TOG - it just doesn't make much sense with our new format.
For his first year of high school, Connor is taking Latin, Greek, humanities (literature, history, and the arts) and Great Books (covers history, literature, rhetoric) with the co-op. And biology, sort of. We do math at home.
I'm teaching Latin, and for that we're using Lingua Latina plus Galore Park's So You Really Want to Learn Latin series. Currently the class is in Cap. 19 of Lingua Latina, and halfway through book 2 of SYR. They'll finish all three SYR books this year. We'll get through as much Lingua Latina as we get through.
I'm also teaching the Great Books class. This is a very experimental class; my main focus is on teaching the students to not be afraid of these works. We mainly read and discuss. So far we've read the Iliad, and are halfway through Herodotus' Histories. We are having a blast with these texts!
For biology, after some false starts and trial and error, we are using the plan laid out at Quarks and Quirks, complete with labs.
For 7th grade, Aidan is taking Greek (Elementary Greek II), Latin (Cambridge Unit 2), humanities and science (Rainbow Science) at the co-op, and we do math and, theoretically, writing at home. (Right now he's participating in NaNoWriMo.)
The younger boys are in 3rd and 4th grades this year - can you believe it? At co-op they have Latin (Minimus), Classical Studies (Rome), art, and science (Singapore). We do math (Right Start), handwriting, writing (Writing With Ease and CW Aesop), and spelling (All About Spelling) at home, plus we are reading through some of the Ambleside Online reading lists. (When the library and I are on speaking terms, that is.)
We're using some Ambleside Online recommendations for the older kids, too such as reading through Plutarch's Lives aloud, as a family, slowly. This is fun. Honest! Try it!
November 22, 2009
...And Then The Server Died/ The Co-Op
It looks like blogging ability is back, now. O hai!
People keep asking me, "how's school going?" It's going well, thank you, but let me say that working outside the home makes things challenging. I'm not working that many hours, but still, the fact that I'm working at all seems to affect everything.
My instructional time with the kids is limited to Monday mornings, four hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and all of Wednesdays (except that's also the day we'll have to fit in most doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments). Friday we have our all-day co-op, and while that is a full day of school it's not my school.
So it's challenging. The kids are having to learn to work more independently.
On the one hand, my lack of direct time with them means that what we're doing is not as rich or complete as before. For instance, the older kids are completing their history readings, but we now lack the time to do projects, or much in-depth discussion. (Although thanks to Tapestry of Grace the older kids always end up with some form of meaningful history discussion.)
On the other hand, our fledgeling co-op is fantastic! We co-op teachers are still learning, and finding our way, but already this is a huge benefit to us. The older two are getting weekly Latin and Greek instruction, plus drama, science and a fantastic Greek history course in which they read "Antigone" and discuss Plato. The younger two have art, spelling, baby Latin, natural history, geography, and science.
All of the kids have weekly recitation, at which we also work on singing.
We pulled all this together based solely on a bunch of moms who have never been involved with a co-op, but who had the same goals and were willing to jump in and do it. I teach the lower-level geography class, and the upper-level Latin (Lingua Latina).
Aren't you jealous?
I have fantasies of this continuing and eventually developing into a cottage school. I haven't spoken these words out loud to the other moms, though, and I don't know if they share that dream, or if they will run screaming at the thought. I also don't know if any of them read my blog. I guess I'll find out.
September 14, 2009
Our 2009-2010 reading lists:
Connor - 8th Grade
- Great Expectations
- Huckleberry Finn
- The Red Badge of Courage
- The Hound of the Baskervilles
- The Invisible Man
- All Quiet On The Western Front
- Animal Farm
- Lord of the Flies
- Our Town
- Classical Studies
- The Odyssey
- Abraham Lincoln's World
- The Gilded Age - A History in Documents
- The Cold War - A History in Documents
- The Good Fight - How World War II Was Won
- Science Matters - Hazen
Aidan - 6th Grade
- Tom Sawyer
- Alice in Wonderland
- The Invisible Man
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- Lord of the Flies
- Our Town
- Story of the World 4
This is all subject to change. Nor do I expect everything on these lists to get read. Plus, the boys may be involved in a monthly book club, which would read books like Ender's Game, Childhood's End, Watership Down, etc. and where I find the selections worth it, I will modify their school reading so that they can participate in the book club. Plus, I see that we don't really have anything on the Holocaust ... and Connor would love to read biographies of the people involved in WWII.
Call it a reading list in progress :) But aren't they all?
August 28, 2009
It's been a rough year, but we're still here, and still homeschooling. This year I'm teaching 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 8th grade, and we're gearing up for the Great High School Adventure next year (eek).
And we're busy. This year we have a weekly D&D group, Lego League, Scouts for everyone, and a new co-op. Plus, I am working part-time as a tutor for Kaplan. So ... it's going to be interesting.
Our plans for this year include:
2nd and 3rd Grades
Right Start Math/Singapore Math
Writing With Ease 2
First Language Lessons
2 (2nd Grade)
Rod and Staff English 3 (3rd Grade, until I can buy FLL 3 - OR I may go with the incomparable Kathy Jo's Language Lessons Through Literature - just published! Do yourself a favor, and check this out!
History/Literature selections drawn from The Latin-Centered Curriculum
The Writing Road to Reading (co-op)
Song School Latin (co-op)
Song School Greek (co-op)
Latin Prep 1 (plus Cambridge Latin at co-op)
Elementary Greek 1 (co-op)
Singapore Math 5-6
Classical Writing Homer B
Tapestry of Grace Upper Grammar/Dialectic Year 3/4 (modern history 1850-present)
Literature and Classical Studies drawn from The Well-Trained Mind, TOG and LCC
Greek History (co-op)
Latin Prep 2/3 (plus Lingua Latina at co-op)
Elementary Greek 2 (co-op)
Dolciani Algebra I/II (he's about 2/3 finished with algebra I)
Classical Writing Diogenes Chreia
TOG Dialectic/Rhetoric Year 3/4 (modern history 1850-present)
Literature and Classical Studies drawn from WTM, LCC, TOG
Greek History (co-op)
Science - Science Matters (Hazen) and The Joy of Science lectures, also by Hazen, from The Teaching Company, plus experiments for a general overview of science.
I think this means we will have no time for drawing, this year, which is irritating. You can't do everything, though. We're going to be in the car a great deal, which is where I will pull out music appreciation and poetry CDs.
We've just finished week 3. So far, so good. The older two are currently reading:
Aidan - Tom Sawyer, D'Aulaire's Norse Myths, Story of the World 4
Connor - Great Expectations, The Odyssey, Abraham Lincoln's World, and This Country Of Ours
I would link more for you, but MT is not behaving, and I just want to post. something.
March 6, 2009
We took a little field trip last Friday, to do something I never, ever thought I'd do: take part in a political protest, in front of the White House.
We attended the D.C. New American Tea Party, and had a great time! I will happily go again. Approximately 300 people were there, all energetic, all enthusiastic, and all fed up with the way the government is handling our money.
One of the piggy pork balloons
One of my favorite signs
It is true, and funny, that more conservative folks don't know how to have a good protest. We tried, but it's just not in our natures. We're not good at outraged chanting. We're outraged, yes, but screaming and chanting slogans? It's just ... not us. Or maybe it's just the more libertarian conservatives, because Republicans chanted well enough at their rallies. Either way, this Tea Party group need some work. Yes. Nevertheless, we were all having a good, outraged time, and I hope there are more. I am happy to do this. Thrilled!
And we all had a good laugh at the Wall Street Journal column covering the event (no, I'm not going to bother linking). This columnist described the gathering as a group of zombies, chanting dead slogans from the zombie Right. I ought to go back and count the number of times he used the word "zombies." If he uses the word enough times, that makes it true, right? Plus, if you want to make your point that this was an insignificant, tiny gathering of whiners, you'd do better to ignore us completely. Spending an entire column to proclaim our irrelevance doesn't quite get the job done. Who's whining?
Afterwards, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Smithsonian. For Friday science (and history) we took in their exhibit on atomic power/bombs. To tie in with history we viewed the flag that flew at Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812, the one that Francis Scott Key was watching when he wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner." That, folks, is an amazing thing to see.
February 3, 2009
So ... Whatcha Doin'?
Big things may be happening here, but you get to wait until I know if they're happening or not.
In the meantime, my science post struck a chord with many of you. The lack of decent science curricula is, I think, the single biggest curriculum problem homeschooling has. More specifically, it's the single biggest secular curriculum problem. So I will write more about it, soon.
In the meantime, here's our homeschooling update:
For science, we went to the National Zoo, and learned many things about pandas.
In history, we are doing Tapestry of Grace Year 3, Week 2: "Napoleon: The Man and His Career." Yes, yes, we are still enjoying Tapestry of Grace. Honest. But I'd like to make a note, here: TOG is meant to be an almost all-encompassing curriculum. And, frankly, using it like that gives you your best value for the money. Lately I've been encountering some virtual eye-rolling, and exhortations to not burn my kids out with overkill, by having them do TOG *and* LCC, etc.
Many new homeschoolers start off with an overabundance of zeal, trying to combine every program, every method, in an attempt to give their student that mythical education "without gaps." And then they burn out, because it can't be done. I can see why people who don't know me might look at the program I've worked out for my kids, and shake their heads.
However, every piece of curriculum is a tool, and your homeschooling lives will be much, much more relaxed and productive the faster you realize this. TOG is not all-encompassing for us. We use the parts I like, and we use it within my framework. And as such, it fits in very well with an LCC framework, because I make it do so.
Sometimes I wish we had some kind of universal internet signifier, so that people who do not know you would know to not respond to you as if you are a newbie.
(Selections marked with an asterisk are part our our Latin-Centered Curriculum (LCC) reading, or selections scheduled in Classical Writing.)
Connor's Reading (D):
- The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier
I had to buy this, as it was nowhere in our library system. It was well worth the purchase. It's always nice to find that your student can't put down the school assignment.
- This week he finished Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (Hornblower Saga)
- Selections from The Struggle for Sea Power
- The Iliad*, using Drew Campbell's most excellent study guide
- Julius Caesar*
Aidan's Reading (UG):
- Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake 1805
This is a big hit, too!
- Selections from Story of the World 3
- D'Aulaire's Greek Myths*
For the Lower Grammar kids TOG schedules a good selection of fairy tales, which fits in perfectly with their LCC literature. This week we did Rapunzel, as well as a book called I, Crocodile a picture book about a crocodile stolen away to Paris by Napoleon. Talk about a hit - they requested it two more times today!
We made salt dough maps of imaginary lands. I have not yet taken pictures of those, but will try to remember to do so later this week.
In other news, we had birthdays. Connor is now 13, and Aidan is 11. We also found a group of kids that meets once a week to play D&D, which is just the social outlet the older boys needed. It seems wrong to me, though, to gather on a weekday afternoon to play D&D. I think that once every couple of weeks all the boys ought to meet on a Friday night and sleep over, playing D&D late into the night. Isn't that how it's supposed to be done?
January 18, 2009
Y'all know that we've never really done science in our homeschool. Not formal science. We try, and fail. And try again, and fail.
We don't fail because we're not science-minded, or because we don't have an interest; I think we fail because we do have an interest. Looking at elementary science programs usually led me to screaming off into the night. And frankly, most junior high programs aren't much better. They generally give bits of information with little depth, are full of busy work, and require "experiments" that are really demonstrations that do nothing to inspire curiosity.
The higher levels of Singapore Science held us for awhile, because they contain more critical thinking and open-ended questioning than most texts. And the experiments require cooler materials. I am, so far, more likely to go back to that than any other. We also quite liked Real Science 4 Kids' Chemistry program, but it is short.
(And anyway, why do I need a program to teach science to kids who just yammered at me for the last hour, telling me everything they read about the potential for life on Mars, and at how many atmospheres humans can function, and the exact mechanisms of death in space?)
But the time has come to try "science" again, mainly because I want to shore up a few things before sending my oldest out to the community college for real classes; and I think my current approach will serve us much better than the various programs available. So here I present to you one version of a not-formal-science curriculum:
We are using the Elements Newsletter from How To Teach Science to learn about the periodic table. This is something you can do as a family, with all age groups. It's easy, and it's fun. For instance, after reading about hydrogen this week, the older boys and I ended up spending time at the website for the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Center, an excellent example of how you can use science and factual information to create alarm about anything. Now, that's a valuable lesson about science.
When my budget permits, I'm going to sign up for a subscription to the Bite Size Physics website. This is something the older two can do on their own, and if we aren't able to do the demonstrations ourselves, we can watch YouTube videos of them. The little boys will enjoy either the experiments or the videos.
We are going to borrow Physics In Your Life from the library; this lecture schedules optional readings from Conceptual Physics. All in all, this will be the equivalent of a decent, pre-math physics survey.
January 15, 2009
Who Ate the Reading List?
As I sit down to plan this next semester (yes, I got a late start), I find that my reading list is ... gone. Completely and utterly gone. Not only have I lost the list of works I had planned to be read this year, I've lost the list of what we have read.
And as I look ahead, I see that most of TOG's literature selections for the next 18 weeks are just not in my plans. They're fine choices, but they're not my choices. So far, it seems to me that TOG's rhetoric-level literature is very good, but I find a lot of what I consider "filler" in their lower levels.
Here is my reconstructed list for the rest of the year, for Connor (2nd half of 7th grade):
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
A Christmas Carol (Or, if he thinks it's too late to be reading Christmas stories, perhaps Oliver Twist or really, any other Dickens. I'm not picky.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
The Princess and the Goblin
Grimm's Fairy Tales
Selections by Rip Van Winkle
Selections by Poe
The Pied Piper of Hamelin - Robert Browning
Selections by Poe
TOG Schedules Island of the Blue Dolphins. I remember reading that, for fun, in jr. high. Do I want to schedule it as a school assignment? I'm asking, seriously. I don't remember it well enough to make that call. TOG also schedules "worldview" assignments for the rhetoric level, aimed at getting teens missionary-minded; I may take their assignments and turn them into a study of comparative religions. Hinduism seems to be first up.
At any rate, this list is *plenty* long. It's only meant to take us until summer. And at the same time he's reading those, he's also reading the Iliad, he's nearly finished with Julius Caesar, and he'll read The Merchant of Venice.
So, PLENTY. Maybe even too much. Now I've got to figure out what the heck we did read this year, already.
We're about to start on TOG Year 3, which roughly covers the 19th century. My challenge in planning for this is to remember to not go too deeply into TOG, and to remember that it is not my real focus. Everything is going well. We are progressing. Soon, Connor will take the NLE Lain I exam, and Aidan will take the Intro to Latin exam; Connor will take the National Mythology Exam. Both boys are in a PE class this year, and are starting up with a D&D/RPG group. Connor is doing well in Boy Scouts, and is currently the leader of his patrol; Aidan is on track to get his Arrow of Light and cross over to Boy Scouts later this year.
And the two little ones are mostly tagging along, refining their reading and writing, and creating elaborate games.
And no, no, no, we are not planning on going downtown for the Inauguration. Yes, it's historical. But no.
November 23, 2008
Weekly, Or Something, Report
We are so taking this week off.
My students are doing very well. Mom, however, is just done.
Milestones: Connor finished Latin Prep book one! Aidan finished Singapore 4A! Griffin finished Right Start B!
Changes: The kids have lobbied to ditch Greek, and start Spanish. So we've started Galore Park's So You Really Want to Learn Spanish Maybe we'll bake cookies for our sweet Hispanic neighbors, to sweet-talk them into talking to us in Spanish. We also like to watch Star Wars in Spanish.
We've jumped full-force back into Classical Writing. The break did us good. Connor is doing well in Diogenes, and Aidan is doing Homer A like it's nothing. I'm sure it helps that, since I have a much better understanding of the Classical Writing philosophy, I'm more laid-back about how we implement Homer.
Diogenes has Connor reading Julius Caesar. Informally, Connor has been re-casting the play in modern political terms. And that's all I'm saying.
We're still enjoying Tapestry of Grace. Yes, really. I know, and I'm sorry. However, if you don't have a pathological need to have all your kids on the same history topic at once, and if you are good at coming up with age-appropriate questions and discussion points, TOG is nothing you need. I love the scheduling, and I so love having good questions already done for me.
Aidan is nearly done with Unit 1 of Henle Latin, which is pretty awesome for a 5th grader. Until I can get around to buying the next Galore Park book, Connor will spend some time with Fr. Henle, too.
I was going to list what we've read this month, but I don't remember. I'm reading Johnny Tremain aloud now. Hmmm. Connor read Early Thunder, And Then What, Lafayette?, Alas, Babylon ... he finally finished Lord of the Rings.
Aidan read Sign of the Beaver, and the Hitchhiker's trilogy. He's run out of Heinlein books, for now.
This week will be all catch-up and crafty holiday things.
October 18, 2008
Weekly Report - Week ... 9?
I think this was Week 9.
We all feel like we need a break, even though we just took a week off.
This week Connor read an adaptation of Gulliver's Travels, another book of the Iliad, a book about Poor Richard's Almanac, and Starship Troopers. He was supposed to read more Locke, but we didn't get around to it. He's been such fun, lately. He comes to me and says things like: "You know, it would be interesting to see, if you put a bunch of kids on an island, what kind of society they'd come up with." Or: "You know, a nuclear war wouldn't kill everyone, so I wonder what life would be like for the survivors ..." Heh. Here, kid, let me add some books to your library list.
Incidentally, although we're going to be doing the government readings listed in TOG, we've decided against using the textbook they recommend. On closer inspection I see that the text is clearly focused on teaching American government from the perspective that the U.S. was meant to be a Christian nation. I think we'll just read the source documents and reach our own conclusions, thanks.
On a pagan-y note, I was struck by the similarities between Locke's natural rights, and "An' it harm none, do what ye will." I've never read Locke. Reason #8,972 I'm glad we homeschool: I get a do-over of my own education.
Connor has finished his pre-algebra book, and has started into Algebra. We're using an older Dolciani algebra book, and Jeff is teaching it.
He is doing well in Latin, and is in chapter 9 of Latin Prep 1. He's doing less well in Greek, but in truth I haven't made Greek a priority.
We have had to end, at least for our, his online writing classes. Instead I'm starting him on Classical Writing - Diogenes: Maxim. I love this book. It is actually easier than Homer; the goals are clear, and the assignments are shorter. It also dovetails nicely into history for us, as Maxim focuses on Ben Franklin's Autobiography and the Silence Dogood letters.
Aidan has finished Right Start E! He's done with the program! Wheee! Now I'll do Singapore Math with him full-time, until he finishes 6B; then I'll hand him over to Jeff.
This week Aidan finished The Witch of Blackbird Pond, What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?, some of D'Aulaire's Greek Myths, and ... I forget what Heinlein he's working on right now. Space Cadet, maybe.
He is doing very well in Henle; he's nearly finished with the 3rd declension. We do all the Henle work orally. Greek - same as Connor. He's doing the Greek, but I need to to a better job of seeing that they *learn* it. It would help if I learned it too.
I've started him back into CW Homer; however, I'm not going to use the workbook for him. We're going to wing it, and wing it casually.
Griffin had a great leap in math. For a long time I despaired of ever being able to move forward in Right Start, he had such a hard time with mental addition. We finally moved on anyway, and it turns out that although he struggles with mental addition, the first time I showed him how to add two four-digit numbers together on paper, he got it.
He's made some progress in reading, too. Griffin struggles with reading. It's hard for him. This is the area we work, and work, and work on. But, finally, he is progressing. Slowly, but progressing.
Lachlan outreads him by a large margin. Lachlan probably reads at at least a 3rd grade level. Twerp. He's just started Cub Scouts, and, well, as many of you know, it's quite bittersweet to see your youngest run confidently off with the group. It turns out that in a group setting, he is quite the goofball/class clown type. Twerp.
Outside of academics, we've found a great nature study area. Near our house is a wooded area, with a stream in which a group of beavers has been very busy. We've never caught a glimpse of the beavers themselves, but every time we go out there there are new trees down.
We're trying to hit the pool 2-3 times a week. Scouts is in full swing, and Connor has finally found a Troop he really likes. It is, in other words, busy and crazy. They're at the pool now, so I have some quiet time. Tomorrow, we're going to Mt. Vernon to kick off our study of George Washington. And we have to make Halloween costumes this week.
October 11, 2008
Tapestry of Grace, One Unit In
We've completed our first unit, our trial unit, of TOG. How did it go? I already have the next unit on my desk.
Yes, I love it. Ever since it was time to bump the older boys up to the next level, I've been floundering. I haven't gotten a good handle on how to challenge them, or to successfully require more of them. TOG has helped me to manage this.
Specifically, it's helped me to get them reading more consistently, and to discuss with them what they're reading. Yes, the discussion should be a no-brainer, shouldn't it? But some of us are ... easily distractible ... and really need that piece of paper reminding us what we're supposed to be discussing.
In the last 8 weeks, Connor and Aidan have read:
A retelling of Don Quixote
The Landing of the Pilgrims (Landmark)
Perrault's Fairy Tales
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
In addition, Aidan has read Diane Stanley's Peter the Great, and several chapters of Story of the World. Connor has read through book 7 of the Iliad, several chapters of This Country of Ours and Our Island Story, and four chapters of Locke's Second Treatise on Government.
(Not all those works are assigned in TOG.)
That's not bad, is it?
Yes, we like it. The schedule is flexible, allowing for students to move between levels as their abilities dictate, and keeps us on a good track. The discussion questions are good - sometimes even excellent. And it's not so time-consuming that we can't do our own thing, like classical studies.
I've got the two little boys working at the Lower Grammar level. Aidan is well-placed in the Upper Grammar level; I had him do some Dialectic readings, just to see. He can read the books, but slowly. Soon.
The Dialectic level is actually a little easy for Connor, but I'm not willing to bump him up to the high school (Rhetoric) level yet. So, at his request, we're adding the Rhetoric government elective to his work - hence the Locke. Does this kid rock, or what? Neither Locke, nor the Iliad phases him. I must have done something right.
We are also doing the TOG geography. We are NOT doing the church history, or the writing program. I substitute out about half of the literature selections. I almost wish they integrated a science program with the rest, except that I know what that science would be.
September 22, 2008
Not the lesson I'd hoped he'd take away from the story ...
Today I read "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" to Griffin. He narrated it back to me - a beautiful narration.
Then I prompted him for the moral of the story, which he said was:
"Never tell the truth after you lie."
We always kind of pegged him to be the televangelist of the family. Maybe we should be considering politics, instead? Campaign management?
September 21, 2008
Week 6, and it's still September. Not bad ...
I'm going to start putting my detailed report/journal behind the cut. Click to see!
This week we completed Week 25 in Tapestry of Grace, which means that we are sticking to their schedule. However, we can do this because we're still really only doing the history; occasionally we do geography. I only do the literature when it suits me. So we read the history assignments, and discuss.
Somehow we were supposed to focus on Native American tribes this week, and I managed to fail to assign any reading about Native Americans. The library did not have the recommended books, and I didn't realize the emphasis TOG was trying to place here. Because I want to stay "on schedule" for history, we are not going to pause to make this up, even though I do think it's important for the kids to learn about the Native Americans. I think, instead, we will find a way to spend some time at the Smithsonian American Indian museum.
Meanwhile, my kids are learning things about the founding of the colonies that I never knew. They are learning about how each of the colonies was founded, and about the Indian wars that affected each. The level of detail is something I simply do not remember from my time in school. We learned how the colonies came to be as a group, and we learned a great deal about the local Indian tribes. (Except when I lived in Panama; then, we learned about the Iroquois.)
Connor continued his math and programming lessons with his father. He also continued reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond, as well as selected chapters from This Country of Ours and Our Island Story. He attended his last writing class, for now. He learned about the imperative mood in chapter 8 of Latin Prep; I haven't actually checked his Greek work yet, so do not yet know if he learned anything. He watched the first two lectures of Elizabeth Vandiver's Teaching Company lecture on the Iliad.
Aidan learned to multiply fractions in Right Start E. He learned about appositives, and did more work with the third declension in Henle Latin. I haven't checked his Greek, either - do you see a pattern here? He read Diane Stanley's Peter the Great, and a couple of chapters of Story of the World. He continues to read The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and will read D'Aulaire's Greek Myths whenever we find it again. He outlined a portion from SOTW, and composed a narration based on the outline. He, too, did programming lessons with Dad.
He also attended his first pack meeting with our new Cub Scout pack. It turns out that we've been sort of misled about Scouts. Aidan actually joined as a Tiger, when he was old enough to be a Bear. We were told that this would not matter, in the long run, and that he could just join Boy Scouts when he was 12, instead of 11. It turns out that this is not true. So, he has just one year to do the entire Webelos program - and he wants his Arrow of Light.
Griffin had a rough week in Singapore 1B, until I remembered that we have not yet encountered subtraction in Right Start, yet. This is my signal to leave the Singapore on the shelf, and go back to Right Start for awhile. Once the concept is introduced there, we can continue with it in Singapore. Every day, Griffin does handwriting practice, two or three pages in Explode the Code (he's currently in book 2), grammar from First Language Lessons, and either copywork or narration. A couple of times a week he also reads from Phonics Pathways, and I give him dictation from that. His confidence in reading is very low, and he needs intensive work.
Lachlan resists the 20 minutes of schoolwork I ask him to do each day. Still, he did do most of his lessons in Singapore 1 A, and his grammar in FLL, and his handwriting. He also did one narration for me this week.
We all did a nice nature walk, that I'll get to in another post. That, and documentaries about dinosaurs, comprised our informal science for the week. Aidan did read about Newton in SOTW.
A few weeks ago we read about the Great Fire of London. This week we finally got around to coloring and assembling a paper London. Now we just need to set it on fire. Homeschooling is always better with fire, right?
Tonight we're exhausted. We went back into D.C. and visited the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial. We walked a total of five miles. It was a beautiful day, though.
Tonight we also celebrate Mabon, the Fall Equinox. This week it has begun to feel like fall - the days are still warm, but the nights are cool, and the trees are thinking about changing color. The neighborhood kids are back in school, and the grocery stores are selling pumpkins. And we're having baked apples and pumpkin pie, tonight.
September 17, 2008
What a Week ...
The last couple of days of teaching have been tough. One of my children has almost completely mislaid his brain. One quickly mislays his as soon as the going gets tough. And one is finding ever more inventive ways of slipping off Mom's radar and just not doing anything he's told to.
Because of that last one, we're going to have to choose a school start time, and stick to it. He's too belligerent, and too slippery. I don't mind when they want to do things their way, or change things around, or play first and work later; however, when you abuse my flexibility and goodwill, you don't get it any more. And he is pushing every limit he can think of.
It's frustrating when the children present you with their challenges all at once. So right now, every day, I have a disruptive battle of wills with the youngest. Then, I have to muster up the patience after that to work intensively, carefully, and creatively with the next youngest, who will shut down at the first sign of difficulty. And school is hard for him. There's no way around it. He must learn how to face something that's hard, without being upset. And after that, I turn around to realize that the preteen boy brain fog has eaten all of the Latin vocabulary, the monarchs of England, and the multiplication tables. And the kitchen chores.
And I understand that both CPS and the county schools would be perturbed if the Mom/primary teacher started drinking right after lunch.
Connor got a full set of braces this morning. I don't know that he'll let me take pictures to share.
And on Monday night, we met the local Cub Scout pack. This year we'll have four boys in Scouts, so if you never hear from me again, you'll know why. Plus, we were informed that since Aidan has always been behind a year in Scouts, he has to do the entire Webelos program this year - actually, in the next six months. He wants to earn the Arrow of Light. I see now that it's good that we've done no formal science this year - the Webelos program is about to take care of that!
September 13, 2008
It just adds to the fun of the weekly update that I don't update every week, doesn't it?
We may just have to abandon school, though, until the election is over. My oldest child, at least, has the fever (my next oldest is not far behind), and all I do is read blogs and then either walk around giggling or raging incoherently. (No, I can't do your Latin lesson right now! Someone is wrong on the internet!) It would probably be more entertaining for all of you if I giggled or raged incoherently here. I'll think about. I generally dislike blogging about politics, but I might have to make an exception this time.
We've been looking for an Obama event to attend, something at which either he or Biden will be present. So far we've found nothing. This is a battleground state, though, so I hope he'll be back through.
As for the rest of school, things are much the same. We are still doing nicely with TOG. We're even mostly on schedule with it, if you don't count geography. We've just finished week 24 of year 2 (remember, we started with week 20), which dealt with William Penn, La Salle, the Salem Witch Trials, Louis XIV, and the ways in which Charles II, William and Mary, and Anne dealt with the colonies. It sounds like a lot, but it's gone very smoothly.
I usually do the end-of-week history discussion in the car. This works very well, as all the children are present and are a captive audience. Heh. The TOG questions are all geared towards Connor's history reading for the week, but if we are in the car then all the kids hear the questions and answers, and often Aidan is able to participate. Sometimes even Lachlan and Griffin are able to participate. Not likely this week, as I never actually read L and G's history to them. Bad Mommy.
One of the TOG questions this week asked the child to use his Bible concordance to find Biblical justifications for the actions taken in the Salem Witch Trials. I'm going to make Connor do that one. That will certainly lead to a nice discussion, don't you think?
Both older boys are reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond this week. This is one of those times when the TOG literature corresponds with what I was going to do anyway. This is a favorite book from my childhood, and I am going to love discussing it with them.
I had intended to school four days out of the week, and to save Fridays for art, science, and nature studies. So far, every week there's been some reason we had to skip a day of school and use Friday to make it up. This is not going to get any better, as our activities get into full swing, and as Scouts starts. Ack. And of course, we need more time for field trips ... who has time for school, anyway?
Other stuff: Aidan did long division in Right Start E. The little boys continued their Singapore, and Connor started up his math lessons with Jeff. Connor continued working in Chapter 8 of Latin Prep, and Aidan learned the 3rd declension in Henle.
The little boys and I worked in FLL and WWE. These two books are a little tricky to use together, since they involve so much repetition. I primarily use FLL. On days when the lesson in FLL does not involve narration or copywork, I do a WWE-style lesson. I'm very glad I did not buy the WWE workbooks, or I'd have felt compelled to use them. This system is much more flexible. This system has also helped me to see how the fable level of the progymnasmata can be done in a much more low-key way than Classical Writing.
Areas we still need to work on: Aidan is not actually doing any formal writing right now. He is writing a short story, though. That counts, right?
September 10, 2008
We tossed normal school out the window today, and took a field trip.
I'm pretty sure ... I'm positive ... that this was my first political rally. All my life I've been fairly anti-political. By that I mean that if you said "politics," I would instantly fall asleep. Or try to change the channel. Which was embarrassing if the TV wasn't on.
And yet, we went. The kids asked where we were going, so I told them: "We're going to get in the car, drive slowly through lots of traffic, get to a park filled with thousands of people and no parking, give up and go home."
It took an hour to drive the 7 miles to the park. On the way, I noticed I was out of gas. The traffic was stop and go, with no gas station in sight. We finally found one when I was down to just a couple of gallons. We pulled up to the pump, and it was then that I realized that my debit card was still on my dresser. Thankfully there was a credit card hiding in my purse, or we might still be at that gas station.
Once we drove by the park itself, it just looked like too much fun to go home. All those people! And they were having fun! It felt like a party! And the protesters! Connor kept complaining about them, while I vigorously defended their right to be there. It wouldn't have been as fun without the protesters.
We had to park a mile away - literally. So we were late, and ended up with a bad spot. It didn't matter. We could hear everything. Sarah Palin's speech was the same as it's been lately - even my kids recognized that. John McCain is a much better speaker live than he is scripted on TV. He didn't say anything new either, but he sounded great.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 23,000 people showed up for this event ... and let me tell you, I have never seen a crowd that large be that polite. Everyone was polite. Everyone was friendly. Even when security totally botched the attempt to get all 23,000 people out of one gate, leaving us smashed against each other, everyone was still polite. And patient. There were kids everywhere, and many, many moms with babies in slings. (I so love to see babies in slings!) Complete strangers kept coming up to me to thank me for coming, and for bringing my kids.
It was fun. I'm scared.
September 8, 2008
A Day in the Life
Monday, 10:19 a.m.
It's 10:19, and no one has started school work yet.
Connor and I started our morning online, together reading some articles in the Guardian; one about how Barak Obama had wanted to join the military when he was younger, and one about CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Then he went off to his own computer to do research on antimatter.
Connor, Aidan and I rolled out bread, unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, and did laundry (OK, I did laundry). I reminded them (for the 87th time) that our swim classes start today, and so they need to have their swim trunks ready. They assured me that they are all prepared, and know where their swim trunks are. I suggested that they go ahead and get out said swim trunks, to make sure we're ready on time.
You know what happened next, don't you? Three children will be swimming today; two pairs of swim trunks have actually been found.
Yesterday we began the process of switching the office/schoolroom with the formal dining room, which means that the required history reading for the day cannot be found.
One child has decided he doesn't want to swim, after all. No, it's not the one we have no swim trunks for. That would be too easy.
I found them. They were in said child's drawer. Imagine.
Finally, we've stared schoolwork. The little boys are working on math and phonics. The two older ones are working on history reading and Latin. No one needs me yet, so I'm cleaning the kitchen. Actually, I'm typing on my computer, but you know what I mean.
Lachlan and Griffin have an argument about Bionicles, and Lachlan runs off to his room in a fit.
I blew it. It is a delicate matter, keeping the morning blood sugar level balanced. It relies on not drinking the coffee too soon, nor eating the breakfast too late. Would it be all that bad if I ate the entire bag of potato chips that's hiding in the laundry room?
We begin Aidan's math and Latin lessons, in Henle and Right Start E.
Aidan is finished with math (long division), Latin (3rd declension) and a history narration (He dictated, I wrote. Tomorrow I will dictate his narration to him for him to write, following the methods in Writing With Ease). Connor claims to be finished with all his day's assignments, except for Greek. He's probably right, as he won't have any math work until this evening, when he has a lesson with Jeff, and he won't have a writing assignment until tomorrow.
We've all had lunch, though my blood sugar is not bouncing back, and I would like to eat a huge bowl of mashed potatoes. Griffin took a break after phonics, and has never returned to finish the rest of his schoolwork. Neither has Lachlan. They're off playing nicely together now. Later, they will not be able to escape. The bread is baking. Aidan is practicing piano.
The bread is out of the oven. We leave for swimming. Aidan's swim trunks do not fit him. Really.
We arrive at Marshalls. Griffin announces that he forgot to put shoes on. I stuff him into a shopping cart so that no one will notice. They have no swim trunks. I buy a pair of shorts that looks enough like swim trunks. I also buy Griffin a pair of shoes. They have wheels, so I'm counting them as a birthday present.
Connor does his Greek lesson in the car. I find the rec center, cleverly tucked away behind a high school parking lot.
During the lesson I chat with the mom of some of the other kids. When she finds out I homeschool, she says to me, "Oh, my neighbor homeschools. You must know her, then!"
Yes. We all know each other.
We arrive home. I finish up grammar with the little boys, and math with Lachlan. They go off to play, and I play on the computer and see about dinner. The boys all play on the computer, too. Connor and I notice some Very Large Crows in the back yard, behaving a bit oddly. On further investigation, we find that they're scavenging. So ... what kinds of animals bite squirrels in half? We have half a squirrel in the yard. I'm pretty sure the cats didn't do it. They tend to stick to moles and voles. (One of our cats brought us a live mole last week. He brought it into Jeff's office and let it go.) The crows seem very happy.
Jeff arrives home and attempts to give Connor a math lesson. It turns out he did have an assignment, after all. He spends the time before dinner doing his math. They'll have a lesson later in the evening.
I walk two miles after dinner, finishing up while they do their math lesson, and while the little boys play with their friends from next door. The boys wind up their evening by watching Babylon 5.
August 21, 2008
Week 2 - This Is Too Easy
How odd. This is really too easy.
This was our second week with TOG, and so far, so good. This week everyone read about the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, and the Native Americans who worked with them. It was very low-key. The older boys did their assigned readings - we even did the geography work. I read Three Young Pilgrims to the little kids, as well as the section on King James I in Kings and Things (H. E. Marshall). TOG does not schedule Kings and Things; it's my own addition. It's too delightful to skip.
The older boys did their Latin - Aidan wanted a change, so we're doing Henle. Really, there's no point in my saying what Latin curricula we use. We use one of three or four, depending. So for now, he'll use Henle. Both boys did Greek. Connor attended his writing class. I started Aidan, Lachlan and Griffin in Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Ease, each at his own level. Aidan did lessons in Right Start E, Griffin in Singapore 1B, and Lachlan in Singapore 1A. Connor finished through Book 2 of the Iliad.
No one was overburdened with work, and we all had plenty of free time.
On most days, the big boys start their work around 10 a.m. The little boys prefer to play all day. Sometimes we don't do their work until 5 or 6 p.m. Tonight it was after dinner.
Monday we had a field trip:
It was our first time to use the Metro to go downtown.
We got as far as the WWII monument. On the way back to the museums, Connor jumped off a tree, landed badly, and sprained his ankle. That cut our trip short, as I had to support him while he hopped back to the Metro station, through the station, through the next station, and out to the car. It took us three hours to get home, with the hopping. It was not fun.
August 17, 2008
More on Tapestry of Grace and Planning
I still shake my head as I type the words.
Rose asked how much planning I'm doing. Actually, I'm up to my eyeballs in planning, but I think that's just because I'm figuring out the system, and how to mesh their system with my system. They have everything very nicely laid out, but I must also have 1) my own overview of what I'm doing in a week, with not only TOG but everything else, and; 2) some assignment system for the two older kids so that they know what they are doing.
I'm experimenting with a couple of different spreadsheets for my own weekly overview. TOG has nothing to do with this - I always do some kind of weekly overview. However, now I have to fit TOG into it. I now begin to see why people make TOG workbooks for their kids. If I copy the pages for each child, I can just circle the appropriate reading and geography assignments and go. I can also add in the history questions, and any maps or activity pages (usually coloring pages for the younger set). Karenciavo seems to be the TOG notebook queen, and I assume I will succumb to the desire for those sexy Levenger Circa notebooks. (How sad it is that I can use the adjective "sexy" for a notebooking system.)
I have been using Pageflakes to give the older boys their assignments. They like this a great deal. I think it's a bit of a pain, but I can't think of any better options. Pageflakes lets me give them a reading list for the week, as well as daily assignments. I just have to remember to update them every week.
For years I journaled our homeschooling, using a paper planner for a basic idea, but only writing in it what we did, instead of what I planned. Now, I need an actual planner. A flexible, good planner for the Mac doesn't exist. I'm hoping Jeff will write one. It's on his list. In the meantime, I use Pages and Numbers to make up weekly sheets that tell me what each child is meant to work on in each subject on each day. I used a chart drawn up in Pages last year, and I'm experimenting with one in Numbers this year. (I'm doing this because Susie did the gruntwork of making the layout, and making it TOG compatible, so I don't have to. Ha. I mean, thanks, Susie :)
But what this means is that I'm simultaneously putting assignments into Pageflakes, making workbooks, and creating detailed plans in both Pages and Numbers. I am deep into planning Heaven or Hell, depending on your point of view. The upshot of this is that I do not yet know how much planning TOG will really require of me.
In the comments, KathyJo noted that it might be easier for a non-Christian to deal with the religious content, than a Christian of a different flavor. That may be true. I want to note that the worldview used in TOG is specifically one of providential history. If that is not your cup of tea, you are warned.
Here are some examples of Christian content we've seen this week. We had one question that asked the student to discuss John Smith's character, to think about whether or not he had the qualities of a good leader, and whether he should have been in charge of Jamestown ... and why we thought God allowed him to be the leader. That's an example of a question that's easy to modify. We simply do the first part, and ignore the second.
The student is given some Bible verses, and asked to use them to think about and discuss Galileo's positions, and why the Catholic Church was so threatened by his views. When we have the time, I don't mind at all doing an exercise like this. This can be a very interesting and informative exercise, and I want my kids to know how Christians think, and what the Bible says.
However, at the high school level, you encounter questions like: "What specific events in the story of Jamestown obviously show God's Providence at work?" And next week, at the Dialectic level: "In what ways did God provide for the Pilgrims?" Those will have to be tossed out wholesale, while I attempt to not gag.
But later on: "Using the Bible, define the qualities of a hero." Okay, we can define the qualities of a hero based on our own yardsticks. We can even compare our definition of a hero to a Biblical definition.
So it varies. There is still much we can use. Some of it we can use to learn about Christianity and Christians. And some of it will be kicked out the door.
We had our first end-of-week discussion today. It should have been on Friday, but, well, it was today, in the car on the way to and from the mall. (Captive audience!) It went really well, and was fun. Of course, encouraging Connor to discuss history is like encouraging a politician to talk about himself. Jeff enjoyed it a great deal. We particularly liked the fact that teacher's notes led us to discuss how the colonies were funded by joint stock ventures, and what that meant and how such companies work. All in all, a good discussion like this, with the whole family, is worth the price of the curriculum for me.
And oh, oh, I think the best moment for both of us was when we were discussing money and value, and Jeff asked the kids what "value" is, and Aidan responded: "Oh! Oh! Heinlein talked about this in Starship Troopers!"
Ah, the indoctrination is going well.
August 15, 2008
Week 1 - What are we doing, again?
Week 1, folks. Yes, we've started back to school. This year I am teaching first, second, fifth and seventh grade. And the first grader is mightily resistant. Mightily.
But, we're back into it. Every day the older two did math, Latin and Greek. Every day the younger two did math, and either phonics, copywork or grammar.
There has been one little change. We've decided to try something new. I haven't been happy with history since my oldest finished all of Story of the World. Yes, he can do history independently, but 1) I like it better when we do the same topics at the same time; and 2) his independent work was becoming something easy to dash off, which was not my goal.
So we're trying out - and these are the words you thought you'd never hear on this blog - we're trying out Tapestry of Grace.
(Shhh! Don't tell anyone!)
For those of you who aren't homeschoolers, or who have never heard of this, Tapestry of Grace is a history-based curriculum plan for teaching one topic of history at a time to various levels of children. It's a very nicely laid-out plan. It is both meaty and flexible, and leads the older children to deeper and deeper levels of analysis.
So why would I say that you'd never hear of me using it? Well, it is heavily Christian. Heavily. It is called Tapestry of Grace, after all. The teacher's notes and many of the questions for students assume a Biblical worldview. If we continue to use this program, I will have to toss out their entire philosophy component, and at least half of Year 1, as unusable for us. Some of it contains so much Biblical worldview that we're not going to be able to pick it out or overlook it.
It is also an all-encompassing curriculum. It can take up your whole week, every week. i don't want to spend that much time on history. On the other hand, it is time to ramp up the difficulty for the oldest, and TOG's plan seems to do that for me nicely.
It also moves really, really fast. This one week covered what, with Story of the World, we would have taken six weeks to do, and we'd have had more world history thrown in.
Still, so far, I like the plan, I like the questions, I like the way it all comes together. I can always slow down when I want to, and take advantage of those times when we will not be able to use the TOG material.
It does feel odd, though to be using it. So, stay tuned to see how a pagan family uses Tapestry of Grace. I bet the publisher will love it.
So, we did week 20 of unit 3, year 2 (in TOG-speak that's Y2U3 Wk. 20, for LG UG and D), which covers the first English settlements in America. TOG recommends large amounts of reading and for some reason, my kids did it all. I'm flabbergasted. Usually, I assign and they weasel. But they read it. All. Connor even gave written answers to questions about the readings (in his usual, concise, way). And we did those nifty maps. Everyone read different books, but they were all about the same topics. We were all able to talk about the same events and people, with each kid having slightly different information.
I was not planning on using TOG's literature component, but it turns out that they schedule many of the books I was going to use anyway. I'll just throw out the ones I don't want to use, and add in others.
So far so good, but I remain skeptical and open to chucking the whole thing. It does have decent resale value.
I bought Writing With Ease to use for my two little boys. However, did I mention the youngest one's resistance to all things school? It will take some time to get into a rhythm with them. Which is fine.
Along with all the TOG reading, Connor is reading the Iliad this year. We're going to watch videos from the Teaching Company to supplement. We've got all year. If this turns out to be doable for him, we'll read the Odyssey, too. If not, if we take all year to do the Iliad, that's fine.
Hmmm. It felt like we did a lot. Now it doesn't seem like so much. We still had time for a day with Grandma and Grandpa, and we only did review today. Today we also did some science (gasp!), and art (gasp!). I know. We're just crazy, aren't we? And we watched a NOVA about Galileo.
Meanwhile, Connor discovered Asimov, and Aidan discovered Heinlein. We are proud parents. But, er ... it is kind of tricky finding Heinlein that is going to be, well ... I'm not sure about a 10 year old reading Stranger in a Strange Land. He found Starship Troopers, and fell in love, but I steered him towards Have Space Suit, Will Travel after that. Connor is reading the Foundation series. Did I mention that I'm thrilled?
August 12, 2008
Yep, that's what I am.
Check these out for proof. Peanut-butter ball dough maps of the U.S. Are they learning geography, or is it just a sugar rush? Who knows? They look cool, though, don't they? Oh, you don't know, because I haven't shown them to you? I put them all here rather than have four big map images here on the blog. Don't ask me why it works that way, it just does. I could stop it, but I'm not interested in trying. I'll put just a couple of shots here.
The map itself is made, as I said, of peanut-butter ball "dough." The rivers are red Twizzlers. The green sprinkles indicated the plains. The chocolate chips are the mountain ranges, the blue icing represents lakes, and the M&M is Washington, DC.
And here are the boys working on the project:
June 12, 2008
Planning For Next Year
I've been mulling over our next school year. I'm not really happy with the way the last couple of years have gone. And so, I'm considering some changes.
First of all, I'm ditching my beloved Classical Writing for awhile. As much as I love and believe in the program, we need a break from it. I need someone else to work with my children for awhile, so we're planning to use some online classes from Home2Teach.
Second, I'm facing up the reality of teaching a child whose brain is just not going to work with my LCC philosophies. I firmly believe that studying quality narratives is far superior to reading a textbook; however, Connor actually retains more information, and has a better grasp of the big picture, when he reads the history encyclopedia. I can't do that. If I read the encyclopedia, my brain dumps the information as fast as I read it. It must be his father's DNA.
So, I'm dumping my lovely reading lists, and letting him do WTM-style logic-stage history. This involves him reading sections of our history encyclopedia; when he comes across something that piques his interest, then we pause there for him to find and read additional materials. Then we move on. There you go.
For the little boys, for writing, I am doing whatever Susan Wise Bauer says. I did not follow her recommendations for my older two, and I don't much like the results. I've gone back over her material, and I can see that it makes great sense. The younger kids are getting the full treatment in that area.
I am coming to realize that although I believe in and identify with the version of classical education outlined in the LCC, SWB has the better grasp of educational development of young people. For most things, this hasn't mattered. For writing, it has. So I think we're backing into The Well-Trained Mind for awhile, to see if her ideas and methods help us over these rough spots. In reality, we use what works best, no matter what it's called or how it's labeled, as long as we reach our goals.
So, for Connor's 7th grade year, we are planning:
Algebra I with an older Dolciani text. Jeff is teaching this, not I! The text is a bit beyond me, and will need someone who actually understands math to teach it.
Latin, continuing with the Galore Park Latin Prep series, and Lingua Latina.
Greek with Elementary Greek and this nifty, free resource.
Writing with Home2Teach; we might still do some grammar, and we'll use Megawords for spelling.
History the WTM way, early modern, 1650-1850, with an emphasis on American, and probably Virginian, history. Lots of field trips.
Literature - I hope we'll tackle the Iliad. Other than that, early modern selections, to include "Johnny Tremain," "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch," "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin," Perrault's fairy tales, Grimm's fairy tales, Washington Irving stories, Poe, "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." We might read "Common Sense." We'll see. This is all assuming I can get their noses out of Orson Scott Card books. I guess eventually, they'll run out. We are not tied to this list; we'll read what we can, and use books on CD for some. My focus will be on the Iliad, and, if we get to it, "Common Sense."
Science - ....
I have to decide whether or not to add Spanish. I want to. The kids want to. If only it required no effort on my part!
Aidan will actually be doing the same history and literature (probably not the Iliad, though if he wants to try it, he's welcome), and maybe even the same writing, switching out where necessary for his abilities. Same Latin, but slower. He's actually ahead of Connor in Greek. He'll be finishing up Right Start E, and moving into Singapore 4, for math. He'll be in 5th grade, but I suspect he'll be happier using "Story of the World" rather than the history encyclopedia.
Lachlan and Griffin will be doing "First Language Lessons," SWB's "Writing With Ease," Right Start B, and "Story of the World," and listening to lots and lots of fairy tales, myths, and tales of Egypt and Pirates, as always.
And piano ... though the boys have asked that I teach them this next year, so that we can use the piano money for swimming lessons instead. We can do that. I know I can teach them, but I hope I can help them maintain their enthusiasm. And Scouts, and hopefully we'll find a First Lego League team, and did I mention the field trips?
I'm tired already.
May 20, 2008
Meanwhile, the younger children ...
... are teaching themselves to read via playing Munchkin.
It will be interesting to see the differences between them, and the children who learned via Calvin and Hobbes.
If you want your children to do any schoolwork ...
Don't hand them Orson Scott Card novels. I don't think I've seen my older children since Sunday, when I handed them "Speaker for the Dead" and "Ender's Shadow."
March 28, 2008
This will be interesting, because it feels like we spent most of the week alternately glaring at each other and looking out the window only to yell "What? It's snowing again?"
Yeah, snow. At least three times this week. Last night we had four inches dumped on us. At least it's sunny today. Soon, I believe, the traditional Michigan spring rains will set in. Sun is scheduled again in June.
I'm not complaining, though. Honest. I'd still rather this than tornado sirens.
Anyway. Math. Aidan made it to lesson 85 in Right Start E, despite much grumbling about division. In fairly typical Aidan fashion, he refused to be taught, but figured it out himself. Lachlan did lesson 41 in Right Start B, and Griffin spent the entire week on Lesson 75, adding two two-digit numbers with a sum greater than 100. That was a tough lesson for him, and we'll probably either have to keep working on it next week, or take a breather and do something else for awhile.
Grammar - Griffin completed through lesson 55, and Lachlan through lesson 12, in First Language Lessons. Lachlan's lesson involved me reading "The Lion and The Mouse" to him, for him to narrate back.
Me: What did the Lion think about doing to the Mouse?
Lachlan: Nom, nom, nom, nom ....
Greek - I don't really know where we are in Greek. I made assignments, but Aidan worked ahead and Connor did not quite finish what was assigned. I forsee more private tutoring in the future. These combined classes never work out for us. I think Aidan has launched into Week 4, and Connor is somewhere in Week 3.
Latin - Connor completed through 6.17 in Latin Prep, doing very well, He always amazes me with how well he remembers vocabulary. Aidan and I read through half of Cap. II in Lingua Latina (we're moving quickly right now because we've done these chapters before); Connor tagged along.
We only did history once this week - Story of the World, the Diaspora. Plus, Connor read several chapters of The Story of Europe. We did watch the Kevin Costner "Robin Hood." My goodness, why didn't any of you warn me? That was far worse than I remembered.
For science, we watched a documentary about dinosaurs, and one about volcanoes. We also watched "Alien" and "The Time Machine." Does that count? Aidan really liked "Alien." I'm sure we're terrible parents.
Aidan is still reading Just So Stories, and Connor is reading The Two Towers. Griffin and I read many Greek Myths ... I think the last one we read was about Io. Just two chapters of The Long Winter - this wasn't a good reading week, as you can see. Griffin and I are also reading lots of Jack Prelutsky, though Lachlan has temporarily regressed to Sandra Boynton.
I also started Connor back into Classical Writing today, with Week 2 of Homer B. Instead of the workbook model, he's rewriting the scene in which Deagol finds the ring and then meets his death, in medias res.
Here endeth the week.
March 25, 2008
How To Know You're Doing it Right
My 10 year old came to me, before I had breakfast, and asked to do Latin.
March 21, 2008
Return to the Weekly Report
My husband requested that I keep doing our weekly reports; if nothing else, they give him a guide to go by should I be ill, or, gods forbid, worse. So on that cheery note ... ;-)
I have finally figured out the best, easiest and smoothest way to get through school tasks with the little boys: First thing in the morning, I gather up ALL our school books, math manipulatives, workbooks, copybooks, everything; I dump it all on the kitchen table, and we just work until we're done. (For the little boys, that's 30-45 minutes of work, altogether.)
This week Lachlan did up through half of lesson 35 in Right Start Math Level B. This is a cool lesson. It has the student build three four-digit numbers with base-10 cards, and add them together. The point of the lesson is to teach the concept of trading, and it works amazingly well. He finished through Lesson 8 in First Language Lessons, and the first half of his handwriting workbook. He also played on Music Ace, and learned to make pysanky eggs.
Griffin worked up through half of lesson 75 in Right Start B. This lesson involves adding 2-digit numbers with sums over 100. This was very hard for Griffin, and we'll probably spend a few days on it. He finished through lesson 50 in First Language Lessons, and the first half of his handwriting workbook. He's into the long "u" sound in Phonics Pathways. He also played Music Ace for hours on end, and listened to me read from Chapter 19 of Story of the World ("A New Kind of King"), a couple of chapters from The Long Winter, and myths 27-32 from Atticus the Storyteller's 100 Greek Myths* ("The Starry Hunter," "The Terrible Feast," "The Dolphin Messenger," "The Bee of Wisdom," "The Robber's Bed," and "The Sharp-Eyed King.") He colored some coloring pages and did some map work for history. He watched a documentary about dinosaurs, and made some pysanky eggs by himself. He worked very, very hard on a tough piano piece, and made amazing progress.
Aidan finished through lesson 82 in Right Start E, which involved finding remainders. This was very easy for him. He also did exercises 7 and 8 in Singapore 4A, dealing with estimation and factoring numbers. Factoring is new to him, but I think he's got it. He did the Singapore exercises because he was in a bad mood, and preferred to go work in his room away from people, than to do a lesson that required human interaction. A wise choice, I think.
He completed through exercise 5.4 of Latin Prep 1, which involved a short reading of the story of Niobe. You would think that a kid whose mother has read him both Atticus and D'Aulaire's Greek Myths would have some idea of who Niobe was, but no. He did well, but he really very much dislikes it when they throw words at him he has not encountered before, even though they also provide a glossary right there, on the same page, right next to the work he's translating.
Aidan also listened to my reading from SOTW and The Long Winter. He read Diane Stanley's Saladin, and some selections from Just So Stories.
Connor worked through Exercise 6.12 in Latin Prep 1, this week covering questions and pronouns in the accusative. He read more of Lord of the Rings, and all of Geraldine McCaughrean's El Cid.
We're taking a break from Classical Writing right now, but both older boys are working on creative, descriptive paragraphs. They also both completed through week 2 of Elementary Greek.
I worked through Cap. 8 of Lingua Latinaand week 4 of EG, and continued reading 1066: The Year of the Conquest.
We made the pysanky eggs as a family, and celebrated our spring holiday on Thursday. We also watched "2001: A Space Odyssey" this week, a family favorite, in honor of Arthur C. Clarke.
Tonight we're going to watch the Kevin Costner version of Robin Hood. (Yes, I know, I know, but I can't ever pass up Alan Rickman as the Sheriff.) I'd like to get a movie about the Crusades, but don't know which are good. How is "Kingdom of Heaven?" How is the Charlton Heston version of "El Cid?" How is the Terry Jones series on the Crusades? Or the History Channel's "The Crescent and the Cross?"
* A million thanks to Poppins for leading me to this book, many moons ago. It is still my favorite way to introduce the Greek myths to children.
March 17, 2008
We've finally taken the plunge, and have started learning Greek.
My wishes are to teach the boys Attic and/or Homeric Greek. However, I've bombed out in my Homeric Greek course. And after a great deal of thought, I figured that it's better to use the easy Koine course I can buy, than the difficult Attic or Homeric course I'd have to work out myself. And so, we have started Elementary Greek.
For those of you who are considering Greek but are afraid, be of good cheer: Elementary Greek is easy. The lessons are short. Very short. Which is good. So I can give my kids very short lessons in Greek, and feel that we're doing Greek. I'm totally fine with that.
The downside is that all in all, the program is a bit dull, on the same level as Latina Christiana: It's mostly vocabulary and grammar, with little translation. I would prefer something more on the lines of Galore Park's Latin Prep series, but no such thing exists. Galore Park is working on a Greek program, but it will not be available in the near future. So.
The other downside, from our perspective, is that Elementary Greek specifically teaches you to read the Bible. All the memory work is Biblical. That's fine, I want my children to be familiar with the Bible. However, alongside the Bible verses, I think we're going to learn some of these. Look at that list. There are 147 of them. Ten Commandments are certainly easier to remember.
And hey! We're learning Greek!
February 18, 2008
Where did the weekly reports go? Well, I got bored.
I still enjoy reading everyone else's reports. I was just bored of mine. In fact, I was bored with our homeschool, in general. Which means, of course, that my students were bored, too. Our days had become full of me making sure boys stayed on-task and completed assignments. The assignments were increasingly never completed anyway, and we were not having any fun.
I'm all about the education; however, I don't see the point in doing this if we don't enjoy what we're doing.
I chatted with a local homeschooling mom last week. We both bemoaned the fact that as homeschoolers, we are supposed to have so much freedom and flexibility, but then we make boxes for ourselves. I've always affirmed that a quality education does not have to take all day, and here I am, taking all day.
We're continuing with math and Latin, of course! And soon I intend to start Greek. Everything else is up for grabs. I officially no longer care what they do or do not in terms of history, science, whatever. We have some ground rules: computer games and fluffy TV do not come out during the day. I may still assign reading at my discretion (mainly because the boys tend to enjoy my reading assignments, and don't generally see them as "work").
They're probably going to spend the first two weeks painting Warhammer models. However, Connor has requested to learn about physics, so we'll do that. Aidan would like to build a laser ... I'm sanguine about that, but only in the bloody sense. (But hey! We would most definitely have the coolest entry at the homeschool science fair!) Connor is reading "Lord of the Rings," and I am happy to let him spend as much time on that as his little heart desires. Aidan, meanwhile, has decided that "The Hobbit" is just not his cup of tea (whose kid is this??), but has asked me if fairy tales could be counted as "school reading." You bet, kid.
That's for the older two boys. The younger two are still all miiiiiiiiiine. However, their "school" takes a grand total of an hour a day for the nuts and bolts, and Griffin requests books about science and history as his fun reading. Done. Actually, it turns out that Griffin is the Well-Trained Mind dream child. He still can't actually read, but he loves nothing better than to have me read him a book, and then run off to draw a picture for it and copy a sentence from the book to go with the picture. Seriously. That was not my idea.
Anyway, now I hope to remember that I really do have time to take the kids on playdates, and leave the house for fun stuff once in awhile. Or, stay in the house and do, say, ART. Or show my children that they, too, can come up with an idea for a project and actually do it. Or just play games. Whatever. The kids are fine.
February 4, 2008
That Sounds Like Rock And/Or Roll!
I no longer have any idea how people blog. I'm tired. I mean, I'm tired. Homeschooling four kids and keeping the house in some kind of condition that would not prompt the authorities to investigate ... I'm tired.
No, I still don't have pictures in my computer.
I had planned to move right along and blog my thoughts from the "Great Tradition" readings. Last week's reading was Aristotle. I got sidelined by a discussion on the message list about music. You see, Aristotle has a great deal to say about music. He mostly goes on about the different modes, and makes recommendations for raising our young on certain modes, and not allowing them to hear others.
Somewhat predictably for a mailing list composed of classical homeschoolers, the first post was something along the lines of classical = good, rock = bad, immoral, leading us all into ruin.
You can imagine, dear reader, that I had some comments to add to that conversation.
The real argument is this: That if music has an effect on our souls, should we not choose to listen to music that enlivens and enriches our souls, and avoid music that vulgarizes us? I don't disagree with that idea. I do disagree with the assumption that the enlivening and enriching music is always classical, and that the vulgarizing music is always rock.
This list had the usual assumptions about rock music: It's all the same, monotonous beat; it requires no artistry; it's simple and simplistic; it's all about sex; it's depressing. And, you know, I won't argue. All of the above is true about most of the crap you hear on the radio.
Still, those generalizations don't, being generalizations, tell the whole story. Go listen to Rush, Yes, Spock's Beard, Sting, Dream Theater, anything involving Keith Emerson ... leave your own additions in my comments. I hope to have the brain power and the time to dredge up a list of audio and video links for the skeptical.
How does this relate to homeschooling? Aristotle thought it best to expose the children to particular modes of music, to better form their minds and spirits. Whether or not he's right doesn't matter much to me, as my children have already been exposed to all different kinds of music. Is it better to cultivate a taste for classical, than for rock? Well, yes, I think it is better to do so. We are all better off by exposure to and study of great music, just as we are all better off by exposure to great books, great ideas, and great art. But I take breaks inbetween reading Plato and Melville to rest with some Maeve Binchy or Ruth Rendell (or lately, P. G. Wodehouse). And if my kids first learned to love classical by listening to Emerson, Lake and Powell's version of "Mars, The Bringer of War," well ... ?
No one else on this list rose to defend rock music. I bet it won't go over well if I start talking about how my kids know the story of the Odyssey from the Simpsons.
January 25, 2008
Another Week ...
It's Friday night, and I don't *quite* think we're finished with school yet. We had three afternoons out of the house, which always messes things up. Plus, we're getting ready for a birthday party. Party prep and playdates meant that we just didn't finish the work, and unfortunately, some of what was finished was, well, not quite up to expectations. Some students will be working over the weekend.
However, Alderaan is drying and just needs to be painted. It's filled with candy and confetti debris, and will be hung from the balcony to await its destruction by the Death Star of chocolatey goodness. Yes, I'll take pictures, and I hope it all works.
Connor: Three or four pre-algebra lessons with Dad, Latin Prep 5.1-5.3 plus four workbook exercises, a rough draft of a Classical Writing project, research on the Vikings, a paragraph about the Vikings, worksheets about haiku and limericks; plus, he read "The Vikings" by Elizabeth Janeway.
Aidan: Five Right Start math lessons, Latin Prep 4.4-4.5 plus three workbook exercises, A&I from Week 1 of Homer A; plus he read from "Famous Men of the Middle Ages," "The Phantom Tollbooth," and whatever science fiction he could lay his hands on.
Their current bedtime story is "The Subtle Knife."
Griffin: Four Right Start math lessons (rather, four sessions of working on Right Start math), four Phonics Pathways lessons, lots of "Magic School Bus," and a Starfall session. Plus lots of being read to about mummies, British Kings, Star Wars, cats, and his new favorite, the dictionary.
We still didn't manage to burn our Vikings this week. Hopefully next week. It would be nice to move on, at some point. The Battle of Hastings is rattling in the wings.
January 19, 2008
Frankly, starting back into school has been like crawling up from the depths of some pit. For me, that is. The kids are doing well. Me? Well, I have cut coffee back out of my life. That explanation should cover everything.
The nuts and bolts: Our holy trinity of math, Latin, and Classical Writing and piano (oh, wait, now it's a quad - ? Quadrant? Quadrivium? Quadruped?) is going smoothly. Very smoothly. We're still very, very happy with Right Start, Singapore Math and Dolciani pre-algebra; we're still massively in love with Galore Park Latin; and I am still in love with Classical Writing. I think I can safely say that it is unlikely we will ever change from these programs. Everything else is subject to change at my whim.
For history, we learned about Vikings this week. We read about Vikings (Viking World, Who Were the Vikings?, Vikings, Life in a Viking Town, Life on a Viking Ship, and The Vicious Vikings). We perused some cool Viking websites. We colored some maps. When I can scrounge up some cardboard we'll pull out the old favorite of making cardboard Viking shields and axes, because they're boys and this is what boys do. We also plan to involve fire, which is always a good choice for engaging the children's minds, right?
What we're reading: Connor has discovered Orson Scott Card, and has read Empire and Ender's Game. No, he devoured Ender's Game. We knew he would. Aidan is reading the last Timothy Zahn book, Allegiance; The Phantom Tollbooth, and the Horrible Histories book on the Vikings.
December 11, 2007
Connor Math Work 2007/12/11
We are starting to get into the really cool stuff now: primes and factorization. Connor keeps forgetting the rule for divisibility by 3 (though he remembers the rule for 9!), but other than that has the idea of testing a number for divisibility down pat. So we are on to the Sieve of Eratosthenes, and factor trees, and such yummy stuff. The Dolciani book is also challenging Connor to do more thinking. For example:
Explain why the sum of two prime numbers greater than 2 can never be a prime number.
So today I am having Connor do the p91 section A problems, and tomorrow the section B and C problems.
November 26, 2007
Connor Math Work 2007/11/26
Connor has finally gotten the first chapter of Dolciani pre-algebra, on expressions, equations, precedence, inverse operations, properties of expressions and so forth. So the next step is chapter 2, which is negative numbers, exponents, absolute values and scientific notation. Connor has done all of this except possibly scientific notation, so I'm first going to give him the chapter review (p. 78), and if he gets that all right, the chapter test. If he gets those almost completely, I'll fill in the gaps where he has a problem; otherwise, I'll move on to chapter 3, which covers rational numbers.
November 19, 2007
Connor Math Work 2007/11/19
I think he's finally got it — well, almost. Connor is still having problems with precedence. Not seeing it or understanding it — he does that — rather with the notation. But he's really, really close.
Today his work is Pre-Algebra (Dolciani, et al) p40 Chapter Review 1-6 all, 7-19 odds only; p41 Chapter Test all odd problems and problem 30. It's thirty problems, of which only about 4 or 5 should be hard for him. If he sails through this, we go on to positive and negative numbers, which Connor should fly through.
It's been frustrating that he has been working so slowly. I have decided to stop depending on him to get things done when they're assigned, and instead will set aside time for Connor to do his math. That way, it won't take him 3 days to get a lesson completed.
November 18, 2007
In Which We Checked Boxes
That's what we did this week: We checked boxes. By that I mean that pretty much everything on our lists got done, but I was directly involved in little of it, and there was no discussion, reading aloud together, or shared learning experiences. Sometimes, though, life gets in the way and you check boxes. Or take a vacation. Or pretend to take a vacation.
Monday we had piano (and an Intelligent Design lesson). Tuesday we juggled two doctor's appointments in two different places, at the same time. Wednesday I was out all morning at my own doctor's appointment, and slept all afternoon. Thursday is always taken up with karate and drama classes. Friday I finally ran all the other errands that needed running.
What boxes got checked? Well, Connor occasionally deigned to do math - not a lot, mind you, and certainly not all that he was assigned. We're still working out the kinks of being responsible to Dad for math.
A couple of assignments in History Odyssey, including one written summary - check. (Although I think he skipped the math assignments and the timeline). A couple of chapters of King Arthur - check. A couple of chapters of Tom Sawyer - check.
We've misplaced Famous Men of the Middle Ages.
Latin - this week we tried out Galore Park's "So You Really Want to Learn Latin?" I didn't like it. It moves as fast, or faster, than Henle, with fewer practice exercises. I think that Latin Prep is a much superior program, as is Henle. I think that I will do my usual trick of bouncing back and forth between Henle and Latin Prep, using one until we get stuck, and then turning to the other for review, reinforcement, and to explain tough concepts in a different way.
And we did another week of analysis in Classical Writing. Folks, the more I use this program, the better it gets. At Connor's level, he is given a sentence. He must then:
1) Mark and diagram the sentence.
2) Rewrite the sentence replacing all the important nouns and verbs with synonyms.
3) Rewrite the sentence with some type of grammar change.
4) Rewrite the sentence in the shortest way possible, while still retaining the meaning.
5) Rewrite the sentence, adding description and detail to make it longer.
This is fantastic practice. A student who becomes comfortable with these exercises will be flexible; he'll be able to write in a variety of ways with ease. This program is worth every penny.
Now, Aidan. Well, Aidan did Latin and math, and read The Hobbit and another Timothy Zahn book. I've lost our Story of the World CDs, so we didn't do history. We didn't do Classical Writing. He had an easy week. There you go. We've lost his Singapore book too, so we're only doing Right Start E at present, working with multiples and equivalent fractions.
Griffin is finally making progress in math. He hit a wall when we tried to add tens and hundreds, but after some patience and working with the abacus, he's getting there. He practiced reading in Phonics Pathways. And that was it.
Science, you say? Ah. Well, coincidentally NOVA this week was about the Devon, PA trial to determine whether Intelligent Design can be taught in public school science classes. Timely, yes? It will be interesting to see what the kids have to say to the piano teacher on Monday. Also timely (but not so much for the kids) is Scalzi's report of his visit to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Do check out his lolCreashun contest (unless you're one of my dearly loved Young Earth friends, in which case it would just tick you off). My favorite is on the first page with the caption: "Logic: You're Doing It Wrong." Did I mention it's not safe for kids? It's not.
November 16, 2007
Connor's Math Work 2007/11/16
I had given Connor the problems from Dolciani 1-7, p28, odd problems in parts A and B and all part C problems. The basic topic is inverse operations, and Connor had no problem with simple, one-step examples (part A). Part B, though, flummoxed him entirely, for two reasons: he did not check his work, and he tends to not work the problem completely. For example:
3q + 9 = 27
He sees to divide by 3, and gets q + 9 = 9 — in other words, having divided the first term by 3, he forgets to divide the entire side out. It's mainly, I think, because he won't write out his work; he wants to do everything in his head. Thus, he makes simple, careless mistakes. So I've given Connor all the part B problems to redo, and the part C problems, which he did not do at all.
Steph and I talked about putting aside a given time of day, after work and before dinner, for math with Connor, and I really don't see an alternative. Connor will delay and delay until forced to do the work, and then will rush through it as quickly as possible. Since the lesson explanations are short, averaging about 15 minutes (Dolciani takes things in small chunks), that would give plenty of time for working the problems right then.
November 11, 2007
Connor's Math Work 2007/11/12
Right before Halloween, I gave Connor some work on equations (Dolciani p24 part A odd problems and all part C problems). This was a little difficult for him. Well, really it was only the part C problems that were difficult. In those, you have to insert the operation that makes the equation true given the constants provided in the problem. Like this:
x ? 17 ? 13 = 24 ; 20
(For those of you who have forgotten, or never seen, the semicolon followed by a set is the notation for what possible solutions can be used. So in this case, that is directly equivalent to saying 20 ? 17 ? 13 = 24. The solution is +, - — as in 20 + 17 - 13 = 24.)
Anyway, other than that, he seemed to grasp it. Now I'm not so sure. After going through the next lesson, on inverse operations, he seemed to constantly not get two things: you cannot do something to one term in an expression without doing it to all terms in an expression, and you cannot do something to one part (side, in this case) of an equation without doing it to all parts.
Let me make that more concrete: he said that the first simplification step for a=2a-5 was to subtract a, giving 0=2a-5. Then he tried to divide by 2, giving 2a/2 -5 on the right side...um, no. So I talked him through the rule several times, each time with a different example, and hopefully he gets it. We'll see tomorrow, as he does the Dolciani 1-7 problems on p28, evens from part A odd problems, part B odd problems and all part C problems. OK, this will likely take him 2 days, but we'll see.
Oh, and if you're wondering why the delay, it was because of the week eaten by the Lego robot competition.
November 9, 2007
In Which the Week Was Eaten By Legos
We really didn't do much school work this week. Our First LEGO League competition is tomorrow, so most of our week was display prep. Wish us luck. If you're very lucky, I might take and post pictures.
Now, I will ramble disconnectedly:
•Have I mentioned how happy I am with Galore Park Latin? Because I am. Very happy. Really, really happy. It's as good as Latin Book One, only with better pacing and more practice. I'm so happy that I plunked down the cash for their higher-level Latin series, and their Spanish program. When I get more money, I will give it to them in return for science and British history materials.
•I am also, so far, very happy with Lightning Literature. We're using this in a very low-key way (sort of how we use most programs). I like the reading selections (it starts off with "Rikki Tikki Tavi" and "Tom Sawyer"), especially as they're pieces which are good, but are not on my radar. The pacing is good, and the assignments are not all stupid (as they are in most lit programs for junior high).
•When we weren't doing FLL stuff, Aidan had his nose perpetually stuck in his latest Timothy Zahn book. I'm not even sure he stopped reading to eat. Ever.
•We survived Lachlan's sedation and massive dentistry, and he did not turn out to have any rare genetic disorders. This time.
•My children have discovered YouTube. Want to know what they watch there? Apparently, people make videos of the computer and video games they play. And my kids watch them. This is just weird.
•Folks at Scouts are apparently feeling comfortable enough with me to start asking questions about homeschooling. "Why do you do it?" (Which I don't answer in complete honesty - not until I know you better and know that you're not going to take everything I say as a personal affront.) "Do you have a teaching background?" (Well I do now, don't I?)
The question that left me gaping was this: "When you teach your kindergartener, how do you make sure your older son isn't listening in on the stuff he's already done?"
For crying out loud. I forget that in general, people really don't think things through before they ask questions. Of course I answered him kindly. But who the heck cares if my older students listen in on lessons with my youngers? Does it matter? Why? Did I miss something? Will it drain their brains? Push out room needed for more advanced material?
Does it ever hurt to review material? Have you ever noticed that when you read books meant for young children, you can still learn something new?
I don't mind the questions, it's just that sometimes I can't figure out quite where they come from.
I can't wait until this next week is over. I'm scheduled for my EDG or EGD, or whatever it is, on Wednesday. After that, I still don't know which state we're having Thanksgiving in. But I do have a plan for making gluten-free/dairy-free/egg-free pumpkin pie and dressing. Who wants to come for dinner?
November 3, 2007
Week 13 - Not Boring
The specifics were in my nifty pdf last week, so I won't rehash them here. We actually did most of what was on the list. We were good up until Wednesday, as you might expect. After that, well. ...
There was one specific and noteworthy change. I've been playing around at Ancestry.com, tracing my family tree. Ancestry.com offers you a nifty little button which, when you click it, gives you a list of your famous ancestors. (It doesn't work for me, however, because they insist on giving me the ancestors of someone who is NOT ME, and I haven't figured out how to fix it!) We discovered that Connor (and all his brothers) is the 8th cousin three times removed of William Avery "Billy" Bishop, Canadian WWI flying ace. (Connor's 10th great-grandmother, through his father's line, Sarah Loomis, was Billy Bishop's 7th great-grandmother.) At any rate, this sparked his imagination, and he requested to be let off of his normal history assignment to research Billy Bishop. Uh ... yes, please do!
Frankly, if you find your study of history lagging, try genealogy. We've found ancestors who lived in England during the time of the Battle of Bosworth Field. (Nicholas Steere, born 1457 in Surrey, England) (If you believe one line, we have ancestors who go back to and include Brian Boru. This is also a good lesson on taking information you cannot verify with a huge grain of salt.) We've definitively found that one of my ancestors built the Merrimac.d One of my (okay, distant) ancestors is the only individual with whom the U.S. government ever made a treaty of peace (I'm kind of proud of that one). One of Jeff's was a drummer boy at Antietam. The kids can trace where and when our various families came to America, and learn about why they might have done so. Tidbits of information like this make history personal, and light a fire under the kids (and Mom) like you would not believe.
(Side note: My Pandora station just played Madonna. I may have to fire Pandora.)
Anyway. I promised you Not Boring, right? Well. This was the week we almost moved to Virginia. We were Virginia bound at the beginning of the week, and it was all off by the end of the week. It was certainly not a boring week for me. The upshot of the upheaval is that we will be moving, but now we don't really know where or when. We bought packing boxes today. I'll start filling them, and we'll see what happens.
I'm still working on next week's school schedule. Next week we have two doctor appointments, three orthodontist appointments, and two dentist appointments, one of which involves sedation (sadly, not for the parents); so I'm not very sanguine about our schoolwork for the week.
Zoe: You sanguine about the kinda reception we're gonna get?
Mal: Absolutely. What's sanguine?
Zoe: Hopeful. Plus, point of interest, it also means bloody.
Mal: Well, that pretty much covers all the options, now don't it?
October 29, 2007
Connor Math Work 2007/10/29
We've continued to review topics like cancellation, factoring, least common denominator, precedence and other basic topics for working with expressions. I'm giving Connor review for today, all problems taken from the last several home work assignments that he was having problems with. I suspect he'll get them all now, which would allow us to then move on to ... equations.
One thing I've noticed is that it is very difficult to do these three things at once: get inside a child's head on what they know (as opposed to what they think they know), ensure that they are getting the right amount of work in the right balance to both gain confidence on existing skills and acquire new skills (or apply their existing skills to more challenging problems), and not get bogged down in trivial bits or digressions. Yet doing those three things at once is exactly what is necessary to provide a good understanding of a subject. Sometimes, it's difficult to remember that just because 25+ years of practice at a concept have made it blindingly obvious to you, does not mean that it is blindingly obvious to a pre-teen. The cool thing about teaching kids is that you learn about them, and yourself, in ways you would otherwise never be exposed to. In other words, this is fun.
October 26, 2007
Week something or other.
Ooh, what a difference a plan makes! I've always prefered to do this homeschooling thing by the seat of my pants. Yes, I like to plan, and make extensive booklists and schedules, but here's my little secret: I never mean a word of it. Planning is fun, but in reality I really don't want to be tied down, not even to a plan of my own devising. Especially to a plan of my own devising, because I know how I plan.
But gosh, my kids are getting older, and they keep wanting to know what the plan is. They don't like it when I wing it. I think they're suspicious that as long as I don't have a plan written out, I'm tossing extra work at them whenever I can get away with it. They're right. Heh heh. I'm an overachiever. I will always go for the extra work; I will always plan more.
But I tried something new this week, and I think I've finally got it. I was able to see all the week's assignments at a glance. I was able to make sure no one day was overwhelmed. And something must have worked, because:
1) Connor did all the work I assigned him;
2) I did not stress out about the work I assigned; and
3) He finished with plenty of free time to spare, as he should.
Cool, eh? Here's the wrap-up:
Connor did Dad's math assignments, learning how to deal with operations with positive and negative numbers. He zipped through the fourth declension in Latin (who doesn't, after living through the third?). He did an entire week of analysis for Classical Writing; midway through the week he smashed his finger in the door, so a good deal of the analysis involved him dictating and me writing.
I'm going to pause for a moment to explain "analysis" to those of you who do not use Classical Writing: This is where we play around with analyzing and rewriting sentences. At our level, a week of analysis includes: Reading a narrative, dividing it into scenes, and analyzing the scenes for particular elements; pulling out sentences and parsing the nouns; diagramming the sentences, and rewriting them by changing the words, changing the style, and condensing them into the smallest sentence possible. This is brilliant stuff.
He did a couple of page in a punctuation workbook, which I have chosen for him because, to look at his rought drafts, he seems to never have heard of punctuation before.
He did map work on a map of the ancient Americas.
Other than that, he read. He read a chapter of Famous Men of the Middle Ages, a chapter of Our Island Story, a chapter from Hakim's "The Story of US" vol. 1, "Rikki Tikki Tavi" by Kipling, several fairy tales out of "The Blue Fairy Book," a version of "Pinocchio," a version of Aladdin and the lamp, several pages from the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and "The Story of Mankind," and several from "Ancient America: Cultural Atlas for Young People."
I read to them from "By The Shores of Silver Lake," and Green's "King Arthur."
All in all, that is not too bad. Oh, and piano, karate, drama, etc. OK, so se skipped karate this week. It was just one of those days. We did a drawing lesson, too, from Mark Kistler's "Draw Squad."
Science, you ask? Well, he and Aidan had a field trip to the County Commissioner's office, to see what the county is doing to promote alternative energy. I say that covers science. The County Commissioner kept scaring Jeff by repeated use of the phrase "fiduciary responsibility to the citizens." It's scary because we used to live in Keller, Texas, where a government official talking (seriously) about its fiduciary responsibility was about as likely as Bill Clinton being faithful.
Oh, we watched a NOVA on genetics, too.
Aidan did some Singapore math, and some Right Start E math. He did a great deal of Galore Park Latin. Right now, Galore Park is my favorite Latin program, ever. I love it. I have not yet found anything I don't like about it. It's fantastic. Buy it for all your friends.
Aidan also started reading "The Hobbit." He listened to a couple of chapters of Story of the World in the car, and he read a chapter of Famous Men of the Middle Ages, and Our Island Story. He did piano, and drama, and the field trip .... and that was it for Aidan.
Griffin did a little of All About Spelling. For math I did a game with him in which I had him add numbers on the abacus, trading where necessary. He "got" the concept instantly, which is a big relief because this has been a very difficult concept for him to "get."
I'm linking our plan for next week, so that, if you're so inclined, you can see how I've worked this out. The blue assignments are Connor's (6th grade), the red are Aidan's (4th grade). The black are both. Notice that we're taking Halloween off.
Monday I'm going to see a gastroenterologist, to see if maybe he can figure out why I've been more or less ill for the past year. Your prayers and/or good thoughts are appreciated. I'm a little nervous, and I would like to be well again.
Oh, we also went to the dentist this week. One small cavity for Connor, but Lachlan makes up for everyone else. Is it bad when the insurance/payment lady at the dentist's office gasps in surprise when looking up your insurance, and recommends a discount card to you, instead? Yes, it's bad.
October 24, 2007
Connor's Math Work 2007/10/24
We had taken a few days off for illness and pressing work, so now it's back to it. I wanted to catch up Connor on a few areas that he hasn't really been exposed to yet, due to Singapore's sequence, but which are prerequisite to the Dolciani pre-algebra. The areas I'm not sure of, given his difficulties with the expressions I gave him, are negatives (in particular, signs in combination like 2 - -4), grouping and canceling, and factors and factoring. So today Connor will be getting some sign work:
Simplify the following:
- a - b
- -a - b
- a + -b
- a - -b
- -a - -b
- a • b
- a • -b
- -a • b
- -a • -b
- a / b
- -a / -b
- a / -b
- -a / b
- a • b + a • (-b) + -a • b - a • b - -a • b
- a / b + -a / b + b / -a - a / b - -a / b
- a • -b + a / -b + -a • b - -a / b
Update: He's still not getting this. Sadly, I didn't try explaining the concept early enough in the evening, and I was probably a bit incoherent. I'm giving him the same problems tomorrow, but substituting a = 3 and b = 2, and will ask Steph to plug the explanation gap.
October 20, 2007
This week we: Spent Monday afternoon at piano lessons, Monday evening at Lego League, Tuesday evening at Scouts, Wednesday morning at the ophthalmologist, Wednesday afternoon and part of the evening selling Cub Scout popcorn at the mall, Thursday at karate/drama classes, and Friday evening we were back at Lego League. Connor was sick on Thursday, Aidan on Friday.
Jeff's been posting Connor's math work, so you've seen that. We've hit a snag in that I've realized Jeff has made some assumptions about Connor's math instruction. Singapore does not follow a typical American course of study. So here we are in pre-algebra, and Connor has never dealt with cancelling terms, or factoring; he's done very little with exponents or negative numbers. Part of his struggle with those problems is that Jeff assumed he could cancel terms, or subtract two negatives. The good news is that he picked it up all fairly quickly on the fly; the only thing I had to explicitly teach him was cancelling.
Aidan - as is typical for us so far, Singapore 3B is way easy. 3A kills us, but after that Connor flew through the next several books, and it looks as though Aidan will too. I've got Right Start E on the way for him.
Griffin continues to confound me. He enjoys his Singapore workbook, but will only add and subtract by counting. When I use the abacus with him, or try to show him how to take numbers apart, or how to use strategies for adding, he'll have none of it. When I pull out the base 10 manipulatives to show him place value, he just doesn't get it (though he can read and write large numbers). This is extremely frustrating to me. I can keep him going in Singapore, and he will learn algorithms but, I think, have no real understsanding; or I can ... what? Wait longer and hope that this is a maturity issue?
Aidan's Galore Park Latin Prep 1 finally arrived, and I love it. It's thorough, it's rigorous, but it's also colorful and fun.
Connor is ready to start the 4th declension in Henle, and to keep reviewing, reviewing, reviewing. I would love to talk him into using Galore Park instead, because I am tired of Henle. However, Henle is good, and he wants to stick with it, so there we are.
Aidan has given me permission to share his Classical Writing work here:
Robin Bird was perched on the branch of a tree with the rest of his military air strike force, when he saw a reconnaissance birdie. Robin got an escort and set out to capture the bird. It willingly went with them back to the base. After they landed, the bird told them everything. He was on a reconnaissance mission for the Evil King Rooster to find out everything he could about the whereabouts and status of the outbirds' nuclear poop missile. Robin Bird took three parakeet task forces to attack the king's fortress.
EVIL KING ROOSTER'S FORTRESS, 0800 HOURS
The King's birds saw them coming and sounded the alarm. The anti-air beaks started firing. Then Robin Bird's birdie bombers started pooping on Evil King Rooster's cage fortress. Then bird fighters started strafing the king's people. Then they broke into the fortress and found and rescued the beautiful birdie that Allan-a-Birdie wanted to marry. All of Robin's birds retreated.
ROBIN BIRD'S BASE, 1300 HOURS
Control saw the last bird from Robin Bird's task force ome into the hangar as they got a message from Robin Bird to launch the nuclear poop missile.
"Open the silo and begin launch sequence!" ordered one of the birds. "Missile is armed! Beginning launch sequence ... now! Missile launch in 10 ... 9 ... 8 ... 7 ... 6 ... 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ...1 ... launch!"
KING ROOSTER'S BASE, 1400 hours
And they tell me Classical Writing stifles creativity.
We've started listening to "Story Of The World" in the car. Let me just say that I hate Jim Weiss' voice. Ugh. He sounds smug and smarmy. However, we're in the car for classes twice a week, and listening to him read SOTW is a good use of our time. Connor read about Edmund Ironside from "Our Island Story." I don't think Aidan read it at all. Both read from "Famous Men of the Middle Ages." You see? Any sane person would think that SOTW, OIS and FMoMA would be plenty for history. Connor is also still plugging away at History Odyssey, which involves, in additon to what I've already listed, reading from the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and Van Loon's "The Story of Mankind." And coloring lots of maps.
So I'm insane. Is that it?
Er, well. Still reading "By the Shores of Silver Lake" to the older ones, and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" to the younger ones. Jeff is still occasionally reading "A Wrinkle in Time" to the older ones. This week Connor read some of Roger Lancelyn Green's "King Arthur," and another Lamb's Tale - "The Merchant of Venice" (timely, as he had been reading about the persecution of the Jews in the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia). He seems to not be too thrilled about reading the King Arthur, so I may take that over and read it aloud. Or something. I understand that Audible.com sells a version narrated by Sean Bean ... that's got to be good, right?
Lego League (programming and alternative energy). Um, the little boys played with worms. That counts, right? We discussed how rainbows are made. Actually, I've been discovering the hidden power of Books In The Car. Today I left an astronomy book in the car, and Connor read tidbits aloud from it all day. I have underestimated car time as captive audience time. I have seen the light.
October 16, 2007
Connor Math Work 2007/10/17
OK, so Connor doesn't actually understand distribution, commutation, association or precedence, so today we will work through yesterday's problems to show how those properties work, and then we'll drill more:
Simplify each of the following expressions, showing each simplification step.
- 4 + 3 • 5 + 2 / 7 • 7
- (4 + 3) • 5 + (2 / 7) • 7
- 4 + 3 • (5 + 2) / 7 • 7
- 4 + (3 • 5) / (7 • 7)
- (4 + 3 • 5 / 7) • 7
- 4 - 3 • 5 / 7 + 7
- 4 - (3 - 5) + 3
For each of the following expressions, show the implied precedence by grouping (with parentheses) operations that should be done together:
- 4 + 3 • 5 + 2 / 7 • 7
- (4 + 3) • 5 + 2 / 7 • 7
- a + b • c - d / e + f(g + h)
Rewrite each of the following expressions two other ways that mean the same thing (hint, you can distribute, commute, or express association for both of these):
- a(b + c) + d + d(b + c)
- ab + ac + a(b+c)
Update: So, so close. Apparently Connor gets the hard ones, but not the easy ones, because he doesn't have to think on the easy ones, so he doesn't. But because he doesn't think on the easy ones, he makes mistakes. So tomorrow, we're going to redo the 4 he missed (the last two of the first set, and the whole last set).
October 15, 2007
Connor Math Work 2007/10/16
(For those of you who are expecting this to be Steph's post, just because it's her blog: Ha! Fooled ya! This is Jeff, and I've decided to post the part of the kids' education that I'm doing here, since my blog tends to have a decidedly different focus.)
We have Connor in the Dolciani, et al. Pre-Algebra book, on section 1-5. This covers association, commutation and distribution, as well as the properties of 1 and 0. Connor did the problems from part C and Self Test A today, and it was pretty obvious that, while he could simplify expressions, he did not really have the concepts down; he was simply doing it his own way. That would have been fine had he been getting them right, but because he wasn't understanding the concepts, Connor was getting the problems wrong (making bad assumptions, or not being careful, or both). I think that what was confusing him was that he could do the problems if they were all numbers, as these are, but could not figure out how to do them if a variable was thrown in, since it was not then entirely calculable.
So I've made up some problems for him to do tomorrow to drill in the concepts, and show some subtleties, and here they are if you want to use them:
Simplify each of the following expressions, showing each simplification step.
- 3(a + 12) + b(4 + 3)
- 7(5 - a) + 2a +1
- 2(2 + a) - (a • 3)
- 5a - 3a • 6
- 3 + 2 • 4 + 25 / 5
- 3 - 2 • 4 + 25 / 5
- 3 + 2 • 4 - 25 / 5
- 3b + 2a + 5
- 7 + b - (5 - b) + (5 - b) - 2b + 2(b + 1)
- a • b - 2b + 2(a + b) - b - 2a - b(a + 2) - b
Update: Not so good. Connor got 2 right.
October 14, 2007
Week 10, In Which I Self-Destruct
It's about week 10, anyway. Something like that. We're not real clear on dates here, and we had a week or so off, and ....
I had a bit of a homeschooling meltdown this week. Crisis. Confusion. Craziness! Two things happened at the same time that sent me into a tailspin. First, I realized that my boys have very little assigned reading, and that ain't right. I also realized that I was eating up a lot of time by reading their history and literature books to them, when it's time for them to be doing more of that themselves - I've got two younger ones to read to. So, I set about making book lists and reading assignments for them.
Second, Connor, Aidan and Jeff all decided that we should also be studying American history. Now. Every year.
Okay, fine. Well, it just so happens that LCC, Highlands Latin School and Ambleside Online do multiple streams of history, including American history every year. I had many models from which to draw a plan. But remember those other two kids? I'm really pressed for time right now, and every plan I came up with involved more and more time. And stress. I was trying to fit us into Drew's model LCC curriculum, when that history model does not fit our family.
Even though I know, understand, and believe in the theory behind our homeschooling, even I can lose sight of it from time to time. And when I do, things get crazy. I had to take time to step back and get my head on straight. History? I'm stressing about history? Connor's read all four volumes of Story of the World, and the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, all for fun. He knows more about World War II than I do. And I'm stressing myself out because he's behind on someone's list. But it's easy to do that, from time to time; we forget to look at where are children are, and instead develop tunnel vision over what they have not yet done.
The whole point of "multum non multa," as put forth in the LCC, is not of following multiple streams of history and someone else's plan; it's focusing on what is most important, and not sweating the rest. Most important are Latin, math, and quality writing. We will learn history. We will read literature. We will learn science. But following some plan or booklist or schedule is not at all important or necessary. And I'm okay (for now), with a new plan in place: We'll finish out this year with our medieval studies, and with whatever American history the boys feel like reading. After that I'll continue Story of the World with the little ones, but the big ones may design their own history readings. We'll still do classical studies, because that's what I want to focus on. We'll direct them to the things we feel are most important in history. But other than that, I will learn to step back because it truly does not matter. They've got a good overview; however they fill in that overview with color and detail, it will be fine.
I may have to keep re-reading that last paragraph, over and over.
Connor started a Dolciani Pre-Algebra text. I was thinking that he needs some extra reinforcement of certain topics before moving on to the rather rigorous New Elementary Math. I may have been wrong, as he's zipping through this book like it was nothing. However, I made the decision this week to hand him over to Jeff. Jeff will pick the next books to get us through higher math. Jeff will teach the lessons. I'll just oversee the work. On the one hand I'm disappointed, because Connor is getting into fun math, the math I would like to work on myself. On the other hand, this is a relief, because I have too much on my plate.
Aidan worked in Singapore 3B (adding and subtracting meters and kilometers/inches, feet and yards), without throwing anything (but it was a close run). I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to order Right Start E for him or not. I have conflicting information on how useful E is.
Griffin worked in Singapore 1A; however, Singapore would like him to do some subtraction now, please, and Griffin would rather color instead. Lachlan does no formal math. He just wanders around playing, occasionally coming up to me and saying something like "Hey Mom, 15 is five threes!" Good. Keep it up, kid. You'll make my job easier.
Connor read Cap. VI of Oerberg's Lingua Latina, and realized how much harder it is to do himself, vs. reading it with me. Aidan has bowed out of our Lingua Latina sessions - it's over his head. And Connor and I are about to get in too deep ourselves; there's a lot of vocabulary and subtle points of grammar that LL asks you to pick up by osmosis, intuition, and an incredible memory. He also did review work for Henle. We're moving v e r y s l o w l y through Henle. It will go much better/faster once Connor figures out he does have to work to learn the vocabulary. Aidan's new Latin book is still not in. Still.
Connor did week 10 of CW Homer A. We did the accompanying Harvey's Grammar orally. He outlined the story with Inspiration, and made a rough draft of the story ("The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck"). Aidan worked on week 12 of Aesop B. Aidan has not yet finished his rough draft, nor has he let me see it; however, while typing his version of the story of Robin Hood, Aidan asked how to spell "reconnaissance," and asked if he had to stick exactly to the story. This ought to be good.
HistoryConnor did two exercises in History Odyssey, one which involved reading and discussing "The Door in the Wall," and one in which he made an outline based on his reading about medieval Jewish persecution. He read three chapters of Our Island Story, including the story of Ethelred the Unready, plus Kipling's "Danegeld." Aidan and Griffin listened to a chapter of SOTW 2 (The Byzantine Empire). Aidan read "Marguerite Makes a Book," and three chapters of Our Island story. We colored illuminated letters, and a map of the Byzantine empire.
LiteratureThe big boys read Lamb's Tales, "The Tempest." I read aloud from "By The Shores of Silver Lake." Connor finished "Red Storm Rising" and Aidan is still working on some Timothy Zahn book or another ... maybe "Vision of the Future," by now.
GeographyLooked up Singapore. Map of Byzantine Empire. Hagia Sophia. The older boys played Axis and Allies.
ArtWe didn't do any art this week, but you can entertain yourself with last week's pictures. We're using Mark Kistler's Draw Squad, which is a great book for helping boys to learn to draw. Here's Aidan's work:
And here's Connor's:
We also watched season 1 of Blackadder. Gotta love medieval studies.
September 21, 2007
Or, "What the heck did we do this week?"
Okay. Well, let's see. Griffin has taken off in math. You see, Right Start wasn't working for him. Yes, Right Start, that math program that I think is better than sliced bread, that I think presents concepts more clearly than any other math program ever, only confused my third son. Doesn't that figure? However, if I sit him down with Singapore he zips off five pages in no time flat. Funny kid.
Connor is still plugging along in Singapore 6B, doing problems that I have to dig out the answer key to check. Here's an example: A tank measures 50cm wide by 80cm long. It contains water to a depth of 15cm. Six 5cm cubes of metal are placed into the tank, raising the water level to the brim. What is the height of the tank?
Um. Yeah. Singapore gives nearly a whole page of white space for the child to work out the answer. And do you know what? All that white space is still there when Connor is finished with the problem. This kills me, folks.
Aidan and I got bored with the geometry part of Right Start D, so I had him take the final exam and pronounced him finished with the book. I pronounced him finished with Singapore 3A, too. So he's starting 3B, and one day I'll order Right Start E.
Latin - only Connor is doing Latin right now. We're waiting for new materials for Aidan, and I haven't started Griffin yet. Connor is still in Lesson 3 of Henle. We are inching along. But inching along and learning is better than ... not.
Classical Writing is a bit of a struggle in that neither Connor not me wants to divide the story into scenes, and make the @#$&* outline. Ugh. But this week I made us sit down and do it together. I think it's a good exercise, I just think it's boring.
Not much reading this week. We read a little more of "By the Shores of Silver Lake," and "Our Island Story" up to the coming of King Arthur. But that was it. Aidan is reading a Horrible History (and more Timothy Zahn novels), and Connor is reading "A Door in the Wall" (and "Red Storm Rising").
We forgot copywork, frequently.
BOTH sets of kids did science this week. Wow! The little boys and I collected earthworms and studied them. Can you believe I did not take pictures of that? The big boys did the chapter on density in Interactive Science, and Aidan nearly melted down again. I am ready to throw in the towel and order him a more age-appropriate program, but I'm going to hold out for the next chapter, which has no math. We'll see. It's not at all a problem if he uses something else instead, or even if he uses nothing for a couple of more years.
We couldn't do the experiments, because I have not yet ordered our scale.
We also had piano lessons, drama class and karate. And three children had Scout meetings. And half the family was sick, including me, so there.
Oh, art! We drew, and I do have pictures of that. I can't deal with them tonight, but will post those later in the weekend. And we picked apples.
And I did a couple of exercises in Henle II, practiced piano, and drew with the boys.
September 14, 2007
Okay, we'll try something new here, since I haven't been blogging about homeschooling (or anything), and since my parents kind of subtly mentioned that my blog no longer let them see what their grandkids were doing.
So here is a synopsis of our week.
In terms of academics, we, ah, didn't really get much done. This was the first week our activities were in full swing, plus there was a doctor's appointment, half a day at the mall to get glasses fixed, and the car in the shop.
On Mondays we have piano. With four kids, piano lessons consumes nearly three hours of our day.
On Thursdays we have karate and drama, and I took no pictures. I did take a picture of the "nature walk" the little boys and I went on while the big boys were in their class. "Nature walk" means trying to identify and avoid poison ivy, right? We did also see an actual caterpillar that I could, actually, identify. Kids never give you kudos for that because they assume you can always identify whatever it is.
Although History Odyssey was a flop last year, I purchased it again for this year (I liked the program, Connor didn't.) So far it's going better this year, although we did not forsee the cat's interest in history, or his desire to "help."
Connor wrote a retelling of "Peter Rabbit." Aidan wrote a retelling of "Bruce and the Spider." Neither retelling involved either Borg or Klingons, which I think is progress. However, Aidan did write his story in a Klingon font, switching to Helvetica only when the spell checker told him he had a problem.
Both of them read Rober Nye's "Beowulf: A New Telling," inbetween Timothy Zahn books. They also read a few Horrible Histories - Romans and Celts, I think - and suffered through me reading some of the real "Beowulf" to them.
I did, of course, speak too soon about science. The math involving speed and rate went quickly over Aidan's head, and he dropped out of those lessons. That's fine. Connor can learn the math, and Aidan can tag along for content. The little boys can't do any more science until we get a jar and go dig up worms.
In history we're studying the medieval period this year. We've already read the first couple of chapters of Story of the World. However, we break there and study Arthur for awhile. Along with Story of the World I am reading aloud a book of Irish fairy tales, Kevin Crossley-Holland's "Arthur: The Seeing Stone," and Laura Ingalls Wilder's "By the Shores of Silver Lake."
This week we also discovered that Griffin's eyes are terrible. Gosh, maybe that's why he has a hard time with learning to read? Yep, I am an idiot. But hey! We went to a well-child appointment. This is big, for me. I hate taking the kids for checkups. Hate it. But we went. One down, three to go. And now ophthalmologist appointments all around. Whee!
March 15, 2007
Well, of course we did!
We tried to go to class. We really did. It all fell down when we walked outside to the car. It was sunny, and warm, and ... you know. The Tetanus Tot Lot was just a short walk away. We played, we swung, the boys walked on the ice floes in the swamp. We came home and did ... nothing. Pretty much. All day.
Last night it snowed. The weekend highs will be in the 30s. Spring is not quite here yet. The birds are back on the pond, though, and we're ready. I am tired of being in the house all the time.
March 13, 2007
It's going to be nearly 70 degrees today, and sunny.
Today is the day we drive an hour each way, so that the older boys can have three hours of classes and the little boys and I can kill time.
Or, we could blow off the whole thing and go to the park.
Or, I could make the boys go to their classes, and the little ones and I could go to the park. Decisions, decisions.
After today, it will get cold again. Surely the day should be siezed? Right?
February 26, 2007
As The Brain Turns
I've ordered Gelfand's Algebra, to work through myself. And, to throw problems at my kids when I can't resist.
Here's the problem I gave them today, after I solved it. I'm embarrassed to say that I couldn't solve it without a hint - embarrassed, because after you see how to start it really is blindingly obvious:
You have a six-digit number that begins with "1". If you take the "1" off the beginning and place it on the end, the resulting number is three times the first. What are the other digits in the number?
Tick ... tick ... tick ... that's the wind whistling through my brain. It *is* easy. Once you figure out how to start.
I showed Connor and Aidan how to set up the problem, and even then it was difficult for them to solve. They both solved it, eventually, with lots of prompting. Connor got the concept faster, but he's lazy with arithmetic and so had more errors to backtrack and fix. Aidan was slower to get the concept, but once he did his arithmetic was impeccable. Typical. And so we spent all morning on this one math problem. Lately I've lost sight of the fact that one morning struggling with one problem often means more than any amount of plugging through curriculum..
I'm also about to order Introduction to Number Theory. I'm excited about this book. It looks, dare I say it, fun.
I'm picking my Henle back up as well. I've let my brain be idle for too long. This is not about me shoving texts at the kids and telling them to do the work; this is about educating myself as well, and showing them every day that education is a lifelong activity.
February 21, 2007
Why We Couldn't Do Latin Today
The cat won.
January 17, 2007
What's going well:
We're in a good rhythm with daily lessons, with a good mix of curricula, not-curricula, and free time.
Math is going well for all three older boys. Connor will finish Singapore 5B this week. Aidan is flying through Right Start Level D.
Latin is going well for Connor, using Using Latin Book One with some Henle thrown in. It's only not going well for Aidan because I've become very lackadaisical with his Latin. I see more and more that Latin works better 1) when they're older, and 2) when they know some good amount of English grammar first. So anything I've said in the past about starting Latin young and not worrying about English grammar? Scratch that. I was wrong.
Classical Writing is going well for Connor and Aidan both. I've figured out how to have them both do the same model, but at different levels. I've finally figured out how to teach this program, without the workbooks, fully customized. I have read the Homer Core book, and it did not daunt me. Victory is mine!
We're reading some good books. We've FINALLY finished D'Aulaire's Greek Myths and Famous Men of Rome, and have moved on to a Guerber collection of Norse Myths and Famous Men of Greece. Still reading Farmer Boy. Their last bedtime book with Daddy was, er ... Hunt for Red October. What can I say? We're a little different. Their personal books right now consist of a Trek novel (what else?), David Weber's Bolo, and Bradbury short stories.
We're starting Hamlet. The boys picked Hamlet for two reasons: First, because they've memorized the Simpsons spoof of it ("Nobody outcrazies Ophelia!"). And second, because I got them a version with Patrick Stewart. We watched half of it tonight and they did well - they hung in there, at least, and for the most part understood what was going on.
Griffin is listening to the history readings and participating, which is huge.
Out of the house, they're getting two days of PE (one day of Karate, one of organized physical games), more LEGO engineering, and an American history class. The American history class was an accident; I had signed them up for a world percussion class, but it was cancelled. Bummer. We don't need help with history, but we sure do need help with music.
They're also going to do a LEGO League group, so we've got LEGO and engineering work coming out our ears.
What's not going well:
It's still frustrating, learning how to "school" this many kids. Connor and Aidan take all my time, which is not right ... but I don't know how else to manage. The little boys don't get read to enough. They don't get enough attention, period. Then again, my baseline for "enough" is probably skewed. I'm sure they get as much attention as most kids do, they just don't get as much as the first two did.
Piano is a nightmare. Next year I've got to reprioritize so that we can afford out-of-the-house lessons. Teaching them myself does not work, when when I think of starting to teach the younger two as well I begin to hyperventilate and crave large amounts of alcohol and chocolate. Mostly alcohol.
Come to think of it, spelling is a nightmare, too. But Connor *needs* it.
We only get three days, really, to accomplish our own things, since the other two are out of the house.
On the other hand, those three days really are enough for us to do a decent job at a classical education, which is a good thing. It's not my ideal, but it's enough. That's good, and interesting, don't you think?
January 16, 2007
While I'm raving about Right Start, let's not forget about Singapore's kick-butt word problems. Here are the two that Connor had today. Make that, here are the two that Connor and I had today. And Jeff. We had to call Jeff on both of them, and he and I had to work to figure out how in the heck to do these without algebra.
1. David and Peter had $90 and $200 respectively. They were each given an equal amount of money. Then Peter had twice as much money as David. How much money did each boy receive?
2. Gopal spent 3/5 of his money in the first week and 1/3 of the remainder in the second week. He spent $110 altogether. How much money did he have left?
Both are very, very easy problems to solve, as soon as you figure out how to structure them - how to look at them, or how to draw the boxes. But getting our brains to that simple point is hard.
Connor is almost finished with Singapore 5B. I think we'll take some time to go through Challenging Word Problems - both of us. Then when he moves into 6A, I'm going to work the problems right along with him. I love the challenge, and hopefully I can teach him how to approach a good challenge without frustration.
It's 17 degrees here today. We skipped out on our co-op classes, and the boys are playing outside in the snow and ice. The sun is shining, and it's beautiful. I'd like to go out for a walk to enjoy the scenery, but ... it's cold.
January 15, 2007
Why Right Start Math is So Good
Me: Okay, count backwards from 20, by even numbers.
Child: 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 0.
Me: Now, say the multiples of 8.
Child: 8, 16, 24, 32, 40, 48, 56 - Hey! I figured out a pattern! The tens goes up by one each time, and the ones go down by two!
That is why Right Start Math is worth the price, and the teaching time. Multiplication is becoming a breeze, because he is finding all the patterns. The curriculum leads him right to it, but the discovery is his. It sticks. He's fast, for a third grader. And accurate.
Robin Hood (or is it?)
I've posted the draft of Aidan's latest writing assignment over at the Classical Writing blog.
It is pure Aidan.
December 11, 2006
I've updated The Plan with notes about where we are and what we've actually done, as opposed to what I had planned.
A note about The Plan. I wrote it up. It's my guideline. But I actually look at the thing maybe twice a year. It was good to work out a guideline for reaching certain goals, but in reality I work with where we are, who we are, and what we want on a more immediate basis. Goals are necessary and plans are good, but we don't homeschool so that we can get bent out of shape trying to follow some curriculum to the letter.
I'm an academic overachiever. One of the most important lessons I've learned on this homeschooling journey is that it's better to underplan than to overplan. Consequently I'm pretty darned pleased that we're ahead of where I thought we'd be in some areas. That tells me I'm doing this planning thing right, so far: We've worked, but we haven't stressed. We took plenty of time off, and had plenty of fun along the way.
We're off to our last day of co-op classes, where I'll get to view Connor and Aidan's clay animation video: "The Gingerbread Man Gone Wrong." I'll see if I can post a clip later.
November 16, 2006
Houston, We Have a Problem
People warned me about this when we moved here. However, I didn't have this problem in Canada, or in Chicago, so I didn't pay them much heed.
I NEED THE SUN!
When it's dark, I am not productive. When it's dark, I can't do chores, or stick to a normal schedule.
It is Dark. Here. Every. Day.
It is dark, and it is wet. It is cloudy and rainy more days than not. Cold? Cold is not a problem. But this? The kids can't go out. I can't function. And it's only November. School is working, but only by the skin of my teeth.
Who can save my sanity? What do I do, short of moving?
October 16, 2006
Yep, this is why I hate breaks
It's like pulling teeth to start up again.
Frankly, I'd just as soon take another week off as well. My fear is that if we do, we won't get back into our groove until, say, the end of January. Which is not really a problem, except then I'd feel compelled to keep going at it through the summer. Which is not really a problem, except that the summers here are so darned nice that we ought to be out playing.
Eh, I don't know. We still have heads on sticks to make. And a Borg costume to assemble. Oh, and a house to clean. And a kid who (predictably) has lost his math book.
October 11, 2006
Nine Week Wrap-Up
We just completed nine solid weeks of schooling - no illnesses, no interruptions, just nine solid weeks.
Connor (5th grade) read nine books: Three Bruce Coville retellings of Shakespeare, "Gilgamesh the Hero" (McCaughrean), "Egyptian Tales," "Pyramid" (McCaulay), two Star Trek novels, and a Star Wars novel. He's currently in the middle of another Star Wars novel, and "The Hobbit."
Aidan (3rd grade) read "Gilgamesh the Hero," "Stuart Little," One Coville Shakespeare, and the same two Star Trek novels that Connor read. He's in the middle of another Star Trek novel, and "Charlotte's Web."
Aloud, I've read many chapters of D'Aulaire's "Greek Myths" and "Famous Men of Rome," and a few chapters from a children's Bible. We've read several chapters of "Story of the World," and "Farmer Boy."
They've each memorized something like 7 poems, thanks to our poetry program that we do in the car.
Connor has completed 14 lessons of "Using Latin Book One." I throw in (better) exercises from "Latin Book One." We are very, very happy with this combination. It's a shame these Latin books aren't in print any more.
Aidan is in Chapter 4 of Latin for Children A. It's slow going, but that's fine. We have time. My goal is for him to be able to start ULBO in 5th grade.
Connor has completed through Week 5 of Classical Writing Aesop B, and that's going very well. It's not particularly challenging, so when we start back I'm going to try picking up the pace. He is still the king of concise writing projects. However, he can now write a good paragraph, something I despaired of a year ago. It just goes to show that patience pays off - patience, and small, attainable steps.
I've dropped Classical Writing for Aidan. He's in 3rd grade, and he's already completed Aesop A. Again, we have plenty of time. He's doing copywork, dictation and narrations for the year, and I'll start him in Aesop B next year.
Connor has sailed through most of Singapore 5A, and Aidan is within 20 lessons of finishing Right Start level C.
Griffin (K or 1) has done a few lessons in Right Start B, and is learning phonograms and how to write letters. He also listens to "Story of the World," but he's only interested in the parts about Egypt.
Their Clay Animation and LEGO Engineering classes are going well. I'm very impressed with these classes. The LEGO class is really teaching them basic engineering and physics. The clay animation class has them doing their own work, from concept to storyboarding, and right now they're working on creating the clay characters and scenery. They're also taking karate once a week, and attending a chess club. And then there's Scouts.
Within all that, they've had plenty of time to play, pick apples, play games, run around, decorate heads on sticks, explore nature trails, etc. The only thing I'd like to change is that I wish they had friends in the neighborhood to play outside with (and, of course, the drive time to the wonderful classes).
Today, we're doing nothing. I hope.
October 9, 2006
I blogged this morning. A nice, long blog. Where did it go?
I announced that we were taking Fall break this week, and summed up our nine weeks of school so far.
At any rate, the decision to take a break this week was prophetic. This morning, Connor said his throat was sore. An hour later, he was talking funny so as not to move his mouth when he talked. An hour after that, he wanted to lie down. That was my cue to call the doc.
No fever, no other symptoms. Wanna guess? Strep, and probably pneumonia.
It's a fine week for a break.
I'll see if I can dig up my previous post.
September 12, 2006
So I Drive, And I Drive, And I Drive ...*
How do you active moms manage to handle having your children in 500 different activities?
This year, we have co-op-ish classes on Tuesdays, and Karate/Chess Club on Thursdays. Both activities are in the middle of the day. And when we get home, everyone is beat and wants to go hide.
Today was our first day of classes. We got up and hit math and Latin (and Connor worked on some Classical Writing analysis). Then we got in the car, and drove. The drive was a fairly typical experience of driving in Michigan. It was foggy. It drizzled. The drive was long. After an hour of driving, a large orange sign informed me that the bridge was out ahead and I could go no further on my road. A frantic call to Jeff (thank the Gods for Google maps) brought me to an alternate route. On a dirt road. In the rain.
(To someone from Texas, dirt roads are weird. In Texas, a dirt road means you're really out in the sticks. In Michigan, it just means you've turned off the main road. I think the winters are so hard on the roads here that they just don't want to bother with paving the other half.)
I dropped the big kids off. Went to lunch. Picked big kids up. Drove home, an hour, in heavy rain.
The classes are good (and they'd better be!!). The boys are taking a Clay Animation class, and a LEGO engineering class. The engineering class is teaching actual basic engineering. Today the class involved a little math. (This is where the homeschooling Mom holds her breath.)
Me: "Soooo, how was the math?"
Them: "Oh, it was easy math. But some other kids had trouble with it."
Me (outer voice): "Oh. Well I'm glad you did well." (Inner voice: "YES! Score!")
They eat lunch there too, so they get the experience of being herded off to the gym and eating lunch out of sacks. Now their school experience is complete.
* The title of this post comes from a song. Jeff and Peggy are probably the only ones who have any hope of knowing it.
August 30, 2006
Embalming Is Not My Forte
So, we're doing the infamous chicken mummy project.
The unfortunate chicken (a Tyson) has been packed in salt and baking soda for six weeks, with said mixture changed at regular intervals. Almost all of the salt/baking soda mixture was dry when I took the chicken out this morning.
The chicken itself, though, feels ... moist. I don't find that encouraging. I am not at all convinced that this thing is not going to to start stinking up my kitchen.
We wrapped the sucker up in strips of cheap bedsheet (pictures to follow). It was much more difficult to wrap than I had anticipated. Tomorrow, hopefully, we'll entomb it in its sarcophagus. After that ... er, what does one do with these things?
Lachlan is very sorry that the chicken is dead, and that it doesn't have a head. No matter what we say, he still clings to the belief that the farmer killed the chicken because the farmer didn't like the chicken. I can't imagine what must run through his head when we're in the grocery store. Does he look around and see the results of hundreds of farmers with pathological anger management problems and a special hatred for animals?
This is not exactly the world view I am trying to promote.
August 28, 2006
When Crafts Take a Weird Left
So, can you identify this?
I know, it looks vaguely obscene. If you click on the picture, you should get the full file in all its glory.
A couple of weeks ago I bought some clay. I poked around Michaels until I found clay, plain ol' clay, at a decent price. Not Sculpey. Not Fimo. Just clay. And that's what I've got. It even smells like dirt.
Last week, while I was ill, Jeff got out said clay to occupy the small ones. Earlier in the day I gave an assortment of beans to said small ones, to glue on things. Lentils, black-eyed peas, black beans, that kind of thing. Bored with gluing, they pounded several into the clay. Well, who wouldn't?
When I found the dried beans in the clay my only thought was to get the clay into an airtight bag, where it would not dry up. Then I placed the bag in a nice, dark cupboard for a couple of weeks.
Did you know that beans will sprout in clay? I had no idea. Maybe the fact that it smells like dirt should have been my clue. There was a definite moment of panic when I reached for the clay only to realize that it was growing things.
We had to de-root the whole thing before we could use any of it. True to form, the little ones gathered up all the traumatized seedlings and planted them anywhere they could. I hope lentil plants are not aggressive. That would be ironic, wouldn't it? Lentils are such a bland, unassuming food ...
So there you go. Art and biology all at once, and not nearly as worrying as combining art and biology so often is.
August 26, 2006
I knew it would happen, and I guessed it would happen this year. This early in the year, though? That's humbling.
Connor had a word problem in Singapore 5A that he could not solve. So I sat down to help him through it. And at first, I couldn't solve it either.
Singapore, mind you, specializes in tricky word problems. They give the child problems that are easily solved with algebra, but child is meant to solve them without algebra. To this end, they teach a nifty method of working out the problem with bar diagrams.
Which is great, if your mind can figure out how to structure the problem to draw the bars correctly. Which, of course, is the whole point - learning how to structure the problem. Once you do that, the calculation is easy.
It took me 15 minutes. I did solve it, I did not look up the answer, and I did not call my husband. Nor will I, damn it. If I can't work out the 5th grade word problem, all is lost. (But you begin to understand why I didn't pursue my initial dream of being a cosmologist, don't you?)
I can only hope Connor learned the right lesson from this experience: We didn't give up, we worked at it until we conquered. And I hope that these kinds of problems will teach him better mathematical thinking than I learned. I still think I can persevere through Singapore 6; after that, I'm going to be as much of a student as Connor is.
Edited to add the problem: Lily and Sara each had an equal am ount of money at first. After Lily spent $18 and Sara spent $25, Lily had twice as much as Sara. How much money did each have at first?
Edited to add my nifty bar diagram graphic. This is what Singapore Math wants kids to do to solve problems like this. And, once you figure out how to do the bars, solving the problem becomes obviously easy.
See? Once you figure out how to draw the thing, you see immediately that the difference between what Lily and Sara spent is your key. It's $7, and boom, your answer is that they each started with $32.
I'd like to clarify something: Even if I hadn't figured out how to do the bars, I still would have gotten the correct answer just by plugging in numbers until one fit. But of course, that's not the goal here.
August 23, 2006
The New Day Dawns
... and we're all sick.
So, there you go. Let that be a lesson to you. Don't attempt formal schooling the day before you're all going to produce a nasty cold.
August 22, 2006
Warts and all
I decided to do a "Day in the Life" for today, blogging it as it happened. As it turned out, the day has been ... not one of our better ones. I was sorely tempted to not post, but figured some of you would appreciate this.
It's 9 am. Our family has been mired in bad habits, lately: We are all, all of us, staying up too late at night. We've got to fix this, because these mornings are terrible. One child of the four is up, and ideally I'd like to start schoolwork by 9 am. Too bad they don't drink coffee. Thank goodness I drink coffee.
9:30 - One has had breakfast and is in clean clothes. Child #2 is now dragging himself down the stairs, looking daggers at us and just daring us to talk to him. Pumpkin bread is in the oven to soothe the savage beast.
10:20 - Connor has started math. Aidan has become human. Griffin is up. In an effort to get energy going, and because humor is the best medicine for grumpy boys, I allow them to turn on XMKids. XMKids responds by playing Barenaked Ladies and Queen, proving that it is the coolest kids' show ever. Mom, at least, is in a better mood. The children, however, would rather listen to Crazy Frog, because I have failed as a Mother.
11:00 - Math is completed for all children (Connor's lesson was on learning to multiply by two digits, Aidan's was a Right Start review which he got 100% correct), and we move on to Latin.
11:15 - Aidan does not understand the Latin grammar lesson for the day, and melts down.
11:30 - Connor finishes his Latin. Aidan is in his room, still melting down. Griffin and Lachlan are, thank goodness, playing happily. Aidan comes back downstairs and demands to go on with the lesson. While he waits for me he engages in an uncharacteristic act of destruction of Mom's property. Appropriate discipline ensues. I give up on schoolwork and call a friend to vent.
12:30 - Lunch. Aidan is happy again. After lunch all the kids head to the basement to, once again, play nicely. I toss dinner in the crock pot and read Dorothy Sayers, as balm to my wounded soul.
3:00 - I steel myself to redeem the day, and Connor and Aidan and I do analysis in Classical Writing, and work with Spell to Write and Read. I teach Aidan the Latin grammar lesson, which he now understands easily. The little ones are still playing happily, in the basement. No, this is not normal, but I'm not going to knock it.
4:00 - We have finished all that I consider essential, and the boys have their assignments for the rest of the day (reading, history, copywork, chores). Right now, though, they're playing outside. I have a history craft activity set up for the little boys, so whenever the basement loses its charms we'll make pyramids and shabti figures out of clay. I will read to them this evening. I'm now going to turn on loud music, and cram in as much housework as I can before Jeff gets home.
And tomorrow will be better, eh?
August 15, 2006
Classical Homeschooling Fun
KathyJo's kids play-act myths with lightsabers.
Yesterday, while we read from Famous Men of Rome, Aidan made the connection between the actions of Rome (conquer, assimilate, repeat) and the Borg.
We are Rome. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
August 14, 2006
One of THOSE days
... you know, where everyone gets up late, and it all goes downhill from there?
There's really no getting up "late" in homeschooling. It truly does not matter when we do anything. On the other hand, Mom (and at least some of the kids) functions best with a routine to the day. Not a schedule, nothing by a clock, but a routine. And if breakfast and morning chores are still happening at 10:30 am, Mom's inner sense of routine gets really, really grumpy.
Three subjects this morning: math, spelling and Latin, took two hours ... but felt like they took forever. And a certain 8 year old has made it his mission to pick a fight with everyone in his path today.
Thinking about homeschooling? Is your head spinning with lovely visions of happy children learning particle physics while romping in the fields? Here's your reality.
But even in the midst of the general grump today, we had one of those classic moments. Aidan was plugging along in Right Start, subtracting 4-digit numbers, when he stopped to ask, "When do we do negative numbers?"
Um ... check the curriculum. Nope. Check Connor's curriculum. Not there either. Huh. Okay. Five minutes on Google, and we had ourselves a numberline and an impromptu lesson on negative numbers.
By the way, Singapore 5A is irritating me. They present several lessons on estimating. They teach the kids to round up to the next highest 10/100/1000 after 5/50/500, then work the problem, and give an estimated answer. Okay, fine. But the answers in their answer key do not match they way they've taught to estimate ... unless Connor and I are both not getting it, which, yes, is very unlikely. There have been several problems in which the only way they could have come up with their answer is if they rounded up, when it was clear they should have rounded down. It's easy to catch, it's easy to fix, but it's irritating.
August 10, 2006
Sorry, kids ...
Homeschool band and music classes - $400
Science and art classes (LEGO engineering and claymation) - $600
PE - swimming? Martial arts? Who knows? - $who knows?
Scouts - various fees, not to mention all the popcorn we have to buy for the "fund raiser"
Sorry, kids. It's activities, or your doctor visits this year.
When did things get so expensive?
*PS: You just know, don't you, that some anti-homeschooler is going to see the above and use it as evidence that homeschoolers are likely to deny their kids medical care.
July 17, 2006
The kids have been begging for a "Summer Break." Okay, fine. We're on Summer Break. So today they scattered off to play games with each other.
Leaving me to do ...
Hmm. Well, let's see. Still haven't really made friends here yet, so no friends to see. And one in particular isn't answering her phone. Ahem.
This isn't my house, so there's no "improving" to do. And no garden. I finished my book, and have not yet chosen another. Nothing calls. It was too hot to go anywhere fun. So ... oh, boy. That left the joy of housework. Yeah, great day this was.
Days like this are wonderful when you have a purpose with which to fill them. Sometimes, if you're not careful, you get caught without one. Then the day stinks, as you wander aimlessly through the house pushing at dust bunnies. Even housework can be a purpose, when your mind is there, in that place. Needless to say, mine was not.
I work hard to avoid this. I hate aimless. I hate marking time.
I could have blogged one of the more time-consuming blogs I've been saving up. I started to, several times, got too angry and gave up. I'm incubating what is promising to be a wildly unpopular opinion on marriage and the mommy wars. Getting angry and giving up, though, wastes a great deal of time.
We are so not doing this again. Tonight I bought my first Costco membership, and used it to buy amazing quantities of salt and baking soda. Tomorrow I will buy the sacrificial chicken to mummify. Then I'm going to Michael's, where I will buy - noooo, I take it back! There's a Dick Blick in Dearborn. Fine, I will go to Dick Blick and buy all the art supplies my checkbook can stand. If the big boys want to run off and play their games all day, the little boys and I will do art.
But still, I am at loose, aimless ends. I need friends, or a house/garden to work on, or school to direct, or a city full of museums to explore. My kids will revolt if I take them to pick any more berries.
Who would think that sometimes the Summer Break is hardest on the Mom? Mom needs to find a life.
May 18, 2006
I Like Workbooks
Working intensively with the kids leaves me drained. And so, of course I choose every teacher-intensive curriculum known to man.
We did three things today. Three. We did Right Start Math, Classical Writing and Spell to Write and Read (that's math, writing and spelling for those who don't know the lingo). I understand that many normal families can cover these three things in, say, an hour and a half at most. Us? Hours. And hours.
We have to doodle. We have to draw pictures that are not relevant to the task at hand. We have to throw things at our brothers across the table. We have to entertain smaller children who sit on our laps, or make lightsaber attacks at the brothers who are supposed to be doing lessons. We have to ask for snacks. We have to pretend to write the spelling words in an alien alphabet. We have to run upstairs to make sure the cats are not stalking the parakeet. We have to draw spaceships. And more spaceships. And space battles. We have to pretend to be rabid kitty cats, or psychotic alarm clocks.
I am perfecting the art of giving a command in a calm, clear voice, eight times over, until I finally wear the child down with my stubborn refusal to be swayed.
Gone is any desire I ever had to be in a room with 30 of these enchanting creatures, attempting to teach them anything. "Does homeschooling really work?" is not the right question. The right question is "Why, how, does a classroom situation ever work?" And "Does the per-pupil expenditure in public schools involve Valium prescriptions for the teachers? Or does alcohol do the trick?"
Three subjects. Did you see Latin in there? No, you did not. I don't want to hear about it, either. Shut up.
May 10, 2006
There's a park day today. We got up, did chores, did our minimum of schoolwork, ate lunch ...
And then realized that we're tired.
When you're too tired to go to the park, you're tired. We should go to the park. Odds are that it will be rainy tomorrow, and we won't have the option. Just can't do it, though.
I'm either going to take a nap, or make more coffee and work on an article for Drew's site. Right now the nap idea is winning, but we'll see.
My four-year-old is watching a documentary on the Forbidden City. When the narrator asks rhetorical questions, Lachlan answers him:
Towering Narrator voice: Was China doomed because it could not adapt to the demands of the changing modern world?
Who knew that Dora taught him to listen and respond?
Theoretically the doctor will call today to tell me in what ways Aidan's blood is different this week from last week. I'm beginning to think he just likes to look at my kid's blood. He also doesn't yet understand who he's dealing with. He likes to have nurses call me to say something generic like "everything looks fine" or, "the doctor wants to start him on antibiotics." Silly man. I expect to see each lab report. I want to see all the numbers. I want to know what he's looking at, and exactly why we're taking the meds. Details.
This doc is a nice guy, but I need to have a doctor who will tell me everything, and treat me as a partner.
I hope he calls before I fall alseep.
April 27, 2006
Connor has a sunburn. Huh. You know, I think I really believed the sun would be no threat to us in Michigan. Who would think that our Texas-tempered skin would burn here?
We have a freeze warning tonight, by the way.
This morning we broke with routine and hit the
Tetanus Swamp Lot pond area by the tot lot. We collected some good, swampy water for science experiments. We caught a frog, watched him for awhile, and let him go. We chased a snake for a good, long time, but it finally escaped us. Darn. It was a nice size, too. On the way home, we saved a couple of worms from dying on the sidewalk.
We have to do that, you know. Rescue the worms. Every time. Lachlan is very sad when we find dead worms.
Speaking of Lachlan, tonight he told me that I'm a good mom, but I'm not the best mom. I asked him who a better mom is, and he promptly responded "Miss Susie."
There, Miss Susie, what do you think of that?
Tomorrow we have the grand adventure of trying out a new doctor. I think we're going to have to move closer to Auburn Hills/Rochester Hills next year, because every place I want to go seems to be over that way. This doc is a bit of a drive, but I hear he's supportive of weird things like homeschooling. If he's supportive of all my weirdness, he'll be worth the drive. Keep your fingers crossed.
April 26, 2006
In an effort to learn to drive more in the area, today I did grocery shopping in Auburn Hills instead of in Waterford. Oooh! The heights of daring!
Actually, I'm figuring the area out pretty well. It seems to be only in Waterford and Pontiac that the streets get terribly bizarre. Plus, people in Michigan seem to understand what a turn signal means, and are not threatened by it, as Texans are.
I tried to find Whole Foods on a whim. I knew the street it was on, and the general area. I drove and drove and drove and drove and then gave up. When I came home and Googled the location, I had turned around half a block short of the store. Ha!
The boys have had a Cub Scout pack meeting, and I understand that this is the last I will see of them and of my husband all summer. They camp a great deal here.
Our Brock Magiscope came in, and I am impressed. It's sturdy. My kids will not be able to break this thing. And if they do, it has an unlimited, unconditional guarantee! We can take this thing outside. It has one moving part. It's good, it works, and they can't break it! It's worth every penny.
For those of you who are impressed that we're back to school already, know this: School keeps me sane. Yes, it does. Do you think I do this homeschool stuff for my kids? Okay, yes, I do do it for my kids, but I do this equally for myself. This is so much better, and cooler, and more fun than ... well, than not doing it. I'd far rather have school with my kids than clean, or unpack, or do chores, or any of that other crap I'd feel I ought to be doing if it weren't for school. But no! My children's education is the top priority! Thank goodness!
Not only that, but I've got to force something into my darling 10-year-old's mind other than Starfleet Battles, if only to give him something else to talk about.
On a totally different note, we heard more from the mechanic in Illinois who has our car. He opened up the engine to get a better look, and found that the crankshaft was broken. Yes, the crankshaft broke. And the oil pump was twisted up. There were all kinds of things in the oil pan.
He called it a suicide. I think he's right. For whatever reason, my car made up its mind that it was not going to Michigan. Poor car.
April 22, 2006
Would you believe we started back to school this week?
I know we should wait until we're finished unpacking, but I just couldn't stand it. So Connor is doing the last bit of Singapore 4A, and both boys are working on handwriting. I've dug out "A Little Princess" to continue reading to them. It's a small start, but that's fine for now.
Aidan will start back reading "Prince Caspian," and I need to find "The Silver Chair" for Connor. I am still reading "Don Quixote," and I've just started Sayers' "The Nine Tailors." I wanted to be reading Christopher Paolini's "Eldest," but it looks like I'll have to wait in line behind the teens at the library. (I didn't like "Eragon" at first, but it grew on me and hooked me by the end. It's irritatingly derivative, but now I have to know what happens!)
The surprise item on the menu is science. We normally don't do formal science, but we have this "nature" out back, not to mention the swamp by the playground ... might as well call it science, right? I've bought a copy of this unit from My World Science. We're going to do the section on ponds first. This program looks quite nice so far. The activities and readings are going to be interesting to the younger kids, but there is enough depth to interest the olders, too. It incorporates a good amount of written work, outside reading, and narration. It lends itself well to tweaking and modification. And the information is solid, not fluffy. Nice.
I had to buy a microscope, so that we can investigate the pond water. Darn. I ordered this one.
So hey! Science!
I'd be finishing Right Start C with them, if I could find it. I know which box I packed it in. I've already unpacked that box. I know where everything else from that box is. But not that. Go figure.
February 8, 2006
Today is our long day of classes (music, piano, Spanish, astronomy). At 8:30 this morning we were all up, most of us were dressed, I had worked out, breakfast was ready, and we were all set to be in the car by 9:00.
And then Aidan threw up.
Last semester we did not miss one single class due to illness. This is the second time since mid-January. It's not good.
Aidan is sleeping on the couch, and Connor is casually doing his schoolwork. I'll do housework, play with the little ones, and go to the library later.
And now the school update:
Yesterday Aidan finished Singapore 2B. Connor will finish 4A this week. Connor will move forward with 4B, but I'm going to wait before starting Aidan in 3A. There's plenty of time. We'll spend a few months using Right Start, and drilling multiplication tables first. Once he has those down well, 3A should be easy for him.
Connor is two chapters away from finishing LfC. Instead of jumping right into LfC-B I think we'll spend some time with Minimus, and maybe Oxford Latin. Or, maybe we'll just call this "summer," and break while Mom figures out how to pack and paint the rest of the house.
Connor is very excited this week because I found a book on the Cuban Missile Crisis for him. Today he'll be thrilled because I've checked out a copy of "The Rise of Facism." He's definitely his father's child, isn't he?
January 17, 2006
For a homeschooling journal, this hasn't been much of a homeschooling journal.
We're on our second week back after the holidays. Everyone is sick. Predict no end in sight.
School is getting harder. Connor is about to turn 10, and I am coming to the point where I can't coast on that "Oh, the goal of grammar stage education is exposure ..." bit any more. Nope. He needs more challenging work, which means I have to make my own mental jump.
Luckily I'm slowly, slowly learning how to be organized at this school thing. Over break I printed out all the organizational-type forms I might need, along with weeks' and weeks' worth of corebook-style planning/recording pages of my own design (more recording than planning). I had them coil-bound at Staples. Somehow having it bound makes a difference. Do you know what I mean?
I've also made a template for copywork, so that I can plug in and print out weeks' worth of copywork at a shot. We never did copywork because I never had anything prepared. No more! Now we actually do copywork. How about that?
We experimented with Saxon Math for Connor. I liked it more than I thought I would, but he was quickly bored with the format. So back to Singapore Math we went. Connor's in 4A now, and doing well. Aidan is working through Singapore 2B, as well as Right Start Level C.
Connor is three lessons away from being finished with Latin for Children Primer A. Aidan is on lesson 15 in Latina Christiana I. He's doing well but we have to move very slowly; for a second-grader, though, that's fine. I think now that I should have waited another year to start him on Latin. He's going to be outpaced by the grammar. We may just stick to Minimus for awhile until his brain catches up.
Connor is working through Junior Analytic Grammar to solidify grammar concepts. It's a simple, straightforward, no-frills program.
Both boys are reading the Chronicles of Narnia, and Connor is reading through the Tom Swift novels. Both are ploughing through anything Bionicle-related.
Copywork, handwriting ... we are still working through Classical Writing, but slowly. The boys are taking a weekly astronomy class and piano lessons. They also have a weekly PE class. Connor and I take a weekly Spanish conversation class.
What a dry-sounding list that is.
We're not doing any formal history right now. I'm not enthused by modern history, and didn't really want to read the modern history text to Aidan. I'm just throwing history books at Connor until he will be happy with us heading back into ancient history. He can read all about the world wars. This Mommy is much more excited about making pyramids and chicken mummies and chain mail.
On most mornings the kids start school around 9 am. They do math, Latin, grammar, copywork or any writing we plan for the day. Then they read. They're often finished by lunchtime (except for reading).
It's not bad. We have plenty of time with this routine. It's a good routine. It's kind of odd to have a good routine. It sort of snuck up on me. I wasn't paying attention because we're still not where I'd like us to be ... but suddenly where we are is not bad at all.
January 11, 2006
It Was a Good Day
Took a Spanish class with my 9 year old.
Sat outside in the 70-degree sunny Texas winter.
Observed my two older children in their first class that is structured like a traditional class, with hand-raising, homework, grades and the like. (Astronomy)
Took a mile-long walk with my two younger children, at their request. "Look, Mom, there's a conifer tree!" (This moment brought to you by They Might Be Giants.)
Played at the park with my two younger children in the beautiful Texas winter.
Worked out at an actual gym.
Ate good take-out and watched "Lost" and some B5 with my husband.
Watched/helped my children play with Snap Circuits (Best. Toy. Ever.). Watched my new 8 year old design his own circuits, and figure out for himself why his failures failed.
We squeezed in school, too, apart from the classes: Math, Latin and letter writing in the afternoon. Reading in the car. Poetry in the car. Snap Circuits after TV.
And now I am exhausted, and am going to sleep.
January 8, 2006
I am thrilled, pleased, proud to announce that tonight my 5 year old marched up to the whiteboard and wrote CAT.
Yes, on purpose.
I love it when that happens.
December 8, 2005
Experiment in Self-Direction
Reading about what others do is sometimes dangerous.
I usually give my kids assignments every day. This week I got the idea that as Connor is nearly 10, perhaps he should have more control over his schedule. You see, I had just read a description of someone else's homeschooling day, a day in which the child finished his assignments early in the week so that he could have a couple of days free.
So on Monday I presented my eldest son with a list of his assignments for the week. He was thrilled with the idea.
It's Thursday night. Would you like to make any guesses? Place any bets?
Yet to be done: 33 math problems (75 to be checked and corrected), two day's worth of Latin work (which is unfortunate, as his chapter quiz is scheduled for tomorrow and he will not know the material), and an entire week's worth of grammar (four worksheets and a test).
PE is tomorrow; that's three hours of our afternoon.
It's going to be interesting, eh? I think I've done a good job or reminding him of his work, while not nagging. I've sat on my hands and bit my tongue. Our deal was that he finish the work by Friday afternoon, or he loses all privileges (computer time, time with friends, etc.) until it's all done.
I've learned that he's not quite ready for this much freedom - my error by making that call too early. I'm darned if I'm going to step in before the week ends, however. We're going to follow this one out to the end.
November 25, 2005
It's not Turkey, but ...
Here's a cool site we found that provides animations, along with explanatory text, that take you into a black hole. We discovered it last night around midnight. You see, we got home from Thanksgiving dinner around 11 pm. As we got out of the car I pointed out constellations and planets, as I often do. Last night, though, I caught their interest and they asked questions. They wondered why Sirius is so much brighter than Alpha Centauri, if Alpha Centauri is closer? The marveled at the idea that, if we weren't so close to Ft. Worth, they'd be able to see an actual galaxy with their actual eyes. We ended up mucking about with pulsars and quasars, and so on to the link.
Remember, though, that we structure and control our children's learning, which stifles the curiosity right out of them. Don't forget that. It's not like we unschool, or anything. Not that I'm bitter over certain types of unschoolers, or anything. Nah.
November 16, 2005
I am an Idiot
This year, I've worried about Connor and math. It took his entire third grade year to go through Singapore 3A. I was so relieved when we finally made it to Singapore 4 in his fourth grade year. I felt like we had "caught back up" to grade level.
We've been looking at the Robinson Curriculum lately. They recommend Saxon. I've never liked Saxon, though Jeff does. So just for fun I had Connor take the Saxon placement test this morning.
He tested into Saxon 76. In Saxonspeak, that's the book for average 7th graders, and advanced 6th graders.
The next time I worry about their progress, just smack me, okay?
November 9, 2005
Teetering On the Edge
This is the worst time of year for homeschooling.
Halloween gets us off-kilter, and sugared up. We struggle, we finally get back on track, only to be derailed by Thanksgiving. And, well, really, after Thanksgiving, what's the point?
We're finally back into our groove, so I'll run with it for one more week. That's it, then. After that it will be all Solstice decorations and holiday stuff.
But that's one of the (many) nice bits to homeschooling. We can do that. We've made good progress in Latin this year. We're on track in math. They're reading. Their writing is coming along. If we take a couple of months off, they'll still be fine. (Though to be honest, we rarely take that much time completely "off." If nothing else, we do math and read.)
I keep hoping we can squeeze out some time to trek down to San Antonio for a visit to the Alamo. You'd think it wouldn't be that hard, just five hours away ...
October 13, 2005
A Day in the Life
8:15 am - stumble out of bed, late. We're recovering from colds, plus I was up late reading about pandemic preparedness. The older boys are up watching a show. Then some of them dress, and both eat breakfast. I have coffee. Lots of coffee.
9:10 am - we start school a mere 10 minutes late. Not bad! The boys pull out their Singapore books while I print off and copy things I should have printed off and copied last night.
Their lessons are easy review today, so I decide to read Roman history while they do math. Normally I would have read it during breakfast, but that didn't work out today. The discussion on Roman history wanders from Junius Brutus and Tarquin to the moons of Jupiter, and the definition of a planet. Daddy wanders by and joins in the discussion. He asks if he can make snarky comments. He doesn't use the term "snarky."
9:30 am - Daddy realizes our Roman history reading involves Tarquin, and begins to make jokes about star systems slipping through his fingers. Youngest child begins climbing all over Mommy.
9:35 am - we realize that the name "Grand Moff Tarkin" rings no bells with our kids. Obviously we need to watch "A New Hope" again, and soon.
9:40 am - how come the math isn't done? Oh. The discussion ranges to the difference between evidence and proof. Mommy gives in and agrees to make popcorn for the youngest for breakfast.
10:00 am - anyone not finished can finish later. I go through lesson 1 of Right Start Level C with Aidan, and give both boys 2-minute fact drills. Yes, that's three math programs. So sue us.
10:10 am - popcorn is done (stovetop, not microwave, with olive oil and sea salt) so we take a short break.
10:20 am - Latin. I review Connor's vocabulary. He doesn't do very well today, which is unusual. I give him his activity sheets for the day and review Aidan's vocabulary. I explain today's grammar exercise to Aidan. He gets frustrated and angry because he doesn't understand and swears that I've never taught him this before, despite the fact that we've been working on this concept for weeks. I persevere, until he is frustrated and angry because he knows it all and why am I telling him 500 times over?
10:45 am - I take a computer break, and find a recipe for Turkish Delight.
Other things happened. Somewhere in here I talk to each of the older boys about "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which they are both reading. Aidan likes Edmund best, because he has the most action. Hmmm. Connor thinks Edmund is completely under the spell of the White Witch, and had no free will. Hmmm.
We don't have all the ingredients for Turkish Delight. Darling Husband volunteers to go to the store, taking the little ones along. The older boys and I review and edit their first drafts of this week's Classical Writing assignment. No analysis today - we did that yesterday, and skipped the spelling word analysis.
11:45 am - I start lunch, letting the little boys help.
After lunch, at another computer break, I stumble across a four-acre piece of land for sale, northeast of Dallas, at an affordable price. We decide it's worth looking at.
The kids and I make Turkish Delight. We don't have enough cornstarch, it turns out, but we hope for the best. Connor tells me Edmund covets Turkish Delight. I kiss him and praise him for knowing the word "covet," and using it correctly. He tells me he heard it on Winnie the Pooh. Ah, well.
The older boys have not finished their morning's work, so I make them a checklist for the rest of the day (practice piano, read, finish Latin and math). I encourage them to play outside, and then I take the little boys for a walk around the block.
It's hot. Why is it hot?!
I come back and read to Griffin. He's become enamored of an excerpt from Tom Sawyer. Go figure. Lachlan is not interested. The big boys play, practice piano. Aidan completes his checklist. They clean their room. I read them a chapter of "On the Banks of Plum Creek," the one in which the grasshoppers walk away. Later I read Lachlan a book about the letter K, which involves getting lots of sweet 3-year-old kisses.
This is normally our science day, but in trying to get everything else done by 3:30 I forgot. At 3:30 we jump in the car to go check out the land. On the way we discuss being at the edge of the galaxy, black holes, and again, the difference between evidence, theory and proof. It takes two hours to get there, and it is not the right property for us - or for anyone who doesn't want a large drainage ditch running across their land. Oh, well. It was fun to go. Two hours back home, plus a stop at Macaroni Grill.
Finally home, we send the kids off to various rooms, and watch Lost. Connor finishes the work on his checklist.
The Turkish Delight never sets, but is yummy anyway.
October 8, 2005
Organized Religion and Bible Stories
Another quote from Nock, from his autobiography:
The history of organised Christianity is the most depressing study I ever undertook, and also one of the most interesting. I came away from it with the firm conviction that the prodigious evils which spot this record can all be traced to the attempt to organise and institutionalise something which is in its nature incapable of beling successfully either organised or institutionalised. I can find no respectable evidence that Jesus ever contemplated either; the sort of things commonly alleged as evidence would not be substantial enough to send a pickpocket to gaol. By all that is known of Jesus, He appears to have been as sound and simon-pure an individualist as Lao-Tsze. His teaching seems to have been purely individualistic in its intent. One would say He had no idea whatever of its being formulated into an institutional charter, or a doctrinal hurdle to be go over by those desirous of being called by His Name.
I'm not a Biblical scholar by any means, so feel free to toss points of scripture at me to show me where this idea might be wrong. One of the biggest problems I have with Christianity is that it doesn't seem to be what Jesus intended. From what I have read of the Bible, I always got the impression that Jesus himself would be very surprised to head back to our planet and find that the religion was centered on him.
In following with my commitment to teaching classical studies, I've been reading Bible stories to the kids. Or rather, trying to. I was hesitant to start in the first place, but several friends advised me to just do it, and treat it as I would a Greek myth. Good advice, I thought. Why be afraid? Let's just do it.
Ah, but Bible stories are not written like Greek myths. Greek myths name the gods. They are treated as characters in a story. In Bible stories, God is not named. He's "God," and that's the end of it. Or "Our Lord." I know that many Christians do not refer to God by any name, but I never before realized just how powerful the act of not naming him is. It is extremely difficult to read these stories to the kids, without feeling that I need to stop, explain, reword, and in some places, vent. The Garden of Eden? That was rough. Cain and Abel? We haven't read any Bible stories since that one. Mom had to take time to recuperate.
The venting is not good. The kids don't need this from Mom, not at their ages. I want them to know the Bible, because it is such an important, foundational work. I want them to understand it through my teaching, but not through my baggage. This is a tough one.
I often run across Christians who worry about reading Greek myths to their kids, because they don't want them exposed to, and perhaps become enamored of, false gods before knowing their true god. I've been reading Greek myths to my little Pagan kids for months now, and their reactions have been very interesting. They are not becoming enamored of the Greek gods; they see them as capricious, vengeful, sometimes outright mean. They see clearly that in these stories the gods are playing with humans, directing them for their own aims. I didn't teach them that, they understood it on their own.
Pretty smart, these kids are. And pretty unnerving, when, to be honest, Mom doesn't have this whole god thing worked out herself.
If you're wondering, we're not raising them to a specific religion. We're raising them with our values of right and wrong, and with our basic Pagan outlook, but beyond that we want them to use their brains and their hearts and decide for themselves. (We are, however, deliberately raising them to a specific political philosophy. Heh.)
October 5, 2005
It's hard to homeschool when your sinuses are threatening to explode.
Wednesdays are library days. Our library day morphed into an entire afternoon out, as I had to go to two different libraries to pay fines. And I still managed to not pay the fine at one of them, which means we will have to go back.
I know that as a homeschooling mom, I am supposed to love and cherish library trips. And I do, when I can go alone. Going with the kids is an entirely different matter. No matter how often I remind them, my kids have no real conception of the library as a place to get books. No, the library is a place that has different computer games than we have at home. Mom finds the books, Mom conducts the business. The kids stare at the screens until it's time to leave, at which point the three-year old throws a fit because he wants to stay and play longer.
Whose idea was it to put computers with games in libraries?
Last week I did convince Griffin to pick out a book. He looked - I swear - at every book in the children's section before he found the book.
Would you like to know what the book was?
Did you know that Dean Koontz has written a children's book? The cover sports a picture of an evil-looking Santa Claus. That's what he picked.
That's Griffin. Let the boy go, and he ends up with Dean Koontz. Me, I'm just happy that he picked a book.
We also went to the local homeschooling store to pick up some new math books: Singapore 2B for Aidan, and 4A for Connor. We're zipping right along in math, yes we are. This is nice, because besides math, Latin, piano, and a little writing and reading, we're not doing much this week. Jeff's been out of town, and as I said, my sinuses have been exploding. Next week we'll be cleaning, and the week after that my parents will be visiting. Then it will be Halloween/Samhain. And of course after that, the holiday train just keeps on chugging.
I'll just keep repeating my mantra: Math, Latin, reading and writing, and everything will be just fine ...
September 12, 2005
Tired, but Happy
Jeff left early this morning, so I was up earlier than normal. I blogged our butterfly pictures, did my weights circuit, and worked on my Latin. I missed my self-imposed deadline for finishing Henle Unit 7, because I got lost in the swamp of pronouns and interrogatives. Relative pronouns ... interrogative pronouns ... interrogative adjectives ... interrogative particles ... words that sometimes mean one thing, but sometimes another ... tense sequences ... yikes!
As usual, the older two boys got up and polished off math and Latin before the younger two were up. It's nice when that happens, as we get uninterrupted, quiet time to work in which Mom can fully focus on the tasks at hand. On the other hand, it means the little ones sleep too late. Ah, well. This morning we did a lesson from Right Start B, on subtraction as a missing addend. The boys found it to be easy. Afterwards, Aidan did a little work on basic division in Singapore 2A, and Connor worked on division and on distances in Singapore 3B.
Did you catch that "B"? We are FINISHED with Singapore 3A! Finally! Yippee! It took a year, folks. A whole year. But we did it. Thankfully, the Singapore Math folks seem to have made 3B an easy book (weights, measuring, distances, basic geometry, a few fractions).
Connor started chapter 16 in Latin for Children this morning. He watched the DVD lesson for the chapter, read the chapter in his book, and we discussed it. Today he was introduced to the imperfect tense.
Aidan started chapter 8 of Latina Christiana today, but he hates the DVDs and begged to skip them. Forever. So back in the box they go. I can't blame the kid. These DVDs are good, they're thorough, and they're long and boring. Today he was introduced to the second declension masculine.
After that it was time for the little ones to be up, and time for the butterfly to hatch. After it hatched we took it outside, helped it climb onto the vitex bush, and watched its wings unfold. We found one of her nice, plump siblings, and plopped it into the jar. I hope it has enough parsley to last the night.
The temperature was nice, though humid, so we decided to take our first park day since, oh, April or May. We came home tired, hot and hungry, so we rested, cooled off and ate, in various orders.
Then it was back to school work. I read some chapters aloud out of "On the Banks of Plum Creek" and "Atticus the Storyteller's 100 Greek Myths." While I read the boys worked on making notebook pages; Aidan's was on Texas, and Connor's was on the Alamo. Afterwards Connor read half of a biography on Davy Crockett. They both practiced piano, we did a few chores, and then headed to a friend's house for playtime and dinner.
We watched the chrysalis all morning. It finally emerged shortly after 10 am. Another female!
The Caterpillar Who Lived
Yesterday, the caterpillar that took a premature flight across my kitchen stretched its new wings and proved that I'd done it no lasting damage. Yay!
Here is our caterpillar. Sorry about the fuzzy image, but I have not yet perfected the art of taking pictures through the sides of glass jars:
Here is what they look like as babies on the parsley:
Since last week, we have found several more babies, and even a few eggs, on the parsley. The boys check on them every morning, but we usually leave them in the garden while they're babies.
Here are our chrysalides. One made a brown chrysalis, the other a green. We think the brown is better camouflage when you make your chrysalis on a stick. Perhaps this one is smarter than the other.
Here is our newly hatched black swallowtail butterfly along with its chrysalis.
And here she is in all her glory (if they have more blue across the backs of their wings, they're female). Isn't she gorgeous?
The green chrysalis is going to hatch today - at any minute, in fact. I hope it waits until the sun is up.
August 31, 2005
The Early Bird Catches the Caterpillar
I was up a little early this morning (yesterday morning) (a feat which will not be duplicated this morning). It was a beautiful morning, and a very comfortable temperature; the perfect time to visit my neglected garden.
Half of this garden was planted for one purpose: to attract caterpillars that we could watch. Specifically, black swallowtail caterpillars, because I know they're plentiful in the area and I know what they like to eat. I planted half a garden box with lantana, purple coneflower, dill, and lots and lots of parsley.
Nothing. Not an egg. Not a caterpillar.
So imagine my delight this morning when I came across two huge, fat ones! We grabbed a couple of glass jars and stuck one in each, along with a nice stick for each, and bunches of parsley. Then we sat back to ... watch them poop.
I forget how much caterpillars do that.
Or how much it fascinates the kids.
I didn't put lids on the jar, because I didn't remember that caterpillars can actually climb up glass. One's stick was longer than the jar, so over that jar I fit a piece of paper around the stick. Both made their escape attempts at the same time, in an eerily coordinated manner, the one pushing his way right past the paper cover. We gathered them up before the cats could find them and dashed their hopes of regaining freedom by plopping the lids on the jars. I had to shorten the one stick, so I very carefully and gently broke the end off.
The caterpillar was on the stick at the time, which is why I was being careful.
Sometimes when you're being very careful, the bottom half of the stick rebounds anyway.
Caterpillars are tenacious, but they don't hold on when their end of the stick rebounds. That thing flew halfway across the kitchen. It was impressive. I expected to find a little pile of smashed caterpillar goo on the kitchen floor, but no - it was alive! These things are tough!
They're back in their jars now, with lids. The one that took his maiden flight sans wings has been holding on to his stick and moving his head all around. I hope this means he's thinking of making his chrysalis, and not that he's in his death throes from internal injuries.
The other caterpillar is sitting on a parsley stalk, pooping.
The batteries in the camera are recharging. I'll take pictures of them in the morning, if they're still alive.
This is what they look like. And when you scare them or tick them off, the caterpillars stick a big orange tongue out at you.
August 29, 2005
Er ... bite me!
I tried to figure out the Latin equivalent for "bite me." I haven't worked out commands yet, so I don't know the grammar. I did find out that the word for "bite" is "ictus." Now, that's a noun, but I thought it might be useful in that it also means "stroke, bolt, thrust and blow."
Now, after all that, I feel I must confess that we didn't do Latin today. Nope. We've been hitting the books hard for six weeks solid, not missing a day, and it's time for a break. We did do math, but no, absolutely no Latin.
We did take another stab at Classical Writing. Connor's retelling of "The Fox and The Grapes" was exactly 26 words long, not counting the moral.
Well, at least he's succinct.
They practiced piano, and read more Texas history. That was it for today. We played with friends at McDonald's (that's where little Texan suburban kids go to play in the summer). We went by the library, but used the outside book drop and did not go in the library, as it was 5:00 by that point and it's just never a good idea to take tired, hungry kids into the library ...
Mom will do Latin tomorrow, even if the kiddos don't. I have a self-imposed deadline to finish Unit 7 in Henle by Sept. 4. Tomorrow is August 30, and I have 26 translation problems, a review and a reading left.
By the way, the Latin Classical Ed Yahoo group might be putting together a wiki, and I hope to put up some web pages with secular classical ed resources, and more information on "how we do this." Stay tuned, because I'm not making any promises as to when anything will happen!
August 22, 2005
Remember the Alamo?
Here's the kids' version. Inaccurate, yes, but you can tell they had fun. It's now in pieces in our homeschooling cabinet, having met with an extroardinarily destructive battle seconds after the pictures.
Please ignore the modern soliders :)
May 25, 2005
And the Morning Flies Right By
We've been terribly successful at doing Latin and math first every morning. It works beautifully, especially because it means we can do a Right Start lesson before the smaller children are up. I can get up, exercise, look at the web, do a little reading or housework, and eat; then I get the big kids up, give them breakfast, let them watch a morning show to bring them to full consciousness. They get dressed, etc., and we do a Right Start lesson. After that we discuss the Latin for the day and Connor works on his worksheet, puzzle or quiz while I get the little ones up. It works! It works!
I can even (gasp) get to the gym by 10:30, if I wish. That's what we did today. I am pleased to report better music: Today's music included Roxy Music, Evanescence, Limahl and the Lovin' Spoonfull. Much, much better.
The we did a quick swing by Target to pick up medication for burns, since we had a bit of a boo-boo. Injured child is upset by the pain, but pretty darned happy about being excused from piano practice for the week (he burned the tip of his finger). Target includes Starbucks, where the same nice lady works every day, and knows us pretty darned well by now.
Those affogato style frappuccinos are yummy.
Last night the older boys and Daddy went to a Cub Scout look-at-the-projects-we-did-don't-you-want-to-join-us? type meeting. The boys are hooked. Scouts, here we come! So in the fall we'll have a Tiger and a Webelos. I think it will be a very, very good thing for them. I'm nervous about how busy we'll be, especially if Connor wants to play baseball again. But we'll see, we'll see.
(Connor says he doesn't want to play baseball. He wants to start a Pokemon league. Oof. Can any of you tell me how to do that?)
They'll be with boys, and working towards accomplishing goals. Those are the important things. This pack seems to set a high priority on earning badges and doing things well.
On another note, I have lost my Henle answer key. This is not funny. Now I don't know the difference between "in silvas contendebat" and "ad silvas contendebat." Not to mention the difference between "eos in provinciam misit" and "eos ad provinciam misit."
And speaking of poetry ...
Since I'm relying on Sarah to come up with an age-appropriate, engaging, Germanic mythology source, I think I'll also
rip off use her poetry reading schedule. Ah, there's nothing like having someone else do the work, is there?
Goals and Plans
Is it that time already?
Next year, by ps standards, Connor will be in 4th grade and Aidan in 2nd.
For math, C will work through Singapore 3 and Right Start C. A will work through Singapore B and Right Start C.
For Latin, C will continue to work in Latin for Children. Our goal is to finish Primer C by about the end of 5th grade. A ... who knows? I'll let him choose between LC and LFC. I believe he'll choose LC. As long as we work at it daily, I have no particular goal for him. I'd like both kids to be out of the primer programs and onto something meatier by about 6th grade.
The boys will take piano lessons and practice daily.
We will work through Classical Writing Aesop.
We will all read "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" together.
I will read to them every morning, Greek myths and fairy tales. I'll add in Germanic myths once Sarah finds a good resrouce. Connor will keep reading from "Tanglewood Tales," and either "Famous Men of Rome" or "D'Aulaire's Greek Myths." I imagine it will be FMOR, as he'll be getting enough of the Greek myths elsewhere. I might even get very ambitious and read poetry as well.
I will either read "Farmer Boy" to them, or ask them to read it. Other than that I will offer suggestions and advice, but will largely allow them to choose their own books.
I will read to the little ones every morning, and help them learn to read if they're ready.
I'll say words in Spanish, whenever I remember to.*
We'll also do some history (SOTW 4), some spelling, some science (they boys have requested chemistry and electronics). We'll take swimming lessons. We'll play at the park. We'll do crafts. The older ones will start Cub Scouts.
We're also planning some Texas history field trips: the Alamo, San Jacinto, Austin, etc. And of course, Houston, to see both NASA and the LOTR exhibit.
* I found a fun resource: "Kids Stuff Spanish." It is filled with phrases to use with the kiddos. Yesterday they made wooden boats, so our phrase for the day, from the book, was "El barco se está hundiendo!" (The boat is sinking!) I also especially appreciate knowing the Spanish for "There's seaweed on your back!" and "Your glands are swollen."
May 23, 2005
Mornings that Work
It's 10 am. I have exercised, I have read, everyone has eaten, everyone is happy, and we've done a solid hour of math and Latin.
I have found that if we can put in some good time on math and Latin in the morning, I can fail to stress about anything else that may or may not "get done" that day. As long as the rest of the day includes reading, piano practice and some form of academic study or discussion, we're good. We're evolving, again, relaxing more in most areas while working hard at those subjects Mom deems most important.
This is good, because my little ones need more of my time. I can give the older ones about an hour of concentrated Mom time first thing after breakfast; after that I need to have them manage themselves, mostly, for awhile while I give concentrated time to the younger ones - just so they don't grow up thinking they were raised by TV. (Notice how I didn't call them "babies?" I'm getting better.)
This relaxation is also an act of rebellion. We're not having enough fun.
Math and Latin are all we're doing today. We're going to a party all afternoon. Sugar high! Woo-hoo!
I didn't read Nock while I was sick; I retreated into O'Brien (yes, again) and Card ("Memory of Earth"). This morning's Nock chapter was mainly about politics. I don't like his political talk nearly as much as I do his views on education. On politics I find him entirely cynical and depressing. However, I don't know enough about politics or history myself to debate his views. (By the way, I realize now that my in my last Nock entry I was operating under some beautiful illusion about fairytale world leaders. I apologize for that. My ideal ran away with me.)
Nock thought that everything that can be done, and will be done, has been done. Whatever happens how has happened in antiquity. In general that makes sense to me, because humans operate in a cyclical manner, always have and always will. But Nock's view seems to be that there can never be any progress. Not only do the same political cycles endlessly repeat, but humans will never be any better for them. Progress is an illusion. We have more technology, and the trappings have changed, but nothing essential. I disagree. I think he's mostly right, but I think that progress is possible. We can learn from history. True, we don't do it often, but I have to believe we can. The alternative is too depressing.