New Book, and New Directions

First, I discovered a great book today at the bookstore:

Why is it great? It has background information, biographical information, detailed information about evolution, and, best of all, integrates genetics into what I feel is its proper place, part and parcel of evolutionary theory. I had in the back of my head to put together an Evolution & Genetics class for the autumn for the co-op; whether it happens via co-op, another venue, or just in my own house (please let it be out of my basement with the tiled floor and the second kitchen, please let it be out of "my" new house, please please please), I think this will work amazingly well as a spine or jumping-off point. Ideally, I want EG to read Why Evolution Is True and perhaps the new Annotated Origin that was released last year.

Second, my plans for next year have taken a different turn. Through a series of conversations and too much time to think in the shower, I'm 95% sure that FB is going to start history next year, in kindergarten. This is mainly due to EG's desire to do at least one portion of school with her little brother. They are far enough apart in age that somewhat coordinating history is about the only way for it to happen. So FB will do SOTW 1 next year (K), SOTW 2 in first grade, and SOTW 3 in second grade. Then, in third grade, EG will be in eighth, and doing a full year of United States history, so FB will do the same, before finishing up the SOTW series with SOTW 4 in fourth grade.

This has thrown me into a tizzy. I wasn't planning to start history with him in August! I was planning on starting in August 2011! Eek! So naturally, I've spent my spare time attempting to start hashing out some semblance of a plan.

What I need to do starting tomorrow, though, is spend the 28 days of February getting the house in perfect shape to sell. Some good thoughts, a dash of prayer, a lot of manifesting, and of course some hard work... because I have got to make this happen.


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Two

Number-style, as my brain is fried.

By the Numbers

Five lessons in Life of Fred Beginning Algebra
Four pages in Key to Percents
Three pages of Level 15 drill
Two pages of Level 31 drill

Many sentences in Practice Island
Five stems in Building Language
Four activities in Sentence Island
Three poems analyzed in The Music of the Hemispheres

One literature book
One summary about said book
Two paragraphs of prewriting for a short story

Thirty pages of read aloud
Four lessons or exercises of Latin

Two books about the Holocaust
Two books about World War II
One biography of Eleanor Roosevelt
One summary on how World War II was three wars in one

One unit of The Brain
Three activities in Water Physics
One book about force and motion

Three pages of logic
One hundred twenty minutes of piano practice

Three lessons in Right Start A
Five or six pages in Miquon Orange
Five pages in Handwriting Without Tears
Many, many CVC words
An enormous number of picture books


That's Me in the Spotlight, Losing My Religion

[At the risk of offending essentially everyone, I present my SecThurs post for this week.]

I was raised Southern Baptist.

I want everyone to stop, and read that again. Please understand: I was raised Southern Baptist. I was brought up on a steady diet of personal relationships with Jesus, Bible stories, and priesthood of the believer. Scots-Irish to the end, I grew up believing in God and also believing that no one had the right to tell me what to believe about God.

I also was brought up knowing that Jimmy Carter was a Southern Baptist. Insult just about everyone else in the world and I'll let it slide, but don't insult Jimmy Carter in front of me.

It wouldn't too be strong a word to say that I felt increasingly betrayed as the '90s proceeded. "Christian Right"? "Religious Right"? But... I was a Christian. I didn't agree with them. In fact, I disagreed with them. Who were they to define what a "Christian" was or was not?

Then the Southern Baptists made their conversion to radicals complete. We were supposed to boycott Disney? The very next Sunday, the pastor at my then-church and the music minister both wore Mickey Mouse ties. Our associate pastor was a woman. I felt safer, again. Sure, the leadership was apparently going crazy, but they weren't every Southern Baptist. Priesthood of the believer! Personal relationship! They couldn't tell me what to believe!

Except, of course, that it was a sham. My church was one of the last oases to be found, I now believe. And increasingly, I've become so disenchanted with those who supposedly share my faith that I no longer claim their religion.

I hate the labels of "Christian Content," because they too often assume that all Christians must think alike, in lockstep. If I don't agree, then I cannot be a Christian. I dislike the churches that preach on politics. If I don't vote Republican, then I cannot be a Christian. I believe in human rights for all, including the right to legal protection for all partnerships (I think the government shouldn't grant marriages, just unions, to everyone). If I don't vote against gay marriage, though, then I must not be a Christian. Evolution is my favorite scientific theory (I think it's tops, better than gravity!). Evolution, though, means you must not be a Christian, so I cannot be a Christian by that definition. If I don't agree with the interpretation of the Bible that leads to submission by women, then I must not be a Christian.

The list goes on and on.

So, eventually, it wears you down. If they don't want me, then fine. I will not claim the label. My relationship with God is just that - mine. And if they want to take the label of Christian and turn it into a litmus test, then so be it. I'll label myself something else when a label is necessary. I know what I believe and I feel more secure in my faith as the years pass. I pray. I study theological issues, the Bible, and early church history. Yet, I won't call myself just a Christian. Do I have mixed feelings about it? Certainly.

There's the crux of the issue. I have mixed feelings about it. I've lost my religion, but never my own (particularly quirky) faith. I can't categorize my faith and would possibly resent being asked to do so. I've been known to label myself as a "really liberal Christian," a "Christopagan," a "strange hybrid Christopagan Deist," and other odd combinations of words. Notice that there's a variation of "Christian" in all of them, though. "Jesus" doesn't combine into words so neatly, and that's the thing. I've never stopped thinking Jesus was the cat's pajamas. Awesomesauce. The bee's knees. Et cetera. For as long as I hold that opinion, I'm going to feel a little put out. A little left out. A little bit curious as to when it became so bad to be an evolutionarily-thinking non-submissive female Christian.


Why Start Early?

As EG has raced through Lively Latin this year, I've come to regret starting Latin earlier with her. Yes, some of the vocabulary has eased her into LL, but overall, I'm not sure that the amount of time, at an age where other subjects should be emphasized, resulted in any sort of measurable benefit. I've also been contemplating her sequence for the remainder of her Latin studies. There are two big questions with regards to sequence - what is the end goal, and what is the time frame for reaching that goal.

I'm not entirely sure of our goal with regards to Latin. There are two possible standardized tests that could confirm a level of achievement in Latin - the SAT II test for Latin, and the AP Latin Virgil exam. While it is possible for EG to attain mastery of the material covered by the AP exam, it would require an enormous investment of time in an area that is one of her weakest. The SAT II test looks more realistic, and it's suggested that high school students take the test after "two to four years" of Latin study.

Regardless of which test I'd like to have her complete as an outside confirmation of her coursework, it seems to me that if a student begins Latin earlier than the norm (seventh, eighth, or ninth grades seem to be more common than others, with eighth grade the most common of all), then said student should also reach a level of mastery earlier than those who begin Latin during eighth grades or thereabouts.

In the newest magalog (catazine?) from Memoria Press, one of the articles had a sidebar that explicitly stated what their "ideal" progression is as far as curriculum and grade level. Their progression begins in second grade, which is just slightly earlier than other common progressions (which begin in third or fourth grade, for the most part). A course leading to the AP Latin exam is slated for eleventh grade.

It is not uncommon for students who begin Latin in eighth grade to write the AP exam in eleventh grade, though some may wait until twelfth.

And, frankly, while I am convinced of the value of Latin, I'm not convinced - by any means - that it's something that is so wonderful that it should be studied year after year after year when, apparently, the same level of mastery can be attained by starting much later. It's not a spoken language, so many arguments about starting a foreign language young are void here.

So what is the point?

Here's my own answer. After EG finishes LL, we're going to move into Latin Prep 1, taking it nice and slow (the remainder of fourth grade plus fifth grade to finish). She'll do Latin Prep 2 & 3 in sixth and seventh grades, respectively, and then So You Really Want To Learn Latin 3 in eighth grade. She'll take the SAT II Latin test at the end of her eighth grade year. Starting early gives her the ability to reach a certain point of proficiency in Latin and be done with that study before her high school years. Even if she elected to continue with the AP course, she would take it a full two years earlier than otherwise.

We'll follow a similar path with FB & PC, depending on their specific strengths; if one or both is particularly strong with regards to language, beginning a year earlier or starting with Latin Prep could be options.

I just can't fathom the point, though, of taking five to seven years to accomplish what eighth graders accomplish in just one. I suppose that the argument could be made for any number of subjects, but a great number of them are in fact used in a context separate from the classroom before the age of twelve or thirteen. Apart from that, I suppose that it's a matter of priority, but I simply haven't seen any arguments for the study of Latin that specifically state it in terms of the age of the students when Latin study begins. I recently listened to Jessie Wise's "If I Could Do It Over Again" talk, and she mentions that she's glad she had her children begin Latin when they did, when her two oldest were in third & fourth grades. They completed a high school Latin I course, she said, in two years (instead of the usual one). Extrapolating, one could imagine a second year course completed in grades five and six (six and seventh), and then a third year course, perhaps, in just one year - seventh (eighth) grade. That's farther than the typical student would be in eighth grade, and so I see her particular statements as dovetailing with my own plan. I always like it when I find people that seem to be saying I'm right. :)


Next Year: The Brain Dump

EG will be 10 and officially a fifth grader for the 2010-2011 school year. It's hard to believe that if she had gone to the local public school, 2010-2011 would be her last year before middle school. It's even harder to believe that it would be the only year she and FB would be in the same school building. He'll be five and officially a kindergartener. One of the benefits of homeschooling that was not originally in my list of advantages is the great sibling relationships that have developed and continue to strengthen.

So, next year. Let's cover FB first, because he's easier, relatively speaking. A lot of his depends on what progress he makes in reading between now and August. Since I cannot predict but can hope, I'm making plans based on his writing skills. Yes, I have a boy that writes well and prefers it above all else.

Language Arts: We'll continue using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, whether he realizes it or not (I can read it the night before and teach on the magnets or white board), as well as whatever level he's at in Handwriting Without Tears. I suspect he'll use the first grade book, as he's halfway through the kindergarten book now, and the HWT materials don't take a full school year to cover, as it is. We'll stick with copywork after he finishes the first grade book. I'll probably also start him on Writing With Ease Level 1 at the beginning of the year. At the appropriate point, whatever that may be, I'll start All About Spelling Level 1 with him.

Mathematics: The plan is to use Right Start B and also Miquon. He's done some in the Orange book so we'll see if he finishes it and moves on to Red during kindergarten or not. If not, no biggie, but I probably will include Red in an order from Rainbow Resource or Timberdoodle.

Read-Alouds: The tentative plan is to have two different read-aloud lists and times. One for literature - picture books and such - and one for nonfiction - science, math, history, geography, and so forth. I'd really like to use that latter time to introduce him to some American "mythology" since he won't officially cover American history until third grade.

Gravy: I have the CD-ROM of Visual Perceptual Skill Building Book One, and if I don't have him do those activities before next year, I will in the autumn. I also have a list of various science kits I'd like to do with him. Finally, we're going to do some basic art skills at the same time that EG does art skills - probably using ideas from Preschool Art and How To Teach Art to Children. We'll also continue with memory work. Because FB loves the Music for Little Mozarts curriculum that they use at Master's Academy for his class, I am really tempted to buy the piano curriculum and start teaching him to play myself, using it. It come with plush toys and I want to capitalize on his love of it... but I don't want to make him hate it. Decisions, decisions. He will still go to Master's Academy and I may enroll him in the class for five year old at homeschool band, but the latter depends on when it's offered in relation to when EG's band class is. He's plenty active on his own, but I want him to do gymnastics through the county program.

So that's the tentative plan for FB. I have most of the stuff needed, except the workbooks, science kits, and Right Start B.

EG has, of course, more subjects and needs more in-depth materials. The loose plans...

Language Arts: Finishing up All About Spelling Level 6 (assuming it is released this spring), and then...? Dropping spelling is a possibility; Megawords is another possibility. We're going to continue using MCT, which will cover grammar, vocabulary, poetry, and the curriculum aspect of writing. She'll also continue with memorizing poetry, and lots of cross-curricular writing, a la WTM. She'll either be finishing up Town and then proceeding to Voyage, or just doing Voyage. We shall see.

Mathematics: She'll start the year with Life of Fred Advanced Algebra. After that...? Ideally, I'd like for her to do some work in the Key to Geometry books, for some more basic geometry before tackling proofs and the like. I really want to save Geometry for sixth grade. So, primary curriculum after Advanced Algebra is finished? No idea. My sense of symmetry would love it if she could do Life of Fred Trigonometry without first doing Geometry. I also love the looks of the Art of Problem Solving materials... so perhaps she'll do Number Theory, Counting & Probability, or both before starting Advanced Algebra. So many choices!

Latin: I think we're going to go with Latin Prep 1 here. Since she'll have finished Lively Latin Book One as well as other Latin study, we're going to do it sans workbooks.

History: Back to the ancients! We're going to do this go-round of world history in just three years, and spend eighth grade doing United States history. The plan is to hit high school with the four year WTM-style rotation history/literature study, so I want that eighth grade year of American history first. I took History: The Definitive Visual Guide and split it up nicely for three years of study. It's basically the beginning of recorded history through 1000 C.E.

Science: Oh, science, how I love and loath thee. One day a week, I'm going to have EG read through Science Matters, watching relevant lectures from The Joy of Science in the evenings and on weekends, et cetera. The idea is to finish the lectures by the end of the school year, so if she's a few weeks behind, it's not a big deal. I also plan to have her work through the PLATO middle school science courses for both life science and earth & space science. I want to do an in-depth study of prehistory, evolution, & genetics with her, and this summer, I'm going to take a week and do a little "camp" for 4-6 kids on the human body. Somewhere in all of this, I also want to start a history of science course with her. I have no idea how this all going to unfold. Stay tuned. She wants to accelerate her science - which she is fully capable of doing - so this is all in service of that coupled with my desire for her to have a general science overview and a sense of how science fits into history. I find it highly ironic that it's science giving me fits. I took five science courses in four years in high school, went to Georgia Tech, et cetera. Go figure.

Fine Arts: EG will continue with piano lessons and playing trumpet in the homeschool band. She'll also continue attending Master's Academy. She has one forty-five minute period set aside each week for music appreciation. I think we'll go with the WTM recommendations for music. I plan to be more deliberate with her study of visual arts - there's a time set aside each week for art skills, as well as one set aside each week for art appreciation. I plan to have her go through the big DK Art book over the entirety of logic stage. We're going to concentrate on drawing next year as far as skills, using the WTM recommendations. Ideally, I will finally get it together for her to go to dance and theatre performances locally.

Physical Education: I'd like for her to be able to continue to swim one to three times a week. I don't know how well it will always work, but it's something for which to strive. Mainly, I don't see enrolling her in the stroke clinic class again, since it makes us far too dependent on the Y's schedule. When it's not rainy or cold, bicycling is a good option that can be done without traveling from home. I'd really like to find a nice yoga workout or similar that she could do periodically. We're also going to work on several of the Girl Scout badges that concern exercise and health.


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-One

This was a good week.

Let me rephrase that: this was a really good week.

It was one of those weeks that you need to bottle up and save, so that you can open the bottle and remember it during the bad weeks. What made it so great? I'm not sure. I will say that we decided to ditch Classical Writing. Both EG and I felt like we were putting in a huge amount of time for very little, if any, gain. I spent a lot of my weekend listening to the new SWB mp3 talks on writing, and felt confident enough to toss it. So we did.

What did we do this week?

EG wrote a narration for The War of the Worlds (not an easy task), read Journey to America, and wrote a narration for it as well. (Look! Cross-curricular writing! We have time for it without Classical Writing!)

She did penmanship each day, and completed Steps 20, 21, and 22 in All About Spelling Level 5. She finished Grammar Island, started Practice Island, kept working through Building Language, and started both The Music of the Hemispheres and Sentence Island on Thursday.

EG did drill each day, but didn't pass any further levels; she also completed pages 13-16 in Key to Percents Book 1. She did Lessons 31 to 35 in Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra, finishing up Chapter 4.

History this week covered Spain and Franco's rise to power as well as the start of World War II. She read a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as Children of Great Depression, and wrote her summary on Francisco Franco. (See! More cross-curricular writing!)

For Physics, she read Cool Stuff and How It Works, and started doing the workshops and experiments in Physics Workshop. She especially liked the sail car.

Latin is still proceeding well. I've built in one day a week for just review and vocabulary games online, which will slow her down a little more. She will still finish Lively Latin about six weeks before the end of the school year. She did pages 17, 18, and 19 in Orbiting with Logic and is close to having mastered the excerpt of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. She also did two Mind Benders puzzles in book B4.

All of this, plus thirty minutes of piano practice daily, thirty minutes of trumpet practice daily, and fifteen minutes of vision therapy on the computer daily. She also had stroke clinic Wednesday night (and tonight, since the Y was closed on Monday) and Master's Academy on Monday. MIL came to do Christmas with us Monday night, we went to the park on Tuesday, and EG had time to play lots with her siblings all week and even drag out her Snap Circuits for an hour or so.

As I said, a really good week.

FB worked on C, O, and G, and he actually does better making smaller letters rather than larger ones. We're still working on phonics. I think he's putting a little more effort into it but sometimes it is hard to say. Overall, though, I feel like he's making forward progress, and that's a Good Thing.

I put together my shopping list for 2010-2011, at least as far as curriculum resources go. It's actually pretty short: math, Latin, language arts, logic, and drawing skills. Then there are all the lines that just say "x books." History, science, art, you name it, plus science kits. Finally, there's the online courses, which we can't really purchase ahead. We're testing the online course thing later this year. I'm hoping it works, because I'd like for EG to take a few different courses next year.


Here Is A Gold Star for You, and You, and You, and You, and ...

I didn't expect, but shouldn't have been surprised, that so many could identify with my post last Thursday. I decided there were too many wonderful comments to answer them all in that post, so voila! A new post.

I wonder firstly if the very things that made some of us confident to homeschool are contributing now to the wish for some kind of praise or recognition. I will freely admit that a large part of my initial thoughts about homeschooling centered around the fact that, well, some people might have doubts about their knowledge, but I knew that I was smart and had had an excellent 1-12 education, not to mention attended a first-rate university. I had taken Latin. In retrospect, I even had the much lauded "proofy" algebra, though at the time I just thought that was how one did algebra.

I'm also remembering now, after some of your comments, how my parents would get flack at church for their educational decisions, too. I was sent to a private school, and not one that was explicitly Christian, either.

Of course, I lived in the south, and the explicitly Christian schools had all been established in the decade or two following Brown v. Board of Education Topeka, so I think my parents were quite right to avoid them at that time. I'm sure they're lovely schools that have overcome that inglorious past by now.

I will add that there does seem to be a church somewhere in my area that produces a prodigious number of homeschoolers, since they all seem to know each other, but I have no idea what church or where it is - and it may be that it's so large that the homeschoolers are still a small percentage of the overall church. Churches around here tend to the very small (under 100 average attendance) or the very large (at least 800), so even 50 homeschoolers at a church could still be less than 10 or 20% of all kids.

I do think it will almost have to be different for these homeschooled kids. While they may have been in a classroom environment in enrichment situations, the one who were always homeschooled, especially, aren't going to have the same strong association with day-in day-out praise, stickers, awards assemblies, and the like.

As an aside, every time I see that there's (yet another) awards assembly at the local elementary school, I think to myself, "Too bad I don't count it as part of a school day when the spousal unit comes home and the kids tell him what they did that day. I bet over the course of the year, that adds up to at least a days' worth of instruction." In all seriousness, the local elementary school has an awards assembly after every single nine week grading period, as far as I can tell. (Back in the day, we just called that a "quarter," but they call it a "nine week grading period.") An hour to two hours times four times a year is between four and eight hours... and four and a half hours is the official legislative definition of a homeschool day in this state.

Above all, though, I think it's tied into society's general lack of regard for work that has traditionally been ascribed to women. I'm not saying that as a political statement; I think most liberals and conservatives alike can agree that the vast majority of our society only values that work which is done for monetary compensation, and devalues that work which is not. It's true for teaching in general (having been an "acceptable occupation" for women before just about any other), it's true for the acts of parenting, and it's true for homeschooling. If the work is devalued, then there is little reason for anyone to praise it. It's simply not on the radar as anything to even examine.


Weekly Report: Week Twenty

Fabulous Boy is getting tickets.

I should explain. The more I looked into various phonics programs, it seemed like many of them cost more because they implemented rewards. He needed both a change of pace and possibly a reward system. So, now he is getting tickets for his phonics lessons, and we're using the McGuffey's Primer we already had, at least for a little while. He can do this if he will just focus on it. I read early, Eclectic Girl read early... FB is approaching five and though I know I shouldn't, it is freaking me out, just a bit. He's been at the same stage of readiness for over a year, though, and he recognizes some words. He is clearly capable. I just have to convince him to DO IT. We're continuing to do everything else informally, but starting next week we're going to be more formal about handwriting again, and then the week or two after that, more formal math again. He has discovered our Equilibrio blocks & books recently and has done a lot of playing with those. The kids' Valentines Day presents from us for all three is (finally!) our own soma cube and towers of hanoi. My dad has these and I passed many a fun hour with them growing up. I think FB will enjoy them.

Purple Child is trying to learn her alphabet. No, really. We have the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics, and she carries it with her around the house, pressing the button for the alphabet song and trying to sing along. We keep the "B" in it (her first initial). I need to buy a replacement "E," as she sent it down the register a few months ago when we were painting. Oops.

Eclectic Girl had a decent week. Doing Latin for just fifteen minutes a day has been a good change so far. We'll still finish up Lively Latin with weeks to spare, as she's already starting Lesson Fifteen out of sixteen. Then we'll have to decide whether to start Latin Prep 1 this year or just review what she already knows over the summer, starting fresh in the autumn.

Another good change has been the Michael Clay Thompson language arts materials. She finished the parts of speech section of Grammar Island and has started on Building Language as well. Yes, I did back her up to the beginning, though I probably could have put her in the Town level. She's zooming through, and while I suspect she'll be ready for Magic Lens 1 at the beginning of sixth grade, it's not the end of the world if she's *gasp* doing Magic Lens 3 and related materials in ninth grade. The important thing is that she's enjoying it and seems to be grasping the concepts well - in a way that lets her apply them elsewhere. That is pure gold!

Elsewhere in the language arts category, spelling is going decently. She completed steps 18, 19, and most of 20 this week, which puts us on track to finish up All About Spelling Level 5 during the first half of February. I don't think Level 6 is projected to be released before then, so we'll likely take two to three weeks off and then do some extensive review.

For various reasons, EG has been doing both CW: Homer A and CW: Poetry for Beginners A. I'm sort of frustrated with Homer. There is a lot of work but I feel like we're still rehashing Writing Tales 2. I have a sneaking suspicion that since she's ahead (though not as much in language skills as math, obviously), and since WT2 did such a great job preparing her for Homer, I could have gone with Older Beginners. Grr, argh, gnash teeth, et cetera. I am going to do some digging this weekend and I may order the OB workbook and instructor's guide (I already have the core text for Homer). I added poetry thinking it would at least add something different. I can't believe people say poetry is a lighter workload than Homer! I'm not finding that to be the case at all. There's more physical writing with Home, but EG and I both have to think quite a bit more with poetry!

On the math front, this was not a good week for drill. Let's just leave it there. :) EG did lessons twenty-six through thirty in Life of Fred Beginning Algebra. She continues to impress me with regards to math. There's very little else to say there. We're looking at possibly enrolling her in one of the Art of Problem Solving courses soon.

In physics this week, the heat unit was concluded, and EG read about heat in the Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Science. There isn't much to do with thermodynamics at age nine, regardless of how well you may understand the concept.

History this week covered the Great Depression and Hitler's rise to power. EG read Six Days in October as well as a COFA biography of Walt Disney, in addition to her spine reading. She also started a new memory project: an excerpt of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. When we arrive at the 1950s and 1960s in history, we'll spend a day downtown at the historic site. (Speaking of civil rights, everyone should read the back story of General Larry Platt - so cool!)

Miscellaneous... I discovered that FB had memorized six poems just from listening to EG recite them, so clearly, I can require more memory work out of him. EG finished poem #15 of level one. She also worked on several pages in Orbiting with Logic.

Piano lessons resumed this week, as did Master's Academy and homeschool band. FB's tumbling class restarted and I got the "official" permission to enroll him in the last session this spring (technically he'll age out of it three weeks before the start of the last session). I need to start researching gymnastics options for him... I think he would get a kick out of some of the apparatus (I guess that should be apparati or apparata) and the like.

For me, I was excited to see the sessions from the 2009 WTM Conference are now available on mp3! I bought those this morning. I've also been re-reading WTM (which I try to do at least once a year), but this year, I'm reading it by subject, rather than as written. So I've followed the language arts strand all the way through, K-12, and now I'm poring over math, K-12. It's been a good way to notice the "threads" going through it.


Secular Thursday: The Approbation That Left Me

I have, in my files of "precious papers never to be thrown away," a test from high school. On the front cover of the blue book is a simple message.

"Simply the best. Thanks."

I should interject here that if you went to high school with me, you can probably guess within a teacher or two who might've said that and whose opinion would have mattered enough to me to keep it, but that's more or less beside the point.

It's been a long time since I was the best. It's been a long time, rather, since I've garnered any praise for any of my actions. I've read Alfie Kohn and I know I shouldn't give a rat's ass about outside approval, but guess what? I do. I was raised on a steady diet of A+, awards, and verbal approbation, and it's been a long hard hill to slide down.

I realized it might be out of hand a few days ago. Now, I knew it was weird when the spousal unit, or my parents, or wage-earning friends would describe an annual review in the workplace, and I'd feel a twinge of envy. I saw a passing reference last week, on the WTM boards, from someone who lives in a state where they are evaluated. It was about an idea she'd gotten from her evaluator. My reaction was a little telling - I found myself thinking, for a brief moment, "Hey! I wish I had an evaluator."

I desperately want one of Rachel Berry's gold stars.

Don't get me wrong; the spousal unit will dutifully tell me I'm doing decently, and I have friends that will tell me the same. It's been startlingly long, however, since anyone I would consider an observer or even slightly unbiased has been handing out the praise. The world's still not sure about stay at home moms, not now, and then I had to go and add something like homeschooling to it. Forget praise; most of society is figuring out how to get in a dig without my realizing it.

Hint to society: I'm smarter than you must think, because I catch those digs.

Why is this a secular Thursday topic, you ask? Don't all homeschooling parents experience these difficulties?

I don't know. I have heard tell, though, of churches and organizations of churches where homeschooling is expected. Women are praised for the work they do with their children. This almost sounds appealing, though limiting. I mean, if you don't want to keep homeschooling, then you're sort of stuck. So I figure, this might be worse for the secular ones. Especially those of us who have feminist leanings, who were considered smarter than the average bear, or just plain like getting noticed.

I really miss the positive comments, outside affirmation, and literal or figurative gold stars. It's going to be a long time before even the kids say "Thanks." I empathize with the actives on Dollhouse, always asking "Did I do my best?"

Until I get my answer and my confirmation, I'll keep my old test, and remember that once upon a time, I did.


This Just In...

Following up my previous post, there was a discussion on the WTM boards recently that made me realize that I had been wrong all these years.

According to the curricula that best suit EG, she must not be a girl.

I've said this before and some may disagree, but I still wonder if boys typically respond better to MCT, MUS, LOF, IEW, etc. written by male authors. "The Minds of Boys" by Michael Gurian, talks about the importance of word play with boys (excellent book IMO). Mr. Pudewa also has some interesting discussions on teaching boys as well.

No one disagrees with this statement (possibly because it's off topic to the original point of the thread), and then two pages later, it's resurrected.

Where, oh, where is the math written by a female author for my dd?

For full disclosure, I think that IEW is for the most part, ridiculous, and I have no experience whatsoever with Math U See. However, EG loves Life of Fred, and is speeding rapidly through her new MCT materials.

For a discussion of sex-related brain differences that I can really get behind, check out Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps - And What We Can Do About It. In the course of the book, Lise Eliot does a fantastic job of explaining research, debunking common myths, and attacking the positions help by authors such as Gurian and Sax. I highly recommend it!


Taking A Look at 2010-2011

I generally like to set our calendar around this time of the year. Usually, I look at various camps planned for the summer, and then choose a starting date based on that information, as well as what day EG's birthday is (in early August). Often, we end up following the local schools, at least in terms of major holidays and start date (we usually finish a week earlier because we don't take off some other dates, nor do we take an entire week at Thanksgiving).


The school system is going to a so-called 'balanced' calendar, starting a week earlier, and adding additional week-long breaks in September and February. We won't be following that schedule. Apparently, it's thrown others for a loop, because normally I have some idea of what camps are being offered when by this time of year. Since I don't have that information, it's hard to finalize our calendar.

I have come to some decisions, though. We school for thirty-six weeks, but I'm going to plan just thirty-two weeks of work in some subjects, and thirty-four weeks in one or two others. That gives us four "lighter" weeks that we can use for travel, time to concentrate on something else specifically, or just to have a pleasant break. Our thirty-six week subjects will be math, literature, and history. Our thirty-four week subject will be science. Latin, language arts (excepting literature), and fine arts will be just thirty-two weeks. Since we're going to do logic via an online course, it will also be thirty-six weeks, but the thirty-six weeks will overlap oddly with the rest of our school schedule.

We're also going to move to a rotating schedule. I grabbed this idea from the school I attended from seventh grade through high school. There were eight periods, but each period occurred just four times during the week. If we do forty-five minute period, this still provides three hours per subject each week. It also allows me to adjust for the days that the kids have activities outside the house. Now, FB will not be following the same schedule except for the fact that we have the day broken into forty-five minute blocks; he needs most subjects daily next year.

So, tentatively, EG's line-up will look like this:

07:00-07:45: Math
07:45-08:30: Breakfast, chores, and time with siblings
08:30-09:15: English/Language Arts
09:15-10:00: Additional time for writing (or other subjects)
10:00-10:45: Break, and piano practice
10:45-11:30: Latin
11:30-12:15: Lunch, and travel to Master's Academy (history reading in the car)
12:15-13:00: Master's Academy
13:00-13:45: Master's Academy
13:45-14:30: Master's Academy
14:30-15:15: Master's Academy
The evening would be additional history time as well as trumpet practice; Mondays are busy with Master's Academy

07:00-07:45: Math
07:45-08:30: Breakfast, chores, and time with siblings
08:30-09:15: English/Language Arts
09:15-10:00: Additional time for writing (or other subjects)
10:00-10:45: Break, and piano practice
10:45-11:30: Latin
11:30-12:15: Lunch, chores, and time with siblings
12:15-13:00: Logic
13:00-13:45: Science
13:45-14:30: Science
14:30-15:15: Snack, trumpet practice, et cetera

07:00-07:45: History
07:45-08:30: Breakfast, chores, and time with siblings
08:30-09:15: English/Language Arts
09:15-10:00: Math
10:00-10:45: Break, and piano practice
10:45-11:30: Additional time for writing (or other subjects)
11:30-12:15: Lunch, chores, and time with siblings
12:15-13:00: Logic
13:00-13:45: Science
13:45-14:30: Art and music appreciation
14:30-15:15: Snack, trumpet practice, et cetera

07:00-07:45: Math
07:45-08:30: Breakfast, chores, and time with siblings
08:30-09:15: Additional time for writing (or other subjects)
09:15-10:00: Latin
10:00-10:45: Break, and piano practice
10:45-11:30: History
11:30-12:15: Lunch, chores, and time with siblings
12:15-13:00: Logic
13:00-13:45: Science
13:45-14:30: Piano Lesson
14:30-15:15: Snack, trumpet practice, et cetera

07:00-07:45: Latin
07:45-08:30: Breakfast, chores, and time with siblings
08:30-09:15: History
09:15-10:00: English/Language Arts
10:00-10:45: Break, and piano practice
10:45-11:30: Math
11:30-12:15: Lunch, chores, and time with siblings
12:15-13:00: Science (reading, during travel)
13:00-13:45: Band
13:45-14:30: Band?
14:30-15:15: Snack, trumpet practice, et cetera

The times aren't perfectly determined, and of course it's subject to change with more details, but I like the general outline so far.


Weekly Report: Week Nineteen, plus SNOW!

Yes, we have actual snow on the ground! Some of it is bending to the will of the sun and melting, but that's actually a bad thing in this case: the temperature is no where near freezing, much less above it. So here we sit, rather happily snug at home. Even the Daddy character is working from home thanks to the weather!

Our first week of the second semester has gone really well. Big things? We resumed doing spelling, and EG finished steps 16, 17, and 18. We also got the first book we're going to use from Michael Clay Thompson's Language Arts program, and started it today. Being obsessive-compulsive, and being that my entire reason for switching was what I saw as an inability to transfer knowledge and apply it elsewhere, we decided to start with the Island level. I anticipate that EG will zoom through it, and I think she'll have finish through the Voyage level by the end of fifth grade, but start at the beginning we shall. We read through the introduction today (got the book yesterday), as well as the sections on nouns and pronouns. We also cracked open Classical Writing's Poetry for Beginners A.

I have to say, either Writing Tales 2 just really prepared EG (& I as the teacher) well for Homer, or I just have a bias against poetry, or something, because lighter workload than Homer? Not so much, in my opinion. Oh, I like it, and yes, I realize we're going to end up with multiple writing and poetry programs thanks to MCT, but lighter than Homer? I'm not so sure about that.

EG worked for less time each day on Latin, but I think it's a good pace. She finished the first eight lessons in Orbitting with Logic, and of course did one lesson per day in algebra. History this week covered Mussolini's rise to power, amongst other topics. She and Captain Science started a unit on heat, which will be short-lived - just this week and next. It's difficult to find appropriate experiments for thermodynamics, what can I say.

FB and I are set to do some phonics work later today and over the weekend, and he's been cutting up a storm (in his cutting workbook) most of the week. PC remains determined to interrupt schoolwork whenever possible.

Finally, I cleared my desk yesterday, and even started hammering out a few details for next school year, such as our overall calendar. Hopefully, I'll get a bit more on that accomplished later today.


Secular Thursday: There's A Land That I See Where The Children Are Free

I fought against red for years.

Pink, everyone knows, is just red mixed with white, and through that connection, red was irrevocably tainted in my eyes. I wasn't particularly sure if I liked blue all that well, but if it was seen as the opposite of pink, and I was supposed to like pink, well, then. Blue it was.

My first bicycle came in two colors - red and blue. I was five, and I could tell the salesperson expected me to choose red. The closest things I had to cousins growing up, EG, and now FB have all learned to ride a bicycle on my blue Schwinn.

For whatever reason, I enjoy tweaking society's gender expectations. I fall hard in the camp of nurture versus nature, though I think a good bit of the "nurture" is societal and essentially impossible to eradicate. It amuses me greatly that Smrt Mama's Captain Science has his greatest gifts with words, and EG's greatest gifts lie with math. See? They switched the traditional gender story. I derive irrational pleasure from situations such as that.

It also pleases me to no end that FB has excellent fine motor skills and enjoys the process of handwriting and forming letters, mainly because I've spent so many years reading homeschooling books and boards that insist boys "just don't write" or "can't write until they are older" or some such nonsense.

Gender roles are my primary problem with most organized religion. I grew up in a denomination that had theretofore emphasized an individual's relationship with God and an individual's interpretation of the Bible. The church I attended as a teen (still within said denomination) had a woman as the assistant pastor. Now, of course, that would be considered at best taboo. "Betrayed" is too strong of a word, but do I feel that said denomination is a different creature entirely than what I was taught? Of course.

Gender comes into play in the homeschooling world - how could it not? There's a spectrum of beliefs, but it was extremely startling to me when I realized that, yes, there were people who were giving their daughters less education than their sons, and truly felt that their daughters should not have any higher education. They were to be wives and mothers, and that, apparently, was that. Of course, there are variations that are not so extreme. However, fundamentally, I take issue with assigning pretty much any task or idea as "girls'," "boys'," men's," or "women's."

Yes, I'd like for my children to have domestic skills. I want my children to bake pies, mow lawns, and repair a hem. The key here, though, is that I want all my children to possess all of these practical skills. Not to have them possess around half, their prowess determined by their forty-sixth chromosome.

And so I keep celebrating when their interests run against what society would have them be. I make sure my son helps us in the kitchen, and that my daughter assists when it's time to clear brush in the year or wash the cars. It's my goal to raise citizens. Each should be able to say "I am a well-educated person," not "I am well-educated for a woman," or "I am a well-educated man; why should I know how to cook anything but ramen?" I don't want my daughters to think they're limited in their options, but neither do I want my son to feel that he is.

As Harry Belafonte & Marlo Thomas sang, "Mommies can be almost anything they want to be. Well, they can't be grandfathers, or daddies. ... Daddies can be almost anything they want to be. They can't be grandmas, or mommies." Not that I think my children even must have children, but you get the idea.

Parents are grown-ups, grown-ups with children... there are a lot of things that a lot of mommies and a lot of daddies and a lot of parents can do.


Reading and Reading Again

In January or February of each year, I try to re-read a few homeschooling books. I like the reminder of why we're doing this, and reading about different approaches and solutions can be helpful. Sometimes I find an answer that wouldn't have been the answer for us the last time I read the books. I do try to consistently re-read both The Well-Trained Mind and The Latin-Centered Curriculum, even if other books vary.

Yesterday, I read The Latin-Centered Curriculum once more. Poor approach - it's our runner-up. The bridesmaid, never the bride. If you told me that I could not follow the framework of The Well-Trained Mind any longer, then we would probably go with an LCC approach... but only then. This reading brought me to no different conclusion.

Reading Campbell's reasons for studying Latin does help to remind me why we study Latin (important, since we're setting our courses for next year), but it never does convince me to give Latin primacy in our homeschool. It does make me want to include ancient Greek, but not at the expense of studying a modern foreign language. In our very math and writing centric homeschool, other language arts and science fall into the slots as of secondary importance, leaving most else to be tertiary or even quaternary. I simply won't give Latin (or Greek) a place beside math or writing, and I have yet to be convinced that writing can be enhanced through Latin study versus direct instruction.

The Latin-Centered Curriculum can be a good reminder not to clutter up our schedule with too many subjects, and I think it's an important message especially for kindergarten and first grade. For EG, though, I am not sure that paring back wouldn't do her a disservice. It's about 12:45 right now, and she's completed penmanship, spelling, Classical Writing, memory work, poetry study, Latin, algebra, math drill, literature reading, and logic work; she's currently reading about science and will likely finish before 1 pm. She's also had about an hour, total, to play with her siblings, time to practice piano, and time for both breakfast and lunch. She's not overworked or overchallenged; this amount of work actually seems to be just about right for her. Yes, if we pared back, she would spend more time on Latin, but not a huge amount more.

In short - what we are doing is working for us, and working well. Sometimes reading about a slightly different way reminds me, though, just how well it is working.
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"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson