By 1 July 2010...

I like lists. Naturally, then, I have lots of lists. I have lists of curriculum to buy for 2010-2011. I have lists of supplemental books & kits to buy for 2010-2011. I have a list of reference books and resources to buy. I have a prioritized list of various things to buy as long as Spousal Unit is continuing to work freelance. I have a list of things to do by August 1, 2010, that centers primarily around the kids' extracurricular opportunities. I have 101 in 1001 list.

Naturally, though, I needed another list. I needed a list of what I needed to do between now and the first of July, to get ready for the 2010-2011 school year. If a grade is not specified, it's fifth grade and for EG. Kindergarten is FB. PC doesn't have anything on the list. PC doesn't have anything on the kids' extracurriculars list either. She is woefully deprived. She'll survive it.

Without further ado, then, and to keep myself somewhat accountable, my "by 1 July 2010" list:

• Type up art appreciation lesson plans.
• Make music appreciation lesson plans.
• Buy Art in Story and make art appreciation plans for kindergarten.
• Finalize art skill plans for kindergarten.
• Decide direction to take with scheduling art skills, and then finalize.
• Map out framework for language arts.
• Make history pages for fifth grade.
• Finalize supplemental history books for kindergarten.
• Make history pages for kindergarten.
• Make history of science lesson plans.
• Decide on supplemental books for history of science.
• Finalize general science overview lesson plans.
• Break Art of Problem Solving texts in daily lesson plan chunks.
• Plan prehistoric life/dinosaur unit.
• Plan focus unit for evolution & genetics.
• Consider possible supplemental or source reading for science, and schedule.
• Make lesson plans for Latin Prep 1.
• Set up binders.
• Figure out timeline.
• Set calendar including dates for travel.
• Create all schedules necessary for 2010-2011 school year.


Secular Thursday

I admit it - I tried to ignore it at first.

Like any good liberal, I can see bias in the media in a heartbeat. Misogyny, racism, homophobia, you bring it, I'll spot it - even in cases where perhaps I'm jumping the gun. Even when maybe it wasn't intended. So I told myself I was being overly sensitive.

But when they kept harping on the tassel during the other figure skating events, I decided it wasn't just me.

If you've been following the Olympics, the reference to the tassel probably tells you what I'm discussing. For those that haven't, one of members of the men's US figure skating team, Johnny Weir, had a hot pink tassel on his costume for the short program.

So, naturally, that's what everyone was talking about.

Not his clean skate of the short and long programs. But his costume choices. Johnny Weir, you see, is confident in himself. He stands out. And he's not hyper-masculine. He's done interviews with gay publications. He downplays his own sexual orientation - "...it's not part of my sport and it's private. I can sleep with whomever I choose and it doesn't affect what I'm doing on the ice." - but the fact that he has to answer this question says something about how he is perceived.

In short, people think Johnny Weir just might be queer, and in today's society, that bothers far too many people.

I got tired of hearing the tassel mentioned with the faint hint of a sneer behind the words. It was mentioned when it didn't need to be mentioned, and I expressed my frustration to some friends. And I labeled it.

Unbeknownst to me, the American coverage was benign in comparison to that in some other countries. Johnny kept it classy, though, and mostly stayed above the fray. His comment about not shaving to show he was indeed a man hit just the right note, in my opinion. I don't really want to repeat some of what has been said. Google will steer you in the correct direction; a summary can also be found here.

Why, though, this institutionalized homophobia? I want to make it emphatically clear that I'm talking about cultural or societal homophobia - secular homophobia.

The best explanation I can come up with is the following, presented in a fairly simple form. Masculinity defines itself in terms of what it is not. Masculine is not feminine. Masculine is not gay. Because it is defined in terms of what it is not, instead of what it actually is, masculinity is far too easily threatened. When the definition is based on shaky ground, anything can threaten it.

Like a man who has any qualities traditionally considered female.

Like a man who might want another man sexually.

Like a man who has the confidence to be himself, rather than fall into lockstep with the expected hypermasculine pose.

I... don't have a good conclusion for this. I don't have any suggestions, or solutions. I just think that attacking a person is wrong. Hate is wrong.

Rock the tassel, Johnny.


A Good Reference Is Good To Find (& Buy)

What are your must-have reference works for homeschooling?

Some of our favorites:
Usborne Book of World History
• Usborned Illustrated Dictionary of Science
History: The Definitive Visual Guide
Science: The Definitive Visual Guide
Art: Over 2,500 Works from Cave to Contemporary
Joy Hakim's The Story of Science series.

Recently Purchased Or On the List To Purchase Soon:
Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual Guide
Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide
A World of Faith
The Complete Works of Shakespeare
Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts on DVD
Sister Wendy's The Story of Painting
Young Oxford History of Women in the United States: 11-Volume Set
A History of US: 11-Volume Set
• The World in Ancient Times Set
• The Medieval and Early Modern World: Seven-Volume Set
War: The Definitive Visual Guide
• Human: The Definitive Visual Guide

What I'm Still Looking For:
• A good atlas
• More science resources. I know that science resources in books run the risk of being outdated, and I suspect that's why the big encyclopedia about the elements that was recommended in the 2004 WTM is now out of print. Still, it would be nice to have them or something similar.
• A good music resource or resources, which will probably be an audio resource.

What are your favorite general reference resources? Add to my shopping list! :)


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Five [Version Two]

After some hard work to get ahead, EG finished up her schoolwork on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday morning, we got up, ate breakfast, and left for our mini-break to Great Wolf Lodge.

The kids stayed in a 'cabin' within the larger room:

It had bunk beds on one side

and a twin bed on the other

It also had their own television, the better to watch the Olympics nightly!

Riley the Wolf Club was of high interest to PC

It was hard to get good pictures in the waterpark itself, which had a couple of kid areas, an activity pool, wave pool, and several slides.

We stayed for two nights; there's also an arcade and several other amenities we didn't use. We had initially planned to eat several meals within the resort but eventually decided it wasn't cost-effective with so many other good choices nearby. We did eat two meals in the room with food we had brought - all rooms include a microwave and a refrigerator. In the future, we might bring more food and eat an additional meal in the room. My parents came along and we were very comfortable in the room, even with seven of us. All in all, while not something we'll do annually or anything, it's definitely worth multiple trips.

Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Five [Version One]

I'm beginning to think maybe I slowed down Latin too much - mainly because she's in the throes of more history and derivative work than specific Latin work. One day a week she reviews the previous week's material and then plays the online vocabulary games.

All of her language arts work is continuing to go well, though we're starting to wind down on the Island level. She and her dad are continuing to do her read-aloud nightly, slowly working their way through The Hunt for Red October. The week's literature selection was Code Talker. I had a hunch that she would really like this book, and I was gratified to be right. She's finished The Music of the Hemispheres and we're re-reading one chapter daily, then discussing one or more of her memorized poems that are good examples for the topic discussed in the chapter. She's also reviewing the stems in Building Language, and started a re-reading of Sentence Island. I know we zoomed through the Island level, so this review and re-reading while she finishes up Practice Island doesn't seem like too much busywork. She finished sentences 61-80 in Practice Island and is showing good retention.

More good news in math - she passed drill level 31! She also completed lessons 51 through 55 in Life of Fred, and pages 37-43 in Key to Percents Book 1.

History this week centered around the aftermath of World War II. She wrote a one-paragraph summary for each section of the chapter in SOTW 4, "The Suez Crisis" and "The Marshall Plan." The former was especially detailed and well-written! She also read Victory in the Pacific and Anne Frank; the biographies and supplemental history books are starting to lag behind SOTW, thanks to all the good books about World War II!

Due to our mid-week trip (see Version Two), EG didn't have physics or The Brain this week, but did read in the Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Science. We also elected not to introduce new memory work this week, but got into a good groove with the new every other day schedule. In Orbiting with Logic, she did pages 31-37, and two Mind Benders.

FB is doing great, too. I've realized that I have no idea what an "emergent reader" actually looks like. EG went from "not really reading" to "reading chapter books" in less than a month, and my mom remembers me being similar. So I think FB would be classified as an emergent reader, but I really have no earthly idea. He's doing well with sounding out two-consonant blends as well as his overall blend-together process. Math is going well, too, though clearly he sometimes thinks RS is too easy and other times strange. So far it's balanced between the two, so that's good. He's progressing forward in handwriting, so I went ahead and bought Spelling Workout A from amazon. We'll start it next week or the week after, if I can keep him away from it for that long!

I can't believe we've finished day 125 already!


Before All of This Ever Went Down

A week or two ago, when I was having blogger's block, Daisy suggested I post something about how we came to decide to homeschool. So, if you're bored, blame Daisy.

No, don't blame Daisy, she's too nice to blame. :)

I've always been interested in education. I can remember when I was in elementary school, my mother got a book from the library about signs of excellence in K-8 education. I read it more thoroughly than she. When I discovered I was pregnant with EG, I interspersed my books about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding with books about education.

Yes, Smrt Mama, this means I really did start reading about homeschooling while I was still pregnant.

There was book that was shiny and new at the bookstore, and it intrigued me. My beloved library had a copy in the new books section. I checked it out and brought it home.

"Education at home?" the spousal unit queried. "What's this?"

"Don't worry," I assured him. "I'm just using it as a list of what to look for in a school."

Luckily for me, the spousal unit doesn't have such a good memory.

EG arrived, and I still worried about her education. We looked into a local Waldorf school, and decided against it. We had concerns about the local public schools. We'd both gone to highly thought of private schools, and had at times been bored stiff. Being bored stiff is generally not a road towards a good outcome, though the bad outcomes come in many varieties. We investigated private schools in the area and determined that the chance of having our non-legacy, non-sibling child accepted was quite low. They often had 100 applications just from those two categories - for fifty spaces.

And I did read other books about homeschooling. Still, though, I kept returning to that same shiny book which had first fascinated me. There was something so reasonable and logical about its suggestions. Over time - and I did have several years - I came to the conclusion that I could do this just as well, if not better, than the professional. Yes, there's some arrogance in that statement, and I don't intend to deny it. In many cases, choosing to homeschool does express some amount of arrogance. It is what it is.

Honestly, though, I don't know that I would have even considered homeschooling without that book. I had had an excellent education for grades one through twelve, and I knew it. I learned to decline nouns (as well as accept them ;), conjugate verbs, derive, integrate, use primary sources, keep a lab notebook, and diagram sentences. I used that book as a guide because it so closely approximated what my own education had been like, and filled in the gaps I had in retrospect perceived (such as art history). I knew what an excellent education looked like, and I knew that this book was a blueprint for one.

As you might have guessed, the book was the first edition of The Well-Trained Mind, and I'm sure I amused the librarians immensely by checking it out while still pregnant with my first. I think homeschooling would have been rejected as an option without it, though.

So, ultimately, we homeschool for academic excellence. As years have passed, I see so many other advantages and reasons, but the check in my mind is Are we still doing it better? Better than the local public school. Better than whatever private school both the children could be accepted to, and that we could afford. Arrogance? Oh, I'm sure it is. But for me, if we're not doing it at least as well as, preferably better, than we've failed.

The Well-Trained Mind influenced my expectations of the homeschooling movement, too. It was written from a mainstream perspective; Judeo-Christian values seemed to be most prized, but not in any sort of extreme or fundamentalist way. The issue of evolution was touched upon but barely, and none of the recommended science curricula were explicitly creationist. When I was doing my research into homeschooling, there was concurrently a surge in publication of non-religious homeschooling books. It was easy to find the 'nonpartisan, nonsectarian' statewide homeschool organization, and I didn't yet need to find a local support group.

In short, it was years before I realized just how religious the majority of structured homeschoolers are. And like my earlier disillusionment with the church in which I'd been raised, it was a shock. While I've lurked on the WTM boards for years, and posted sporadically since 2004 or so, it's only been in the last year or so that I've been able to maintain reading long-term. Too often before, I would get frustrated with the conservatism and the fundamentalism, but beyond that, the attitudes that only if you agreed exactly with them were you a good person. Perhaps that wasn't the intention, but it was too often the message I took with me.

Because of the seeming correlation between level of religiosity and the amount of structure in homeschooling, it can be difficult to find like-minded individuals. Because my primary reason for homeschooling is to do it not just differently, but better, I think my approach probably tends to be even more... off-putting. I can be an off-putting individual anyway, so there you go.

In the end, I'm ever so glad I picked up that shiny book at the bookstore, wrote down the title, and found it at the library.


Summertime, Summertime

No, I haven't misplaced my calendar. I'm just thinking ahead (per usual), and have summertime & vacations on my mind.

From time to time, I see discussion about how year-round homeschooling works for various families. There are usually various reasons cited for the decision, but at the risk of gross overgeneralization, it's usually a comment about how they want their children to realize that learning happens all the time, and that they have a learning lifestyle. Life doesn't stop for three months in the summer, so why should school?

On one hand, I see their point. Learning should, ideally, continue all the time. There's no good reason to stop learning for eight to twelve weeks straight each year. However, there's also no reason that learning has to equal school.

I do understand the mindset and perhaps the appeal. Certain subjects almost have to continue throughout the summer - foreign language vocabulary, for instance, and memory work. Doing some regular math throughout the summer to review concepts and skills is not going to be time-onerous - a good review could easily be accomplished in less than thirty minutes, two to four times weekly. Reading throughout the summer is always a good thing.

There's a big difference between what I just wrote, though, and school as it happens during our official school year. A page of math that's review is a far cry from tackling a new lesson of algebra. Reviewing vocabulary isn't the same as learning additional words. I could make similar comparisons with everything mentioned above.

There's also the fact that, in my opnion, a kid doing school year-round is going to miss out on some great "learning" opportunities. Yes, I think that a week of summer camp teaches a child something. In most areas, there are day camps that focus on traditional outdoor activities, as well as camps that focus on nature, science, history, animals, music, theatre, dance, and more. I think there is a value in experiences outside the norm. Yes, learning happens all the time - but it also happens in many places.

I do understand that not all children have these opportunities. For them, a regular school schedule or perhaps a slightly lighter school schedule is going to be a good choice. I am a firm believer that children like structure and routine, especially past age three or four. If it's a choice between staring the television for hours on end versus schoolwork, you bet I'm going to choose the schoolwork for my kids.

What are our summer plans, you may ask? FB will continue everything he's currently doing, since it takes a total of forty-five minutes or so daily: phonics, handwriting, and math. He's at a point in his skills that an extended time off is not really appropriate. We're also going to read a lot about evolution and dinosaurs over the course of late spring and summer. He'll also go to a couple of weeks of half-day camp at the local Y, and we'll see if anything else opportunity-wise crops up.

EG will do the aforementioned regular review of Latin vocabulary and memory work. She'll have some form of math work to do throughout the summer, though I haven't yet decided what form that will take. She'll probably also have three to four sentences in Practice Town to complete weekly, but that's not yet been determined. She reads voraciously on her own, but I have three or four books that may be explicitly required, to both review the previous year's history and preview the next's. She'll be a busy bee this summer - one week of Girl Scout resident camp, one week of Girl Scout day camp, a week of science camp at the local university, a week of music & dancing camp with a local high school's show choir, and she's asked to do a week of tennis camp as well. I offered her more downtime but she sort of scoffed at me. Apparently it's good to be busy in the summer.

What do you do for summer work? Do you school year-round? Do you do a lightened or reduced schedule, or just review? Do you drop all formal schoolwork altogether? Inquiring minds (or at least mine!) want to know!


The "Ideal Curriculum" - English/Language Arts

A few weeks ago, someone posted a question asking what people's ideal language arts lineup would look like. Well, I liked the idea of writing out the ideal for, well, everything, but I started with English/language arts. You'll notice it loses specificity around eighth grade; someday I'll come back and flesh it out when I've played with actual upper level materials. :)

Because I feel that literature is best devoured and analyzed in a non-curricular format, I'm leaving literature and its study out of this plan. I also want to remark that, as always, there is no perfect plan for all students, but this is the plan I would most want to use, and wish my students would be ever so helpful as to adapt to its use. ;)

Ages Birth Through Five
• Pre-reading preparation as detailed in The Well-Trained Mind and The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.
• Pre-writing preparation as detailed in The Well-Trained Mind.
• Kumon workbooks for tracing, cutting, and other motor skills.
• Handwriting Without Tears' prekindergarten materials and accompanying book, Get Set for School, as well as the kindergarten book, Letters and Numbers for Me.
• Phonics study using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading as a spine.
• Beginning poetry memorization, using Level One of IEW's Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization.

• Conclude phonics study using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.
• Handwriting Without Tears' first grade materials and book, My Printing Book, as well as continued copywork.
• Beginning spelling study using Spelling Workout A.
• Beginning grammar study using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 1
• Beginning composition skills using Writing With Ease Level 1.
• Cross-curricular composition through oral narrations of fiction and nonfiction picture books.
• Continued poetry memorization.

First Grade
• Handwriting Without Tears' second grade materials and book, Printing Power, as well as continued copywork.
• Continuing spelling study, using Spelling Workout B and Spelling Workout C.
• Continuing grammar study, using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 2.
• Continuing composition skills using Writing With Ease Level 2.
• Cross-curricular narrations.
• Continued poetry memorization.

Second Grade
• Cursive penmanship study.
Spelling Workout C and Spelling Workout D.
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 3.
Writing With Ease Level 3.
• Cross-curricular narrations.
• Continued poetry memorization.

Third Grade
• Cursive penmanship study and practice.
Spelling Workout E and Spelling Workout F.
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 4.
Writing With Ease Level 4.
• Cross-curricular narrations.
Grammar Island, The Music of the Hemispheres, Practice Island, Building Language, and Sentence Island.
• Continued poetry memorization.

Fourth Grade
• Cursive penmanship copywork, perhaps moving into a study of calligraphy and beautiful penmanship.
• Beginning to learn to type on a keyboard or typewriter.
Spelling Workout F and Spelling Workout G.
• Cross-curricular narrations and beginning outlining.
• Continued poetry memorization.
Grammar Town, Building Poems, Caesar's English I, Paragraph Town, and Practice Town.

Fifth Grade
• Typing mastery.
• Study of calligraphy and beautiful penmanship.
Spelling Workout H.
• Cross-curricular narrations and outlining.
• Continued poetry memorization.
Grammar Voyage, A World of Poetry, Caesar's English II, Essay Voyage, and Practice Voyage.

Sixth Grade
• Continued typing practice to improve wpm.
• Cross-curricular outlines and compositions.
• Continued poetry memorization.
Magic Lens I, Word Within the Word I, Poetry and Humanity, Academic Writing 1, and 4Practice 1.

Seventh Grade
• Continued typing practice to improve wpm.
• Cross-curricular outlines and compositions.
• Continued poetry memorization.
Magic Lens II, Word Within the Word II, Poetry, Plato, and the Problem of Beauty, Academic Writing II, and 4Practice 2.

Eighth Grade
• Cross-curricular compositions.
• Beginning study of rhetoric.
• Continued poetry memorization.
Magic Lens III, Word Within the Word III, Poetry, Plato, and the Problem of Truth, Academic Writing III, and 4Practice 3.

Ninth Grade
• Cross-curricular compositions.
• Continuing study of rhetoric.
• Continued poetry memorization.
• Participation in debate.
• Systematic grammar, usage, and mechanics review.

Tenth Grade
• Cross-curricular compositions.
• Continuing study of rhetoric.
• Continued poetry memorization.
• Participation in debate.
• Systematic grammar, usage, and mechanics review.

Eleventh Grade
• Cross-curricular compositions.
• Concluding study of rhetoric.
• Continued poetry memorization.
• Systematic grammar, usage, and mechanics review.

Twelfth Grade
• Cross-curricular compositions.
• Continued poetry memorization.
• Systematic grammar, usage, and mechanics review.


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Four

We've decided FB will learn to spell before he officially passes from "emergent reader" to "fluent reader." Hey, I'm all right with that, but it is pretty funny when he takes the magnet board, spells out what he wants to read, and then reads it. He's doing well with Right Start A, too - I think we did three or four lessons this week. I am skipping the writing numbers portions of RS, because we're covering that in Handwriting Without Tears. Speaking of HWT, FB finished with his capital letters! He's excited to learn lower case letters. I think I'll start with 'b,' since he uses it consistently already.

PC remains ruler of the house, Queen of the Universe, etc., etc.

EG continues to be doing excellently. I'll be working on ramping up her stuff after we take our mid-winter mini-break, coming up soon. The big news for this week is that she finished both All About Spelling Level 5 and Sentence Island! She continued working through The Music of the Hemispheres and Practice Island, which combined with penmanship and her reading & narrations of Number the Stars and Twenty and Ten, sums up her language arts work for the week.

In math, she continued with daily drill, finished lessons 46-50 in Life of Fred, and did pages 31-36 in Key to Percents Book 1. She also did three pages in Orbiting with Logic and one Mind Bender. For science, she worked for two hours in the Physics Workshop kit, and read in The Cartoon Guide to Physics.

She read about the beginnings of apartheid for history and read about Jackie Robinson and D-Day in her assigned books. Latin was more vocabulary review and work on diagramming Latin sentences.

I almost forgot - EG also finished Level 1 of Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization. That's nineteen poems! Plus, she's also memorized three history-related poems and two speeches. Memory work takes longer and longer, but now the Level 1 poems go to every other day status. Yay!


Secular Thursday: Homeschooling's Not For Everyone

Homeschooling is not an activity that should be undertaken by all. Just as not all women should attempt an unassisted birth, not all parents are willing and/or able to take on the responsibility associated with homeschooling. Many parents realize this and do not attempt to homeschool.

Other parents, it seems, do not.

I don't wish to single out particular people, but I do see examples, and I'd like to cite some of them.

• If you've been reading a book for some time as a family, shouldn't you know that it is called Johnny Tremain and not Johnny Tremaine?

• A message board post reads "What would you do for kindergarten if you only had thirty minutes a day four days a week? My daughter will be a kindergartener in the fall, and she is my last child, so I want this to be fun for both of us. ...but with three older dc, I need it to be short and sweet." I don't really understand this at all. What will this woman do in two years' time, when she will have a high school age student (14), a middle school age student (12), an upper elementary age student (10), and a second grader (7)? Will she still relegate her youngest to a half-hearted, quickie version of school? I understand that formal academics is not as important at the kindergarten age, but it seems desperately sad that you would limit your interactions with one child so severely. How will the following year be different? How will more time appear in her schedule so that she can teach her then-first grader?

Homeschooling is a commitment. Many experienced homeschooling parents will argue that it should be approached as if it were a job. (Many other will disagree, but I'm concentrating on the first set.) I would agree - and I suppose some would argue that nearly five years of homeschooling lets me speak as one of those who is experienced. Unless you are planning to unschool, which is a completely different philosophy, you need to have plans, goals, and expectations. No, homeschooling doesn't have to mean drudgery. Often, enough school is completed to enable us to go out of the house by 10:30 or 11 am. However, that doesn't mean that it does not require some commitment from the parents. Depending on the approach that is taken, it can mean a significant investment of time and resources. Since I fall into the camp of "if it's worth doing, it's probably worth doing well," I'd argue that if you're not willing to make those investments, you need to look at why you're doing it.

What level of investment do I mean? It looks different for different families, of course. For us, it means a significant amount of time that I spend researching resources and approaches before purchasing, and then a smaller but still significant amount of time spent planning how we'll use those resources. On a daily basis, I instruct Eclectic Girl in spelling, provide direction with writing, discuss reading assignments, and check work in all other areas, requiring her to correct those exercises that were initially wrong. We spend time together with language arts, and discussing what she's reading in history or science. I also spend time teaching Fabulous Boy phonics, handwriting, and math. I guide both of them to do memory work. There's also a lot of reading aloud. Apart from the home instruction, I'm often driving them to enrichment classes or extracurricular activities. Yes, I would still take my children to the YMCA to swim or participate in swim lessons, even if we weren't homeschooling, but I think it's safe to say that many of our weekly activities would no longer be on the calendar.

My personal goal is to read for at least an hour per day. Thirty minutes is for pleasure, and the other is for research. The latter one generally consists of items I am researching for school. What's in that pile? Currently, I'm reading through Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, and just finished Readicide. Susan Wise Bauer's The History of Medieval World is straddling the line between research and pleasure; I do wish Dr. Nebel were as enjoyable to read as SWB! My pleasure book at the moment is re-reading David Eddings' Mallorean series before I pack them for our hopefully impending mve.

I also consider it my (and my partner's) responsibility to model life-long learning, and a love of learning. My stack of books to read for pleasure is in fact composed primarily of non-fiction works, especially concerning various science and social science topics. Eclectic Girl is learning to play the trumpet, which has inspired the spousal unit to investigate getting a new clarinet (his old one got pad mites, apparently). We listen to educational podcasts as a family, but not out of an effort to impress Learning upon the children; we just happen to enjoy them. Lately, too, the spousal unit and I have made an effort to showcase ourselves learning new things together. This has mostly taken the form of reading from the same book and then discussing it, but we've also purchased some courses from The Teaching Company that we view once a week or so. Now, with regards to this paragraph, I'm certainly not saying that non-homeschooling parents don't do some or all of these or related things, or even more than this. I want, however, to draw the point that we continue to do all of these things, in addition to homeschooling-specific duties.

In sum, then, homeschooling entails a significant amount of dedication as well as zeal, and this should be carefully considered, along with more commonly cited issues such as "don't you get tired of being around your kids all day?" or "my kids wouldn't listen to me, we'd just argue all day." Even when you are willing and eager to be around your kids all day, and your kids do not argue with you, there are deeper requirements that should be met. Yes, many homeschooling parents will tell you that of course you can homeschool; after all, you helped your children learn throughout the first years of their life. Advancing academics, though, are hardly comparable to biological imperatives such as walking, and you must be certain that you will follow through on your commitment.

I don't mean to be discouraging. If someone wants to homeschool, but fears they may have an issue with the time and thought needed, the desire can help make the necessary commitments happen. I do think, though, that any homeschooling parent must periodically evaluate what their homeschool is accomplishing. If there are serious issues, they need to be rectified as soon as humanly possible, or the parents may need to consider other educational options.


Marginalization in the Birth Community

If I confessed that, in fact, I spend my spare time as a Civil War re-enactor, I doubt many of you would ask me when I had plans to go back to college and get a degree in history, or maybe enter grad school and get a Masters or even a PhD focusing on the Civil War. You might express surprise as my choice of weekend activity, though.

Similarly, if I were to say that I enjoy backyard astronomy as a hobby, few people would suggest I should find a way to make money from my hobby. I could continue with other examples - SCA is one that also stands out in my mind.

When I say that I'm a birth activist, however, or a birth advocate - when I suggest that birth is in some way my hobby - it's suggested in ways subtle and overt that I should be professionalizing my interest. Is it a misbegotten attempt to be helpful in suggesting a way for me to earn money while also homeschooling? In general, I don't think so. Is it indicative of an attitude that participation in the birth community is legitimate only for professionals? I have come to believe that it is the latter.

In fact, I've long had the inkling that the birth community doesn't have much room for non-professionals. It especially does not have room for general birth advocates, as opposed to midwifery advocates, doula advocates, or ICAN members. There are many niches for those who want to be professional in some way - childbirth educator, doula, postpartum doula, midwife. There are even a few niches for those who do not wish to be any sort of birth professional - in a state where non nurse-midwifery is not explicitly legal, there is legitimacy to be found in being an advocate for licensure of certified professional midwives, or in advocating for some other change in the law of the state. Equally, those who have had a cesarean section and subsequently joined ICAN are seen as having a place in the birth community.

What does not seem to be present is acceptance of general birth advocates, who have no desire to be any type of professional, and who are not pregnant. Pregnancy does afford some legitimacy to participation in the birth community.

As I said above, this is not a new thing, this feeling that there isn't a place for some people. It was crystallized for me last year, however. There was a rally organized at our city's busiest hospital, to protest the cesarean section rate both at that hospital specifically and in the United States overall. Some friends and I made plans to go, feeling that this was an important issue, and worth our time as birth advocates. The rally was planned by a local "birth network" that is made up of doulas and other birth professionals, in cooperation with the local ICAN chapter. As we stood on the sidewalk, holding signs in the rain, one of the leaders of the ICAN group came down the line, and introduced herself. She asked us if we were members of ICAN. No, we weren't. Were we members of the "birth network," doulas or maybe apprenticing midwives? No, we weren't. And she actually said it - "Why are you here, then?"

It took my breath away for a split second. Sure, I had suspected such an attitude, but to hear it stated explicitly was beyond my expectations! She asked the question, and it hung in the air for a moment. A beat, then another, before she began talking again, faster, a little more desperate. "Not that it's not great you're here, of course!"

Of course.

Birth is a passion of mine. I feel like birth is vitally important to both mother and baby. It is just that - a passion and a hobby. I have other hobbies, other passions, and to participate in those, no one asks that I become a professional in order to legitimatize my participation. To be fair, no one has explicitly told me that I needed to be pregnant, professional, or gone, but the attitude is at times present. I do wonder what the situation is in states where non-nurse midwifery is legal; is the situation similar or does it vary?

The best answer to a situation with which one is not entirely comfortable is to change it. That's exactly what some friends of mine & I are doing (the inestimable Smrt Mama amongst them), starting a new organization to serve as a general birth advocacy and education group.

It's a start, yes. It doesn't change underlying attitudes, however. There's legitimacy to be found in birth as a passion or a hobby, even if I never choose to professionalize that passion.


"Too Expensive," or A Tale of Language Art Curriculums

Language arts includes many components: spelling, vocabulary, grammar, poetry, composition, and literature. I'm deliberately excluding reference works (anthologies, dictionaries, thesauri), literature, and spelling from the following comparisons. This is specifically focused on two years of language arts materials, for fifth and sixth grades.

The Well-Trained Mind Recommended Line Up
Rod & Staff English 5 "Following the Plan" Set: $45.10
Rod & Staff English 6 "Progressing with Courage" Set: $46.20
Vocabulary from Classical Roots A: $9.50
Vocabulary from Classical Roots A Single Test: $3.75
Vocabulary from Classical Roots B: $9.50
Vocabulary from Classical Roots B Single Test: $3.75
Vocabulary from Classical Roots C: $9.50
Vocabulary from Classical Roots C Single Test: $3.75
Writing Strands 5: $20.00 and Writing Strands 6: $20.00
Wordsmith Apprentice: $16.00 and Wordsmith: $16.00 and Wordsmith Teacher's Guide: $7.00
poetry appears to be folded into literature study; it should be noted that WTM does recommend both IEW and Classical Writing as possible writing programs (not comprehensive language arts programs) in addition to the two options listed above
Total Cost for Two Years' Language Arts Instruction: $171.05 or $170.05

Classical Writing Line Up
Homer: $37.95
Poetry for Beginners: $34.95
Harvey's Elementary Grammar and Composition: $11.99
Harvey's Elementary Grammar and Composition Teacher's Answer Key: $5.99
Harvey's Elementary Grammar Student Workbook Part I: $15.95
Harvey's Elementary Grammar Answer Key Part I: $13.95
Homer Student Workbook A: $29.95
Homer Instructor's Guide A: $18.95
Poetry for Beginners Student Workbook A: $21.95
Poetry for Beginners Instructor's Guide A: $17.95
Homer Student Workbook B: $29.95
Homer Instructor's Guide B: $18.95
Poetry for Beginners Student Workbook B: $21.95
Poetry for Beginners Instructor's Guide B: $17.95
Total Cost for Two Years' Language Arts Instruction: $298.38

Michael Clay Thompson Line Up
Level 2 Complete Homeschool Package: $170.00 or Level 2 Basic Homeschool Package: $105.00
Level 3 Complete Homeschool Package: $170.00 or Level 3 Basic Homeschool Package: $105.00
Total Cost for Two Years' Language Arts Instruction: $340 or $210

Fix It! Grammar and Editing Made Easy with the Classics: $30.00
The Grammar of Poetry Student Text: $20.00
The Grammar of Poetry Teacher's Key: $10.00
Teaching Writing: Structure and Style/Student Writing Intensive Combo Pack Level A: $239.00 plus Student Writing Intensive Level B: $99.00
Teaching Writing: Structure and Style: $169.00 plus Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons (Teacher/Student Combo): $49.00 plus Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons (Teacher/Student Combo): $49.00
some vocabulary is in the history-based writing lessons, but there is no separate level-appropriate vocabulary resource or text; most will find it necessary to add additional grammar instruction. I fully admit I don't know as much about IEW overall as I do the other two; if I've made any sort of error here, please let me know!
Total Cost for Two Years' Language Arts Instruction (minus vocabulary): $398 OR $327

If the cheapest options are chosen, then, the order would be as follows: $170.05 WTM-Recommended; $210.00 MCT; $298.38 Classical Writing; $327.00 IEW. If the most expensive options are chosen, the order changes only slightly: $171.05 WTM-Recommended; $298.38 Classical Writing; $340.00 MCT; $398.00 IEW. There are a lot of variables to this, and I don't purport for this to be an exact science. I was, however, trying to make a point. There are a lot of people who are claiming MCT is "too expensive" to even consider, yet they keep other options on their metaphorical table, options which are just as or more expensive. These were the most common or easily called to mind of comprehensive language arts curriculums; if any reader has another suggestion of one to add, please comment and let me know! I'd love to edit the post and include new ones.



The good news is that I have the vast majority of next year decided upon, even if not purchased or planned. I do have three dilemmas left. Two are regarding FB, and one regarding EG.

EG will finish the All About Spelling series at some point during fifth grade; the exact time will depend when, exactly, Level 6 is released. At that point, I have to decide where to go with regard to spelling.

EG has had a fair amount of difficulty with spelling. I have reason to believe the spelling is not something that will ever come particularly easy to her. She gets easily frustrated by studying spelling. Ideally, whatever we do next will not have "spelling" in the title, and will also not appear to be a rehashing or review of the concepts taught in AAS. One suggestion I have seen mentioned as a follow-up to AAS is Megawords. Looking at the samples for the first book, however, I worry that EG would see it as a little too much of a review, and there's no real way to determine which book in which to place her. Part of me would love to stop formal spelling altogether and focus on the correct spelling of vocabulary words as well as words that she misspells in her writing, but I worry about my own follow through with regards to that plan. Decisions, decisions...

Speaking of spelling, I have to decide where to go with spelling for FB. At some point during his kindergarten year, he's going to be ready to start spelling, and his demand to learn spelling will become impossible to ignore. I have a large amount of the things necessary to use All About Spelling with him, and could easily start him on Level 1. However, All About Spelling is teacher-intensive, and was never my first choice for a spelling curriculum. We turned to it when EG had such difficulty with spelling. A big part of me would desperately like to see if Spelling Workout will work for FB. Yet, I can also appreciate the systematic way that AAS teaches the rules of spelling. Does it matter how systematic the teaching is, as long as the end result is a child that can spell?

Finally, I bought Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding to take a look at it. I was hoping I could use it as a framework of sorts to organize my loose plans for science activities for FB for next year. I planned to use various science kits (primarily the Little Labs from Thames & Kosmos and the Magic School Bus themed ones) along with the Let's Read and Find Out science series and other picture books about science. I still like the latter plan, but after looking at BFSU, I find myself thinking about implementing just it. I intend to follow the rotation in WTM for grammar stage science, so I don't foresee wanting to use BFSU for more than one year. I'm drawn to it, but I'm also very drawn to my informal plan. Since we're starting history early, I'm reluctant to wed myself to yet another actual program.

At this point, I admit I'm considering keeping BFSU until around the time PC turns four or five. Because of her November birthday, she'll have more "pre-first grade" time than the other two have, and we could spend time doing BFSU and more informal things as well. Then at least wouldn't feel like I wasted money buying it and wasted time reading through it. ;) I am still torn about next year for FB, though.

Only three dilemmas left is pretty good, though!


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Three

EG is zipping through her work. She's done this to me for three Februaries running now; I'm quite certain it's somehow linked to her half-birthday, but it means that suddenly mid-year I must figure out how to get her work back up to the "challenge" level. I knew it was coming, but I still wasn't fully prepared for it.

EG is still doing well with math. Drill each day, one lesson in Beginning Algebra each day, and I've started giving her an assignment that just says "By Today" on Friday. Right now, that's in Key to Percents, and it's up to her if she spreads the pages out or does them all in one go. Sometimes she'll do them on Sunday afternoon; this week she did them (about six pages) on Wednesday afternoon.

This week for history, she read about the end of World War II, and wrote her summary about the atomic bomb. She read a biography of FDR, as well as Battle in the Arctic Seas and The Great Escape. Science is two-stranded right now; on Tuesday, she completed Chapter 1.5 and part of Chapter 2 in Ellen McHenry's The Brain, and on Thursday, it was back to physics with more about force, motion, and energy.

Memory work is continuing to go very well. She's still working on an excerpt from "I Have A Dream," and is about to complete Level One of IEW's poetry memorization program. I think we're both excited to move to the "every other day" schedule. :) She also finished three lessons in Orbiting with Logic, about logical notation (which, she tells me, she doesn't particularly enjoy).

She completed two lessons, an exercise, and two portions of history for Lively Latin. She's still moving relatively fast, but the slower pace has been good for the vocabulary to cement, I think.

We still love MCT language arts! She's now finished the vocabulary book, and is moving rapidly through the other books as well. Despite the fast pace, I am glad we started with the Island level, if for no other reason than Sentence Island. I can see her using the concepts in her literature narrations and history summaries. She also finished two steps in AAS Level 5, which means we are on track to finish it... next week. Gulp. Level 6 has not been released yet! We will likely take the following week as a break, and then do some comprehensive review for a few weeks. Beyond that, I don't know... she does still need help with spelling, so dropping spelling altogether isn't a good option.

EG is also doing a short story class with Smrt Mama, so she worked on her timeline and discussed conflict and resolution. Finally, she read Escape from Warsaw and wrote a narration for it.

FB is making steady progress, too. He's ripping through Right Start A, which is what I expected, more or less. I like knowing that all of it will be reviewed in Right Start B, so if he doesn't completely internalize the meaning of "equilateral triangle," we're still good. EG likes to do pages in Miquon Orange with him. In fact, she told me the other day that she wished she had less schoolwork so that she could teach FB all of his subjects. I told her that wasn't necessary, but I am happy to let them play together with Miquon. (It was actually at EG's request that I bought it.) FB is also doing well, still, with writing, and I can see glimmers of progress with regard to phonics. He can read, albeit somewhat slow and painfully. He sounded out a consonant blend on his own this week, though!

PC is still being ferociously wild and sneaky. She is also the Queen, and if you don't believe her, just ask her siblings.


Prenatal Care: It Ain't What Happens in 15 Minutes At An OB's Office

Just to interject something else into my near-constant stream of homeschooling posts, I thought perhaps I'd reference the part of my "about me" description that says "I'm also passionate about birth, breastfeeding, and politics, so there are posts about those from time to time." So here's something about birth. :)

After each of my homebirths, we packed ourselves into the family vehicle and went to the county records office so that we could obtain a birth certificate for our new addition. Generally, the workers glance at you, see a small baby in some kind of baby carrier, and immediately ask if you're there to register a homebirth.

One of the question on the worksheet deals with the amount of prenatal care received. This is measured through answering the question "How many prenatal visits did the mother have?" Since I never chose dual care, I answered "zero" after each homebirth.

When I had my oldest, in the hospital, most of the worksheet was completed by a nurse, using our file, and I don't remember specifically what number was listed. At a guess, I would say twelve, plus or minus two. When I had my middle child, I laughed, because I had spent an hour at every prenatal, which totaled many more hours in formal prenatal care. By the time I had my third child, the question made me downright ornery. I had to list myself as having had no prenatal care, a state which most would label irresponsible. The truth was, while I had had no formal appointments with any care provider for the sole purpose of monitoring my pregnancy, I had experienced superior prenatal care through my own self-care.

All women practice self-care, I can hear people commenting. How was what you did any different than any other pregnant woman?

Ultimately, responsibility. When a woman who is having an unassisted pregnancy (UP) takes on responsibility for the care of herself and her baby, she knows that there is, generally, no "back up." If she misses the fact that she's anemic, no one else will notice at her appointments. As an illustration of what I mean, I'll use an anecdote from my own pregnancies.

While pregnant with my second child, I began experiencing what I could only call "woozy sessions." I would feel light-headed and as if I could fall. At first, I assumed it was related to my blood sugar, and would take steps to quickly raise it. When that did not help, I thought perhaps that my blood sugar was too high, and I took steps to moderate my blood sugar levels. I had no sign of issues with blood sugar, however, other than the "woozy" feelings, and all efforts I took had no effect on the way I would feel from time to time. When I mentioned this to the midwife that I had hired, she suggested that perhaps it was related to my blood pressure, but that the only way to know for sure was to monitor it during one of these sessions. She also wasn't nearly as convinced it wasn't my blood sugar, despite all lack of evidence and my statement that I had had low blood sugar at times in the past (when I had not eaten enough), and I could tell the difference in how I felt. Eventually, the woozy times became less frequent, and they disappeared altogether when my son was born.

When I got pregnant with my third child, then, I was dismayed when the woozy sessions began again, earlier than before and more frequent. This time, I had a blood pressure cuff, thanks to both my status as a UPer (someone who has an unassisted pregnancy) and my desire to foist it on my mother once I had the baby, since her doctor had suggested home monitoring of her blood pressure (and yet she didn't buy a machine). I took my blood pressure during a woozy time. Repeatedly. It was clear that it did not originate from blood pressure. I tried all the blood sugar ideas again, to no effect. I drank water, to make sure I was not dehydrated. Again, no effect. I intuitively felt that there was a reason it should be worse during a subsequent pregnancy. After much reading, I began to suspect that I was anemic. During my second pregnancy, as part of the care I received from the midwife, the iron level in my blood was tested. I was not anemic. I have never tested as someone who is anemic. I was, however, symptomatic.

I bought an iron supplement. I began taking it at the recommended dosage. Within a week, the woozy feelings had almost disappeared; two weeks after beginning the supplement, they were completely gone, and remained gone for the rest of the pregnancy. I was functionally anemic. Knowing I was the only expert involved in my pregnancy, I could not simply accept an outsider's explanation. Even though I thought I was taking responsibility for my care in previous pregnancies, I can clearly see now how easy it was to abdicate some of the responsibility.

I highly recommend the book Expecting Trouble to anyone interested in prenatal care and the various forms it can take. The author makes the important point in several ways that prenatal care is not actually about preventing problems. It's about the detection of problems. True preventative prenatal care would be focused on nutrition, exercise, the position of the baby, and preparation for childbirth.

All of which any woman can do on her own. If she does not choose to do so, there's no issue with that, but I think it's vitally important to remember that preventative prenatal care has to begin and end with the woman herself.
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"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson