Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Five (days 121-125)

• EG finished Caesar's English II and Essay Voyage this week!

• EG also wrapped up her study of "ancient times" and is using the Celts to transition into middle ages/medieval history.

• FB learned about addition with carrying, at least with manipulatives (the base 10 picture cards from Right Start), and seemed to grasp the concept!

• FB finished his first "chapter" book - Henry & Mudge.

• PC loves Mondays. Loves them. She loves her siblings, and is happy to see them again after Master's Academy, but she loves running around having me to herself.

• PC thinks in a lot of absolutes these days. Everything is either "hot" or "cold"–-no in-between. Similarly with up, down, and a whole host of other opposites.


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Four (days 116-120)

• I knitted my first pair of socks this week. I also made two hair kerchief things each for the girls, and two headbands for EG. Next up: a hat for me, mittens for EG, and a scarf for FB.

• I'm going slightly mad. It's strange to feel like you should be a Queen song. No, we just have a lot going on right now and then adding Disney planning and prep on top of it has made me feel slightly panicky right now. We're also not sure if EG will be enrolled in the second half of her online Critical Thinking course. The registrations are never announced ahead of time, making it hard to plan ahead, monetarily. This past registration window, by the time we could pay the sum (a day after registration opened to the public, a week and a day after it opened to currently enrolled students), she was first on the wait list. I was assured it would likely not be a problem. Then I heard nothing. I contacted them last week and was told nothing had happened and that they would "keep me posted." Not encouraging. I don't feel like I have time in my schedule to devote to teaching that subject this spring. I don't know what we're going to do.

• EG is doing work from Real World Algebra and MathPack: Quest for the time being, in terms of math. I want to get her enrolled in an Art of Problem Solving course for the spring.

• EG wrapped up her study of ancient Rome this week. Next stop: the Celts!

• FB, on the other hand, has barely started his study of Rome. (Confession: I'm already tired of it.) He learned about the gladiators and did two excellent narrations in history this week.

• FB is nowhere near as intuitive with regard to math as his sister, but I'm going to have to be careful not to assume he's not "mathy" because EG is so mathy. He's ripping through Miquon and Right Start both at the moment.

• PC sings along with any of the memory work that involves a tune. She's also still singing Christmas carols.

• PC's new favorite thing to try to help with is washing dishes. I hope this continues for years to come.


Throwing the Baby Out With the Bathwater

There’s a popular animation of a portion of a TED talk on changing educational paradigms. It makes some good points. Other treatises on education about improved technology can similarly make some good points. However. Kids still have to be able to spell, to write, to do arithmetic and higher math, and have basic knowledge about their world. In some ways, the proliferation of technology makes it MORE important to master the traditional subjects, so that we're not manipulated by the technology.

It’s not possible, of course, to do an exhaustive study of any one subject. The fact that it’s not possible, though, doesn’t mean we should cease to attempt any study of the subjects at all.

Sometimes we need to find new ways to teach a subject. Because of a child’s gifts, strengths, weaknesses, quirks, or a combination of some or all of the previous, the so-called traditional way (what was or has been used in the last fifty to one hundred fifty years) may not work for that child. When that happens, we look for alternatives. One of my children thrives with a workbook approach to spelling. The other one needs a more multisensory, rules-based curriculum with a lot of review. The latter curriculum does not “look” like what many expect of a spelling curriculum. She’s still learning to spell (albeit, at times, somewhat slowly and painfully, but that’s not related to the curriclum).

Sometimes we have to add a new subject to the curriculum. Computer programming was rarely taught to any but an interested minority even fifteen years ago. Today, I would allege that some basic understanding of programming principles is essential. Most people would do well to know basic HTML. One hundred years ago, humanity’s knowledge in most scientific fields was a mere fraction of what has been catalogued today. The Neo-Darwinian Synthesis alone changed biology significantly, and that’s just one small fraction of what’s been learned in just one main area of science.

Sometimes we have to change when a subject is taught. Nearly forty years ago, my mother learned typing in high school. Teaching it sooner was not considered necessary. I learned to type twenty years ago, in junior high. Times were changing, and it was considered necessary at a younger age. Today, I’m requiring my daughter to master typing before finishing fifth grade. The technology has changed, and I want her to be the master of it, not at its mercy.

What doesn’t need to change are the skills. A well-educated citizen still needs to be able to communicate clearly and competently, both in speech and in print. A well-educated citizen needs to be able to comprehend what she or he reads or hears, whether it’s from a podcast, on the radio, on paper, or scrolling by on computer screen. A well-educated citizen needs to understand mathematics. A well-educated citizen needs to be protected against manipulation by the forces that would manipulate him or her: the media, large corporations, politicians, and advertisements are only a few.

Doing something differently, or a new way, for the sake of doing it differently or in a new way does not result in academic excellence. It will not result in children who are magically better prepared for the future world of work. Doing something because it is different or new is as foolish as doing something solely because it is the way it has “always been done.” Of course we should evaluate and re-evaluate our curricula, our approaches, our goals, and our overall course of study for our children; evaluation is a necessary part of teaching. Deciding to approach a a subject differently for no other reason than it is “outside the box,” however, is no better than deciding to teach only history that happened before World War I, because that’s how it was done in the 1920s. Both approaches are foolishly short-sighted, and remind us, again and again, that we must begin with the end in mind.


There Needs To Be A National Email Directory...

I hate it when I can't find someone's email!

In other news, the radio told me that today (I don't know if they mean January 17 or the third Monday in January or what) is one of the "most depressing days of the year." I think they meant people feel down, not actual clinical depression. Supposedly, this is because Christmas is past, but it's so far to spring, et cetera. Whether it's true or not, here's a nice virtual smile :) and hug for all of you out there on the other end of the internet. :D


Merrily We Plod Along

Let's visit my by 1 July 2011 list, shall we?

By 1 July 2011
01. Decide on supplemental titles for Story of the World Volume Two. (FB)
02. Plan out life science/biology with spines, supplemental books, and projects and activities. (FB)
03. Work through the next sections of Art in Story for art appreciation. (FB)
04. Make a better plan for grammar stage art projects. (FB)
05. Make a tentative literature list. (FB)
06. Decide whether or not to enroll the kids in a Saturday language school. (FB & EG)
07. Decide what to do about literature for EG for next year. (EG)
08. Work on Hogwarts-ian plans. (EG)
09. Decide on online classes. (EG)
10. Figure out social sciences/history. (EG)
11. Plan social sciences/history once decided. (EG)
12. Make a final decision on science and plan out if necessary. (EG)
13. Decide on what technology/computer skills to emphasize. (EG)
14. Plan art history for the year. (EG)
15. Plan music history/appreciation for the year. (EG)
16. Make a list of various math resources, since she’ll probably tear through them. (EG)
17. Make a shopping list of everything, to take to Greenville.

What have I done?
08. Work on Hogwarts-ian plans! I have a good plan for making our subjects mostly correspond to Hogwarts' subjects, without compromising on what I want EG to cover next year. I also have done a lot of the fun prep: EG now has a Ravenclaw scarf, bookscarf (bookmark), and iPod Touch cozy. I'm working on her hat. She doesn't know about any of this, of course! I'm also going to be making her a hat or two in Ravenclaw colors, plus mittens.
12. Make a final decision on science and plan out if necessary! Our primary science focus next year is going to be chemistry, and I think we're going to use Spectrum Chemistry. I have a plan for a few supplemental resources.
13. Decide on what technology/computer skills to emphasize. Since the goal is for EG to master the basics and typing by the end of the summer, I've decided that for next year, EG should participate in a few workshops/classes at the Apple Store for her primary technology/computer focus. We may get into basic HTML programming during the second semester next year.
16. Make a list of various math resources, since she'll probably tear through them. I've started this process. Some things will be done this year (e.g., Patty Paper Geometry), and others will be for next year. The tentative plan is for her to do an AoPS class during March-May of this year, Geometry during first & part of second semester next year, another AoPS class at some point next year, and probably starting on Trigonometry during second semester.
17. Make a shopping list of everything, to take to Greenville. I have started my shopping list! I'm sure it's still incomplete, but I feel better having started it.

My next big goal is to work on numbers one and two. Number seven will probably happen after I have a chance to look at various things at the convention.


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Three (days 111-115)

There's nothing quite like some ice to shut down the greater Atlanta metropolitan area for a solid week. Every single one of the kids' outside the house activities was cancelled this week, from Master's Academy on Monday right on through to band which should have been this afternoon. All the metro Atlanta school systems and private schools declared snow days, and they'll be making up those days later in the school year.

Not us.

I made my darling children proceed with school all week long. In fact, because of the absence of Master's Academy from her schedule, EG finished her work assigned for this week on Thursday afternoon. She's doing a few subjects today to make her load next week a little bit lighter–math, history, science, and language arts.

From youngest to oldest . . .

The dog thinks that we custom-ordered this stuff for her. She thought Monday was the best day ever, and then the snow has been nice and stuck around? She doesn't know quite what to do with herself.

Purple Child
• We learned that PC does not really like the snow. She would walk tentatively through it, looking at us as if to say, "Why have you brought me out into this cold, wet world?" At one point, her mitten slid off, and she stood there, staring at it in horror, wailing. Needless to say, we only took her out in the snow one day.

• Despite hating to be cold, PC continues to take off her clothing at any opportunity, and then proclaim "Cold!" in a despairing voice.

Fabulous Boy
• FB started learning about Rome this week in history. He was pretty excited to learn that Rome is still a city. I didn't attempt to confuse him by telling him there was an entire country inside Rome.

• FB started learning about multiplication in Miquon, and about thousands in Right Start.

Eclectic Girl
• The big news is that EG finished Life of Fred Advanced Algebra!

• EG is also approaching the end of both Caesar's English II and Essay Voyage; just two more weeks in each of them. School in February is going to have quite a different look than it currently does, and especially different from how it looked before the Christmas break!

• I'm continuing on my knitting binge. I finished another project that just needs felting, and finished another seven projects since last week's report. Granted, most of the projects are small (a newborn baby hat for a friend, doll socks, doll pants), but still. Being stuck in the house will up one's productivity, I suppose. I actually need to go to the yarn store; I've nearly exhausted my options for knitting with the yarn, needles, and pattern combinations I currently have.

• I have nearly finished my annual re-read (with note-taking) of The Well-Trained Mind . I did manage to get to the library last week, and so I read one book I checked out, The Overachievers. It was interesting in that "Let's look at a 'subculture' that affects a very very small percentage of the population" sense, not to mention a now-outdated view of things like the economy; there were comments about the economy rebounding from the post-September 11 dip, a dip that now sounds like a dream to many.


Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts

Pretend that a first-year student at Hogwarts would take three electives; better yet, pretend that arithmancy, ancient runes, and muggle studies are not electives. Do continue to view divination and care of magical creatures as electives, since that explains their omission from this list.

I've been working on my Hogwarts schooling idea from two different directions. I've started the knitting, and I've been compiling my lists of subjects and thinking about how to make all of this work, not to mention attempting to find curricula.

Ancient Runes
Ancient runes is roughly the equivalent of studying a foreign language. EG will study German next year, through tutoring and possibly a Saturday school. EG has expressed interest in resuming studying Greek (she has Elementary Greek Year 1), and that will be considered as the year progresses.

Mathematics is the logical equivalent to arithmancy. EG will be studying geometry next year, using Life of Fred Geometry as her primary text (as she prefers it), with Art of Problem Solving's Introduction to Geometry providing review and challenge problems as well as more in-depth coverage. She may continue with Life of Fred Trigonometry before the end of next year.

Astronomy is astronomy, whether in the magical or muggle world. Tentatively, we'll do a light study of astronomy each year, rather than focusing on it in depth. I plan to find a star-watching group and have EG attend several times, as well as visit the local planetarium. In addition, there is a course available through Duke's TIP program, Math & the Cosmos that looks like an excellent 'spine' for a light study of astronomy.

In lieu of a clear equivalency, I elected to deem charms the equivalent of fine arts. EG will continue her survey of art history using Art as her primary spine, as well as her survey of music history, using The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music History and its suggested recordings as her spine. I hope that she will be able to take an outside art class, focused on pottery (her interest) or drawing (I'd like to see proficiency in the next few years). Alternatively, I will buy the DVD lessons and supplies to go with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (we already own the text and workbook). She will continue taking private piano lessons, most likely with a new teacher. She will also continue her involvement in homeschool band, playing trumpet, and possibly take the Beginning Jazz class there. She'll continue with her current instructor for private trumpet lessons.

Defense Against the Dark Arts
Logic defends the mind in so many ways, and so it is my choice for DADA. EG will use The Snake and The Fox, at least for the first semester. I will also require her to read the book Nonsense, which discusses various fallacies. For the second semester, we may continue with a study of fallacies, or she may begin a more formal logic course. There are several possible options, which I am going to have to investigate before proceeding with making a decision.

Botany and herbology are clearly closely tied, though I also eventually want to bring an element of herbalism into her study. We'll do botany quite lightly, using Ellen McHenry's Botany in Eight Lessons over sixteen to twenty-four weeks. I anticipate only doing botany once a week, or if by some miracle, it were offered as an enrichment class locally. We will also visit the botanical gardens periodically. In the spring, botany will become hands-on as we plan and plant and tend a garden.

History of Magic
History and the social sciences are the obvious analogues here. Social science is the most open-ended category for EG for next year, as it depends strongly on what is covered this year, and I have not yet reworked this year's history! I do know I'd like to do a very light American government study (perhaps as little as three or four weeks). Options that I'd like to see her explore between now and the end of seventh grade include Ellen McHenry's Excavating English, Ellen McHenry's Mapping the World with Art, a home-brew economics overview, a history of the world via the lens of food, and a history of the world via the lens of technology.

Muggle Studies
Technology is inherently muggle! The goal for the rest of this school year and the summer is to improve EG's typing speed and have her finish working through the book Macs for Dummies, so that she can participate in some workshops at the local Apple store. That will probably be extent of her technology studies for next year, unless she does some basic HTML programming during the second semester.

Chemistry is analogous to potions, and chemistry will be EG's primary focus for science in the coming year. We're tentatively planning to use Spectrum Chemistry, despite the sectarian beliefs of the publisher, since it's complete and nicely laid out. I hope it lives up to my expectations. I have a few supplemental books that I will require EG to read, as well, including The Joy of Chemistry and The Elements.

And, finally, we come to English. For literature, I am still investigating several options, including Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings, another Duke TIP program called The Reader's Journey, and the programs from Excellence in Literature. For spelling, we will continue with the All About Spelling series, finishing whatever we do not finish from Level Six, and continuing with the projected Level Seven. I also want to revisit cursive handwriting with her, using SmithHand. She needs to get these foundational skills down, no matter how difficult they may be for her. Consequently, I'm not sure how I feel about continuing with the Michael Clay Thompson series full steam ahead. If we go full steam ahead, I'm afraid both she and I will feel overwhelmed. If we don't go full steam ahead, though, we'll have part of the program remaining in ninth grade–and I have other plans for the study of writing, especially, in ninth grade. I'm going to be taking a careful look at the program at the convention and seeing if I can 'tease' the levels apart to some extent. Additionally, I'm going to look at Bravewriter as a possible alternative for a portion of the year. Finally, I may need an alternate grammar text for a portion of the year if we do go at MCT slower. That is quite a lot of ifs and maybes.

Despite the ifs and maybes, though, I feel pretty good about where we are headed for next year. I'm glad I'll have the opportunity at the convention to look at so many resources before having to make my decisions. I think my Hogwarts-esque plan doesn't look too terrible, though I know it seems science-heavy. Blame J.K.R.


Snow Day!

This was outside my house last night:

Can you find my driveway, sidewalk, or the street? Me either!

I finished this scarf yesterday morning, and the hat yesterday afternoon. Just in time, apparently.

Starbuck says "Best Day EVER!!"

For now, it's not Hotlanta. . . it's Hothlanta.


Weekly Report: Week Twenty-Two (days 106-110)

We had an amazingly smooth transition back to school this week. I admit that it probably helped that I didn't have EG practice piano (her teacher's assignment over the holiday break was to "look in the Christmas book" and try to play some of the other songs for fun), and I know it helped that EG & FB didn't have Master's Academy this week, but it was still nice. They are gearing up for our upcoming Disney trip by watching or rewatching all the Disney classic animated films. This is, of course, great fun, and they can't quite believe I'm letting them watching movies during the schoolweek. They're also enthralled by one of their Christmas presents–They Might Be Giant's Here Comes Science.

• Spent her history time with the later Roman Empire, from Caesar & Augustus through the decline and fall. She'll keep reading about that time period for the next couple of weeks.

• Is excited that she's nearly completed Life of Fred: Advanced Algebra. Today was the last actual instruction in the book.

• Still isn't registered for the second semester of her online course for critical thinking. I was assured that she was first on the waiting list, and that it likely wouldn't be a problem, but it's been almost a month now with no news. Second semester starts at the beginning of February. Yikes!

• Started Right Start B at last. The first few lessons have been review, but the break seems to have done him well. I also realized we only have about 45 pages left in The Orange Book of Miquon! Given we have seventy days of school remaining, I may have to get The Red Book sooner than I thought.

• Still loves history best of all. This week, he learned all about the ancient Americas. One of the books we read, Who Were the First North Americans?, was so awfully biased and strange that I found myself editing as I read it to him. I can't in good conscience recommend it, and I'm seriously considering getting rid of it. It seemed dismissive at best of Native American customs and beliefs. On the other hand, The Lost World of the Anasazi is very well-done, and worth purchasing if it can't be found in the library.

• Is acing his spelling each week, which makes me think he may not need a full week per lesson, at least in book A.

• Is still not talking as much as she should be, but we're getting there.

• Is the impetus for all of us slowly shifting to gluten-free.

• Thinks that marching is the best thing ever this week.

• am cautiously optimistic about going gluten-free

• have been knitting up a storm. Since Christmas, I've finished four projects, nearly finished three more (two need felting, one needs fringe, but the knitting portion is completed), and today I'm making a coin purse to be felted. Good grief.

• am doing my annual re-read of certain homeschooling books. I'm working on WTM first, and taking notes. I hope to finish it off by mid-next week, because I really need to switch gears for a week or so and do Disney planning. Then it'll be back to homeschooling and re-reading more books.


Looking Back, Looking Forward

We had the best of intentions to do school for two and a half days the week of December 20. We did, in fact, do school on December 20. Around noon, I felt so sick and tired, and took a three hour nap (this should have been my first clue that something was off). EG finished up her schoolday, but the remainder of FB's work languished (just a bit of phonics, and memory work).

The next day, I woke up early, feeling awful, and listening to EG bark like a seal. We sat in a warm steamy bathroom with the shower running, and then we went back to bed. We were both exhausted. We called the doctor, took EG that afternoon, and left with a positive diagnosis of flu, type A.

And that, as they say, was that. Nothing happened besides sleeping, coughing, and general sickness for the next few days, even in the face of Christmas approaching. Spousal Unit & I were moderately recovered by Christmas, but still so tired; FB & PC didn't get cases as severe as the rest of us; poor EG didn't even remember some of her Christmas presents after a day or two, because she was still so very out of it on Christmas.

Needless to say, the remaining day and a half of school didn't happen as scheduled. Still, though – I have a thing about keep our number of days ending with a 5 or an 0. We needed those days. They finished out a unit of math for EG. They finished a chapter of history for FB. So, the Tuesday after Christmas, we did a small, piddling amount of work. Yesterday, we did another small, piddling amount of work. And today, EG is doing a little more math than usual, and FB is doing a little more history than usual, and I'll feel justified in saying we completed those days, because the work that was assigned to them will be done, in addition to the work assigned to today.


So, here we are, ready to face the new calendar year, with 105 days under our collective belts. A few things are changing. FB is finally starting back with RightStart, beginning Level B. The next four weeks are an experiment to see how well it works doing both RightStart and Miquon. I'm hopeful that a RightStart lesson plus one page in Miquon daily won't be overwhelming. EG will start a new literature course through Duke TIP – Growing Up Heroic: Adventures in Greek Mythology. EG will also be finishing up her Life of Fred book in the next two weeks, and she'll do the Duke TIP course MathPack: Quest for a few weeks as an intermediary before (hopefully) starting a class through Art of Problem Solving in early March. PC is going to have a rude awakening as I start imposing a few activities on her day; it's so awful when your parents make you do things like color and play with play-doh.

I'm starting my annual re-reading of select homeschool books. Each January, I re-read The Well-Trained Mind as well as The Latin-Centered Curriculum. This January, I'm also going to add re-reading The Core, and completing the exercises in the first few chapters of 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, which I found at the used bookstore for just $4. I wouldn't pay full price for it, but my library doesn't have it (or didn't, last I checked), so this was a great way for me to read it.

We got up late this morning, except for EG. She has an alarm clock, but the rest of us depend on the alarm on my iPhone. So the first schoolday of 2011 is off to a late start, but I purposely planned the first two days this week to be a bit lighter as we ease back into things. That should help us get back on track.

My computer insists "schoolday" is not a word. Oh well, computer, I'm going to use it anyway; you also tell me Miquon isn't a word, and it obviously is.
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"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson