What’s New? From Our Point of View…

It is a beautifully sunny, 74-degree day here in coastal Texas, and with the oldest at college and our son at the dentist, the youngest decided to school outside.   Funny, this was my vision when we first began homeschooling—days outside on a picnic blanket, completing schoolwork and viewing exotic animals.   (You can stop laughing now).   The vision sounded wonderful, and the outdoor school day sounded delightful until it met with my own plans and realities.   I had a fairly simple morning plan to complete a few chores and write a blog entry while the youngest worked beside me at the table.   So, it shames me to say that when she initially approached me about going outside, I sent her out and continued with my plans.   I felt bad, so when she came back inside the first time, I said, “Let me just do ____ and I’ll come out with you.”     I got that pot of vegetarian chili to a point where it could just simmer, started that load of clothes, and then pulled up a chair alongside her in the backyard.   That’s when I realized that even 74 degrees—in full sun—is still just plain hot.    After reading for a spell, we both gave in to what became our heart’s deepest longing–air conditioning.

One of our struggles this year has been sustaining her with a deliberate diet of rich literature versus twaddle, in Charlotte Mason vernacular.   Our youngest, with all the extroversion that missed our older two, wanted to start a book club this past year.   She had almost completed all the planning, complete with convincing Mom that this was a good thing, when our local library announced its plans to have a book club.    I thought this was too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence, and we hurriedly signed up to be a part of their event.   Now I wish that I had stuck with the original plan to have our own club.   The selection of books that the librarians offer—yuck!!!      I would love to simply pull her from the club, but I’m torn by the fact that she likes being a part of the group, she enjoys the time and activities, and—here’s the kicker—she likes the books.  They are much easier reading, for sure, but based upon what I consider to be a “good” book, i.e., a story that engages the mind and pricks the heart, the book club’s selections are way past poor.   The longer I allow this, of course, the more difficult it is to interest the youngest in books that demand more of her.   Consequently, I’ve not pulled her yet from the club, but have been instead picking my teachable moments.   As an example, we are now reading The Whipping Boy, which is actually very easy to read—a short book with short chapters.   Upon reading chapter 1, she immediately stopped to whine empathetically when she realized what was the whipping boy’s  responsibility (to receive the punishment that should have been given to a spoiled brat excuse for a prince).    While she was sharing how badly she felt for the boy, I talked about the power of a good read and recalled that she’d never stopped to empathize with Vordak the Incomprehensible.   She still maintains that Vordak is the best book ever (heavy sigh).

While I ponder what to do about the book club, I am excited about the cursive handwriting curriculum from LightHome Publications I found on Currclick.  Can you say $6??!!   This looks awesome!!  A chance to share the Word of God, to practice cursive handwriting, and to create a lasting keepsake of the Word in Psalms!!  Can’t beat it with a stick!!

After years of, ahem, uncertainty, shall we say, about homeschooling my MIL blessed us with an entire high school biology curriculum—teacher’s guides, transparencies, DVDs, videos,… everything!   I have been thrilled with all the extra project ideas that have come with the text that really cater to how we like to learn.   The publisher of this not-so-dry text has actually partnered with Dinah Zike (foldables guru, author of The Big Book of Books) to include manipulatives to enhance the content!!  Given Dinah Zike’s popularity within the homeschool community, I couldn’t help but think this was pretty cool in an odd sort of way.

Our school this year is a gentle foreshadowing of the next 2-3 years to come as the oldest spends a significant amount of time away from us.   Her classes keep her away on Mondays and Wednesdays, but the extracurricular activities associated with the Honors Program, plus the time to complete her coursework actually occupy her throughout a good portion of her week.   My dh and I were just discussing today that even though she wasn’t the noisiest of our children, her presence, or lack thereof, is definitely felt if not heard.    Her high school courses this year include Algebra II, Physics, and World Geography.    Other than that, I’m the taxi cab driver!

During the summer, Knowledge Quest distributed what I assume was a preview of their Globalmania curriculum, but it was PERFECT (yes, I’m shouting) for what I wanted to do with World Geography.     There is enough of a guide-like feel to this .pdf file without it being too prescriptive.   I played the games that help with map memorization and, in completing them myself to get a feel on what the oldest would do, I determined that my geography needs serious work.  No wonder I almost failed this class in middle school ( LOL)!!  There is also a schedule that, again without being too prescriptive, suggests how to spend time learning a specific continental region.    What I have added (because without the additions the curriculum might be more elementary) is the idea of research of the continents to find out more about the history and culture, and the idea of understanding a major religion in that region and how you might evangelize with respect to what the people believe.    Finally, when I taught World Geography at our local homeschool store, that particular curriculum set a goal for a student to draw a world map from memory by the end of the course.   I so loved the students’ results that I incorporated this same goal for the oldest.   I’m enjoying watching her get started, and her illustrations of how much she is learning.

 

 

I am so glad, in spite of the fact that American Lit at the college level has her permanently attached to a Norton’s Anthology, that we made the decision to add in as many living books as we could to complement her studies.    She decided early on that audio books would best help her keep up with everything.    This was easily accomplished with Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, but we’ve been reading aloud Homer Hickam’s October Sky together.   The latter book has been a welcomed accompaniment to her Physics studies, and I’m so glad that I didn’t place too much stock into the warning that this coming-of-age story had potentially inappropriate subject matter.  Yes, he’s a love-struck teenage boy who is learning, unsuccessfully, how to be suave with the ladies (picture Jerry Lewis in “The Ladies’ Man”), but what far overshadows those moments is this book’s ability to take you through Coalwood, WV with such imagery until you feel as if you stepped back 40 years and are standing alongside one of the “rocket boys.”    We even resisted the urge to watch the movie.  (Was it just a coincidence that it came on television while we were reading?   Hmmm….)   After Jules Verne, I’m on the hunt for what might our next great geography-related find: Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them.   If I could just find the audio book for something less than $27…

 

What’s new with your studies?   I’d love to “hear” about all those cool and creative homeschool  studies.

 

Current Events:1st Crack

In my last post, I shared my youngest’s desire to add current events to her course work, and, to a larger extent, to emulate her brother and sister.   She’s completed her current events for 2 weeks now, and her results are well worth capturing.    Here is a sample of her summary.

“Stitches of Hope”

 

 

‘There is a 30-foot flag that represents the country of America.   When our American flag got badly torn with holes almost everywhere, but our flag survived.  Seven years later our flag was sent to Greenburg, Kansas.  After a terrible tornado, member[s] of Kansas used flags from around the world to repair a flag from 9/11.   Then, the flag took a vacation and had more Americans help the poor little flag.   Even the local navy sewed the flag.’  

 

Definitely some work to do, but I love a child’s way of figuring life out.   My personal favorite is the flag’s decision to take a vacation–too funny!!

Uncertainty

Uncertainty.

1. The condition of being uncertain; doubt.

2. Something uncertain: the uncertainties of modern life.

Synonyms: uncertainty, doubt, dubiety, skepticism, suspicion, mistrust

These nouns refer to the condition of being unsure about someone or something. Uncertainty, the least forceful, merely denotes a lack of assurance or conviction: I regarded my decision with growing uncertainty.
 
 
I don’t think that I’ve ever prepared for a year with this much uncertainty–not even during our first year.   Maybe it was naivete, but I prayed  ALOT, did my homework and began to execute, even in the midst of my sister and niece being here to help with a newborn baby.   So, this year, as I began to envision what the kids would do, my task was to quit agonizing about what might happen and instead function within what I know right now.   With that in mind, I developed our plans.     Here are the highlights.
 
 
Plans for the youngest were perhaps the easiest to make.   I’m much more comfortable with a plan for the fundamentals, even though admittedly, they are not my favorite to teach–too much redundancy.   What is most exciting to me is that we will use my curriculum to teach her American History next year.   A customer asked me about blog posts that feature the kids using A Blessed Heritage’s products, and it was then that I realized that the last time I taught the children using the elementary product, I had yet to start blogging.   Life pre-blogging seems like a long time ago!
 
 
The most work I needed to complete for her was to develop a reading list.   Though we’ve read some great books over the years, I also wanted to incorporate some fresh reads for the sake of the older two, who often listen in from the adjacent room as they complete their work.   Several of her reading selections are Sonlight staples that we have enjoyed, partly because that’s what’s on our shelves.   Some of  Tanglewood Education‘s selections round out our list nicely with selections that don’t always appear on many homeschooling reading lists, especially in the genres of mystery and science fiction.
 
If there is one word that defines the time I spend with the older kids,that word would be ‘classics.’    I often talk to the kids about cultural literacy and understanding the context of language past just the words.   This is one of the many benefits of being a life-long reader.   When their Disney shows start with ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’  they should have some sense of where those words come from, and what is their significance to the rest of the episode.   Our son wrote a brief biography on William Shakespeare in his commonplace book and found out that even seemingly silly comedies like “She’s the Man” (Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum) and  “Deliver Us from Eva” (Gabrielle Union, LL Cool J) are based upon Shakespearean works.   By the way, did you know that Shakespeare struggled to consistently spell his own name?   How ironically hilarious is that?!!
 
Our son will begin high school next year, although there are still a couple of areas where he’s at a middle school level.   Like the oldest, he will start a year of ancient history using a Great Books curriculum.   With our daughter, I definitely learned alongside of her as Homer helped us define the word drudgery together.  (Scroll down on this post to see my daughter’s take on Homer and ancient pasttime activities).   I am much more prepared for what these classics look like in terms of work schedule and actual “feel,” if that makes sense.
 
Of course the oldest and her part-time college career present the lion’s share of our uncertainty.    Her current summer schedule is such that she’s in school four days per week.   My plan would hinge upon her going to school twice per week and then completing work at home in the afternoons.    Our first fight regarding my plan was that she wants to be more involved with dance than what I had listed will allow.   I am hoping that she’ll recognize the accelerated pace of college and realize for herself that she cannot take on everything that she’s done in the past.    Of course, if not, I am prepared to play the spoiler in order to see her succeed in all things (rather than succeeding at dance to the detriment of her academic education).   She began class Monday, where she found out that her first paper was due on Wednesday; that was a rude awakening, to say the least.
 
I hate scratching pieces of  the plan that I had for her.   It is as much a lesson in pride for me as it is a lesson in letting go, as I discussed in my “Losing Control” post.    Before I looked into the Government class at the college, I was busily investigating early American history living books and thinking about reading schedules.     Now I am constantly reminded that she will have to learn some things from others with a very different perspective, i.e., worldview, than we have.     A friend suggested going over certain aspects at home, and I planned the reading list to do just that, but the reality is that our time will be limited.    Between the pace of college, letting her go to dance sometimes so that she has some physical outlet and place to express creativity in that way, and her pace (let’s just say she won’t be accused of not stopping to smell the roses), one-on-one reading is subject to happen more sporadically than I like.   I had too many of those experiences this year where we’d pick up a book, then put it down for days, and everyone, including me, would have to get reenergized about it.
 
Speaking of needing energy, right now we’re moving–slowly–through Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha.    I’ve tried not to “force” school and make the summer boringly academic.   But this book is 600+ pages, and not at all the hilarious epic adventure that I remember as a kid.   Maybe because my husband once sold pharmaceuticals to psychiatrists, neurologists, etc., the kids have keyed in on poor Quixote’s mental state, and it almost reads like a tragedy to them.    I’m going to abridge this one myself so that we can move on.
 
Anyway, I look at this definition, and though uncertainty doesn’t, in and of itself, sound so bad, there are other words here: doubt and mistrust.    Yes, when I list my plans, there is much room for doubt, and I have good reason not to trust in my own abilities.    My will gets us limited reward, but I’m looking for more than mediocrity.   So I must choose to substitute different words for doubt and mistrust:   
 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
 
 
Proverbs 3: 5-8 

Spring Break, with an Eye Looking Forward

We took our spring break with the area public schools this week.   As usual, I had far more planned to do than I could possibly get done—will I ever learn?    Not only was my list aggressive, but it became obvious to me by Wednesday that what I needed most was rest.   With that thought in mind, the highlights of much of my week went something like this:

Saturday—weeding

Sunday—church, grades

Monday—cleaning, hair (youngest daughter)

Tuesday—sewing, cleaning, hair (oldest daughter)

Wednesday—school planning, grades for college kids

Thursday—weeding, grades

Somewhere in there I had a birthday on Wednesday

Friday was a flurry of activities.    We took advantage of a field trip that was postponed during our winter storm, so we packed up and met a local homeschool group for a tour through a water treatment facility.   Afterward, because we were losing our weekend time with a brief out-of-town trip planned, I ran around town like a chicken with its head cut off, replacing car tires and replenishing dance supplies.

By Saturday, I needed a break from my break, and it came in the form of a trip to the beach.   Plan A was to stay two nights, but we’d forgotten what happens to hotel rates in the midst of spring break.    When we had our rude awakening, we chose to make a turnaround trip.   The beach was, nevertheless, very relaxing for me, and great fun for the kids once they got acclimated to the difference of terrain.   Our older two are so funny; it took them a long time to adjust to stepping through LOTS of seaweed to reach the water, then another long while before they actually allowed themselves to adjust to the water temperature.  (“It’s soooooo cold!” they complained.)   By the time they settled down to make sand castles and take walks, it was almost time to head home!

Sunday was a somewhat relaxing trip back home.   I say ‘somewhat’ because we planned to stop off at a mission in Goliad, TX, and the tour wound up being so much more than we expected.   The Alamo gets all the attention in these parts, but I’ve found that the “off -the-beaten-path” types of tours are the ones that pleasantly surprise you, and this mission, Presidio La Bahia, did not disappoint.   Our short stop-over took us almost two hours, and we still did not see the second mission, Espiritu Santu.  Next year, both our girls will cycle back around to early American history studies, and so this was a perfect opportunity to talk about the influence of Spain in the Southwestern United States.

Speaking of next year, it is about that time to consider what about our current plan will be continued/ revisited/ scrapped, etc.   I’m thankful that we’ve hit a groove where we are both comfortable and bearing fruit, so not too much has to be scrapped altogether, but there is always room for improvement.   With only nine weeks left until we begin summer, this is about the time of year that I begin to realize how much was left on the table (or in this case, in my planner), and how we can adjust for the following year to make their experience—and mine–more memorable.

I cannot believe that my baby will be a 3rd grader in the fall!   I worked hard this year to put more elementary school fun into her day, with some hits and misses.   The biggest “miss” is that I fell off the wagon, so to speak, with the plan of doing something special each month with her in mind as the year progressed.   Though we’ve definitely gotten out more, and have even taken a few days off, I still feel as if I could tighten up, or rather, loosen up some more in this area.   She was looking through old photos of the older two in the earliest days of homeschooling and wondering why she doesn’t get to cook as a part of her day.   I tell you, managing the seasons of homeschool has perhaps been my biggest challenge yet.   Anyhow, as I ponder those thoughts, here is what her academic year will probably look like in the fall.   You’ll see with all three children that I’m still contemplating reading lists.

3rd Grade:

English: Rod and Staff Christian English series

Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting

History: Early American History with A Blessed Heritage Educational Resources

Math: Horizons Math 2/3

Science: Apologia Zoology 1/ 2

Latin: Prima Latina by Memoria Press

Read-Aloud/ Reading List (Sonlight 3 readers as a possibility)

Our son is the epitome of a homeschooler—chronologically, a public school system would place him in 8th grade in the fall.    Yet, because he’s studied with his sister as much as was possible, he has a couple of courses that he’ll actually take on as a high school freshman.   Of course, he is at 8th grade level in several courses, and because of the extensive Rod and Staff text, he is completing 7th grade English.    He’s our middle/ high schooler (smile).   I haven’t worried too much about it yet, but in the back of my mind, I know that if he keeps on track, he will probably graduate high school earlier than I personally would like him to leave home.   So much to think about and so little time, you know?   Anyway, this is his potential year beginning in the summer/ fall:

8th/9th Grade 

Apologetics: Know What You Believe by Paul Little/ The Deadliest Monster by J.F. Baldwin

Character: Ourselves by Charlotte Mason (second year)

Current Events: Student News Daily and/or World on the Web

Grammar: Rod and Staff Christian English series

History: The Great Books (http://www.thegreatbooks.com) (Year 1)

Latin: Henle by Memoria Press

Logic: How to Read a Book (second year)

Pre-Algebra/ Algebra: Teaching Textbooks

Physical Science: Apologia Science

Read-Aloud/ Reading List:

The  biggest question mark with him is how to take advantage of some of the elective opportunities that are available to him in our area, yet work with the girls as appropriate.   We have an area debate team that I’d love to get him more involved in based upon his interests, but I’ve heard that it is a tremendous workload, and I just don’t know where we’d fit in another item.

Of course, college preparation has been the focus of our oldest daughter’s curriculum.   With the Lord’s help, she will actually get a taste of that season via the dual degree program at our local community church.    She’s actually going through several significant changes in the coming year.   She and I have different opinions about well she is juggling school and her many extracurricular activities.   Let me tell it, her grades are decent, but she’s losing sleep and having to study almost all of the time.   That is not the intention, but since it is the reality, she will cut back drastically on some of her current activities in order to focus on her academics, and on her overall health and well-being.   My prayer is that she’ll be able to complete her English courses at college, but this is what I envision for her during her time at home:

 11th grade

Chemistry: Apologia Science/ Meteorology with Connect the Thoughts (2nd semester)

Current Events: Student News Daily and/or World on the Web

Algebra 2: Teaching Textbooks

History: American Government and Civics

Latin: Henle by Memoria Press

Economics: Sonlight/ Thinkwell (?)

Read-Aloud/ Reading List:

I have in mind what I want to do, but I’m at a quandary as to how to do it with her.   We’ve been using The Great Books curriculum (see link above) to cover the past two years of history, but I thought to focus in more on American Government and Ethics.   Sonlight is normally my go-to curriculum when I don’t quite know how I might craft something myself, but Sonlight’s American Government course is a part of a core program that costs $600!    That is more than I spend on curriculum for all three of our children, and even if the Lord blessed me with a windfall, I wouldn’t spend it that way.    So I’m looking at options—is there a way to buy the IG for Sonlight without buying the whole packaged curriculum, could I modify the Great Books curriculum, and if so , what to use, what else is out there,…

How about you?   What plans/ changes/ anxieties are you facing regarding next year?

P.S.   I am thinking about a Civics program from Connecting the Thoughts, available through Currclick.    Has anyone else used this?