One of focus points of our parent and child interview is the child’s vision for where God wants them to be, what they envision for their future and what they are interested in learning more about. I prayerfully think about my goals for the children and where I think they need more focus.
Our goals serve three purposes: To improve where we are weak, to enhance where we are strong, to explore something new.
We also want to be living balanced lives so we make sure that we have goals in all the following areas: Spiritual and Vocational, Academic, Esthetic and Cultural, Life Skills and Career, Physical and Health, Character and Virtue, and Relationships and Family.
Homeschooling is more than just teaching your children reading and writing and history. While all those academic things are good and important it is critical to be working on developing a balanced person. With that in mind each of the children have a Guiding Statement. This would be a mission statement in the corporate world, but craft a statement to guide us. This statement focuses on the being of our better selves. We also pick a motto for the year, a short little statement that is to improve where we are weak.
Each goal should be focused and well defined, achievable given the resources of the family, each goal should be measurable and each goal should be completely within the control (as much as anything can be) of the family. While it is worthy to aspire to “grow closer to God” that doesn’t really make a good goal as there isn’t a good measure for it. It would be better to say “I will make a pilgrimage to the Vatican”, but if that isn’t within the means of the family it will only lead to frustration. Your child could set the goal of attending daily mass, but if they can’t get there on their own and mom or dad can’t take them they will not be successful. But they could set the goal of saying a decade of the Rosary every night – it is focused and defined, achievable, measurable and within their control.
If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet you might want to mosey on over to the University of Maryland’s Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly, there you will be treated to a first class example of an academic with their thinking cap screwed on just a wee bit too tightly : Robin West’s stunningly myopic essay, “The Harms of Homeschooling”. It is one of those pieces that lets my heart rest easily that homeschooling is safe — if this is an example of the argument for tighter homeschooling regulation then there is no real argument.
Just for fun, here is her list of “harms” .
Homeschoolers are in danger of being abused with no school official present to report it. “Homeschooling, without visits or review, removes the children from the one forum in which their abuse may be identified.”
Homeschoolers aren’t required to immunize their children.
Schools provide unconditional love that children can’t get at home. (no, really, stop laughing, this is actually something she suggested)Here is the quote: “… although I have yet to see studies of this, a safe haven in which they are both regarded and respected independently and individually. Family love is intense, and we need it to survive and thrive. It is also deeply contingent on the existence and nature of the family ties. Children are loved in a family because they are the children of the parents in the family. The “unconditional love” they receive is anything but unconditional: it is conditioned on the fact that they are their parents’ children. School—either public or private—ideally provides a welcome respite. A child is regarded and respected at school not because she is her parent’s child, but because she is a student: she is valued for traits and for a status, in other words, that are independent of her status as the parent’s genetic or adoptive offspring. The ideal teacher cares about the child as an individual, a learner, an actively curious person—she doesn’t care about the child because the child is hers. The child is regarded with respect equally to all the children in the class. In these ways, the school classroom, ideally, and the relations within it, is a model of some core aspects of citizenship.”
Homeschoolers are political drones that vote for people like Bush.
Homeschool parents are authoritarian and that is bad.
We can’t really tell what homeschoolers are learning since most aren’t tested, those who are tested are probably the “elite” of homeschooled children and some homeschoolers probably only teach their children out of the Bible or let them play video games and skateboard all day.
Homeschool parents make more money on average than non-homeschool parents (according to USA Today) but some of them at least are homeless and have no job skills and are passing this on to their children.”The husbands and wives in these families feel themselves to be under a religious compulsion to have large families, a homebound and submissive wife and mother who is responsible for the schooling of the children, and only one breadwinner. These families are not living in romantic, rural, self-sufficient farmhouses; they are in trailer parks, 1,000-square-foot homes, houses owned by relatives, and some, on tarps in fields or parking lots. Their lack of job skills, passed from one generation to the next, depresses the community’s overall economic health and their state’s tax base.”
Seriously???? I can’t believe this thing even got published. Anyhow it is good for a laugh.
Yesterday I listed out the texts that we are using for next year with the promise that I would return to our book lists in a future post. Today’s post is all about why we use “real” books, how we incorporate them into our educational plans and which books we use.
When I was a child in school I remember reading from text books that excerpt short passages from “real” books or contained banal stories written with particular language lessons as the single driving force behind them – I loved to read; I hated reading as a subject. As I started looking into homeschooling I found that this “twaddle” reading was objected to by more than my childhood self. In fact several schools of educational thought out and out reject that approach outright. So, since it fits with my general inclination and is support by others in the field of education: we go for real books. Stories and books that are valued for their literary quality, cultural value, beauty and meaning, and their place in space and time are selected instead of stories that are selected or created for their mechanical purpose and functionality.
Exposing children to good literature develops their mind and imagination. It creates a frame work for them to incorporate big ideas, important values, virtue, liberality of thought and curiosity. Learning classic children’s tales also imparts the cultural literacy that will enrich their understanding of literature throughout their lives.
The real problem for us isn’t finding enough good books it is limiting the number to a manageable amount. One of my favorite lists can be found here. For each child we select books that fit their interests and their reading level. For independent readers I assign a set amount of reading per day (one chapter usually) the child is supposed to note any words that they are unfamiliar with. When they have completed the reading assignment they look up 3-5 of the words in the dictionary and type the definition into their reading log. They also compose a short synopsis of the day’s reading.
For the first term Christopher will be reading Tom Sawyer and The Hobbit for his literature study. Hannah will have The Courage of Sarah Noble, The Boxcar Children and A Bear Called Paddington.
We also have reading time. The children are free to select any book off the following lists to read for 30 minutes a day.
Christopher’s Book list:
Call of the Wild
The Red Badge of Courage
Swiss Family Robinson
Last of the Mohicans
Story of King Arthur
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
or any classic he can talk me into.
Hannah is transitioning to independent reading so she can pretty much pull anything off the bookshelf that suits her fancy. I will develop a list for her for the second term. Josh and Sarah are still in the picture book stage.
We have read aloud time which is more directed to the younger children. This year we will start with Hedi, Peter Pan and the House at Pooh Corner. Once a week we will have a fairy tale story.
This is the first year for Christopher to be studying Shakespeare. I started thinking about this last summer when Ashley took a liking to Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’. It was one of those moments where my mind slipped around juggling uptight catholic mom, literature loving me and introduce the children to great books teacher roles. The younger kids liked it to, but it is violent and sensual, but nothing really explicit, but it was very trendy looking and all that suicide and people dieing and sex… but how do I really get “Stop watching Shakespeare” out of my mouth without laughing myself silly. So I let them watch it. Which turned out fine. They liked it, they got the basic story without being scandalised and and it stuck, they can reference it in a meaningful way. So, Shakespeare it is.
I am going to start with Much Ado About Nothing. First off it is one of my very favorites, it is included in Edith Nesbit’s highly recommended work and I really enjoy Kenneth Branagh’s version on DVD, which I happen to already have, which I think is sort of an elemental point. Shakespeare is meant to be seen. Plays studied only by sitting in front of a book lose their form and much of their vitality. Which is why I would much rather have the children read a good story rendition based on the play, watch it using the language as written (which both Branagh and Luhrmann keep reasonably close to) and memorise some of the key passages. My hope is that this will be rich and entertaining for the children this year.
This year we will also be doing several poetry until studies. The poems we select will come from several different anthologies including: A Children’s Garden, my old Oxford Anthology of English Literature and Where the Sidewalk Ends, and A Child’s Anthology of Poetry.
Having looked in vain for a science text that I really liked I have decided to do something a little bit different. I purchased an older science text (from the 1980s oh-so-old) and I am using it’s table of context as more or less a “spine” for Physical Science. Along with this we will be studying biographies of important scientist. The first 12 weeks we will read about Aristotle, Galileo and Copernicus. I am still researching the specific biographies for this.
I wouldn’t take this direction if I wasn’t flat out obstinate about what I think is important in a science curriculum and arrogant enough to think that my college level course work in Chemistry and Physics is adequate to answer the questions of a 10 year old boy doing middle school science. But there it is.
Learning about nature requires something more than just reading a text. I love nature journals. this fall the children will be working on cataloging the trees that grow around us. Identifying native species and common foreign species and learning through observation, cataloging and study. We are going to use a good field guide to native plants for most of this work.
Art and Music History:
This term we will not be doing any biographies in either art or music, but starting second term we will study one artist and one composer.
Yesterday I blogged about the beginning of our homeschool plans for next year. Today I am going into more detail starting with the books and texts we are selecting.
First off, we decided against using an out of the box curriculum a couple of years ago. We had looked at a few of them, but we were having problems finding something that we really liked enough to devote ourselves to. And basically it boiled down to a few issues. I wanted faith to be a more or less integral part of the whole, but not a contrived part of it. We also had to find things that fit with the ages and interests of our children. Homeschooling is a way of life; it is not just another option. If you decide to homeschool it ends up affecting everything, in mostly very good ways, but everything is changed or at least colored by that choice to homeschool. When you select a curriculum that becomes part of your everyday life – every day. So we end up picking and choosing what we use from several different programs including Mater Amabilis (the biggest part), Ambleside, CHC, classical homeschooling and a big sampling of the wonderful things from the Real Learning forums.
After deciding the subjects we plan to study the next step is picking the texts, programs, etc. that we wish to use.
Math: Our math text of choice has been Singapore Math. We are considering switching Hannah to Saxon math, but if we do so it will be after the first 12 week term. For Term one we will have: Earlybird Kindergarten Math Textbook A and B , Singapore math 1B and 2A, Singapore math 2A and 2B, and Singapore math 6A and 6B
Literature and Reading: We do not use a reading text, instead we select actual books to read. I will make a separate post for the children’s reading lists. Our Shakespeare readings will come from: The Children’s Shakespeare
Other subjects do not have a particular text or reference. For some of them I wasn’t able to find exactly what I wanted and ended up cobbling together my own “text” for others we use reading lists or unit studies which I will describe in a future post. But the above list is pretty much it for texts.
Summer is just beginning and so has the work of planning next year’s studies for the children. It isn’t really work – though it can be rather time consuming – it is fun. There is something really exciting about going through all your supplies, perusing the web, reading through the catalogs and deciding on those things that you hope will spark your children’s excitement and wonder. This is all restrained by the realities of budget and time, but the initial planning phase is such a hopeful time.
This year I am doing a bit more formal lesson planning. I am breaking the year into three 12 week periods. Our calendar runs Term 1: September 7 – November 20 (one week off for Thanksgiving) then November 30 – December 4 then off for Christmas. Term 2: January 4 – March 22 one week then off for Easter. Term 3: April 5 – June 25 then off again for summer. I am working on creating the master “lesson plans” for the first term for each child. I created planning pages using MS Publisher – I print them out blank and then use pencil and post-it notes to fill in the plans until they are were I like them.
Christopher will be starting his first year of “middle school” studies. Approximately 6th grade work. Hannah will be doing early elementary school work, about the third grade level and Josh will be starting with grammar stage- first grade work. Sarah will begin some formal work, mostly pre-kindergarten stuff.
Christopher’s subjects will be: Religion, Math (pre-algebra), English, Literature (classic literature, and an introduction to Shakespeare), Writing (penmanship and composition), American History, World History, Geography and Cultures, Science (physical science and nature journal) Latin (beginning formal study), Art and Music History, Art (drawing and watercolor), Music (piano) and German (informal introduction).
Hannah’s subjects will be: Religion, Math, English (grammar), Reading, Writing (penmanship and copy work), American History, Geography and Cultures, Science (earth science and nature journal), Latin (informal), Art (drawing and watercolor), and Music (piano)
Josh’s subjects will be: Religion, Math, Phonics, Reading, Writing (penmanship), Geography and Cultures, Science (earth science and nature journal), Latin (informal), Art (drawing and watercolor), and Music (piano)
Sarah will have: Religion, pre-K Math, Letter Recognition, Arts and Crafts, World Cultures, Nature Discoveries, and Music (songs)
Usually I miss the hotly controversial postings about homeschooling until they are well past their expiration date, but this one I almost made it in time for. Apparently Jesse Scaccia, a teacher, has put his ‘well honed’ mind to the test and was able to come up with ten reasons that homeschooling is bad. His list boils down to: homeschool children are weird, homeschool parents are arrogant, selfish and isolationist, homes are not schools, Mr Scaccia has some sort of personal issue with homeschooling and apparently the Great Commission requires sending our impressionable offspring to schools that weren’t even in existence in the first century. I count five reasons there, but I don’t judge Mr Scaccia too harshly on his math problem; he is an English teacher not a math (or biology) teacher.
I am not overly interested in dissecting Mr Scaccia’s opinion except as it is related to the issue that homeschoolers are somehow more isolated culturally than schooled children and that this could in some way create citizens who are bigoted. To quote:
“4. Homeschooling could breed intolerance, and maybe even racism. Unless the student is being homeschooled at the MTV Real World house, there’s probably only one race/sexuality/background in the room. How can a young person learn to appreciate other cultures if he or she doesn’t live among them?
3. And don’t give me this “they still participate in activities with public school kids” garbage. Socialization in our grand multi-cultural experiment we call America is a process that takes more than an hour a day, a few times a week. Homeschooling, undoubtedly, leaves the child unprepared socially.”
Being socially isolated and culturally backwards I have no idea what MTV Real World house is, but considering it is MTV I am comfortable making a guess that more often than not it wouldn’t be a great environment in which to raise a child to be anything remotely resembling a cultured and liberal minded person. But let’s answer Mr Scaccia’s question: How can a young person learn to appreciate other cultures if he or she doesn’t live among them?
I have never lived among the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania, but I do appreciate their culture. I could say the same about the Japanese or the Spartans of Ancient Greece. Other groups I have some first hand experience with: Members of the Modoc tribe of Southern Oregon and Northern California were family friends in my childhood. I have lived among African-Americans and Choctaw tribal members in the South and the next street over from Orthodox Jews in Boston and at the same time one apartment down from a family from Lebanon – the second wife was a particular friend. I have traveled in Mexico, Germany, France and Austria and brought home an appreciation of these countries’ art, music, culture and food. But none of these experiences were gained inside the walls of a traditional school — not a single one of them.
While I won’t deny that there may be some parents who homeschool their children with the hope of insulating them from other cultures and peoples 0r who, even worse, homeschool them in the hopes of indoctrinating them into a belief that their race is superior to others; such parents are the minority. They are a minuscule group defined by an ideology of fear, fear of blacks, fear of whites, fear of anyone who doesn’t agree with their world-view, but they do not represent homeschoolers at large. But, to quote Jefferson again: “It is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings and ideas by the forcible transportation and education of the infant against the will of the father” Even if a very few wacky parents wish to teach their children thus it is not an argument against homeschooling. It is at most an argument against parents being wacko, but since that is rather impossible to avoid (public school or not) the point is moot.
But turning again to the question at hand I realize that my personal experience will most likely be met with “Yes, but that is just your personal experience, how are most parents going to manage that?” Let me answer that obvious objection by talking about my personal experience a little more in depth.
My life seems like a complicated musical composition sometimes. Themes rise and fall then are repeated again and again with subtle variations. One of the themes that keeps repeating is that of “building a new culture”. I hear it strongly at times, then it fades to the background. It is the answer to questions of my life “Why classics?” or “Why theology?” or “Why Catholic?” and even “Why homeschool?”. There are many answers to these questions, but one of the answers is “I am helping build a new culture.”
I read this article today by Andew Klavan and it fits with this theme of building a new culture that is playing so loudly in my world at the moment. I am also reading “The Restoration of Christian Culture” by John Senior, planning next year’s homeschool lists, we recently watched “Prince Caspian” and I have found myself in some really interesting conversations lately which all bring this theme to the fore.
Andrew Klavan does a good job of making a very breif case against Holliwood culture, but he stops short. I do not think the case can be made against the culture without including the education system that feeds it and I don’t think a new culture can rise until the education of the next generation is wrested from the current intreanched intrests that dominated it.
Our schools are turning out vast numbers of adults who are taught to base their judgements on how something makes them feel. This is why homeschooling becomes so important. Parents have to be responsible for their children’s education. We need to produce children who can think deeply and understand new concepts within a context of history and culture. We need to raise children with attention spans that are longer than the average insect’s. We have to step off the cultural treadmill and not be afraid to be very, very different. From this we will inevitably see new art, music, and literature flow. Then we can hope to sway culture back – or we will at least be out of the que when the lemmings go off the cliff.
My son, Christopher, is struggling through his vocabulary this afternoon. “Flying buttresses” he chirps, “what is a flying buttress? Look at this, ‘Notre Dame Cathedral’. That’s cool!”. It isn’t that he has a hard time finding the words. He is relatively quick at typing the definitions into the computer. His problem is solely one of distraction. He stumbles upon an interesting word and fifteen minutes later is half the alphabet away from where he wants to be reading about a variety of interesting things have absolutely nothing to do with the words he is supposed to be learning.
Now, I have a very difficult time finding too much fault in these rabbit-trails into the backwaters of the dictionary. This particular form of failing is one I am intimately familiar with, being somewhat of a lexiphile myself and several decades ago it was me sitting at the kitchen table with the well worn dictionary spending hours looking up ten or fifteen vocabulary words. SO I am somewhat torn: Do I make him buckle down and do the words he is assigned, or do I let him take the path less trodden and find new and interesting words to ignite his writing and imagination? For the moment I am trying to strike a balance between the two.
It is part of the joy of homeschooling that he has the chance to enjoy this learning and learn what he enjoys. But there is also the reality that he needs to learn to dicipline himself so that his fancy doesn’t thwart his goals.
The Official Holiday Grand Plan starts on August 31. In order to accommodate the Advent season I am starting earlier, this week, and I hope to have everything in order and ready for a calm and spiritual Advent season.
Week One It is the middle of August and December Holidays and the cold and snow of winter seem a million miles away, but we all know that they are right around the corner. It is also a busy time for moms. School is starting, the summer is ended, there are peaches to preserve and weeds to pull and all those small projects that need doing in between squeezing in a last bit of summer fun or beating off the late summer heat.
Cleaning: The front porch is the space on the agenda this week. While I am outside looking at my front porch I am also looking around the outside of the house and making some notes for the fall maintenance. The cleaning list linked above is a good place to start.
Planning: I use my family planning notebook instead of a separate holiday planner. This is called “List week” because you are setting up your lists. I have the following that I am making:
Gift list – who we are shopping for
Card list – collect and update addresses
Parties – which parties we will host
Menus – menus for the holiday meals we will be hosting and rough menus for the Holiday season.
Decorating – plan for decorating for Advent and Christmas
Baking – plan for the baking needs for gifts and goodies
Devotionals – what devotionals will we be doing during Advent/Christmas and what supplies we will need
Traditions – things we enjoy doing as a family or things we might want to experience this year for the first time.
The main goals of the lists at this point are to decide a rough budget and space out the shopping for the Holidays, make sure that we have things we need ready (no shopping for Advent Candles the day after Thanksgiving), and to just get a handle on things.
I am not printing out additional calendar pages, because my master planner has the calendar in it already. Most lists I make on the computer and then print out lists that I need for my dayrunner or my family planning notebook as needed.