- We finally moved past that last chapter – on logic – in Beast Academy 4B. 4C arrived and we are now comfortably sorting through divisibility rules, with factorization on the horizon today.
- We’re tracking well with the release of new volumes in the Beast Academy series. If they keep up the present pace, M should finish up 5D right on time to begin the Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra in 6th grade. That sounds early, but it’s the way the program is being planned, and having worked through the AOPS pre-Algebra with my older son, I can see how the foundations are being laid in Beast Academy, and very well.
- Speaking of Beast Academy – it’s alluded to in this excellent article from Wired about techies homeschooling their kids.
And yet the boys were focused on what I soon learned were math workbooks—prealgebra for Parker, a collection of monster-themed word problems for Simon.
The Cook boys are homeschooled, have been ever since their parents opted not to put them in kindergarten. Samantha’s husband Chris never liked school himself; as a boy, he preferred fiddling on his dad’s IBM PC to sitting in a classroom. After three attempts at college, he found himself unable to care about required classes like organic chemistry and dropped out to pursue a career in computers. It paid off; today he is the lead systems administrator at Pandora. Samantha is similarly independent-minded—she blogs about feminism, parenting, art technology, and education reform and has started a network of hackerspaces for kids. So when it came time to educate their own children, they weren’t in any hurry to slot them into a traditional school.
“The world is changing. It’s looking for people who are creative and entrepreneurial, and that’s not going to happen in a system that tells kids what to do all day,” Samantha says. “So how do you do that? Well if the system won’t allow it, as the saying goes: If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
- A bit on prayer, and I’ll go a little off-topic here. As I’ve said, the basics of our daily prayer are a mash-up of daily Mass readings and Morning Prayer and maybe the Office of Readings if it’s understandable in any way to a 10-year old. We use Universalis most of the time, and Magnificat when I can find our copy. I have written many times, even in book form, in defense and promotion of centering one’s prayer life around the prayer of the Church in whatever way one can. As Flannery O’Connor said as she was recommending A Short Breviary to a correspondent, “So many prayer books are so awful, but if you stick with the liturgy, you are safe”
- So while our solipsism and self-centeredness tempts us to put ourselves first when we pray and to fashion our prayer around our own perceived needs, centering ourselves on the prayer of the Church, we are forced, first of all, into the proper stance for prayer which – as Jesus teaches us when he’s asked how to pray – puts worship of God first in our hearts and on our tongue. Secondly, our prayer for ourselves and others are directed in ways that we might not consider, but probably need, and in ways that plant seeds for the day:
Help us to keep your commandments;so that through your Holy Spirit we may dwell in you, and you in us.– You are our Saviour and our God.Everlasting Wisdom, come to us:dwell with us and work in us today.– You are our Saviour and our God.Help us to be considerate and kind;grant that we may bring joy, not pain, to those we meet.– You are our Saviour and our God.
- If I were running a Catholic school, I would immediately ditch every prayer source that’s “written for kids” and especially those that are written by kids…and immerse them in this, every day.
- (I am not sure how my list dots are getting messed up, but I’m in too much of a hurry to fix it. Sorry.)
- Since Genesis 1 was started yesterday for the Mass readings, that became the focus of religion instruction. Today, more of that, plus St. Scholastica and her brother.
- Science: I wanted to write a whole post about science instruction and explorations, but that’s probably not going to happen. So for now, I’ll just say that we’re using a regular 4th grade science textbook and workbook as a “spine” – (as they say in homeschooling) and just enriching and experimenting all over the place, as one does. Last week was sound, which we had studied earlier in the month just because music is such an important part of life around here, but we threw in some demonstrations we hadn’t done before. This week is light. This website will come in handy: Optics4Kids.
- There are many great YouTube science channels, and I’ve mentioned some of them before, but I discovered this one last week, and it’s good: Physics Girl. She has a degree from MIT and has very clever, understandable way of explaining things.
- What I wanted to mention were some of the best printed resources I’ve found. There are plenty of books on individual topics, but I wanted to highlight two books of experiments and demonstrations that I come back to again and again.
- First are any of the Janet van Cleave books. I resisted these for a while just because of the cover art and titles – I didn’t think they were serious. But I was wrong! They are great , and in fact I just ordered most of those we don’t already have. Each book is a course on the topic at hand, arranged in lesser to greater levels of complexity and the demonstrations are doable with materials you probably already have on hand.
- Also well-worn by this point is this Hands-on Physical Science Activities for Grades k-6. Written for classroom educators, most of the activities are, again, doable at home, and the explanations and process are excellent.
- On tap today? Prayer, copywork (probably a line or two from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which is currently being memorized. Yesterday was Genesis 1:1 (see how it all fits together?), tomorrow copywork will probably be a short, amusing poem (last week was a John Ciardi poem). Then a couple of lines of cursive. Then prime factorization, then Latin, then science, then probably time for him to just read some of the science/nature/history magazines or library books that interest him. Then the weekly…homeschool boxing class…watch out!
- More good reading: This heartbreaking article from the Atlantic. Catholic schools take note: the more you thoughtlessly follow secular trends and the “needs” of students as defined by this culture, albeit with Catholic Schools Week slogans cleverly affixed, the further you walk away from filling the yawning, tragic void described in this article – a void that you are uniquely poised to fill:
I get it: My job is to teach communication, not values, and maybe that’s reasonable. After all, I’m not sure I would want my daughter gaining her wisdom from a randomly selected high-school teacher just because he passed a few writing and literature courses at a state university (which is what I did). My job description has evolved, and I’m fine with that. But where are the students getting their wisdom?
One might argue that the simple solution is religion—namely, biblical texts. The problem, though, is that I doubt religion is on most kids’ minds. When I recently shared a poem that included the phrase, “Let there be light,” hardly any of my students, who are high-school juniors, could identify the allusion. As a staunch believer in the separation of church and state, I don’t feel comfortable delving into the Bible’s wisdom. Even if I did, the environment is far from conducive to these discussions—students are generally embarrassed to reveal their spiritual beliefs. A fellow teacher recently cited a biblical reference in a standardized test as “evidence of institutional bias,” and the community was generally shocked; some people, meanwhile, were outraged a few years ago when a valedictorian’s speech personally advised his peers to “love God above self.”
With all this in mind, I recently read the line “Fools will be destroyed by their own complacency” in The Book of Proverbs, and I thought of my students at the cusp of young adulthood. I considered how deeply profitable this kind of advice could be for those about to be on their own—and I don’t mean profitable in the way that the advocates of “career readiness” generally conceive it. I’m not saying teachers should include the Bible in their classes in any way, but it feels strange to bite my tongue and instead teach simple skills like “interpreting words and determining technical meanings.” Meanwhile, research suggests that asignificant majority of teens do not attend church, and youth church attendance has been decreasing over the past few decades. This is fine with me. But then again, where are they getting their wisdom?