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…the curse being for the kid being homeschooled, of course.

I’ve written about introversion and parenting before  In fact, it’s one of the more frequent search terms bringing people to my blog – some combination of “introverted” and parenting.

And what’s an INFP? Well, probably gobbledygook, but I’ve actually found it to be a useful and pretty accurate way of understanding myself. The initials stand for Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving.  What it means in my psyche is that I am not shy or awkward with others, but am drained by time with others and energized by time alone.  The NFP parts add up to mean that I deal with life by observing and responding to it rather than trying to organize it ahead of time.

So yes, I plan, but I do so by watching you and then figuring stuff out at 2 AM. And then jotting a few notes down on the back of an envelope, but being perfectly willing to jump down a rabbit hole if the situation seems to call for it.

So this afternoon, the boys were at a movie, and I was at Barnes and Noble, going through all my bookmarks and Pinterest pins and endless emails I’ve sent to myself with pertinent homeschooling links and getting psyched about the year.

As I wrote before, the ten-year old is not unenthusiastic, but he does have  a bit of anxiety about “keeping up” and his friend who is going to the brainiac school up the hill. As I clicked and scrolled and my pen flew over the pages of my Moleskin (of course), I pondered this, and considered “my” planning, and stopped short.

He’s ten. Almost eleven.  I keep saying I’m all about the unschooling. And we have tried to be totally unschooling, but it’s not a great fit for the older boy (who will be going to high school this year anyway), and then the younger one’s worry kicked in, so I got more proactive and started planning, and then there I was at the bookstore…planning.

I thought…what. Am I doing. There’s got to be a way to help this super smart kid with a ton of interests to take more charge of his own schooling…but feel okay about it.  To help him feel that “yes, this is school, yes you are keeping up. More than keeping up.”

So I closed the computer, picked the boys up, came home, opened the computer back up, typed up some sheets, printed them up and put them in a notebook.  In a little bit, we’ll sit down and go over them.

  • Page 1: The subjects for this year and the spines we’ll be using. (“spines” are the foundational texts – lots of supplementary material and activities are assumed.)
  • Page 2: What should happen every day.  Prayer & chat about the saint of the day; Handwriting/copywork; Math; Latin; Creative time – draw, sculpt, play music, go outside and explore, write, etc.
  • Page 3:  the list of other activities and when they’re happening, from piano to boxing to Troops of St. George to zoo class, etc.
  • Page 4: What he wants to do. What specifically does he want to study this year? (for example, over the past couple of days, he’s mentioned he really wants to delve into herp biology and also do a lot of dissection. Not of Rocky, we can assume). Does he want to play with another language (via Duolingo or something)? Pick up another instrument? Find a different kind of art class? Cook? Clean the basement?

It just occurred to me that his needs weren’t being well served by my instinct to keep things in my head and just respond to the moment.  He needs more than that.  And I really hope – and believe – that what’s going to happen in me being more organized, and us talking it out and being more collaborative, even if I’m taking the lead, the end result just might be him feeling confident enough to  take a bigger role in staking out his own direction, without being afraid that he’s “behind.”

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As I wrote earlier this week, we freaky southerners are getting ready to start school, and that includes me and my homeschooler.

Some of you homeschool all year round, and I admit that at the beginning of this summer we were Going to Do Math and Handwriting! Every Day!

Didn’t happen.

Mostly because of travel and other adventures, I suppose.  We started reviewing Beast Academy 4D in early July, but only in a scattered way.

1952jollyjumpupsjourney1The kid reads constantly, however, and did continue piano over the summer in a fairly intense way (sporadic lessons, but the repertoire – Bach’s Invention 13, Joplin’s “Elite Syncopations” and a movement of Mozart’s Sonata in C, K. 545  – has been challenging), so that’s been plenty.

But mostly for my own sake, I’m going to lay out the thoughts I’m having for the coming school year, and invite you all to tell me (and us) what you are doing:

Reminder: Kid is 10, almost 11, 5th grade. 

Note: I want to be more unschoolish here than we end up being.  I probably should just give up the pretense. This year, I am adding more formal science and history components for his sake, in this sense:  I know that when he sits for an hour reading the non-fiction science and history books we check out of the library, when we watch videos on the same, when we do science experiments with what we have on hand –I know that when we do all of that, he is learning, and learning plenty, but he  is starting to worry, especially since one of his friends has transferred from the old Catholic school he attended to one of the higher-pressure elite independent private schools around.  Spending some time with textbooks every day is going to help him  feel more secure that education is happening.  

Also:  I love  homeschooling, but I will straight up say that if there were a Classical academy around here (that wasn’t operated from a Reformed Christian perspective) – he’d be there. And he’d love it. 

Schoolish stuff:

So..I guess we can kiss that whole “unschooler” pretense goodbye, eh?

Except … I will cling to some semblance of that identity by emphasizing that if the kid sees something outside or in that draws his attention…he’s free to pursue it.  And if we read something or watch something that leads down a rabbit hole…we follow it.

Also, “school” occupies no more than three hours a day – no more.  And that includes video-watching time, which is super important – videos from  the Kids Should See This, and other places…

FYI, note the absence of spelling.  He’s a good speller, and so it’s really not necessary. We haven’t done “spelling” with him since the first year of homeschooling.

Outside of home, structured stuff:

  • Troops of St. George, which is starting in our area
  • Basketball, when that starts.
  • Science Center Class (once a month) – probably.  I waited too long to register, so he’s first on the waiting list…#mybad
  • Boxing (weekly)
  • A 6-week zoo class in being a “Junior Zoo Vet”  – he’s super excited about this one.
  • Not sure about art – he has enjoyed the classes in the past, but is saying he doesn’t want to start up again right now, which is fine.
  • Piano. 

Much more as it pops up – there are local outdoorsy homeschool meetups constantly and all over the place.  Fun stuff over the next few months in Atlanta, at the High Museum, History Center & Shakespeare Tavern, as well as up in Huntsville at the Space and Rocket Center – we’ll think about those for the winter or spring. 

What are we changing, besides being more structured with history and science “spines?”   Nothing, really.

What about you folks????

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For those of you in more normal parts of the world, you’re thinking, What? That’s not right…we’ve got a month left!

Not the case down here, where school starts well before Labor Day.

My son will be starting high school, and his orientation is a week from today, classes begin on the 10th.

(The satisfaction comes on the other end – his last day of class will be May 20. Some of you were posting “LAST DAY OF SCHOOL” photos when we’d already been out a month. So there.)

Yesterday I pulled the calendar out and started the ritual Marking-Up of Life.  The high school’s calendar, altar serving schedule, homeschool (5th grader) activities, writing deadlines…and I was thinking about all of this and what parts of the uniform are left to buy and if all the textbooks have arrived and what resources I need to order for the homeschooler and then I thought

IT’S STILL JULY!

And I got a little irritated until, once again, I remembered the merry month of May – we were done with school by May 14 this year and managed to do the Wild West Trip (story still to be finished!) before June.

Our travels for the rest of this summer have been mostly regional – well, all regional.  I had thought of doing a road trip to Philadelphia and Boston for, well, right now, but circumstances intervened, and that won’t be happening. So we are just hanging out here, reading, going to the pool, and getting ready for school. So some notes.

prove-it-complete-set-1001761

  • Are you planning adult education? Consider these resources.

"amy welborn"

  • Are you teaching First Communion children this year? Take a look at Friendship with Jesus and Be Saints. 
  • Are you teaching religion to elementary age students? Friendship with Jesus, Be Saints, Bambinelli Sunday, Adventures in Assisi, The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints, The Loyola Kids’ Book of Heroes. 
  • Can you help catechists, Catholic schools and parish programs?  Consider gifting your parish, school or favorite catechist with copies of these books.  Click on the covers for more information.

"amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

I have copies of the picture books on hand – in my bookstore.  In fact, I have a lot of them!  If you are interested in bulk orders, contact me – we can make a deal!

Again – even if catechesis isn’t something you are personally involved in, any catechist, parish school, library or program would welcome a donation as a beginning-of-the-year (no matter when it begins…) gift.

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Lots of interesting saints coming up this week (well…there are always interesting saints coming up in our calendar, aren’t there?), among them Camillus de Lellis on July 14.

I wrote about him in The Loyola Kids’ Book of SaintsLoyola didn’t choose to excerpt from my book for the entry for their “Saints Stories for Kids” webpage, but you can read most of it at Google Books, here:

camillus de lellis

(Kateri Tekakwitha, whom we also remember on July 14, is also in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints, but the available excerpt on Google Books is pretty minimal, so…..)

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Still without internet here. Coming to you from Zaxby’s this time.  I thought we were okay, but then it went out again, so I’ve made the call, and will be switching providers at some point this week.

But until then a few notes on homeschooling stuff:

(Obviously no videos all week…too bad…there have been some good ones posted at The Kids Should See This …but they will still be there!)

*We’re almost finished with Getting Started with Latin. As I said before, we are supplementing it with Visual Latin, but the more I get into the latter (again – we did a lot of it with my older son), the weaker it seems. The videos are amusing, but the order and pace is just off – jumping in and discussing “feminine, masculine and neuter” nouns without reference to declensions, for example – instead of exploring the first declension thoroughly before moving on to the second, then the concept of gender when you hit the neuter second declension nouns.  Yes, it means you will probably have to delay discussing adjectives, but I think it’s better to get a deeper sense of the concept of declensions as the way we understand nouns along with verb conjugations.  So, no, I can’t recommend Visual Latin.   (Besides, if you are not Christian or religious in your worldview, his “reading” passages hit religious themes right off, and the thing is, they’re made up – they’re not classical or even deeply theologically based  That bothered me the first time around, and even more so this time.)

*Catholic schools, please get a clue and start teaching Latin again, across the board, to everyone, starting in elementary school.  Even aside from the, you know, Catholic aspect of teaching Latin, the habits in instills are so important:  it has prompted a curiosity about word origin in my son, to the point that it’s almost a reflex for him to pause upon hearing a new word, and reflect on where it came from (if that word is English)  or what it leads to (if it’s a Latin or Greek word).  In addition, the particular skills that are learned in Latin translation, it seems, are deeply related to problem-solving and logic in a way that translation of living languages is not.  As my son has interacted with longer and longer sentences involving various cases and conjugations, I can see his brain work:  Quickly scan the sentence, get a sense of the general structure, find your verb, find your subject, and then drill down into everything else. It teaches him to get a general sense of a problem or issue, and then carefully take it apart –  before tackling – and being overwhelmed – by a mass of particulars.

*I LOVE the Writing and Rhetoric series from Classical Academic Press.  Granted, we are only on the first volume (Fables, Grades 3-4), and I don’t know if the process will eventually get repetitive, but four chapters in, I am sold.  The way it works in this first volume is that a fable is presented as the centerpiece of each chapter.  The student reads the fable, then narrates it back to the teacher.  After that point, the fable is used as a basis for various exercises: summarization, amplification, writing in a copious manner, exploring synonyms and always some form of creative writing.  I’m particularly struck by the process of summarizing that is taught:  Find the main idea.  Circle it.  Underline any words that are essential to the main idea.  Cross out any words or sentences that are not essential.  Then write a summary.  It’s very methodical, but it seems it really teaches how to summarize.

*I think this, combined with the Brave Writer method of tapping the imagination and observational powers, will be the core of our writing program here for now.  I can stop searching for that Platonic ideal at least.

*As I said in the 7 Quick Takes, Beast Academy 4D is here.  It continues to impress, and it continues to entertain my son, since he has already grabbed and read the whole text (in comic book form) at this point.  Since 5A will probably not be out until mid-fall, I’m guessing, we will take our time with this one, with a lot of supplementation – some from the Challenge Math book, and some from various books I picked up (digitally) during one of Scholastic’s 1$ sales – a book on fractions for grades 6-8, Building Math Vocabulary, and Algebra Readiness Made Easy, as well as Evan-Moor daily Math problem books, both regular and word problems.  I’m finding that at this point of in Beast Academy 4 – about ¾ of the way – seems to place a student mid 5th grade in traditional American math.  I’d have to get a textbook to make sure of that, as well as actually finish BA 4, but from leafing through 5th grade supplements at the bookstore last night, it seems about right.

*Books that have impressed this week:  As we have been deep into avian life, we’ve checked out several books (and will be "amy welborn"investing in a couple of birds of Alabama- type books), but one that is particularly lovely is the National Wildlife Federation-published World of BirdsIt features drawings and paintings rather than photographs, and it’s lovely, engaging and full of good information.  (And of course, if you are going to tackle birds, you will book mark the Cornell Orthinological site).

I love maps.  I think historical maps are such a great way of exploring history and geography and, as an implied side effect, the nature of human knowledge and understanding, which is never complete, and always changes and develops.  In short: don’t be arrogant,  human race.  What you think you know? That will change.

Great Maps is a new, big, fat, solid book that presents historical maps from all cultures with a great format:  One spread discusses the map in general, and then the next highlights certain intriguing or important features.  It’s really good, worth checking out and maybe even worth purchasing if that is your interest…okay…time’s up!

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A few years back, I had whipped up a graphic using this, one of my favorite Benedict quotes, but I couldn’t find the one I was thinking of.  I did find this one, though, which isn’t super pretty, but seems to me especially appropriate for this, his 88th birthday.

"pope Benedict XVI"

Stay united to one another, help one another to live and to increase in faith and in Christian life to be daring witnesses of the Lord. Be united but not closed. Be humble but not fearful. Be simple but non ingenuous. Be thoughtful but not complicated. Enter into dialogue with all, but be yourselves.

-Meeting with young people in Genoa, 2008.

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a homeschool post, so here goes, based mostly on just what we did today.  Today:

  • Every day begins with prayer, which is a mash-up of the daily Mass readings and Morning prayer, based on Universalis    or Magnificat if I can find it. So….Thomas Aquinas today. Talking about the saint of the day also gives an opportunity to briefly and painlessly review bits of geography (we generally look at a map to see where the saint was from and traveled to), chronology (for example, practicing understanding the concept of centuries…born in 1225…what century is that?) and art. (We use this book(wonderful!) and this one – when the saint of the day is featured.  Also these to illuminate the Scripture readings.)  Much of the time, when we read the Gospel, we also pull out the Bible atlas and review where Jesus lived and walked.  (Next year, I think we will focus a lot on the Old Testament. as well).  This week, as we discussed the Conversion of Paul (in retrospect!) , we talked, of course, about Paul, his life, and used the actual real Bible to review the contents of the New Testament, what epistles are, and so on.  He practices looking passages up in the Bible and understanding Book, Chapter: Verse notation. Did the same for the feastday of Timothy and Titus.
  • And do you know what?  That is the core of religious education here.  In addition, when various seasons approach we do activities related to that. He, with his brother, regularly serves at the Casa Maria retreat house. This means that in the training to serve, he’s received an superb education in the basics of the Mass, and as he serves Masses that are celebrated by the priests who have led that weekend’s retreat, he gets an opportunity to hear generally above-average preaching. (And he is a kid who pays attention – and given where he has to sit – a couple of feet away from the ambo – it would be hard not  to listen.)  Finally, he’s part of the children’s schola at the Cathedral, where they are using the Words with Wings curriculum and he’s learning a lot through that.   So no, I’m not pushing any particular catechism on him.  He might start something like that next year, but given our household – and the mom who is insanely focused on TEACHABLE MOMENTS – I think we’re good for now. He’s 10.
  • Copywork this week has consisted of: 1 Timothy 1:1-2 (on his feast); “A Word is Dead” by Emily D (with discussion of its meaning) and this quote from Benjamin F: Never confuse motion with action. Again, with discussion of its meaning.  I think tomorrow he’ll do a bit of Bill S’s Sonnet 116 because he’s starting to memorize it. (more on that in a bit).
  • Cursive practice from this book.  I don’t buy them. Don’t spend a dime, because we have them already.  These are the books Joseph used in that grade in brick n’ mortar school that were never finished.  Apparently – as I learned at some point – the practice in class was to distribute the cursive practice books at the beginning of the year and then give them goals for finishing them, goals which were then never followed up on.  So.  There are plenty of usable pages left. Yeah.
  • Since the math that he’s doing at the moment is logic (more in a minute), he does a set of math review problems – 5 minutes’ worth – just to keep his skilz sharp.
  • Spelling – he’s in “4th grade” and a good speller but to allay his anxiety about keeping up with those in brick n’ mortar school, I have him do spelling – from a 5th grade book.  The routine?  I read him the words.  He spells all but maybe one correctly.  He shakes his head and says, “Oh, that’s right. I forgot. I’ve got it now.” Spelling done for the week, and he feels better.
  • (All of this up to this point (after prayer)  takes maybe 15-20 minutes)
  • Math:  He’s on Beast Academy 4B.  The last chapter has been on logic, and it’s stretched both of us.  A lot of puzzles, of course, and I’ve had to regularly explain to him the purpose, as I understand it:  to teach him how to view a problem, how to discern what is important and what is not and to sort out how parts relate to a whole.  I admit, it’s not my favorite. I mean….

EPSON MFP image

Wut.

Well, 4C is on the way, so next week, we’ll be all about normal things like fractions….

(and for the record I love this curriculum and, as a non-math person, am a huge fan of everything Art of Problem Solving does.  Joseph said to me once, “Mom, do you sometimes watch Richard’s videos when we’re not here?” Er, no. What ever made you think that? Adjust volume.)

  • Then Latin.  As I said before, we’re taking it slowly, using this. Today he covered 2nd and 3rd person singular of "amy welborn"spectare. We also took a slight detour to the Gloria as I reminded him of what the -mus ending would be about. (glorificamus te, adoramus te…etc) He said, “We are moose. That’s how I’ll remember it.”  Whatever works.
  • A bit of geography.  He did a few of the daily geo problems from this book – reinforcing latitude and longitude.  We also use Evan-Moor, but have gone through them up through grade 6. Yesterday he learned about legends and scale by first measuring his own foot with a ruler, then pacing out the dimensions of the dining room, then drawing a map complete with the proper number of feet, then working out the scale (1 Michael Foot = 8 inches), then working out the dimensions of the room in feet and inches.
  • Science: Again, to alleviate his fears about “keeping up,” I purchased the science textbook they use in his old school.  We follow it in a general way with a lot of supplementation.  Last week, we were very science-heavy, and did quite a few demonstrations about heat transfer.  Today, he read and reviewed and went over the chapter-end test. We’ll pick up sound & light next week. I need prisms. PRISMS.
  • Watched this video, and a few related.
  • Independent reading time, reading from the mostly animal-related books he’d checked out of the library. This one is quite amywelborn8interesting and well-done.
  • History: reading the historical fiction, Michael and the Invasion of France. Discussing related issues, looking at a map of how France was divided after the Nazi invasion.
  • We had checked out two children’s books from the Eats, Shoots, Leaves crew and read them earlier in the week, and today, he played this online game. 
  • As I mentioned last year, I discovered this neat-o free poetry memorization curriculum from Mensa.  We did “No Man is an Island” before Christmas, and it’s taken us this long to get back to it.  (And when I say, “we,” I mean it.  I’m memorizing them, too.) The second poem is Sonnet 116, so we (finally)  started that today.  We talked about what a sonnet is, read it, discussed its meaning, then watched a couple of videos of recitations of the poem in both modern English pronunciation and (presumed) original pronunciation.  Then, just because, watched a video of David Tennant declaiming 18.  (There’s a Sonnet app that looks really good, but I haven’t yet invested in it).
  • Read a chapter from Alice in Wonderland and looked at this post about interesting and varied illustrations of the book and talked about how they were the same as or different from what he had envisioned as we read.
  • Then, art!  First, a quick and easy project – this one, from my favorite, That Artist Woman.  It’s a project she did with kindergartners, but that’s okay. He enjoyed it, it took 15 minutes, and the result was very nice, plus we repurposed some of the fruit of last week’s printmaking for the trees.
  • Then we started on….a salt dough map of Guatemala.  Yes!  I had seen this post and thought it was a great idea (we’d done salt dough ornaments at Christmas).  So I told him last week that I wanted him to think of what country he’d like to do, and although I thought he’d go for Mexico, I’m not shocked that Guatemala was the choice.  If told the kid tomorrow that we were going to Tikal, he would probably levitate.

So….a start.  Tomorrow, I plunge in and make my hands think I hate them as I immerse them in salt (although..hmmm…he should probably do his fair share…yeah….) and flour, and we’ll talk about “topography” and such and he’ll make his map. Then it will dry for a couple of days and he’ll paint it.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • Lunch!  (Yes, all this before lunch….) I just discovered that Fantasia is on Netflix, so that was lunchtime viewing while I chopped carrots and onions for Italian Wedding Soup.
  • Practice piano. Bach Invention #1 and this Beethoven (not played at even close to that tempo yet).  Agony because the (excellent) piano instructor changed up the Bach fingering on him.  But…onward!
  • And….we’re done.
  • Wednesday and Thursdays are our only really “full” days of “school.” (and once the weather warms up…see below)  Mondays, he has piano for an hour mid-day, and Tuesdays he either has his homeschool boxing sessions in the afternoons or (once a month) 2-hour science center homeschool class. Fridays are also short-ish because brother gets out of school at 2 on Fridays.
  • But today: Full day, then pick up brother at 3, they shoot hoops for a few minutes here, then take him (Michael) to schola downtown, then back to eat that soup, then out to brother’s Scout meeting where one of Michael’s friends who also has a Scout sibling will be hanging out as well – and they and another child will play outside on the grounds and inside on the basketball court for a good 90 minutes.
  • Home. Shower, then settle down in his room to read – mostly Percy Jackson, with detours to Asterix, Lucky Luke and TinTin, probably until 11 or so. He doesn’t have a “bedtime”  – as long as he’s reading, he can stay up for as long as he likes.
  • So unsocialized! So overprotected and sheltered!

That’s today.  Tomorrow:  More Shakespeare, work on Guatemala in salt dough. Etc. Basketball practice.

"amy welborn"

Once the weather warms up (which will probably be next week.  Sorry, Minnesota!) we’ll venture out for hikes and walks and field trips and such.  I just have no tolerance for sub-50 degree weather. I mean…none. I just sit inside and fume until God cooperates and raises the temperature.

Also, I am trying to settle on a spring break destination.  It’s dependent on airfare.  Once I do that, we’ll shift gears a bit and start preparing for that through reading in geography, history and so on.

Teachable Moments!

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