Saturday, March 28, 2009

A good education? - part 2

As I sought to wrap my head around what a good education looked like, one of the first books that I read was For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. Although the information in the book can be applied in both a homeschool environment and a school environment, I found many of the ideas in the book to be thought provoking and would highly recommend it for any new homeschooler.

The basic educational premises in the book stem from the work of a British educator by the name of Charlotte Mason who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. I will say upfront that our current homeschool situation is not strictly a Charlotte Mason style one by any means. I have, however, learned and continued to learn much by exploring the philosophy of education espoused by Miss Mason. For the moment, I'll stick to a few of the main premises that resonated with me as I first read Macaulay's book.

Premise 1 - Children are born persons.

I know that seems obvious, but it's very easy to forget day to day. One of the best reasons to homeschool is the ability to tailor the education to my students. Each child has different needs. If one child excels at math, let them work ahead. If they struggle with handwriting, it can be worked on a little each day while doing more of their work orally. If they struggle with reading, schedule more time reading aloud after a short phonics lesson. If they love to draw, let them draw a picture of whatever they read in history or science that day. Basically, I get to budget my time to let them maximize their strengths while still working on shoring up their weaknesses. Above all else, avoid the temptation to compare one child's progress with another either within a home or from one home to the next.

Premise 2 - Read living books and let the children learn from the authors.

Possibly the most important lesson, I learned from Miss Mason is to be selective about what my children read. Children need "living books" that capture their imagination not short little snippets of a story here and there with a pile of comprehension questions to test their learning. Children will respond to the books with their own questions and learn directly from the author without any interference from me. Jessie was so excited one day when she first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to recognize the similarities between Aslan and Jesus without any help from me. When we read Little Pilgrim's Progress together, we had a lot of good discussions about some of little Christian's choices, both good and poor. It wasn't my idea, but the kids with comments like, "He shouldn't have done that," and cheers whenever he overcame a problem.

Premise 3 - Respect the child's mind.

In practical terms for me, this meant allowing the children to narrate the stories without interrupting. I try to correct them only if they make a mistake in the sequence of the story. They may not always pick up on the same things as I do. Most of the time when both Jessie and Violet narrate to me on the same book, someone reading their narrations would think that the girls read two different stories about the same person. One may have been particularly struck by an event in a person's childhood while the other didn't even give that event a second thought. Still they are learning and making their own connections. They will hear the name of a book, a person, or a place and recall hearing about it in another book that they read.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

A good education? - part 1

As parents we want what is best for our children. Naturally, when we decide to homeschool, we want to make the best choices possible in order to provide our children with the best education possible. What makes a good education? If a person can read, write, and manipulate numbers to solve a problem, are they educated? Do they further require a foundation of knowledge in matters of history, science, and current events to be able to converse intelligently regarding any number of topics? What about character and principles which seem sadly lacking in today's society? Where does faith take its place? When and how should these things be learned?

As valid as many of these questions are, I believe if I am honest with myself that truthfully they miss the point of educating. It is very easy as a new homeschooling parent to jump right in with both feet and start thinking about curriculum content. There are plenty of experts with opinions on what should be taught and even how it should be taught. If I am truthful, I must first recognize that education isn't about what, it's about who. Furthermore that who is not me. It's not about what I want. In my family that who is each one of my children individually. Psalm 139:13 declares, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." God has blessed each of my children with their own unique personalities. They have different strengths and weaknesses. They are interested in different things. Jeremiah reads "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." God has a plan for each one of my children. A path stretching from now through eternity who course it known only to Him who directs it.

The hardest part about starting to homeschool is not jumping in unprepared. I'm always ready to plan or to research. If I truly want to provide the best education to my children, I need to start in prayer to the One who knows my children the best.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Week 31: Overcoming

It has been a very long week. Whatever virus Jessie had last week spread down the line. Everybody in our house with the exception of DH has been sick to one degree or the other in the last two weeks. Violet and Benny finally seem to be better, so now it's just baby Henry and I still a bit under the weather. My brain's a little foggy (mostly from sleep deprivation), but here's a rundown of what I remember we accomplished this week.


Jessie spent the majority of the week finishing off the section on operations with decimals in the IP. For the most part it went very smoothly. She had a couple of word problems that required some assistance. It had been a while since she had a problem that needed to have a bar diagram drawn in order to find the answer, but once I got her headed in the right direction she did very well. On the left is part of Friday's review lesson in the textbook.

Violet struggled a bit this week with the challenging section at the end of her 2B IP. She solved probably half of the problems on her own, and the other half we worked through together. Her Miquon was mostly a review of addition with carrying, but she did have fun with the square puzzles on the right, especially the one where she got to choose the numbers.


I think we actually completed everything on Jessie's schedule this week. YEAH!! In grammar, we punctuated addresses in sentences, discussed the proper way to introduce someone, and worked on direct and indirect quotations. Since we had covered the latter extensively in CW already, I let her just do the worksheet on Thursday and skip the exercises in the book. For dictation this week, she began a new section in The Silver Chair by Lewis where Eustace and Jill meet Puddleglum. A couple of the days, I was busy with a very grumpy Henry so she was allowed to read the sentence herself and then close the book and write it. For CW this week, our story was "The Gingerbread Man". The model was almost five pages long so I allowed her to rewrite it over the course of three days after reading and discussing it on Monday. Friday's assignment was simply to proofread my typing for errors. That leaves all of the editing for after break. She's close to finishing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and more than halfway through Lad, a Dog.

Violet also covered direct and indirect quotations in grammar this week and did very well on her spelling. She only did one day of copywork because we finished up the last page of the binder from last year. I didn't want to mess with a bunch of loose pages, and we were in no conditions to venture into Staples to get a new stack of handwriting paper spiral bound. She's still thoroughly enjoying reading The Twenty One Balloons. Her fairy tale for the week was "Blue Beard" and on Thursday she read The Paint Box Kid.


History this week has been light. We finished up Geronimo on Monday because I naturally didn't get around to it over the last weekend. I gave the girls a couple of fictional books to read about lumberjacks and their camps. We still need to do a bit of reading about steamboats and Hawaii becoming a state before putting together booklets. It looks like we'll do some history next week during break at least.


We completed the lesson on fish. Violet and Benny have been repeating the word ovoviviparous ever since we read about sea horses. When asked what it meant only Jessie remembered. The other two just think it sounds funny. The only thing left to do for science is assemble the booklets, which can be done sometime next week as well.

Another week of choose your own fish to draw. Jessie drew a pipefish and colored it in using every color we had available. Violet couldn't make up her mind, so she decided to draw both a clown triggerfish and an eel.


No lesson this week. We did some informal review instead. One day we did an overall vocabulary review. We also did some parsing and translating practice. Jessie did very well. I learned that I need to work on my English to Latin translation skills because it took me longer to come up with the sentences than it did Jessie to tell me what they meant.


Benny was off for the beginning of the week. I didn't figure he had the concentration to work on phonics while he we still sick. When we did resume phonics, we did our first pyramid sentence once day and spent two days working on the /k/ sound made by either a c or k at the beginning of a word. I know we started learning the months of the year. I don't remember exactly what we read this week because we didn't have a topic. I let Benny pick whatever he wanted off of the shelf instead.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Retracing my steps...

Classical, CM, unschooling, auditory learners, kinesthetic learners, literature based curriculum, Latin based curriculum, block scheduling, loop scheduling.... The choices and vocabulary related to homeschooling seem to increase annually. As a young parent interested in exploring the idea of homeschooling back in 2002-2003, I remember struggling to understand the terminology, being overwhelmed by the amount of available information, and reeling from the seemingly infinite number choices available in every facet of homeschooling from philosophies to presentation to curriculum. Where to start? How would I know I was making the right choice? Would my children's education suffer because I chose the wrong path? Could I really do this? I must have had at least a thousand questions. Questions common among a multitude of homeschooling parents.

My personal goals are to retrace my homeschooling steps from then until now to reflect upon the choices made, to better clarify the reasons and methods behind our school, to enable myself to more clearly define our goals, to evaluate how effectively we are implementing our strategy, and to assess how well we are able to meet our goals. I'm not looking to completely reorganize or redirect our homeschool, but simply to regain a sense of what our overall homeschooling vision is. In truth, I've been so immersed in the day to day details for so long, I feel as if I can't see the forest for all the trees. I know it still there, it's just gotten a little fuzzy and out-of-focus. Since the next year of homeschooling will see not only the start of my first logic stage student but also the addition of my third official homeschooling student, it seems to be a prudent time to do some prayerful soul-searching.

In the process I hope that the information will be helpful to new homeschoolers standing where I started several years ago at a place of infinite potential and limitless choices. I realize now that there is no one perfect homeschooling path. Every child and every family has varying strengths and weaknesses, differences in personality, and personal beliefs that shape their own individual homeschool journeys. What works for my family will not work for another and vice versa. However, although the final answers may be different, many of the questions remain the same. I hope that anyone who takes the time to read my ramblings will find the information useful in answering their own questions. My intention is to blog along this topic on Mondays as often as I am able for the next several months. If you have comments or suggestions of other resources that I should check out as I go along, I would love to hear from you. If nothing else, then I hope that others who are struggling with questions or doubts will understand that you are not alone.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Week 30: One step forward, another step back

It's been a roller coaster style week. Jessie spent the first half of the week getting better. Then just as Jessie was well again, Violet has come down with a high fever. I was truly tempted to just take the week off but decided to press on instead as best we could in order to take our break in two weeks around the girls' birthdays. Taking most of Friday morning off to do some consignment shopping didn't help either, but we're slowly trying to wrap some things up this afternoon. Here's a look at what we managed to accomplish.


Jessie completed a solid 5 days of work in her IP book in only four days this week covering over half of the section on operations with decimals. Her favorite assignment for the week was the magic squares pictures on the left where the sum had to be the same vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.

Violet also managed to complete a full week of assignments this week despite her fever at the end of the week. She has finished the basic part of the end review in the IP book. I think I'm going to have her try some of the challenging section instead of skipping over it next week before we move on to 3A just to see how she handles the work.


This was our least consistent area for the week. Jessie only completed one day of dictation this week. We did manage to keep on track with grammar. This week's lessons covered abbreviation, commas in a series, commas in addressing another person, and using commas with dates and addresses in a sentence. There was also a day for telling a story orally. She completed another lesson in her spelling. I decided to simply take the week off from CW. She's continuing to progress through 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Lad, A Dog reading another 6 and 2 chapters respectively. She's glazing over some of the science info in the former book, but is able to follow the basic plot nonetheless.

Violet was actually more consistent this week in her LA. She completed her normal 1 and 1/2 lessons in SWO. For copywork, we have started using sentences from Little Pilgrim's Progress which we read last year. We spent two days of grammar identifying nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in various sentences that I selected from a story. We were supposed to learn about writing a thank you note, but I think we'll push that lesson off until next Monday. For reading, she's continuing to enjoy The Twenty One Balloons completing three more chapters this week. Her fairy tales this week was entitled "Prince Darling", and on Thursday she read The Chalk Box Kid by Bulla.


Our history lessons this week have been a bit sporadic. We started off well on Monday by learning about Custer's last stand. We finally still need to read a book about Geronimo, probably tomorrow right after breakfast. The booklets and timeline figures will get added to next Friday's to do list. Independently, the girls each read the book If You Lived with the Sioux Indians and narrated to me them portions which them each found most interesting.

We are continuing our geography drill twice a week although I often forget to include it in my weekly reports. Both girls are currently working on memorizing the states and capitals. The easier way we have found is simply to chant through them in a list. Violet is working on the capitals of Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, and Maryland this week. Jessie is a little further along and is practicing the capitals of Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

No Science this week.


The girl's each chose another fish to draw this week. Jessie chose the lion fish. Violet chose the long nosed butterfly fish. No music done as yet.


We completed the review lesson 26 this week. Jessie's translations were a little sloppy because she didn't parse the words before translating. A few of the sentences were in the wrong tense, and a noun or two was singular instead of plural. Rather than move on to a new lesson next week, I think we'll take another week to review and complete some more parsing and translating work which I'll have to put together over the weekend.


Benny completed four days of school this week. In phonics he practiced reading the words I and a in short sentences. My favorite was the last sentence that he read on Monday. "I hug Mom." I got a hug to finish off the lesson. He also learned the word and using it to combine to shorter sentences into a longer one. He's still working on his counting. I can't tell that we're making any progress counting by ones by I know it will click one of these days. On the up side, he has finally remember Thursday when saying the days of the week for two days in a row now. We didn't really have a theme for our reading this week. Benny had picked out an assortment of books from the library last weekend, so we just read whichever one he felt like at the time. No crafts either, since he spent most of this morning down at Grandma's house.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WW: Mr. Curiousity

Hey, Mom. What do you have there?

You wouldn't mind if I take a closer look now would you?

There's definitely something in there.

If I could just reach a little farther....

Friday, March 6, 2009

Week 29: A Lighter Week

OK, I admit it. We slacked off a bit this week. I wanted the kids to be able to play outside in the snow Monday and Tuesday before it melted, and I had spent the entire weekend getting some clothes ready to consign to I needed to catch up on the house. Then towards the end of the week, Jessie's been sick so we cut back even more. Here's a look at what we did accomplish.


Jessie finished up the section on operations with decimals in the textbook and workbook on Tuesday without any problems. Then she had a couple of days of review pages before starting the corresponding section in the Intensive Practice today. Although she's sick, she didn't mind keeping up with the basics because she's already starting to look forward to spring and summer breaks from school. I don't think she'll have any trouble coming up with things to do this year.

Violet has been doing review all week. She has now completed both the Singapore 2B textbook and workbook as well as the green Miquon book. In Miquon, she's moved on to the yellow book. In Singapore, she has some final reviews in the Intensive Practice book to complete next week before she's ready to move on to the next level.


Jessie made it through another spelling lesson. I think she's starting to adjust to the more demanding level G book because I heard far fewer complaints and questions that the previous few weeks. In grammar, she's completed the section on adverbs and scored perfectly on her test. Today we started a new section on punctuation. She's still reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Lad, a Dog and seems to be enjoying them both. We did some dictation this week, but not every day and not as much as usual. The only LA area that I was determined to get to this week was CW. We finally finished editing "Little Red Riding Hood". I'm not getting the kind of variety of adjectives and adverbs that I would like to see in her descriptions, so I'll probably read back through the instructions for the last level of writing and see if I've missed something there. It may be that we need to spend some more time analyzing the story before we write.

Violet has also been working on adverbs this week for grammar. For reading, she completed All of a Kind Family and has moved on to The Twenty One Balloons. She's continuing to read from The Blue Fairy Book, but got one day off from reading because I didn't get a chance to plan anything for Thursday. I think we got in 2 days of copywork, and one day of dictation.

History - we took the week off.


I had planned to do science on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after letting the kids play in the snow two days. We did start learning about fish on Wednesday, but I chose to skip science Thursday and Friday after Jessie became sick. No pictures to post because we only have a partial booklet completed.


We learned the rest of the prepositions this week that take the accusative case for their object. I'm hoping next week is a review because I really could use another week to catch up on vocabulary and so could Jessie. We didn't formally do any ASL this week. I picked up a couple of ASL books at the library, and the girls looked through them and learned a few things on their own.


Both girls drew fish this week. The striped one is Jessie's, and Violet drew the pufferfish. No music.


Benny is doing great. He's mastered counting by tens. He still struggles a bit counting by ones, but I think it's more of an attention issue than anything else. We're still working on remembering Thursday. He did 3 days of phonics in PP this week. Then Thursday and Friday we switched gears and read some Bob books instead. The only downside to the books is that he would rather look at the pictures and guess the words than take time to sound them out. If I remember correctly from teaching the girls, in a couple of weeks it won't matter anyway because he'll have memorized the books from reading them so often. For read alouds this week we focused on frogs. I've given up on the geography portion of the reading schedule simply because Benny isn't really interested. No craft this week. (At least none that I planned.) He's made several different crafts and drawings on his own, but I don't have any pictures to post.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009