Child, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend

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I love the Lord as much as a broken person can; love and loved by my husband; blessed by 5 amazing little people who have helped me to learn much about me; grateful to serve even more as God gives them to me; blessed every day to be a home school teacher; college student; I hope to change the world by loving as many people as possible, because there is nothing greater than loving another.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Home School Helps

A recent thread on The Forum asked for home schooling helps from classical educators. Here was my contribution.

As of January, I'll have completed my 11th year of home schooling. I went classical in my 3rd year, in the middle.

1. I second the reading for yourself on learning styles, teaching methods, etc. You can even give certain evals on your dd to see what suits her well, remembering that may change as she ages, so get educated as a teacher, NOW, while you have the most time.

2. Avoid gaps by finding excellent resources now. Gaps are fixable, but they are a real pain and take a lot of time to remediate. Do your research diligently.

3. At her tender age and through 3rd grade, I'd say, if the tears are consistent, Put.It.Away (assuming it's dread and not disobedience or bad attitude). I squashed a love of learning once and it took a lot to rekindle the fire. The boy is still scared, even if well healed.

4. The materials I love not only provide outstanding education for my children , but also for me. There are 2 things I swear by and a portion of the reason is b/c I truly believe they make me a better teacher. They educate me not just on the what of classical education, but also on the "how to implement practically, in my classroom" aspect. This is so important. (The Phonics Road, Tapestry of Grace). Truth be told, in this age, there are a bazillion choices in home education and they are not all created equal. Having said that, you may find value in other places then me or your friend in home school coop (as an example). Whatever you find, just find it and be sure you're both growing.

5. Particularly in your case w. an advanced dd, and I say this often, just b/c they start young, doesn't mean they'll stay way ahead forever and/or be mature on the same level as she is intelligent. Don't forget this. She'll still only be 8 years old when she's 8, even if she's reading on a 7th grade level. This can be difficult as you try to determine what is academically challenging and still allows a child to be a child, who can do some upper level work, but still wants to behave like a wiggly, giggly child. Sometimes, it can really be hard to separate the teacher in me from the mother in me and most of the time, my children need me to do that. I banged my head against the proverbial wall so many times thinking I was doing something wrong, when in fact, she was just being a kid her age. (I hope that makes sense).

6. When you find your philosophical mentor (SWB, CM, Montessori, Waldorf, etc. or any combo thereof ) Keep re-reading! Stages change and the reminders are great.

7. Ask experienced home schoolers for advice. We really have BTDT. We can help!

8. Hands on is what sticks for history and science. Keep it hands on and read to your hearts content, even in middle school! Fun and messy are good. The clean up is worth the retention and joy of learning.

9. Finally, enjoy home schooling. It is a gift.

As usual, there were many wonderful thoughts. Take a minute and enjoy The Forum. It has taught me so much! I tend to live on the K-8 Curriculum and High School Boards

Thursday, October 28, 2010

From Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin: Remodeling Papa's Prayer, PR3 Week 20

This week in writing we practiced a skill I understand is commonly used in IEW, another outstanding writing program that is time tested and beloved amongst home schoolers: remodeling. We started with some thesaurus practice. Before looking up a provided list of words extracted from the prayer, we discussed the Latin meaning of thesaurus, essentially, "a book of treasures!" I particularly liked that! Then she searched and wrote several possible synonyms for each word. It was a nice time to be clear that a synonym is a word with a SIMILAR, not SAME, meaning. Creature lent to this nicely, as person was listed in the thesaurus, but in context of the prayer, Papa was obviously referring to animals.

After searching for all the words and jotting down synonyms, we remodeled the prayer. I completed the first two sentences with her and then she completed the rest on her own. I imagine, when I get here with the Little Leaguers, I will have to do the entire assignment with them. All in all, including a spelling test of twenty words, five new spelling words for which she dictated original sentences and identified parts of speech, and a review of all Latin pre/suffixes and base words, PR3 took 50  minutes today. Darling will study her Latin flash cards for ten minutes sometime during this day. So, 1 hour covered spelling, reading research, Latin, writing, grammar skills and phonics (she misspelled 2 words, so she had to mark them). Good stuff!

Yesterdays literature assignment included reading three pages, then researching to write down the hopes and dreams of two of the characters. This is a great exercise for looking for key pieces of information, re-reading for research and handwriting.

We'll spend tomorrow reading three more pages, then researching to focus on phrases (verb, prepositional, and infinitive). We'll practice a rule tune and add a new stanza to it! We'll start by dictating definitions, then we'll identify and categorize phrase types, then copy them to a notebook page (23 total).  We'll also add five more spelling words (with dictated original sentences and part of speech included, as always) and review Latin words. I don't think we'll spend more than forty-five minutes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Scientific Wordless Wednesday (only a day late)!

ME: "Axel, clean up your cubby."

AX MAN, while examining mushrooms under the microscope with ROGD," I'm a scientist. Scientists don't clean their cubbies."
He finished being a scientist then I made him clean up his cubby!

Understanding Descriptive Writing and Applying It!

Darline yet Diva already knew how to write a paragraph; however in PR3, we've been working on notetaking and then transferring notes into descriptive, not fact based, paragraphs. This is a new skill for her and one that will give her a head start in Write Shop! Here is the paragraph she wrote from week 19 after taking notes from the first chapter.
   The Door Latch Inn is a warm, quiet, and peaceful place, where snacks lay out for journeymen and people can rest their heads. Upstairs are stools used as mounting blocks used for the high beds. Downstairs a long row of pegs hand hats and lanthorns. As the inn signboard creeks and window shutters flap, Elmira, the barn cat, lies and takes car of her six kittens. Across from the barn is a courtyard where a worn cobblestone path, lined with barrels of apples, leads to the cellar. Next to the courtyard, in Momma's kitchen garden stands a scarecrow and a shed for oxen.
Writing comes along nicely in this program and introduces it as a part of literary analysis or grammar, both making writing a skill to communicate and not a separate subject area. The inclusion teaches and encourages application and not just writing for writing class. What a difference I am seeing in her abilities to make crossover connections when compared to that of the Elders. It's a beautiful gift. Again, I offer thanks to Mrs. Beers.

Teaching Paragraph Writing Organically (without a curricula)

When Diva was learning to write, there were not handy dandy writing curriculum for lower grammar students. Mainly, there was instruction via grammar study,  but because I love writing, I wanted to see paragraph formation in early years. We worked on sentences via Rod & Staff and simple dictation, then started building sandwiches (paragraphs).

The sandwich analogy is like this: bread, meat and yummy fixings (lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, etc -- whatever dc likes), more bread! We made our first tasty treat like this.

I had dd narate a bunch of facts on crabs after reading a crab book (Christian Science Nature Readers). Since in the 1st grade, everything was narrated in random order, it gave me the tool to show her how to design a great paragraph. I typed up her narrated sentences, then we cut out each sentence and made piles that had the same main idea. I helped her to "see" the main idea initially, but after a couple of examples, she was able to sort out: body, diet, and habitat.

Then I asked her the question, "What do each of these sentences have in common? Her answer was in a complete sentence and we "made it fun and fancy" to create a topic sentence. I typed the topic sentences up and we placed them on top of each group. I explained what main idea and topic sentence meant (she knew the definition of sentence and what "main" meant, so this was easy). We then started from top to bottom to show her order in paragraphs. In other words, how if you're describing the body, you start with the head and work down to the feet or start with the feet and work on up to the head; most common foods to least; sky to ground for habitat.

We glued her paragraphs on construction paper learning about indentation and she was a published author! We decorated the cover with her drawing of a crab and some fancy scrapbooking letters.

We followed this model several times, for a variety of subjects, including biography and she then had a solid foundation of paragraph writing.

From there, I simply assigned daily paragraphs to go along with our science or history, until she had built her way up to a 5-paragraph essay (3 paragraphs in 3rd grade; 4-5 in 4th grade). With plenty of practice, by 5th grade, 5 paragraph essays are a breeze. Then, we switch to Write Shop (or at least will switch after PR4). In the meantime, we used Writing Aids to fill in more genres, all related to history and science, so she had completed fables, astate notebook, news stories, etc.

I understand from a great friend that Write Shop's new materials for primary school are amazing. A lot of work, but amazing. From this juncture, I'm using The Phonics Road as my writing instruction, but for those who choose an organic route, this way works, it was fun, and it really was painless. Hope it helps you!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week in Review 10/ 11-15 / 10

Watching Gone With the Wind (my FAVORITE movie) Notice Lil' Mother and her baby brother!

Finally got my camera up and running, so I get to add table pictures. All 11 of us for family night in one spot...what a blessing!
Well, this was a school light week. We had a regular Monday -- Wed, but a light Thursday and Friday. We took a trip with our church on Thursday, so we finished grammar and math on the 2-hour ride, then read only for history at the convention.

The Elders did continue an extensive study of Civil War battles. We added an extra week to our studies this year so we could really focus on battles, as the boys, of course, love that aspect. We watched Gettysburg, too. I spent about 4 hours on discussion, thus shortening other areas. It was worth it, so I have no regrets!

We also built a shot put device for the Little League and learned all about 46 degrees being the ideal angle to launch for distance and power. We even remember it whilst watching Gettysburg.

I visited my long lost friend on Wed. night, since there was no church. Instead, I enjoyed some margaritas and chips + salsa. I miss my dear friend, who between the two of us, our so busy with life we rarely get to enjoy each other. It's shameless and we left each other's company again, vowing to get together monthly, both with and without kids. Fingers crossed!

We finished up the week with an early Friday airsoft gun war at some dear friends' house. This family abounds in love and is joyfully suited to mine. The little boys all love each other and the big brothers here are always pleased to be "on loan" for the little brothers in this house! It's cool to have friends who are a "generation" behind you, so you can both enjoy the little years again and also so they can get a glimpse of what's to come.

So, we moved through grammar normally, math normally, continued our new Latin studies (see post below for details), continued with Across Five Aprils, didn't do any reading lessons with Al the Great and actually made an effort to enjoy some friends. That translates into: Mom's gonna bust her but to get a lot of school work lined up until Thanksgiving, the high schoolers enjoyed the light week, the littles enjoyed extra playtime and I have the lazies all out of my system. God help us all next week b/c IT'S ON Like Donkey Kong! ;)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our First Week in PR3, The Beginning of Latin Study

We have officially begun our introduction to Latin, using the Phonics Road Level 3. I admit, after briefly using the Bridge, that I am enjoying this introduction better, as I feel like I have a much deeper understanding and closer relationship with Phonics Road. This is not especially b/c of PR, but rather in addition to, also growing as a teacher, and a classical one at that. So, onwards to our lessons for Weeks 17 & 18.

Week 17 began with cutting out cards, defining "prefix", "base (root) word", and "suffix". As per the style of the program, the child is compiling their own notebook via dictation, so I dictated the definitions to Darling, yet Diva (DyD) and she wrote them in cursive into her handy dandy PR notebook. The notebook is laid out with basic design, so the dictation is entered on ready made lines, keeping the notebook her product, but offering style and structure to keep the notebook flowing and organized. YEAH for Mrs. Beers for understanding the import of both participation and guidance, as well as, legibility for study. The woman is a genius.

On days 2--5 we completed building cods 1A&B, defining 17 prefixes and writing an example of each (in syllable form). The cards for such are provided and also designed in a such way that the "borders" of the cards are open on the right edge, indicating to the child that words can be added to the open end. It also brings to life that a prefix naturally comes at the beginning, as the left border is closed, indicating nothing can be added to that side. Great visual! The cards contain the prefix and also the meaning underneath. The purpose of the cards is for word building -- a great physical and visual aid for the process. To add to the visual aspect of the program, all prefixes are to be written in red AND the prefix cards are red. More on that to come.

Week 18 brings twenty new words to the spelling list. The child is no longer expected to mark, unless they misspell; however, simply because we haven't done it in a while, I had dd mark the words. A little review never hurt anybody. Each day, the DyD looked up the words in the dictionary and also indicated their parts of speech.

On day five, our first base word, -port-, was introduced. See the hyphens I inserted? Those are also on the white cards (color chosen for base words throughout) and the borders are open on both the right and left of all base words. The point is easily understood. We also introduced the first 3 suffixes, on blue cards, with open border on the left to demonstrate how one is allowed to build, using the blue cards and writing suffixes in blue. If the changing of writing utencils stresses your dear one, simply use a highlighter instead. It works wonders for the Little Leaguers!

Designing Code 2A begins with the definition of Base (Root) Words. You've already completed this via dictation, so now you get to review that definition. Then, since your student has received cards for all the prefixes, a base word and three suffixes, you can combine the cards according to your teacher's completed notebook and build: re-port. The layout allows for you and your student to discover the literal meaning, according to the definitions on the cards. For example, re-port is carry back again. Then you continue in this fashion with the other words on DC 2A (ex-port; support, port-er, de-port). Each time you discuss the literal definition. Your child also engages by looking up the definitions in a dictionary. They soon see that the literal definition is given, just in a wordier fashion. The copy the wordy definition onto their paper and also indicate the parts of speech. This dictionary work is great because it reinforces the literal meanings, reinforces how a suffix can change a part of speech, expands vocabulary, and works on note taking skills, via copy work. Mrs. Beers really understood and implemented crossover study in this entire program.

Another important aspect of language acquisition learned during this lesson is Assimilation: changing spelling briefly to ease pronunciation. sup-port comes from sub-port, but in our language you change, or assimilate, the b to p in order to ease pronunciation. Amazing to finally understand all those rules that so many think are exceptions.

So, that's our first week of Latin introduction. I am so happy with it. DyD enjoyed it; found pride in her immediate ability to define words well b/c she had memorized her prefixes and is grasping well the ideas and structure of our English language, via a little instruction in Latin. It's onward and upward from here!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Some things I'm learning about teaching high school

Poor Rockin' Out Guitar Dude. Being the first of the Gang to home school has its disadvantages; particularly when your mom kinda freaks out and dives into classical education just before middle school. Poor kid got flooded with lots of catch up work over the past few years. We're just now wrapping that up.

While he pays for my mistakes (again, poor kid), he also remains my guinea pig as I continue to grow as a teacher and therefore, together we enter, High School: The Final Frontier. Lesson learned over the past couple of weeks: high school is better taught in large chunks (subject matter and time), removing all the tiny little pieces. Translated, drop all the little twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there, and start to narrow your annual focus. That is a tough call for someone who wants to get it all done (read my former post ;) and Know I do know better, I'm just floundering a bit to get in the right groove).

Next lesson: add to the "smaller focus" the thought: you have 4 years of high school to work through a pace correct for each student and don't fret so much about affording college. Did I just say "college" and "don't fret" in the same sentence! Oh my! I must be growing! I've been under self-imposed pressure to get them ready for college by grade 10, allowing them to take their first college class their sophomore year and graduate with an Associates and High School diploma simultaneously. That is a possibility still, but I (again) lost focus on the import of individual education and was so looking forward, that I was just about to miss what happening today. As is the case with many most home educators, I'm a planner, planner, planner and I revise my long term plan each year (hint: this means I've had a long term plan since ROGD was in about 4th grade). I'm just now learning to teach in the now and then reaccess what he needs when he needs it and not in my own timeline. In short, he is who God made him to be and I need to honor that and  not try and make him what I want him to be.

It's a tough lesson. I'm certain to louse it up again, perhaps several more times, but the seed is planted and I have made a few more changes in his schedule to do just the things I am certain the Lord has shown me, including:
  1. Stop stressing about college to come and instead stress focus on high school ;)
  2. Drop vocabulary...we are studying Latin -- the language that produces over 60% of English vocabulary and use amazing history and using a great writing program...we don't need vocab. too.
  3. Cut back on science reading, i.e. reducing living books for him, b/c he doesn't learn best this way AND he is most likely not entering a science field (science will get enough attention to suffice state standards). We will read all the living books planned about Evolution, though. I gotta prepare him to defend his faith.
  4. Spend plenty of time on math. The kid loves it and I need to make sure that doesn't change.
  5. Focus history on battles. The kid was also born to be a military person. It suits him in every way I can imagine (shrieks his mother).
  6. Give him plenty of time for music...his other love. 
  7. Dropping Logic after Dec. until next year, at which time he'll finish with Writing as a deep instruction subject area and will switch to assignments coinciding with other areas of learning only (he's doubling on writing right now).
This is going to work and makes a much more manageable day for my really smart, turtlelike son. He'll be able to still get excellence in education, but work at a comfortable pace, without beating himself up for always lagging behind, nor will I beat him up for the same. We will get through this and when we get to the other side he will be well educated AND most importantly, we will like each other still. I love my boy and my labor of love is my living sacrifice unto the Lord. I am so grateful for his guidance and the support of the Hive. They made a difference in my home schooling this year so.very.much. If he doesn't start SPC for a few years -- SO BE IT. SO BE IT. SO BE IT. I need to keep practicing that mantra. *I* still need some work.

Need to love on my blog AND Individualized Education

The past few weeks have been deeply dedicated to school. After a week of vacation, I wanted to make sure we were back on track, so I dug in my heels and took a moment to evaluate a few things. You know, over time, I have remembered many of the reasons I started home schooling in the first place, currently individualized education. You frequently hear home schoolers boast (yup I said, boast) about the 1:1 ratio home schooling provides and how this ratio allows us to meet the specific needs of our children. Then you read down to online siggys and see they have mainstreamed their household curriculum so much that you wonder just how individualized for each child. I confess, I am the Chief Sinner here. Sometimes, Father Time dictates our schooling instead of the Lord of Heaven and Earth -- GUILTY as charged! I have, however, over the years chosen materials that while I may use them with more than one, do allow for a certain amount of wiggle room between kiddos. Lest you think I'm bein' a "veteran meanie," please allow me to explain.

Tapestry of Grace is a great example. TOG lets me assign as much or as little as I choose and I've learned, against my strong will to "do it all," that individualizing is a far better choice than just boxing up TOG and assigning across the board. I assign different books to different children; different amounts of independent reading, and even different questions to answer and a variety of writing assignments. It has worked well over time.

This year I made our high school science studies both Living Book and Textbook in nature so both of the boys can benefit in their comfort zones.

I split math a couple of years ago and have decided we'll split Logic, also,as I've been advised that one logic course is more "mathy" and the other more "language" in nature.

Using The Phonics Road reaches all learning styles, so it fits the bill across the board.

Why am I sharing all of this? Well, I want to tell Blogland, you can't do it all. You just can't. There are so many wonderful things to cover and so many wonder way in which you can cover, but at the end of the day, you can't do it all, all of the time; so I encourage you CHOOSE WELL! Pick a focus and even more importantly, once you figure out the strengths of your kiddos, run with them! Be prepared, those strengths may change, so always build solid foundations in the basics. I encourage you to put in the work to approach things from whatever direction your child needs. Don't get so caught up in what you love as a teacher that you lose the benefit I mentioned first thing: individualized education. In the end, it will be SO VERY WORTH IT!

Here's an encouraging thread about doing it all and to what depth. In the end, here's something I've learned, The big picture is clearing up a bit for me. Perhaps, for those like me, it just takes time to get through the fog of all the "right stuff" and see the light; but either way, so long as I give my best, and leave the rest to the Lord, I'm hoping for our very own masterpiece in the end. Like all great works of art, not everybody will appreciate my style and I'm learning to be okay with that more and more" Create your own masterpiece, just be mindful that in the end, you're the most important critic and you Want to be pleased with your masterpiece.

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