Planning for Senior Year

As you may be able to see from the pile of books above, we will be covering many subjects, including 20th century history and literature.  The chemistry book has not yet arrived, and the precalculus book is already being used for the dual enrollment class.

My planning is made so much easier by the wonderful book selections and schedules at Ambleside Online.  For the past 10+ years I have been hanging out over on that website, reading, learning, and borrowing their lists, schedules, and ideas.  This past summer I had the great privilege of meeting two of the creators of Ambleside Online, Lynn Bruce and Karen Glass, and their conversations were even more helpful and fabulous as I could have imagined after looking through all that the AO Advisory has done over the years.

Another main resource for me has been the ClassEd email group of which I’ve been a part since 2000.  These ladies (and gentlemen from time to time) have shared curricula suggestions, teaching tips, lesson plans, and prayed for my family for many years.  I know that we could never have done all that we did without their wisdom and support.  It really struck home how much they have supported us over the years when the husband of one of the long-time members of ClassEd mentioned how their family had prayed for our family for many years.  What a sweet fellowship we have begun on earth to be continued into eternity.

Along with Honors Chemistry and Precalculus/Calculus at our local community college, we will studying Latin, Bible, Art and Music appreciation, Shakespeare, and 20th century history and literature.  This is my third time through 20th century history in our homeschool, and while there are some bleak books written the past century, there are also some great books, which I look forward to discussing with my youngest son.  Some of the titles we will be reading: A History of the Twentieth Century, Testament of Youth , The Men Behind Hitler, The Hiding Place, Call to Conscience, The Hungarian Revolt, Economics in One Lesson, The Great Gatsby, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Chosen, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Sophie’s World, and Heart of Darkness.

We will also be continuing our reading through some of the Great Books together.  We have finished The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost.  Last year we started Les Miserables and will finish it this fall after which we will read Crime and Punishment.  This will be my first time reading Dostoevsky and I’m a bit intimidated but still looking forward to it.

Also, after attending an excellent workshop on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets this past summer, I’m adding T.S. Eliot to our poetry studies.  I’ve been given several titles to read in preparation of teaching Eliot’s poetry so that I at least have a glimmer as to what he is saying in his poems.  We will also read the poetry of the World War I poets and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

As I mentioned in my last post, I want to finish strong with my youngest son.  If we read and study these books, I believe that we will run our last lap of our homeschool journey well.

I’d love to hear about anyone else’s plans for this next year.  Please do share in the comments.

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A Bittersweet Week

A Bittersweet Week

It’s the third week of August, and we start school in a week and a half.  That means that I’m madly planning our school year just as I have done the last 17 years.  The difference is that this is my last year to plan, our last first day of school, our last year to study together, and the beginning of a new phase in our lives.

I’m of two minds about this change. Part of me is so pleased to launch my final child into the world after almost 20 years of teaching my children at home.  However, there is a part of me who chokes up at the thought that this precious time of raising my boys, teaching them everything from Latin and math to how to say “thank you” to trusting Jesus in everything, and giving and receiving hugs daily is over.

There have been days of exasperation and difficulty, to be sure, but there have been so many more of wondrous discoveries, reading aloud, laughing over silly poems, splashing in mud puddles, building lego structures, going on library and park trips, and many other special times of learning and living.

As I plan this last year, I long to finish strong with my youngest child and watch him walk the path the Lord has ordained for him.  That desire plus lots of prayer will make it our best year yet, I am sure.

A New School Year Has Begun

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 Our new school year started last week.  We started a couple of weeks before Labor Day so that we could ease into our schedule and still have some time for sleeping in occasionally (my son) and finishing up some summer projects (me).

Last year was the first year of homeschooling just one child, and I really enjoyed it.  We read Virgil’s Aeneid and Dante’s Divine Comedy together, we listened to Rufus Fears tell wonderful stories about Famous Romans and audio books of classics and fun books, we read history books, science books, and books just for fun, we wrestled with math and delved into astronomy and biology, we sweated over Latin, and I taught my son and some of his friends about Material Logic and Composition.

It was a great year so I’ve been looking forward to this year being more of the same.  I will be teaching my son and his friends Rhetoric this year, which is still a challenge for me and for my students.  For me, because I am essentially self-taught.  That leads to a tendency to second guess myself too much and, at times, wonder if I am truly giving my students what they need to succeed in their writing.  It is a stretch, but every time I teach Rhetoric (this is my third time), I learn so much more about writing, communication, understanding my audience, figures of speech, etc. that I cannot be sorry that I am, once again, stepping outside of my comfort zone to challenge my students with Aristotle.

My son and I will be studying early modern history and literature.  This term we are reading Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, which is an old favorite, and Paradise Lost by John Milton, which I have never read before and am eagerly anticipating.  I have borrowed Leland Ryken’s guide and C.S. Lewis’s Preface to Paradise Lost in an attempt to understand this great English epic.  It only seemed appropriate to read Paradise Lost after reading Homer’s, Virgil’s, and Dante’s epics over the last two years.   For fun, we are reading The Lord of the Rings aloud, which fits right in with all of the other epics we have read and are reading.

There is something special about reading these great epics with my children.  Over the years, they have allowed our family to create a shared vocabulary and history together.  We often refer to children’s books, story books, and great books in our conversations with each other.  Homeschooling has given our family a special bonding of common experience.  As hard as it has been at times and as much time, energy, sweat, tears, and frustrations it requires, I will never be sorry for going on this journey with my children.  These last two years with my youngest will fly by so fast, and I fully intend to cherish each day before I launch my last “chick” into the world.

The problem of distraction or how it seems harder to think deeply these days

 

Like so many people today, our family owns and uses computers, smart phones, tablets, and ipods.  For much of the day, an observer would notice that most or all of us is doing something with an electronic—listening to music or audio books, checking email, playing a game, writing a blog post, looking at facebook, reading an article, and so forth.  Most of those things are not a bad way to spend time necessarily but what I’ve begun to notice is that the more time I spend doing things electronically, the more distracted I become.

I have been musing about how to approach this difficulty I’m having with distraction and this week I read two articles which gave me some ideas on how to minimize or, even better, reverse some of this trend of thinking shallowly due to my continual distraction.  The first was an article on Facebook (how ironic that it would be on one of the biggest timewaster sites of them all!), 7 Skills Your Grandparents Had that You Don’t.   While some of my friends and I agreed that we do know how to do all of the things on the list (except perhaps haggling), none of us write real letters any more and we regret that loss.  The second article, Unplugging  Your Student–Focusing and Communicating in the Present, is one I read this morning about ways to help your students learn to manage the distractions in order to study more effectively.

Since I am quite sure that my increasing inability to focus on the task at hand is due, at least in part, to my increased use of electronics, these articles helped me to think about some things I can do to help to reverse this shallowness:

1. Write real letters again.  Two of my friends, who live in distant states, and I have decided to each write a letter a month to the others.  While two letters a month is not very much, it is a start, and I’m curious to see if my communication with these friends will be of a different quality via pen and paper vs. email.  I will have to slow down and think more carefully before writing with pen and paper than when I write digitally.

2. Read my “real” Bible instead of the Bible on my tablet and use my paper journal at least five times a week.  I used to copy Scripture and devotional reading as well as write prayers, lyrics to hymns, and my thoughts on my reading almost daily for many, many years but I’ve noticed that I rarely do so now that I use my Kindle Fire for my devotional time.  I suspect that fact many account for the feeling that my devotions are more shallow than they used to be.  I want to see if it makes a difference if I go back to the older style of reading and note-taking.

3. Only allowing myself to check my phone or tablet after I’ve spent a minimum of 45-50 minutes on a task, whether that be cooking dinner, ironing, reading a book, correcting papers, gardening, or working on schoolwork with my students.  By re-learning how to focus on the task at hand for a reasonable amount of time, I’m hoping to also relearn how to think more deeply than I have lately.

4.  As a companion to #3, I intend to stop checking my phone when I am with other people_–family, friends, or even standing in line at the store.  I used to talk with the people around me so much more than I do now that I can bury my face in my electronics.  Instead I need to leave my phone and tablet in my purse or in another room when I am reading with the children, playing a game, having a meal, or just relaxing on the sofa with my husband.

My plan is to start these four things immediately.  I’ll be sure to check back at the end of the summer to report how things are going.

Humility – one of the ends of true education

So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm. –Joel 2:13

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. – Psalm 51:17

One of the difficulties of desiring to give my children a Christian classical education is that it tends to cause pride.  Pride in me because it’s hard and people think that I must be doing something extraordinarily difficult in teaching my kids Latin and grammar or reading old books; pride in my children because they think that they must be studying much harder than everyone else since they are learning subjects that most students no longer learn such as Latin and grammar.

None of that is true though. All teaching is extraordinarily difficult and all learning requires work and concentration from the student.   Reading The Odyssey isn’t truly that onerous.  It’s a great story and it’s readability is why it has lasted for centuries as one of the greatest books ever written.  Learning Latin is no more difficult than learning mathematics–it requires concentration, memorization, and attention to detail.   In the long run, learning English grammar helps so much with reading and writing that it isn’t that much harder than attempting to read and write in high school without knowing what a noun, verb, or compound sentence is.

We do work on Latin and grammar; we also learn math and history and spelling and all of the other regular things children are taught in schools.  And we fail…ALL OF THE TIME.  I fail to correct math in a timely fashion which means the children have to relearn things they should have mastered ages ago if I had caught their confusion.  I fail to make them learn their Latin forms because I am too busy with other things to help them drill.  I fail to make them show their work in math and science because it’s easier to let them do what they want which is to be lazy and not write down all of the steps.  I make them read works that I don’t have time to read or no desire to read myself because it’s easier and I have an answer book.   They fail to work hard because they’d rather play a computer game.  They decide to not try hard at something because they don’t see it’s use.

These are all things that we have failed to do and are failing to do.  I am not a better teacher or a more dedicated teacher or a well-educated teacher.  I’m just an ordinary person, attempting to do my best and failing miserably every time I rely on myself for the strength and wisdom and courage to teach what the Lord would have me teach.  My children are just ordinary students who do well sometimes and fail to do well other times when they do their own thing rather than obey.  In other words, we are all sinners at our house, too, but we are too proud and too ashamed to admit it so we lie.  We lie by only telling about our successes.  We lie by not telling about our failures.  We lie by selectively sharing what works for us rather than the whole story.

That is why reading Cindy Rollin’s post at the Crce Institute blog this morning was so refreshing and so convicting.   She points out that we need help and we need to have the humility to shout loudly for that help and not pretend that we know it all because we probably know even less than we think we know.

I have only one student left at home now and I am praying and asking that the Lord would show me all of the places where I cut corners and where I act like I know things I don’t and lie about it and that He would give me the strength to be honest and cry out to Him (and to the helpers He provides in my life) for the ability to do what is right and to have a humble heart.

I need to start each day before the Lord with these words from the Book of Common Prayer:

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

 

Wednesdays with Words – May 21, 2014

As school winds down and graduation approaches, time to read and think about “real” things has been almost non-existent.  However, I am still crawling slowly through Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott.  Here are a few quotes from Chapter 2:

 

True human memory is not mechanical repetition; it is an organic assimilation and appropriation. What is remembered is not something other than the self, but something experienced and known through the self. This means that we must probe a little more deeply into the meaning of memory, before we try to work out how to recover it.

 

Thus by speaking of Memory or Remembering we are really speaking of the foundations of attention, of the integration of the personality, and of the road to contemplation. We are also speaking of ‘conscience.’ Remembering is the gathering-together of the self in the light of consciousness, which in us tends to be a piecemeal process, but in God is complete and ‘instantaneous.’ For us, therefore, the training of memory is essential if we are to discover and enlarge our human identity in the image of God. It is an essential foundation for any education worthy of the name.

 

The Hall of Fire in Rivendell … represents the place where tradition is passed on through story, where meaning is revealed, where language expresses itself in the making and interpretation of worlds. The ambience of fire, of a friendly hearth where all strangers are made welcome and find consolation, speaks of a place where humanity can take root and flourish, a true home—the ‘Last Homely House.’ Here prose is subordinate to poetry, and poetry to song.

 

He shared with other English Romantics the sense that something vital had been lost from our civilization in the new industrial and scientific age. That something was a poetic consciousness, a mode of knowing through feeling and intuition that connected us with nature and with the natural law, with the reading of God’s intentions expressed in nature and the divine wisdom manifest in creation. He believed we had become increasingly alienated from nature (the natural world around us and increasingly our own human nature as well) by our determination to know it solely by conquest, through experiment and measurement. He would have supported the educational idea that children should be brought up on a rich diet of folklore and story, with plenty of experience of natural, growing things in the garden and countryside.

Through story—the right kind of story, including traditional legends and fairy-tales—that ability to see all things with a pure heart and in the light of heaven could be evoked. [Tolkien] wanted to prove that poetic knowledge, George MacDonald’s ‘wise imagination,’ could be awoken even in a world apparently closed to its very possibility.

We have spent many an hour memorizing Scripture, poetry, and songs in our homeschool rather than lists of facts.  At times I have wondered if I was doing the right thing but after reading this section of Caldecott’s book, I am instead wondering if I spent too little time with Scripture, poetry, and song.  Helping them to acquire a storehouse of beautiful, good, and true words in their minds for all of their lives has to be the greatest gift I could have given to my children other than the Gospel.  I am glad we have spent so much of our time reading and memorizing and reciting and singing.  I hope that one day they do the same with my grandchildren.