No Shoe-horning them into the Schooled Box

Antoinette over at HaflingerHorses asked me about, as Paul Harvey would say, ‘the rest of the story’ regarding the unschooler and her reservations about how to package her child’s animal studies into a well-crafted course description (see my December 1st post).   This thread was quite extensive—I won’t share it all, but there was wonderful advice and rich dialogue about wording, passion, and how to convey both in the right way.   The parent was determined to not use ‘educationese,’ or ten-dollar words and passive voice, as she described it.    Her perspective was that this language was ‘designed to obscure rather than illuminate.’    There were a number of testimonies, but I was particularly struck by this response:


 The course description is also a place to show how unique your child’s education has been. It’s a place where passions can shine though. There are probably any number of ways [a] course description can be approached successfully.    I have chosen to use college course descriptions as a guide because I think that will best present my son’s courses in a manner that demonstrates their rigor.


That was followed by this jewel from one mom back to the original writer:


They [college administrators] want to see what the student is interested in and how she will contribute to the college community. You have a great story to tell with your daughter.   I don’t think you should try to shoehorn her into the schooled box.    Let the colleges know how she is different and wonderful.


So, where the original writer will end up, who knows?   Yet, as for me, I’m a believer that certain messages cross my path for a reason, so I left this exchange with a renewed commitment to honor our individuality and do our best to satisfy an admin’s requirements, but not allow our school to be bound by them.


My thoughts right now for next year are to stay with a Great Books education for the will-be high schooler.   I am trying to follow my own advice about buying books, not stuff (see here), and staying true to classics with literature guides as a tool for additional activities/points for discussion.   However, in the spirit of individuality, I am also taking an honest assessment of readiness, passion, and interest level.   With all of this in mind, I know that we will not pursue these works as aggressively as my original choice,, suggests.   Some classics we’ll tackle head-on, but for some we’ll use an abridged, child-friendly version to read.  We’ll even watch a few movies.    I wrestled with this at length (and ad nauseum), but then remembered a conversation that I’d had early in our homeschooling journey with wise homeschooling council.    Someone with far more years down this path than I told me that, even at the high school level, many of the books kids study are not original versions in the interest of time and readability, and that is where I find myself.   In fact, someone shared two seemingly great resources with me, written by a California public school (I think) teacher who sought to teach classics to her students in a way that captured their attention and still exposed their minds to great thinkers throughout our history.   Carol Jago is the author, and the books are Classics in the Classroom: Designing Accessible Literature Lessons and its sequel, Rigor for All: Teaching Classics to Contemporary Students.   


It will sound ridiculous, but this one decision in relaxing a rigorous plan really freed me from some of my current plans regarding the kids, and especially the girls who’ve, for different reasons, been my focal points this school year.    As one example, plan A was to cover both Know What You Believe and Know Why You Believe in this school year.    I’ve shared previously what a tremendous blessing Know What You Believe has been in terms of our sharing revelations about Christian fundamentals each week.    This sharing has come at an equally high price; in order to finish this book in a semester (in order to read the sequel in the 2nd semester), the reading plan has been aggressive, to say the least.   My husband and I would talk about the oldest’s general workload and the results we saw.   We both agreed that I could take some off her plate, but would that really help?   I could lower the expectations here at home, but if I opt for academic straw or sticks now, will a college professor huff and puff it into nothing later?   I chose to stay the course and pray—hard.


One day as I was running errands and listening to a radio commercial, I heard an advertisement for a “guaranteed” system for improving student grades.   As a rationale for purchasing the system, the spokesman talked about how children who receive bad grades are not lazy or bad; they are just overwhelmed.    I’d heard the commercial tons of times, but it must have been a moment when I was ready to receive.     The word hit me like a ton of bricks as I thought about what has transpired this year.   I’ve shared it over the last five months of posts in bits and pieces—sometimes big pieces.   But as the word resonated in my spirit, I took a hard look at this particular reading plan (as it was the hardest for her to read and complete the written narration in a timely manner).    I made a decision that it was okay to complete the one book and not get to the other, and I adjusted the reading plan and breathed my own sigh of relief.    I feel silly writing it, but my journey is my journey, and this was a monumental change to my way of thinking.   I only wish I had thought about this before we reached a point where we have only 50 pages left in the book!   The oldest exclaimed, “It only took me 30 minutes to read!”   I didn’t say a word to her about my decision, and I could tell that she was quite proud and pleased with herself.   To maintain her self-confidence was worth all of my psychological toil and trouble.


Sally wrote a post not too long ago about the differences in her two oldest girls, and she was right on.   Our son is so me—the overachiever, the serious student, and the one who loves an academic challenge.    He chose on his own to begin reading Shakespeare’s plays; he wanted to know what the constant themes alluded to on various television shows were about.   He loves comic book history and has recently turned his interest toward Greek mythology.    He corrects me whenever I screw up on any god/goddess and his or her associated power.    Just last week he asked me when he would return to Latin studies, which we dropped this year in the midst of trying to pick up everything else.    Doesn’t he just make you sick? (smile)    Don’t hate too much—he’s also argumentative, arrogant, and is in the process (I’m speaking it) of being delivered from sulking when things don’t go his way.    Academically, it’d be a joy to have three of him, but of course, then, I wouldn’t spend much time on my knees.


My minor changes with the youngest have really paid off.   She’s enjoying school more, and I’m actually happier and more at peace with the busy-ness of a five-year-old.    I’m very excited about the dinosaur lapbook she and I will tackle together, thanks to Live and Learn Press.    Again, I had to balance the desires of my heart to be this super-homeschool mom overflowing with creativity and craft ideas vs. my reality: someone who’s too busy and (sometimes)too frazzled to implement all those great plans I had to make our lessons leap off the page.     So, I saw this completed lapbook on a couple of blogs, and then saw that CurrClick had it marked down a few dollars, so why not?    Again, the linear thinker that I am went immediately toward where dinosaurs would fit into what we’re learning this year.   After a couple of minutes, I stopped myself, realizing that at her age, she’ll just be happy to get into some scissors, crayons, paint and glue.  


“The Tale of Despereaux” is almost in theatres now, and after seeing the commercials on television, she got very excited about the movie.    I showed her the book as a part of our home library, and she added it to our school schedule.    Every time she sees the commercial, she wants to read more of the book; I’d be foolish not to capitalize on this opportunity, so tonight, as I peeked at the Bears beat the Saints in overtime, I sat reading how Despereaux was doomed to the dungeon with the horrid rats because he wouldn’t conform to being a normal mouse.    I could preach a second sermon on that one, but I’ll save it for the next time.   God bless.

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2 thoughts on “No Shoe-horning them into the Schooled Box

  1. I'm glad my kids are little and I have to figure out like rigorous curriculum and how to present it for transcripts. Right now, I just introduce them to real, quality books and I know I am doing the right thing.

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