It is a beautifully sunny, 74-degree day here in coastal Texas, and with the oldest at college and our son at the dentist, the youngest decided to school outside. Funny, this was my vision when we first began homeschooling—days outside on a picnic blanket, completing schoolwork and viewing exotic animals. (You can stop laughing now). The vision sounded wonderful, and the outdoor school day sounded delightful until it met with my own plans and realities. I had a fairly simple morning plan to complete a few chores and write a blog entry while the youngest worked beside me at the table. So, it shames me to say that when she initially approached me about going outside, I sent her out and continued with my plans. I felt bad, so when she came back inside the first time, I said, “Let me just do ____ and I’ll come out with you.” I got that pot of vegetarian chili to a point where it could just simmer, started that load of clothes, and then pulled up a chair alongside her in the backyard. That’s when I realized that even 74 degrees—in full sun—is still just plain hot. After reading for a spell, we both gave in to what became our heart’s deepest longing–air conditioning.
One of our struggles this year has been sustaining her with a deliberate diet of rich literature versus twaddle, in Charlotte Mason vernacular. Our youngest, with all the extroversion that missed our older two, wanted to start a book club this past year. She had almost completed all the planning, complete with convincing Mom that this was a good thing, when our local library announced its plans to have a book club. I thought this was too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence, and we hurriedly signed up to be a part of their event. Now I wish that I had stuck with the original plan to have our own club. The selection of books that the librarians offer—yuck!!! I would love to simply pull her from the club, but I’m torn by the fact that she likes being a part of the group, she enjoys the time and activities, and—here’s the kicker—she likes the books. They are much easier reading, for sure, but based upon what I consider to be a “good” book, i.e., a story that engages the mind and pricks the heart, the book club’s selections are way past poor. The longer I allow this, of course, the more difficult it is to interest the youngest in books that demand more of her. Consequently, I’ve not pulled her yet from the club, but have been instead picking my teachable moments. As an example, we are now reading The Whipping Boy, which is actually very easy to read—a short book with short chapters. Upon reading chapter 1, she immediately stopped to whine empathetically when she realized what was the whipping boy’s responsibility (to receive the punishment that should have been given to a spoiled brat excuse for a prince). While she was sharing how badly she felt for the boy, I talked about the power of a good read and recalled that she’d never stopped to empathize with Vordak the Incomprehensible. She still maintains that Vordak is the best book ever (heavy sigh).
While I ponder what to do about the book club, I am excited about the cursive handwriting curriculum from LightHome Publications I found on Currclick. Can you say $6??!! This looks awesome!! A chance to share the Word of God, to practice cursive handwriting, and to create a lasting keepsake of the Word in Psalms!! Can’t beat it with a stick!!
After years of, ahem, uncertainty, shall we say, about homeschooling my MIL blessed us with an entire high school biology curriculum—teacher’s guides, transparencies, DVDs, videos,… everything! I have been thrilled with all the extra project ideas that have come with the text that really cater to how we like to learn. The publisher of this not-so-dry text has actually partnered with Dinah Zike (foldables guru, author of The Big Book of Books) to include manipulatives to enhance the content!! Given Dinah Zike’s popularity within the homeschool community, I couldn’t help but think this was pretty cool in an odd sort of way.
Our school this year is a gentle foreshadowing of the next 2-3 years to come as the oldest spends a significant amount of time away from us. Her classes keep her away on Mondays and Wednesdays, but the extracurricular activities associated with the Honors Program, plus the time to complete her coursework actually occupy her throughout a good portion of her week. My dh and I were just discussing today that even though she wasn’t the noisiest of our children, her presence, or lack thereof, is definitely felt if not heard. Her high school courses this year include Algebra II, Physics, and World Geography. Other than that, I’m the taxi cab driver!
During the summer, Knowledge Quest distributed what I assume was a preview of their Globalmania curriculum, but it was PERFECT (yes, I’m shouting) for what I wanted to do with World Geography. There is enough of a guide-like feel to this .pdf file without it being too prescriptive. I played the games that help with map memorization and, in completing them myself to get a feel on what the oldest would do, I determined that my geography needs serious work. No wonder I almost failed this class in middle school ( LOL)!! There is also a schedule that, again without being too prescriptive, suggests how to spend time learning a specific continental region. What I have added (because without the additions the curriculum might be more elementary) is the idea of research of the continents to find out more about the history and culture, and the idea of understanding a major religion in that region and how you might evangelize with respect to what the people believe. Finally, when I taught World Geography at our local homeschool store, that particular curriculum set a goal for a student to draw a world map from memory by the end of the course. I so loved the students’ results that I incorporated this same goal for the oldest. I’m enjoying watching her get started, and her illustrations of how much she is learning.
I am so glad, in spite of the fact that American Lit at the college level has her permanently attached to a Norton’s Anthology, that we made the decision to add in as many living books as we could to complement her studies. She decided early on that audio books would best help her keep up with everything. This was easily accomplished with Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, but we’ve been reading aloud Homer Hickam’s October Sky together. The latter book has been a welcomed accompaniment to her Physics studies, and I’m so glad that I didn’t place too much stock into the warning that this coming-of-age story had potentially inappropriate subject matter. Yes, he’s a love-struck teenage boy who is learning, unsuccessfully, how to be suave with the ladies (picture Jerry Lewis in “The Ladies’ Man”), but what far overshadows those moments is this book’s ability to take you through Coalwood, WV with such imagery until you feel as if you stepped back 40 years and are standing alongside one of the “rocket boys.” We even resisted the urge to watch the movie. (Was it just a coincidence that it came on television while we were reading? Hmmm….) After Jules Verne, I’m on the hunt for what might our next great geography-related find: Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them. If I could just find the audio book for something less than $27…
What’s new with your studies? I’d love to “hear” about all those cool and creative homeschool studies.