The Emperor: “I’m looking forward to completing your training. In time you will call me master.”
Luke: ”You’re gravely mistaken. You won’t convert me as you did my father.”
The Emperor: “Oh no, my young Jedi. You will find that it is you who are mistaken, about a great many things.”
Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
There has been a nice discussion going on at one of the local Facebook homeschooling groups in our area about duel enrollment classes. An area of quiet contention is that the public schools get to bump a duel-enrolled homeschool student from any class up to, but not after, the first day of school if a full-time public school student wants to take the class and there aren’t enough seats to accommodate everyone.
I was told that the public schools get full state funding per class for full-time students but only half funding per class for duel-enrollment students, although I don’t remember who I heard that from, so that’s why they give preference to full-time students. I think that’s fair. Basically, our kids fill the holes in these classes. It’s a win-win in my book.
I also think it’s been a great experience for Padawan Learner, especially the realization that classes move at a steady pace regardless of where you fall in the mix. He has had classes where he’s been so far ahead of everyone else that it’s agonizingly boring – for example, he did an entire year’s curriculum projects for two blocks of piggy-backed intro to and principles of (mostly mechanical) engineering classes in about 2 months, proceeded to teach himself several advanced concepts in the same area, and (as the teacher admitted in our winter conference) so outstripped the instructor’s knowledge in the software usage that he honestly had nothing more to teach him the remaining 7 months - and enough behind in getting things done that he’s been stressed about getting everything turned in at times. He even learned when to admit that a (distractable) student and (disorganized) teacher fit is SO bad that despite really enjoying the content of the class and liking the teacher’s personality, it’s best to drop the class and cut & run to save your GPA some seriously horrendous damage. He also learned that you can pick right back up at home with a self-teaching program and keep learning the material that you enjoyed so well.
This is, in my opinion, a great lesson to learn for anyone about to head off to a community college or – especially – a large, 4 year university. As one of my instructors in a 600 person freshman mathematics class at (40,000 undergrads alone) Galactic Empire University said in almost incomprehensible English, “Kas vate no man.” (Class waits for no man.)
Palpatine: “You don’t need guidance, Anakin. In time, you will learn to trust your feelings. Then, you will be invincible. I have said it many times, you are the most gifted Jedi I have ever met.”
Anakin: “Thank you, Your Excellency.”
Palpatine: “I see you becoming the greatest of all the Jedi, Anakin. Even more powerful than Master Yoda.”
Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
There’s nothing like knowing your kid is off doing something important that you have absolutely NO control over. Not that I have control issues or anything. Me? No, never. Oi vey. I’m a right regular basket case this morning.
Pet Shop Boys, OMD, Modern English, (vintage) U2, New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure, Men Without Hats, INXS - I’m filling myself up with the comfort music of my high school and university years on Pandora Radio to keep myself sane. OK, I’ve just seriously dated myself. If I end up cutting my hair asymmetrically and dying it flame red, you’ll know why. Seriously, I really, really want to have flame read hair again. I blame that mostly on Ramona from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World though. (I’m also feeling compelled to dance with several of the songs as they play though, so daily exercise? Check.)
And tea, I’m drinking vats of tea: Santa’s Secret from my dear friend, Eileen Cook. This may or may not be a good idea as it’s packed full of caffeine and has real, miniature candy canes pieces scattered through out the mix, but that’s not going to stop me. I received a Saeco Electric Water Kettle for Christmas and Ho Boy! that thing rocks. Super fast water from the tap to 150-boiling in moments, and with the measurements on the side I can measure out just how much water I’m going to need.
Padawan Learner is taking the first half of his very first mid-term exam today, the verbal Italian segment. I spent all last night saying, “Shouldn’t you be studying for that Italian test?” only to keep hearing, “No, it’s under control.” He glanced over his notes, made a few pretty sounding utterances (strange, I know, but I really miss hearing those guttural G’s from his Dutch-language days), and watching an episode each of The Big Bang Theory and CSI before going to bed. Who IS this child and how could he have ever come from Dad Windu’s and my DNA? I was a compulsive study-freak in school and I’m pretty sure DW was too. I kept thinking – but thankfully not screaming out – “What the blazes does that have to do with anything? ” In the end, I went and finished up my latest library find (Death of a Valentine) in the bathtub.
I really don’t have reason to worry too much, PL is doing well in his Energy and Italian classes, but I think one of the underlying reasons is that I feel a fair bit of pressure due to the fact that this is his first leap into the unknown of what is commonly referred to as “real school” by family and friends that were not terribly homeschool-friendly in the first place. This semester has felt like it is, in their eyes (and I fully admit that I could be completely projecting my own insecurities onto others here), the proof in the pudding of homeschooling in general and of our homeschool family in particular. How about you other homeschool to traditional school or duel-enrollment folk? Did you experience this the first time one of your kids started thinking inside the educational box?
OK, on to other things now. Like those dust bunnies lurking in the bathroom and under the beds. Time to slay them all.
“You must unlearn what you have learned.” – Yoda, Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
Back in the day I was a homeschooling mom, at least that’s what my tagline says. Ok, I’m still a homeschooling mom - or eclectic, non-radical unschooling mom if you prefer that label – but it feels like I’ve let the move take over my life these past couple of months. And it has, to an extent, but not exclusively. I am learning, slowly, to step away from The Schedule and let the learning happen in a more relaxed manner.
In our day to day lives, well maybe week to week lives depending on where we’re living at the moment, Padawan Learner is continuing to explore the world of geometry (which he MUCH prefers to algebra). It’s concrete and tangible and he can readily see it being used in the world around him. And for whatever reason, he loves the fact that all angles in triangle add up to 180 degrees. Simple pleasures.
PL is also nearly through reading Joy Hakim’s A History of US. He’s been going through it in fits and starts this year, but since we’ve borrowed the series he’s making work of getting it read before we leave town. She did a nice job covering the history of our land and the people who have inhabited it. And she did it in a way that doesn’t complete turn most late elementary and middle school kids off. That’s nothing to sniff at. When I read the books, it’s almost like a favored aunt is talking – conversational, informed, slightly gossipy and a bit opinionated at times. We also found overviews that were contradictory in tone and interpretation to make sure that we saw other sides to our nation’s history.
Star Wars ancillary fiction and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series have taken pride of place in PL’s recreational reading these past few months. It would appear that the doings of Moist von Lipwig (and his none too benevolent over-seer, Lord Vetinari) are just too entertaining to put down. I spotted a new visual dictionary, LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary, the other day at the bookstore, but didn’t have time to check it out. It might not be something PL would be interested in anymore (although the fun factor might be too high to pass up), but it’s probably perfect for the younger Fanboy and Fangirl set.
Out of time for now. Just wanted to remember out-loud that there’s more to live than moving. See, I’m learning.
Obi-Wan: “Interesting… I’m still not sure I understand.”
Jocasta Nu: “Well, I’m sure you didn’t call me over here for a history lesson. Are you having a problem, Master Kenobi?”
Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
One of my local librarians asked me to sit as part of a panel before a statewide group of librarians tomorrow. The goal is a better understanding of homeschoolers and better linking between the homeschooling community and the programs/services available in local libraries.
I know! How cool is that?
The overall consensus among the librarians appears to be that working with homeschoolers is akin to herding cats. As Yoda & Qui-Gon Jinn love to say, “Bless their hearts.” They’re trying to include us all, but we all seem to have our own direction, rate of speed, and degree of willingness to play along.
To make a little more sense of what “we homeschoolers” do on a day-to-day basis, I’m including an overview of the most common homeschooling methods. What do you think of my breakdown?
Butt in the Chair (Like what most grow up with – often thought of as the One Right Way to Learn)
School-at-Home: This mimics a traditional school day, for the most part. Subjects are defined, delineated, and ordered by subject or time during the traditional school days & hours. Often a single curriculum or two is the basis for all the core lessons. Lessons and tests often have the option of being checked and graded by either a parent, mailed to a program teacher, or taken online. (e.g., k12, Abeka, School in a Box)
Classical: This approach gained favor over the years with high-octane parents of college-bound students as school systems drop traditional classes such as Latin, Greek, Logic, and the Fine Arts. Think of a traditional high school curriculum, only much more intense. (The Well-Trained Mind is one of the more familiar programs.)
A Theme (Often thought of as an “interesting” or “cute” approach to the general public)
Charlotte Mason: This is a liberal education with a decided bent toward nature and classic literature. Emphasis is placed on narration, journaling, getting outside as much as possible, studying local flora and fauna, and eschewing all “twaddle.” (e.g., The Tales of Peter Rabbit rather than Captain Underpants, and Pride and Prejudice over Twilight)
Unit-Study: Especially common among families with young children, all aspects of the child’s education is wrapped around a unifying topic such as the Little House on the Prairie books, classic children’s literature (such as in the Five in a Row series), or just about anything else you can imagine. This is especially helpful when children of different ages, skill levels and interest are being taught at the same time as activities can be expanded or contracted to meet each child’s needs.
Bits and Pieces (often brings out the “But what if they have gaps in their education?” argument)
Eclectic: The direction and timing is the parent’s, but it’s based on the child’s needs alone. Kids might take a Homeschooler Only orchestra class and an after-school wood-working program if they fit a desire or need. These families are willing to skip parts of a “program” if it’s deemed unnecessary or accelerate/delay parts based on the child’s readiness. Different kids in the family will likely use different curricula. These families may use textbooks, or they may not. They may use worksheets for math but not for spelling, or vice versa. They may give tests, but they probably don’t do it very often.
Unschooling: This is full-on, child-led learning with a whole lot of “trust the child” thrown in. This is the practice of letting real life situations (such as shopping, cooking, gardening, volunteering, etc), any and all local resources available (museums, colleges/universities, state parks, historical markers/sites, stores and a parent’s/friend’s place of employment) and passions (dinosaurs, space, trains – and often a rotation of many passions over the years) lead children to meaningful knowledge.
These families believe that children have an innate need to learn, understand and be part of the world around them and, therefore, will want to learn about as many topics as they can and participate in life as much as they are able. They do not follow any pre-determined educational schedule whatsoever. (e.g., Reading Robin Hood leads to an interest in archery.) Unschooling families may use textbooks or not. They may take outside classes or join a task/topic specific club (pottery class, piano lessons, writer’s club, etc). They may simply borrow/buy the materials needed to learn the process/skill together or on their own. There is no “one way” to an unschooling family. Unschooling is presenting topics, ideas and opportunities to kids with enthusiasm, but also being able to accept “No thanks,” as an acceptable answer.
Waay Out There (These people scare the beegeezus out of me. Sorry, but it’s true.)
Radical Unschooling: They take educational unschooling one more level and apply it to every single aspect of life — brushing teeth (don’t feel like it? don’t do it), meals (candy for dinner? sure), safety (don’t want to wear a bike helmet? leave it in the garage), bedtime (who needs bedtimes?) and etc.
NOTE: Yes, I know there’s more to Radical Unschooling than that – but that’s what screams through my head when I even hear people talking about it. No flaming necessary. No need to send in the RU troops to set me straight.
“Exciting is hardly the word I would choose.” – C-3PO, Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
We three Jedi have seen our share of pavement lately (and concrete and bridges), and it’s taken a toll on our homeschooling routine. **Take a piece of paper, run it through the keep-your-identity-nice-and-safe chipper/shredder, toss them all up into the air with a forced “Yippee!” (knowing full well that you’re only going to have to pick up all those little bits in about 30 seconds) and you’ll understand what I mean.** I may be going to go out on a limb here, but I think even Padawan Learner is tired of the unexpected days off as we drive from one corner of the state to another and another and another.
One thing I’m learning in this whole Dad Windu lay-off situation is that routine is our friend, our really good friend. PL and I do our usual math, writing and history/science stuff in the living room each morning while Dad Windu goes upstairs to practice Spanish, do some more job search stuff, and keep up with his professional network. In short, he stays out of our way and we stay out of his as we all get down to work. After lunch, we go about our own special projects.
There are so many things up in the air, and some unpleasant realities that we’re probably going to be facing in the months to come, that our routine is becoming a bit of a security blanket for the three of us. Christmas and the scheduled week-long break that followed it were nice, of course, but a bit too distracting at this already wildly distracted period of our lives. Normally PL looks forward to these days stolen away from our day-to-day routine, but on our way home after our Dutch class today he said a little wistfully, “Tomorrow’s just a regular ordinary day, right?” I know I breathed a sigh of relief when I answered, “Yes. Yes, it is.”
“Remember, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force.” – Yoda, Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
We did something tonight that we always do after returning home from a trip, we marked the map with our route using dry erase markers. We keep our US map on the wall next to the kitchen table so we see it often. After marking up this trip, we decided to touch up the routes of previous trips as many of them had gotten smudged (and even almost rubbed off completely) over the years. The updated map can be seen here.
PL marks up the map with our travel route.
Padawan Learner drew out the line as Dad Windu and I recalled the route we had taken. It’s always interesting to look back on our trips with this new piece of information. Somehow it’s easier to put a long road trip in perspective when it’s laid out before you on a map. Not including any of the bits and pieces of extraneous driving that we did for side trips, we learned from Google Maps that we drove 4244 miles point to point, over the course of 18 days. Per PL, that’s an average of roughly 236 miles a day. (I’m not one to miss a chance to throw in some math practice when I can.)
Another friend has a large table in her dining room, so her family keeps full-size USA and world maps right on the table with a large, clear plastic tablecloth over them. Because of this, their meals often have geography content. If one of her sons hears a tidbit about Latvia on NPR, for example, the entire family can find it on the map and understand why Latvians get ansy when politicians in Moscow start reminiscing about a return to “the good old days” of the USSR.
Does your family do anything special with maps?