Rivendell, WIS

O to grace how great a debtor Daily I'm constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Charlotte Mason-themed Home School Blog Carnival!

The Headmistress at The Common Room has put together this week's Home School Blog Carnival, complete with quotes from Charlotte Mason to tie the topics together. Nicely done.

We are hosting our yearly Spelling Party for local home school families tonight, so I may not get a chance to browse the carnival offerings for a few days. I hope some of you reading this will enjoy the articles and spread the news to others who may benefit. :)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Additions to my reading list...

It appears that I have more time to read than time to remember WHAT I read! Ha! In my previous list of books read last week, I left off (at least) two books.

Alice in Wonderland--the first time I've ever read this aloud, chosen for teatime this year for the benefit of our 6 and 10 yo children

A poem, Dauber, by John Masefield--This long poem was recommended in an old book we started last autumn, Discovering Poetry. Dauber is a worthy read for those who enjoy poetry for the sake of beautiful images, in this case, images of the sea and one man's experience of life on a sailing ship. The vocabulary may be a challenge for landlubbers, but the version I've linked includes a glossary.

Here's one passage describing a storm near Cape Horn, when Dauber and the other sailors have climbed up the masts to cut off sails and ropes that are flailing after the upper spars have broken off in the wind:

He saw the streamers of the rigging blow

Straight out like pennons from the splintered mast,

Then, all sense dimmed, all was an icy blast

Roaring from nether hell and filled with ice,

Roaring and crashing on the jerking stage,

An utter bridle given to utter vice,

Limitless power mad with endless rage

Withering the soul; a minute seemed an age.

He clutched and hacked at ropes, at rags of sail.

Thinking that comfort was a fairy-tale

Told long ago-long, long ago---long since

Heard of in other lives-imagined, dreamed--

There where the basest beggar was a prince.

To him in torment where the tempest screamed,

Comfort and warmth and ease no longer seemed

Things that a man could know: soul, body, brain,

Knew nothing but the wind, the cold, the pain.

I recommend reading Dauber aloud, one or two sections a day.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Of Books, Blogs and Burn-out

The sun rose on a snowy landscape here, after two or three weeks of barren ground. I rose with thoughts of many tasks I'd like to accomplish today, knowing full well that hope of achieving all of them is fruitless. Too much to do--though stocking the empty cupboards and refrigerator earlier in the week saves me leaving home today. I am very thankful I can stay home today.

I requested a book from the public library just now. Home School Burnout by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. I read several of the Moores' books early in our home school adventure, finding inspiration and practical help in them. I remember their approach as somewhat relaxed and down-to-earth, trusting that children's natural desire to learn will eventually win out. I think the book will be a good refresher course for me.

Why Homeschool has a thoughtful article on Do We Have Time to Read? I must admit one reason I don't read as much as I think I should: computer time. Checking email, checking Yahoo groups, reading blogs, writing on my blog...

The few minutes of free time I have each day are often spent on the computer. Yes, I am often encouraged and inspired by what I read online, by corresponding with friends, by spending time writing my own thoughts. However, these activities cannot replace the depth of riches available between the covers of a great book. What harvest is yielded by posting my half-baked thoughts online, compared to spending time nourishing my mind with the well-chosen words of great thinkers?

My reading this past week has consisted of the following:

The Bible (see My Bible Reading Plan)
Short stories by Sarah Orne Jewett, Joel Chandler Harris, and Bret Harte for a short story study our high school girls are doing
Essays for the same course and a few pages from Wordsmith Craftsman on how to write esays
No Little People, No Little Places by Francis Schaeffer, finished the first chapter
Two Beatrix Potter books with our youngest
A few pages of How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler with two of our daughters
Several chapters on "transformations" in our geometry text

That's about it. Those short stories are keeping me busy, first searching them down, then reading one or more by each author to choose which to assign the girls, sometimes rereading a story to better analyze it. May the time spent doing this bear fruit in the lives of my students.

May I make wise choices concerning the use of the hours my Father has given me today.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Home School Burnout

Laurie Bluedorn wrote some thoughts on Suggestions to Combat Homeschool Burnout (click on my title above to go there). I'd love to delve into this topic more deeply, but I'm trying to cut back on computer time and spend more time doing what I love to do--care for my family and spend time w/each child learning about biology, physics, history, phonics, American short stories, How to Read a Book, This Country of Ours, math, algebra, geometry...

One aspect a home school mother needs to consider: taking care of yourself. I'm getting back into my routine of taking walks, which also includes getting much-needed sunlight. I'm also considering taking the vitamins recommended through the LEVITY program. See the book When Your Body Gets the Blues by Marie-Annette Brown and Jo Robinson (sorry --can't post a link from this browser).

For me, taking care of myself also includes the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer. The time I spend on this is short--30 minutes a day, not counting time I pray "on my feet"--but the peace of mind and fulfillment I find when I stick to this habit are immeasurable.

Making sure to get enough sleep, feeding myself well so I'm not seeking satisfaction through junk food, spending time doing things I enjoy (movies, books, an occasional bubble bath), a weekly date w/my sweetie and time to talk with him throughout the week... All these add joy and contentment to life when I make time for them.

Lingering questions remain, however, after reading Laurie Bluedorn's article. How can I realistically juggle all these worthy pursuits, especially with 6 children ages 6-19 in our home school? As our children have grown, I have regretted my relaxed approach to some subjects in the past (history, science, math, composition) because our older students had trouble when reaching more advanced studies. They also show a lack in study habits. How can I use what I've learned by experience to improve the standards for the younger children while I'm still trying to fill in gaps for the olders--making one last effort to fill their minds with worthy ideas, keeping a disciplined schedule for math study, working to improve skills in evaluating literature and writing essays?

Please, don't anyone mention the subject of foreign language! With everything else we are doing, the thought that I really do want to study Latin and/or Spanish with the kids is truly DAUNTING.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Are We Using Incoherant Math Texts?

Maria Miller at Homeschool Math Blog writes:

You probably know that in international comparisons, US students don't do real well in math.

Research into curricula in the best performing countries versus US is giving us one clue as to why this is:

US curricula tend to be
  • incoherent and a collection of arbitrary topics instead of focused and logical
  • Average duration of a topic in US is almost 6 years (!) versus about 3 years in the best-performing countries. Lots of spiraling and reviewing is done
  • Each year, US textbooks cover way many more topics than the books in the best-performing countries

Maria links to two articles giving more information, one of which should be required reading for every math teacher, The Role of Curriculum by William Schmidt. How do the math texts used in our home school compare?

The materials we've chosen for math in our home, Making Math Meaningful by David Quine, followed by Elementary Algebra and Geometry by Harold Jacobs, measure up to the ideas in the article in some ways. David Quine's materials for grades K-6 cover fewer topics than most US math texts I've seen. Spiraling is used, if I'm understanding the term correctly (a curriculum writer I am not!), but review is at a minimum.

Beginning algebra in jr. high, rather than spending 7th and 8th grade reviewing arithmetic further, is possible with Quine's texts as long as each level is completed in one year. I found this difficult to do until I realized that our children didn't need all the practice provided in each module. Our younger students are progressing through the books at a faster speed than our olders did.

Harold Jacobs's algebra and geometry books are focused and logical, imho. Each chapter builds on the previous work, rather than including much tedious review. I've never understood algebra and geometry as well as I do after teaching through these books. :) The beauty and mystery of mathematics is presented, as well, in the introduction/discussion of concepts (every lesson begins with a worthwhile attention-getter) and in Set IV problems, which are for extra work and are usually puzzles or brain-teasers.

On the other hand, I have not yet been successful in keeping our students on an advanced track for math courses. Our two oldest began algebra during jr. high years, but didn't finish until 10th or 11th grade. Our third daughter began algebra as a 9th grader. Our fourth daughter, now in 7th, may be able to begin during 8th grade. This is one way I can improve our plan for the 3 younger children: work harder at progressing through the math so algebra can begin earlier.

I have tended toward a relaxed attitude about math. Thus, our oldest dd will only finish algebra and geometry in high school. The second dd will have time for one more math course before graduation. Can I do better with the next four students?

As I learn more about the subject myself, I enjoy it more. I have also hoped to introduce more "living math" books to our children. Math history is intriguing, as are problem solving and logic
(a recently found author who writes logic puzzle books for teenagers on up: Raymond Smullyan). One of our daughters has picked up the hobby of Sudoku--a great way to improve one's reasoning abilities. Introducing concepts like these earlier should be a boost in the success of our family's math program.

Third Carnival of Homeschooling coming next week ...

Beat the winter blahs by writing about your homeschool experiences for the Third Carnival of Homeschooling at Why Homeschool. The Cates have listed some topic suggestions to get you started.

If you aren't up to writing, visit the Carnivals that have already been online this month. Here's where you can find Week 2. Week 1 is here.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Homeschool Math Blog

Maria Miller has a super site where she blogs about math. Book reviews, interesting math topics, teaching ideas, articles and news, a puzzling question this week... all about math. I'm planning to read it often to increase my understanding and love for mathematics, that subject which Charlotte Mason said was beautiful:

"We take strong ground when we appeal to the beauty and truth of Mathematics; that, as Ruskin points out, two and two make four and cannot conceivably make five, is an inevitable law. It is a great thing to be brought into the presence of a law, of a whole system of laws, that exist without our concurrence,––that two straight lines cannot enclose a space is a fact which we can perceive, state, and act upon but cannot in any wise alter, should give to children the sense of limitation which is wholesome for all of us, and inspire that sursum corda which we should hear in all natural law," A Philosophy of Education, pp. 230, 231.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Carnival of Homeschooling, Week 1, is up!

With a parade, food stands, star performers, rides and even traveling preachers, the Carnival of Homeschooling is sure to provide some good mid-winter reading.

History of Home Education, Part III

Here's a detailed, 18-page report on home education, published in 2001 by the Fraser Institute of Canada. It includes two pages on the history of home schooling and about five pages on the growth of home schooling, focusing on both Canada and the U. S.

Interesting highlights:

Notable home schooled Americans include, for example, presidents George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Other successful products of American home schooling include inventor Thomas Edison, General Robert E. Lee, civil rights activist Booker T. Washington, writer Mark Twain, and industrialist Andrew Carnegie (p. 5).

Although the contemporary image of home schooling parents depicts a homogeneous,
deeply religious, socially conservative sub-group of the population, back in the 1960s and 1970s most home schooling parents were members of the counter-cultural Left, principally advocates of New Age philosophies, ex-hippies, and homesteaders.
By the mid-1980s, however, most home schooling parents could be accurately described as part of the Christian Right. Today, 75 percent of American home schoolers are practising Christians (Livni, 2000). However, in terms of religiosity,
home schooling is not proving to be the exclusive preserve of Christian groups. In fact, “growth in home schooling may be reaching a broader range of… families and values” (Bielick, Chandler, and Broughman, 2001, p. 4; McDowell, Sanchez, and Jones, 2000; Lines, 2000b; and Welner and Welner, 1999). Muslim Americans,
for example, are the fastest growing sub-group within the home schooling movement. The number of home schooled Muslim Americans is predicted
to double every year for the next eight years (Bielick, Chandler, and Broughman, 2001, p. 4; McDowell, Sanchez, and Jones, 2000; Lines, 2000b; and Welner and Welner, 1999) (p. 6).

What, then, are the specific comparative advantages of home schooling, at least as perceived by those who choose to educate their children in this manner? There are a variety of reasons provided by home schooling parents in both Canada and the United States and the most common to both countries may be summarized as follows:
• The opportunity to impart a particular set of values and beliefs.
• Higher academic performance through one-on-one instruction.
• The opportunity to develop closer and stronger parent-child relationships.
• The opportunity for the child to experience high-quality interaction with peers and adults.
• The lack of discipline in public schools.
• The opportunity to escape negative peer pressure (e.g., drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex) through controlled and positive peer social interactions.
• The unaffordability of private schools, and
• A physically safer environment in which to learn (p. 9)

History of State Home School Organizations

Here's the history of home education in Texas, by Tim Lambert, President of the Texas Home School Coalition.

I'll look for similar articles about other states (send links if you have them). I'm in Wisconsin, so here's the Wisconsin Parents Association's history page. WPA has consistently worked against government regulation of home schooling. They have a lot of information about current national legislation affecting home educators, including some legislation that HSLDA supports but WPA opposes.

History of Home Education, Part II

I found another abbrieviated history of the home education movement at Synergy Field.com. I've posted about half of it below. It provides less general detail than the article by Patrick Farenga that I linked in Part I of this topic, but more detail about the wave of christian families who began home school in the '80s.

It is excerpted from Homeschoolers' Success Stories: 15 Adults and 12 Young People Share the Impact That Homeschooling Has Made on Their Lives by Linda Dobson (Prima Publishing, (c) 2000).

It is difficult to peg the exact origin of modern homeschooling. Some might say the seeds were being planted in the sixties and seventies by educational reformers and authors who questioned both schooling's methods and results. Notable among them are Ivan Illich (Deschooling Society, Harper & Row, 1971), Charles E. Silberman (Crisis in the Classroom: The Remaking of American Education, Random House, 1970), and the prolific John Holt (How Children Fail, Dell Publishing, 1964; How Children Learn, Dell Publishing, 1967; What Do I Do Monday? Dell Publishing, 1970), a teacher who eventually gave up his original vision of school reform as hopeless. He began advocating instead no school for youngsters, and in 1977 began publishing Growing Without Schooling, a magazine that continues today even though John passed away in 1985. (Author's Note in 2005: Unfortunately, the inheritor no longer publishes this magazine.)

Around the same time, Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore were busy conducting and collecting early childhood education research. They, too, began publishing articles and books that questioned the wisdom of conventional schooling with a focus on the harm that can be created by rushing children prematurely into the existing school regimen (see Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child's Education, Reader's Digest Press, 1975; School Can Wait, Hewitt Research Foundation, 1985).

By the late seventies and early eighties, the message was spreading. The nationally acclaimed Home Education Magazine made its humble start in 1983. As the number of homeschoolers slowly grew so did the number of support groups focused on helping other parents get started in homeschooling. Networking homeschoolers worked to educate legislators and eventually changed state laws that prohibited the practice. The grassroots movement kept growing.

In the 1980s, changes in the tax regulations for Christian schools forced the smaller among them to close down by the hundreds. Suddenly, the parents of the students attending these schools were faced with a choice between government school attendance and homeschooling. For many, this really wasn't a choice at all, and these Christian families became part of a large second wave of homeschooling, joining earlier homeschoolers and boosting the numbers to record highs. Christian curriculum providers, already well-established businesses that had just lost a large chunk of their original market, followed the money and easily courted the new market of homeschooling parents.

Since then, the media has identified yet another wave of homeschoolers - "the mainstreamers." These are families from every conceivable religious, economic, political, and philosophical background in the United States. This wave has been impelled by: homeschooling's greater visibility as an educational option; local, state, and national homeschooling support groups; easy networking and information sharing via the Internet and e-mail; and continuing government-school problems, such as dumbed-down curriculum, violence, drugs, bullying, and more. These forces have brought up the number of homeschooled children in the United States an estimated 15 to 20% each year for the last 15 years. The ballpark figure now stands at two million and growing.

See also History, Part III.

Monday, January 02, 2006

My Bible Reading Plan

If you find yourself wanting to read through the Bible, but somehow unable to accomplish the goal, you might enjoy the plan I've been using. I have read through the Bible in my life, but never, ever have I succeeded in sticking to one of those "one-year Bible reading plans." So, instead, I've been using the "Read Through The Bible Plan for Shirkers and Slackers."

That doesn't sound very spiritual, does it? Well, before you assume that I condone shirking and slacking, read the article that convinced me to try this plan, Margie Reads Through the Bible in a Year: A Composite History by Margie Haack.

I started this in August, 2004, and I'm about halfway through the Bible. Better yet, I'm enjoying this way of doing it. Rather than reading the Bible from front cover to back cover, I'm reading from a different section each day. Margie points out one advantage of this system: ...it helped me see the remarkable unity and interconnections that run through the entire Scripture. On Monday I would be reading about the covenant God made with Abraham and on Saturday Paul would be talking about the very same thing in Romans.

And, gone is the guilt caused by the great sin of "skipping a day" and the snowballing guilt caused by "getting off schedule." :) His Word is precious, not a burden.

A New Year... Renewed Perspective

I began our September term of home school full of inspiration and motivation, in part due to the excellent Ambleside Online Conference I attended in Texas in July. I love educating our children--I really do. I love reading great books with my kids, giving them great books to read on their own, hearing their narrations, teaching math to the youngers, having tea and reading poetry together, driving them to music lessons while listening to classical music, teaching phonics to our youngest...

BUT... about this time of year, my enthusiasm fizzles. Discouragement looms like a mountain.

Spunky has captured some of my woes in this post, Climbing Mt. Homeschooling, comparing the home school parent's journey with climbing Mt. Everest. How familiar her lament of, "Nothing seemed to be going as planned." I, too, have those "classic, woe-is-me, meltdown" moments.

When I start feeling down about life, I get down about almost everything, but worries about the progress of our home school are especially heavy on my mind. Spunky's husband gave her some great advice, just what I needed to hear: The challenge for you is not to give up when it's difficult. And not to rest too long that you don't go to the next level.

One of my challenges also seems to be to not push too hard. When I lie in bed at night and dread the thought of starting school the next day, I need to take some pressure off myself and the kids. A life of drudgery is not what I envisioned a few short months ago... What, specifically, needs to change to get us back to enjoying our school days again? I think something needs to be cut out-- I'm pretty sure I'm doing too much--but what to cut?

I can't answer that question right now. For today, however, I am determined not to push for a lot of school work from the kids. I also hope to sit with my AO Conference notes and my planning notebook to renew my perspective on my true goals and hopes for our family.