Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Classical, or Classical?

I'm a self-professed classical homeschooling mom.  At least I try to be.  At the beginning of last year when Luke was beginning third grade, I started to think ahead a little, for the first time.  K-1-2 had just been about figuring things out for today.  How are we going to teach Luke to read? To count and add? What is the most important thing to do in second grade?  It was all I could do to figure out what needed to be done a semester at a time.

Starting third grade made me realize, I need to be looking down the road a little. I need an end goal, and a plan to get there.  So I started reading and researching.  It all started with trying to figure out how and when to teach writing and composition, but this took me down a road of diving deeper into the ideas of classical education.

Before we started homeschooling, I was recommended to read The Well-Trained Mind, by the Bauers.  I loved that book, and decided quickly it was how I wanted to homeschool my kids.  History chronologically? A Type A personality's dream! It was how I wish I had been taught.  So, as I searched for curriculum, I relied on The WTM suggestions and sequences.

But as I dived into a deeper study in third grade, I came across a different stream of ideas among classical educators.  I read a ton of articles on CirCe Institute, Classical Academic Press, and more.  The key turning point was reading "Trivium Mastery."  It explained what I'd been reading, but couldn't quite put my finger on.

There are two different ideas in classical education.  They both rely on the grammar-dialectic-rhetoric progression.  But they understand it differently.  Traditionally, the ancient Greeks understood these to be stages of learning.  When you begin to study a subject, you begin with the "grammar" of the subject.  Depending on the subject, you either slowly or quickly progress and begin to analyze and synthesize, critique and create with what you've learned.  For a subject like English, it takes years for children to learn the alphabet sounds, read basic words, then progress to sentences to understand something.  But reading a sentence and drawing a picture of it is rhetoric-type work for English.  It's 1st grade level, but it's using the grammar they've learned, understanding the words and their meaning, and creating something with it.  Full circle.  To teach this way, you simply understand the stages of each learning level, and work to take your student through each stage in each subject they're studying, introducing subjects at an age appropriate time.

There is also what seems to be a newer interpretation of grammar-dialectic-rhetoric, based on Dr. Dorothy Sayers lectures.  This approaches them as relating to a student's age.  Because young grammar age children do excel in memory, this has been capitalized on, and parents encouraged to give children a lot of memory work.  Students memorize the grammar of any and all subjects, regardless of whether or not it has any meaning to them, or if they are studying it outside of their memory work.  In this model, students may spend a year memorizing a set of facts and very impressively be able to recite it at the end of the year.  Anything from Latin conjugations, algebraic formulas, geography, English grammar, spelling rules, and all sorts of interesting things!  It's simply amazing what kids can do!

In reading about all of this, it has helped me so much to identify these two different streams running in the world of classical education right now.  I've done a lot of reading and evaluating, and for our family, I really prefer the traditional classical method.  I love to have memory work, we do plenty of memory work.  We memorize poetry, Bible verses, catechism questions and answers, the Presidents in order, States and capitals, math facts and multiplication tables, spelling rules and other concrete things that kids just need to know to do their studies well.  But it's a very small part of our day, not the main thing we do.  The main thing we do is read!  Tapestry doesn't require any memory work, and I think this is so wise.  Memories are built around experiencing history through stories great books, art projects and activities.  My kids still talk about building a giant ziggurat, three years ago.  They will talk about building a life size World War I trench for years as well.  I love the idea of not neglecting dialectic and rhetoric learning in the grammar age.  Because they are capable of it at a certain level.  That's what brings meaning and understanding in, which is key to true learning and retention.

I hope this helps others who are looking at classical education and scratching their heads, wondering what makes one program different from another.  There are significant differences, and its good to be aware of them.  There are so many great programs out there, and finding the one that's right for your family is the goal! :)


Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Upside-down World?

You know, we left life in the United States behind in 2007.  Back then, a whole seven years ago, iPhones either didn't exist, or were so elitist, I didn't know anyone who had one.  I also didn't know anyone who had a Kindle, or iPad.  Most people had one computer for the family.  Most people didm't text, because you paid per text, if I remember correctly.

Can I tell you something? Technology has invaded our lives, addicted us, and changed our culture.  It has changed the way we relate (don't relate) to each other.  I don't have to go into detail to describe this to you.  We all know what it looks like.  People with faces in their phones, texting at the speed of light, Bible studies with no Bibles, but phones, blue lit up faces with eyes down.

But it didn't creep up on us.  We weren't like the frog in a pot of water that slowly came to a boil.  Now that we have moved back to the US, we are the frogs thrown in the already hot boiling water. : )  Can I tell you something else?

This change is not good.

There are so so many reasons why our cultural addiction to technology is harmful.  Here's one of the ones I see, though, that bothers me the most.  It's not just an addiction to the gadgets, it seems to be an addiction to information and knowledge.  And not necessarily knowledge about things that matter, but almost always knowing about things that really.don't.matter.   Honestly, a lot of the information and "news" we are taking in can be really damaging.

Ten years ago, without talking face to face, we had no way to know people's opinions about divisive topics.  We couldn't assume something about someone because of something they shared on Facebook.  (Did you know my auto correct just capitalized Facebook?!?)  Friendships were probably better, because you either avoided dangerous topics because you knew they were dangerous, and you valued your friendship.  Or you were face to face and could talk them out in real life, with measured words, facial expressions and tone of voice.  It's a lot easier to get offended by black and white words on screen, and to retaliate in another black and white comment.  This is not healthy or good for relationships.

Twenty years ago, we only got our local news.  There is so much news and information about what's going on in the world today, it's impossible to digest it all.  It keeps people in a constant state of fear.  I'm just calling it like I see it.  Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.  I'm all for awareness about things we need to be praying for, taking before the throne, and things we can actually do something about.  But the constant news and information about brokenness and depravity that we can do nothing about is purposeless.  Not to mention that having lived overseas, and hearing news about where we were, I know for a fact that at least some of what we hear in the USA is exaggerated and misconstrued to sound more dramatic/dangerous than it really is.

We're all getting suckered into thinking we need these gadgets, we deserve it.  Even down to our children!  We're bad parents if we don't give them their own iPhone by the time they're ten.  I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure *I* don't even have the maturity and discipline to appropriately use my iPhone all the time, and there's no way I'm trusting my children with one.  (I'm not even mentioning the cost of all these things, just not going there).

All of this just leads to elevated stress, anxiety, and controversy in life.  Can I just encourage you to turn it off?  Unplug it.  Live your life, don't text/comment/instagram/tweet it. :)  I'm not saying technology is worthless.  It definitely is useful and has its place, I'm thankful for it in many ways!  But I'm saying, don't let it master and rule you.  Don't be the frog in the pot with the water starting to simmer...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tapestry of Grace Year 4: Week 6: Winning the War and Losing the Peace

This week we concluded our study of World War I, learning about how the war ended on Armistice Day, and Woodrow Wilson's involvement in bringing about the peace terms, as well as the League of Nations.  It was all fascinating for me, because the treaty was signed in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles.  I have visited Versailles and walked through the Hall of Mirrors, and I had no idea at the time of the significance of the room.  I'm thankful that my children will hopefully learn about history and be able to much more deeply appreciate their experiences in the world, should they be blessed to travel as we have been.  We spent one whole morning looking through my scrapbook album of my travels around Europe, including a whole page of the Palace at Versailles.  Fun memories!

We enjoyed another Co-op meeting this week, and we found out about a homeschool event at the Kansas Aviation Museum.  We attended and learned about the science behind gliders, hot air balloons and kits.  The kids also got to build gliders and hot air balloons.  It was really well done and I'm thankful we were able to go!  Kansas has a long and rich history of innovative aircraft and it's neat to get to take advantage of living here and learn about it!

Luke and Kiryn enjoying the flight simulators

Sitting in a real cockpit!

Learning about gliders!

Kiryn testing a balsa wood glider

Luke designing and constructing his own glider after what he learned. 

Finished product.

Kiryn's hot air balloon!

Luke's hot air ballon, filling it with hot air!

The glider competition at the end of the day!  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Tapestry of Grace Year 4: Week 5: America Mobilizes and Russia Revolts

We're hitting our stride this year.  It always takes a few weeks to get back into the routine of school, but it's happening!  We did a lot of fun things with nature this week.  

Kiryn is doing well with Harmony Fine Arts.  She drew this beautiful Snowy Owl this week!

Luke drew this blue and orange bird.

We had a great day at our Derby Homeschool Connections Co-Op in our first PreK class!

We also are really enjoying studying our rose bush.  It's blooming beautifully!

In Tapestry this week, we learned about how and why America entered World War   We also learned how propaganda was used to influence the common people.  We made copies of some of our favorite propaganda posters.

I am learning a ton of stuff about World War I. I'm ashamed to say I didn't know much about the causes of World War I.  I've been enjoying this year a lot so far!  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Our School Room

We have moved so many times the past ten years.  I've only had a homeschool room one time, and that was in the very last house we had.  I LOVED having a school room, and was really excited about setting up a wonderful space for learning and life in our new home.  When we were looking at houses, the homeschool room having a window or better yet, access to the backyard was a deal breaker for me.  We spent the majority of our time as a family in the school room, so it's almost as important as the kitchen. : )  Maybe more important.

So you can imagine how THRILLED I was with this room.  I pretty quickly knew how I wanted to set it up and use the space.  This week, I was able to make my trip to IKEA and get everything I needed to get organized, get our books and toys out of boxes, and really begin to use the room well. : )

I do still have some more things to hang on the wall, but for the most part, this is the finished product!

I brought the large glass door cabinet from India, as well as the curtains, and the red rug. The round table and chairs were a Craigslist find, and my desk in the corner is from IKEA.

I love having a spot to keep my computer, teacher's manuals, and all the other stuff I need. :)

I love that we have a fireplace in the school room! I am imagining reading around the fireplace in the winter months, hearing the crackle of the wood!  

I found those awesome gold chairs at an estate sale for next to nothing.  The bookshelves and toy storage shelves are from IKEA

All my books are on shelves!  This is the first time ever some of them are not in a foot locker! I've never had enough bookshelf space before!

This is loaded with activities and building toys for the little kids to do while we work on school.  The painting above is a canvas that was given to us by a good friend after a mission trip to Burma. I love it!

From my shopping day: Swedish meatballs for lunch. 

My ridiculous parade through checkout. 

The car was so weighed down, it took twice the gas to get home it had taken to get there!

Last, Paul bought this paper lantern for me in Leh. I have always loved these paper lanterns, ever since I lived in Thailand.  He made it into an actual light and got it up int he corner of the room.  Of course, the kids think its our very own lantern from Tangled.  :) 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tapestry of Grace: Year 4 Week 4

We continued our study of World War I this week.  We really hit our stride this week.  What was taking us 3-4 hours, is now taking us 1-1.5 hours to get done.  That makes this mama happy!  Here's a look at our student's schedule each week:

(this is really just a guide, and something to shoot for, it rarely happens like this!)

We reviewed our states geography. 

Here, we are using Legos to build different types of molecules.  Chemistry is totally fun!

It takes a lot of energy to keep the little ones busy and quiet.  More energy than I have most days!

But this game was a success!!! :)

Luke is growing up and is really taking to the independence required by his Tapestry studies this year.  He likes to be in control of his work and gets it done quickly, though not always well.  We're working on it. : ) 

Kiryn does not like having her picture taken. She was also not happy about drawing a soldier. 

We were so excited to go to our first Derby Homeschool Connections co-op meeting.  The kids had fun with science and PE! 

Back at home, doing some final drafts of writing projects on Aesops Fables. 

Luke did a great job on completing a cluster diagram with facts about U-boats, and then using it to write a well-constructed paragraph. 

Since I utterly failed with Artistic Pursuits two years in a row, I decided to go another direction this year.  I purchased Harmony Fine Arts, which I believe was written by a fellow Tapestry mom to coordinate with Tapestry studies.  There are three different tracks written in to the program, and we are following the track that uses Drawing With Children, by Mona Brooks. I have had that book for awhile, but it took the guide in Harmony Fine Arts to get me to use it.  We are loving the drawing lessons, and the podcasts.  I am not artistic or inclined to drawing at all.  So this has been a huge help to me, and gotten the kids exceed about art. 

We finished off our Friday by making Anzac biscuits.  These cookies were made by Australian and New Zealand women during World War I and sent to their soldiers on the front line.  They didn't spoil because they contain no egg or milk.  Since they were also easy to make gluten free, and had coconut in them, we were all excited to enjoy them! 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Not Praising What is Not Praiseworthy

I found this digging through some old files on my computer. I think I wrote it maybe five years ago, long before I was blogging, as a note to myself.  It was an excellent reminder to me this week.

I got an email from a friend and it mentioned not praising what is not praiseworthy. This friend was talking about reading People magazine and how it’s truly hypocritical.  I think what she means is she enjoys reading it, but is disgusted with what she’s reading, which is why she enjoys it. J  It struck a chord with me and caused me to consider, what do I do with my actions or words that teach my kids to praise what is not praiseworthy? 

If the kids see me spending more time on my appearance each morning than I do with the Lord, it teaches my girls that beauty is more valuable than Christ, and my boys that a beautiful woman is more valuable than a spiritually deep one.

If the kids observe that Paul and I would prefer to watch television or read a book *every* evening, and never get to observe us just enjoying each others company and talking together, then we are teaching them that the marital relationship is not a priority and entertainment and knowledge are more valuable than unity and enjoying time with your spouse.

If the kids see me worrying about the way the house looks when people are coming over, or putting off a visit from friends until I can get my house “clean”, I’m teaching them that orderliness and cleanliness are more valuable than people and relationships.  Or, it’s teaching them that what people think of my home is more important than spending time with them, and that friends won’t just love you for you, but you must be perfect and have a clean, perfectly kept home in order to maintain good friendships.

If my kids see me being easily angered at home and not joyful in my daily chores or not serving our family happily, but then notice me smiling and being kind and friendly to strangers or acquaintances in public and willingly doing things for others outside the home, it teaches them many things, but here's just a couple.  One, that you only serve those whose good opinion you desire, and who can do something for you in return, and two, that insincerity is okay, and possibly better than genuine honesty. 

If the kids see me always, or even occasionally discounting what Paul says, not immediately following his suggestions, not paying heed to his advice, just generally not listening to him, it teaches them that he is not worthy of respect and listening to, that what I think is more important and better, and that a wife need not submit to her husband in any way. 

These are ways that I think I struggle with praising what is not praiseworthy, and they are not things I want to unconsciously, unintentionally teach my kids.  I want to work on letting the Lord be of supreme value in my own heart, and showing that to them with my actions and words, so that their hearts will learn to value HIM above everything else, and secondly, to value what He says is valuable, not what our culture values.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tapestry of Grace: Year 4 Week 3

This week we began a four week study of World War I.  I admit, I didn't really understand what this war was about, or really know very many facts about it.  I have learned a lot in my planning and preparation for this unit!  I'm so thankful that my kids will hopefully grow up with a better understanding of the events and chronology of history, how things fit together, and God's plan in it all, thanks to Tapestry! :) 

We did a big fun project this week: we build a model of a trench and played trench warfare!  
Our trench was not dug in the ground, but we pretended it was.  :)

The kids spent several hours drawing and coloring on the inside walls.

HUGE imaginations at work!

Finished product: Luke's medical aid hut.

Kiryn drew pictures and postcards from home on th ewall.

Paul bought Luke this belt in Leh, India on a trip once, and it looks very similar to the WWI soldier belts.  Helmet and gun, not so authentic. :) 

I love their expressions, they really look like soldiers! 

Such fun and memories made this week! Oh, and we did some actual work too. : )  Here's a map of the Allies territory vs. the Central Powers.