Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Simple Classical

Ah, a little bit of peace.  I have come to mostly peace (still have a little refining to do) with our homeschool philosophy and I am calling it "Simple Classical".  I came to the realization that I strive to be classical, but I am far from par.  We use classical curriculum and follow it's time line, if you will.  However, to be completely honest, my kids are only memorizing math facts right now.  Ouch.  I wish that weren't true.  I want to change that and that begins with some hard work on my part; which I'm gearing up to my spare time.  On the note of memorization, I also realized that I want to refine how we memorize, but I'll post more about that next.  So, why simple?  Because it's a concept that is very important to me.  I want to keep our daily schedule simple, so we are relaxed to focus on the work that needs to be done.  I want to keep subjects simple; I have found great value in doing a few things well, rather than shuffle through a lot just to check off some boxes.  The kids learn more when we are taking one concept at a time and letting it seep in before moving on. 

Do you know what's not simple? Microscopes.  If you know a science teacher, give them a big hug...and then give me their phone number.

Our philosophy also holds an element of simple "adventures".  Alison cannot stand it when I say we're going on an adventure.  Hello little stress ball, you are why it is so important to keep things simple.  Anyway, we do count our frequent mini adventures as school and believe that it strengthens their education. 

Speaking of adventures, we're off on one this week!  Beach exploring pictures coming soon!

Friday, July 7, 2017

What to do when it's time to PCS and you don't want to even talk about it

No, seriously.  What do you do?

It's not technically time to PCS, but it is time to give our list to the detailer; the list of our top 4 places we'd like to move to.  Ben has been talking about where we are going next since the day he came home from deployment and although he is enjoying his job here, I think he's really excited to have 3 years of shore duty.

For some reason, I have had a heard time even talking about this subject.  I cannot figure out why. A year and a half ago, I was excited to move to Arizona and I was excited about a life of adventure and exploring new places. 

Now I just feel burnt out.  In our short military career, we've done two deployments and a cross-country move.  I know many out there have done much more than this, but right now the idea of moving again is just overwhelming.

I'm supposed to mulling over my theory of education right now and all I can think about is what state...or country!...we'll be schooling in next.  AND I'm the chaplain's wife.  I'm *supposed* to be the one who is saying, "The Lord is faithful and He knows where we are moving next.  I'll trust Him in all things and not worry one bit." (Insert big toothy smile).  I want to be saying those things, but more importantly, I want to believe those things.  Instead, I'm humbling saying that I'm scared.  I'm not sure of what, though.  Being uncomfortable maybe?  Going through another huge life event or not liking our next house that I have to spend all day, everyday in for the next three years?  I do know that I'm scared of letting Ben down or holding him back.  To the reader, please know that this is something I've put on myself and he has done nothing to make me feel this way....I guess it's just a girl thing...or a love thing...I want the best for him and I don't want to be the one who stands in the way of that.

I wish I could put my big girl panties on and make a pretty post about 5 steps to being at peace with your PCS list.  Maybe this post is what I need to lead to that.  Right now, I only have one step.

Step 1: PRAY

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you." declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Why not Classical?

So, what is classical education?  By the way, you should never start a sentence with "so" least it's capitalized, right?

I have yet to find a clear, in a nutshell definition.  However, here is what I can tell you about it.  Classical education follows a trivium (the Latin word for "three roads"), consisting of a grammar, logic and rhetoric stage.  It's major emphasis is on memorization and is language-focused.

I have only been in the grammar stage for my homeschool career.  Alison will, in theory, move to the logic stage in a few months.  So far, I have found the approach refreshing as it emphasizes just mastering reading and writing well.  I am a firm believer in less is more; do a few subjects really well rather than muddle through a lot. 

I love the idea of building a strong foundation of learning and I do believe that memorization is an essential tool for further/harder learning.  I can also support the idea that having strong grammar skills will equip students to be able to learn other subjects more efficiently.

Lessons are more conversations or working on memorizing, rather than just a lecture followed by busy work.  I have found that my kids learn the best this way; walls immediately go up when I hand them a worksheet, but fall down when we talk about new ideas after reading a book together.  We have tried 3 online programs for transition periods and to my shock, the kids hate them.  I love the one-on-one time with them and I love seeing little light bulbs go off in their head, but it's also hard to do this with 3 kids in 3 different grades and several different subjects.

And here's where I'm thankful no one reads this blog...because I'm definitely about to ruffle some classical education feathers.

First, I'm not 100% on board with the extent grammar is emphasized.  Yes, it is the grammar stage and yes, it is important.  However, I have a student who actually needs more emphasis on math.  Grammar comes naturally to her and easily excels in it, but math is more of a struggle and is more of an area that her foundation needs work to make sure it's strong.  I also want my kids to explore more in the science area than just some facts.  It's ironic that I'm saying this because all of our experiments have failed in Arizona...literally this weeks I ordered caterpillars to watch change into butterflies and they never showed up and are for sure dead somewhere in the lost abyss.

Second, the biggest thing I'm currently struggling with: memorization.  They say to memorize grammar rules and math facts and history timelines and vocabulary and maps and science facts and artists and composers and the list goes on.  I completely agree with the fact that memorizing these things gives children a solid foundation to build other information off of.  I also support the fact that just practicing memorization is good for the brain.  I want to implement this more in my school and I was excited about reading 'The Core' to get the tools I needed.  Unfortunately, she left me hanging.  Basically, I realized that those tools lay at Classical Conversations.  Sure, we'll give you all the facts you need to memorize to be smart...but you have to come to our school.  What I'm mulling over is, are these facts that need to be memorized abstract or concrete?  Meaning, are there set, universal, facts that my kids need for their foundation OR can I set those facts that they need? 

This bring me to my third feather to ruffle; why we don't do Classical Conversations.  Or any co-op for that matter.  Year round homeschooling is a must for us.  I'm thankful that life circumstances forced us into it because now I love it.  Even after a week off, I can tell we are all ready for the routine again and we never loose momentum; I never have to "waste" time reviewing or catching back up.  I also love that it creates an atmosphere of always learning and is in a way, preparing them for life with a full-time job that doesn't have summers off.  PLUS, who wants a summer off on the surface of the sun? not me.  Year-round homeschooling and not wanting to do life on another person's schedule (yes, that sounds crazy selfish) is the first reason we don't participate.  Second, it's another person/people teaching my kids.  Leigh Bortins says herself in the book that children learn best from the person whom they feel knows them and cares about them the most.  We learn best from people we have a relationship with and trust.  She even argues that students in public school don't learn as well because they can't have a close relationship with a teacher they share with 30 other students and know will not be in their life the following year.  I would argue to say that could be somewhat true in a co-op.  Mrs. Smith may be teaching history this year, but my kids don't know Mrs. Smith and she for sure will not be their history teacher next year when we move.  Finally, we feel that classical conversations is a school in itself.  It takes up a day of the week and adds work on to the rest of the school week and to us, that's not homeschool.  Are your feathers feeling ruffled yet?  I'm sure some of you are wanting to push that socialization button right now.  I promise friendships are important to us and we work hard to get our kids involved in activities where they can learn something and be with friends.  On the flip side of that, I'm *usually* careful not to over schedule because a simple life, is a happy life.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Classical be or not to be???

We have been homeschooling for 2.5 years now and I am just now feeling "in the groove" of it all.  I finally feel like I know what curriculum works for our family and understand how Alison and Eli learn best (Colin is still a mystery...osmosis maybe?).  Ben and I are feeling more convicted each day that this is the path our family is supposed to be on for the long term and I'm thankful to say that I feel like we're thriving even under the extraneous circumstances we've taught through pretty much the entire 2.5 years.  

With that conviction, we've been working on naming our school.  We want the kids to be proud of where they are educated and have a firm answer to give people when they ask where they go to school.  We also know it's important for a diploma and future college and job applications.  However, it's not an easy decision!  I feel like I'm naming a child again *face palm*.  We've tossed around several ideas, most have which have resulted in an eye roll from the tween.  There's been a debate about whether we should have 'School' or 'Academy' and the final cherry on top was the topic of adding 'Classical' to it.

Our homeschool family doesn't stick out quite as much here in the desert, but I still have to say at least once a week, "Well, we homeschool" as an explanation for something.  99% of the time, the other person will follow up with, "Oh, what curriculum do you use?"  This is such a hard question for me to answer, since we use something different for each subject and I know they are really just looking for validation to our schooling; they are looking for me to say, "We use Sonlight." or "They take classes online with Veritas." or "K-12".  However, my answer is usually, "We modge podge" which always leaves a big question mark on their face.  On the flip side of this, 99.9% of other homeschoolers I meet, will say, "We do Classical Conversations" to which I'll reply, "Oh yes, we follow classical education, just without the classical conversations."

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise has been my schooling bible for the last 2.5 years and I felt like we were following a close classical model.  That was until I read 'The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education' by Leigh Bortins.  The first half of the book was amazing and I will be doing some posts about my favorite parts.  It articulated so many things about education that I believe, but also backed it up with research (which I weirdly love). It was such a good read about education that I wanted to shout "EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS!!!"  However, here's a little detail that makes it interesting, Leigh Bortins is the founder of Classical Conversations. The book left me thinking, "Wait.  Is is possible to classically educate without the tool of Classical Conversations???" 

Colin selfies from my desk
I started to question the concept of classical education as a whole.  I feel a panic though.  I need to have a clear direction and mission for our schooling.  I thought I did...but I don't think that our family is 100% classical and Classical Conversations isn't a fit for us either.  We have a unique direction and I think it's time to hash out exactly what that path is.