Friday, July 18, 2014

The Plan vs. Reality

A post written in April 2012, after we completed Cycle 3 two years ago. Republished here in July 2014 for those who are discouraged, overwhelmed, new to homeschooling, new to Classical Conversations, or new to Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood. 

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Homeschooling humbles me.  

I'm inconsistent. I'm a perfectionist.   I'm selfish.  I'm distracted when I need to focus.  I'm focused when I need to be distracted. I have poor time-management skills.  And, boy, am I impatient!  

For me, the hardest part about homeschooling is having the constant reminders of how inadequate I am.  I have to come face-to-face with my failures every single day.  I always feel like I miss opportunities.  At the close of each day, I'm usually thinking 

I should have done this, or 
I shouldn't have done that.

But regardless of how humbling this thing is, I still absolutely love homeschooling our children.  It keeps me focused on Who provides my strength, Who provides the inspiration, Whom my children REALLY belong to after all.  

The fact is, I only have a few short years with my children and then... I won't have the messes, I won't have the struggles, I won't have to hear about how much they don't want to do their math or writing assignments today, I won't have to listen to petty arguments over who gets to play with which monster truck, I won't have the interruptions that take me away from what I want to do.  

And I won't have the blessings. 

I won't have the sounds of silliness and laughter.  I won't have the reasons that I so enjoy visiting museums and parks.  I won't have the beauty and awe of discovering the world with these boys growing into young men.  

That thought makes me want to seize every moment I can to pursue our love of life and passion for learning together.  With them now.

If you haven't figured it out already, I am a serious over-planner.  I aim really high with everything I do.  If I actually achieve everything I set out to do, then I know I didn't aim high enough. And so, for those who actually read this blog, please keep my planning posts and long lists-of-links in perspective.  Many of these things are NOT what we have done.  It is what I wish to do.  And my wishes are way higher than our real-life accomplishments.

So, let's combine that with my crazy love of ideas.  And books.  And curriculum.  Does it come as any surprise that we didn't actually do everything we planned to do?  And is that really failure, anyway?

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficent for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.     2 Corinthians 12:9

I share this bit of honesty about myself to encourage others.  Because this overplanning thing is one of my weaknesses (along with impatience and all my other not-so-great character qualities).  And I think it's awesome how God has prevailed over our learning -and our home - this year.  My children have continued to blossom in the midst of interruptions and setbacks and curriculum changes.  It has been a glorious year of discovery for us -  not because of what I've done, but because of what He has done in our lives.

The Plan

The following links will take you to the overzealous, utopian plans I had for this year:
  • Narrowing it Down: What We're Actually Doing:  (BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!  Let me regain my composure here...  The title of this post is absolutely hilarious!  What was I thinking?!?)  Although we did many of the things on this list, we certainly didn't finish all that we started - and we didn't even START a couple of those projects.
  • Our Reading List for Cycle 3:  We read only a small selection of these books.  (I keep banking on the fact that we'll be back through Cycle 3's American History studies three more times before it's all said and done.)
  • Classical Conversations at Home, Re-Visited.  We had a lot of changes to our school schedule this year.  What worked last year DID NOT work this year.  Especially when we had chainsaws reverberating through our home from dusk to dawn.  I used about 10 different planners before sort of giving up on the planner mentality.  We reverted to checklists and stacks of papers, and it has worked tremendously better than anything else I've tried to use.  That's not to say I don't have a list of what we're aiming for each week as we finish up this school year, but it's not written on the pretty CC planner I was planning to use. [Update:  I now use a checklist-style planner that helps me kill two birds with one stone. I love my planner. Finally.]
  • Mid-year we regrouped, and I made plans for the spring semester (And then I changed those plans about a week later when I fell flat on my face in a pit of despair...)
Along with these utopian plans, I was also planning to migrate our blog from Blogger to Wordpress AND re-format it to be more user-friendly, but that still has not happened.  One of these days, one of these days... maybe I will come across a person more gifted than myself that has time to do what I never seem to get around to doing on this site...?


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cycle 3 Weeks 1-6 Resources

Please remember that it is not necessary to supplement Classical Conversations with crafts, worksheets, and on-line resources. Simply drilling the grammar (knowledge) and reading literature together will give your child an incredible grounding for the logic (understanding and application) and rhetoric (wisdom and communication) levels of classical learning. In fact, you need not even match up your reading selections with what we are learning in Classical Conversations! The memory pegs will come up in whatever you are reading whenever you are reading it - whether it's now or 2 years down the road! 
The following is an example of what I hope to post for each quarter of Cycle 3. All of these resources (and more) can be found by subject on our Cycle 3 Resources Page.  There are several resources on our Cycle 3 Subject Resources Pages that span multiple weeks. Don't forget to check them out (especially math, science, and history!).  

For a simple plan on how to use these resources, download our Cycle 3 First Quarter Sample Activity Plan.

Do we use this stuff?  Some of it (like multiplication drills sheets and on-line geography games).  But most of this we do not use. Our family spends more time reading and working on core skills during the grade-school years and keeps our schedule open for playing board games together, or researching something that our children are interested in, or doing a random science investigation. We use our resource lists as resource lists - that is, when we wish to quickly find a resource I've come across in the past, we reference this list. I call it the "Link Buffet."

Click to go directly to specific week:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Drawing the World Free-Hand: Major Circles of Latitude

Our family has been working on map-drawing for a couple of years now based on suggestions by Leigh Bortins in her book about classical education at the elementary-age, The Core. (But rest assured we've still got quite a ways to go…)

Before I get into how we have arrived at our current point in map-drawing, I wanted to share the recommendations of much more experienced and knowledgeable folks (namely Leigh Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations). We've been reading through The Core this summer, and rather than just substitute our family's methods for what a more experienced classical educator would say, I desperately request that you read Chapter 7, the "Geography" chapter.

Some Background
When we were last in Cycle 3 of Classical Conversations, our family only traced the US Map, and our oldest (as a 7-year-old) learned to draw in the U.S. physical features free-hand from memory. We first focused on the world map and started using "Continental Blobbing" during Cycle 1. The reason I bring up drawing the world right now is because we are currently reading The Core which recommends starting with learning to draw The Great Circles. In fact, The Core recommends the following for mastering the world map by 8th grade:

"Once a week draw and label these maps. Another time each week, review the maps the students drew while younger.

[Kindergarten: The Great Circles & world blob map]
First Grade: Australia
Second Grade: South America
Third Grade: Africa
Fourth Grade: North America
Fifth Grade: Europe
Sixth Grade: Asia
Seventh Grade: World Map
Eighth Grade: Indonesia and Antarctica" (p. 160-162)

"For parents and teachers who are worried because their children are older, try one continent per semester. If you are an adult or high school student, try drawing a continent for two weeks each and you'll be done in a semester." (p. 162)

"This could take a month of half-hour daily lessons for a teenager, or seven years of weekly lessons if the child starts as a five-year-old. The final goal is to draw the world by heart (from memory) with at least two hundred features accurately labeled." (p. 160)

For Classical Conversations parents, the simplest method is to trace the maps we are currently working on in Foundations; your child will learn quite a bit just by tracing the current cycle's maps. I'd recommend tracing the USA, eventually leading up to drawing it free-hand. If/when you feel comfortable with it, you can introduce blob mapping to your children this year (once per week?), as it is much simpler than you'd think, especially if you use the templates provided in our continental blob map packet. If it is currently too overwhelming to include map-drawing in your school day, just wait and add in map practice when you are ready. Note:  If you are a Classical Conversations parent, realize that your children will learn to draw the world free-hand in Challenge A, even if they have no mapping practice before then. (But it will help tremendously if you start practicing before then.)

The Great Circles
In The Core, the recommended method of learning the Great Circles is to line up a piece of paper with an atlas and extend the lines across the paper. Likewise, the recommended method of memorizing the world map is to look at an atlas and transpose each continent onto a piece of paper. The Core contains detailed instructions on how to draw the Great Circles and add the continents to it. It also includes a simple plan to master drawing the world by heart with "at least two hundred features accurately labeled" by the time your child enters high school.

"I know that visualizing these instructions may be hard without a video. That's why we need to restore classical education. Thinking about hard things like lines on maps that aren't exactly where you thought they'd be throws us off balance." (page 154)

I was one of those people who had trouble visualizing the instructions in The Core.  In the end, our family used baby steps in map-drawing because it was the only way I knew how to start.

Our family's baby steps to map-drawing:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Benjamin Franklin Unit Study: Giveaway

Although it's not necessary to supplement our memory work, a classical education provides flexibility for families to embark on interest-led learning at the grammar stage.  And there's a certain someone in our family who enjoys projects and unit studies from Homeschool in the Woods.  [This, my friends, is a gross understatement.]

In fact, this certain someone has specifically requested to embark on three Time Travelers Projects next semester to research the American Revolution, the Civil War, and various events throughout the 19th Century...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Letter to a new CC mom...

Reposted from the archives as we approach another school year
Article originally published one year ago on July 5, 2013.

Dear New CC Mom,

I have learned so much about the classical model in the past few years (and still have a long way to go!), and I admit that it has sometimes gone against what my preconceived notions and tendencies are!  I just finished reading Echo in Celebration by Leigh Bortins... for the third time.  It takes me a while to break old habits.  I'm so hardheaded.  I have to read and re-read and remind myself that I am choosing a better education for my children than what I received. 

I am not an expert. I make mistakes and have a tendency to chase rabbits.  It is utterly amazing that anyone would ever take the time to even scan over what I have to say, much less ask me questions or request my opinion.  Although I am just an imperfect mom trying to figure out how to restore my own education while educating my children, I love to share what's on my heart... the things I'm learning... the things I'm starting to understand. Maybe these thoughts will help you? [But please remember... this letter comes from the heart, not from an expert.]

As far as education is concerned, I've discovered that the most important thing to consider in this foundational, early-grammar stage is that memorizing the memory work is more important than fleshing out the memory work.  If your child never asks "why" about the history sentences [science facts, Bible verses, poetry] you're memorizing, that's okay! Children are geared more towards memorizing and absorbing information and sitting on our laps listening to stories.  When our children ask why... that's when they are ready to know why.