Monday, February 23, 2015

Binder Update: Language Arts

I have kept track of hours for Language Arts.  
120 hours = 1 credit

I am writing this as if our year is over, when in actuality I count our academic year July 1 through June 30, so we still have 4 full months left.  

We have read:

Corresponding Activities
The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe
Watched the movie and discussed similarities and differences.  Completed a lapbook and biographical notebook page for C.S. Lewis.  Cover to lapbook is hand made artwork of lampost drawn over book print stained with tea to look aged.
Around the World in 80 Days
5 paragraph essay in which a favorite character’s personality trait was supported by evidence from the book.  Research completed at the library on the Hindu Gods and Goddesses and elements of the Hindu religion. Watched NatGeo documentary about the history of the Suez Canal.  Watched documentary: Understanding World Religions, What is Hinduism
Alice in Wonderland
Watched the Tim Burton adaptation as well as the Disney and realized this was one of the few times Disney’s version was accurately based on the story.  Completed a journal entry of many famous quotes from this story.
A Christmas Carol
Attended a dramatic reading performed by a local Shakespeare company.  Viewed the movie starring George C. Scott.
Harriet the Spy
Explored banned books.  Made an itinerary for a walking tour of the neighborhood that provided the setting for the book.  Spent day in NYC touring the park, looking for her brownstone, sampling an egg cream, etc. Created a brochure to bring awareness to banned books.
Fairy Tales: The Golden Goose, The Seven Ravens, The Snow Queen, several versions of multicultural Cinderella tales.
Completed two pieces of fictional writing inspired by fairy tales: one about a quest and the other an adaptation of Cinderella.  Each story is 10+ pages long.
Watched The Princess Bride.  Created a Venn Diagram comparing/contrasting The Snow Queen to Frozen.
Read Rump, the true story of Rumplestiltskin by Leisl Shurtliff.
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life
Participated in a book club discussion about this book.  Lilah wrote all the questions that were discussed.  Completed a vision board of the book and the places mentioned in the book.

At one of our book club meeting, a mom mentioned that she had begun to keep a running list of every book they were using, across subject areas.  Why had I never thought of that?  I know that when it comes time to write course descriptions, I will need to list the books we used either as reference or assigned reading.  Having a list would be much easier than going back through a year's worth of weekly wrap ups.

I created a very simple spreadsheet so that I am able to sort by year, or by subject area, of by author, etc.

In addition to the books listed above, many other books were read for language arts, we just did not do accompanying activities.  

Six books were read for book club
  • Marley, A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan
  • Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker
  • The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
  • Rump, the true story of Rumplestiltskin by Leisl Shurtliff

(we still have March, April and May)

The Language Arts section of the Binder contains all this and more:

Cover Page:

Hours Checklist:

Book List Spreadsheet
Book List Covers:






My notes/record keeping:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

High School Binder: Weekly Wrap Ups

It is that time of year, not quite spring but close enough to start thinking about homeschooling housekeeping issues.  For me that means tidying up the 9th grade binder.  Over the next few weeks, I will share where we are with Grace’s 9th grade binder.

Her binder helps me stay on track of several items but today I will profile only one...

Weekly Wrap Ups:

I still do them even though I don’t print them on the blog anymore.  I print out the table depicting the work we accomplish during the week.  These are kept in the front section of the binder and become a compilation of our efforts over the year.  It is worth the effort every day to jot down what we do.  This would be impossible to recreate and it is comforting to know that I can be held accountable for documenting their educational journey.  

It’s an interesting transition, homeschooling elementary to homeschooling middle/high school.  I am not the only one who asks, “Is this hard enough?” “Is this thorough?” “Will they have what they need to do what they want?”  and yes even, “Will this be enough to get them into college?”

I dislike the assumption that if you unschool you have no aspirations of college.  This is simply untrue.  I don’t make my girls memorize tons of factual information.  I don’t make them spit it back out to me for a grade.  We don’t do random workbooks, or texts, and we don’t spend hours cramming for tests.  That does not mean they don’t want to go to college, nor does it mean that they will not be prepared for college as is mentioned in this Smithsonian Magazine article.  

Our goal is not homeschool to Ivy, nor is it even homeschool to a $60,000 private university.  To me this is not sound financial decision making.  Our plan is and has always been the 2+2 model.  Two years of community college first  followed by two years at a college or university.  We choose to ignore any snide remarks or condescending attitudes from academic elitists.

Their binder is their collection of work accumulated over the course of a year.  It is full of essays, notebook pages, book projects, certificates,  awards, performance records, teacher evaluations, internship hours and more.  They may not memorize the capitals of every European nation, but they memorize pages and pages of sheet music.  They have read works by C.S. Lewis, Jules Verne, Lois Lowry, and Charles Dickens, yet they still love Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Trixie Belden.  Their education is perfectly eclectic and definitely not traditional.  Their binder and ultimately, their portfolio and transcript will reflect this. 

Week of February 15 - 21, 2015
Grace: LOF lessons 1 through 4
Key To Algebra Workbook 1 - half the workbook completed this week.
Lilah who wanted to pick back up LOF for fun, resumed with Intermediate Series: Kidneys lessons 1through 9
language arts
Printed off list of literary terms.  Used teachable moment in LOF of idioms to introduce this list. 
Both girls completed their Cinderella stories. 

Writing Group - both girls shared their stories and received feedback from their peers.  We found examples of the literary terms in each other’s stories. 

Finished Like the Willow Tree (Dear America) by Lois Lowry
First great cities:
A History of the World in 100 Objects #11 King Den’s Sandal Label 
Found a site that breaks down the inscriptions on the label and explains each picture of hieroglyph.  Girls put this into their notebooks.
Geology Lesson 3 - Galapagos
Watched a bit about Galapagos Aquatic Lizards on a NatGeo documentary.  Girls took excellent notes independently in their notebooks without pausing the video.  This was the first time they have done this kind of note taking.  
Copied map of Galapagos Islands and added a map of where the islands are on the globe to their notebooks.  
Lilah watched a Magic School Bus video about undersea volcanos and subduction.
The barn was c-o-l-d!  Lilah worked on cantering and Grace on jumping. Grace is getting used to a new saddle that she will have to use to compete in the rated shows this spring.
Grace was given the task of taking Pachabel’s Cannon and using her new understanding of chords and improvisational playing to come up with a version to her liking.  She is also creating Amazing Grace with no sheet music.  

I spoke with her teacher regarding her transcript.  He does not level, but said she is solidly an intermediate player.  I think we will list Intermediate Piano 9 on her transcript.

Lilah is working on her Clementi piece and it is coming along nicely.
photography #3 - faces and places: Using the best lens to take portraits and how to make those portraits unusual.
Grace edited and uploaded her newest GoPro movie to YouTube using GoPro studio which she likes much more than iMovie.
Girls had their weekly lesson Chapter #6.
Grace is still volunteering 3 hours at the kennel (she has 120 hours since July) and in exchange for her work, Crosby has been attending doggy day care.  She loves that she gets to bring her dog to work.

Grace also volunteers 2 hours a week at Church helping me with my Faith Formation Class (6th grade).  Total time will be 20 weeks at 2 hours = 40 hours.  Not sure if this will factor into credits, but she will receive a letter to add to her portfolio for her service.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015

Valentine’s Day will always mark the anniversary of our entry into this amazing world of homeschooling.  Lilah’s first Valentine’s Day party was thrown 6 years ago, when she was in 2nd grade.  Six years ago.  That is crazy!  Where has this time gone?  How did my little 6 year old girl grow into a 12 year young lady who would be in 7th grade if she were in school?  

Over the years some things have changes.  Some friends have moved on, while new friends have come into our lives.    Thankfully some friendships have endured and I have had the joy of watching them grow up alongside my girls.  

One thing that has never changed is that Lilah is the ultimate party planner.  She takes responsibility for games, food, and movies.  She makes shopping lists in her planning notebook and spends hours researching the perfect homemade valentine.  She bakes, decorates, and cleans.  For Lilah, the party is not just a gathering of friends, it is an experience she wants each friend to remember for a long time.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

High School Book List

My 1977 collection of Trixie Belden.  These books helped define my childhood.

This week I reached out through social media asking for books that my friend, family, and online followers remember reading in high school and would recommend to someone in high school now.  I am always disappointed by the book lists I see on the websites of schools and at the library. In my opinion they are too heavily weighted with dystopian books, or contain books that are frankly, too mature for high school students and really would be better suited for a college class (like 1984).  

The highlight of this year has been reading books with my sister-in-law Kris.  We try to pace ourselves so we finish the book around the same time.  She talks with the girls about characters and the plot and their opinions and then we gather on a weekend to have dinner and watch the movie.  Those books are not just part of us, they are part of our family experience.  Passpartout and Alice and The White Witch have all been featured in conversation and many, many connections have been made to these reads.  This week we read The Snow Queen and realized that C.S. Lewis must have drawn inspiration for the White Witch from The Snow Queen.  They are very similar in description and action.  

It does not matter what you label language arts as on a transcript.  English 101, 201, 301.  What matters is that you read books that allow you to participate in a conversation where you are able to discuss authors and plots and make inferences and substantiate opinions.  I want my girls to know the literary classics, as well as have familiarity with contemporary classics such as The Help and The Secret Life of Bees.  

So much of our learning occurs through our reading.  Recently, the girls opted for a fun audiobook and we have been reading Dear America: Like the Willow Tree by Lois Lowry.  The girls were not familiar with the Shakers until we read this book.  In this living books, we have learned so much about the religion and beliefs, ways of life, inventions and communal living.  We have researched Shaker communities in Connecticut and sadly the only one that was here is not a museum, but has been sold off and is in the hands of private owners.  We will take a ride to Enfield and walk around and perhaps take some pictures of the buildings, homes and grounds.  Even though Grace mentioned that this book is a bit "young",  it will go on her cumulative 9th grade book list.  Lois Lowry is a revered author and the content contained in this book warrants it.  

Here is the compiled list.  Many people participated in the creation of this list.  Some of these may not be appropriate for our family, but these are the books that people remember and feel should be passed on to the next generation of readers.

Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Ann Frank
Book Thief
The Hunger Games
The kite Runner
Pride and Prejudice 
Heaven is for Real. 
Rush revere and the American Revolution
To Kill a Mockingbird
Freak the Mighty 
1984 ( when older) 
Of Mice and Men
The Pearl
Fahrenheit 451
Tale of Two Cities
The Outsiders
Animal Farm
To Kill A Mockingbird
While Still We Live
The Lost World
Great Expectations
The Old Man and the Sea
Les Miserables
The Scarlett Letter
Wuthering Heights
Sign of the Beaver
Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Candymakers
The Master Puppeteer
I Rode of Horse Of Milk White Jade
The Hiding Place
Number the Starts
The Hobbit
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Taming of the Shrew
Breaking Stalin's Nose
Mission to Cathay
Lord of the Flies
Catcher in the Rye
Johnny Tremain
Little Women
Romeo & Juliet
Othello, Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream
Great Expectations, Dombey & Son, David Copperfield
Sense and Sensibility
Lord of the Rings
Jane Eyre
A Clockwork Orange
Call of the Wild
Silas Marner
The Grapes of Wrath
The Adventues of Huckleberry Finn
Ender's Game
Where the Red Fern Grows
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Kite Runner
Charlotte's Web
The Alchemist
The Life of Pi
Cutting for Stone
The Secret Garden
The Help
The Secret Life of Bees

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Why I'm Saying No To Facebook....

(This is really a letter to my daughters...)

Grace sometimes asks for a Facebook page.  Not to keep in touch with other kids or family, she has Instagram for that, but for keeping track of the weather and following her favorite weather outlets and meteorologists and I have said no.  I have always said no but I have not quite been able to articulate why.  After all she does have Instagram, which for us has been a hugely positive experience, and she does have Twitter, although she is not allowed to post to Twitter, only follow.  The once or twice that she has posted it was to report weather conditions in our town.

Facebook is a different story though.  Unlike Instagram or Twitter, Facebook hits you hard with advertisements and shows you the things that other people like.  It causes you  to react to a visual image or to an advertisement quickly, impulsively, and sometimes naively.  Recently someone I know posted a comment and a link to a newspaper picture that I wish I did not see.  I have been trying to avoid everything with IS because the visual imagery and the horror and terror upset me too much.  I can’t have that in my mind and eating away at my heart.  So I shut it out.  Sometimes I can’t, like at the drug store, I saw an image on a NY newspaper and it brought tears to my eyes and now I can’t undo what I saw.  Nor can I undo the words I read and the image I saw on Facebook.  

Not only is there no control over reading and being exposed to images your friends post, and the advertisements that pop up, your finger is quick to hit the “like” button.  I see this on my Facebook page all the time.  The “likes” by the younger people I follow, teens and young adults, make me pause and wish I could reach out on their behalf and hit erase, unwind, redo.  Once you “like” something, once you repost something, once you create a post, it is part of your digital footprint forever.  Forever.  You cannot erase it.  You cannot rewind.  You cannot undo.  Deleting is not a delete.  It remains permanently on Facebook’s or Instagram’s or Twitter’s server.  Anyone who is skilled at accessing information will be able to read your complete digital footprint.  It may not matter now, at 16, 17 or 18 but it sure as heck may matter at 22, 23, 24 when you are seeking employment and your footprint is searched.  

What seemed like a harmless “like” may lead someone to think you are a recreational drug user.  What seemed like a harmless “like” may lead someone to think you are a political extremist.  What seemed like a harmless “like” is an indication to who you are and what you value at that time in your life.  

My digital footprint on FB will certainly not get me hired as a teacher.  I have posted too many articles and commented on too many posts questioning the currently trends and philosophies of education.  I have openly supported homeschooling and alternative schooling.  Even if I am the most qualified applicant, my footprint may keep me from a job as an educator for a public school system.  I know that.  I accept that.  However, someone at 15, 16, 17 may not realize how posting now will affect them 5 and 10 years from now.

I want my girls to think of Facebook as a mirror.  What we post and what we comment are reflections of who we are.  It is a snapshot of both our personality and our personal values.  What we show to the FB community is no different that what we show to people in person however, people may forget our names, they may forget what we look like, they may forget a conversation we had, they may forget an illness or a tragedy we have experienced, they may forget where we went to dinner, or what the last movie we saw was.  They may forget the time we partied to hard on spring break or when when a nasty comment slipped out of our mouth.  They may forget when we hurt someone’s feelings, used poor grammar, or even when we blatantly told a lie.  They may forget when we said a disparaging comment about our children, or had a spat with a family member.  But FB never will.  What we put out is part of our permanent composition.  We build it with every post, with every “like”, with every share, with every comment.  

So this is why we do not have FB and this is why I do not foresee FB as an option for my girls for a very long time.  But rock on Twitter and Instagram.  We love you!

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