Sep 27, 2011

Toad and the Mole (and Ratty too)

We have been reading and loving "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame in the edited and annotated Michael Clay Thompson edition from Royal Fireworks Press. This is one of the first trilogy of books in what MCT calls "language illustrated classics". This first trilogy is for the younger students - I assume for Grade 3 upwards? but in our house it is used with great success with our 6 and almost 8 year olds (but they are avid intense readers and thinkers).

Language Illustrated Classics - What does that mean?
Sprinkled liberally through the text are boxes highlighting features of the language - such as alliteration, rhythm, punctuation, and a four level analysis - as well as footnotes with concise definitions or explanations of specific vocabulary when it is archaic or peculiarly English!

These "language illustrations" don't slow you down or break the flow as it turns out (I was initially unsure how disruptive it would be - it isn't) and allow you or the child reader to deliver more detail without flicking through a dictionary or asking "what does this word mean?".

Trilogy order
We are doing Wind in the Willows first and I think MCT expects it to be approached last in the trilogy but we hadn't read it as a family before and really wanted to jump right in...

Along with the novels (the others are "Alice in Wonderland" and "Peter Pan") there is the "Four-Level Literature Homeschool Parent Manual" 

called "Alice, Peter, and Mole", a slim volume with comment, chapter character quotes (which we are approaching as a little quiz along the lines of "Who said....?" which has inspired much jumping up and down with arms in the air "I know, I know!"), to be followed by

creative questions and activities, 

and study questions.

We are at our initial reading, 

and apart from the quote quiz and some gentle Socratic style probing, the "study" is pretty minimal so far. However, the girls are totally engaged in the story and to this end, when invited to audition for parts in a production of Alice in Wonderland (and yes, we will get back to the "first" book once finished the "third"!) both girls chose The Wind in the Willows as their monologue sources.

Language in action
Here is November (soon to be 8 years old) doing Toad's speech...

and here is July (6) with Mole's monologue...

Now that is living literature study!

You may also be interested in my other posts on literature, and Michael Clay Thompson, and MCT's Royal Fireworks' forum here and  bit more about how we incorporate it in our homeschool here

The Language Illustrated Classics are a great addition to an already wonderful Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts program.

Sep 21, 2011

Homeschool FAQ

"Are your girls' home schooled? They are very bright / well spoken / motivated / nicely behaved / confident talking with strangers..."

"Oh I wish we could do that - my child keeps asking to be home schooled but I work/my husband/wife wouldn't agree..."

As soon as you meet someone and the "which school?" question arises, then these following are the usual questions that follow. This post is the lengthy answer to all of those curious people I meet who ask lots of questions, or indeed don't ask even though they are busting to...I do think it is lovely that other people are so interested in what we do. It tells me that education is in a period of enormous flux and change.

And this is where I lay out the answer to the question  "why do we homeschool?"

Now to the FAQs, those questions you may always have wanted to ask but were too polite to mention:

I could never homeschool my kids - are you a really patient person?
Haha, I do enjoy this question! I am not fact I don't really like routine, walk straight into fear, jump into change in a second, and am a very emotionally LOUD person.

Before being faced with the inevitable prospect of homeschooling, I was always the person saying "oh no - I could never do that - I am too selfish!".

Turns out that being an impulsive, creative, volatile optimist are qualities that work for a home educator. Well, for our family.

I do have good boundaries though, and I think that is a saving grace - actually much more important than "patience".

I am a ridiculous idealist and looooooove to learn new things. I adore our girls and that is a major motivator - we were desperate and our alternative to homeschool was moving to a city and trying to find the perfect school. Patient? No. Kind? Yes. Motivated? Extremely. Satisfied? Extraordinarily.

How do you manage without working outside home?
We live cheaply. Very cheaply.

We have our own chickens for eggs, and try to grow lots of our own fruit and vegetables. Mike does all of our repairs, renovations, garden maintenance etc. We are also older parents so by the time kids arrived we had the big stuff. We drink a tiny amount of alcohol, don't have gym memberships, and shop on sale (and secondhand) for clothes. 

We do however eat wonderfully yummy food, and don't ever hold back on art materials or books!

How do you make your kids do what you want?
Another curious question! As parents you are constantly negotiating, guiding, dealing, cajoling or just plain demanding that your child eats, drinks, dresses, does as they are asked etc. Homeschool is just more of the same, really.

How do you motivate your kids?
Maybe this is the wrong question - maybe it should be "how do I motivate myself?". I have noticed that when I am low in energy and a bit bored, so too are the kids.

It is important to listen to yourself - are you putting off teaching a bit of work because it is going to encounter resistance? Finding it hard to do more of the same day in day out?

Re-evaluate your ideas of "must dos". For me, at this point, that is 30 minutes of maths every school day, independent spelling work, and a read-aloud with narration. In a few months that will be different, as spelling gets up to speed it may be reading your favourite factual book independently, drawing every day, coming up with a red herring example every day to trick mum and dad....

Naturally this "must do work" is dispensed with quickly so it is on to the juicy stuff like art, science, games, geography, mapping, living maths, grammar, and most importantly the "Mama, I really want to..." projects (like rat dissection, seed sowing, Ancient Chinese warrior making, cupcake cooking).

Resistance is useless (sorry - big Dr Who fans around here)...well, actually it is quite useful as an indicator of "what is really going on". We had a spate of resistance to independent work, teeth grindingly slow mind numbing slowness. It made me take another look - can she actually do the work? Am I skipping the praise where she is lacking confidence? Is it actually just boring work and not advanced enough? Too visual? Not spatial enough?

My child is really social and loves to run around. What about socialisation?
See this post. In essence, hang out with people you like. Find a homeschool group that has like-minded people, do "after school" activities.

Are you a teacher?
No...well, I have taught adults design and typography, but I don't have a teaching qualification (unlike the 6 teachers out of 8 of my immediate family members).

How do you know what to teach them?
Do you like to shop? 
That is what I liken it to. I love to shop for books, ideas, galleries, art materials, stationery, different philosophies, languages, cultures, ideas.

I go browsing, including the state requirements for homeschool registration (see here), do lots of thinking, reading, asking other home schoolers on email lists and forums about specific bits of curriculum, assemble a loose mind-map in my journal, then go actual shopping.

Though there is an easier way. Mike and I now have an understanding, called "buy it if you like it because you may never see it again". This works, but requires more weaving together of learning plans, and patience is required. For example, I found a great paper model book on Ancient Greece, and clicking the series link led me to model books for the Vikings, Medieval Castle, Victorian buildings. I purchased those also and filed them in my "exterior brain" box as we follow a loose Classical structure and won't get to them for months, years...

I am sooooo excited though, already, and that is the secret. Never teach with materials that leave you will bore your kids too.

Most importantly, I try to follow the girls' lead and track down materials that suit their learning styles and interests (the instant nature of the library is best for satisfying these desires though - most of my accumulation of resources is a magpie collection and not everything is there just yet).

Are you worried you will miss something?
Yes, and no.
Yes because I would like the girls to move seamlessly through our plan, and sometimes resources follow a different order and we need to back up a bit and teach something else first - but this is missing something that you then fix, which is fine.
No, because we have lots of contact with bricks-and-mortar schooled kids and I see how shallow their learning is (except in testing - go Naplan!).

You won't homeschool for high school will you?
Well, yes, because adolescence isn't a reason for denying our girls the best education they could have.

Isn't it really expensive?
It is available for all budgets - thank you Internet, thank you libraries, thank you community galleries and museums...

It must be easier with girls - do you think boys would be harder to homeschool?
Hehe - try living with our two over-excitable firecrackers. I think gender is irrelevant here.

Are you in a homeschool group that gets together a lot?
Yes, and that is really lovely : ) but not essential.

My child wouldn't suit homeschool because a) b) c)...
This is my blog, so I get my chance to stand on the soap-box.

I truly believe that every child would benefit from a good homeschool education - but it isn't the right thing for every parent

It is as simple as the maths. I believe that the ratio of having 1 teacher/educator to 2 kids (or 1:3, 1:4, or 1:6) is obviously better than 1:25. 

Also, as a psychodynamic therapist whose work with adult clients always involved exploring their relationships with their parents, I know that all children need love and attention from their parents - real day-to-day commitment. 

For those parents who are not financially able, or emotionally able, or simply not willing, homeschool is a poor choice.

But if you are truly interested/fascinated in homeschooling but are unsure about how to make it work, I suggest you try to re-evaluate your life. It may be as straightforward as choosing a smaller house, smaller mortgage, less $ pressure, working part time, living simply in a country town rather than a high pressure expensive truly can make it work.

Your children are only at home with you for a short time - all the better to walk the educational path together now while you all can.

What are your FAQs?

Sep 8, 2011

Spring camp - Happy Fathers Day!

July's packing - we are off camping for Fathers Day!

Bundjalung National Park, our favourite camping spot

where sub-tropical coastal scrub meets a beautiful north-facing bay.

Warm enough to swim - even 2 days into Spring

Rock pools to explore with your best friend - your sister.

Mud rock

Neptune's necklace, algaes, and molluscs

and even the occasional (dead) crab.

Found the best picnic spot in the world

to play (as July says) the best game in the world - Cadoo!

Then time to break camp in the modified ShippShape camper

one last look at the Aboriginal fish trap

a quick final dip and homeward bound.
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