Thursday, April 20, 2006

Love is...

One of my favorite homeschool memories from this year happened a few months ago when my son and I were dissecting a worm. I have never been a fan of this particular branch of science... I'm not particularly squeamish, normally, but dissections really give me the heebie-jeebies for some reason. I don't really know why. I do know that as we began that day, I had in my mind that it would be mostly him doing the cutting, and I would sit by as the "guide," instructing him and pointing out what, um, we were seeing. It became evident once we got going that things were being cut that needed to be intact, and that it required a degree of dexterity that he, at 9, does not yet possess... so I took a deep breath, grabbed a scalpel, and dug in (so to speak.) Both of our faces were about as close to the specimen as he is in the picture above, practically pressed together so he could see as I was trying to locate and explain the intestines and reproductive organs of a worm, when he turned to me and said, "Mom, you must really love me!"

Yes! In that moment he "got it." He gets why I do what I do. Not because I'm some sort of expert with knowledge to impart, or even that I have a particular love for whatever subject we're studying. I love... him. That's why we dissect worms and frogs, diagram sentences, look for stars and planets, s-o-u-n-d...o-u-t...w-o-r-d-s, drill math facts, clean papier mache off of the walls, and the myriad of other things that homeschooling requires. I LOVE my kids!

Here's another favorite dissection picture from that day:

Say, "A-h-h-h-h-h"

Oh... and to show that I am growing as a person, here's a picture of the dissection he did today. I would like to add that I didn't even flinch at ALL:

Poor old scanner...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

::::Gasp!::: Textbooks

I've always believed as Susan Wise Bauer does that "'reading texts' (books with snippets of stories and poems followed by comprehension exercises) turn reading into a chore..." and that they "mutilate real books by pulling sections out of context and presenting them as 'assignments.' Even worse are textbooks that provide selections designed for textbook use, which means that your child spends his time reading generic prose produced by textbook writers instead of stories written by masters." (p. 57, The Well-Trained Mind) I agree that "on the whole, science textbooks lack coherence. They cover, in hit-or-miss fashion, everything from rain forests to diet and nutrition in no particular order. And they never devote more than six weeks or so to any one topic before moving on to the next." (p. 159, TWTM) So, throughout the grammar stage we've used whole, "living books" from the library by the cartload over the years, as well as carefully chosen history and science encyclopedias.

Now, on to the logic stage...

"As the logic stage progresses, you'll be using more and more original sources, steering away from "textbooks." Many textbooks are boring. And most present information in a way that's actively incompatible with the intent of the logic stage.... A textbook leaves nothing for the child to investigate or question; it leaves no connections for the student to discover." (p. 237, TWTM)

I totally agree! But, my soon-to-be seventh grader is wanting textbooks next year. For every subject.

And you know what? I've actually ordered her a couple. I can understand why she wants them. She told me she wants all her books for all of her subjects lined up in her locker (yes, they each have single lockers next to their desks), and she wants to work her way through her textbooks all year until she's finished. Hey, that sounds great! As a teacher, that sounds wonderful to me, too. It's nice, neat, orderly progress.

But is it learning?

I hope I can somehow strike a balance between her need for order, predictability, and "checking the box" and my desire for her to interact with great literature and factual information rather than a compilations of snippets of literature, or dreck that was written (for the most part) by committees for committees. (Oops, my bias is showing. ) Surely there's a way to incorporate both textbooks and original sources (and still have a life), leaving adequate room for her mind to apply the logic she's developing to the textbooks she's reading. Besides, there's also not enough room to put the public library (or all the books on her 7th grade reading list) in a nice neat row in her locker...

There's certainly plenty for me to "investigate and question" as we plan for next year and as we draw ever closer to the high school years.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Homeschool Countdown

I did one of these on my other blog and it was fun! I decided to do a homeschool-specific one:

10 years ago I first heard of homeschooling
9 weeks are remaining in our current school year
8 years until we graduate our son
7 years of homeschooling are behind us
6 more years until we graduate our daughter
5 bookshelves of materials need to be reorganized
4 orders for next year's curriculum have been placed
3 Spelling programs have fallen by the wayside
2 students are depending on me each day
1 thing after another seems to always derail my "perfect" lesson plans
ZERO regrets for homeschooling my precious children !

Friday, April 07, 2006

Finishing Strong

I help coordinate a prayer group for homeschool moms that meets once a month through the school year. It has been an unspeakable privilege to go before the throne for these precious ladies and their families this year, and know that they are doing the same for me. This week, one mom requested prayer that they would "finish the year strong" in their homeschool. Immediately there were nods and "mm-hm's," as if to say, "Yeah, put us down for that, too!" So we all prayed that we would "finish strong."

As I've continued to pray this for all of us, I've been wondering to myself just what "finishing" really means. So, as any good Galileo-teacher-mom would do, I looked it up:

Main Entry: 1fin·ish
Function: verb

Pronunciation: 'fi-nish
1a : to come to an end : to use or dispose of entirely 2 a : to bring to completion or issue b : to provide with a finish ; especially : to put a final coat or surface on 3a : to defeat or ruin utterly and finally b : to bring about the death of

As I read the above definition I am struck by the fact that, out of the seven "school years" I've homeschooled, I've never felt "finished." I've never gotten a sense that we've "come to the end of a course," "ended [our school year] in a specified manner," and to be quite honest, we've never "brought about the death of" any of our books. Well, I suppose my kids would say that I've "beat a dead horse" a time or two... I must admit there have been times when we were not through with a certain workbook or curriculum, but I have declared us "finished" for the purposes of moving on to the next grade, knowing that those concepts would be reviewed at the beginning of the next book. In the interest of honesty, I'll also admit that I've pronounced us "finished" midway through a novel or book in which we've felt bogged down (my apologies to Charles Dickens!). But is that being "finished?"

Then I checked my Bible. (As any good Abe Lincoln-teacher-mom would do!):

  • "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work." John 4:34
  • "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." Acts 20:24
  • "Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means." 1 Corinthians 8:11
  • "Perseverence must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:4
  • "By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work." Genesis 2:2

And, this is especially meaningful as we go into Easter Week:

  • "When He had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit." John 19:30

I realize that as we prayed for a "strong finish" for one another the other night, we were talking in view of the short-term, not the bigger picture. Most homeschool parents I've talked to agree that what we're endeavoring to do as we educate our children is much bigger than semesters and school years. But those days, weeks, months, semesters, and school years add up to... the race. We've each been given one. It's our own. And we must run it. I've never run cross country, but I would imagine that there are checkpoints along the way... little "finishes." And all of these races, these individual tasks, are part of the bigger race "-the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

Finishing is Biblical. Finishing is a pattern God began in Genesis, and Christ modeled on the cross.

With that in mind, my prayer is that at the end of each day, each week, each semester, each school year, upon each child's graduation, and one day as I step into the presence of my Heavenly Father, I'll be able to say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

I still have not figured out why I've never felt "finished." But feelings are not faith. My heavenly Father shall supply all that I need, even a feeling of closure if I need it. So, I'm asking in faith, and praying the same for my dear homeschooling friends.

Look to the finish!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Galileo with Abe Lincoln Tendencies

I found this quiz on one of my favorite blogs. These are my first results. The second time I took it (with my other personality, LOL) I was Abe Lincoln. I was really going for Mr. Potato Head or Martha Stewart, though. :::::sigh::::

What Type of Homeschooler Are You?

Galileo - If it is worth learning, it has been printed in Latin. You want your children to have a classical education. You teach the Trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and the Quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Ancient history is fascinating to you, and you own several Greenleaf Guides to prove it. Visit my blog:
Take this quiz!


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