2017-8 School Year Plans

These are our plans for school this year, with a 12th-grader, 9th-grader, 8th-grader and 4th-grader. A copy of this will remain under my pages (found in the sidebar and in the tabs under the header photo) for future reference, though I will update it at the end of the year to take out what we didn’t like/do or what we added.

History: US History. In the past I have wrapped US history into our world history by period, but I recently discovered that didn’t count for Colorado’s high school graduation requirements. This year, we will study US History and add in what’s happening around the world at the same time for context.

Our 12th-grader is taking US History at the community college. Depending on where he decides to go to college next year, we will either take the in-state guaranteed transfer credit, or have him take the AP exam next spring.

For 4th, 8th and 9th grades I’m shaking things up. Instead of reading the spines we’ve used in the past (The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer, and Genevieve Foster’s The World of George Washington, etc.), I’m using investigative strategies I learned from Yohuru R. Williams’s excellent book, Teaching US History Beyond the Textbook.

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I purchased an assortment of collections of US history primary sources called Researching American History (found at Rainbow Resource Center) for the kids to use in their research.  I don’t expect my 4th grader to pull from multiple sources, but for the older kids, I have asked for at least 4 sources per project.

I’ve assigned US history books (biographies, autobiographies, novels and picture books) for them to read independently, and they will present their findings (travel brochures, PowerPoint presentations, reports, posters, comic books, movie trailers, plays) to each other every 2-3 weeks.  We will also play Timeline regularly to help us cement a mental timeline. We have a list of US history movies to watch. My older two will participate in National History Day in the spring.

Geography:

For 12th-grade, Jonah will be reading Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography and Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America. Then, with the idea in mind that the natural resources and paucities of a region help determine the political struggles of that nation/region, he will do a series of case studies of different regions in the world.

For 8th and 9th grades, we are studying US geography in the context of history, incorporating historical maps and states’ geography.  For my 4th grader, we will work through 36 states week by week, hopefully incorporating some out-of-state travel. We like these coloring books and games for geography.

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English (Composition/Grammar/Spelling/Punctuation):

My 12th grader will be doing an essay-writing intensive (aka, writing tons of college and scholarship essays).  His US history class also has weekly writing clinics and lots of assigned papers.

For 4th, 8th and 9th grades, we will use Spelling Power for the first time. Additionally, they each have a daily grammar review with a one-page grammar exercise. I’ve tried lots of Charlotte Mason-esque “gentle” or “natural” grammar reviews, and they don’t seem to work for us. I think the problem is me. Anyway, this year we’re trying something less oral and more written (and formal).  The Spectrum series of test prep books works well for us to teach writing concepts in small chunks, which we then try to reinforce with writing assignments.

English Literature:

Shakespeare: This year we will read The Winter’s Tale. It’s one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and seems to flirt the line between tragedy and comedy. It covers serious ideas of betrayal, suspicion and grudge-holding, but it has a happy ending. Something for everyone.

Poetry: We will read Emily Dickinson, Claude McKay, Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Edna St Vincent Millay, and Langston Hughes. My older son will read some Gwendolyn Brooks, Bob Dylan and Tupac Shakur.

Read-alouds: We have a limited time all together as a family for reading now that my oldest has two days each week on campus, and the kids are still attending their once-a-week school.  We began by rereading Because of Winn-Dixie, but I haven’t entirely decided what our other read-alouds will be.

Independent Reading: A significant portion of my younger kids’ literature will be historical reading, including Phoebe the Spy, Little Britches, Steve Sheinkin’s The Notorious Benedict Arnold, The Port Chicago 50, King George: What was his problem, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, and Most Dangerous; the Little House on the Prairie series, Elswyth Thane’s Williamsburg series, Elijah of Buxton and The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now. I also have a collection of other MG and YA literature on the list.  More booklists to come.

Picture (Art) Study:

Our picture study will focus on Normal Rockwell and Edward Hopper. But I’m also planning a unit on Native American textiles and pottery, and a unit on the quilter Harriet Powers.

Math:

12th grade: AP Statistics. 9th grade: Singapore NEM Level 2 (continuing). 8th grade: Singapore NEM Level 1 and the Life of Fred: Geometry. 4th Grade: Singapore Primary 4A and 4B.

Bible: Everyone is doing some Old Testament reading to improve our Bible literacy, and we will finish the Gospel of Mark (again) and some epistles (yet to be determined).

Science:

12th grade: Chemistry with Lab

9th grade: Veritas Academy’s online Chemistry and Biology through the enrichment school.

8th grade: We’ll be using biology modules from Science Fusion, including Cells and Heredity and Diversity of Living Things.

4th grade: We are planning weekly nature study with a focus on plants, although we started with the total eclipse.

Foreign Language:

12th grade: he is taking a year off FL.

4th, 8th and 9th grade all are taking Spanish through our enrichment school. Hooray!

If you have any resources you think I should include to make this a better year, please shoot me an email. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7QT: Instead of the news

One: It’s been hard to write this year. There is so much terrible news, and all of it is much more important than anything I have to say about school or local food. When I finally get over it to write something and schedule it to post automatically Monday morning, something terrible happens (looking at you, white supremacists who overran Charlottesville, and nutcase in Barcelona) and then my response appears to be some links about the upcoming eclipse.  There are many thoughtful, wise responses to the state of our nation and world.  I’m sorry that you won’t find them here.  Read them first, and then when you can’t take reality any more, you can pick up some sheet cake and come back here to read about something less distressing.

Two: Welcome back. While you were gone, I’ve been organizing our books.  Every year I  pull out the ones I want to have handy to assign for school.  I’ve been putting it off this summer because… well, see #1 above.  (It’s not just writing that’s been hard.)  But school starts on Monday, and I’m running out of time. I began yesterday by going through all the shelves and pulling out the books I need. Now I have to make room for them in a convenient spot, which involves moving those books somewhere else.  Anyway, it quickly became overwhelming.

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Three: So instead of finishing the task, I moved on to the abundance in the kitchen.  It’s August, which means melons and corn and tomatoes and peaches. Hallelujah. A God who made the peach is Someone I can get behind.

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I used to spend a hot, August afternoon sweating over the canner with these beauties. No more. Now I wash them, slice them in half to remove the pit, and freeze them on parchment paper. (The peaches, not the pits.) It takes about 10 minutes and involves no heat. Then, when the peaches are frozen, I throw them in bags.  In the winter they are perfect for the cobblers and smoothies that are the antidote to the February blues.

Four: While I’ve been working hard (or running to escape the news), the children are struggling with boredom. Poor things. I feel so sorry for them.

Five: Phoebe has taken to writing a newspaper.  I was nervous about this at first, until her first two articles were Tips about the Eclipse and Tips for Going Back to School. A girl after my own heart.

Six: Moriah has been coping by baking. Alas, that enables my coping by eating. After days of double chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars and flourless chocolate cake (she has been limited only by the egg production of our hens), I begged her please to make something that could count as lunch.  “Here,” I said, “use all these gorgeous tomatoes to make some sauce.”

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Seven: Teenage boredom for the win. Now if I could only talk her into helping me with the books…

When you can’t take the real news any more, check out Kelly for more Quick Takes.

Eclipse resources

Just a quick check in today with a few resources about the total solar eclipse happening next Monday, August 21.

Eclipse

For my favorite essay about the eclipse, here’s a link to Annie Dillard’s Total Eclipse. (I wonder why she named it that?) I read this essay (again) last fall after I made us reservations in Wyoming. I came out from my room with tears in my eyes to tell my family we were going to the eclipse. They all looked at me in bewilderment until one of them asked, “Um… Mom, are you crying?”

No pressure, but the Atlantic reprinting will expire the day after the eclipse, on August 22.  After that, you can find Annie’s Dillard’s essay in Teaching a Stone to Talk, and in her more recent anthology, The Abundance.

It might be too late to buy eclipse glasses, but if you already have some, double check that they meet the requirements necessary to protect your vision. For a list of vendors who have certified their filters and glasses, check here.  The glasses should say “Meets the requirement for ISO 1231202:2015.” Don’t ask me what those numbers mean. I have no idea.

If you can’t get glasses in time, you could still use the eclipse as an opportunity to study the retina and how light causes vision. Here are some resources for that: how sun damages your eyes, a 47-second video on how the retina works, and a Crash Course video on vision.

For more information on the eclipse’s path, check NASA’s site of maps, both interactive and state-by-state. NASA also has links on to how to build a safe solar viewer (for anyone who can’t get their hands on safe glasses), eclipse art projects, and educational resources, including ones specific for homeschoolers!

The Atlantic has all sorts of articles on the eclipse.  Here’s a link to their coverageSpace.com had a great article explaining why the eclipse moves west to east, instead of east to west.  The L.A. Times addressed what sort of behavior we can expect from animals during the eclipse.  And if all of that is just too much, here is a link to Space.com’s beginner’s guide to eclipse viewing (with a video from NASA).

Here’s hoping we can plant and water the seeds of wonder and curiosity in the next generation.

 

 

Countdown to school: T-7 days

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I have seven days till we start school.  This is my 13th year homeschooling, and my last year homeschooling my oldest.  Granted, things may change, but at this time it’s looking like I have a few years more to go.  No matter how many years I’ve been doing this, every year feels like a new, distinct challenge.  Here’s how I’m talking myself back from a precipice of anxiety.

We don’t have to start everything all at once.  When my kids were littler (and for the one who’s still little) I don’t start everything all at once.  I begin with a favorite subject (or two), and one that is new to us, sandwiching the new between the old.  Then when those are rolling well (which might be a few days, or in a harder year, a few weeks), I add the next.

We’ve got good books.  Much of our schooling is based on books, and if all else fails, we can retreat into our living room and read books for a week or two until I figure out where to go from here.

We take advantage of early-fall weather.  I love the fall as a time for hikes and nature walks and family bike rides.  There will be plenty of time come winter to hunker down at home for longer lessons.

“Important things will be repeated.” I stole that quote from my favorite medical school professor (Dr. Wood), and it’s true.  We can repeat and refine as much as we want, so why am I so worked up about every moment being critical?

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”  I take this quote to mean that we are learning together all the time, in the attitude (atmosphere) of our home: we ask questions, we pay attention, and we are curious; in the habits (discipline) we practice, and in all aspects of life.  Thank you, Charlotte Mason.

Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking – the strain would be too great – but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. –Charlotte Mason

SQT: Small triumphs

Seven nearly-random observations about life on 8/11/17.

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  1. I just made a record-fast trip to the DMV to renew my driver’s license. I brought approximately 80 pounds of school books to prep for lessons (starting school in 10 days! ack!) and then only made it through one before they called me.  I am happy to report that my photo is marginally better than the one I had taken 13 years ago, immediately after my worst haircut ever. (It was a “short shag” and is the only haircut I’ve ever gone back to have fixed after the fact.)
  2. When I got home I realized I’m flying to my uncle’s funeral tomorrow and have no driver’s license (for up to 30 days.) Thank goodness my passport is current.
  3. Our farmers are donating a full share of vegetables to our refugee friends. It had taken so long for her to call me I’d given up, but instead it’s just been a busy year. (I can relate to that.) So starting next week, they’ll be getting delicious yumminess like this: image.  Hooray!
  4. Owen’s godmother was in town and took him out to brunch. It has been such a blessing over the years to have my children’s godparents to share in the care of and prayer for our children. (As an added bonus, I got to spend time with her too, after brunch.)
  5. I have been following the IAAF track and field world championships, mostly on youtube. (If you know a better way to do it without cable, please let me know.)  The most impressive thing I’ve seen so far is the sprint finish (after 26 miles!) of the women’s marathon.  (That’s a youtube link.)  Those women are amazing.
  6. We spent yesterday in the mountains with my friend Christine and her kids. She and I have been friends since medical school (24 years now).  Even though the kids are getting older, all of mine rearranged work and other schedules so we could spend the day together. (Side note: it still startles me that the kids’ calendars are as busy as mine.)
  7. I know I came across as an Instant Pot skeptic on my recent post.  However, I just hard-boiled a dozen eggs (start to finish, 22 minutes, so only slightly faster than on the stove) which were the easiest-to-peel eggs I’ve ever made.  I thought I had tried all the tricks on how to make a fresh hen’s egg peelable, and none had worked till now.  The Instant Pot made the perfect hard-boiled egg.

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I really, really hope Owen is standing on a rock.

Check out Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick takes.

Daybook 8.7.17

Outside my window: rain. We were supposed to meet friends for a hike, but due to a high fever and rain (or, either one of them individually), this is what we’re doing instead:

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Yes, that is the 2014 movie, Annie. I like to think of it as Dickens lite.

In the kitchen: Meal prep. This is the difference between cooking on vacation and cooking during the school year. I plan my meals and shopping year-round, but during the school year, I don’t have time to cook ingredients on school days. So I broke down and bought an Instant Pot. (This link will take you to the an affiliate link for the Instant Pot on Amazon, and any purchase you make will benefit a great organization, Foster Source, that supports foster families. If you buy through them, Colorado foster families receive training and direct support. Thank you!) The Instant Pot jury (that would be me) is still out. Yes, I can cook an enormous amount of chicken for salads and enchiladas and future recipes in less than an hour, but man, the thing is huge. I feel like NASA every time I turn it on. Is this the time it’s going to explode?

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Before I loaded up the rocket Instant Pot, Moriah made miniature apple strudels for lunch. At some point I will have to come up with something else to have with them.

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Also, I have some bread rising. It’s my first time making this recipe (Oatmeal Bread, from The More with Less Cookbook) since early spring, when it got too hot to bake bread. I always seem to forget something on the first round. Initially, it required a trip to the grocery store, because I forgot to check my ingredients before I started throwing things in the bowl. Hopefully I didn’t forget to put anything in the bowl.

What I’m hearing: Dear Evan Hansen on Pandora, which means a funny potpourri of clear tenors (like You’ll Be Back, from Hamilton) and angsty high school songs (like Beautiful from Heathers). Also, a chicken is announcing that she just laid an egg. That’s a different kind of angst.

In the school room: school supplies. I love them. Also, stacks of books and half-laid plans. I have a ways to go. More on school planning coming up.

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On my reading list: I’ve been listening to All Clear on my runs and hikes. I’m also rereading The Martian (see above note about NASA) while I wait for Lost in a Good Book (book two in the Tuesday Next series) by Jasper Fforde to come in at the library.

On my mind: Our numbers are dwindling around here. Jonah is working about 20 hours a week, and Owen has been volunteering most days this summer. It has meant a constantly changing number of faces around our table, and in and out of the house. This fall will be more of the same, with Jonah at a local college for classes a few days each week. I guess it’s getting me ready for next year’s big shift, but even this is uncomfortable.

Grateful: for our weekend celebrations of my dad’s 80th birthday. (He would like to say that, despite how this photo appears, he is not an invalid. We were going for “king on throne” but managed instead to achieve “doting family surrounding patriarch in wheelchair.”)

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Praying for: Mandy, Judy, Christine, Lori, Ruth. My aunt and cousins, who are mourning my uncle’s death. Patience and peace, even in the midst of change.

7QT: Pre-College Curriculum

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This is the t-shirt my college sent my son as a “thank you” for forwarding his test scores. Their admissions department is very clever.

As our oldest begins the college search, my head is full of all the things I have still to teach him.  So many things, so little time.  I can hardly believe it’s just a year till he graduates!  Here is a list of skills I would like him to master in order to be ready for college:

  1. Survival food: how to make a grocery list, navigate the grocery store, make a week’s worth of dinners and clean up the kitchen. So far he has mastered the grocery store, kitchen clean up, and making three of our favorite family meals.  There’s not a lot of motivation to conquer the making of a shopping list.
  2. Survival car maintenance: how to change a tire and how to pump gas.  He’s got the gas-pumping down.  For extra credit, he also learned how to get rid of the creepy gas-station-guy hitting on him while he pumped gas. (Of course, I just changed a tire but didn’t think to call him to come & learn how.)
  3. Survival finances: how to use the ATM, how to do mobile banking (can anybody remember using passbooks, or is it just me?), and how to make a budget and live within it.  Our bank offers kid accounts (both debit and savings) so he’s been managing his banking for a while.  I think he’ll be fine with the budgeting since he’s my frugal kid, but some of my future graduates may have a harder time.
  4. How to call for help.  4a. He called the bank to have an unauthorized charge removed from his debit card.  4b. He spent an hour on the phone with the IT department at the college where he’s taking classes next year to resolve the problem with his registration. 4c. He regularly navigates the online help lines for his computer and purchase-related problems. 4d. He knows how to call us.  What else should we be practicing here?
  5. Using Google maps.  A year ago, he was completely overwhelmed by driving at all. Now, he and his brother are comfortable setting off in rush hour with an address and an app to find a friend’s party in another town.  It’s amazing to me that we have come so far.
  6. How to play ultimate Frisbee. I didn’t say he has to enjoy it. He just has to know how.
  7. How to do his laundry. Cause there’s no way this mama is going to do it for him.

Okay, friends, what am I missing? Please let me know in the comments! (And better yet, if you’re interested in a good game of Ultimate, come on over!)

I’m linking up with Kelly @ This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick takes, so go check her out!