Monday, October 02, 2006

Vocational School.

So ends our first attempt at education in a different location. It was utterly liberating to be able to take off and do school on our own terms. I highly recommend it.

But now that we're back, it's time to kick things into high gear. You can disregard any previous posts mentioning schedules...the schedules are out the window. At the moment, I'm experimenting with focusing on Charlie in the morning and Juliet in the afternoon. I still haven't figured this multiple grade levels thing out yet.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

20th Century Public Education

Anyway, I am very interested in your "memory work." Along with the explanation of classical ed -v- 20th century.

Kristi-but-not-me imbedded this sentence in one of her comments many posts below. Little did she know how I have become obsessed with the topic of 20th century public schools and that I would devote an entire post on why the schools are going to Hell in a handbasket. Little did she know, indeed. After this post you'll be wondering if I really am Kristi-but-not-me posing fake questions in my own comments in order to bring up my pet subjects. In my own blog. Yeah...nevermind. That would just be pathetic.

This is What Happened and I Dare You to Prove I'm Lying

That's the title I use when I give a history of public education without any sources or backup. I feel like Dr. Madden is going to give me an 'F' for not citing my footnotes correctly. I love blogs.

Way back in the olden days, the education of children was left to the discretion of their parents. Most parents taught their kids to read and do math, as their parents had taught them, but many did not send their kids to school since the rural economy demanded more labor. Makes sense, right? You'd think that we'd have a lot of illiterate farm kids running amok. Not so. Prior to government enforced compulsary education, literacy rates were higher than they have ever been since. In other words, parents, who have the greatest vested interest in the education of their children, were somehow doing a better job than the institutions that were created for that purpose.

But I digress. So somewhere in the 19th century the good folks in Washington decided education should be free (sorta) to everyone and all the youngins are compelled to go to the little red schoolhouse. Still, things were good. Because back in the old days everyone more or less followed an education pattern known as the Trivium. I encourage you to take a look at the Wikipedia article for a thorough explanation of what the Trivium entails. A very simple but effective pattern is followed with this method of education. During the elementary years the child is crammed with so much knowledge they are just oozing ridiculous amounts of information. Then, during the jr. high-ish years you cut back on filling their heads and try to get them to begin to apply their knowledge. This is called the logic stage. This is when you attempt to get them to see relationships and give analysis. Finally, in highschool students completed the rhetoric stage. At this point they are learning to articulate and defend positions...they are debating. They should be able to pierce through flawed loging like a hot knife through butter.

And then everything changed. In the early 20th century the field of "child development" was just maturing as a branch of psychology. Guys like Piaget and Dewey started hinting that academics wasn't nearly as important as emotional well-being. Progressive educators began hinting that newly enfranchised blacks and immigrants wouldn't be able to handle Latin and Shakespeare. So we needed to re-shape our high schools to give our non-white citizens the skills they need to enter the workforce. There is a section in To Kill a Mockingbird in which Scout complains that all they ever do at school is create stuff with construction paper. Her teacher won't even let her read. Progressive education in a nutshell.

By the 1950s people like Dorothy Sayers begin suggesting our education system is heading for a crash. She predicts that the only reason Americans were still competitive was because of the influence of classically educated parents and grandparents...once they're gone American schools will no longer be producing the brightest students in the world. And as if God himself had appointed Miss Dorothy as some sort of educational Isaiah, SAT scores started plummeting. That was in the 60s.

By the 70s people like Marva Collins and Jessie Wise had the courage to stop playing the public school game and get out. And millions and millions of others have followed along.

Thanks, Kristi-but-not-me for the encouragement to write the thesis I always wanted to write.

More supergood questions from Kristi-but-not-me.

My question is when do you decide one of your kids has actually memorized a poem/etc? Do they have to recite it more than once? Will your son have to recite all his first grade memory work this year to see if he retained it? Do you care if it is retained from year to year? Does he retain stuff he has not accessed for several months?

This is new ground for us so we're making it up as we go along. A piece is "memorized" when he can recite it unassisted. We've started the 2nd grade with with a new memory work folder and the second side of his blank tape. I imagine I'll whip out the old folder and ask him to recite the 1st grade poems every now and then to keep them in his head. But he no longer puts any school time into those pieces.

Short and sweet. Just like me.

Whooaaa Nellie... I missed some questions down there.

I forgot about my homeschool page for a few weeks. Thus I missed the questions posed in the comments from my last post. As a self-appointed homeschool evangelist, I mustn't let good questions go unanswered. Let me know if I don't exactly address what you were looking for. Or if you come up with something altogether new.

Here we go.

The lovely monikered Kristi-but-not-me says:

I often find myself rejecting straight memorization as not functional. As in, why make a child memorize the introduction to the Declaration of Independence (I sub and this was something the 5th graders were doing) when they will most likely not use that knowledge in the future.

In other words, what's the point? Proponants of classical education contend memory work is important for a number of reasons. I'm just going to go over a few.

Memory work develops the capacity to memorize, which is useful in all academic settings. Memorization takes practice and discipline. A child who has been memorizing their whole lives will be better equipped at retention as adolescents and college students. So the actual act of memorization is like brain-exercise.

Memory work introduces children to a rich and complex world of language that they would not be getting otherwise. Beautifully metered poetry exposes kids to rhythm and cadence and a million other things that they don't get in our crazy paced world. From the process of reciting poetry they hear how language and syntax work...this is absolutely critical in the development of writing skills.

Beyond the skills acquired from using memory work in a curriculum, the memory work itself is worth the effort. Charlie is working on Casey at the Bat right now. He picked the poem because he loved, loved, loved the story it was telling. Memorizing literature and important speeches or documents may not have future utility in the sense that a particular skill set has use. If your toilet is backed up you need a plumber, not freakin' Abe Lincoln with his Gettysburg Address. On the other hand, most people taking the time to read this far into this post is very, very, very interested in raising well-rounded kids with as strong an academic background as you can muster. So why not challenge them? See how far they can go. I'd memorize the Gettysburg address right now because it was important and it's beautifully written. And if no one is memorizing the Gettysburg address, how long will it be before we forgot it ever happened?
If we don't teach the little ones Latin or ancient history, will anyone care enough to teach it 100 years from now? Crazy people like me think about these things.

I thought I'd take care of all the questions in one post. But I can't. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Memories....all alone in the moonlight

I couldn't resist.

I looked at the post and realized no one is going to have any idea what I mean by "memory work." So let me explain.

One of the main tenets of a classical education is that children in the grammar age (4-11) are little sponges when it comes to retention of information. This is why, back in the day, children had to memorize long poems and speeches all sorts of crazy information. During the debacle of 20th century public education, memorization has gotten a bad name. They call it "drill and kill" in the public schools. Classical education people say, "Nuh-uh..." (exactly in those words) "...Memory work promotes mental discipline and makes kids crazy-smart."

So we do memory work. Here's how we do it: I select a list, poem, or whatever for Charlie to memorize. I type it up and put it in his little memory work folder. Then I tape myself saying the poem on his little cassette recorder. During his memory work time, he sits with his folder and cassette player and practices saying the poem or whatever until he can do it from memory. Everytime he recited a poem he got a sticker on that page. Here is a list of what he memorized in 1st grade:

the continents and oceans
the 7 phylum of the animal kingdom
Rain - Robert Louis Stevenson
Singing - Robert Louis Stevenson
The Little Turtle - Vachel Lindsay
The Caterpillar - Christina G. Rossetti
Captain Kidd - Stephen Vincent Benet
There Once was a Puffin - Florence Page Jaques
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - Robert Frost (he recited this one at our end of year presentation night with our homeschool group)
Psalm 19:1-2
Psalm 25:4-5
Isaiah 9:6
Proverbs 15:1
John 20:31
Psalm 118:1

He also learned most of the books of the Old Testament but he was only able to recite them we're still working on that.

I haven't lined up our memory work for this year. I'll post as we go.

Loose ends and more to come.

I was going to post a copy of my lesson plan book that I made. But without tables, it just looks lame.

In the future I'll be posting classroom pictures, a reading book list and (hopefully) some work samples so you can see the kind of stuff we do. Like I said before, you can email me with ANY questions you have about ANYTHING. Seriously. Even if you don't know me.

I hope this made sense and clarified a little of what homeschooling is all about in our home.

Morning meeting? Is this a homechool or a Fortune 500 company?

When I taught kindergarten I called our little 'circle time' the 'morning meeting.' I don't know why I called it that...maybe because there was no way I was going to let 20 five year olds surround me with a circle. (You never turn your back on five year could die a humiliating, painful death). So this is what the girls and I will do first thing every morning.

Morning Meeting





skip counting 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 10s

numbers 1-20, 1-30 etc.



short/long vowels/silent e



(2nd semester)

vowel digraphs, ai, oo, au...

consonant digraphs, ch, ph, th...

vowel diphtongs, au in cow, oi in boil..

Sight Words

We'll probably cover more than this...shapes, our phone number, make sure they've got those colors down, etc. I'll add to this list as I think of things we need to cover. This will give me a starting point.

Moving right along...

This is my dream version of a schedule. In reality, all of these times will be fudged and who knows how our day will really end up. But this will give me a structure to aim for. You always want to start strict and rigid...if it works you can lighten up. But never begin loosey-goosey. Your kids will eat you alive.

I have this saved as a 3 column table...blogger doesn't do tables so I'll have to improvise.

Charlie - memory work, math
Juliet - morning meeting, math

Charlie - math cont., spelling
Juliet - memory work, coloring/art project

grammar, Latin

11:00 lunch/break



reading hour

The slashes mean it's an every-other-day thing. So M, W, F would be history and T, Th would be geography.

Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.

I'll start with the texts we're using this year. Italicized means it's for Juliet (and Ava). Print means it's for Charlie or they are all using it together. In other words, I use the same texts for history, science, keyboard, and Latin for everyone. I'll just make Charlie write more stuff and Juliet will draw pictures and dictate.

2006-2007 Texts

Math – Singapore Early Bird 1A, 1B
Primary Math 1B, 2A, 2B

Spelling – Phonics Pathways
Spelling Workout B, C

Grammar – Shurley Grammar 2

Latin – Prima Latina
Latin Christiana 1

History – Story of the World 2

Geography – Trail Guide to the World

Handwriting – Handwriting Without Tears – Cursive
Zane Bloser - Print

Writing – Writing Strands 2

Science – Leaf and Tree Backyard Explorer Kit
365 Starry Nights
Star Maps for Beginners

Keyboard – Pianimals A, B