Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Post-secondary update

I updated the paragraph at the top of the page, and one part of it deserves an explanation. It did say that our third child is studying Engineering which was his plan when summer began. However, his week of engineering introductory classes convinced him that the structure of the program (and the competency of some of the instructors) were not a good fit for him. By the end of the week, which was a pre-semester session required for all first year engineering students, he knew he wanted to pursue other options. He is now enrolled in a Bachelor of Science program, with a math and physics major. He may refine his studies further to do a combined Arts and Science degree in Philosophy and Math.

It was interesting to watch him work through his options and change direction this fall. He has become a discerning consumer of his educational choices, and knows how to seek out new options as he better understands what he would like to learn and how to get those classes.

Unfortunately, registering late for classes meant that he has a very unbalanced work load-three math classes and a physics class mean a lot of homework. 26 pages last weekend of math solutions! He's wearing out pencil leads fast these days!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


One of the books we're enjoying particularly this year is All the Small Poems by Valerie Worth. It's part of the Sonlight Core 5 package, a book I had never heard before. It's a compilation of four books previously printed separately. Each poem is short, descriptive and straightforward in style, mostly about nature.

The Sonlight approach to poetry is simple, just reading each poem, talking a bit about the imagery or the thought expressed and then re-reading it. It's a lovely way to approach a poem as a reader rather than the typical pick it to bits method many of us were subjected to. I have done the same ort of thing before with other poetry, and enjoyed studying poems with all of our children.

Some people ask why we should bother to read poetry. Poetry and good literature of other types is the expression of deep human emotion, the response of the soul to beauty, to love, to pain, to all manner of human experience. It's important that our children ponder these things, that they know that they too will experience times when feelings are too much for them to put into words, and that others have had the same thoughts and feelings, and struggled to express them, and moved on stronger because they could express them.

There are lines of poems that lurk in my mind, ready to pop out when I need them. "Glory be to God for dappled things" is there when I see a scene of beauty (Gerard Manley Hopkins; Pied Beauty). I remember "I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep" when I see winter trees (Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening). Spring makes me remember "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now/ is hung with bloom along the bough" (A. E. Housman). Memories of my mom are tied to the poetry she read me, especially childhood favorites like Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

I encourage parents to include poetry in their routines of home education. It can be simple, and it will be memorable.

(A great book for older children and teens is the Dover Press book 100 Best-Loved Poems, edited by Philip Smith. It sells for about $2.50 so you can easily buy a coopy for each child, and there are enough great poems for a couple of years of occasional reading.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

One month done

The start of the school year always results in the same challenges: how to do all the things I've been doing all summer long and add to that the educational, extra-curricular and family activities that resume. Apparently, blogging was one of the things I set aside so that we could get going on the other priorities.

I am really enjoying the Sonlight core 5 curriculum Hannah and I are working through. The geography program is great, well-thought out and user friendly. She has been able to do most of it independently. We're off to a good start with Math, although I'm "behind" if one only considers the lesson numbers. Hannah thinks of herself as bad at math so I'm keeping close tabs on each lesson and stepping in with questions to break down the steps of each problem whenever she feels stuck. We're on schedule with reading, both the books she's reading independently and the ones I'm reading to her. And we are now back to the habit of home education, so that both of us are ready to begin every morning after breakfast.

The challenges I'm still working on: We have no specific science program this year, so we need to pursue interesting topics as they arise. That takes a different kind of focus since it can interfere with the schedule I've worked to establish. And household stuff (laundry, vacuuming, general clutter control) always takes a secondary role until the schedule is better in place. This fall that's even more challenging since I really do need to get exercise several times a week, and I often need a nap!

There were moments in the days after my heart attack when I wondered if I could manage to continue home educating. I am really thankful that it is working, that I can keep up with the challenges and carry on with my conviction that each of my children have the individualized education that they need. It's been a good month.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reason #2

When people ask us why we chose to home educate our children, it's hard to pin it down to just one or two reasons. I think most of the really big choices in our lives are like that; there are so many reasons for the major decisions that it can be difficult to sum them up in just a sentence or two.

When I think back to the days when I was first thinking about school for our children, I know tha tI really wasn't thinking about the faith issues that are such a common reason for home educating even though our Christian faith is fundamental to every aspect of ourlives. I wasn't really looking at the intellectual reasons either, or the social issues of school. I was watching two small children learning together, and loving the sweetness of their interaction, and knowing that sending the older one to school would cut that short.

The primary reason then for keeping our chidlren home was to allow them to continue to be each other's closest friend, to watch big sister teach little brother and learn from him as well, and to enjoy the shared experience of taking them together on nature walks and museum trips and various other excursions, adding in the next lttle brother as he grew and caught up to them.

We hear so much about sibling rivalry and so little about brotherly love. We tried as parents to foster a sense that each child is a gift to the entire family, that siblings are the most constant people in our lives since we outlive our parents and move away from our classmates, but maintain that sibling connection for a lifetime. Our children now consider each other to be close friends, and watching that is such a blessing to us as their parents. One of the gifts of home education to be sure!