Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Fresh Wave of Learning

My books have arrived, and I've enjoyed settling down to read my way through them. I've been encouraged. I've remembered what the point of a Classical education is - the cultivating of the mind to recognize truth, beauty and virtue. A simple statement, but it lets me focus what we are trying to achieve and the path for the journey.

In the last year I've struggled to see the point of lots of what we do. Other things I love but couldn't say why. Always its seemed strange to admit that that we do both Greek and Latin.

What I have discovered is the purpose behind what we do, or at least I have re-found it under the programs that were supposed to make it easier. I have also come to see that each of us needs to put that journey together for ourselves. There isn't classical in a box, because it isn't a set course of study, its a conversation, a journey. Along the way are tools to be mastered, a command of language, tools for thinking and analyzing, ways of thinking, and a vista of history and thought that gives us a backdrop against which to evaluate our understanding of what it means to be human.

We are still mastering the tools, learning to read, learning how English works, discovering the precise thinking of Latin, and the creativity of Greek, surveying the highs and lows of history, learning to observe our world and storing away ideas to chew on later. I need to work through what we need to acheive on the journey for each skill.

The pressure to finish the text, complete the program in this year - has faded in light of a process of learning how to learn, how to think and how to express oneself. The united whole will be challenging and I'm not ready to go their yet. but we are still surveying the landscape seeing the big picture. The time will come to dig deep.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stepping up to Seventh Grade

Next year - that is 2009 will see my oldest enter 7th-ish grade. She's not quite likely to be ready, so apart from the subjects that get their by the do the next thing method. We will probably wait for a year or such. But the question raised itself or are we going to do a classical ed, or simply a language arts based, living book one. The though of the first scares me a little as we get closer, not that I don't want to go there , I just don't feel confident.

It is good for me to admit this because it has been a long time since I have really had to admit that - but there it is Logic, Rhetoric and the progym scare me. Normally not much academic does- I can normally get my head around most things if I can see it - but these things are a little harder to see. At least they are from here in New Zealand.

So yesterday I took the plunge and ordered all the books that I have been avoiding for years - mainly because they didn't have direct relevance to our school days ...

My 2008 Reading list
  • Finalizing workbooks from my PDF copy of Mother Tongue - which is also my personal grammar study.
  • Wisdom And Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm For Classical Learning
  • Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin Tracy Lee Simmons;
  • "Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education" James S. Taylor;
  • "Socratic Logic 3e: A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles" Peter Kreeft;
  • Composition in the Classical Tradition [Paperback] by D'Angelo, Frank J.
  • Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student [Hardcover] by Edward P. J. Corbett 
  • The Art and Craft of Poetry by Bugeja, Michael J
I'm hoping that at the end of this I will have a clear picture of the way ahead. Having finally ordered the books, and resisted the feeling of panic that maybe I was out of my depth, I feel excited about the new journey. it will be good. My husband has even offered to read some of this alongside and the company will be good.

Now we just need the winter rains and the warm fire to complete the picture. The snow below is wishful thinking, the closest real snow to here will be at much higher altitudes than we are.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A picture in Purple Green and Orange

By The Artist 11yrs, playing with secondary colors and contrasts.

A Quiet Day

I am hoping that I have stumbled on a solution to our over-busy mornings. As a family we both love and struggle with routine. We need the routine to function. One of our main routines is to do school all together at the dinning room table straight after breakfast. The four of us around the table is lively situation, sometimes we bounce of each other, sometimes we just bounce.

As a family we seem to need the routine in order to get through our days work, but it's often a stressful place to be, especially for this quiet loving mum.

Regardless of my efforts to keep everything stable and settled also has its routine struggles - the child who routinely can't find his books, or gets distracted so that everyone else has to wait. Niggles and children winding each other up also play a part despite my attempts to prevent it.

If I give way to no routine, or even put something different in the routine - we loose our way and virtually nothing gets done. Whether it be a home school outing, a visitor dropping by, friends, or simply something out of the ordinary that occurs the work stops at the slightest opportunity. It's just how we are.

Yesterday was one of the days when the distraction of the rain and misplaced books left us with the feeling of looming chaos. The arrival of my rainbow order was the final straw. the morning ended with three hyped and boisterous kids looking to blow off steam.

Couple this with a growing sense that we should be learning and mentoring, not just getting it done and ticking it off - and suddenly we have a change in how we order school and I hope its a good one, but for now the kids are released from the dining room table to spread out and work on there own with me falling into a role as mentor not timekeeper. They have a list of work to get through, and I wander from child to child through the morning depending on what they are doing.

Today it went well.

Only my middle boy is left at the kitchen table, he's the one that needs to be nudged more than the others. For the first time in ages he managed to do all his morning work.

My youngest loved the day, and seems quite at home working in his room, (but then he's the one that announced at 7 1/2 today that you cant trust the "us" endings on Latin nouns to show declensions because he just found a third declension noun with that ending.)

My oldest had a good day as well. She changes her work habits based on her confidence for the day - sometimes she flies, sometimes she simply looks out the window and waits for the cavalry... today the cavalry managed to give her a nudge that sent her soaring for a little longer.

We gathered for our read alouds and project time. The read alouds went well, the project working together on the white-board reminded me why we had done this.

I am more convinced that this is where we need to move long term, partly together, mostly separate, so that each gets one on one direction without it being a general conversation. We're keeping some together stuff - an hour at afternoon tea for discussion, read-alouds and projects that need more mess or discussion than our rooms allow. (although after this afternoon I will choose our together projects carefully)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Getting My Head Around Mastery

It sounds really simple - you teach to the level that your children are ready to learn.. sometimes stretching them, sometimes easing back and letting them get their confidence, sometimes continuing on the journey while they gather information.

It really sounds simple.

I work hard to get the level right and get everyone happy, then I look at what they could be doing. I glance at someone's schedule for the next year, or the next grade, I consider the big picture from "X" home school education supplier, and it falls to custard again.

You really would think I would have gotten the idea by now - unfortunately I'm still getting there.

We have improved our daily learning times so much simply by working where each child is. We are happy when mum concentrates just on one lesson, one week, one objective. We find our rabbit trails, end up discussion theology, finding links pulling it together, exploring, growing and having fun. Then I look at the goal written by someone else and suddenly I'm pushing.

My husband put it nicely - one really good day and my expectations jump back to where my "perfect kids" would have been had I been the "perfect" home school mum. As I do that I loose sight of the reality of learning the lessons that God has for us, the lesson that he has given me - a unique person and my three unique children.

In the midst of all of this is a small voice whispering that it's time to stop looking at the big picture, time to stop planning and to start learning. That the next step will always be waiting for us just ahead. That already I have studies and re-studied the accepted classical path, and no its time to take our journey. To reach out for the next thing, and to enjoy the journey.

I just have to remember this beyond Monday morning.

This Owl turned up in our back yard almost a year ago, on one of those days where I had taken my eyes of the possible and was stressing over the impossible. It stayed for 2 days in our suburban back yard before returning to more natural surroundings. It is a special reminder for me to trust...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Seeing the Wood for the Trees

I've spent a lot of time lately second guessing myself, wondering, pondering, praying. Have I got it right. Is school on track. Frustrated with the hiccups, disillusioned with the interruptions and unwillingness from my three beloved pupils who just don't get what I'm trying to do here.

Some days I can walk away proud of my kids who they are, what they are doing. Some days - and it can be the same day, I can feel like it is all falling down around my ears in disarray. Why? How is it that depending on my mood a day can seem so different.

I started today - disillusioned from having seen the downside. Doubting curriculum, doubting how my kids were growing, concerned at lessons that dragged and attitudes that well - didn't fit my quiet family at the table mold. I have three wonderful, active, independent kids, I love them, but compliant they are not. And yes my picture perfect world wishes they were. They hype, they bounce, they wriggle, they object to assignments, make it known they would rather be outside, and wishing desperately that we could just settle and enjoy a quiet, ordered, sane, morning I miss the wood for the overpowering awareness of growing trees.

Sitting with a friend this afternoon, I realized anew how much they were doing, how much I enjoyed what we did together, how well it all fit together, and begrudgingly how much their energy and spark is a positive if untidy influence.

Today I was encouraged as I talked curriculum and methods with my friend, I realized how passionate I was about what we were doing, how we were schooling. While their are rough edges to polish, hurdles to overcome, disciplines to embrace, sometimes it's my ideals that need to get real.