Friday, February 10, 2017

How we fared in the Science Fair

It's every parent's nightmare...the dreaded Science Fair. But why? There must be some positive factors that have kept this historic tradition alive. As my daughter and I fine tuned her project, I gradually realized why the Science Fair is relevant and how it raised my daughter's self-confidence thermometer; bringing her a few degrees closer to maturity and independence. It's never too early to learn some life lessons.


My daughter learned to plan ahead. Does this come naturally? Well, it certainly doesn't in my neck of the woods. But with some coaxing, along with pointing out the consequences of procrastination, this happened. Thoroughly completing a project−putting in the necessary time and effort within the time allotted—means a job well done. Who doesn't love that? What a fantastic skill to begin perfecting.
*Regardless of why your daughter procrastinates, your job will be to make sure that she sees the problem as hers, not yours.

My daughter was able to look deeply into something outside of her everyday curriculum. I hate to admit it, but we're so busy with the essentials: math, Latin, writing, etc., that we usually don't get around to the things we're really interested in. What a shame. This project let her do some exploration outside of her daily box.
*Your aim should be to help your daughter develop her interests and to minimize the number of doors she closes while you wait for her to mature.

My daughter followed the Scientific Method.  She tackled this method step by step and walked the same path that all great scientists have walked. (Francis Bacon would be proud.) This proved to be both a stress and a stretch. Learning during the grammar stage was a breeze, however moving into the dialectic stage is forcing her to exert much more effort toward her studies. It's time for her to see that hard work sometimes is just as important as intelligence.
*Indeed, terrific new research of grit shows that the steadfast pursuit of long-term goals contributes to success over and above what can be explained by intelligence alone.

My daughter had to be exacting. Working with variables and gathering data is an exacting business. Precision is not part of my daughter's repertoire. Let's just say that she made a few mistakes, but hey...that's how we learn.
*Girls who learn from small failures are more likely to avoid big ones. We don't like to let our teenagers falter, but stepping in to help with the small stuff and never stepping out keeps girls from growing.

My daughter had to do research and write a paper with a bibliography. It was hard to break this fact to her: growing up = writing research papers. Isn't this just a rite of passage? 
*Untangled, separate but completely present, we have a better feel for when we should let our daughters struggle along and when we owe it to them to offer help.

My daughter had to present her finished project to judges. Gasp...she had to answer their questions. Communication skills are a must and a Science Fair is a perfect spot to practice. After all the time and energy involved, sharing her findings was a pretty natural thing to do.
*We can admire our daughters' successes as evidence of their terrific growth (not our goodness), and we can see their trials as proof that they are working to master the developmental strands we now know well.

My daughter will be able to compete in our town's local Middle School Science Fair. She'll have the opportunity to see many other science projects and maybe even get excited about learning something new. I think it's important for her to venture outside the security of our homeschool group and see what's out there in the world.
*Focus on helping your daughter be her best, not the best.

And last but not least...we had fun. She's only going to be with me every day for a little while longer and I'm planning to make the most of every minute.

Melanie

*Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through The Seven Transitions Into Adulthood by Lisa Damour, Ph.D.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Then and Now

Then 
Now
Today I read an article about becoming a parent at the ripe old age of 50. It made me smile. In fact, it made me smile so much that I just had to write a follow-up. Here is that author's perspective of becoming a parent at 50 coupled with my take on what it's like 10+ years later.


10 Worst Things About Being An Old Mom
1. Other people. You will get eyeballs on you. When others ask, “Aw, are you her Grandma?” just smile and sweetly say, ‘No, I’m just her really old mom.”
At 60+... Nobody asks anymore, they just assume. 
2. Font sizes. Your kid’s sick, you’re tired, stressed and can’t find your cheaters to read the dosing directions on baby medication bottles. The font size on most bottles is only legible to toddlers, who cannot read yet. 
At 60+... Bifocals have taken care of this issue. They are a gift for the aging. Thank you, Ben Franklin.
3. When your kid’s in their twenties, you’ll be officially old, which is the best incentive to take exemplary care of oneself starting right now. Red wine and pomegranate gummy bears are superfoods, right?
At 60+... Wine has fiber, right?
4. Menopause and mothering. If you think that sounds hard, just remember how hard it (and you) will be on your husband. 
At 60+... During this uncomfortable time in my life, I had a two-year-old non-sleeping toddler and three rebellious teenage boys. Fortunately, my husband survived.
5. Your parents will be older too. They might not babysit as actively or host sleepovers for your kid. But my grandparents seemed ancient when I was little, and they were in their forties... so it’s pretty much a toss up.
At 60+... My children have grieved the deaths of three of their grandparents alongside my husband and me. We have all had the privilege of being caretakers to my father during his last few years. At their young ages, this has been an education in love, patience, and sacrifice. Now that's  a gift.
6. Curiosity. Again with the eyes of other people. Especially if your child is a different race. While educating folks about adoption is awesome, we’d rather not be asked “Why didn’t her real mother want her?” in front of our child. 
At 60+... People expect me to be a little heard of hearing, so I have an excuse to ignore insensitive, ignorant comments.
7. You will be old enough to parent many of the other parents you will meet and befriend. But they are all great people because they were raised in the 1980s and 1990s.
At 60+... I love my young mom friends. They help me manage Facebook. Are you aware that it's possible to unfollow "friends" and they never know?
8. People will tell you, “When I’m your age, I hope I’m just like you.” Which is a compliment, but it’s also karmic payback for all the times you said that to older, wiser people when you were a young, snot-nosed dope.
At 60+... I just smile and think, "If they only knew all the xxx I went through to get here."
9. It will be sad to explain to your child why you won’t be able to produce a sibling for them. Unless you are that unbelievably fierce, professional Old Mom who will just go ahead and do it.
At 60+... They have (and always will have) each other and three older siblings. After birthing four children, my husband and I realized our responsibility to stop adding to the world's population and start caring for it. So we followed the tug that lead us China.
10. Getting old is hard. Even if you firmly believe age is just a number, consider your fifties to be the ‘Warning Years’. Two glasses of wine take a hell of a lot more recovery time than it did when you were 30.
At 60+... I've learned that two glasses of wine is pretty much perfection.
10 Awesomest Things About Being An Old Mom
1. You’ve done all your clubbing/partying/road-tripping. You’re thrilled for a great reason to stay home.
At 60+... I have to force myself not to don my pjs until after dinner.

2. You’re more patient, experienced and empathetic. You already know how to handle crazy bosses, neighbors, and insane and/or drunk family members, so children are relatively easy to deal with.
At 60+... I know that some things can't be rushed and that most people are just doing the best they can. I've also learned the hard way that the saying "there but for the grace of God goes I" is all too true.
3. If you were raised in the 1960s and the 1970s, remember this ― as long as you don’t do what your parents did, you’re doing an incredible job.

At 60+... I realize what a difficult job parenting is and that my parents were awesome. Back in the good old days, parents were adults and they let kids be kids. They let us struggle and there's something to be said for that. This parenting technique seems to have gone out of fashion.
4. Since you survived being parented before parenting became a verb, as well as survived your twenties, thirties, forties and childbirth or adoption, you know how not to sweat the small stuff. Watching your kid freak out over truly small stuff won’t freak you out.

At 60+... I'm a believer that, as they say, these things too shall pass. And you know what — they really do!
5. You probably have older nieces and nephews, so you’ve already done tons of pinch-hit parenting. And your nieces and nephews will love hanging with your kid.

At 60+... Not only do our girls have awesome adult cousins who love them to pieces, they have adult brothers with wives and girlfriends who adore them. They even have a niece and nephew of their own.
6. Hand-me-downs from everyone on Earth who became parents before us. We have clothes lined up until she is nineteen.

At 60+... I think that I now dress many little girls in our town with our hand-me-downs.
7. When you do get to sleep, it will be well-earned, deep and profoundly deserved.

At 60+... A little afternoon nap is nirvana.
8. You will feel younger chasing your kid around. All their physical energy will rub off on you. Until it doesn’t.

At 60+... Sit back and watch; preferably with a glass of Chardonnay.
9. Showing your child and a lot of much younger parents the wildly violent, racist and sexist (as compared to today’s PC standards) Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse cartoons of your childhood.

At 60+... We got our girls hooked on Leave it to Beaver reruns. Now they are able to spot a real Eddie Haskell when they see one.😍
10. Children organize your lives. What’s truly important becomes infinitely clear. To get to love and be loved by someone who not only needs you but requires you is a privilege that you have earned with all the life you’ve already lived. Extra added bonus? You got lots to teach.

At 60+... I actually believe that I have some gems to pass along. I care so much more about our world and the people that inhabit it with me than I did when I was younger. I can't seem to get enough of new ideas and old teachings. Life really does begin at 60.

You can read the original article here.

Melanie

Monday, December 19, 2016

Looking Behind - Planning Ahead


When I happened upon John Milton Gregory's book, The Seven Laws of Teaching, I thought that I had discovered a text that others weren't familiar with. But, as I have grown to realize, just because I haven't heard of something before doesn't mean that it isn't well known. This book and it's modern counterpart, Excellence in Teaching with the Seven Laws by Carl Shafer, have become invaluable sources of wisdom and encouragement as I tread and often trudge through the jungle of home schooling. I like to keep them handy.


Five months ago, as I was preparing to direct my first semester of Classical Conversations' Challenge B, I outlined some goals that seemed reasonably achievable for my student/daughter. I combined objectives from the Challenge B Expectations Chart with excerpts from Leigh Bortin's book The Question, another insightful read that I keep close by.


We're now halfway through our school year. I feel the need to reflect and reevaluate in order to recharge and rejuvenate for next semester. This time, I'm using John Milton Gregory's Seven Laws of Teaching to illuminate my personal goals as a teacher along with our revamped student goals for 2nd semester.


Grammar (Latin)

The duty of the teacher is essentially not that of a driver or a taskmaster, but rather that of a counselor and guide. His aim must be to develop secondary passive attention. The best way to do this is to make the stages of advancement gradual, so that while the pupil must put forth effort in grasping each new step in the lesson or in the series of lessons, the completion of each step will also make the effort seem worthwhile. 



Grace is an excellent student of Latin and has has gone above and beyond the goals set for 1st semester. The Henle text has worked well for her. I supplemented it with the Memoria Press quizzes and tests and will continue 2nd semester. 

Logic (Math)

The two chief hindrances to attention are apathy and distraction. The former may be due to a lack of taste for the subject under consideration, or to weariness or some other physical condition. Distraction is the division of the attention among several objects, and is the foe of all learning. 


Grace does not love Math. Even though she came close to completing Algebra 1/2 last school year, we agreed to do it over again. She still does not like it the second time around but she does her lessons diligently and thoroughly. Attacking her math lesson first thing in the morning, when she isn't distracted or tired, seems to work for her.
  • This semester, we'll keep the same goals but concentrate on explaining math problems by way of the Five Common Topics.

Rhetoric (Logic)

Aim to make the pupil an independent investigator - a student of nature and a seeker after truth. Cultivate in him the habit of research. Help him to test his conceptions to see that they reproduce the truth taught, as far as his powers permit. 



Logic has been a surprise to both of us. We came into this strand having no idea what to expect and have enjoyed it more than I could have imagined. Grace has met all the goals of 1st semester. 
  • An additional goal this semester is to relate the Logic to the other strands... make those connections! She already is well on her way to having the Appendices memorized.

Debate (Current Events)

We master truth by expressing it, and are glad when we have clearly expressed our thought. But in order to make talking into thinking, there must be independent and original effort, not a mere parrotlike repetition of the words of other people. The pupil himself must do much of the talking.


Reading, analyzing, and discussing current events was a highlight of 1st semester. Grace went from knowing very little and taking no side on world issues to becoming aware of what's going on around her, having an interest, and forming her own opinion. She made both biblical and secular connections. I'm tickled pink about her accomplishments in this strand. Now we start something new with new goals.

Mock Trial
  • Spend the amount of time needed to understand the case.
  • Complete each assignment with minimal help from me.
  • Be able to explain the case in her own words.
  • Create outlines and timelines.
  • Participate as a team player and in class discussions.
  • Memorize parts - be prepared.

Exposition and Composition (Persuasive Writing)

Knowledge cannot be passed from mind to mind like objects from one receptacle to another, but must in every case be recognized and rethought and relived by the receiving mind. All explanation and exposition are useless except as they serve to excite and direct the pupil in his own thinking. 




As I look over the goals of 1st semester, I have to admit that Grace fell just a little bit short here. Yes, she read the books and wrote the essays, but they were done without the amount of thought and care that I would have liked. She still needs much assistance and I'm glad that I can do that. But this semester...


Short Stories
  • Learn proper mechanics for writing a short story.
  • Read all the assigned stories and be prepared to participate in class discussion.
  • Keep a list of vocabulary words and definitions.
  • Write a short story (minimum of 5 pages) with little help from me.
  • Keep a positive attitude. 
  • (Can you tell this will be our challenge?) 

Research (History of Science)

Each new idea mastered becomes a part of the knowledge of the child, a part of his equipment of race experience, and serves as a starting point for fresh advance. It adds its own light to the knowledge preceded it, and throws increased illumination forward for the next discovery.



Grace will tell you flat out that she hates science. This was by far not her favorite strand but she did meet all the goals. She does like a project (as long as she doesn't have to work on it for very long. The Science Fair project needs to come to a close, the sooner the better.) But moving on to next semester...

Origins and Chemistry
  • Read challenging material on both sides of the issue. Keep an open mind.
  • Learn how to outline a book chapter by chapter.
  • Keep a list of vocabulary words and definitions.
  • Ask informed questions. Refer to the Five CommonTopics.
  • Participate in class discussions.
  • Memorize the first 18 elements in the periodic table.

Are you curious as to what the Seven Laws of Teaching actually are?
1. Know thoroughly and familiarly the lessons you wish to teach - teach from a full mind and a clear understanding.





2. Gain and keep the attention and interest of the pupils upon the lesson. Do not try to teach without attention.




3. Use words understood in the same way by the pupils and yourself - language clear and vivid to both.



4. Begin with what is already well known to the pupil upon the subject and with what he himself has experienced - and proceed to the new material by single, easy, and natural steps, letting the known explain the unknown.


5. Stimulate the pupil's own mind to action. Keep his thoughts as much as possible ahead of your expression, placing him in the attitude of a discoverer, an anticipator.


6. Require the student to reproduce in thought the lesson he is learning - thinking it out in its various phrases and applications till he can express it in his own language.




7. Review, review, review, reproducing the old deepening its impression with a new thought, linking it with added meanings, finding new applications, correcting any false views, and completing the true.




All in all, its been a fantastic semester and I will forever be indebted to Classical Conversations for making our home schooling experience truly memorable.




Melanie





Monday, September 26, 2016

Dawn to Dusk




... And when I wake in the morning, you are still with me. Psalm 139:18


...They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow faint. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
 

..."I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life." John 8:12



It is God's privilege to conceal things and the king's privilege to discover them.         Proverbs 25:8



In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul. If you find it, you will have a bright future, and your hopes will not be cut short. Proverbs 24:14



The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and care for it. Genesis 2:15



My goal is that they be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have full confidence because they have complete understanding of God's secret plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.                                                                 
 Colossians 2:2-3



Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged... Proverbs 17:6



All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step...                  1 Corinthians 9:25-26



The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8



Through each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life. Psalm 42:8



Melanie


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In The Room Where it Happens

Hi. I'm Pepper. That's me starring in my first selfie. I live with my family of human folks who always keep pretty busy. They do this thing called homeschooling. It must be some sort of obedience school, but it looks way more fun than that. I used to think that human people had to go somewhere in order to get an education. I was wrong. My humans find things to learn about all over our home - basically, inside and out. 




Today, I decided to follow my youngest human around and pay attention to what she does and where she does it. (Being a dog can get rather boring, so I try to keep things interesting.) 






She started the day pretty early. My momma human is kind of a kook about getting outside first thing in the morning. I love it too. So many bushes to smell and telephone poles to... Well, she rolled out of bed, slipped on her shoes, and away we went.












Our neighborhood classroom is amazing. Lately we've been finding milkweed full of Monarch caterpillars and gorgeous wildflowers including my momma human's favorite, Queen Anne's Lace. My sister humans take this time to reconnect after a night's rest and before any misunderstandings arise. (That actually does happen now and then.) 😉









When we get home, the back porch becomes the school room. This little human has become quite the expert on Monarch butterflies. 








She even has the big sister human playing with the caterpillars. That's quite a feat for this insect phobic youngster. 







Finally it's breakfast time. Aww... bacon. I hang around her chair at every meal. She spills and I clean up. What a team. My momma human loves this about me. I even enjoy listening along to her audio books. Right now we're listening to The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit. But my favorite is A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. Now there's a beautiful story. 




Most day she gets busy right after breakfast. The piano usually gets her day rolling. Unfortunately, this is often when mother nature calls me. Breakfast scraps can do that to me. Sorry about that detour...





I've observed that this little humanoid loves to work independently. She started something new to her this year; some type of class outside of our home called Essentials. Charts, charts, and more charts. My paws get tired just watching her.




She has a great work space that fits her perfectly. I can't see what's on the top of the desk, but I know that she has gobs of shelf space to store all kinds of things. Let's see... there's books, string, posters, pens, watercolors, gum, Star Wars stickers, yarn, piggy bank, origami... a little bit of everything exactly like she likes it; messily organized. I think about this part of the house as "The Room Where it Happens" thanks to countless hours listening to Hamilton: The Musical. My humans are nuts about that music.



Sometimes she scoots over to the living room and does a lesson from a self-paced history course. She loves this independence and always has something to teach our momma afterwards.
































I make sure to be around when there's a science project going on. Exploding balloons was the theme for this one. Actually, I think she was trying to make a model of the solar system. I'm not too sure how accurate she was, but she had lots of fun. We had balloons scattered on our floors for days.


















My tail starts wagging when she bolts outside for what my momma human calls "rope swing therapy". What's the point of staying home if you don't enjoy the benefits of your own backyard? And I'm out there always ready to play. What could be better?








As I said before, she loves to be left alone to her own studies. That works out well since my momma human also studies all day long (and sometimes well into the night.) I don't get it. At her age, what else could she possibly want to learn?











Tomorrow my humans will be gone all day somewhere called CC. I don't know where or what that is but they are all busy getting ready for it and extremely happy and tired when they get home. (Especially my momma human.) Even though I don't like being left alone all day, I do enjoy watching the little human practice her presentation. She has really come a long way since she started doing this thing several years ago. 








My favorite time has come at last. PJ's on, lights out, flashlight on = snuggle time. I love my life as a dog. Everyday is another day to look forward to.



Happy snoring, 
Pepper 🐾
P.S. Be careful where you leave your phone.






Saturday, September 10, 2016

About That Basket...

It's Saturday morning and I'm evaluating our past week. It was good, in fact very good. But one thing keeps nagging me and that is... we don't have a Morning Basket (as I sarcastically stated in a previous blogpost.)

But I feel left out. Am I doing our homeschool a disfavor? I often go back and read about one of my favorite blogger's basket. Sigh... Why can't I get this awesome morning time basket thing together?

Now, after a couple of cups of coffee I realize that I've been comparing again, a debilitating habit of mine that I hate to admit. The real deal is that we do have a Morning Basket; it's just different. It's unique to us; it's what we need and what we treasure. 




I'm a morning freak and a running fanatic. I get up around 5:00 a.m., drink a cup of Joe, read a little, chat with hubby, and then head out the door. I'm plugged into either an audiobook (I recently finished Hamilton by Ron Chernow) or a podcast. My favorites are The Thomas Jefferson Hour and Hardcore History.




I get back home at 7:45 and do it again but differently. This time Grace, Mary, and Pepper tag along. By 8:00 we are all up and out, waking up together as we talk about all sorts of things.




For example, this week we...

  • Discussed Kepler's Three Laws of Planetary Motion.
  • Laughed about how Pepper's tail sticks straight up and looks like an exclamation mark.
  • Listened to Grace practice her monologs for a theater audition that happened on Friday. (FYI. She aced it.)
  • Learned about St. Augustine as Mary shared the knowledge gained from her Veritas Press self-paced history course.
  • Listed all the songs from Alexander Hamilton in their correct order. (We're slightly obsessed.)
  • Talked about ways for us to reach out to and prayed for a struggling family that we know.
  • Took pictures to use for our nature journaling and observed God's amazing creation. 
  • Talked about what Grace heard in Sunday School from her middle school friends about girl fights and how to react to these issues as a child of God.
  • Discussed the fate of the Lakota Indians concerning the North Dakota Pipeline crisis and how badly white America has historically treated our Native Americans. 
  • Pointed out how the use of ambiguous and vague words can lead to verbal disagreements.
  • Teared up (well I did) as I shared my favorite Bible verse: "And when I wake up, You are still with me." Psalm 139:18



We need this time to reconnect before our school day begins and I love taking this time to pull together what we're learning and make it relevant to our lives. 

So our basket may not fit into what would be considered a typical Morning Time routine but it works for us and that's all that matters.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"

Melanie