Thursday, May 18, 2017

Rising to the Challenge

I'd like to share some thoughts with you on how I take a genius middle school curriculum—Classical Conversations Challenge A and B—and make it work for a younger student. Who says we can't borrow from the future? I do it all the time! Maybe I can spark some of you to do the same. Most the resources that I'm going to mention can be bought at the Classical Conversations bookstore. If you have older students in Challenge, you probably already have these on your shelves and also a couple of guides to refer to.





We've used Saxon Math from homeschooling Day 1, nine years ago. It has served us well but with my younger daughter, I'm tweaking it a bit. I add in lots of Math games—games I used when I tutored Essentials and also ones I used in my Challenge B class. Quick Flip Arithematic is brimming with math card games of various levels. There's also tons of free games online just waiting to be downloaded. I test them out on my 5th grader before my Challenge B students get their brains on them. She helps me with the fine tuning and enjoys every minute of it. Because of this, she's a whiz with negative numbers (a concept her Saxon book hasn't covered fully yet) and knows her math facts inside and out. Fibonacci numbers are another passion of ours. We keep math up year round having fun with Kahn Academy on days that we only want a little bit of independent, relaxed review.


My daughter is enrolled in Essentials, but we started learning English Grammar years ago. She was ready and so was I. Our Mother Tongue is a wonderful tool for learning grammar along with diagramming. I love all the history it shares in its sidebars. If you need an extra boost with diagramming, Grammar and Diagramming Sentences is a great resource. It provides more sentences to diagram when the Essentials guide isn't enough. We also spent a year with the IEW Fix-It curriculum. A link to IEW is found in the list at the bottom of CC's home page. By starting young with English Grammar, I not only helped my daughter, I helped myself.


Latin can also be introduced before the Challenge years. I like to sneak Latin into our English Grammar studies. This upcoming school year (6th grade) I'll get my daughter started with Henle Latin. We'll also watch some of the Visual Latin DVDs. Dwane Thomas is funny and makes sense. CC Connected has some of these videos in the Challenge Tier's Classical Learning Center as well as many other helpful videos to aid in learning Latin. Visual Latin can be bought through Compass Classroom or Roman Roads Media. Both links are on Classical Conversation's home page. Beginning this August, I'll be sharing my weekly plans as we learn Latin through English Grammar. I have my Week 1 plans ready to preview. Check out my link. If you think it looks interesting, please follow along with me in my adventure.
http://carpediemlatin.blogspot.com/

As far as literature goes, she'll read some of the books available through both Challenge A and B. It won't hurt her to have already read and narrated these before she hits the Challenge years. My personal favorites (and so the ones she will read) are Amos Fortune, Number the Stars, Little Britches, The Hiding Place, and Where the Wild Fern Grows. In fact, these will probably be read-a-loud books.




We've discovered a couple of other parts of the Challenge curriculum that are user-friendly for younger students. One is the digital logic lessons in the back in Intermediate Logic. This introduction to binary numbers and logic circuits is intriguing and has given us the desire to learn coding—something we're going to tackle this summer. If you have access to this curriculum, check out the last lessons. Unfortunately, the Challenge B students aren't assigned this section during the school year. What a shame. These are worth doing at home with the family.








And last but certainly not least, all ages can gain a basic knowledge of atoms, the periodic table, and bonding through Discovering Atomos. This is a light Introduction to Chemistry offered in Challenge B. We've thoroughly enjoyed this short study coupled with a basic molecular bonding set. It's a fantastic start into this area of Science.


Even if your student doesn't fill the age requirements of the various classes offered in CC, you can still take advantage of their rich resources and start some of the studies at home. And if you really want to tap into something wonderful, subscribe to CC Connected's Challenge Tier. Dive into the Classical Learning Center. There's enough great stuff in there to last a lifetime.

I strive to make learning fun and always take time for the things my daughter loves: cooking, playing the piano, Legos, just "messing" around with her stuffed animals, and making robots. Childhood is such a small part of a lifetime...



To sum all this up, one of my personal parenting goals is to offer my children/students what they need when they need it. It doesn't hurt to work ahead if that's where the interest lies, especially when the curriculum is right at our fingertips.

Melanie

P.S. A variation of this article was originally published in Classical Conversations' Writer's Circle. Subscribe and enjoy.





Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fear


I wish I could say that we started homeschooling after much time spent in prayer, but the truth is...
we were scared.
We somehow managed to see four of our children graduate from public high school. 
My heart still achesThey did not thrive. 
Neither did we.
This second time around we took a plunge.
Homeschooling— 
and were swept away... 
Homeschooling changed us. 
We became smarter parents. 
Sounder people. Stronger Christians.






Well, I've been afraid of changin' 'cause I built my life around you, but time makes you bolder; children grow older. I'm getting older too.
—Stevie Nicks


Once upon a time, I was a public school student.
I wish I could say that I was dream child, 
but the truth is...
I was a leader, student, friend, follower, slacker, traitor.
High school exposed me to differences and I learned to appreciate them. 
It was there I began to understand that we are all more the same 
than we are different.


It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.
—Ernest Hemingway


I wish I could say that I always listen to God's voice; always follow his path, 
but the truth is...
I'm a mere atom. 
A fragment of God's vast creation.
Electrically charged
bouncing between negative and positive
seeking balance.
Marriage
childbirth
selfishness
divorce
death
forgiveness
love.
His footprints surround me. 
Always felt... but often invisible.


There is a time for everything and a season for everything under the heavens.
—Ecclesiastes 3:1


I wish I could say that homeschooling continues to satisfy our needs, 
but the truth is...
Our season is changing.
Our teenage daughter wants more.
Academia is enlightening. 
Stimulating.
However—
She wants friends, activities, a life unique to her. 
She's ready to learn about her world 
about relationships and figure out 
how to develop them
how to maintain them 
and sometimes... 
how to shed them. 
I remember myself at her age. 
All those times—both good and bad— I shared with my childhood friends.
These are factors that have affected my worldview.


I am what I am.—Popeye


I wish I could say that I'm the best teacher our girls could have, 
but the truth is...
I'm no Socrates. 
As their teacher, I study hard and prepare well.  
I know that struggling makes the learning all the sweeter and I so love the learning, the struggle, the teaching. 
Yet...
it's not about me. Unfortunately.
There have been many times that I haven't been able to fully explain or engage my daughter in the subject matter.
She wants to know, and we don't always find the answer.
We need a bigger village.


People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved.—Anne Sullivan



I wish I could say that our daughter is content to stay home, 
but the truth is...
Our daughter needs to fly.
And here's where the fear creeps in again. 
Will we lose her heart if we let her go? 
Will she succumb to temptations too hard to resist? 
Will she be strong enough to keep her faith in God? 
It's safer to keep her under our direct control than to loosen the reigns.
But when will she stretch her wings?
When will she know who she is unless she experiences some of what she is not?
It's time to let go of fear and grab on to trust.


What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.—Ralph Waldo Emerson


When August 2017 rolls around, 
we'll be seeing yet another child off to public high school.
This time we're sending a child who has a healthy home life. 
United parents. A solid educational foundation. strong faith. 
I wish I could have said that when my firstborn was beginning 9th grade 
some 20 years ago.

I often wonder... 
Is there only one path 
only one way that I'm lead 
by His footprints? 
Do His steps ever
shift or veer 
leaving choices for me to discern 
each equally pleasing to Him?


No man should bring children into this world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nurture and education.—Plato


Her day will be changed. Varying lifestyles. 
Different values. Conflicting beliefs. 
Are those things to be feared?
We believe they're to be embraced. 
God created and cares for each of us.
He wants us to do the same. 
Nurturing. Respecting. Loving one another. 
Even those who are different.
Why not begin as a child?


Appreciate your uniqueness.
—Captain Kangaroo


Our children will only be home with us a few more short years. We want to help them navigate this sometimes puzzling world.
To have some space.
To explore what makes them tick.
To partake in trial and error.
To begin to create their own world views singular to their God-given personalities
ones of purpose and commitment.

We're want to be the wall they cling to when they need a stronghold and the wall they push from when rested and ready to swim again.


Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.—Anne Frank


We have one more child still hanging tightly to her wall. She's not ready to let go, yet. When that day comes (as we know it will) there will be no fear because through years of ups and downs, we have finally learned... 

The only thing to fear is fear itself.—FDR

Still—even after all this rambling—the feeling in my heart is bittersweet as I'm facing the end of officially homeschooling this child. I really have no idea what will happen over the next few years but... we will follow His lead.

Faith never knows where it is being led, but it knows and loves the One who is leading.
—Oswald Chambers


Melanie


P.S. As my wonderfully wise husband/friend/soulmate often says
remember that today is not the end of the story. 😉
To be continued...

I share some thoughts about The Wall and other things on my new blog venture Threads of my Tapestry. Take a peek.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Does it matter?




I read this book when it first debuted. I don't remember what I thought or if it had an impact. I do remember that my oldest child had recently died. I suppose that event shadowed my memories.

So recently, when my now oldest daughter went to the movies to see this new release, I became curious and read it again. Ten years have passed since that first reading—since my daughter's death—and I'm at a different place, in a different time, and am a different person. This little book spoke to me in ways I didn't know I needed, although I knew I needed something.



The Shack by William Paul Young

Papa again interrupted. "You see, Mackenzie, I don't just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece, that is not what I want. I want all of you; all of every part of you and your day."
Jesus now spoke again. "Mack, I don't want to be the first among a list of values; I want to be at the center of everything. When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. Rather than at the top of a pyramid, I want to be at the center of a mobile, where everything in your life—your friends, family, occupation, thoughts, activities—is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being."


"Let me ask you something. Is what I do back home important? Does it matter? I really don't do much other than working and caring for my family and friends—"
Sarayu interrupted him. "Mack, if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again."


Thank you, Lord, for being the wind of my dance and giving my dance a purpose.


Melanie

Wednesday with Words



Monday, April 10, 2017

From Start to Finish - Challenge B


At the start of the year
they were saddled with fear
viewing me with unjustified dread.
Expectations were made
few rules had been laid.
Curiosity soon to be fed.

Many challenges came
but who is to blame
if the math laws are hard to apply?
This strand is intense
not the favorite I sense
but painless when given a try.

Then the ps and the qs...
all the Logic we muse.
Our brains now and then do get sore.
Formal proofs every day
use our brains every way
building strong minds down deep to the core.

We read books and did write
persuasive works left and right
letting Lost Tools of Writing take lead.
Short stories were read.
They went straight to our head
creativity flowing full speed.

Latin verbs and the such
sometimes are too much
but the students work hard at this strand.
We're good with declensions.
Did I happen to mention
that terra translates into land?

Kepler, Newton, and Morse
and there's Einstein, of course.
And others whose work is the base
of things scientific
we think they're terrific
deducing the facts of each case.

Science Fair came and went.
Every minute well spent.
We wish Francis Bacon had known.
Chemistry now at last
learning which bonds hold fast—
Hydrogen's unhappy alone.

We debated the news
Was it fake? Who'd accuse?
Creating the tools for Mock Trial.
Yes, we're ready to go
judge and jury and so...
Will CJ or Sam get to smile?

This finish is the start
of great things, they'll impart
pursuing their paths with no fear.
As parents, you'll nourish
these students who flourish.
I'll treasure my thoughts of this year.

Melanie
























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Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Keeping

We became busy
acquiring knowledge
layering information
until our minds were
thick
dense
deep
brimming
with boundless concerns
equations
conjugations
propositions.

Sometime
during our busyness
we stopped.
Unconsciously
we stopped
the keeping.

The daily examination
noticing
searching
watching
recognizing
recording the wonder
of His sparkling jewel
was set aside
leaving us
hollow
vacant
wanting.

The human soul
is a fathomless vessel
curious
questioning
seeking kinship with
His creation
yearning to keep
impressions
desiring wholeness
with every breath
scent
sound.

Now—alluring
Spring has arrived
hesitating
teasing
unrolling all her splendor
touching our spirits
with inspiration
in anticipation
of reopening
the keeping.

Melanie

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Fingerprints

As my children's teacher and leader of a small group of homeschooled teenagers, my personal goal is to spark curiosity and wonder. I also strive to present solid information by which they will eventually be able to form their own conclusions—their own worldviews. My wish for these precious young people is that they will feel confident and free to explore various ideas with open minds—ideas that may be outside of their comfort zones. We've spent several weeks reading and discussing differing origin stories all of which have some degree of incredibility linked to them. Yet, it's obvious to me that the following ideas and/or facts truly speak to our Creator's unmistakable design of all that is and all that will ever be.




Understanding Intelligent Design by William A. Dembski and Sean Mc Dowell

Clearly, a cake is the work of an intelligent designer. Are we to believe that a habitable planet, which is exceedingly more complex than a cake, is not also the result of design? Consider some physical factors that must be set precisely for the earth to be hospitable to life.
Life must be in the right type of galaxy. Scientists classify galaxies into three types—elliptical, irregular, and spiral. Elliptical galaxies lack the heavy elements needed for life. Irregular galaxies have too many supernova explosions, which endanger life. Only spiral galaxies foster life, and Earth happens to be in one of them.
Life must be in the right location in the galaxy. We are situated in just the right place in the Milky Way. If we were too close to the center of the galaxy, near the Black Hole, harmful radiation (gamma rays and X-rays) would make life impossible. On the other hand, if we were too far out in the periphery, not enough heavy elements would be available for the construction of Earth-like planets. Earth is located in what scientists call the galactic habitable zone.
Life must have the right type of star. A star must act as an energy source for life. But not just any star will do. The size and age of the sun uniquely enhance the Earth’s habitability. Most stars are too large, too luminous, or too unstable to support life. But our sun is just right.
Life must have the right relationship to its host star. If the earth were merely 1 percent closer to the sun, then bodies of water would vaporize, destroying the possibility of life. If the earth were merely 2 percent farther from the sun its water would freeze. Earth also has a nearly circular orbit, which ensures a nearly constant distance from the sun, which in turn ensures that seasonal changes are moderate rather than severe. Earth exists in the circumstellar habitable zone, which is the region around a star where liquid water can exist to support life.
Life needs surrounding planets for protection. The other planets in our solar system contribute to Earth’s habitability. As a huge gaseous planet more than 300 hundred times our size, Jupiter protects Earth from incoming comets. And Mars, which is at the edge of the asteroid belt, protects Earth from incoming asteroids.
Life requires the right type of moon. If Earth did not have a moon of the right size and distance, our planet would be uninhabitable. The moon stabilizes the earth's tilt, preventing extreme temperatures and thus creating a stable, life-friendly environment. In short, without our moon, we would not be here.
Life requires the right type of planet. Planets much smaller or larger than Eath are probably less habitable. Planets must have the right core—as Earth happens to have—to undergo plate tectonics. Plate tectonics make possible the carbon cycle, which is essential for Earth to support life.

It seems that there are some Christians who tend to shy away from acknowledging the ideas/facts behind various theories and often view science as something to fear—something that threatens a belief in our Father God. It is clear to me that the more I immerse myself in science, the more I admire God's infinite wisdom; am amazed by his creative power; am aware of his omnipresent fingerprints. We truly live on a privileged planet created for us by an awesome God.


Melanie

Linked this week to ladydusk.




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