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.

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.


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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


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.
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.
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. 
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. 
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


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.