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About Florimell

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    Hive Mind Larvae

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  1. We just listened to a great variety of music (everything from Raffi to Vivaldi to electronica) and danced in the kitchen. Music is like a language to him -- something that just makes sense in a deep way. I don't think we could have done anything to teach that or to bring it out earlier, and I think any forced efforts on our part might have had detrimental effects.
  2. No, he didn't, and we were not expecting him to show any real promise, even though he was generally precocious. DS was about 4.5 when we started with piano (I found an inexpensive one on Craigslist and worked with him myself for about a year before he needed a real teacher). He never had any formal exposure to music before that. I am a very mediocre musician and DH never had any exposure to formal music study at all. It is pretty remarkable to witness, though I suspect that it won't guarantee much in the hypercompetitive world of music....
  3. My DS has perfect pitch and it is very helpful with intonation on the violin. It has also become more sensitive over time. When he was about 5, he could identify by sound the names of all of the notes on the piano except the very highest/lowest and the names of 3 note chords. By 8 or 9, he could identify and name every note in any chord in all the major and minor keys (augmented, diminished, etc.), the notes in a random group of 4-5 notes played together, and he could name the key of any piece of music just by hearing a few measures. Now, at 10, he can identify quarter tones as well. He also does a lot of improvising/composing on the piano and he can record what he plays and transcribe it into Finale just by listening to his recording -- he doesn't have to work out or try to remember the notes he played.
  4. I used to have my college students buy Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice by Charles Bressler for a college level critical writing course (used copies are fine -- literary criticism isn't cutting edge enough to justify the nearly $100 price tag for the latest edition). It is an accessible book and one that could work well for engaged high school students. It introduces the major approaches to literary analysis and includes sample essays. Before jumping in to reader response, psychoanalysis, or the others, I would make sure they are really, really good at close reading/new criticism (this is not a book review/summary -- it is critical analysis using the primary text as the only source). I would recommend you start with short poems like Shakespeare's sonnets, which are substantive enough to support a 4-6 page paper, but short enough that they can keep the whole text in mind at once, then move on to longer texts. You might also spend time on annotated bibliographies before turning to actual literary analysis essays. I tend to favor doing more with less, but I think 4 papers is do-able over the course of a year (though I would probably be inclined to assign two big papers and several process assignments, like brief explications of individual sections, outlines, annotated bibliographies, etc.). As far as grading, it's not so different from any other paper. I never just assigned a letter grade (I was a young professor and some students had no qualms about challenging a grade), but used a rubric that was more or less as follows: Focus (25 pts): Had a single focus, strong thesis statement, all elements in essay relevant to focus, etc. Development (25 pts): Included concrete, specific details from text to support points, well developed, organized, strong transitions, etc. Responds to Assignment (20 pts): Actually did what they were asked to do, took an interesting, engaging approach to the topic, actually grappled with the issue at hand Style (15 pts.): Strong sense of voice, clarity of ideas, concern for revision, well integrated quotes, etc. Conventions (15 pts.): Command of spelling/grammar, properly formatted, properly cited sources/quotes, etc.
  5. Do you have your kids doing math seven days per week? And you do pretty high-level math for middle schoolers, too, right? I know every kid is different, but mine would definitely push back at that. Maybe they just need a break.
  6. Florimell

    Spelling for gifted learner

    We never used a spelling curriculum and have focused instead on words they don't know. I just have a notebook where the page is divided into 4 columns. I write the words they misspell while working other writing activities in the first column exactly as they had it and then give them three chances to get it right. If they don't, I help them correct it and we move on. If the same word shows up again, we'll spend a bit of time trying to remember how to spell it and I might quiz them periodically to see if they can remember it. At one point, I printed out some spelling bee word lists and we went over upper level lists, which were sort of fun, but at that point, they are mostly obscure or words derived from other languages and the regular spelling rules don't apply.
  7. I had to do this at a small LAC when I was in college. It was totally innocuous -- the kids weren't doing original research or anything ground breaking. It was simple things (memory, perceptions of beauty (i.e. which shape do you prefer), etc.). I think the main point was for the upper level undergrads to learn proper research procedure & protocol. The requirement in the intro level class, I suspect, was to make sure that the upper level students had enough subjects for their experiments and to make sure they were actually carrying them out instead of making up data.
  8. Florimell

    Sci Fi recommendations?

    What about C.S. Lewis's space trilogy -- it's been years since I read it, so I don't recall whether or not it fits all of your parameters, but I remember enjoying it. I was also going to recommend LeGuin's Dispossessed -- it might be a bit dry for a kid, though. She also has some excellent short stories, though some of them are more adult than others. It is total fantasy, but my son *loved* her Earthsea trilogy. It's so good -- though the later two books (written long after the original trilogy) are not for kids. They are not exactly Sci-Fi, but her Gifts-Voices-Powers trilogy is also generally kid-appropriate and my DS enjoyed all three. There's Pullman's Golden Compass and others, but the series definitely veers toward religious themes (inspired in part by Milton) and is kind of dark, so it might not be right either. Enchantress from the stars is worth reading, but I didn't love the ending. I agree with LoriD regarding the use of movies/shows. Even as a college English professor, I used visual/audio elements (film, paintings, shows, etc.) -- especially when put into conversation with texts, they added interesting points of contrast that gave rise to new insights and observations about the texts themselves. Most recently, we watched Inception and have had some great discussions.
  9. Florimell

    Grammar woes

    DS10 has a pretty strong command of grammar, so we are using this Strunk & White workbook along with the original text and some creative writing on the side. I'll turn to academic writing in the next few years. I am doing Fix-it with DD8. I don't *love* the program, but it combines mechanics, grammar, and handwriting practice and takes very little time. It's also relatively inexpensive.We have also worked through Grammar Island and Town, but I haven't done more than just read through/discuss those (none of the assignments).
  10. Florimell


    Have you seen the James Madison Critical Thinking course? It is a really neat way to approach logic. The review on RR says that a student can work on it semi-independently, but we enjoy working through it together. The conversations that have arisen have been really interesting, insightful, and fun.
  11. Florimell

    Music History Resources?

    DS10 is a serious musician and already has an extensive knowledge of music history and theory, but at his request, we are doing a unit this year on the history of musical instruments (starting with A History of Music in 50 Instruments) and I would love to find some historical fiction, engaging biographies, or other music history to go with it. We have worked through the Great Courses How to Listen to and Understand Great Music (or something like that -- by Robert Greenberg), his Mozart course, and DS can give you a pretty decent biographical sketch of most of the major composers as well as an impressive overview of each of the major periods from his own independent research and his work with teachers. He is eager for more and I don't know where to go. Anything written "for kids" is too easy, but college texts are so dense, even though I am sure he could handle the material. Mainstream books written for adults seem to be at the right level, though most of the historical fiction I have found that is music-related has a lot of adult content and the biographies are long and tedious. There are other great courses we could do, but I would like to add in another book or two as well. Though he definitely prefers European baroque/classical/romantic music and composers, we could do something with more modern music and/or American music, but I don't have any resources for those areas either. Any ideas would be appreciated!
  12. Florimell

    Tell me how to grade

    I'll add that I taught college English classes for almost 10 years (everything from freshman composition to graduate level literature courses) and while there were deadlines and grades, I (and almost all of my colleagues in the humanities who were engaged, interested teachers) taught writing as a process and tried very hard to help students work to mastery on each assignment. For big assignments, most of us had deadlines for each phase (idea, outline, draft, etc.). I had frequent office hours (and would schedule more as needed), was willing to read as many drafts as students brought me, was more than happy to help with organization/research/writing issues, etc. in individual conferences. When it came to grading, I definitely considered effort, improvement, process, etc. Yes, a strong final paper was important, but anyone who was willing to put in the work inevitably ended up with one. If I had one complaint about students, it was that very few ever took advantage of the opportunities that were offered and then complained when they received poor grades. They were willing to put in the time AFTER the grades were given, but not before. By then, it was too late. As far as assigning grades, I always used a rubric, even in upper level classes. Few of my colleagues did, but I liked the fact that it gave me a structure for assigning points and it allowed the students to see how various aspects were weighted (this was in addition to often extensive comments). Sometimes I made rubrics for individual assignments, but usually used something fairly general (i.e. areas with FOCUS (25pts), DEVELOPMENT (25 pts), RESPONDS TO ASSIGNMENT (20 pts), STYLE (15 pts), and CONVENTIONS(15 pts)). It was also useful if a student disputed a grade because we could zero in on the area of disagreement and discuss any points of misunderstanding.
  13. Florimell

    Thinking about AOPS Pre-algebra?

    I would definitely do BA5 first before starting Pre-A. We considered skipping part of it since some of the topics in Pre-A seemed like a review of BA5, but they knew what they were doing when they created the sequence and I can see the larger progression they had in mind as DS has worked through Pre-A. It was also good for DS10 to have an extra year of practice in a workbook before having to write out all of the work. I think BA5 dense enough to stand on its own, but if you continue with Saxon, it might be too much work (I know it would be for my son).
  14. Florimell

    2018-2019 planning for your AL

    Here are our plans for now. I don't buy much standard curriculum and pull together/write most of it myself, which is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. DS10: Finish last 4 chapters of Pre-A, start AOPS Intro to Alg. Language: Continue Italian, Start German, Strunk&White Elements of Style Workbook Lit Study: The Hero's Journey (Watership Down, Beowulf, Harry Potter 7, Neverending Story, Hero&Crown, etc.) Writing: 3 Projects History/Soc.Studies: 3 units (14th century in England, Intro to Evolution, History of Musical Instruments) Choice: MAKE Electronics, Python, piano, violin, composing, music theory DD8 Math: BA5, Logic books Language: French and & Fix-it Grammar 2 (maybe read/review parts of MCT Voyage) Lit Study: Books about adventurous kids (Mysterious Benedict Society, Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, Mr&Mrs Bunny, etc.) Writing: 3 Projects & writing journal Choice: Scratch, hand sewing, crafting of all kinds, Ballet Together Homegrown science units (air, water, light) Nature Study: Trees, Birds Morning Meeting: We rotate among (too) many different things and pick one or two each day. These include Spencerian Script, Haikm's History of US, Draw Chinese characters, easy art projects, art history, Patty Paper Geometry, Moscow Puzzles, James Madison Critical Thinking, origami, root words, Story of Science, World Religions, Philosophy for Kids, 642 Things to Write About/Draw, and more. I should pare this down since the list is getting a little out of hand. They are all fun, though, and it's everyone's favorite part of the day.
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