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Little Green Leaves

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Everything posted by Little Green Leaves

  1. Rosemarie Sutcliff has a lot of novels set in ancient Rome. I remember loving the Eagle of the Ninth, among others. I don't think there's anything too "adult" in her books but there is death, sorrow, greed. My eight year old loves books by E Nesbit and Edward Eager these days. He's an advanced reader but he's still a little kid, so sometimes I have trouble finding the right balance of books for him.
  2. I don't really understand why cursive is important. I hope that doesn't sound snarky because I really don't mean it that way. I'm teaching my 8 year old cursive (or "script," as my teachers used to call it) just because I feel nostalgic for it. I associate it fondly with my grandmother, and with quiet time in the classroom, and I think I also read somewhere that learning it is good for your brain. But I'm not super committed to it. Those of you who are, and who encourage your kids to write only in cursive, why?
  3. My kids are 1st and 3rd grades too! They do oral narrations after just about every "school" reading. My third grader does a written narration once a week.
  4. My son really loved the Asterix books as well as Tintin. You do have to be careful because there's a lot of racism in those books. I looked at whatever he was reading and talked to him about it, so it ended up being a learning experience in that sense. I remember that when I was a kid I loved the Donald Duck comics from the 1930s, the ones by Carl Barks. I know, it sounds goofy, but they're great adventure stories, with bits and pieces of history thrown in -- I remember that's where I first learned about the Vikings coming to the New World, for example. Also, I think it was Farrar who recommended a graphic novel about the history of China. My son loved it and I've been meaning to buy more in the series -- I have to dig out the title.
  5. I remember being miserable and sour AT LEAST half the time when I was 11 years old. You really can't blame yourself or your curriculum for that! Does she have specific complaints or is she more just grumpy / rebellious / getting a kick out of bashing authority? That's how I was... Maybe you can tell her that if she can get her work done with a decent attitude until spring break, then you'll sit down together to discuss changes to the curriculum? I think it's amazing that she wanted to KEEP her academic subjects instead of letting you cut them. Wow! That speaks so well to the power of home schooling.
  6. On a total side note - I sometimes wonder whether we home schoolers overplay the idea that we can "kill" kids' love for things. I agree that it's a bad idea to be overly critical or to assign tons of busywork, but I don't know if that actually kills anyone's love of anything. I mean, my third grader will grumble when he feels overworked. On days when he has too many math problems to solve, he'll complain that he "hates math." The first time I heard that I freaked out and I beat myself up for killing his love of math. Then I noticed that when his work is over, he goes and does something absurdly math-y for fun. So in his case at least, the "hate" isn't permanent, it's just a response to the moment. Obviously I do take his protest on board and I try to make things more fun, but I also keep in mind that kids use dramatic language. Either way, I'm enjoying this thread for the ideas about writing! I really like Spudater's point about how a less personal and less creative writing program could actually be easier to work together on.
  7. I know a few people who hated math with a passion but loved biology, because it's so hands-on and accessible. It's not as "math-y" as, say, physics. Biology has a lot of real-life applications, and it can focus on observational skills, rather than logic and deduction. (Since you said she doesn't like drawing conclusions.) Some people really love the classification aspect of biology. There's also a lot of room for drawing, instead of writing.
  8. I guess I'm confused. Are you talking about learning, or are you talking about the ability to complete assignments and pass tests? When I tutored English, we tutors had a simple question we were supposed to ask ourselves: "what does the student need to know in order to do x?" X could be anything from "pass the placement test" to "write a letter to landlord" to "revise the grammar errors in this essay." It sounds very basic, but it created a clear, simple focus. I think the beauty of tutoring and home schooling is that you meet the student where he or she is, and you set very individualized goals for each student at each moment. It seems to me that both tutoring and home schooling allow you to teach study skills at the same time as teaching academic materials. The two are sort of folded into each other. I used to teach my students how to take notes by having them take notes on whatever I was saying. I did absolutely zero top-down teaching. I didn't even do much big-picture explanation. I'd say I provided micro-guidance for my students. We did everything side by side, so that I was right there for them as questions arose; I gradually stepped back as the students grew more confident and capable.
  9. I think most people will have some areas where they learn easily and other areas where they struggle. It’s easiest to be an active, self-motivated learner in areas where you’re naturally gifted. That’s why great musicians are able to practice for so many hours a day, for example. It’s much harder to be self-regulated in areas where you’re weak. I know for me, it was almost impossible to focus on math when I was a teenager. I am not awful at math but I’m definitely not gifted. Doing math didn’t feel rewarding to me; it wasn’t exciting, and I couldn’t feel myself making measurable progress. It was mostly a slog. I could only really handle math by either sort of shutting off my brain and just getting it done, or else making a huge effort to turn the math into poetry in my brain, if that makes sense! With my kids, I’m going on the theory that there is no huge rush to develop motivation. They’re naturally motivated to work on the areas they’re good at. For the area that they’re weaker in, I don’t mind sitting next to them, literally and figuratively, and acting as their external motivation.
  10. I'm fine with using abridged versions, especially of those wordy authors where the story really matters as much as the language. I read my kids the abridged versions of Peter Pan, some Jules Verne, the Wizard of Oz. My older kid went on to read the real versions of some of them later, and it didn't stop him from enjoying them. I'm also fine with graphic novel versions, or movies, although I'd want to see whether they made any major changes to the characters or plots. Also, this thread reminded me that there are some classics that DON'T need to be abridged or adapted, and they sometimes get forgotten because we think they are "hard". Oedipus Rex, for example. My remedial English students used to study it and nobody had a big problem with the language or the theme -- it's an incredibly accessible work. I'll bet there are other examples of this which I just can't think of. I also found that for ESL students, poetry was often easier to read than fiction, just because there were fewer words to deal with. I wonder if that's ever true for kids reading in their own language.
  11. Breadth vs depth: to me, late high school is a time to go in depth. What do I know, I don't have teenagers yet, but I'm basing this on my memory of high school and on what I see in my extended family these days. Every teenager is different but they are all individuating, right? It's a time when the math kids want to obsess over exciting math, and the drama kids want to write their own plays, and they really get a lot out of that. So depth seems like the natural way to go. Maybe one way to get some breadth at that age is to go cross disciplinary? Projects that combine literature with history, or that combine music with math, etc? These threads have been really helpful in my long-term planning -- please keep them coming : )
  12. I love these questions. I think the opposite of education is superstition. Someone who is NOT educated is ruled by irrational fears, has a clannish mentality, and can be easily led. Someone who is well educated has the ability to gather and weigh information; they also have the ability to communicate their point of view to others. An education should be broadening, not limiting -- it should equip you to speak to people from different backgrounds than yours. That's why foreign language is important (because learning one foreign language teaches you that languages work differently); it's why history and literature and art and music are important. Science too; I may not remember much physics, but it gave me another way to look at the world. That said, you're planning for 11th grade, and by that stage education is probably going to look really different for different people. An 11th grader is ready to specialize and make decisions on their own about what they're going to learn. Obviously keeping in mind their future plans and requirements for university / job training etc.
  13. A little off topic, but related -- I really liked "Giants in the Earth." It's about Norwegians who moved to the Dakotas in the late 19th century. And maybe something by Louise Erdrich? the stuff I know by her is mostly set in the 20th century, so it wouldn't work for you, but she has a series of historical novels for young adults. The Birchbark House series.
  14. I love this. It's so encouraging to hear this kind of story. I wonder if some people just develop the ability to self-motivate later than others? When I was in high school I was on the track team and I remember feeling grateful that the coach was kind of tough on us. I liked running, but if there hadn't been someone standing there making me do the drills, I would have just gone to buy a slice of pizza or something.It was almost a luxury, having someone external motivate me while I got to grumble. Now, as an adult, I still run regularly and have finally learned how to motivate myself, at least most of the time : ) I really like what you said about aspiration examples in all subjects, I'd be interested in hearing more about that!
  15. I think about this a lot too. I guess it depends on what stage we're in, among other things. My kids are little (8 and 6) so at this point, I push them to develop basic skills. Some of it is fun for them - they both love to read and talk about books, for example, and they both love playing with numbers. Some of it is not as much fun for them. They both disliked learning how to write, and my eight year old grumbles about narration. But I think these are valuable skills and I see how they're already paying off, not just in "school" but in other areas. And I try to keep the "pushing" to short lessons so that they have lots and lots of free time too. I also think (I'm just spitballing here) that working on skills that you find boring can teach you humility. I mean, for example, I was never a very good science student but I'm grateful that my high school required chemistry for all students. I wasn't grateful at the time -- I grumbled and moped and cut class. I still remember my sweet teacher finding me in the hall and yanking me back into the classroom. But looking back, that class taught me to respect different ways of thinking about the world and of processing information. It stretched me. If I had been left to set my own goals, I would never have done that. I would've stuck to studying poetry and languages because that came naturally to me. So I think part of education, for me, is about personal development and becoming a well-rounded person who can respect different ways of thinking. And I think that leads to a fuller kind of life, even if it doesn't necessarily lead to making lots of money or changing the world.
  16. Ugh, that's terrible. Talk about counter-productive teaching! I think I must have been very lucky with my teachers, because that wasn't at all my experience.
  17. Why 3 pieces of supporting evidence? It's a form, like any other. Why does a sonnet have 14 lines? I agree that it's a very limited form, and I guess it's often taught in a very rigid, reductionist way. But it can be a useful tool when it's taught well. I'm still a little puzzled about why I see it attacked so often.
  18. I think the 5 paragraph essay has developmental value. I find it's a really useful tool for learning how to create an argument. We may mean something different by "5 paragraph essay" I guess. What I mean is the structure of thesis plus three supporting pieces of evidence. To this day, whenever I sit down to start writing any kind of essay, I take a piece of paper and jot down a rough thesis and supporting arguments. It's an ingrained habit. I may not stick to any of those points when writing, or I may bury the structure. But I lean on that old tool. I don't think I'm the only one because I see that rough structure everywhere. I think the 5 paragraph essay (if it's taught generously, loosely, without silly restrictions) is useful. Definitely not the only kind of writing students should learn. I think they should be learning by reading great writers and by imitating them; they should be taught a wide range of forms and techniques but there is also a place for the much-maligned 5 paragraph essay!
  19. I love the idea of a "vigorous" education! I think for me, "rigor" means the ability to focus and push through things which are useful in the long run but not terribly exciting in the moment. For example the ability to read a dry theoretical text so that you can later debate it. I think there's rigor in all kinds of things -- like, when I clean behind the fridge I feel like I'm being rigorous. I've always struggled with self-discipline -- I tend to work in fits and starts -- and this is an area where I'd like my kids to do better than me! so I do get a kick out of reading people's "rigorous" home schooling plans. This thread is a nice counter to that, and a great reminder that rigor is also, well, rigid and limiting. I do want my kids to have discipline and the ability to do not-fun stuff, but I want them to also find joy and vigor in their education.
  20. I love this topic -- thanks for introducing it! I also love your description of School for Scandal as a lightweight sit-com. Couldn't agree more. I think the Adler list is an interesting place to start. There's a lot there that I'd keep, and plenty that I'd prune to make room for more. Definitely American students should read at least some of Hobbes and Locke and JS Mill -- it really helps explain the ideas that the founding fathers were wrestling with. I think they should also read Frederick Douglas and WEB Dubois. I don't know why that's not on Adler's list. Students doing 20th century history should probably also read Elie Wiesel and others to get an understanding of the holocaust -- also Aime Cesaire, Nasser, and other anti-colonial figures. I'd add them and would trim others to make space. I think the Greek histories (Herodotus, Thucydides) are really useful for older students who can get into how historians work. I'd also keep at least one play by Aeschylus and Sophocles. Definitely the Iliad, maybe the Odyssey. I'd get rid of a lot of the British literature (Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, Byron and lots of others) and I'd replace it with works by non-Europeans, women, and people of color. Toni Morisson, James Baldwin, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda...I'd probably take Sartre off the list too but that's just me. It's impossible for students to read absolutely everything in high school. A lot of the items on the Adler list are things I read myself, after finishing high school, because everyone around me was a big reader too. So that's something we can try to cultivate. I think it's worthwhile for teachers to assign excerpts from some books (we used to get those mimeographed sheets when I was in high school) to give students a flavor of the text, make them aware of it so that they can read it on their own if they choose. I really haven't read the science and math books on the list, and I'm curious what others say about whether it's worth reading them instead of reading about them.
  21. It's used for summative assessment in the US too. When I tutored English, students needed to pass a timed essay test in order to place out of remedial classes. By the time they came in for help, most of our students had taken the test and failed it a few times. So we were definitely teaching to the test, which is why we used a very bare bones version of the 5 paragraph essay. And you know, I not a fan of teaching to the test in theory, but I was left with a very positive feeling about how well that tool (the 5 paragraph essay) worked out for a lot of people. I know that's not the point of this thread. I'll look for your old thread, thanks!
  22. Okay, that makes a lot of sense. So it's the WAY that the five paragraph essay is taught -- the rigidity of it and the bean-counting approach to sentence structure -- which is a problem. Yeah I agree, that sounds terrible. Many years ago I tutored remedial English students at a community college. Many of my students were intimidated by having to write at all. The basic structure of the 5 paragraph essay (thesis and supporting evidence) was really helpful; it took the mystery out of writing and gave them a clear way to structure their arguments. So I guess I think of the 5 paragraph essay as a good starting point. As writers grow stronger and more confident, they can branch out from it. I didn't realize that it was being taught in such a senselessly formulaic way. I don't see any value at all to bossing students around about what kind of sentences to use,
  23. I'm curious about what "composition" would look like in classical education. And I guess I'm also curious how you all think composition should be taught, in general. I notice a lot of people on these boards really hate the five paragraph essay but I haven't seen any explanation yet of why. Is it because it's taught in a cookie-cutter way? Is it because it's the only style of writing taught?
  24. This is such an interesting topic! How do you guys handle scheduling, especially for the longer projects that span months? I can see how in some cases there's a natural end-product (a paper or a science fair project) but what if there isn't? I guess part of the benefit is that the kid learns how to plan out their time and stay focused over a long period of time?
  25. I largely agree with this but I do think that for a certain personality, test taking can be a useful part of education. It was definitely useful for me, a generally distracted student. Taking tests gave me a shot of adrenaline and focused my mind. I can still remember tests I took in high school. I also do think there are plenty of careers that reward that ability to work quickly and effectively under pressure. Law, finance, and to a certain extent tech all call on those skills, for example. So I agree that students should focus on learning and should aim for mastery, rather than superficial, glib learning. Idon't think testing should be a big part of education but I think there is probably a place for it.
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