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About royspeed

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    Shakespeare, writing, history.

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  1. Hi, everyone. My wife, Diane Speed, has long been interested in a challenge for our students not directly addressed in the high school curriculum — it seems to be something we parents must prepare our students for. That challenge is advocating for oneself. We just completed getting our second child into college, and we've been struck all over again — just as we were with our first child — at how many situations required her to advocate for herself with adults: interviews, auditions, college-admissions essays, scholarship-application essays, negotiating with schools about increasing scholarships or waiving requirements, and more. Has anyone else found this challenge as striking as we have? — Have any of your students taken courses that helped lay groundwork for this particular challenge? Diane has been writing about what she sees and has posted her thoughts in a two-part article (links below): (Removed link) Here Diane reviews various situations in which high-school-aged students must fend for themselves in their relationships with adults, e.g., for DE students, with professors. — She thinks it's important that our students invest in those relationships. (Removed link) In this part Diane addresses the ways our students must advocate for themselves both in the college-admissions process and when applying for scholarships. She also suggests things we parents can do to help address some of the skills/abilities our students need to be effective with these challenges. Is anyone else bumping into these issues? —Roy Speed
  2. Exactly. This is why I teach close reading. I think students acquire important skills from reading closely that they never acquire in the survey approach — i.e., reading that's a mile wide and an inch deep. It's also why I teach Shakespeare — he's the greatest writer in English, and in that contest, second place is not even close. By reading Shakespeare closely, students wrestle with human psychology, ethics, relationships, and the human condition. They learn about language, poetry, imagery, rhetoric. Reading Shakespeare, it's easy for students to see why we must all study great literature. —Roy Speed
  3. Many good comments in this thread. — As for our own experience with getting two kids through the high school years, it is consistent with what Momto6inIN says above; no need to repeat. Not many accredited courses, yet: Both our students received significant merit aid (one a full ride, the other full tuition). Both did a number of university courses as part of their high school educations. Both included in their college applications LORs from college professors. Key idea: You don't need accredited courses as long as you have a few objective items in your student's records that lend credibility to all the work you did at home, e.g., a few strong test scores, or a few college courses, and so on. Joyfullyblessed: There's an easy way for you to get all your questions answered and develop your own roadmap to the high school years and college admissions/college financing for your student — and that's an online workshop given by my wife, Diane Speed: Homeschooling the College-Bound Student As part of her workshop, you get a workbook with all the key guidelines & principles, lots of useful reference information, templates for your transcript, course descriptions, activity resumés, etc. — If you have any questions about it, you can contact her through the webpage above. —Roy Speed
  4. Kendall: Here's a really good read, perfectly suited to the ages of your students: The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium, by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger. —Roy Speed
  5. kokotg: Midsummer Night's Dream is not a bad place to start. — A few thoughts on resources: Introducing the writer & his works. This, I think, is the single biggest missing resource for teaching Shakespeare to our teens, i.e., a really great introduction to the writer and his works that puts his accomplishments into some kind of perspective. — I try to give students such a perspective in my own Shakespeare courses, and it's really challenging. Several years ago I wrote the following article, which was my first stab at such an introduction: Why All Our Students Must Study Shakespeare Criticism. One of the very best works of Shakespeare criticism that I'm aware of is Caroline Spurgeon's Shakespeare's Imagery (1936). — I give my own students excerpts from her book, both to enhance their understanding of the plays we're reading and to present models of really fine literary criticism. My students actually get excited about her writing — not something you often see with literary criticism; to them, her writing seems so fresh and alive that they can't believe her book came out in 1936. Shakespeare on film. I'm teaching Twelfth Night this summer and stumbled on one of the best film versions of Shakespeare I've ever come across: it's a performance in the replica of The Globe in London and features, among others, Stephen Fry and Mark Rylance. It's one-hundred-percent period costuming, and it's performed in the Elizabethan manner, with men playing all the roles. It's so so good... — At $30, the DVD is expensive, but you can probably find it at your library: Globe on Screen performance of Twelfth Night I think Romeo & Juliet may be the single best play for introducing Shakespeare to teens, partly because it contains a great deal of beautiful verse, and partly because the entire first half is wickedly funny — provided that you understand what Shakespeare is up to. (I've never had a student in my Romeo & Juliet series emerge from that course thinking of the play as "lame.") Good luck to you and your students. —Roy Speed
  6. JadeOrchidSong: MerryAtHope is correct. You can find our guide to all test codes for homeschoolers here: —Roy Speed
  7. madteaparty: I fear that the problem is not unique to homeschoolers, that it plagues all teens. For students today, the temptations and distractions are staggering — and they're too young and naive to understand the perils. Also, these distractions come at key formative period for our students' minds (see this article my wife and I wrote: The Development of Adolescent Minds). At this age, concentration and deep engagement with every subject in the curriculum are vital. One thing we did with our students was restrict computer use to the kitchen table. While I think such measures help, I'm afraid the problem is here to stay. — When I think back on my own adolescence, I have no illusions: I would have been a total sucker for the distractions of the Internet and social media. —Roy Speed
  8. baxterclan7: Two thoughts: Reading comprehension. I find that my Shakespeare students dramatically boost their reading comprehension — nothing like close reading of 400-year-old English to train students in the skills required for deciphering a challenging text. And what makes it all work is that Shakespeare is so rewarding, i.e., once you've worked out the meaning, you uncover something incredibly charming, or beautiful, or funny, or eerie, or thought-provoking. — And lest you fear that Shakespeare would be too much of a stretch for your son: I've found that sometimes the best way to lift teens out of their somnambulant reading habits is to pose a challenge they think beyond their abilities, then let them discover they can succeed with that challenge. (Few things in life are more exciting than overcoming an obstacle you consider bigger than yourself...) Note-taking. One underestimated aspect of note-taking that I consider vital is annotating a text. — See this article. — In addition, annotating helps with improving your reading comprehension. I would be happy to discuss, baxterclan7, if you want to know more — just message me, or you can email me at rspeed AT All the best. —Roy Speed
  9. Shellydon: It's distressing to hear that your daughter is struggling with this challenge — i.e., the personal essay. I have long been concerned about our standard approaches to student writing — for instance, students' being asked to write essays before they've actually read any. Unfortunately, the standard approaches don't always help the student discover his or her own "voice" in writing. Feel free to message me, Shellydon; I may have some suggestions. —Roy Speed
  10. Shellydon: My guess: It will definitely hurt her scholarship chances. Both of our students wrote really fine essays for colleges where they hoped for scholarships; each received merit aid worth full tuition or more. — Difficult to imagine their receiving such awards without those essays... —Roy Speed
  11. BusyMom5: About your daughter's writing: One thing that may help her take her writing to the next level is reading great essays. — It amazes me that we ask our students to write essays before they've actually read any. The challenge is finding a collection of really fine essays that most students will find moving and inspiring. — I searched dozens of texts & anthologies and was disappointed by the mediocrity of the selections. (Frustrated, I ended up creating my own collection of great essays and building an essay-writing course.) You can get a lot of mileage out of having your student read great essays. For instance, when my students find a particular essay really moving, I ask them How was that done? — In effect, I ask them to reverse-engineer the writing, and this is a powerful exercise for any student: The student locates the specific passages he or she found moving or inspiring (or just really interesting). For each passage, the student must pinpoint the particular things the writer did that made the passage so effective. (Students are usually able to locate specific techniques, like a really killer simile or metaphor, or effective use of parallel structure or repetition of a key phrase, or a devastatingly effective example.) Then I ask: Is there anything here worth stealing for your own writing? — For most students, this question is eye-opening. It's not about stealing a particular sentence or idea or image (i.e., plagiarism); rather, it's about peering deeply into how writing works, identifying key tools and techniques that anyone can use, any time. One feature of writing instruction that's usually underestimated: teaching our students to write for readers. — Left to their own devices, most students will either write for the teacher or write with no one at all in mind. Yet writing for readers is the whole point of writing. It's not just a vapid, academic exercise, nor is about earning a grade or gaining a credit. — It's a real-world skill, and certainly one of the most important skills our students will learn during their high school years. When I'm teaching students to write effective openings, for instance, I show them how to test their openings, i.e., determine whether their openings are effective. — Here's how it works: I have my students read just the opening of a student essay — then we stop. I poll the students: Okay, I say; raise your hand if you feel like reading on... From the number of raised hands, the student who produced that opening can immediately see whether his or her opening is engaging to readers. Also, I believe in teaching real writing tools. With openings, for instance, I show my students seven different approaches for crafting an effective opening. The same goes for all the other challenges of effective writing — our students deserve real tools for: establishing a key idea and then explaining/exploring/illustrating that one point all the way to completion; crafting sentences that are light and crisp, delivering a real punch; editing for clarity or impact — e.g., taking an unwieldy sentence and revising it to make it easy for readers to digest; writing efficiently; — and so on. Hope this helps, BusyMom5, or is at least interesting. —Roy Speed
  12. You're most welcome, stlily.
  13. Katilac: Two suggestions — First, I concur both with those who recommend you allow the B in Honors Physics, and with teachermom2834, who wrote that the course description is probably not the place "to highlight something personal like how hard he worked" — I think she's right about that. Second, you can turn your son's experience with this course to good use when you draft your Counselor Letter on the Common App. — In this document, remember, you convey your student’s qualifications for college; you give a comprehensive account of how he performed in various subjects and, equally important, his characteristics as a student: his strengths—work ethic, performance level, etc.; his weaknesses—and here, your ability to write about your son with insight and evenhandedness will lend credibility to all your documentation. You can acknowledge his lack of preparedness for this course, but the fact that he persevered with it will make a useful illustration of his mettle as a student. Hope that helps, Katilac. —Roy Speed
  14. Innisfree: When this teacher asks how the student reads, he or she may also have in mind issues like the following — from an article on close reading: ____________________________________________ It is perfectly normal — especially when dealing with a difficult text — to mentally "go out to lunch" from time to time, to stare at the page empty-headed: I wonder what's for dinner… — The question is whether your student is onto him- or herself, aware of his or her own mental comings and goings, monitoring them, and when needed, steering back to the topic at hand. Monitoring your own experience as you read is vital. Even the going-out-to-lunch experience provides vital clues about your relationship with what you're reading: we don't space out for no reason; there's always a reason — even if it's just mental fatigue, time for a break. If we can pinpoint the spot at which our attention drifted, we can often identify the cause right in the text — e.g., the author made a historical reference unfamiliar to us; or the thought became really abstract, we had no mental picture of what was being referred to; or the author went off on a tangent or abruptly introduced a new train of thought and, mentally stuck in the previous point, we didn't follow. The point is, the mindful student: is aware of such reading mishaps and takes charge of his or her own learning experience; discovers the need to develop mental stamina, staying power, and embarks on a steady regimen of close reading with challenging material. ____________________________________________ Hope that's helpful, Innisfree. —Roy Speed
  15. stlily: You might find the following article helpful -- it's my attempt to give students a perspective on why we annotate, i.e., the role annotation skills play in advanced study, like college courses: Annotation Your student may also benefit from this edited version of a famous chapter from Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book: to Mark a Book.pdf Hope this helps. —Roy Speed
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