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Fiance dropped out of HS, joined army - now wants classical education &top university


Guest DixieBelle
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Guest DixieBelle

Hello all,

 

I have a unique situation and I need guidance. My soon-to-be fiancee J. is 22 - an intelligent guy who unfortunately had an incredibly rough childhood and terrible education. His father was abusive and pulled him out of school to work hard labor, family didn't value education at all, etc. He was forced to leave school after 8th grade (his father claimed he was going to homeschool him). With no other options in sight, J. got his GED, joined the army at 18 and has served ever since in an elite ceremonial unit based in D.C (i.e. no chance of being deployed).

 

In contrast, I was educated at private schools my entire life and attended the University of Virginia. I'm an avid reader/writer/etc, as well as 5 years older than he is. Long story short, through improbable circumstances we met and fell in love. He has gone from completely giving up on the idea of schooling (coupled with deep insecurities about his lack of education) to setting his sights on UVa's undergrad business school and then an MBA - an amazing turnaround! UVa has a 'guaranteed admissions' program now with the Virginia community college system: if you follow a rigorous, pre-determined set of courses for 2 years, and maintain at least a B average (with no courses below a B), you are admitted to the University. This is truly an amazing opportunity for him to attend the best public university in the country - it ties w/Berkeley each year.

 

In the 8 months we've been together, he's taken 5 total CC courses - 2 summer courses (a prerequisite computer course, and a remedial arithmetic course) and now 3 courses this semester (Algebra I, Spanish 101, and Bio 101). As he wants to be accepted into UVa's highly competitive undergrad business program (the Commerce School, which is not covered under the guaranteed admissions program), he will eventually be completing the Honors AA degree program in business - advanced composition, math up to calculus, etc.

 

As it stands now, he will be out of the army at the end of 2012 and would start his 3rd college year fall 2013 at UVa (ideally). So between now and then, he is looking to establish that strong base of education that he missed in HS, as well as eventually completing Honors core courses at CC. Outside of school, I'm serving as live-in private tutor for anything and everything.

 

I've poured myself into assembling a super-enriching educational experience outside of class - both to eventually prepare him for CC level work at the honors level, but more immediately to give him a private school-level, rigorous, classical high school education that he has never experienced. Luckily, he's completely on board and eager to learn.

 

The level he wants and needs to be at eventually (within the next 2-3 years) is AP highschool, at least. I have a million different plans, books, ideas, suggestions culled from all over the internet, etc. about how to get him there and am feeling overwhelmed and not very sure of myself.

 

I've bought and read WTM, WEM, have bought 3 different kinds of rigorous grammar courses (A Beka, Analytical Grammar, and just now R&S), and we're reading great literature, I've bought the Wordly Wise vocab (along with tons of other vocab books). I have shelves full of aspirational books like AP Lit study guides, Strunk & White et all, subscriptions to the Economist, so I know what I'm aiming for.

 

But I need so much direction - I need to pick a writing course(s) to take him from his current level of never having had to write ANYTHING all the way up to super advanced. I want to work our way up to intensive literature analysis - as many of the Great Books as we can get through. I want him to learn Latin, poetry, art, logic, debate, history - I basically want to be able to give him the luxury of a truly great, rich, and deep education.

 

So I need some concrete help and advice. We're going to restart grammar with R & S grade 5, Wordly Wise Vocab (old version) from book 1 (although his vocab has relatively large sporadic peaks from our extensive reading/talking), math is being taken care of by the CC, I need to start him on a really great writing program (that will eventually prepare him for the kind of serious writing he'll be doing) some kind of history, and our literature reading has been all over the map. In fact, he's currently reading WEM and loving it.

 

I'm sure I'm leaving plenty of relevant details out, but I find myself up at 3:30 a.m. yet again, surrounded by books, papers notes, and with about 30 tabs pulled up on the internet. He the rare person that has a second chance to "do it over", and I want him to have every opportunity to experience the luxuries of learning. I know it's ambitious but I believe we can do it. Now where do I start with writing/history/lit analysis, etc???!!!

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Just go there and move forward at his pace. That means finding a program and jumping in. I think R&S for grammar is very good, I think reading great books is good. Consider having him enroll in a CC writing class. If he's not there, the writing lessons on R&S are good, make sure he works through those, or consider something like IEW or Bravewriter.

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It may take some time to figure out what level he really is.

Format Writing will teach him how to write the essays and term papers colleges expect. The author also put out a grammar book but I haven't used it.

 

For IEW, he could watch the "teacher's" DVDs, so he could still get all the info without feeling like he was doing 5th grade again.

 

Can he take a modern language at the CC?

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Can I just say how blessed he is to have you?

 

Not much help here, but all I can advise is to read everything on these boards. Eventually, it'll all click.

 

I don't think you need much guidance, you are obviously driven enough to get yourself there.

 

Good luck and best wishes,

Ruthie

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For writing, Strunk & White's The Elements of Style is a brief, concise, and clear guide. DH picked up a copy to review before starting college next fall. Also, encourage him to take advantage of free tutors that most CC's and uni's have. College freshman comp is taken by all levels of writers, frankly; many high schools teach effectively nothing about writing. And I've encountered college seniors who didn't know what the parts of speech were--they learned them in a 400 level anthropological linguistics course I was taking. As long as he has a good grasp of Standard Written English grammar in a functional sense, I wouldn't worry too much about a formal grammar program. Focus on reading and discussing great books, and writing practise, with grammar discussed in the context of writing.

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Guest DixieBelle

Thank you all for the advice and support! In response to GreatWhiteNorth's question, yes, he is taking Spanish 101 this semester (he will need to take 4 semesters of it to transfer to UVa).

 

I had originally intended to have him enroll in a writing class at the CC. However, after seeing my sister take a writing course there, as well as talking to a teacher at the college itself, it's clear that the writing instruction (even Honors level) is worse than abysmal. So I feel that a writing program at home will be his best bet. I have bought Strunk & White

 

Should I go with Classical Writing, Writeshop, Meaningful Composition? He struggles with a lack of knowledge of basic writing mechanics, as well as almost no practice before we met of expressing deas on paper. I believe our Grammar Stage work now with grammar/vocab/reading will help with that, although he will need help in learning to express himself through writing. Would CW be good for the "mechanics first-then creativity" process?

 

I also need to start a history, as J.'s knowledge of history is almost nil. I was thinking of WTM's suggesting of working through a history textbook while incorporating Great Book reading into that. Or perhaps we should simply be reading through a survey of history.

 

This is where I'm having some trouble/experiencing competing goals -

 

1. I want to give him as rich/deep an education as possible, i.e. doing the notebook pages for the subjects we study, etc..

 

2. I also want him to be and feel caught up and informed as possible compared to his peers (i.e. history/writing)

 

3. I want to adhere as closely as possible to the WEM/WTM program.

 

4. He has somewhat limited time as he is full-time military (this semester has been easier because he was able to go to school for 1 semester full time, as a signing bonus. Semesters going forward he'll have to take late afternoon/evening/weekend courses, in addition to fitting in the extra work we do at home.)

 

5. Being able to teach him all the specific concepts/terms/skills I've seen after looking through AP study guides/SAT guides etc. I went to a very small, religious school which didn't offer AP or anything like it. I got a good basic education, but because I loved to read I was largely self taught in many areas. Things like getting a very high score on the SAT were easy for me, I never studied, I was just able to do them and do them well somehow. But now I'm intimidated by the thought of eventually teaching/working toward AP level classes (especially literature) since I've never been formally taught these concepts.

 

Please keep the suggestions coming indefinitely, I intend to keep posting here as this will be a journey for the two of us over the next few years.

Edited by DixieBelle
typo
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How impressive . . . proof that self-education never has to end!

 

I would highly recommend taking a look at two wonderful, mostly "free" programs which will enrich anybody. Ambleside Online and Old-Fashioned Education. Even though these programs are geared for elementary and high school level, they utilize classic books which are timeless and which, unfortunately, many in today's traditional schools, never read or have never even heard of.

 

Ambleside Online, in particular, will expose anyone who is interested to collegiate level works as well as art, music, poetry, etc. This site uses many works which are in the public domain, so the books may be read online, or downloaded to a computer or Kindle or iPod Touch for later reading or for take-and-go reading. Take a look at their history suggestions, especially for the upper years.

 

I would encourage you both to utilize Librivox which is a wonderful, free site where volunteers have read classic works which are now in the public domain. Here is an opportunity to listen, for free, to great works. This might be beneficial to someone with a very busy schedule. Listen online, or download audiobooks and load them onto an mp3 player or iPod and take them on the go. Many of the suggestions from Ambleside Online are found at Librivox. I, myself, who value education and received what I would consider a good education at a private high school and college, am listening to "Tom Sawyer" right now. I am ashamed to say this was never required reading in school, and while I like to think I am a well-read person, I never made the time to read this and other classics that I now intend to enjoy.

 

Use Sparksnotes to help with literary analysis or explanations for difficult works.

 

Hope these links help you and your intended!

 

http://www.amblesideonline.org/

http://oldfashionededucation.com/

http://librivox.org/

http://www.sparknotes.com/

 

Adrianne in IL

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Not that you probably need another book to look at, but could I recommend The Latin-Centered Curriculum. Not only am I using this to educate my son I'm using the recommendations for my own self-education. The author has a complete chapter on starting students in the middle or for adult learners.

 

It helped remove some of harried feeling I had about providing a classical education when I did not receive one myself. I am using the high school recs for myself.

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Could your finance start a blog? It could be private or public. Even if it's public he wouldn't have to tell anyone he knows about it and he could have it set up where his real name is not used or any identifying details.

 

Why a blog? There is increased accountability when you are writing for an audience - even a very small or imagined one! ;) If he has no experience in expressing himself in writing it would be a great place to practice getting thoughts down in a succinct and clear manner. He could start a blog on his journey to self-educate. I bet that it would be highly encouraging for others who are in the same boat to read and a great encouragement to him to be able to track his progress in such a visible way. He could write about the books he is reading and all he is learning in other areas as well. Sort of an online notebooking experience of sorts.

 

I know that for me blogging (even though I am on a blog break right now) has been a blessing and a joy. I have learned much about being a better writer and a better communicator in the process.

 

Just a thought. :)

Edited by Jennefer@SSA
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I think I'd leave time for him to teach you something he's really good at, or time for you both to learn something together that you both know almost nothing about. I'd be concerned about the teaching being primarily you to him--it might be good for his education, but I'm not sure it will be good for your relationship.

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Oh, I wanted to hop back on here to let you know about "iTunes University" which offers free lectures you can listen to or download to your computer or mp3 player. Download the free iTunes program if you don't already have it and then, after you open the program, click on iTunes Store and then iTunes U to see all the great lectures you can listen to for free!

 

Adrianne in IL

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I think I'd leave time for him to teach you something he's really good at, or time for you both to learn something together that you both know almost nothing about. I'd be concerned about the teaching being primarily you to him--it might be good for his education, but I'm not sure it will be good for your relationship.

 

:iagree:

 

For the sake of the relationship, I think I'd let the community college (There has to be one good writing teacher there!) do most of the basics. Then the two of you could read and think and write together. Why not read a book and write back and forth about it? You'd be modelling the kind of thinking and writing a UVA grad (I'm one too--wahoo-wa!) can do without "teaching." I worry that the unevenness of the teacher-student role would take its toll on you both after a while.

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The Teaching Company is nice because it is aimed at people like your fiance, adults furthering their education. There is, for example, a series of lectures on The Odyssey. He could listen to the book AND listen to the lectures for it all in the car or while doing a mindless chore. Good for busy people, and all adult-oriented. If it were I, I would be anxious to get started on the classical stuff right away, so diving in reading The Odyssey with the lectures would be a nice place to start. While he's doing that, he can try writing any thoughts or reactions he has to the book in a nice organized paragraph. Then when he finishes the book, he can do TWEM questions for it (that should please him and make him feel like he's making progress), and write a short paper about it. Something simple would be to write something about the background, like research how the Greeks fought, their equipment, etc., and write a report-type paper about that. I think this would be a good place to start. Meanwhile, have him practise telling a story in a straight-forward way. This is surprisingly difficult if you've never paid attention to it before. He can tell you about his day - beginning, middle, end, without circling back. He'll have long pauses while he decides what to say next, probably. That would cover three sorts of writing, all while doing The Odyssey. The Odyssey is a fairly easy classic, but one which gives one a feeling of unity with the rest of the classical world. Sometimes starting at the beginning with an adult isn't the easiest way to accomplish something. Sometimes diving into the middle is a better idea.

-Nan

Edited by Nan in Mass
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