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It sounds like many of us wish to discuss the design of our own curriculum to support the unique characteristics of our children.  As Serendipitious Journey suggested: 

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Might it work to start a group like that with a monster thread?  or a unifying thread or "pinned" post -- we could functionally pin it ourselves just by posting regularly enough 😉 -- on these boards?

 And thanks to 8 for suggesting the idea and good luck to those heading towards the new facebook page.

I'll post this starter message now.  And then think of some of my own questions and ideas and post again soon.  Please join me. 

ETA: I've posted a lot here at the start just to get a vibe going on the thread, but please know this is not an Ask Ruth thread.  🙂  The more voices the better.

Edited by lewelma
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I have a 6 year old in kindergarten this year. I've been going through BOB books and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I haven't found a curriculum I want to use with him for grade 1. I don't have a clue where to start in making my own but that is what I'm leaning towards. Should I just focus on reading out loud, narrations, and copywork? Do I need to do more phonics with him?

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So right now, I don't have any questions to ask the group, but I can describe how I have created a writing program for my younger who is in 11th grade this year.  He is 2E with dysgraphia, so a standard English curriculum has always been impossible to implement.  When designing my own curriculum, I've considered 2 main things: 1) what do I want him to learn?  and 2) how can I keep him motivated and interested.  
 
What do I want him to learn?  Well, obviously to write.  But I want to tailor it to both let his strengths run, and to shore up his weaknesses.  Plus, I want to align his writing to his goals in life.  He wants to major in human geography and work to solve complex world problems.  So I think he needs to be able to write synthesis papers of many different opinions on the same topic. I also want him to learn how to write for multiple audiences and adjust his approach and style depending on his purpose and audience.  I want him to be able to be an effective speaker as he is considering being a Mayor.  
 
His strengths: He is a nuanced, deep thinker. He understands multiple perspectives and makes great insights.  He has a wonderful style with a lovely use of language features and vocabulary. He can type at speed.
 
His weaknesses: He has dysgraphia.  He cannot physically write and we have chosen not to fight that battle. He struggles with structuring his arguments and he is SLOW!  
 
What my top goals are for the next 1.5 years. 
1) He has to pick up speed
2) He has to be able to structure his arguments
 
What my objectives are (linked to the above 2 goals):
1) I have found a bunch of geography exams where you are given 8 to 10 articles to synthesize on the fly.  We will be working through those for a year, to get him faster and faster.  I will also be using English unfamiliar text exams for the same purpose.  But instead of synthesis, they will be used for analysis.
 
2) I think that to structure arguments, he needs to have a bunch of purposes and different types of papers to work through.  So we have decided on a synthesis research paper, an analytical research paper, a National Geographic article, a creative writing short story, a speech, and a movie analysis. These will be long and have to be carefully structured. 
 
How to keep him motivated and keen to learn.  The key here is that he gets to pick the topics that fill in for each paper type on #2, and he is on board for the speed work where we used other people's choices for #1. I also work *with* him for a couple hours a day, kicking ideas around, talking to him about structure, answering questions, researching ideas etc. I have lots to say on motivation as this has been a key piece in working with my ds in writing given that he has dysgraphia.  But I'm going to post to get this thread started!
 
Looking forward to what others have done and to sharing ideas!
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56 minutes ago, lwest said:

I have a 6 year old in kindergarten this year. I've been going through BOB books and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I haven't found a curriculum I want to use with him for grade 1. I don't have a clue where to start in making my own but that is what I'm leaning towards. Should I just focus on reading out loud, narrations, and copywork? Do I need to do more phonics with him?

For first grade Language arts I had the following goals for writing and reading:

Writing: 1) help my child believe that he was a writer. 2) discuss ideas with my child, because writing is really thinking. and 3) help my child with the mechanics of language (handwriting, spelling, sentence formation etc)

Reading: When my child was an early reader, I wanted him to 4) feel the joy of independent reading, 5) hear and discuss books too hard for him to read. 6) slowly ever so slowly build up his skill level

Once I had my goals, I would figure out how to achieve them.

1) Help my child believe that he was a writer: I encouraged story telling and wrote down my kids stories.  I celebrated all writing and was not critical (we are talking 6 and 7 year olds!). Meeting this goal was not about curriculum, but about my attitude towards writing and my perception of the role of the teacher.  I can discuss more of this if you want, but it is incredibly important.

2) Discuss ideas with my child.  Kids can't write if they have nothing to say.  This goal is about *talking* to your kid.  Lots of verbal discussion at the dinner table, while walking, during and after reading a book.  It is just about developing depth of thinking. A purchased curriculum can't really do this.  Which is why homeschooling is so great! 

3) Help my child with the mechanics of language. For my kids, I just had them copy the Cat in the Hat and then other books that they enjoyed. If a child is ready, you could do some simple dictation, but it would depend on the child. We discussed phonics in context of their copy work and in context of them reading out loud to me.  We continues with 10 minutes of handwriting that was beyond the copy work. I bought Getty Dubai workbooks. I did more formal grammar and spelling programs in 2nd and 3rd grade. 

4) Feel the joy of independent reading.  We went to the library every week and I had him pick out readers that he was interested in.  Then we created a special snuggle time for reading where we would both read on the sofa. I acted as a model, and reading was connected to a peaceful special time with mom.

5) Hear and discuss harder books. My dh was in charge of this.  Every. single. night. he would read out loud for an hour after he got home from work.  We chose to have him read through history with cool library books, but he also read literature like Charlotte's Web etc. He and my boys talked almost as much as he read.  Discussion is key to developing insight. 

6) Slowly every so slowly build up skill level. I did a lot of research as to what was on the next level of books.  Once we got past readers, I would make an annual list of appropriate leveled novels, and let them pick off the list.  I would talk up each book, describe it enthusiastically, and then whichever one they chose for the next book, we would get it at the library that week.  Some I did purchase.  I also got them to find nonfiction that they were interested in.  I often helped them pick through books at the library that were of an appropriate level.

So that is how I created a LA curriculum for my 1st graders.  Goals first, then how you will meet these goals.  Purchased curriculum can definitely be a part of meeting your goals, but often it was only a small part for us.  

Ruth in NZ

  

Edited by lewelma
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1 hour ago, lwest said:

I have a 6 year old in kindergarten this year. I've been going through BOB books and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I haven't found a curriculum I want to use with him for grade 1. I don't have a clue where to start in making my own but that is what I'm leaning towards. Should I just focus on reading out loud, narrations, and copywork? Do I need to do more phonics with him?

I have a 6 year old boy, too! I would start by thinking about what he's capable of right now and what areas you want to prioritize in the coming year (or months). Language Arts covers so many bits and pieces that if you go full force on all of them, you'll eat up all your time. For example, my big goals this last year were to make as much progress with reading as possible while keeping him happy and confident and to build his writing willingness and stamina so that he could be independent for 5 or so minutes at a time. He's now reading well enough to navigate video games, and he can enjoy a funny story when buddy reading. He no longer loathes drawing and writing and will even color a picture or write a few words spontaneously sometimes. My goals for the coming year are to help him improve his reading to the point where it can be a fun independent activity and help him start writing the words in his head in a way others can read them. We'll focus on these areas by buddy reading a lot of fun books and working through All About Spelling level 1. We'll do some handwriting as well, and we'll keep doing lots of read alouds that build vocabulary and comprehension, but he is strong in those areas and I don't feel a need to belabor them. We do some narrations right after reading, but more often we do a "quick, who can remind us what's been going on in this book" before we read the next chapter of an enjoyable read aloud. I have a big book of worksheets for those times when I need to give him something to do and can't work directly with him the whole time (one of four kids), but he likes that as long as it's not overdone. With another child I would do more copy work, perhaps, but this one would find that painfully meaningless at this point.

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1 hour ago, lewelma said:
What my objectives are (linked to the above 2 goals):
1) I have found a bunch of geography exams where you are given 8 to 10 articles to synthesize on the fly.  We will be working through those for a year, to get him faster and faster.  I will also be using English unfamiliar text exams for the same purpose.  But instead of synthesis, they will be used for analysis.

 

@lewelma, could you describe in more detail what synthesis and analysis look like for your son? Could you provide definitions of synthesis and analysis the way you are using them in this context? What kind of prompts (discussion prompts or written prompts) do you give him? What kind of scaffolding do you provide to help him learn to synthesize the information?  Based on your eval of numerous writing curricula thread, I have Corbett, Models for Writers, and Engaging Ideas on my shelf / bedside. I'm working through Engaging Ideas, but haven't hit the other two yet - so apologies if the answers to my questions would be obvious had I finished those books 🙂 .

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@lwest Yes to everything @lewelma said. We did largely the same thing, except that I didn't have as clear an understanding of my goals going in 🙂 .  We did do gentle grammar using First Language Lessons 1 - it's easy and quick and effective. Phonics for DD were done mostly in the context of reading. DS needed more formal instruction in phonics, so we did AAR.

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58 minutes ago, lewelma said:

Meeting this goal was not about curriculum, but about my attitude towards writing and my perception of the role of the teacher.  I can discuss more of this if you want, but it is incredibly important.

Thanks so much for your help. Breaking it down to goals first is incredibly helpful. I would love if you could discuss more. How do you decide what to correct and what to let go? 

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I designed my own science curriculum for my to be 3rd grader after a lot of encouragement from @Lori D. and @lewelma several months ago. I started off thinking about what I wanted her to learn about and then came up with an order of topics that made sense to me.

Then I looked around for books (regular books and textbooks) to use as spines for the different units. Some of the books I chose already had experiments that went with the topics. For the ones that didn't, I scoured experiment books for relevant ones to use. I also have an internet linked encyclopedia that has short video clips we can watch with several of the lessons too.

I'm excited to start this curriculum next year!

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3 hours ago, lewelma said:

1) Help my child believe that he was a writer: I encouraged story telling and wrote down my kids stories.  I celebrated all writing and was not critical (we are talking 6 and 7 year olds!). Meeting this goal was not about curriculum, but about my attitude towards writing and my perception of the role of the teacher.  I can discuss more of this if you want, but it is incredibly important.

@lwest, I'm happy to discuss this more. I learned this lesson with my older boy.  I pushed too hard when he was young, and he came to believe that he was a bad writer.  Seriously, how can an 8 year old actually define themselves as A Bad Writer?  It can only happen through the eyes of someone else, or some sort of comparison to others of which he had none.  I took this as a fault in my teaching, and I changed.  I am so glad that I learned my lesson with my older boy, because I needed these attitudes to support my younger child.  My younger was a boy who at age 12 could not physically write because he could not remember how to form the letters; could not spell the top 100 words because even though he knew the rules, nothing was automatic; and could not understand how a sentence went together even having done 4 years of a grammar program. And yet at age 12 he considered himself a GOOD writer because he had something to say and ideas he wanted to express. He believed his massive struggles did not define him and could be overcome in time. I made sure he truly believed that writing is thinking made clear, and that handwriting, spelling, and mechanics were just a small piece of the larger goal, and that it was a goal worth fighting for. And it was this Good Will that allowed him to work for 2-3 hours a day from the age of 12-16 to master these skills and to have almost come out the other side.  

The key thing to know and believe is that *you* don't make suggestions, you ask *your child* what he wants to improve.  You *support* a young writer, you do not dictate to him. So for a 6 year old, I would want him to know that writing is a process of improvement.  But you cannot say things like 'drafts' or let's 'clean that up' or 'let me give you some suggestions to improve.' They don't hear what you are saying; they hear 'your writing is not good enough based on my judgement.' This destroys confidence. And leads to disinterest and avoidance. Instead, you say: What is your favorite sentence?  What do you like about it? Then discuss this, help them really see clearly why it is good, help them express why they like it.  But don't do direct praise because praise from you is Judgement from you.  What you want instead is ownership and self evaluation.  So only then do you ask: What is your least favorite sentence?  How do you want to change it? Depending on what your child say determines what you 'teach.' But make sure it is not Teaching with a capital T, instead it is careful encouragement of belief in himself as a developing writer and encouragement to be the best writer he can be.  

When it came to more picky editing, I gave my kids 20 cents for every error they found in a book. This was particularly lucrative once they got some messy copies on their Kindles.  Once kids see that others make mistakes, not only will they identify their own mistakes, they will know that it is not a reflection on their value as a person.  Judgement is insidious. Kids have to *want* to improve; it needs to come from inside. 

Ruth in NZ

 

 

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2 hours ago, JHLWTM said:

 

@lewelma, could you describe in more detail what synthesis and analysis look like for your son? Could you provide definitions of synthesis and analysis the way you are using them in this context? What kind of prompts (discussion prompts or written prompts) do you give him? What kind of scaffolding do you provide to help him learn to synthesize the information?  Based on your eval of numerous writing curricula thread, I have Corbett, Models for Writers, and Engaging Ideas on my shelf / bedside. I'm working through Engaging Ideas, but haven't hit the other two yet - so apologies if the answers to my questions would be obvious had I finished those books 🙂 .

Synthesis is bringing together ideas from multiple sources whereas Analysis is breaking up a single text to see how its ideas were created.  For the speed work, I am using premade content from the NZ exams.  We will spend the entire year building up to this level of speed in synthesis and analysis. Because it will take us a year, we are doing all the research papers this year.  I am hopeful than an extra year of maturity will make the speed work more realistic, which is why I'm doing long form this year (Jan-Dec 2020) and short speed essays next year (Jan-Dec 2021). 

Analysis essays

The English exam provides one poem and one creative nonfiction for analysis. You need to write 3 essays in 3 hours. (Unfortunately the pieces have been redacted so you can't see them if I were to give you a link.) The questions are

Discuss the way the writer explores ongoing change, referring to at least TWO specific aspects of written texts.

Discuss the way the writer explores the experience of danger, referring to at least TWO specific aspects of written texts.

Compare how the writers portray the ways people relate to rivers, referring to at least ONE specific aspect used in each text.

Here is an excellence exemplar: https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/nqfdocs/ncea-resource/exemplars/2014/91474-exp-2014-excellence.pdf

Synthesis essays 

The Geography exam provides 16 short articles, graphs, tables, and diagrams.You need to write 3 essays in 3 hours. Some of they resources you can see here, but they have redacted anything under copyright. 

https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/nqfdocs/ncea-resource/exams/2019/91429-res-2019.pdf

The questions from 2019 were: 

Comprehensively analyse how the environment (natural and/or cultural) makes parts of Italy suitable for the generation of solar energy.

Comprehensively analyse the changes in Italy’s electricity generation methods from 2010 to 2016.

‘Solar power is critical in ensuring the long-term sustainability of Italy’s environment.’ Critically evaluate the positive and negative impacts on the natural and/or cultural environment of solar farms to come to a justified conclusion about the future of solar power generation in Italy

Here is an excellence exemplar from 2017:  https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/nqfdocs/ncea-resource/exemplars/2017/91429-exp-2017-excellence.pdf  

Long form synthesis and analysis papers

My ds has completed a synthesis research paper for Geography and an analysis research paper for English in the last 4 months.  I can share them if you think it would help you understand the difference and the level of writing I am aiming for.

Hope that helps

Ruth in NZ

 

Edited by lewelma
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I'm curious how people adapt their program to the child throughout the year.  I have really struggled with this.  I'm not good with strict weekly/monthly deadlines like a school -- if my boy finishes an assignment early I feel like I could have used that time to teach him more, but if he isn't done by the due date, then I probably put too much in the program.  Because I have only taught every class once and maybe twice, I can't easily judge how much can be accomplished. For this reason, I have never used due dates.  We work until it is done to a mastery level.  But the problem with that approach, is it does not reward hard work or penalize laziness.  And both of my children have requested content goals rather than time goals because they find them more motivating.  It's just that I can't seem to get the content goals right.  Thoughts? 

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19 hours ago, lewelma said:

The key thing to know and believe is that *you* don't make suggestions, you ask *your child* what he wants to improve.

Thanks that made a lot of sense to me. What do you do if your child says they don't want to improve anything? That is what I anticipate my girls saying.

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1 hour ago, lewelma said:

I'm curious how people adapt their program to the child throughout the year.  I have really struggled with this.  I'm not good with strict weekly/monthly deadlines like a school -- if my boy finishes an assignment early I feel like I could have used that time to teach him more, but if he isn't done by the due date, then I probably put too much in the program.  Because I have only taught every class once and maybe twice, I can't easily judge how much can be accomplished. For this reason, I have never used due dates.  We work until it is done to a mastery level.  But the problem with that approach, is it does not reward hard work or penalize laziness.  And both of my children have requested content goals rather than time goals because they find them more motivating.  It's just that I can't seem to get the content goals right.  

I am not very good at planning ahead and I mostly get away with it, because my kids are little. But whenever I start to feel anxious, I look at one of those "what your third grader should know" books. I don't necessarily go by the book, but it feels reassuring to have some kind of reference.

Can you look at what kind of work local high school kids are doing, for a rough measure of how much you should be requiring? Or maybe college courses?

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I'm starting to think about what I'd like my 8 year old to do for writing next year. He'll be in the 4th grade. Right now, it's like pulling teeth to get him to write. His mechanics are great-- spelling and grammar are excellent, sentences are complex and varied. The trouble is that he is a perfectionist and agonizes over every word.

I've been thinking he'd actually benefit from a more formal approach to writing, so I'm planning to look at little essays with him and study their structure. I think that might demystify writing for him. I'd also like to teach him to make a simple outline. 

I'd like to have him work on descriptive writing as well. My husband has sometimes had him write a little sports "editorial" which has always gone well, so I think I'd like to have him do more of that.

 

Still turning ideas over in my mind, of course and it'll depend how he responds. I love that you started this thread!

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36 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

I am not very good at planning ahead and I mostly get away with it, because my kids are little. But whenever I start to feel anxious, I look at one of those "what your third grader should know" books. I don't necessarily go by the book, but it feels reassuring to have some kind of reference.

Can you look at what kind of work local high school kids are doing, for a rough measure of how much you should be requiring? Or maybe college courses?

I think back in the day I did use WTM books to get a sense of what to accomplish.  But once my kids hit highschool it became much trickier.  I apparently have very high standards as I wasn't convinced that my older was doing enough in high school and worried constantly about how much he *should* be doing, and now he is at MIT. So my expectations are clearly way way off.  With my younger having dysgraphia, there is such a disconnect between what he *could* do if he could write vs what he can do. Thus, I have basically found it impossible to make a week or month schedule of assignments.  Just can't do it.  But each of my boys prefers content goals over time goals, and I just can't seem to make it work.  I under estimate or over estimate how long things take. There is no rhyme or reason to my poor predictions. I have been homeschooling now for 15 years and have never figured this one out. 

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1 hour ago, lwest said:

Thanks that made a lot of sense to me. What do you do if your child says they don't want to improve anything? That is what I anticipate my girls saying.

I would suggest that you find a poorly worded piece of writing from another kid and have your child make suggestions to it.  If he/she can't think of anything, then you could help them see what could be improved.  But you would be attacking a *different* kid's writing, not going after what your kid wrote.  Over time I would expect that a child would start to see how the process works and try to improve their own work.

The other thing I would do is model.  You could write a letter to your mom and have your child watch (write it at her level not an adult level!).  Talk out loud about what you want to say and how you think about different options of how to say it.  Put some faults in your letter so you can go back and fix them. Edit a sentence to make it better. Talk through writing as a process.  Do this every week.  Eventually, a child will internalize that 'first draft, final draft' is not how great writing is made. 

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1 hour ago, square_25 said:

You probably don’t want my take, since I’m working with a 7 year old, right? We mostly  just keep chugging away on content, with the potential negative outcome of having to do more work that day if I judge a lack of effort. We’ve also added an external component this year with the Math Kangaroo, and that was good, I think.

But this is probably not helpful for working with an older kid...

I love all opinions.  I think you and others need to quit thinking that you have nothing to offer because you have not been homeschooling for very long!!  I think that when lots of voices kick around ideas, a more nuanced understanding is developed and explored. I'm also trying to give people questions to mull over to get this thread started and see if we can maintain it as a mega thread like Serendipitous Journey suggested. Hopefully, some other posters will come and help me out.  There are only so many questions I can come up with!

'Lack of effort' - I'm a bit wobbly about how to assess this.  My approach has always been to focus on self assessment.  How did you do today?  Have you done enough?  How can you improve tomorrow?  My younger boy has always been incredibly laid back and not very keen on academics.  At one point he informed me that "he didn't really fit in our family, because he found no joy in academic work." But over a decade of slow encouragement for self assessment, I have turned it around.  So point being, I wouldn't have a conversation about 'lack of effort' with a child because I run a collaborative homeschool with complete buy-in from my kids.

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6 minutes ago, lewelma said:

I love all opinions.  I think you and others need to quit thinking that you have nothing to offer because you have not been homeschooling for very long!!  

 

Yeah! It's not like we haven't all *been alive* and *thinking about stuff* this whole time!

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2 hours ago, lewelma said:

I'm curious how people adapt their program to the child throughout the year.  I have really struggled with this.  I'm not good with strict weekly/monthly deadlines like a school -- if my boy finishes an assignment early I feel like I could have used that time to teach him more, but if he isn't done by the due date, then I probably put too much in the program.  Because I have only taught every class once and maybe twice, I can't easily judge how much can be accomplished. For this reason, I have never used due dates.  We work until it is done to a mastery level.  But the problem with that approach, is it does not reward hard work or penalize laziness.  And both of my children have requested content goals rather than time goals because they find them more motivating.  It's just that I can't seem to get the content goals right.  Thoughts? 

For some reason I find high school easier to DIY than elementary. Maybe because there are fewer high quality resources available to wade theough at that level so it's not so overwhelming to choose?

Anyway, I've done world cultures and religion, journalism, and comparative government, and this next year am adding child development. I use as a guideline about an hour's worth of work per day per subject in my mind as a guideline. As I skim through the spine(s) I think about how long it will take to read each chapter. I find my kids can only really digest 15ish pages per day of textbook reading or a half hour of Great Courses lectures/notetaking without information overload happening. I usually plan for a day of discussion per chapter. If it's a GC lecture then I try to watch them with them and discuss afterwards.

Then I think about what output I want to see to demonstrate their learning and this is where my guesstimates about how long things will take usually get off track 😉 Sometimes an assignment takes wildly longer than I planned and I have to readjust what content we cover from then on out because it's very important to me (and my kids lol) to not have school take over our lives but to leave them time to pursue their interests. I don't like cutting content but as long as it's not math or science then I don't worry too much and just adjust my course descriptions to reflect  the reality of what we studied.

Less often I give too much time for an assignment and then it's just bonus free time for them. I don't sweat this either because I know we've already covered the content I wanted to.

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47 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I'm definitely stricter than you

I'm not sure about that.  I have high standards and my standards are generally met.  We keep strict school hours and work on very hard content and skills. 

I think the difference is that I spend a decent amount of time on buy-in, and organize my homeschool around cooperation and collaboration.  I read a book years and years ago that revolutionized how I parent and how I homeschool -- The Explosive Child.  (My older was an explosive child!) In it he argues for problem solving for issues so that both the parent and the child find the solution to be workable.  If later it is found that one party or the other is not satisfied with the agreement, you relitigate. I've followed his approach for 13 years, so I've gotten pretty good at it. 🙂   

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32 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

I find my kids can only really digest 15ish pages per day of textbook reading or a half hour of Great Courses lectures/notetaking without information overload happening......

I think this is where I get off track.  I'm pretty good with how long output will take, but taking in content I seem to get wrong over and over.  Do you actually give them daily assignments?

 I don't like cutting content but as long as it's not math or science then I don't worry too much and just adjust my course descriptions to reflect  the reality of what we studied.

I definitely readjust my courses over the year. This used to bother me, but now I see it more as adapting to my child as an individual.  I now make a list of what I would like to do knowing that I will always cut at least a third.  If I expect that I will drop content, it gives me permission and reduces stress.  It also lets me adapt by choosing which of the content is most suited to my kids developing interests as they learn more about the topic.  I'm sort of flexible within a strict structure. And I am more into skills than content, honestly.

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1 hour ago, lewelma said:

I think back in the day I did use WTM books to get a sense of what to accomplish.  But once my kids hit highschool it became much trickier.  I apparently have very high standards as I wasn't convinced that my older was doing enough in high school and worried constantly about how much he *should* be doing, and now he is at MIT. So my expectations are clearly way way off.  With my younger having dysgraphia, there is such a disconnect between what he *could* do if he could write vs what he can do. Thus, I have basically found it impossible to make a week or month schedule of assignments.  Just can't do it.  But each of my boys prefers content goals over time goals, and I just can't seem to make it work.  I under estimate or over estimate how long things take. There is no rhyme or reason to my poor predictions. I have been homeschooling now for 15 years and have never figured this one out. 

I mean your expectations clearly weren't way off -- if anything it sounds like you were right on track. Did you feel like you were constantly re-evaluating? Was it an intuitive process, or did you use outside measures? Curious because I do struggle sometimes with my kids to know how much they're capable of. And I feel like for me it's a constant process of feeling them out (mixed with some outside touchpoints).

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7 minutes ago, square_25 said:

but that specific day, we tend to butt heads. 

When my older was your daughter's age, when we butted heads it led to an explosion!  You should have seen it when I hid his AoPS book because he was crying for 2 hours a day by doing work that was too hard for him!

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30 minutes ago, square_25 said:

What happened when you hid his AoPS book?? 

Oh he raged. For hours, and then days.  But I would not give it back to him until he agreed to my conditions.  I believed it to be a mental health issue, because he would cry for hours a day, but refuse all help, and never stop working no matter how upset he got. And then he would punish himself with another hour of work if he got something wrong so continue to cry.  I told him he couldn't have the book back until he was willing to stop when he was crying and take a break. And he had to let me give him 30 minutes of help per week.  He was desperate to get the book back, so agreed, and things went better after that. 

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1 hour ago, lewelma said:

I think this is where I get off track.  I'm pretty good with how long output will take, but taking in content I seem to get wrong over and over.  Do you actually give them daily assignments?

No, I usually tell them they have X amount of days to read chapter Y and Z amount of days to do the associated output. If after X and Z have expired they're still way behind and I know they've put in at least an hour per day, we readjust.

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2 hours ago, square_25 said:

But it had to be HERS. 

My older boy considered any help of any kind to be *cheating.*  This obviously included me, but it also included written explanations/textbooks! He refused any help AT ALL in math at the age of 7. I have no idea how he learned fractions, because all he had was 5 step long word problems and a single numerical answer. He would not do any drill, would not look at any examples, would not discuss it.  He had to FIGURE IT OUT ON HIS OWN. This is why it took him multiple days of raging before he agreed to allow me to help him in math for just 30 minutes per *week*. He really needed that book back. 🙂 

But bringing this back to this thread's focus.  This boy had very very specific needs for his math.  The solution for him was created by Richard Rusczyk, who deeply understood kids like my kid.  My ds basically created a discovery program on his own for all of primary school math and PreA by taking a standard curriculum and discovering all the content without direct instruction. I worked hard to understand what *he* needed, and to provide it. In contrast to most other subjects, math is often easiest taught with a curriculum with a scope and sequence.  But not with my 2 boys.  My first could not use any program but AoPS, and could not tolerate university courses at the local uni either.  In fact, he could not tolerate undergrad math courses at MIT because of the direct teaching, and by his second term there, switched to graduate level courses.  This kid has to *discover*. 

But I'm sorry to say that my second boy ALSO could not use a math curriculum.  He has his brother's intuitive math brain but this is overlaid with dygraphia and an inability to *code* ideas.  This meant I wove together 6 PreA programs, and now am weaving 3 separate calculus programs.  So sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.  And for my 2 boys, that meant that I had to actually create math curriculum that was usable for them. I firmly believe that this was the right approach for *my* kids, but boy I would not recommend it if a satisfactory pre-purchased curriculum could be found. It is much much more fun to create a program of study in Science or English or Social Studies!

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1 hour ago, Momto6inIN said:

No, I usually tell them they have X amount of days to read chapter Y and Z amount of days to do the associated output. If after X and Z have expired they're still way behind and I know they've put in at least an hour per day, we readjust.

So my concern has always been the transition to university where the due dates are strict and there is no readjusting.  My older had no trouble with this switch, but I worry about my younger.  Do you have any due dates that are strict?

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2 hours ago, square_25 said:

Our biggest problem with DD7 has been is that she's become constitutionally unable to engage with other people's questions, unless they are exactly what she expected. She's getting more and more independent and more and more stuck on her own trains of thought. And I'm still trying to figure out what to do with that. 

How about having her give a formal presentation on her work and then answer formal questions.  Have her pretend she is a professor.  🙂 

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3 hours ago, Little Green Leaves said:

I mean your expectations clearly weren't way off -- if anything it sounds like you were right on track. Did you feel like you were constantly re-evaluating? Was it an intuitive process, or did you use outside measures? Curious because I do struggle sometimes with my kids to know how much they're capable of. And I feel like for me it's a constant process of feeling them out (mixed with some outside touchpoints).

Basically, I gauged how much I needed to do by reading the WTM and then coming here to discuss.  Back in the day, this board was known as being pretty hardcore (which 8 has mentioned), and it drove me to be a better homeschooler.  But it also caused to me to compare and find my homeschool wanting. As I tried to increase the amount and level of content we covered, my kids were like 'nope.'  This made me second guess whether I was doing enough. I also felt like my kids were not putting in nearly enough hours, my older would do 5.5hr/day max. So 28hr per week.  My younger has maxed out at 5hours 4 days per week. so 20 hours.  It just seemed like not enough. But over time I came to believe that they were learning in their own way in their off hours, and when my older boy applied to American schools, I created courses out of this self learning so that it could be recognized as 'real.'

When designing my own course of study for each of my boys, I always had huge dreams. I found so much I wanted to cover, and planned all summer.  Honestly, I never even followed one of my weekly plans for any subject.  I came to believe that "planning is essential, and plans are useless.' At first I worried about this, but over time I embraced the approach of having a big picture plan but then implementing it based on what each day gave me.  I have decided that I adapt.  That is just what I do.  To work well, a homeschool must accommodate the needs of the parent and the needs of the child.  So I needed a road map but not an implementation strategy.  

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2 hours ago, lewelma said:

I needed a road map but not an implementation strategy.  

This.  I discovered early on  that I hate using other people's lesson plans.  Then I discovered that spending hours making up my own still doesn't mean I'll follow them.  My dc are still well-educated, though,  because we use the road map to get back to the highway once we finish enjoying the detour.  

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7 hours ago, lewelma said:

So my concern has always been the transition to university where the due dates are strict and there is no readjusting.  My older had no trouble with this switch, but I worry about my younger.  Do you have any due dates that are strict?

This is one of those questions where my answers vary.  I know that sometimes I am responsible for my kids not being able to meet a due date (like when life becomes completely overwhelming and multiple things collide making time limited.)  I used to try to enforce more deadlines with my older kids bc I had the same worries, but I am pretty slack these days.  (My sr still hasn't finished her school yr even though the younger kids and I finished 2 weeks ago.  I equally figure it is her bed to lie in and the natural consequences are we are having fun and she is still doing school.)

My older kids haven't had any trouble adjusting to college deadlines or tests when neither were their norm.  I think part of it is bc they have a really strong foundation in knowing how to learn and maintaining pretty intense daily academic routine without a lot of hand holding.

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8 hours ago, lewelma said:

So my concern has always been the transition to university where the due dates are strict and there is no readjusting.  My older had no trouble with this switch, but I worry about my younger.  Do you have any due dates that are strict?

 

44 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

This is one of those questions where my answers vary.  I know that sometimes I am responsible for my kids not being able to meet a due date (like when life becomes completely overwhelming and multiple things collide making time limited.)  I used to try to enforce more deadlines with my older kids bc I had the same worries, but I am pretty slack these days.  (My sr still hasn't finished her school yr even though the younger kids and I finished 2 weeks ago.  I equally figure it is her bed to lie in and the natural consequences are we are having fun and she is still doing school.)

My older kids haven't had any trouble adjusting to college deadlines or tests when neither were their norm.  I think part of it is bc they have a really strong foundation in knowing how to learn and maintaining pretty intense daily academic routine without a lot of hand holding.

Sometimes I had to get strict about a due date with 2nd DS because he was/is the one of my 3 older kids who is most likely to goof off and put his work off in favor of more fun stuff (although he's still really good about it in comparison to most teens IME). Older DS and DD16 are less likely to do that so I am more understanding and apt to think it's a problem with my scheduling and not their work effort. Too soon to tell yet about my 3 younger kids. One of them in particular tends towards laziness and I might have to have strict deadlines with real consequences (not just a bad grade, she doesn't care much about those 😞) to motivate her.

Much like 8, I have mellowed as I've got more experience as a hs mom. I'm nowhere near as experienced as she is, but I've graduated 2 and over our 6 years of high school experience I've realized that they are learning so much and developing real skills even if we don't complete my whole syllabus in just the way I envisioned. Oldest D'S has had no problem adjusting to college life with deadlines. 2nd D'S just graduated this spring and has only 1 DE course under his belt, but he did fine with that.

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8 minutes ago, square_25 said:

My current issue is kind of the opposite -- I'm still not finding a need to plan at all, and I'm starting to worry about whether all this "winging it" is going to come back and bite me. Or is this basically just fine given that DD7 is still pretty little? 

I spend lots and lots and lots of time soaking in ideas and experiences and people's thoughts on how their kids learn, and I find integrating all that data absolutely invaluable. However, I also have very limited content goals for the foreseeable future, so as a result, I simply have no idea what DD7 is going to be interested in, which makes it hard to prepare ahead of time. I had no clue DD7 was going to spend the second half of this year taking notes on viruses, learning everything there was to learn about them, and learning a surprising amount of high school level biology in the process. We've stopped doing science other than reading Horrible Science and this writing project, because this is already more science than I expected out of her. 

So then the question is... how essential is planning? What kind of planning is useful and what kind of planning winds up being a waste of effort? At what point does winging it (that is, learning alongside the kid, because you didn't expect the project to materialize at all) become detrimental? 

I never create plans for my kids prior to 3rd or 4th grade (just depends).  Winging it when they are older has multiple drawbacks. My kids like to see everything laid out that the need to get done during the day.  They are often up and working at 5 am.  Having plans means they can start and know their daily objectives without having to interact with me.  For us, it also keeps us accountable. Winging it for us means getting lost in the forest bc we lose sight of our long-term progression goals/objectives.  Plans draw us back to where we need to be to keep progressing forward.  Our lives can get pretty crazy, so having plans also keeps us on track even if life is falling apart. 

My kids also like having a clear academic calendar.  We all focus more and are more productive when we know what are school days and what are vacation days.  So, if we have 7 weeks of plans followed by a week off, we can plow through that 7th week even though we are feeling done simply bc we know that our week off is there. 

But I am the antithesis of any unschooling bent.  We are very interest-led, but it is within the bounds of my control.

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2 minutes ago, square_25 said:

That makes sense to me. Thank you :-). 

How detailed do your plans tend to be? 

Depends on the subject.  Some are simply pg numbers.  Some are detailed questions to research.  Some are a mixture of both with *see me* highlighted and then a list of notes to myself to remind me what I wanted to discuss.  Some are subjects we do together and I list resources that we will be using that day and base it on time vs. specific progression.  None are written for more than 6-9 weeks (more typically 8 is the max).  That allows me to adjust expectations as we go and allow for new directions to emerge without having wasted tons of time on written plans we won't use.  We do use my plans.  My resources and yr long goals are written down by month by month, just not detailed.

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6 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Cool, that makes sense. How long does it take you to plan out your next 6-9 weeks? Do you get all the resources for those weeks in advance and then plan? 

I have the resources for the entire yr. Planning a yr's course (resources, scope/sequence, thinking about varied paths we might take instead) takes a significant amt of time.  FOr younger kids, not as long as say a high school history course.  Writing the actual day to day plans used to take me a long time.  That part is the least time consuming thing I do these days.

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It sounds like there are a lot of people in this thread who are talking about teaching writing, and are talking sometimes about young kids (like K-3), and not just handwriting practice or copywork or oral narration. And I've heard people elsewhere say their kids need to be doing some type of written composition every day. I'm wondering, why is that important? 

Mystie Winckler makes an argument here https://www.simplyconvivial.com/2016/teach-writing-without-curriculum/ and I wonder what people think about it? She basically says that before age 10-11 you should just focus on filling the kids up with excellent language (memorizing poetry, Shakespeare, lots of read alouds), because at 7-9 years old you will spend 2-3 years painfully teaching kids skills that are acquired very quickly in middle school, and that good writing is essentially about having interesting things to say in internalized, high-quality language patterns (which they won't yet have properly at 7). I'm inclined to agree. I don't know, though, my oldest is 10 and writing is easy for him. Just wondering what people think.

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20 minutes ago, Florimell said:

Most writing curricula privilege formal, academic writing, and trying to get most young kids to do so is very difficult. It isn't intuitive or inherently interesting, and it requires a level of abstract thinking that most children are simply not yet ready to do. If you wait until they are older, than most kids are able to think in the abstract, organized ways required to construct a formal paragraph or a short essay with topic sentences, transitions, details, and so on. This seems to be the point the author of the link you posted makes. I also think that some kids can be MADE to do this type of writing before they are naturally ready, but it takes a lot of work and daily practice. It just isn't easy or enjoyable at all, so a lot of kids rebel in one way or another and start to hate writing. Some kids struggle with putting thoughts together in formal, academic ways into and through high school. Teaching writing is as much about teaching thinking as it is about stringing words together and putting them down on a page. I also think that you can only get so far by internalizing high-quality language patterns. In order to learn to write, you need to write, and the more you do, the easier it gets. Also, kids have interesting things to say if they have interesting things to think about, and that comes not just from reading high-quality texts, but from the back-and-forth of conversation, from truly listening to their thoughts, and engaging with them on topics they bring up.

I think many kids are natural storytellers from a very young age, and many of them want to express themselves in writing in a variety of ways. The key is to have writing tasks that are developmentally appropriate for the kid you are working with. There are many ways to approach this. For example, I think that 8FillThe Heart's Treasured Conversations is an excellent example of how you can lay a foundation for solid, academic writing in the early years without asking too much of kids. In our house, I present a wide variety of writing activities, give my kids a lot of choice, offer encouragement and help as needed, and am an engaged reader of their work. My writing requirements are pretty minimal compared to many on these boards, and I have delayed teaching formal academic writing entirely until middle school. Before then, we focus on things like purpose, language, audience, structure, and other higher order concerns. This can be done by asking them, for example, to compare (or create) birthday cards intended for adults and children, or to design a cereal box for a new kids' cereal. I don't formally assign writing every day or even every week, but my kids write all the time of their own accord and for their own reasons. As they are getting older, my expectations are increasing, but they are still flexible.

Thanks for the tip on Treasured Conversations! I will look at that. I think I just have a block about teaching writing. I love planning our curriculum, I love teaching basically every subject -- except writing. Either I hate having to make them write when they don't want to (because I don't want it to be a chore, which is why I don't assign reading either), or I hate having to somehow help them with their mistakes without criticizing them to death. It's like my self-designed curriculum is a beautiful, detailed map, and then for writing it's just a blank sea with "thar be dragons" on it. (Or I guess it would be a kraken in the sea, lol.)

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2 hours ago, Emily ZL said:

It sounds like there are a lot of people in this thread who are talking about teaching writing, and are talking sometimes about young kids (like K-3), and not just handwriting practice or copywork or oral narration. And I've heard people elsewhere say their kids need to be doing some type of written composition every day. I'm wondering, why is that important? 

Mystie Winckler makes an argument here https://www.simplyconvivial.com/2016/teach-writing-without-curriculum/ and I wonder what people think about it? She basically says that before age 10-11 you should just focus on filling the kids up with excellent language (memorizing poetry, Shakespeare, lots of read alouds), because at 7-9 years old you will spend 2-3 years painfully teaching kids skills that are acquired very quickly in middle school, and that good writing is essentially about having interesting things to say in internalized, high-quality language patterns (which they won't yet have properly at 7). I'm inclined to agree. I don't know, though, my oldest is 10 and writing is easy for him. Just wondering what people think.

 

I generally agree with the article you linked. But I think writing also has a lot to do with organization and mental clarity. It's not just about learning language patterns and having experiences; it's also about being able to communicate effectively. 

I used to tutor adults who were failing their college writing courses. Some of them were recent immigrants who had trouble with the language itself. But others were people who didn't have major mechanical problems, but who had just never learned how to organize their ideas. They weren't able to provide details, give explanations, or create arguments. They also weren't used to thinking about their audience. As a result, they were weak writers.

I don't know what that has to do with kids, of course -- I guess I'm just thinking about writing in general, and how it works.

My oldest kid is just in the third grade now, and I don't have him do a lot of compositions. I do have him do oral narrations every day, because I think that's a great way to practice organizing and communicating ideas. And he does copy work, and he reads a ton of good books. He does little compositions now and then. He also writes stories. They come out (in my opinion) really great.

My goal for next year is to get him more comfortable with writing. Right now, if anything all the examples of great writing that he takes in have played on his perfectionist tendencies and he is always fretting over his word choice or about which order to put his sentences : ) I think in his case, having him do something slightly more formal (not every day) might help, because he is an analytical kid and it might be liberating for him to be able to break down how writing works. But we'll see -- I could be wrong. 

 

 

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On 6/7/2020 at 6:47 PM, lewelma said:

I under estimate or over estimate how long things take. There is no rhyme or reason to my poor predictions. I have been homeschooling now for 15 years and have never figured this one out. 

This dogs me as well, but mostly with my oldest. We finally found out in 11th grade that he has slow processing speed and suddenly all the pieces clicked into place. I finally understood why something that ought to have taken a half hour took him 2.  Still makes it very hard to accurately figure out how long something will take him.

23 hours ago, square_25 said:

Thanks! I like all opinions, too, but I do wonder how relevant my opinion about my 7 year old is going to be to someone teaching a kid in high school ;-). 

 

My kids are both in high school now and it’s easy for me to forget exactly how we did things when they were smaller.  Your voice is important especially for those who are at the same level you are. If you have an idea that’s working for you, it’s good to share it. People can still have great ideas even if their kids aren’t at upper levels yet.

16 hours ago, klmama said:

This.  I discovered early on  that I hate using other people's lesson plans.  Then I discovered that spending hours making up my own still doesn't mean I'll follow them.  My dc are still well-educated, though,  because we use the road map to get back to the highway once we finish enjoying the detour.  

I don’t like other people’s lesson plans either.  I used to revamp my own plans about 3 times a year in most subjects.  I might still use the same resources, but in different ways.  

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This year my boys switched to a cyber school.  I’m happy with it.  So, anything I write about homeschooling is from the past 11 years and not this year.  Just so you know why I will talk in past tense.

 

I loved planning a class. One thing I started doing 9 years ago, when my oldest was in 3rd grade was to start compiling random bits of information for different subjects and different grades into OneNote.  I created a Notebook called “Future Curriculum Ideas”.  Across the top were tabs of each grade. Down the side of each grade was a page of each subject.  

Whenever I’d read something interesting about something that might be done for 6th grade science, for example, I’d open the Future notebook, find the 6th grade tab and the science page and add the link to what I saw or a description or I’d cut and paste the idea.  

When 6th grade rolled around, I already had a few ideas in there. I was constantly reading the WTM boards and constantly adding to that folder.  Like...daily.  For 9 years.

A few years into it, I also started a “College” notebook. If you start reading about College stuff it’s 100% overwhelming, but having all that information saved over all those years really helped me to get my mind wrapped around it.  When high school hit, I was so glad I had some information in the college notebook and I kept adding more and more every time something that looked useful was brought up on a thread.

 

The boards here usually have a “xth grade planning thread” every year.  And even if they don’t have them anymore (now that I’m looking, I realize there really IS a distinct lack of educational threads on the boards right now), I can search for past ones.  When it was time to start planning X grade, I would find some of the old (or a new) “xth grade planning thread” and study it. 

That always got me going.  By the time I’d read a few of those threads and had looked through my notes that I’d been compiling over the year, I could start to piece something together. 

Sometimes I was clever enough to think, “My child needs to improve in Y area.”  Other times, I wasn’t exactly sure where they needed improvement, but just knew we needed to keep learning and I’d start piecing stuff together for us to learn in the coming year.

Sometimes I’d stick with a curric and leave it alone, usually for math, with no or a little supplementing.  For my oldest, I ended up overworking him in math for a couple of years, where I had him do 2 curriculums.  But that’s because I didn’t realize he had slow processing speed, and he SHOULD have been able to do them in a relatively short period of time, but he COULDN’T.  I reeeeeally wish I’d understood that earlier!  Poor kid!

 

Often, I’d have something that was mostly a spine, but it had a lot of wiggle room to mix it up the way we liked.  Like for SOTW.  I could only find about 10% of the recommended books in the library, so I’d just search in the library for books on the topic and check a few of those out to read for that weeks’ lesson.  I could pick and choose which other activities we wanted to do.  And I’d add in various field trips to anything historic I could think of!  Like, the time we learned about Marco Polo, we took a mile-long walk to the nearest Chinese restaurant and pretended we were Europeans on the Silk road passing by famous locations on our way to China as we walked. 

 

Even at the high school level, I’ve been able to pull together some lovely classes for my oldest son (youngest is in 9th grade this year at the cyber school.). The process wasn’t much different than the process for younger kids, though I had a better idea of what areas he needed to improve (simply more experience on my part as a teacher) and I felt like I better understood how much work to give out to a high schooler.  I can barely remember a single thing from my own education before 9th or 10th grade, but I do remember high school.

For things like a high school English class, I would find maybe a couple of worksheets on a few grammatical things to review.  I found a list of figurative language to review from time to time.  Mostly I concentrated on finding solid classic novels to read and on teaching how to write a solid persuasive essay.  I used various spines for teaching writing.  And for the literature side, sometimes we used things like Cliffs Notes (there are a lot of those out there—Spark Notes, Shmoop, etc.) or I’d use a literature guide, which are little workbooks created for various high school novels.  Sometimes we’d just discuss anything I could think of to discuss in the book.  Now that I”m in my 40s, I have lived long enough to really delve into some of these books and see things that my own teen or 20-something year old self would never have seen, and we’d discuss.  

For science, after Bio, I outsourced it. But even then, I researched all the options and tried to find the best fit for my son.  

Speaking of science, for an elective my son wanted to learn astronomy.  Since it was an elective, I didn’t make it too technical, but it was a lot of fun to plan that class.  I used a Great Course (these are lecture series you can buy on DVD or to download) as the spine, and found all sorts of fun books to supplement the spine with and even found about 6 or 7 high school level astronomy labs we could do.

Photography was a blast for me because I a serious photography hobbyist.  I used another Great Course as a spine and then had him do a bunch of photography projects that I either made up on my own or searched online for.  It was all me just sitting there brainstorming for ideas and googling for other ideas.

 

I did a homemade Ancient Egypt class for high school where we finally (!) mummified a chicken.  But since he wasn’t a little kid, he did the whole thing by himself. And we used a Cornish hen so it would fit better into the plastic bag.  That was an elective class and it was a blast to create. We used yet another Great Course as a spine (his slow processing speed makes it hard for him to read...watching videos is much better for him and he retains much more.) I had him write his own Egyptian fable.  I had him create a travel brochure, as if he was someone who provided tours to Egypt and he had to figure out where to take a tour group in Egypt (and how much it would cost to get there.). I was just making up activities on my own.  We read a few supplemental history books together. I found a piece of historical fiction that was just fluff, but the author had done a good job of researching Ancient Egypt, so the accurate setting and Egyptian mindset of the characters brought some of what he’d learned that year to life.  

 

Basically, overall, I find some sort of “spine.”  Either that spine is what we do for that class all year, without any extras (like with most math.). Or maybe it’s the spine with some supplements.  Or maybe it’s not a big enough spine to fill a class, and that’s when it gets magical.  That’s when I pull all sorts of other books into the mix or videos or field trips.  That’s when I have to sit there and be super creative and dream up things. 

I do all the dreaming up of things and gathering of materials in the spring and early summer.  Then during late summer, I spread out what I have for each subject and figure out how many days a week I’ll teach each subject.  When I have a rough idea of how much to do for each subject each week (like “we need to do one chapter a week of this science text, plus one experiment a month), then the nitty-gritty planning is done weekly.  I sit there on Sunday afternoons making the week’s plan and creating anything that needs to be created for that week (photocopying things, finding links to things online, etc.)

 

Ok...I could probably keep going, but my fingers are tired!

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Do you all have any tips for a good English 11/12 homemade class? I want to combine my students. I haven't found anything I like and I really need my own face time with the kids for this class. I haven't been too happy with what happens when they outsource, and especially not their classes in the PS. 

I have a few anthologies of great essays, short stories, and similar types of writing and I thought for the composition semester we could read a selection or 2, discuss what makes them special, and then write their own piece inspired by the day's selection, but not like IEW imitation- I'm more a a MCT fan. We'd do different types but the focus would be writing every day and the reading would be to facilitate the writing.

For the lit semester, I'd pick books I want to use, discuss them, have a little essay for each book or two, but I'm not sure if I need more. I hate, hate, hate, workbooky comprehension questions. I always feel like they are so lame and a waste of time- "How do you think Jane feels when her grandmother dies, and her house is destroyed, and she fails her test?" 🤢 I've looked at AP English and Comp syllabi , and find them uninspiring. 

What do your homemade high school English courses look like? 

 

 

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13 minutes ago, Paige said:

What do your homemade high school English courses look like? 

I pick what types of writing I want them to work on (basic essay, lit analysis, research paper) and focus on that for the composition portion of the credit. I do use IEW but your plan sounds very very good! Then I have a list of great and good books that I either have read or am willing to read and feel like I can discuss intelligently and then them choose from that list. Then they read and we discuss and that's it for the literature portion of the credit 🙂 Usually about 1 book per month. Once a week I have them do a Vocabulary from Clasical Roots exercise.

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7 hours ago, Emily ZL said:

It sounds like there are a lot of people in this thread who are talking about teaching writing, and are talking sometimes about young kids (like K-3), and not just handwriting practice or copywork or oral narration. And I've heard people elsewhere say their kids need to be doing some type of written composition every day. I'm wondering, why is that important? 

 

I like SWB's philosophy on teaching writing and used her products daily, but my dd liked writing, so we did a Bravewriter style free write once a week too. She enjoyed the different style and writing whatever she had to say, and she showed me often enough that I could see that gradual improvement in punctuation and spelling was happening! My dd always did better with skill based subjects if I used two completely different teaching methods at the same time. Somehow there'd be a crash point somewhere in the middle that moved her forward. I don't know if all kids are like that.

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3 hours ago, Paige said:

Do you all have any tips for a good English 11/12 homemade class? I want to combine my students. I haven't found anything I like and I really need my own face time with the kids for this class. I haven't been too happy with what happens when they outsource, and especially not their classes in the PS. 

I have a few anthologies of great essays, short stories, and similar types of writing and I thought for the composition semester we could read a selection or 2, discuss what makes them special, and then write their own piece inspired by the day's selection, but not like IEW imitation- I'm more a a MCT fan. We'd do different types but the focus would be writing every day and the reading would be to facilitate the writing.

For the lit semester, I'd pick books I want to use, discuss them, have a little essay for each book or two, but I'm not sure if I need more. I hate, hate, hate, workbooky comprehension questions. I always feel like they are so lame and a waste of time- "How do you think Jane feels when her grandmother dies, and her house is destroyed, and she fails her test?" 🤢 I've looked at AP English and Comp syllabi , and find them uninspiring. 

What do your homemade high school English courses look like? 

 

 

For your composition semester, have your students formally learned literary analysis?  Like with something like Windows to the World?  If they haven’t, a formal study of literary analysis may be beneficial.  We used Windows to the World, but I picked through which lessons I wanted to teach and I didn’t use the whole thing. The reason I’m asking is because it sounds like your focus is to read selections and use what you’re reading as examples to help them write. A formal study of literary analysis will help your students to understand what it is about the stories you’re reading that makes them special. If they’ve already studied literary analysis, then maybe refresh with them the various things they learned in lit analysis throughout the year. 

For the lit semester, I’ve found that for each book I’ve assigned my son, I could manage to search the web for inspiration for discussion topics on that book. Everything I did with my son was different depending on the book, so I can’t give a blanket, “Do this for literature.” 

Sometimes when we’d study a book, I’d read the chapters ahead of time and jot notes in the margin of things I wanted to talk to him about. Then he would read the chapters and he would jot notes and at the end of the day’s reading, we’d talk about our notes we jotted.  Other times, I’d read the book aloud to him and I’d pause in the reading when something meaty to discuss came up. Honestly, I found that if I chose a substantial book to read with my son, it was easy to come up with things to say about it. There’s a reason certain books are classics, and it’s because they’re full of so much food for thought.

Other times, if I wasn’t feeling inspired from my own reading, I’d rely on shmoop or another guide like that to research for things to discuss in the book. Those little guides can be helpful to bring out an insight I might not have known or thought of on my own. I would sometimes use a resource like that more for myself than for my student, and other times, I’d have my son read something from it directly. (I only used free guides I could find online, like shmoop.)

Like I said before, I’d try to do research on each book one-by-one and I’d often find a little gem somewhere online to add dimension to the lesson.  It might be a book review that I found. Or it might be a literary article on the book.  Or maybe it would be a biography of the author that shed light onto why they wrote the book they did.  Google always found something different for each book we studied.  

I agree that a lot of the guides for students have insipid, thoughtless questions for them to consider. I’ve had to take the time to read through all sorts of boring guides and syllabi to find a gem or two for each book, but with enough time, I could usually unearth something. 

 

Edited by Garga
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I was going to focus on other types of writing in the composition semester. Those readings would typically be much shorter selections and heavy on nonfiction. I was even going to pull some short prose- like 4-5 lines- to discuss and work with. I've had this book for years and have wanted to work with it but could never find a good place. I'll add to that the Elegant Essay, and then MCT's Thinkers. I think that would give me more than enough material for a semester because I also want time for a research paper.

I don't know what kind of literary analysis they have done. They were in PS for a few years before last and when I ask what they did, I get "nothing." I know one of them had some exposure in Lukeion, and he did well, so I guess he's ok. Literary analysis is not my flavor of ice cream, however. I find much of it speculative. I'm all for critically thinking about and discussing literature, but I don't want to imagine I know what someone else's thoughts or intents were when writing. 

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19 hours ago, Paige said:

What do your homemade high school English courses look like? 

I do half and half - 1) composition: writing publishable real-life essays/speeches and 2) analyzing literature.

For real-life non-school composition, I have my children pick 2 pieces they want to mimic and then we study the form for hours and days before attempting to mimic it.  My older did an Economist information science article and a Scientific American persuasive opinion.  My younger did a creative writing short story and a National Geographic article.  The purpose is to learn to write content that is of publishable quality, rather than just school essays. My younger will also do a formal speech after studying works by JFK, MLK, Churchill, Ardern, etc. The focus will be on analyzing effective rhetorical devices, and then writing and delivering a speech. 

For Literary analysis, my older did 6 response papers on Post-Modern Lit and 20 one-page literary analysis essays on short poems and creative nonfiction.  My younger is doing a year of Pride and Prejudice, with 1) a research paper comparing internal vs external enforcement of conformity between Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and Jane Eyre.  2) He will then do 5 essays analyzing P&P's themes, characters, setting, etc. 

Each child focused on what they found interesting.  My older was on writing science for a lay audience, and then analyzing post modern lit and poetry.  My younger has focused on writing creative fiction and creative nonfiction, and then analyzing 19th C novels.  By choosing what they write about, the course helps them focus on skills that are more useful and more interesting to them. 

Edited by lewelma
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Since we will be studying the Middle Ages this year, I am currently designing an Intro to Medieval Art History for my 6th grader because I have failed to find anything on that topic for middle school. I looked up art history on old posts here and found that folks were recommending Art History by Marilyn Stokstad. Fortunately, it appears to have been broken up into portable editions, so I was able to find the Medieval one used for cheap. The text is a bit too much for middle school, but I looked through it for an outline, focusing on what artworks or themes I think dd should have a passing familiarity with, such as the Haggia Sophia, Bayeaux tapestry, Romanesque architecture, etc. either what makes them unique, or what the defining features are. I stumbled upon a website called smarthistory.com, which has a whole syllabus on Art History. The articles appear to be short and not overly detailed, plus there are links to short videos, so I will pick and choose from their content what fits with the outline I made. Plus, there are videos and books we can borrow from the library. As far as output goes, I am thinking of letting her choose one piece, artist or style and write about it somehow or other - ie: why she likes something, comparing it to something else, what it was influenced by, etc.

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5 hours ago, OKBud said:

 

On the underlined: Yeah, don't do that. Just do not. Simple as that. If it is riddled with mistakes, it's probably too difficult. If there are only, say, three mistakes, choose one and say "hmm this doesn't look (or sound) correct. Come look at it with me and let's see..." and if she can't see the error, just tell her. Just the one. She'll make the other errors again 🙂 

Thank you, yes, this is really the advice I needed. I've mostly "outsourced" writing by having him do Writing & Rhetoric, which he is happy with. I just didn't know how or whether to correct his errors.

I forgot to mention how I design my own curriculum. 

Here are the steps: 

1. Research and choose the perfect resource for each kid for each subject.

2. Remember how much work it is to create the plans and adjust all year with 6 young kids.

3. Choose a prepackaged curriculum with ready-made lesson plans.

4. Follow the plans and almost immediately start substituting and adjusting.

5. Go on a shopping spree and buy all the materials I picked out in Step 1.

6. Implement my new plans, constantly readjusting, and swear that next year I'm just going to find a boxed curriculum and do it as written.

7. Repeat.

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