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lewelma

Let's discuss how to design your own curriculum

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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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1 hour ago, Emily ZL said:

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? 

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, then 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 through high school (and into college, as I routinely saw). 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.

Edited by Florimell
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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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1 hour ago, Florimell said:

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.

I do have DD7 do some writing every day, but then she is NOT a natural storyteller and would not write on her own! If I judge from my kids, I would conclude that "all kids are natural engineers," because mine certainly are, and DD7 builds some sort of complicated structure every single day... but that's probably a function of my kids having two parents who are mathematicians and also enthusiastic programmers. 

Having experimented with DD7, her preferred projects are not creative and instead involve synthesizing information. This is why I advocate so much for working with your kid to come up with a program -- I think Florimell is absolutely right about not pushing early academic writing onto kids, but the kinds of projects that DD7 does happily and willingly are very different from the kinds of project that Florimell's kids do. Currently, DD7 is taking notes on a complicated adult-level book about viruses and she's planning to write an essay about viruses when she's finally done figuring it all out. Would I suggest this project for most kids? Absolutely not. Is she having a blast? Definitely -- I check in with her all the time, and she's loving all the learning. 

Kids are all very different! If you keep your writing goals in mind and think of the writing you do daily as small steps towards your eventual goals, this all gets less scary, I think :-). 

Edited by square_25
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11 minutes ago, square_25 said:

This is why I advocate so much for working with your kid to come up with a program

Yes, exactly. There are so many variables at play that it is impossible to give one-size-fits-all advice regarding writing because every family's situation is unique. I think there are a few ways to get it really wrong, but a lot of ways to get it right, and they all start with knowing the kids you are teaching, knowing what they are capable of doing, and knowing your own goals for them.

Edited by Florimell
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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.  

Edited by Garga
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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!

Edited by Garga
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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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16 hours ago, Emily ZL said:

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.)

 

Oh I can answer this!

On the bolded: you gotta frog-in-a-pot them. Build up. They can hate it all day long if they want, but speaking aloud a short narration, which you write for them and then read aloud (so that they hear it too) *is* writing and it won't hurt them even if they're not enthusiastic about it. YOU be enthusiastic, or at least placidly pleasant LOL. Then when you move onto the next step, them writing their own little things, you have to anticipate that they are going to seem to go like 7 steps back in ability, because of course it's more difficult to write it than to say it. But they'll get the hang of it and after a time, they'll be moving on and again will seem to regress, but only because they are combining actions and ideas. 

Likewise with having assigned reading. Just assign a little if you're unsure of yourself here. Get an Elson reader (or whatever) below level and buddy read one passage every couple of days, if necessary. Then assign short selections....then assign short books....so on and so forth until you can tell them they need to read something and they won't threaten to never read again because of it 😄 

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 🙂 

In general, when we are in the weeds it seems like every discreet period of time or period of development is *it.* It's always going to be that way. But it will not. Start small, keep moving, expect setbacks, keep moving anyway. 

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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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I think being a writing teacher like being a violin teacher.  Our music teacher could play the exact same basic piece and make it sound like it should be a solo at Carnegie Hall.  So what does he do when he hears a young kid play this basic piece so poorly?  He picks the ONE thing that could be improved that will make the most impact and still be within the capability of the kid.  He focuses on a single thing for a month, before adding in ONE more thing. He does not expect mastery with each concept taught, not even after a year or even 10. There is simply no way that my kids would have continued with violin if he had pointed out all the errors with their playing a basic piece, nor could they have gotten any better. 

For writing, you work on ONE thing, and ignore the rest of the errors and possible improvements. What ONE thing will make the biggest impact?

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1 hour ago, Emily ZL said:

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

Story of my life.  However, I will say that reading all the writing curriculum that I have read, has made me better able to design my own courses and made me a better teacher.  

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On 6/7/2020 at 1:30 PM, 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? 

I'm thinking through this question now. 

In the past, I've used a stricter schedule (not hard deadlines, but checklists) for covering a certain amount of content.  But, I think I've chosen too much content, thinking that I'd just leave stuff out, but finding that I felt obligated to finish it all. This year, I am choosing much less content, to leave room for exploration and to focus on skill development (in the context of learning the content).  

For example, DD wanted to continue to study history on the 4 year cycle next year. Instead of continuing with OUP (which neither of us feels is particularly well written, and which ends up being a lot of content, leaving us no room for exploration or new skill development) we chose 6 books from the Lucent Library of History series. She chose some topics that looked interesting to her, I rounded out the selections with topics that seemed important to learn. I'm planning (tentatively, this is a work in-progress) to have her read just 2-4 chapters per week (depending on length and complexity of chapter). For each chapter, she will try / practice a different style of notetaking. I'm going to sit down with her and review outlining and mind mapping, and introduce Cornell and box method. I'd like her to have some familiarity with the different styles so she can figure out what works best for her. I'll also assign one written narration every week or two. This won't necessarily be a narration - it might be an essay or project. We will pull additional resources as needed (assuming our library opens - if not, then online resources or abebooks.com - my not-so-secret vice).

So the goals would be to cover all 6 books, but also to produce a certain amount of output. I need to figure out what that output will be. It might include: certain number of timeline entires, certain # of biographical sketches, certain number of historical summaries / narratives, certain number of public speaking assignments (no one to speak to mid-pandemic, so she'll just have to speak to her family or friends by zoom), etc... 

DD also struggles with time goals and finds them frustrating. We're struggling with that right now in piano. I talked to her teacher, who is going to make a "map" of her learning goals so she can have more concrete things to work towards. 

I'd love to hear how your thoughts evolve on this topic, as mine are definitely a work in progress.

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On 6/7/2020 at 3:47 PM, 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 think this is where it's helpful for us as parent/teachers to have a global, big picture understanding of whatever the subject is. If we have that bird's eye view, we can adapt to our child much more in the moment. When I don't have that global view, I feel obligated to finish everything. By global view, I mean a sense of what types of skills need to be mastered. For writing, that might be analysis, synthesis, persuasion, etc. 

For a subject like math or grammar, I feel like it's pretty easy if you use a standard curriculum (as opposed to making your own).  The child does the next thing, aiming for mastery.  (With DS, the mastery thing has proven to be very difficult. We're in the middle of an eval, but basically, he has a lot of mental disorganization, so even if he totally understands a concept and knows how to do it, he'll often get the answer wrong because he can't organize his brain or his paper. Even with tons of scaffolding... For him, I do keep him moving along to the next level, but we do a LOT of review alongside.)

For something like history or literature, there is a certain body of content I hope they will get through, but more and more, I'm trying to make a mental shift to see these subjects more as mediums through which to learn certain skills.  But skills are hard to "schedule" as assignments because you can't necessarily master the skill the first go around. So I'm trying now to think of it more as skill exposure than as skill mastery.  I want to think through certain assignments that might work on various skills, and once we've given that a good try, even if the output isn't to my standard (which is usually too high because I can't remember what it was like to be 10 or 12 or 14 or 16), we'll move on, knowing we'll circle back to those skills again, or keep trying to build on those skills in the future. 

A lot of this is a real time mental shift for me over the past year or so, so I'm still trying to work it out and articulate my thoughts.

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3 hours ago, Emily ZL said:

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.

Oh my goodness this is me!! I told myself I wasn't going to make my own curricula this year. I purchased lit guides from MP. I purchased the lesson plans from MP. Yet what am I now doing? I am fully engaged in this discussion of how to design your own curricula, and I'm already tweaking the MP stuff like crazy! 

 

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16 minutes ago, JHLWTM said:

I think this is where it's helpful for us as parent/teachers to have a global, big picture understanding of whatever the subject is. If we have that bird's eye view, we can adapt to our child much more in the moment. When I don't have that global view, I feel obligated to finish everything. By global view, I mean a sense of what types of skills need to be mastered. For writing, that might be analysis, synthesis, persuasion, etc. 

My younger is currently studying Organic Chemistry.  There are 2 national exams he will be taking at the end of November (the end of our school year), so I know the exact content he must complete.  I would like him to finish this content by then plus the related spectroscopy unit. But I find it very difficult to pace this content, and we are currently 1.5 weeks behind where I thought we would be at week 7. My frustration is that it does not help him to have set content to do for the week if it is harder for him than I expect, because then he just can't get it done on time.  I am very against working to a schedule like what is done at school, where it ends up you don't master the content, but rather just keep pace as best as you can.  So my approach has always been to have a general goal for the day/week, and then have something that can be thrown out.  For us, it will be the spectroscopy unit.  But what I would really like to do is set up a 6 week schedule and then readjust after 6 weeks to align with what has or has not been accomplished.  Perhaps I make 4-day goals with the 5th day for catch up.  The reason I have not done this, is that every time I try, my estimates are off and the plans worthless. This is why I go with the flow. And my kids really like just learning rather than keeping to a schedule.  I think it is the unschooler in me.  🙂 

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24 minutes ago, JHLWTM said:

 

For something like history or literature, there is a certain body of content I hope they will get through, but more and more, I'm trying to make a mental shift to see these subjects more as mediums through which to learn certain skills.

I definitely have more of a skill focus than a content focus.  For my ds's geography research papers on an issue, we are focused on researching, perspectives, comparing and contrasting multiple solutions to issues.  The issue chosen doesn't matter. He chose to look at the dairy cattle from the point of the farmer, tourism operator, and conservationist. He could have done mining, tourism, etc.

When we did a research paper on comparing developmental economics between two regions or countries, my ds wanted to learn about Africa because he told me he knew nothing about it.  He needed to have one rich country and one poor country for the comparison, but he wanted to study subsaharan Africa.  So after a week of research, chose to compare Botswana to the DRC.  This took us 6 months!  He looked at the impact of history, leadership, physical geography, and political structure on the economy using both quantitative and qualitative variables.  So I had the skill goals that I was after, and he chose the content that he wanted to study.  

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On 6/8/2020 at 5:12 PM, Little Green Leaves said:

 

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. 

 

 

 

This is the path we have taken.  My son is 11 and finishing 5th grade.  We have not spent much time on writing; hardly any, in fact. We've covered grammar, poetry, some Shakespeare, lots of audiobooks and read alouds. We have had some discussion on why a particular piece of writing is really good, but I have not required him to write any more than what a workbook might require for an answer. 

We started homeschooling in part because I knew that if we stayed, I would spend 13 years fighting with my son to get him to align with the vision of the school.  Either that, or fighting with the school to get them to change their vision enough to align with my son.  Both paths seemed exhausting and detrimental to our family life and his education, so we took him home and made a vow that home education would not be a battle.  Writing would have been a battle if I had pushed it, so I made the decision to set it aside until he was more mature and had something he wanted to say. I am not going to spend my time fighting with him to make him write on topics he couldn't care less about when instead, we can spend that time learning about all sorts of other interesting things. 

I can't claim that I have always been so calm about this decision. Sometimes I panic and think "I must make him write! He's behind his peers in writing, I have to fix this!".  So then I panic-buy some writing curriculum and try to push him through it, and it always results in frustration and tears. I put the curriculum away, and harmony returns to the household.  He'll write when he wants to OR when he realizes he needs to (because he wants to go to college or apply for a job and realizes he really needs to improve the skill if he wants to go further). 

Writing isn't the only way to learn how to organize thoughts and information. Coding and math are also great ways to develop this skill. 

Ironically, I am having trouble getting my words out right now on this topic! I feel like everything I wrote is just blah blah blah.  I blame the allergy meds. 🙂 

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12 hours ago, MissLemon said:

  So then I panic-buy some writing curriculum and try to push him through it, and it always results in frustration and tears.

For the record, this would probably result in frustration in tears for us, too, but we do make sure to write a decent amount :-). I just make sure that DD7 has a lot of control over what she writes. 

Not that you necessarily have to do this, but it's one possible "in between" answer. 

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14 hours ago, lewelma said:

So I had the skill goals that I was after, and he chose the content that he wanted to study.  

So much this. 

I need DD7 to learn to punctuate, spell, and organize her work. She wants to do so while learning about viruses. Those are compatible goals!!

When she gets older, my goals will get more ambitious, but they'll still be compatible with a very wide range of content. 

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On 6/10/2020 at 8:59 AM, JHLWTM said:

DD also struggles with time goals and finds them frustrating. We're struggling with that right now in piano. I talked to her teacher, who is going to make a "map" of her learning goals so she can have more concrete things to work towards. 

I'd love to hear how your thoughts evolve on this topic, as mine are definitely a work in progress.

I like the idea of a map of the learning goals. My younger boy is 16, but he is only now starting to take ownership of his learning.  I think the dysgraphia really got in the way (and now his sprained right wrist arrrrgh!)

There is an overlay of executive function skills with how a program/curriculum can be implemented.  Do three pages in a workbook is straight forward; write a research paper is not.  I've come to believe that kids may really want to follow their own interests, but to do that means embracing learning that requires high level executive function skills, or requires that learning be done collaboratively with the parent.  I think it is a very special student who can work independently in a sustained way on their own interests. 

This is why when you see homeschoolers talk about how independent their kids are, and how effective workboxes are etc, it is because the tasks being set are to do as you are told by working through a workbook where the content/skills has been laid out for efficient completion. The problem is that true, deep learning requires more than following instructions.  It requires a student to understand 3 things 1) what they need to know, 2) how much they already know, and 3) how to get from one point to another.  I work with a lot of kids in my tutoring business and I can tell you that these 3 things are rarely understood.  There is just a follow along in the workbook mentality, there is no engagement, and thus no sense of if they are understanding and where they are headed.  This is where curriculum vs program of study are different.  A curriculum lays it all out in tiny little boxes, and program of study requires more from the student because they have to guide their learning.  Little steps of a curriculum need to be linked in the child's mind, which is why I like the idea of the map you mentioned. Most kids really lose sight of the forest through all the trees.  I see it over and over. 

What I have found over the years with both my boys is that using both curriculum (either purchased or self-made) AND using a program of study for other subjects leads to the best development of skills.  My kids are not the kind of kids who could guide their own program of study without a LOT of collaboration from me (the idea of this being done independently is the dream of every unschooler, I know as I was/am one). So I worked WITH them, side by side, to research, think, plan, develop their ideas into a cohesive whole.  But they also need to learn to work independently, and this is where a curriculum (purchased or made) is key.  If it is purchased, it is usually workbooks - I used math and grammar pre-made curriculum.  But then I created my own science curriculum, where I picked topics for each of 4 terms, laid out books for them to read xxx pages per day, and had them make a poster or give a presentation at the end of the term. Clear cut steps.  Even now, my younger uses a chemistry curriculum, where he needs to do one section per day. But for Geography and English, we do a program of study.  I also did a program of study for all our science fair projects, and my older did a program of study for IMO math.  These are bigger picture, larger scale ideas that need to be developed and understood at an appropriate pace. I would provide the *questions* but then they figured out how to learn.  I think the combination of these three approaches (purchased curriculum, homemade curriculum, and programs of study) has been very effective with my kids.

Ruth in NZ 

Edited by lewelma
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17 hours ago, square_25 said:

For the record, this would probably result in frustration in tears for us, too, but we do make sure to write a decent amount :-). I just make sure that DD7 has a lot of control over what she writes. 

Not that you necessarily have to do this, but it's one possible "in between" answer. 

 

True.  My kiddo just doesn't care one little bit to write anything, lol. Not even topics he has strong opinions about.  He spent quite a bit of time debating which Dungeons and Dragons alignment a given number would have.  He had them all sorted out into which ones were lawful good, chaotic neutral, etc., but could settle on how to categorize zero. I would have loved for him to write it all down, but he didn't see a point in it because he can just tell me and I'll remember it for him, (so he says). 🤷‍♂️🙄

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4 hours ago, MissLemon said:

 

True.  My kiddo just doesn't care one little bit to write anything, lol. Not even topics he has strong opinions about.  He spent quite a bit of time debating which Dungeons and Dragons alignment a given number would have.  He had them all sorted out into which ones were lawful good, chaotic neutral, etc., but could settle on how to categorize zero. I would have loved for him to write it all down, but he didn't see a point in it because he can just tell me and I'll remember it for him, (so he says). 🤷‍♂️🙄

Yeah, she doesn’t writes much for herself, either! We brainstorm projects together, but she wouldn’t do them on her own time. 

Anyway, just a possible path forward if you ever decide you need to work on writing more explicitly.

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5 hours ago, MissLemon said:

 

True.  My kiddo just doesn't care one little bit to write anything, lol. Not even topics he has strong opinions about.  He spent quite a bit of time debating which Dungeons and Dragons alignment a given number would have.  He had them all sorted out into which ones were lawful good, chaotic neutral, etc., but could settle on how to categorize zero. I would have loved for him to write it all down, but he didn't see a point in it because he can just tell me and I'll remember it for him, (so he says). 🤷‍♂️🙄

That kind of topic sounds like something my kid would LOVE. I mean, he doesnt know Dungeons and Dragons but that kind of analyzing and categorizing sounds so familiar 🙂

Last year he read Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books. It was great for me  because I lived and breathed those books when I was little, so we talked about the characters a lot. He ended up using a set up index cards to make one card for each character. They were super primitive cards because he mostly just wanted to rate their evil/good quotient 🙂 but he had a lot of fun with it. Anyway this is reminding me that lists and index cards can be a part of writing projects, I want to think about this more!

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36 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

That kind of topic sounds like something my kid would LOVE. I mean, he doesnt know Dungeons and Dragons but that kind of analyzing and categorizing sounds so familiar 🙂

Last year he read Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books. It was great for me  because I lived and breathed those books when I was little, so we talked about the characters a lot. He ended up using a set up index cards to make one card for each character. They were super primitive cards because he mostly just wanted to rate their evil/good quotient 🙂 but he had a lot of fun with it. Anyway this is reminding me that lists and index cards can be a part of writing projects, I want to think about this more!

Weirdly enough, while my kiddo occasionally does "fun writing" like this on her own time (like, she makes signs for the house, or maps, or one time she made up a language partially consisting of meows for some characters her and DD4 play with), she's totally uninterested in making those part of her schoolwork. She tends to want to have longer academic projects that are totally unrelated to this stuff. 

I've suggested it, too! I've been kind of surprised by the kinds of things she chooses... they are pretty different from what she does on her own time. 

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17 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Weirdly enough, while my kiddo occasionally does "fun writing" like this on her own time (like, she makes signs for the house, or maps, or one time she made up a language partially consisting of meows for some characters her and DD4 play with), she's totally uninterested in making those part of her schoolwork. She tends to want to have longer academic projects that are totally unrelated to this stuff. 

I've suggested it, too! I've been kind of surprised by the kinds of things she chooses... they are pretty different from what she does on her own time. 

Same here -- we never make those projects part of schoolwork. They are just a fun thing to do on the side. But I'm wondering whether I could use some of the format (index cards / lists) for actual school projects. I wonder. I mean, I've tried (and failed) to turn his interests into school, but I've never tried to use his formatting. Maybe worth experimenting with.

Your daughters' meow language sounds amazing!

Edited by Little Green Leaves
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17 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

Same here -- we never make those projects part of schoolwork. They are just a fun thing to do on the side. But I'm wondering whether I could use some of the format (index cards / lists) for actual school projects. I wonder. I mean, I've tried (and failed) to turn his interests into school, but I've never tried to use his formatting. Maybe worth experimenting with.

Maybe you can! Ask him how he feels about the idea :D. I know that some of the projects I've suggested to DD7 took some warming up to... I wound up suggesting them more than once and talking about how working on them would feel like before she took the bait ;-). 

17 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

Your daughters' meow language sounds amazing!

Thanks! It was pretty fun. 

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16 hours ago, lewelma said:

I like the idea of a map of the learning goals. My younger boy is 16, but he is only now starting to take ownership of his learning.  I think the dysgraphia really got in the way (and now his sprained right wrist arrrrgh!)

There is an overlay of executive function skills with how a program/curriculum can be implemented.  Do three pages in a workbook is straight forward; write a research paper is not.  I've come to believe that kids may really want to follow their own interests, but to do that means embracing learning that requires high level executive function skills, or requires that learning be done collaboratively with the parent.  I think it is a very special student who can work independently in a sustained way on their own interests. 

This is why when you see homeschoolers talk about how independent their kids are, and how effective workboxes are etc, it is because the tasks being set are to do as you are told by working through a workbook where the content/skills has been laid out for efficient completion. The problem is that true, deep learning requires more than following instructions.  It requires a student to understand 3 things 1) what they need to know, 2) how much they already know, and 3) how to get from one point to another.  I work with a lot of kids in my tutoring business and I can tell you that these 3 things are rarely understood.  There is just a follow along in the workbook mentality, there is no engagement, and thus no sense of if they are understanding and where they are headed.  This is where curriculum vs program of study are different.  A curriculum lays it all out in tiny little boxes, and program of study requires more from the student because they have to guide their learning.  Little steps of a curriculum need to be linked in the child's mind, which is why I like the idea of the map you mentioned. Most kids really lose sight of the forest through all the trees.  I see it over and over. 

What I have found over the years with both my boys is that using both curriculum (either purchased or self-made) AND using a program of study for other subjects leads to the best development of skills.  My kids are not the kind of kids who could guide their own program of study without a LOT of collaboration from me (the idea of this being done independently is the dream of every unschooler, I know as I was/am one). So I worked WITH them, side by side, to research, think, plan, develop their ideas into a cohesive whole.  But they also need to learn to work independently, and this is where a curriculum (purchased or made) is key.  If it is purchased, it is usually workbooks - I used math and grammar pre-made curriculum.  But then I created my own science curriculum, where I picked topics for each of 4 terms, laid out books for them to read xxx pages per day, and had them make a poster or give a presentation at the end of the term. Clear cut steps.  Even now, my younger uses a chemistry curriculum, where he needs to do one section per day. But for Geography and English, we do a program of study.  I also did a program of study for all our science fair projects, and my older did a program of study for IMO math.  These are bigger picture, larger scale ideas that need to be developed and understood at an appropriate pace. I would provide the *questions* but then they figured out how to learn.  I think the combination of these three approaches (purchased curriculum, homemade curriculum, and programs of study) has been very effective with my kids.

Ruth in NZ 

This is very helpful. Thanks! 

To make sure I understand, you consider what your plans for science to be a program of study? You assigned the books and your sons chose the topic for the presentation or poster, correct? Did you help your sons choose the topic or did you guide them towards a topic? 

I'm planning for our 2nd year of homeschooling and I see that I need to be a better job of discerning when I need to be involved in DD's learning and when I don't. I think I sometimes expected too much and didn't provide enough scaffolding which ended in frustration for both of us. And then other times, I got in the way of my daughter's learning when she didn't need me. Does that make sense? 

I hadn't considered the benefit of a workbook curriculum that could be done independently. I think that might be good for DD. I try to do all of our language arts work together. It might be better to assign a grammar workbook. That would provide practice for the skill and teach her how to work independently. I tried assigning spelling using a workbook last year and it was kind of a disaster. My daughter would say that she did not understand the questions. I don't think she was lying to me but if it was not 99.999999% clear to her, she would say she didn't understand and not answer the question. I think that's more of a behavior issue though. 

I'm planning right now for history, science, and geography. DD will be in the 5th grade. I want to work on skills as part of those subjects. For the 5th grade, I think the focus will be on writing and learning to research. For writing, it won't always be written down. I think the focus needs to be developing a more ordered thinking with some written output. I can visualize it but can't express it well. For example, comparing and contrasting the Ancient Egyptian pyramids and the Ancient Nubian pyramids or comparing and contrasting the origin myths in the civilizations we study. 

I bought a Waldorf block study for American geography and it walks through the process of the state report which is a standard Waldorf 5th grade assignment. I can see how that will help with providing scaffolding for learning how to research. For example, the report requires information about the state's primary crops. How do you find that information in a book about the state? 

When I was in college, I tutored some of our pledges who were failing freshman American History. I still remember it because...OMG. The professor had provided the essay questions for the final exam. These girls had no idea how to take an essay question like "Describe the build up to World War II" and use their history textbook to produce an answer. I remember sitting with them in the study hall and pointing out that their textbook had a chapter entitled "World War II." And in that chapter, there were subtopics of all of the steps and important people and the parties involved. You know - we've all seen textbooks. These poor girls were absolutely clueless. 

That's my touchstone for beginning to learn to learn if that makes sense. Every topic has an order to it. You need to learn to discern what that order is which provides a map for your research and your writing. Sorry - that's poorly worded. 

Geography - what surrounds the place you are studying? Who lives there? What are the important geological features? What happened there? 

History - when did the historical event happen? Who was there or was involved? What came before and how did the event change what came next? 

That's my thinking about how I can use that content studies to work on academic writing and research skills. 

I'm working on history and have found all kinds of interesting things about the civilizations we are going to study. But I don't want to lay it all out for her. I want her to choose topics to study in more depth as we go through these civilizations. How do I avoid doing all of the work for her? Obviously I can't tell her, go study Ancient India and here's a library card either. 

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49 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

But I don't want to lay it all out for her. I want her to choose topics to study in more depth as we go through these civilizations. How do I avoid doing all of the work for her?

You can ask her to prepare some sort of output (booklet, PP, paper, etc) on a topic of her choice from what she is reading. She might need help narrowing down options at first.  Consider this a new skill that might need some scaffolding to succeed.   If so, offer her a list of ideas and let her select.

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5 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I'm planning for our 2nd year of homeschooling and I see that I need to be a better job of discerning when I need to be involved in DD's learning and when I don't. I think I sometimes expected too much and didn't provide enough scaffolding which ended in frustration for both of us. And then other times, I got in the way of my daughter's learning when she didn't need me. Does that make sense? 

Gosh, so many great things to think about.  I've got just a bit of time now, so thought I would start with this one.  The answer is Yes, this makes total sense.  The first year is always a muddle, with both you and the kids figuring out how to make this thing call homeschooling your own.  In the end, the way I approached this independence, scaffolding, collaboration dilemma was to discuss it with my kids. 

1) Independent subjects. What did they think they were able to do independently?  And the answer might be "not much." But I would discuss with them the importance of independence and how it actually felt good, how it was a skill that developed over time.  So they would pick something.  Usually workbook based, but for my older it was actually AoPS math books.  My younger who has dysgraphia could do very little independently because he could neither write nor type, so he chose violin and documentaries.  🙂 

2) Collaborative subjects. Then we would decide what we wanted to do *together* in a collaborative way.  I usually tried to reserve this for discussion based subjects, things like history or literature or geography, that were actually *better* when done together.  These usually end up as programs of study for us, because you can attack big overarching questions.  However, for my younger with dysgraphia, we did dictation together until he was 15, and that absolutely needed me as a collaborator.  Many kids can do spelling, grammar, mechanics with a workbook independently, but not this boy. So it really depends on the kid and the circumstances. 

3) Scaffolded subjects. Finally, we would decide how much scaffolding was required for the remaining subjects. Right now for my boy that is Chemistry.  Yes, he can do it independently, but he looses track of the forest through the trees.  So scaffolding for him, is 10 minutes before he starts trying to keep the big picture in mind. I teach him how to constantly refer back to the table of contents to see where he is at. I teach him to look at the 'learning objectives' and really think about where he is headed.  I teach him to look up questions that he has that refer to other content he has learned or will learn, so his knowledge doesn't remain siloed.  There is also content that he gets stuck on, so I teach him directly. So this is a subject that is scaffolded -- neither independent nor collaborative. 

The key is that the *kid* needs to decide which category a subject falls into.  You might think he is ready for xxx, but he may not agree.  In my experience, learning is most efficient when it is at the exact level of the student, both in content and executive function skills.  You and your child need to assess that together in order to make a plan. 

Ruth in NZ

Edited by lewelma
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What sort of output do you all think is appropriate for high school classes? I am going to be doing my own US Gvmt, Economics, Writing, and Literature this year. I may also be putting together physics and graphic design from some sources instead of using just one for each. We're having problems finding a class for physics because nobody seems to be accessible for hearing impaired kids. My DS is a strange combo of hearing impaired but prefers to learn from audio sources. 

For the first 4 classes, which should be heavy on reading and writing, I am not sure how much work is too much vs not enough. In the past I think I've been overly ambitious. I wanted to be competitive but found that I was expecting much more in middle school than local kids in high school were doing. I think it's good to be ambitious, but I don't want to be the teacher that assigns too much in each class without considering that kids have 5-6 other classes at the same time. 

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On 6/11/2020 at 8:03 AM, Ordinary Shoes said:

I'm working on history and have found all kinds of interesting things about the civilizations we are going to study. But I don't want to lay it all out for her. I want her to choose topics to study in more depth as we go through these civilizations. How do I avoid doing all of the work for her? Obviously I can't tell her, go study Ancient India and here's a library card either. 

There's good advice on output above. For input, for 5th grade ancient history/literature I started with two books on each region - one history (to give me and dd an overview and to identify topics of interest for her to delve into) and one age-appropriate retelling of a story or stories from the period. If I was choosing books for Ancient India now, I would pick something like Daud Ali (2014) Hands-On History! Ancient India (because my dd loves these sorts of projects; this would also be better for a less enthusiastic reader than the other book) or Kenoyer and Heuston (2005) The Ancient South Asian World (for a kid who likes reading nonfiction) and perhaps Arshia Sattar (2018) Ramayana: An Illustrated Retelling. We would read these together and discuss them to find areas of further interest, and I would help her track down more resources. My dd was interested in and read more mythology independently, and the written output we eventually agreed on drew on that.

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10 hours ago, Paige said:

What sort of output do you all think is appropriate for high school classes? I am going to be doing my own US Gvmt, Economics, Writing, and Literature this year. I may also be putting together physics and graphic design from some sources instead of using just one for each. We're having problems finding a class for physics because nobody seems to be accessible for hearing impaired kids. My DS is a strange combo of hearing impaired but prefers to learn from audio sources. 

For the first 4 classes, which should be heavy on reading and writing, I am not sure how much work is too much vs not enough. In the past I think I've been overly ambitious. I wanted to be competitive but found that I was expecting much more in middle school than local kids in high school were doing. I think it's good to be ambitious, but I don't want to be the teacher that assigns too much in each class without considering that kids have 5-6 other classes at the same time. 

It depends on the kid's interest level and the course content. For electives they are really excited about, I will require some independent research beyind the resources I provide and maybe a presentation or two or a research paper. If it's a course that's just checking a box, I don't require much output at all. For science they take tests and write lab reports. For English, I focus on explicitly teaching them how to write a variety of papers for composition, and we read and discuss books for literature. Discussion is actually the most common (and effective) form of output I require. I guess I focus on quality, not quantity. 

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On 6/6/2020 at 7:39 PM, 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.  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

Thank you @lewelma-- I love this approach. I am guilty of nit-picking and eroding my DC's confidence. I tried something similar to this today with DS today and it worked well. He wrote a narration from a chapter in SOTW. I asked him to pick his favorite sentence, and one sentence he thought could be improved. I told him I would also pick a favorite sentence, and one I thought could be improved. We had a very productive discussion about our respective choices, and I think he felt proud of what he'd done, but also open to learning.

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On 6/6/2020 at 8:01 PM, lewelma said:

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

 

Sorry it's taken me awhile to circle back to this. I've been chewing on it for awhile. Thanks for sharing such a detailed description - especially the specific essay prompts -- it does help.

I think my problem is that I don't know how to frame questions. 

Up until now, we've been mostly doing narrations of readings, CM style. I've been thinking through how to ask questions in a way that stimulates analytical, synthetic, and critical thinking. I think if I knew what questions I wanted them to answer, I could break down the steps to help guide them into that kind of thinking (and writing). I think I really need to finish reading Engaging Ideas... 

I would love to design our homeschool year around quality questions.  I was thinking of having a question of the day / week related to whatever the kids are reading or studying, to help focus our discussions and their writing. But I feel at a loss for how to formulate good questions.  I'm going to start a new thread, since this one encompasses many other topics, but basically my questions are:

How do you formulate questions that challenge your DC to think analytically, critically, synthetically?

What kids of questions are appropriate for the grammar vs. logic vs. rhetoric stage?

I did this for science last year - I broke BFSU into a series of "question of the day" topics - micro discussions. My kids enjoyed it, and it was fun to lead that kind of discussion. I would like to learn how to pose questions on the humanities side...

Edited by JHLWTM
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13 hours ago, JHLWTM said:

I did this for science last year - I broke BFSU into a series of "question of the day" topics - micro discussions. My kids enjoyed it, and it was fun to lead that kind of discussion. I would like to learn how to pose questions on the humanities side...

This sounds amazing.  Can you tell me more about how you organized it and how your DC did? Feel free to PM me.   I’m the opposite - math and science questions flummox next, but I can pose big questions for the humanities with no problem.  I’ll pop over to your questions thread later.

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I placed my first Amazon order last night. 35 books! I was shocked that it was so many. The total bill was about $415 so the price/book seems pretty reasonable. About half of the books were used. 

I'm worried that I went overboard. I'm going to need to find some shelf space for all of these books. 

We will study ancient civilizations (Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Persia, China, and Greece), rocks and minerals, and American geography. For ancient civilizations, I bought the current and historical atlases recommended in TWTM and an encyclopedia of the ancient world plus several collections of folktales and mythology. For rocks and minerals, I purchased a reference book about rocks and a DK book about the Earth. For American geography, I purchased several short biographies and non-fiction books. My goal was to find books that give a 'flavor' of the region like a book about the creation of the NYC subway map or a short biography about a Quaker girl who became the first professional female astronomer. 

But I fear that I'm falling into the "living books" trap. Too much and too disjointed. I tried to choose books that were short and written for children so they should be easy for DD to read. Although I won't know for certain until I see the books myself. 

I also worry that I'm doing the work for DD by finding these 'rabbit trails' for her. 

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4 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I placed my first Amazon order last night. 35 books! I was shocked that it was so many. The total bill was about $415 so the price/book seems pretty reasonable. About half of the books were used. 

I'm worried that I went overboard. I'm going to need to find some shelf space for all of these books. 

We will study ancient civilizations (Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Persia, China, and Greece), rocks and minerals, and American geography. For ancient civilizations, I bought the current and historical atlases recommended in TWTM and an encyclopedia of the ancient world plus several collections of folktales and mythology. For rocks and minerals, I purchased a reference book about rocks and a DK book about the Earth. For American geography, I purchased several short biographies and non-fiction books. My goal was to find books that give a 'flavor' of the region like a book about the creation of the NYC subway map or a short biography about a Quaker girl who became the first professional female astronomer. 

But I fear that I'm falling into the "living books" trap. Too much and too disjointed. I tried to choose books that were short and written for children so they should be easy for DD to read. Although I won't know for certain until I see the books myself. 

I also worry that I'm doing the work for DD by finding these 'rabbit trails' for her. 

This all sounds amazing!! I did not know about the Quaker girl becoming a professional astronomer. 

When you order books ahead of time, do you also read them? Now that my kids are getting a little older and it's not just read-alouds on the couch, I'm thinking I should do that.

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47 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

This all sounds amazing!! I did not know about the Quaker girl becoming a professional astronomer. 

When you order books ahead of time, do you also read them? Now that my kids are getting a little older and it's not just read-alouds on the couch, I'm thinking I should do that.

Here's the book about the astronomer. Maria's Comet

It's probably not the best book on the topic but I didn't want anything that was too long. This book looks pretty good. I think if my DD is interested in learning more, we might get this book. Finding Wonders: The Three Girls Who Changed Science

I'm trying to read most of the books or to at least be familiar with them. I designed a class last year for Native American history and I did not read enough of the books in advance. I think that would have been better. 

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14 hours ago, Little Green Leaves said:

This all sounds amazing!! I did not know about the Quaker girl becoming a professional astronomer. 

When you order books ahead of time, do you also read them? Now that my kids are getting a little older and it's not just read-alouds on the couch, I'm thinking I should do that.

I am in the same boat with dd10. She is a voracious reader, so I cannot possibly read all that she does. This summer, though, I am in the process of getting a jump start on reading those things that I expect to discuss with her, specifically her history text and logic books, and a monthly novel from the character education program we will be using. It suggested Louisa May Alcott's "Eight Cousins," which was fairly progressive when it was written, but not so much now. I'm glad I read it, and think I'll choose one of the other options for that month to focus on.

 

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I've been contemplating this thread for a while, torn between writing a response and actually planning courses for 8th and 6th grades.  

Here is the basic plan of how I set up our courses for the year we just finished (7th and 5th in particular, I do something different for lower elementary):

  1. Figure out the big picture.  At this point, I start from my oldest's "graduating year" from homeschool, and work backwards to see what we need to do to get done so that I'm sending him to gymnase with the skills/knowledge I hope for him to have.  Draw out a rough outline getting from point A to B.  
  2. Create a booklist or resource list for each content area I want to cover.  This is where the major work lies.  I research here, amazon, various study guides and book lists...  I try to aim for 1-2 spine books and supplementary materials for the spine(s).  
  3. Arrange this in a spreadsheet, broken down by chapter or topic, listing supplementary materials alongside the appropriate chapter/topic.
  4. Consider what type of regular (daily or weekly) output might be part of the subject, if any.
  5. Consider what sorts of capstone projects or assignments I want (monthly, every 6 weeks, etc.) and what form those should take, and list those.  Check between subjects that I'm not going to end up with 10 large assignments all at once.  
  6. Print out my spreadsheets (when they become too marked up and modified, I go into the spreadsheet, modify, and reprint), put them in my binder, and just check items off as we go through.  We tend to work through content on something closer to a loop than a schedule, so this method give me a good homemade "Do the next thing" type structure.  
  7. I tweak these spreadsheets as I go.  I can't preview the entire year's history books, so sometimes I go to pull a listed resource and see it's just not what we need, or perhaps another would be a better fit.  This refinement continues all year.  

To aid with the points 4 and 5, I have a list of output types to choose from:

  • Writing of all kinds (note taking of all kinds, letters, paragraphs, essay, reports, stories)
  • Models of all kinds (ex. polymer clay model of cell organelles, biome diorama)
  • Plot diagram (from Teaching the Classics)
  • Sketches (maps, battle layouts, scientific concepts, art)
  • Power point presentations, speeches, skits, stop-motion film
  • Lab reports, charts, graphs
  • Discussion
  • Memorization/recitation

I find it handy just to have this list available (feel free to add suggestions!) so that I can choose form a variety of output types.  

I've really enjoyed seeing other people's workflows for this process!  Thanks for starting the thread.  

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