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Let's discuss how to design your own curriculum


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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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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 

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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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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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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!

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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

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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...

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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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5 hours ago, knitgrl said:

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.

 

Did you like Eight Cousins? I've never read it but am thinking about it for the 5th grade as an alternative to Little Women. 

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2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Did you like Eight Cousins? I've never read it but am thinking about it for the 5th grade as an alternative to Little Women. 

I am a bit of a reading odd ball. I've read a number of Louisa May Alcott books, but have never gotten around to Little Women, so I can't make a comparison. I actually enjoy long forgotten Victorian novels, the protagonists always have such impeccable morals -- it's nice fantasy reading. Anyhoo-- "Eight Cousins" follows a popular pattern; orphan girl finds herself in the midst of 7 boy cousins. The Victorian constraints on women are questioned. But then around the first third of the book is a chapter called "A Trip to China" where she meets two Chinese men who are described as funny and yellow and having slanty eyes. And I was thinking, "Ok, I can work with this, and we can sit down and discuss what was happening in the world in 1875." The rest of the book was pretty ok, but there was just a slow build up of generalizations made about women that made me decide it wasn't worth it. For instance, there was the assertion that all women love jewelry, and while it was very deliberate about  going against the notion that girls should not enjoy vigorous (and at the time what some considered "unlady-like") activities, the purpose for physically strengthening girls was so that they could better serve as housewives. If I wanted to use this book to explore social norms of the 19th century, it would be great, but since the plan was to use it in the context of talking about character and virtues, I kind of figure there are other books that will be a better fit.

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1 hour ago, knitgrl said:

I am a bit of a reading odd ball. I've read a number of Louisa May Alcott books, but have never gotten around to Little Women, so I can't make a comparison. I actually enjoy long forgotten Victorian novels, the protagonists always have such impeccable morals -- it's nice fantasy reading. Anyhoo-- "Eight Cousins" follows a popular pattern; orphan girl finds herself in the midst of 7 boy cousins. The Victorian constraints on women are questioned. But then around the first third of the book is a chapter called "A Trip to China" where she meets two Chinese men who are described as funny and yellow and having slanty eyes. And I was thinking, "Ok, I can work with this, and we can sit down and discuss what was happening in the world in 1875." The rest of the book was pretty ok, but there was just a slow build up of generalizations made about women that made me decide it wasn't worth it. For instance, there was the assertion that all women love jewelry, and while it was very deliberate about  going against the notion that girls should not enjoy vigorous (and at the time what some considered "unlady-like") activities, the purpose for physically strengthening girls was so that they could better serve as housewives. If I wanted to use this book to explore social norms of the 19th century, it would be great, but since the plan was to use it in the context of talking about character and virtues, I kind of figure there are books that will be a better fit.

This was a fun description to read : ) and I can see why it wouldn't be a great fit for your curriculum. I guess Alcott had her limitations as a reformer.

I remember once reading a short story by Alcott about girls' clothing -- the girl in the story was being given some kind of modern, experimental outfit that left her much freer to move around than the stiff bustles and things she would've been wearing otherwise. So there was this interest in change on the very immediate, individual level but I wonder if it translated into the bigger picture.

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22 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

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. 

Thanks a lot. I'll look for these both! 

I have very soaring ambitions when it comes to preparing for the coming year -- hopefully I'll meet my own expectations : ) It's been really helpful seeing what others are doing.

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3 hours ago, knitgrl said:

I am a bit of a reading odd ball. I've read a number of Louisa May Alcott books, but have never gotten around to Little Women, so I can't make a comparison. I actually enjoy long forgotten Victorian novels, the protagonists always have such impeccable morals -- it's nice fantasy reading. Anyhoo-- "Eight Cousins" follows a popular pattern; orphan girl finds herself in the midst of 7 boy cousins. The Victorian constraints on women are questioned. But then around the first third of the book is a chapter called "A Trip to China" where she meets two Chinese men who are described as funny and yellow and having slanty eyes. And I was thinking, "Ok, I can work with this, and we can sit down and discuss what was happening in the world in 1875." The rest of the book was pretty ok, but there was just a slow build up of generalizations made about women that made me decide it wasn't worth it. For instance, there was the assertion that all women love jewelry, and while it was very deliberate about  going against the notion that girls should not enjoy vigorous (and at the time what some considered "unlady-like") activities, the purpose for physically strengthening girls was so that they could better serve as housewives. If I wanted to use this book to explore social norms of the 19th century, it would be great, but since the plan was to use it in the context of talking about character and virtues, I kind of figure there are other books that will be a better fit.

Thanks. I think we will pass. 

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

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

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

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

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


The best place that I've started the last few years is by making a strengths & weakness assessement of each individual.  In other words, where do they fly and where do I need to bolster up learning?  Then asking myself, "What do I want to facilitate accomplishing this year for him/her?" Did what I used last year work towards these goals? In what way did what we used last year work and in what ways did it fall short?

Over the years, I've discovered it's less important what time period I'm studying and far more important to make sure foundational skills are solid.  Foundational skills can be applied to any period of time or to any science area, so these are less important decisions in my mind.  

After I've answered those questions it becomes about tools - what will help me accomplish those ends? Then I'll dovetail to the next questions:
History - what time period?
Science - what area?
What books feed into the questions above?

I use an eclectic mix of texts and "real" books to accomplish my goals.  I've found I need "brainless" do the next thing texts in some areas and, in others, I enjoy the planning and pulling together of other resources like whole books, videos, etc.  

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2 hours ago, BlsdMama said:


The best place that I've started the last few years is by making a strengths & weakness assessement of each individual.  In other words, where do they fly and where do I need to bolster up learning?  Then asking myself, "What do I want to facilitate accomplishing this year for him/her?" Did what I used last year work towards these goals? In what way did what we used last year work and in what ways did it fall short?

Over the years, I've discovered it's less important what time period I'm studying and far more important to make sure foundational skills are solid.  Foundational skills can be applied to any period of time or to any science area, so these are less important decisions in my mind.  

After I've answered those questions it becomes about tools - what will help me accomplish those ends? Then I'll dovetail to the next questions:
History - what time period?
Science - what area?
What books feed into the questions above?

I use an eclectic mix of texts and "real" books to accomplish my goals.  I've found I need "brainless" do the next thing texts in some areas and, in others, I enjoy the planning and pulling together of other resources like whole books, videos, etc.  

I've started doing the assessment idea ^ that Kelly mentions, and it has been a game changer in how I plan.  It really helps me focus on what is needed, and not get lost in too many mental rabbit trails in how I plan.

Honestly, I ask those same kind of questions *about me as a teacher* as well.  What are my strengths, my weaknesses, hey, MY needs here too!  Not in a selfish way, but in a "let's be realistic" way.  If one my kids needed calculus next year, I do not have the ability to give it to them.  Blood from a stone, here folks.  I can do Algebra 1, but not calc.  So, if my child needs calculus, how is that going to happen?  Outsourcing, but how?  How much $?  How much time?  How much will this require of ME, and what can I give this child in this area in relation to my other children and their needs (and my husband and his needs, and my home, and my church, and myself, and my health, etc.)

 

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On 6/24/2020 at 3:28 PM, Little Green Leaves said:

This was a fun description to read : ) and I can see why it wouldn't be a great fit for your curriculum. I guess Alcott had her limitations as a reformer.

I remember once reading a short story by Alcott about girls' clothing -- the girl in the story was being given some kind of modern, experimental outfit that left her much freer to move around than the stiff bustles and things she would've been wearing otherwise. So there was this interest in change on the very immediate, individual level but I wonder if it translated into the bigger picture.

Some positive thoughts about reading the books of Louisa May Alcott today:

A very important point to remember is this: We owe much of our 21st-century values to the courageous reformers of the 19th-century, such as Louisa May Alcott. She was a strong abolitionist and supporter of women's rights. LMA was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts when women were given a limited suffrage there. Her family refused to wear cotton because it was produced by slave labor. She never married, so she certainly didn't see women's rights as pertaining to housewives only. She was fiercely loyal to her family, so rather than reading some of her words as limiting to women, she probably meant them more as supportive of family.

As for the example from Eight Cousins, of course Americans today would not portray a Chinese man the way LMA did, though if I remember correctly there is no insinuation of inferiority, but remember that in Rose in Bloom Annabel marries a Chinese man, and Rose is delighted. As far as I know, this may be the first interracial marriage in an American children's book, and it is portrayed in a positive light. 

As a person, Alcott was a brave, courageous, independent woman of high moral character in how she lived her life, not just in the words she wrote. As an author, she created female characters who also exhibited the same traits. (Nan in Jo's Boys is a prime example). She is a remarkable example of a strong woman. 

I hope you will give her books a chance, reading them with an understanding of what a far-reaching vision LMA had of a better world.

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6 hours ago, Quarter Note said:

Some positive thoughts about reading the books of Louisa May Alcott today:

A very important point to remember is this: We owe much of our 21st-century values to the courageous reformers of the 19th-century, such as Louisa May Alcott. She was a strong abolitionist and supporter of women's rights. LMA was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts when women were given a limited suffrage there. Her family refused to wear cotton because it was produced by slave labor. She never married, so she certainly didn't see women's rights as pertaining to housewives only. She was fiercely loyal to her family, so rather than reading some of her words as limiting to women, she probably meant them more as supportive of family.

As for the example from Eight Cousins, of course Americans today would not portray a Chinese man the way LMA did, though if I remember correctly there is no insinuation of inferiority, but remember that in Rose in Bloom Annabel marries a Chinese man, and Rose is delighted. As far as I know, this may be the first interracial marriage in an American children's book, and it is portrayed in a positive light. 

As a person, Alcott was a brave, courageous, independent woman of high moral character in how she lived her life, not just in the words she wrote. As an author, she created female characters who also exhibited the same traits. (Nan in Jo's Boys is a prime example). She is a remarkable example of a strong woman. 

I hope you will give her books a chance, reading them with an understanding of what a far-reaching vision LMA had of a better world.

This is such an important point.   In addition to the above, authors then, just like today, were at the mercy of what publishers would publish.   LM Montgomery, for example, was frustrated at having to write within the narrow confines of what was considered publishable children's literature.  But, if she wanted to be published and to be paid, she had to stick to their framework.  (My dd and I read The Green Gables Letters when she was in 7th grade.  I would NOT read anything like that with a younger student and only then if the student has a strong mature footing in understanding themselves and what they believe.  But it does give strong insight into the behind the scenes "author frustrations." https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1426207.The_Green_Gables_Letters )

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15 hours ago, Quarter Note said:

Some positive thoughts about reading the books of Louisa May Alcott today:

A very important point to remember is this: We owe much of our 21st-century values to the courageous reformers of the 19th-century, such as Louisa May Alcott. She was a strong abolitionist and supporter of women's rights. LMA was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts when women were given a limited suffrage there. Her family refused to wear cotton because it was produced by slave labor. She never married, so she certainly didn't see women's rights as pertaining to housewives only. She was fiercely loyal to her family, so rather than reading some of her words as limiting to women, she probably meant them more as supportive of family.

As for the example from Eight Cousins, of course Americans today would not portray a Chinese man the way LMA did, though if I remember correctly there is no insinuation of inferiority, but remember that in Rose in Bloom Annabel marries a Chinese man, and Rose is delighted. As far as I know, this may be the first interracial marriage in an American children's book, and it is portrayed in a positive light. 

As a person, Alcott was a brave, courageous, independent woman of high moral character in how she lived her life, not just in the words she wrote. As an author, she created female characters who also exhibited the same traits. (Nan in Jo's Boys is a prime example). She is a remarkable example of a strong woman. 

I hope you will give her books a chance, reading them with an understanding of what a far-reaching vision LMA had of a better world.

I love this. Thanks.

I didn't mean to come across as critical of Alcott. I grew reading and rereading both Little Women and Little Men....Little Women was one of my favorite books. I do remember Little Men and Jo's Boys feeling just a little bit sad to me -- as a young reader, I wanted Jo to do "more" with her life. But you know, it would be interesting to read those and her other books again, as an adult. 

 

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8 hours ago, Little Green Leaves said:

I love this. Thanks.

I didn't mean to come across as critical of Alcott. I grew reading and rereading both Little Women and Little Men....Little Women was one of my favorite books. I do remember Little Men and Jo's Boys feeling just a little bit sad to me -- as a young reader, I wanted Jo to do "more" with her life. But you know, it would be interesting to read those and her other books again, as an adult. 

 

Oh, I didn't think you were critical, either.  Just wanted to add some information that many people don't know.  Best wishes!  

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16 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

This is such an important point.   In addition to the above, authors then, just like today, were at the mercy of what publishers would publish.   LM Montgomery, for example, was frustrated at having to write within the narrow confines of what was considered publishable children's literature.  But, if she wanted to be published and to be paid, she had to stick to their framework.  (My dd and I read The Green Gables Letters when she was in 7th grade.  I would NOT read anything like that with a younger student and only then if the student has a strong mature footing in understanding themselves and what they believe.  But it does give strong insight into the behind the scenes "author frustrations." https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1426207.The_Green_Gables_Letters )

Thanks for adding that point, 8!  Now I really want to read The Green Gables Letters, too.

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On 6/8/2020 at 6:00 AM, 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? 

One of my mums friends who homeschooled one of my friends warned me about this.  She said her son ended up hating homeschooling because if he finished the work early she would just add more work.  My son also really likes a set list of work to get through within reason.  The only issue is the quality is not always that great because he just works to finish.  Part of that may be a problem with the work.  But when I’ve tried to pick stuff that’s more engaging he’s mostly still just interested in being done.  I think he’s rather efficient than interesting. For him it’s best if I have a set of boxes to check then freedom. Dd on the other hand would happily do stuff all day with me as long as she’s engaged but if she doesn’t want to do it it doesn’t matter how short it is she’ll be impossible.  So for her I need a different approach but it’s hard to get the right one.

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On 6/25/2020 at 6:58 AM, Little Green Leaves said:

This was a fun description to read : ) and I can see why it wouldn't be a great fit for your curriculum. I guess Alcott had her limitations as a reformer.

I remember once reading a short story by Alcott about girls' clothing -- the girl in the story was being given some kind of modern, experimental outfit that left her much freer to move around than the stiff bustles and things she would've been wearing otherwise. So there was this interest in change on the very immediate, individual level but I wonder if it translated into the bigger picture.

It’s years since I read eight cousins but from memory there’s a section about not wearing corsets because they compress the internal organs...

pity that didn’t progress to bras 😂😂

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