Looking forward to my Rotary meeting today. As a homeschool mom, I need this weekly “me” time. My other sanity keepers: gardening and baking. What do you do just for you?
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I am well into Step 3 of my preparation for the 2013-2014 school year: Course Schedules!
My course schedules map out each subject for the entire year, day by day. So, this step takes me some time to complete. I make course schedules for everything but spelling, writing, grammar, and Mandarin. These subjects are pretty straightforward (or not taught by me, in the case of Mandarin). I do list these subjects on our weekly schedule, but we just do the next lesson each time.
So far, I’ve posted my math and science course schedules. You’ll notice those are the only two links working on the main Course Schedule page of my GGP Teacher Manual. The rest will become active as I complete the subjects.
The goal sheets took me longer than usual this year. We’ve had some other stuff going on this past week. The kids were supposed to have summer camp Monday – Wednesday (9am-4pm), and I was going to get all kinds of school prep done. BUT, we had a crazy heat wave , and the kids’ summer sports and splash camp felt more like punishment than fun. Ryan made it to noon the first day; both kids were home after lunch the second day; and we totally skipped the third day (opting to stay cool at home instead). So, there went my quiet work time.
Thursday was the 4th of July. We spent the morning doing an art and literacy project with my Rotary Club. The idea for this project came from our time living in New York. The New York Parks and Recreation department had this great program called Art in the Park, and I used to take Ashby when she was just a couple years old. They offered free art projects right there in the parks. I always wanted to recreate this program after I returned to CA, and last year my Rotary Club welcomed my idea with enthusiasm and helped me to make it a reality. So, now we have a mobile setup and provide literacy-based art projects and opportunities to read with Rotarian volunteers. Every kid leaves with a book of his or her choice, too (and a mini-book of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution in this case).
Ashby has turned out to be my best helper. She loves to come up with project ideas, help us set up, and read with the younger kids.
I enjoy this program for lots of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that Ashby and Ryan get to meet and talk with lots of people (kids and adults) while doing something that contributes to our community. It’s a few hours out of our month, but I hope it will have a lasting effect on them. Mike joined in recently, too, and it’s a great way for us to spend time together as a family.
We did the project on the 4th from 7-10 am just outside a pre-parade pancake breakfast offered by a local church (this was their 60th annual breakfast). Kids came for the pancakes but stayed for the art and books(…I’m tricky like that). After the project, we watched the parade (from these same shady seats, by the way). It was a great day…which turned into a great four-day weekend (when Dad’s off work, we play). Of course, I got absolutely no school preparation done for these four days.
Now that I’ve finished our goals, I’m on to step 3 (one of my favorites): scheduling. More about this in future posts.
I’ve added our 2013-2014 social studies goals to the GGP Teacher Manual page. You’ll see individualized goals for Ashby and Ryan as well as blank forms you can download for your own use.
I like to approach history from a world-centered viewpoint. This is different from the CA state standards, but it just makes more sense to me. In CA, 4th grade social studies is all about California history; so our 4th grade goal sheet reflects this.
Ashby and I are both excited to study CA history, even though it basically means we’re adding another subject to our lessons. I have yet to decide just how we’ll do this. I may schedule our CA history as a separate subject, or I may work it into our schedule mainly as reading assignments (which we always include anyways). When I work on our history schedule, I’ll figure out just how in-depth our CA history work will be, and that will determine whether it is a standalone subject or an add-on to our world history studies.
For Ryan’s second grade social studies goals, I have generally adhered to the CA standards. I did select our Historic Individuals from the middle ages so that they will correlate with our Story of the World (SOTW) readings. The list of individuals on his goal sheet is not comprehensive, but I will specify more people when I create his history and reading schedules.
I am now in the thick of Step 2 of my preparations for the 2013-1014 school year, Goal Sheets. You can find details on the GGP Teacher Manual page of my site. So far, I have English/lit and math completed. I’ll post social studies, science, health, and art as I finish them.
But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.
– Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
While he said this in the midst of a rather arrogant proposal, the sentiment of Mr. Darcy’s words resonates with me (as does just about everything else about him). The honest truth has value, especially when we fear acknowledging it. This is why I feel so passionately about homeschooling. It enables me to teach, an act I feel called to do, in an honest manner. If I try something, and it feels like a perfect fit, great! If, on the other hand, it doesn’t align with my own truth, I am free to change my method without fear of repercussion.
I once worked at a school where my superiors told me that my science department had to achieve a “B average” that year (meaning the average of all students’ final grades had to average out to a B). The previous year’s average had been a C, and that was insufficient apparently. (The pressure came to us from the administration. But, whether the administration was feeling pressure from parents or the District/State for funding reasons, I’m not sure). One of the teachers, a fantastic teacher by all accounts, told me that he planned to use the regular curriculum for his honors students this year and “dumb it down for the rest.” By all outward appearances, this was one of the best schools in the state. As I was now discovering, this was a disguise. How could I pass those students who were clearly checked out (didn’t complete homework…ever, showed up high, were disrespectful toward the other students and me)? I had direct orders to pass them. But, what would I be teaching them, and all the students who did try their best, by doing so?
I left that teaching position soon after the school year started. I knew I was failing by leaving early, but I also knew I couldn’t teach under those constraints (inflated grades is just one example). The teaching practices there were too far from my honest truth. I avoided teaching for about five years after that, feeling that I had no right to teach and nothing to offer my students. Eventually, however, my mentor convinced me that I should try it again. I accepted a part-time position at another school, and I loved it! This healing experience lasted briefly, because we soon moved to New York for an amazing opportunity in Mike’s career. He left California at the end of March, and two-year-old Ashby and I said our goodbyes to family and friends and flew to New York the day after school let out for summer. I missed Mike during our months apart, but I had to redeem myself in my own eyes by finishing what I had started this time.
This journey began almost fifteen years ago, and only in the past year have I come to believe that I wasn’t the only reason I failed in my former position. Yes, I failed my students by leaving them and not fighting for them. But, the school failed me, too. I expected honesty, not disguise.
Thus awoke my curiosity toward alternatives to standard schooling. I discovered some works by John Taylor Gatto and realized I was not alone in my curiosity. Had I not experienced this personally devastating introduction to teaching, I might never have considered homeschooling. So, ultimately, it wasn’t a failure, just an experience. It taught me to value my honest truth, and for that I am grateful. My hope now is that other parents, for whom homeschooling might be a good fit, will find it naturally. It shouldn’t take a life-altering experience to learn about homeschooling. It should be right out there in the open with public schooling and private schooling. I am optimistic, because the number of families who homeschool seems to be growing exponentially. But, I believe there are still many families who would benefit from and appreciate it if only they knew it were an option.
I’ve spent the past few days reviewing the CA state standards for education (slowly becoming the national Common Core Standards). This is always my first step in preparing for the new school year. I realize that many homeschoolers want nothing to do with state standards; that’s partly why we homeschool, right? But, for me, the standards are a natural starting point. Maybe this is a byproduct of my time as a public school teacher. My credentialing program taught me to design lesson plans based on the state standards. Additionally, I was encouraged to write those standards specific to the day’s lesson on the whiteboard so that the students would know why we were studying whatever we were that day. I’d be shocked to learn, though, that even one student paid any attention to what I wrote. Kids don’t care about state standards. Why would they? The wording is so convoluted that, often, even adults have to reread them several times to understand the meaning. From the students’ point of view, standards are just another set of rules they are asked to follow without question. Writing the standards on the whiteboard might have made my classroom appear more focused and exemplary to visitors and administrators. But, did it actually serve a useful purpose and benefit the kids? No. In fact, I think it might have overwhelmed some of them. I stopped writing the standards on the whiteboard.
So, why do I still read the standards? I believe they are worthy goals for teachers. Granted, it’s very difficult to achieve these standards in a classroom setting with 20-30 students. With just two students, though, I can do it. Also, as a teacher and mom who likes to plan, I feel most confident organizing my curriculum around concrete goals. The standards give me a framework. In reality, as I read the state standards for each kid’s grade level (which can take a while and be somewhat tedious), I find that Ashby and Ryan are already secure in many of them. So, I just highlight the ones I want to address in the coming year and build from there. As the school year progresses, I occasionally review the highlighted standards to make sure we on track and adjust future lessons accordingly. This review process takes only a few minutes at a time and gives me a sense of reassurance that we are headed in the right direction. Of course, I never ask Ashby and Ryan to read the standards; they’re just for me.