Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Homeschooling Honeymoon

Our first week of homeschooling….check!

I know many people have a lot of questions as to what our days and weeks look like and I feel much the same sense of 'it's impossible to describe' feeling I get when people ask what it's like to be a stay-at-home mom.  It's just too much to try and describe without spending five hours over coffee.  Thus, the  blog.  I hope to just give you guys a week by week description of what our days consist of and hopefully that will answer many of the questions at some point.

First things first, I am LOVING this whole classical education/Classical Conversations thing-a-ma-jig.  When I first read The Core, written by the founder of Classical Conversations, I liked a lot of what she said and agreed with most of it but I still found myself overwhelmed by how "different" it was from your typical modern education, and the education I had and was used to.  It really takes a whole mind shift to get this.  That's why when I tell people about the memory work, it can sound so boring and seem so mundane for little kids and it's anything but.  (Side note: This is not meant to be a whole explanation of the classical model.  If you are really interested in that, I would suggest reading Leigh Bortin's book (The Core) or Susan Wise Bauer's stuff like The Well-Trained Mind.  Fascinating, I tell you.)  Anyhow, I'm just giving you the lowdown on how we are doing our own version of a classical education.

For this current blog post I'll just tell you what class is like each week for Katherine.  So our week basically starts on Thursday, when Katherine has class.  Her entire campus consists of about thirty-five  4-12 (I think that's around the ages) year olds, divided into classes of not more than 8.  Now that's a class size I can get excited about ;).  There are other campuses in the greater New Orleans area, some smaller some bigger.  There is a trained "tutor" for each class that leads the parents and children in the classical method.  The parents sit at the back while the students sit at tables of two students per table.  Basically, the tutor runs the class and the parents help out when needed and get ideas of how to reinforce what is learned at home.

First, the tutor introduces the new memory work for the week.  This is what our Week 2, Cycle 3 memory work looks like:

The basic idea of the first three years of a classical education, called "the Grammar Stage", is to essentially take advantage of a child's natural strong memory at this point to fill their heads with the facts of our world.  The next stages, the Logic stage and then the Rhetoric stage, are meant to go deeper with these facts.  But most important at this young age is to give them "pegs" of a basic framework of knowledge from which they launch a more comprehensive education.  Again, I'm a newbie at this so if you are really interested, go to a more experienced source :)

Class for the Grammar Stage is from 9-12.  First, the students learn the new memory work for the week.  Katherine's favorite is the "Timeline" song.  By the end of the year, she will hopefully be able to sing 161 of the major points of world history- and her mother will, too, God willing. Lol.  Daddy loves this part as well.  When I first listened to the entire song (it's about 12 minutes long), my first thought was there was NO WAY she was going to be able to do this.  But now, even only two weeks in, I can see how it's possible.  Mostly because, get this, JAMES can sing it so far.  Haha!  We listen to the song maybe two or three times a day and it has hand motions with it (complete with accurate American Sign Language) to help cement it in their little brains.  All I have to do is complete the sign and James starts singing it!  Fascinating!  And there is nothing cuter than a three year old with speech issues saying "Indus River Valley Civilization".  I'll even hear him playing with his trucks and he'll say, "Mycenaeans!"  Omgosh, I could die.  And the kids think it's just a big game.  They like the song and Katherine already loves sign language so this is definitely scratching an itch.  She is so proud of herself.  James can also tell you the four types of tissue in the human body.  Lol.  That kid.  But it has shown me how incredible their memories are at this age.  

An important part, too, that needs to be understood is that it's not most important that they even understand the full context of what they're saying.  That comes later.  Right now, it's just get it into their brains where they can access it at any point in the future.  A very brief understanding of the material is given to the students, but there are no tests, no assessments.  It's just supposed to be fun.  So, for example, Katherine knows that one type of "epithelial tissue" is the skin.  But she doesn't know everything about epithelial tissue.  The first three years is a basic introduction.  

Another important note is that the memory work is broken up into 3 different cycles, with 24 weeks per cycle.  It looks like this:

Taken from the Classical Conversations website :)

We are currently on Cycle 3.  Next year, we'll be on Cycle 1, etc.  The ideal is to introduce the student as early as possible so that they get more rotations of the same material and are thus able to dive deeper and deeper with the material.  When they get older, it's more complicated and I'm totally not up to speed on that level.  Clueless.  I know they stress excellence in writing at the later grades and I think it's in 7th grade or so where they are challenged to draw the entire globe by freehand by the end of the year.  Awesomeness.  Again, I'm like 'How could someone do that?" but then in the curriculum guide they give you examples of students who have done it and the same old, 'Okay, I guess it's able to be done!' runs through my brain.

Okay, so back to class :)  After the memory work for that week is introduced, the kids do an art project.  Last week they studies the basic shapes and drawing.  This week they completed a "mirror images" project.  Such cool stuff.  Later, they'll study a famous artist each week and then replicate their art style. And then they'll have I think about 12 weeks where they learn the tin whistle.  

Next, comes the class presentations.  Every week each student is expected to give a brief (no more than five minutes) presentation on a topic.  The first week was introducing yourself, this week they were supposed to give a book summary of a book they liked.  Each week the tutor presents them with public speaking tips that hopefully will begin to sink in with more practice.  This weeks "tip" was to focus on volume, projecting one's voice so your entire audience can hear.

Then comes my favorite part! The science project! Each week a very simple science project is completed by the students.  This week's science project was studying the difference between convex and concave lenses in the form of water.  First the students, wrapped a piece of wire around a pencil to form a place where water could gather.  Then, they dipped their wire into a cup of water, getting a drop to stay in the middle.  Finally, they used the drop of water as a magnifying lens of sorts (convex lens) to read a card with tiny print that had a different inspirational quote on it.

Katherine wrapping the wire around a pencil.

 "It makes the letters bigger!"
 "My hypothesis was correct."
"Can I bring this home to show Daddy? He would love this."

After the science project, they have a review of the memory work. This week the tutor led them in a game of "Zap!" where she divided the class into two teams and then reviewed the memory work from the past two weeks.  Katherine loved it.  So fun.

After class, the whole school is invited to the playground where they eat lunch together and play until they're tired and want to go home.  Katherine has made such good little friends and I've met some amazing people who are so wonderfully normal and they just want the same thing I want- an education that is rigorous but not time consuming, an enforcing of Christian values, a lot of playtime for their kids, just an "adventure" in education.  It's going so well.  Obviously, though, we're only two weeks in.  Lol.  We'll see, but I'm just glad we're at least starting out on a positive note!  Next week, hopefully I'll have time to tell you what we do the rest of the week.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section below.  I feel like I jumped around a lot, but like I said, it's so much information.  Sorry!  Blessings upon your week.


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