Sunday, December 21, 2014

{Weekly Report} Challenge 1: First Semester in the Books!

So blessed by our first semester of Challenge I (and a great tutor).

One of the things that I appreciate about the Challenge program is that I do  not give away my ability to still be the teacher for my high schooler's program.   Even for me (a tutor myself), I often have to consciously remember that I am still the teacher for Ben's program -- I can alter the program if necessary to meet our family obligations and his educational needs.

Here are some ways that I made Challenge I our own:

1.  I did not change the Literature reading assignments at all.  This semester they read a ton of books for a full credit of American Literature:

Sign of the Beaver (a book we read as a read aloud when he was in 3rd grade)
The Call of the Wild
Johnny Tremain (another book we had as a read aloud when he was young)
The Red Badge of Courage
The Scarlett Letter
several sermons from historical figures in US History
Edgar Allen Poe short story
"Billy Budd" (A Herman Melville short story)
Through Gates of Splendor
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
To Kill a Mockingbird

At the end of the semester, students were supposed to write an informal essay (1 page) -- along the lines of Mark Twain's "Advice to Youth" essay.  Ben had already been working on an essay for a review product (Fortuigence's Rock Star Essay with Lily Iatridis), so I asked him to finish that. However, I did make him come up with an outline for an informal essay -- and an exordium (an interesting way to begin the essay).  Ben was pretty sick for the last 10 days of our semester, but he was able to get everything done before Christmas break officially began for us.

{Someone might be thinking, "what is the point of reading a book again that you've already read?"  Great question!  The more you read a story, the more you can go deeper into reading it for meaning.  The Classical model of education has repetition as a cornerstone, because through repetition you can master information and think deeper about it.  Reading a story in elementary school years allows students to enjoy the story -- reading it again in high school allows students to engage in the book at a thematic level.} 

2.  My 15yo said he really likes economics!  Just so you know, this was a complete turn around from his opinion about econ at the beginning of the semester -- he was not really looking forward to this course. I think the approachable material and requirement to follow economic topics through the current events project has made it very engaging;  loved the spontaneous conversations we had about the world we live in.

For the Economics course, I added in the online lectures, quizzes and final from Hillsdale College's online (free) courses -- Economics 101.  Like the What Ever Happened to Penny Candy? book, this is a free market economics course, so I thought it would be a good addition.   By finishing this, I'll give Ben an honors credit (assuming he gets 80% or better on the Hillsdale course final).

The class also has a semester long project on budgeting.  Ideally, students are supposed to research how much income they might make in a career they are interested in, figure out rent and other expenses and create a budget.  Instead, I enrolled Ben in H & R Block Budget Challenge.  This was a 10 or so week program in which students are given a faux income, faux banking accounts, faux bills (and even faux car accidents) and they spend the weeks managing all this faux money.  What a great experience this was.  Ben racked up about $150 in late fees (thank goodness these were faux, too!).

For the end of the semester, he created a display board and presented this project to his seminar.  I'm very pleased that we used this program and would encourage its use in the future - even as a whole Challenge I program.

3.  Ben chose to memorize some lines from Taming of the Shrew. This was an assignment for his Rhetoric class -- they read the Shakespeare play, watch it and have several discussions about dating/ marriage (which were supplemented by a set of talks we listened to from Ravi Zacharias.  Ben, Dave and I had a fabulous night of discussions about dating, courtship and marriage.)  He was supposed to dress up, but since he had been quite sick (and didn't really plan ahead for this part), I gave him a pass on creating a costume.  He was up pretty late the night before getting the last few lines memorized. As I think about it now, I realize I forgot to ask him how it went!

In fairness and transparency, I will say that this semester was not without its hiccups.  Time management is a constant theme that we are working through here.  I do not really have to worry about Ben's diligence and effort with his Classical Conversations courses, but I'll admit that the courses that he is taking outside CC (Ben is accountable for 3 of the courses in CC -- he does a different math program, foreign language, and science course), Ben does struggle with meeting those deadlines.  I guess what I am learning is that the outside accountability of a tutor and peers is something that really motivates Ben -- online deadlines (such as those for his Spanish course) do not have the same effect on him and real life encounters.  Ben is enjoying math a lot, so I do not really have to worry about his pacing for that course either.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

{Weekly report} sick vs. SICK

Well, we got home from Thanksgiving vacation just in time for 40% of our family to get sick.  Not just any cold, mind you, SICK.

Dave was sick first.  He came home early from his first day back at work with a terrible cough.  I've been dealing with a nagging cough from a cold I had at the beginning of November, so I wasn't completely sympathetic.  But, after a few days, this was just not any cold.  By Friday -- a week out of work, which I do not think has ever happened before -- Dave was in the doctor's office and taking antibiotics.  I'm not convinced that the medicine helped speed his recovery any, but at least he was back to work and a regular schedule after the weekend.

Then it was Ben's turn to be sick.  When you have a teen, it is sometimes hard to tell what is legitimate sickness vs. attitude and general teen malaise. Ben can be a little like me -- he recharges by being alone and doesn't mind holing up in his room for a while.  So when he was asking if he could stay home from an early morning scout event, I was skeptical.  But, he really did not sound like it would be good for him to be standing out in the cold for 6 hours.  So, he reseted over the weekend. Then, I let him stay home from Classical Conversations on Tuesday, but he had to promise me he'd do some work.

{Listen, when you home educate yourself, you have to be practically dead to have a decent reason to not read a lit book or work on a couple math problems while propped up in bed! Ben even has some online lectures he can watch if he is not quite dead yet.}

Ben is a good kid, and he did sit up and do some work while we were out on Tuesday.  But when Ben didn't wake up by 11 on Wednesday, I knew he was in a bad way.  "Mom, did you take my temperature in the middle of the night?"  he asked when he did wake up for a few milli-seconds.  We went to see the doctor, just to make sure he didn't have anything serious.  

Croup.  My 15 year old had croup.  From this website: Croup, which usually affects children who are 5 years old or younger, results from inflammation and swelling of the larynx and trachea." Yep, that is what he had, minus the seal bark. Who knew?

Now that we've been through this bout, I think I have a better idea of what "I'm sick" vs. "I'm sick of schoolwork" looks like.  While I wouldn't wish illness on my children, it is helpful to have a perspective.

I was a little disappointed that I  could not find my go-to sick supplies -- mainly, our favorite soup:

This has been our family solution for sickness since I was a child.  I do not have a lot of homemade recipes to hand down to my children -- instead, I have comfort food that comes from a box!  There is no comparison in flavor between Mrs. Grass (which tastes like your mom made it with real chicken broth) and Lipton's Cup of Noodles (which tastes like the stock came from a powdered flavor packet), which was our weak substitute this time around). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find it at my three well-frequented grocery stores.  I'll have to ask if they can order it for me or I might just purchase a case of it on Amazon (which is where I got the picture).  I am pretty sure we'll need more of this as the winter goes by.  

I think the rest of us are saved, thank you Clorox Wipes, from the nasty bug.  We have one week left of formal learning before we take a few weeks off to celebrate Christmas and enjoy the traditions of the season.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thanksgiving Vacation: Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame

Our Thanksgiving plans took us to a new location -- Erie, Pennsylvania.  We have no connection to Erie,except it was a meeting point for my family and us and there was a water park (Splash Lagoon)! This might be one of the last years that a water park can hold the attention of my boys and my nephews, who age in range from 15 on down, but it worked for this year, and it was awesome to see my family.

It was so wonderful to see my sons and my three nephews hang out together.  Of course, there was lots of "staring at small screens" but there was also swimming together, some games, watching movies, eating out, and a few side trips.  Luke learned some soccer footwork tricks from my 13 year old nephew who has been playing club soccer for a number of years;  Luke definitely has his eye on his cousins collection of soccer shirts should he ever want to part with them.  Ben and my 14 year old cousin tended to pair off together -- both are thoughtful, young men.  Levi, I think, experienced the best surprise -- a boy cousin near his age!  My 10 year old nephew and he spent a lot of time together hanging out, and I'm so glad for the opportunity for each of my boys to build connections with their nephews.

Our "free" day away from the waterpark involved a day trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  Hubby and I were super excited for this, and I was glad for the opportunity to have my kids glimpse all the great music we used to listen to.  It was like a walk down memory lane for me! I know that Luke and Levi grew weary long before Ben, Dave and I.  Actually, Ben lasted the longest.

I was so totally enamored with the museum part (LOVED the Dick Clark/ American Bandstand looping movie) I totally forgot to go up the the Hall of Fame part, instead spending a glorious amount of time in the museum. The collage shows some of the artifacts that reminded me of growing up in the midwest in the 1980s -- Prince, The Romantics, Cheap Trick, John Cougar Mellencamp (sorry, that's what I grew up calling him) and U2!  That was fun music to dance to.

Then, right as we were leaving the museum, a group of protestors began walking down I-90 in support of the Ferguson, MO protestors. I took this picture from near the overpass bridge.  As I walked away from the bridge to wait for Dave (who got re-routed around the protestors) to  pick us up, I passed a police officer, telling him I hope everyone -- including the protestors and police -- stayed safe.  "Me, too,"  he hoped.

Ben, Levi, my nephews and I played a game called "Waterworks" that my mom has had since the 1970s.  

We made our drive home a second adventure -- stopping to drive through Grove City College, PA and then headed towards Scranton, PA for my The Office loving guys.  We found the iconic downtown skyline and took pictures.  This side says "Dunder Mifflin" and the Other side says "PA Paper."

After our Scranton side trip, we veered once more towards a detour -- West Point Military Academy's Visitor Center.  All our extra driving home side trips made me remember how much I love traveling and seeing sights with my family.

Monday, December 1, 2014

{Weekly Reports} Where'd They Go?

There are seasons for everything, and each start of the school year, I have such high hopes of journaling about our adventures so I don't forget.  But life happens (fast!) and the last thing I remember to do is journal.

A few updates:  Luke is working hard with his writing.  This year I've forced him to sit in front of the computer and type out his own papers;  the good news is that I didn't have to force him -- he willingly sat down to 2-finger type.  I tell him he has to do some touch typing, but he is not willingly doing this.  I can't decide if I make this an issue or let him realize that he better pick it up quickly through natural consequences.

Levi has begged to use the The Body Book and create a paper skeleton -- again.  I think this is our 3rd or 4th build from this resource.

I've also created some history pages that the boys are LOVING.  The copy the memory work and color a related picture while I read about the elements of the history sentence from the iPad App. This has really satisfied the kids' interest in what they are memorizing.  Now, questions like, "What's the Gadsden Purchase?" are being fully answered in a timely manner the day after our community day.

I've also decided to grab the Apologia Anatomy and Physiology book and read a snippet here and there about the body systems they are memorizing.  I mean, everyone should know what the lymphatic system parts do, fergoodnesssake!

As much as I'd like to do more, this is about all we can fit in.  I'm trying to stay connected to Ben (and not let grading pile up!) as well as working individually with Luke and Levi on their own level-specific work.  Some days there is not enough of me to go around, but other days, it is easy to add in this, plus more.

After finishing our most recent read-aloud, Sign of the Beaver, we are supposed to start on Amos Fortune, Free Man.   Levi is always skeptical about the books I've chosen to read, but by the end (at least) he is a fan.