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.

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