Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why I Homeschool

When my dh and I decided to homeschool, back when our oldest was 2-1/2 or 3 years old, our primary motivation was academics.  We decided we could cover more material better at home than the school could.  This conclusion was prompted by my reading the Little House series of books again and noticing how much more Laura knew than I did, even though I had been a top student through 13 years of public school and four years of college plus a couple more years getting a masters degree, and Laura didn’t even go to school regularly.

Now that we’ve been formally homeschooling for three years, I have different reasons for homeschooling.  Primarily it’s about ideas.  As Charlotte Mason says, ideas are the mind’s food.  Ideas, not information, are the critical component of any education.  Each book or other resource we select must contain no ideas that are not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.  Each year, as I read the materials my children are reading or hearing, I am reminded of the importance of the ideas in each work–they are forming my children’s worldview in subtle ways constantly.
I’m also homeschooling so that we can have more time together as a family.  As my kids get older and begin to have more activities outside our home, I am grateful that we have so much time together each day, learning together and playing together.  Soon enough they will be leaving our family, and until then I hope to build strong relationships and influence their development so that our family will be a resource they rely on when they need it even after they have left home.

I’m homeschooling so that I can meet each child’s educational needs individually.  I have one child who will be a late reader, and in another school environment I would probably have to hold her back a year at least and put her in special programs which for this particular child would not have positive longterm effects no matter how I tried to soften the blow.  Since we are homeschooling, I can work on her reading while we move ahead in other areas where she is more than capable.

I am thankful that we have the opportunity to do this, and that the curriculum we are using (AmblesideOnline) has such high quality books and materials so that we don’t have to go out and invent our own schedules and booklists.  Thank you to all the Advisory members who worked so hard to put this package together!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hints on Child Training

I just finshed reading Hints on Child Training by Clay Trumbull, the great-grandfather of Elisabeth Elliot.  I wanted to evaluate how closely his recommendations meshed with those of Charlotte Mason.  In many respects, the two authors come from the same perspective.  Both encourage us to respect the personhood of the child, to train rather than break the will, and to value the role of imagination in the child’s life, just to mention a few places where the two are in agreement. 

However, there are significant areas of disagreement as well.  Trumbull mentions habit formation but never focuses on this key Mason element.  Trumbull also assumes a level of parental control that differs from Mason–he suggests that playmates need to be carefully screened for suitability, where Mason recommends gently training the child to choose suitable playmates for himself so as not to push him toward unsuitable ones merely by forbidding them.  Similarly, Trumbull’s suggestions for choosing reading material do not reflect a love of literature in the way Mason’s do and completely fail to acknowledge the importance of feeding the child a mental diet of great ideas.

If you are already familiar with Mason’s recommendations for child training, Trumbull’s book can be useful to flesh out some of her advice and to highlight some areas she omits or glosses over.  If you are not already familiar enough with Mason’s recommendations to recognize areas where the two differ, I suggest you start by reading Mason, specifically Volume 2 and then Volume 1 if your children are young or Volume 6 if they are older.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Baby Tam 'o Shanter

Here are directions to make a tam o’shanter style hat for a baby.  I adapted these from a doll pattern in the Mary Francis Knitting and Crocheting book.  I haven’t proofed this particular form of the instructions, so if you use them and find an error please let me know.

Use an F hook and worsted weight yarn.
  • Chain 4.
  • Make a slipstitch into the first chain to form a ring.
  • Make 10 sc in ring.
  • Stitching in the back loop only, make 2 sc in each sc around the ring. (20 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in the first sc and 2 sc in the next sc*.  Repeat from * to * around.  (30 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first two sc and 2 sc in the third sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (40 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first three sc and 2 sc in the fourth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (50 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first four sc and 2 sc in the fifth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (60 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first five sc and 2 sc in the sixth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (70 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make 1 sc in each sc around.  (70 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first six sc and 2 sc in the seventh sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (80 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make 1 sc in each sc around.  (80 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first seven sc and 2 sc in the eighth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (90 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make 1 sc in each sc around.  (90 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first eight sc and 2 sc in the ninth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (100 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make 1 sc in each sc around.  (100 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first nine sc and 2 sc in the tenth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.  (110 sc)
  • Still stitching in the back loop only, make *1 sc in each of the first four sc and decrease on the fifth and sixth sc*.   Repeat from * to * around.
  • Repeat this for five or six more rounds, decreasing on every fifth stitch.
  • Make four rounds of sc in each sc, stitching in both loops (not just the back loop).
To make the hat bigger, make more increasing rounds in the section where you are increasing every other round.  To make the band bigger, don’t decrease as far before switching over to sc in each sc, in both loops.

You can stitch the loose starting thread into the hole from the initial ring, and cover up that opening.  If you want to make a tassel, make a chain of whatever length you like, add a tassel to the end, and use a yarn needle to thread the tail of the chain into the hat at the ring on top.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Kindergarten and a Half

DD#2 and I have been planning her school year for this coming year, which will begin for her no later than August (just after she turns 6).  Although she would be old enough to officially begin formal school this year, so that we could start AO Year 1, I think she will benefit from a more gentle and relaxed year of working on skills before starting in on the more difficult work of Year 1.

To that end, we’ve planned out a year’s schedule with books that are not on the AO list.  I expect this schedule to be adjusted as we go along and see what works and what doesn’t.  We may end up beginning Year 1 in January, or we may wait until our new school year begins next summer.  Officially she is going to be in first grade this year, but the material we’re using I’m calling Year 0.5.

Here is our booklist for this year, keeping in mind that this list reflects where we are and the materials we have around, not necessarily the best list that could possibly be made in preparation for Year 1, and also that we read many other books that aren’t scheduled.  I did not intend to create a formal list that others should follow, but I hope our schedule will help you in creating your own if you find the need.
To all of this we will add planning and cooking a weekly supper, learning household cleaning tasks, regular nature study, and possibly drawing lessons if I can manage to get them together (using Mona Brookes’ Drawing with Children).

UPDATE:
Having now completed the school year (over a month ago, actually), I know I will make major revisions to our schedule the next time I do a Year 0.5 with one of my children.  Our reading load will go way down.  Burgess Flower Book will be an every-other week experience or less.  Little Lord Fauntleroy will be out.  Animal Stories will be every other week or less, and I’ll read ahead and select key stories.  We ended up using Handwriting Without Tears, which I think I’ll use again.  A couple of years of that may be a good intro to handwriting, after which we can move over to italic.