Saturday, February 26, 2011

Materials & planning

We've been busy lately! Jay is almost done with all his work. He should be done completely in a few weeks. Dea is moving quite quickly, too. She seems to be so psyched about next year that she has finally decided to finish off this year. Jay is going to have more left to Mastering Multiplication than I thought he would, but that's fine with me. He's been spending most of his daily hour of educational computer time playing Timez Attack & is doing great with his multiplication. He just isn't moving through the book very quickly because there have been quite a few days that we decided to skip bookwork and play Math games instead. He's still learning & reviewing, and that really is all that matters.

Most of the materials, for next year, are here! There are still a few things I need to order. I'll post pics of all their stuff for next year, once it's all here. I've been busy with the final, detailed planning, now that the new materials are here. Some of the courses I don't really need to plan. Tell Me More Spanish plans for you. ASL consists mainly of watching dvds (Signing Time & some others we've found at the library). They a dvd a few times each week & practice the signs. They have to do at least a week on each dvd. Dea is doing her last year of Music History & Appreciation. She has to research & write a short bio on a different musician or band each week. Previous years have included a list of important musicians for her to choose from. Next year will be entirely her choice.
Some of the courses require just a little planning. Music for Jay consists of instrument practice most days and informal study of genres and the bands/musicians in each. Art for Dea is an in-depth study of 5 artists & their work. Art for Jay is very connected with History - origami while studying Ancient Asia, leatherwork & working with clay during many of his projects for Native American history - and a few additional topics. Jay's Logic workbook only has 30-some lessons. So, it's one lesson per week from that, with some random logic puzzles thrown in on other days.
Some courses, though, are a bit more involved. We don't use a complete Language Arts program, we piece it together from various things. So, I have to figure how to fit Grammar & Writing together, even though they are different programs. We do a word-a-day thing for Vocab/Spelling. Jay's reading is entirely up to him, at this point. He just has to discuss the books he reads, so I know he read & understood them. In a few years, he'll have to do a project or Literature Study Guide for the books he reads. Dea, since she's doing her high school English, has a specific focus for the Literature portion each year. This year was Plays & Poetry. Next year will be Mythology & Legends (which coincides with her study of Ancient Civs for History). Science also involves combining several materials to make a single course, as does History. So, I've been a bit busy planning. The planning also takes time because of hte amount of courses to plan (Jay has 12 & Dea has 10 next year).

So, the kids are thrilled & can hardly wait to get to next year's work, and I'm having a blast planning it all.

Monday, February 21, 2011

But what do I name it?

Several times I've mentioned, half-jokingly, that I might give my method of homeschooling a name. Well, I've thought about it quite a bit, and I'm becoming more & more convinced that it is what I want to do.

You see, the term Eclectic Homeschooling seems to imply indecision and randomness. Most who claim to be Eclectic Homeschoolers are either eclectic in material choice only (meaning they stick to one method, but choose materials from various sources) or they seem to see being eclectic as temporary, a means to an end. So many say they are eclectic because they haven't yet decided which method will work best, or that they chose eclectic because they couldn't decide between the methods they wanted.

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with any of that. I'm simply saying that those descriptions don't work for me. None of them fit me, my way of homeschooling, or my reason for identifying as an Eclectic Homeschooler. So, I thought maybe now is the time to name MY method. There are principles & ideas, a philosophy of my own, at the heart of my method. My choices in materials, topics, even subjects are specific, thoughtful, purposeful, not at all random or convoluted. Even if I'm the only one that ever uses my method, I feel that it deserves a name of its own.

Saying that I'm an Eclectic Homeschooler seems to just confuse people. They aren't sure what that means. If they know someone else that claims to be an Eclectic Homeschooler, they often assume I do things the same way as that person. You can't just say "I'm an eclectic homeshcooler" and have that be it. It doesn't provide a clear picture of your style. Many people then ask for clarification - what do you mean by 'eclectic'?

Plus, maybe if I put it in writing - a book or website explaining the educational philosophy & principles and how I put them into practice - I could just point people toward a resource that explains it, instead of trying to explain my views again & again. When I have the time to sit & focus, I can be quite eloquent & provide a detailed explanation. However, trying to explain how & why we do things a certain way for one subject, without explaining the full philosophy & principles behind our entire method, can be difficult. Doing it spur of the moment, on a forum or in a short conversation, can be downright impossible (level of difficulty changes depending on my mood, my level of focus, if I have a headache or am sick, etc).

So, I think I'm going to do it. I just need to figure out a name that accurately describes my method. It will take some time to get it all written out, but I really think it will be worth it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

More about SB136

Here is a YouTube video of the hearing for SB136. The testimony of the truancy officer is frightening. The sound is bad, so it's kind of hard to hear.

My favorite part is this:
 Senator Luechtefeld: "If they register - will you go to any house and see if you can help?"

Truancy Officer: "Yes, sir."

Senator Luechtefeld: "Even those that are doing a really good job?"

Truancy Officer: "That's right. And I'll know very quickly as I knock on the door; the ones that are doing a great job won't let me go. They'll want me to come in. The ones that say we don't want you around I'll know to take further action."
SERIOUSLY?????!!!!!! In what parallel universe would that last statement make sense? Let's look logically at this situation.
You are a homeschooler. You are doing everything your state requires of you. You are providing an education that is comparable or superior to what the public schools offer. No one has ever contacted the authorities to claim that your children's education is being neglected. The state has no reason to believe that you are not doing a good job educating your children.
Then, one day a truancy officer shows up at your door. He says he's there to offer his assistance, to help you provide your children with a better education. This man knows nothing about homeschooling. He knows nothing about you or your children. He knows nothing about what goes on inside your home. He has no knowledge of how your children spend their day, what their learning styles are, their strengths, weaknesses, life goals, etc. He just assumes that he knows more about education than you do and therefore can tell you how to do a better job of educating your children.
Are you going to be happy to see this arrogant jerk who assumes you know nothing about educating your own children? Are you going to ask him to come in & offer him a cup of coffee? Are you going to sit and talk with him, picking his brain for all the help he can offer you? OR.....
Are you going to be offended by his arrogance? Are you going to tell him that your children are getting a great education and you don't need his help? Are you going to tell him to go away?
Personally, I would tell him to get off my property. I might be able to do it in a polite manner, but might not. I would inform him that I don't want or require his assistance. I would not invite him into my home. I have nothing to hide, but my children's education is simply none of his business.
How egotistical must he be to assume that he can offer help to all homeschoolers? In order to be able to offer assistance to all homeschoolers, he would have to have a very comprehensive understanding of educational psychology, learning styles, educational philosophies, homeschooling methods, Gifted Education, Special Education, all the conditions that could cause a child to have special educational needs, all the different curricula & service options available, and the homeschool laws for this state. What are the odds that he (and every other truancy officer that would be going door to door to offer 'help') have the neccessary level of knowledge and understanding of all of those things (or any of those things)?
What qualifications does he have to tell me how to better educate my kids? How much experience does he have educating children? How much experience does he have with educating Gifted children, or Twice Exceptional children? How much experience does he have with dealing with a child with Juvenile-onset Bipolar? How much experience does he have educating children with severe combination-type ADHD? How much experience does he have educating a 1st grader who is doing 3rd grade Math, reading at a 4th-5th grade level, and has a vocabulary larger than most high school students I've met? How much experience does he have educating a child who has been reading at a high school level since 3rd grade and will have 7 high school credits at the end of 7th grade? Does he really think that I should place higher importance on his opinion than the opinions of the therapist and Psychiatrist that my child sees, both of whom have full confidence in my ability to homeschool & have complimented the education my children get? Does he really think that I should place higher importance on his opinion than on the opinion of a family member (who has the children's best interest at heart) who is a certified teacher and has confidence in my homeschooling my children?
Yet, if he were to come to my door & I told him to go away, that I don't want or require his help, that he is unwanted at my home, that my children are getting (and will continue to get) a fantastic, well-rounded education, he would assume that I was neglecting my children's education and decide that he needed to 'take further action'. With nothing to base an opinion on, other than the fact that I didn't invite him in so he could waste my precious time, he would decide that further action was needed, that there must be something wrong with how we homeschool. He doesn't see how insane that is? Again, I have to say, what an arrogant jerk!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Senate Bill 136

SB 136 would require all non-public school students, in Illinois, to register annually. The brainless twit behind this senseless bill, claims that it is to help the state assist those homeschoolers who are not getting an education that is comparable to that offered by the public school. Yeah right!

The real point of this bill is to lay the groundwork for tons of regulations, hoping we won't know what they're doing. This bill is putting the frog in a pot of tepid water.

He claims that it is to help the state assist homeschoolers. Let me explain why that won't happen & why it's not really what he's after.

1) This bill is not homeschool specific. It would require ALL NON-PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS to register. That would also include private schools. Either he's wording it that way so that homeschoolers don't get too upset because he's coming after us, or he wants to control all education within the state of IL.

2) When I first told the school I would be homeschooling my daughter (I was planning on leaving her in ps through the end of Kindergarten & homeschool after that), they told me that I could not pull her out during the year. The compulsory age in IL is 7 - 17. So, exactly why would I not have been allowed to pull out my 5 year old, a child who clearly did not fall into the compulsory age range? Then, when I informed the district that she was never returning to their schools, they provided me with a registration form (that is entirely voluntary) and informed me that I HAD to fill it out & return it.
That is what the state of IL considers helping - providing you with incorrect info in hopes that you are not aware of what is legally required of you.

3) The state has not been paying the districts, so many districts are making huge budget cuts. Our superintendent is proposing cuts that involve reducing staff, cutting all Kinder to half day, and consolidating & closing schools to 'maximize class size'. If these cuts aren't approved, it may mean getting rid of the Gifted program, the Arts program, the vocational programs, cutting many positions, and no new textbooks. This is a district that already does not allow students to take home their textbooks or required reading books. They're talking about cutting the Honors classes, because an audit of the curriculum proved they were no more challenging than the regular classes. It would make too much sense to just increase the amount & difficulty of work, let's just cut it out instead.
This district doesn't have the money to provide an excellent education to the students that attend its schools, and it isn't the only district in the state having major financial issues. So, considering the deep financial struggles of the public schools in IL, exactly where are they going to get the money to track non-public school students?

4) How would having homeschoolers register with the state help the homeschoolers who are 'slipping through the cracks' (aka not getting an education comparable to public school)? It won't! Knowing how many of us there are & where we are located won't do anything regarding the quality of education we provide our kids. Which is why this is just step one of his plan, even if he isn't telling us that.

5) According to an article (I can't remember which, sorry), he said this bill was prompted by a conversation he had with someone where he learned that there aren't really any regulations for homeschoolers in IL. That tells me that this is just step one in his plan to force regulations on homeschoolers.

6) The state can't prevent students in the public schools from falling through the cracks. So, maybe they should focus on those issues instead of overextending their resources trying to prevent homeschoolers from falling through the cracks.

Now, I'm not saying that there are no homeschoolers who are not getting a good education. I'm not saying that all homeschools provide an education superior to what public schools offer. I'm not saying that all homeschool are equal (not all public schools are equal,either). We all know that homeschools differ greatly from each other. However, why should those of us who follow the law & provide an education that is comparable or superior to the public schools be punished because there are possibly one or two in the area who may not be as dedicated as we are? I don't have time to waste with useless paperwork, especially if that paperwork is going to someone who has no business knowing the information the paperwork is requesting. My kids don't attend the public schools. Therefore, there is no reason for the local district or the state to have the names, ages, or grades of my kids. It is none of their business. What we do for school, how many days a year we do school, how many hours a day we do school, what materials we use, what level the kids are in for each subject, none of that is their business. The fact that some politician thinks that there might be some homeschoolers that are not providing their kids with a proper education (though I don't recall seeing anything saying that he had any actual reason to think this) is not a good enough reason to force those of us who are providing our kids with a good education to deal with unnecessary regulations & paperwork.

The state needs to stay out of my kids' education. I took their education into my own hands because I can do it better than the state can. So, why on Earth would I want the state involved in our schooling? I don't need their help. I don't need their interference. I like the way we do things. My kids are getting a stellar education, one no public school could hope to equal. Having to register with the state (or filing any other kind of paperwork) will not help my kids get a better education.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Been MIA

Sorry I've been MIA lately. Things have been a bit busy around here.

We got 2 new cats. The one we already had is finally getting over it & forgiving us for it. The previous owners, of the newest additions, had been dealing with an ear mite infestation with all their pets. The kitties have been scratching (we think the previous batch of mites laid eggs & they just hatched), so we're trying to get rid them before our next cat joins our household.

The kids & I all seem to have caught a cold. Though the kids are getting past it much faster than I am. It hasn't been bad enough to put off schoolwork, though. They've been fairly busy with school, trying to finish their work by the end of next month. We haven't been able to get taxes done yet, so we're still waiting on buying materials for next year.

I've been working on planning next year. I've got the main plan done - the exact topics for each subject & materials picked out for each. Now, I'm focused on detailed plans for each course. So far, I'm done with Algebra 2, Intro to Psych, Dea's History (Ancient Civilizations: A Comparative Study), Art for both kids, Music for both kids, and Jay's Geography. I've done as much as I can do before the new materials get here for Anatomy & Physiology, Dea's English, and Jay's Math. The only other course I can do entirely before new materials get here is Dea's Latin. I can get some done for Jay's Science & History, so I'm working on those. I don't have to do any planning for Spanish since we're using Tell Me More & it plans it out for them. I also don't really have to plan out ASL since they are mainly using Signing Time DVDs for it, and our plan basically consists of "watch one DVD several times each week and practice the signs whenever possible."

I'm having a lot of fun planning History for Jay next year. We'll spend roughly the first half of the year on Ancient China & Vikings. For China, we'll make paper & a compass, and discuss those inventions as well as other important inventions from Ancient China (gunpowder, crossbow, seismograph, etc). We'll study Taoism Confucius, and Buddha. We'll discuss the important contributions they made to Mathematics. We'll also discuss the Great Wall, and I'm looking ot see if I can find a reasonably priced 3d puzzle or model of the wall theat he can build. We'll either make some Chinese food or go get dinner from a good Chinese restaurant. For Vikings, we'll make a Viking house, rune stones, and food. We'll study the ships, warfare, daily life, explorers, etc.  We'll also visit some websites and watch some documentaries about both topics.
The other half of the year, History will focus on Native American History & cultures. We're going to havve so much fun with this one. We'll study the cultures of the different tribes, food, clothing, & houses of the different regions. We'll make a variety of foods, build at least one type of house, make a Great Turtle & a buffalo out of clay. I'm introducing him to leatherwork. We're getting a drum to decorate & making a dreamcatcher. We'll also be keeping track of his finished projects with a stick; he'll add a feather to it for each finished project/assignment. It will be similar to a coup stick, but instead of tracking brave deeds of warfare, it will track his learning experiences related to this specific topic. We might also get a flute and learn to play.

So, that's what I've been up to lately. Hopefully, it won't take this long for me to get back for the next post. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Goals, January update

I said I would post monthly updates of how I'm doing on my goals. Now that January is over, here's my update on my progress so far. Almost no progress at all. I have spent mos tof the month sick, and that has taken a toll. The only work I did toward my Fitness Goals, was a pathetic 2 miles on the Gazelle. I did nothing toward the Household Goals. I have done a little toward the Educational Goals. We are still in our 'break', Jay is on track to finish the year by hte end of the 'break', and Dea may be done about the same time. I've worked on planning next school year. Most of what can be done prior to arrival of new materials is done. I should be done with what can be done now, by the time I order the new materials. Not much progress has been made toward the Personal/Family Goals, either. With Jay being sick the first week of hte month, me being sick since then, and Dea not feeling to great the last few days, we have not fit in a single Family Game Night or Family Movie Night. I did get some reading done this month, but not as much as I'd like. I was too exhausted from fighting the infectious laryngitis to be able to focus on reading every night.

Here's what I did read though;
The Wolfen - Whitley Strieber
Orphans - Ed Naha
Foundation - Isaac Asimov (1st book in The Foundation Trilogy)
Foundation and Empire - Isaac Asimov (2nd book in The Foundation Trilogy)