A Week Journaled

 The Homeschool Mother's Journal  

In my life this week...  My in-laws are coming this Thursday to whisk away my 9th, 5th and 3rd graders for a roadtrip to Washington D.C.  The children are so excited they may end up vibrating out of the visible spectrum.

In our homeschool this week... I'm working on how to make change quickly and accurately with my 3rd and 5th grader.  I'm also doing a brush-up course on American History and Government.

My 9th grader is still slogging through The Virginian. I got a good laugh out of the fact that she felt like I was doing her a favor when I allowed her to go ahead and start on A Comedy Of Errors.  Owen Wister is not a favorite but Shakespeare is. 

My favorite thing this week was... Our church's youth group cleaned up the yard of an elderly widow on Saturday.  The sky was blue, her yard was a rambling gardener's paradise.  The kids had a blast working.  The day was satisfying on so many levels.

What's working/not working for us... The Young Scholar's Guide to Composers.  Curriculum can't work if you never take it off the shelf.  Somehow, I've just not gotten around to using it this year.  In theory I still think it looks like a great music history curriculum and I hope to start using it after our June break.

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...  I'm looking at Hey Andrew Teach Me Some Greek because my 9 year old really, really, wants to learn Greek. I think the idea of a different alphabet is what he finds so enticing.  I'd love opinions or advice on Greek.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share... My 16 year old has fallen head over heels into a book of Emily Dickinson's poetry.  She was watching her littlest brothers play outside with sidewalk chalk... and copied a poem she found amusing.



It's That Time Of Year


Things I love about this time of the school year:

  1. Some projects and curriculum are coming to an end.  My 9 year old just finished his Queens Spelling Workbook.  It's a short curriculum, basically a really nice light review of spelling rules.  Perfect for his needs this year.  He was so proud that he could put away the book for his younger brother to use in a year.
  2. It's the time of year that I start daydreaming about what I want to do next year.  Daydreaming is always fun because all projects in my daydreams are glowing successes.
  3. It's the time of year we always seem to start on a few short units that were not in my original plans.  For instance, I recently realized my elementary aged children don't know how to quickly calculate change, so we are doing a "unit" of playing store and making change.  To add urgency and excitement I told them if they could keep all the practice money if they became proficient before the end of two weeks.  Often my spontaneous units are more fun and successful that my carefully planned ones.
  4. Used Curriculum Sales.  
  5. Sunshine.  How can you not love a day where your family does all their reading sitting outside in the sun?
  6. I must repeat- Used Curriculum Sales.
  7. I love looking back and seeing how far my children have progressed during the year.  
  8. With warmer weather open windows.  Fresh air seems to brush the cobwebs of home school burn-out away.

Defining Fluency and Philosophy


Part of the joy/hardship of home schooling is that to a certain extent you decide on the degree of rigorousness you require of your students/children.  Even harder- your philosophy of education decides the actual point of said rigorousness or... lack thereof. 

I don't put a lot of faith in tests.  At 17 I CLEP-tested out of two years of college French.  However, at the time I couldn't have had more than a brief (and atrociously accented) discussion of what I wanted to eat and could have participated in only a basic touristy conversation.  I was merely talented at- 1. reading and 2. guessing- which are two test taking super-powers.

My high school junior is going to be studying German in Vienna for part of her senior year.  She has to take a placement test about a month before she starts class.  It will be interesting to see how she does because she is my German-language-learning guinea pig.  

There are not many home school German curriculum options.  In fact, there is not a single one that I found tolerable.  I tried a few versions of newer German language text books but they tended to be picture heavy, disjointed, grammar light, and didn't provide enough practice.  The Practice Makes Perfect series is great- but only after you've already built a broad vocabulary base.

Instead, I've hobbled together Pimsleur German with an intense little college German textbook (purchased at Goodwill) from the 1960's, some dictionaries, web access to German language news and blogs, German language versions of popular fiction along with matching audio books, and English Grammar for the Student of German.  She's also been emailing a couple of Austrian friends in German.

How I wish someone would create a Pimsleur-ish curriculum that includes a written component and that is less aimed at being a traveler and more aimed at living within a family setting.

Yesterday, I stumbled across an internet argument on what constitutes fluency.  Curious, I goggled the matter:  The Association of Language Testers In Europe had an interesting table.  Given their parameters I certainly didn't deserve any college credit for French! 

Given their parameters, I know where I want my daughter to be by the end of her senior year.  In fact, I know where I want my German to be by the end of my daughter's senior year.  Then, perhaps teaching my younger children German won't be the struggle it's been with my daughter.

Some interesting language links:

All sorts of educational links from a French site.  Just click, "Allemand." has a few German language movies- most of them inappropriate- but there are a few like Hilfe.
Deutsche Welle
How To Learn Any Language

For news:

Don't forget to look on itunes for podcasts.
It's amazing if you goggle, "german language website," how many sites you will find. 



On Foreign Languages


If you've ever searched reviews of a foreign language curriculum you may have noticed that the most positive reviews are almost always written by people who have been using the curriculum for less than a year.

I've been homeschooling since before the internet was useful.  I've watched foreign language programs come in a blaze of glory and then disappear.  Rarely do you see truly critical reviews.  Even rarer do you hear about programs that worked (in a quantifiable way) long term.

In my opinion and experience sending a child to a tutorial to fulfill a high school foreign language requirement will do just that, and no more.  Buying a curriculum and having a child complete it... ditto.  And that's o.k.  It depends on your goals and your child's goals.  As well as inherent strengths.  After all, I'm completely comfortable with wanting my children to fulfill their math requirements merely so they can score well on the SAT's.

However, I want my children to be able to converse with native speakers.  I'm discovering that means I have to learn with my children so we can practice/converse at home.  I have to search out opportunities for my children to be immersed in the language they are learning.  It requires learning grammar.

Rats.  That's a lot of work.

Most of the curriculum out there wants to be fun and colorful.  They want you to learn "organically."  It's a sales pitch.  Rosetta Stone and their imitators especially irritate me.  Think about it:  A child learns a language organically by being immersed in it for about 6 years- and then they still have to be taught correct grammar and spelling and writing in school. Plenty of children need speech therapy for their native language.  Give me a break- a computer program (even an over-priced one) can't do that in 30 minutes to an hour a day.

The only short-cut is hard work.