Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How We Do Homeschooling (right now) Part One


Age: 14 (scary!)
Temperament: Good. Pleasant.
Struggles that might make homeschooling tricky: Prone to despair. Time management. Organization.
Passions: Music

This is Mary's ninth grade year, so these are the things we decided she should study:

Music History along with some art history
Music Theory
Alexander Technique (a truly awesome thing)
Cultural Geography

Boy, that sounds awesome doesn't it? I should just leave it alone at that. Superhero homeschool Mom of the universe!!!

In truth, this is Mary's day:

Practice viola—four to five hours
Math—one hour
Reading/Literature—at least one hour (She's currently loving THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO)
All her other subjects, she squeezes in whenever she can around math, practicing, and her bazillions of music rehearsals. She probably spends three to four hours per week on each subject. Other than German (which she takes through BYU's Independent Study Program) and her math, she doesn't have tests. I don't require assignments other than some writing. She studies her books, takes notes—the end.

So how do I know she's studying and learning?

Tough to say. I don't 100% know anything. I examine her notebooks regularly, and they are chock full of great stuff. She's allowed to write in her textbooks, and there is a great deal of underlining being done. But is that enough to know?

I second guess myself constantly on this issue with all of the kids. Kids in the United States now spend an average of 30-40% of their time in school taking tests. Kids in Finland spend 3% or less of their time taking tests, and Finland rocks the rest of the world on every measurable test. I'm on the side of Finland!!! I remember so little of what I memorized in Junior High and High School and College. So very, very little. Memorization only takes you so far especially when we live in this age with such easy access to all sorts of information.

What I'm trying to worry about is her ability to express herself and her ability to think and her ability to learn on her own and, finally, her ability to take ownership for that learning.

She is studying anatomy because she wants to better understand how music affects the body and how a musician physically learns to play.

She is studying literature with my guidance, but selecting her own books.

She is studying Music History rather than plain old World History because it relates so deeply to her passions.

She is studying German because she wants to live in Germany or Austria one day with its deep tradition of music.

She talks about her learning regularly in casual conversation. Her writing is clear and well-organized. She needs to work on it, as we all do, but she's growing. I can see it.

Most importantly, she works enthusiastically and independently all day long. She decides when she does what. She keeps a record. She knows if she doesn't do what she needs to do, going to college is going to be tough. She knows what she is learning will impact her now and in the future—and not just because of college. She knows that time wasted is gone forever.

I am writing this down because it is tough to remember this. It is tough to remember that I know my daughter is learning and growing when people say things to you like, "They've got to go to school to face the tough knocks. How else will they be prepared for life?"

I have no answer for this but that I want her to learn a great deal more than just tough knocks.

Here are the texts Mary is using for her various subjects. There are pros and cons to them, but, for the most part, they are the best we could find, and we're satisfied. We do Teaching Textbooks for math and LOVE it. We also have a Shakespeare class she takes on Fridays and I teach a writing class to the same group (about eighteen teens). It gives her a chance to present, discuss things in groups, etc... She really loves that.

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