Poetry

Happy Halloween!

With love from the Sandbox to Socrates team–have a great day!

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Student Art, Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Mixed Metals Sculpture, by Olivia

Olivia is a sixteen year old writer and artist who enjoys spending her time sewing, first person interpretation acting , and attempting to exchange dairy goats for small children under the age of one. She currently works at The Texas Renaissance Festival and Sherwood Forest Faire, and attends Interlochen Center for the Arts summer camp.

Biomes, Science

World Biomes #8: Arctic Tundra and Polar Deserts, by Cheryl

Previously:   Mountains and Alpine Forest

Tundra: “Land of No Trees.” As I mentioned in my post on Mountain Habitats, we studied the Mountain Tundra and the Arctic Tundra separately because most of the books we picked up divided them and paired them with the mountains or polar deserts. Inititally, I felt this was a good way to go. As we continued our studies, I found that we were covering a lot of the same material a second time. We did find a few fun new things – pingos and hexagons for example.

Pingos and hexagons are two types of land formations found in the arctic tundra. The kids loved the word pingo, and my son wants to create a game by that name. His idea sounds very similar to Bingo, but I love that something we studied has sparked his creativity!

Books

Panda and Polar Bear by Matthew J. Baek does not really cover any material vital to our study, but my daughter picked it up, and we read it the first day of our study. It is sweet story about a polar bear who gets lost and makes friends with a panda, and they work together to get the polar bear home. My daughter loved it!

First Reports: Tundra by Susan H. Gray is from one of the series we have used throughout our study. It covers arctic and alpine tundra, one of the few books we found through our library that covered both.

Polar Lands by Margaret Hynes is another book we brought home from Chick Fil A. You can find used copies on Amazon. I love this set of books. Each one has some great information and a fun activity!

Arctic Tundra and Polar Deserts by Chris Woodford is from the Biomes Atlases series. If you can find a set of these books at your library or purchase them from Amazon, do so! They have been invaluable in our study! They have concise information and good maps. I have been able to go over the detailed information with my oldest  but just hit the highlights and look at the pictures with my younger student.

Life Under the Ice by Mary M. Cerullo has beautiful photographs of animals in their icy habitats! This was my animal lover’s favorite book! It also had lots of fun information.

Arctic and Antarctic Habitats by Kate McAllan was a great read for both of my kids. We found some interesting facts about the habitats!

Polar and Arctic Tundra Animals

Some of the many animals we came across include: plover, whimbrel, snowshoe hare, lemmings, arctic fox (Lilly’s favorite!), big horn sheep, musk ox, caribou, grizzly bear, walrus, ptarmigan, antarctic ice fish, polar bear, arctic tern, penguins, and harp seals.

Our favorite animal fact was that the antarctic ice fish has antifreeze in its blood to prevent it from freezing in the icy water!

Arctic Tundra Plants

Antarctica cannot support many kinds plant life. The types of plants that are found in the arctic tundra include sedges, heaths, mosses, and lichens.

Vocabulary

Bog, Pingo, Polygons, Permafrost, Sedges, Heaths, Mosses, and Lichens

Fun Facts

The oldest known lichen is found in Greenland. It is approximately 4500 years old!

Fun and Easy Activities

What is blubber and how does it keep an animal warm?

The plan was to put our hands in ice water, then coat them in a blubber-like substance and then put them back in the water to see if it created some insulation for their hand. It sounded fun, but the combination of gloves that were too big and kids who were uninterested and unwilling to cover their hands in the gooey mess made this a failure at our house. Not everything goes according to plan. Give it a try; maybe it will go better for you!

Lapbook

This lapbook section is smaller than the others due to the overlap in information. Here are the pieces we made: Map, Polar Animals, Tundra Landforms, Review.

Next time: Wetlands!

cheryl

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Essay on "Ozymandias," by Nathaniel

The poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley was written in 1817, as a statue of Ramesses II was en route to London for display in the British Museum. The poem was written as a reflection on the similarities of the Egyptian civilization to the British Empire. In the poem, the narrator meets a traveler from Egypt who tells him of a broken statue in the middle of the desert. The statue bears an inscription that reads, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” He expresses such disdain for the achievement of men that one would almost think that from a nihilistic viewpoint he advocates despair, yet his theme is actually consistent with the teachings of the Bible concerning human achievement. One side of the statement shows the pride of humanity, but the other side shows the end of all endeavors on Earth. The only thing missing is the alternative: “The grass withers and the flower fades away, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

One aspect of the statement shows great pride. Ozymandias, the Egyptian king, commissioned a statue of himself to stand in the heart of his empire, and for the base, an inscription showing arrogance and cruelty. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” Despair he says, for he was the greatest king ever to rule, and none may even hope to come close to approaching his greatness. As the original inscription put it, “If anyone should like to know my grandeur and reach of stature, let him surpass any of my achievements.” At the time the statue was commissioned, the lesser mighty would despair, for it was obvious what great works the king had accomplished.

Here, however, Shelley makes expert use of situational and verbal irony, for with the next thought one remembers the true, current state of the statue. The sculpture is broken, and it lies not at the heart of a mighty empire but in the wastes of a vast desert. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” Despair, for they are now nothing but dust, and so will be your greatest accomplishments on Earth after your death. His poem shows situational irony as the traveler finds himself perceiving the incongruity of a broken statue, abandoned in the desert, declaring the greatness of the surrounding works. He further uses verbal irony in the inscription on the base of the statue. The inscription does not match reality and may be taken to mean the opposite of what Ozymandias intended. It gives a sense of delusion, and one begins to despair of both aspects, both of achieving such greatness that would validate such an inscription, and also of making any lasting difference in the world, if it all turns to dust eventually.

Solomon expresses a similar viewpoint in Ecclesiastes. According to the Bible, he was the wisest man who ever lived. In Ecclesiastes 2:11 he writes, “Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” Notice he does not state the vanity of all human effort, only the activities which his hands had done. His father David expressed similar sentiments in Psalm 89:47: “Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all humanity!” Solomon had reached a point of despair in his life, coincidental with his abandonment of God and His teaching.

The New Testament is also full of commentary on the fleeting nature of worldly achievement, but the writers after Christ offer an alternative to the despair of Solomon, who even in times of faith was under the old law. In Luke 12:15, Jesus said “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Paul writing to Timothy returns to the topic several times. In 1 Timothy 4:8, he writes, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” In 1 Timothy 6:4-7, he adds, “[The evil man] is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitude of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” What a contrast to the writing of Solomon. Though he had overseen the greatest time of prosperity in the history of the nation of Israel, how little it meant to Solomon when compared with the everlasting treasure of God!

Ozymandias and Shelley were both correct if they advocated despair to anyone who could only find worth in the works of their hands on Earth. However, the teachings of Christ and his apostles provide an alternative to the pride of humanity. The great men of the Bible have one thing in common, and that is their faith in God alone. “For the grass withers, and the flower fades away, but the word of God endures forever!” (Isaiah 4:8)

Nathaniel is a homeschooled senior, preparing to enter college to study mechanical engineering next fall. His favorite school subjects are Calculus and Greek. He’s a folk musician who performs at small venues locally, and he is also part of his church’s worship band (playing electric guitar, keys, and occasionally banjo, when the opportunity arises). Nathaniel is also involved in Civil Air Patrol. For further socialization he works part-time at a taco shack.

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Essay on “Ozymandias,” by Nathaniel

The poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley was written in 1817, as a statue of Ramesses II was en route to London for display in the British Museum. The poem was written as a reflection on the similarities of the Egyptian civilization to the British Empire. In the poem, the narrator meets a traveler from Egypt who tells him of a broken statue in the middle of the desert. The statue bears an inscription that reads, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” He expresses such disdain for the achievement of men that one would almost think that from a nihilistic viewpoint he advocates despair, yet his theme is actually consistent with the teachings of the Bible concerning human achievement. One side of the statement shows the pride of humanity, but the other side shows the end of all endeavors on Earth. The only thing missing is the alternative: “The grass withers and the flower fades away, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

One aspect of the statement shows great pride. Ozymandias, the Egyptian king, commissioned a statue of himself to stand in the heart of his empire, and for the base, an inscription showing arrogance and cruelty. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” Despair he says, for he was the greatest king ever to rule, and none may even hope to come close to approaching his greatness. As the original inscription put it, “If anyone should like to know my grandeur and reach of stature, let him surpass any of my achievements.” At the time the statue was commissioned, the lesser mighty would despair, for it was obvious what great works the king had accomplished.

Here, however, Shelley makes expert use of situational and verbal irony, for with the next thought one remembers the true, current state of the statue. The sculpture is broken, and it lies not at the heart of a mighty empire but in the wastes of a vast desert. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” Despair, for they are now nothing but dust, and so will be your greatest accomplishments on Earth after your death. His poem shows situational irony as the traveler finds himself perceiving the incongruity of a broken statue, abandoned in the desert, declaring the greatness of the surrounding works. He further uses verbal irony in the inscription on the base of the statue. The inscription does not match reality and may be taken to mean the opposite of what Ozymandias intended. It gives a sense of delusion, and one begins to despair of both aspects, both of achieving such greatness that would validate such an inscription, and also of making any lasting difference in the world, if it all turns to dust eventually.

Solomon expresses a similar viewpoint in Ecclesiastes. According to the Bible, he was the wisest man who ever lived. In Ecclesiastes 2:11 he writes, “Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” Notice he does not state the vanity of all human effort, only the activities which his hands had done. His father David expressed similar sentiments in Psalm 89:47: “Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all humanity!” Solomon had reached a point of despair in his life, coincidental with his abandonment of God and His teaching.

The New Testament is also full of commentary on the fleeting nature of worldly achievement, but the writers after Christ offer an alternative to the despair of Solomon, who even in times of faith was under the old law. In Luke 12:15, Jesus said “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Paul writing to Timothy returns to the topic several times. In 1 Timothy 4:8, he writes, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” In 1 Timothy 6:4-7, he adds, “[The evil man] is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitude of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” What a contrast to the writing of Solomon. Though he had overseen the greatest time of prosperity in the history of the nation of Israel, how little it meant to Solomon when compared with the everlasting treasure of God!

Ozymandias and Shelley were both correct if they advocated despair to anyone who could only find worth in the works of their hands on Earth. However, the teachings of Christ and his apostles provide an alternative to the pride of humanity. The great men of the Bible have one thing in common, and that is their faith in God alone. “For the grass withers, and the flower fades away, but the word of God endures forever!” (Isaiah 4:8)

Nathaniel is a homeschooled senior, preparing to enter college to study mechanical engineering next fall. His favorite school subjects are Calculus and Greek. He’s a folk musician who performs at small venues locally, and he is also part of his church’s worship band (playing electric guitar, keys, and occasionally banjo, when the opportunity arises). Nathaniel is also involved in Civil Air Patrol. For further socialization he works part-time at a taco shack.

High School

Mom as Guidance Counselor: A Task to Dread or a Time to Connect? by Apryl

One of the more under-discussed, yet greatly feared, aspects of homeschooling high school is guidance counseling.  As you approach the high school years, you are suddenly faced with the daunting task of guiding your child through the maze of college and career choices.  While you are helping them navigate this unfamiliar territory, you are also transitioning from parenting a dependent child to parenting a very independent young adult.  This can be hard for many families and often causes stress and discord.

There is hope.

Homeschooling has given me the wonderful ability to really get to know my children as they have grown into young women.  We have tried to foster an environment in which they feel comfortable talking with us about their hopes, dreams, and fears.  Discussing these things isn’t always pleasant or happy, but it is always real.  This gives me the ability to help them as they try to find their way.

My oldest child will graduate this spring.  Of my three children, she has struggled the most with the idea of becoming an adult.  She is so aware of the responsibilities of adulthood that it seems frightening to her.  Because of her vivid imagination and her tendency to over-think things, the possibilities are overwhelming. Also, there are so many things she likes to do that it has been hard for her to focus on a singular goal for her future education.  Our talks about this have ranged from dreamy and full of laughter to serious and tearful.  I have, at times, even questioned my ability to get us through this stage.

As she approached graduation, we needed to narrow her wide focus down to a single track for college.  We are fortunate that our state provides for two years of community college upon graduation from high school, so we want her to take advantage of it while she can.  She has no desire to attend a four-year school at this time, but we know that could change.  Exploring the options at our local community college, we tried to focus on a transferrable degree program that fell within her scope of interests.  We landed on a Theater Arts Associates Degree that will transfer into our state university, should she decide to go that route later.

Coming to this decision was harder than it might have appeared from the outside.  There is a lot of turmoil within my oldest about what she wants to do after school.  She wants to be a writer but also wants something a little more concrete.  She loves to act but doesn’t really want to be a stage actor or on be on television.  She is very good with children but doesn’t want to go the traditional route of becoming a teacher.  We went around in circles about it for a very long time, not able to land on anything until she went to see a play in which favorite acting teacher starred.  The light bulb went on: a drama teacher!  There are many non-traditional opportunities in our area for teaching drama, and this was the first time a smile crossed her face when talking about a major for college.

So now, our route has become clear with a tangible goal at the end.  I have been able to help her focus on class choices for both this year as a dual enrollment student and for the two years to come as she works toward her goal.

An unexpected, yet happy, side effect to getting this choice hammered out is that she seems to have relaxed in other areas of her life.  Having an idea of where she is headed after the dreaded (to her) 18th birthday has lifted a weight off of her shoulders that I didn’t realize was quite so heavy.  She seems to be settling into her new picture of herself as a young adult.

This is when the dread and fear of being the guidance counselor to your own children turns into pleasure and pride about who they are becoming.  The beauty of homeschooling is in the process.  The hopes, fears, struggles and accomplishment are handled through the love and nurture of parenting and personal education, and you get to play a part in it.

High School

High School Isn't as Scary as it Seems, by Apryl

I often hear parents lament over how they will manage high school. It seems to be a huge fear for many younger homeschooling families, but it really doesn’t need to be. We began our homeschooling journey when my girls were in the 3rd and 6th grades and now my oldest daughter will be graduating this year. Other than doing some planning ahead, and being a bit more detailed in my record keeping, our actual schooling methods did not change much. I believe that looking ahead at what you have to get done to meet your homeschooling goals is the most essential part of being successful in high school. That may look a little different in each family, but here is a glimpse into how we have navigated high school.

Beginning in 7th or 8th grade, I began to think about what I wanted to require of my students to graduate from our homeschool. One of our educational goals was to prepare them to enter college should they choose that path. Not all of my girls want to pursue a degree, but I wanted each of them prepared to do so upon graduation so they would not be limited in their chosen paths. I have given them a little flexibility in how they achieve that goal and how hard they want to push themselves to go beyond my set goals.

The first thing I looked at was the undergrad admission requirements for several schools. My main focus was on our local university.  These are the course requirements they expect to see from incoming freshmen:

  • 4 units of English
  • 2 units of algebra
  • 1 unit of geometry
  • 1 unit of trigonometry, calculus, statistics, or other advanced math
  • 1 unit of biology
  • 1 unit of chemistry or physics
  • 1 unit of additional science
  • 1 unit of American history
  • 1 unit of European history, world history, or world geography
  • 2 units of a single foreign language
  • 1 unit of visual or performing arts

Next, I looked at what our state board of education (Tennessee) required for graduation from high school.  This was their list:

  • Math: 4 credits, including Algebra I, II, Geometry and a fourth higher level math course (Students must be enrolled in a mathematics course each school year.)
  • English: 4 credits
  • Science: 3 credits, including Biology, Chemistry or Physics, and a third lab course
  • Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Physical Education and Wellness: 1.5 credits
  • Personal Finance: 0.5 credits (May be waived for students not going to a University to expand and enhance the elective focus)
  • Foreign Language: 2 credits (May be waived for students not going to a University to expand and enhance the elective focus)
  • Fine Arts: 1 credit (May be waived for students not going to a University to expand and enhance the elective focus)
  • Elective Focus: 3 credits consisting of Math and Science, Career and Technical Education, Fine Arts, Humanities, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB)

Then, since we use an umbrella in our state, I looked at our umbrella school’s requirements. They were very similar to the state requirements, with the main difference being in how they listed electives.

Using those lists as my guide, I began to lay out what courses they would take from 9th to 12th grade. This was simply a guideline, not a rigid schedule. Throughout their high school years, we have changed things up quite a lot. Sometimes this was because of a need to slow down to grasp material, and sometimes it was because a new interest was being developed.

At the beginning of each year, I look through the list and plan our courses accordingly. Also, at the end of each year, I go back and make sure we accomplished what I had set out to do. I keep a record of how they did and submit grades at the end of the year to our umbrella school. I also keep a list of all the literature they read for school and add that to their umbrella’s records.

To give you an idea of what it looks like in practice, the following is what my oldest child has done for high school:

9th Grade:

Math:  ALGEBRA I, 1 Credit – Saxon Algebra I, Khan Academy, Jacobs Elementary Algebra

Social Studies:  ANCIENT HISTORY, 1 Credit – Mystery Of History I and II, Historical Fiction Novels, Research Materials

Elective:  BIBLE, 1 Credit – NKJV Bible, Daily Study and Discussion Of Scripture

Science:  BIOLOGY, 1 Credit – BJU Biology With Lab

English:  CREATIVE WRITING AND GRAMMAR, 1 Credit – One Year Adventure Novel, BJU Writing and Grammar 9

Physical Ed:  MARTIAL ARTS, 0.5 Credit – Tae Kwan Do-Private Instruction

Fine Art Elective:  THEATRE ARTS, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Class-Acting I

 

10th Grade:

Science:  ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY, 1 Credit – The Human Body Book And Workbook, Online Resources, And Teacher Written Curriculum

Elective:  BIBLE OLD TEST. SURVEY, 1 Credit – Old Testament Survey (2nd Edition) By Paul R. House And Eric Mitchell, NKJV Bible

Fine Art Elective:  DRAMA, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Acting Course covering Improv, Plays, And Stage Presence.

English:  ENGLISH 10, 1 Credit  – BJU Writing And Grammar 10, Writing Strands, Vocabulary From Classical Roots

Math:  Geometry, 1 Credit  – Live! Online Math and Harold Jacobs Geometry

Foreign Language:  LATIN, 1 Credit – Co-Op Class, Latin Road To English Grammar

Social Studies:  MEDIEVAL HISTORY, 1 Credit – Mystery Of History II And III, Historical Literature

Fine Arts Elective:  MUSIC – CHOIR, 1 Credit Formal Choir instruction and participation in the Church choir

PE:  BALLROOM DANCE, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Class taught By a professional Ballroom dance instructor.

PE:  FENCING, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Class taught by a professional Fencing instructor

 

11th Grade:

Math:  ALGEBRA II, 1 CreditTeaching Textbooks Algebra II

English:  AMERICAN LITERATURE, 1 Credit Notgrass And Various Novels: The Scarlet Letter, Little Women, Company Aytch, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Narrative Life Of David Crockett, Narrative Life Of Fredrick Douglass

PE:  BALLROOM DANCE, 0.5 CreditCo-Op Class

Elective:  BIBLE, 1 Credit – Bible, Notgrass

Science:  CHEMISTRY W/LAB, 1 Credit Apologia Chemistry

HEALTH:  Health and First Aid, 0.5 CreditEMT Textbook, CPR/First Aid Class, Online Resources.

Foreign Language:  LATIN II, 1 Credit – Wheelocks Latin

Elective:  MUSIC – CHOIR, 0.5 CreditFormal choir instruction And participation in the Church choir

PE:  FENCING, 0.5 CreditCo-Op Course

PE:  BALLROOM DANCE, 0.5 Credit – Co-Op Course

Social Studies:  U.S. HISTORY, 1 CreditNotgrass Exploring America

 

12th Grade:

Elective Foreign Language:  BEGINNING CHINESE, 1 Credit- Dual Enrollment at Community College

ECONOMICS:  We haven’t decided on a curriculum for this yet

Math:  ELEMENTARY PROB. & STATISTICS, 1 Credit – Dual Enrollment at Community College

English:  World Literature – Excellence In Literature, The Word Within The Word

PERSONAL FINANCE: Personal Finance, 0.5 Credit – http://www.PracticalMoneySkills.Com

U.S. GOVERNMENT:  American Government, 0.5 Credit – BJU American Government

 

If you look closely at her courses and compare them to the requirements, you’ll see that she will graduate with more than enough credits. We have also taken advantage of our state dual enrollment grant this year. She could have taken DE classes in the 11th grade as well, but we chose not to do that.

Another thing that helped me greatly was to look at the ACT and SAT recommended testing schedules and dates. Not all colleges and universities require these test scores, but some do, and you should be prepared. Our local community college requires a certain ACT score for dual enrollment. For my oldest, we took part of her junior year to study for the ACT and took a lot of practice tests. For my younger two, we will work on this during their sophomore year.

An important part of the high school years for my students is volunteering. They have volunteered at food banks, libraries, raptor rescue centers, church and co-op nurseries, nursing homes and summer camps. These things look nice on college applications, not to mention how they teach the importance of contributing to your community. I try to keep a record of their volunteer hours and locations. Many places can give you a document tracking your hours.

What about the differences between students? The high school plan for my oldest child looks a bit different than that for my younger two. My oldest is a bit of a free spirit and really doesn’t have any idea what she wants to do after high school. Thanks to a new program in our state, she will be able to attend the community college for two years at no cost and plans to do so. We aren’t sure if she will pursue any further education after that point. We have also taken a bit slower path with her because she is in no hurry at all to grow up and needed a little more time to mature. It has also given her time to explore all of the literature she can get her hands on, and to dabble in multiple foreign languages. She will be 18.5 years old when she graduates in the spring.

My twins, however, are on a much faster path. They skipped the 8th grade and jumped right into high school work after 7th grade. They will begin dual enrollment their junior year and are planning to take the ACT multiple times in hopes of scholarship money. They will graduate early, at 16 or 17. One of them hopes to get a scholarship to a four-year university right out of high school and is considering a STEM field. The other wants to get a business degree at the community college and then attend culinary school. Their high school courses are reflecting these goals as well. One is taking a wonderful forensic science course, and the other takes all the culinary classes she can find. The flexibility of homeschooling through high school is a beautiful thing.

Resources:

SAT information

ACT information

An interesting site that has helped me in creating course descriptions can be found HERE.

 

 

apryl  

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. She is an artist, photographer and a homeschooler.  After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.  You can visit her blog at Almost a Farm Girl

Reading

Using Vintage Readers for Middle School, by Sara Jane

Several years ago, my husband brought home a vintage reader from a thrift store. I’m not sure why it caught his eye, but he threw it on the shelf with the dozens of other vintage books he had picked up over the years. This particular book survived several purges over the years, and somewhere in the second year of homeschooling our son I finally put it to use. I had been looking for passages to use for copywork and dictation, and I was pleasantly surprised to find everything I needed for copywork, memory work, dictation, and narration in one book of literary variety. After that year, I wasn’t able to find a more recently published book that met my needs the way the vintage reader had. Newer school textbooks were too busy, too expensive, and the selections seemed lacking in quality. Teacher manuals were busier, more expensive, and offered lessons that just didn’t apply to what we were doing in our homeschool. I found myself searching through public domain books freely available online and eventually purchasing more vintage readers from online used book sellers.

What is a reader?

A reader is a book composed of various reading matter intended to be used by school children throughout one school year. Primary grade readers may contain illustrations, larger fonts, and perhaps even some phonics instruction, while readers for older grades might contain comprehension questions, helpful footnotes for unfamiliar words or phrases, and further reading recommendations. The enormously popular McGuffey Readers (which I have not used) are probably the most commonly known readers.

What does a reader contain?

The two readers I have used are similar but vary slightly in contents and organization. The 1910 Elson Grammar School Reader series by William H. Elson and Christine Keck is organized by theme or authorship, with a recommended sequence appearing before the introduction. The 1935 Treasure Chest of Literature series by Charles Eichel is also organized by theme but seems to flow more easily from one selection to the next, making this series slightly more open-and-go than Elson. Both series contain poetry, biographies, fiction, and nonfiction selections. Elson begins each selection with an introduction which generally contains information about the author, while the Eichel books contain introductions more closely related to the piece itself. Both readers have discussion questions following the selections. The Eichel books have an introduction to the teacher and have no accompanying teacher guide that I know of, while the Elson readers are written directly to the student with a separate teacher manual available for each book.

How do you incorporate the use of vintage readers into your homeschool?

In the past, I have employed readers primarily as a source book filled with valuable selections to use for daily copywork, dictation, and narration. Once a week, I read aloud one selection from the Treasure Chest of Literature Fourth Year reader. My daughter and I then talked about the selection as she answered the comprehension questions at the end of the reading. I would use that selection for the week’s copywork and dictation, choosing sentences or stanzas of a length appropriate to her ability. Occasionally, I chose one of the poems to study for memory work and recitation. (If a parent is unfamiliar with teaching copywork, dictation, memory work, and narration, a fantastic handbook for using these skills with a student can be found in Peace Hill Press’s publication, The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease Instructor Text  by Susan Wise Bauer.)

During this school year, I have been attempting to incorporate the readers more deeply into our language arts studies. The instructor manuals available for the Elson Grammar School Readers contain a sequence of study for every selection contained in the accompanying Readers.

For example, the manual accompanying the second reader suggests the following plan to study each selection:

1. The student reads the lesson independently. He or she uses the ‘Helps to Study’ questions following the selection to focus on relevant parts or ideas. Dictionaries, maps, or other reference materials may be used gain a better understanding of unfamiliar words, phrases, and places mentioned in the selection.

2. The selection is read aloud the next day in class. (I usually read the selection aloud, though we may take turns reading.)

3. Analysis of the text takes place to determine what the student understands. The Elson Reader Manuals contain comprehension questions for each selection beyond what the student has available in his or her reader. (A side note on this portion of the lesson: These questions were designed for use within a classroom setting. A single child might have been expected to answer one of the questions, but would learn mostly from listening to the answers of his or her classmates. Personally, I do not expect one or two children to answer every question posed in the manual. I answer the question after I’ve asked it, allowing time for discussion or contradiction. I usually only ask the child to answer one, two, or three questions independently, depending on his or her age.)

4. Re-read important parts of the text, or the whole text, with the new perspective gained during the analysis portion of the lesson.

Several readers are available to freely view and download, and you can search for and purchase hardbound copies, as well as other series on eBay, Amazon, Alibris, or your other favorite book reseller.

Elson Grammar School Reader Book One (5th Grade)

Elson Grammar School Reader Book Two (6th Grade)

Elson Grammar School Reader Book Two Teacher Manual

Elson Grammar School Reader, Book Three (7th Grade) (no online link)

Elson Grammar School Reader, Book Three Teacher Manual

Elson Grammar School Reader, Book Four (8th Grade)

Elson Readers are also available for younger students.

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Sara Jane eclectically homeschools her two children in a Midwestern river city. She enjoys music, cooking, educational and legal history, and those rare library visits which do not include paying an overdue book fine.

Author Pages

Author Page: Jen N.

 

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Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she calls her children her horcruxes — each one has a talent for something she might have pursued herself. Jen and her husband have created a family of quirky, creative people that they are thrilled to launch out into the world. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and has started a blog: www.recreationalscholar.wordpress.com

So What’s the Plan?

Keeping a Commonplace Book

Commonplace Book: Getting Started

Easy Earth Day Activities

Field Trips: Do They Count? A Guide for Homeschoolers

One Room Schoolhouse Math

I Am My Greatest Challenge

Homeschool Urban Style

A Week In The Life

A Day at the Museum (and More if I Convince You Properly)

Scheduling: How to Pull It All Together