Pezze e Piselli, by Briana Elizabeth

I am big on plans. I’m not big on following them to the letter of the law, but I do think they help us aim well, and that’s the most important thing. If you’ve followed us for any amount of time, you know I love a good Bullet Journal. Why? It’s inexpensive, it doesn’t need battery backup, you can’t lose it in a crash (my iMac recently crashed, and we had to wipe it. I did not have an external hard drive for backup, alas). You can set it on fire, but that’s another post. (I do have friends who set theirs aflame after the year is done as a marker of a new year to come and a goodbye to the last. An interesting way to mark time, no?)

Anyway, that time is upon us. If you’ve put off planning, don’t worry, you can still write a few things down to order your mind and days.

Here are some links I collected for you.

Why Bullet Journaling works.  How a Bullet Journal might work for you.  An interesting way of prioritizing our work.  How the Ivy Lee method is working for Jen of Viking Academy.  Jen from Wildflowers and Marbles has free printables to help you organize. She also has a page specifically for planning, with printables, helps, and ideas to help your year go  more smoothly.

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If you’re setting up a seasonal table for your littles and picking books for a Morning Basket, here are a few wonderful titles with lovely illustrations. The Year at Maple Hill Farm  and Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm both by Alice and Martin Provensen.
I loved this beeswax snail tutorial from Frontier Dreams and this felted pumpkin from Hinterland Mama. For olders, one of my favorites is always A View from the Oak. And you really must follow Lynn on Exploring Nature with Children because her watercolor journaling videos are so encouraging and beautiful.

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For older kids, this time of year is harder – at least at my house. Marching band camp is over, practices have started, football is all over my schedule, and choir is starting back up, which leads me back up to the bullet journaling in the beginning of the post. It keeps my head on straight and my people fed. The days of morning baskets and nature tables are long over at my house, and I miss them, but these older student days are so filled with new and beautiful things. I am trying to hold onto afternoon reading this year, but this may be the year we bid a fond farewell to that also. Older children…they have to be given their own leisure time. Time to build, discover, learn in very different ways than the younger children. It’s also a quieter time because they need their privacy about studies and accomplishments. Finding the balance is tricky and a daily tension, but growing like this is a part of being a homeschool parent.

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Happy Schooling, all.


Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

 

A Legacy….by Brit

There was a time when a man spoke very impatiently to my father. He had seen a copy of the Iliad lying on the table. “You are reading this?” he asked.

“I have read it many times. Now I read it to my son.”

“But he is too young!” The man protested, almost angry.

“Is he? Who is to say? How young is too young to begin to discover the power and the beauty of words? Perhaps he will not understand, but there is a clash of shields and a call of trumpets in those lines. One cannot begin too young nor linger too long with learning.”

[…]

My father was a tall man, and now he stood up. “My friend,” he said, “I do not know what else I shall leave my son, but if I have left him a love of language, of literature, a taste for Homer, for the poets, the people who have told our story–and by ‘our’ I mean the story of mankind–then he will have legacy enough.”

Louis L’Amour, The Lonesome Gods, p. 141-142

Though our homeschool has changed a bit here and there over the years, one thing has been constant pretty much from the beginning – we wanted to make sure we read to our children, read often, read good books, and gave them a love of reading. Honestly, you could say this began on our oldest’s first night home from the hospital. He had his nights and days very mixed up, so after he nursed, my husband took him and hung out with him until it was time to feed him again. Starting that very first night, my husband read to him. If I remember correctly, it was Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You Will Go! It didn’t matter that he didn’t understand a word of the story. What mattered is that he knew his daddy’s voice, heard the rhythm and cadence that comes with spoken language, and knew that daddy was with him.

That practice has continued throughout our children’s lives. Even now, I still read to them in the mornings during the school year, my husband reads to them most nights at bedtime, and we often have a family audio book going. Reading – together, alone – has become part of our culture as a family.

I still remember something my principal told a group of us when I was still teaching. His two sons were older – one in college and one in high school – but he said they still read aloud as a family. They often took turns, sharing books they loved with each other. They also would listen to books in the car as they drove places. To realize that once my children were able to read to themselves it was still a good thing to read to them made a huge impact on me. My firstborn, that little boy who heard his first story the night he came home from the hospital, still loves to listen to his father and me read to him and his siblings. Truth be told, they all still love to listen to the early pictures books being read to the youngest two.

“Who knows how much he will remember? Who knows how deep the intellect? In some year yet unborn he may hear those words again, or read them, and find in them something hauntingly familiar, as of something long ago heard and only half-remembered.”

Louis L’Amour, The Lonesome Gods, p. 141

Being raised in a literature-rich home is having its effect on our daughter with special needs as well. She loves books. From the time she was able to crawl around and make mischief, she has been pulling books off the shelves to “read” them. Over the years she has amassed quite a collection of her favorites. She still has us read what some would consider “babyish” books – board books with little print on each page. But those books are sinking in. She is beginning to recite them with us. She sits with those books and reads them to herself. She brings them to the dinner table and takes her turn at “recitation” by “reading” them to the family. She also loves longer books – books that, given that she has Down syndrome, some would say she wouldn’t have the attention or comprehension to sit through. But I know she does. And I attribute so much of her love for language and literature to it being a strong part of our family culture.

We may not have monetary riches to leave our children. At this point in our lives, with my oldest nearing the end of his homeschooling career, I’m just hoping we have riches enough to help with college for five children. But we can leave them a few things money can never buy – a love for language, a love for literature, a friendship with some of the greatest writers who wrote some of the greatest works.

Image courtesy Freeimages.com

Brit and her husband are living this beautiful, crazy life with their four sons and one daughter in sunny California. They made the decision to homeschool when their eldest was a baby after realizing how much afterschooling they would do if they sent him to school. Brit describes their homeschooling as eclectic, literature-rich, Catholic, classical-wanna-be.

Student Spotlight: Pencil Drawing, by Olivia

Armon and Tristan Natsua

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.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ at the Gap, by Courtney

Parents of public school children who are thinking about homeschooling often ask questions like:

“How do you homeschool your child without leaving gaps in their knowledge? How do you know homeschool curricula authors have expertise and their curricula are covering enough?”

The most common answer I see is this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In words:

“No curriculum is perfect! Students are always going to have gaps! You should just follow their lead and let them study whatever they enjoy! As long as they figure out how to learn, that’s the important thing.”

I have a problem with this, and the following is why I have a problem.

One of the original thinkers in the study of how children learn is Jean Piaget. Piaget came up with the idea of schemas. (East Tennessee State University, 2016) Schemas are the basic building blocks of knowledge. If you spend much time around toddlers, it is easy to notice huge gaps in their schemas—all animals with fur and four legs are “doggy,” for example. Toddlers eventually refine their schemas to exclude all but canines in the “doggy” category.

So what? From my example, most people would point out that everybody has gaps, right? Well, yes and no. The more we learn, the more we refine our schemas. “This has four legs and fur, but it meows, so it is not a dog.” Our schemas become incredibly complex, in fact—and this is a good thing! (East Tennessee State University, 2016) The more refined the schema, the more information inherent in it and the more opportunities a child has to attach more information to it!

In terms of schemas, random facts do not “attach” to anything, which is why they are so difficult to learn. This also explains the phenomenon of “in one ear and out the other”—students aren’t making connections to existing schemas. However, when a student is attentive, with proper background knowledge, refining a schema can be effortless—see also, “meow” versus “bark.” As an instructor, one should be on the lookout for incorrect schemas. Without correct background knowledge in their schema, a student “knows” that gravity does not act equally on bowling balls and feathers (Clement, 1982).

This is where my problem with laissez-faire education occurs. When they don’t have an introduction to human knowledge in a structured fashion, with explicit connections to prior knowledge, students will have enormous gaps in their education of which they are unaware (East Tennessee State University, 2016), (Clement, 1982). Furthermore, their lack of prior background knowledge will actually impair their ability to learn in the future. (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps, 2006), (Clement, 1982).

If you want your child to be a good learner, it’s self-defeating to shrug off the “gap” question. In educational research, this is called the Matthew effect (Sanovich, 1986), after Matthew 25:29:

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath.

Students with refined, complex schemas—or in other words, well-organized depths of background knowledge—learn more easily (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist, 2003) and are more likely to draw correct conclusions when given new information. For example, every progressively-educated public school student in a study was gullible enough to believe that a website about tree octopuses was telling the truth (Krane, 2006). Why would we not do as much as possible to “mind the gap” so that our students do not fall prey to tree octopuses?

Classical education is good for all kinds of students, not just students who love to read. For poor readers, background knowledge increases reading comprehension (Kosmoski, Gay, & Vockell, 1990). For students who struggle with working memory, education research has firmly shown that increased background knowledge increases working memory (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps, 2006).

One common criticism of classical education is its emphasis on rote memorization. If you want your child to have good problem-solving skills, random, scattered background knowledge is insufficient. “The student must have sufficient background knowledge to recognize familiar patterns—that is, to chunk—in order to be a good analytical thinker.” (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps, 2006). Classical education’s emphasis on memorization actually contributes to good problem-solving skills and flexible thought!

On the other hand, schemas are not composed solely of facts—they are also composed of knowledge of how those facts fit together. This allows students to draw analogies between prior knowledge to create new knowledge:

a shark is to a vertebrate as an octopus is to a(n) ______________

Classical education’s emphasis on learning facts in context—history as narrative, for example—helps students “fit” their memorized facts into their increasingly refined schemas.

Will every classically educated student become an expert in every subject? Of course not. But background knowledge of facts and concepts is required for students to develop expertise in their chosen areas of interest (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Inflexible Knowledge: The First Step to Expertise, 2002).

Another way to look at this research is to note that the hierarchical, highly structured nature of formal classical education actually lends itself beautifully to the way children learn. We provide them with oodles of background knowledge, diving deep into a particular subject for a year or so at a time, explicitly scaffolding their schemas with timelines, science notebooks, and nature journals. Then we revisit the topics at different age groups, making connections and relationships between knowledge clearer, strengthening schemas until students develop a deep understanding of the material.

Classical education’s overarching view of knowledge, organized into interrelated domains, actually works with the way our minds create schemas. Will there be gaps? Of course—but we’re minding them, providing our students with basic, underlying structures for their schemas, instead of throwing our hands up and shrugging at the inevitable

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. –Edward Everett Hale

 

 

Clement, J. (1982). Students’ Preconceptions in Introductory Mechanics. American Journal of Physics, 66-71.

East Tennessee State University. (2016, May 31). Schema Theory: What is a Schema? Retrieved from Faculty Support for Instruction: http://www.etsu.edu/fsi/learning/schematheory.aspx

Kosmoski, G. J., Gay, G., & Vockell, E. L. (1990). Cultural Literacy and Academic Achievement. Journal of Experimental Education, 265-272.

Krane, B. (2006, November 13). Researchers find kids need better online academic skills. Retrieved from University of Connecticut Advance: http://advance.uconn.edu/2006/061113/06111308.htm

Sanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy”. Reading Research Quarterly, 360-407.

Willingham, D. (2002, Winter). Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Inflexible Knowledge: The First Step to Expertise. Retrieved from AFT American Educator: http://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/winter-2002/ask-cognitive-scientist

Willingham, D. (2003, Summer). Ask the Cognitive Scientist. Retrieved from American Educator: http://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/summer-2003/ask-cognitive-scientist

Willingham, D. (2006, May 31). Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps. Retrieved from AFT American Educator: 2016

Willingham, D., & Riener, C. (2010, September-October). The Myth of Learning Styles. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning.

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Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000, while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncting, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats.