August 6, 2008

Of Mice and Men, Part Two

The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley

"No matter how carefully a project is planned,
something may still go wrong with it."
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy,
Third Edition.

I just posted the poem "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns (where his famous phrase, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" is from) because it got me thinking about how this is so very true. I have been working on my son's 10th grade curriculum for months. It is not unusual for me to spend a couple months each year, usually in the spring (initially) and then in the late summer, working out the details of our next year's program. This year, however, has been more difficult than in previous years. My son will start 10th grade and this year marks the final countdown, so to speak, for our home schooling adventure. I have three years to get him prepared for college and to make sure we have "crossed all the tees and dotted all our eyes." Credit hours and transcripts, courses and course descriptions...oh my goodness...there is so much to consider and keep in mind when planning out a high school program.

My son hopes to attend music college (probably a Bible college with a solid music program) and as such I need to make sure he is not only ready (academically), but also that he has taken the core and elective requirements necessary for acceptance. Every college has different requirements for admission, but most want to see a standard or traditional curriculum listed on the transcript. We don't follow a traditional textbook approach, so I need to make sure that what we do cover will match up to a college admission officer's scrutiny. I know that most colleges really want to see SAT or ACT scores (they use these as indicators of general ability) as well as a transcript that shows a student is well-rounded and ready for college study.

I know we will not have any issues on either point. My son is very smart and a good student. He is creative and gifted musically so he has many outside/extra-curricular pursuits. He is also articulate and well-versed in literature and history. He will do fine...

His mom, on the other hand, worries and frets (or should I say "sweats") over the details. Yes, I am very organized and a good planner. I am just not a detailed person. I tend to look at the "big" picture and gloss over the little details (knowing they will get done...eventually). Take writing for example. I have not spent as much time on our writing program as I should. I am not really worried about it though...I didn't learn to write well UNTIL I was in college (the fire and the frying pan) and I got very good grades. I don't plan on waiting until college, I am just not worried about it and know that we will make sure to cover all the important aspects of writing before he heads off to school. I guess I am more interested in seeing his mind develop and in knowing that he is developing critical thinking skill. We spend a great deal of time reading books (some day I will post our book list -- if not just to remind me of how much we have accomplished over the years) and then talking about them. We do a lot of hands-on work and 'real' life application. My goal is to present my son to the world as a well-adjusted, well-rounded, well-educated young man, ready and able to handle anything life may throw his way.

Nevertheless, big ideas and goals aside, those pesky details need to be addressed. I have blogged about some of our plans in previous posts. Most of that blogging has changed over the course of the past weeks and/or months. I have redefined our goals, changed courses, and generally, narrowed our options down to just the "nuts and bolts" of our 10th grade curriculum. It is a necessity, really; I mean, you cannot keep on going on the "big" picture. At some point, you have to come down to reality and figure out how you will get from point A to B.

So this is it...our plan for the fall. It is not too terribly thrilling and in many ways it does look pretty traditional. I am OK with that aspect because it does what it was intended to do: it moves us one step closer to Year 11.


This year we will focus on American History (1400-2000). Our spine will be A Patriot's History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen. In addition, we will read a number of supplemental books (Slavery/Anti-Slavery and WWI-II) and study primary source documents.


English will coordinate with History (somewhat) and we will focus on the novel. I have several science-fiction/fantasy works scheduled along with one or two reality works (Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, for example). Included -- writing the essay. We will review Jensen's Format Writing and work hard at writing essays of various lengths (from 1 page to 6).


We will use Teaching Textbooks Algebra 2 this year. I have heard many good things about this program and we are going to give it a try. My son is a visual learner -- but the fact that this course work is designed for independent study -- is a BIG plus to me.


I have finally broken down and decided to use Apologia Chemistry. I have debated over using AP science for years, simply because I never was impressed with their General and Physical Science texts. I also had heard how hard these texts are and thought that they would be too intense for my science-loving, but not math oriented student. However, I reconsidered using it this year when I read a review that stated that Chemistry, in specific, could be done independently. My son is very gifted and I like the fact that these books are written to the student. We are going to give it a try and it we have good success, will continue with Physics next year.

Foreign Language

We will use Tell Me More German, a four year program, to continue our language study this year. We have used Rosetta Stone previously (through our library), but I feel my son needs something with more tracking ability -- to make sure he is getting the material. I have heard great things about this software program so we are going to bite the bullet and purchase it for Y10-12.


We will study the Old Testament this year (New Testament next) using the CLP book, The Kingdom of God. I have heard that it is difficult and dry...but we will just read it as supplemental to our listening of the KJV on tape.


Ugh! My worst subject in high school... We have to complete 1/2 credit in PE sometime before graduation. I am thinking we can do this if we are diligent to get out every day and run/walk or bike. It is not that big of a deal, but being that we all are "couch potatoes" even a little bit of exercise is work for us.


I am leaving this one up to my son. He has already covered Visual Basic and C++ for elective credit. I am not sure what is left for him to do (maybe SQL). LOL!

That is pretty much it. If you would like to see my high school program (a CM-inspired approach), you can read about it here:

It hasn't been updated to reflect our current plan, but it gives a good overview of "how" one might create a CM High school program.

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