October 31, 2009


Today, my son and I carved pumpkins for our annual house decorating program. We have carved pumpkins (or I have) for the past 16 years. I love pumpkins and enjoy making different types of faces on them. My son prefers scary faces; I go for happy ones.
This will probably be our last year carving pumpkins. The number of trick-or-treaters has diminished steadily over the years, and I wonder how this night will fare. I saw oodles of candy at Walmart -- most years, I get the leftovers (I always wait until the day of to get my candy). I think many families are choosing not to participate, not to give out candy, and not to send their children round to the neighbor's homes. This is OK by me...I just never like to leave the little one's who do dress up without some treat for their bags. I would feel pretty bad, sitting at home, lights out, while knowing their are some kids still going round and round. Oh well...

October 27, 2009

Cello and Notation

UGH! I am struggling to get past "Ode to Joy!"

I have been learning to play cello for about two months now. I am not taking lessons (we already pay for lessons for piano -- DS -- who is the musician in the family), but have gotten a few pointers from both my son and his piano/violin teacher. I have also made use of the free videos over on eHow.com (wow! Great -- you can learn how to do anything on that site!!)

A friend of our family gave us a used cello. It is pretty beat up, probably about 50 years old. It is a Kay Cello, a popular student cello made in the 1920s-1960s for student music programs. They were made to take a beating (you know...lugging it on the bus, banging it down the hallway at school). The cello itself is in OK shape, just some scratches and a few dings in the body. The strings are good; the bow needs some work, but still OK to use.

We invested in a good cello bag, which has made all the difference. And, the cello came with a student book to use (hooray!)

The problem is that I don't read music. I am the least musical person I know. I tried playing piano as a child and never progressed passed "hi-lo" and other book 1 songs. I tried playing flute in 4th grade, and couldn't learn "Mary Had a Little Lamb" well enough to stay in the school orchestra (oh, I wish I wouldn't have given that up!)

I always felt second-class because in my family, everyone could play an instrument. My dad played Organ (and sang tenor in Barbershop Quartets), mom played piano. My brothers all play the guitar (one professionally, the other two very well). I tried guitar too -- in high school. That didn't work either! LOL!

In the 1980's, I fell in love with the cello when Crystal Bernard played it on the sitcom Wings. There were several episodes where she played the cello and then wanted to go to the Boston Conservatory to study music. I thought it was the most beautiful instrument ever. It was then I set my heart on playing the cello. I would think about it often, but would always say to myself, "Carol, you cannot read music. You couldn't play the flute, so how can you play the cello!"

Well, ta dum...I am actually playing the cello. I started with video's to learn the basics, then found some easy music online. My son gave me my first couple lessons, helping me to know where the notes were on the string. The past two months I have bowed open strings, done some scales, and learned one song (a children's version of Ode to Joy -- which BTW -- my son made me figure out on my own. The notes and all. I can't read music, but he made he figure it out!! What a good teacher!! PTL!)

Last evening, after playing this one song thirty or so times (it is short, you know, for little kids), I said, "Lord, I need some help! I cannot keep playing this song. I am ready to really learn how to play this cello!" PTL! God is so good to me...He took me online to a site with some basic notation help. I read the lessons (on how to read sheet music), and then looked back over the fingering charts for cello (I had done this initially -- it was all gobbly-gook to me back then). Then I got out my method book (also looked at but eyes glassed over because it was way too hard to follow).

I have to say...the Lord does have perfect timing. After two months of fingering the notes, bowing and bowing and more bowing...I am now ready to learn how to read cello music. I looked through the book again and this time...voila! it clicked with me. I said "Oh, I see...." This book is beginning cello method and includes fingering exercises to help you learn the notes on the strings. The difference is that it has you practicing one string at a time (one finger, then two, then three and then four). You work methodically through the strings, until you are able to place your fingers on the string and bow correctly (it has little bow instructions too -- up or down bow). Once I complete the open string exercises and then the fingering ones, I will start to play through all the major and minor scales. The remaining lessons are similar, learning technique, but will be "like" playing a song. I will be able to make "music"!!

I cannot wait to get the cello out tonight and begin to read music. I know that once I master this book, I will be able to read music well enough to begin to tackle Suzuki music books. I am so excited...I never thought I would be able to get past this point (the point of when I have given up before). God has truly given me the desire of my heart.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass. ~Psalm 37:4-5 AMP (my life verse!)

Update: May 5, 2010

I was reading through some old posts and found this one. In case you are wondering what ever happened to me and the cello -- ta dum! I am still playing the cello, have been now for five months. I started fiddling with the cello back in September, then took some time off. I picked it back up again in November, and really started applying myself in December 2009. In January, I started lessons with my son's violin teacher. I have taken 4 months of lessons and am now at the intermediate level (in Book 3 of the Suzuki method). I am also learning how to play fiddle music (folk songs). I am loving the cello, and think I am making excellent progress. My goal is to become accomplished enough to play in the orchestra at church or with a small trio or ensemble.

October 26, 2009

Learning French, Part II

Ok, French is harder than I remember. Perhaps it is because I am 47 (it seemed really, really easy when I was 12-13! LOL!) I made it through one lesson so far, did OK, but feel like I am trying to speak with a mouth full of marbles!! Oh well...

The interesting thing, I think, is how much harder it is to learn this skill at the near half-century mark. I know that our brains are capable of learning until the day we die. We have the capacity of learning for life, not just for a short period of time. In truth, however, it is easier to learn new things (skills) when the brain is fresh and young. It is not impossible; it just requires a bit more effort.

Oh effort...yes, that is a tough-y. When faced with learning French, all I can think of is how tired I am, how much laundry there is to do, what to fix for dinner, etc. My mind is so full of other things, seemingly inconsequential things, but things nonetheless. There is so little time for French now. Alas! The truth sinks in...if I really want to learn a new skill, whether it is a language or a musical instrument; it means that I must be willing to put forth more than a modicum of effort. I must really put for the effort -- firstly to overcome my mind control issues (being a wife and mum -- the normals --homeschooling responsibilities, etc.) and secondly, I must place a priority on doing it. I cannot learn anything new without first giving it preference and then making it a priority. The older I get, the less time I have to do new things. Something has to give way -- I cannot keep adding more to an already overworked and overtired mind. I must let some other things go so that I can make room for the new thing. Hmmmm....

I get it. When I was young, I had no responsibilities and did what my parents or teachers told me to do. I didn't require any extra brain power because all of my brain power was devoted to one thing: whatever was being asked of me at the time. As an adult, my brain is churning away, working overtime to keep everything running smoothly. I am not only responsible for myself, but also my family. Add to that home schooling and other duties (like caring for aging parents), and you have a set amount of brain power left over. Not a whole lot to work with, but still enough to put to work.

I see now that if I want to learn cello and/or speak French fluently, I have to make these things a priority. I cannot choose other things to take their place. And, in a busy Mom's life, that means that something's "gotta give" way for this to work. Perhaps it is TV watching in the evening or perhaps it is spending less time on the computer. I certainly cannot shorten my family time or my private worship time (or church time), but I can carve out time that I typically use as "down time". Yes, I can give up my mind-numbing activities, that do nothing for me, in exchange for learning some new skills. Yes, that is the answer. I must give up those things that count for naught, and replace them with things that are "noble, good, worthy, etc." (Phil. 4:8)

October 23, 2009

Learning French

When I was in high school, I took 2 years of French language. I had already had 2 years in Junior High, so I assumed high school would be just as easy. NOT! I actually did very well with French 1 and 2, but struggled with grammar and with writing (similar to my trials with English grammar and writing). I had a good ear for language, and could replicate a near perfect accent, but just couldn't get past a certain point in the course.

My desire to be fluent in French has been a dream of mine for along time. I always felt bad that I didn't continue with the study, but knew that my struggles with grammar were to blame. Thankfully, a crash course in grammar during college took care of most of my worries. I have since learned Grammar using Easy Grammar (by Wanda Phillips) as part of our home school program. I am far more confident of my understanding of grammar now than ever before. So with some confidence growing in me, thanks in part to seeing my son do so well with the Pimsleur Language method, I am game to try my hand at French again.

I have had my son learn French using Rosetta Stone and Tell Me More -- neither program really made any sense to me. I liked the visual aspect of the method, but felt that no real learning was taking place. My son has completed three lessons in Russian using Pimsleur and he has a far better understanding of grammar and how words are used in sentences, then after two years of Rosetta Stone's courses.

I was able to check out Level 1 of Pimsleur's language program from our local library. My hope is that my prior experience will come back once I get started with this system.

October 22, 2009

When to school

One of the Mom's on my home school list (well, not mine, but to the list I am subscribed), is struggling with starting her oldest off in school. I remember when my son was turning five, and by all accounts, he seemed so ready to begin school. In fact, everyone, and I mean everyone, kept telling me, "He is so ready for school." I naively believed it because I had no real experience with children heading off to school, and I thought, "well, they must know best!"

In hindsight, the signs were clearly marked -- slow down -- don't push him -- go slower. I just lacked the confidence to see them and understand that this was my guidance, my prompting from the Lord. In haste, I enrolled our son in public school, even though I knew it was not what the Lord wanted for him. I listened to the advice of others, and sent him off to school, even when I knew he was not prepared nor ready for it.

Over the course of time, I have seen the results of that rash judgement. Though now, confident and capable (at age 16), my son was thrust into a structured program where he was pushed and prodded and forced to conform well before he was even able to do so. The result: my son suffered from a whole host of psychological disorders -- stress triggers and behaviors -- that not only disrupted the classroom, but became increasingly disconcerting to us (his parents), and other adults around him. Unfortunately, my son suffered for a number of years, until one day I finally saw the "light" so to speak, and brought him home to home school.

Since that time, he has literally blossomed. I could not imagine his life had we left him in public school. He is so well-mannered, intelligent and thoughtful. He has deep interests and is willing to share them with others. He can handle himself in almost any conversation, and has become an "interesting" young person with whom to converse. In short, home schooling for my son has made all the difference.

Some things I have learned over the span of eleven years is this:
  • Don't rush your child into a formal school setting
  • Take time to evaluate both academic and social skills (these need to be equal)
  • Hold a child back if you feel they need more time to mature
  • Consider home schooling if you are concerned about their social welfare
  • Don't fold to pressure by anyone -- you are the parent, therefore you know your child best.
  • Don't give up -- if things are not going well in school, you can ALWAYS home educate. It is legal in all 50 united states, and any age child can benefit from home schooling.
  • Lastly, remember that education is a journey, a process, and it is not encapsulated in years K-12. Your child will be learning for his or her entire life, so there is no real reason to rush anything. You have time, your child has time. College is not the end all and be all -- learning to love learning with serve your child for a life time. Invest in educating their heart and mind so that they can be a whole person. Life is not lived in a vacuum -- get out and experience nature, live with good books, encourage exploration. There is so much more learning available outside the classroom. Go and learn yourself -- live it.

Charlotte Mason is quoted with saying that "education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life." This statement is true -- education is all around us. Everywhere we look there are opportunities for learning and growth. The application of that learning, however, does require discipline. In her day, that meant habit training, or harnessing the will to learn. It involved training children to want to learn and then cultivating the habit of learning. Lastly, education comes from life. There is much more to life than what is contained in textbooks or a chemistry lab. Life, itself, is a great teacher. If you cultivate the habit of learning, and create an atmosphere conducive to it...you will reap the rewards of education. You will experience life in the fullest, and come to appreciate learning as part of the process of living.

Education, however it is imparted, can bring life. It can open the doors of knowledge and can offer new ideas and thoughts to challenge and move us from complacency to activity. Education can civilize us, cause us to become better people. It can also help us better understand the world in which we live. It can open our eyes to see that there is injustice in the world, there are wars and famines and strife. It can enable us to reach out for more, to touch each other, embrace each other, and long for a better world. It can also help us to understand that we are not alone in this world, and that we do not live in isolation. We are dependent upon one another and as such we have a responsibility towards one another.

Education can liberate us from the truth of the world, that is, that life itself is "nasty, brutish and short." It can offer hope in a hopeless world, and expose truth to us, when everything around us appears to be filled with deception. The value of education is limitless, but often we pigeon-hole it into twelve short years, between the ages of 6-18. Of course, some learning takes place during these years, but far greater learning occurs from age 18 onward. I will say that the majority of learning takes place after these early years. I can attest myself that I am far more educated now at age 47 than I was at 21. I don't plan on stopping learning anytime soon, either.

I am in the process of applying to graduate schools, yes even now at age 47. I have had a deep interest in education for a number of years, but was unable to pursue it due to my responsibilities at home. Now, that my son is almost graduated, I have the time to pursue my interest in English Literature and Communication. I am hopeful to begin next fall and am looking for online programs (easier while I still am home schooling).

It is exciting to think about it, to begin planning it out. I am confident of my desire, longing to use my intellect in a different way. The Lord is opening up doors of opportunity for me to experience learning again -- in a formal setting -- and I am eager to get going and to start learning.

October 21, 2009

Doing the right thing

A friend of mine is struggling to figure out how to do home school "right". I think this is something every home schooler struggles with...I know I have (and still am). Some how in our mind, we feel pressured to do home school BETTER than the way school is done in public or Christian education. We often eschew public or Christian school textbooks, thinking they are not as good as other curriculum (designed specifically with the needs of home schoolers in mind). Sometimes, we even ditch curriculum all-together, believing that we can use library books, hands-on experiences, and mentoring relationships to teach our children.

The truth is that we (home schoolers) tend to believe that our method of schooling is superior to other methods of schooling, that we are "right" and others are "wrong," especially Christian others, when it comes to educating our children. This is so blatantly wrong to think and to do. Not only is it Scripturally wrong, but it is morally wrong to do, and as Christian's we are forbidden from preferencing other people (and/or their decisions for their children's education). Just because one parent sends their children to public, another to Christian school, and another keeps them home -- none of these parents are "right OR wrong." Each parent made a decision based on what was best for their child, and then did the "right thing."

This idea that there is a "right and a wrong way" to home educate has led many parents (myself included) to strive to find the "right curriculum." I have blogged about this before (in my archives), and while I found the answer (NO CURRICULUM IS RIGHT OR WRONG), I still struggle with the idea, the thinking process that motivates the behavior to always think there is something better out there. In fact, I have tried just about every method, every type of curriculum, and found them all lacking. My son was public-schooled for K-5th grade so I have that experience as well. It has taken me six years of searching, of trying to figure it all out, to come back to my earlier understanding of what is "right and wrong".

About Year 2, I struggled deeply with this idea of finding the right curriculum. The Lord led me round about and brought me right back to where I started: using a free online curriculum called Ambleside Online. I then struggled with implementing it, and once again, the Lord led me round about (through various incantations of schedules and record-keeping books/tools), right back to where I started (with a very simplified system).

Since that time, I have come to the conclusion that what works best for my son is to read a lot of really good books. He needs a lot of reading each day, to keep him focused on school, and engaged in his studies. He needs advanced math and science curriculum, freedom to explore topics of interest, and access to whatever might suit his fancy at any given time (ex. he is learning Russian now). He needs a free-flowing schedule, one with a lot of flexibility; but also one with some structure (on a day-to-day basis). He doesn't need rigidity or a long to-do list. He simply needs the freedom to read a good biography or novel or history book, and then the option of sharing what he is learning (via narration). It doesn't have to be so hard and fixed as one might think it should be, especially given the proclivity of our high schools to force college studies on students when they should be working on the basics. It simply needs to be enriching for the mind and soul -- thought-provoking and mind improving -- and provide ample opportunity for discussion.

My friend is struggling to figure out how her schooling will fit into her home. I have been there too. It is really easy to compare home school programs -- mine looks like this, so this is the "right way" to do it. This type of thinking is faulty because every home is different just as every student is different. We must be careful not to try and make our homes duplicates of some method or program. We must take the tools offered (curriculum guides or book lists) and then fit them to our children. In doing so, we will be creating something unique, but ultimately something that works in our particular situation.

I have done this as well. Although we use Ambleside Online for our curriculum, we don't really follow Charlotte Mason's methods as they were written in her Original Home Schooling Series. We do some CM method, but not religiously. We use the "spirit of her method" instead of the "law" (the written words). I guess that makes us CM-inspired rather than CM-purists. We take what sounds good and reasonable and then use it in our 21st century home. We are enjoying the benefits of using her methods without the pressure to use them the way she did back in the 19-20th centuries.

It is really important for home schooling parents to realize that so long as they are doing what is best for their children, not forsaking education at home, but striving to do their best -- then they are doing it "right." Right, in this case, is truly in the eye of the beholder.

October 19, 2009

Thinking About the Future

Well, today is officially the first day of my forty-seventh year. Sounds kind of ominous, doesn't it? Somehow the very words "forty-seven" conjur up all sorts of images, most of them unpleasant ones (getting older, stiff joints, gray hair, etc.) Yikes...old age is upon me and there is nothing I can do about it! LOL!

Actually, I don't really feel that old, just thinking about the number, that is all. On Saturday, I went to a picnic with my parents and son (for my Dad and Son's Ham Radio club). I tagged along to keep Mom company. It was a nice time, and while there, one of the wives commented to my mother, about my age. She assumed that I was her own daughter's age or YOUNGER! She was shocked to find out that I was going to turn "47" on Sunday. LOL!! I won't say how much younger, but suffice it to know that it was ALOT younger than my actual years. Hip, hip, hip, hooray!! That was a blessed compliment, especially for me, because I was feeling a little down about this particular birthday.

I have been thinking about my future the past couple weeks. We (my family) are struggling right now with some issues, and the future is not as certain as it was just a few months ago. I am living with uncertainty and it is difficult to find the strength every day, just to keep on keeping on. How do you plan for your future when you don't really know what tomorrow will bring?

I am relying upon God -- my faith in God and in His Providence is strong. I know that He has a great plan for my life and for each person in my family. I am trusting Him to provide and meet each need, regardless of what I might think or do -- He is Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide). It is still difficult, though, to not look to your own hands. I find myself doing this all the time, to look down when I should be looking up. The more I look up and away from myself, the better I feel, the more clearer things become, and the more able I am to find solace in the place or circumstance I am in.

It is hard, but God is a God of possibilities. Nothing is impossible for Him. We must trust Him to provide. We must believe that He will provide and then we must rest in that knowledge. God is so Good to Me.

October 18, 2009

Celebrating Life

My husband gave me a birthday card this morning (yes, it is my birthday), that spoke of celebrating life. It gave me pause to wonder...what reasons do I have to celebrate my life this day?

Of course, I am thankful for my life, the breath I am able to take every day, and the fact that I am saved (a child of God.) I am thankful for my family, my son and my husband, who provide companionship, love and friendship to me. I am thankful for my extended family, my parents and parents-in-law, who provide overshepherding (that quality of being an elder in another person's life -- advice, wisdom, love, and always forgiveness). I am thankful that I live in this country (the USA -- not to disparage any other country), and that I have rich heritage of family who overcame severe obstacles to come here and make this their "new land." I am thankful that I can attend church every Sunday, and not feel the pain of persecution for doing so. I am thankful that I can dream big dreams, and envision a life outside of myself.

Mostly...I am thankful for the One who decided that I was worth it for Him to give up His Glory and come to this earth and take up a cross and die to save me. Yes, I am ultimately thankful to God -- for without God, none of these other things would be possible. For without God, I would be dead in my sins, living a life outside of relationship to Him and to His Church. I thank God for who He Is and for what He has done in my life. I celebrate life today because He first gave me that life and because it is His life to give to me. Praise be to God this day -- for His Mercy Endures and He is so Gracious and Good to me!

October 13, 2009

Setting Limits

My favorite show is "The Dog Whisperer." I love Cesar Millan's approach to training dogs, and think his "dog psychology" is really "people psychology" with fur on! I often find myself nodding in agreement, even when I don't own a dog (I am a cat person). Often I find myself saying, "Yes, of course...boundaries...set boundaries...don't let your dog walk all over you!" to the TV set. Funny...now if only I would listen to the Dog Whisperer -- I think I would finally have some peace in my life. Rules, boundaries and limitations -- the three key components of raising and living with dogs -- aka, according to Cesar Millan.

This past weekend, I reread the book, "Boundaries (When to Say YES When to Say NO To Take Control of Your Life)" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I had read this book several years ago and found the suggestion to set boundaries (personal) illuminating. I regret that I started setting boundaries, but then gave up on establishing consequences after awhile (it depends -- if you set boundaries on a person who is resistant to them, well, good luck!) I also read one of their additional books for marriage.

Boundaries is really all the Dog Whisperer is saying. If you set personal boundaries in your life, you will find it much less chaotic and much less stressful. If you set boundaries with your children, you will find it less draining, emotionally, to rear and train them. If you set boundaries with other others, your spouse or a family member, you will find you are less reactive to the picks and pokes, then when you were boundary less. In short, boundaries will help keep your life healthy, happy and less emotionally reactive. It will empower you to see life as full of potential and less likely to make you feel like you are helpless and powerless to change your circumstance or situation.

Rules are good for us. Boundaries help to define the rules. Limitations modify the rules and consequences are the natural result of failure to obey the limitations. It is pretty simple stuff. Not rocket science, and not really difficult to understand. Set a rule; define it with boundaries; apply limitations to it; and then choose a consequence for breaking the rule. Ah, if only it were that simple....

I have been thinking of personal boundaries a lot lately. I am in the midst of some difficult personal issues, some very difficult times, some very emotional moments. Boundaries are my friend. They say to me that it is safe here, it is OK to be vulnerable because you are protected. Boundaries also remind me of rules, those rules that help order my universe. They remind me that there are limitations to the rules, modifiers that work to explain the rule completely, and that ultimately there are consequences for each broken rule. And, when used properly (for health and well-being and not to manipulate or control), they can enable great freedom and growth in any relationship.

My boundaries have been weak, generally speaking. I have allowed "the dog" to walk all over me at times. Sometimes I have been reactive, yelling or screaming, stamping my foot, even kicking things about...none of which actually really works well to change anything or anyone. Other times I have been passive, so passive that I allowed the consequence to go by unnoticed and unmet. I simply chose to ignore the infraction. I chose to do nothing.

My goals now are different. I recognize the need for rules, boundaries and limitations. I understand their value in life and in relationships. They are good for us; they make for very happy neighbors (referencing Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Wall"). My hope is to use boundaries to help clarify my own personal choices, to set appropriate limits on self control, and then to grow in freedom to live out the life God has chosen for me. I am also hoping that in setting boundaries, I will become more comfortable with consequences and will not shy away from them (keeping them back never really helps -- natural consequences are a great learning tool).

Boundaries protect us, they provide necessary "space" to enable us to grow and live and relate to one another in healthy ways. I am tired of being a boundary less person. I am empowered to set limits, to establish rules and to allow consequences to follow. Meet the NEW ME -- I am a Boundary Person today!!

October 11, 2009

Harvest Time Is Finally Here!

Fall has finally arrived in our neck of the woods. Today our high temperature was a beautiful 89 degrees (lows near 70). It made heading out to church a lovely experience (this is why, after all, we choose to live in the Southwestern USA!). Still, I miss the cool crisp autumn days of the Midwest, where I grew up. Whistfully thinking of football, apple pie and Mom!

October 9, 2009

Praising God

1The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand,
until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion:
rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.

3Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,
in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning:
thou hast the dew of thy youth.

4The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent,
Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

5The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.

6He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies;
he shall wound the heads over many countries.

7He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

*Image courtesy of http://www.messianicart.com/chazak/yeshua/psalm110.htm

Who shall sit at thy right hand O' God? It is Yeshua, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord be Praised this day. He will come again, with sword in hand, to judge the unjust and ungodly on the earth and under the earth. He will come again to restore His kingdom, to bring in the New Age. Are you ready to receive Him? Are you willing to acknowledge Him as Master and Lord (Adonai)?

October 5, 2009

Learning Russian

My son has wanted to learn Russian for a couple years. We tried using Rosetta Stone (free through our public library), but it was just too confusing for him. He has not let this go, constantly asking if he can learn Russian, etc. He did the same thing with wanting to study piano -- we gave in on that back in 7th grade, and now he is an advanced classical pianist planning on studying composition and theory in college (hint: if your child begs you to do something and doesn't give up -- give in and let them go for it. You will never know if you have a budding Einstein or YoYo Ma on your hands!)

Last evening, my son said again -- "I want to learn to speak Russian" and then followed that up with another request at lunch today. I was heading to the library to pick up a couple books, so I thought I would visit their language isle. I had looked there previously, but didn't recall seeing anything that would work for us. Our library no longer provides free access to Rosetta Stone. They do offer Tell Me More, but only for French, German and Spanish.

I happened to find an entire series on Russian from Pimsleur. I had looked over Pimsleur once before, but passed it by because it is solely auditory. My son is a visual learner, and I naturally assumed that he would learn language best through a visual mode, like Rosetta Stone. Don't get me wrong, we actually enjoyed Rosetta Stone, we just didn't feel like we learned that much from it.

Case in point: my son grabbed the CDs I brought home today, went into his room, and completed the first lesson. He came out, telling me how hard Russian was to learn, how he couldn't remember how to say "excuse me," and then proceeded to speak to me in Russian. His recall was impressive -- his accent excellent -- and his understanding of the language itself, well, was phenomenal. He explained why certain sounds were necessary, why you pronounce words a certain way, etc. I was bowled over -- completely impressed. Granted, this is lesson 1, but if the next 7 lessons go as well, I can see this kid speaking Russian fluently before he graduates from high school (in two years).

New Y11 Schedule

Today is our first day with our new schedule. I decided to return to the schedule I used way back in Y7. It worked for us then, so I thought "perhaps, it will work now?" This schedule is based off of Y11, but it is not a complete program. I don't have everything scheduled, and we are not doing everything that is listed on the 12-week term schedule. Next term, we will add in some more books, so for now our goal is to get productive and to be consistent with each day.

I use three forms to keep us scheduled. The first is the House of Education 12-week term schedule. This is found in the Yahoo group for AO_HEO_Schedules. I download the Word version and then edit it to suit our program. I print this and put it in my 3-ring binder. This tells me what we need to do each week of the term.

The next form is for weekly studies. It is something I created from Power Point. I list out the daily subjects at the top -- just in list form (Bible, Math, Copywork, Recitations, etc.) and then weekly subjects below (also in list form: Art and Music Appreciation, Shakespeare, nature study, and so on). Then below I create 5 boxes with our readings. I post this by my desk so I know what subjects or books to add to his daily checklist.

Monday - read World History (Prentice Hall textbook), Short Story (Perrine's textbook), Geology (textbook), and Geography (Under the Tuscan Sun). Oral narration and one written narration is due at the end of the day.

Tuesday - read Biography (The Roosevelts), Literature (Lord Jim), watch Science (video on Planet Earth), and read Source Documents/Speeches. Oral narration and one written narration is due at the end of the day.

Wednesday - read US History (Carson's text), Literature (1984), Geology (textbook), and Economics (Hazlitt's). Same as above.

Thursday - read Supplemental History (Guns of August), Poetry (Perrine's textbook), watch Science video (Planet Earth), and read Worldviews w/Mom (The God Who Was There). Same as above.

Friday - read Devotional w/Mom (Knowing God), British History (The Great Democracies), Shakespeare w/Mom (Taming the Shrew), Natural History (John Muir's National Parks), and Writing w/Mom (On Writing Well). Same as above.

The third form is for my son. Although he is 16 now, he still needs a daily to-do list. I have tried using every type of form under the sun, but this one works. It is a simple bullet list of assignments. Whenever I have used something different, he does half or part or forgets something. If it is too cluttered (with a week's work), he gets little done. If I use this form, he can handle the tasks and is good about doing everything listed.

My process for keeping us on track is to use the 12-week schedule and highlight off the completed assignments. We invariably get off track, but in Y7, I made up my mind to not allow that to worry us. We simply did the reading and checked it off. If we got behind in one subject, we just worked from where we were, and did not get all hung up over it. At the end of the year, we finished some books early, some were almost done, and a couple were lagging behind. We just wrapped everything up and finished our year. It was the most low-key year to date AND we actually accomplished everything we set out to do.

Our Daily Schedule

Regarding our actual day to day schedule, it is pretty simple. My son needs to be up and dressed (showered and breakfasted) by 9:00. At 9, he begins piano practice. He is supposed to practice for 90 minutes each day, so that is what he does first each am. Depending on how much work he has to do for the week (chamber, Youth Worship, and piano lesson), he may take up to 2-2.5 hours on music practice. Once practice is done, school begins. He works on his school work in his own order, usually doing Bible first (reading and listening to Max Maclean). Math is online so that comes next. The rest is up to him. For those subjects where we read aloud or together, we try and do them during lunch or later in the day. Our goal is for him to be finished by 2-2:30 each day.

October 2, 2009

Decision Making Time

Ok, so lots of prayer and consideration and I have finally received my answer: return to AO/HEO for the remaining two years of high school. My son has done well with this approach, but I have struggled using it. Mostly, this has been my thwarted attempts at creating the perfect curriculum. I have wanted only the best for my son, but in doing so, have allowed my own desires to drive me away from what was working, into something that had haphazard success. I finally realize that no curriculum is best -- just the one that works well and gets the job done.

My plans for this year are to continue to read Y11 (Modern History). We are out of sequence, but that is OK. We will simply finish up this year, reading as much as we can about 1900-2000. Next year, we will pick up Y10 and study 1800-1900, covering the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. It will work fine and will give us a complete study of history from antiquities to the modern period. We will toss in Government and Economics, to finish off those courses, but other than that, we will do the program pretty much as written.

My other struggle has been with Math. I am co-moderator for the MEP-Homeschoolers group at Yahoo, and have used this math with my son for the past couple years. We have gone as far with it as possible, so we are switching over to Thinkwell's online courses for Precalculus and Calculus. I dangled Saxon around for awhile, but think that Thinkwell is the more interesting choice.

Lastly, at some point we need to address Science again. We have chosen to use a mish-mash of curriculum and as a result don't really have a thorough background in any one science. My son doesn't plan on studying science, but still it would be better for him to have a bit more grounding. I am not sure what to do for science, so this year we are continuing to use my college Geology text along with the Annenberg Project's video series called "The Earth." Next year, we might do something with Astronomy or Meterology. I am not sure. I will have to see if there are any videos online at http://www.learner.org/ that would work for us.

Update: May 25, 2010

I thought I would write a short update to this post. A lot has happened since I first wrote this, and I have made my decision regarding my son's schooling. At the time of this post, I was in the midst of working through counseling with my husband, hoping to restore my marriage. I was also unsure whether or not we would home school for 12th grade or whether our son would start some college courses.

After the ensuing months, the decision has been made to graduate him from home school high school. He is, for all intents and purposes, done with high school. Our core curriculum has been college-level in scope and he has read enough of each subject for more than a single credit. It seems silly to hold him back, especially in the areas of his chosen field.

He is determined to study music in college and has been taking college-prep type music theory courses. He is ready for college classes in theory and composition, and is also ready for piano instruction at this level. It is just a matter of getting him enrolled and then figuring out how to get him to school each day. He still doesn't have his license so that means he will have to take a bus or get a ride with some one. Details, details, details...all yet to be filled in. I am confident in this decision, it is really for the best, so that is what will be.