Saturday, December 7, 2013

Why I haven't been blogging

It is because now I know that thinking you can blog while homeschooling is like expecting to be able to live-blog a marathon while you are running it :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Homeschooling Siblings The Classical Way

I have two boys, two years apart, and a little girl who is not of homeschooling age yet. Having chosen to go with the classical approach, the first hard choice to make was how to plan the study of history and science for the boys.

Rajiv, the oldest, has done first grade in a regular school before staying home, but I decided to start fresh with the study of ancient history and life sciences. He had not done any history in school yet anyway and what they had done in science was not so systematic that it would feel like a repeat for him, so it was a pretty easy choice.

Rohan is younger and in principle could wait a year or two before starting the full-fledged "Grammar Stage", but then I would have two children covering different topics in the two main subjects - those on which we spend the most time - and I don't think I could handle that. Plus, we do history and science by reading together and discussing a lot, in addition to using some videos and other materials, so it is hard to cut off a sibling from all of it just because it is not his turn at that particular moment to learn those things. We have been homeschooling for only a few weeks, but it is already clear that it makes sense for us to have both boys learning the same topics, while working at their own level in the individual activities.

In history we have started from the origin of life on Earth, briefly, and now we are looking in some detail at what is known about the early people in prehistorical times. Both of the boys have picked up quite a lot of ideas. Even the youngest one understands that we are talking about the lives of people who live a long time ago and that we are trying to deduce what things might have been like from the clues that are left. This means he is ready to study history, I would say. I ask Rajiv to make notebook pages about what we learn and for now we work together on them, with me doing a lot of the actual writing. Yesterday we made a page for each of the most well known species of hominids, looking up information about each of them and pasting pictures printed from the net. At the same time, Rohan colored four pictures of things that prehistoric men have invented: making tools from stone, making a fire, painting hunting scenes on rock, talking. After coloring, he cut the pictures and we made a pocket labeled "Inventions of the Early People" to keep in his notebook.

When Rohan is ready to do more writing and organize his learning the way his brother does now, I will start doing notebook pages with him too, but it would be very boring for him if at that point I just said: "Good, let's start over from ancient history now!". For now he is enjoying working along his older brother - and equally important, the older brother enjoys having someone to help every now and then. (Not that it goes always that way: sometimes I ask a question and Rohan is the first one to answer!)

If I see that Rohan is loosing interest in what we are learning, as things become a bit more complicated later on, then I will of course step back and let him do something else while his brother stays on schedule. For now, though, I am very happy with home things are going.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Good Homeschooling Moments

This is what it looks like when everything is going the way it should:

Blue and Red working side by side at our neat and tidy dining table.

Blue working on his Ice Age notebook page.

Red practicing his writing on the dry erase board - except he got a little carried away :)

Meet The Students

I have three children, ages 6, 4 and 1. At first I wasn't sure that I would want to use their real names on this blog,  so I thought for a while to see what pseudonyms I could come up with. As it turns out, that is really hard, at least for me. My husband suggested some funny ones, but I want something that my children could know about without feeling mocked or labelled (so hard for parents to avoid..).

The best I could come up with is: Blue, Red and Purple - in birth order. If you have read "I Love You The Purplest", then you can appreciate a reference to my kids' personalities, but it seemed to me like an otherwise neutral choice. As a curiosity, I chose Purple for the third one because that is what her name means in another language.

After getting this far, I tried to imagine writing about my children as colors and then it really sank on me - why am I making my life so difficult? So meet the students:

"Blue" is Rajiv, age 6

"Red" is Rohan, age 4

"Purple" is Viola, age 1

I think no harm can come from using their names and if at all one of the grandmother ends up reading this, at least they will not need a color chart to know who I am talking about :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Homeschooling Approach

I have read about various different philosophies of schooling and education and I find a lot to like in many of them. Homeschooling for me is in large part about the freedom to choose my own path, rather than one already charted for me. Even so, it is good to have a framework to refer to and I have chosen to structure our homeschooling around what is known as the "classical" education philosophy. This makes sense to me because it is roughly how I was myself educated, in the Italian public school system.

I have read "The Well-Trained Mind" (TWTM), the working manual of the classical education at home, and refer to it often. I found it to be inspiring in many ways, but overall too rigid for my taste, so I do not plan to adhere to its recommendations to the letter.

As outlined in TWTM, I am imagining that if we decide to go the distance (i.e. if we do not go back to regular schools) our learning path will proceed through three cycles. TWTM calls them Grammar Stage, Logic Stage and Rhetoric Stage, the Trivium of classical education. An excellent discussion of this, which TWTM refers to itself, is the essay "The Lost Tools Of Learning" by Dorothy L. Sayers. I agree with the concept (again, this is not surprising given that I was raised with this system), but occasionally I find the terminology a little heavy, and I choose to refer to the learning stages as first, second and third cycle instead. This is just a matter of personal taste, though.

The spine of a classical education is the study of history, started from the very beginning - first grade, in the usual way of measuring school age.  This is probably the most obvious difference between the classical education approach and the mainstream. Other differences are more subtle at first and become more pronounced in higher grades.

I will discuss in some detail how I have structured our homeschooling in other posts - that is the whole point of the blog :) - but let me just say here in what ways we sway from the TWTM approach. In no particular order: we are a multilingual and multicultural family, so that needs to worked out into our curriculum; we aim for a secular education, whereas TWTM proposes a Christian education; I am a scientist and so is my husband, so science and mathematics are definitely important to us, and I will probably end up devising my own approach in these areas; I rely on modern technology a bit more than TWTM would consider acceptable, while still trying not to let my kids spend to much time on front of a screen..

That's it for now, more later!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Beginning

I recently decided to homeschool my two boys. Among the many challenges, one that I am still struggling with is how to keep track of what we do. I am putting a lot of effort into planning and I do not like to see it wasted - I can already see myself researching again the same topic when the second child needs to cover some material that the first has already worked through, for example.

 I also want to collect some memories of our days. Homeschooling is hard at times and enjoyable at other times, but most of all it is all-consuming and the days go past quickly. I hope that by blogging - provided I find the time to be constant with it! - I might be able to put some order in the chaos.

Given that these are my reason to keep the blog, I intend it to be written mostly for myself. If what I write can be of any help to other people who are already homeschooling or just thinking about it, then even better! :)