Welcome back to the Blog of What's Happening Now, which is not much. I'm sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the dishwasher's mastications and looking out at an unpromising sky above the steep roofline of Jane and Steve's house next door. Aelred and the 9th grader are on spring break this week -- at least, what this means in reality is that Aelred has a week in which to grade papers, amend syllabi, and do the taxes, and the 9th grader has only that part of his schoolwork to do which is not German or Organismal Diversity, which is the piece of the biology sequence he's taking at the college this semester. So he's only doing a lot of Algebra 2 and reading Julius Caesar.
The younger kids are reading, being read to, and working intensively on multiplication facts via some clever apps which I have downloaded to my computer: Multiplying Acorns (the girlier app) and Math Racing PRO (the more manly of the basic-facts apps). Note that both children play both apps -- I really don't segregate them by pink and blue. But I can't help noticing that levels of appeal do divide right down the gender line, with cute appealing more enduringly to the pink side, and loud with crashing appealing more enduringly to the blue. I don't care myself, as long as they're working on memorizing facts, without which it's very hard to advance in, say, division. So that's the not-really-spring-break-but-sort-of theme for the two of them.
Speaking of the 9th grader, I realized yesterday that once again I'd missed the deadline for the monthly Homeschooling High School Carnival. I'm becoming quite the loser at this game, let me tell you. In any event, the topic this month is record-keeping, a.k.a. Saving Yourself Major Headaches At College Application Time, and you can find the whole carnival at Creating With Wisdom.
My contribution, had I written it, would have been fairly short. From the time we began homeschooling in 2003, we've always used the same online grade-reporting system; it was part of the package of the umbrella school we enrolled in per the laws of the state where we then lived, and even though we've moved states, and the laws here are different, it's been worth it to me to maintain our $20 annual subscription to this service. I log in grades by the semester and, in high school, assign a credit "weight" to each semester's course, all of which the system then tallies for me, so that I know at a glance how many credits that child has earned and what his GPA is.
How to assign grades, particularly when you're fairly relaxed about student output, is its own conversation, and one which came up not long ago on 4Real Learning's high-school forum. In any event, the recordkeeping process itself is easy and straightforward. The grade-reporting system also has a useful "portfolio" feature, where I note things like Boy Scout membership and major activities (like an Eagle project, for example); community service (the 9th grader has taken to working on Mondays, the only day he's home all day, in the soup kitchen around the corner from our house); altar serving, work as a catechetical assistant in our parish Faith Formation program, etc etc etc etc.
I need to remember, actually, to log athletic activity into the portfolio feature. Currently, when the 9th grader isn't living at the college with his father all day long, he's living at one YMCA or another, doing sports training. At our own local Y, he's taking a class to train for the Spartan mud race; through this class, which meets on Monday and Saturday mornings, he met the leader of a local triathlon group -- in daily life, the girls' basketball coach at our local high school -- who asked him to join them, so now, on the mornings when he's not Spartaning at daybreak, he's training with the group for a sprint triathlon in June. On Thursdays, when he's at the college with Aelred, he goes to the Y in the college town for some swim coaching. If I log all of this into the portfolio now, then I'll actually remember all the details when it comes time to say that he's lettered in a sport -- right now I think he's earning a letter in self-punishment, but he seems to thrive on that, so there it is.
I've been so busy hammering out plans for the rising 4th and 5th graders that I haven't, yet, sat down to consider seriously what the rising 10th grader will be doing, beyond the roughest outline. Here is that outline:
1. Humanities: He'll do the next block in my big history-literature cycle, which picks up in England with the Anglo-Saxons and, in my projected revision of the course my last high-schooler did, carries forward to the end of the 19th century. He's already done a huge amount of twentieth-century history and current events, and we may choose to revisit that again senior year, but for now I'm thinking of the second year of the humanities cycle as Western Civ II, rather than limiting it to the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Again, we'll integrate history with literature, to cover the English base as well. Specific plans forthcoming. Stay tuned.
2. Math: Still deciding what the next step will be. Aelred has been talking to profs in the math department, and it may be that he'll move into a trigonometry class there in the fall. Otherwise, I guess it'll be Saxon Advanced Math at home.
3. Science: Chemistry at the college first semester, for a full credit (for a class in which one can earn a full college credit, I do not hesitate to extend a full high-school credit, even if it doesn't involve 150 hours of instructional time). Second semester he could do the second piece of the introductory chemistry sequence, as he's done with biology this year, or he could opt for some other science, or he could sit out. All this depends on how well the chemistry goes.
4. Foreign Language: German. Right now he's taking second-year German at the college. Unfortunately, language classes there are limited and offered sporadically, mostly because they're all offered by one person who's technically an administrator and can do only so much in a given semester. So if there's no official German class offered in the fall, he might either a)go back to Deutsch Interaktiv, which served him well last year and first semester this year as preparation for the intermediate-level class he's in now, or b)do some kind of independent study with his current professor, who would take him on out of the kindness of his (extremely kind) heart. If a), then I should probably be looking for some level-appropriate German literature for him to read and translate . . .
5. Religion: This year he's been doing an intensive study of the scriptures, using the Didache Understanding the Scriptures text, plus Werner Keller's The Bible as History. This dovetails pretty nicely with the ancient/classical history and literature he's doing for humanities. For next year, a run through Church history would integrate well with the second piece of the Western Civ cycle, and he might read some snippets of medieval and other theologians (St. Thomas of course comes immediately to mind). Perhaps I can get my resident theologian to share his syllabi . . .
40 Bags: Well. I've completely lost count at this point, but lately the theme has continued to be hoarded recyclables. I find I really don't need an entire drawerful of plastic receptacles which originally held parmesan cheese or yogurt, and most of which have lost their lids, rendering them useless for food storage, which was why I had saved them in the first place, and in any event I mostly choose glass jars for this purpose. So. Out to the recycling bins they went. This week I need to turn my attention to my own clothes closet, which is full of boxes, more mashed Christmas gift bags, and other flotsam in addition to many shoes which go unworn.
The college girly is in Greece this week and out of pocket, telephone- and computer-wise, so we hope she's having fun.
And I am here, now, and from the sound of it, the savages have arisen from sleep. Forward, civilization!
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Cheers, and thanks for coming.