Thursday, April 07, 2016

Happy Graduation, Emma!!

It was surreal finalizing Emma MacDonald​'s high school transcript tonight. Today she finished her last day of homeschool high school.
ADHD, a personality that blew the walls off our house with violent extremes of exhilaration and tragic sorrow (sometimes within 60 seconds of each other); epic successes always came with equally large failures and mistakes (and epic emotions to accompany both). 

A lack of impulse control resulted in broken bones, broken friendships and tears (from siblings, too).  The ocean of waves of anger because of the tyranny of being forced to do math, "AGAIN, TODAY!?!" (everyday).

I spent so much time on knees for that child -- begging God to get us through the next day.

I publicly proclaim all this to say, "Look what God has done."  Today, this grown woman strives for temperance and wisdom and to only do God's Will. She admits when she is wrong and is generous with her time, talents and praise of others.
 She still blows the walls off our house with her larger-than-life personality. She also graces our family (our community & our world) with her advanced cooking skills, the music that flows out of her, and she is the pied piper of fun (and trouble) in our house.  She's NEVER enjoyed academics, but through self-discipline and fortitude, she spent the last 2 years raising her GPA and completing all her school work.
Raising this girl has been a wild ride and there were months/years I suffered mightily.

Some of my favorite memories:

Baby Story 1997

Blast from the Past 2002 - Emma jumped out of the 2nd story window at 4yrs old

Monday, March 02, 2015

Midwinter Homeschool Blues

My garden is calling to me...
There's too much snow and soon there will be too much mud, but it's whispering -- in a few weeks it will be shouting.

Some homeschool moms get midwinter blues starting in February.  That's what Homeschool Connections Refresh Conference (online and FREE) is for.

Another idea is to take some school days and do some "fun school" things you wanted to do this year and didn't get to it:

  1. have an afternoon dance party
  2. go on a field trip
  3. have a history movie lesson
  4. have a formal tea with the kids and classical music
  5. have a picnic in the living room for lunch
  6. let the kids do school in a fort under the table
  7. plan a day trip for when school ends
  8. have a day at the beach school day -  turn up the heat, wear shorts & sunglasses & listen to beach boys music, make Hawaiian leis and have a luau for lunch (or whatever you associate with summer)
  9. bake a cake and have a pizza party when you hit 10 weeks left of school (or 50 days or something significant for your family)
  10. plan your end of school celebration

I personally don't get down, I just get antsy.  The disorder of my bookshelves, my dwindling marker supply, having to read 1-more-chapter...it cumulatively adds up to me wanting to:

  • make something beautiful - what color should I paint my kitchen?
  • make the world more beautiful - should I go with a color scheme for my front flowers this year?
  • put my bookshelves in order and not look at them for months on end
Since we're still doing school, I can't fulfill my antsy longings. So, I made a countdown calendar instead.  If you take a spring break, mark that on the calendar. Then, fill in how many school days you have starting with your end date and working your way backwards. I put the real calendar dates on the weekends, so you can keep track if you miss a few days of marking off.  THEN, scribble all over the dates as you complete them!  There's something cathartic about scribbling.

And here's mine filled out - we end May 1, 2015 this year.

I'm totally psyched about my countdown calendar.  I might frame mine.  I can hear the music of the garden...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Highland Dove Homeschool Classical Education - Ages & Stages

Welcome to a peek into my homeschool

 Highland – because we are highlanders from Scotland.  My son Andrew is named after the patron saint of Scotland.  And as MacDonalds – we take our clan Donald heritage seriously.
Dove because we pray that the Holy Spirit permeates everything we do and every part of our lives.
We are a Catholic family and strive to love Jesus with every fiber of our being. 

In our school, we strive follow a Classical Model of Education
This means that, like the world view of Christendom, Christ is at the center of our studies.
Also, like the Scholastics of the Medieval period we seek God in the patterns of His creation.
We all know that God orders the season.  And we know children go through “phases”.
The Medievalists took advantage of these patterns of childhood and utilized them in HOW they taught children at different levels.

The ages in our Classical model more accurately reflect what we know today about the growth in children’s brains, while taking advantage of the “ages and stages” of children’s natural growth.

An aspect of the Classical Model is that the content of the subjects are taught “ON PURPOSE”.
The thread in our classical homeschool is history. History teaches us about who we are as humans – what we’re capable of, good and bad, and where we fit in God’s design.  We learn all this without having to live through the good, bad and the ugly of making these decisions for ourselves.  Instead,  we see others' decisions and their consequences – sometimes for all of history.  The subject of history is the thread ties many of our subjects together. 

History is tied with Literature. So while we read about a people and their time period in history, we also are reading their stories and understanding those stories, as much as we can, through their eyes. 

History and Literature are tied with Science.  So the scientific discoveries made today, standing on the shoulders of giants from scientists past, are the same names and biographies we’re reading in history and literature.

In my homeschool theology is tied in together with history.

In our Classical homeschool, all ages study the same topics at the same time – each at their own level.  I’m not trying to teach Julius Caesar to one child and trying while explaining the causes and consequences of WWI to another.  My brain can only be so divided, so this helps me as a teacher not have to keep as many balls in the air. 

The end result of this, is that the youngest students in my school feel just as capable as the high school kids to participate in a dinner discussion of the Crimean War.  Another great aspect of this is that the older kids assist the younger kids and enjoy helping them because in teaching we often learn more readily.

History follows a 4 year cycle in our Classical Homeschool on a 4 year rotating basis.

 — so the kids hit the same topics 3 times in their 12-year homeschooling career. The benefits of this are many, but one of the biggest is retention.

They’ll say, “OHHH, I remember when we studied aqua ducts and I made one out of cardboard tubes.” This means I don’t stress about them missing or not comprehending one historical personality because we’ll hit that again in 4 years.

Another benefit of our 4 year cycle is that the kids are more prepared to tackle the harder topics once they hit high school.  The Illiad isn’t so scary and daunting to tackle because these characters are as familiar to the kids as fairy tales.  Some of them are old friends and revisiting them and learning about them on a deeper level is as exciting as watching the sequel to the next superhero movie. – Well, maybe not THAT exciting.  But definitely less scary.

Our 4 Year Cycle is broken down like this: 

Year 1 - Ancients Creation - Life of Christ & the early church 

    (Beginning of recorded history – 400 AD)
We study the Ancients in History, Greek & Roman stories in Literature.  While we learn about the Ancient Egyptians and their ability to preserve bodies as mummies and do brain surgery – we’re learning Biology in science.  All the ages learn biology at the same time, on their own level. 

 Year 2 - Middle Ages (400 AD - 1500 AD) 
We study Medieval History, and Medieval Literature.  While we learn about the Crusades and the learning they brought back from what they would consider ‘the ends of the earth’ – we’re learning Astronomy and Earth Science. 

Year 3 – World History: Renaissance – Present
(1500 AD – Present)
 We study History from a World perspective.  While wonderful ideas came out of the Renaissance, some really un-Christian ideas came out as well.  To see the err in how this Modernism and Relativism has crept into our American way of thinking, we have to look at the Renaissance and its effects on its own, while also placing it in the continuity of history. We study the stories of some classic British authors we well as others in Literature of this era.  While the world learns about Pasteurization and struggles with the Spanish Flu, we learn Chemistry.  In Religion we learn how science and faith are not opposed to each other and how one nurtures and sustains the other.

 Year 4 – American History (1500 AD – 9/11/2001)
We study American History.  We are Americans and should know our own history well.  In researching other Classical Models, I saw a lack of American History in them, so needed to come up with a model I felt good about using with my students.  We also study the classics of American Literature.  While our scientists were splitting atoms in WWII, we learn Physics in science and in religion, we study the application of our faith for today’s society.

The beauty of this repeating cycle, besides easing the students into difficult concepts at an easy pace and increased retention, is that students can be “folded” into the cycle.  With several of my children, our school was on year 3 when they were ready for high school level work.  They simply began high school with Year 3, then 4 and finished up with Year 1, graduating after Year 2.

Ages & Stages
Highland Dove Homeschool Classical Education - Ages & Stages

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Christmas Kitten

 "Timmy" is Will(7)'s Christmas present.  The cat was $10 through the SPCA -- we spent $50 on a cat carrier, food, litter, box, etc.  LOL.  Timmy is 11 weeks old, now. We got him the week before Christmas.  Will is THRILLED with his kitten. 

Will got a BIG dose of reality when the kitten came home from the SPCA with a slight cough and it developed into a massive respiratory infection. Will wasn't allowed to touch his very sick kitten for about 5 days (over Christmas) while the cat rested and struggled for breath. At 7, the sweetness of a new kitten is too much temptation to be careful with every touch, so we held the kitten, but gave Timmy space from his excited, loving owner. Every night we warned Will the kitten might not make it through the night and every morning we held our breath when Will went to see his kitten in the morning. Indiana kids -- just learning life on life's terms. 

Another $20 for bublegum amoxicillan (.5ml 3x/day -- apparently, there are 2 doses for cats: .5ml for kittens and 1ml for full grown cats.  Good to know next time.) But the antibiotic did the trick and Will and the kitten are getting to be friends.

Jenny is our 3yr old smooth-coated collie / yellow lab mix we got as a Christmas puppy 3 yrs ago.  I wanted a rowdy puppy to keep the boys interested - and that's what I got.  Jenny is freaked out when the kitten tries to cuddle up to her, but Jenny and Timmy are having more and more positive "moments" now that Timmy is perking up and getting interesting.
Will chose the most playful kitten in the shelter.  While Timmy was cuddly when ill, he's now showing his true nature - Timmy apparently likes coffee in the morning (mine). The kitten also likes attacking my laptop screen with a flying leap everytime the page changes. 

Will, prayed every night during the rosary for nine months for a new kitten. The day he got the kitten, he told God THANK YOU, and asked for a bunny.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

December 6th: Feast of St. Nicholas

I Saw Santa Punching Arius (video/song) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc_bkDnLHk0us 

All things St. Nicholas - http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/

I hate the sweater in this graphic, but I love the sentiment.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

New Homeschooler Question #32

I've decided to homeschool, now what?

I always advise new homeschool moms to start with a boxed curriculum.  Just START.

       - I really like Catholic Heritage Curricula if you're Catholic -- it's easy to use, gentle on your pocketbook, your child, and you as a new homeschool mom.
         - If you're protestant, My Father's World is really popular.  I also love Memoria Press and Sonlight:both GREAT choices.

Then, when you know what's working (or what's not) be prepared to just tweak a little.

IF you want to pick and choose (design your own) curriculum, I don't usually advise it in your first year.  However, kindergarten is a GREAT time to play around with different curriculum to learn how you like to teach and how your child learns best.

The way you do that is choose ONE subject, research, then choose.  If you get stuck and can't decide (you've narrowed down your choices and just can't pare them down any more), then try to figure out a different subject.  Come back to your undecided subjects with a little more information under your belt.  So which one are you going to start with?

  • Math
  • English
  • History
  • Literature
  • Science
  • Foreign Language