Saturday, October 13, 2007

Opportunity knocks

Autumn has arrived with crisp cool nights and warm bright days. The sky is a deep shade of periwinkle and the leaves are beginning to turn. Our weather has been so dry (it has been months since we have had a good rain) that we doubt the fall color change in the leaves will be brilliant this year.

School is going well. This past week has been one for the books though. Many different things have happened---so many that I could write a book. These major and minor events have been both good and bad. I have decided that I will remain forever tired, at least until the end of the school year.

Pluses this week:

The sixth graders
  • LOVELOVELOVE The Hobbit. When we finish the book, we plan to watch the movie and have our second breakfast. The kids decided to make a map of Bilbo's journey to be put on our back wall. I enlarged and cut the map in the book, passed it out to the students who will use a grid and draw free-hand. The maps are due in two weeks. The results will be interesting.
  • loved playing Preposition Bingo.
  • learn well when a grammar sheet is put on the overhead and done as a class, followed by handing the exact sheet out afterwards for individual work.
  • are becoming voracious readers.
  • loved reading a classroom book about Prince Henry the Navigator and Vasco da Gama.
  • love do work on their Morning Books (shared in an earlier post).
The eighth graders
  • loved studying the Renaissance. We finished with a five page test. Our "guided tour" of Italy included watching the DVD Visions of Italy. It was stunning.
  • are enjoying our current introduction to the Reformation. We read as a group a short biography of Luther. I think it is worth the time and effort (though in the midst of preparing, I do question why I go this extra mile) to show pictures and listen to audio of particular events. During our Luther reading, for instance, we read how Luther climbed the twenty-eight steps of the Scala Sancta on his knees, repeating the Pater Nostra (the Lord's Prayer in Latin) on each step. I knew this would mean little to them without seeing what the Scala was and hearing the Pater Nostra in Latin. Soooo, I found a picture of the Scala and made a recording of the Pater Nostra. They were pretty ho-hum about this...UNTIL we saw that scene in Luther, the movie. Then they understood.
  • who previously stepped away from reading books are now declaring favorites.
Minuses this week:
  • discipline problems that may eventually result in dismissal from school.
  • horses in our adjoining field continuing to push the fence down and get in our fields. We don't mind them being in our fields; its when they decide to come onto our carport and look in the living room windows; its the 50 feet of electric fence wire that is hidden in the middle of a dark lane and gets twisted and hung under my car one morning as I leave in the dark for work.
  • our son-in-law lost is mother.
  • our soldier-girl daughter anticipates a volunteer deployment to Iraq beginning around December as a retention officer. This may or may not happen, but considering she left for Fort Lewis, Washington for pre-deployment training this week, it seems likely. She will be doing all the paper/computerwork for reenlistments. She will be, or should be, safer behind a computer than sticking out the top of a Humvee.

I have a grand opportunity at school this year. Rather than retype it all, I'll just paste this from another post. If you have suggestions, please add them in the comments section.
Many of you know that after 20 years of home educating our flock of four, I'm now a middle school teacher in a private Christian school. Even though the pay is low and the hours are long, I do love what I do.

Since I'd always home educated using a trivium approach and taught history chronologically, I've sought to apply these two approaches in my traditional classroom. That's not always easy using pre-established curriculum. But, the good news is that all that will likely change in the next school year.

The headmaster has given me permission to redo the school's antiquated scope and sequence and make suggestions for next year's curriculum. It seems that the thinking of many is to simply choose a text and teach. I think the short-sightedness of this approach is what leaves obvious gaps in learning that many of us have experienced in our own education.

My plan is to look at the entire S & S and see where the student should end up and then work backwards. This is an incredible amount of work to do, especially for one person, but I am willing to begin it. Since some (maybe many) of the other teachers have little vision for the "end result" and just teach whatever is in the book they are handed, I would prefer to do it myself.

Reasons for why certain material was beneficial will be most helpful. The categories will be history (all stages), English grammar (all stages), literature (all stages), science (all stages), worldviews (logic and rhetoric), Latin and Spanish (all stages), and Bible (all stages).


Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

Thanks for the update, I know how to pray for you! :)

I was just thinking of you this week, too. Perfect timing...

My husband's best friend taught in a private Christian school for many years. He finally left because of the many "discipline problem" students they were letting in who had been kicked out of the public schools.

They must have reviewed their policy as he went back a few years later. Of course, "Christian" kids can be a problem (as was my ADHD son in first grade, that's why we started homeschooling).

Donna Boucher said...

Thanks for the update Janie!

I hope they know what a wonderful servant and treasure you are!!!

Carol in Oregon said...

Oh you come to mind so often, my friend. I keep thinking of your tired feet!!

It's delightful to get updates.

The scope and sequence project sounds daunting.

I'm sorry for your SIL's loss. And I will pray for soldier-girl as she comes to mind.

Michelle Matheny said...


I had a few thoughts on grammar, but am not sure if they would be practical in a Christian school setting, given your time limitations.

If I could start grammar over with my children, I would use Rod & Staff all the way through. Now we use Abeka, because the girls are used to it, and the grammar is still good.

We do grammar every day by starting out with Abeka's Oral Language Exercises (p. 56 of 2007 catalog). Jessie Wise recommended this resource in the first edition of TWTM. It only takes a few minutes to run through one day's list of sentences, along with the rule, and is a great auditory reinforcement of correctly written/spoken English. Then we follow with Mary Daly's "The Complete Book of Diagrams." Again, we do just a few short diagrams. Then they each do their assignment. Like I said, Rod & Staff would be great, I would think.

One thing that might help with drilling parts of speech into your students' minds would be the question & answer flow songs and chants with Shurley grammar.

What I think would be ideal would be 5 minutes of OLE/diagraming, followed by a quick classroom chant/review of a few of the Shurley chants, and then diving into the R&S lesson. The big question is, would this be overkill, considering your time constraints?

I would not recommend the writing exercises in Abeka, at least in the grammar stage. R&S has much better exercises. The one negative I see with R&S, in the dialectic/rhetoric stage is the omission of writing research papers. In that case, I would think an excellent upper school English/writing instructor would be the best case scenario.

I know IEW goes throughout all the stages, and might make a good writing resource. Still, especially in the dialectic/rhetoric stage, a teacher who has really good skills in teaching writing would be the best resource. We used Classical Writing at home, but this year I'm using Cindy Marsch's tutorials with my two oldest, since CW wasn't publishing fast enough to meet their growing needs.

Just a few thoughts. Again, my ideas may sound like overkill, and they may well be! This would just be "my" ideal English program!

Ann said...

Your teaching sounds very satisfying. But I want to hear more about the "Morning Books." I looked in the archives clear back to August, and found only one sketchy mention (and you promised to write more about them later, but didn't). Tsk, tsk (I'm shaking my finger like a prissy schoolmarm). Please say a little more about them.