Sunday, February 17, 2008

An infrequent update

[For whatever unknown and unfound reason, I am not receiving comment notification in my e-mail as before. So for those who have commented over the past few weeks, I just now have found them. Thank you!]

I was reminded that the Winter Reading Challenge was almost up when I visited Kathleen's Rock Creek Rumblings. I couldn't even remember all that I had put on my list, but I was sure I had not come close to fulfilling the challenge. The biggest challenge I've had has been staying awake until 9 p.m.

My ambitions outside of school still remain ambitions. After posting my WRC list, much seemed to change. But these are good changes! Things still are going positively toward academic changes at school, still progressing toward classical education. The academic committee, on which I have been privileged to serve, meets at least once a week, sometimes right before school. As time consuming as this has been so far, the more time consuming changes are yet to begin.

Over the last month or so, I have had to tutor a new student in Algebra I during one of my study halls. I do not like to teach math but at least this is Saxon math and I've taught it before. Trying to juggle this extra daily event is another twist to get used to. I used to use that time as an extra prep time for the World Studies class. I miss that time because I really needed that extra prep.

In addition, after Christmas many students in my World Studies class became very complacent about studying. I try not to intentionally make the class difficult, but when students do not complete assignments or study the material, their grades usually show it. The natural, although misplaced, reaction is for the student to blame the teacher. It just so happened that progress reports were due out, so I had the opportunity to request a parent conference for these particular students. When the student saw this, their attitudes seem to change and they began to take classwork more seriously. The last test showed great improvement.

Many of these students do not seem to know how to study. I want to take enough time in between the next chapter or two to study the chapter "How to Study History" in Study is Hard Work. We are beginning The Age of Absolutism next week, then Australia. After that I'm thinking about covering only a few more major chapters, and then finish the year reading the historical fiction book The Rising Tide: A Novel of WW II. These kids have only and ever used a textbook for course work, and the particular textbook is almost unbearable to me.

One reason I thought about doing this for World War II stemmed from a student. This particular student has given me much grief on and off through the year. He is perfectly capable of the coursework, but he lacks the want-to. For whatever reason, he seemed to give up several weeks ago and would not turn in any assignments or contribute anything to class. At least he was not disrupting class as he has in the past. (The administration knows all about all of this and they have made their choice of approach. I can do nothing else.) Well, I don't know what exactly happened, but all of a sudden one day, this student stated doing his work and catching up on past work he has tossed out uncompleted. It paid off too. He got at 94 on the last test. He was elated and did well on tests in his other classes. He even found me throughout the day to show me these other test grades. [I felt a little privileged. :)] He is thrilled with his success. I so hope it continues!

Anyway, the other day he asked during class if and when we would get to World War II. He has a special interest in it. Of course, not too many history classes ever "get to" 20th century events. Because he has this special interest and maintaining his interest is important to his success, I want to try to get to WWII. BUT, I think it will be more interesting to read Shaara's book and then complete the textbook chapter. The book is over 500 pages so I will need to allow about seven weeks to complete it. On top of that, I'll have to find a way to obtain 11 copies of the book. Used copies are available but even used prices and shipping will run about $75. I am taking a personal day in early March to go to the huge bookfair. If they happen to have that book, it will be reduced to about $3-4. I'll have to wait until then to make a decision.

Getting back to the Winter Reading Challenge.....
To even try to accomplish what I want to and feel that I need to, I am up a few minutes before 4 a.m. to walk with Leslie Sansone while listening to Rufus Fear's expound on The Wisdom of History. I get a few gulps of coffee throughout that half hour before settling down for another thirty to four-five minutes. Enjoying a leisurely second hot cup of coffee as I read the Scriptures followed by
Phyllis Tickle's The Shaping of a Life. If you have never read her, she is worth your time. Once 5:15 a.m. arrives, it is time to lay aside reading books until bedtime. There is just no time at all to read anything during the day.

In the evening, I love to crawl into a warm bed to read a bit before I fall asleep. So often, I fall asleep with the book in hand, sometimes for many minutes. Currently, I am enjoying Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children by Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved).

I look forward to summertime when I hope to be able to read to my heart's content. The summer will be packed but not scheduled. My schedule for next year will be, in this order, English and History (6th grade), English and History (7th grade), lunch, English and History (8th grade), and plan period. At least I don't have a study hall. :) Right now, we are considering what books to use next year. I am contemplating
Omnibus I and II for 7th and 8th grade. I really want to use Speilvogel's Western Civilization but I don' t know if I can persuade those who will ultimately decide. I just do not like Abeka or Bob Jones history. At all.

We are off tomorrow for President's Day, but I still have material to finish for the week, so my day off will be a working day. My sixth graders will test this week on the Aztecs and Mexico, then begin the Incas and South America. We have been drilling principle parts of verbs recently and beginning nouns. Fitting in writing and reading with all this is challenging. Even though I fill up every minute and wish for more, and I know that I am providing them with good solid instruction, I wish I could have more time with them. I really, really enjoy the sixth graders. And I see progress that they have made.

I so miss visiting with all of you. I do stop by your blogs before must read quickly and rarely have time to leave comments. I do look forward to summer when I can linger.

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