Posts Tagged ‘homeschool’

Making Connections

July 9th, 2015

Unit studies were all the rage when I was reading about homeschooling in my mid-teens. Monthly themes governed every subject in the homeschooling curriculum.

A unit study on bugs would have children reading about bugs, catching bugs, counting bugs, exploring the bug ecosystem, learning about how bugs are used in different cultures or throughout history. Bug art would abound.

If mom didn’t have the time, energy, or creativity to come up with her own unit study, websites and books offered an abundance of options.

Learning like this is more natural, the unit study people declared.

I wished I could jump on the bandwagon, but it was unfortunately too difficult for me to figure out how to connect bugs to calculus.

It wouldn’t be long before a radical old approach became popular, thanks to Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind. This new approach was much more systematic than either the unit study approach or the traditional school approach (at least as far as social studies is concerned).

Wise and Wise Bauer’s brand of classical education focused on a four year cycle for both history and science – strictly (for history) and loosely (for science) following the progression of historical thought through the ages.

The Well-Trained Mind gave an example of how students make connections, even when their mothers don’t plan in such a way as to make the connections explicit. They used “Mars” as an example. A student might learn the mythology of Mars when studying the Roman Empire and later learn about the planet Mars (red with blood, like the warlike god). Likewise, he will learn about the martial arts and will trace the term “martial” back to the god of war. Each bit of knowledge becomes a hook upon which other pieces of knowledge (from disparate disciplines) are hung.

When I read this example, I nodded my head. Sure, I acknowledged that was probably true. It’s like when you get a new car and suddenly see that make and model all over the road. It’s not that those cars weren’t already there, it’s just that you became more aware of them.

But apart from my car example, I couldn’t really think of a time when I’d had “hooks” to hang new information on.

Then my husband and I checked out Tom Reiss’s The Black Count to listen to during our fourth of July travels. The Black Count tells the story of the novelist Alexandre Dumas’ father (also named Alexandre Dumas), a general during the French Revolution.

Now, until a year ago, what little I knew of the French Revolution came from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (not a bad read by any means, but certainly not a comprehensive introduction to the Revolution.) But last year, that changed when Daniel and I started listening to Mike Duncan’s Revolutions Podcast. We listened as Duncan gave a history of the English Revolution, and then the American Revolution, and then the French (he’s not done with the French Revolution yet – and I haven’t listened past the first dozen or so podcasts on the French Revolution.) As we listened, I’ll admit that my eyes sometimes glazed over and my mind started wandering. So much was so unfamiliar – the names, the events, the political bodies.

But as we listened to The Black Count, something strange happened. I started hearing the names, the political bodies, the events I’d heard before. And I listened more carefully this time around. It picqued my curiosity to read more, to relisten, to become more familiar with the French Revolution.

I thought of the differences between unit studies and a more systematic approach as I listened.

While Daniel and I were listening to one podcast after another after another of Duncan’s Revolutions, I got worn out with the topic. If I’d have been listening to The Black Count concurrently, I likely would have ignored the parts about the French Revolution, thinking I’d heard it before.

But, listening to it several months later, I was able to see the Revolution through fresh eyes, able to enjoy it, able to pass through again to impress the events more deeply upon my own memory.

I feel that there must be application to how I choose to homeschool someday, but I’m not sure exactly what it is.

I’m still rather enamored with the Bauer and Wise Bauer approach to history studies. I still rather enjoy immersing myself in a topic every once in a while. But I think this has reminded me that connections can be anywhere – and that it’s okay to let them arise naturally.

I don’t have to beat my children (or myself) over the head with learning. I have to make plenty of good books, good audiovisual learning opportunities (like Duncan’s podcasts!), good educational experiences available to my children.

They will make connections – even if it takes them until they’re 30 to start recognizing it.

Flashback: Red Beans and Rice

January 14th, 2011

Home and School Discipline were pretty much one and the same for the Menter kids.

We were, after all, homeschooled.

But there were a few items distinctive to the school environment.

Items like Red Beans and Rice.

Flashback Friday buttonToday Linda asks… How strict were teachers when you were in school? What were common methods of discipline? No recess? Writing sentences? Being sent to the principal’s office? Were “pops” or “swats” allowed? …

We were mostly self-directed students after the first or second grade. We had the assignment sheets Mom gave us at the beginning of the school year and we were responsible for working our way through them day by day and asking questions if we needed help.

We generally started the year with great intentions of “getting ahead”, but we generally spent most of our time “getting ahead” in certain subjects that we preferred. Meanwhile, we “got behind” in all the rest.

And eventually, the novelty of “getting ahead” wore off and we’d “get behind” in everything.

Riding our bicycles or reading a book or playing with legos was immensely more fun than doing math problems or “reading” (the subject). And so we just ignored our work altogether.

Dad would end up coming home from work only to have to sit on us to do our work in the evening.

I’m sure Mom and Dad tried all sorts of things to get us to stay on schedule–but I only remember the one.

Red Beans and Rice.

My dad finally figured out a way to get us to do our schoolwork before supper. He issued an ultimatum. If our work wasn’t done by suppertime, no matter what the rest of the family was eating, we were having red beans and rice.

And I’m not talking the spicy Southern dish.

I’m talking kidney beans from a can or cooked on the stove. White rice. A bit of salt.

Dad made up big batches and froze it in individual freezer bags.

If we kids weren’t done with school when he got home from work, he’d pull out the appropriate number of servings and reheat them for the errant children.

We’d sit in stony silence, pushing red beans and rice around our plates while the rest of the family ate Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes…or lasagna and breadsticks…or meatloaf and baked potatoes.

The next day? We’d get our school work done before Dad got home.

For the record, allow me to remind you that my parents were NOT (and are not) abusive. We still got plenty of food–both through our other meals and from the red beans and rice themselves. Furthermore, no one chose to repeat the experience for too many days in a row. I doubt any of us had more than two or three meals of red beans and rice during even our most “behind” weeks.

Red beans and rice were a powerful disciplinary tool, let me tell you!

Read more at Mocha with Linda’s Flashback Friday Meme

Flashback: Extracurriculars

August 20th, 2010

Flashback Friday buttonPrompt: What type of extra-curricular school activities did you participate in during your school days? Clubs? Spelling bees or other contests? Cheerleader or drill team? Sports? Journalism? Choir or theater? …

I was one of the “big kids” in a big homeschooling family, and when I was in the “extracurricular” phase, Mom had babies–and then preschoolers–and then elementary-schoolers.

My extracurriculars in elementary school involved…well, I’m not sure I had extracurriculars in elementary school. We belonged to a small church and with Mom being busy with babies, there wasn’t a lot of extra.

When I was a fifth or sixth grader, our church closed its doors and most of the parishioners went to another, larger church. Me and my older sister began attending the weekly “Missionettes” girls group there.

After I completed the Missionettes program as a seventh grader, I chose to volunteer as a “helper” in a Missionettes classroom. I helped in the kindergarten-aged “Daisies” classroom for five or six weeks before the teacher had some difficulties arise and had to quit.

I became the teacher of six to eight kindergarten girls. And I loved it.

I continued as a Missionettes sponsor through my senior year of highschool–and I absolutely adored it. I worked with every age-group of girls over the course of my sponsoring “career”, and was delighted to lead them through a variety of badges–and life experiences.

My other extracurriculars were along a similar vein. I volunteered in the church nursery. I taught Sunday school for a stint. I ran the PowerPoint projection system at church. I played the tambourine when called upon to do so.

In my last couple of years of high school, I developed a passion for discipleship and began meeting with a younger girl to study the Bible together. We met weekly for almost four years–and now I’m pleased to have her as a sister-in-law!

So I don’t have much by way of “extracurriculars”. I was in our church’s youth group and served on our “youth council.” And I volunteered. Apart from that, I read, I rode my bicycle, I walked all over town, I made paper, I wrote.

I didn’t have the traditional high school experience, I know. But I don’t feel deprived. I chose what I wanted to do and took great pleasure in what I did. I wouldn’t trade it for all the clubs and activities in the world.

Visit Linda for more Flashback Friday posts.

Browse bekahcubed:

Search bekahcubed:

Contact bekahcubed:

Get my button:

bekahcubed button

Popular Tags:

I participate in:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge
L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge
What's on Your Nightstand?