If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. ~ Adlai Stevenson

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Value of Projects, and Why We Don't Have "Grade Levels" Anymore...

We tend to be a fairly project oriented family as it is, but as part of their "secondary level" learning, I want the kids to each complete a long-term project. A quick search on the web says this about project-based learning:

The core idea of project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students' interest and provoke serious thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context. The teacher plays the role of facilitator, working with students to frame worthwhile questions, structuring meaningful tasks, coaching both knowledge development and social skills, and carefully assessing what students have learned from the experience. Advocates assert that project-based learning helps prepare students for the thinking and collaboration skills required in the workplace.
I think it also teaches follow-through, and allows varying methods of approaching varying topics. For my kids at least, hands-on learning is as important as book-based learning, and their projects will/do reflect that.

The Boy is already at work on his... the restoration of a 1940 Ford step-side pickup. He is essentially an apprentice: working under the tutelage of someone with vastly more experience; learning each part of what it takes to entirely rebuild an older vehicle from the smallest to the largest parts. It feeds his greatest passion as well, working with automobiles, and he knows it will provide him with valuable skills for his future. His plans for the immediate future, outlined further below, reflect his knowledge that this is what he wants to do.

As for The Girl, it seems likely, at the moment, that turning our yards, back and front, into a wildlife habitat will be her project (with my assistance/mentorship). But, she doesn't have to decide right this moment, as she has a few years left ahead of her as far as really homeschooling goes.

So...grade levels. I've pretty much abolished them as I think they are unnecessary for us. Instead, I'm coming up with a checklist of what each kid needs to complete to graduate, since as a private school, we set our own graduation requirements. Mine are as follows, though they are still a work in progress:

Language Arts: Be able to write effectively, and communicate orally with ease. This means they can write strong essays with different approaches, communicate properly with mail and email, and enjoy a discussion of literature, along with discussing other topics. My goal is to get them into an upper entry level English class at the junior college without trouble or remediation.

Math: They need to work up through Algebra 2, mostly if not all at home, and then do a semester of personal finance (or in The Boy's case, for his certificate program/associate's degree, Business Math). Each will also take an upper math class at the junior college, toward transfer credit (The Girl), or an associate's degree (The Boy).

History and Science: Historical and scientific literacy is my goal here. We delve more deeply when needed, and skim other topics as desired. They don't need to know everything about every field of science, or every point in history, but need to be familiar with how things work, and how they fit together.

Project-Based Learning: They will each complete a major project (see above).

Volunteer Work: Each will complete a minimum of 100 hours community service, which is actually pretty easy to do, since they already have numerous hours with food banks, puppy petting, and bicycle repair.

As I said, this is a work in progress, so we'll see what I come up with!

The Boy is in a period of transition. While he will continue some learning at home, he is getting ready to shift toward more junior college classes, moving forward toward an associate's degree in automotive technology. He'll be sixteen in the spring, and is, I think, mature enough to handle this challenge and period of change.

On the flip side, The Girl says she will not be ready to start at the junior college until she is about sixteen, which is fine. She'll be (as far as we know) doing her undergrad work there, before transferring to the local university for biology/wildlife studies.

I have come to really feel comfortable with this hybrid approach as they get older. They are no longer dependent on only my instruction, which is definitely a transition, but a good one.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Happy October!

October is my favorite month of the year. Something about the weather (we had rain today!!!), the pumpkins and squash, the leaves changing color, and of course, Halloween, all together make me feel very content.

What We're Up To...
We just started, last night, watching our Halloween-related/spooky movies, with Sleepy Hollow. Also on the list are Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic, The Addams Family, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and, quite likely, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, among others. Perhaps Phantom of the Opera as well this year? We watched Dracula last year, so maybe Frankenstein should be considered. We have been watching Penny Dreadful, and it has been intriguing to watch characters from classic horror films/novels unfold.

Math is going along well for both kids, and we're getting going slowly with language arts. We've begun reading The Giver, and that's been found to be very thought provoking so far. We do plan to watch the movie after we finish the book, for comparison. This is the first novel we have chosen for a plunge into dystopian society, at the request of both kids.

The Boy is doing very well in his astronomy class, with a high A average at the moment. He's also been back at work on his truck restoration project after a couple of weeks off. And he's been visiting car shows/air shows, and has made videos for both. The Girl spends a lot of time lately sculpting again, and we're working on our wildlife habitat. She reads a lot on her Kindle lately, both in games, and about games, and animals. She set up a fishbowl in her room for a Betta fish, painting the backside of the fishbowl with a tropical underwater scene, so that her new fish, named Pearl, would "not be bored in there." We do need to get going on the Big History Project though, which The Girl has decided she will participate in, albeit somewhat loosely.

Other Tidbits...
I love my jobs teaching/working with students. I am far more content these days than with all of last year's crazy hectic scheduling, even though we have a little less money.

It's also soup season, and that makes me happy! Last week, I made a giant pot of taco bean soup, and right now I'm also craving butternut squash-orange soup (I spice it up with smoked paprika, ginger, cumin, and a little chili powder), and The Girl wants this eggplant one.

I spent time today at the hardware store drooling over bulbs. My favorites are grape hyacinths, crocus, crocosmia, daffodils, and paperwhite narcissus, so I think there might be a bulb-purchase-and-planting day coming up soon! Other yard-based tasks to be done include harvesting olives in another month or so, clearing ground for raised beds at last, and strengthening the chicken hutch before winter gets here. I also really want to get/make a Halloween wreath for the front door by next weekend!

Enjoy your October!