Friday, November 16, 2007

A young writer's work in progress

Just when I was wondering if my daughter's writing program was taking her somewhere, it all came together in Lesson 11, Writing a Complete Essay. When she got to Lesson 12, Evaluating Your Essay, I was feeling pretty good about choosing Grammar & Writing 6 by Curtis and Hake.

The sequence of the writing program to date is as follows:

1. The Sentence
2. The Paragraph, Part 1
3. The Paragraph, Part 2
4. The Paragraph, Part 3
5. The Essay: Three Main Parts
6. The Essay: Introductory Paragraph
7. The Essay: Body Paragraphs
8. The Essay: Concluding Paragraphs
9. The Essay: Transitions
10. Brainstorming for Ideas
11. Writing a Complete Essay
12. Evaluating Your Essay

In Lesson 10, she was provided with the thesis statement "I can do things to make the world a better place." After brainstorming for supporting ideas, she finally put it all together in Lesson 11.

The following is her essay after Lesson 12.

Even though I may be only nine years old, I can make a big difference in this world. There are small things I do that will make the world a better place.

One important thing I do is protect natural habitats. I do not feed wild animals because it disrupts the balance of nature. I pick up my trash and sometimes even clean up other people’s litter. I also try not to disrupt the order of natural habitats by using paths instead of trampling over plant life when I am outside.

When I am inside, there are certain things that I do to conserve natural resources. I turn off lights when I do not need them. I make sure I turn off the faucets when I am finished using them. One other thing I do is keep my showers brief so that I do not waste water.

Recycling is yet another important way to care for our environment because it saves trees, water, energy, and landfill space. I carefully sort out items that can be recycled and place them in a special bin. I try to find new uses for things instead of buying something new. Finally, I use recycled paper and biodegradable products whenever possible.

When all is said and done, taking care of our planet is a huge responsibility but I am able to do things that make the world a better place. I can protect natural habitats, conserve natural resources, and care for our environment by recycling. If I can make a big difference by making small changes, maybe you can too.

This is a huge milestone for my very reluctant writer. She is extremely bright and very verbal, but she doesn't consider herself a writer. This process gave her the "recipe" for writing an essay carefully walking her through each step in a way that makes sense. Hake has unraveled the mystery of writing a clear essay by providing an easy to follow "recipe".

I particularly liked the fact that even after Lesson 11 when the essay was quite good, in Lesson 12 she was asked to go back and evaluate her writing critically because writing is always a "work in progress." Mary Hake reminds the young writer "The knowledge that writing is a process should guide your thinking throughout the construction of an essay." She then goes on to prompt the writer with questions which help the self-evaluation process move along.

As a disclaimer, I have to say that I don't believe the writing component would work as well without the grammar, dictation and journaling exercises. There is a sequence to the lessons and we have been following the suggested schedule. She also consistently outlines and summarizes information in her world history lessons and this has fine-tuned her writing further. Book reports on classic literature are part of her studies as well. Nevertheless, I don't believe she would have been able to write such a logical, clear and well-thought out essay pre-Hake Grammar & Writing.

My next task as her teacher, is to finish reading Writing to the Point by Kerrigan. From what I understand so far of Kerrigan's approach to teaching writing, it seems to fit in very well to the Hake approach to teaching a much younger writer.

Who knew that learning to write could be so logical and presented so very clearly.

Grammar and Writing
Christie Curtis & Mary Hake

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I love you as much as....

Earlier today.....

Five Year Old: "Mommy, do you know how much I love you?"
Mommy: "How much?"
Five Year Old: "I love you as much as Betelgeuse."
Mommy: "I love you as much as Antares."

Thank you Instructivist!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

One foot in...

Well, there's certainly a downside to homeschooling one out of three. Scheduling is a pain. We still have to follow the district schedule for in-service days, holidays, and conferences. I have two different drop-off times and pick-up can sneak up during a great lesson that must be cut short. I still have to afterschool my second grader and beforeschool my kindergartener while I'm educating my fifth grader. Even ranting about it makes my head spin.

My fifth grader is starting to find her rythym as I am mine. It still needs work though and I probably need to take a closer look at the weekly schedule and see how I can adjust it to better fit our family. The fall tends to be particularly busy with soccer practices, games, ballet, chess club and book club to juggle not to mention that the weather has been so wonderful it's hard to stay inside and "work". My personal challenge is keeping up with housework and I do believe revisiting and a good sink shining is in order. Can you say C.H.A.O.S.?

It's coming along though. Mostly, the days have been what I'd hoped for. Next year we're definitely homeschooling everyone. No doubt in my mind about that. Instead of having one foot in testing the waters, I'll just jump in feet first.

Friday, September 14, 2007

nom de plume

We changed our blog name today.

"Clio's Classroom" was inspired by my daughter. Yes, the one I'm homeschooling. This week she said she thought her muse must be Clio, the muse of history, because history fascinates her so. This is a child whose idea of bedtime reading has been an encyclopedia, preferably a history encyclopedia, since about the age of five. Last time I checked, she was still nine years old.

I think this homeschooling thing must be agreeing with her. She's even more precocious than I realized. Maybe it's because I didn't get to spend the day watching her mind at work like I do now. Her teachers had the benefit of that experience and I'm not certain they shared all the details.

Whatever the case, embarking on a classically inspired education is certainly bringing out the best in her. I love it when I actually make a good decision. It makes up for all those times I've second guessed myself or wished I'd done it differently.

Anyway, in honor of the nymph Clio, daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne ("Memory"), born at Pieria, in Thrace, and nursed by Eupheme, as of today, we now learn together in Clio's Classroom.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Reluctant Homeschooler

Some of the families we've worked with are avid homeschoolers who have always wanted to teach their own children. One parent even suggests that we should see homeschooling as the norm, with traditional schools as the default option available if home learning doesn't work out. Many families, however, are more reluctant homeschoolers. They homeschool because they can't find appropriate schools. Some school officials even agree with the choice. "I have been struck by the responses I have gotten to our decision to homeschool from state-level educators here in Massachusetts," Sharon, a mom we have worked with, says. "All have the attitude of 'Great! You won't regret it! It's the best plan for your kids!' All the while they miss my point: I do not want to homeschool my kids. I do it because their system so fails my kids as to be harmful to them. And I want them to fix it, to see their responsibility to all students, even smart ones."

-- quoted from

Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds
by Jan & Bob Davidson

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Choosing the Road Less Traveled

I am what some may refer to as a “reluctant homeschooler.” Don’t get me wrong. I am excited about the prospect of educating my fifth grade child at home this year, but I really tried to make the public school system work out for her. I genuinely believed it could. You see, my fifth grader who is at least a year younger than most classmates, tests in the gifted range and thinks outside the box.

Up until third grade she was happy, well adjusted, and sparkly. Public school seemed to be working out well for her. However, that was when there was a well thought out gifted program in place with a caring, intuitive, inspiring teacher at the helm. That was then. Flash forward to fourth grade and the story changes.

We moved to Connecticut from the west to a district prized for academic achievement. I met with the principal, discussed my daughter’s cognitive abilities and her need to be challenged. I made sure the principal noticed that she had already completed an accelerated math curriculum while in third grade. I was assured with a nod and a smile that the needs of all children would be met within this “coveted” school district. All teachers were prepared to enrich students, and so forth and so on. I pushed aside my reservations, quieted the voices that kept signaling that something was amiss, and I turned in the enrollment paperwork.

My sparkly child began to fade before my eyes. There were tears that I initially attributed to being the new kid in town. It just never went away. She complained about reading abridged texts instead of complete stories, end of chapter questions that always asked the same thing, and a trendy mathematics curriculum that frustrated her beyond belief because it never sought to master any concept. Superficial knowledge, it seemed, was sufficient to meet the very wide range of proficiency. Everything revolved around the CMT’s so that homework actually looked like a standardized test with bubbles to fill in and blank lines for a short response. Since the test is administered in April, that meant that at least seven months revolved around “the test.” It didn’t leave much time for meaningful learning—the only kind of learning that mattered to my daughter.

I lost a lot of sleep. I brought up my concerns with the teacher whose hands were tied and an administration blinded by hubris—false pride. They had no idea what she was capable of because proficient was good enough. Excellence wasn’t necessary (unless of course, it was athletics or a musical instrument).

This summer was the turning point. In the fall she was to attend an upper elementary school on a beautiful campus with all the bells and whistles. Once you got past the flash though, there was little substance, more of the same. I’d been afterschooling her for the past year and enriching her education all along. I just was never brave enough to take that final step. I also wanted to believe that public education would work. I wanted to believe that there were many exceptional educators like Rafe Esquith (or her own beloved Mrs. A) out there ready to challenge my daughter. In my heart I knew the sad reality. Her school would be so busy teaching to the middle, and trying to raise the floor, that the ceiling was crashing down around them. My daughter would be another casualty if I sent her there.

Great minds think alike.

One of my dearest friends had "big news". It sounded exciting but I couldn't imagine what it would be. She revealed to me that she would be taking on homeschooling her four children in the fall. I was instantly excited for her but not at all shocked. Somehow, it seemed so natural for her to do that and it felt right. I revealed to her something I am not even certain that I had admitted to myself. It was time for me to re-examine homeschooling too. It was time to begin listening to what my instincts had been telling me all along.

And so it was, that my family had the discussion about homeschooling. I wasn't certain that my daughter would embrace the idea because she is a very social creature. I was so wrong. I caught a glimpse of the sparkle as she considered my proposal. The more we planned and discussed, the brighter it grew. We chose a home education plan that is unique as she is but certainly inspired by a classical education. I researched, read, and stayed up late all summer until I was satisfied that we had chosen wisely. Material was ordered, evaluated and some of it sent back in lieu of something better. Finally, we’re at a place where I am at peace with what she will be learning and we’re ready to fly together.

We begin school on Tuesday just as her former classmates will. I tease her that she’s going to private school—as private as it gets, since she’s the only student. This is new to both of us, and yet it feels so right. I spent so much time fighting and now, instead of fighting I’ll be learning along with her, watching her grow and experiencing the wonderful gift of mentoring my own child.

We have chosen the road less traveled and this will make all the difference.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ready, set, go

So, Im officially a home educator as of next week. On Tuesday. Bright and early. I've most certainly bitten off more than I can chew. That's about the only thing I know for certain.

It's just so hard to say no to interesting subjects and there are so very many of them.

I love books. Library books and paperbacks are wonderful, but there's something about placing a cherished hardcover book in my bookcase that makes my heart sing. I love to learn, so the prospect of immersing myself in study all over again probably earns me a lifetime membership in the geek club. I'm beginning to feel a little selfish here, but the reality is that I'm actually homeschooling for the benefit of my fifth grader. Really, it's not about me.

The plan is to add the other two children into the mix by next year. I know, I'm a wimp. I just didn't feel ready to take on all three at once. I've been afterschooling the older two for quite some time and after having my youngest spend a year in preschool I decided to do her pre-K myself this past year. I did a pretty decent job, if I do say so myself.

But still, I feel I'm making the best decision for all three of my children by focusing on one for now. She's at that age where things can really spiral out of control. Fifth grade... yikes! How did that happen so quickly?

I want her to love learning again. I want to coax her spark back because she is quite the sparkly one. Once I pass the newbie stage with flying colors, there's no stopping me and the younger two will transition in beautifully, right?

I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into despite all the reading and researching I did in preparation for this life-changing event. Nevertheless, we're starting on September 4th, ready or not ... get set, GO!

Stay tuned for more...