Saturday, February 02, 2008

School wise, part 2: Joel (warning - this is looong)

Time to turn my attention to Joel. I know I said I'd do it yesterday, but well, I spent a lot of time with Joel yesterday so I didn't have much time to write about Joel. Yesterday was our Classical Conversation day. If you are a CM reader, do not gasp and think I've forsaken our CM ways. I haven't. But I am happy, for Joel's sake, to have found the CC Challenge group for this year. Joel is a part-time student, participating in two seminars, Geography and Science. The seminars are back to back with lunch in between, which gives him some wonderful time to just hang out with kids his age and play soccer and football with whoever wanders out to the field at lunchtime. We are doing this partly for the academics, but also for the social side of CC. It's something that Joel really looks forward to each week.

His work includes:

Geography at CC, which is mainly a cartography course...lots of map drawing and learning locations and geographical information. He did a super job in a quiz yesterday, remembering correctly 147 of 148 country capitals. Do YOU know the capital of St. Lucia? That's the one he missed. We had fun doing a bit of association with learning capitals. He was having a hard time remembering Moldova. The capital is Chisinau. We took the first letters of both words and came up with "moldy cheese". Moldova moldy, Chisinau cheese. It worked. He got that one plus 146 others. This, for those of you who are familiar with classical education, is more of a grammar stage activity, but I do know that the more familiarity you have with places and names, the more likely you are to notice them when you hear them in a news report or read about them in a novel set in an obscure location. These are learning hooks, basic geographical knowledge, of which most Americans are abysmally ignorant. Map drawing is an exercise in attentiveness and accuracy. It's also a classical way to learn - look at the map, trace it, draw it. Do it over and over. It is amazing to look at maps drawn at the beginning of the year and maps drawn now. Later in the spring we may use some of the ideas in Mapping the World by Heart and spend time doing a really excellent world map.

Science at CC, which was research and journaling in the fall has now moved on to a study of the human body. Again, lots of drawing. In the fall each week Joel researched a different category of animals or plants, wrote a summary of his research, drew a picture or diagram for his journal, and then gave a short presentation in class on what he learned. Did you know that monarch butterflies sometimes make transatlantic flights! We learned that this fall as well as lots of other very interesting information about the created world. In addition, Joel's confidence in his drawing increased greatly as week by week he continued to be surprised at how pleased he was with his drawings. He used to say, "I can't draw," and was afraid to try. Now he is more willing to give it a go and has learned for himself that drawing, like most things, is a skill that can be learned and improved with practice.

What I don't like about these CC classes is that they move fast and lack the "education is a science of relations" aspect of learning that would be more characteristic of a Charlotte Mason style of learning. For example, I would really rather spend more time on each area of the world, learning about the land and culture, the people, the food, the history and politics of the place rather than simply draw it on the map, learn some important geographical features and move on. But then, we'd never finish mapping the entire world in a year if we did that...so there are trade-offs. As I said, this way of learning provides lots of learning hooks for later.

In addition to CC classes, Joel is working on Algebra at home. Like Matthew, he has a wonderful teacher. Thanks, Coty!

We are studying modern world history using Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World, Volume 4. Sometimes we read aloud together. Other times he reads it himself. Each day after reading, he does a written narration. They've increased in length to about a page now. I do not correct these. They are simply a place for him to process and re-tell what he has read.

He's doing French with Matthew and me. Listening and learning vocabulary. I am really going to miss our resident French tutor, Andrew, when he goes to college next fall! He corrects our sentences and helps us with our pronunciation.

Also music with Matthew and me. Pat Kavanaugh's excellent book mentioned previously. The Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto is on the mp3 player now so guess what we'll be listening to in the car for the next week. It is important to me for the boys to become familiar with classical music. I heard a fascinating piece on Beethoven and his deafness this morning and was reminded why I think that learning to love classical music is important. Scott Simon said, "I'm deeply in awe of Beethoven and the way he transformed the symphony. But I am even more awed by this human being who somehow transcended his suffering to write some of the world's most joyous, optimistic music — music that still has the power to change our lives." Yes, music does have the power to change our lives and I want my sons to have a familiarity with and appetite for this music. Sorry for a bit of a ramble there....

Of course, Joel is always reading. Lately he's read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, And Now Miguel.Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is next.

I forgot to mention in Matthew's post that we try and read poetry several times a week. We have memorized several poems this year. Time to pick a new one. Actually, Matthew chose to memorize the St. Crispan's Day speech from Henry V for his theater audition monologue, so maybe we'll all do that. Read this post for more on poetry in our house.

The other thing I didn't mention in Matthew's post is what is a very important part of our homeschool day, breakfast reading with Coty. This post describes that morning routine. At the beginning of January we finished The Phantom Tollbooth and now we are reading Give Me This Mountain by Helen Roseveare. We always read the Bible together in the morning as well. Right now we're reading Jeremiah.

For fun, Joel plays all those same games indoors and out with Coty and his brothers. He is contemplating whether to play baseball or spring soccer this year. Hard choice. He's been invited to play on a club soccer team so if we're able to do that and have access to such fine coaching, he may forgo baseball. Same thoughts regarding hands-on projects and handicrafts that I expressed with Matthew apply to Joel.

Like his big brothers, Joel is pretty self-motivated when it comes to his work. I rarely have to get on him to get his tasks done. I think the example set by his siblings is the primary reason he is so diligent. That's just how it's done around here, no arguing, no whining. When you're the youngest, it's pretty hard to get away with anything, especially laziness, in any form.

Well that's my Joel, social, athletic, sensitive to his mom, very huggable, usually happy, and continuing to grow, I observe and pray, "in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men."

Andrew, next...

No comments: