About Me

My photo
If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Uniform or totem?

We currently belong to three learning groups.

One we joined because we just moved into the area, and thought it would help ease the kids into various activities. Unfortunately, while the group in question has some interesting activities, said activities directly conflict with everything else we do. And I have to say it, this group makes me feel older than I am, as if I should get myself a walker and a Rascal cart. They are great women, great families, but by comparison, they are old enough to be my daughters, some my very young daughters. It is not their problem that I am older than they are. We did get our Girl Scout troop through this organization, and I'm grateful for that.

One group we joined because it has activities in our kids' age group that do meet our schedule. Three of the mothers are my age or older, raising grandchildren.
It reminds me of the groups back in the 1980s and 1990s, casual and congenial, with kids and adults of all ages interacting together. We love this group, the activities, the people. We try to join up with them whenever we can, which can be difficult, as many of the activities are over the border in the next state. We do live close to the border, but sometimes what is an hour away to these folks is an hour and a half to us.

The third group is more of a think tank and co-op than a traditional home education group.Our children were invited to join based upon test scores through a summer enrichment program. It turns out our children are not the way they are because they live with two people old enough to be their grandparents. They are allegedly academically gifted and talented (as the person who supervises chores, I am not always so sure of this). Those talents not only shine in the academic subjects of mathematics and language usage, but in ability to originate and elaborate. It would explain why our dear Baby would, when bored to tears at her old school, take a "bathroom sabbatical" every so often, wandering the halls in search of subject matter more interesting than what was being taught in the second grade.

The think tank has some, but not all, of the trappings of private schools. One of these is uniform pieces worn to meetings. There is a suggested dress uniform, with plaid skirts for the girls, ties for everybody, and dress shoes. Children in Grammar wear a different uniform than the young people in Logic and Lower Rhetoric, while Upper Rhetoric has a dress code. Most meetings and events require a basic uniform of navy, khaki or colored trousers with belts, polo shirts, sweaters when necessary, and gym shoes.

A big part of the reason for these uniforms is community relations. Different corporations and foundations contribute to the education of the scholars, as they are known, directly through classes and internship as well as financially for each scholar. The theory is that corporate offices will not want to give time and money to a bunch of scruffy kids who looked as if they just climbed out from under rocks.

I have to admit, while I do not care if my children have pink hair or sport fake tattoos, the uniforms serve me well. They seem to send a symbol to concerned relatives and friends that yes, indeedy do, the kids ARE engaged in education, even though they are not sitting in a classroom from 8:00 AM until 2:45 PM with 24 other children of the same age and one adult. The dress uniforms make nice photographs to pass out at family events. The trousers look good and wear well, whether we go to the opera backstage or to the grocery store. The various pieces match no matter the mood of the wearer.

It does not always quiet my mother's efforts to get my children into school, especially the parish school she thinks they should attend. Catholic schools in our new area average $7,000 a year for two children for parishioners. Some offer some, but not all of the classes and activities we obtain through the think tank and learning group. The one my mother prefers boasts that it offers Spelling as a subject. All "extra" classes, which includes Art, Music and Spanish, are offered after school and cost more money beyond the $7,000. While I would not fault a parent who preferred it for their children, given the circumstances, the Mister and I will not send our children there any time soon. The fact that we are talking about a professor and his educated wife who has worked in Catholic schools cuts little ice with my mother. If it isn't happening in what she considers school, learning might not take place.

The coordinating outfits that comprise the uniform do lend us a legitimacy that we might not possess if we just let the kids wear Goodwill 24/7, which is what they wear when they are not wearing the uniforms. I don't know if I like the fact that clothes represent our educational choices, but I do like that the kids look good.

Monday, February 22, 2010

For All This $$- Not Next Year!

When we started the distance learning/ homeschool thing, the Mister insisted we use a curriculum with a grading and advisory service.
  • I hadn't taught in a home environment in over ten years.
  • We might not like distance learning, and we didn't want to jeopardize getting the kids into a good school just because we didn't use the opinion of experts. After all, we are old (in our fifties).
Since late July, we have been pumping away at this particular curriculum in their format, day in, day out, some days are better than others. We hope to be finished by April, and it will be none too soon for most of us.

So I asked the kids. They like distance learning MUCH better than going to school. This is from children who looked forward to going to school for the conversation! They like learning in a relaxed style, going way beyond what the books say, doing their own research, all the really cool projects.

What they don't like is the preformatted curriculum. I don't blame them. But we paid for the darn thing, in full, and all its goodies, including the compass and protractor we never used.

We have explained to the Mister that he is not here all day, and we will be setting up our curriculum. He agreed, particularly when I pointed out how much money we would save. We have syllabi, outlines, course of studies, all made by our own little fingers. This is what we plan for next year:

  • Two different math programs for kids who learn differently. We have a math lover in our house, and she wants, nay she demands Saxon. The rest of the child learners would prefer something more along the lines of Math U See, or Math U See Not (their preference).
  • More girl books for the girls! The books we have had to use to complete the canned program are geared toward boys. The most reprehensible of these books is an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe, that ended up tossed across the room on the last day of its use. Three cheers for Louisa May Alcott and pass around the Nancy Drew mysteries.
  • Less textbooks and more "real" books. The first to go was the spellers that came with the school-in-a-box. I found instead several research books, including the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, 365 Simple Science Experiments, Mindbenders, and the APA and MPA style guides.
  • Foreign language. I stood my ground on this one. They will start Latin in order to have a good foundation for all languages, starting with English.