Cleaning House  

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Figuratively and literally. I've been looking at some blogs written by some amazing Catholic moms, and feeling completely inadequate. Where do they get the time? I hardly have time to glance at anything non-school or work related! In any case, I'm doing some housecleaning. On the literal front, that means I'm cleaning out the school room - not because we take the summer off (are you kidding?), but because it provides something of a transition point. We're also cleaning out the kids' rooms as best we can, and we re-sodded both the front and the back yards (not so impressive - small yards). I'm cleaning out this blog, too. Why? Surely not because I have too many posts! I really like reviewing for The Old Schoolhouse, but those reviews are not well placed here. I'm creating a separate blog just for reviews. I'll then move them there.

When I see what the kids were doing curriculum-wise one year ago, it seems like a lifetime ago. In some ways we've made tons of progress, while in others we have moved very slowly. I have made some curriculum decisions I'm ecstatic about, and T continues to be my easiest child to teach. I love planning what I'll do with her. N is a challenge, simply because of how quickly he picks up on things, and because of how little he likes to sit still. He loves to learn, but he doesn't love to work. I'm so grateful for my opportunity to write for Heart of the Matter, as it has compelled me continually to research the learning styles of gifted kids. Without the constant bombardment of reinforcement that N is not completely insane and abnormal, I would probably go pony express.

In any case, N has finished Math 3 and is halfway through Saxon 5/4. I expect that he will finish it by the end of the summer. Fortunately, T is done with 6/5 and is into 7/6, freeing up 6/5 for N. I keep warning her that he might catch her! She is staying ahead of him for now, though! My biggest find for the year, though, was definitely Michael Clay Thompson's Language Arts curriculum. I should probably cut and paste from an email I wrote to my SIL rather than try to reproduce a coherent review. Better yet, I'll wait until I have peace and quiet (or until I'm dead, which will probably come first) so that I can properly extol the virtues of the amazing curriculum. Although written specifically for gifted kids, I don't see why anyone couldn't use this wonderful program. I have never met (or "met") anyone who loved words the way I that I did until I encountered MCT. He doesn't try to make grammar fun or interesting because he recognizes that grammar *is* fun and interesting. Words are meant to be dissected, understood and, ultimately, to be played with. A sentence cannot properly be understood without an understanding of its component parts - its phrases, its clauses, etc. Even better, from the youngest ages, MCT incorporates a study of poetry: not poetry simply as memorization or "appreciation", but poetry as construction and technique. By understanding these poetic techniques, children can then be equipped to recognize them when they read prose (there is a reason that most great writers also wrote poetry).

Well, suffice it to say that T is thriving with this curriculum, and that N would stop whatever he was doing to listen in.

If T had her choice, she would do religion all day. We kind of two-tracking religion. For our instruction, we use the series I outlined back in June or July (I still love it) in conjunction with Fr. Laux's Chief Truths of the Faith. Fr. Laux quickly moves into a discussion of each of the books in the Bible, and here is where we begin our second track. We have brought in Peter Kreeft's book You Can Understand the Bible in order further to explicate Fr. Laux. Here is my conundrum. Fr. Laux has another book, a wonderful book, which is more in-depth, and focuses exclusively on a discussion of the books of the Bible. Part of me says to wait until T is older to bring this book in. Part of me says that she is old enough or, more importantly, mature enough, to handle it now. We don't have to go fast, and taking a couple of years to move through the Bible, book-by-book, now will give her a huge advantage. She can hear it all again when I do it with the younger set but, even better, she can move on to more sophisticated exegesis. Alternative #2: she can set aside the Kreeft for now, and not pick up the 2nd Laux at all. We can just keep moving through Chief Truths of the Faith, and add Bible History, which was written for 6th-8th graders. The huge advantage for me is that this is written as a textbook (although since it was written in 1931, it is not typical textbook for *our* times; it reads quite nicely, and the questions at the end of the chapter are discussion style - with mapwork!). This gives her another independent subject. Of course, I'll read the book, too, so that we can discuss, but I won't have to read it to her, like I do with Kreeft, so that we can discuss as we go. It will give her more background to do the more in-depth Bible study next year. I think I'm convincing myself; she won't be happy, though.

Religion for the little kids? St. Joseph Catechism, lots of Bible stories, narrations, and drawings. They love to do their drawings! I want N really to work on his narrations this year. He is becoming quite a good writer, and his grammar sometimes amazes even me. M and M-C love to color anything I put in front of them, especially these Rosary coloring pages.

More subjects to discuss next time. History -- oh that history. How can I love it so much, but have so much trouble figuring out how to teach it coherently? I am trying to teach the unified history of the world and everything. It's not going all that smoothly. However, M is drawing Ajax as we speak, and the kids love to reenact the Trojan War, so at least they are in touch with their roots. There's nothing bad about that. T can tell you just about anything you might want to know about the Tudors (including which of Henry VIII's wives escaped the blade!). They all know a thing or two about the Tlingit Indians. They even know that American Indians called themselves "The People." I guess we're doing okay. Now to break out those timelines so that the Tlingit don't end up fighting the Trojans. It hasn't happened so far...