Sunday, January 09, 2011

Curriculum 2011

Math and Language Prizes
Math and Language Prizes
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Every year it gets a bit more challenging to homeschool the girls while it simultaneously gets much easier. After a year languishing in what passes for education here in Pukekohe, the girls have to get back to work.

2010 was a very enjoyable but essentially academically null year. #2 and #3 at least loved their school, respected their teachers, and learned how to reach out to children their own age. Aeron was her bouncy, generous, friendly self while reserved Mera nevertheless found ways to make connections. In particularly, Mera's experience of Kapa Haka was so positive that it would have served alone to make the school year worthwhile.

But I digress, we are talking about "Homeschooling: The Later Years." What gets easier is teaching our children. The unschoolers are essentially correct when they say that kids are information sponges when left to their own devices. Educating the girls grew easier and easier the less effort we put into it and the more we let them do it themselves. At this point, we simply put the content in their hands, set minimum targets for volume, and then let them have at it. Generally, they limp along grudgingly in topics of less interest while blowing out the targets when something engages.

Yet, there is the kernel of the problem as well. As the girls get older it gets harder to find good, self-guided instructional material... at an affordable cost. During the younger years, we relied heavily on workbooks. Workbooks were available in all subjects at the local children's educational book shop for quite reasonable prices. If we couldn't find it there, we could always go straight to the publisher and purchase our pick of workbooks in the $15 to $25 range.

The workbooks, however, start fading in about middle school and are essentially gone by high school. That's a shame because workbooks are a fantastically useful teaching tool at any age. In their place are $100 to $200 middle, high school, and college text books. When your student doesn't click with a $15 geography workbook, you try a different author or publisher. When she throws up her hands at a $100 textbook, it's tempting to bash her over the head with it.

Another problem we face as the girls get older is that they are starting to have Goals. It used to be we could select the books, the balance of one subject versus the next, and the volume and pacing with almost no input from the children. Sure, occasionally a book or program died in their hands and required replacement; Singapore Math and Calvert both immediately leap to mind. We listened and replaced, but we didn't really abandon the principle of, “Yes child... math is something we're going to master, as are spelling, writing, and science.” It's not like we ignored them, but unless the book or exercise was completely heinous (e.g. Elements of Language 1, 2 and 3), they didn't care much one way or another what we swapped out.

But now, there is a Plan. Jaime in particular has narrowly defined aspirations; Her current career objective is to become a Civil Engineer. The only question is which flavor, but the basics requirements are the same. To the end of getting admitted to a New Zealand, Australian, or U.K. University in the field, she presented me with a laundry list of subjects she wishes to study during our 2011 homeschool year. These include: Physics (NCEA 2), Statistics/Modeling, Economics, Chemistry (NCEA2), and Geoscience. I talked her into an art class only, but only after I found a really good textbook on Basic Technical Drawing. It took a visit to the iCivilEngineering web site to convince her that a computer class was essential; So we're also tackling AutoCAD next year. The later effort also required a bribe of fixing her laptop keyboard and an iTunes gift certificate. It took her father's intervention to drag her kicking and screaming into agreeing to a literature and writing survey course which he'll be conducting with Mera. God forbid we spend even a moment reading and savoring the classics. This will teach me to let my daughters hang out with engineering geeks.

Making Soap
Making Soap
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Mera's goals are less well formed. However, her critical opinion on topics and materials are considerably better articulated and delivered with a cool disdain when I somehow fail to meet her educational expectations. The literature course spearheaded by her father includes a reading list which required considerable massaging before attaining her coveted approval. She flat out veto'ed our grammar tomes and writing exercise books as both “poorly written” and “utterly useless.” And despite the fact that her mother is a professional technical writer, her father an English graduate from U.C. Berkeley, she requested that her Grandmother Nancy take responsibility for evaluating her non-fiction, Grandma Sue the fiction. She deigns to learn Science and Spanish from her father, Math from her mother, but she will teach herself Drawing, Music, and History thank you very much.

Thank all the little gods of parenting, Aeron still doesn't care.

We are hundreds of dollars into this project of School 2011. The books we've ordered are gathering at Chicken House and in the States at my mother's house. We will have no opportunity to swap out topics or texts once we leave the coast of Mexico. Our principle consolation is that old standby of cruising families everywhere. Even if they fail at homeschool, the Experience Will Educate Them. Surprisingly, this isn't sophistry. Just look at the girls' accomplishments in New Zealand. No question that somehow, some way, we are keeping up with the educational jones.

1 comment:

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