"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Conference Updates

I want to thank all of you who attended my talks at the 2010 Minnesota Catholic Home Educators Conference. I will update shortly with outlines and more data from my talks. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Latin and the Unit Study

I've begun teaching my children Latin this year. I hemmed and hawed about when to start, but decided until they had a very firm grasp on phonics and spelling, I could not start Latin. Since one of my children will be finishing Spell to Write and Read for the first time this Summer and another already has finished, we started Latin. I'm currently using Prima Latina by Memoria Press. It's a very nice introduction into Latin. My children will learn some basic prayers in Latin and get the beginnings of the Latin Grammar.

Do you know why late elementary school is called Grammar school? It is because, back in the 6th century, grammar schools were established by the monasteries to teach future priests Latin. Latin grammar that is. To understand the niceties of Latin grammar became the essential skill for aspiring young men. That was crushed and restructured after the Reformation. Eventually, it went back to the form where in children were taught Latin after they learned their phonics. In England, you took a test at the age of 11 to determine if you were "bright enough" to attend grammar school. The goal was to teach children Latin Grammar before they entered high school.

Latin is the basis of half of our language, the tough, four to five syllable word half. Once they learn Latin, they can better understand the language we use. Consider the word clamo in Latin. It means to cry out, claim, clamor or shout. It is the root of words like exclaim, proclaim, and acclaim. Then they understand what difficult words mean without having to go to the dictionary.

Next year we will be moving into Latina Christiana and Lingua Angelica from Memoria Press. I will actually be seeing how I can turn those two sources into Unit Studies because I know there is so much more there. Latin is the mother language of Western civilization. It has transmitted our cultural heritage for over 2,000 years, pulling together language arts, history, geography, culture, art, architecture, music, values, religion, government, science, and math. Everything seems to be related to Latin and the ancient and medieval cultures that spoke it. We'll be examining the roots of our culture in its mother language. I will be posting what I do in the Fall.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nature Study and Music Appreciation

Most of my children's Science career has been literature based. We take field trips, of course. We've occasionally attended Nature Center classes. Next year will be very different.

Using Anna Comstock's book along with free curriculum from the Minnesota DNR, Audobon Association and membership to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, we will approach Nature Study next year with journals, binoculars, colored pencils and digital cameras.

I'll be posting the curriculum for the Nature Study the first week in June.

I'm preplanning now, as I can't focus as much as I'd like to on it with the Minnesota Catholic Home Educator's Conference looming. I need to get my handouts done and ready to print. I also need to practice. Anyone want to come over for a free seminar? I'd love to do the Beginning Homeschool seminar for anyone who will listen. No takers? Darn. I guess I'll bore my husband with that one...

I have finished my Music Appreciation curriculum. It's a full year (38 weeks) program based on Aaron Copeland's What to Listen for in Music. It uses the Leonard Bernstein Young People's Concerts, both Disney Fantasia DVD's and Music Masters CD's as supplements. As a curriculum, it would be pretty expensive to purchase, but these are resources I have already, so it is no cost to me. I'll also post that in June.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

NDD - Nature Deficit Disorder

My mother's day was spent enjoying the beautiful outdoors with my family. I must say I haven't had a day this beautiful in a long, long time. We went here.

As we were walking along a beautiful path, we pondered the loss of nature in our youth. For example, the Boy Scouts now have a Video Game merit badge. They are more interested in bringing along their electronics when they should be out enjoying the great out doors rather than isolating themselves in front of a video game. We can't let our kids out venturing far away for so many reasons - fear of abduction, fear of them getting lost, fear of everything AND then there's the worry about what the neighbors will think when you let the kids out alone!

I miss spending time in the woods. I get almost giddy when I'm there. When I was growing up, I spent many weekends and summer weeks on my grandparent's 120 acre dairy farm in Wisconsin. I would run through the woods, help grandma garden, shoot tin cans off the fence with a bb gun and roll down the haymow ramp. We would make cucumber boats to float in the cow's water tank, climb trees, pick wild berries and sneak off to see where they made maple syrup. Every year, my dad took us camping in the Chequomegon National Forest in North Central Wisconsin. The glaciers moved through there leaving beautiful ridges and valleys. It's breath taking. Just before I became a teenager, my mom and stepdad moved us "out of town" to the lake, where we lived in a new subdevelopment that never quite took off, leaving acres and acres of woodlands, bordering a beautiful lake vacant and undisturbed.

Sadly, I feel we are falling short for our kids. Sure, we have a great yard. It's 1/3 acre and has a play set and a few trees they can climb. We're right next to a nature preserve, but the kids aren't allowed to go there without an adult because the high school kids go down there to smoke and drink. We're on a cul-de-sac with a circle the kids like to play on, but it also has equipment on it for a lift station. So, other than occasional camping, visits to the Arboretum have to suffice.

My husband has read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. I've skimmed it and deeply read a few chapters. However, I don't need any convincing that our children are suffering from NDD - Nature Deficit Disorder. But how do we save them?

We are trying to get our kids access to nature through memberships to the Arboretum, Minnesota Zoo and regular visits to local wildlife areas like the Minnehaha Falls park and Minnesota Valley Nature Preserve. But it never seems like enough. I dream of owning 20 acres, with a house in the middle and running water (lake, stream, river) going through it.

Until that day comes when we can make that big move, we will be doing Nature Studies. Next year, our nature studies will be based on Anna Comstock's book Handbook of Nature Study (the Nature Study Bible, for those in the know). We'll be combining much of our Nature Studies with Art, including field trips, and a little adventure. I'll post the details soon.