Saturday, January 08, 2011

Delight and Educational Accountability, or Why Two Are Better Than One

This morning I sit in a silent house, knowing I need to wake the kids so they can work on science fair experiments, and wanting this early-morning quiet to continue indefinitely. I love thinking things through in the morning. I need at least an hour and a half-- uninterrupted-- to do it in.

This past week was our first week back after Christmas break. As I was planning our new term over Christmas, I optimistically thought we might be able to add composer and artist study back to the program, and maybe even finish the Plutarch we started before life got crazy in October. We are halfway through it. We really ought to finish the thing. It is Cornflower's first year reading Plutarch with us, and other stuff is interfering. I do not like that state of affairs.

We are not adding composer and artist study this term. We may finish the Plutarch after the science fair. Curse the science fair... er, did I say that? I mean, science fair is a terrific opportunity for the kids, but I really did not think we had room for it this year. I throw my beloved Warrior Poet under the bus in explaining why we are still doing it: he insisted we do the fair because actual science people judge the kids' projects. He is right. I know he is. But for some reason none of us are enthusiastic about it this year, and that makes it hard.

WP does not mind being thrown under the bus. He is willing to be the bad guy and insist we do what we ought even when we would rather be doing plays and Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott and leaving math and science in the dust. In fact, as I begin planning every school year, which he leaves pretty much up to me, I remind him of his duty as Bad Cop and ask him to keep me in check lest I run amuck with my own interests and delights. He sits with me and prioritizes the different subjects/courses/books and explains what he thinks is most important for the kids to focus on. This works marvellously well for us in terms of discipline. This year, our general school priorities list looked like this:

Fine Arts

It is a remarkable list in that math appears sixth and English appears fourth. (And homemaking is in a very lonely last place! How about that?) In previous lists, the top three have always been Bible-Math-English. WP feels very strongly about history and civics right now, and the AO/HEO curriculum certainly focuses intently on those two areas.

Which brings Plutarch to mind once again. But we'll read him after the science fair.

We ARE reading Shakespeare this term. When the Warrior Poet and I had our priorities powwow this summer, I convinced him to let me have an hour every week to read something aloud that I just really wanted to share with the kids. I had done this very cool reading plan that juxtaposed three each of Jane Austen novels, Shakespeare plays and Plutarch Lives in a rotation that I thought might spur discussion of certain character traits. But then he pointed out that the kids were already going to be doing quite a lot of fine arts with their theater group and orchestra and musical instrument lessons, which eliminated Shakespeare; and he thought three Austen novels read aloud in one school year was too many, so Miss Jane was dropped; and that left Plutarch.

After much discussion, he agreed that I could have two half-hours per week to read ONE Jane Austen, and because Plutarch is shorter, we could read him once per week. We finished Northanger Abbey before Christmas (we voraciously read for the entire half-hour each session, and put off discussion until we had free time), and I am putting The Merchant of Venice in its place-- with WP permission ;)-- because Aravis and Mariel and I have the opportunity to see it performed on stage in Chicago this spring. (Woo-hoo! Fun.) We have never seen Shakespeare on stage before. Aravis and I read MoV in a past year, but this is Cornflower's and Mariel's first time to experience it.

WP is letting us skimp on the Plutarch because of the science fair.

It is very comforting to have an educational accountability partner, even when it is not comfortable. Weird.

At the beginning of the school year, I also had a really neat plan (taken from an AO mom who majored in art) for studying art history, which we have never studied properly. But because of the music and theater stuff, that got put off indefinitely. Cornflower is doing artist study in her every-other-week co-op class, and Mariel is reading Jansen's Story of Painting on her own, and I keep the current artist's paintings up on my desktop background for us to see, but that is all.

Mostly we do math and grammar. Grr.

Just kidding. We do lots of other things too, and I make sure we get our Bible and enrichment reading (Merchant of Venice currently) at the very beginning of the day-- and whatever else I find that I consider 'of the moment'-- but after that it is math and grammar. That math really gets us sometimes. The grammar doesn't take as long, but my younger two need a lot more reinforcement than Aravis did, so we analyze two or three sentences every day, and do our studied dictation twice per week. Aravis is also practicing the SAT essay, so we do that twice per week.

We aren't skimping on history or civics, either: Aravis is learning how our government works through her reading of the events and discussions leading up to and through the Civil War; Mariel is studying the roots of American government by reading about the development of English Common Law in the Middle Ages; Cornflower is in the midst of the American Revolution. Mariel has also expressed interest in art that delivers political commentary, and is beginning to try her hand at it, interestingly enough. I want to sign her up for some 'basics of art' lessons. Maybe this summer.

Next fall, we are going to Washington, D.C. on a family trip, so I am beginning to tailor our civics and history lessons toward that goal. WP is proud. ;oD

Note: He is not called the Warrior Poet for nothin'. Visit the Warrior Poet's blog and read his poetry!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update on the girls studies. I'm excited they are reading Merchant of Venice. That is my favorite work by WS. I'll be interested in hearing what moral values they identify and how they should impact one's ethics.

Katie said...

I didn't know that! We'll make sure to discuss it with you.