Category Archives: homeschooling high school

More Mapping Books, Plus Cookies

And we’re back. To schoolishness. I like to bring things back into a little order in the fall, though every fall it seems like we are a little too far gone to really achieve anything like order.Besides, when September hit there was a barrage of need-tos: new glasses, yearly check-ups, chimney repair, gov’t homeschool paperwork, allergy doctors, etc. Regular schedule? Ha!

In any case, the geography activities from Mapping the World With Art seem to be a hit so far. Violet — now 14! — is really happy that we are doing something all together again, the readings are interesting, the map-drawing instructions are clear, and Victoria (10) is happy with activities that include baking faux clay tablet maps that are really chocolate cookies.

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Funny thing about the cookies: initially we all thought they tasted kinda blah, but by 9:30 pm they became pretty tasty. I do not think it was the cookies that changed.

Oh, and we usually watch a John Green Crash Course along with the lesson. Violet loves them because John Green is an Internet hero, and Victoria enjoys them, not least because they are probably age-inappropriate for her. Oh well. They race along at breakneck speed, so I’m not sure what they’ll remember other than John Green, but with any luck it reinforces things they already knew.

I’ve also been piling up books to strew around the house to add to our geography reading. Mapping the World really hits on a lot of fascinating topics but the readings are — happily — short. I got these to allow for following up on anything interesting:

Charting the World: Geography and Maps from Cave Paintings to GPS with 21 Activities. Richard Panchyk.

This is a book from Chicago Review Press, which I find to be a fairly reliable source for worthwhile materials. Not all of the activities are going to be worthwhile for every audience, but often the text is strong enough that kids in a variety of ages and interest levels can take something away.

The Kingfisher Atlas of Exploration and Empires. Simon Adams

What you would expect from Kingfisher visually. It’s really focused on the Renaissance era of New World exploration.

The Picture History of Great Explorers. Gillian Clements.

Honestly, not a great book, and a little young. What it’s lacking in text and great illustrations is somewhat counterbalanced by the very broad definition of explorers. If you are looking for women who were explorers, you can find them in here.

The World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How it Changed the World. Marc Aronson.

Amazon lists this as ages 10 and up, but as with many good books written for children, as an introduction to the topic it works for older readers and adults too. Nicely done, though focused on the American history angle.

The Starry Messenger: A Book Depicting the Life of a Famous Scientist, Mathematician, Astronomer, Philosopher, Physicist, Galileo Galilei. Peter Sís.

OK, this is not really about mapping, per say, but you know, people navigate by the stars. I am not familiar with Peter Sís (though a quick scan on Amazon suggests that we should look for more), but I just could not resist a beautiful picture book suitable for older children. (They are out there, but it takes a discerning reader, librarian, or bookseller to help you find them.) It is not a biography of Galileo, in the tradition of the wonderful Diane Stanley books, but it is a gorgeous visual representation of the way the world looked to Europeans during the Renaissance. This is really an all-ages book.

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Reading Lists

This is it! High School! When It Counts!

No, I don’t expect big changes in how we do things around here. I am hoping for a few changes in how I do things, however. Namely, documenting what’s going on in a way someone else might understand.

I really want to write a post, with photos, about the amazing and full-to-bursting August we just had (Family, Friends, County Fair, State Fair, Michigan, Chicago) but I’m going to kick off my record keeping instead.

Here are a few reading lists we have created already for this fall for the 9th grader, to be tweaked, pruned, and increased — ideally with a little additional help from friends. Steal if you like, and add if you can!

CLASSIC MANGA from the 1980s
Phoenix (1967-88)
Lone Wolf and Cub (1970-)
Swan (1976-81)
Akira (1980-)
Vampire Hunter D (1983-)
Dragon Ball (1984-)
Robotech (1984-)
Appleseed (1985-)
Oh My Goddess! (1988-)
Ranma ½ (1987-)
Ghost in the Shell (1989-)
CLAMP (1989- )
Sailor Moon (1991-)
Tatsumi Yoshihiro

CLASSIC SCIENCE FICTION
H. G. Wells (The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine)
Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
Robert Heinlein (The Rolling Stones, Stranger in a Strange Land)
Ursula K Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness, A Wizard of Earthsea)
Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash)
Isaac Asmiov (I Robot, Foundation)
Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451, Martian Chronicles)
Frank Herbert (Dune)
Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five, Cat’s Cradle)
William Gibson (Neuromancer)
Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination)

MAPPING/CARTOGRAPHY
These are meant to accompany Mapping the World with Art this year. I doubt we will get to them all, or read the entirety of each book.
Maphead, Ken Jennings
Longitude, Dava Sobel
How to Lie with Maps, Mark Monmonier
Ptolemy’s Geography
On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks, Simon Garfield
The World Through Maps, John Short
Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, Peter Turchi
You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, Katherine Harmon
A Little History of the World, Ernst Gombrich
Crash Course/World History, John Green (Web series)

CLASSIC NOVELS BY WOMEN
This one is still very under construction — a good project for the next week will be discussion what this classification could possibly mean.

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In the Wayback: Muriel’s Wedding

There’s circuitous route to how I got the the main subject of this post, but it’ll just take a minute. For reasons I won’t get into I’ve had to pay a little more attention to my teen’s online life. One thing I’ve learned: she will reblog nearly any pro-woman, pro-gay, pro-transgender, pro-feminism, pro-choice, anti-rape post that crosses her path on tumblr, and she will call out female friends who say they are not feminists. I’ve started compiling a list of “feminist films for teens,” so we can watch some together and with any luck even talk about them a bit. (I’ll post it later, but feel free to share any thoughts.) As I’ve been building up my Netflix queue and reading through lists, I’ve also come across lots of movies that I loved as a young woman, to watch again.

Muriel’s Wedding holds up well, largely because of its two lead actresses, Rachel Griffiths and Toni Collette. Both have proven in later films and television (“Six Feet Under” and “United States of Tara,” for example) that they can really act. So although Entertainment Weekly was right in saying that the movie is flawed because we never really see who Muriel is, underneath, because she’s Toni Collette we instinctively feel there must be something of depth and value there.

There’s far less dancing in the movie than I remembered. I watched it thinking I would see several scenes of lip synching to Abba. There’s one, and it’s fabulous, but apparently I merged my own joyful apartment-bound Saturday nights with my memory of the movie. I would have sworn the girls performed Fernando together, but I guess that was me and my roommate instead.

I don’t know what happens to Muriel at about 1:10, but that’s where her transformation starts. Somehow at 1:33 she’s already a different person, even if she needs the rest of the movie to really feel it.

As so often happens when I watch movies from my past, I can’t help noticing my sympathy shift from daughters to mothers. When Rachel Griffiths, as Rhonda, tells her mom “I love you but you drive me nuts” as she leaves home, I think of my own teen daughter at least as much as I think of my mom, a line of strong, slightly(!) demanding women who love each other like crazy but need their space. If I raise my daughters well, there will only be room for one XX human in this house someday. And Muriel’s mom — well, I’m not sure what I think of that plot twist, but the small, cowed life she lives must be one big reason why Muriel runs like hell in the other direction, however stupidly.

I would watch this one with Violet, if she wanted, but I don’t know if the ABBA obsession would be enough to carry her through, and the idea that a wedding is life’s great prize might not be so much wrongheaded to her as utterly foreign.

Is it “feminist”? I have to put that word in quotes because I don’t know what that means as an adjective describing a movie. It passes the Bechdel test, women in the movie can be sexual without being slutty, Muriel is overweight without it being the focus of her character or the movie: in other words, women can talk and have bodies on their own terms.

But I loved the last scene in particular, where the girls ride away from their hometown of Porpoise Spit in a taxi, first shouting “goodbye” out the window to the mall, the beach, the plaza, and then just smiling at each other. It reminded me–somewhat randomly–of the end of “Valley Girl,” when Nick Cage and what’s-her-name look at each other and smile as they ride away from the chaos they caused at the Valley High prom. It’s a “yeah, we just did that” look and a little bit of a “you and me against the world look.” For Muriel and Rhonda especially it’s an “I love you, too” look, because the prize for Muriel at the end of “Muriel’s Wedding” is not a husband or a boyfriend, it’s a friend who thinks she’s awesome for no particular reason at all. So much so that she can believe it too, even without a wedding.

Wayback rating: Worth the trip

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Filed under grown up life, homeschooling high school, Movies, raising girls

June heats up

Our schedule was really getting smooth and predictable there for a few days. Then summer started happening for real. Visitors from out of town — two sets at once! — summer camp, a trip to the Davidson Young Scholar summit (we’re an out Davidson family, so ask us anything), a 48+ hour power outage, crushing heat and humidity, a writing class at the Loft, and summer colds. All this in the last 2 weeks.

Where was that math book again?

I haven’t quite figured out how to adjust, knowing that July and August probably won’t be that much different. Once Violet bounces back a little more we’ll work it out. In the meantime we’ve been taking advantage of Victoria being away to watch some classic PG-13 movies, including Spinal Tap (which was rated R! who knew?) and Dumb and Dumber.

I still harbor a hope that my unsocialized girls will be the next Farrelly brothers.

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Summer School

Not a week goes by without someone asking about online support for homeschooling high school — where are all the conversations we used to have back when the kids were younger?

I suspect they are happening in our own minds as we drive to endless rounds of activities — even my relatively antisocial teen seems to spend a surprising amount of time socializing, yet she still can’t drive.

We took a lot of time off of various studies during the fall and winter, and then the spring was so snowy and gray it took all of our energy to stay alive and not go Hunger Games on each other, so a little bit of summer study here and there is in order.

Violet has started precalculus, so that when theater and other things get too hectic she feels free to take some time off. She’s using Thinkwell — our first time using Thinkwell for math — and generally finds Ed Berger entertaining.

I have been sitting with her and knitting for most of the lectures and problem-solving — and I admit every once in a while I get too excited and say “but couldn’t you do it like this?” and grab a pencil and solve part of a problem myself. Let’s call that modeling enthusiasm and collaborative effort, shall we? Anyway, after last fall didn’t go so well I realized that it’s important not to mix up independence and isolation. So I sit in a comfy chair near the laptop and knit and check in periodically, and the whole process of catching up with math feels much warmer. Also, I really like watching her solve problems — as much as she doesn’t like math, she is pretty fluent with it, and I imagine even artistic unschoolish 14yos need an experience of feeling competent, logical, and rational at least once a day.

She’s also working on Chinese and drawing drawing drawing, and I keep trying to slip her new books so she isn’t *always* reading something she read three years ago.

Victoria, now 10, blew my mind last week when she told me she would be worried about going back to school because she thought she was “slow” and didn’t know as much as other kids. Lori Pickert touched on this aspect of homeschooling in a recent blog post, as if she had been reading V’s mind.

I really didn’t know how to respond to this. I don’t like to make a big deal out of test scores with the kids, but — girl, have you seen your test scores?!?! In any case we are keeping up with Singapore math and some history reading. We ditched the Sonlight history readings about the world wars — the light really seemed to go out of her eyes as we read day after day about trenches and fronts and artillery. I know some kids really dig that, but it was turning her off after many years of loving our history reading time, so I set the Usborne World Wars book aside.

We’re trying to get in the habit of compacting all this into two hours or less, so we have lots of time to enjoy the sunshine. Luckily (?). there hasn’t been a lot of sunshine so we’ve been able to approach that goal gradually. Then again, if there were more sunshine maybe I could get the kids to get up and dressed before noon.

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Teen Reading List for Spring

I had been worrying throughout the fall that my 13yo wasn’t reading enough. She was doing a lot of rereading old books, leafing through comics, and checking tumblr, but not poring over new novels like years past.

This semester will be different thanks to her co-op activities. A few teens have organized their own weekly book club, and these are their choices:

Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Maze Runner, James Dashner
Chosen, Ted Dekker
The Card Turner, Louis Sachar
The Mortal Instruments, Cassandra Clare
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman
The Last Dragonslayer, Jasper Fforde
The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak

What a great list, right? All the books were proposed by the kids – they have excellent taste. So far they have organized their discussions themselves: the first meeting they mapped Maze Runner and for the second one of the kids made a Jeopardy-style game about the book.

For the class I am teaching – and it is kind of interesting having your own kid sitting next to you in class, alternately being a teen among teens and being your kid – the reading list is crazy, but awesome:

Jonathan Swift, “The Ladies Dressing Room” and “A Modest Proposal”; Alexander Pope, “The Rape of the Lock”; P. G. Wodehouse, Code of the Woosters; Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest; Flannery O’ Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”; Chaucer, “The Miller’s Tale”; Kurt Vonnegut, Sirens of Titan; and short works Joseph Addison, Dorothy Parker, Italo Calvino, Woody Allen, Mark Twain, David Sedaris, Edward Gorey, and Garrison Keillor.

I am feeling torn about “The Miller’s Tale.” I did promise flatulence in the class description, but I didn’t count on how hard it would be for a few of the kids to talk about body stuff in front of each other. Looking for substitutes, I Googled “great farts in literary history.” Do not do this unless you have a strong stomach.

On reflection this seems a little light in mood/substance compared to previous reading lists, but after a fall of dystopian literature, that’s probably a good balance.

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World Nutella Day, and some projects

Oh my gosh, has it really been more than 2 weeks since my last post? Too many things happening.

Want proof?

Since last posting about Project Based Homeschooling I took some time to make some space for creative activity around the house. I confess, I did not do as much as I’d hoped. I moved some furniture around in the breakfast nook to make the shelves more accessible, and I labeled all the cups holding the pens and pencils and sorted them by type.

These are two of my favorite projects that have appeared since then:

Project Based Learning 2

I came into the kitchen to find Victoria, my youngest, painstakingly painting old seashells with paints she found in the shelves somewhere. To be honest, I don’t know how she found either of them or what made her think of putting the two together, but there it is.

Project Based Learning 2

This is Violet, my older, preparing to sew. She loves the webcomic Homestuck, because she is 1) an aspiring comic artist and 2) a teen. She found the hat-making tutorial, made a list of what she needed, and then dove in. She even made the horns (see below) twice, because she didn’t like the first set. And she did it cheerfully. And all I did was drive to the fabric store because I still don’t really know how to run the sewing machine. I’d venture to say this is the first time she’s used the sewing machine in 2 years, and that was for a pillowcase.

Project Based Learning 2

Every time I say to myself “why is she unmotivated?” I need to look at this picture. (And every time the kids give me crap about taking their pictures, I’m going to say that Lori Pickert said I should — though they won’t believe it because I’ve always taken too many pictures.)

Project Based Learning 2

I’ve also cleared the decks to do Journey North with Victoria, which we’ve never done before. I’m being sensible and letting someone experienced show me the way, following along with Melissa Wiley. This is the kind of project-y stuff that always screams “homeschooling” to me — working together, combining disciplines, posting up cool graphs on the fridge. I have no real educational aim in doing it except increasing my joy in homeschooling by participating rather than directing.

Project Based Learning 2

With joy as our goal, how could we resist World Nutella Day, which is apparently a real thing. (There is Nutella inside those whipped-cream covered crepes.) Appropriately, a friend sent me a message today with this quotation attached:

Life is meant to be a celebration! It shouldn’t be necessary to set aside special times to remind us of this fact. Wise is the person who finds a reason to make every day a special one.

So we make crepes, or hats, or painted shells, and I try to get comfortable with nudging that towards the center of our day instead making it stay on the margins. I’m still adjusting, leaving more of my own work until late at night now, which means it doesn’t get done or it gets done very slowly. Still, I make myself sleep in and whenever possible try not to push us very quickly in there mornings. There are only so many days to take fuzzy good-morning pictures like this:

Project Based Learning 2

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