Tag Archives: online G3

Summer Project: A Little Something for the “Humanities Kid”

Summer starts tomorrow, sort of, which means I am getting serious about prepping for those fall classes I mentioned way back in my last post. I’m so excited to re-read my Richardson and Fielding for my Online G3 History of the English Novel course.

I spent a good chunk of time yesterday reviewing definitions of the novel: Bahktin, Hegel, Leavis, Lukács. I’m sorry, but it’s true — sitting down with all those names again was like digging into a pile of Christmas presents. And now I have a notebook full of quotations and questions marks and “expand on this” to play with.

Lilacs and Lukács -- the signs of summer

Lilacs and Lukács — the signs of summer

At times like this, I’m torn between two feelings. First, obviously, I’m giddy. If there are just eight teens out there who want to talk about why the novel, why the (long) 18th century, why England, why do we like Emma even though she is so obnoxious – I am more than ready.

But there’s also a feeling that looks a little like regret. If this is how an afternoon of class prep makes me feel, why did I leave academia in the first place? Imagine if I had done another round of interviews, pushed harder to publish that second paper on Charles II, been less geographically choosy, and so on. It all seemed so logical in my post-first-baby haze, when I was making more money freelancing part-time at home than I could dream of as a full-time assistant professor. But if I had played the long game, maybe . . . A worse-than-pointless rabbit hole of thought.

To steer out of it, I consider that the university doesn’t have sole ownership of these kinds of conversations, and if it feels that way maybe it’s because I’m not looking hard enough. (More on that some other time, and no disrespect to the university, long live its role in the maintenance of a humanistic culture.)

And if it feels that way, maybe it’s because the bridge between the university and the rest of the world has gotten a little rickety and neglected, at least when it comes to the humanities. You won’t catch me heading off on a STEM vs. liberal arts rant, but as I’ve talked with parents over the last decade about advanced humanities education for gifted students, I’ve seen that most have zero clue what that does, could, or should look like. “Astrophysics” sounds smart, but “reading” sounds like something you should have mastered a long time ago.

One consequence is that while we march our accelerated math-and-science students though a very clear, well-defined scope and sequence, those so-called “humanities kids” (some of whom are also great at math but want to spend more time elsewhere) flounder a little. And while I am all for some floundering — how much great work has come from the observations stored up while floundering? — I’m also for the chance to try your wings a little.

For those kids, I hope that’s what our advanced teen classes at G3 can offer. And for me, I hope that planning for these kids and playing around with my old toys will lead to some new ideas about where we can take humanities education from here. If anyone out there is wondering the same things, get in touch!

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Brussels Sprouts Surprise; or, Not the End of Homeschooling

My 15yo (16 in two weeks!) passes through the kitchen while I am trimming Brussels sprouts—chopping off browning ends, halving them to roast.

“What are we having for dinner?” she asks, grabbing a glass for water, the better to wash down all that Easter chocolate.

“Kung Pao Brussels sprouts,” I say. “Oooh,” she responds. We’ve had them before, and everyone liked them, even though I couldn’t find the peanuts I had Just Bought for the recipe. (I saw them several days later at the bottom of a crisper drawer. Huh?) Everyone also agreed: add tofu next time. So I am.

As I keep slicing, I recall that when I was 15 I would have said “Ooooh” very differently – more of an “Ew!” – when offered Brussels sprouts. Though my kids annoy me sometimes when they get “full” of vegetables and then pile on the bagels and candy, I can’t deny that they are much more flexible, adventurous eaters than I was as a kid. I would not have been suggesting that we eat Brussels sprouts again soon, but next time with tofu. When I was 15 I would never have foreseen cooking Kung Pao Brussels sprouts with tofu for my own pleasure, let alone for the pleasure of children related to me.

In the last 15 (16!) years a lot of unexpected things have happened, after this weekend I’m ruminating on two of the big ones. I attended the Easter vigil last Saturday, the first one since my own baptism in 2002 (the vigil is not a child-friendly event IMHO). For all kinds of reasons, I’m still surprised to wake up and find myself Catholic, which was not a destination I had ever considered until I wound up there.

As for the other thing: On Good Friday, we went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for a family outing, to see the incredible Habsburg exhibit currently visiting. I was in Vienna just over two years ago, touring the museum from which most of the exhibition’s pieces were taken, and to connect with that again was to wonder anew at the opportunities have fallen totally unmerited into my lap.

But that’s not the other thing. We came home from the museum, my 11yo begging me to take her to Vienna ASAP, and gathered the mail. There we found my 15yo’s acceptance letter to our state arts high school: a two-year program designed to let artistically driven, academically strong students develop their skills in an arts area they are truly passionate about. I was thinking of it as a good test drive for a full-on 4-year arts school.

This was not unexpected. Admission is little competitive: about 60% get in, which seemed safe. Still, it was confirmation that she’d be enrolling full-time in a brick and mortar school in the fall, marking the end of an era that—possibly more than being a Catholic Christian—remains one of my most unlikely detours.

Obviously, that’s homeschooling. The 11yo is already attending a very loosey goosey brick and mortar charter school, and the 15yo is taking half her classes at a community college, so I’ve had a year to ease into the not-a-homeschooling-parent lifestyle. I won’t lie to you: the quiet is nice. And so very very sorely missed.

Homeschooling: the first month

Homeschooling: the first month

Still, homeschooling has so far been the most wild and wonderful adventure I could have taken while staying on the sofa in my pajamas. As I reach the end of this phase, there are so many things I could (and probably will!) say about the transformations and lessons of the past decade, but right now I am just drinking in the last days of this time of life. Sitting with my daughter today watching a video about famous Renaissance thinkers and artists—while the Brussels sprouts roasted in the oven—I could not have been happier. When the lecturer mentioned Petrarch – “pause it!” – Leonardo DaVinci – “pause it!” – or Savonarola – “pause it!” – I was so excited to take the conversation further with her. And she indulges me, because I get pretty passionate myself sometimes, and we all deserve a chance to indulge our passions.

So my time as a homeschooling parent is coming to an end—at least, that’s the plan. But my time as a homeschooler is not. I have a few helps-for-homeschoolers I hope I’ll finally have time to type up and make available: homemade curricula, dos and don’ts, admonitions and encouragements.

Homeschooling -- the end times?

Homeschooling — the end times?

Truly, that Brussels-sprouts-shunning 15-year-old me would be astonished by all of this: the vegetables, the church, the kids, the travel, the homeschooling. The Internet, for Pete’s sake.

And speaking of the Internet: I’m also going to start teaching at Online G3, which was about the biggest homeschooling help we ever found. Jaime Smith introduced me to the idea that homeschoolers are disruptive consumers, and over my years learning about education I believe that is true. Families taking part in innovative or experimental types of education are a small, grassroots market now, but the ideas and tools they generate will have the potential to improve education for everyone. I’m excited to be a part of that, and to find out what surprising turns we all might take in the next 15 years.

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A Misleading Guide to This Year’s Resources, Part One

It’s mid-September, and I’d like to do what some other homeschool bloggers have done and post my kids’ rough schedules. I’d like to, but that could be hard. I haven’t even ordered the books for all of them yet. I figure summer isn’t officially over for a few more days yet anyway, so how behind am I really?

How can anyone concentrate on ordering books when there are hummingbirds everywhere just begging to be photographed?

Still, in the interest of sharing information, here’s what my 13yo is doing as of now:

AP American Government via Thinkwell
DD13 is really enjoying this. She took a great American Government class with Online G3 this year and enjoyed it so much that I thought she might as well continue with the subject. The Thinkwell class has some review, but it’s enough material for a whole year – and supposedly the AP exam – so I believe she’ll still get a lot of new stuff out of it. So far, she likes the format and the lecturers, and I think she’s getting some good note-taking practice. Besides, this is a great year to be studying American Government. Speaking of which . . .

Current Events via Online G3
I admit that this class was initially an afterthought. I wanted DD to keep in contact with Headmistress Guinevere and her longtime G3 classmates, but this was the only class that fit our needs at all. Wow, has it been great! I love turning on NPR and having her say “Yeah! We talked about that in class!” and then share more about what she knows. I’m so happy that she is part of the class.

Geometry via Life of Fred
DD did took a chemistry class and a physics class last year, so at some point we completely abandoned math as a formal subject. There was plenty of applied math—and brain overload—happening as it was. We also skipped ahead to trigonometry for a while so she’d be ready for vectors in physics. So there’s some geometry still to do before moving on to what we had actually planned for this year, which is:

Precalculus via Thinkwell
We’ve really liked Life of Fred. DD seems to have a math talent without having a strong math interested, and this has suited her well. But I think we need to move beyond the totally self-taught approach at this point. Once geometry is done she’ll start this up.

Dystopian Literature via co-op
This is a co-op class I proposed to the retired teacher who’s taught several literature classes for our group. It’s kind of a “What to read after The Hunger Games and City of Ember,” including 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, and Gulliver’s Travels, among other things.

Japanese via VHSG
This is DD’s first time take a class through this group. So far so good! Community college was just not in the budget this fall, but this still allows some exposure.

Chinese via Chinese Pod
DD has been working through Chinese Pod for some time. While it doesn’t really force her to develop her reading skills as much as she’ll need to eventually, she has a great ear and is pretty fluent in conversation with her teacher, so I’m satisfied with the time and money spent here.

Chemistry via SSE
This is a 2-year chemistry class billed as Honors Chemistry. Several of the students will be studying for AP Chemistry, DD among them, though she may do the SAT Chem test instead/also. I can’t say enough about the great instructor for this class. He does not know how to worry and takes each student as he (or she, but really almost entirely he) comes. He does offer online classes, but we’re lucky to have access to the in-person version.

Fire Good!

Still to come:

Korean via Rosetta Stone
DD was doing this over the summer but has dropped it over the last few weeks to start Japanese. She would like to pick it up again, but we’ll see.

Linguistics via MITOpenCourse
I really need to get the darn book so she can start this!

Writing via Mom
It could be that I am putting this off.

Oil Painting via art teacher
I have been talking to one of Violet’s former art teachers for almost 6 months about getting this on the calendar. Ugh! But since one of her co-op classes was cancelled at least I have the money set aside to get her started. I will do it — I will!

Of course typing it out like this makes it all look so formal and organized. Don’t be fooled! No, we will never be mistaken for radical unschoolers, but we do aim for as much self-direction and freedom as possible.

It’s just that the self-direction and freedom can’t be typed up as neatly as the official-sounding resources we use. There is no official “tumblr creation” time or songwriting time or obsessive drawing time, and yet these take up at least as much of the day. Not to mention bike-riding time and skyping time and novel-writing time and lying-on-the-sofa-reading time. Oh, and piano. Always lots of piano.

Staring-at-stream time is also very important.

Typing it all out may also make it seem like we are more test-oriented than I think we are. We are, to some extent, following the advice of Blake Boles, who suggests in College Without High School that a few College Board-y test scores will make it easier to have an unconventional adolescence and still go to college, if that’s the desire. I’ve also seen plenty PG kids at this point who reach mid-teens and say, “forget it, I’m ready for college NOW.” That’s not the road we’re on today, but it’s happened enough that I think we’ll just take a few precautions. Besides, this particular child doesn’t mind taking tests. When the other daughter reaches this age, I feel pretty sure a different path will be laid out before us.

Speaking of which, I’ll lay out the 9yo’s current resources in an upcoming post.

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