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Monday, March 22, 2010

Scholar Phase Co-Op

Over the next several posts, I plan to share some of the things I learned from a recent home schooler's conference I attended. This is one of those posts.

Many of us (including me) are worried about the great experiment of following the principles outlined in The Thomas Jefferson Education. (I remember the first phone call I made to a home schooling friend, "Do your children . . . read?" Ha. I was so ignorant of what home school could be!) It seems risky to let your children go along with the phases, which, to the uneducated onlooker, can look like a whole lot of nothin' going on. Some children start reading, writing and figuring much later than their public school counterparts and it becomes hard to trust the system. BUT DO IT! Keep at it. Work hard and believe in the outcome. It will happen. I am at a place with my children where I am seeing the promised results. At eleven, my boy has days where he is a practice scholar (while other days he is still firmly embedded in Love of Learning). That may be helpful for those of you who have a house full of Core phasers, but if you have older children, you may begin to wonder if they will ever hunger after knowledge like TJEd promises.

Dr. Jesse Meeks taught a class about mentoring our young adults through the Scholar phase and left me completely excited (instead of freaked, my former emotion regarding that phase) to enter this next phase of home education. I'm going to give you some of my notes, but first I have to tell you about his boys.

Dr. Meeks brought two of the boys (one was his son) from their Scholar Co-Op. Several questions were directed to them--seventeen year old boys who should have (according to the current social standard) been more interested in football, girlfriends, computer games and popular culture. They looked like normal teenage boys (shaggy hair, hooded sweatshirts), not who you may expect to see when you hear home schooled boy

(not that there's anything wrong with being the spelling champion of the universe). But then they started speaking. They used words like intrinsic and serendipitous without sounding contrived or like an egg head. They spoke with confidence, founded in a deep reservoir of knowledge instead of like some know-it-all-without-knowing-anything teenager. One had his own business, the other was learning Chinese. They said Crime and Punishment was a pretty quick book compared to some of the others they had studied (Atlas Shrugged, for example). When asked if they ever have time to read books that is outside of their curriculum, they responded, "Oh, for sure! We just stay up later." Here were a couple of boys that were staying up later to read Eragon because they had spent a good deal of the day reading Aristotle and Plato. They weren't staying up late to put together a passable essay for English because they spent all day gaming online. No, they were anxious to push themselves, to study, to grow intellectually. They said, and their parents confirmed, that they never needed to be forced or even reminded to do their studies. They studied because they wanted to. It gave my hope.

Now, how to mentor such students? Here is some of the information I jotted down from the class.

  • This group selects a theme for the year. This year's theme was Do Hard Things. At the end of the year, they are running a marathon. Yes. I'm serious.
  • Choose students that are at about the same level of commitment.
  • Meet weekly, but times can change according to the schedules of the mentors. Four hours seems to be the right time frame for their group.
  • Having several mentors keeps the students challenged, but allows the mentors to continue to pursue all of their goals and still be effective in the class. Depending on how many mentors your group has, you may only teach once per month or once every six weeks.
  • There charge a small fee to help pay for some of the activities. (When they read Three Cups of Tea, for instance, the mentor gave them $100 dollars to divide how ever they decided with the instructions to "make a difference in the world." Their experiences were varying, inspiring, and instructional.)
  • After an initial meeting of all mentors and students to discover interests, individual mentors have full authority to choose which books they will cover.
  • Mentors provide opportunities to apply the lessons learned in the books. They want to do something, but they just may not know what to do. The direction a mentor gives is the WHY behind the mentorship program.
  • Anything goes; public speaking, essays, invite guest authors/historians/experts, field trips, experiments, student lead discussions, etc.

Now, I must find those peers who will be ready for this kind of challenge in a few short years. Please, dear home schooling friends, stop moving away!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Five Minute Room Rescue

Over the next several posts, I plan to share some of the things I learned from a recent home schooler's conference I attended. This is the first of such posts.

I have never met a home schooling parent who hasn't struggled with this question: I can keep the house or I can school the children. How could I possibly do both?

Yes, well, sometimes we don't do both. But the truth is, both must be done. There are a few tricks that I have learned over the years that work for my family. We usually (operative word, here) clean the house once per day. The floors must be swept, the carpets vacuumed, the dishes washed, the walls scrubbed, the laundry folded, but not several times each day. Even if we have one major cleaning (where the sweeping, vacuuming and washing is done), the house may still look like a disaster zone within moments. It is probably my most frustrating problem. (Okay, I have been known to curl in a ball and cry because of this problem!) Pretty much, if I am going to lose my temper, it is because I just cleaned for two hours but, judging by the tidiness of the house, it looks like I've been sitting on the couch watching Ellen or Judge Judy (is she even on anymore?) all day.

During Angela Baker's class, she used a phrase that I have adopted and used. It is the Five Minute Room Rescue. This is not the time to organize drawers or wash windows. This is just what it sounds like, an emergency rescue operation. I set the timer and we dash through the room--all of us, as fast as we can--for five minutes. If I have sluggish helpers, I have to set the timer again. It has never taken longer than five minutes.

Instead of storming about picking up shoes and newspapers and baby blankets on my own, everyone jumps up and gets the work done. It makes for a tidier home and a happier mother.

Try it. Let me know if it works for you!

Update: Apparently this is a FlyLady tactic with a slightly different interpretation. Thank you for the inspiration!


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