Thursday, July 05, 2012

Science books for non-Science-y People

Just some quick notes on a couple of  books and authors I've been enjoying recently:

In anticipation of my daughter's summer botany study, I read Andrea Wulf's The Brother Gardeners, about early American and English botanists who brought us the English Garden.  I enjoyed it way more than I expected to, and just grabbed Founding Gardeners from the library in the hope of starting on that soon.  Then I will read every other book of hers I can find. 

But first I have to finish Summer World: A Season of Bounty  by biologist Bernd Heinrich.  This is not my first of his books. Last year I read Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival and The Geese of Beaver Bog to my kids.  We loved both books, but really clicked with Geese because of the relationship between the humans and the birds.  I also saw, and grabbed, The Trees in my Forest  from the library yesterday. I'm going to try to preview that quickly to see if it's suitable for Eleanor.  Science books are tricky for her; she needs to read more nonfiction in general, and she enjoys the topics of birds and animals, but sometimes it just gets above her head. So we'll see. 

I am not a "science person" but I love reading about natural science when the book is not technical.  There is a bit of evolution and technical talk in Heinrich's books, but not so much that I can't read them.

Of course my very favorite natural history writer is Edwin Way Teale. We still read his seasonal travel books.  We've never managed to read one in full during the season, but we just pick  up where we left off last time.  It's time to pull out Journey into Summer, isn't it? 

I am linking my books to rather than Amazon these days.  I find their reviews more helpful, generally, and everyone knows where to buy books.

What science books for non-science-y people do you recommend?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The thrill of the plan

Seems like I'm always engaged in homeschool planning.  Does a day go by that I don't think about curriculum?  You wouldn't know that answer to that unless you are a homeschool mommy; if you are, you know it's "no."  I'm always looking around and thinking.  I love that part of homeschooling best.  That seems wrong:  I should love implementing the plans more than making the plans.  But that's not the way it works for me, and from my reading around the homeschool boards and blogs, I'm not alone.

But I'm making progress on planning the continuation of my son's freshman year in high school. Is that a little confusing?  The typical academic year setting isn't working for us. Some of you might remember that last year was supposed to be James's freshman year, but he got sick and we got sidetracked.  But he continued to do some high school level work, so we're just going to go on with freshman year.

Since my daughter (legally entering 8th grade) is doing some high school level work, we might call it her freshman year too.  I'm not sure about that yet.

There seems to be two schools of thought on homeschooling high school.  One is that it has to be completed in four academic years, just like a "regular" school.  Five years  looks bad on the transcript. It might make the kid look like a slacker.  Or it might look like his mommy is trying to pad his transcript.  Colleges want things to look typical.

The other thought is: what does it matter, four years or five?  Does it even matter when the student does certain things?  Just do a transcript by subject and be done with it.  A subset of this says that the person with an unorthodox view of high school, transcripts, and credits is likely to apply to schools that will be accepting of unorthodoxy.  Schools that understand homeschooling is not "regular" school.  So quit worrying about it already.

We don't even know what college will look like in four years, so it makes more sense to do things the way they work best for us.  Which is why we homeschool anyway, isn't it?

So, the plan, as it is today.  Details may follow.

English:  Both kids are well on the way to a high school credit here, thanks to the speech class they took last January through May and some books already read, discussed, and written about.  We're using Easy Grammar Ultimate 9th grade, and Progeny Press literature study guides for Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, and a few others.  Oh, and the kids will go through Bravewriter's Help for High School.   Don't forget NaNoWriMo in November!

History:  This will require a post all its own, but we're doing Medieval history using an actual high school textbook (Glencoe World History) as a spine.  I'm also looking at an actual school syllabus for this, from Oak Meadow school. We'll do extra reading as outlined in The Well-Trained Mind.  Some of the reading will overlap with English, of course.

Latin:  Yes, we're going back to Latin.  We faded out with Getting Started with Latin - not getting a full start, you might say.  But we're moving to Visual Latin which is generally considered middle school, so adding their recommended supplement of Lingua Latina.

Math:  Continuing with Algebra 1 for James; Eleanor will continue Life of Fred Decimals and Percents, and Key to Percents, with the goal of getting quickly to and through Pre-Algebra before summer. 

Science:  As always, my most difficult area.  Eleanor is doing a little botany study this summer but I'm not sure what to do with her after that.  Seems like she's done a lot of "life science" and next year she'd be doing it again as Biology 1. She is not a science-y girl at all.  James has started Biology 1 using Biology: The Science of Life (from The Great Courses) but with the wrong book, so we're rebooting that.  I'm thinking of CK-12 Flexbooks  or the textbook our local high school uses.   Right now he's previewing both so we can get the right level for him.

Those are just the basics but doesn't that seem like enough work?  James is heavily involved in Boy Scouts.  If things go as planned, he will reach Life Rank this summer, which means lots of merit badge work and a big project for Eagle.  I think that's an elective right there.  Others may disagree, saying that it's an extracurricular and so shouldn't count.   When I start thinking too hard about that, my head starts to hurt.  (I have never figured out how something a person learns doesn't count.  Have you?)   I want Eleanor to focus on improving and expanding her art, and writing.

Will it all work?  Will I change my mind?  Will someone get sick again?   Check back to find out!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Crazy Summer

Wonder when I will give up my fantasy of schooling all year 'round, taking short breaks throughout the year instead of one long on in the summer?

I really rebel against the idea of the September - June academic year.  But I can't seem to stop following it.

Since we had such a bad start to our 2011/2012 academic year, I wanted to keep going even after the portfolios were turned in and our 180 school days fulfilled.  We can start counting days on July 1 and I love to start filling in that attendance chart - even as I lament that fact that I have to "keep attendance" at all.

It's already been a busy summer but not with school work.  Busy work:  doctor's appointments, housework, yard work (why is "housework" one word but "yard work" two?), Boy Scout merit badge work and meetings, get-togethers with friends.   There hasn't been time for school.

But, that's OK, we need a break, right?  July and August could be our big school months. Except they won't be.

My boy has three trips to go on this summer; my girl has one. Both are helping out at our church Summer Bible Camp (aka VBS). So, I find that in July, we have five uncommitted days when both kids are home. It's true that the afternoons of the Summer Bible Camp week are free (mostly), but having helped at such events before, I know that the afternoons will be better suited to swimming and lazing around than doing any sort of academic work.  

The first two weeks of August are full of camp for both kids.  So, as I see it, summer school can start around August 14. Or maybe the 20th, after they've recovered from camp and I've recovered from camp laundry. What was that about not following the academic year?

The mind is a funny thing. (Or maybe it's just my mind that's funny.)  I knew it was going to be a busy summer, but until I looked at the calendar, in "month at a glance" view, I didn't realize just how packed it was. 

But it's not that bad.  Camps count as school time in my homeschool.  My son's church youth missions trip will definitely count.  So my son is all set with summer school - just not the way I'd envisioned it.

And my daughter, who has fewer camp opportunities than her big brother, has a project that she's going to start on real soon now.  We've put together a casual Botany study, using a few books and a lot of colored pencils.  While the boy is away, she and I will be found in gardens and at the kitchen table, learning about plants. 

Not a bad summer school plan after all, huh?