Friday, June 8, 2018

Applying with Dual Enrollment Credits is Not the Same as Applying as a Homeschooler


As a homeschool parent of current and former high school kids, one of the  most annoying things I come across are posts about how homeschooled kids and unschooled kids get into college by doing dual enrollment or community college after homeschool. These articles will use the fact that a homeschooled student was able to transfer from community college to a four year college as evidence of the success of homeschooling/unschooling.  Are you KIDDING me?!  If a student is applying to college after earning credits at a community college, then that student is applying as a transfer student – NOT AS A HOMESCHOOLER.  Going this route does not validate homeschooling. In fact, it sends a message that homeschoolers had better take community colleges – either by dual enrollment while in high school or after high school – if they want to apply to a four year university.
If a student wants to do dual enrollment or go  to a community college after completing homeschool high school, that can be an excellent decision for many reasons.    I am not arguing against dual enrollment or attendance in a community college in general. I’m arguing that there is a significant difference in applying to colleges as a homeschool graduate vs as a transfer student who has earned college credit at a community college.
When I first read that unschoolers were being accepted to colleges, I was thrilled. It meant that if colleges were open to unschooling then surely they must be open to other methods like Waldorf and Charlotte Mason.  I was also very intrigued and downright delighted that unschoolers were getting into colleges because  that must mean that more colleges were becoming flexible on their entrance requirements.  Well, my delight has turned into contempt, annoyance, and anger.  Almost every single post or study done on unschoolers going to college has nothing to do with unschoolers being accepted  to college, but everything to do with TRANSFER STUDENTS being accepted.  These students were accepted because of their transfer credits – not because of a homeschool/unschool transcript. 
I have yet to see ONE article on unschooling that mentions acceptance into a four-year college without mentioning earning community college credits. Again, there is nothing wrong with earning  these credits - either during or after high school. In fact, it’s a very wise thing to do. It will definitely help with applying to a four year college. It is cost-effective – even free in most states if those credits are earned through dual enrollment.
 One  of the reasons that I feel it  is important that there always be clarification on applying as a homeschooler vs a transfer student is because of data and research collected on homeschoolers. There has been a growing acceptance of homeschooling by many colleges and universities over the years.  If  former homeschoolers are applying to colleges as transfer students, then the ability for researchers or admissions counselors to track and evaluate the success of homeschool students is diminished because the student is not counted as a homeschool graduate.  I’m not saying that all homeschoolers should stop participating in dual enrollment, but this needs to at least be acknowledged by the homeschool community.  Is it too much to ask that an article on homeschooling high school be absolutely clear and state that applying as homeschooler/unschooler is different than applying as a transfer student?
As a (mostly) Charlotte Mason homeschooling parent, it would be completely unethical for me to demonstrate the success of this method of homeschooling in terms of college acceptance if my child applied with community college credits.  At the absolute most, I could argue that this method of education sufficiently prepared my child to take the entrance exams for community college classes.   
I’m not arguing that unschoolers, or any other homeschooler, shouldn’t do dual enrollment.  However, there is a vulnerability in place when a student applies as a homeschooler that is completely erased when a student applies with community college credits or accredited high school credits.  A homeschool diploma is legal and it is not necessary to have an accredited diploma nor is it necessary to have college credits, but colleges can still cast a suspicious eye on homeschool transcripts and diplomas. 
This all makes me very angry because it can be difficult to know how to go about things like assigning credits both for work of an academic nature and for interests pursued.  If, as a homeschooler, you are buying or using an established curriculum, then you have more of an assurance that what your child is doing is sufficient.  However, when you leave that mold, the questions really abound.  It is in this frame of mind that I went looking for advice, mostly from unschooling resources, as to how to pursue and present this style of learning.  Even though we aren’t unschoolers, we aren’t strictly Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. There are some aspects of CM that weren’t pursued in high school, and other interests were followed instead.  But if anyone was going to know how to go about presenting a non-traditionally educated student, I figured that it simply had to be the unschoolers.  I was so wrong. As  I have written here, the advice given over and over again is to get the community college credits.  There is nothing on presenting oneself to a college as an unschooler and soley as an unschooler. At most, there is this article https://unschoolrules.com/unschooling-high-school-transcript/ on turning unschooling experiences into a transcript. But the author’s daughter was too young at the time of the post to have gone through the college application process.  So, while the post is great with a lot of great suggestions, it hasn’t been through any practical trial.    What angers me is the pioneering attitude of these unschool sites that talk about the success of unschooling, but then go and rely on community college credits to validate them.  I don’t see how that’s pioneering if they are just following a prescribed path in the end. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Secular Charlotte Mason: Classics and Diversity


  These days, within the homeschooling community, there has been an emergence of two branches of a Charlotte Mason education. Typically, the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling had been associated with Conservative Christian homeschoolers.  In recent years, many secular families have been creating a homeschool experience within the same framework as a CM education, but, for example, without the Bible classes.  What has been unique about the secular Charlotte Mason community is an emphasis put on social justice and diversity education approached by using the Charlotte Mason method. 
                There’s an article/essay by Professor Patrick Deneen that has made its rounds throughout the internet lamenting the loss of common historical knowledge. The article argues for a return to classical education as a remedy for this predicament.  I am not opposed to classical education, in and of itself, and yes, I do believe that it is an incredibly successful way to learn history and writing, in particular.  What bothered me was that after the author was espousing the great virtues of a classical education, he then went on to lay the blame for this loss of knowledge on diversity education.   (And that right there is a perfect example of white supremacy that is disguised to not appear as white supremacy.) So, it would seem to Professor Deneen that learning the classics and getting a solid foundation of historical details would be incompatible with receiving an education which encompasses a more diverse curriculum.
                And this is where the secular Charlotte Mason community has been proving that knowledge of history of western civilization does not need to negate learning the history of eastern civilizations nor the history of disenfranchised minorities within the West.  In fact, I would argue that the CM Method of education is the perfect vehicle for encompassing and uniting diversity education with classical education. 
                I’m going to touch briefly on what it is about other methods of homeschool education that fail  to meet this standard.  First, let’s consider unschooling. In terms of diversity education, unschooling would appear to be very friendly to diversity education and therefore very successful at it.  But the embracing of diversity education within unschooling is left to the discretion of the family itself.  Many unschooling parents will make the effort to expose their kids to issue of social justice and racism, but, not all will.   The very foundation and premise of unschooling, which promotes student-interest in learning, becomes an antithesis to social diversity education.  A parent could not require their student to learn about The Holocaust for example. That is one that I seriously wonder about within the unschooling community. What if your child never develops an “interest” in learning about The Holocaust?  What if your child never develops an “interest” in learning about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States?    
                I believe that Waldorf education comes extremely close to meeting this ideal of learning an indepth history of western civilization as well as learning what would fall under the umbrella of social diversity education. However, I would still argue that CM is more successful in this matter largely because there are so many more topics covered in a CM education, and, therefore, more opportunities to include western and non-western lessons. 
                The reading of biographies is considered to be one of the cornerstones of a solid CM education.  This is the perfect opportunity for homeschooling families to introduce their children to people from both the classical western tradition and from minority and eastern traditions.  A student could read a biography of Pericles and a biography of Harriet Tubman in the same year.  I am sure that somebody will want to interject here that you could do this while following any other method or philosophy of education.  Of course you can, but no other method or philosophy requires the readings of biographies  throughout the years of education as CM does. So if a non-CM family does choose to incorporate biographies it is a personal decision on the part of the family.
                 Other opportunities to increase diversity within the curriculum fall under topics such as artist  study, composer study, and poet study.   Traditionally, these had been studies of mostly White men and their artistic accomplishments. The secular CM community has seized on this opportunity to include works by artists, composers, and poets of various nationalities and ethnicities.  Including a more diverse list of artists does not mean excluding white/western artists, composers, and poets. 
                There are some neo-classical curricula that do include biographies, and do include diverse biographies.    There are Christian CM curricula that also include biographies by prominent African-Americans and links to slave narratives.   But not all Classical curricula include biographies throughout the years, whereas, this is a staple of all CM curricula. 
So far, I’ve addressed the issue of social diversity within the curriculum.  Now, let’s consider what Deneen is lamenting as our loss of collective culture.  I agree with his sentiment that we have lost a knowledge of history that used to common knowledge.  One needs only to watch the late night shows where people on the streets of America are being asked basic questions about history and are completely dumbfounded. Granted, this could in part be due to the pressure of having a camera in their face. Nonetheless, it does show a concerning lack of understanding of basic history.  Here is where classical education shines.  I will give classical education full credit for an excellent and indepth curriculum of western history that should not be lost.  But, where secular CM comes in, is in the retaining of classical knowledge (through readings of Shakespeare and Plutarch, for example) and teaching it while simultaneously including diversity and social justice within the curriculum.  
None of this is to say that there is no value in other educational methods. I might never have discovered the works of Elsa Beskow if it hadn't been for learning about Waldorf education. I might never have been able to see the correlation between tree climbing and business education if not for  unschooling.  For matters concerning embracing both classical history and a modern, diverse knowledge of history, I do believe that the methodology set up by Charlotte Mason and interpreted by the secular Charlotte Mason community does form the best framework for embracing and complimenting these two philosophies.
For more information on secular CM curricula, I      recommend http://wildwoodcurriculum.org/ and https://ursaminorlearning.com/.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Literature and Botany


              I feel like after losing a bit of steam, we’re starting to pick back up again. That isn’t to say that life doesn’t seem to be pulling us in all directions at once. I think, for some reason, we’re feeling a little less exhausted this week.  Seneca’s brother is getting ready to leave in July to serve with Fema Corps. He has to fill out a bunch of forms and get his fingerprints done at the Sheriff’s Office. I’ll be starting a new job on Monday, so I had to get a drug test done today.  It’s nothing too strenuous, but it can be time consuming and things like this can only be done on weekdays.  I’m going to miss having a couple of weekdays off, but I am excited about my new job.
                As to homeschooling fifth grade, Seneca has been working on the artist Henry Ossawa Tanner for artist study and Tchaikovsky for composer study. It’s been fun to listen to the music of Sleeping Beauty and imagine the scenes from the Disney movie.  
                Her two main lessons at this time are literature and botany. For literature, Seneca is reading Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  She had a little trouble starting the book. I found some beginning chapters on audio online. This seemed to really help her to at least get started. She wasn’t crazy about the book at first, but now she loves it and is reading it independently.   
                For writing practice, Seneca types up a summary of what she has read so far in Island Of The Blue Dolphins.  She still needs to work on run-on sentences.   She also continues to work on cursive by copying a poem and anything else that pops out at her throughout the week.
                https://www.amazon.com/Shanleyas-Quest-Botany-Adventure-Kids/dp/1892784165/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1525386091&sr=8-1&keywords=shanleya%27s+quest For botany, I am reading to Seneca from a book called Shanleya’s Quest: A Botany Adventure by Thomas J. Elpel.  The book is beautifully illustrated.  I did think that the beginning of the book was too wordy and spent too much time telling a version of the creation story.  It was a wonderful marriage of science and myth, but since the point of my purchase for the book was for botany lessons, I just didn’t find the opening sections of the story to be necessary.  That being said, Shanleya’s adventures to learn about different plants and flowers, is proving to be a fun way to gain information. Each page features a story and information on plant identification. There is also a sketch with the identifying parts labeled. Seneca copies  the sketch into her sketch book.  To supplement this, Seneca has also been watching short videos on plant identification on the buschcraft channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXEwe15rui0&t=331s She screenshots the frame with the notes on the dry-erase board, and copies the notes alongside her sketch.   The best part of all was when she said that she loved doing this.



Friday, April 27, 2018

Losing Play as a Working Homeschool Mom


One of the biggest perks/draws of homeschooling and the homeschooling community is free play. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/10/all-work-and-no-play-why-your-kids-are-more-anxious-depressed/246422/ In our area, there are lots of meet ups at parks, preserves, beaches, etc of homeschooling families gathering for the sole purpose of free play.   But my kids and I can’t attend because of my work schedule.   And if there are events on my days off, I’m so often just too tired to gather up the kids and go. 
One of the biggest concerns from the homeschooling community is lack of play and loss of recess in public schools.   It is quite ironic that the reason I am considering having my daughter return to school next year is due to  lack of play while homeschooling. I want to take a moment here to state that lack of play and socialization is not the norm, regardless of the stereotype, within the homeschooling community.   However, most homeschooling moms are not working moms.  There is a growing number of working homeschooling moms and a wonderful group on Facebook for Working Homeschool Moms. https://www.facebook.com/groups/WorkingHomeschoolMomClub/ That being said, it’s just not that common.  And even if it were that common, that would not solve our problem of cabin fever.
                I’m not faulting the homeschool community for us not being able to participate in many of these events.  There should be many opportunities for homeschoolers to meet for play and for academic events as well. I’m thrilled that we have such a thriving community.  I also don’t fault myself for working.  It just is what it is.   But accepting it doesn’t make the issue of our inability to be part of free play with other families disappear.
                So, I am looking into schools in our area.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t have reservations about the idea of her returning school.  I love using the ideas of Charlotte Mason to help chart our educational course.  I know that as a family we could go to the preserves and read Shakespeare regardless of whether or not we use traditional school or homeschool.  But it would still be somewhat of a loss of part of our family-culture.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Poetry, History, and A Sprained Toe


I’ve been neglecting this blog lately. I feel like I’ve lost all sense of homeschooling rhythm. However, when I read my previous entry and reflect on what she’s done in the meantime, I see that we are chugging along albeit at a slower pace these days.
                Her poem for this week is Maya Angelou’s “Awaking in New York.”  She has copied it in cursive into her notebook.  The goal is for her to read it aloud a few times throughout this week.  She also did cursive copywork from Emily Dickinson’s poem “To Make a Prairie” last week which is a very short poem. 
                Seneca’s artist for this term is Henry Ossawa Tanner.  Here’s a link to the biography that she read on him. https://www.amazon.com/Henry-Ossawa-Tanner-Boyhood-Dream/dp/1593730926/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1523973307&sr=8-5&keywords=henry+ossawa+tanner
                For history, Seneca read Who Was Daniel Boone? from the Who Is/Was series.  She types her written narrations. I’m fine with her doing it this way because typing is a much-needed skill and this gives her good practice.  She prefers typing to writing.  Her Daniel Boone narration cracked me up. Here’s an excerpt of what she wrote: He built a coffin for himself because he knew he was going to go soon. He would also polish it (which is very weird) he kept it in his sons house, at age 84 he died his last words were quote “My time has come.” end quote. He even said before he died that he had very good naps in it.
 Joke time- can you imagine you knocked on some old guys door and you kept knocking then he finally answers and he says “Sorry I was late at coming to the door you see I’m old and my now life is really awful and you see I’m going to die soon and so I built a coffin for myself and I just was taking a nap in it.” 
Please note that I am very aware of the grammar mistakes. I’m sharing her original typed response.  These written narrations help me to gauge how well she is or is not applying grammar concepts.  It also helps her to just get into the habit of writing. 
Seneca continues to work on multiplication and three-digit addition and subtraction. 
Our big event here was that she was in a ballet production of The Wizard of Oz at the Opera House!  The show was amazing.  They brought in professional dancers to dance the roles of Scarecrow, Tinman, and Cowardly Lion, but all of the other roles were done by the students of the school.  It is so new that the choreographer (Vadim Fedetov) and the composer were both able to come take a bow at the end of the show.  Speaking of bows, Seneca missed the bow because she hurt her toe in the second dance that she did.  Everyone was so proud of her for holding it in on stage and not letting on that she was hurt.  Back stage the tears started, but seemed to subside.  It was when she got into my car that the floodgates opened.  I took her to the hospital for an x-ray. Nothing is broken, but she did perhaps sprain it so no dancing for a couple of weeks. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Responding to the notion that college is the path of least resistance


There’s an article that was recently shared on another facebook group that I am on which stated that “college is the path of least resistance for most.”  After my uncontrollable laughter, the anger came.  I Instant Messaged my daughter who is a sophomore in college. I think her eye roll was audible.  
                As I read the rest of the article, I saw that it was nothing more than an advertisement really for this program called Discover Praxis. I have looked into this program and it sounds really, really good.  From what I’ve read and the videos I’ve seen on exactly how the program is set up, I am impressed.  There are classes in philosophy as well as business.  I find it somewhat ironic that the author of the article was upset about required classes in college that she wasn’t interested in, when it sounds like Praxis has its own core of required classes before you are placed in an apprenticeship. 
                As much as I am impressed with what I have seen from Discover Praxis, I have become very alienated by their college bashing.  There’s another advertisement of sorts for them with this young man going on and on about why college is the wrong choice only to then go on and be and advertisement for Discover Praxis.  They might want to rethink this approach since some of their prospective clients might have siblings who chose to go to college. 
                But let’s go back to this idea that “college is the path of least resistance.”  Yes, committing four years of your life to study is the path of least resistance. I guess I should be ashamed of my daughter for writing a nine page essay on the letters between Einstein and Freud.  Oh wait, maybe it’s her lazy classes like Foreign Policy or maybe it’s her Middle East Economies class that really show what a cop-out route she took in life by going away to college. 
                I want you to imagine if I had written something saying that trade school is the path of least resistance.  How would that be received?  My son, who is a senior right now, is not looking to go to college just yet.  He is exploring other options. However, I also told him about the “college is the path of least resistance for most” quote and he had this look of bewilderment on his face.  His response was, “I don’t believe that, but whatever.”
                In the article the author states that you can’t take the classes that you want to take in college. That is not true.  Colleges like Hampshire and Global College of LIU don’t have silly requirements like English 101 or Algebra.  In Hampshire, students jump right in and take classes in their freshmen year that would be considered to be only available to juniors and seniors in most traditional colleges. 
                I am troubled by a much deeper issue that articles like the ones mentioned and videos dismissing college.  First, there is the issue of all of these young people having their choice repeatedly bashed.  Again, think of how it would sound if pro-college people were putting out articles and videos bashing the choice to go to trade school. 
                Then comes the argument that college isn’t for everyone. Well of course it isn’t. But how dare you say that it is the path of least resistance. Many people aren’t up for four years of academic rigor after high school.  How exactly is dedicating four years of your life to academics including writing essays, reading some of the great works of literature, and studying for exams (if you are in a traditional college) the path of least resistance? 
                If you don’t want to go to college, then don’t go. And yes, you could just as easily become financially successful if you do not go to college as someone who did go.  But why put someone else down to make you feel better about your choice? We have terrifying amount of not only anti-intellectualism in this country, but a proud embrace of it right now.  And we should all be terrified.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

If You’re Unschooling High School, You Might Want to Peek At Charlotte Mason

Truth be told, I think the Charlotte Mason approach to high school is more unschooly by far than what I’ve seen suggested on many unschooling pages. Dual enrollment seems to be the major recommendation for high schoolers.  Dual enrollment looks beyond fantastic on a college application, and it’s a great way to earn college credit for free.  But for those people who would prefer to continue to create their own high school curriculum free from textbooks and lesson plans, I feel that the CM method offers a lot of flexibility.
                One aspect of a Charlotte Mason education that seems to be unique is the practice of spreading out subjects over the years. In CM, a student does not take one year of Shakespeare study, but Shakespeare plays are read all throughout the high school years. Typically, a student would read three Shakespeare plays per year. This approach is used in both Ursa Minor (secular) https://ursaminorlearning.com/and Ambleside Online (religious Christian).  http://amblesideonline.org/  At the end of high school, you could grant your student one credit in Shakespeare for the work done throughout the years, or you could include each year’s Shakespeare readings under the umbrella of Literature along with the other books read.
                The study of economics is also spread out over four years.  The student reads books and essays over the course of four years instead of having one credit, or half a credit, crammed into a year or a semester.   I see this approach as being so friendly to unschooling because you are not locking yourself into learning about something for only one year. Or, if you do lose interest in something for a while and then become curious about it again, this approach allows you to weave in and out of learning about a specific topic.
                 The CM method is not in and of itself unschooling.  In fact, if you do approach it with the attitude really wanting a CM education, then there will be a certain rigor just by what subjects are covered in a CM setting.  Those subjects include art history, Shakespeare, poetry, Plutarch, along with the traditional subjects of history, literature, math, science, and foreign language.  I would think that an unschooler using a literature based learning approach would probably not do a study in all of these subjects. On the other hand, curiosity may be sparked and a student may choose to learn about Plutarch’s Lives.  That is something that goes back to that idea that education is a feast.  Lay the suggestions out before the student and allow them to decide how much they may want to tweak things.
                In many ways, CM’s approach to the rigorous subjects is so gentle that it really can be wonderful way for an unschooler to approach the subject.  For example, art history is learned by reading one or two books on art history spread out over four years.  Each year, three different artists and their work are studied. By studied, we mean read a biography or even a Wikipedia entry on the artist. Twelve of their pieces are closely observed and described by the student.  You could definitely be flexible with this and not necessarily study twelve pieces by the same artist. 
               I think that the major concern with combining unschooling with the CM method is one of credits.  It is really hard to measure credit hours in a CM education because many subjects are spread out over four years and also because one student might finish a book faster than another.  For that matter, a student might read a history book with a lot ease and then have to go slower on a science book – maybe even re-reading parts to gain a complete understanding.   If an unschooler learns about six artists, maybe that could be considered half a credit in art history instead of a full credit.  Or, should that study count for a full credit?  Also, I think a student could reasonably earn a full credit for Shakespeare by reading six plays instead of twelve. I asked a secular homeschooling facebook group how many Shakespeare plays they thought should be read for one credit solely in Shakespeare, and the average (and majority) of responses indicated that six plays would equal one high school credit.
             I’m not saying that all unschoolers should become Charlotte Mason homeschoolers.  I’m saying that I think unschoolers who want to continue to create their own education might find a lot of the CM methods to be very conducive to non-traditional study.  The books that are suggested by CM sites are just that – suggestions.  There are no textbooks or lesson plans in a CM education.  And again, it’s a feast. An unschooler could use the CM approach for economics and not read a single Shakespeare play.  It’s not all or nothing.  (However, if you are participating in a study on CM educated students then I would say that one would have to show that they really followed all of the methods in a Charlotte Mason education.)
                 

Education As A Feast

 Charlotte Mason is often described as referring to education as a feast.  You (the teacher) prepare a feast for your child and the child fi...