HiH Summer Edition Comes to an End

If you’ve been following us during the summer, you’ll know that we like to go hiking.

All the time.

So I started a homeschooling hiking group called Hike it Homeschoolers and we have had a ton of fun exploring a few new trails, visiting a couple oldies but goodies, and meeting some really amazing homeschooling families.

But, we officially started “school” two days ago. And the weekly hikes just have to come to an end. I’ve still got two bigger hikes planned for HiH Fall Edition, so don’t you worry! But I figured I’d better do my recap of the last half of our summer adventures before I really harness the children into their chairs and make them sit still all day long instead of forcing them to lace up their hiking boots and run the trails!!

Just kidding. We’re homeschoolers, remember? Obviously we don’t actually sit in our chairs most the time. That’s just part of the beauty!

(And they don’t actually have hiking boots. Sometimes they go in sandals.)

(And they LIKE hiking – they don’t have to be forced to go.)

All right, here we go!

July Trails:

Provo River Trail from Bridal Veil Falls, past Upper Falls a bit. This time, probably because it was the day before the 4th of July, it was just me and my kids! It was nice to have a paved trail. I’m plan to sometime get back up and hike up to Upper Falls, but not with the kids.

Red Ledges Picnic Area. This is up Diamond Fork Canyon – and they don’t call it Diamond Fork for nothing! Watch out for rattlesnakes!! We didn’t actually see any. But I’m not complaining. There are a bunch of little trails back behind the picnic tables, a natural arch just off to the side, and some pioneer stone carvings if you’re willing to do a (very) little rock climbing. Half our group decided to go adventuring up and over the rocks and cliffs, come back down the other side, and jump in the river across the road – while the other half played in the sand and visited for awhile, talking all things “homeschool.”

Scout Falls up American Fork Canyon. I had never heard of these waterfalls, but now I think this is one of my very favorite semi local hikes. We hiked at the peak of wildflower season, through a little valley, up the sides of the valley, over many little waterfalls and streams that crossed the trail, until we got to the REAL waterfalls we had come to see! Wow! Stunning views! And the weather was pretty cooperative, too! I tend to melt in the heat, so the cloud covering was really nice.

Stewart Falls near Aspen Grove. This is the twin sister of Scout Falls. Just kidding. I just made that up. But Stewart Falls is only a few miles – as the crow flies – from Scout Falls, although to drive there you have to tackle the canyon from the entire other side. Well, I do at least. This is my second time this summer taking this trail. This year the water level is REALLY high. I’ve never seen Stewart Falls so full. But apparently that wasn’t enough water, because it rained on us almost the entire hike! (Except of course on our way back when we were close to the cars.) Still, a little rain doesn’t hurt. It just makes it more memorable.

August Trails:

Spanish Fork River Trail. Another paved hike… but this one turned in to a bug hunt. We caught American Dagger Moth Caterpillars (watch out! I learned they are poisonous), LOTS of grasshoppers, Box Elder Beetles, a Praying Mantis, a big black unidentified beetle, and probably a few other things, too. We didn’t end up “hiking” very far, but we spent a lot of time up close and personal with nature. (And I still have bugs in jars in my kitchen.)

The Grotto Falls. Yes, we already did this one near the beginning of the summer. But it is such a popular little trail around here, I wanted to give others a chance to do it if they missed the first time. Super short. Super easy. Super fun. Super waterfall at the end. The kids decided to build waterways and dams out of the rocks and reroute the water into the stream. They were so sad when it was time to go. But I bribed them with snow cones. (Man! Snow cones have come a long way since I was a kid. I hadn’t had a snow cone in probably close to 30 years! These things were amazing. But sadly, no pictures.)

With each hike (besides the Provo River Trail hike) we averaged about 2 other families with us. These women and kids I have met are amazing people. They seem so solid, so reasonable, so responsible, and so friendly and welcoming.  I’ve had the opportunity to learn from seasoned homeschooling moms and also give advice and tips to newbies just starting out this fall. No matter where we are on the homeschool path, I’ve always felt like an equal with them. I feel like I’ve become friends with some really wonderful people.

As a homeschooler, one of the questions you often get is about socialization. Really, people want to know if your kids are going to be socially awkward because they don’t know how to act around other children. If you are worried about that, too, find a group to join. If you can’t find one, create a group. I always feel like I am in the best company when I am in the company of homeschooling families. (My kids don’t pick up bad habits and I am always welcomed with open arms.) What a comfortable place to be.

For us, it was hiking. Sometimes we attend park days with another group, too. For others, there are book clubs, or homeschooling science fairs (or any other sort of monthly or quarterly show and tell sort of thing.) I know groups who go on outdoor adventures throughout the entire year. There are groups that get together just for field trips. I just recently found out about groups of families who all use the same curriculum, and the moms and kids get together to share what they have done and how they have tackled the same topics, but in their own unique and creative way.

I also spent the first 4 years of my homeschooling “career” staying away from all groups entirely. That was good for me. It was just all so much and I needed to get the basics down, get a rhythm, figure out how in the world this was all going to work out for us, before I added more to the mix. Groups were just more, and I couldn’t take on any more for years. And now, during the school year, that is still mostly good for me, too. I need a little space – and having been at this homeschooling thing again for a whole two days now – I’m reminded that we do A LOT and it takes up A LOT of my time. I just don’t have a ton of time to get together weekly or monthly for something more.

But I know other moms who wanted and needed those groups from day one. And that is awesome.  Groups like these make life better. They make homeschooling easier – when you are ready for it, of course. They lessen your mother-in-law’s worries about you ruining her grandkids’ social skills. They lend support. They share ideas. They understand when you are in a slump, but they remind you that you will get out of it in time. They remind you that you don’t have to do everything all at once and that some things can go on the back burner for a while – or you can just chuck them out the window and you and your kids will turn out just as well.

I am so grateful to associate with these wonderful people.

I hope you also have the opportunity to mix and mingle with other homeschoolers – when you are ready. I hope you feel the support and approval and comfort I feel when I am with people who keep their kids close, but show them the entire world. And if you don’t have that yet, I will try to be that for you until you do.  When I supplicate God at night, I pray that something I will type or share someday will reach someone who could benefit from it.  (It’s probably not anything that has to do with hiking – but I just really like those photos and memories 🙂 .) I try to show how real this is. How hard it is. How sometimes my heart isn’t in it. How much the children whine. How good they are at complaining. The temper tantrums. The failed science experiments. The disappointment that things just aren’g going the way I so neatly planned on my cute little notebook!!!

And I try to show how good this is. How blessed I feel. How close our family has become. How much these kids know! How intelligent and knowledgable they are becoming, because they have a more appropriate opportunity to gain knowledge and experience. How much love we are experiencing. How much fun we have together. How enriched our lives are. How good this really is!

Hopefully, you get that sense – and some fun ideas and tips – and some good laughs – from these blog posts.

It’s not all A+s, gold stars, and recess. But it is full of wonder, growth, and it is life changing for the better.

Now – go find a trail to hike!

 

More Summer Science: Backyard Bugs

Last year we had the incredible opportunity to watch 2 little baby robins go from pink and wrinkly to fluffy and flying. Every day we checked the next and too another picture of our little friends.

That was one of the coolest natural science observations we’ve been able to do yet.

This year…

…well, I don’t like bugs.

But I do like my kids and they like bugs, so I guess we’ll keep our little critters for awhile still.

All of our specimens were found on the river trail just a few miles from our house. We came prepared with fish nets (for catching the bugs) and little empty 4 oz plastic milk bottles I hoarded after my youngest spent a few weeks in the NICU a few years ago. I figured those little bottles would come in handy someday. IMG_1574IMG_1581IMG_1586IMG_1597

We collected an assortment of grasshoppers (which are outlawed from being released into my backyard! Even though it’s pretty meager, I would like to maintain somewhat of a garden), Box Elder Beetles (currently all dead), two American Dagger Caterpillars (both of which have cocooned already!) and our newest addition is a wolf spider – sick!

The spider was found in our basement.

Double sick!!

We did have a praying mantis but it died. Such is the life of bugs in jars – no matter how consistently you feed them and how many holes you poke in the lid. Taking care of their bugs, for some reason, is one job the kids are really good at. They never complain when I remind them it’s time to clean the bug jars and get clean and fresh food for their little guys. Maybe it helps that I lay it on thick EVERY SINGLE TIME that these are living creatures and living things come first. You can’t just ignore or neglect LIFE, even if it is a totally sicko wolf spider.

So far we’ve learned how to tell a male caterpillar apart from a female, what different foods the various bugs like to eat, what in the world an American Dagger Caterpillar even is, that the AD Caterpillar is actually poisonous (!!!), and that grasshoppers eat and poop A LOT and really like to hang out on sticks.

This is maybe not the most scientific study ever, but with school starting tomorrow, I think I am going to take advantage of this and start the kids out with their new nature journals by sketching and taking notes on their bugs. The power of nature journals is in observation, right? (This is my first ever attempt at nature journaling.) And what better way to observe little bugs than when they are trapped against their will in stifling, cramped little glass jars?

I have to say, it is kind of cute watching the grasshoppers chomp on their lettuce leaves.

Kind of.

Not cute enough to make me sad to see them go when the time comes. It would be nice to have my kitchen counter tops back again. 🙂 Probably just in time for us to collect something else, right?

Such is the life of the homeschooling family.

But it’s a pretty good life.

(Certainly better than what those poor little bugs have! “SAVE US!!!”)

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Hear We Go Again!: Homeschool Prep for 2017-18

We are only a few days away from the first day of school.

I know! I can’t believe it either! I finally hit those lazy days of summer and haven’t had enough time to get bored yet. It just seems a little early.

Plus, there is so much we haven’t finished and now we’re just about out of time (like those handwriting books from LAST school year we were going to so diligently work on every day during the summer. And the daily reading with the K turned 1st grader. I kind of blew that opportunity. I didn’t go through all the bins of clothes to either hand down or pass on to someone else. My awesome goal of going through all the kitchen cupboards lasted about 2 cupboards. My backyard is still a mess (but better now that the sprinklers are in and the grass has grown back. I’ve got a patch of weeds 3 feet tall I’ve been meaning to battle that is still just waiting for me to pull up the courage. And my van looks like, well, like we’ve just been through summer with 5 kids and a less than always tidy mother.

HOWEVER! I did fold and re-stack all my towels! IMG_1607

I other words, I’m about at the same point as all the other moms who are rejoicing that they’re going to send their kids away to school all day so they can put their lives back in order.

But this is my life.

And I really am in love with it.

And I’m rejoicing that my kids get to stay home!

Because they don’t get bored during the summer or start bickering and getting on each other’s nerves.

And I just really love being with them.

So… maybe what I mean is that my house, yard, and van is a mess…

Anyway, moving on to school prep. I have a new secret weapon up my sleeve that hopefully will reduce our overall level of frustration and frequency of distractions. I call it the “free-hand-me-down-office-desk-that-barely-fits-but-we’ll-take-it-anyway!”

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Sure, this means there is barely space to fit the toddler bed in my daughter’s bedroom anymore, but we’ll figure it out. He doesn’t mind, right? Look how happy he is!

I’m just excited with the idea of my 3rd grader being able to organize her own space and work in peace and quiet. (Also, I needed a spot for our sewing stuff… not like we actually ever sew anything.) My 5th grader has a desk in his room already, but it’s always covered with Legos, various pieces of scout uniforms, and other random boy paraphernalia. Wooden swords and tools and stuff.

Also new this year: non spinning chairs! Our last chairs were also hand-me-downs from my husband’s office, and the spinning feature was cool until it wasn’t. You can probably imagine. We picked up some nice, sturdy, immobile chairs from my neighbor’s yard sale at a very reasonable price.

Besides that, we have the 11 year old kitchen table turned work table in our play room that we’ve been using for years.

Workplace? Check!

Curriculum? Well, here’s what I’ve got so far. (This is where things start getting overwhelming and I fall into panic mode.)

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THAT is a lot of stuff to cover. THAT is a ton of work. THAT has the potential to help mold and train and develop powerful minds. But if you let the books become the master of your life and dictate how you spend every minute of your day, you might as well prepare for mother burn out, because it’s just around the corner.  If there is anything I have gained from doing this for even just the few years that I have, it is that I run my school. Curriculum is there to aid me. There really is no harm in skipping lessons, using alternative schedules, taking extra time on certain subjects, and overall just doing things the way I feel work best for us, even if that goes against the highly recommended schedules in the “How to Use This Book” section of my teaching manuals.

(This is a post with more detail about the books we’re using this year, as well as course descriptions and explanations.)

Curriculum and Supplies? Check!

That leads us to our schedule. Three kids in 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade. One preschooler (schedule not up yet) and a toddler.

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So technically most of the public school kids aren’t going back to school as early as we are. But I really like the flexibility of starting at week (or two) early so we can transition a little easier. Last year was, well, disastrous. But it got better. I am learning that transition time is kind of a big deal over here. I’ve been trying (half heartedly) to get the kids in the habit of getting all their chores done before 8:30 am so we can start school promptly at 9:00 am next week. Yeah, well, there’s some room for improvement in this category. Just another reason for a “transition” week.

Our first week of school will actually only be half days. The second week of school already has two field trips scheduled in.  I’m not starting “early” in order to get my kids ahead of the public school. (They are ahead of the norm just by virtue of the fact that they homeschool seriously at their own pace.) And really I’m not starting school early for fear that they will fall behind.

I’m just hoping it works out best for us.

In any case, it’s happening. I’m pretty much ready.

Schedule? Check!

Now the hardest part is taking deep breaths and remembering, it’s all going to work out. Say it with me. “It’s all going to work out. It’s all going to work out.”

And if it doesn’t, you just evaluate, adapt, and try again.

(And sometimes lower expectations.)

Homeschooling isn’t easy. Parenting isn’t easy. Teaching and raising educated, intelligent, thoughtful, respectful, happy, healthy, and (insert your own adjectives here) children is not easy.

Some days it is even discouraging, frustrating, heart breaking, and blood pressure elevating. (That is the nice way of saying they’re gonna tick you off and make you want to scream really loud.)

But God didn’t give you children so that others could raise them. Regardless of whether you homeschool or not, God gave those children to you so that YOU could teach, nurture, train, love, and raise them. They are a precious, sacred gift. And a precious, sacred responsibility. He’s got your back. Listen to what He says. Ask Him your questions and seek for His answers. Oftentimes His answers come from “the experts,” but sometimes they come despite what “the experts” say. Don’t worry about what other people may say or think. It’s not about them. They aren’t the parents of your child. Happiness and success doesn’t come from going with the crowd and just trying to fit in and not make waves. (Although that is a useful skill sometimes.)

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You’ve got this! You can do it! This year is going to be great. There will be adventures and excitement you could never have imagined. Those little lightbulbs will go off above the kids’ heads and things they’ve been struggling with will start to finally make sense. You’ll be able to figure out problem areas, create a plan, and work through them. Some days will be hard, but you will grow from it, learn from it, and turn every day into a learning experience for yourself as well as your kids. The family bonds will grow tighter. Your faith and humility – and therefore knowledge and charity – will grow. Because you are taking on this challenge, you will ALL be better people next May when you put the books back on the shelf and take the swimsuits and beach towels out of storage.

Your Father in Heaven will help you. Your friends and family and neighbors will help you out. Other homeschool moms you know, either just on Facebook or in real life, will help and support you. And I am here to help you too! That is the point of all of these blog posts. You’ve got lots of resources. You’ve totally got this.

See? Now don’t you feel ready for school to start?

It looks like I better go hurry up and clean my van and pull those weeds, then! 🙂

Happy Homeschooling!

How I Got a C- for Pioneer Day Two Years in a Row OR Creative Buffalo Chips

I’m getting really good at underwhelming mediocrity! The bright side is at least this year nobody threw up!

Wait.

No, actually we did have a little “incident.”

My incredibly awesome blog post for last year’s Pioneer Day is here if you want to see how little I had to do to actually improve on my previous performance. You can decide yourself if I actually deserve a flat out C instead of the C- I’m giving myself.

(But all in all, let’s be honest. I’m not really upset about it. This is just one incidence of underwhelming mediocrity I choose to just laugh at instead of beat myself up over. It’s just gonna happen sometimes… things aren’t always outstanding. And that is ok. Just keep trying at the things that matter most to you. And if you get a C- two years in a row, just make sure you can get a really good practical joke out it! You’ll see what I mean at the very end.)

I didn’t take my kids to the parade. Or the carnival. Or the fireworks. (We went to 4th of July fireworks so the kids didn’t actually miss out on those.) I chalking this up as a point for me because I saved a ton of money, a ton of energy, we didn’t miss out on any of the crying, whining, or complaining about the 100 degree weather or the long lines or the “I didn’t get any candy” from the candy throwers at the parade. AND my kids didn’t miss it either. Maybe someday we will make it to all those things (actually we will go to the parade next year again I’m sure) but this year we chose to forfeit all of that. Point for me!

Me: 1. Pioneer Day: 0.

I whipped up some awesome old fashioned lemonade. A little extra sour, maybe, but that just makes it extra healthy right? Extra lemon, low sugar? Anyone up for a good de-tox?And it’s ok if half the family can’t stand to drink it. More for me! (They could have watered it down if they really wanted to.) Another point for me!  (No picture because I drank it all, of course.)

Me: 2. Pioneer Day: 0

And if you are going to drink old fashioned lemonade to celebrate the pioneers, it’s best to pair it with some good old fashioned gingerbread. The more the better, right? Unless of course for some reason you think you can double a recipe without doubling the size of the dish you are going to bake it in. I don’t even have an adequate explanation to excuse this miscalculation. No words.

Maybe we could call these homemade Buffalo Chips? (Anyone want the recipe!! 🙂 )

Me: 2. Pioneer Day: 1

But the gingerbread was delicious! Especially with extra sour lemonade. (Which is why the only picture I could get of it was after we had devoured almost all of what thankfully stayed in the dish!)

Me: 2 1/2. Pioneer Day: 1

I did check out a book to make fun Pioneer Day crafts with the kids. Yes, I know none of these crafts would actually recreate the spirit of westward expansion and the hardships of actually pioneering on the frontier and beyond. But corn husk dolls are fun, right? And weaving colored construction paper? Isn’t that kind of similar to using old clothes and rags to make rugs for our dirt floored cabins? Did we actually do any of these crafts? No. Not a one. Point for Pioneer Day.

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Me: 2 1/2. Pioneer Day 2

Because we didn’t go to the parade I asked my friend if we could get together with her family and have fun with them so my kids wouldn’t feel gypped. I brought over the sour lemonade, what was left of the gingerbread, our bag of craft supplies and the above mentioned book (which we never opened), and our swim suits. Pioneer children swam in ponds and creeks right? Does a backyard pool count? It was certainly really fun.

Until my 4 year old threw up in the pool.

Point for Pioneer Day.

Me: 2 1/2. Pioneer Day: 3.

But it was really, really fun. (Not the puking part – I mean the whole day at my friend’s house.) Totally laid back. Nice, warm weather. Fun and friends and water. My friend looked up some pioneer games and we all played “What Color is My Bird.” The person in the middle holds a glass of water and chooses a color, but doesn’t say it out loud. All the people on the outside of the circle take a guess at which color the middle person has chosen. If they get it wrong, the person in the middle gets to flick water at them from the cup. The one who gets it right replaces the person in the middle and chooses a new color for the others to guess. This was really fun! (Notice the child who threw up still recovering with towels in the warm sun. Don’t worry, he’s perfectly fine. Pioneers are tough! They’ve just got to buck up sometimes is all.)

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The fun just multiplied exponentially when we opted to use the hose instead of the cup of water!!!

It is amazing the colors kids can come up with: Lavender, Burgundy, Bronze, Mac n Cheese (He said it was a crayola crayon color so we went with it), Denim, and my favorite, Chartreuse. Which I didn’t know was a french liquor. But now I know!

Ok, so our game wasn’t totally authentic – with the hose and all – but I bet the pioneers would have used a hose if they had one. And I’m pretty sure denim was already around back them. Wasn’t Levi Strauss from California during the Gold Rush?

So yes, denim is totally appropriate.

Chartreuse probably not so much.

Who gets the point for that one?

We also made “covered wagons” out of graham crackers, life savers, pretzel sticks, marshmallows, and frosting. This was an activity ALL the kids could enjoy! We ended up with an overflowing covered wagon – that rich lady who just can’t stand to let go of all the worldly pleasures as she heads out west, only to find that most of it will have to be dumped alongside the Oregon Trail as she goes. We had a handcart – for those pioneers who just didn’t have the money or means to secure an actual wagon for themselves. But then somehow they were able to fit it up with 8 wheels and 4 axles – We call that hand carting with style! We had a garage for covered wagons, a covered wagon with a driver an ox, and…. some other creations.

And then the kids ate the candy and crackers instead of actually eating lunch.

It’s a holiday, right? Sometimes you just have to go with it.

Some of us re-enacted the Pony Express! Y”ee-Haw, Mommy!!”

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The next day, because I felt a little bad for not re-creating an authentic pioneer experience, even though we had a lot of fun, I made my older kids go to a library program for 8-12 year olds called “Your life on the Oregon Trail!” This was after we spent the entire day “lounging around,” as my husband calls it, in an air conditioned house reading books and playing Legos. If that doesn’t sound like roughing it…

Except I read the flyer wrong and we got to the library right as the activity ended.

Talk about disappointment! The only consolation was that next week is “Your Life as a Viking” and my kids know way more about their Norwegian and viking heritage than they do about their Welsh/British Pioneer heritage. And I PROMISED I would get them there next week on time. Also, we picked up “Little House on the Prairie,” which series my daughter is reading.

Maybe she is getting into the pioneer spirit all on her own? Let’s just say she is.

So we got home from the library and to make it up to them I told them I had some great pioneer activities they could do. In other words, I made them go outside and pick blackberries, crack walnuts, and collect the eggs.

Chores! Now THAT is authentic pioneer work.

I only wish we had a cow.

(Actually, I kind of do.)

(Yes, I know. I say that not really realizing how much work a cow would take. But the idea of having a cow is very, very appealing. No more runs to the store just for milk!)

And we had a pioneer dinner! Also known as leftovers… but they were pioneer leftovers! Hand made wheat and rye bread with a pioneer recipe for chicken salad (that someone gave my friend and my friend gave to me – we call that triple leftovers – and delicious) and some huge fresh tomato slices straight from out of my garden.

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I’ve got to say, I’ve been growing tomatoes for about 4 years now and this year I finally was able to get some nice, big, fat and juicy beef steaks! So irresistible, in fact, that my 2 year old stuck his finger in them. But shhhh…. nobody can tell when they are all sliced up  like that!

So all together, maybe this year was better than last year. It’s a little hard to say. There are so many things still left that we could have done. But does every holiday have to be a big deal? I do respect and revere the pioneers. I really do. I even took this online quiz, and although I became very sick, I did manage to survive the trip out west! But it is hard to truly understand what they went through just by pulling a few activities together real quick. I know in a few years my kids will get to experience Trek and get a taste of how physically demanding and extremely different life was back even just 160 years ago – without modern technology and convenience stores (or convenience anything as far as I can tell – unless the cow milked itself, maybe.) But for better or worse, Pioneer Day 2017 is in the books.

And don’t worry. I found a good use for those “buffalo chips!” Now to wait until my husband gets home! Ha!

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Part II: The Book I Read and What I’m Going to do About It.

This is Part II of a previous blog post titled A Review of Three Controversial and Potentially Life-Altering Educational Books: Part 1. But I felt like that title was too boring so I didn’t want to use it twice. Feel free, in fact I encourage you, to go back and read the previous post to get a sense of how I got to where I am today, and why it is shaking things up for me a bit.

As a short recap – I love non-fiction and I am passionate about education. But I realized I hadn’t really read much on the history of our (the American) educational system. So I asked a group of also very educationally passionate Americans what books I should read to help me understand how our particular educational system came to be what it is today.

The third book I read from the list given me by this particular group was called “The Story-Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core” by Terrence O. Moore. I have done quite a bit of research into the Common Core standards, aligned curriculum, testing and data collecting, etc. etc. and it is not my purpose or desire to go into any of that sort of detail here and now. If you want my opinion on Common Core, lets just say I don’t have a very positive one. (That is putting it mildly.) So what in the world could I gain from an author/teacher/college professor telling my things I already knew about and believed? Seems like an echo-chamber, right?

Well, there were actually a lot of things he brought up that I didn’t know. Mr. Moore is a literature professor, and in his book he reads through the Common Core literature standards, translates them into language every day people can understand, and then shows how this looks in actual common core aligned curriculum being taught in actual classrooms.

If you are passionate about education – actual education of the mind, character, and soul, not just training or pushing political ideologies – this will make you kind of want to throw up.

Let’s skip a moment to something else I’ve read recently –

From the BYU College of Humanities Magazine Fall 2016, Professor Stan Benfell (from whom I actually took a class when I was there!) wrote an excellent piece titled “Thoughts on the New Life.” The following two paragraphs jumped right off the page at me:

“When I was in high school I was lazy–slothful at performing my chores, late and lackluster in completing schoolwork, and reluctant to accept assignments at church. Fortunately for me, I applied to BYU when it was a good deal easier to get admitted than it is now. The summer after I graduated from high school, I had an epiphany: I realized that I could not continue as I had done if I wanted to make something of my life. So when I came to BYU as a freshman, I was determined to study and to get good grades. This simple determination to succeed in school bore unexpected fruit: I became thoroughly engrossed in my classes and experienced sustained intellectual engagement.

“When I was called to serve a mission in Paris, France, I found myself not only more devoted and more alive spiritually than I had ever been before but also alive to the richness and beauty of the French language and insatiably curious about the fascinating history and culture of the country in which I was living. When I returned from my mission, I found myself not only reading the material required for my courses but also seeking out new books, looking for a quiet moment when I could read something that deepened what I had studied in one of my classes or opened up something new. This was for me a new life–one of excitement, engagement, and meaning where before I had found only drudgery in school.” [emphasis mine.]

These paragraph were/are important to me because I don’t want my children to have to go through this. At least not the first half of his experience. I don’t want them to feel like learning is “drudgery” and that education is boring, unimportant, or a waste of time. I want them to know and feel the excitement! I want them to be intellectually engaged from the beginning! I want them to read and learn and understand why what they are learning has meaning to them and what that meaning is!

And what is that meaning? Well, since Prof. Moore is focusing mainly on literature, and Prof. Benfell writes about language, history, and culture, let’s just stay in the college of Humanities for a bit. Let’s talk about humanity.

Humanity
nounplural humanities.
1. all human beings collectively; the human race; humankind.
2. the quality or condition of being human; human nature.
3. the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence.
4. the humanities.

  1. the study of classical languages and classical literature.
  2. the Latin and Greek classics as a field of study.
  3. literature, philosophy, art, etc., as distinguished from the natural sciences.
  4. the study of literature, philosophy, art, etc.

It is in the subjects that we call The Humanities that we learn what it is to be human, our relationship to ourselves, to our families, our countries, and ultimately our relationship with God. It’s literature, history, art, music… all the things that our current public educational system doesn’t offer. Maybe in name you have a “literature” class, but take a look into Prof. Moore’s book and then decide whether the “literature” being taught is helping to develop, cultivate, strengthen, and encourage intellectually engaging discussions and studies into what makes a person a person, what are the desirable qualities and characteristics that help sustain and promote happiness, peace, understanding, and love.

It’s just not happening in schools. At least not very many of them. And it certainly isn’t happening in the schools that are now mandated to follow the Common Core standards (which is pretty much all of them, anyway.) If 80% of the “literature” read by 12th grade is supposed to be technical manuals, government forms, newspaper articles, etc., when do the students learn to relate to others? When do they delve deep into the human soul of another and wrestle alongside them over challenging decisions and grapple with difficult consequences? When do they feel another’s pain, experience another’s joy, see the world in a new way, and then realize it was their pain, their joy, and their world the entire time? When do they learn what is is to be human and experience what that means and how that works in the context of a complex society?

Maybe during lunch time?

I don’t think so.

(At least not any society I want to be a part of. Really, if all our dealings with other was done at the maturity level of the high school pecking order in the lunchroom. Scary (and uncomfortable) thought.)

So… I’m just going to have to teach it myself.

Which will be really hard because I never received this sort of education in the first place! (With the exception of a few college courses I took as a freshman – thank you Prof. Benfell – that I didn’t appreciate because I was in the public school mindset of take a class, get a grade, move on – sorry Prof. Benfell.)

Prof. Moore, didn’t just criticize the degradation of the system, but he also offered what he called his Common Core – a list of books, essays, and speeches he feels every high school student (or person in general) should be familiar with as a foundation to their education. These are the books, the stories, the lessons, that will enrich our lives and fill our souls with compassion, understanding, and will truly educate us in what it means to live and interact with ourselves and with others. In essence, he provides entire course outlines from 9th through 12th grade for  Literature, History, Government, Economics, and Moral Philosophy. At least the reading list.

So this has become my new venture. I am reading every single book/essay/speech on those lists. I have four years before my oldest becomes a 9th grader, which means I am giving myself four years to go through all the material, study as much as I can, take The Great Courses, check out Classical Conversations, take as much advantage of Classical Academic Press’s  teacher trainings as I can, email an old professor or two, ask my questions, find some answers, and educate myself the way I want my children to be educated. And then… I will teach it.

That doesn’t sound as dramatic and life changing when I type it as it sounded when I decided to commit myself to this. Here, maybe this list will help.

Welcome to the next 4 years of my life…

9th grade

Ancient Literature

Homer, The Illiad (the whole thing)

Greek Plays, e.g. Oedipus Rex, Antigone

Plato’s Republic (on the poets, Allegory of the Cave)

Plato, The Apology (or in history)

Virgil, The Aeneid (the whole thing)

Roman poetry (some in Latin class)

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Addison’s Cato (if time)

Genesis 1-4

Composition

The class focuses on grammar and composition and also entails the study of classic essays by Bacon, Addison, Swift, Johnson, Orwell, et alia.

Western Civ 1 (Ancient History)

Herodotus, on the Persian Wars, esp. Thermopylae

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War (selections)

Plutarch, Lives of Lycurgus, Solon, Pericles, Alcibiades

Plato, The Republic, Book VIII on the regimes

Plato, the Apology (if not in literature class)

Aristotle, the Politics, book 1

Livy, selections on early Rome

Polybius, The Histories, Book VI

Plutarch, Lives of Cato the Elder, Julius Caesar, Cicero

Cicero, Catiline Oration (1st), selected letters

Cicero, De Officiis (selections)

Caesar, The Commentaries (selections)

Augustus, Res Gestae Divi Augusti

Tacitus and Suetonius on the Roman emperors

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Documents from the Judeo-Christian Tradition:

Ten Commandments

Life of David

Sermon on the Mount

10th grade

British Literature

Le Morte D’Arther (selection) or Beowulf

Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (three or four tales)

Shakespeare, Hamlet and Macbeth, sonnets

Sir Francis Bacon, selected essays, incl. “Of Studies”

Milton, Paradise Lost (books IV and X at least)

Joseph Addison, select papers from The Spectator

Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice (or Persuasion)

Charles Dickens, Hard Times (or A Tale of Two Cities)

British Romantic poetry

 

Western Civ 2 (Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment)

Tacitus, Germania

Acts of the Apostles (selections)

Augustine, Confessions (Books I, II, VIII)

Augustine, City of God (short selection)

Gregory I, Account of Benedict’s Life

Rule of Saint Benedict

Einhard, The Life of Charlemagne (selection)

Walter Scott, “Chivalry”

Magna Carta

Documents on the Investiture Conflict

Thomas of Celano, Life of Saint Francis

Thomas Aquinas, selection from The Summa

Petrarch’s Letters (to Homer, Cicero, et al.)

Vergerius, “On Liberal Learning”

Leon Battistta Alberti, On The Family

Castiglione, The Courtier (sel.)

Vasari, Lives of the Artists, esp Michelangelo, Leonardo

Art of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, et alia

Machiavelli, The Prince (selection)

Luther, select documents incl. 95 theses

Luther and Erasmus on the will

Council of Trent

The Thirty-Nine Articles (Anglican Church)

James I, The Trew Law of Free Monarchies

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, on the state of nature

Isaac Newton, Principia Mathematica (sel.)

John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government (esp. books II-V, IX)

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, (sel.)

Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality (if time)

 

11th Grade

American Literature

Poetry of Anne Bradstreet

Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography (or in history)

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Herman Melville, Moby Dick (the whole thing)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, essays, esp “Self-Reliance”

Henry David Thoreau, selections from Walden

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

Poetry of Whitman, Poe, Longfellow, Dickinson, Hughes, Cullen, Frost, et alia

If time, a novel of Fitzgerald or Hemingway

Poetry of T. S. Eliot

Two or three short stories of Flannery O’Connor

 

American History to 1900 (two semesters)

The Mayflower Compact

John Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity”

Other colonial documents

Documents on the Great Awakening, incl. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

Benjamin Franklin, documents on the Junto, fires, education in Philadelphia, the increase of mankind, “The Way to Wealth,” kite experiment

The Stamp Act documents

Benjamin Franklin, “Rules by Which a Great…”, “An Edict by the King of Prussia”

Debate over Independence

Tom Paine, Common Sense (selections)

Virginia Declaration of Rights

The Declaration of Independence

George Washington, letters, Circular to the States

The Northwest Ordinance

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

Debates on the Constitution, incl. Anti-Federalists

The Federalist, nos. 1, 10, 39, 51 (overlaps with Gov. class)

Thomas Jefferson, on education and agriculture

Alexander Hamilton, Reports on Public Credit and Manufactures

George Washington, Farewell Adress, Last Will

Other documents from early national period including:

Alien and Sedition Acts, Va./Ky. Resolutions and Massachusetts Counter-Resolution (also in Gov. class)

Documents from Jacksonian period

Ante-Bellum documents, including:

Calhoun on nullification

Dred Scott v. Sandford

Harriet Beecher Stow, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (sel.)

George Fitzhugh, The Sociology of the South (sel.)

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life

Abraham Lincoln: “A Fragment on Slavery,” Speech on Dred Scott, “A House Divided,” Lincoln-Douglas Debates (sel.), First Inaugural, Emancipation Procl., Gettysburg Address, Second Inaugural

Frederick Douglas, “Self-Made Men”

Post Civil War Documents on Reconstruction

Andrew Carnegie on Wealth

Documents on populism, Bryan’s “Cross of Gold”

Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery, The Story of My Life and Work (sel)

Government Class (one semester)

Man as a “political animal,” Aristotle, The Politics I

Natural rights in J. Locke, Virginia Decl. of Rights

The Declaration of Independence

Sel. Debates at the Constitutional Convention

The Constitution of the United States

The Federalist, nos. 10, 39, 51, 70-74 (sel.) 78

The Bill of Rights

Hamilton, Jefferson on the Bank

The Marshall Court, especially: Marbury v Madison, McCulloch v Maryland, Gibbons v Ogden

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (sel.)

The Taney Court, esp. Dred Scott v Sanford

Lincoln on Dred Scott

Abraham Lincoln, War Message, 4 July, 1861 (argument vs secession)

Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments

Plessy v Ferguson, Brown v Board of Topeka

  1. Wilson, “What is Progress?” “The New Freedom”

Amendments XVI-XIX

  1. Roosevelt, “The Commonwealth Club Address”

The New Deal Court, e.g. Schechter Poultry v U.S.

Franklin Roosevelt, “A New Bill of Rights,” S/U 1944

Ronald Reagan, “Encroaching Control,” March 1961

Lyndon Baines Johnson, “The Great Society”

 

Moral Philosophy (one semester)

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, ch. 1

Allan Bloom, “Our Virtue” and “Self-Centeredness” from The Closing of the American Mind

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

  1. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
  2. Hutcheson, James Q. Wilson on the moral sense

Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (sel)

Aristotle, The Nicomachean ethics, def. of virtue

Aristotle and Pieper on the four cardinal virtues

Cicero, De Officiis (On Duties) selections

George Washington and Wm. Manchester on civility

Cicero and C. S. Lewis on Friendship

Benjamin Franklin, on work and entrepreneurship

Genesis 3-4 on man and woman

Traditional and Contemporary Marriage Vows

Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth visits Pemberly

David Fordyce, Elements of Moral Philosophy (sel.)

Richard Brookhiser, on Washington’s “fatherhood”

George Washington as Cincinnatus, his sense of duty

John Adams/Thomas Jefferson correspondence (sel.)

Shakespeare, Henry V (read prev. as summer reading)

Douglass Adair, “Fame and the Founding Fathers”

  1. Butterfield, “The Role of the Individual in History”

 

12th Grade

Modern Literature

Brief discussion of literature from previous grades

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

Frank Kafka, the Metamorphosis

George Orwell, 1984

Modern Poetry

One of two other short works of modern literature

All students write 20-page senior thesis

 

American History since 1900 (1st semester of 12th grade)

Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American Hisotry”

  1. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (sel.)

Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, “Honest Graft”

Theodore Roosevelt, Autobiography (sel.)

“The New Nationalism”

Woodrow Wilson, “The New Freedom”

Calvin Coolidge, speeches on the Boy Scouts, world peace, the press, rule of law, and the Declaration

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Commonwealth Club Adress: First Inaugural: Sate of the Union Address, 1944

Walter Lippmann, “The Dominant Dogma of the Age”

Harry S. Truman, “The Fair Deal”

Congressional rejection of the Fair Deal

Lyndon Baines Johnson, “The Great Society”

Ronald Reagan, “A Time for Choosing”

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, “I Have A Dream.”

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “The Negro Family”

The Sharon Statement

The Port Huron Statement

Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural, Remarks on Tax Reform Act, Farewell Address

Foreign Policy (in Am. History class, mostly senior year)

George Washington, Farewell Address

Monroe Doctrine

  1. G. Sumner, “The Fallacy of Territorial Extension”

Albert Beveridge, “The March of the Flag”

Woodrow Wilson, War Message and Fourteen Points

Charles Lindbergh, “America First”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, War Message, Dec. 1941

The Atlantic Charter

Winston Churchill, Address to Congress, “Iron Curtain,”

Harry S. Truman, “The Truman Doctrine”

George F. Kennan, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”

NSC-68, U. S. Obj’s/Programs for National Security

Ronald Reagan,Adress to Brit, Parliament; Christmas Day Radio Address, 1982, Remarks to the National Association of Evangelicals, 1983 (“Evil Empire”); Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate, 1987

 

Modern European History (two semesters)

Jean-Jacque Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality

Abbe Sieyes, “What is the Third Estate?”

Edmund Burke and Tom Paine on the French Revolution

Maximilien Robespierre, “Principles of Pol. Morality”

  1. Constant, “Ancient and Modern Liberty Compared”

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (selections)

British Parliament, Debate on the Ten Hours Bill

Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species (sel)

Otto von Bismarck, On German Unification

Max Weber, “On Bureaucracy”

  1. I. Lenin, on Marxism, “What is to Be Done?”

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kamp, (selections)

Winston Churchill, selected speeches including “Bolshevist Atrocities,” “Lenin,” “The Follies of Socialism,” “Wars Come Very Suddenly,” “Germany is Arming,” “A Total and Unmitigated Defeat,” “Blood, toil, Tears, and Sweat,” “Arm Yourselves and Be Ye Men of Valour,” “This Was Their Finest Hour,” “Give Us the Tools,” “Never Give In,” (at Harrow), “This is Your Victory,”

Economics (one semester)

Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, (selections)

  1. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, chs II, III, VI

Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, chs I-III

John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory… (sel.)

Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson

George Gilder, Wealth and Poverty, chs. III-VI

 

Did you make it through all of that? I am impressed.

I am also a little overwhelmed, but after reading “The Story-Killers” I am more determined than before to educate my children – not just allow others to vocationally train them. I recently saw an article arguing that Algebra shouldn’t be a graduation requirement anymore since most people don’t use Algebra in their jobs.

Uh… but don’t most people use their brains? Isn’t Algebra a practice in logic, reasoning, and mental agility? Math isn’t harder than the other subjects, but it is different than the other subjects. For those trained to see “school” as drudgery, boring, and irrelevant to their daily lives, I can see how life would be “easier” if we got rid of the “hard” classes. But should whether I use every brain cell or memory or skill I’ve got every day in my occupation decide whether even having those cells/memories/skills are valuable or beneficial to me at all?

Isn’t intelligence a good thing? Isn’t knowledge supposed to be power? Not power over others, but power over ones self? Since when did knowing and understanding the absolute bare minimum just to get by become the focus and goal of our culture?

Whatever happened to being enlightened? Now we are just trained. As horrible as it sounds, the system really is meant to produce cogs that keep it going. Workers and consumers and those that don’t think too hard, at least not hard enough to rock the boat. It’s just easier to train than to teach when you are talking about the masses.

But I want to produce thinkers and dreamers and people who can understand and can reason and express and explain and evaluate, even if all they do is drive a garbage truck (which is my 6 year old’s ambition in life right now, to tell you the truth.) So even though it is going to take major dedication and major time and major energy, I want to learn this stuff. I want to know it. I want to be able to introduce and pass on this information to others so that they can experience humanity.

(That kid may end up being the most well-spoken, most cultivated, most knowledgable and intelligent garbage man out there.)

And this knowledge, no matter what he decides to do with his life, will help him understand. And understanding will help him decide how to act. And his happiness will be based on his actions and the beliefs that drive them.

So I’ve started with Homer. Right now Menelaus and Agamemnon are in the thick of battle with Hector and the rest of the Trojans. I’m at the very beginning of my academic journey – and quite honestly it is pretty brutal and bloody.

But I’ve got my foot in the door and I’m going to keep right on walking.

And I have Prof. Moore to thank/blame for that.

So the moral of this story is maybe be careful what you read.

Or who you take book recommendations from.

Or that homeschooling isn’t for the faint of heart – at least my homeschooling philosophy doesn’t seem to be.

Or pick your own moral.

And in case the above reading list(s) didn’t spark your interests, here is another great read in the same vein but from a different angle. (And much, much shorter!! 🙂 )

“Bound By Loving Ties” by Jeffery R. Holland

Happy Reading!!

A Review of Three Controversial and Potentially Life-Altering Educational Books: Part 1

(In truth only one is actually altering my life – but we’ll get to that part in a bit.)

Ok, before I go any further, you need to know I am a non-confrontational person. So I often start explanations of unoffensive, but potentially differing views with disclaimers, such as the following:

Although I am highly critical of our current public education system, I am not against teachers. I am not against schools. I want more than anything for the teachers to be able to teach, the children to be able to learn, and the schools to be productive and successful. I don’t consider myself an extremist or an activist in any sense (although a have gone to political and educational rallies in defense of students, parents, and teachers). I do not participate, condone, or affiliate with any groups or people who belittle, bully, reduce themselves to name calling, threatening behavior, or violence.

I just have to say that because some people (myself included) can misunderstand things meant generally to be very personal, and when such comments go against what someone has been trained or taught to believe, differing views can feel like personal attacks.

Also it makes it sound like I am going to talk about something really juicy and controversial.

Which I’m not.

Guys, this is just a book review.

I really enjoy reading, especially non-fiction. A few months ago I downed “Not in God’s Name” by Jewish Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “The Righteous Mind” by liberal atheist Jonathan Haidt, “Liberal Fascism” by conservative Jonah Goldberg, and”The Fourth Turning” by some guy I can’t remember who doesn’t seem to be very politically or spiritually motivated, at least not in that particular book. It was an intense month. My mind was kind of mush after that.

But a good kind of mush.

And intellectual kind of mush.

Smart mush.

But I’m not going to talk about those books, because, although really interesting (although I wouldn’t say I agree with everything I read) this last month I read a few books specifically pertaining to education and the history of America’s public school system. And that just seems more applicable here.

This is an educational blog, after all.

(The previous list was just to give you ideas if you are in need of a good thought-provoking read. Or you have a desire to cultivate some smart mush up in your noggin.)

All of these books (the educational ones) were in some way politically charged. But only because education is politically charged, which is highly unfortunate. The books weren’t anti or pro Democrat/Republican, but more anti Progressive/Communist as they pertain to education in America. I specifically asked a group of people highly involved and concerned about the state of America’s public schools which books I should read to better understand how our schools have gone from highly rigorous and classically liberal (which in the U.S. nowadays roughly translates to constitutionally conservative) to environmental, technical texts as opposed to literature, and feeling and emotionally driven vocational training.

If you are my age you probably don’t remember reading or discussing the development of western civilization and the theories of Locke and Milton, but you might remember talking about how we should treat people and to be sensitive to others’ feelings.

So… I downloaded to my kindle (because the libraries here don’t carry them)…

“The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America” by Charlotte Iserbyt

“Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Education” by John Taylor Gatto

“The Story-Killers: A Common-Sense Case Against the Common Core” by Terrence O. Moore

These books, although obviously sharing a common thread, were very, very different from each other! Which of course makes them more fun to read at the same time.

Book 1; The Deliberate Dumbing Down…

Ok, Charlotte Iserbyt worked in the Reagan administration and, for years, was highly concerned about what she saw in the Department of Education and what certain parties with very specific political agendas were doing to shape and reshape the schools of America. She researched for what must have been YEARS to compile an over 700 page book of primary and secondary source documents (letter, memos, legislation, personal histories, etc.) to document who has been involved and what has been done in the transition from providing a high quality classical education to students who themselves were responsible to learn, to Outcome-Based Education (meaning teachers are responsible for the students scoring high on tests), psychological conditioning techniques to instill stimulus/response behavior modification proposed heavily by B.F. Skinner (think Pavlov’s dogs but with children), vocational training instead of educating, and globalization heavily pushed by UNESCO. (Whew! That was a long sentence.) She shows through these documents that there has been a consistent and persistent effort to replace education that enhances personal liberty, equality, individualism, and all around western ideas and values with global workers/laborers and consumers who maintain and further “the system” instead of rock the boat.

THIS BOOK IS REALLY LONG! Since most of it really was a collection of documents with limited analysis, it was very convincing. I mean, who can argue that if B.F. Skinner wrote “Give me a child and I’ll shape him into anything” about psychologically conditioning children to do whatever he wanted them to do and believe whatever he wanted them to believe (which in this case was becoming a cog in the system), and did so over and over again, and that high ranking administrators in educational circles, as well as those funding education, repeatedly quoted him and sang his praises in documents provided to revolutionize American education, who can really argue they didn’t actually say that? I suppose you could argue that deep down inside they really didn’t believe it… but that would be an extremely weak argument. (And I thought John Dewey was bad!)

(Maybe, because we are nerdy like that, one day I might dress my kids up as John Dewey and B. F. Skinner for Halloween and nobody will know who the heck they are. It will start all kinds of awkward and controversial conversations. Uh. Or we’ll just stick with Batman and pirates.)

You can get this book free as a PDF download at http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com

Book 2: Weapons of Mass Instruction…

John Taylor Gatto worked as a public school teacher for something like 30 years. He even won the Teacher of the Year award – right before he resigned from teaching because he believed the educational system was stripping kids of their imaginations, ingenuity, and really, their intellect as well. He gives lots of examples of people who flunked or dropped out of school, yet because they weren’t stuck in the “school” mentality, they educated themselves, followed their passions and dreams, and became extremely successful – people like Mark Zuckerberg. His book was also very interesting, although he puts such an enormous emphasis on letting the children direct their own education, that I feel he and I differ quite a bit. I agree very much that sitting a child down in a desk, telling him he must memorize and “learn” such and such for a test, pass the test, and then label him educated, is NOT an education and even discourages the human spirit to reach it’s potential. That practice mentioned above is stifling and has detrimental effects to individuals and, as we have seen, entire cultures.

I often lament how many opportunities for learning I missed in college because I was still in the high school mentality; take a class, read a book, write a paper, take a test, make the grade, move on. I would gladly take over 50% of my college courses again so I could actually learn from them this time. But I missed out. I didn’t know how to learn because I had been taught how to get through the public school system. So props to Gatto for calling us all out on that one.

But I wouldn’t go so far as to never instruct a child, but instead let him find and choose his own “teachers” in every aspect of education. For example, two of his examples are a girl who really wanted to be a strip club dancer, followed her dream, and eventually wrote the movie “Juno” about a pregnant teenager and made oodles of money… and then the guy who really just loved computer games and gambling and was able to make so much money he could do whatever the wanted for the rest of his life. I see and understand his point. And I agree with him to a significant degree. But no that much. (I’m not letting any of my children follow dreams into a strip club or casino, nor will I support such “ambition.”

What I did gain from his book that has made a lasting impression, is what he taught his students and is trying to teach us. Don’t be a spectator. Don’t just watch other people live their lives – like on TV, movies, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Don’t live vicariously through other people. Be a doer! Live your life. Be active. Be moving. Don’t watch reality shows about incredible adventurists. Go out and experience nature. Don’t watch shows about distant lands, other cultures, whatever. Don’t sit around being “entertained” by others making, doing, being, and achieving. Do it yourself. You’ve got a life. GO OUT AND LIVE IT.

Don’t read blogs about homeschooling, GO OUT AND…. wait.

It’s ok if you read a few blogs about homeschooling.

🙂

Anyway, I found it very motivational. Life is for doing. Life is for learning. Life is for being and growing and reaching and trying and achieving. And sometimes failing. Life is for LIVING. Life is not for sitting around and watching other people do all those things. Find your passion and get out of the house! Or for us as educators, help your students/children find their passions, and support them in immersing themselves and educating themselves in it. Not compulsory education – or in other words, schooling, papers, tests, lectures, tests, worksheets, tests, diploma, degree – but Education with a capital “E.” Passion-driven education. Actively being involved in reaching your potential as an individual with dreams, passions, and desires.

In other words, get off the couch!

(I have been way too guilty of being lazy ever since “school” got out. Which is just another reason I started “Hike it Homeschoolers.”)

The third book I read, and my favorite by far – although also potentially the most controversial – is called “The Story-Killers: A Common-Sense Case Against the Common Core” by Terrence O. Moore. The book is less about Common Core and more about the sorry state of where our educational system is today. Common Core just happened to be the newest program when the book came out.

Because of this book, I’ve got a new 4 year mission underway. First, I felt literally called to not put my children in public, private, or charter schools, but instead keep them home and give them a whole education from here. Next, I felt the pull to start up The Honest Homeschool and help other newbie moms out by giving people an honest look into what homeschooling can really be like (Pinterest free!). After that I felt the desire – and got a little push – to start Hike It Homeschoolers, my homeschooling hiking group which had that most wonderful time climbing red rock and jumping into a river today! And now… well, I’ve got 4 years to prepare, and it’s gonna take me that long, too. But I am really excited, slightly overwhelmed, and wish I had paid so much more attention in college.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

Hike it Homeschoolers

I did say I wasn’t going to take my kids hiking every week this summer. It was just too much to even comprehend taking the baby/toddler/30+ lb chunk of adorable in the hiking backpack.

So instead of “comprehending” it and realizing it wasn’t going to be a very good idea, I just decided to forget it all and start a hiking homeschooling group for families in my area.

Because I like back pain! Yay! 😦

Actually, because I love hiking.

The name “Hike it Homeschoolers” is an obvious knock off of Hike it Baby, which is an awesome national hiking group with local chapters who sponsor hikes for mamas, babies, and toddlers. Technically I am part of two of those groups as well, but I’ve never gone hiking with them for fear of being rejected, seeing as although I do have a toddler, I also have a 4, 6, 8, and 10 year old. I’m just not sure how welcoming a mama and baby group would be to my boys tearing up the trail! It’s maybe safer not to risk it.

But I do LOVE hearing about all the wonderful trails they go on, although most of them are about an hour away. Last year, with our AHAW (A Hike A Week) program that I made up on the spot, we did drive to a number of those farther away hikes. But THIS particular group I created specifically for my end of the county as opposed to the northern end of the next county up the map.

There are plenty of mountains, forests, rivers, and waterfalls here too, right?

Thus, Hike It Homeschoolers was born. Each week I host a trail. We meet at the trailhead at a certain time and let the kids run around with each other and, when not huffing and puffing with the afore mentioned chunk of adorable on my back, I get to talk to the other moms as well. Other homeschool moms also post and host hikes as well.

So far we have over 150 members of the group. Obviously not everyone can come to every hike – that would actually be overwhelmingly impossible – but hopefully other homeschoolers are getting some good ideas of where they can locally hit the trail with their kiddos, just like I do with the Hike it Baby groups.

And if Hike it Baby decides to sue me for copy write infringement (or whatever it’s called) for altering their name without going through the proper legal procedures, then they can have that $5 in my wallet. It’s all theirs.

(Please don’t sue me!)

Here are a few pics of our June hikes.

Dripping Rock

 

The Grotto

 

Hidden Falls

 

Devil’s Kitchen

Hidden Oaks Trail

 

It was the last one that convinced me to give up the hiking baby carrier. Let’s face it. He’s just not a baby anymore. And although this will modify our hikes a bit (and necessitate babysitters for those longer hikes I just will not be able to resist), it won’t hold us back. We’ve already been hiking twice this month – and it’s only the 5th!

What benefit is it to my children to have started this group?

Well, besides the obvious physical, mental, emotional – and arguably also spiritual – health that hiking brings AND the appreciation of nature, beauty, perseverance, goal setting and goal reaching AND social skills such as meeting new people, interacting in a group setting, manners, compassion, empathy, friendship, and patience (because sometimes they just have to wait for me to lug myself and my 30+ lb friend up the trail), there is another big benefit that I didn’t realize until just recently.

Entrepreneurship.

Find a need and fill it.

Community involvement. Reach out. Invite. Include.

Leadership.

I realized by taking the initiative in starting something new, planning, and hosting events, my children are learning that life isn’t about waiting around for others to provide for them. It is about finding a need and filling it.

Now hiking isn’t going to save the world. Making new friends, tripping over rocks, spotting a moose (or two!), and getting really hot and sweaty and tired won’t really have much an impact on the rest of their lives.

(Unless the moose are really angry! I can see myself becoming traumatized from a bad moose encounter. I’m just a little paranoid of large, wild, animals.)

But confidence, leadership, and the understanding that they can go out and organize, do, build, serve, impact, encourage, and unite will serve them really well. And it will also serve all those around them.

There is a time to follow. (I can share more about that later – I’m a pretty good follower when I need to be.) But there is a time to lead – and hopefully with a little teaching and encouraging, I’ll produce some little trail blazers of my own out in the real world.

Right now, I’m just working on keeping one foot in front of the other.

And breathing.

Sometimes I forget to breathe.

(This is me pretending life is great, I am wonder woman, my lungs aren’t collapsing, and my legs aren’t buckling.)DSC08479

But this is what I sometimes feel like on the inside! Ha!DSC08460

(Jk! That’s why I’m choosing a paved “hike” or getting a babysitter next time. 30+ lbs people! That is some form of torture, I’m sure. I would never make it as a fireman. Or in the military. Or anything that required sustained physical labor.)

Mostly, I’m just good at homeschooling.

And being a mom. (At least I hope!)

And organizing hikes! 🙂

Happy Trails!