Saturday, September 26, 2015

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-up: Big Changes

So, I made a monumental change in our homeschool in the past couple days. It all started earlier this year, with a growing skepticism on my part about the Sonlight Cores for older children (we love Sonlight for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade). However, the cores for middle school students have their problems.

First, the reading is not challenging enough, and secondly, there are no literary analysis components, which is really unacceptable at the middle school level. They need literary analysis by the middle years so they're not blindsided by it in high school and college, where there will be a lot of it (if the teachers are worth anything). 

In Sonlight, middle school children are assigned a large number of books (many more than most curriculums). While many of them are genuinely good books, others were obviously chosen because they match the target topic, such as Napoleon Bonaparte in a World History unit. 

In earlier Sonlight years, there are more Newbery Award winning books, but in the middle school years, not many.

I read some of Betsy and the Emperor this weekwhich is about the young, 14-year-old girl, Betsy, who befriended Bonaparte when he was exiled to her remote island after his Waterloo loss, where her father worked for an East Indies company, and was assigned to host Bonaparte for a time. Betsy's fond friendship with Bonaparte is an historical fact, but this author's account had fabrications that flopped and ruined an otherwise good story (especially the fictional escape attempt). The book was poorly written, contained swearing, and had immoral elements about which there were no consequences written into the story. The protagonist was a spoiled brat, as well, making her a poor role model.

Can I just say...I was appalled at Sonlight's taste in including this book. I felt it was chosen because they found nothing else that would fit their topic. This isn't the first time in World History Part 2 I've found this to be the case. 

Basically, this book was the last straw, even though we paid a lot for the curriculum and much of it was brand new (purchased March, 2015). I sold it this morning, within mere hours of listing it.

So, what's next for my boys? Literary analysis training while reading quality books, using Teaching the Classics (training for the teacher; I'm getting just the seminar workbook). This seminar will set me up to teach any novel, poem, or short story, using the Socratic questioning method, while teaching all the elements of literature and literary analysis. I'll also understand how to assign appropriate literary analysis essays, and evaluate them.  

There are three other resources we will obtain, some now, and some in second semester, to assist me in teaching the classics:

Ready Readers Level 3 - Written to the teacher. Gives examples, using 5 books, of how to apply the knowledge learned from Teaching the Classics.

From the Center For Lit website: Our latest addition to the Ready Readers series provides complete discussion notes for 5 classic junior-high level stories.

Ready Readers 3 follows the pattern set by the first two volumes in the series, providing a full set of Socratic discussion questions for each story with comprehensive answers keyed to the text. Questions cover Conflict, Plot, Setting, Characters, Theme, Literary Devices and Context. In addition, a completed Story Chart graphically outlines the major structural and thematic elements of each story.

Ready Readers 3 provides complete discussion notes for the following classic stories:

Treasure Island b
y Robert Louis Stevenson

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

The boys have read a couple of these books already, so we will skip a couple, saving the resource to be used in its entirety with my girls.

Another resource, written to the teacher, that will help me teach up through 12th grade is Reading Roadmaps, a literary scope and sequence for grades K-12, also from the Center for Lit.

Synopsis: Now you can use the Teaching the Classics method with a formal reading and literature curriculum guide that fits your busy schedule!

Reading Roadmaps is a comprehensive Scope & Sequence manual containing annotated reading lists for grades K-12. Designed as a supplement to the Teaching the Classics basic seminar, it brings together more than 200 classic titles specially chosen by Adam and Missy Andrews. Each entry summarizes the story’s plot, conflicts, themes and literary devices, along with links to teacher resources and suggestions for alternate titles. (View a sample entry)
Reading Roadmaps adapts to your style by offering SIX different curriculum models—from the Daily Model, designed for classroom teachers who address Lit every day, to the Seasonal Model, designed for parents focused on Math and Science who want some exposure to Lit as well. Whatever your level of interest in this subject, Reading Roadmaps can help you get results.
With more than 200 pages of resources, Reading Roadmaps offers guidance on every aspect of teaching Lit, including:
Lesson planning — step-by-step instructions for conducting an oral discussion using the Teaching the Classics model, with special attention to each grade level from K-12
Writing from literature — instructions for assigning and grading literature essays for all ages, including sample essays and our exclusive “Tootsie-Roll” diagram
Teaching objectives — a list of goals for each year from K-12 to keep your students on track toward a complete literary education
Grading and credits — complete instructions for grading oral discussions and reading/writing assignments, including reproducible grade sheets
The final resource, written to the student, is Introduction to Literature by Janice Campbell

Synopsis: Recommended for 8th grade, with four other volumes available to cover high school. Introduction to Literature (English 1) is a one year, college-preparatory literature and composition course, and is the first volume of the Excellence in Literature curriculum.

Short Stories by Welty, O. Henry, and others
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

My notes: This curriculum is very challenging, and the only one of these new resources that is student-directed. It's designed like a college course, with a syllabus-like guide (not daily plans). The students must learn to manage their time to get everything accomplished by their deadlines, including doing their own research on each author and the historical time periods relevant to each work. Research links are given, however. 

The students are given two weeks to read each work, and two weeks to complete the writing assignments (so each unit is 4 weeks).

Since we will no longer be doing as much history and literature combined, I need one more history resource to supplement Story of the World, Vol. 4 (The Modern Age)--a resource the boys have already started. I chose a history supplement published by My Father's World, in conjunction with DK Publishing, based upon Cathy Duffy's review and my own respect for the My Father's World's company.

Writing all that out completely exhausted me and left me behind on dishes, so let me close in showing you this nifty shelf I found for $10 at a rummage sale. We didn't have space to put all of our supplies in one place, which was problematic. 

But now, yeah! We're super organized. And the chalkboards on the bottom half still work!

How was your week, friends? Have a blessed weekend. 

Other posts on the blog this week: Your House: A Story of Love and Life (As! My house is a wreck!)

Weekly Wrap-Up


Unknown said...

I've heard similar things from my friends about the middle years of Sonlight. It's a shame...on an up note, we use Teaching the Classics and Ready Readers from the Center of Lit and really like it. I hope you enjoy it too. Be sure to watch the teacher videos they really helped me fully understand the program. Blessings, Kyle

Christy said...

We are planning to use some of those literature resources for high school too. I'm anxious to see how you like them. As an aside, I had a bookshelf identical to your new find when I was growing up. Same chalkboards too. Ours was not in that good of shape when we finished with it.