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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hello, Classical Conversations

Brandon graduates preschool 5/22/12

This is very much a transitional year for us in homeschool. For the past seven years, we have used My Father's World as the bones of our homeschool curriculum. Seriously, I cannot say enough good things about My Father's World. It combines all the philosophies and elements of homeschooling that I, an ecclectic person, could not choose between; Charlotte Mason, Classical method, and Unit studies. I could have used My Father's World all the way through and never looked back. But alas, I am not the only on who must thrive on our homeschool "diet." Naturally, so must my students.

My students, whom I thought would thrive on the gentle approach laid out by Charlotte Mason philosophy, often took on more of a "lazy" approach; not wanting to be challenged and preferring to take the path of least resistance. "That's natural," some say. Well, just because it's "natural" (say some) doesn't mean it's good for us. Radiation from the sun is natural, but clearly it's not best for us to soak it in. No, I teach my children to strive for excellence and so we (my husband and I) determined that a change was in order. This is the year.

This year, we are implementing year 'round schooling; not only because we feel it's best for our children over the "I'm bored" summer months, but also because our local schools went this route and we kind of like some things about the model.

And this year, we decided to enroll our children in our local Classical Conversations community. Oh my goodness, teacher-mom is overflowing with excitement about this big change. For one, the challenge will be there (ironically, the upper levels are called the Challenge levels, hee hee). It is a rigorous program based on the Classical model of education. My children will study history, geography, math, grammar, writing, oral presentation, science, music and art (classically), and Latin in a classical framework (even 4 and 5 year olds will begin work in Latin). They will attend classes once a week alongside their peers, then work on similar content at home during the rest of the week. This will provide friendship, support and encouragement for them, but also for me, teacher-mom, as a parent must attend along with the student(s). And, this next part thrills me to no end,...all students must give a weekly oral presentation. In the younger years, it begins with a show-and-tell and/or two minute presentation. In the upper years, it is more detailed, where students research and report weekly on science topics and writing projects. This skill is sadly underdeveloped in many educational realms, and I'm ecstatic that my children will be working on it weekly with Classical Conversations.

I'm also quite excited about the positive peer "pressure" that my children will now encounter. I want them to experience other students who are ambitious, driven, bright, and polished. I want them to be motivated by those examples and by facing accountability to another adult instructor other than mom. Oh my word, I could go on and on about the things that draw me to Classical Conversations, but this gives you a glimpse into our thoughts at this time. I am attending a 3-day Practicum June 26-28 to better prepare me for my at-home role as a classical educator. We will still be using My Father's World, by the way. Only, Classical Conversations will now serve as the "bones" of our homeschool, while My Father's World will provide the supplemental "meat."

Stay tuned. My oldest begins on August 20th. I'll be reporting on this new journey as it gets underway.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Spring has sprung and gone.

It's been a busy spring and looks to be an even busier summer. We did some traveling this spring, taking the children to San Antonio in March and Phoenix in May. Found a terrific discount for Sea World San Antonio so we did that. The children loved the shows and the fact that some rides (including rollercoasters) were sprinkled throughout the park.

We also visited the Alamo and 4 other missions, the Japanese Tea Garden (do NOT miss this if in San Antonio; it's not 10 minutes from the Alamo), Fort Sam Houston (wouldn't miss this either; just 5 minutes from the Alamo and your children will love the wild deer, peacocks and turkeys that roam the property), and the sand dunes at Corpus Christi. Drove by the USS Lexington and snapped a few pics while in Corpus Christi, but the museum (on board) was sadly closed at that time.

IN Phoenix, we of course drove to the Grand Canyon. Let me tell you, there is not a photo in the world that does it justice. ONLY the eye can take in such depth of beauty (isn't it amazing that the greatest lens ever created was given to YOU for personal use from the Creator, God the Father, himself!) We saw wild elk while there and learned about the most remote "post office" operation in the USA. There's a town, Supai, that is located 8 miles down in the canyon. It is home to 200+ native Amnerican Indians and the mail is still brought in/out by mule. You *can* visit Supai, but it takes HOURS to get there (even by mule) and you do need permission and a permit.

We also enjoyed a fun-filled day of rafting and water slides at Big Surf waterpark. Olivia spent the entire 6 hours on her raft, becoming quite the "surfer", while the younger children preferred the water slides. This park is part of my childhood and I hadn't been back in 33 years. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it has been maintained and how much it's grown. We were blessed to get a very sizable discount by providing three food donation items (each) when we bought our tickets. Win-win.

We also spent a day driving the Apache Trail, where we ate lunch at the quaint town of Tortilla Flat (population 6), took in the amazing canyon scenery as we navigated hairpin turn roads along the cliffs, and stopped at the Roosevelt dam and bridge toward the end of the trail. Just to give you an idea of the "remoteness" of the drive, there is a survival training camp located back in them thar hills.

We also ate at one of my favorite restaurants, located in Scottsdale, Pinnacle Peak Patio. You can eat outside under the stars with the mountains and Seguaro as your backdrop, listening to country-western music, while you have your western style dinner. Their gimick is to cut off the tie of anyone who dares to arrive "so stuffy" and the children got to see this in action, which was cause for lots of giggles. Olivia loved that they keep 3 Rattlesnakes in an aquarium inside the restaurant (our reptile lover). They all enjoyed the place so much that they requested to go again. So we ate their twice while in Phoenix. ;) That's a glimpse of the busy part of our spring, not including swim meets, swim clinics, a dance recital, preschool graduation, a visit from my parents, a couponing class taught by me, heavy school days right up to the end, and lots of dental appointments and expenses (teeth pulled, braces process begun, etc.) I'll venture into our summer plans in a future post.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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