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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Challenge A Update and Thoughts

Or “On Adolescence and ‘I’d like that hindsight NOW, please.’”

Or “More Questions Than Answers”

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Raising adolescents is a tough job. Homeschooling adolescents is like training a magnifying glass on the process! All those bumps and imperfections and struggles stand out in sharp relief when you’re at it 24-7 and wearing both the teacher and parent hats!

I read this on the Libertarian Homeschooler’s Facebook page a couple days ago:

“Toddlerhood and early adolescence told me more about myself than they told me about my son. They were a crash-course in what was potentially ugly inside of me: ...impatience, anger, ignorance, lack of charity, selfishness, lack of self discipline, pride.

They outgrow toddlerhood and adolescence. It leaves them. But we are left looking at our flaws and asking ourselves, 'Was that really the best you could do?'”

Like a knife, people.

Even when I’m at my best [not often], the questions keep coming.

Grace or tough love?

Let up or buckle down?

Relationship or character?

Help or step back?

Raise expectations or cut some slack?

Adjust according to personality, gifts, and weaknesses (don’t shove a square peg in a round hole) or do hard things?

Medicate the child or medicate the parent? [Half of me is kidding, half of me is very, very serious. Vats of Dr. Pepper, people.]

Give rewards or exact consequences?

Increase freedom or responsibility?

Hold their hand or let them fail?

Some kids thrive on one, some the other. Some parents are gifted with intuition. Some are not. [sigh]

Every child/student is different.

Let me repeat that.

Every. Child. Is. Unique.

Each enrolled student is going to have a different experience with the Classical Conversations Challenge Program.

  • Some kids are going to find Challenge a piece of cake. Work done independently. Work done neatly and thoroughly. Work done in just a few hours daily during the work week.
  • Others (and their parents) are going to spend hours and hours and hours and hours. Some in a state of constant focus. Some in a constant state of distraction. Either way: blood, sweat, and tears. [Levi]
  • Some kids are going to excel in the group environment with presentations and discussion (and possibly struggle at home). [Levi]
  • Others are going to excel in the work done at home (and possibly struggle in class).
  • Some kids will want to do the bare minimum. [Levi]
  • Others will spend 10 hours reading about the science topic (or the entire science encyclopedia) or drawing one perfect map. [Levi]
  • Some kids are sweet, compliant, and mild-mannered.
  • Others are in the wild, unpredictable, unrelenting, exasperating throes of adolescence. [Levi, heaven help us]
  • Some kids fill their schedule with Challenge work.
  • Others have several extra-curricular activities to balance. [Levi]
  • Some kids are only-children or have older siblings and a quiet, study-conducive environment.
  • Others have several younger siblings who are insanely distracting and require much of their parents’ time and energy. [Levi]
  • Some kids are focused and internally motivated.
  • Others are imaginative, wiggly, and distracted by pieces of fluff or a pencil and paper or their hair or a cloud in the sky and are neither internally nor externally motivated. [Levi]
  • Some kids find the busy work easy and the concepts difficult.
  • Others grasp the concepts quickly and find the detail work tedious. [Levi]
  • Some kids rise to a challenge.
  • Others get overwhelmed and defeated quickly. [Levi]
  • Some kids prefer to work alone.
  • Others thrive on constant interaction, discussion, and affirmation. [Levi]
  • Some kids have consistent, self-disciplined, patient, understanding, intuitive, wise parents.
  • Levi has me.

I could go on and on here, but you get the idea. For a few kids, it could be a maturity issue and one year might make a difference. For others [Levi], it is a personality thing and 5 years might not change a thing [again, hindsight NOW, please!].

What I love about the Classical Conversations program is that it is customizable and the parent has the authority to adjust the program to fit the student. Most of the seminars are easy to lighten or supplement. Just communicate with your student’s tutor!

A few ideas and examples:

:: Exposition and Composition (Literature and Writing)

Lighter work: audio books, fewer items on the ANI charts, worksheets as oral discussions, parent-typed reports, skip occasional papers.

More challenging work: literary analysis using Teaching the Classics, enter authors and historical events on a history timeline, use more elocution tools in each paper (IEW style elements), read additional books with or without writing corresponding essays.

:: Research (Science)

Lighter work: single paragraphs, no style elements required, write papers every other week, parent-typed reports.

More challenging work: longer reports (3-5 paragraphs) and style elements required, research animals specific to geographical region being studied in debate/geography, watch documentaries, dissections, watch Khan Academy videos.

:: Logic (Math)

Lighter work: lower level of math (below Saxon 8/7) or a different math program such as Teaching Textbooks or Life of Fred, modify the amount of work done for each lesson (just drill and practice or odds or evens), work through problems orally, complete lessons at a slower pace and continue through the spring and summer, skip investigations and tests and return to them after Challenge classes are finished in the spring.

More challenging work: higher level of math; complete all drill, warm-ups, lessons, practice, problems, investigations and tests on schedule (in Saxon math, this is quite an accomplishment); define all math terms and rules in notebook and memorize; watch Khan Academy videos.

:: Debate (Geography)

Lighter work: label black-line maps (possibly countries only) rather than hand-drawing maps and study using the free online games at Sheppard Software; skip capitals, geographical features, and/or geography terms.

More challenging work: define (look up in dictionary) and illustrate all geography terms in notebook, study each geographical region using the information in the atlas, read additional books about each region, prepare food from various countries, watch documentaries or travel shows, or learn about the culture, arts, and literature of a country of each continent.

:: Grammar (Latin)

Lighter work: study vocabulary, grammar rules, and declensions only (no exercises); do all work verbally or with flash cards [students repeat all Latin lessons in Challenge B].

More challenging work: complete all exercises, memorize prayers or songs in Latin, add a Latin roots vocabulary program, diagram complex English sentences.

:: Rhetoric (Clear Reasoning and Apologetics)

Lighter work: read chapters of It Couldn’t Just Happen together and discuss (no written summaries).

More challenging work: any ideas? Maybe additional reading?

:: Extracurriculars

Consider clearing your student’s schedule of busy activities during the Challenge year if they are overwhelmed. We eliminated many commitments, field trips, and errands this year so that there wouldn’t be as many distractions.

Or maybe your student will need additional activities or learning projects to round out their education and fill gaps of time. Art, history, additional foreign language, volunteer positions, family Bible time.

We’ve chosen a few priority activities:

Church

All the kids are attending AWANA this year one evening each week (in addition to church on Sunday). This is great mid-week social time for Levi in addition to the Bible studies (and much-needed date night for Russ and me).

Music

All three boys participate in a weekly choir rehearsal with music theory homework and seasonal performances.

Sports/Exercise

Levi swims with the swim team for an hour, 3-4 afternoons each week. (He often has another hour to socialize or try to complete school work while his brothers swim with a different group after his is finished, so swim team consumes 3 hours almost every afternoon—year round—as well as swim meets on occasional weekends.)

One last thought:

While Challenge students are (ideally) learning how to manage their time and take ownership of their education, this does not mean that parents should remove themselves from the process. The reward of making it to this stage should be the shared dialogue, the conversations, the big questions, the engaging content, and the interaction. Learn along with your student!

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Levi’s Challenge A class meets tomorrow and then again on Monday (due to classes that had to be postponed and rescheduled) for Blue Book assessments and a class party. After that, he’ll have a solid week’s worth of school work in addition to some catch-up work, but I’m hoping he’ll manage plenty of down-time over the break, as well. And after Christmas and his 13th birthday on New Year’s Day, we’ll gear up for second semester. I’ll let you know how that progresses!

15 comments:

Christina Love said...

Yes. Thank you! I'm so glad to read that my son is not alone in his fairweather struggles through Ch A. And that I'm not the only mom who's slightly losing it whilst grappling with the mind-numbing pubescent angst that is now a daily occurance. Yet we love Ch .... most of the time. :)

Jill O. said...

I love your thoughts about the challenge of parenting adolescents - that top quote is wonderful and true. I continue to learn so much about myself as my kids grow older, and as my own weaknesses are revealed, I can only hope that will give me more empathy and patience for their challenges which will inevitably be different than mine. It's definitely scarier than dealing with the challenges of toddlers and children, at least for me! Thanks so much for this.

The Offense of Joy said...

This list made me feel so much less alone - yes, yes, yes:

Even when I’m at my best [not often], the questions keep coming.

Grace or tough love?

Let up or buckle down?

Relationship or character?

Help or step back?

Raise expectations or cut some slack?

Adjust according to personality, gifts, and weaknesses (don’t shove a square peg in a round hole) or do hard things?

Medicate the child or medicate the parent? [Half of me is kidding, half of me is very, very serious. Vats of Dr. Pepper, people.]

Give rewards or exact consequences?

Increase freedom or responsibility?

Hold their hand or let them fail?

Some kids thrive on one, some the other. Some parents are gifted with intuition. Some are not. [sigh]

Every child/student is different.

Let me repeat that.

Every. Child. Is. Unique.

Lynette said...

I always appreciate your insights into CC and especially, how very real you are about the joys and struggles. I am still a few years away from Challenge...Essentials, beginning next year, will be our first hurdle. However, I anticipate my son being similar to yours...unless there is huge growth (and personality change. Ha!) in the next few years. It is a blessing to hear the experience of those who are walking ahead of me. Thank you!

Ohio12 said...

My daughter will be in Challenge A next year and I eagerly anticipate your Challenge updates. I would be thrilled if you blogged about it EVERY day! I liked what you said about the parent continuing to be involved. When you think about it, if a parent just hands the experience over to the child, it is just like college. You go to class, but you are expected to do everything else on your own. Many 18 year olds are not ready for that, let alone a 12 year old! Are you doing any of the modifications for Levi? I am actually modifying Essentials for my daughter right now. Not because she couldn't do it, but because it was taking too much time away from other subjects. One more thing...sorry to go on, but I have worked really hard to help my daughters LIKE school and I am afraid that if the work is too rigorous in Challenge, it will undo that!

Paris said...

Thank youso much for this post. My daughter is in foundations and essentials and sounds so similar. This was so freeing to hear this.

Heidi said...

I'm glad this post has been helpful!!

Ohio12~ You bring up some good points. I've thought of that recently--public school middle schoolers and high schoolers are certainly not given one day of instruction and then expected to complete four days of work independently. Also the balance of students being willing to do hard work that isn't always fun while still retaining their love of learning... I've done a few of the modifications for Levi. He's a very strong reader and handles concepts well, but the writing takes forever. So he only reads It Couldn't Just happen instead of taking notes. He doesn't do ALL the capitals and features for geography. He has skipped a couple research papers. I help him quite a bit with Lost Tools of Writing and we do the worksheets orally (but he has to do the writing for the ANI). He doesn't do every single Latin exercise. He never does all of the math lessons. Sometimes he only reads the lesson and does the practice. Sometimes he does evens or odds. He is always reading extra books, though. :)

Maria W said...

This is probably obvious and unnecessary to mention since it IS in the post, but just to clarify: The Challenge levels are scalable to every possible level between the "lighter work" examples and the "more Challenging work" examples listed here. I'd say the guide offers suggestions mostly in between these examples, but as you said-- each strand can be scaled up or down. :) I just didn't want someone to think it was only one option or the other. Thanks for letting us participate in your journey!

Heidi said...

Yes, thanks for clarifying that, Maria. Each strand can be scaled individually to any degree. Even depending on the week (when other activities are planned or when a child is really struggling). We even have students in my son's class who are not doing any of the work for specific seminars (such as Latin) but just listening quietly in class.

Curly said...

Thanks so much for the encouragement! My Challenge A student sounds like a female version of Levi and I often feel as if I am failing her. I think implementing some of your suggestions will help us both.

Hannah said...

Love your honesty as always, friend. And thanks for sharing your insights on making this program work for your child, rather than forcing the fit in the other direction!
The questions you struggle with re: balance as a parent are ones I think all of us can relate to. Every single one resonated with me. Thank you for phrasing them so aptly.
Hugs!

Mark and Wendy said...

Thank you so much for this post! My son in Ch A sounds just like your Levi, and I am a much-worse version of you! This was so encouraging...I love your questions on balance. We have had to modify continually, and I always doubt that I'm doing the right thing...glad to know I'm not alone!

Mark and Wendy said...

An idea for more challenging work for rhetoric (though it takes some pre-screening work by parents): Find a hot-topic news article, and read through the comments. Since doing much of the Logic work together, it is both sad and hilarious to read through some of the comments people leave, since the majority use poor logic in agreement or defense of the issue. But some can be rather foul, hence the pre-screening!

Brandy Ferrell said...

Just love this post. Really, really love it. I have read it more than once. More than twice. Thank you for your transparency, Heidi!

Karen Sutton said...

Oh, My Thank you so much for posting this! And thank you Brandy for linking it so that I could find it! I am looking at Challenge A in the fall with my oldest and there is much fear involved (mainly worries about failure). As we still struggle through IEW papers with embarrassing spelling errors, this post has encouraged me to set aside the fears and see the goal! There is a way to scale and succeed! I too have 3 boys (almost the same grades/ages as yours - mine are 6th, 4th, and 2nd) and 1 girl who is 4!