Monday, May 9, 2016

State of the Academy Address ~ 2016 [Looking Forward]

Mt. Hope Academy - 2016-2017 Plans @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Last month I shared a bit about where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing this past year in our home academy. In essence, it’s been a year of rest for us all.

In the past few months I’ve been contemplating the idea of Christian classical education as I’ve read Awakening Wonder and The Liberal Arts Tradition and reviewed Beauty for Truth’s Sake and Beauty in the Word. As I move forward with our upcoming plans, I will be considering a more holistic and robust approach to classical education and integrating the ideas of piety (“properly ordering one’s loves”), gymnastics (physical training, coordination, and fine and gross motor skills), and musical or poetic education (music, singing, poetry, acting/imitating, drawing, fine art, and stories—fiction and non-fiction) with the arts of the quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy) in addition to the arts of the trivium (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric). I’ll share about this in upcoming in-depth posts.

For now, this post will serve as a quick overview of our upcoming studies.

As long as I’m being completely honest, I’ll just say it: I’m terrified of our next school year. [wry grin]

I will have four distractible children with completely different needs and studies—who need me at all times. I’m trying to sort out the logistics of it all. Where will they each work so that they have enough space, without the distraction of siblings, with their mother on hand to help with questions and discussion? How can I clone myself to be in 4 places at once? I’m still not exactly sure how this is going to work. Even if I think I get it figured out, we’ll probably still have to adjust several times throughout the year (or maybe the first month or two).

Lola [5/6 Years Old—Kindergarten]

Lola will be in Classical Conversations Foundations. This will be her second year (and our family’s 7th!). She will attend play camp and music class/choir during the afternoon on our CC day. She will continue learning to read (All About Reading), write (Handwriting Without Tears), and count (math picture books and games). She’ll continue to focus on memorizing poetry (Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization) and Bible verses (Sing the Word), and she’ll listen to more audio CDs during independent play time. We’ll also be reading many wonderful books together. [I have long lists of music and story CDs and favorite books coming up here on the blog.] We’ll be working together on physical coordination and games, particularly biking and swimming over the summer.

In the best possible world, Lola would spend about an hour a day (in small chunks of time) on formal lessons (that are rarely formal—more of a snuggle-on-the-couch and learn together sort of thing). I want her to spend most of her time in play. Ideally. The problem here is that Lola does. not. play. independently. She is either messing with her brothers and distracting them, doing one-on-one work with me, or sneaking screen time. It does not matter what fun little activity she is given (bubbles, play dough, rice or beans in bins, coloring, whatever)—it is 5 minutes of play time for her, 45 minutes of distraction for her brothers, and an hour of clean-up for me. The only other option is heavily enforced isolated play time. So I’m trying to do some figuring in this department. She really needs a twin sister to play with. Ha!!

At a glance:

Leif [10 Years old—5th Grade]

Leif will be in Classical Conversations Foundations and Essentials. This will be his 7th year in Foundations and 2nd in Essentials (and I am tutoring his Essentials class). I am considering choir for him, and he will be starting piano lessons in the fall. During the week he will work on CC memory work, math (Khan Academy), Latin (Song School Latin 2), spelling (All About Spelling), CC Essentials grammar and writing (IEW Medieval History-Themed Writing), geography drawing, and independing reading in all subjects plus literature. He will also continue swim team practice four days a week.

At a glance:

Luke [12 Years Old—7th Grade]

Luke will be in Classical Conversations Challenge A. This will be his first year in the Challenge program (with one of my favorite people, Heather Timmons, as his tutor). The Challenge program will dictate the bulk of his studies during the week, but he will also begin piano lessons in September and continue swimming on the swim team four days a week.

At a glance:

Levi [14/15 Years Old—9th Grade]

Levi will be in Classical Conversations Challenge I. This is a first for us (the oldest is always the guinea pig), and the first year I’ve had a high schooler in the house! His tutor is another one of my favorite people, Cheryl Halsey. He will again be in class with my best friend’s son, McKinnon, and they will probably continue to do some work together during the week. The Challenge program will dictate the bulk of his studies during the week and he will continue swimming on the swim team daily.

At a glance:


I think that about covers the basics.

I’ll be sharing more details in up-coming posts. Do you have any questions you would like me to attempt to answer?


Rebecca said...

Thanks for sharing your plans! I have a rising 5th, 2nd and 1 st grader and we also participate in CC! I am considering adding in Latin next year and was wondering what your thoughts are on Song school vs Latin for Children ( since you are going to use Latin Alive?!)

barefootmommy said...

Just wondering, does "It Couldn't Just Happen" promote a Young Earth Creation worldview?

Stacy said...

Thankful to you for sharing your plans, thoughts, and family! I have a 15yr old boy and 12yr girl who will both be doing CH B next year (mostly due to a small community with no upper level challenge programs yet) and a 5yr old boy who sounds much like your Lola! Too bad we don't live closer then they could distract each other instead of older siblings. I, too, struggle juggling the circus. My 5yr old always wants someone to play with him and his attention span for school is quick. Good Luck next year, I'll be on the same jouney! ~Stacy

Heidi said...

Rebecca~ I have not used Latin for Children. If you wish to do Latin with all 3 of your children together, I think Song School would be a good fit. It might be on the "cute" side for your 5th grader, but it's a great introduction and would be perfect for your 1st and 2nd graders. [My rising 5th grader doesn't care that it's cute, but some might.] I think Latin for Children would be too advanced for your youngers.

barefootmommy~ I haven't read it *closely*, but I would say that it is not dogmatic about how old the earth is from several quotes. It reviews the different creation theories (young earth, gap theory, day-age theory, revelatory-day theory) and then says "Each of these theories is a theory about how we should understand what Genesis is saying. A person can accept any of these interpretations of Genesis without denying God or rejecting the Bible. It is possible that one of these understandings of Genesis will turn out to be right. But since we do not know for sure, we should not be dogmatic about the one we prefer." It does state that "theistic evolution" does not seem to be supported by the Bible because "the Bible is clear that human beings were specially created by God" and "the Bible also makes it clear that the basic kinds of living creatures were directly created by God." I'd say that it is fairly strongly against evolution, but not necessarily against all old earth theories. Elsewhere, it says that the Bible says that God created the universe but it does not say when. Does that help?

Stacy~ I kinda wish my boys could be in the same Challenge together like my niece and nephew were, because it'd be so much easier during the week!! I don't know that my boys would enjoy being together in class, though. ;) I need to figure out a co-op of sorts for Lola. I wish you were closer, too!! Ha! Enjoy your year!

Amy said...

Hi Heidi,

I'm curious as to whether you still use Writing with Ease/Writing with Skill/First Language Lessons with your boys. If not, what were your reasons for switching?

Thanks for all your blog posts - they have been immensely helpful as I plan my own year.

Heidi said...

Amy~ I don't use WWE/WWS/FFL with my boys because Classical Conversations uses IEW History Themed Writing and their own grammar program for grades 4-6 and then Lost Tools of Writing in grades 7 and up. Because I like those programs as well, that's what we use. :)

Tina said...

Hi Heidi,

I am just curious why you are doing Latin Alive instead of Henle Latin for Challenge A?

I don't know anything about Latin Alive. I am using Visual Latin for summer prep with my son, who starts Challenge A on August 15th.

I have my reserves for placing him in Challenge A, but perhaps it is his mom that does not want to let him go. He will be among a great group of kids from his Foundation years. I guess my concerns are that he will be the youngest in the class and not knowing how he will handle the work load.

Karen said...

We are also in CC. My daughter will be in her second year of Foundations this Fall. So how does it work out when you do a different math program than Saxon at the Challenge level? How does that play out in the class time when Saxon is used as the text?

Heidi said...

Tina~ My son turns 12 at the end of this month, so he is fairly young as well. I just plan to do much of the work with him until he tells me to go away so he can do it on his own. ;) Here is a fantastic explanation of the reasons why I've chosen Latin Alive! This was written by my friend Tricia York:

Why I am choosing Latin Alive for my Latin curriculum at home.

We have studied Latin using Henle Latin 1 for 2 years. We are members of a Classical Co-op program that utilizes Henle Latin 1 for the core of their “Jr High” Latin study. I have diligently attempted to follow the suggested use of the textbook, and while my children generally enjoy learning Latin; we have had many struggles that I believe could be avoided. Henle is a valid program that has been in use many years. There are people who love it and have found great success for their families.

First, my criticisms of the Henle curriculum that brought me to the point of looking elsewhere for a different curriculum.

1. Designed for master teachers: It is not designed for a person with no prior Latin knowledge to teach from. There is no Teachers Guide, and while some have pulled together more thorough answer keys. (Hemmings A+ guide, Seton answer key) the official Henle answer key leaves much to be desired.

2. Layout of material: Students have to manipulate multiple books in order to be successful completing their assignment. Print is small and it is difficult to find the actual instruction when you are flipping back and forth trying to remember the rule or vocab. that was presented last lesson.

3. Handwrite all exercises: Generally, to be truly successful, this involves writing out the Latin Sentence the translating. While this is a very classical mode of learning, neither of my students were able to maintain the volume of writing for very long. Jr High kids seem to lack fine motor function and handwriting can be very difficult for some.

4. War: did nothing else happen in Roman life? Following Henle, my children have not learned anything of the daily life of the Romans, words for colors or numbers.

5. Women: there is one woman presented in the book, Mary. My dear child asked at one point if all women in Roman times were named Mary!

6. Unique to the co-op use: The Trivium Table did not align with the Henle curriculum and made students and their tutor very confused until it was realized that the Trivium Table was written for a curriculum the co-op used prior to Henle.

The things I was looking for in a Latin program were specific.

1. I wanted my students to read Latin texts.

2. I believed that they should know about Roman daily life through their studies.

3. Clear organized layout of materials. Easy to find vocabulary and grammar rules.

4. Charts to copy similar to grammar charts that our co-op uses in lower grades

5. Audio/Video supplements that instruct students and parents how words should be pronounced and to reinforce concepts.

6. Answer key with every answer

7. Easy to use Teachers Guide

8. I wanted them to feel well prepared to take the National Latin Exam.

[More in next comment...]

Heidi said...

I researched several curriculums some were stronger in some areas than others.

Visual Latin:

Pros: engaging, funny, understandable, pdf exercises with great answer keys, videos with wonderful formatting,

Cons: no written grammar rules to refer back to, relied on electronic support,

Lingua Latina:

Pros: daily life of Romans, reading latin, stories are interesting

Cons: no English answer key, expects prior Latin knowledge by teacher, all in Latin, grammar instruction difficult, needs a mature student

I looked through First Form Latin but do not have a pro/con as I didn’t spend a lot of time with it. It didn’t grab my attention as the answer for my family.

Latin Alive:

Pros: Well laid out, clear presentation of material, reading latin emphasized, explored Latin in today’s world, video teacher available via dvd’s, grammar easy to find, whole verb structure memorized even when they don’t know why it is different yet, charts! I could kiss them!,

Cons: different order of introduction of grammar than what they would discuss in their co-op classes, would love to have vocab. flashcards available like they have for Latin for Children

I'm really appreciative that Tricia wrote all of that out and allowed me to share. :)

Heidi said...

Karen~ The class should be mostly dialogue and discussion about math concepts. It isn't specifically instruction of the Saxon text. Often students are at different levels (and using various texts) anyway, so they just participate in discussion as they are able. Sometimes it will be an introduction to a concept for them, sometimes it will be a review. But even students who are at a lower level should be able to identify and work through parts of the concepts.

Karen said...

Thanks for explaining Heidi. Would it be as simple with the Latin though? After reading the comment above that you shared from your friend, I wondered if discussion would be a bit more difficult using a different Latin program. I'm wondering if having a copy of the Henle text to look over before co-op day would make it easier if you opt to use another Latin program. I'm thinking about all of this now even though my daughter is only in her second year of Foundations come this Fall. (She will be in Foundations and Essentials the following year.) I am looking at these things now as I try to decide which Latin program to proceed with next year after having done Song School Latin this year. (I was thinking we might need to start Prima Latina and that program which uses Henle Latin in later years because the Challenge program uses Henle.) My daughter loved the Song School books. She did Song School Spanish last year, Song School Latin 1 this year, and just asked me the other day if she could do the Song School Greek.

I really appreciate reading about the pros and cons your friend stated. It is very helpful. :)

Heidi said...

Karen~ We are starting Latin Alive slowly over the summer, so even though there might be a slight difference in the order concepts or words are introduced, we should be okay. Either way, Latin is Latin just as math is math. :) Declensions are declensions. Conjugations are conjugations. :) My son will learn and participate during class time whether it is an introduction or review for him. I do have the Henle text, so I may have him just read through the assigned Henle lessons during the week (I may have him do the same with Saxon). He's a quick reader. :)

I don't think it's necessary to use Memoria Press's Latin materials before going into Henle. In fact, Memoria Press's Latin uses ecclesiastical pronunciation and CC uses classical pronunciation with Henle. Song School and Latin for Children are great introductions to Latin whether you end up using Latin Alive or Henle in Challenge.

Every year, we have more and more (and often better and better) choices. I wouldn't worry too much about what you will use in Challenge (other than knowing that classical pronunciation is used in CC and academic arenas). Right now, go with what your child is enjoying. If CAP's Latin works for her, stick with it. :D

Tina said...

Thanks Heidi for your Latin explanation. I believe your friend is right about Henle Latin. Henle Latin text is geared for high school students and not junior high. The amount of writing is my fear too. My son just turned 12 in April and writing is not his strength.

I may have to look into Latin Alive! I have reviewed Prima Latina, Latin Christiana, First Form Latin, Latin's Not So Tough, Visual Latin, and Song School Latin. So far my kids have enjoyed Visual Latin and Song School Latin.

Thank you for blogging, so I can receive some valuable info.

Unknown said...

A few of us (my local CC families), after using Henle Latin 1 for two years, are jumping ship to Latin Alive as well. Our reasons mirror Tricia's exactly. To quote my friend, "We are seeking the good, the true, and the beautiful...and Henle just ain't beautiful!" :) We chuckled, but she's right. Neither Henle's 1940s graphic design nor its content (Slaughter Gauls!) is beautiful.

I decided that CC is a tool in my hands, not my task master. Therefore, I will keep what we love (learning Latin!) but find a more suitable format. It's encouraging to know we aren't alone in this.

Magistra York said...

"We are seeking the good, the true, and the beautiful...and Henle just ain't beautiful!" :) We chuckled, but she's right. Neither Henle's 1940s graphic design nor its content (Slaughter Gauls!) is beautiful.

Exactly! Latin Alive is very simple and clear in it's presentation. Even more so than HL.

Thanks for the kind words, Heidi.


Meg said...

This looks so much like my life- Ch1, CHA, except four in Foundations and two of those doing Essentials. Add the two year old with Down syndrome and whew! I like seeing your simplicity- it encourages me! Thanks for sharing. I actually just started three kids on Khan academy this you have any posts or comments on Khan?

Heidi said...

Meg~ Wow! You have your hands and heart full! :) I can't imagine. ;) This is my only post so far on Khan:

Rebekah said...

I too was very curious about your Latin change. My oldest will be 5th grade, so we aren't quite to those Challenge years, but I'm already thinking about them. Thanks for answering so thoroughly why your switch. I'm actually excited and relieved to hear you and others in CC are choosing to do what's best for your kids, not what CC recommends. It gives me courage to do the same. Thanks, Heidi, for all your hard work here on your blog that you so graciously share with us.

Unknown said...

Heidi- Wow! I'm so happy you have shared! I've been reading your blog for 2 years. I was so curious as to why you took Your eldest out of CC last year and now I know. We have a similar age family. My daughter just completed challenge I, this will be our 7th year, my 12 year old is entering Challenge A with a dear woman who also tutored my daughter. I have a 5 year old daughter who would be in her second year of Foundations, but I have chosen to keep her out this year, and a three year old. We really struggled with Henle and I believe this is one of the major reasons my daughter did not fully love Challenge. She's been through it these past three years, and refuses to do it again. So she will move onto Spanish. With my son starting out in Challenge A, I have hesitated to buy a new Henle book, maybe your blog is my encouragement to go in another direction. Really appreciate your blog.

Heidi said...

Rebekah~ I'm glad I can be encouraging! Even Leigh Bortins says that parents are still the teachers and the Challenge guide is only a guide. Make the program work for your family. :)

Heidi~ There were quite a few varied reasons I took Levi out for Ch B. He/we did struggle in Ch A. He is extremely verbal and relational. He needed to work through his Ch A work *with* someone (me) because he does best when interacting with others and discussing the material rather than doing detailed independent work. So I was either working with him and neglecting the other kids or working with the other kids and neglecting him. It's such a hard balance. The other big issue is that the younger boys and I would work together and Levi felt isolated and left out of the family group. Those issues combined with a very emotional personality/hormones/growth spurts and more made for a rough year on our relationship and his attitude toward "school." I also didn't feel that our specific Ch B class was the right place for him this past year. Now that he's matured a little bit (I'm praying), not growing quite as much?, and had some down time, I'm hoping we can feel refreshed going into Ch I. Our family dynamics will be a bit different now that everyone will be working on their own studies. He'll be breaking up his week with study days with his friend and a parent like we did this past year. And Saxon won't be slowly killing us both every day. ;) These decisions can be so difficult because we can't see the results until afterward!! But relationships come first. And love of learning comes second. Following the program comes third. :)

Lauren said...

Thanks so much for all your work on this blog. I also benefit from it tremendously, and especially loved your series on leading a Book Detectives Group.

I have a question about the Poetry Memorization Program from IEW that you will use with your youngest. Do you enjoy it? Is it worth the investment? Do you picture it being useful with a group of kids in a co-op type setting? Thanks in advance, Lauren

Danielle said...

You are awesome. That's all. :)

Heidi said...

Lauren~ I think you could set up your own poetry memorization program for less (the book The Harp and the Laurel Wreath is particularly lovely for a less expensive option). We do enjoy the IEW program, however. It has a great variety of poetry (funny, serious, short, long, and various styles), but the greatest part about it is the CD. There's just something about listening to the poems repeatedly, and this is so much easier to do with a CD. My daughter has memorized several poems just by listening to the CD often. (Again, you could always record yourself reading poems instead.) I think it would work great for a group of kids in a co-op.

habamom said...

Hi Heidi,
I am a first-time Challenge B tutor. Last year I was a first-time Challenge A tutor. This is also only my 3rd year as part of the CC program. I wanted to give some ideas to people who agree with Tricia's and your evaluation of Henle, but have decided to continue to use it anyway.
1. Workbooks. Of course CC is now making a workbook for Challenge A, but you can also get free worksheet pages (and vocab lists!) from Magistra Jones' website.
2. Teacher's Guide. Last year I used Magistra Jones' Companion Volume fairly regularly to help me understand the material, and I expect I will be doing that again after Christmas, when we start to cover new material again.
3. Locating vocab quickly: If you don't want to have a separate vocab list, there are 3 "Mastery Lists" within the Henle text that lists MOST of the vocab covered up to that point. I tabbed those and now I find that the vocab is fairly easy to locate.

Also, my boys really enjoy drilling vocab using the memrise app on their Kindles.

Hopefully these tips help some folks.

I am very curious if you are finding good cultural information in Latin Alive? That is my personal biggest disappointment with Henle. (I must admit, however, that my two boys enjoy the mostly war-related sentences in Henle).

Can you give us a review of Latin Alive since you have been using it for a while now?

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Hi, Heidi. I know this is an older post, so I hope you get this!

This is our first year in CC - a 10 yr old daughter in Essentials & Foundations, and two boys (8 & 4) in Foundations. We have thoroughly enjoyed CC as a "fun" learning day, and it has truly brought out my middle boy from his very shy shell!

In looking forward, something has come up as a big concern regarding the Challenge program: student accountability. In our community (all CC communities?), the tutors say over and over each week, "Of course, it's up to your mom to decide your work/project/how much." While I truly appreciate being seen as my children's primary teacher, I also see how this mentality creates a bit of a problem when you are enrolled in an actual program. In Foundations alone, each week there are students who either come in without a presentation or with a completely different topic simply b/c they "didn't want to" and mom said it was OK. Fine, this is acceptable, I suppose, when your student is 5 or 8. But then I see the same thing in Essentials - students only writing three sentences instead of an entire paragraph, or not writing one at all. ((Of course life circumstances come up, and a week every now and then where something gets put on the back burner is understandable! And of course, kids perform on different levels (my dyslexic son being one of them).)) However, I see a pattern of this and it is giving me pause about the Challenge program.

If students are allowed to repeatedly choose not to do assignments, then how does Challenge function well? If students are to spend an entire day discussing what they have been learning throughout the week, yet multiple students do not actually do the work - how does the Challenge class operate each week?

I don't ask this with any defenses up, I promise. My kiddos look forward to our CC days each week, and I am I am so blessed by that! I simply ask because it concerns me. CC is an expensive program, and I just want to make sure that we use our time and money wisely! Because we are not in Challenge yet, I don't know how it all works. :) Could you possibly give me any insight?