This year in homeschooling…

I’ve watched a few fairly depressing videos of people unboxing this year’s homeschooling curriculum. They shouldn’t be depressing, but since the videos were posted by fundamentalist Christians, they were. Yep, it’s great how all you have to do is open those PACE packets and put them in magazine files and you’re set for the year. And how convenient that they’ve updated the versions…by making the graphics flashier while not changing the content! Afterall, the content in these pretty much doesn’t matter…most of it is Bible verses and what isn’t is inaccurate anyway.

So I decided maybe I should put some non-depressing homeschooling content out there. Not a fan of videos though, so I just took some pictures.

Here’s what Alpha (fifth grade) is going to study this year:

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These are his main subjects, which he does nearly every day. Since we’re loosely following a classical structure, I added in logic because 5th grade is the first year of the logic stage. A lot of logic curricula are religious, which is not something we’re into, so I had a bit of a tricky time finding something meant for his grade level that wasn’t religious. Logic countdown meets this need and I finally realized that the analogies they would have us do later in elementary school as bell work was actually logic. I wish they’d just tell us things like that instead of keeping it a secret.
He’s also working on cursive. His hand writing in the book is neat and legible. Outside of it, it’s a mess and he doesn’t use cursive at all unless he decides to write something his sister can’t read. Sometimes, I’m not even sure why I’m still doing handwriting with him since we never see any improvement and the last thing he wants is neat handwriting. Whatever. We’re doing it.
We’re also continuing with Sequential Spelling. They’ve updated their format so that now you have a big ass thick student response book that has other activities in it as well along with the teacher’s book that has the word lists (this picture shows the teacher booklet). I think that’s kind of annoying and so does my son. Word searches and scrambles are a dyslexic’s nightmare, guys.
We’re continuing with JackKris Publishing’s Growing with Grammar and Winning with writing. The only things I dislike about these books is there is a bit of overlap if you’re using the two and sometimes it breaks things down a bit too much. Other than that, it explains grammar really well (I’m learning how to diagram sentences now, too!) and how to write detailed paragraphs.
And of course, Singapore Math. His math has finally become advanced enough that I got the teacher’s book just for the answer key to the problems because double checking them all myself was starting to take too long. But other than that, math is going well for us.

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Now for this year’s science selection: Pandia Press’ Biology 2. Holy crap this is a lot. I love it, but it’s a lot and my son has complained it’s a lot. We’re trying to squeeze everything into two days, but he thinks reading the chapter, doing the Famous Science Series and the general lab in one day is Too Much. I countered that if we save the lab for a different day, he’ll have to do it on one of the days we do history. He’s fine with that, apparently.
I love Pandia press, though. We’ve used it since the very beginning. I love how thorough it is and how it’s Science Based Science, something that can be hard to find in homeschooling curricula. Yes, the Earth IS millions of years old. The Theory of Evolution IS true and no, a theory is not something you’re just guessing about. That’s a hypothesis. In science, a theory is something “ an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested, in accordance with the scientific method, using a predefined protocol of observation and experiment. Established scientific theories have withstood rigorous scrutiny and embody scientific knowledge.” Thanks, Wikipedia. It also covers human reproduction and we do a frog dissection. Exciting!

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I admit I was a little concerned about this one. This is Pandia Press’ History Odyssey: Ancients Level 2. It’s a lot of reading, writing down summaries and so on. My son loves history, but he finds reading books (instead of listening to audiobooks) challenging and dislikes writing things down. History odyssey involves a lot of that at this level. I don’t know if I helped matters by telling him to wait until he gets into high school because it gets a lot worse in that respect. But, so far he’s doing it. He complained the other day because lesson 3 wanted him to read TWO CHAPTERS in The Story of Mankind. “Well, why don’t we just open it and see how long the chapters are.” One of them was most of a page. The other was two pages. Me: Just read them, seriously! They’re short!
The lessons are designed to be self-guided so the student can work independently. My son can manage a lot of that, but I still check through things and make sure he understands what he’s supposed to do.

Now for Beta (second grade)

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This is her history curriculum, again Pandia Press History Odyssey. But this time it’s Ancients Level 1. I used this curriculum with Alpha when he was in first grade and it’s nice to revisit it again and see how History Odyssey really gets harder through the grade levels. This one is much more to Beta’s level, which is a relief and we read things together and I put the Story of the World audiobook on for her for those reading portions. Pandia Press is working on developing a secular History-as-Stories book for level 1, which annoys me simply because now I already have ALL of the Story of the World Audiobooks. I’m not going to buy their new version that’s secular when I’ve already bought this other version. Instead, I just yell at the kids that such-and-such is a myth or that it’s inaccurate to say that the Netherlands is called the Netherlands because it’s far away from the great European capitals of Berlin and Paris (no dummies, it’s called that because Nether means low. They’re the Low Lands. And it’s actually pretty close to that Great European Capital, London. Jeez) or that nowadays that country is called Holland (noooooo it’s still called the Netherlands! Holland is a province!)

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Her Science: Pandia Press REAL Science Odyssey Life (Biology 1). Again, I’ve used this before. It’s going to be a lot of fun revisiting these things with her. She likes getting to try out some of the stuff Alpha is using in his science, like the microscope, too.

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These are her core resources. They’re essentially the same thing as Alpha, except she’s not doing cursive yet, though she could because she did Printing Power once already. Somehow I ended up with excessive copies of that, so she’s doing it again. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t bother with Grammar and writing at this stage because it’s pretty boring and stupid easy, but it makes me feel better about having a “complete” language arts curriculum and this way she doesn’t finish ridiculously early compared to her brother, which would raise cries of “that’s not fair!!”

In addition to these, we also do German and Finnish. For German, I use Einsterns Schwester, which is a German language course for at home. They’re both still in level one because we’ve been going through it s-l-o-w-l-y. For Finnish, my husband has a Finnish for Foreigners booklet he printed out for my son. For my daughter, he’s teaching her how to read Finnish using the Aapinen book we bought (basically, a primer on reading) and building vocabulary playing games.

Aside from that, they have their sport activities at the Y, their German and Finnish Schools, and art class. We also take part in some co-ops that are mainly for socialization. I think that’s busy enough, don’t you?

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Under the North Star Review

I haven’t been blogging lately and my convenient excuse is that I signed up for Goodread’s reading challenge where you set the number of books you aim to read in a year and then read them. Because I’m ambitious and didn’t think to do the math, I decided 100 books would be a nice, round number to read during there. Then I got to it. Sometime in mid-march, I paused and realized there was no way I was going to make it since 100 books in a year means I need to finish one book every 3.5 days. I’m an avid reader, but not quite that avid.

But I have been reading some interesting books. I just finished book one in Väinö Linna’s Täällä Pohjantähden Alla (Under the North Star) and holy crap, it was good. First off, it gave me a whole lot more insight into the issues in Finnish society surrounding speaking Finnish vs. speaking Swedish. Swedish was the language of the nobility in Finland, who stayed on when Finland went from being under Sweden’s control to under Russia’s and in the late 19th century there was a huge push to make Finnish the language of public life as well because it was the language of the people, the average Joe spoke it. This creates the odd scenes where the Baron in the book tries to communicate with his tenants but he can only manage a broken Finnish compared with their fluency. Or the scene where he comes across some other gentry who are pro-Finnishicizing everything and they great him in Finnish and he has to request they speak Swedish because not only can he only manage to speak broken Finnish himself, he’s only able to understand the uneducated dialect spoken by those around him (ie, farmers and craftsmen) and not the Finnish spoken by the gentry. This alone shows us three major divisions in Finnish society: the Swedish speaking nobility vs. the pro-Finnish gentry (who also spoke Swedish, but made a point not to) vs. the average person (speaking only Finnish).

While reading, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between this book and Free Land, written by Rose Wilder Lane. Like Under the North Star, it takes place in the 1880s and tells about a pioneering young man (and his wife) setting out to carve a farm out of wilderness. But from there, the stories diverge. In Free Land, the main obstacle David faces is the weather: three years of drought after one good year threaten to drive him to bankruptcy. In Under the North Star, the main obstacle faced by Jussi and his family is the fact the don’t own the land. He’s a tenant of the parsonage and is subjected to the whims of the vicar as far as how much land he’s allowed to cultivate and how many days he, his wife, and his children are required to spend working on the vicar’s land vs their tenancy. It’s absolutely infuriating to read, listening to the vicar and his wife justify making Jussi’s plot smaller to “save him work” because they can’t find any way to live within their means. They need 3 maids, a coachman, a coach, to send their kids to private school and so on and so forth. What does Jussi need? Well, certainly not the land he literally broke his back to clear. They mistake his ability to object as a willingness to agree, although god knows if he had objected or pointed out to them all the ways they could cut back (the Koskelas lived on nothing and built up their capital), the vicar and his wife would have been outraged and chucked him out all together.

It really drove home the difference having title to your own land makes. David could kill himself clearing his quarter section and it would be is (well, after 7 years since it was a homestead…) and, if he wanted to leave, he could sell it for a bit of capital. The Koskelas couldn’t. They could farm it, but would never be able to sell it and move on to something better.

I mentioned this all to my husband and he agreed. “One thing my family always had going for it, whether it was on my mom’s side or my dad’s side, is that they owned the land they farmed. They weren’t tenants.”

I’m going to start book 2 soon, in which Finland gains independence and the tenants gain land reform and then every one decides to have a civil war.

Also interesting to note is the fact that the gentry could use property rights for them to deny property rights to others. The land their tenants live on is owned by them, it’s their property and therefore, they can do what they want with it. The tenants argue that since they work the land and have lived on it for generations, don’t they arguably have some right to it as well? Add into the fact that in many cases, the land was originally not bought by the gentry but awarded to them by a king and the whole feudal mess becomes a bit clearer. This is the sort of land reform issue that was carried out in many countries after socialists took over simply because the roots of the issue weren’t fair to begin with. You couldn’t start out as a small time farmer in BFE, Finland only one day to have some Swedish speaking dude move in, declare the King has made him a Baron over all this land and ta-da! You’re now a tenant and find that fair.