Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mrs. Darwin passed on the homeschool-book-meme tag, which seems to be a variant of a popular book meme going around the net. Here we go...

Homeschool books I actually enjoyed reading
The first "homeschool" book I read was a much-recommended John Holt book. I enjoyed it in the way some people enjoy bad movies: there was a perverse pleasure in muttering "wrong! wrong!" at nearly every turn of the page. This was the book that convinced me not only that I wasn't an unschooler, but that the philosophical basis of unschooling was what had poisoned the American school system in the first place.

The first book I enjoyed in a normal way was Diane Ravitch's Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reform, though it's not really a "homeschooling" book. The first few chapters tell the depressing saga of how the turn-of-the-century "classical curriculum" (college prep) was reasonably critiqued by those who advocated instead the "academic curriculum," which replaced Greek with modern languages, added science and more advanced mathematics, and was argued for as a universal curriculum not limited to the college-bound. The debate was just warming up when educational progressivism suddenly steamrollered them both, and it's been downhill ever since (to summarize Ravitch's next 400 pages).

Left Back crystallized everything I had felt was wrong with American educational theories, and convinced me that the Academic Curriculum was what we were following and needed to keep pursuing. Homeschoolers call it a "classical education," though it's rarely actually that; but even at the beginning of the twentieth century, schools offering a classical education often combined it with elements of the "modern" academic curriculum.

Resources I won't live without
-The humongous university library, with its massive juvenile section and Eudoxus' free borrowing privileges (& somehow faculty aren't ever made to pay late charges).
-The book scanner.
-Half-Price Books (sensing a theme here...) - for what the bookstore doesn't have.
-My iPod. A surprisingly handy homeschool device: mine is loaded up with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Homer, and Pete Seeger industrial ballads (which last have had the unfortunate effect of convincing O#1 that she only has to put in 40 hours of work each week).
-My dear husband Eudoxus: because who else around here is going to teach Trig or Greek?
-My Catholic Faith (Fr. Morrow, 1949). All you ever need for catechesis. Traditional, but not in an obnoxious trad way.
-Artes Latinae.

Resources you wish you had never bought
-The Alan Jemison piano series. Not that it's bad; we just hadn't realized that Offspring #1 was actually and genuinely tone-deaf, and she went through a world of misery and frustration before our epiphany.
-A second year of Calvert: again, nothing wrong with it, but after about a month we realized we didn't need a boxed curriculum anymore as we had found our feet and were now doing it our own way with our own resources.
-The Italic Handwriting Series. Why have handwriting with tears when you can have Handwriting Without Tears?

Resources you enjoyed last year

Offspring #2:
-Handwriting Without Tears (see above)
-Cathedral Readers. Found a stack of 'em in the used book store; the little one really likes them. Like Dick and Jane but with black-habited nuns instead of teachers, and little stories about why you shouldn't use medals superstitiously, and the like. A fascinatingly retro look into a Golden Age of American Catholicism that lasted for about five minutes.

Offspring #1:
-Artes Latinae (see above)
-Athenaze Greek
-Drums, from the Scribner School Paperback series from 1968. This series is the best literature curriculum I've seen, but the books are very hard to find and the study guide doesn't come with a teacher's guide, so you will have to think through the answers with the student. (The link doesn't take you to a student edition; you have to hunt for those.)
-American Mathematics Competitions (old tests). Don't ask me; ask Eudoxus.
-TOPS science: Radishes and Planets & Stars.
-Rosetta Stone German: the curriculum to use when your child wants to learn a language you don't know a word of. Pricey, but not so bad if you buy a pirated (oops) version off of e-bay.
-Standard Service Arithmetics: Grade Five (Knight, Studebaker, & Ruch: 1927). Because your calculator can't always be your brain, and only in a textbook this old will you find drills that give you 15 minutes to solve 15 problems like "5736 times 3916" and "21462 divided by 735." Actually Offspring #1 doesn't enjoy this resource at all; but she doesn't enjoy flossing, either.
-Gawain and the Green Knight, read in Middle English (accompany with text edited by J.R.R. Tolkien). The Chaucer Studio is a great overlooked resource. And free shipping. And if you buy enough, a free tote bag!

Resources you'll be using this year
As above, since we homeschool through the summer and take our long break from Thanksgiving to New Year's, with the following additions/changes:

Offspring #2:
-Miquon. A great math series, as is its companion series for older children, Key To....
-The Bible Story (Fr. Johnson, Fr. Hannan, & Sr. Dominica: 1931). When Offspring #1 was a wee bit, she loved this book, especially the little ink drawing of the (temporary) survivors of the Flood clambering onto a rock, vainly waving down the ark. Ha ha, they're not stopping for you...

Offspring #1:
-General Chemistry (Whitten, Davis, Peck, Stanley, 7th ed.). We've already started using this, as a replacement for the dreadful and confusing high school textbook we tried to use. This is what our local university uses for Intro Chemistry for Hopeless Liberal Arts Students, and is basically a high-school level text, except with clear explanations and no committee-required sidebars about cultural diversity among chemists. The accompanying Study Guide can function as a test booklet.
-TOPS Far Out Math (build your own slide rule while you learn about logarithms!), Cohesion and Adhesion, & Oxidation.
-Church History (Fr. Laux). Features end-of-chapter research assignments in the Catholic Encyclopedia, conveniently available on-line.
-Standard Service Arithmetics: Grade Six. Just when she was so excited at having finished the previous book.

Resources you'd like to buy
This. These actually exist--and in a superior form, where the pieces are individual countries--and I'm darned if I can find where you get one. A friend found one of these in a second-hand store, and I've been living in a recurring state of anguished envy since.

One resource you wished existed
A really good Greek curriculum for pre-high school. Eight years ago when we were looking for such a thing we could only find the Hey, Andrew! curriculum, which isn't terrible, but isn't great either. Fast-forward to today, and there's still nothing else out there. Yes, I know Greek is hard, but there are plenty of young kids learning Hebrew (which is harder) with decent curricula. Someone make one for Attic Greek!

Homeschool catalogs you enjoy reading
-Rainbow Resource
-Chaucer Studio
-Home Science Tools
-American Home School Publishing. An undeservedly obscure catalog; AHSP has a great selection of resources for classical homeschoolers. Very much my favorite "read."

One homeschooling website you use regularly
I agree with Mrs. Darwin on love2learn. Great site, with detailed reviews.

Phew. If you made it this far, thanks for reading, and Happy Birthday to me! Oh, and I'm tagging Sophia.


Blogger MrsDarwin said...

Happy, happy birthday to you! Hope they stopped construction in honor of the occasion...

This is a wonderful list, and one which I will pore over at length. You're a gold mine of resources here.

Darwin used Athenaze Greek in college, and I pulled it out about a year ago when I decided I wanted to teach myself. I picked up the basics fairly quickly and was pleased, then hit that wall where I didn't have enough hours in the day to spend on doing things like dishes and washing out soiled panties. Something had to give; unfortunately it was the Greek. Gone the way of my Old English... But I'm glad to have had the chance to pick up the alphabet (not before I was 18, unfortunately) and I've retained some of the grammar and vocab.

9:26 AM  
Blogger sophia said...

Happy Birthday to the wonderful opinionated homeschooler. May God grant you many more years!

I can't believe you tagged me. You, the gold mine of resources! How can I go after you, the Queen of Books? I want to honor your request, but is there something else I can do for you, instead? Like, wash your car, buy your groceries, complain to the city of Austin for you? Anything?

9:47 PM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

As luck would have it, yesterday was the day they had to let the asphalt harden, and there was no construction! What a lovely treat. Today it's business as usual, as they start digging up the next chunk of road.

6:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday to you! We've missed seeing you lately.

I think you share a birthday with my spouse --yet another anectdotal debunking of "sun signs" as a guide to personality. He pointed out some years ago that, due to the "pronation"(?) or "precession"(?) of the planets, all of the sun signs have shifted at least one position, so the Aries is really a Leo, or some such. He's one of those "Sky & Telescope" subscribers.

Happy birthday again. [I'm thinking of procuring a copy of the Ravitch book.]

5:32 PM  

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