Signs of Life Day Two

Teaching children (other than my own) has been a bigger blessing than I ever imagined it would be, and it all started as a total leap of faith. I’m in the second semester of teaching at our homeschool co-op and each week has been a blessing to me. Sometimes it’s the basic interaction I enjoy, and sometimes it’s seeing students connect the dots when something new is learned.

This afternoon I had my first teacher conference with the directors of the co-op where we discussed how the classes are going and our expectations for next year. I also received a copy of the review I had last semester when a board member observed one of our class meetings. The board member already told me she enjoyed the class, but I never knew what her official report entailed. Today I learned that it was a glowing affirmation that I am doing a good job. 

Does the teacher convey passion and/or excitement for the subject matter? Yes!! The class had an engaging discussion about the chapter they read… She made the environment an atmosphere in which students want to share and discuss.

My number one goal was to create a space where students felt inspired to share their ideas and opinions about the works we’re reading, and it seems I’ve done exactly that. Today we discussed The Lottery, undoubtedly a controversial short story, and I got some flak (playfully) from the students for choosing such a piece, but you should’ve seen the participation! All that conversation and swapping of ideas was exactly what I hoped for when I crafted this class. 

All this is to say – I’m doing what I love. I’m sharing what I love. I’m making little literary deposits in the minds of young people, and for some, those seeds will grow into something lovely. There are teachers who did this for me, and now I’m returning the favor.

Signs of Life is a blog series I’m writing for February 2017. It was born out of desire to replace the negativity and despair that’s been bogging down our friendships, families, and communities after a tumultuous election season. This series won’t solve the world’s problems, but I hope it will create a speck of light and positivity when and where it is needed. 

New Semester, New Routine

I was tempted to start school next Monday because Monday is such a round, whole number of a day to start something, but the boys’ brains are fried from too many screens, games, flashing lights, and annoying sounds. Since their brains were fried, so were their attitudes.

So we returned to school today at the crack of 9:30 a.m.

With the new semester comes a new routine. My goals are to streamline their curriculum into unit studies, connect lessons with lots of overlapping, and get them on the computer more. I know, I know – the computer is a screen, BUT there are worthy programs online that serve as companion pieces to what we’re doing book-wise. I’ve unearthed usernames and passwords to math and vocabulary websites, and I’ve vowed to use Khan Academy on a daily basis. To assist with French, both boys have a Duolingo account. Jackson is very excited to start dabbling in a second language.

Their schedule at the co-op will be the same as last semester, but I’m adding a second class to my duties. In addition to teaching Literature and Creative Writing, I’m taking over a composition class for middle grades. The ultimate challenge is to find the fun in writing papers. I welcome your tips and suggestions!

The last aspect of our spring semester that is still in the works is relevant civics. One could argue that all civics lessons are relevant, whether they are history lessons or analysis of current events, but I’m looking specifically at teaching the three branches of government, the Constitution, and our basic rights as a people. After watching the dumpster fire that was the 2016 election, I want to make sure the boys understand that the United States is a Republic, or representative democracy, not a pure democracy, as so many voters were unaware. I want them to understand the language of government, the process of it, and why their own participation will be a worthy effort when they’re of age. Jeremy is in a Mock Congress class at the co-op, so he’s already experienced the frustration of writing a bill and having it be rejected and rewritten multiple times.

My goal is to have this curriculum in place by the inauguration. Speaking of, I’m doing my own studies in preparation for a Trump presidency, but more on that later.

First Week of School

The first week of school was near perfect – great attitudes, excitement over co-op classes, the blissful return to routine. We were all smiles last week.

First day of co-op

Today is a different story though. I don’t feel well, and neither does Jackson, and Jeremy has been reminded just how hard math can be. He also doesn’t love that middle school has more required work than elementary school. When Jackson wraps up for the day, Jeremy still has a few more subjects to go.

Man, life is hard.

With sports and activities at church picking up, it is more apparent than ever the need to encourage stillness in our home. We need time away from screens and people and noise. We need to close our eyes and rest so that we’re prepared for the next big thing. We must say no to things so we can do our best with what we’ve said yes to, an exceptionally hard lesson to teach two busy boys.

Can you tell that I’ve been missing the abbey? Because I am.

Book Review: Wonder

WonderIf you recall, I’m teaching a middle school literature and creative writing class at our co-op this year. Wonder is the first book students will read, and I thought I’d share a review here for other parents.

Wonder follows the story of August Pullman as he transitions from being a homeschooled fourth grader to a fifth grader at Beecher Prep School. It’s a tough transition on its own, but for Auggie, the switch is made harder on account of his appearance. Born with severe facial deformities, Auggie has never had it easy. People stare, point, laugh, recoil in shock… Going to mainstream school will be his biggest challenge yet.

You can imagine what he endures. A few students are kind, a few are cruel, and most don’t know what to make of the boy whose eyes sag down his cheeks and whose ears are non-existent. Day after day, August struggles.

What makes the book unique and extra enjoyable is its approach to the full story. Broken into eight parts and five points of view, we hear from August, his sister Olivia, his friends Summer and Jack, and even Olivia’s boyfriend, who makes a quick appearance towards the end. Readers experience August’s conflicts and then get to watch them again through various eyes on the outside. The opportunities for discussion are many.

Wonder was a charming story of a young boy who would prefer to walk through the world wearing a mask. It juggles the heaviness of developing courage, true friendships, and a healthy self-worth. I highly recommend this book for those tender, early adolescent ages when everything feels very confusing all at once. Parents will love it too.

Buy Wonder here.