"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Intellectual Friendships (Part 4 of 4)

In the little gem of a book by Mark. C. Henrie, called A Student's Guide to the Core Curriciulum, he discusses Intellectual Friendships in the section "A Core of One's Own."
Friendship is so important, Arisotle devoted two books of his Nicomachean Ethics to it - and only one book to Justice. One of the highest types of friendship is intellectual friendship....
In the everyday course of intellectual friendship, friends share with each other their moments of insight, present them to each other for testing. Such moments in turn require us to reconsider not just that discrete matter, but everything else in our view of the whole that touches upon the matter....As Socrates knew twenty-five centuries ago, the normal mean for penetrating further and synthesizing our knowledge is dialogue. Intellectual friendship consists in a great ocean of dialogue and discussion and those who have tasted it know it is among the highest human pleasures.
I am so blessed to have lots of intellectual friendships. For me, first and foremost are my friends that I meet with irregularly to discuss home educating our kids. I must admit that 99% of my friends are home educators and of that subset, about 95% are Catholic. So, to say we have a lot in common is an understatement. This has been the biggest blessing for me. Via our home school support group, I have had the opportunity to make some really great friendships. They are the kind of friendships where we're not afraid to challenge each other when we need to or when hear each other say something that doesn't sound right. They are friends that feel the same way about HOW we want to educate our kids. We may not be using the same curriculum or syllabus, but we have some vision that is common and most often there is the beauty of our religion that we have in common.

So, with that being said, I think it is hugely important for moms, especially home educating moms, to have support that equates to intellectual friendships. Seek out those friendships with like minded others. Find people in similar situations. Now, you may say that that is not best for us, to have a non-diverse set of friends. I disagree, to start out with, but agree if you have become comfortable with yourself.

You see, I think many of us received such poor educations ourselves that we don't feel comfortable charitably debating topics or sharing the "ah ha" moments that might not resonate with someone else. Also, our education choices for our children are both very personal and usually very deep rooted. I happen to know a lot of friends that make judgments about other home educating families based purely on their curriculum choices. Keep your eyes on your own work, folks!

So, when you find someone with similar, if not the same, values on educating your child, become friends. Build that relationship. Find out what they are doing and respectfully challenge each other and get to know why they made the same choices you have. Then, get to know more about them personally and you will most likely find a friend with whom you can have a truly intellectual conversation.

When I first came upon the concept of Thomas Jefferson Education, it was the summer of 2007. My mom was terminally ill. I had just had a baby with some issues at birth. Many of the friendships I had made had disappeared because I wasn't able to keep up with my end of the equation. I had to take care of my family first and foremost. I was on fire with the TJEd concept. I introduced my husband to the book and the concept. He, too, was fascinated. We both had some issues with a piece here or there. He encouraged me, though, to start educating myself. The "You not them" key. I started. Then, I had a couple come from Wisconsin to talk about TJEd. Lots of my old friends and many new came to listen. Many left thinking, "What are they thinking!!!!" while others said, "Yes! That is it!"

Following that meeting, I started a small group which consists of home educating parents with similar education values. We have become friends, reading books and writing papers together as well as talking about what works for us and what doesn't. I appreciate the dialogue all most as much as I appreciate the great dialogue I have with my husband (but not quite as much - I still find him the most fascinating person on the planet.) We have been meeting for the last two years. While we sometimes read a common book and discuss it, usually we are discussing home education and what is/isn't working. I come away from those discussions not just energized, but feeling challenged to do better, reflecting on what is working for me and planning how to change what isn't.

Now, go! Find that friend. Get talking. Find out what they think. Find out how they got where they are and LEARN, CHALLENGE and SUPPORT each other.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Intellectual Friendships (Part 2 of 4)

for our Children

Children need more than just play friends, especially as they move into the tween/teen years. I hope my kids build intellectual friendships. It starts very basic for kids, though. My book clubs were designed with that purpose in mind. I wanted my kids to be able to have intellectual conversations with other kids about great books or other topics important to us, like Catholicism.

All to often, we want our kids to "go play" and they view their time studying and schooling as "work". I think that is because our misconception about learning. Kids have a natural Love of Learning that we spoil.

One of the ways we do that is to tell our little kids that want to help us with our "work" to go play. So, is it any surprise that when we want them to "work", they would rather play? Ask a two or three year old if cleaning the tub is fun and they will say yes. They also like to wash dishes. I did things any differently with my older kids. I could just get things faster and better. They have a lower interest in helping to clean. My little kids, however still want to wash, scrub, dust, vacuum and sweep. For this I am thankful.

As I stated in part one of this topic I came upon this while reading a lovely little book. In the book, Mark Henrie goes even further into some of the problems with teens/young adults (dare I say almost everyone) in America in A Student's Guide to the Core Curriculum.
...we (Americans) tend to understand leisure as the absence of work. The ancients, however, understood work as the absence of leisure. Leisure (otium, in Latin) was the substantial thing. and work the negation or absence of that (negotium). The ancients understood that human beings were made to enjoy their leisure seriously: the serious use of leisure is the cultivation of the mind, which is pleasant and good for its own sake. Americans, however, approach university studies as "work," as negotium, from which, once the work is done, they are "freed." Free time, such as time spent with friends, is thus kept clean of any trace of the learning of the classroom. This is no way to learn. It isn't even any real way to enjoy yourself.Our society is hung up on entertainment, not leisure. We look at education as "work" not "leisure."

The truly well educated use their free time to learn, not to be entertained. Or, perhaps you could say that the educated are entertained by learning. What do you do with your free time? Do you passively seek entertainment or do you seek to gain better understanding? Passive or Active?

The Ancient emperors used different forms of entertainment to pacify the urban masses, including chariot races, theatrical and musical performances, wild-beast hunts, mock sea battles, public executions, and gladiatorial combat. In the Colosseum, Rome's huge amphitheater, 50,000 Romans could watch the games. Look at our society now. TV and sports arenas are the Colosseums. The Internet, movie theaters, our TVs at home are the theatres. They serve to pacify (make us peaceful*) and we are passive (to suffer**) through it.

Education is an activity ( from L. actus "a doing" and actum "a thing done,") where entertainment is a passive event ( "to keep up, maintain,"). I'm not saying all entertainment is bad and I will tell you that I will used media in my education and that of my children. They do find it entertaining.

So, my goal is to help my tweeners to find intellectual friendships, not necessarily passing friendships where free time is frittered away in front of a TV or video game. This is a bigger challenge for my son than my daughter. I think boys are just drawn more to screen time. There are lots of studies to support my desire to limit the amount of time my boys, in particular, waste in front of a screen. One book, The Minds of Boys, states studies done using MRI technology while boys engaged in activities like reading, watching TV and playing computer games. Certain neural pathways were not engaged during activities that involved a screen. Our priest talks about how boys need to have real social relationships, not virtual relationships, like those found on Facebook or MySpace. I want them outside playing or discussing something while building Legos.

Perhaps if you are struggling with this, you can do what we have done by starting a book club or finding a Boy Scout organization or American Heritage Girls group. Both organizations help build character in children and they develop life long friendships. Perhaps an even more important aspect is having a mentor, someone other than a parent, that will guide them to the right books and activities, to develop them into a whole civilized person.

I challenge you to think about your kids' free time (and yours) and how you both use it.

* Pacify is from L. pacificus "peaceful, peace-making," from pax (gen. pacis) "peace"
** Passive is from L. passivus "capable of feeling or suffering," from pass-, pp. stem of pati "to suffer"

Intellectual Friendships (Part 1 of 4)

I'm reading through more of the ISI Student's Guides I had mentioned a year and a half ago in this post. I wrote the post about A Student's Guide to the Core Curriculum by Mark C. Henrie and promised I would write more about it. Here it is, very late.

As I was reading it yesterday, I realized there is a great discrepancy in my family with respect to Intellectual Friendships. I want to discuss the importance of Intellectual Friendship. We'll start off with what Intellectual Friendship is (part 1) and the need for our children (part 2), husbands (part 3) and us to have those types of friendships (part 4). Henrie discusses this in the section "A Core of One's Own."
Friendship is so important, Arisotle devoted two books of his Nicomachean Ethics to it - and only one book to Justice. One of the highest types of friendship is intellectual friendship....
In the everyday course of intellectual friendship, friends share with each other their moments of insight, present them to each other for testing. Such moments in turn require us to reconsider not just that discrete matter, but everything else in our view of the whole that touches upon the matter....As Socrates knew twenty-five centuries ago, the normal mean for penetrating further and synthesizing our knowledge is dialogue. Intelectual friendship consists in a great ocean of dialogue and discussion and those who have tasted it know it is among the highest human pleasures.
With whom do you dialogue? Do you have this kind of friendship? I do and I'm anxious to share more with you about it in Part 4.

Monday, February 15, 2010

2010 Minnesota Catholic Home Educators Conference

Are you going to the 2010 Minnesota Catholic Home Educator's Conference? I'm taking a cue for Margaret and posting the three seminars I will be leading:
Having been the membership coordinator, general coordinator, advisory member and new homeschool contact for our Parish's home school group, I have lots and lots of experience talking with families either contemplating the vocation of home schooling their children OR those who have just started. My Beginning Homeschooling talk will cover the What? Where? Why? and How? of Home Education.

In 2004, I attended a Game Workshop given by the Vreeland Family. I had been playing games with my kids as a reinforcement for their studies from the beginning and had read many books on the topic. After attending the Vreeland's workshop and making my own games, I wanted to bring the Vreeland's up to Minnesota for a workshop, but they had moved back out East and had retired from the workshop business. I opted to create a mini-workshop of my own. For the conference, I will be doing "Get your game on" which is a pared down version of the workshop for attendees interested in making the most of their curriculum dollar and finding fun ways to reinforce their children's learning.

Lastly, I will be helping parents better understand their children's learning modalities. Before children, I was an adult educator. By adjusting my teaching style, I was able to get the message I was teaching clearly to all my students after I found out about differing learning modalities. This applies to teaching children as well. Learning modalities have other names like multiple intelligences. But really, learning modalities explain how our children best learn. I will give tips on how to determine your child's modalities, typical patterns children go through in maturation (and change in modalities) and I will also explain some ways to incorporate multisensory learning experiences into your day to better reach your children's particular way of learning.

I hope you can make it to the conference!

Friday, February 12, 2010

February Blues...

My home education mentor has me rereading the book Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. February is the hardest month, it seems, for most homeschoolers. I am no different.

I suffer with discontent. You see, I like many of my friends that have been corresponding together worry, "Are we doing enough?" I do not want to cover too many subjects. I believe that is a mistake our society makes. I think Less is More. What really seems to be the problem is that I need change. So, I will keep at what we're doing, but I will change how I do it. My kids are doing well academically and socially. What I will be changing is our routine, which is why I'm rereading Holly's book.

I am also reconsidering a co-op venue of some sort, for my sake and my kids. There is a Catholic Co-op that meets close by, but it feels like sending them to school once a week. I am looking for a slightly more intimate setting rather than dropping off and picking up after a few hours. I'm absolutely willing to run it, organize it, staff it. That's the fun part for me.

So, my eldest daughter worries that this will be at the expense of her book clubs which she has really grown to love. I worry that she will not like to trade them for a co-op and I'm not sure if I can still manage book clubs and a co-op. I also know that I cannot turn her book clubs into a co-op.

The good news is that we start a Narnia lapbook club in March for her and her homeschooled buddy down the street. The neighbor's mom has asked to meet three times for each book rather than once per book. We're taking the spring to see how it works. If it is successful, we will continue in the Fall. I like that approach...training wheels. Try things out and if they don't work, change them. I'm just thankful to be able to use the curriculum I developed again.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Less is More

If you haven't read my blog before, you may not know I take an eclectic approach to homeschooling. Call it Classical TJEd or multa non multum, which means not many things (multa), but much (multum). *

I read _A Well Trained Mind_ and was a little overwhelmed to say the least. I read _Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum_ and settled down a little. Then I read _The Thomas Jefferson Education_. All these books form the basis of how I educate my kids.

Classical education is based on academics while TJEd aim is to develop leadership and scholarship. How do we combine the two? Classical education seems subject heavy while TJEd can seem almost like "unschooling." Combining subjects works for us to accomplish the "multa non multum" model. Religion, Literature and History are tied together. Math stands alone until the kids get into higher level Mathematics. Spelling, Writing and Reading are bound as one.

Remember, we must always meet the students where they are, intellectually speaking, and lead them from what they knows to what they don't know. We need to do it, respecting their development level and all the while instilling virtue. I apply the concepts of the Trivium based on my children's cognitive abilities, which don't always line up with the grade or age.

The advantages of the multum non multa approach are many. First of all, it eliminates busywork. Rolling subjects together reduces wasted time. The time savings may be applied to the my kids' own interests and to enrichment subjects such as computer programming, dance, or cooking. My preparation time is much reduced and I am learn right along with my students. This has led to considerable savings on formal curricula.

The principle of multum non multa, which could be translated, “less is more" works well for us. It's Classical TJEd.

* This is also the name of a chapter in _Latin-Centered Curriculum_ by Andrew Campbell. It's not the expressly the same material, but same concept. I am reading the book, so I'll give a review when I have finished.

My Philosophy Guru

Go ahead. Have some fun! Take the quiz. Let me know how you score.

My guru is EPICURUS.

Key fact: Epicurus, founder of Epicureanism, is probably the most misunderstood philosopher of antiquity.

Must have: A delight in the countryside and gardens.

Key promise: Peace and tranquility.

Key peril: Boredom.

Most likely to say: "The true hedonist can find as much pleasure in a glass of chilled water as in a feast for a king."

Least likely to say: "He who tires of the city, tires of life."

Bad Blog! NO Visit!

I recently talked with some of my blogging friends (call them my blogging mentors) about what makes a good blog. Here are some of the things they said:

- It's update regularly (more often than I do)
- The blog entries are relatively short (mine aren't)
- They have pictures (only some of mine do)
- They have tend to stay on topic (most of the time mine do)

I have another blog which I will be keeping up-to-date with recipes, home, life in a large Catholic Family updates. Here I will keep my updates to Catholic Home Education.

Now, dear reader, I am going to try to do better at those things. Hope you will come back and visit soon!