"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..."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Update to Boy's Book Club Listing

I ran into a little trouble this week with some of the planned reading for my Boy's Medieval Book Club.  We were planning on using _The Mabinogion_ by Sioned Davies for our next book.  I took this recommendation from my very favorite curriculum guide, Latin-Centered-Curriculumby Andrew Campbell.  I made a major mistake in not reading that particular version of the book prior to recommending it because it was specifically called out in the curriculum guide.

The Mabinogion is a group of Welsh/Celtic myths surrounding King Arthur, passed down orally and written at a later date.  Lady Charlotte Guest translated them in the 1800's.  I had read her translation and found the vocabulary too challenging for our 5th-9th grade boys.  So, I took the recommendation from the book because Campbell specifically called out the Davies translation because of the wonderful introduction and awesome vocabulary guide.  He also said any "in-print" version of the Mabinogion tales were acceptable.  To his credit, he recommended a children's version,  Tales from the Mabinogion by Gwyn Thomas and Kevin Crossley-Holland.  However, that version is out of print and sadly looked a little more juvenile than my group would like.  They resisted the first book, Favorite Medieval Tales by Mary Pope Osborne because some felt it was rather "baby-ish".   It really was well done, but these are boys who want some meat to their reading.  So, I mistakenly picked The Mabinogion (Oxford World's Classics) which is clearly written for adults based on the content (sexual in nature) in many of the stories.

To his credit, Andrew Campbell exchanged several emails with me.  He indirectly chastised me (rightfully so) for not reading it before recommending it.  He did offer me some good advice about proceeding, however.  Here it is:
  • Unfortunately there really is no way to sanitize these stories to remove all references to pre-Christian morals. The Arthurian legends themselves center on adultery as the reason for the fall of Camelot. People have different levels of comfort with this aspect of older literature. Campbell said he once taught the Arthurian legends to a group of very devout Catholic children, grades 4-7. They simply noted how unfaithfulness led to tragedy for all of the characters.  They didn't dwell on the topic, but he said they didn't avoid it entirely either.
  • Now obviously if there are boys in the group who don't yet know the facts of life or recognize euphemisms for sex, the passages in the Davies version would no doubt confuse them.  Check in with the other parents (and yourself!) and ask whether they would be comfortable with the story as it is. If not, it is certainly fine to skip it.
  • When it comes to the Arthurian legends themselves, you can always focus on the better-known stories: the sword in the stone, the founding of the Round Table, Lancelot (as a knight, not in his relationship with the queen), Galahad and the Grail. 

 So, lesson learned.  We are skipping it for now.  I am quickly trying to decide how to proceed so we don't miss our next reading deadlines.  Stay tuned!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Preparing for the Spelling Bee

I just finished my FAQ for our homeschool co-op's spelling team, which I lead.

Part of what I do is prepare fun workshops to help improve spelling skills and build vocabulary.  One of the best places to start are with some great on-line resources.  Check them out for your aspiring Spelling Bee Champ.
First off, I love Free Rice.  We LOVE being able to practice vocabulary while helping to feed the poor.
Then check out Spelling City.  You can enter in your own spelling lists and learn, test and play games to reinforce spelling skills.
Now head over to Spelling Bee The Game for a real-life competition.  The words are incredibly challenging.
Then go to Big IQ Kids for some fun.  You need to click on Spelling Bee Free Game.  You can do all kinds of fun stuff there like US Geography, Math and Vocabulary games as well. Kids get rewarded with fun logic games for doing well.
Another site we like is Word Plays.   There are many options for word play there.

I'll post more ideas here after I present them to our team, but for now, here's the gist of how our Spelling Team works:

Who can participate?
SCRIPPS will allow any child that is in grade 4-8, up to the age of 15 (as long as their birthday was/will be AFTER 8/31).
What does it cost to participate?
I had originally projected a cost of $10 per child.  I’ve amended that to $10 per child with a cap at $15 per family.  

What does your $10 buy?
·         Access to the Spelling Team Yahoo!  Group
Participants will have access to all the group materials via a Yahoo! Group.  Invitations will be sent following payment for the family.

·         Access to the SCRIPP spelling lists and rules
All of the resources available from SCRIPPS will be available at the Spelling Team Yahoo! Group.  SCRIPPS provides lists for all the grades.  It also provides spelling guides for the difficult words we will move onto during the Spelling Bee when we exhaust the words on the grade lists.  It’s extremely helpful to use these spelling guides to prepare for our Bee and the SCRIPPS Regional Spelling Bee.   It is also imperative that the participants be aware of the rules so they are not disappointed when we move on to our practice Bees and the final Bee.

·         Participation in fun spelling workshops
Twice a month we will meet for OPTIONAL spelling workshops.  The workshops are a lot of fun, filled with games, group lessons (advanced phonograms and word etymology), practice Bees and supplemental homework.  All supplemental homework and activities will be available via the  Spelling Team Yahoo! Group.

·         Participation in Spelling Bee
We will hold a Spelling Bee at the end of January.  The judge and pronouncer’s schedule along with facility availability and speller availability will determine the date. 
Last year, the Spelling Bee took approximately 2 hours to complete.  I will allot three hours this year in case we have a great match!
We will have a small reception at the conclusion of the Spelling Bee to hand out awards and thank you’s.

·         The First Prize Winner will go on to participate in the SCRIPPS Regional Spelling Bee
The first prize winner of the Spelling Bee will receive a trophy, a free one year membership to Encyclopedia Britannica online and will go on to the SCRIPPS Regional Spelling Bee in the spring.
The second place winner will receive a trophy, a free one year membership to Encyclopedia Britannica online and will be a stand-in in the event the first place winner cannot participate.