Strengths and self-directed learning

In 2017, our home school, Bethel Hill Academy, is going through some exciting changes. Since Darah and I began homeschooling the boys in 2010, our goal for them has always been the same: Teach them to teach themselves. If the boys learn how to learn, they will be able to acquire any knowledge or skills they require to lead the lives God has created them for, no matter what those might end up being.

These last few years have been spent helping the boys acquire essential skills: reading efficiently and with good recall, basic math facts and operations, expressing one’s thoughts in writing clearly and concisely. They have each made good progress in all of these. And, as with all basics, continued practice at them will help them achieve and then maintain mastery.

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Home school: A learning of love

1 Year AnniversaryIn January 2015, I started working from 4 pm to midnight. While this was a tough switch at the time, it allowed me to more or less be awake and functional during home school hours. After observing what Darah was doing with the boys, I started to help here and there, as well as beginning to pitch in on some housework. As the weeks went by, I became more and more involved. I’ve always enjoyed school and structure and schedules, and I found I was in my element coordinating lesson plans and being more involved in running a household.

Then, in mid-September of 2015, I was laid off from my job. The very next day, I took over the record-keeping for the school and began to envision myself as its primary teacher.

And now, a full year has passed! Sitting here today, it is hard to believe that so much time has already flown by (there goes old tempus, fugiting again!), but looking back, I realize I have learned a lot and grown in my own thinking. (more…)

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Tea and Coffee with Reed

Our two boys are very different people, and they’ve been that way as far back as I can remember. Kent is more cautious and detail-oriented, tends toward perfectionism, is more introverted and (relatively) quieter. Reed flies by the seat of his pants, cannot sit still, loves to interact with others, and talks and talks and talks, regardless of whether there’s anyone around to talk to. It is amazing to see them both growing into young men, and fascinating to observe how the personalities they were born with continue to evolve and mature under our watchful eye.

Darah and I are reading an excellent little book right now, Different Children, Different Needs. These two very different children need different things from us as they grow and develop, and we are seeing positive results already from just the mere discussion of this reality with the boys.

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And We’re Back…

BACKWe’re just back from a four-week break that caught me somewhat by surprise. I’ve been so focused on working on some material for Kent’s 12th-birthday celebration that I took my eye off the mid-term outlook. And before I knew it, a month has flown by!

I knew we’d be off school for a week during our annual pilgrimage to Chicago. (We had a terrific time as always. So good to spend time with friends!) And I knew we were bringing home with us a special visitor from out-of-town, my brother’s younger son, Eli. And I knew his brother, Caleb, and my brother himself would be joining us a week or so after that. And I knew my mom was going to be in town to join the festivities. Put it all together, and you’ve got a solid four-week block of time during which no school was going to happen.

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Math is Hard

rational-expressionI started doing some math every day at the beginning of this year. I wanted to be working alongside the boys, and I thought it would help me understand their reality better if I was doing the same sort of work that they are. Plus, I’ll be their primary mathematics instructor as they progress, and it will be helpful if I go through a refresher on algebra and the like myself. Not to mention that my own math education stalled out after a basic trigonometry course in high school, and I thought it might be fun to pick up where I left off and see how far I could go!

I have been zipping right along, doing as many as four or five lessons per day. I was getting caught up to the point where I left off all those many years ago, refreshing my memory along the way. I had forgotten all the formulas for computing volume and surface area and the like, as well as concepts like the exponent “power rule”, etc. But picking that sort of thing back up has been pretty easy.

However, I finally hit a significant speed bump in the form of simplifying, adding, and multiplying rational expressions. For those who, like me, have largely forgotten 9th-grade mathematics, a rational expression, and the process of simplifying it, is pictured above.

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Our School Motto: Nil Desperandum

Here comes number 71!
Here comes number 71!

Somewhere along the way, I ran across this quote, purportedly from Richard M. DeVos, the co-founder of Amway:

If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down 70 times and get up off the floor saying, ‘Here comes number 71!’

I really like that. It matches up with my experience of reality; it is veridical. It reminds me of Galatians 6:9: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
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Math Update – Kent: LEVEL UP!

Achievement Get!
Achievement Get!

Today, after nearly a full year of work, Kent has completed his first full math book, Saxon 5/4. To put the significance of this achievement in perspective, I want to provide some background.

Kent had a very challenging and unhelpful kindergarten experience. Through no fault of his own, he did not learn what he should have and so was moved to a different school for first grade. This was a better experience academically for Kent — he was his class’s most improved student for the year — but it was a hard one schedule-wise, since Darah and my work schedules required him to be at school and/or daycare for 10 hours each weekday. So, in second grade, we began homeschooling both Kent and his brother, Reed. Kent was then 7 years old.
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Mathematics Update

Saxon87Today, I completed the final lesson and test in my Saxon 8/7 Mathematics book. One hundred twenty problem sets, 23 tests, and 12 investigations later, I now know the same amount of mathematics as the average 7th grader! I started the book on January 4 of this year, so it took me just under three months to complete.

Things I learned along the way:

  • Surface area of a sphere: 4πr²
  • Volume of a pyramid: 1/3bh
  • Volume of a cone: 1/3 πr²h
  • Volume of a sphere: 4/3πr³
  • Counting in base 2 (binary)
  • Multiplying and dividing exponents
  • Rationale for why division by 0 is not possible (It has to do with infinity, which I never knew before!)
  • Stem-and-leaf and box-and-whisker plots
  • Probability vs. chance vs. odds

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Wondering About Alice

aliceAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There have both just come up on our home school reading list. It has been a long time since I read either, so I went ahead and read through both of them again.

I had forgotten how much of this material has entered popular culture in one way or another. The characters are memorable: White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts, Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum, Tweedledee, Humpty Dumpty (although not original to Dodgson), and Alice herself, to name but a few. The scenes are vividly etched into our minds: the mad tea party, the constant shrinking and growing (“Eat Me”, “Drink Me”), the Jabberwock. Even several of Dodgson’s nonsense words and phrases have entered our lexicon: “chortle”, “galumphing”, “jam tomorrow; never jam today”.

Both stories are framed as young Alice’s dreams, and the environs and scenarios presented in each could only occur in a dream-world. The impossible is commonplace, and pure nonsense plays a large role. Most notably, in a departure from much of the children’s literature of the day, these books contain no moral and are not intended to provide any instruction. They are simply for fun, as is clearly communicated in the Christmas and Easter letters Dodgson wrote to appear with certain publication runs of the books.
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