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Entries in homeschooling (68)



I thought I'd let Calvin write this one for me. I recently gave him an assignment practicing his creative writing style versus his academic writing style. The assignment included two short samples that are in response to the book Bears on Hemlock Mountain.

Creative writing: Describe a journey over the mountain:

I was sent on an errand; to go get the silver pan from our treasure chest at the top of the mountain. The mountain was tall, about 100 to 200 feet high. And some people said there was a monster on the mountain.

I sighed and looked up the mountian. It was a long way up. I put one foot in the side, then another, and then I started to climb.

The sun was just beginning to set. There was a beautiful sunset in progress. Oh, the purples and reds and greens and yellows weaving their way acorss the sky, traversing its giant blue field.

I was about halfway there when i heard a sound: CRACK! I whipped around to see what made the noise. I kept feeling more terrified every second. Almost there! I said to myself. Only ten feet left! I pulled myself up to the top of the mountain and then slowly let myself down into the cave that held our treasure chest.

The cave was dark. Really dark. I quickly rabbed the silver pan. Then I went to the slide hole. My dad had madea hole int he side of the cave that led onto really smooth snow. We called this the slide hole. I lowered myself onto the snow and WHEEEEE! I flew down the mountainside, going home.


Academic writing: Black Bears

Black bears are amazing. They are five feet at lenght, and they weight 300 pounds. They come in fur colors of black, brown, bluegray, and white. The colors bluegray and white, however, are rare.

Black bears aren't only amazing in just looks, they also do a lot of neat things. They will eat acorns, berries, branches, and honey. They climb trees very well. Some even makie their winter dens in trees. They live in mountains, forests, and swamps of the U.S.A., Canada, and Northern Mexico.



Things about which we do not speak: frustration

It is easy to believe, even for long stretches of time, that this life we've created is charmed and perfect. We love what we're doing, what we're exploring and researching, the books we're reading, the topics we're delving into. In part, that's the point. Homeschooling allows us the freedom to make that happen.

But the truth isn't at all that simple.Even the things you love become tedious at times, and that old adage, about anything worth doing or having is worth working for, is true.

Things often come easily to Calvin. Over the years it has become increasingly clear that he expects this, and when something isn't as easy as he expects, he becomes frustrated quickly. It's a common reaction for bright kids, but it's hard to watch. My go-to response has always been to applaud his struggle and use that old adage about the greatest things requiring greater work, but it usually falls on deaf ears. And why shouldn't it? The more I've thought about it, telling him that the things he struggles with are worth more only negates all the things he's learned easily in the past. And aside from nobody wanting their knowledge demeaned, the truth is that it's a lie, and kids can see right through lies.

And there's another important piece to the puzzle, too, the piece that adds color to the overall picture. Our feelings, our emotions, add color to our lives, and frustration is one of those emotions. In telling my son that he should revel in his struggles and award himself for hard-won feats I'd hoped to aleviate his frustration and avoid what is ultimately a painful and frustrating experience for myself as well. But that's the wrong lesson. Frustration is part of life. And while I'd like him to learn how to successfully work hard for his achievements, and to self-reward, it is just as important to me that he learn how to be frustrated and self soothe, or calm, then move forward.

So over the past few months we've changed our approach to frustration. It started with admitting that I had been wrong, followed with the admission that we all get frustrated (as if he hadn't seen me deal with frustration myself), and ended with what I hope will be the ultimate lesson: that the frustration matters less than what you do with or after it. But frustration response is habit forming, and it can take time to change bad habits. Around here our go-to response to frustration has been negativity, like grumbling, physical outbursts, or even giving up. So we introduced positive and negative jars: in the face of frustration, when we choose to respond in a positive way a pin goes in the positive jar, and vice versa. A positive reaction can be laughter, a reframing of goals, or simply walking away, but most importantly, it can come after an initial outburst, because expressing frustration is okay.



Calvin loved playing in water when he was a baby, and it turns out not much has changed. Our science exploration this week, building on what we did last week, revolved around the what, how, and why of hydrometers. Out came the kitchen scale again, and several of the objects we used for our demonstration last week, plus a few additional items, all followed up by a field trip to our local home brewing store (where else would you go to get a trusty hydrometer?)


Tinkering with robotics

I love when inspiration hits (think: "You got chocolate in my peanut butter!" "You got peanut butter in my chocolate!")

This weekend: Lego Mindstorms meets Tinker Crate.

It started with a zoetrope assembly, then the question "Do you think we can rig Tracker to run it?", followed by a lot of planning, a fair amount of trial and error, a smidgeon of frustration, and much rejoicing at success.


Writing, age 8

For the past year we've been using the Michael Clay Thompson grammar curriculum. We love it. It's holistic, rolling grammar, poetry, and Latin based vocabulary into one rich unit full of great lit and poem examples and recommendations. But this isn't a review and I'm not a paid spokesperson. Actually, I just thought I'd share a couple of my favorite samples from Calvin's work this year as we near the end of MCT's Town series.

First, an experiment with enjambed poetry:

My Castle, by Calvin Ophoff, age 8

My castle is a funny place
that I have not explored.
I've seen the front, I've seen the back,
with shining spires reaching up into the sky
to bathe their tips in golden light.
I've seen the sides with pretty emeralds
decorating them, the abbey with its glistening cross,
the pumpkin fields so green. I've seen the
chariots covered with gold and silver,
yet I haven't been inside.
It fades away at dawn's first light,
and reappears at 9:00 at night!


Second, an experiment with descriptive paragraphs:

The moon shone bright and clear down onto the woods below. An owl spread her wings gently and let the soft night breeze carry her upward. Down below, twigs cracked as a black squirrel made its way through the undergrowth. A chickadee sang its song loud and clear: "Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee!" The blue jay crowed its warning call as a bear smashed its way around the forest. The fish in the forest pool swam around silently under the still water. The moon rose higher as a bell somewhere began to toll.

by Calvin Ophoff, age 8