Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tylenol Tuesdays Installment 1, or, CC Week 13

Tuesday was the start of week 13.
We will simply say that morning came early. For one, our schedule from the holidays and hubby not working "normal" hours is wayyyy OFF...for another, the girls were up long past midnight, and hubby was quite wired too. I was, in fact, the only TIRED one at bedtime Monday night. THEY all had nasty "Fundamiddles" cupcakes. I'm blaming the misguided sleep-depriving hyperactivity on THOSE.
Regardless of any reasons why everyone was up late, getting up on Monday was a tough one. I don't function well waking up before 7 on any day of the week, regardless of when I went to bed! We were thirty minutes past the "ideal" time to leave home for CC--I missed my second cup of caffeine AND my preventative Tylenol dose!

Thankfully, when we arrive at CC the younger kids and I have about 25 minutes to gain our composure before class actually starts. We skip morning assembly in order to acquire those few golden minutes of calm together.

Class begins at 9:30 for The Boy's class with Presentations. They have presentations every week. These are assigned topics, often a poem or joke to tell, just to get them up in front of the class. This week's topic was "My Favorite Things," meaning the kids all had a legitimized opportunity to trot out the brag list of what they got for Christmas.  This was probably a good idea, because it would've inevitably happened anyway. The Boy did a poem that Bilbo composed in The Hobbit.  His oldest sister finished reading the book to him last week--her efforts appear nearly altruistic to me, but I also know that she just LOVES the story. Any time she can spend in Middle Earth makes her just a little more jovial. We give in to this fascination pretty easily(we ordered Hobbitus Ille for her just yesterday). The Boy LOVES the story too--I am surprised at the accuracy of the details he remembers!
There was one other child who brought something other than a Christmas gift for presentation this week--a homemade periscope. We MUST do that activity here soon. The kids all loved it!


 After the thirty-minute Christmas-gift discussion session, it is time for Art. Art today is tempera painting in the method of Giotto di Bondone--apparently he used things found in nature like bugs, berries, clay, and minerals--to make his paints, so the kids crushed chalk in a styrofoam bowl with a rock to mix with egg yolk and water to make paints for their masterpieces.

 Egg tempera is such a fun art project with kids, but they didn't LET the kids "do" the eggy part(I can't imagine why!)!  As an aside, I was amused again that while waiting in line for art class, The Boy continues to mostly talk with a girl in his class who shares his oldest sister's name. This little girl is quite a reader too(like C), and I think they find fun things to discuss about stories. 
Interestingly, he also chooses to sit at a separate table from the boys in the class most of the time--I think he is afraid of getting distracted by their chatter and hyperactivity and then getting in trouble. I have been surprised at how seriously he takes the "learning" portion of the day at CC, as he has never really been in any formal schooling situation, even in co-ops.

In Science, after a review of the Scientific Method, they talked about the earth: its tilt, how the seasons are affected, and the spin/orbit of the earth.

 It was great fun playing with styrofoam balls, sharpened pencils, and flashlights!

They also talked about how ice can split rocks since water expands when it freezes. It reminded me of the time I soaked red beans overnight in a narrow, tall container. Beans can split plastic! Lol. I don't know why they do two experiments on mostly unrelated subjects each week--seemingly the kids would learn more if left to explore one thing in more detail.

After Science they process back to their "home" room for the introduction of new material. This is where the Tutor goes through all the facts of the next week's memory work, at the breathless rate of four minutes(I think)per subject. It leaves no time to think or ask questions, just rush through. The kids have a visual aid that the tutor prepares each week:

It begins with the timeline events--seven per week, then the history sentence(both of these have songs and motions to help memory). Their science fact today is learning the parts of the earth, and to "engage" the kids they are told they can "kick like a Russian dancer" while singing the song. I think this is probably an engagement backfire, because it renders them ALL distracted and giggling instead of listening to the crust, mantle, atmosphere, etc...

Latin this week is actually review, which is nice for the first week back. Noun cases. 

English grammar defines a helping verb to the tune of "This Old Man," but the song ends with the assertion "helping verbs make lots of sense"....this makes NO sense to me and is a pet peeve; often the memory song lyrics make random "values" assertions regarding the material JUST TO COMPLETE A RHYME. Ugh!

Math facts today are liquid equivalents. I giggle and hope the Redhead is getting it, as this is actually USEFUL and RELEVANT information for my would-be pastry chef...though they didn't cover the number of tablespoons in a cup...and then my mind wanders off trying to calculate the number of tablespoons in a gallon, while also pondering why there are FOUR quarts to a gallon when the pattern is "two of these equals one of those"....my brain is crashing, I think!

After the breath-taking presentation of new material is a half hour of REVIEW before lunch, which brings me to the point of explaining MY biggest problems with the CC program as we've experienced it this year:

1. There is NO time in class spent on the memorizing of Scripture. For a program that labels itself as "classical Christian," I find that remarkable. We also have kids in the older (Challenge) levels of the program, and if the tutor is not really well grounded in Biblical thinking, the kids may or may NOT get a Biblical worldview "just" from being in the program. It leaves too much wiggle room, in my opinion.

2. There are no breaks in the morning for the younger kids. By the time The Boy's class hits the 11 a.m. mark, most of the kids are in total "crash" mode. They need a snack. They need to potty. They need to giggle and talk and get a drink of water. The last half-hour sees more bathroom trips and verbal corrections than the previous two hours combined...the program does not allow for the physical limitations of kids (and parents. and tutors. It's too "schooly.")

3. There really is very little "integration" of material, which is a HUGE, great-sounding buzzword you hear if you attend a CC info meeting. In fact, the breakdown of New Material and Review into two separate sessions makes most of the information segmented so that the kids are not readily synthesizing. I think that rather than the half-hour review game where the kids are all checked out while waiting for their turns, it would be best to intro the new material at the same time review is done...timeline in context. History sentence in context of the geography review...other classical programs I've seen DO it this way, and it makes sense that if "pegs" being driven is the goal at the grammar stage, then giving them more sensory input for their facts could ONLY help retention.
I find that the Geography is especially weakened by the rush and lack of integration. They usually don't DO Geography review with a map at all, just recite the five or six features for week X's memory work. Something as simple to make visual as Geography SHOULD be done well.

Kids playing the "fishing" game for review. Subject cards are color-coded, so any game with four colors works for random question selection...unless the kids aren't really engaged and listening. See the  body language in this picture?

The Boy waited to catch a BLUE fish this time on every one of his turns but one, as that is the Timeline card color, and he ROCKS the timeline. Interestingly, as we started this year knowing VERY little about the program(CC makes it hard to find out anything before you've paid your bookoodle bucks to be IN), the two somewhat coherent thoughts I had were that I wanted the younger kids to memorize the timeline and the MULTIPLICATION facts. Anything else is lagniappe. Maybe those were sound expectations....have I raised my own bar too high for the program? Likely. Why should CC be any different from other parts of my life?

When the REVIEW period is over, the kids all race to LUNCH. Which occurs on the floor. In the gym. In 20 minutes. Lunch is followed by recess, which usually involves a rowdy game of dodgeball IN THE GYM. So you'd best EAT and GET OUT.

The Challenge I group waiting for us to join them on the floor for lunch.

We parents all have rotating recess duty as well. One of those "by the way now that you're IN" bits that I would TOTALLY have opted NOT to do given the chance to know about it ahead of time. I dislike being responsible for entertaining OPK(other people's kids). It bothers me that our CC campus has RECESS time for those with tiny little bitty kids who have NOTHING in the afternoon...meaning that sometimes we whose kids MUST be there another three hours after lunch have to spend our MUCH-NEEDED midday "break" watching the littles...I know that if I still had my oldest as a seven year old, we wouldn't even stay for LUNCH. Naps and lunch happen at home. In quick consecutive order. Send the youngest families home before lunch, is what I suggest!

And wouldn't recess, if it MUST even BE, be better after the first hour of class time? So the kids could have a potty break and snack and avoid some of the brain melt they obviously experience by the last half-hour before lunch(and quitting time for Foundations)?

Which brings me to my bleary-eyed and fuzzy-brained conclusion at the end of EVERY CC day--if you are even THINKING of joining a CC "Community", ASK QUESTIONS. Be bold with them. Be obnoxious. Be nosey. Because you likely will get tight-lipped answers anyway. Find out all you can. Ahead of time.
You may go unwittingly into the school year with your own sweet vision of what your family's experience will be, and it may be TOTALLY different from your campus Director's vision for the campus. I do believe this makes a difference. Our campus is run in a very "schoolish" way--as if CC's job is not just to equip and help homeschooling families learn, but it is EQUALLY concerned with providing all the "schoolish" perks that  home educated kids (may?) miss out on. This can really conflict with your family's dynamics of time and energy(and finances).
 So ask.

Will my children be separated by age if I prefer that they be kept together?

Will parents' need to be with their children work alongside the expectations of the campus policy?
(Our campus insists that we be there with our kids, but I can't be physically in four places at one time, can I? This is overly stress-inducing.)

Are we required to help clean up the campus? On a rotating schedule? How often? Why is my facility fee for four children $200, then?

Will we have to help "sit" other people's kids AT ALL?

Will parents be welcome in ANY of their children's classes AT ANY TIME?

Can my family "opt out" of community-specific "obligations" at all, or is it all about uniformity?

Those are just a few of the questions that I did NOT ask at the outset, because there was no way to see those sorts of things coming as a part of being in the program. I wish I had known.

Open registration begins soon for the next CC year. Our family, barring some Divine mandate, will make THIS year our last year in a Classical Conversations community.  That said, the two youngers ARE memorizing the timeline and the multiplication tables, and they are getting to "do" science experiments EVERY WEEK.
:)
Good thing I know a bit about lagniappe.

Happy Homeschooling~till next Tylenol Tuesday!
-april



1 comment:

Ashley said...

Oh my goodness! I found this after googling "quitting classical conversations" to see other experiences with the struggles I'm having and yours line up perfectly with mine. My only concern is not HAVING to do something and slacking off as a result. I don't want to socialize with cliques that I'm not a part of, I don't want to babysit, I don't want to HAVE to select a cleaning day (like you said: facility fee!!), I don't want to sign up for prepping a meal for my tutor (I know it would help but they get paid!), and I don't want to sit there EVERY WEEK for hours. I feel so selfish bc I know my kids are learning and getting stuff I probably won't do as well but ugh. I'm so tired. And now I have to make a quick decision bc reg starts soon and ours fills up immediately and they're cutting spaces this year. Sigh.