Home education diary, March 2003

March 2nd

Time for some more introspection, and a look in greater detail at what we're currently doing. Five years ago it didn't occur to me that I could possible provide a 'secondary' education to my sons. Now home education is something so incorporated in our lifestyle and general family philosophy that it rather surprises me when anyone considers sending children - particularly small children - to school.

Daniel is very close to finishing level 1 of the NCSC in his ACE work now, and has started level 2 in most subjects. Tim is just over half way through level 1.  Working on this takes two or three hours a day, in theory. Usually we do this in the mornings, all sitting around the dining room table. The boys work through their booklets fairly informally, with some discussion and questions, and a few extra explanations from me where needed, particularly in maths.

The rest of the time they're involved in computer-related activities, music, drama, and church groups. Daniel plays the clarinet in the town band, and the church music group, and now sings in the youth group band. Tim plays piano or guitar in church, and guitar in the youth group band. In addition Dan takes Greek lessons and Tim takes tennis lessons. Daniel has recently been out several times with some 18-30s in a group called YWAM who have been here for a Christian training course - going to local towns, and participating in services and evangelism. He's finding it all very encouraging.    Their academic work has been slotted in when they have free time recently!

This morning at church, someone with small children (the oldest is three) was asking me about home education. She said she was already thinking about her son going to school, but worried about the formality and structure of early learning in a classroom.  She didn't feel confident about the time and effort she would need to put into home educating, although it appealed strongly to her.It was hard for me to think back to the idea that 'school is the default'.  I hope I persuaded her to take a year at a time, rather than planning the next 15 years at this stage.  She says her son is already interested in reading, so I told her that in my experience reading is something natural, that children pick up when they're ready, just like they pick up language.

Later today I was talking to Daniel, who has been feeling a low recently. A physiotherapist who is here with the YWAM training school has given him some exercises to help his arm problem.  We hope and pray that this will help - but it's tiring and depressing for him having constant aches and pains.  He's also been worried about what he might do in future. Most of his friends have careers mapped out in their minds, and are going to university, as if that too is the default.  I tend to think a university course should be for those who need them (such as doctors, or lawyers) and that there's really no need for yet more formal education at 18 just because someone happens to be intelligent. Plenty of time for a degree course later on, if it seems appropriate or necessary.

Daniel said that he thinks he'd like to finish level 2 of his coursework by Christmas this year (which is theoretically possible, though it will mean quite a bit of work) and then go himself on the next YWAM training course that's planned for next January in Larnaka - if they'll take him at 17.  It's supposed to be for young people aged 18+, but they might make an exception as they know him already.  The course is three months residential, followed by two months of outreach either locally or abroad.  After that he'd like to work on some projects with the group, and also perhaps with the theatre group he belongs to, and maybe with Richard.  He really doesn’t want to go to university at this stage, nor to embark on any single career.

Tim has had various career ideas in the past few years - he's wanted to be a teacher, a minister, a chef, a journalist,  a doctor,  and a sound engineer.  Right now he's not sure at all, but thinks he might want to study music, at least to diploma level, perhaps doing a year course at a Conservatoire rather than a full music degree. He's certainly doing pretty well with piano and guitar for his age, though he doesn’t do anything like the practice times he probably ought to if he's to consider music as a career. Still, as he pointed out, he can always do part-time teaching of music since there's always a demand for that, alongside another career.  He has plenty of time, and is planning to take level 3 in the coursework they're following, as well as the first two levels.

March 3rd

Yesterday Tim went out with Richard to visit a group who are building a broadcasting studio.  He had a wonderful day.  He loves learning anything technical, and his learning style fits well with watching and listening rather than being taught. Home education at its best!

This morning we got back to their coursework. Tim startedat 10am, doing a few pages of each of five subjects then abandoning the rest until tomorrow, as he was so tired (they didn't get back till 10.30pm last night).  Dan started about 10.30 and kept going till 1pm when we stopped for lunch.  Dan's just started the 'physical science' module, which has raised some interesting questions: first about Aristotlean logic, which wasn't really explained in the pace, but was rather glossed over as if it were rather immature or even funny.

We had a look in the Encyclopedia Brittanica to find out more - there were some fascinating articles.  It seems that Aristotle was the founder of grammar too, or at least of writing down formal grammar structures.  He was a scientist and observer (despite what ACE says) but relied too much on inductive reasoning, it would appear - ie he looked at three or four examples of something and then assumed it was true of everything.  And of course his science was mixed with philosophy.

After lunch Daniel went straight out to his Greek lesson.  Tim should have tennis on Monday afternoons, but as it was raining this was cancelled.  So he was on the computer most of the afternoon, doing something with music.  I'm never quite sure what.  Both the boys are way ahead of me in the IT/computer world: self-taught, or gleaning info from web-sites, magazines, and online chat-rooms.

March 5th

The boys seem to be doing well with ACE at present. Dan seems particularly keen to work harder, which is good; perhaps because now he has a motivation to finish it all by Christmas.  They both did about two and a half hours' work this morning.  

In what Daniel read this morning in physical science, there was mention of different temperature scales, and the idea of 'absolute zero' at -273C, or 0 Kelvin.  Dan wondered if this was the point at which molecules of water stopped moving or any kind of molecules - and if so, why it was the same for all of them.  A browse of our GCSE science books didn't reveal much but Asimov's 'New Guide to Science' which examines scientific thought alongside the history of science had an interesting section about Kelvin and his discoveries.  Asimov said that absolute zero is now considered to be -273.16 C, so the Kelvin scale isn't exact.  I'm not sure if there's any change since the book was published.

Yesterday afternoon was warmer than it has been, so Dan spent some time reading, sitting in a tree, and Tim did some tennis practice.  Today it rained so they read indoors. Dan's reading the second of two Rosemary Sutcliffe books I found for him last week at a second-hand bookshop, and Tim is reading 'Gulliver's Travels', which I found at a  jumble sale.  Dan read that years ago but apparently Tim has never read it.  He says the language is a bit old-fashioned (not surprising, considering it was written about 1700!) but he's enjoying it.

Tim had his piano lesson - the first in a while - this afternoon, and Daniel went to the theatre group to help with the younger children's class, making some props for their next production.  He got pretty wet but he likes walking in the rain.  Tim's teacher brought him some grade 5 books - aural training, scales and arpeggios, theory etc - as he's considering doing a grade 5 exam at some point.

I noticed that the aural training ones are for all instruments, not just piano, so showed them to Dan who will be taking clarinet grade 5 in a couple of months.  His teacher hasn't started any of this stuff with him, apparently.  I hope he hasn't forgotten that Dan will need it.  Clarinet teachers (in our limited experience of two!) seem particularly forgetful and laid-back about such things.  Anyway, Dan can use the accompanying CD and work through some of the exercises at home, so that's useful.  

March 6th

The boys did some ACE work though Tim was pretty tired.  Daniel's having a hard time with his geometry work - not that it's difficult, but he gets bogged down in complexities and the step-by-step American method of proving things, since he can usually see everything intuitively.  He doesn't remember the various theorems (which I'm quite sure I never learned either) and often sees far more complicated possibilities than what's expected.  I don't think it's nearly such a good course as the algebra he did last year.  But then the algebra has fairly recently been re-written.

Tim was interested to see a population 'map' on the back of his South America pace, showing relative populations rather than actual geographical size.  He was also intrigued that Guatamala has apparently the highest population of any country in Central America, yet is mostly mountains and volcanoes.  However the population is only around 8 million, and Guatamala is the size of England, so perhaps it's just that all the other Central American countries are very under-populated.

Tim's feeling pretty discouraged about his Abeka French elective, which is  a pretty intensive course.  He probably needs to spend a lot longer at it, but he gets bored easily, and has a hard time remembering all the vocabulary.  I try to encourage him to listen to some Linguaphone in addition to using the book, so he's hearing spoken French as well as reading it, but he's not very inspired.

Daniel's 'literature' book is 'Did man just happen?' - a creationist's talks about why the evolutionary theories really don't hold.  It's quite interesting, though he finds it a bit irritating as the guy uses loads of exclamation marks and seems to write off evolutionary ideas as stupid, rather than approaching them with common sense and accepting that for people who don't believe in God there has to be some form of explanation about how man came into being. Evolution, while still full of flaws, seems about the only possible way of looking at it, unlikely though it all seems.

Daniel rather wished there were some photographs in the book showing some of the things the author talked about, and when he'd finished it (it's only a short book which he started on Monday) he decided to delay most of his work till Monday - since he has a drama rehearsal tomorrow morning - and do some online research to see if he could find out more about what the author was mentioning.

He didn't really find anything he wanted online.  He was frustrated that both evolutionists and creationists seem so defensive about their points of view, almost aggressive at times, rather than simply explaining them.  We had quite a discussion over lunch but it didn't really get anywhere. We talked about the universe being a doughnut shape, and 'expanding' or not.

It was mostly rather over my head.  I don't see what the big deal is about all this.  If God is creator, then there's no need to believe in all the contortions and guesses that go along with evolutionary theory - some of which may be true, most of which is inductive guesswork.  But none of it is scientific in the official sense since it can't be tested, and can't be verified. Belief in intra-species Evolution requires just as much faith as belief in Creation - in fact probably rather more.  I wondered why people bother to argue, since there are so many possible viewpoints, one of which is literal 6-day creation, but there are theistic evolutionists, and 'old earth' creationists, and all sorts of variations in between.  We can never 'prove' what happened, so I don't see the big deal.

Tim did his guitar and piano practice after lunch, then did most of the work for making more lemonade, since we'd run out. The boys tried some tennis in the back garden, but the ground is a bit rough, so they decided to go early to youth group band practice, and see if they could play a bit on the basketball court outside church.

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