Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Little Mozart from T's Senior Recital

Previously posted on FB, but things get lost there, so here it is, again.

I love it that L was able to play the duet with him but it is a chore--and I seem to have failed to successfully complete that chore--to get the settings correct so I can see them both... so please click through for a better view!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Earth Science and Geology in Photos (part 1)

Trip, Paul and Annika meet the Dep. of Agriculture in Bighorn

Road cut with geological reference marker (note that ubiquitous Red Bed layer in the rock common to this era)

Devil's Tower

Sulfur on the cave ceiling

Cave with molybdenum deposits

Black Hills

A long way from Sagamore Hill


Paul hides the "E" in Butte--haha.

Park rangers share fossil digging tips

Petrified sand dunes

Learning about "big" by the Snake River

Another national park full of geology

Getting to know the former locals

Samples on display

The Great Salt Lake

Copper mining

Mining museum

Lava beds in Idaho

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Earth Science from the 9th Grade Curriculum

Earth Science, the study of the earth, is a high school introduction to geology. It is usually the first of the sciences taught in high school, though some high school programs omit it all together. While I avoid any traditional geology text books, I believe that plenty of reading, accompanied by excellent field work, can provide any student with enough background to excel in continued study of geology.
Listed below are some living books on geological topics, and some basic books which can act as a spine for the study. A review book, like Barron's Let's Review Earth Science, can provide the student with alternative explanations, exercises, and final exams at a reasonable price.
For field work, you're in luck! You live on the Earth! Finding a place to observe geology, the study of the Earth, should be easy! The tough thing is recognizing geology under a city or suburban landscape. The roadside geology books (see below) are a great way to see what your state has to offer geologically without going to far, if you can be satisfied with the geology that surrounds you. Here on Long Island the only real rocks are glacial erratics (the rocks scraped off the mountains to the north and carried here during the ice age). Sure, I'd love to study volcanism, but post-glacial geology is local, so it has become my specialty. Maybe your area has volcanoes, or a glacier, or caves, or beaches, or petrified forests, or badlands, or impact craters, or geysers...whatever is there, work with it. Each environment has geologically interesting features. Find out more about your region at the US Geological Survey site.
If you are interested in making a collection, make sure you have permission of the land owner. Use a rock hammer to take small samples of larger rocks so your collection fits into your home or garage.

Travel if you can!! Use the Roadside Geology series:
Roadside Geology Series:

Baja California (includes biology!)

Read free online booklets from the USGS:
Geology books abound. Here are a few from my bookshelf:
Updated to add:  Doorway of Amethyst from Ye Hedge School.

Get out and make earth science real for your students! Be equipped, too. Prospector's gold pans, rock hammers, field bags (these are great!), goggles and more, available from Amazon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

High School for Two--9th Grade Version

It just dawned on me: I will have two students at home for high school this fall. This has never happened, due to Trip's detour to private high school. Now, freshman Paul will be joining Annika-the-junior. This ought to be fun.

I already posted my literature study for 9th grade; it's the same study I did with Libby 6 years ago.

As for the rest of the subjects, I suppose I'll use good old Jacobs' for Algebra, and of course he'll be heading back to German school one afternoon a week.

Paul, as Capulet

Viola lessons, theory and composition, and orchestra continue.

The rest?

Intensive hands-on earth science with a focus on glacial geology is my usual plan for 9th grade. More on that here.

For social studies, we are planning on American history with an emphasis on the election this fall. The kids will be volunteering for a congressional campaign, and get an insider's view into the process (the older kids already went out to collect signatures to get the candidate on the ballot--go Frank!). We shall see what spring brings. I am hoping for field trips!

Paul was confirmed this year, so we shall probably move onto an intensive bible study.

Did I miss a subject?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

9th Grade Literature

9th Gr. Literature

9th grade, first semester:
Before we read any new books for high school, we will study the familiar--fairy tales. As these books are familiar, we need not re-read them all, but we will use them as examples as we study literary criticism. Using several resources, including A Landscape with Dragons, The Natural History of Make-Believe and The Oxford Companion To Fairy Tales (each used carefully and critically), and C. S. Lewis' Of Other Worlds, we examine all our past reading of children's literature with a mature eye. Since we have read many of the selections we will discuss, I have chosen annotated editions (not study guides!!) to enhance our understanding of the stories we will discuss. We will endeavor to answer the following questions:
Who are the great authors? What inspired them?
Where do stories come from?
What is a moral?
What is the difference between a myth, a folktale, and a fairy tale?
What influences a folktale?
What are the unique thematic features of folktales?
Can a folktale "go wrong"?
We will also attempt:
To make a new tale from an old one.
To write an "original" fairy tale.
Other Resources:
Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes
Annotated Mother Goose
Cinderella Stories from many traditions (Amazon "listmania" list)
Bulfinch's Myths (includes Greek, Roman and Norse myths)
Annotated Classic Fairy Tales
"The Ethics of Elfland" from Chesterton's Orthodoxy (e-book)
The Rumplestiltskin Problem (six different original re-tellings)
The Magic World (E. Nesbit borrows and excels!)
The Annotated Hobbit (with hints and history)
Books from my Children's Fantasy page
9th grade, second semester:
We will familiarize ourselves with some great fictional tales, both ancient and modern. Using the skills we developed during our analysis of fairy tales, we will discuss these stories and the influence they have had on literary traditions as well as the traditions by which the writings themselves were influenced. Clearly, we will not cover everything ever written, but we will try to cover a diverse selection of tales in the Western Tradition.
The Odyssey (adaptation) or The Odyssey (translation)
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Lewis' Space Trilogy
Till We have Faces
Watership Down
Fahrenheit 451

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Altered Service?

When our boys were training for altar service, they would routinely show up at Mass and ask Father if they should serve. After a bit, Father told them not to ask, but to tell him that they were ready to serve. Since our parish does not have many servers (and no sign-up sheets), and there are 8 Masses from Saturday to Sunday, this works well.

As homeschoolers, or during the summer, the boys sometimes serve at funerals at our parish, or at the parishes of friends. Recently, at a funeral for the father of a family friend, the boys arrived with cassocks and surplices in hand in case they were needed, but were told that there were already servers; this was unusual, but not unheard of. Assuming that there were other servers at the parish who had volunteered, the boys put everything back in the car, came back in, and sat with the congregation. In came the priest and the pall-bearers, and a woman with a plastic name badge holding the holy water and aspergillum for the priest. She proceeded to take on all the tasks usually reserved for the servers. In fact, there were no other altar servers. The boys were a bit stunned.

Is this typical at some parishes these days?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

When Does a Library Cease to Be a Library?

Annika is at the library. I dropped her there, though she usually walks the 6 blocks, as it is a delightfully oppressive 101 degrees outside. Our library is commonly known as the coldest place in the village, with air conditioners pumping hard to keep the reading areas at about 55. No kidding. Annika will head up to the young adult reading area, where incredibly comfortable chairs are placed among the shelves, and where no young adults are ever seen lounging, unless they are my young adult children. I kid you not.

I love our library. I love the librarians, the volunteers, the pages who work there, and for the most part, I like the book selections that are available. I have been a "Friend" of the library from time to time, and when the children were younger, they participated in many programs, from story time for the youngest, to various crafts (filling in for the lack of craftiness here at home), to the babysitting class for 12 year olds that frightened Libby out of her wits with tales of choking babies and bleeding toddlers. When the children were very young, our library had a small concert series featuring a local quartet.

The stories were read by the paid librarians, but I believe the other programs were run by volunteers. As I understand, anyone may present a program at a public library, as long as the program is open to the public. And perhaps these are services that a library should provide.

In the next village, which no doubt received a massive state grant for its library, the facility includes a 300 seat theater, two smaller recital rooms, and more. Programs for everyone, from babies book time to senior driving refreshers are taught. Full theatrical productions take place. Professional musicians give educational concerts with pre-concert talks. Oh, and they have books, too. In fact they have one of the largest collections in the area.

But a typical library is not just a place to find books anymore. There are DVDs. Where our local library used to charge a nominal fee--usually a dollar--for borrowing a DVD, all media are now free. The librarians complain to me about grandmas dragging children out of the library with an armful of DVDs, while having told the children firmly that they may not take out books. I have witnessed this myself. I have seen children run to the shelves only to be told, "No books today!" No books?? Isn't this a library?



Just read this online at School Library Journal: Cuts Hit Library Serving Kids With Autism. It seems that New Jersey's Governor Christie has proposed to cut the state budget's contribution for libraries in NJ by 74%. Draconian, or not? Should states be funding local libraries? And what precisely needs to be funded? (A librarian once told me that all fines and fees go into the local village budget, just like parking tickets and meter money, not back to the library...perhaps that ought to change?) It seems as though the library ought to have few expenses: Staff, maintenance, and purchasing. Volunteers back up the staff and work on other programs, right?

The library in the SLJ newsletter provides services for an unknown number of autistic children. The library director claims, "Our work with individuals on the spectrum will continue despite our need to balance our budget." (Good on them!!) The folks working in this program are volunteers, many of them on the autism spectrum themselves. Heck, their book club for autistic teens doesn't even meet in the meets at Panera. So, the program is run by volunteers, and does not meet in the library. How will the program suffer from cuts in the state budget?

The library in the piece has had to cut back in some areas, including staffing, but is dealing with the cuts in a reasonable way. It is clear from the emotional headline, though, that SLJ has a political agenda. But for those of us who do read past the headline, there really is nothing related to the autism service that will be harmed. So perhaps SLJ has ceased to advocate for reading, and is simply advocating for money, using people with autism as an emotional tool to push their politics. After all, if one can read, one knows that the headline distorts the truth. So, have libraries ceased to be places that encourage reading?