Tag Archives: simplify homeschool

GPS at the Rowhouse

GPS is Global Perspective Studies. My business partner at Simplify, Jill Harper, named it and I’m a little bit over the moon at how clever this name is. It’s the high school history and literature core that Jill and I planned and I wrote. The first year, or “Core” is being released soon and we’re running a contest for a free copy. You still have time to enter!

Some of the inspiration for this program comes from my own school experiences, where I took an interdisciplinary course in literature and history for my first two years of high school. In fact, vintage copies of the textbook I had in school, Prentice Hall’s World Masterpieces, is included and heavily used in GPS. The first year program focuses on Africa and Asia, so it includes things like short stories by Najib Mahfouz, Rabindranath Tagore, and Lu Xun and poetry by writers like Rumi, Hafiz, and Shu Ting. It also gives us excerpts from classical texts like The Rig Veda, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Bible. I get a little verklempt when I talk about the joys of this textbook.

Mushroom and BalletBoy have been my product testers. I don’t know if they’d say they love it as they’re not the literature lovers that I am. However, they’re in the midst of reading Siddhartha right now and BalletBoy sang its praises as one of the best books he’s read in awhile, so that’s a relief to hear. However, I feel good about how much they’re learning and how they’re advancing through it.

It’s not always an easy program for them. It pushes them in a variety of ways. One of my goals this year was to up our work level across the board. I wanted them to be writing more, reading more, and just doing more at a high school level. Having students who are really engaged with high level work is an important educational value for me in high school.

Most weeks have short answer history questions. They have to pull out a textbook or read a history book about the place and time period and answer complex, multi-part questions in a paragraph. BalletBoy has a tendency to wax grandiose about topics with no facts. Ancient civilizations in Africa were “the greatest” and had “many innovations” and “eventually led to other civilizations.” Um, way to tell us nothing. Mushroom likes to procrastinate and go over and over these repeatedly. “But what was the cause again? Where is it in the book?” Over time, they’ve been improving. BalletBoy wrote me a lovely explanation of why Aurangzeb’s leadership weakened the Mughal Empire last week. They’ve finally learned to rely more on the textbook and stop trying to furtively check Wikipedia for everything.

Mushroom has turned in a few great assignments for GPS. For his graphic memoir, he had to write about a time he misunderstood something as a young child. He wrote and drew a lovely comic about being a preschooler on a merry-go-round and then thinking that the bed was really, actually still spinning when he went to sleep at night afterward. He also made a hilarious video explaining all the Hindu gods.

I wrote the program to the student, but it’s definitely been a hands on teaching experience for me. Sometimes the kids do the work and I check that it happened and we let it go. Other times, they get stuck and I step in. One of my best moments was carefully dissecting a Hafiz poem with BalletBoy. We read through it, then read it again, and then again. We talked about the meaning of every line and discussed each metaphor and theme. After that, he was able to do the reading questions about it.

We’re currently wrapping up the unit on the Indian subcontinent. The history book we’re reading, The Ocean of Churn, focuses on the Indian Ocean, which has been interesting. Soon, we’ll move on to China and Japan to wrap up the year. I’m worried that we may not quite finish it all. But that’s okay. I packed it full. I know that I often tell people that if they finish more than 80% of a program, that it’s okay to call it done. I’ll definitely be laughing at myself if we have to skip a final reading, but it might happen.

I constantly second guess myself about things like this. Was everything culturally sensitive enough? Did I include enough guidance for students and parents? Could I have done more to touch on history topics I had to gloss over? Should I have chosen different books? But overall, I’m proud of this program. I’m proud to say my kids are doing it.

Advertisement

Come See Me at SEA!

Guess what? I’m going to be speaking at the SEA Homeschool Conference in July. If you don’t know SEA, they’re the Secular Eclectic Academic Homeschoolers. They have a super active to bursting Facebook group and this is their second annual conference. I’m excited to be there representing Simplify Homeschool.

I’m going to be talking about one of my favorite topics: middle schoolers, and how to survive having them in your homeschool! I’m also going to be talking about how to move from a more relaxed, unschoolish influenced homeschool to a more rigorous one when you need to, and back again when it’s time for that.

If you’re planning on going, I’d love to greet you there! I’m already dreading being socially awkward with everyone though!

 

Podcasting and Stuff

I usually use this blog to talk about our homeschool and books, but since one of the things I’m up to lately with homeschooling is working for Simplify to help other people homeschool, I thought I’d talk about how fulfilling that has been so far. We’re a new business, but it’s been fun to work with such wonderful fellow homeschool moms, all of us with our own experiences and expertises.

I think the most fun part has been learning to podcast. We’ve done lighter topics, like field trips, and more nuts and bolts ones, like tips for the Common App. I get to put on my headphones and hook up my mic. It keeps harkening me back to my college radio days, running the old fashioned sound board and cueing up records. It’s also just surprisingly fun. I think we’re not bad at it either.

One of the tough things about homeschooling and educating for me is recognizing that all this experience I’ve had in education really amounts to something valuable and worthwhile. Before I started homeschooling, I had a degree and career in education, but it’s easy to forget, especially in the homeschool world, where people want you to do all kinds of things for free, that once you’ve been at this for a long time, that you have expertise that is valuable. And while I still love helping people out, especially in my network of friends, it’s not something that I have to give away for free.

Anyway, check out our awesome podcasts here. I think our episode about middle school was especially good, and I’m currently working on a book that I hope to put out soon about middle school homeschooling and how important it is. Can you believe there are almost no books specifically about homeschooling the middle school years? Yet (and I say this constantly), if you’re going to homeschool one time of life, I really think you should make it middle school.

And if you need homeschool help – someone to help you transition to more formal schooling, to apply to private school, to help you write a transcript, to figure out how to deschool, to apply to college, or anything really, then visit us at Simplify.