Eleven O’Clock School: How We Conduct It

by Becky on December 7, 2012 · 2 comments

in Books, Parenting, Travel


Photo, courtesy of Goose, Esq., who was kind enough to take snapshots of some of his school books for posterity.

Several people have asked me how we’re handling our kids’ schooling while we’re here in Spain, so I thought I’d describe what that looks like.  All three are studying independently or doing home school, an approach that allows us to travel freely and often.

Our girls, ages seventeen and fourteen, are enrolled in a high school transcript program administered through BYU’s Independent Study Office.  Before we left the U.S., we identified the courses they needed, completed the enrollment process (which is fairly involved, so if you’re thinking about this route, allow time for the applications to be processed), and got them started.

To stay on task, they head off to the local library each day, where they can wire up if they need to (since their courses are online) and work in a quiet environment.  Sometimes I accompany them, and I can tell you that the people here in Barcelona maintain a reverence for the idea of “library voices” that borders on the occult!  In other words, no . . . one . . . speaks!  Not kidding.  I’ve never been in a quieter library.  I’m definitely a fan.  My library card is almost as dear to me as my passport.

Additionally, tutors are available for the courses the girls are registered for, though timing the help sessions has been really tricky because of the time difference between there and here.  That, as much as anything, has been our biggest challenge.  Overall, though, I’m pleased with the efficiency of BYU’s IS Program and its materials.  We also brought an e-Reader (a Nook), so we can download books when necessary–like when my older daughter changed English courses midstream a couple of months ago.

The Gooseman.  Hmm.  He’s nine, bright, energetic, easily distracted.  We brought all kinds of books and materials for him (some we carried with us, some we shipped).  I’ll give you the rundown, then tell you what his school looks like from day to day.  This is a big experiment.

For social studies/history:  the McGraw-Hill Complete Book of World History for Grades 4-8.  We won’t make it through this, not by a long shot, but I love the format.  It’s got short, readable chapters, great timelines, and super accessible illustrations and facsimiles.  I wish we had teacher materials to go with this; if I wanted to quiz/test him, I’d have to generate those myself, and we’re more focused this year on math skills and literature/personal reading/language arts.

On to math, then.  We’re using a 4th grade math workwork by Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley–a text given to us by a friend of ours and California  elementary school teacher.  If you’re interested in ordering one (I don’t know whether they’re available, but you could certainly check), look for a paperback copy titled “Interactive Homework Workbook, Grade 4” at the top, and at the bottom, “enVisionMATH, California.”  The cover is black, with an illustration in blue of an insect looking through a telescope (not sure I get the connection there).  Our little guy is in 3rd grade but good at math, and likes it, so we’re pushing him.  My husband also has designed some little math facts programs on the computer, basically timed math facts tests on multiplication and division.  We’ve tried an online program called Timez Attack, which feels a lot like a video game.  However, he’s so competitive, he goes into orbit if he misses even one problem, so we had to put a moratorium on that one.

Language arts.  I brought a few books for him, but I’m SO glad we have the Nook (Barnes & Noble’s color e-Reader).  He’s read the five books in the Percy Jackson Lightning Thief series; the first book in the Red Pyramid series, and the first one in the sequel to The Lightning Thief–all by author Rick Riordan, who knows very well how to connect with young readers.  We’re also in the middle right now of a FABULOUS book by fantasy master Neil Gaiman (a favorite), The Graveyard Book, which won both the Newberry and the Carnegie Award (British) a few years back.  I’m reading this aloud to him, a task/pleasure I reserve for myself, since I love reading aloud almost more than anything on earth.  For cursive, he has a workbook given to us by the same resourceful California teacher friend.  My son loathes and likes cursive in equal proportions, owing to the fact that it’s hard work and also that he’s pretty decent at it, his strokes round and elegant (which earns him plenty of necessary praise).  And he has a critical reading/thinking workbook, Read & Think Skill Sheets, Grade 4, with short reading selections on a variety of themes and topics, and multiple choice tests that follow.  I like this because I think it’s great training for standardized testing back home.  Spelling I’m not stressed about.  I figure we’ll catch up at some point if we need to.

Science.  Again, a suggestion from our friend–an online Scott Foresman program she uses with her class.  (Check pearsonsuccessnet.com).  It’s also helpful to have the California science standards and one of the end-of-year science tests our friend uses for her own class.

The kicker:  writing!  Ouch!  Somehow, he became convinced that he can’t write.  I’m talking a major block.  He’ll shake his head and swear he is no good at it, will never be good at it, and tears usually follow–big, real ones that make your heart hurt.  I finally decided I’m going to have him do just one sentence a day, on a topic we select together, using an adaptation of an old method, where you hang a new idea on a well-known structure.  (I plan to give some examples for teen writers in a future post.)  The point will be to help him master basic sentence writing without him realizing he’s doing it–just through repetition of the formula, and friendly topics that change daily.  Eventually, I hope the tears subside because all the sadness over writing even one sentence makes me want to cry, too.

School days with him are always interesting.  It’s tempting to let him read read read, because he’ll do it all day.  However, while I think reading is brilliant, I know he’ll end up with lopsided strengths if he spends all his time in his fiction books.  Moreover, since we plan to enroll him in public school again next year, I’m very aware of where he needs to be across the board.

That’s about it.  I have deep, newfound respect for people who consistently home school their children.  It obviously takes tremendous imagination, discipline, and patience.  If you’re home schooling your kids and have some ideas or suggestions. feel free to comment here.  I know those of us who are doing it would love to hear from others!

Karen December 7, 2012 at 11:50 am

Great post. I’ve wondered about the school thing. And since I’m dealing with some educational issues right now with my 10th grader, I will be looking into some options for sure.

As for the writing thing for your son, what about him writing a simple blog (like a couple of sentences or paragraphs per post with pictures) about his adventures in spain and then you could have it made into a book for him to treasure?

Becky December 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Thank you Karen for a wonderful suggestion! We actually did start a blog for Goose a while back. Sort of a stop-and-go thing, though. He hasn’t posted recently for the reasons I talked about. But I LOVE the idea of working a sentence or two into a post! Be a great incentive to get some writing done, since he does indeed like to work on his blog. And good luck with your own decisions. I’d be interested to see what path you take. Besitos.

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