Mt. Pleasant Classical Academy

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not…..� Thomas Henry Huxley

Too much worry

Filed under: Math — April 16, 2011 @ 11:03 am

For those folks who wonder if I really have it all together, and whether I ever worry about teaching my kids the right thing, well I have a funny story.

Youngest does not grasp math concepts quickly, nor does he grasp a math method on the first time through or the 50th time through. He has to really work at math but thankfully I love the subject so when we spend hours on math I am almost in heaven. Oh, and if he hasn’t done a problem type for a week, let alone a month, he most likely will have forgotten how to do it.

Since he is in 9th grade and knowing his math ability and that the SAT will be coming up sooner then later Y and I have been doing SAT Math workbook problems 1x a week. Well, this past week Y struggled to do the word problems and I kept thinking—-this is simple Algebra he should know how to do these! He resorted to using Singapore bars and rods to answer the questions. Good for him but I kept thinking that he should know how to do these using Algebra, and x’s and y’s……..

I worried, searched the net for more word problems of this type, sat on the fence about buying another Algebra book, searched the web some more, worked with Y on some more of these problem types…..and worried a lot more, ….worry, worry,……How did I miss teaching Y this concept?

I went back and checked through my Mary Dolciani Algebra I book (this is THE best Algebra book, written by a mathematician not some math educator—world of difference!) OK, I’ll get off my soapbox about Mary Dolciani’s books….. only to found this topic was not covered in there. Not covered? How could this be? This had to be an Algebra I topic! I even resorted to searching through the other Algebra I books that I have on my shelf cause I am a math book collector. They didn’t have this topic either. I frantically contacted Heather who received some of my Singapore math books. Perhaps they covered this topic…….

Finally, finally, I pulled Mary Dolciani’s Algebra II with Trig book off my shelf and started paging through it. There it is! In chapter 5, this topic is covered! Yahoooo! I didn’t miss teaching Y some Algebra topic. I breathed a sigh of relief (and also was quite happy that Y picked the concept up quite quickly once I explained the algebra approach to him).

Y will be going through this textbook in 10th grade, a year before I went through it too. And then he’ll be ready for Calculus. Yes, using Mary Dolciani’s Alg II with Trig book will prepare him to go right into Calculus. I just hope I’m ready to walk him through that one.

So, that was my funny—worry for no good reason story of the week.

If I had a crystal ball

Filed under: Family Stuff — January 16, 2011 @ 4:44 pm

Have you heard the debate about AP tests? Or perhaps you have tooled with the idea of having your child take an AP test or two, but should they? What is a mom to do? That was the debate I had with myself during my ds’ 9th grade year. I also need to share upfront that:

First, AP courses and tests are not for every student.
Second, a student can get into college without an AP course or test score on their transcript.
Third, AP courses and tests are not to be taken lightly.
Fourth, an easy AP course for one student but be an outrageously difficult course or test for another student.
Fifth, there are others I should mention but that isn’t the point of this post.

As a mom to a bright student who demanded challenging science classes, who had worked from high school science textbooks in 7th, 8th and 9th grade, and had a mom who really could no longer keep up with the kid’s every-expanding questions (& I have a few engineering degrees too) I searched for an alternative.

AP Courses were the answer to my prayers — or were they? The first year I enrolled DS in one AP Biology class. It went well. He loved the class and while it consumed way too much time it was worth it in my mind. DS lived and breathed biology, enjoyed having a knowledgeable teacher and the teacher sparked an intense interest in the subject. The next two years DS took a few more AP classes and we attempted to prepare for a few AP tests on our own.

And then I read the AP test score debates. Or rather stumbled into them. The argument was that a student interested in science should not take AP science courses or tests but should leave these courses for their college years. After all, the student will most likely need to retake the course once at college. What a waste of time it would be for the student to take AP science courses and tests when the subject would need to be repeated at college. Instead the science-loving student should take History, English, Art, Music, and Gov’t AP courses which will surely count toward the student’s college breadth (humanity, social science and history courses) requirements.

This made so much sense to me however when I read the argument my student was in the fall term of his senior year so it was a tad bit late for me to make any changes. What was done, was done. We would have to live with dear-ol-mom’s errors. But then I thought about the high-interest my student had in his AP Science classes and the low-interest he had for the AP humanity classes I pushed him into. It would have been quite hard on him to not have had his AP science classes to turn to to help him relax and enjoy his school day after working for several hours on his AP humanity classes. His high school years would have been quite hard. I had also enrolled him into the AP science classes for a second reason: I wanted to demonstrate to prospective colleges that this science-loving kid was ready for college-level science. Oh, and a third reason: I wanted outside grades and test scores to back-up my mommy-grade transcript.

There, I had three nice reasons in my mind to justify to me that it was OK that DS had all these AP science and math courses and tests. He had AP Bio, Chem, Physics C, Statistics, Calc BC, and Comp Sci. I convinced myself that it was OK that DS in Chemical Engineering would need to retake Chemistry, Physics and Comp Sci. He had not taken the courses and tests for the credit as much as to educate himself on the material.

What a unique idea! Take a course to learn the material because you are interested in the subject. Take the test to demonstrate to traditional educators that you really do know something about the subject based on their scale. The courses and tests had enriched his life even if it did not reduce his college course load. (We also have no idea how all these science and math AP test scores figured into DS college scholarship offers. That is a huge unknown!)

Then in the middle of his first semester DS changed his major. Suddenly the Chemistry and Biology and Physics test scores would count toward credit and in the process permit DS to add additional mathematics and physics classes. And the two AP English tests that DS forced himself to work on for hours and hours and hours even though he had no interest in the subject, earned him elective credits only. He still must take 3 English classes.

And here’s a final reason for your science student to take AP courses and tests in an area that interests him/her: because you never know what path your young student will follow in the future. We don’t have a crystal ball that will tell us which path our student will take, or a crystal ball that will tell us which college he’ll attend or IF that college will alter their AP credit policy. The AP courses and tests taught DS a lot and that is what is important to us. YMMV.

First week of the new year

Filed under: Family Stuff — January 9, 2011 @ 12:06 am

I made a change to our school day with the start of the new year.

Things hadn’t been working very well. A new homeschooler was really happy to hear that this past week. Not because she wished us ill but because she was feeling a bit frustrated that after hs’ing 5 months not everything was going smoothly. So, yes, Virginia, folks who have been hs’ing for years and years still run into days/months and even years when things don’t work smoothly.

I can’t define why we were having this problem but just that work was not getting done. And I was the one pushing the rope, oh, I mean student, to get moving on his work, and to look in his Day Planner to see what work he had to do.

We started our day at 8am, which was a nice change from the 10:30am we had slipped into. I opened the year-plan book, the one where I had recorded that in Science we would be starting chapter 13 on Jan 3, and chapter 14 on Jan 10…. My student was told to get his weekly planner.

“But mom, where is my planner?”
With the planner finally in hand, DS recorded what he was to do in Science, Geography, English, Math, French and Logic. He busily worked on his subjects and declared at 1:25pm that he was done.

This student never finished early in his entire life. I checked over the planner, rattled off the subjects trying to figure out if I had missed recording one, but they were all there.

With a huge smile on his face the student went outside and returned to declare that he was going skating. He came back later after skating 15 miles and happily sat and played his guitar for a few more hours.

Now that was a great start to the New Year! The rest of the week went on in a similar manner which gives me hope that maybe, just maybe I will finally have our school day working well. It only has taken 12 years.

It is a new year.

A little lesson learned on a ski hill

Filed under: Family Stuff — January 6, 2011 @ 12:53 am

What was that noise?
UGH! WHY is my alarm going off?
Oh, yea. We’re going skiing for the day and it’s just before 5am.
Time to rise and shine.
I get Mark up and we quickly leave the quiet house.
On the way north we pick up a friend’s daughter and continue our 2-1/2 hr drive north. To snow and ski country.

Thanks to Charles Marks and Blue Mountain Ski Resort there are 40 some homeschool kids plus their parents skiing every week through January and most of February. The day turned sunny, the slopes were a mix of loose snow and ice, and lots of happy kids. A number of people were skiing but not so many and we never had lift lines to deal with. On our first run I urged Rachel and Mark to leave me so that I could ski at my slow pace and urged them to ski together. I ventured down Vista, Burma, Lazy Mile, Paradise, Switchback and repeated a few trails a few times too. A couple times my kids crossed my path, we chatted for a moment before I waved them on.

Starring at the gorgeous scenery from the mountain top I couldn’t help but smile. For several years when friends asked us to join them on their weekly ski trips I had declined. How could we afford the day away from school? It was, in my mind, too important to stay at home and do reading, writing and arithmetic. But then it dawned on me one day 4 years ago. My kids would soon be graduated from our school I never, ever would have taught them to ski. Never would have taught them not to hibernate in the winter. There was something quite important here and I was missing it all, trying to focus just on book-work.

Four years ago we joined the winter homeschool ski group and ventured out. Six times that first winter, somehow finding the time, squeezing book-work into other days, and enjoying the snow. Together. I remember how they praised my skiing ability. Actually they were both rather shocked that mom could ski, and that she could ski really good! I skied with them, taking them down their first bunny slope,and their first intermediate slope (and heard about their first run down the expert slope).

My boys learned to ski, and I learned to relax. We’ve made some great memories skiing on the hills and I wouldn’t trade the ski days for extra reading, writing and arithmetic days. I’m glad we’re skiing again this year. And on the ride home the first song I heard after dropping my friend’s daughter off was very appropriately George Strait’s “The Breath You Take”

Life’s not the breaths you take
The breathing in and out
That gets you through the day
Ain’t what it’s all about
Ya just might miss the point
Try’n to win the race
Life’s not the breaths you take
But the moments that take your breath away

Moving forward to 2011

Filed under: Family Stuff — January 2, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

I am glad to see 2010 end.

Another friend moved out of state. That makes 3 close friends in 3 years. Three too many. Another friend left her husband and the homeschool friends she had made over the years. She might as well have moved away too—no, at least my friends who moved away still chat with me. These were women who I chatted with, went to homeschool conferences with, had their kids and them to my home. They weren’t mere acquaintances and while we hadn’t known each other for decades we had connected. There is a large empty spot. It doesn’t help either that my oldest became a college freshman this fall too. One less very vocal person in our home left an empty spot too.

And a dear friend just learned she has cancer, and is in Stage IV. She’ll start chemo soon and my hopes and prayers are with this dear friend.

Does anyone know how broken hearted I am? This reminds me of my high school years when I moved cross-country and had to make all new friends. And then one by one I lost my friends, one a year.

Life is tough and I know I am tough too but I’d rather not be tested anymore. And so we move forward.

College Update

Filed under: College — June 7, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

DS was accepted to the nine colleges he applied to. Nine very nice merit scholarships. He made his decision and will be going to the college where, through three scholarships his tuition will be totally covered. As long as he keeps his GPA above a 3.0.  Full tuition covered! Not bad for a kid who was never, ever going to read according to the public school. (If they had had their way he wouldn’t be reading today, nor doing Diff EQ)

Not bad at all.

Several family and friends, who really must not know us very well, tried to convince me that DS needed to live on campus, at the college. No need to discuss this option with us since I never, ever gave DS that option. He’ll live on campus. Thankfully he wants to live on campus. He knows it is time to spread those wings and he’s READY.

March 14 — Happy Birthday

Filed under: Family Stuff — March 14, 2010 @ 12:47 am
Fourteen. 14. A ten plus four. Such a little number when compared to the number of people in the world or the number of sand on the beach.

But an important number.

In the past 14 years I have lost a father, a mother and a father-in-law. I have moved from a town that referred to me as a foreigner after residing there for 16 years to a state that felt like home the first week. I have traveled across this great country of ours twice, visited Las Vegas, St Johns, NYC and countless other towns and cities.

In the past 14 years I have owned just 2 cars, 3 dogs and one cat. The cat was stolen from us by a supposed friend. I learned about homeschooling, taught my youngest to speak, taught my kids to read, to do math, to write their name, to ride a bike, to make a fire, to wash their clothes and the bathroom, to make dinner…….

14 years ago tonight I went into my son’s bedroom and hugged him goodnight for I knew that his life, our family life would soon change. A new baby would be coming into our lives and that turned out to be our youngest son. He will turn 14 on Sunday the 14th. So much has happened in those 14 years, so much. I remember tomorrow though like it was today. Every minute of it.

Happy Birthday son! It has been a wonderful journey.

College Acceptances

Filed under: Family Stuff — March 14, 2010 @ 12:26 am

No one shared with me what a roller-coaster ride senior year would be. Or, if they did I didn’t hear them.

Sure I heard that it was a year of waiting—waiting for the first acceptance, waiting for the financial aid letters to come, waiting for the merit scholarship letters to come in, waiting for DS to write the essay for this scholarship or that scholarship, but oh my…..I haven’t felt this way for 15 or 16 years. I have to go back to the days of infertility prior to DS #2 to feeling like I do now. Such a roller coaster ride.

To date DS has been accepted to 8 colleges and received several merit scholarships from schools that award merit awards in their acceptance letters. But we continue to wait. Wait for ‘the other’ schools to announce their merit awards. Right now DS wants to go to the college 7 hours from home. It would mean a mountain of debt for him but geez, he felt at home there. SO is that where he should go? I certainly don’t want him to take on that kind of debt just to be away from home but I also understand the desire to be somewhere that feels like home. Somewhere where the kids are like you, geeky like you, awkward in a cafeteria line when they bump into you just like you would, and interested in discussing thermodynamics at the breakfast table because that is what interests you.

How I wish we would win the lottery so I could say to DS, go. Go where you feel at home, where you will enjoy being, even if it is hours from us.

College Search/Acceptance Update

Filed under: College — January 12, 2010 @ 7:36 pm

DS#1 might be adding another school to his short/long list. To date he has applied to 9 schools, been admitted to 5 schools with merit  scholarships to 4. The fifth school notifies merit scholarship recipients in March. The other four schools we’re still waiting to hear from and might not hear from them until March.

We tentatively filled out the FAFSA this past weekend. We don’t know if DS will qualify for financial aid or not. There are several scholarships DS is applying for that require the FAFSA be filled even though they are merit based and not financial based.

In early December I received a tip from Brenda (THANK YOU!) to go to the FAFSA site and apply for a PIN. It can take several days to receive a PIN and one is needed when you sign your FAFSA. Having this ahead of time helped us immensely.

The FAFSA can be filed after January 1st of the school year you are requesting funds for. It is also important to file as early as possible so that your name gets into the queue for consideration. If you wait then by the time your name comes up all available funds might already be gone! Yikes!

The downside of this is that we must also file our taxes soon. Like early February. Yikes! The FAFSA wasn’t that hard to fill out for us although many others do not share my opinion. The hardest part was figuring out what cash we had in our checking and savings accounts—thank goodness for online banking. Then we had to figure out the funds we had in stocks and money market accounts. Well, that was easy for us too. We don’t have a business, or a second home, or lots of funds laying around.

College Visits

Filed under: College — December 31, 2009 @ 7:09 pm
My friends with Juniors / 11th graders have asked me as to when we would start our college visits. Start? We’ve been doing those for years.
We actually started college visits years and years ago. For instance when we visited Williamsburg seven years ago we walked the grounds of William & Mary. While our kids were in elementary school we walked college campuses whenever we found ourselves in a  town with a college. We have the viewpoint that the question was not whether or not to go to college but which college will you attend? Having this viewpoint we wanted to provide our boys with ample opportunities to see what colleges look like.  Sure this wasn’t a serious look but it was exposure to what a college looked like and turned the word ‘college’ into a tangible structure. Before Junior year the boys had easily walked at least two dozen college campusses.
This exploration was all moved up a notch in tenth grade when we visited two college fairs. It was overwhelming for me to say the least. The one was in the Philadelphia Convention Center, sponsored by NACAC and the other at a local college. Both fairs had over 100 colleges attending, pushing their college features and wanting to talk seniors. not 10th graders. Attending a college fair senior year was a bit more productive however DS became familiar with college names in 10th grade so I don’t feel it was a a total waste of time. Oh, and DS was totally disinterested in attending either college fair but we went anyways.
Junior year we visited a few colleges in the fall and another half-dozen in the spring. Prior to each tour I visited the college’s website, learned when their tours were being held, registered if it was required, wrote down directions and most importantly looked for any special programs they might have upcoming. For instance when I looked at Lehigh University I spotted specialty engineering tours. Sure enough in the list was one geared to biochemical engineering. Quickly I registered DS and put it on our calendar. I’ve heard that girls will just do all this exploring and scheduling themselves but part of me doesn’t believe it. I question the source and since this is OUR experience, and what WE did I don’t want to steer you wrong. I did the exploring of college campus websites throughout DS’ Junior year.  He was just not interested but on the tours he definitely paid attention, asked questions and took mental notes.
I found that any questions I had were easily answered by the administration person after her/his talk to the group. I know some colleges request the kids have an interview but that wasn’t the case with us. No interviews, at least not yet.
I’ve heard some folks say that college visits are a waste of time and money since you can explore the colleges website and get the same information. I don’t agree. The website presents the information in the manner the college wants you to receive it. As a senior DS visited one college as a Freshman-for-the-day. He went to a couple classes and ate lunch with upper classmen. It was an enlightening day for him. He found the chemistry class and the calculus class were covering material he had as a Junior in his AP classes. What a huge confidence booster to him. Over lunch he asked each upperclassman how they were able to pay for college. Each replied that Daddy was paying their way. DS knows that will not be true for him and wonders whether he will fit in with kids who are financially better well-off than he. At a different college the students spoke of their scholarships, summer jobs and internships when asked how they were paying for college. Not one referred to Daddy paying their way.
It really was in early fall of senior year that DS began exploring college websites, investigating what programs they had, courses a student might take, the college’s SAT score profile and even the college’s girl : boy ratio.  The college visits did eliminate a couple colleges and moved one college to the bottom of the list. DS also removed one college when he heard about the extra hoops for homeschoolers above and beyond what other colleges require from homeschooled students. 
We went on campus tours both while schools were in session and over the summer time. For us it didn’t make much of a difference. Perhaps if we were looking at very small schools it would make a difference but I also know that DS will be attending admitted senior day. These days will give him a better chance to see the schools in session and get a feel for whether or not it is the school for him. 
But how do you find out about colleges and which ones might be best for your dc?  Here are a few to get you started. We used the first two.
DS didn’t attend a college fair junior year but then insisted upon attending one senior year. I reluctantly took him. It was at the local college and at least 150 colleges were there. DS walked the aisles and I walked a few steps behind him, giving him his space. At one point I suggested he speak to one college. When DS resisted I happened to mention that the school is an excellent engineering school and he should explore it. Plus it is quite a drive from our home. DS went over and spoke to the man, a little mini-interview. This school is now at the top of DS list.
I’m glad we didn’t rule out college fairs, on site visits, specialty days or all-day visits. It has been part of our journey and a fun part!