Sunday, April 29, 2012

Midwest Homeschool Convention - Teaching Classics from Seuss to Socrates

After enjoying the first seminar from Adam Andrews so much, I raved about it to my friends and one of them came along with me to hear a second seminar by him entitled Teaching Classics from Seuss to Socrates. Even though literature DOESN'T seem like a mystery to me, I was intrigued by the premise of using children's books to discuss literary themes, especially in five simple steps. (Apparently I am a sucker for any number of easy-to-follow steps.

Teaching the Classics from Seuss to Socrates – Literary Analysis for Everyone
Does the subject of literature seem like a mystery?  Are you a loss about how to understand it yourself, much less teach it to your kids?  This inspiring lecture demonstrates that everything you need to know about understanding and teaching literature is present in your second grader’s bedtime story.  Adam reads a classics children’s story out loud and then leads the audience into a discussion of eternal literary themes.  Along the way, he shows how you can do the same at home by following five simple steps.  Your literature curriculum – to say nothing of family story time – will come alive automatically.  You’ll never put the kids to bed the same way again!    

Adam Andrews began the session again with a cheerful energetic manner that makes him fun to hear. His opening point was that studying literature should be more than a vocabulary list, comprehension questions and an optional project at the end (like a diorama). He reiterated some of the points from the earlier seminar, such as 'all books share common elements: style, context, structure.' But no worries, this seminar has a common starting place, but goes a completely different direction.

The five aspects of literature he discussed using a chart easily found in his company's brochure (I didn't find it online) were:
  1. Conflict
  2. Plot
  3. Setting 
  4. Theme
  5. Characters
 Conflict = Problem; all stories have (or should have) conflict because life does. Plus then it's interesting. lol
There are only five conflicts in all literature and one thing to do with students is to categorize the plot into one of these five.
  • Man vs. Nature
  • Man vs. Man
  • Man vs. Himself
  • Man vs. God (or fate)
  • Man vs. Society
Plot = what happens (list of events) Andrews explained the plot outline as follows:
1 - Exposition (beginning)
2 - Rising Action (conflict, the tension grows)
3 - Climax (resolution of the conflict)
4 - Denouement (falling action) pronounce it "day-new-mah"
5 - Conclusion (end); usually the author gives some sort of reason for writing

Then Andrews read us a children's book, one of my favorites actually - A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban. The pages were projected on two large screens and he read with emotion. After reading, he asked us some questions from his list of 173 Socratic questions (found in the book Reading Roadmaps (which my friend and I later purchased together).
Which conflict characterizes this story? (Man vs. Man - will Frances get the tea set from Thelma) Someone pointed out it could also be Man vs. Self - will Frances learn to stand up for herself? Someone else said, "Can Frances and Thelma learn to be friends?" We had a lively literary discussion on the motivations of these characters and the implications this story had on their lives.

If children can learn to discuss literary themes at a younger age, then literary analysis at the high school and college level will be easier. People who look deeply into literature will read more on their own as well. And it can be useful to read children's books with teens and teach them how. Which would be easier to analyze - A Bargain for Frances or Hamlet? But the steps are the same.

You can buy a lecture with a different name which appears to have the same content on Adam Andrew's website for $3. "Education, Freedom ... and Literary Analysis"

Friday, April 27, 2012

Midwest Homeschool Convention - Are You at Your Wit's End?

The second seminar I attended at the Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati was given by Kirk Martin of Calm Christian Parenting. The title "Are You at Your Wit's End?" caught my eye since I feel like that a lot of the time. The description appealed to me - who wouldn't want less arguing and fewer power struggles?

Are You At Your Wit’s End? 10 Secrets to a Stress-Free Home
Do you need help calming your explosive household? Tired of yelling at, negotiating with and bribing your child? Do you want your child to take responsibility for his school work, chores and attitude? It’s time to stop the yelling, arguing and power struggles with toddlers and teens. Moms, it’s not your job to manage everyone’s emotions and make everyone happy! We’ll show you how to create stress-free mornings, school, dinner and bedtime. We promise you will laugh and leave with a dozen practical strategies that really work.

I took only a few notes in this seminar. It wasn't as organized as promised - no list of "10 Secrets" or "a dozen practical strategies", however, we all laughed and we said, "ouch" too. I'm just going to list out the notes I took and some of the things I remember along with those.

I attended this with a friend and we arrived long before the starting time. Kirk was already talking to the audience, getting their thoughts and ideas about what kinds of problems they are facing. I didn't, in fact, realize that the seminar hadn't yet started until I looked at the time.

Kirk referenced a long term change as our goal and mentioned generational patterns as some of the reasons for kids' behavior.

"You can't make anyone else happy." You are only responsible for your own happiness.

"You are your brother's puppet if you let him control your behavior." Something to say to kids that are always being manipulated by a sibling. Kids don't want to be a puppet and need to know they are not at the mercy of the sibling. They can tell their sibling (in their head, if necessary), "You don't get that control over me."

He talked about honesty and humility. 90% of parenting issues stem from my OWN control issues. (or lack of control, as it were....)

Kirk advised us to start from a place of calm leadership. Sitting down is always better because it's calming. He suggested sitting on the floor for 3 minutes with kids and laying out the plan calmly, rather than ranting and raving. He illustrated the difference between standing and shaking your finger at a child or sitting with one leg crossed over the other talking to them. It's nearly impossible to be so angry when sitting in a relaxed position.

Too much lecturing kids is "provoking" them, which is something parents are advised against in the Bible.

He advised us to teach self-control (self-discipline) and to practice it ourselves. It's bad practice to tell your children to control themselves while we are screaming.

Provide opportunities for self-control and recognize it when you see it (comment on it positively). You want a child who can control his own behavior, because self-control lasts for a lifetime.

Don't be a Pharisee; live by grace.

Anxiety often manifests as defiance, especially among nervous children. Allow them to acclimate to a new environment. Talk to them about what's bothering them in a new situation. Ask other adults to give your child jobs to make them feel more comfortable in a situation.

Kirk Martin was amusing and serious at the same time. I really enjoyed his seminar; it was convicting and encouraging too. My friends bought materials from Calm Christian Parenting, so we will have a chance to peruse them at more length. You can view samples of Kirk's seminars HERE.

The main thing I came away with was SELF-CONTROL. Learn it and use it and teach it to kids.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Midwest Homeschool Convention - It's Onomatopeia, Mom!

The first seminar I attended was “It’s Onomatopoeia, Mom!” – Using Children’s Stories to Teach Literary Device. The speaker was Adam Andrews from The Center for Literary Education. You may be able to buy a CD of this talk here. (For those of you in SOF, we did buy a CD of this seminar.) What follows is a recap of the seminar taken from my notes. (which are not nearly as clear as they could be, so I apologize for any holes in the information!)

The seminar description in the conference booklet caught my eye:
Juxtaposition, metaphor, symbolism, irony, foreshadowing – HELP!  Parents often avoid the subject of literature because of the intimidating vocabulary of literary analysis.  The truth is, you don’t need a college degree in literature to understand this vocabulary; what you need is a well written children’s story.   Adam takes the audience on a guided tour of literary devices, making discerning literary analysts out of each and every audience member.  Doing the same with your own children couldn’t be easier, but beware: soon, they will be finding onomatopoeia everywhere they look.

Adam Andrews has an energetic cheerful style that immediately engages the audience. He and his wife have six children whom they homeschool while also running The Center for Literary Education. Andrews promised the audience a curriculum secret to connect your pile of books with your pile of kids and indicated that we could add depth, power, and profundity to homeschooling without also adding a lot of work. Since no one wants to throw out what we are doing and start over, he began to descibe a technique that can enliven all that we are already doing in literature.

Literary analysis is, says Andrews, simpler than college texts would have us believe. He boils it down to three components that all works of fiction share: Style, Context, and Structure. Since usually we try to learn literary analysis with long complicated novels, he urges us to try it with children's literature instead since it is short and clear, yet contains all the elements present in longer fiction works. And the time to start is NOW!

1 - Style (stylistic elements) = literary devices such as onomatopeia, symbolism, assonance, alliteration, juxtaposition
2 - Context - when & where it was written (not the setting)
3 - Structure

Andrews then read us the famous Longfellow poem, Paul Revere's Ride. After reading it once, we went back through it as a group and identified many different literary devices and how Longfellow used them to create an ominous mood of oppression in his poem and a call for Americans to "wake up!"

How does one classify a literary device? 1 - Identify, 2 - Categorize, 3 - Distinguish
  • Onomatopeia - a word that sounds like its definition
  • Assonance - internal vowel sounds repeating from word to word
  • Alliteration - words beginning with the same sound throughout a phrase
  • Imagery - paints a picture in the reader's mind
  • Personification - gives human characteristics to something non-human
  • Simile - comparison using like or as
  • Metaphor - comparison that doesn't use like or as
  • Allusion - refers to something meaningful outside the bounds of the story (an "inside joke")
  • Symbolism - thing that stands for an idea (advanced technique to identify)
He then went through the results of a 90 second Google search on Longfellow to help us understand the context. Longfellow lived from 1807 to 1882 in New England. He was an American poet that was "rock star" famous in his day. This poem was published in January 1861 in Atlantic Monthly at the height of the secession crisis before the Civil War. The poem is a propaganda piece for Union enlistment or possibly a call to unity for the nation NOT just a history of the Revolutionary War, as most of us have believed.

Adam Andrews made me realize how easy it can be to teach literary analysis, since he led us through a discussion of it in just under an hour and illustrated every concept with one short work of literature. I decided that I would go to another of his seminars the next day and I will write about that one soon and how easy I learned all of this can be!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Midwest Homeschool Convention - Introduction

This weekend I attended for the first time the Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Part of the Great Homeschool Conventions family, this is the largest convention I've ever been to. I've attended our state homeschool convention (INCH) several times as well as some smaller regional conventions over the years.

I was unhappy with the direction the INCH convention seemed to be going - more and more conservative and less and less about actual educational issues each time that I went. I wanted to learn about how to be a better educator not about using raw honey or about how to have godly daughters. Not that those things are BAD or uninteresting to me; the reasons I attend a homeschool conference are different though. This conference is also longer than any I've ever attended - starting on Thursday afternoon and running through Saturday afternoon.

So, some friends and I decided to test out the waters at the Cincinnati convention which includes a larger range of subjects as well as some of the top names in home education circles. Exciting, right?

So, reservations were made and maps were routed and we were OFF! The drive was easy - straight down I-75 for about 5 hours or maybe 6.

The registration process was easy, since we had all pre-registered at the low price of $25. Alphabetized sign-in lines were short and we had our wristbands in just minutes. The vendor hall was not open yet, so we just hung out for a while getting our bearings.

The convention is in downtown Cincinnati at the Duke Energy Center, a three-story convention hall with lots of room for vendors and workshops. Escalators and elevators were available to get from level to level, as well as numerous entrances to the building from outside, including skywalks from nearby hotels and parking garages. Tables were set up in the large common areas for attendees to sit and rest or eat.  A coffee shop serving Starbucks coffee is just inside one of the entrances; we did not use it but there were always long lines. High-priced food was available inside the vendor hall as well - $8 smoothies, $6 burgers, $9 salads, the ubiquitous convention almonds, etc. I actually paid $3.75 for a bottle of Diet Mountain Dew when I needed some emergency caffeine. No rules were present about not bringing in outside food (as was the law at INCH), so people could either buy food there or bring in their own - a nice moneysaver. We mostly did that - stocked up with protein bars, nuts, cheese sticks, fruit and bottles of water.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency, which was just kitty corner from the convention center and connected by an UNCOVERED skywalk. (I know; what's the point, right?) Our 19th floor room was small but comfortable. We had free wi-fi for signing up for the Hyatt Gold Passport (free). We did not use the valet parking at $24 per night, but opted instead of a parking garage 2 or 3 blocks away with $5 conference rates per day. We did not get the car out after parking it but walked or used public transportation downtown. We did not have time to use the hotel's pool or fitness facilities since we headed out to 8:30 workshops both Friday and Saturday. Other hotels very close to the convention center would be the Millenium Hotel, the Netherland, and the Westin. We got a conference rate at the Regency and other hotels offer that as well.

Fountain Square is just a couple blocks' pleasant walk, a lovely little area filled with trees and tables and chairs and surrounded by restaurants like Potbelly, Chipotle, and Mynt. Oh yeah, and the namesake fountain. We ate three of our meals there. Thursday and Friday, the temps were in the upper 70's so eating outside was desirable. On Saturday, the weather was much colder, so we ate indoors. We caught the downtown trolley there and took it across the Ohio River into Newport, Kentucky to go to a movie theater there. (See, we aren't ALL about homeschooling!). The cost was $1 per person one way - affordable, we thought, since we would have had to pay $5 to take the car out of the parking garage.

Next, I'll begin giving my conference reports.

Midwest Homeschool Convention - Cincinnati: List of Seminars

Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati = WONDERFUL!!

I attended nine great seminars (and walked out of three not-so-great ones, which left me lots of time for browsing and shopping in the enormous vendor hall). Will be posting my seminar notes throughout the coming weeks.

Here are the seminars I loved:
  1. It's Onomatopoeia, Mom!" - Adam Andrews, Center for Literary Education
  2. Are You at Your Wit's End? - Kirk Martin, Calm Christian Parenting
  3. Teaching Classics from Seuss to Socrates - Adam Andrews, Center for Literary Education
  4. The Struggling Reader - Kristin Eckenwiler,
  5. When Math Doesn't Come Easily - Kathy Kuhl,
  6. Design Your Own Literature Program - Adam Andrews, Center for Literary Education
  7. Teaching Boys & Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day - Andrew Pudewa, Institute for Excellence in Writing
  8. Getting Your Child Ready for College - Amanda Bennett, Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett
  9. Building the Perfect Reading List: How You Can Find Classic Books for Students Of All Ages - Adam Andrews, Center for Literary Education
Maybe  you can tell who my favorite new homeschool speaker is! LOL I downloaded two more seminars from his website today.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lisa's Logbook - April 3

Well, this is already "late" so I guess I'll stop tweaking it and post already. lol

1 - Thinking of some appropriate consequences for teens - do you have any input???

1 - finished the first essay class (though there will still be about 20 essays to grade)

1 - April lesson sheets
2 - compiling the class information from the co-op classes we've accepted and getting it into a user-friendly format to put online
3 - redoing the chore sheets
From the Library: my mom got Mission Impossible 3 from the library for us to watch; I'd never seen it. Pretty good! Why is it that I avoid Tom Cruise movies, but then I usually enjoy them when finally seeing them?

Rollicking: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray - on chapter 8
Netflix: Watched an episode of Jericho since I haven't been able to use the treadmill in about a month

Pondering: when exactly we will take our "spring break"
Discussing: where we might travel sometime in the next year

Thankful: my van is running well!

Considering: which katana sword David should buy (he earned the money teaching a computer class) - since I wrote this, we decided and ordered it.
Serendipity: loved the Koolaid Fun Fizz packets my dad had. They make me smile just looking at them!

What's New: bought an armoire off a swap page on facebook. Have been wanting one for a long time to store my clothes since my bedroom doesn't have a closet. (Which means it's not really a bedroom, I know....). I also bought 2 blazers and a jean jacket and a few other fun things at the thrift stores I visited last weekend with my parents.
Fun Times: Had a lovely weekend with my mom and dad, as well as two of my sisters. We visited 7 thrift stores, had movie night, went out to lunch, and looked through some old photo albums and just had some nice time to visit.
Anticipating: taking Emily to see Titanic 3D (the 3D is not the exciting part). Deborah - do you remember going to see Titanic with me 15 years ago? It was you, right?
Writing Progress: Do I really have to confirm again that this is zero?