Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Studying Dickens in High School

I know there are those who absolutely detest reading Dickens. And even though I am a certified bibliophile, I completely understand. Dickens has a style that can be confusing and offsetting especially to those new to classic literature and especially Dickens. On the other hand, his use of language can be absolutely beautiful.

As I planned my oldest son's high school literature course of study, I knew I wanted him to read a Dickens besides A Christmas Carol (that one he can practically quote by memory). Before 9th grade, I wrote down, David Copperfield and Great Expectations as possibilities to be included into one of his years of literature. My son (like his mama) is a writer of fiction. And I told him you have to read the greats if you really want to be a good writer. Dickens is one of those greats. What I love about Dickens is his characters. If you want to learn how to write characters, you have to study Dickens. Thankfully, my son actually enjoys watching Dickens period drama films. We've viewed many of them and so the next step is to read of few them in their entirety.

As I am now planning this coming year and we are doing World History, I decided we will do a World Literature course as well. This is a good time to add in Dickens. I went back to the two possible book choices I chose a couple years ago and I began to research which one would be a good fit for my dyslexic boy. Ultimately, I chose a title that I hadn't considered before but which is often taught in high schools around the country. A Tale of Two Cities. 

Why is A Tale of Two Cities usually chosen above others. Well, to begin with it is less complicated in story and in character and it's shorter. It's also a great way to get into a study of the French Revolution and not focus on just the facts but on the people and how it all came about. His French history coming from Thomas Carlyle. It is much more serious than the bulk of Dickens work, but it will definitely incite lots of great discussion. We'll also be viewing the 1989 miniseries as we go along.

Will we eventually get to David Copperfield and Great Expectations? I certainly hope so. There are great characters in there that he needs to study and will enjoy the journey of doing so.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Designing Your Homeschool Schedule

I hadn’t intended for my next post to be about scheduling, but it seems everywhere I look in social media or blogs that people are talking about scheduling. Maybe it’s the New Year and everyone is trying to make a fresh start to finish out their homeschool right.

I know new homeschoolers especially are looking for that perfect sample schedule to follow or adapt which will set their homeschool off to a successful start. Today, I am going to give you the magic recipe for that impeccable and seamless schedule.


Just about every school year (and we’ve been doing this for over ten years now) I have tried to put together a working schedule. More often than not, I sit down with paper and pen and work out how to balance my children into a flow that will work so that I can see to both of their needs. I then take the time to key it into an Excel chart. I might even color code it by child, print it out and post it in the rooms for my two boys.

Are you all set to do that???

And do you know what will undoubtedly happen each and every time after I’ve spent all that energy on my precious schedule? That schedule will get thrown out with last nights table scraps only to be usurped by a better working schedule. A natural schedule. That’s the magic to making a successful schedule. Organically, one will come together.

So stop stressing!

I’ve found that a starting schedule is good. It makes me think about the needs we have in our school. I encourage you to do the same. You might even type it up, but at least write it down. Then as you actually get to schooling, you will find that your children will really choose their best schedule with your guidance. And you will naturally flow into the best schedule for you. Keep in mind that you still need to be in charge here (especially with multiple kids) but without becoming some kind of schedule police.

For example, I have found that my 9 year old will work best on independent work first thing in the morning. He’ll do some reading, working on papers such as handwriting and go into his math lesson. Meanwhile, I can work with the high schooler doing subjects we need to do together (like Algebra) while he is at his most lucid. This is not how I had it planned. Originally, I was working with the elementary student first and had the highschooler working independently, but that schedule just didn’t work.

I’ve also found that they don’t need to follow the same schedule everyday. In fact, it works better to mix it up and let them do different subjects in a different order most days. It keeps it fresh and then they won’t think, Oh, great, it’s 11am. Time for math…again. 

Invite your children to figure out what they like to work on and when. Once they get to a certain age (3rd grade or so), they really do have great insight on what works best for them. It also makes them feel more a part of their education and they might even develop a better work ethic to keep within the schedule you've put together.

Best wishes to you all as you schedule (or not) or allow it to naturally occur. Just remember moms and dads, don’t stress over the perfect schedule because honestly it is about as tangible as the Abominable Snowman. Some are convinced they’ve found it, others don’t believe it exists and the rest of us stumble around just wondering and keep on searching it out.

Happy Schooling from HWJ!