Monday, September 30, 2013

Pondwater, Polynomials, Philosophic Discussions, and Pizza

This week marks the halfway point in our Classical Conversations Challenge II semester, and I can hardly believe it.  This is my second time to tutor this level, and I really enjoy the hands-on nature of the curriculum ~ even though biology and algebra II are a challenge for me.  Actually, the entire curriculum is quite challenging for me and for the students.  There are seven seminars in the course of the day including:

  • Latin II (I hired out for this seminar this year.  Latin I is all I could manage and stay sane and feed my family regular meals.)
  • Algebra II
  • Biology
  • Western Cultural History (art, music, and Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live?)
  • British Literature
  • Logic
  • Debate


Biology seems to be the favorite seminar of most of the students.  We perform experiments in class almost every week using microscopes.  Our recent lab was to culture pond water samples over the course of the week that were fed egg yolk, rice, soil, and hay.  It was very exciting to watch bacterium propel itself around under the microscope, and find various types in the various water samples.  It was not so exciting to SMELL those samples every time I opened my coat closet with its warm, dimly lit atmosphere!

This week we'll be headed back to the same pond area and hiking on the Robert Frost trail in order to find various kinds of mushrooms and and other fungi.  We'll return to the classroom to observe spores and gills, etc, but not before eating a picnic (and wild mushroom free!) lunch together and stopping in at a local bakery-cafe at the trail head for a pastry and drink.  It's nice that biology gets us out of the classroom so often, because classroom time can be really intense...
...as in the photo above where everyone is taking a test on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was our second novel or epic poem to read.  Beowulf was first, and BOTH are such great stories.  The kids are a bit tired of Old English, though, because after those two poems we read The Knight's Tale from Canterbury Tales. Oh well, now we're on to Pilgrim's Progress and Gulliver's Travels, exploring the genres of allegory and satire.  I really love this reading selection.  Next up will be Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice and MORE!  They read about one novel a week, and write an essay on each one.
Cooper demonstrating multiplication and division of polynomials with his $1 nerd glasses from Target.
I think he's jealous of my new specs!
Though we've only practiced this once, Francis Schaeffer's worldview course provides great material for a Socratic Circle.  Below, the students were given a topic/chapter and then left on their own to explore the ideas Schaeffer's writing put forth, namely the shift in worldview that can be detected in much Renaissance artwork.  I was really proud that they so easily carried on the discussion for MANY more than the ten minutes I gave them as a goal for keeping the discussion going.  Sharp kids, I tell ya!
Socratic Circle
Our first debate was two weeks ago.  The resolution was that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) should be abolished.  They all read a book called State of the Arts this summer which encourages Christians to participate in and appreciate the arts, but also helps give a godly, biblical standard for discerning what art is worthy of our appreciation. 
Panel of Judges.  Look at those stern faces!
Cooper's team was arguing for the affirmative, and so tried to give compelling evidence as to why this organization is not worthy of taxpayer money.  They focused on the fact that the organization often gets used as a political tool as it did recently when it was urged to promote ObamaCare in some way. They did a wonderful job in front of an audience of parents and siblings as well as a panel of tough judges!

Cross Examination by Sara
The opposing team also did a great job in naming the merits of the NEA, and breaking down the facts about how much of our tax money actually goes to the organization.  Their argument was for reform and more judicial funding. The affirmative team won, but just by the skin of their teeth.  If fact, one judge chose the negative team as the overall winner.  Everyone learned, though, that you can not do enough research, fact-gathering, and THINKING in order to get a big picture understanding of the overall issue and argument!
That was one intense day for Cooper to be sure.  We had to fly out of the classroom door directly after the debate to get him to a Cross Country meet out-of-town.  Afterward, he was totally exhausted from research, workouts, anxiety, and the pressure of performing.  He did a great job with both though.  I was really proud of him!
Go Coop!
Making sure two kids are prepped for their Challenge courses on Tuesdays, and getting myself ready to teach make for fast, intense, crazy weeks, but I am so thankful for this opportunity, and totally sold on this curriculum.  Thankful, too, for the friendships it allows.  Several of the families have opened their homes for debate meetings or simply a pizza and movie night, and that has been so wonderful!  We're taking a turn this week by having Coop's class over for pizza, s'mores, games and maybe a movie.  Hoping for a nice fall evening and lots of great fellowship!

Now... essays are graded, progress reports completed, and now I'm off to study my logic book...and buy groceries for the week!

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