Thursday, September 03, 2009

Open source

I'm afraid this is going to turn largely into a blog about me teaching a fifth-grade class of one. It is pretty consuming, but we are having a lot of fun and it is so good for our often-fraught relationship. So here is the latest thing.

Remember the homeschoolers you knew when you were a kid? Or did you? I did, in Alaska. And now that I understand more about homeschooling, I tend to think more power to 'em. But homeschooling then was pretty different. Or at least the homeschoolers I knew were. Homeschooled kids who entered public school at age 14 or so sometimes had big struggles because they hadn't had the social opportunities to prepare them.

Well, we don't wanna go there. So following the example of my friend W who has been so kind to shepherd me through the beginning of this process, I've started a club. Yep. A club. I based it on some other homschoolers' history clubs I've seen information about online, but tried to make it more suited to the kids I know, less partisan.

It's called Heroes Senate. And here's the skinny. I am happy to share what I've done so far. Let me know if you start a chapter. I think it would be fun to have a network.

Heroes Senate
Inaugural Year 2009-10: American Heroes until 1865
Guiding Document, Revised August 2009

What is Heroes Senate?
Heroes Senate is a values-based history club for home learners ages 8-12 in which we will examine the lives of historical heroes through the lens of selected values, namely these:
- Integrity: Did this historical hero stay true to his moral or religious understanding of right and wrong? How?
- Diplomacy: Did this hero strive to solve problems through communication and compromise? How?
- Equality: Did this hero treat those who had less power and privilege than himself appropriately? How?
- Discovery: Did this hero discover or introduce something new to make the world a better place? What and how?
- Patriotism: Did this hero love his country and strive to do his part in it? How?

Who Can Join and How?
For the present, the only membership requirements are that students be local residents (Merced County, CA) between their eighth and twelfth birthdays and that they be home schooled. A member may enter the club in September after turning eight or anytime after that when there is an opening, and will graduate from the club in June after turning twelve.

Heroes Senate is primarily designed as a complement to the already-running Liberty Girls club for younger girls in Merced. Heroes Senate curriculum will focus on male historical heroes with a few exceptions. Club leaders hope that a club analogous to Heroes Senate will be established for girls of similar age. All organizational knowledge will be gladly shared with anyone who wishes to start a girls’ club. If and when that happens, Heroes Senate will become a single-gender club (boys only). However, until that time, girls will be welcome in Heroes Senate.

The club advisor holding meetings in her home may hand-select companions for her own child or children as the privilege of running the group, before opening the club to all interested parties.

Heroes Senate will have no more than 12 club members at a time. Attendance should be consistent. Members who cannot attend meetings regularly will be expected to resign to make room for members who can, should there be interested students waiting for membership.

To join, contact club advisor A----- at ----- or ----------------.

What is Required of Members?
Club members and their families will be responsible for
- Procuring the assigned biographies and all presentation materials on their own (sources for purchase will be suggested by the club advisor)
- Reading biographies and preparing to contribute to values discussions by considering the questions in the Heroes Senate values list, above
- Preparing presentations on their own home school activities
- Taking turns bring snacks to meetings
- $3/month dues to cover costs of historical/cultural activities presented by the adult club advisor
- Participating in a costume pot-luck social in June

What Will Meetings Be Like?
Meetings will be held twice a month at the home of the adult club advisor, with the exception of the months of December, July, and August when there will be no meetings, and June when there will be only the final club social for the academic year. Each regular meeting will include 90 minutes of academic time and 30 minutes of social time, broken down as described below:

The first meeting of each month will include
- A 45-minute group discussion of an assigned biography of an historical hero, striving to establish if and how that hero demonstrated the Heroes Senate values in his life. Members should prepare for this meeting by reading the assigned biography (either alone or with a parent) and preparing to contribute to the values discussion.
- A 45-minute cultural activity (music, literature, art, science, or sports) from the time period of that hero, presented by an adult advisor
- A snack contributed by one club member family
- Thirty minutes of social time for club members and families

The second meeting of each month will include
- Five-minute presentations by club members on a topic from their home schooling (60 minutes total for presentations if there are 12 members of the club in attendance). Members should prepare by creating visual aids, costumes, hands-on activities, or other exciting methods to teach each other what they are learning at home. Relevance to that month’s historical hero or his time period is encouraged but not required. Members will be prompted by the adult advisor to ask and answer questions regarding each other’s presentations.
- Ten minutes for nominations and voting for the group’s favorite presentation of the day (encouraging excellence in presentations and teaching club members to honor each other’s efforts).
- A 20-minute lesson (including a hands-on activity) on Heroes Senate values from an adult advisor
- A snack contributed by one club member family
- Thirty minutes of social time for club members and families

The final meeting of the year in early June 2010 will be a family pot-luck dinner social at which all club members must (and family members may, if they choose) dress as an historical figure from the time period of our studies. All the boys whose presentations were voted as favorites during the year will be recognized with certificates, and a slide show of our activities for the year will provide the entertainment.

What about the Sticky Issues?
Students in the 8-12 age range are developmentally equipped to weigh and judge moral issues, and this will be encouraged. All the heroes we discuss may not shine in all the values areas. We may decide that some historical figure was a hero for discovery, but not for equality, for example. Heroes Senate aims not to ignore the imperfections of historical figures; however, discussions will be kept age-appropriate, so all issues may not be discussed. We will aim to teach that even flawed heroes may deserve respect and even loyalty but will also encourage club members to do their best to be heroes themselves in all Heroes Senate values.

In order to provide a welcoming atmosphere for a diverse community of learners, Heroes Senate will strive for political and religious neutrality within the framework of the Heroes Senate values. We will discuss what each historical hero believed in terms of morality and religion and whether they lived up to their own values, and encourage club members to decide whether they agree or disagree with each hero’s beliefs.

Today we talked about Squanto. I had read most of the book (Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims) out loud to the kids. Z told me yesterday, "Squanto is one of my best feelings." Yep, she talks that much these days.


Lucy said...

I love how you are fully immersing yourself into homeschooling! It is something that severely intimidates me, but I see so many, many benefits. I hope it works out as well as you'd both like it to. I'm sure wish such a social mother, he's got NOTHING to worry about (because I knew those kids too. Scary).

Carolyn said...

I always thought the same thing about homeschooled kids that I met when I was little. However, during college I did an internship at the Washington state Senate and met so many really cool homeschooled kids who were participating in the Senate page program. They had great social skills and were very accomplished. I think the difference was that their parents were doing exactly what you are--forming groups and getting them involved in activities outside the home.