Friday, November 8, 2013

The Secular Minority

I was a public school teacher for over seven years, and I think sometimes that experience distorts my perceptions of society for the better. You're skeptical about that, aren't you? Let me explain.

Public schools are, of necessity, secular places. The Christian Right  probably sees that as a terrible thing, but people who aren't Christian, and even a great many moderate and liberal Christians, see it as a great boon. Kids of different faiths can learn  and play together without having to feel awkward or isolated because of religion. Sometimes they still do, but it isn't inherent in the system.

By contrast, I attended a Baptist school for the first seven years of my own education. A Pentecostal kid would feel uncomfortable in that school, and a Catholic child would have been directly taught that their faith was based on idolatry and ... well, Paganism.

I had forgotten what the world of Christian education was like until I started homeschooling. You would think that I wouldn't be exposed to it much, being Pagan and a homeschooler. (My *teaching* is more secular, but my home is so very Pagan.) You probably only think that, though, if you are either:

A) not a homeschooler
B) a very isolated homeschooler
C) a homeschooler in an area with a blissfully LARGE Pagan/secular homeschooling community

Here in Indiana, indeed this is true throughout the Midwestern United States, being a secular homeschooler is the minority population. (Based on what I'm seeing on blogs and websites, it seems to be true across the whole country.)

As a Pagan, I'm accustomed to being the minority. It's hard to find an active, *local* Pagan homeschooling group, let alone one that has kids the ages of your own kids. Depending on where you live in the US, it can be hard to find other Pagan adults. But c'mon!! It shouldn't be THIS hard to find other homeschoolers who don't reference creationism for each science lesson.

Okay, now I have to remind myself that I am not complaining that they exist and have their own groups and activities. I'm not, truly. It's nifty that that they have the first and (to my knowledge) only national homeschool honor society. It's great that there is Christian homeschool prom in Indy. I just want secular versions of those things, too. I want MY kid to have the option to participate without compromising HER principles.

And what does that mean, realistically? She who smelt it dealt it? haha! In all seriousness, though, I have long had the philosophy that if I see an issue that needs addressing and nobody's fixing it, perhaps I'm being tapped on the shoulder. 

So, ... *big sigh* I think I am going to start working on a local (Indianapolis-area) secular homeschool prom and a national secular homeschool honor society. Sure could use some help on both, if anybody has a hand, an ear, a brain, or any other useful parts to lend.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

As if it isn't hard enough to find a robust variety of thoughtful, well-researched secular (let alone Pagan) home-schooling resources, there seems to be a trend of masking Christian resources to make them look secular at first glance. I've had this issue recently with a conference, an association, a magazine, and even a curriculum/day planner. Here's how this trickery works:

You find an advertisement for a bright, shiny homeschooling resource offering insight and encouragement. The cover, description, marketing blurb, and other propaganda-esque components offer absolutely no hints that this nifty product or service is going to be blatantly faith-based. None. Indeed, there is nary a religious undertone, overtone, connotation, or even stealthily referenced symbol.

Confident that this product or service is intended to meet the needs of the "average homeschooler," you purchase it, only to discover that it isn't really for you, after all. The magazine's seemingly secular titles all have Biblical subtitles and Scriptural footnotes ("Is Google Making Us Stupid?: Hyper-Seeing from the Towers of Babel"). The association cyphons funds and efforts into anti-gay legislation. (What does that have to do with homeschooling anyway?). The planner has Bible verses and Christian motivational quotes on each page. the conference's college fair is almost entirely attended by Bible colleges.

"Why does it matter?" you might ask. "Strip off the Biblical veneer and get to the points they are making."

I've tried. I've even had some mild success, but here are the issues:

Not Your Average Home-Schooler

I said earlier that certain products look like they appeal to your average home-schooler. Well, maybe they do, and maybe my family just doesn't fall into that category. I don't mean to sound elitist, and I don't think of us as elite; but I do recognize that we are different.

We're Pagan, for one thing. Our educational philosophy is more secular than religious, but we are a Pagan family. That definitely sets us apart as a distinct minority.

We are certainly more liberal. I'll actually come back to that point in a moment.

I'm a former teacher, and I have my own philosophies about education. I'm flexible, I think; but I have a certain amount of confidence in my ability to do this that I see other parents struggling with at times. Kids learn. ADULTS learn. It isn't, at its heart, that complicated a thing. I don't want to be spoon-fed, and I don't think my kids do, either.

Philosophical Differences

The biggest problem with the Christian resources is that I often fundamentally (ha! pun intended) disagree with the attitudes and philosophies that underscore most Christian homeschooling materials. there is a conservative bent that is antithetical to my family's nature. If I could find liberal Christian resources that were educationally sound, I might take a look; but I haven't seen many like that. So far, most have reminded me too much of the Beka Books I myself grew up with. (That's right, folks. I'm the product of a Baptist education -- grades K-6. If it hadn't been for a father who taught me to question everything, I might still believe the nonsense I was told -- including the "fact" that dinosaur bones were placed here on Earth by Satan to confuse us and test our faith in the Word of God.)

So, why the "sheep in wolf's clothing" routine? Why are these Christian offerings putting up a front of secularism, only to beat us over the head with their faith once we've put our money on the line? I can only speculate of course. I can't let ALL of them claim ignorance. The magazine (staffed by wordsmiths) was certainly too clever. Maybe it's their way of testifying to us heathens. Maybe they honestly think they won't sell enough copies if they are too forthcoming in their faith.

I'm an optimist, though, and I'm still looking for the silver lining in all of this. Every cloud has one. I don't just present you with problems, if I can't present at least one solution.

I didn't actually pay any money to the organization that supports anti-gay legislation. And I won't. Ever. (It's the Home School Legal Defense Association. They are very open about their stance. You should be aware before you send them money yourself.)

I created my own planner pages based on the ones I found most useful from the purchased one, and I'll be sharing them with you here. They're completely secular, though maybe I'll make some Pagan ones someday for those who would like them.

I got some truly useful information from the conference. I don't mind prayers or layering concepts of God's Will over the top of the discussion, as long as the discussion itself is relevant and useful. I got to sit in on at least three really useful break-out sessions. That rocked. I'll go back next year.

As for the magazine, I've got a subscription, and I'm going to make the best of it. Some of the articles in this issue weren't so bad, and the others helped me sharpen my opinions into clearer focus. I will likely find grist for THIS mill within those pages, and perhaps that is the only reason I subscribed.

Addition as of Nov 8, 2013:
 I wanted to add some pics based on some convos I'm having off-blog. I know it's hard to read the titles, but this is what they say on the cover:
5 Ways to  Make Online Schooling Work for You!
Three Thoughts to Think Twice About Technology
Bad Manners Masquerading as Media
Is Google Making Us Stupid?
Resist the Techno Babysitter!

The blurb on the magazine's website is equally faith-neutral and can be found here.

As soon as you open the covers, though, the first ads say "Build faith" and "Explore creation." You know right off that you've taken a misstep. But, okay, we'll still give the staff-writers a shot. Then come the articles.

Proverbs 31 in the .com World
The Blessings of Technology
The Bible and Your Smartphone
Is Google Make Us Stupid? Hyperseeing from the Towers of Babel
The Techno Beast

Again, not all of the article are so faith-focused, but it is clear that the magazine has a theme? Why not be forthcoming with that information in their advertising? I wouldn't have subscribed, no. But I also wouldn't be a dissatisfied subscriber.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pagan Sun Day School: Letter to Parents

The following letter is an intro to the Pagan Sun Day School lessons. It refers to the lessons being in a book or books -- which eventually be the case. For now, I offer them individually for your use.

Dear parents,

Welcome to Pagan Sun Day School.  I hope you find within this series of books a religious training system from which you and your child/ren will both benefit.  I have tried to make the curriculum easy to understand for student and teacher alike.  I feel that I have developed a comprehensive and comprehensible course that will introduce children to the basic concepts of Paganism that their parents hold so dear.

This series is not intended, however, to serve as a Book of Shadows or ritual handbook for Pagan families. There are currently several books available by very capable authors dealing with rituals for families with young children. There are also books available for teenagers that deal with magical practices, pantheons, etc. I suggest that the Pagan family reads a combination of these books for information regarding ritual and family magical practice. However, I can guarantee that you will not find another resource that is comparable to the Pagan Sun Day School series in dealing with educating young Pagans about the basics of the religion.

Pagan Sun Day School is not intended to be a substitute for formal coven training.  The series ends at roughly the same time as graduation from high school.  At this time, if the student wants to pursue this path further, s/he may chose to seek coven membership in order to learn the Mysteries of that tradition or to pursue further education on an adult level.  PSDS does not delve too deeply into concepts that a child’s mind is not ready to understand. Neither does PSDS demand that the lessons be followed exactly as they are written, in the exact order that they are presented.

Instead, the curriculum is relatively flexible, allowing for differences in each individual family’s style and principles.  The lessons begin at a very simple level and gradually progress into more complicated ideas and practices.  The premise is to prepare children to make their own decisions regarding Paganism when their times come.  With this in mind, they will learn the basics of ritual, magic, ethics, etc.  They will be presented with ideas regarding deities and pantheons, as well as the elements, the Wheel of the Year, the Spiral of Life, Death, and Rebirth, and more.  In addition to their studies within Paganism, they will also be introduced to other world religions in the hopes of having a range of information on which to base their religious decisions.

The series is divided into four books, which, in turn, are divided into three grades (four, in the case of the high school edition).  They are designed so that a family may start this education at any time during a child’s development.  Many of the lesson topics are presented multiple times over the course of the thirteen years these books span.  This helps to reinforce certain concepts while expanding on them year after year. 

There are at least fifty lessons for each grade level.  If a grade has more than fifty lessons, the remainder is considered extra.  Use the fifty that you feel are most appropriate to your child/family.  This will give you a few weeks away from Pagan Sun Day School each year.  As an alternative to spending so much time away from the lessons, you may wish to use all of them, or to repeat a lesson or two.  This is perfectly fine, as it either reinforces areas of particular interest to the child or introduces them to a greater number of concepts.

Each set of lessons is grade-appropriate.  This means that Kindergarten lessons have been written with the average Kindergartner in mind.  The concepts are kept simple; the time for each lesson is relatively brief; there is no writing or reading involved for the child; there are more activities than lectures.  As the years progress, so does the expected level of comprehension.  The lessons become more challenging; the activities are more complicated; the ideas presented are more complex.  Throughout the series, however, the focus is on activities and discussion, as opposed to lecture.

Throughout the books, you will find extra activities for you and your child/ren.  The end of most lessons will have “Supplemental Activities” that are related specifically to the topic covered in those lessons.  There will also be additional activities at the end of each book that can be used at the parent’s discretion.

The order of the classes/assignments is only suggested. Parents are given plenty of “wiggle room” to accommodate for the particular needs and interests of their children. Most of the lessons are organized within units that contain a particular theme – like “Deities” or “Tools.” These lessons can be taught together in a sequence, as shown here, or they can be separated to accommodate your family’s unique style or cycles. For instance, you may prefer to teach lessons regarding Air (the element, its tools, its Deities) in an Air sign, like Libra.

Of course, some units rather lend themselves to being separated to fit certain cycles. The units covering “Moon Phases” and “Holidays” are more or less dependent on their being taught at a particular time of the month or year. It might be a little silly to teach them all in a row, regardless of the point in the cycle where you are, because children would have a difficult time relating to the ideas of Samhain at Summer Solstice. (I know I would, too.)

At the end of each series, you will find a certificate and the instructions for a small ceremony.  This is included as a way for you to honor and praise your child for completing the previous three years’ study.   They have learned a lot over the course of those three years and deserve to be recognized for their work.

It is my sincere hope that this series is of value to you and your family.  May your children find love and happiness and enlightenment, no matter which path they chose.

Laurelei Black

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

You WANT to Follow this Blog (FREE Printables!)

Not a Jedi mind-trick, folks. Just stating what I hope will be a fact for you. Why? Well, primarily because I'm a freak for organization, and nothing scratches that particular itch quite as well as creating charts, checklists, graphic organizers, and other good printable action that I find useful. And I figure that if it's good and useful for me, it might be so for some of you, as well.

I've got myself set up with a Dropbox account with the intention of sharing various printables and handouts with my readers. (I know some of you are reading, even if the site does look a little lonely and bare here in the beginning.)

For instance, I have already uploaded these documents to my Dropbox account:

Book Report Form
Leaf/Tree Identification Sheet

I have one single philosophy when it comes to sharing teaching materials: Use, lose, or abuse. Use anything I make available, if you like it. Ditch it, if you don't. Or change it to make it useful, if that's what you need. Share with anyone you like. I'm creating these docs for myself, but I'll be tickled if they can help you or your friends.

And go ahead and subscribe to this blog -- or click "follow." You'll want to keep updated, right?

Oh? And another reason to follow:

I'm working on a huge writing project for Pagan kids and families. It's called Pagan Sun Day School, and it is a full curriculum of lesson plans and ideas to help parents with teaching their kids about their religion. (Again: use, lose, abuse. I don't intend it to be the be-all and end-all. Just a starting place for parents who would like a boost.) I will offer some of the lessons for free ... just for friends of the Black Family (um ... blog readers)!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Planning -- Overview of Study

I've been looking quite a lot at the curriculum available (for FREE) through Ambleside Online. While it is quite comprehensive in most respects, it doesn't *quite* suit our household. (It is very, very Christian, after all. That's great for many families, but we are a Pagan home.)

There is so much good material available at Ambleside, though -- material that I can cull and cobble into my own planning.

Here are the subjects that I intend to cover with Harmonia between now (7th grade) and June 2018 (graduation):

Witchcraft -- divination, energy work, totemic studies, Wheel/Compass
Government and Economics
Current Events
Grammar and Composition
Nature Study
Art -- history (w/Glaux), Picture Study (appreciation), practice
Music -- Composers, piano, folksongs
Foreign Language -- Japanese, French, Sign Language
Life and Work Skills
Free Reading

Some of these subjects combine with each other in seamless and elegant ways. Recitation and copywork, for example, go together brilliantly. And what is Harmonia reciting and copying? Well, material from literature, history, poetry, witchcraft, etc. See ... elegant.

I'll always link history, geography, literature and composition. There will be plenty of opportunities, as well, to explore composition in conjunction with current events, science, etc.

What I don't do (and don't plan on doing) is working chronologically. That's one of the things I don't like about the Ambleside literature, history, composer, and art sequencing. I work thematically, not chronologically. I think it's more effective for learning to talk about ideas than times.

So here is what I think we'll be doing for the remainder of this school year (roughly):

Romeo & Juliet
Taming of the Shrew

Early Colonial American Literature (as found here)
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Selected Shakespeare sonnets

History & Geography:

Elizabeth's England
Hetalia & WWII

Artist Study:
Albrecht Durer
Norman Rockwell

Composer Study:
Bartok and Hindemuth

We do math through Khan Academy, and we'll be starting this Middle School Chemistry program (both free!).

Harmonia will continue with her Pimsleur Japanese, and we will start American Sign Language.

I think that's a good start for now. There are more aspects to consider, and I will undoubtedly be gathering resource and formulating plan all through our Winter Break. Look for some good free printables coming from me soon!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Charlotte Mason, Nature Study and Sketch Tuesday

Charlotte Mason

I follow a couple of Charlotte Mason method-inspired blogs, and I have found inspiration and comfort within their posts. I've also felt like the only Pagan Charlotte Mason homeschooler on the Interwebs, which is a somewhat lonely prospect. (I know I am not literally the only one, but I'm not seeing a lot of it around. Most folks who are writing Charlotte Mason type blogs mix in a healthy dose of Christian propaganda to both their school work and their reflections.)

Okay, here's what I love about the Charlotte Mason Method:

* Basic Educational Philosophy -- Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.
* Living Books -- Share rich, inviting, living books with children -- not dry, dissociative textbooks.
* Nature Study -- Interact with and learn from the natural world.
* Narration -- Worksheets, tests, and the like are not as useful to a mind as simply learning to pay close attention and talk about ideas, stories, music, poetry, etc.

CM's philosophy sought to educate the WHOLE child in an integrated and authentic way. When I was a School of Ed undergrad at Indiana University, I knew that an integrated and authentic approach was the way for me. I always strove to teach this way when I was still in the classroom, and I felt dreadfully stifled when the practices of a school, district, or State Dept. of Education conflicted with that (*cough* Indiana *cough*).

Now, I'm admittedly new to Miss Mason's method, and it isn't in my nature to use someone else's curriculum/materials just as they are. Nor am I a purist of her (or anybody's) method. One very wise department chair of mine taught me the "use, lose, or abuse" principle when it came to educational materials. I'm always very willing to modify excellent ideas until they are supernal! However, I am finding Simply Charlotte Mason and Practical Pages to be two very helpful sites for incorporating the CM approach into our homeschool.

Ambleside Online offers a free CM curriculum, for those who are interested.

Nature Study

So, as a Pagan, this emphasis on nature study really appeals to me. I'm going to be honest and say that this is another area of study that Harmonia and I have neglected during this first semester. However, I plan on working it into our regular work beginning in January.

One resource that I plan on using as a starting point is the Outdoor Hour Challenge from the Handbook of Nature Study.  I'm planning on having us begin with Barb's "Getting Started" series of 10 challenges before jumping into the ones she posts on the blog each week. That'll give Harmonia and I the chance to get used to our nature journals and start to develop our own process for the study.

#1 Let's Get Started
#2 Using Your Words
#3 Now Is The Time To Draw
#4 It Is Coming Into Focus
#5 Keeping a List
#6 Collections
#7 Your Own Field Guide
#8 Magnifying Lens
#9 One Small Square
#10 Picnic

I like the nature journal pages Nadene from Practical Pages has offered readers.  I also like the idea of making a bag for nature study walks, and I am sure Harmonia and I will tackle that project soon in our home ec undertakings.

Sketch Tuesday

Harmonia and I have only participated in one Sketch Tuesday so far, but it was fun, free-spirited, and worth repeating. I need it to brush up on my sketching technique, and Harmonia needs it so she won't feel so self-conscious about drawing.

This site/project is brought to the world by Barb, of the Outdoor Hour Challenge. Essentially, Barb posts a broad category or topic each week, and readers sketch whatever they want to sketch within that topic.

Art education is a many splendor'd (or multi-headed) thing in our home. My parents are artists, as are Glaux and I. Harmonia has been learning about pottery since she was 8, and she's very talented. We try to get her into her favorite pottery studio on a regular basis. Glaux, who majored in Fine Art in college, handles Harmonia's art history/appreciation classes with just a little supplementation by me. (I'll take a concept that they've discussed, for instance, and turn it into a mini-project that complements something we're studying in literature or social studies.)

Grammie was handling Harmonia's fine art instruction (drawing, painting, etc), but she and Pa will be snow-birding from Jan 1 thru March 31. Art will revert to Glaux and myself (along with Algebra and home ec) during that time, and I am looking forward to trying out some ideas in that arena.

Recitation (some thoughts)

As Harmonia and I finish up our first semester of homeschooling together (... well, first semester in 7 years), I am looking at a few areas of study that I want to make sure to include as we move forward. Old-fashioned recitation is one of those areas.

Reciting lines of verse used to be a standard part of the curriculum, but it has fallen pretty far out of fashion. About the only folks I see using recitation as an educational tool are the decidedly Christian homeschoolers who use it as a tool for Scripture study. However, I really think that memorizing passages by rote and quoting them back again has a place within contemporary education.

My parents (Grammie and Pa) have largely been handling Harmonia's math instruction. They've been using lessons from the Khan Academy, and Harmonia is working through the Algebra lessons. She understands the concepts just fine, but we are discovering that her basic memorization of the multiplication tables  is patchy. Given how foundational multiplication tables are to all sorts of higher math (and basic math, for that matter), I know I need to incorporate some memorization activities into her schooling.

When I was in elementary school, I memorized a Bible verse each week as part of my Baptist education. Yes, this was clearly a ploy at indoctrination, but it was also a good stretch of muscles that we all need to be able to use. Some information in our daily lives jut needs to be committed to memory.

My high school English classes also used memorization and recitation as a standard part of the curriculum. This was the early 1990s in a small Oklahoma public school, and nobody else I knew in other states was memorizing lines of poetry. Typically, we had to say 100 lines of poetry (all chosen from that grade's literature anthology) per semester. Honors students said more -- usually 200. My best friend and I challenged ourselves to memorize 100+ lines at once. She did Poe's "The Raven" and I did "The Bells." More than 20 years later, and I still know huge chunks of both classics verbatim. (I also memorized Luke 2:1-20 in the 2nd grade -- and again in the 9th -- and recited this Christmas passage at church for my grandparents.)

Has all that memorization paid off? Heck yes. I have a great memory for quotes, facts, stories, etc. Maybe I came by that naturally, but I've seen the same sort of retention of information from folks who have trained in theatre (lots of lines to memorize for plays) and certain segments of the magical community that use standard, memorized liturgies as part of their rites (Ordo Templi Orientis Gardenerian Wicca, for example).

What to include as memorization material?

Well, Harmonia identifies as a Witch, so I might include some pieces of liturgical pieces. Maybe I'll break down "The Charge of the Goddess" or have her memorize our Housle. We're studying Romeo and Juliet right now, so I think I can reasonably include the famous sonnet that comprises the Prologue to Act 1 ("Two houses, both alike in dignity ...") and possibly a few choice rhyming couplets from within the text. There are several important pieces by Aleister Crowley that I would like her to practice with and be thinking about (some key lines from the Gnostic Creed, the Book of the Law, and Liber Resh vel Helios). Beyond those pieces, I'm thinking I'll just pick some good classics of poetry, and I'll encourage her to do her own explorations and selections of poetry for this purpose.

Friday, I think, will be our day for recitation. Yeah, I like that. I'll let you know how it goes.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...