Friday, March 23, 2012

Tapestry of Grace Part Three: Dialectic Delights!

Ah, the middle school years.  Gotta love 'em!  We're starting our fourth middle schooler this year, and I have to say for energy, drama, and exuberance you can't beat this stage.  And God has blessed us with FOUR count 'em, FOUR girls. . . . you moms know I don't need to say any more :)

Anywho.  This was about Tapestry.

Here is my Dynamic Dialectic Duo, in all their Discussion glory:

(Note the ever-present mugs of hot cocoa.  I think that's what my kids will remember about homeschooling.  Hot cocoa.  And we live in ALABAMA, people!)

In theory, my dialectic girls work in the same way as my rhetoric son.  Answer questions all week, read on your own, be prepared for discussion Monday afternoon.

Note the crucial words:  "In Theory"

Here's how it plays out in my house right now:

On Tuesday, we have our set-up meeting in the afternoon.  On Tuesday morning, while I'm teaching at a local co-op, my 7th grader takes the Accountability and Thinking questions and types them into a word processing document.  She then prints two copies for her and her sister to use as worksheets to answer questions.  (Mommy Trick:  I used to print these up for the kids.  Then I asked them to take over that responsibility.  Delegation, my friends, is a beautiful thing.)  During the set-up meeting, we go over what books they are to read, and I try to walk through the questions with them.

Here would be a good place to explain the difference between Accountability and Thinking questions; this is a question I'm asked fairly frequently!

• The Accountability questions are those that my girls in theory be able to answer on their own.  (Again, note the crucial words:  "in theory")  These are generally factually-based questions; "Who was the president? What were the most important battles in the war?  Who did it impact?"  I require that they write answers to those accountability questions.

•The Thinking questions are more difficult, and require more inference and drawing conclusions; "What was the relationship between x and y? Why did president x think this was a good idea?  What would you have thought of this event, if you lived then?"  I typically don't require written-out answers, but encourage the girls to jot phrases or ideas down on their pages.

On Monday after lunch, we sit down for our discussion time; my Tapestry "week" runs Tuesday through Monday, which I explained in an earlier post.   My dialectic discussion takes around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on our topics.  The girls are eager, interested, and prepared for a meaningful, educational, interesting look at our topics of the week. . . .

All Together Now. . . . "In Theory"!!!

The theory is that it works smoothly and seamlessly.  The reality is that - well - my younger student struggles with being prepared.  The theory is easier for me and plays into my idol of the stress-free life; the reality is that God has given me these opportunities to teach, train, and encourage my daughter - and to - ahem - work on my own sanctification in the process!

 It's so easy to forget the learning curve - when you look at your motivated and responsible 7th grader, reading, answering, staying on track - and remember that she once struggled, had to be guided, encouraged, loved, and helped along the road.  So I pray for a calm spirit, for love, for patience, and for wisdom. . . . . . . . and here is what has helped.

At the beginning of the year (August-September), I definitely expected too much from her.   After 2 or 3 weeks of being unprepared for discussions, I realized I needed to sit down with her, and help her break down her readings for the week.   For a month or so, we talked through her questions,

"So, these questions have to do with Civil Rights.  Which book do you think might have the most information?  What day would you like to read that book?"

"Here are questions about President Kennedy.  Where would we find that?  How many pages do you have to read on Wednesday to cover that book?"

And so on.  Helping her think about how to find the information, rather than feeding it to her.

And to be honest, she's still not there.  About 3 weeks ago, she AGAIN came unprepared.  I dismissed her older sister, and she & I sat at the table for an hour, as I gave her a "supervised study hall" while she looked for work.  It was tough, but we perservered.  Her consequence was that we had her discussion the next afternoon, during a time she had regularly scheduled a "playdate" with a friend.

She's getting better.  And so am I!  At realizing that this homeschooling journey is not entirely about education, but it's about the relationships we have with each other, and how we lean on Jesus.  The middle school years are a crucial time to connect, in so many ways - and Tapestry helps me to do just that.

Thanks for listening and reading, everyone!  Hope this gives you a little glimmer of how I approach TOG with my Dialectic age students.  Next up - Grammar Stage!  And remember, please leave a comment if you have a question you'd like answered. . . .I'm saving a few of them, and will hit questions in another post.


Christy said...

A grammar stage question...As next year will be our first year with TOG, I'm wondering how to place my boys. I will have a 4th grader (9yrs w/ a May bday) who is a decent reader and who enjoys reading and history, but still loves playing a lot too. And I'll have a 1st grader (6 yrs w/ a Jan bday) who is not a strong reader. In fact, he's struggling. I've been trying to figure out whether to put my older son in UG or whether it would be better to keep them together for sanity's sake this first year...thinking maybe he could even do some of the reading to his younger brother for me. I don't want to short-change either of them, of course.

I guess my question is how you determine what level your children should be in each year.

Kirsten said...

We are considering TOG for next year...up till now we have been doing STOW. Your blog posts have been incredibly helpful! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this blog. This post was incredibly encouraging to me. I have two dialectic students and we have been struggling with preparedness and discussion. Thanks again!