Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tapestry on a Tuesday {Virtual Co-op}

This new term has heralded a slight change in direction for our homeschool.

Recently, I was made aware of a concept that was new to us, and which I felt would benefit Joshua, in particular.

Currently, we attend a homeschool co-op, where we get together with other families and learn together.  Different parents take turns teaching lessons, with the children in a group setting.  The children love it, and it gets in that ALL essential aspect of the "s" word..... (tongue firmly in cheek there)...


The children love it, and it's nice for the parents to get together and encourage each other, too.

My ideal would be to meet together with others who use Tapestry of Grace, but as yet, there are still very few families using it over here.  I would LOVE to see more using it, as it's a GREAT curriculum!

The next best thing came on my radar.

VIRTUAL co-op.

It's when children get together ONLINE, and have a class together! One parent teaches, and the children all listen in, on whichever conferencing platform used by the co-op. They  have opportunity to type or speak their answers, as they enter into discussion, or even share by video.  The teacher tends to use PowerPoint presentations, whilst teaching the class.

I particularly liked the idea of Josh participating in the Dialectic level History class, because it is where they discuss their "Thinking" and "Accountability" questions.

"What are THOSE?", you may ask?

First of all, it may be a good time to explain the stages of learning, included in a classical approach to education.

Grammar  - this is the stage where a child soaks up facts. It's the foundation stage of learning, where a child will then build upon these facts in later years.  This level, particularly in Tapestry of Grace,  is all about fun and interesting books, and activities,  packed with factual information, put across in a captivating way.

Dialectic - at this stage, a child wants to question things more, and start to take a more analytical approach to learning, also applying logic. They are trying to understand what they learned, in order to apply it better. It's the starting to ask "why" about things, instead of just accepting as fact.

Rhetoric - this is when they take the facts they learnt in earlier life, the questioning and reasoning they learnt in dialectic years, and coherently express it in oral or written. It's the level at which they can demonstrate that they have learnt and understood facts, because they can explain them to someone else. Expression, hypothesising and demonstrating more abstract thought processes, are all key elements to this stage.

Having worked for several years with grammar level (TOG splits it into Lower and Upper - younger ones using more basic texts, and older using more detailed ones), I was a little apprehensive about moving up to dialectic.  However, I realised that we already, as a family, tend to do what is expected in Dialectic - ask QUESTIONS! I regularly ask them why we think something happened, or happens. Discussing and analysing, at the simplest level, the whys and wherefores of what we are learning. Dialectic just does this as a formal part of schooling. Josh has a list, every week, of Thinking Questions, which get them to, well, THINK, and Accountability Questions, which are more to make sure they have read, and understand, what they were assigned.  Getting them to think it through more, rather than just understanding facts, like grammar level.

Here is an example, of the Questions for Dialectic.

Accountability Questions
1. What is the difference between “superstition” and “religion”? Look up both words in a dictionary and then summarize
the difference in your own words.
2. Which were the major idols or “gods” of Egypt? List the ten or twelve deities that Egyptians considered the most
3. Egyptian idols were often pictured as animal/human combinations. Prepare to share details about two of these.
(Your teacher may choose to assign you two specific “deities” to tell your classmates about in a mini-report.)
‰‰ What did your chosen “deities” represent to the Egyptians?
‰‰ What do scientists think is the most probable reason for these half-human representations?
4. Why did the Egyptians develop a pantheon of over 2,000 “deities”?
Thinking Questions
1. Were the Egyptians polytheists or pantheists? Using a dictionary, define these two terms precisely. Then answer
the question, listing specific aspects of Egyptian beliefs that support your answer.
2. Connect factors in the Egyptian environment with the development of Egyptian religion.
‰‰ What was the basis of the relationship between the Egyptians and their idols?
‰‰ Outline ways that the climate and location of Egypt may have affected their belief system. For instance, did
the Egyptians have a god of the mountains?
3. Why do you think Egyptian mythology included several versions of the stories of creation?
4. Consider the concept that the Egyptians worshipped evil gods in order to placate them. How is this different from a Christian’s reasons for worshipping God?

(On a side note, I love how Tapestry of Grace looks at mythology and false religion ALWAYS side by side with God's Word, and pointing out the error of it.)

We had been trying to fit in our discussion every week, but it was quite the juggling act for me!

Then, I learnt about the virtual co-ops! Having someone else go through it all with them, and having them discuss it together, sounded like a great idea - both for the basic aspect of discussion, and also getting to know others.  The added bonus of being accountable,  to an outside party, was also particularly appealing!

So, through the TOG Facebook group that I am on, I heard there was one commencing for Year 1, Dialectic level.

Hang on, though.  They were, of course, starting Year 1 in September.  We had begun our school year in JANUARY!

What to do?!?!

Well, I decided that the benefits of joining in with a virtual co-op was sufficient to restructure our schooling schedule.  I decided to pause our studies with Tapestry of Grace, on a family level.  Josh has re-started Year 1, for his History and Writing, leaving the other TOG subjects, so he can join in. We will all start back together, with the whole curriculum, when Josh reaches that week in his virtual co-op.

In the mean time, I have come up with a few other projects to keep the children busy, as an alternative to TOG!  Beth is working on a Unit Study, based on Anne of Green Gables, called "Where the Brook and River Meet".  (I got it from Icthus Resources, here in the UK) It covers many different subjects, all based on each chapter of the book.  It covers history of the period the book is set in, geography of the area, nature study, cooking, craft, Bible, writing, and literature studies.  There are probably others I have forgotten about, too! Beth is loving it! I am doing a Unit Study with the younger ones, based on a Classic Starts version of Swiss Family Robinson.  I will share a bit more about that in another post, and will hopefully share ALL that we did, once we have finished. I am just putting it all together myself, rather than following a curriculum or online resource.  We are reading a chapter a week, and doing activities that spring from that. So far, we have covered storms, poetry, labelling a ship, comparing and contrasting agouti and pigs, and we also have a lapbook we are doing, which answers comprehension questions.

Josh has been really enjoying his virtual co-op. He has also joined in with a Writing class, even though, initially, he only wanted to do the History. He is loving them both, and thinks his teachers are great. (So do I - truly inspiring - hats off to you ladies - you know who you are!) I think that having someone, other than just Mum, is a good thing! I am still working alongside him, and directing him in certain areas, of course, but it's working well for him, on a motivational level. He's also enjoying connecting with the other children, of a similar age.  It's amazing to think that children, from across the world, can sit and discuss history together, in real time!

Often, I will listen in, as well. I set up Josh on the iPad, and I have the laptop open, with myself signed in. I do jobs, or work with the others, and pop in and out to listen in. It helps me to keep a track on what Josh is to do for the next week, as well as flagging up anything I want to discuss with him further.

I am hoping this opportunity will both enable him to dig deeper into Tapestry of Grace and encourage him to cultivate friendships with children across the globe. That "S" word, again.... *winks*

The long and the short of it is this - we love virtual co-op, and it's just another great reason why people should consider using Tapestry of Grace!

(Yes, he is sitting on an unmade bed, in the spare room - it's called "A Quest for a place of solitude"!)

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