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Sophie School

Of the three at-home kids, Sophie is the one who has come up with the most unusual approach to structured schooling. She has gravitated to setting her alarm for 6:30 a.m.. This is the girl who often used to still be in bed at noon. Now she’s up before it’s light outside. She makes a fire in the woodstove and, until that warms things up, she wraps herself in a quilt and turns on Phillip, the (Phillips brand) space heater.

She does almost all her work independently now, though it didn’t start out that way six weeks ago. She’s relishing the independence and the quiet time before anyone else is up.

Her morning regimen always includes math, which is pictured at the bottom of the further stack. She’s using the Art of Problem Solving Introduction to Algebra text and solutions manual. At first this book was a huge challenge which resulted in regular tears. She needed a lot of help, but didn’t want to need help, which made her sad and angry. But a couple of weeks later things had changed. She’s now working totally independently through Chapter 4 and understanding it. The depth of this book is very impressive. Far beyond the level of the first in the high school series of everything else we’ve looked at — Teaching Textbooks, Life of Fred, MathPower, Saxon, Singapore NMC. If I’d known how challenging it was I’d never have bought it for a 10-year-old. But despite my concerns she’s doing fine. And gosh, she’s getting a very robust math education! We’ll be branching out into Statistics and Geometry in the same series in the months to come.

On top of the math is Campbell’s “Biology: Concepts and Connections,” the other big challenge in Sophie’s learning program. This is an AP / intro university level text. She’s had it for a while but only skimmed and browsed in the past. Now she’s working systematically through it. It’s beautifully set up for self-teaching with lovely detailed text and illustrations footnoted by CD-ROM or internet-based activities, explorations, virtual labs, self-evaluation quizzes, links and additional tutorials.

Then there’s Theory Time Grade 5. There’s some challenge in here for her, to be sure. The bass clef work, and all the circle-of-fifths stuff. It was a good place for her to start working in this series.

Rosetta Stone French. Sophie likes total privacy when doing RS, because of the oral work into the microphone which makes her self-conscious. So she isn’t doing Rosetta Stone very often — maybe once a week, while the rest of us are away in Nelson — which is a shame because it really needs to be used at least every other day. We’re trying to figure out solutions to this.

The bottom of the nearer stack is L’Art de Lire, a systematic grammar-based written approach to French. It’s a good companion to Rosetta Stone which is aural and immersion-like.

Next up is the Editor-in-Chief Level A1 book. Sophie blew through the beginner book in 2 weeks, so we’ve just started the next one. She enjoys these even if they’re easy and “below her level” so we’ll continue. She doesn’t do much writing, so this is a nice way of giving her experience editing other people’s writing for clarity and accuracy.

On top are episodes from the two Teaching Company Lecture Series she’s enjoying. The first is “The Joy of Science,” intended for university non-science-majors. The second is “Introduction to Biology” which just arrived this week. She does like her biology, this girl!

Every day includes math, most days include a bit of Campbell’s Biology and typically she’ll do one or two other bits of written work. Rosetta Stone and the DVD’s come into play maybe once a week each.

In addition there’s violin practicing, independent reading (Twilight series most recently), our nightly fiction readalouds, and the evening regimen of history readaloud and/or videos (the latter of which has lately shifted firmly to the back burner). And all the serendipitous stuff that comes up in the course of daily life.

Because she starts her schoolwork at 6:30, Sophie is usually ready for a nap at about the time the rest of us are getting up. We often find her on the couch looking like this. But that’s okay, because she’s had a productive morning, the evidence of which is strewn all about her, and the house is warm thanks to her fire-building skills.



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One response to “Sophie School”

  1. Eric J. Simon Avatar

    Sophie and family,

    I enjoyed reading the latest Sophia School blog entry. As one of the authors of Sophie's biology textbook, I wanted to offer her the opportunity to chat. Perhaps I can help point Sophie toward some further resources, or answer some questions. If she would care to email, my contact information can be found through my website (link below). Good luck to you all as you negotiate the educational landscape in beautiful BC.


    Eric J. Simon, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor
    New England College, Henniker, NH