"Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things."--Jefferson

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Some Advice for Starting a Group

I wrote some advice about this on my blog, but I thought it may be of help here so I am changing a few things to apply it specifically to starting a Vanguard group in case my experience is of help to some...

A couple of my friends from our homeschool group are moving.  They are looking to start a Vanguard scholar group in their area when they move.  As I think about the most important advice I could give them, I decided to write a blog post about it in case it may be of some use to anyone else thinking of starting a scholar group.

1. To narrow down the focus of your group, prayerfully figure out what is most important for your children to get from their education and focus on those things.  Each lens has many areas of focus and there is more out there than any one person can learn in quite a few lifetimes - choose the most important aspects of each lens and focus on that.  It can be tempting to make Vanguard feel "all-comprehensive" since you have these different subject areas, but it is important to target your resources on what will have the most impact.

For me, this was: 
-A testimony of Jesus Christ, His gospel and His love for them
-Knowledge that He has a work for them to do (core)
-The ability to find true principles in anything they read, see and experience and apply those principles to themselves (core, journeyman and master)
-The skills to take that truth and share it in a way that changes hearts (journeyman)
-A love for all people (historty/geography), and of freedom (leadership academy), beauty (imaginative arts), and order (Eureka)
-The ability to think spiritually (core), from other perspectives (history/geography), creatively (imaginative arts), symbolically and logically (Eureka) 
-The desire to serve

I do know tests and making money is important, but I believe if my children have the abilities and skills listed above, they will be able to quickly learn what they need for any test and be able to provide for their families.  Besides, learning to think logically often involves doing some math...

2. Decide what you want to do at home and what is best done in a group setting. (For example, for us, math is best done at home, but group discussions are a powerful way to learn to find principles and see their evidence in the lives of our peers, fun group games can motivate skills and knowledge, etc). This year I am asking parents for volunteers to teach 3 BONUS classes outside of Vanguard, but after or before it (to save driving time): Writing Structure, Apologia Science and History (chronologically) on a weekly basis. We could do these at home, but these subjects seem to work well in a group and we don't have time to do them justice in during Vanguard. Plus,  I don't want to take away from the more important purposes stated above.

3. Pray for God to send you people who you can serve and who can help you with the vision He inspired you with.

4. Set up an information meeting (look for yahoo groups or other homeschool websites in your area) to tell people your vision and to let them know you are looking for people who like your vision and would like their youth to  participate and would like to help you see it through. Then read great books together and some of the resources on this blog and find true educational principles you want to apply to your group.

5. Learn and focus on true educational principles (and teach them to your students)
Such as the foundational principles on the top tab that incorporate some of the following:
-The Spirit is the real teacher - our job is to invite Him to teach us
-Going to class prepared to discuss invites the Spirit into our hearts and edifies others as we share the truth we learned. (This applies to teachers, but especially to students)
-Inspire as much as possible - students learn best when they choose to do it. Never force.  Sometimes ask for obedience when you see a need that the student does not yet see.
-Writing and speaking open communication channels to others and also to God.
-You can't inspire if you are not living the truth you teach (including a love for learning more than you already know and aspiring to live it)
-Extrinsic rewards (grades, treats, social time, etc) can distract and overpower intrinsic rewards. Use them very sparingly for skill or knowledge acquisition. Never to inspire a love of learning.
-Seek an education for the purpose of blessing others
-The deeper you follow a truth, the more connections you will find.  If you go deep enough, it will connect to all subjects or disciplines of study
-Classics teach you to think. A lot of curriculum focuses on information. In this age of google, youth are right when they feel they are wasting their time regurgitating information.  They must learn to sift through the data to find the nuggets of truth that will benefit them and others. Classics help them learn to do this.

6. Only plan assignments, lessons and activities that support your purpose, don't get distracted with all of the other good purposes out there. The methods listed on the top tab here are only suggestions. For example,  your may find your group's needs are different for the types or amount of ativities. Or maybe the focus of your Eureka lens is to show how science alighns with the word of God and that when it doesn't it's because we don't have all the pieces and another group may focus on symbols/shapes and numbers to teach symbolic thinking.  Decide what your purpose(s) is/are for the year and don't try to cover everything.

7. Be okay with changeL you may have found the perfect system for a semester, but it may need to be changed to fit different needs the next semester.  It is okay, and perhaps for the best, for your group to looks different every year.  Just measure your changes against the true educational principles you know and be okay with changing the application of those principles as you are inspired or see a need.

8. Remember the principle of a council. As you lead a group, choose carefully who you want in your governing board, choose those who are close to the spirit and who live the truth they know. Then counsel with them when you need to make decisions.   Remember Elder Boyd K. Packer's words, "I have a deep, even a sacred, regard for councils; inspiration is evident in them.  If ever another course has been followed, trouble has followed as sure as night follows day. If we are to meet the great challenges...we must respect these principles. The Lord has said, 'I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine."

My favorite books or sites for finding true educational principles a lot of these are listed under the foundational principles tab above)  - just remember to apply them in your own way:
The Scriptures
Teach the Children by Neil Flinders
A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille
Norms and Nobility by David B. Hicks
Educating Zion
Increase in Learning and follow up books by Bednar
D&C 88 and 93
Gateway to the Great Books Introduction
The Great Conversation by Hutchins
Teaching Videos
Teacher Training
Arm the Children by Arthur Henry King
Ten Boom Institute

The list may look overwhelming, but the good news is most of the principles are the same in each book :-)  And it is hard to apply more than one principle at a time so just get started and apply the principles as you come across them.  Then the next time you come across one, you will see a way you can apply it even better, and you can just keep progressing in your educational journey :-)

Our youth need a great education. Schools are often (not always) failing them in this. Too often they are training instead of educating our youth. I think a grassroots effort to help these youth get a real education may be the best answer to this dilemma.

I love learning about learning.  If any of you are embarking on the great adventure of building community and helping one another inspire your youth, I am happy to help by sharing my experience if I can.  I don't claim to be an expert, but I do believe there is a need for better education out there and so I am happy to help in this endeavour when possible.  Have joy in your journey!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Eureka encouragement and direction

Hi everyone!

I have heard that the Eureka lens can be one of the more challenging ones to bring in the principle of the month.  I have also heard that it is hard to keep it principle-learning based and not skills/methods-learning based.

So I will try to help :).

Mathematics was originally pursued as a way to find truth: observations of the world around us that taught us about ourselves, patterns and connections found and recorded that improved the individual and the people and communities around them.  To me, it is all about connections and context: anyone can google anything and "learn" anything, given a computer and a class outline.  However, the ability to make connections, give information context, and see how all truth really can come together into a whole is what Eureka is all about.

Here is a packet of my notes from a Math seminar I attended by Oliver DeMille. In it, he outlined a way to study a math classic.

Math class notes

Here is a class outline from a woman, Elizabeth Merrill who set up a "Eureka!" class with a similar intent...to teach her children to think, make connections, and find truth.

Eureka! packet

When I spoke to her about using the packet, she allowed me to, as she has the copyright to it.  However, she told me that her intent with getting a copyright was to keep the knowledge, ideas, and material free to share with others, so that other organizations could not steal the idea and seek to copy it for their own purposes.

(So, just a reminder that, as with all things that I freely share on this website, you may not take ideas from here that are the ideas of others and use them to make a profit for yourself.)

She lists some great classics in her packet.  I have used:
The Phantom Tollbooth
Number Devil
Go Figure!
The Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe
The Math Book
My Side of the Mountain

These are fabulous books that really make the youth think!   I always use the scriptures to tie it into eternal truths, as well, and have had many spiritual, mind-opening discussions.


Special thanks to RaNae Housholder for scanning in the documents and sending them to me so I can share :).

Sample overview of Journeyman and Master class content for different lenses

I thought I would throw this out for anyone who wanted an idea of what it could look like.  We insert classics (people, books, poems, videos, etc.) wherever they fit.

Reminder of Goals of levels:

Questions: Why do I want to learn about this? How does this relate to me? Why do I care? What does a principle look like/feel like?  Showing evidence for the principle
-Create a love and interest of the lens of focus for that week (while reinforcing the principle)
Purposes: Inspire, Serve

Questions – How can I learn to think and organize my thoughts? How do I find principles? How do I find evidence for these principles? How do I communicate those effectively?
Freedom to research knowledge of interest
Tools for learning in a particular lens and finding principles in what is learned and for communicating that truth

Questions – Where do I go for the best education? How do I serve others with my education? How do I present principles and their evidence in a beautiful way? Cultural Literacy (Breath), Classics (Depth)
Purposes: “Become” a classic by studying classics (not necessarily books), finding principles and evidence for them and applying those principles.
Communicating those principles in an effective and beautiful way.

 (There are specifics in the outline below, based upon books or particulars that we have chosen to focus on this year, like being able to be civil and identify fallacies as leaders.  However, you should be able to get the gist of it.)

Leadership Academy Lens
1) 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens discussion
2) Simulation to reinforce concept of month and leadership abilities
3) Leadership Biography to reinforce concept of month

1) Whatever Happened to Justice?
2) Application of what we have learned in this lens this week to real world
3) Civility discussion
4) Fallacies discussion

Geo-Conquest Lens
1) Focus on a continent (i.e. Feb-Africa and Australia):presentations
2) Map and timeline of relevant time and location
3) Focus on monthly theme/principle: biography, group of people, historical event, etc

1) Geo-conquest game (the youth come with questions they have made themselves from the material that has been presented in this lens this week in the classes, divide into two teams, and they see who can answer the most correctly)
2) Services in area/Application project for monthly theme
3) How many countries can you name on the map? (optional :)...)

Eureka Lens
1) Dr. Posin’s Giants
2) Math game
3) Experiment based on principles

1) The Math Book--brief sharing moment where the youth share one thing that happened during that time frame
2) Deeper experiments about the principle--more youth led

3) Math classic project/discussion about the principle

Imaginative Arts Lens
1) Artist focus--learn about the history of art (1-1 1/2 hours)
    a) picture study 60 seconds--study, think about it, notice, etc.
    b) principle to practice (i.e. use of lines, shading)
2) Spiritual Lives of Great Composers: focus on Composer or music from time period (15 minutes)
3) Art project about the principle (and inspired from the artist)
4)  Lit/Poetry project/book about the principle

1) Bringing their own art about the principle and showcasing what they did
2) Specialty classes(projects and art)
3) Literature--short story, poetry, language
4) Wanting to bring together all that was discussed during the month about the monthly theme/principle

Friday, January 17, 2014

A way to expand on monthly themes

I have taken the monthly themes (life, liberty, work, role of God in society, etc.) and taken specific principles that help us understand those themes in greater depth.  For instance, for January--the month we were focusing on the Role of God and Religion in society for our theme--we chose the principle of "courage" as one of the many principles involved in preserving our religious freedoms and following our conscience.

My friend Marni brainstormed a bunch of principles/concepts that could be used within the monthly themes:

personal peace
divine nature
commitment *

preserving others' liberty
honoring others' agency
obedience to law

God's work
first things first

sure foundation
Child of God
truth (source of)
personal revelation
divine potential
honoring God and others

good shepherd

obedience to law
home/family (influence on society)
security vs. freedom
honoring others' agency
valuing people

obedience to law
doing the right thing
we are all enlisted
dare to stand alone
first things first
*Mary's additions 
When you focus upon how that principle or concept helps us understand or appreciate a "healthy" perspective on the theme for the month it is a little easier to gather relating study material.  

Please feel free to add principles or concepts that you feel fit in the comment section below!

A look at types of freedom...interesting questions and topics to consider

46 Clues You’re Enslaving Yourself Voluntarily

by Stephen Palmer  at http://www.thesocialleader.com/2013/07/voluntary-servitude/
It’s ironic how many captives proudly pledge allegiance to the flag.
Funny how fervently we proclaim we’re willing to die for freedom, but are unwilling to live free in our daily lives.
Strange how much lip service we give to being grateful for our freedom, while constantly trampling on that precious gift with poor choices.
We don’t need chains, whips, and jail cells to be held captive.
Involuntary servitude is a crime against humanity. But voluntary servitude is a crime against nature, as it stifles our joy and constrains our potential.
As I explain in my book, Uncommon Sense, Viktor Frankl locked in a concentration camp cell is more free than the drug or pornography addict in America.
Voluntary servitude — and its opposite, personal freedom — come in five forms: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, and financial.
Answer the following questions to determine just how free you are in your life:

1. Spiritual Freedom

To be spiritually free is to have a close relationship with your Creator, adhere to your conscience, serve your fellow man, and to know and live your purpose with faith and courage.
To be in bondage spiritually is to be a stranger to God, to indulge the lusts of the flesh, to be fearful and selfish, and to wander through life without the rudder and North Star of purpose.
  • Do you pray daily, sincerely, earnestly?
  • Do you meditate daily?
  • Do you study your spiritual text daily?
  • Do you have a close, meaningful, and personal relationship with your Creator?
  • Do you follow spiritual promptings you receive without hesitation?
  • Do you view pornography?
  • Do you routinely watch movies or listen to music that are below your values and spiritual standards?
  • Do you honor your marriage vows in thought, word, and deed?
  • How often do you serve others with no thought for getting anything in return?
  • Do you have a clearly defined life purpose? Are you in tune with your calling? Do you know what you were born to do and become?
  • Do you know what you’re trying to make happen in the world and how you will measure success?
  • Is your life purpose written down, and do you read it daily?

2. Mental Freedom

To be mentally free is to know how think analytically, holistically, and creatively and to know the ideals one should strive for through liberal education.
As Leo Strauss said,
“Liberal education consists in reminding oneself of human excellence, of human greatness.”
Liberal education is gained by studying the greatest thinkers, ideas, and works in history: the Bible, Shakespeare, Aurelius, Aristotle, Plato, Calvin, Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis, Gandhi, etc.
Mental bondage is ignorance, to be a robot in conveyor-belt education, to never question why we do things or how to do them better.
  • Do you engage in formal education primarily for job training?
  • Has your education fostered, encouraged, and rewarded creativity, initiative, “outside-the-box” thinking?
  • Do you know what the “good life” means and how to live it?
  • Do you regularly read works from the authors listed above, and from others like them?
  • Are you actively engaged in the “Great Conversation”?
  • Do you spend more time watching TV than reading good, inspiring books?
  • Do you read merely for entertainment, or to seek truth, expand your soul, and become more virtuous and wise?

3. Emotional Freedom

To be emotionally free is to be healed from wounds through forgiveness and gratitude, and to be consistently joyful.
Emotional bondage is to be a victim, a reactionary puppet on the strings of our wounds.
  • Do you harbor hurt feelings and anger toward people who have caused you pain?
  • Do you have a hard time forgiving?
  • Are you easily offended?
  • Do you often lose your temper and say things you regret?
  • Are you generally optimistic, or pessimistic?
  • Do you suffer from depression?
  • Is your self-talk negative and limiting?
  • How often do you express heartfelt gratitude to God, family, and friends?

4. Physical Freedom

To be physically free is to be free from physical addictions and the agendas of agricultural corporations and to enjoy maximized health and wellness through proper diet and exercise.
Physical bondage most often manifests as obesity, chronic illness, addictions to physical substances, and dependence on prescription drugs. (And clearly, there are biological factors beyond our control that affect these.)
  • Does your diet consist primarily of processed foods?
  • Do you garden? If so, do you use GMO seeds?
  • Do you exercise regularly?
  • Is your weight healthy?
  • Do you often use prescription drugs to deal with ailments?
  • Do you treat illness by simply masking symptoms, or by dealing with root causes?

5. Financial Freedom

To be financially free is to be debt-free and economically self-reliant.
As Garrett Gunderson and I detail in Killing Sacred Cows, financial bondage is to be indebted to banks, to fall prey to financial propaganda from institutions with vested interests, to be dependent on corporations, and to work for benefits and security rather than for purpose.
  • Do you dislike your occupation but stick with it primarily for money, benefits, and “security”?
  • Is your occupation a worthy expression of your values, talents, passion, and purpose?
  • Does your occupation fill you with a deep sense of fulfillment?
  • If you were to get fired today, would your knowledge, skills, grit, and initiative allow you to replace your income quickly — even outside your current field?
  • Do you earn money living your purpose?
  • Do you have three to six months’ of expenses in a savings account?
  • Do you save 10 percent of your income?
  • Do you have any credit card debt?
  • Are you making monthly payments on any depreciating liability (car, furniture, etc.)?
  • Have you ever bought on credit because of a deal like “90 days same as cash” or “1 year interest free”?
  • Are you “invested” in a 401(k) or other mainstream financial product, such a mutual fund? If so, do you understand in depth what you’re “invested” in?
I don’t know about you, but I have some work to do.
I ponder the words of John Quincy Adams:
“Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”