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Editor’s Note from Susan Richman: I love the annual Poetry Out Loud contest, and it’s wonderful to see that homeschoolers are continuing to have fine opportunities to take part in this program, which has local, regional, state, and national levels of competition. In the past half-dozen years, homeschoolers in Pennsylvania have done very well in this competition—with PHAA graduate Olivia Meldrum (now a junior at Franciscan University in Ohio, majoring in sacred music) one year winning at the state level and going on to National competition. I treasure the opportunity to have heard Olivia recite her poetry selections for me at her annual evaluation meetings—she truly used this contest as a vehicle to explore poetry deeply, gain real presence in recitation, and develop her appreciation of a full range of poems from varied eras. Some years there have been as many as three homeschoolers making it to the ‘top ten’ finalists in Pennsylvania—and I’m sure all gained immensely by participating.
The contest involves memorizing and reciting one poem from the Poetry Out Loud online anthology at the local level, two poems at regionals, and three at the state level. The website gives excellent guidelines to families – you can make this an important part of your English program for your high school homeschooler. Many parents might feel at a loss in approaching poetry—use this contest website to guide your teens towards real appreciation. Below is specific info on the Greesburg area local homeschoolers competition, open to any homeschoolers nearby (Westmoreland County in Western PA). If you know of other local homeschool groups hosting competitions, do post below as a ‘comment’. This would be a *wonderful* activity for a homeschool co-op to consider—I know many co-ops have high school English classes or drama classes, and hosting this contest would be a great activity!
StageRight of Greensburg is offering homeschoolers the chance to participate in the Poetry Out Loud contest,scheduled for Friday February 3, 2012. Artistic Director Tony Marino will be judging the contest. High School homeschool students (Grades 9-12, plus 8th-graders who are taking High School English) need only recite ONE poem from the many listed on the Poetry Out Loud website; the winner gets to participate in the Regional competition in February at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg-- and that winner goes to state (which requires 3 poems). The location will be StageRight, 100 North Main St, Greensburg PA 15601
Spanish-- yes, you can learn it online!
Editor's Note from Susan Richman: I've heard about Ray Leven and his amazing Spanish-teaching ability for years, as he was the Spanish tutor for a wonderful homeschooling family that I met with annually for evaluations. Ray had long experience teaching Spanish, including AP Spanish, a Philadelphia-area public and private schools (he was also a top Hebrew teacher, too--this man is just fabulous with languages!). Even with his busy teaching schedule, Ray made time for weekly in-depth tutoring for this family, working with both the son and his parents together-- and Ray came to love working with homeschooling families. And I always felt that this student was gaining an exceptional background in Spanish-- much beyond what I saw in families relying just on something 'automated' like Rosetta Stone, useful as those types of programs can be in introducing a new language. Getting close to retirement options, Ray began wondering if homeschoolers might like to learn Spanish with him online-- and soon we were talking in depth about how he could deliver an AP Spanish course with our PA Homeschoolers program. Ray is also branching out into offering online classes in Beginning and Intermediate level Spanish. Read on and find out how you can be involved-- and realize that there are ways other than a local class or tutor or a computerized program to help your child really develop ability with another language. And you'll also all benefit from Ray's many world travels, as you can see in this photo!
Ray Leven touring at La Piramide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Sun-- in Teotihuacán, Mexico)
This is my first year working for PA Homeschoolers in their AP Online program, leading AP Spanish Language, and my first experience teaching online. I have been fortunate to meet wonderful families with highly motivated and interesting children whom I teach each week on Skype in Spanish. Learning the technology and having everyone in sync is a minor challenge, certainly dwarfed by the enthusiasm and the high-powered learning of students eager to master Spanish.
My AP Spanish class is truly exciting. With about half the year gone, we have read and analyzed Nobel-prize-winner Garcia Marquez's novel No One Writes to the Coronel, and six stories from the collection of Ana Maria Matute, an award-winning writer from Spain. Students went beyond the surface of each novel, researching the life and times of the authors and identifying symbolic and personal elements in each of the literary works. Comparing and contrasting themes and plot elements are crucial for successful interpretation of the author's goals. At the same time we are analyzing literature, we are reviewing grammar principles through online oral drills, written homework, compositions, and oral presentations on current and often controversial subjects.
My Intensive Intermediate Spanish class is geared for students who have had some formal training in basic Spanish and who would benefit from a review. While we use an interactive textbook with state-of-the-art technologies, our time together on Skype is devoted to intense conversation with the goal being fluent self expression....
Future Fencer-- some of our dreams really DO come true!
Editor's note from Susan Richman: I have had the pleasure of serving as homeschooler Dale Purdy's home education program evaluator from early on in his homeschooling right through his graduation last June. At our last meeting, Dale mother, Letitia Berkey, shared something very, very special with me-- the little essay below titled 'Future Fencer' which Dale had written way back in 3rd grade. In it Dale describes his first experiences in the magical world of fencing-- you know, the real thing... swords, competitions, taking classes. It might be any young boy's dream activity-- but Dale persevered through all his homeschooling years with fencing-- it became one of his major extra-curriculars and passions. And he was good at it, too!
Dale's mom shared with me that even way back then, Dale was absolutely sure where he wanted to go to college-- he wanted to go to the University of Notre Dame, so he could be on their fencing team! I knew this was a long shot-- but each year, Dale would reiterate that, yep, Notre Dame was his goal. And he kept on fencing, and kept on completing strong academic coursework. He eventually met with coaches from Notre Dame who'd seen him fence at national tournaments -- they were very interested in him and urged him to apply. Could he just nudge up those SAT scores a bit, so he'd be more readily accepted? Dale took on that challenge too-- and more than met the mark, after diligent study and practice.
And Dale indeed applied to Notre Dame-- as well as several other schools that each had the type of pre-med program he was looking for in a college. And fencing teams-- an opportunity to be on a university fencing team was always crucial, and definitely helped Dale narrow down his list of possible schools. So, he had choices and options-- but definitely he was most focused on his choice from his youngest years.
Dale with me after his PHAA Graduation ceremony
The upshot??? Dale got that 'big envelope' in the mail from Notre Dame-- he was in, and he was on the fencing team! He's had a great fall freshman semester, complete with fencing tournaments with his new team. Yes, sometimes we need to listen to our kids when they have major passions and deep interests-- these just really might indicate who our child is and where they are headed.
Reminds me of Alan Obuzor, who I evaluated from 3rd grade through graduation. He had just recently started dance classes with his younger sister when I first met me-- and his mother shared that after just a few ballet classes, he'd come home and looked her right in the eye and told her, "Mom, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life." He soon moved up from his local dance school to the Pittsburgh Ballet program for children-- and then made it into their elite pre-professional program for high school students. He went immediately into the PGH Ballet Theatre Company upon his high school graduation-- and this year I have a homeschool student in my AP US History class who has Alan as a teacher at the PGH Ballet high school program (and he's a terrific teacher, too!).
Or I think of our son Jacob, who started playing around with computer programming when 7 or 8 years old, when my husband showed him a few things. Howard also showed the other kids some programming basics, but only Jacob gravitated to it-- the others had to be prodded and cajoled and encouraged, but Jacob took to it with a passion. I think probably there was hardly a day that went by after 3rd grade when Jacob didn't do some sort of computer programming task that he'd chosen for himself on an almost daily basis-- and sometimes he'd spend hours on these very creative projects. What's he doing now?? He's a programmer for Google, out in Seattle WA.
Many times in homeschooling we need to listen to our kids, see what their unique strengths are and where their true passions lie. It just might be their direction for their future university studies or career. Not all kids will have such clear and focused goals early on-- but when they do... we'd do well to support them.
And now, here's what Dale wrote in just 3rd grade-- get ready to be charmed! And this wonderful essay also shows that when homeschoolers are encouraged to write about their passions, they'll have lots to say!
Tomorrow is my second fencing tournament. The tournament is at St. Vincent College. I want to tell you why I love to fence, who brought me into the fencing world, and what my goals are.
I love fencing because it is a very physical sport and I enjoy physical sports. i also love it because it is called 'chess on your feet.' Fencing has strategy like chess, which is my favorite game. Fencing can be an individual or a team sport. I love fencing.
When I was five, I met Norm Flam. He owns the Toy Soldier Gallery, and I went there because I collect toy soldiers. One year later, I found out that Norm and his wife, Robbie, taught a fencing class. Once I found that out, I asked Norm if I could fence. Norm answered, "You are too young. Come see me when you are ten." Feeling in dismay, I went home. I kept begging Norm to teach me to fence for two years. Near my 8th birthday, I went to Norm's and asked him if I could fence again. Surprisingly, his answer was yes! I was....