Faced with the prospect of graduating Sir Talks A Lot at 16, we decided that it would be best if he continued to explore the subjects he is passionate about and complete those he is not so passionate about (math, ahem!). Honestly, we were a bit stymied about what to do next, but we are fortunate in that our school district allows high school students to be dually enrolled at the community college. The district will pay for one class per semester, and we are responsible for fees and supplies. I have to admit that I had a great deal of trepidation that Wednesday afternoon as we sat on the stylish ottomans that adorned the common area just past the entryway. We had come for the high school student registration event, and looking around, I could see that we were the only homeschoolers there. The other students were standing in small herds, waiting to be invited to sit down or to be told to pay attention. We were a study in contrast. Lady Chatterly was twirling and spinning, moving from patch to patch of sunlight; Sir was singing some bluesy song; and I was grinning maniacally as I tried to eavesdrop on our neighbors' conversations. Finally, a woman whose title I promptly forgot introduced herself and began explaining how the program works. Once we had our paperwork in our hot little hands, we filled in the blanks, handed in the placement test results, and waited while Sir's details were entered into the computer. And that was it. He was an official "college" student. It was strangely anti-climactic.
I had been threatening Sir for years that I would make him enroll in a proper writing course with a live teacher, firm deadlines and silly, arbitrary topics. Not that he's a bad writer. He is, in fact, quite a good writer, but I believe the term "reluctant writer" was coined for him. I was a bit concerned about his ability to function at a college level. I needn't have worried. Despite being the youngest in his class, he was at the top in terms of grades and ability. The only thing that gave him pause was diagramming sentences.
Writing – 3 credits Eng 1010 361 – English 1: Composition McMennamin, instructor
T/R 12-1:30 9/12 to 12/15 Rm: ACC 113 Laramie County Community College Grade: A
A composition course emphasizing expository and persuasive writing using computers. Students write 6 to 8 expository essays that employ all stages of the writing process. Students conduct college-level research; practice critical reading and analysis; logically organize essays through claims and evidence; apply knowledge of audience, purpose, and genre within writing assignments, following standardized conventions of English grammar and MLA formatting.
The Craft of Character – [Coursera, Wesleyan University] Instructor: Amy Bloom, Distinguished University Writer in Residence and Director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing; Nov 28 to Jan 2 Grade: 100% https://www.coursera.org/learn/craft-of-character
At the center of a good story are the characters in it. In this course aspiring writers will discover how to build and bring to life complex, vivid and unforgettable characters. We will study the choices a writer makes to bring all characters to life on the page, and we will perform written exercises in order to develop a variety of writing and pre-writing techniques, in order to create a variety of characters. We will learn how to use our own life experiences, and the people we know (and how not to!). We will develop inner (thoughts and feelings) and outer (appearance, habits, behavior) lives for our characters and see how that can lead us to richer and more interesting stories. We will breathe life into our characters and let them surprise us.
In this course aspiring writers will be introduced to the techniques that masters of fiction use to ground a story in a concrete world. From the most realist settings to the most fantastical, writers will learn how to describe the physical world in sharp, sensory detail. We will also learn how to build credibility through research, and to use creative meditation exercises to deepen our own understanding of our story worlds, so that our readers can see all that we imagine.
Over the summer, Sir Talks A Lot and his friends all decided that they would try their hands at writing novels. At the beginning of the summer, Sir had high hopes for his creative endeavor. In the beginning, he would chatter excitedly about all of the characters he planned to write and about all of the story lines that filled him with delight. Eventually, though, he noticed that all of those wonderful ideas simply refused to write themselves.By the fall, when the deadline to show his work was fast approaching, he decided that he should enroll in an online course to motivate himself to write.
Although Sir is not much of a fan of these types of courses, he decided that it might be beneficial to him to have feedback on his writing. He forgot, however, that much of the feedback in these courses is worthless. He did not write a novel, but he did end up writing several 1 page short stories which he shared with his friends.
Science (Social and Otherwise)
Sir Talks A Lot was first introduced to the field of psychology last year when he took two online courses. He has long expressed a desire to be in a profession where he can help other people, and he tends to be the rational yet comforting voice among his friends. He was intrigued by psych, but wanted more experience. As a consequence, he completed two online introductory courses.
Psychology – Foundations of Psychology (IntroPsy) – [Open2Study, RMIT University] Instructor: Andrew Francis, Associate Professor in Psychology at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) University, Australia, in the School of Health Sciences 8/8 to 9/6 2016 https://www.open2study.com/courses/foundations-of-psychology
You will learn how psychologists go about conceptualizing and studying human nature, and how the brain works to produce thoughts, emotions and complex behavior. We'll also look closely at how psychologists approach the diagnosis and treatment of the ‘common colds’ of psychopathology – anxiety and mood disorders. Grade: 95%
identify and analyze the social dimension of society as a context for human life, the processes of social change and social continuity, the role of human agency in those processes, and the forces that engender social cohesion and fragmentation.
place contemporary developments in cultural, historical, environmental, and spatial contexts.
identify the dynamics of ethnic, cultural, gender/sexual, age-based, class, regional, national, transnational, and global identities and the similarities, differences, linkages, and interactions between them.
evaluate social science information, draw on different points of view, and formulate applications appropriate to contemporary social issues.
recognize the interactions of social institutions, culture, and environment with the behavior of individuals.
After whetting his appetite with these first two courses, Sir Talks A Lot was ready to sink his teeth into psychology at the community college. He is now convinced that he wants to become a therapist, and he would like to somehow incorporate his love of music in that endeavor.
General Psychology – 3 credits PSYC 1000 360. J. Carrier, Instructor M/W 11 am – 1:45 pm. 1/16/2017 to 3/10/2017 Laramie County Community College. Grade: A
Students employ concepts in the field of psychology as they apply to development of behavior; physiological mechanisms of behavior; perception; motivation and emotion; learning; intelligence; individuality and personality; and mental health.
Abnormal Psychology – 3 credits PSYC 2340 360. J. Carrier, Instructor M/W 11 am – 1:45 pm. 03-20-2017 - 05-12-2017 Laramie County Community College Grade: A
This course provides a general overview of abnormal behavior, emphasizing types, etiology and treatment methods. Students demonstrate an understanding and are capable of describing and discussing facts, principles, and concepts that are basic to a scientific understanding of mental disorders. Students demonstrate an understanding of the behavioral, biological, cognitive, genetic, and social contributions and aspects of mental disorders as well as the psychological and psychopharmacological treatments that have been shown to be effective for the specific mental disorders. Prerequisite: Completion of PSYC 1000 and ENGL 1010.
Sir Talks A Lot has studied biology in a variety of different permutations since he was in grade school. Our studies were typically hands-on with a lab or project associated with them. Our high school biology course was somewhat nontraditional, incorporating interactive, online materials, music, and video resources along with traditional textbook and lab materials.I was interested in showing that Sir could complete a traditional science course with a lab outside of our home. The introductory biology class that Sir registered for at the community college had a reputation as being very difficult because of the high amount of memorization required by the course. The typical grade in the course is a C. By mid semester, Sir was struggling in the course. Fortunately, he was able to get accommodations which allowed him to perform up to his ability level. He had a C at midterm which he was able to raise to a high B (88%) by the end of the semester. Sir hates having to acknowledge his learning differences, so it was very difficult to convince him to seek out the help that he needed. This was a marvelous learning experience for him.
Biology – General Biology – 4 credits BIOL 1010 300 Lab T/R 9:30-11:30 am ACC 205 T 4:30-6:30 pm 1/16/2017 to 5/12/2017. Burt Davis, Instructor Laramie County Community College. Grade: B
Students examine the basic chemistry of living systems, cell structures and functions, energy relations including photosynthesis and cellular respiration, Mendelian and molecular genetics, molecular biology, population dynamics and evolutionary theory. Students perform experiments during regular laboratory sessions and demonstrate a working knowledge of the scientific method.
At some point during the year, Sir Talks A Lot decided to abandon the viola for a new love: the guitar. He progressed quickly and, much to her chagrin, quickly passed Lady Chatterly in their Suzuki guitar lessons. He truly enjoys playing the guitar, and this has kindled a newfound courage which has prompted him to take singing lessons and to desire to write his own music. We bought him a ukulele for Christmas, and he is teaching himself how to play that as well. He would like to learn more about music theory, so he plans to learn how to play the piano next year.
This year, Sir has come into his own in terms of his ability to connect with others and express himself and he attributes this to a deeply personal relationship with music. He has decided that in addition to studying clinical psychology, he would like to study how music can be used in a clinical setting beyond what is traditionally thought of as music therapy.
Once Sir Talks A Lot has a passion for something, he usually likes to study as much as he can about his interest. Most of the music classes offered by the community college are not offered in our town's branch. There is, however, a course offered here in musical history which delves into how music has evolved over time. Sir found this class to be fascinating and is eager to take more music classes once he is able to drive himself to the main campus.
Introduction to Music – 3 credits MUSC 1000 370 Instructor: A. Mrozinsk W 6:30-8:00 pm 1/30 to 5/12 ACC 114 Grade: A
Students study the basic fundamentals of music, music literature, and composers of all historical periods, Students develop strategies necessary for intelligent listening.
We are and have always been secular homeschoolers, and, as Unitarian Universalists, the Bible has never loomed large in our academic program or our religious practice. We had been planning for years to tackle the Bible as literature at some point, but I never had the time or energy to write the course. Therefore, when Sir Talks A Lot learned of a course being offered online in Bible history, he lept at the chance to take it.
Working through colorful biblical and ancient Near Eastern texts, and drawing on an array of comparative examples, the course illustrates the thoroughgoing manner with which biblical authors responded to defeat by advancing a demotic agenda that places the community at the center. The aim of the biblical authors was to create a nation, and they sought to realize this goal via a shared text, which includes stories and songs, wisdom and laws. This corpus of writings belongs, without a doubt, to humanity’s greatest achievements. Whereas the great civilizations of the Near East invested their energies and resources into monuments of stone that could be destroyed by invading armies, the biblical authors left a literary legacy that has been intensively studied until the present day. More important, these authors’ visionary response to defeat brought to light a radical new wisdom: the notion that a people is greater than the state which governs it, and that a community can survive collapse when all of its members can claim a piece of the pie and therefore have a reason to take an active part in its collective life.
Despite the professor's obvious enthusiasm for his topic, Sir was not quite so entranced. Still, he persevered and completed the course with an A.
For the last couple of years, Sir Talks A Lot had been using Ecce Romani to study Latin with me as his teacher. We decided to go a different route this year. Sir returned to the wonderful instruction provided by Dwane Thomas of Think Outside the Border/Lingua Latina fame. Like Ecce Romani, the Lingua Latina books feature an immersive instructional method. Each chapter relays a story told in increasing degrees of complexity. This combined with live classes featuring Dwane's comprehensive, humor-filled instructional style made this choice a clear winner.
Think Outside the Border/Lingua Latina – Dwane Thomas, Instructor; Text: Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata: Pars 1, Familia Romana by Hans H. Orberg [Aug 30 to May 30, Tuesdays, 8 to 9 – Chapters 1-19] [Aug 30 to May 30, Tuesdays, 9 to 10 – Chapters 20-34] https://www.dwanethomas.com/lingua-latina-online-class/
The circus-like nature of the last election provided us with a perfect opportunity to review civics. Sir used the iCivics curriculum to refresh his memory. He also acquired some real life experience. He was a representative on the Laramie Youth Council, a civic/educational group designed "to increase awareness and involvement of Laramie area youth in local government, community service, and relevant issues facing today’s youth." Sir, naturally, took his commitment a lot more seriously than his peers, and was often frustrated by their lack of follow-through.
The highlight of Sir's foray into politics happened when Bernie Sanders came to town and Sir volunteered to help at his rally.
At Bernie Sanders' Rally
Math (Oy Vey!)
Our math woes continued throughout the year. Sir, who tends to "forget" to work on subjects he dislikes, made snail-like progress through Aleks math. Eventually we decided that he needed more direct instruction. Since Sir's father is a math professor, it was a no-brainer to hand over math duties to him. They have moved on to Geometry and are making slow but sure progress through the curriculum.
4-H Exchange Program to Mongolia
Finally, would any school year truly be complete without some huge trip disrupting everything? This summer, Jaedon had the privilege of being selected to participate in and be an ambassador for the 4-H exchange program to Mongolia. First, we had a student from Mongolia, Batska, come and stay with us. Their delegation was composed of 6 students to our 4, so when Sir arrived in Mongolia, he stayed with both Bimba and Batska.
Sir has travelled on his own without us, but never so far. He spent over a day on planes flying from Denver to San Francisco to Beijing to Mongolia. Mongolia has only one city,Ulaanbaatar, that is occupied by almost half of its 3 million citizens. His first home stay was with Bimba who lives in the middle class district of the UB. For Sir, this was the best part of the trip. He and Bimba turned out to be quite similar and Sir felt like part of the family.
Bimba and Sir Talks A Lot on camels
Bimba and Sir being warriors outside of a temple
Sir with Bimba and family
Bimba and his mother in the ger district
Sir Talks A Lot learning to make dumplings
Sir Talks A Lot's second home stay occurred in the city with Batska and his family.
Statue of Genghis Kahn
Buildings in UB
Buildings in UB
Night view of city
Poor district of Ulaanbaatar that is becoming more westernized