Thursday, June 30, 2011

In Which We Shatter Paradigms

My poor little Riley.

He was so disappointed today when he realized our "trial run" of homeschooling was going to last all summer.  He thought it was just a week where we proved to Daddy we could do it and felt like it "wasn't fair" that his friends don't have to do anything all summer but have fun and watch TV.  Granted, we haven't watched TV, but we've been to the pool AND the park every day this week but one (and it was just no pool, still the park).  We talked about adjusting his view of "school" to "learning" but he wasn't really emotionally on board for some kind of exestential BS on education, so finally, I told him life isn't fair and he'd have to put on his big boy panties and deal with it.

He responded with an eye roll and a "ugh, fine!" and did his work.

We also got to have lunch today with some former neighbors of my grandmother's.  They had such neat stories, especially about old DC, and it was great to visit with them.

I need some serious inspiration on the dinner front, in other news.  I'm tired at the end of the day, and hot, and I'd rather serve watermelon and popcorn every night than cook.  I haven't been hungry but that doesn't mean my family isn't!! Tonight I threw together some pasta and sauce with green beans and mandarin oranges (both from cans) and called it a day.  It was a huge hit though since Grandma showed up with a surprise peach cobbler. (Go team Grammy!!)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Which We Refuse to Say It's Going Well....

Lest we jinx anything.  It's only been 3 days, so that's really not enough to make a judgement call.

I finished "A Thomas Jefferson Education" and it was fantastic.  I confirmed that we are a "classical model" family when I compared the book list in the appendix to our selections from the library.  Definitely classical.

Tuesday we did another hike and the kids spent most of their time in the creek.  We really need some knee-high boots.  We made it further since there was no banana bread in the oven and found a portion of the creek where there are tiny fish and an enormous tadpole!! Logan was sad because he didn't get to see it since he was moving at Logan pace and Savannah threw some sand into the water and startled the tadpole before Logan could see it.  The kids found a peninsula and an isthmus and an island- good geography as far as I'm concerned :) they also found a few mini waterfalls and were quite pleased with the whole morning.  Our reading for the day included more on the Aztecs, which they listened to for an hour straight, more on Abraham, the first chapter of John, several library books, and their math, literacy and spelling work that we do every day.  We didn't go swimming because grandma's back and shoulder were bothering her, but we did go to Chick Fil A for lunch and to play in the playplace. 

The fun part of this has been really seeing the types of learners the kids are.  Riley has amazed me with how self-motivated he is.  This morning, he woke up when Austin left and got all of his "standard" workbooks and completed the typical number of pages (typical after 2 days anyway) and woke me up at 6:50 with his completed work asking if we could skip straight to history.  Our last few days have taken us from 7-4, so today we only went until 12, and then we went to swim and play at the playground.  Daddy met us at a local steakhouse for dinner and then we did our journaling and started "Trumpet of the Swan".  Reading it reminded me how sad I am that they read Junie B. Jones in school when there is such rich children's literature out there.  Riley loved it and requested 2 chapters, which I read despite the fact that it was already 9:55.  Riley also did another letter for his state project and Logan continued with his reading and workbooks.  Riley's still recovering from his tonsillectomy and he didn't feel up to a hike this morning.  I think that his tummy is upset from all the antibiotics. Our cultural literacy piece was "Chicken Little" and I had the kids draw pictures, but they were very upset there were no masks and dramatic reading, so apparently that's coming back for tomorrow.  I think I have all the costumes that we need to do a full-on production of Anansi and the Tiger, so we might go that route.

So far I'm pretty happy.  The kids were rambunctious and a little silly today, but we still accomplished everything we needed to, and they were good about reigning themselves in when I reminded them to.  I definitely noticed a difference in their energy level without our morning walk to make them simmer!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

In Which We "Start" Homeschooling. Day

Today was our first "official" day of homeschooling.  (Yes, I know it's June 27th.  We plan to do year-round school and take our breaks when all the rest of you suckers are still in school so that we get Disney all to ourselves...)

There are several things that were must-haves for me, and several things that were kind of important but not too important.  Here's what our day looked like:
1) Math.  Yes, math.  No we didn't start with devotion, we started with a math lesson on fractions and baked some banana bread.  I got out the one cup measure and all the smaller ones and the 1 T/1t measure and all the smaller ones and then divided the recipe in half so there were harder fractions to work with (and each kid got more turns!! wheee!!!) and then we proved each fraction before measuring the actual ingredient.
"Logan, remember that a fraction is part of a whole.  If this says 1/8th of a teaspoon, what is the part?"
"Good! And what is the whole?"
"Awesome! So how many of these 1/8 teaspoons would I need to fill one teaspoon?"
"Um, okay, let's try that! Was 3 right?"
" about 22?"

Riley did much better :)  Anyhow, in the end the banana bread got all its ingredients successfully added and Savannah did an awesome job mashing bananas with a fork (and/or her fingers, a wooden spoon, and a toy dinosaur.  He was hungry.)  While the banana bread was in the oven...
2) Nature study.  This was a non-negotiable for me.  I hate that our kids spend almost no time outside and I wanted to start our day each day with a walk or hike.  Today we drove (we had bread in the oven) to a local trail and got in a good 40 minute hike before my buzzer went off.  I realize that I need a field guide for Virginia.  I don't want to be attached to my cell phone all day, I want to use some actual books, and there are just too many plants that I don't recognize.  A la:

(Taken from here)  What the heck tiny little NEON mushrooms? I've googled you for like an hour and nobody knows what you are!! Seriously it looks like someone spray painted these!
We also had 2 baby deer jump in front of us, found a pond, some ferns, blackberries, a bunny, a chipmunk, another bunny, and a bonus turtle shell which was brought home in the bag intended for any (ahem) doggy incidents and subsequently bleached so it could be thoroughly inspected without mommy creeping out about germs. 
3) After we got home, we started on language arts.  Riley can do his own work in his reading comprehension book and actually, really loved the autonomy.  While I worked with Logan on "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" (dig the title!), Riley just got different books and worksheets and did them.  He then presented them proudly to me and had done a great job.  He only stopped my work with Logan once to ask about directions for a rather asinine worksheet.  It was fair, it really was a dumb one.  After our banana bread cooled...
4) We did devotion with Bob and Larry.  Because they rock.  Surprisingly (for those of you who know me which is, I assume, all 2 of you that actually read this sucker) religion was not one of my reasons for wanting to homeschool.  Jesus being welcome is a total bonus, but it was not my main motivation, and with a particularly Jew-esque husband, I am trying to strike a careful balance.  Jesus is already pretty big in our house (Jesus Music, Jesus questions, Jesus stories) so I don't want to tilt the balance to so religious that Austin thinks we're all drinking the KoolAid and pulls the plug on the whole endeavor.  I like that when my kids ask me where the world came from I can tell them about God making the world and that there are many theories about the specifics, all of which I can detail. That's about it.  I think I'd like to work in more prayer and Christian Ed, but not yet because we already do a lot informally.
5) After breakfast Riley started his work on a project while Logan did some self-guided work on shapes and colors.  He did a great job.  Riley's project is to get ready for our CC cycle 3.  We're sending letters (yay writing practice!) to family members all over the country (yay geography!) and asking them to mail us a postcard.  Then we're going to get an easy reader about each state we get a response from (yay reading!) and put together a book about the states (yay combination of skillz!) including the postcard, the capital, and a fun fact.
6) I'm giving my kids fake money for correctly completed work the first time, which they can turn in for higher denominations of money when they have it (i.e. 5 pennies can be traded in for a nickle).  I am providing healthy snacks.  If they want different snacks (i.e. nutella for their provided berries or goldfish crackers) they can "buy" them for a set price.  I thought it would help teach them money and budgeting.  It's working like a charm so far and it's also made them quadruple check their work.  I should probably focus more on being self-motivated, but this is working nicely for today and Logan learned all his coins from Riley in one lovely lesson I didn't even teach :)
7) We made a trip to the library to pick up reinforcement books and get Logan a library card, which now come on key tags!! GENIUS!! He's very excited to have a library card!
**I Just realized I skipped history, which we also did from What your First Grader Needs to Know but I'm not re-numbering.  We read about the ancient civilizations of the Americas- the Inca, Maya and Aztecs.  The kids were way more into it than I had materials for.
8) Returning home we did lunch and then some reading.  I was very excited to find a book of "Great Jewish Heroes" which I believe was Sid's from back in the day.  I love the rabbinic tradition stories on the great heroes of the Bible, so we're going to do both the Bible story itself and the stories from this book (i.e. Abraham and the idols).  I love the explanation that Abraham figured out their was a God he couldn't see just by using his brain.  Riley got it.  Logan wanted to talk about Abraham Lincoln.  I told him we'd read about him, too.
9) We're also reading fables and fairy tales (love me some cultural literacy!) Today we did the Little Red Hen.  The kids made masks (because why not?) of the animals and then "acted" out their parts while I read the story.  Seven Times.  Yes, it was THAT much fun.  Savannah oinked very enthusiastically all SEVEN.  Yay!
10) Then we took our show on the road to Grandma's and went swimming.

Not bad for a first day! I realized several things-
1) Need a field guide
2) Need more history supplements.  The kids wanted to read way more about the Inca, Maya and Aztecs and I hadn't realized how popular they'd be.  We used our dictionary, the internet, and a few pictures from one of my religious texts, but they were still really interested in more.
3) I was supposed to have comparative religion (Riley's request) but my text was at my mom's.

The above took us from 7am to 4:30pm (When we left for my mom's). Holy stuff! But we had fun and it was a great day and I know what I need to procure for the future.

Also, a friend of a friend recommended "A Thomas Jefferson Education" and it's awesome.  And, Austin came with me to a CC information session which was great since he was able to understand more about the format and he decided we should order our materials now- which is great :)