Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Which We Bunny Party

Logan is OBSESSED with bunnies.  He always has been.  He pretends to be a vava (that's 1/2 dolphin, 1/2 bunny for those of you unfamiliar).  There are red vavas and blue vavas.  Red ones live on land and are good.  Blue ones live in the water and eat little kids.  I like to think this is a result of my years of training him to be a republican ;)

Anyhow, one day we came across this little gem on youtube:

And ever since, my sweet baby Logan has made me listen to that silly song 1,330,023,404,239 times.  He's also been asking for about a month to have his own Bunny Party.  With Hurricane Irene threatening our outdoor plans, including football, we invited Uncle Kevin and Miss Lauren (the love of Logan's life), and Gram and Papa over for a bunny party.  On the heels of getting home from New York, this involved some substantial laundry-doing on my part, but we got it done.  Logan worked very hard on everything from plates with construction paper ears to bunny-shaped foods.
 What a nosh, huh? There's chocolate fondue with strawberries and brownies, in the bunny ceramic there's Annie Organics Bunny shaped fruit snacks, there is a very lovely carrot centerpiece, crudite, chicken wings (I have no clue, but he insisted bunny parties have them), bunny pizzas, bunny pear salads, chips and salsa and veggie dip.
 This picture hates me and will not rotate, but it's 1/2 a canned pear in juice, well drained, with 2 sliced almond ears, 1 raisin split in half for eyes, and a dollop of cottage cheese for a tail.
Bunny pizzas! These are a split english muffin, the top half cut into two ears (leaving a middle triangle which I am using for breadcrumbs).  The ears get just a line of sauce, the "faces" get a pepperoni triangle for a nose and green pepper eyes and smile.  I think they're cute, and Logan was able to do it all by himself, minus cutting the ears.  He especially enjoyed smushing the ears onto the faces before adding the toppings, which really did work to make them stick!!
And, of course, there was cake for dessert.  Logan made this (minus the cutting), too! It's 2 round cakes (one 8 inch one 9 inch) the smaller of which was cut to make ears.  The remaining piece makes a bow tie if you so desire, but Logan did not.  The eyes are kissed, the nose and ears are strawberries and the smile is bunny fruit snacks.  The frosting turned out surprisingly good since I couldn't find my MASSIVE bottle of vanilla from BJ's wholesale ANYWHERE, and I ended up using Bailey's Warm Vanilla Toffee coffee creamer.  It was actually really good! (Note: the coffee creamers are non-alcoholic).

Gram and Papa brought Bun Bun Steve over in her cage, and a fun time was had by all.  Logan was so cute instructing us in the way of the bunny party, and after we put the kids to bed (We Finished Treasure Island!! My least favorite read-aloud ever because the kids insisted I do pirate voices and laughed at me all 34 chapters!)  the adults enjoyed some games....which, although not bunny themed, were quite fun!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Which We Live and Let Live

One of the things I love about the concept of what we're going to be doing is that it gives us a great deal of time to explore when we're done with our core work.  And there's oh so much to explore. 

Meet Charlotte:
(Photo courtesy of Logan).  She's an ENORMOUS (probably a good 3.5-4 inches from leg tip to leg tip) black and yellow spider who has taken up residence on a hosta bush at grandma's house near the pool.  Also called writing spiders because of the distinctive zig-zag central line they draw in their webs, these scary things are harmless to humans (other than scaring the bejeebus out of you if you find one on yourself!) which was good news for this spider since the kids were certain it must be poisonous and wanted to kill it ASAP.  Now that she's non-venomous to us, they're fascinated with her.

These super neat spiders are different than almost anything in nature we've read about because the females are both larger and more colorful.  Males are small and brown.  Riley argued with me that I had it backwards and gave me specific examples of every bird we've spotted this summer.  Cardinals, blue jays, orioles, the boys are bright and the girls are ugly.  I liked that he remembered :)

The spider also eats the center of its web every night to recycle the chemicals used in web-making and then respins the center and the zigzag (called a stabilimentum).  The kids spent the night at grandma's last night and armed with the knowledge their would be a new web this morning, Logan was outside at the crack of dawn to take a good picture.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In Which We Wonder....

How in the heck do I put this all together???

In the process of preparing to homeschool I believe I have over-educated myself.  It was clear VERY quickly that we are classical education adherents.  I read about unschooling, de-schooling, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, A Bekka, eclectic model, everything I could get my hands on.  But it was obvious that everything about our approach to parenting, and to life, firmly planted us in the classical school.
Why? Well, the highlights are:
We ask our kids to reflect.  
When our children ask us a question, I am infamous at playgroups for responding "Well, what do you know about that?"  This is especially true if I'm caught off-guard and need a moment to "chew it over" without a Twix :) When we read books and they ask us why a character did something, we ask them "Well, what do you think about that?"  When they tell us something like "I'd like there to be a president of the whole world" we ask them "Why would that be good?" and follow it with "Why would that be bad?"
We don't BS our kids.
Within the limits of what they need to know, when our children ask us questions, from the very youngest age, we give them real answers.  I have never EVER told my children that the rain is "Angels Crying, Sweetheart".  When Riley asked about September 11th as we passed the memorial going into DC, I didn't tell him about my experience watching on live TV as people lept to their deaths, but I also didn't tell him it was "just very bad men doing very bad things on a very bad day". 
We use big words.
We give our children the grammar they need now when all words are new so that later they won't be scared of it.  It's pretty funny to hear them sometimes, especially Savannah who'll toss out words just to try them out.  Lately it's been "Essentially".  "Essentially, what I'm saying is that I want to go and play with my doll."  When we talk about the leaves changing colors, we tell them it's the chlorophyll disappearing and showing the real color underneath, and we expect them to remember and use that vocabulary.

As we've gone on researching what that path really means, I've discovered subsets.  I believe in a Thomas Jefferson Style Education, or TJed.  I believe that by mentoring and encouraging rather than indoctrinating and stifling, we can create a better generation of leaders in anything from being a mom to being president.

I've read The Well Trained Mind, Amusing Ourselves To Death, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, A Thomas Jefferson Education, anything at all I can get my hands on.  At the same time, I was educated for 13 years in public school.  I also am deathly afraid of failing my children by taking them off the "conveyor belt".  I want them to have math and language and putting it all together using all the things I've read is scary. 

I think that what I need to do is start giving myself a little grace, and realizing that because I care so much, I necessarily have to do a better job than many of the teachers that I had growing up.  Because I want my kids to have a great education, I'll figure it out, even if there are hiccups.  But it's scary for someone, like me, who doesn't like to mess up.  It's hard to mesh all these genius observations in the books I've read together into a lifestyle and a plan that make sense when I'm taking us down a road that I can barely concieve of given the way I was educated.  But I think I see a light at the end of my mental tunnel- I just hope it's not a train :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In Which We Figure It Out

Our CC Materials (well, most of them since some were on backorder) arrived this week which meant we could start CC! I started on Tuesday morning since we got the stuff on Monday :)

So far, it's going awesome.  All of one day ;) Riley loves Story of the World, which I bought on CD so it reads to them and I can rest my voice! I need to find a used copy of the book, though, because he asked if there was one for him to follow along in, and I make a rule of not denying my children words!! The memory work seems really easy and fun for them, and Savannah plays along, too.

We're on Cycle 3 Week 1, and that's Columbus, 4 types of tissue, Latin Prepositions, definition of an infinitive, 5 states and capitals, tracing the US Map, and skip counting by 1s and 2s.  The Columbus song is stuck in my head on repeat a la "It's a Small World", but hey, I definitely know that Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin 1492 Columbus took the first of 4 trips to the Carribbean on 3 Spanish ships, the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria.

Riley even memorized epithelial tissue.  I need to buy us a good kid's anatomy book- the resources I found online aren't cutting it for me.  Today at the library we'll pick up some reinforcements for the time being for history and science.  Our real math continues to plug along and Singapore materials should arrive on the 9th.

I drafted my NOI (Notice of Intent to Homeschool) letter and I'm a little frustrated by the process.  I went to PWC Schools so I don't see why I need to pay them to mail them a copy of my high school transcript- they should really just be able to look it up!! And, I don't see why I need to turn in a copy of Riley's records, because I feel like they should have those, too.  Oh well, I guess I should get good at jumping through hoops- it's not going to stop :)

I did writing samples with the boys for the beginning of the year so we'll have something for comparison in addition to their test scores and I'm in the process of finding someone to test their reading levels so that I can compare those, too.  Annnnnnnd.....well, and that's it.  It's going well, still, we've added in our real curriculum (mostly) and I'm still really excited.  Crazy.

Oh, and it probably didn't hurt that I supplemented our learning with a little blast from my past where memorizing the states and capitals are concerned....I believe in QUALITY educational materials people.  (Logan almost peed himself he thought this was so funny)