Friday, September 19, 2008

History Odyssey

One thing I added this year was history, which has been a whole lot of fun so far. I'm using Story of the World - Ancients, which starts out with ancient nomads in the Fertile Crescent (6000 BC) and works its way up. I also use History Odyssey, which provides a "lesson plan" of sorts to go along with SOTW and we do these neat things called Hisory Pockets, which is all sorts of cutting out and coloring and making picture dictionarys and stuff like that. It's very hands-on and interactive, and all of us just have a great time on Thursdays, a.k.a. History Days. In fact, yesterday, we did history for two and a half hours! With NO COMPLAINING! Amazing.

On the left, Declan is demonstrating how the ancient Sumerians sailed down the rivers to trade goods. On the right, Reilly is showing just how much strength it takes to staple card stock to a popscicle stick. It's a full body event!

On the left, Reilly is working on her picture dictionary. On the right, Declan is engaging in a very entertaining puppet show about two ancient Sumerians who got married and had to kiss (several times!) and then sail on their boat down the river to trade things. Actually, I think he may have said that they ended up living in Tulsa. *shrugs shoulders*

Usually, we start school at about 8:30 and we're done by 11:30 or 12:00. I like this, because I like to be done before lunch; I find that it is very hard to regroup after lunch and get back into the swing of lessons. But, since we got so involved with history this Thursday, we had to finish up after lunch.
Luckily, the after lunch activity was a fun one! Dress up like ancient Sumerians and weave on a hanging loom!

One thing that cracked me up while we were "weaving" was that Reilly mentioned that the men back in that time had the "easy" work! This led to a discussion of how, exactly, it was easier to go out and kill a deer or farm the land then it was to weave the cloth to make the clothes. All of which led, of course, to discussing just how much easier we have it NOW!

It was a great, great day!

I DO Have All the Answers

Periodically, at the homeschooling message board I go to, we get new homeschoolers who ask questions about what its like to homeschool, and we're always willing to chime in with our answers and share what we know about this thing that we love. I wrote the following as part of a response to one girl today, and I wanted to come here and post it, not because I think I'm some sort of genuis, but so that I can come back at a time when things are a little rough and remind myself why I'm doing this thing that I love.

Is it worth it to homeschool?
Oh, more than I can even say! We're heading into our fourth year of homeschooling and before we started, I always said, "Well, if we could afford private Christian school, we'd probably go that route, but we can't, so we're homeschooling because public school isn't even an option." Now, four years later, I don't even think we'd do private school if we could afford it! I simply can't imagine not homeschooling!The one perfect example I can give is that when I hear Reilly read, I'm still amazed at the fact that I'm the one that taught her how to do that! It's wonderful!

How can your children socialize with other children if they're not in school and don't go to daycare?
Aaah, that's the Question of the Day for all homeschoolers or potential homeschoolers!
To be honest, I'm not sure why the world is stuck on the idea that putting 25 kids together in the same room for 6 hours a day is what makes them learn how to "be together". Where else in life are we around only people of our exact same demographic? I believe that most "socialization", even for public schooled kids, occurs [i]outside[/i] of the school setting, either after school with friends, at ball games, at church, at the playground, at the store, etc. etc. When you really think about it, while the children are in class, they are in fact encouraged NOT to socialize because it disrupts what the teacher is trying to teach!One of my favorite things to see is a group of homeschooled kids together, because inevitably they range in age from preschool to middle school and are interacting within that group, many of them engaging with the adults in the group, with a level of ease that I'm pretty sure is a byproduct of the fact that these kids are used to being around kids (and adults) of all ages, at any given time of day.
(Warning: political statement ahead!!!! If Obama wins the election, I look forward to saying, "Well, my kids will learn enough about being Socialists from the president!")

What are the pro's and cons?

The pros are that I get to be such a part of what they learn, I get to reap the joy of watching them as they grasp a new concept and watch their eyes light up when they finally "get it". I see what they've accomplished and how far they've come (specifically for Reilly right now, seeing as how she's farther along than Declan) and get such joy from knowing that it was ME that did that for her, not someone else.
Also, being a Christian, I have a huge objection to a lot of the worldview that is taught in school. For example, I don't believe that it is anyone else's job to teach my kids about sex, nor would I want abstinence being taught as an afterthought.
Also, as far as safety goes and all the junk that goes on now in PS, my "classic" line is that if my child is not at the school, I won't be the mom on T.V. saying, "We never thought it would happen at our school!" when a student has just gone in and shot up half the student body. (Just trying to be blunt, not callous.)
The cons? Periodic waves of pressure, knowing that their education is in my hands. These are getting fewer, though, the farther we get in this journey! Sometimes I do think that it would be "nice" to have time away from The Kids. But, honestly, I'm really used to that whole aspect now and when I really sit and think about it, I know without a shadow of a doubt that it will only be a blink of an eye and they'll be teenagers and off with their friends a good portion of the time, so I'm going to just cherish this time that I have right now.

Monday, September 15, 2008

CoOps and Things Like That

Just a quick update before I go and collapse myself into bed:

  • We started back to our homeschooling co-op last Friday, which was very exciting for all of us. It's such fun, and such a blessing to have a change of scenery and friends each week. This year I'm going to be in Reilly's class of 1st through 3rd graders for the first semester, and then I'm the Preschool Director (notice the Big Fancy Capital Letters! WooHoo!) for the second semester. Declan is in Kindergarten all by himself, which gives me a little pang in my heart, mainly because I'm worried that they're going to have to tie him to his chair! No, I kid...he'll be fine. It's a fun time, and it's really going to be nice to do school at home on Monday, Tuesday, then have a break on Wednesday, do school on Thursday, have a break on Friday, then do school on Saturday! Plus, Troy has been getting home at around 10:30 or 11:00 on Saturday morning, so it really hardly feels like he's working at all, so it's really nice!
  • Another thing that we started today is a doing a history co-op with two other families who we are really good friends with and who are using the same curriculum as we are - The Story of the World. Shelley, Julie and I decided that it would be fun to get together every other Monday and do the fun activities that go along with the reading but that are too time consuming to do just for ourselves. Today all of the kids did "cave drawings" on paper bags with pastels, made timelines of their families and then compared them to one anothers. We were going to do an "archaeological dig" in the garden, complete with roped off sections and things to find, but it's been raining and it would have been waaay too messy, so we ate dirt pudding instead, complete with gummy worms. We all had a really good time and I look forward to future co-ops with them. Next time I'll take my camera!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Stuff, Stuff, and more Stuff

Interesting title, huh? I'm sure it just makes you want to jump in with both eyes and read away!

Today is Declan's first sick day! Poor guy woke up this morning with a bit of a fever and said he had a sore throat. Actually what he said was, "Mom? Can I have something soft for breakfast because my throat is sore?" and while I assurred him that I would make some Malt O Meal for him, he told me all about how he had repeated "soft food, soft food" over and over to himself to remind himself to ask me about that when he got up. So he has been on the sofa all morning, watching all manner of videos and generally feeling punky. I know he's feeling punky because he's only gotten off of the sofa once to go the bathroom. And that's a big deal, because he's usually one energetic boy! Usually his "sitting on the sofa" is accompanied by rolling around and turning upside down and eventually getting up and playing some type of superhero game in the livingroom.
He did watch Leap Frog Math Circus, so I guess that could "count" as school. Somehow that seems a little too militant for though; it is just Kindergarten, after all. Now, if he'd been watching The Talking Physics Factory for an 11th grade credit, it would be a whole 'nother story!

I'm realizing how very differently I'm approaching Kindergarten for Declan than I did for Reilly. For her, virtually everything was fun, fun, fun. Games for everything, writing letters in playdoh and shaving cream, doing tangrams and patterning blocks and all kinds of stuff like that.
For Declan, it's not so much all of that. In a typical day, he'll come in, do a handwriting page or two in his Handwriting Without Tears book, do a page in his Math U See Primer book, and do a lesson from The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. Then he's done for the day. When we do science and history on Tuesday and Thursday, he does those with us as much as he can, and really seems to enjoy the way it's going. I give him breaks as needed, usually after we've done science or history because those things take a lot longer, but oftentimes he just works through his stuff without complaining at all and then goes off to play until Reilly is done. Sometimes I worry that he's not getting all the bells and whistles that Reilly got with kindergarten, but then I think that, heck, if it's not broken, why fix it? I'll save the bells and whistles for sometime when he does get bored!

I will say that I've already had several conversations with Reilly about why Deco gets to go off and play while she has to stay at the table and work. It's hard to explain the difference between kindergarten and third grade, especially when she conveniently doesn't remember that she got to do all manner of fun stuff in kindergarten!

Here are just some pictures of waaaay back on our first day of school on the 18th. We didn't have pancakes this year, per my usual tradition because I didn't have the stuff to make pancakes and my kitchen was about to be condemed by the health department. That's what they get for surprising me by wanting to start school early!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Something That I Learned

  • Science experiments are more fun if you don't watch how they're done on a DVD first and then try to go and replicate them. Somehow the magic is lost if you know that the top of water is going to stay level when you tip the bottle on its side and it makes doing the experiment yourself a little redundant. The smart thing to do is to do the experiments yourself, then watch the video to make sure that you did them right. Then you can hi-five each other and say, "Way to go, science experiment genius!" and everyone is super-pumped!

There are two things that I added this year. OK, well, three actually, for those literal minded people out there who probably think I probably should count that whole Kindergarten thing with Declan. Anyway, I added science and history and The Kids are just crazy about those subjects! (So far, anyway.) I chose Sonlight Science because the thing that always bogs me down when doing science experiments is scrambling around, trying to gather up 3 feet of copper wire, a dowel, 2 cubes of clay, a soda bottle and a magnet. These simply aren't things that I have around the house and they somehow always seem to be on the list for experiments that can be done with "things you have around the house".

Enter Sonlight! The great thing about Sonlight curriculum is that, while it's a wee bit expensive, they send you virtually everything you need for the experiments and all the books that you need to read! I say "virtually" because I believe that I've had to come up with things like "a container of water" and I think that we can all agree that, as wonderful as the company is, it might be expecting a lot for them to ship that to their customers! I chose a level that is a little bit "under" where Reilly is, mainly because I figure that way Declan can actually keep up and learn along with her. Plus, since this is her first experience with doing science on a regular basis, I figured that it wouldn't hurt to start out a little easy. I'm amazed at how much fun they have, and how much they both learn though, specifically Deco. This evening, he was explaining to Troy how we got water into our house through the pipes. He didn't have it down perfectly, but he had a pretty good grasp of how it worked, especially since my money would have been on him not paying attention while I was reading!!

Oh, here's a picture of the Disasterous Erasers! I want to point out my adorable ear of corn on the right lower side! One of The Kids said, "I wonder if I can make an ear of corn!" and I said, "I bet I can!" and proceeded to make a really cute ear of corn non-eraser! Too bad it didn't work!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Jumping In With Both Feet

OK, I have a gajillion pictures of our first day of school (two weeks ago, on August 18th which was my 33rd birthday, and which was a full week earlier than I expected simply because The Kids ASKED me if we could! Silly kids!) and of our first round of science experiments that we did last week and of all Declan practicing his handwriting and stuff like that, but I have NONE of them loaded on my computer yet. I keep putting off starting the blog for this year simply because of NOT having the pictures to put up, and therefore I'm getting farther and farther behind and now it's piling up in my head and I finally decided that I wanted to go ahead and start writing NOW because, well, it's as good a time as any. I'll get to the pictures later, I'll just caption them well so you'll know when they happened and what in the heck we were doing in the picture.

I know you'll be waiting on pins and needles to see Reilly and Declan doing their Official First Day of School Activity, a.k.a. The Big Bomb. No, we didn't actually make a bomb, lest you think we're getting into Nuclear Physics 101 to kick off third grade and kindergarten, it's just that I decided that we would do a big, fun project on the first day of each school year to set the day apart as something special. It's hard to make the first day of school special in homeschooling because while other kids are going to school in new clothes, finding out who their teacher is and who is going to be in their class, homeschooled kids are faced with the same old, same old. Teacher is Mom, classmates are siblings, schoolroom looks the same. Nothing new.

So, on the first day of kindergarten for Reilly, she got her library card. First grade, we made gum. Second grade, they "planted" crystals to grow, and third grade/kindergarten, they made erasers out of a Sculpey eraser-making kit. The only problem is that, other than the gum, which was alright, and the library card which is still in working order, the other projects have been a total and complete bust. The crystals did not grow at all, and the erasers, while they were fun to make, did nothing but crumble into little bits while smearing color on the paper. I threw them away last week, they were so useless. So I told Reilly that in the future we would just plan on doing a project that was going to totally and completely bomb on the first day of school so that way we can just have fun with really low expectations.

This year has started out to be the most organized year thus far in our homeschooling. I have lesson plans in place for Reilly up until November 1st, which feels really good! Who would have thought that having lesson plans would make things so much easier? Well, except for all those...teachers...who have been doing...lesson...planning...for decades. I think they're on to something! I try to do the calendar each morning with Declan so that he learns the days and months, but in the past it's gotten bogged down when I would realize that we started a new month but I didn't have the new calendar printed. Then it would take me two weeks to remember to print a new calendar and by then, we're halfway through the month and it seemed pointless to continue. It seemed I was headed down this same path this morning when I realized that we had switched to September, but I remembered that I had made calendar "tops" (with the names of the months) up to November back before we started school, so I was able to go and pull the one out for September, figuring that would do for now and I'd just print out the date part later when The Kids were engaged in some type of schoolwork. Imagine my surprise when I pulled it out and realized that I had had the forsight to print out the actual calendar as well! I are smurt.

One last thing: I believe that if I just let Declan continue to watch Leap Frogs "The Talking Words Factory" he will teach himself how to read. Heck, it was "The Talking Letter Factory" that taught him the letter sounds, so it seems conceivable that it could happen. He practically has the video memorized and I was listening to him quote parts of it in the car tonight as we drove home from the house of some friends. I told Troy that I should convince Leap Frog to come out with a whole new line of videos because I believe te possibilities are endless! I know that "The Talking Calculus Factory" and "The Talking Physics Factory" would be a huge hit among the homeschooling set!