Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Our Christmas Unit-study

Before we take our Christmas vacation, we are having alot of fun doing our Christmas unit. I've taken some of the ideas from the Jan Brett unit posted on the 4reallearning board and added and subtracted to tailor it to our more science/nature bent. We are creating a scrapbook/notebook of everything we do and I will post pictures of the pages soon.
Here is the general outline by Topic:

  1. Christmas Math Fun: using the website as a guide and doing a little each day.
  2. The Miraculous Staircase of Loretto Chapel. Then read more about St. Joseph in our saint books.
  3. Gingerbread: Read Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby and discuss a circle story. Make Story Wheel. Make Gingerbread house and take digital photos to illustrate each step. Make into booklet. Visit National Gingerbread House Competition at Grove Park Inn.
  4. Arctic vs. Antarctic: Use Eyewitness video to take notes on similarities and differences between Arctic and Antarctic regions. Make graphic organizer.
  5. Reindeer: Read Jan Brett's Wild Christmas Reindeer, research reindeer facts. Graphic organizers.
  6. Polar Bears: Read Jan Brett's Whos That Knocking on Cristmas Eve. Research Polar bears. Grahic Organizers.
  7. St. Nicholas. Read all about him and add to timeline and notebook. Focus on his symbols, and St. Nick around the World. Use materials from this great site.
  8. Snowflake geometry and science. Use this site, plus others. Learn about radial symmetry and practice measuring angles with a protractor. Make lotsa snowflakes!
  9. A Christmas Carol. Read the book and discuss story elements (protagonist, rising action, crisis, climax, denoument, etc). Graphic organizer. Creative writing: "What will your Christmas future be like?"
  10. The Christmas Story: Of course. The birth of Christ, etc.

There are alot of other books and activities we will be doing in addition to the basic outline above, but this gives you the general idea of our plans. As usual, we leave open the option of going off on a rabbit trail if the spirit moves us to do so!

We will be having so much fun and learning alot, too. The first couple of days have gone very well. We've done the math, gingerbread and reindeer days so far and have several pages of the scrapbook done. I will post pictures soon.

Hope your holidays are just as joyous!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fun Grammar

Madlibs. Gotta love 'em! What a simple, cheap, fun way to reinforce basic grammar. We begin our Christmas Unit today, so last night I pulled out the Christmas Madlibs I picked up last week. What fun! We loved the Christmas carols we ended up with, especially "Frosty the Dingo Man," "Jingle Chickens," and "Rudolph, the Monkey-nosed Reindeer!"
Sometimes I forget how very simple and fun learning can be.
Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Nifty electronics set

Here is something that works whenever I need Superboy to work completely independently (if I have bills to pay or chores to do, for example). I just open the box at let him go.

It is called Snap Circuits and it is wonderful! Remember those 300-in-1 electronics kits we had when we were kids? With the wires and the springs on the circuit boards? They always looked like so much fun, but never worked half as well as they looked.
Well, snap circuits is sort of the same idea, but it actually works! It comes with easy-to-understand directions for over 300 projects that are really cool (with noises, lights and buzzers)and teach about electronics. And the ingenious snap-together design makes them very easy to work with.
We got our set from Timberdoodle Company and it is a bit pricey (around 75 bucks, I believe) but it is SO worth it. Superboy can spend hours snapping these projects together completely by himself. All I have to do is come running when he calls "Mom, you've GOT to see this, it is SOOOOO COOOL!!!"

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Chronological history is...well...history!

So I began this school year with a great master plan for history.
We would go chronologically, obviously, because it just makes sense to do so, starting with the Ancients this year. We would do a brief study of the early Mesopotamian civilizations, with an in-depth study of Ancient Egypt. Then we would progress through Ancient Greece, Rome, etc, etc.
Well... it hasn't exactly worked out that way. We started off as planned. We got through all the Mesopotamia stuff (a bit dry, I have to say), got sidetracked by dragons, started in on Egypt, then ground to a screeching halt.
Superboy was really beginning to dislike history. (that wasn't in the plan!)
Then came a Lewis and Clark video and the spark is back. But the books I ordered have yet to arrive and that has put us on hold.
We are starting our Advent and Christmas notebook next week and decided to put Lewis and Clark off until New Years anyway, so that's OK.
But get this...
Superboy said in the car the other day that he wants to learn about... "Abraham Lincoln. Right after Greece. Which is after Lewis and Clark." (so much for chronological order!)
"OK", I said. "How about from now on we switch back and forth between World and American history? Would you like that?" (preserving some semblance of a plan, here)
"No, what I'd really like is to just study whatever I want, whenever. Can I do that?"(said with youthful exuberance)
"Sure. That actually sounds like more fun, anyway." (plan? what plan?)
So lately Superboy has been happily filling his timeline with entries for Lewis and Clark, St. Francis of Assisi, the First Thanksgiving, William Shakespeare, and a lot of other really cool stuff. Tomorrow will be Albrect Durer and the next day Benjamin Franklin (they both relate to magic squares, his current math interest).
And history is fun now, by the way.

Monday, November 28, 2005

more fun with math

Today, thanks to The Man Who Counted, we discovered the fun of Magic Squares.
Any way you add them up, horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, you get the same sum. Of course we had to get on the internet to find out more. We found alot!
This one also has some other interesting properties:

Try adding up corners or the 4 center squares. Pretty neat, huh? This one came from a website here:

Here is a nice explanation of them, along with some interesting historical magic squares and variations, including one by Ben Franklin!:
This site also has lots of links to other magic square sites.

Here is an interactive magic square puzzle:

Here you can print up some magic square worksheets to fill in missing numbers:

I think this is enough to keep us busy for awhile!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Finally, my true identity revealed!

"The Fairy Princess
You are youthful, cheery, and exuberant with a
sunny disposition and a mischievous sense of
humor. You are very lively and are
always up for a good bit of fun. You have a deep love of
nature and animals.
Role Model: Titania
You are most likely to: Convert a pumpkin
into a useful mode of transportation. "

What Kind of Princess are You? - Beautiful Artwork (Original Music is BACK!!!)
brought to you by

I took this fun "Quizzila" quiz and I think they really nailed me. ;) Take the quiz yourself and find out what kind of princess you are! Then let me know!

Adam's task

I find myself on a regular basis up very late at night searching endlessly through various homeschooling boards and websites. What am I looking for? Support and encouragement, to be sure, but it is often something else. Why am I constantly reading and re-reading other families homeschooling philosophies? Other people's methods. Definitions of Charlotte Mason homeschooling, Living Books, Real Learning, Unschooling, School-at-home, Relaxed homeschooling, unit studies, lapbooking, notebooking, Classical, Montessori, eclectic homeschooling...yadda yadda yadda.
I think I am on a quest to name what it is we do here in our little corner of the homeschooling jungle. Why? I'm not sure. But I am not the only one. I see it over and over again in the threads I visit. Mothers batting back and forth descriptions of what they do, asking each other "Is this unschooling? Is this what is meant by a unit study?" I think it must be inherent in human nature to want to put a name on things-to define everything in terms of a single label. Adam's task.
Also, I sometimes think if I could just settle on a pre-determined label then it would take away some of the worry and work. If I could just say"Oh, we use the Classical method," then I wouldn't have to do the constant re-evaluation, checking, tweaking, seeking that I do to match my child's interests and talents to our lifestyle of learning. I could just go with what has already been laid down for me. Simple.
Problem is...none of the labels seem to fit. And I am the last one to settle for a poor fit. We are too relaxed to be Charlotte Mason, too structured to be unschoolers. We read living books, but also do some workbooks. We like some classics, but are no where near classical. I try to link things together thematically, but not in an organized unit-study. We do hands on...most of the time. We are often delight-directed, but Mom doesn't give over the reins completely. I guess the label "eclectic" fits us best, but that feels like just a cop-out, defining us as having no real definition. That doesn't feel good to me. After all, I really LIKE what we do. There MUST be a name for it because it is just too good to remain nameless. But it is so very much a part of who my son and I are, I can't imagine it fitting into some generic category. It is who we are, how we learn, the way we live. It is US defined.
I guess I have a label after all... "Us-schooling"

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Pre-Thanksgiving fun

Thanks to a recipe found on the 4reallearning board we made Pumpkin pie scented playdoh and it was a big hit. Jbug, Superboy, Modgirl and I all played happily with it for quite some time.
Here is the recipe:

5 1/2 cups flour
2 cups salt
8 tsp. cream of tartar
3/4 cup oil
1 1/2 oz. pumpkin pie spice
orange food coloring (2 parts yellow, 1 part red)
4 cups water

Mix all ingredients together. Cook and stir over medium heat until all lumps disappear. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth. Store in airtight container.
This made enough for all 4 of us to play with together. Looks like real pumpkin pie filling and makes the house smell so good, too.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

computers and schools

I recently read an interesting article on computers in schools and their affects on children.

Although I am not certain I agree with everything the author writes, he does make some very good points. The one that I agree most with is that it is detrimental to a child's development to substitute computer experiences for real life.
"Structured learning certainly has its place. But if it crowds out direct,
unmediated engagement with the world, it undercuts a child's education. Children
learn the fragility of flowers by touching their petals. They learn to cooperate
by organizing their own games. The computer cannot simulate the physical and
emotional nuances of resolving a dispute during kickball, or the creativity of
inventing new rhymes to the rhythm of jumping rope. These full-bodied, often
deeply heartfelt experiences educate not just the intellect but also the soul of
the child"

When a child misses out on a real outdoor experience in favor of a "virtual field trip," the child is denied the opportunity to experience the world with all his senses, to soak it in though his pores, so to speak. It isn't real and does not promote the kind of emotional attachment or, as Rachel Carson calls it, the "sense of wonder" about the natural world.

"these projects—the steady diet of virtual trips to the Antarctic, virtual
climbs to the summit of Mount Everest, and trips into cyber-orbit that represent
one technological high after another—generate only vicarious thrills. The
student doesn't actually soar above the Earth, doesn't trek across icy terrain,
doesn't climb a mountain. Increasingly, she isn't even allowed to climb to the
top of the jungle gym."

This is also an arguement for what homeschoolers call "Real learning." Using the world as our classroom and experiencing directly as much as we can. Life itself is a learning process and sitting in front a screen (or in a classroom, for that matter) is just a poor, poor substitute.
The same goes for human interaction. Email and IM are great, but no substitute for direct human contact. I'd rather see my 16 yo daughter on the phone all evening than IMing. At least there is the human voice, where emotions can be expressed. Anyone who has ever been "flamed" when a messageboard post has been misinterpreted knows how hard it is to convey feelings via the electronically written word.
I'm not saying that the computer doesn't have it's place in education. I use it a bit in our homeschool. It is great for those of us who have limited library access-for quickly finding info and pictures. It allows us to follow our children's leads instantly, rather than waiting for a trip to the library, or an Amazon shipment. But we all know how much richer an experience is a good living book, a walk in the woods, or a conversation with a human being. Those are the sources we go to when we REALLY want to know something WELL. In comparison, despite the wealth of information available on the internet, computers are so superficial. They promote a "cut-and paste" understanding of a topic, denying the need to seek out additional sources for greater depth of understanding. In short, they are no substitute for real life, and real learning.
In fact, I really need to turn of my computer and get on with life now.

Monday, November 21, 2005


It has really hit home to me lately how much this homeschool experience depends on me and my attitudes. If I am enthusiastic and energetic we have a good school day. If I am cranky or distracted, or otherwise out of sorts, you can count on very little getting done, school-wise. It is like Superboy is a mirror of my own attitudes from day to day. I recently hurt my back right in the middle of the most rockin' school week we've ever had. My attitude plummeted and so did Superboy's right along with it. Now, maybe it shouldn't be this way, and maybe my kiddos should be more self-motivated, but in our reality, this is how it works.
Sometimes this is frustrating, but I guess I need to just accept that this is where we are, at least for now.
It reminds me of the writing stage that we are in. In Julie Bogart's book "The Writer's Jungle" she describes a stage of writing called the "partnership" writing stage. In this stage the child needs alot of support, not being quite ready to branch out on his own, yet. The goal is to build confidence in order to reach the stage called "Faltering Ownership" in which the child takes more responsibility for the writing product. Once I realized that Superboy still needed to be in the partnership writing phase, our entire writing experience became much more positive. Superboy truly enjoys writing now and his confidence grows in leaps and bounds. It is about time to move into faltering ownership and we are naturally making that transition as he is ready.
I think we are also in the "Partnership" stage of motivation in general as well. Hopefully, soon we can move into "faltering ownership" so that Superboy can have more of his very own good and bad days, regardless of what Mom is feeling.
Lets hope they are mostly good.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

just too cute

We had a little bit of a cold snap creep in today. As I went out the door to feed the horses, JBug grabbed my fleece jacket for me, but couldn't resist putting the soft lining against her face. "Oooooh!" she said. "It's all warm and tickle and softy!"
Yep. That's why it's my favorite jacket.

And we're off!

This has been an excellent week so far! Lotsa language arts day went very well. Superboy worked on his story for a long time, using my editorial suggestions as a springboard to making major improvements. He also wrote a letter to his penpal (Josh: the answer is dragon).
I won't bore you with the details of everything we did, but suffice it to say that the day was filled to the brim with very positive learning vibes.
Today started off with a plan of being more low key. After two highly intense days I figured we could use some lighter fare. After morning barn chores we did science, some math, then as a treat we did a Sudoku puzzle I printed from an excellent website. We have just recently discovered these excellent logic puzzles and are really enjoying them.
Anyway, I try to do a DVD on wednesdays (What in the World History day) that relates to our World History studies, but we've gotten a bit burnt out on the Ancients, so I decided to go ahead and put on a National Geographic about Lewis and Clark I had been saving back for a rainy day... it was a HUGE hit! JBug loved the scenery, and Superboy has decided that we are ready to leave Egypt behind and hit the Lewis and Clark trail right now! Woo hoo! I was hoping that's what would happen! He is so excited about it! He went right away to the internet to find out more. He wants to make a L and C notebook and already has a list of many things he wants to add to it. His enthusiasm is great to see.
So I guess it's off to the library tomorrow to hunt for books on Lewis and Clark! (Barb, I will look for the book you mentioned on your blog!)
Gosh, I love homeschooling!

Monday, November 14, 2005

A final push before the holidays

Superboy and I sat down and had a conversation about the remainder of the year. We both realize that we have been a bit slack lately, and, although some quality learning has been happening, we are not happy with the quantity of our recent accomplishments. Much of this has been due to the arrival of our horses, and all the work that has entailed, but now that things with them have settled into a little routine, we can re-focus our energies toward school.
So, with 5 weeks until the Christmas holidays, we are going full steam ahead.
We got an incredible amount of work done today!
Monday is "mostly math" day, so Superboy did a workbook page of addition problems with regrouping, we read a chapter of The Man Who Counted, we figured out 5 or 6 more numbers in our ongoing Four-fours problem (see below), read the "D" entry in G is for Googol, did an activity set of the TOPS math kit "Get a Grip," did some Egyptian math problems from previously mentioned website, cut and assembled a 3D scarab beetle, colored some Egyptian jewelry, read a chapter of Tales from Ancient Egypt, listened to a chapter of "Story of the World" on CD, and started a new science unit- a TOPS kit called "Green Thumbs: Radishes".
That's on top of our barn chores and shopping for last minute science supplies (try finding radish seeds this time of year!)
Superboy had a great attitude and really enjoyed his work. He got so excited when we found the new numbers for the Four fours- heck, we BOTH were jumping around and cheering!
I said to him "Wow! We really got alot of math done today!"
His reply: "Yea, that's 'cause it was fun math!"
Let's see if tuesday "lotsa language arts" can hold the same level of enthusiasm tomorrow!

A little explanation of the Four fours: We read in The Man Who Counted that you can make ANY number by using exactly four fours. (ex: 44-44=0, 44/44=1, etc) so we decided to test it out ourselves. We made a chart of numbers 1-100 and are trying to make them all, whenever we feel like doing it. Each time either of us makes one, Superboy writes how it was made on the chart. He is learning some pretty advanced functions this way, for example, factorials, roots, and powers, etc. and having a blast doing it. We've been working on and off for about a month and only have 9 numbers left! Today he was so excited to figure out 85 all by himself. Here is how he did it:
(4! + .4)/.4 +4!=85
Pretty cool, huh?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Truly Useful Resource

I am the last one to want to clutter up my inbox with alot of mail, but I wanted to share a resource which I have found really useful. It is a yahoo group called ClickSchooling.
What happens is you sign up for it-free and easy- and every day you get an email with an educational website recommendation-often several related sites. There are themes for each day, like monday will always be a math site, then there is a day for lang. arts, science, history, art, etc. Friday is always a virtual field trip. They are usually for multiple age groups and so far have always been useful and interesting. I've gotten so many neat ideas and activities through this group, more than I would have run across just surfing on my own. I don't use it as much as I used to now that we have dial-up (the agony!!!) so computer time is less efficient, but I have used it ALOT. For example, the Egyptian math site I wrote about came from this group.
Check it out if you get a chance.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I am always on the lookout for ways to make math fun and meaningful. Though we do some boring workbook stuff on occasion, Superboy and I take great joy in finding an excuse to pitch the workbook for a day or more.
Well, we have been delving into Ancient Egypt for history, so imagine my pleasure at coming across (thanks to my "clickschooling" yahoo group) this website: Egyptian mathematics
What a wonderful distraction! Superboy has totally enjoyed doing the math problems on the site. I printed them up for him, along with the Egyptian numbers table, and he is joyfully doing division, multiplication, etc. He is determined to work his way through all the problems, and is quite proud that they are listed "for 12-16 year olds" when he is only 10. What an ego boost! Imagine a 10 year-old boy actually thanking his mom for "letting him" do math!
There is other stuff on the website that we have not got to yet. In fact, Superboy hasn't even seen the site-he is doing all this off the pages I printed up!
So if you need a diversion from the norm, give Egyptian math a try.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Family classics...well, at least for us.

The previous post about Phantom of the Opera got me thinking. What are the movies that our entire family enjoys-youngest to oldest and everyone in between? Those movies that we watch over and over-that have become part of our family culture-that we spontaneously quote from without having to identify for each other the context. There are a few.
1. Phantom of the Opera-our latest fave. The music is continuously echoing through our brains.
2. Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?- "Care for some gopher?" So much quotable material here, a veritable treasure trove.
3. The Princess Bride. Hands down winner for most watched movie in our home for the past 10 years or so. Classic for witty banter.
4. Muppet Treasure Island. Can't help it-we LOVE it.
5. Wild America. The ultimate road trip. We all wish we could go along.

There are some more that come close, but these five are a step above for us.

Shrek (I and II), Spiderman(I and II), Seabiscuit, Mulan ( just beautiful), A Knights Tale (the one with Heath Ledger-totally cheesy, but we love the character of Geoffry Chaucer enough to rank it in the top ten), The Incredibles (non-stop action), classic I Love Lucy TV shows, and anything by Abbot and Costello (for pure goofiness they are still the kings).

So now you have a glimpse into our little home entertainment library. Does it look anything like yours?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

twists and turns

One thing about being flexible-you sure do take some unusual and unexpected twists and turns.

We have lately been distracted from a normal routine by trying to get our barn and property ready for our horses. So, school has been allowed to happen naturally. Now this is not a huge stretch for us-we tend towards an unschoolish attitude anyway. But never to this extent.
Well...surprise! it works!
I did not have time to think of a prompt for our regular friday morning freewrite. On the way out to the barn I told Superboy to "write."
"About what?"
"Anything you want. Just write until I get back-about 15 minutes. Don't worry about spelling or grammar. Use the computer to type it if you want."
I slipped out the door, figuring I'd get the usual "I can't think of anything..." results when I came back.
Boy was I surprised! It took me more like 30 minutes, and Superboy had typed an entire page! He found a picture of an anime-style knight and it inspired him to begin a story. And he has been working on it voluntarily every day since! He says he wants to make it into a book. It has chapters and dialog and it is funny!
And it is entirely his! Hooray!
What else?
I rented "Phantom of the Opera," the new movie version, from Netflix (Netflix is the best idea since sliced bread, by the way). Not my usual fare, but I'm trying to branch out...I loved it. Loved it!
Thinking it might be a little halloweenish in spirit, I put it on for the kids. They are mad about it!!!!! Who would've thought? They go around humming tunes from the movie. They quote it! They watch it over and over! They begged me to order the soundtrack (I did, of course!). Superboy wants to take piano lessons! (wish I had a piano...).
We have not had an entire family hit like this since "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?"
I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Also... binary! Inspired by the book "G is for Googol," we figured it out last night and made a chart and now superboy can write any number (Ok, theoretically) in binary. It was fun, even at 8pm!
JBug is doing a wonderful job of learning her letters and their sounds. Wish I could take more credit, but it is largely due to a video by leapfrog-letter factory, or something like that.

Good stuff going on here!
I don't think I'd want to unschool all the time, but the experience of this week has made me less nervous about those times when I know there will be interruptions.
Gotta go... time for another round of "Phantom..."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

back home in NC

We finally settled into a routine in Florida when we decided that we were not happy there. Nothing against the Sunshine state, but for some reason it was not a good fit for us. That, along with some complicated personal stuff with family in North Carolina, prompted us to rethink our situation. So we have spent the past 2-3 weeks moving back to North Carolina. I have to say, it feels much more like home to all of us. The mountains are such a part of my heart, and the children's as well. Dad, in order to keep us in the "luxurious" style to which we have become accustomed (ie: Mom gets to stay home with the kids and homeschool), has taken a 10 week traveling nurse assignment in Alaska. He has done this before, and although we miss him, the pay is so much better than locally available and he gets to spend 4 weeks off between assignments-good quality time.
Modgirl has decided to go back to the public school that she attended before we moved to FL. She really likes the school, has awesome friends, and is doing quite well in honors classes. But I have to admit that I miss having my girl home with me all day.
School with Superboy and JBug goes on. It has been incredibly disruptive moving. The house we moved into is one we lived in a few years back, but the owner really let it get run down by the tennants after us. LOTS of work getting it into shape. But some good learning is happening in between. So I guess we will do some school into the summer a bit to make up for it. Or not. I'm not worried, as they are still learning so much more than they would in a classroom anyway- and having fun all the while.
Superboy is absolutely THRILLED with his new penpal, by the way. He eagerly checks the mail each day, hoping for a letter from Josh in Nevada! Has Josh gotten his letter yet?

Friday, September 16, 2005

pictures of dragon notebook

Here a some pictures of Superboy's dragon notebook. He is really enjoying putting this together and learning so much, all with the pretense of studying dragons.
This is the cover, obviously. This page compares the develoment of a chicken egg to that of a dragon. He wrote a nice little comparison-contrast paragraph, then made little flap books for each type of egg, showing the stages up to hatching.
Here the flaps are open to show some of the inner pages. There are actually 5 pages in the chicken egg book and 3 in the dragon egg book.
This was just a fun art project where he painted his interpretation of what the different "species" of dragon eggs would look like. He also painted the one on the previos pages. Lots of glitter and glue. The last one on the right is actually covered in sand.

This page shows a comparison of the real-life Komodo dragon to the imaginary European dragon. Under the lower left flap is a wonderful report he wrote on the Komodo dragon. On the right are pictures of Komodo Island, a venn diagram, and an excel spreadsheet comparing the komodo with the European dragon and the Gargoyle.This is proving to be a really fun way for Superboy to learn some pretty important skills: Researching, comparison-contrast, graphic organizers, descriptive writing, report writing, Excel, art, life science, and astronomy (see previous pages on Draco). All with a spirit of fun and enjoyment. I consider this a real homeschool success. We plan to do alot more so look for more pictures to come...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

adopt a dragon

Continuing our dragon theme, today Superboy researched and wrote a report on Komodo dragons. We found some great websites and had alot of fun putting the report together for his binder. In addition to the report, he has pictures of Komodo dragons, a map of their range, a spreadsheet with data on the Komodo dragon, the imaginary European dragon, and Gargoyles, and he is working on a Venn diagram to compare the Komodo and European dragons. After all the research we came across this website where we could adopt a Komodo dragon!
Couldn't resist, so he will soon have an adoption certificate and info packet to add to his notebook!
I'll post pictures of the notebook once he gets these pages together.

dragon hunting

Here we are (Theresa pointing, Superboy looking, JBug shivering, Grandma looking on, Dad taking the picture) up on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Mitchell. We took our star gazers and went hunting for Draco. It was so exciting to actually see the constellation we had been reading about! It took us awhile, but we were able to identify Polaris, the Big Dipper, Draco, and Perseus. The moon was bright so the southern sky was washed out, and it started clouding up on us, but we were thankful to be able to meet our goal of finding Draco using our star gazers. Made us wish we knew more about the stars and how to identify them. What fun!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Another schedule bites the dust

As I suspected, the timed schedule has bit the dust. But thats OK. REALLY OK!
Superboy and I have been trying out an idea from Barb Wright (link on sidebar) about dedicating a day per subject and I think it is going to work out well for us.
The way we are doing it is in the morning Superboy does some math practice and a bit of history and geography. Then he has independant study until lunch-whatever he happens to be working on. Afternoons are for projects according to our theme day-Monday math, tuesday tea (poetry and other and lang arts), Wednesday history, Thursday science, and Friday all we do is a morning freewrite and then go to homeschool group.
I have seen some of Superboy's very best work ever this week and I think it is due to being able to spend the whole afternoon following whatever trail we are on without worry of having to stick to a schedule. This week he has gotten more pages on his Dragonology notebook completed, started work on his timeline, made a clay model of a ziggurat, written a full page narration of the Epic of Gilgamesh, used the microscope to study parts and types of feathers and made a page for his science journal about them, read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and let's not mention the rattlesnake episode...and this was a three day school week!
Modgirl is going to try a similar tactic with her more traditional subjects (read-drudgery) in the morning and projects in the afternoon. However, instead of switching project topics daily, she will work on a single subject's project through several weeks before switching to another subject. This will work better for her as hers are more involved, long-term pieces.
JBug is just happy to do some seatwork in the morning, some art after that, and puzzles, etc after naptime. She has some neat new puzzles and games that are for "school-time" only, so they stay special and she thinks of school as a treat!
With this new schedule, maybe we all will!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

passing the test...

Today was a test day.
Modgirl asked me, as she looked out the window, why Superboy was just standing there in the yard very still for a long time. I said I didn't know, but figured he was playing some make-believe game, as usual. I opened the door to ask him to fetch the mail when he signalled me to halt, and I noticed the look of fear and concentration in his eyes. Puzzled, I watched as he ever-so-slowly backed up along the driveway. Only as he got further away did the tears roll and he pointed out to me the 4 foot Eastern Diamondback rattler he had been standing next to!
After I got Superboy back into the house, locked up the dogs, and we got over our initial shock (with much running about and exclaiming) I thought about what had happened. Due to all of Superboy's reading, scout training, and mine and his father's teachings, he had done exactly the right thing. Textbook perfect. I am so proud of him and his ability to keep cool and apply all that he has learned when it really counted.
I guess I can say he aced that test!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dragonology notebook picture

This was today's work. Certainly a labor of love for Superboy. I think it turned out great. The constellation card is in the envelope at lower left.


Modgirl and I are sick, so school has been on default setting- do math and then read something. But that has sent Superboy (the healthy) on a wonderful rabbit trail. Yesterday while left to his own devices he happened upon a long forgotten resource, The Box of Stars- A practical guide to the night sky, its myths and legends, by Catherine Tennant. Inside is a booklet about stars, but the really neat thing that caught Superboy's imagination is the set of constellation cards. These are beautifully illustrated cards with pinholes for the stars that you can hold up to the light and they twinkle like real stars. The one that Superboy got excited about was Draco-of course-due to his current obsession with anything and everything dragons.
He must have thought about it all night, because this morning he got up and, after doing his math, decided he did not care for the illustration for Draco on the card- it looked too snake-like. I suggested he make one of his own to illustrate. So he did-pinhole punched on black paper and illustrated in pastel pencil, and it turned out great!
Then he decided he wanted to work on his Dragon notebook (his independant study project). So I suggested he add the card, and then read some Draco myths and add a summary to his notebook. So he did-read, wrote, typed it up in a fancy font, and it turned out great!
We spent some time with our Star Gazer wheel, learned how to use it so that if we ever again have a clear night we can find Draco in the sky. We also pinned up our star chart. Then I remembered a website to make your own star wheel. I sugested he make it and add it to his notebook. So he did-printed, cut, paste, assembled, and it works great!
In order to put the wheel in his notebook so that it could be removed and used, we learned how to fold little mounting corners from another website. Then he wrote up instructions on how to use the wheel and pasted them in his notebook.
The result of a day's work is a beautiful 2-page spread that looks fantastic and is all his own. He is so proud, and I have to say that so am I.
The best part-a happy day full of completely self-motivated, interest-driven learning and no whining whatsoever!
What more could a homeschooling mom ask for?
Well... maybe if I could just kick this flu.
As soon as I figure out how to post pictures, I'll add some of his notebook.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Much better today

Today was so much smoother than yesterday. Hooray! I am now regarding our schedule as more of a guide than anything and I think just that bit of mental relaxing took the pressure off.
For Superboy, math and science continue to go well. For math he loves his "I Hate Mathematics" book. How ironic! Chalk on the sidewalk, ice cream cones, what fun! He also really like his "Get a Grip" math kit from TOPS. Had to pry him away with promises of another day!

For science yesterday I had him go on a scavenger hunt in the woods and that was alot of fun. I had made up a list of things for him to find-three different kinds of tree leaves, something soft, a stick shaped like a letter, three kinds of seeds, etc, etc, and he went merrily off on his hunt with JBug happily following. Then when he brought in his finds I had prepared a few activities for him to do- a rubbing of one of the leaves, identify one flower, draw the most interesting thing (a snail shell), find out three facts about one thing. It was fun and relaxing to just look through all the stuff he found and peruse the guidebooks-a good start to our forest study.
Today he read up on moths and has set up an experiment for catching moths. He has strung up a white sheet outdoors and run an extension cord and a shop light out to it. Tonight this light will shine on the sheet all night, attracting (hopefully) some moths. In the morning we will see what turns up, take some digital photos, do some sketches, and try to ID what we can.
Another thing that went really well was Superboy's history. He listened to a chapter of "Story of the World" on CD. I had him take notes in the form of keywords as he listened. Then he read over his notes, and narrated the story back to me in his own words, using his notes, while I keyboarded. It was awesome! I showed him his narration afterwords and he was so proud. He couldn't believe that just listening and taking notes could produce an original "report" so easily! Thank you Julie Bogart of! Writing may not be painful this year!

Modgirl had a successful day as well. Her world religion project is starting out beautifully. She is writing it in the form of a Victorian era journal of a sociologist traveling the globe to study religious beliefs of other lands. If you've seen the "Egyptology" or "Dragonology" books you can get an idea of what she's going for. She has such great ideas, I cant wait to see the final product.

Our first Tuesday tea was a big hit as well. Poetry and poundcake with raspberry jam and fresh raspberries, and Tara's "Jumpin for Joy" tea in our special antique cups- a soothing way to wind up the day.
Good stuff.

Day 1: What was I thinking?

Yesterday was our first "official" day back at homeschooling. It went pretty well. Not as well as I would have liked, but not bad, either. Math and science were a hit with Superboy. Modgirl is getting into the groove of Language arts and World religions.
This is the first year I have tried to have an actual schedule. Previously there has been more of a "routine", or simple "order of events" to go by. I've always balked at schedules because of their restrictive nature. Flexibility has been the mainstay of our existence to date. This year I made up a real schedule with blocks of time from 8 to 5 and everything filled in just so.
I'm not sure why. Perhaps because of the wide age spread of my kiddos (pre-K, 5th grade, 10th grade) I felt like I needed to schedule our time a little more strictly to ensure that I don't leave something or someone out. I have it organized so that each child has my attention during the subjects he/she needs it the most, and independant work is scheduled when I am working with another child. Lunch is scheduled, as well as snack, and nap for JBug.
Needless to say we did not stick to it very well yesterday. I doubt we will today.
What was I thinking?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

In a perfect world

A recent post on Barb's blog about a shared experience with a map got me thinking.
What would our educational experience be like in a perfect world?

In a perfect world learning would be as natural and easy as following a trail through the woods. It would be a journey you take because you want to, not because someone said you must. You choose the path and just go.
Some times you go for the thrill and excitement of discovering what is around the next bend or the over top of the next hill. Sometimes it's more about the little things you pick up along the way.
Sometimes it is about the motion, the progress forward-breaking through the brush no matter how thick. And sometimes it is about sitting quiet and still and really drinking in one special place.
Perhaps you follow the same familiar path, noticing new things each time you revisit. Then again, new paths are always exciting-not knowing what's ahead.
In a perfect world our education would be like that. A hike through the woods. A journey of choice, of pleasure, of discovery, of joy...

Cliche? Yes. But wouldn't it be nice?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Blessed Botanicals

I was lucky enough to spend some time this weekend with my friends Tara and Tony Mele on their farm in North Carolina. I love just being in their beautiful old farmhouse or out in the farmyard watching the chickens and goats, surrounded by gentle mountains-so relaxing. But what makes it even more relaxing is the wonderful herb teas that Tara serves throughout the day. She has a talent for combining herbs into soothing blends that are truly as beautiful to look at as they are wonderful to drink. She has been blending her own teas for family and friends for years and has recently begun marketing these wonderful teas at farmers markets and specialty grocers, as well as developing a website. I am pleased to hear that others are appreciating her talents as much as we do and her fledgling company, Blessed Botanicals is doing very well! Check out her website at
Tara was generous enough to send me home with a goody bag full of her teas, lotions, and cooking spice blends, and I have been trying them out one by one. My home now smells of rose petals, lemon balm, sassafrass, and clover...mmmm!
Tea time will be even nicer with this fragrant reminder of good friends and my far away mountain home.

learning lifestyle

Today I was cleaning up a bit in the bedroom and came upon some old National Geographics. I pulled a couple aside to show Superboy later and out fell a map- "The Earth at Night." Modgirl was there and immediately seized upon it. "Mom, this is such a cool map! I used to have this map. It shows all the lights and what they're from-check this out!"
So we did.
She and I sat on my bed and looked at this map for about a half hour-oohing and ahhing at the patterns of lights,"That must be the Indus River", trying to figure out what was where, "is that Hispaniola or Puerto Rico?", discussing why some areas were so bright and others so dark, turning it over to the regular world map to figure out what those little islands to the East of Madagascar were, and giggling at some of the names (Djibouti was a big hit)...
Big Brother heard all the commotion, came in and got into the act. Another half hour-"What are all the red lights? (natural gas burn-off). Why do they burn it off? Why can't they ship it to us? How do you ship natural gas, anyway? South Florida is like one continuous city, so is the north-east. That must be Phoenix, remember when we flew over it on the way to Alaska? Hey, you can see each city in Alaska-that's Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Barrow! Hey, there's Seward! I love that town. Why is Greenland mostly ice and Iceland mostly green? You know, Greenland isn't really that big. Iceland is splitting in two..."
And we haven't even started school yet!

Monday, July 11, 2005

antique tea cups and poetry journals

Modgirl, JBug, and I drove out to Micanopy the other day in search of antique teacups. We had the idea that to make Tuesday Teatime more special we would each pick out our own antique teacup and saucer to be used only for that time. We had so much fun oohing and ahhing over all the pretty cups. We finally chose the ones we wanted and one for SuperBoy (who was out of town) and had the best luck of finding a plastic one for JBug that looks as pretty as the real ones! She was thrilled to be getting her own special teacup as well!
Our plans for Tuesday Tea also include each of us sharing a poem aloud and copying them into our poetry journals. So, later in the week we went to Barnes and Noble and found some absolutely beautiful journals. With handmade, hand sewn, beautiful covers and thick, textured papers with flower petals, etc! We also picked up a caligraphy book and pen set (we need 2 more) so we can learn to write all fancy and poetic-like!
We ALMOST can't wait for school to start so we can begin using our new treasures!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

My way of thinkin'...

Modgirl is so quick to catch on. I don't know why I ever doubted her. She picked up right away on the idea of not having to do things the public school way. She is even telling her friends that they should homeschool so that they could learn the things they want to learn, too. Wouldn't that be nice?
Of course she realizes the importance of studying the things that will get her into college, and that she will do. She is not looking forward to American lit or American history (kinda down on the good ol' USA right now... where does she get that, I wonder?) but she knows she's gotta do it. She is looking very much forward to World Religions, Psychology, Biology and technology. She will also be doing Algebra II and Spanish-two more courses she will have to tolerate! So it sounds like she has about half and half of classes she looks forward to and those she knows she has to do anyway. I guess that's not too bad. Especially if we make them as fun (or painless) as possible, which I'm sure we can do. She has such a great attitude.
I don't know how I got so lucky to have such great kids. I just know I am thankful for homeschooling because it allows me to spend so much time with them, getting to know them well and build close relationships that hopefully will last a lifetime. I shudder to think that in only 3 more years Modgirl will be gone. Off to college and a life on her own. Precious little time...

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

summertime is planning time...

"I am so Bored"
The mantra of summer.
Or at least for the kids. Mom, however is neck deep in planning for next year's school. I am nearly done. Just waiting on a few books and science stuff to come in so I can finish up and take a break myself. I really have accomplished alot. I am especially proud of the unit study I designed for Superboy. It is science based and called "Night Owls." It is an in-depth study of the forest at night, with readings, lots of labs and activities-very hands on. We will be doing the usual owl-pellet dissection, but also collecting moths with a white sheet and light, using a Tullgren funnel for litter critters, and pitfall traps for wandering critters. We will be doing experiments on cricket chirps and Roly-poly (potato bug) behavior. We will buil an owl box and experiment with playing recordings of their calls to attract them. We will be journaling and notebooking and taking photos. I think it is going to be so much fun! Last night my husband looked at the stuff I was putting together and commented how he wished he had gotten this kind of encouragement towards science and nature growing up. Made me feel good about what I am doing for the kids, because I know that I DID get that from my mom and I credit her for nurturing my love of nature. I find her doing the same for her grandchildren, as well, and I like the support it gives.
Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

homeschooling high school

I have an amazing daughter. She is sweet, extremely smart, and motivated. She has the ability and potential to go anywhere. Really. And she wants to homeschool. So the pressure is really on Mom to do this right. The last thing I want is to mess this up.

Here's the plan (keep in mind I have yet to discuss this with modgirl):
She has already done 9th grade in public school, so I only have 3 years to deal with.
I figure the most important things to focus on are the things that will get her into the college of her choice, whatever that ends up being. Right now she says Duke. That may change, but it is good to have a goal to shoot for. Keeps you focused.

What are those things that will get her into a good college?
1. Excellent SAT or ACT scores, plus 3 really good SAT II's.
2. A rigorous course of study with a high GPA (currently hers is over a 4.0)
3. Excellent references.
4. A well-written entrance essay.
5. Something to set her apart from the crowd and make her application stand out.

So my thoughts are to focus on those subjects for which she will be tested (Lang arts, math up to trig, and whatever subject tests she decides to take (most likely biology, literature, and American History). Those we need to do in a very rigorous, systematic way.
We also need to do lots of writing with courses in both composition and creative writing.
We need to get in at least one more lab course, if not more. This is not a problem as our family loves science.
Test prep course.

The rest of her subjects we can do in more relaxed, non-traditional ways. I have found through my research lots of materials that would be excellent alternatives to textbooks. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that Chemistry COULD be a real hoot if we do it the way I have it envisioned. This goes for other subjects as well. Then the trick is just finding a way to document her learning. That shouldn't be too hard.

Great, you say, so whats the problem?
Well, here is where it gets a little weird. Modgirl is so totally entrenched in the public school way of doing things, that she really WANTS to do things in a traditional public school way (polar opposite of Superboy, who cringes at the sight of a workbook). When I suggested once that we didn't really need to do tests or grades, she flipped. She wants those nubers on her paper. Makes her feel good. It is a system that she knows well and has mastered. To step outside that system is to step outside her comfort zone.
I am going to have to take it slow with her. Perhaps over the summer she will relax a little and I can show her the benefits of using real books rather than textbooks. Perhaps I can ease her mind about grades. I dont know. But the truth is HER education and when we get right down to it, the decision is hers as to how it will be done. All I can do is offer up my humble opinion and then support her choices.
I look forward to seeing how all this plays out.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

midnight ramblings...

I have been in heavy reading and researching mode lately. ALOT. Mostly internet discussion boards and groups and blogs of other homeschoolers. I have been looking up books on Amazon and reading reviews and excerpts and ordering a few things (and wishing I had a coupla hundred more bucks to spend on books for the kiddos). From all of this I am evolving in my thinking about our homeschooling plan. Sure, I know, I posted awhile back that I kinda thought I had it all worked out, but that was then...I've learned so can't hold me to it!
I am leaning towards really relaxing our homeschool. Especially for Superboy. Not to the point of total unschooling, but to a point closely related to that. And I am not sure that relaxed is the proper term for it either. It's more like, "funschool"? Let me see if I can describe it.
I have the "Story of the World"(Vol 1 ancient times) on CD. I like the idea of Superboy listening to his history-more fun. Along with that I am supplementing alot of high interest books including non-fiction, historical fiction and literature of the time periods. We will cover alot of history but really delve deeply into Ancient Egypt, Greece, China and India, and Rome. We will dig a little less deeply into the ancient cultures of the Americas and Africa this year. I got a bunch of activity and art type-resources (we will definitely get crafty this year!) as well as finding plenty of internet sites to peruse. Plus I mentioned before we have a gorgeous timeline book to keep it all in perspective. So, history is really more project-based, I guess.
Ok, sounds fun so far.
Science. As soon as Superboy gets back from vacation (Man, I miss that kid!) I am going to ask him to choose about 6 areas of science that interest him and he would like to learn more about. Then I will set out to find hands-on ways to learn it, supplemented by library resources. They have many more science books than I could ever afford. We like to get huge stacks of them.I also think he might enjoy tagging along with Modgirl in her science studies, of course at his level. But we will be certain to do nature study this year. Despite my best intentions it got pushed by the wayside this past year and I cannot let that happen again. Especially considering the following quote:

(said while Superboy and Mom sit in lawn chairs drawing a tree stump)
Superboy: "Mom, this is what I love about homeschooling. I can just sit out here and enjoy this beautiful nature. I am so lucky."
Mom: "Yea, me too."
So, I could kick myself a million times for not making sure we set aside time for nature study. Rest assured it will be priority one from now on.

Math. Superboy's nemesis. Doesn't have to be this way. There is some math he loves-the Marcy Cook stuff. I need to stick with that. We will also be doing some reading about math. I got The Man who Counted and it is awesome. He will love it. Also Penrose the mathematical Cat, and The Number Devil. I think we will still do the DK math workbook to keep his skills sharp, but we will drop the other and just do more math games and problem solving. I have on my wish list(hint, hint...) some books by Marilyn Burns and others that should do the trick. Perhaps in 6th grade we will work in the Keys to fractions and Keys to decimals. They are so straightforward I think he will like them.

Language arts. This has been a tough (gut-wrenching, really) decision for me, but I think we will drop both the spelling and the grammar workbooks for next year. We will focus on writing and address spelling and grammar within that context as it comes up. We will write from the content areas and in response to his literature selections. Every writing assignmet that he has enjoyed has been done this way. If it works, why not use it. I intend to make use of the Bravewriter website, list and tips for writing as well. I'd love to have the book, The Writer's Jungle, but I can't handle the $70.00 tag right now.

Geography and map skills we are keeping as is. He likes them so...

In conclusion, I want to share what I wrote and taped to my computer monitor as my mantra for the upcoming school year.
"Hands-On", or Hands Off!

I will save my ramblings regarding plans for Modgirl's education for my next post.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Wrapping it up

Another week gone by with not as much accomplished as I wanted, but still enough to call it a good week. We are done with spelling after today's test and are about done with lang arts. I think it is time to call it a year since we are leaving today for a wedding and Superboy will be spending the entire next week with family. It would be unrealistic to expect him to jump back into school at that time, I think. Plus, he deserves a break. He has had such a great attitude. I think we will continue math through most of the summer. Just some easy review stuff to keep him sharp for next year. He has made such progress since coming home for school that I would hate to see him lose it. Perhaps we will continue the writing project he has started and seems to be enjoying. If we do, it will be ina relaxed way. Otherwise just reading some really good books. He has really gotten into the Redwall books and the Narnia Chronicles. I am thrilled, of course, cause those are quality reads. He sure does love to read. Coming home has given him that. That in itself makes the homeschooling worth it.
As for me...continuing to plan for next year...I am really looking forward to it...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Friday is homeschool group day

This group has been such a blessing. I am very pleased so far at how the group is going. The kids are ecstatic, which is priority #1. But I am happy, too. It is nice to sit and chat with a group of women knowing that even though we may not agree on some things, we agree on alot. I was a little nervous because we ended up having a discussion about evolution. Anyone who homeschools knows that this is one HOT topic. It is a discussion I dread because it can make or break a group for me. Well...we did not all agree. We found we had evolutionists, creationists, young-earthers, old-earthers, and undecideds. Recipe for disaster, right there. But the nice thing was we didn't really care. That's what's great about being Catholic! As long as we believe God did it (creation, that is) it doesn't matter what we believe about when or how He did it! And since everyone in our group is well-informed about church teachings, we all knew it was OK for us to agree to disagree. How refreshing!
Another thing about homeschool group. I started feeling a little bit guilty about blowing off schoolwork for an entire day every week for group. But then I realized that if Superboy were in public school, he would over the course of a week spend at least a day's worth in wasted or free time. He'd be doing things like waiting in line, waiting for the class to get quiet, waiting for teacher to answer a question (his or someone else's), going to and from art and PE and music and library, cleaning up, having recess. So-NO MORE GUILT. This is something Superboy and JBug need and enjoy. Not to mention it gives mom a much needed break and a little adult conversation to preserve mental health. So, why shouldn't we spend a day on it?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

May the force be with you...

So, today is dedicated to the pursuit of seeing Star Wars III. Got up late, had breakfast and out the door. Mission accomplished! Got into the noon show no problemo. Gotta love that homeschooling flexibility!
BTW the movie was totally awesome.
Afterward we stopped by the craft store to pick up a pile of stuff to keep JBug busy while Superboy does his learnin'. Foam shapes, play-doh, beads, etc. I think we got enough to last awhile. I am getting into making file folder games and stuff for her. I'm also sorting activities into gallon ziplocks. Puzzles, scissor activities, etc. She is getting to the point of being ready for some learnin' herself, so I feel the need to prepare. Also, she is driving Superboy and I nuts...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What's most important, or "My Educational Philosophy"

(This is to be kept distinct from "my parenting philosophy" which is basically: try to raise them honest, kind, loving, independant and headed toward heaven...)

What's most important educationally
For the middle school years:
1. Love of learning. That is by far the number one reason I am homeschooling. If I fail in that then I might as well put him back in public school.
2. Skills for gaining knowledge about ANY subject. Basically research skills. If he doesn't know something, that's OK, but he needs to know how and where to find out on his own.
3. Communication skills. Both written and oral. He needs to be able to communicate all those thoughts in his head or else what good are they? This includes written composition with proper grammar and spelling, and speaking skills.
4. A Wide Range of Experiences. He needs to be exposed to alot of different cultures, people, places (social studies), times (history), ideas (literature, science), and processes (all of the previous). This exposure can be through direct experience when possible, or through books, video, etc. The important thing here is the exposure, not the expectation that he memorize a bunch of facts. He just needs a good, solid idea of how the world works, both natural and manmade, and an appreciation for it all.
5. Problem solving skills. Math, yes, but other problems as well. To be able to look at a problem and see the end and how to get there.

What have I forgotten?
So, now that you know "what is most important," please feel free to remind me of what is important if (and when) I forget and start straying... (like if I ever buy a textbook other than math).

not going as planned

So today is not going as planned at all. I am feeling like a truck ran me over so I decided to hold off on the schedule change and let Superboy do his math, Lang arts, etc first since he is more independant with those. Mainly cause i desperately need a shower... Anyway, unfortunately today is a major "off day." He is majorly spacing and it took him close to an hour to do his Lang arts (should be 15 mins tops) and is now working at the same breathtaking pace in math. Less than 1 page done and it is 12:30. Ugh! We will be lucky to get anything else done today. well, that's what is so nice about homeschooling. We can cut our losses, take a break, get some exercise and some lunch, and try again later this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Flash of insight

I was thinking about my laziness factor and how we always get math, Lang arts, and spelling done because we do it first, then we tend to kinda peter out in the afternoon and half the time forget about writing and lots of time forget about science just because I am busy and I let Superboy get away with it. Here is what I thought of...
WHAT IF we did science and writing first thing? we would be sure to get them done and then as we get lazier in the afternoon and have our tendencies to not do stuff, we have math and Lang arts. I would be much less likely to just blow those off (esp math) and plus Superboy works much more independantly in those subjects. It makes sense to do the more mom-intensive subjects in the morning when I am more able to be intense... it just might work! So what do you think? Should I risk it?

The plan so far...

After using the remainder of the school year to "test pilot" some different materials and approaches, here is what I'm thinking for next year for Superboy.
Tried and like:
Catholic Heritage curriculum: Language of God series and My Catholic Speller. I like the Lang of God books and will definitely keep that for next year. I like the speller, too, but I am not sure about doing spelling next year. He is so good at it already and it kind of seems a waste of time. But it isn't MUCH time, just 15 mins or so (when Superboy doesn't space out too much), so maybe I'll keep it one year. I do like all the nice Catholic references in it. Superboy does, too.
In sixth grade we will most likely move up to Lingua Mater.
DK Math made Easy, supplemented by Developmental Math and our fun Marcy Cook Math activities. I think I've hit on a winning combo, here. The DK is a more complete curriculum and the Developmental math is focused on a specific topic in depth. Marcy Cook keeps math fun and is good for thinking skills and math vocabulary. Seems to be working brilliantly and so far Superboy is making progress and not complaining.
180 Days Around the World: This is the real Gem of the lot. Superboy LOVES this, and I must admit I love it too. We do this together and it is just fun. Combined with CHC's Map Skills workbooks and some good websites it makes a pretty good geography curriculum.

Tried and not so sure:
CHC's Stories with a View. I think this will go better once we have a more solid writing program down.
Great Science Adventures: Earth's Landforms and Surface Features. I SO wanted to like this one, and we did for a while. But it just wasn't long before we got a bit tired of the same old thing over and over with the little books. I like the idea of lap books, though, and maybe I can learn more about them and do our own so it won't be so much the same. Superboy likes the crafty stuff, but he needs variety. Also, he really likes learning science from library books and videos and from hands-on. I need to remember that when I get tempted to try another science curriculum. Just say no. Remember, Theresa, you are not filling a bucket, here.

Have not tried yet, but will be using:
Story of the World Vol I. on CD. I am confident this will fly. The idea of listening to history stories on CD is very appealing. Superboy loves radio. The additional activities look fun. I will supplement with Kingfisher History of the World, MaCauley books that I bought (Pyramid, City, Castle, Mosque, Ship, Mill, etc...) as well as D'Aulaires Greek myths, Tales of Ancient Egypt, and Encyc. of Mythology. I also bought this absolutely beautiful timeline book from Homeschool in the Woods. Superboy has been drooling over it since we got it and can't wait to start filling it up. Hmm.. history sounds fun!
Prima Latina. May go ahead and start this summer. Can't wait!

Still Need:
A good writing program. I am convined that writing well is vital and we need to spend some major time on it because Superboy struggles with it bigtime. I am looking at the Institute for Excellence in Writing stuff. I need to do the teacher seminar and then let Superboy do the Student seminar. Then we shall see how it goes from there. I think we should be able to write from the content areas once we have the methods down.
Discipline. Not for Superboy, for me! Sometimes I just need to get of my own lazy butt and do more hands-on stuff with Superboy. I think that will happen once we start next year in earnest.

Is that it? I think so. I think I will wait on Spanish until we get a year of Latin in. Don't want to confuse us too much. Plus, I hear it is easier to learn Spanish after Latin.
Sorry so long and boring, but it helps to get it all down so I can focus. Next I have to plan for Modgirl. Yikes...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Hmmm...just how does this work?

I'm giving this a shot in hopes that it will help me keep better track of what we are doing in our little corner of the homeschool world. Perhaps a little external accounability can be a good thing?
We shall see...