Monday, August 29, 2011

A Spelling Test Homeschool Style

This is my son's spelling test for the day.  He got all his spelling words right!  However, he did it in his own creative way.  This test would not be acceptable in a public school setting (at least none that I worked in).  The words are not in the lines; they are not numbered or even going in the order I called them out.  They are all decorated to portray the words.  A teacher would not be pleased with this test.  This test does not fit into the structured little box of school.

This test brings a smile to my face.  I love that my teaching style has not squelched his creativity.  I love that there are no reversals of letters and that all the words are spelled correctly (except for ah-choo, which was not a spelling word).  I love that he wanted to do the next test so that he could decorate the words more.  I love to see the confidence building in him for spelling.  After all, the point of this spelling test was to spell the words correctly without letter reversals, not make your handwriting neat.  We have a handwriting book for those skills.  (Because he has mild cerebral palsy which affects his hands, his handwriting is immature.) I can give him a little space to learn in his own way. He won't be writing every word this way for the rest of his life.  Or, maybe he will and be a big time logo maker for an advertising company.  (My Mom majored in grapic design in college and said this is the type of assignment her classes were given to make the words become logos.)  His path will be revealed in its own time.  But, for now, he is loving spelling for the very first time.  He claps his hands when I pull out his spelling book. 

His test scores were very poor in spelling last year.  Everything else was on grade level or above, so I suspected that the scores were false in some way.  I asumed that it was an attitude problem due to lack of confidence.  I put him in a 2nd grade spelling book that I had lying around, even though he is reading on a 6th grade level.  Sure enough, he is getting all of the spelling words correct without even doing the lessons.  I will let him hang out with this book for another month or two to build his confidence and then move him on to something more appropriate.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Training Hearts for Charity

In July, we began doing a charity for each week.  I really wanted to do a week of charity involving the terrible drought in Africa.  However, I did not want to just write a check and say, "This is what we did this week."  We are really trying to keep a hands-on approach to our charity work this year.  Then it hit me ....  My husband agreed with my crazy scheme and so we put our plan into motion.  This is what greeted our children this morning.

The card in the picture reads ~
 Dear Children,

        There is a terrible drought devastating a few countries in Africa.  There is very little water and even less food.  People are dying by the thousands.  Our Charity this week will be giving money to an organization called Doctors Without Borders.  They are a group of doctors who are feeding and hydrating the starving. 
       For the next 24 hours we will be only consuming 2 gallons of water.  This water will be for cooking and drinking only.  There will be no baths, showers, sprinkler play, teeth brushing, laundry or any other water luxuries.  There will be no juice, tea, coffee, or coconut milk.  The toilet will not work.  The water to the house has been shut off.
      The point of this lesson is to increase our understanding (in a very small way) of  what others are going through.  It is also to help us realize how much water we truly need to survive so that we may learn better how to be good stewards of water.

                                                          You are blessed --
                                                                 Love, Mom and Dad

To say that I had a shocked and unhappy crew after reading this letter would be a bit of an understatement.  One child in particular was very vocal about this particular lesson.  However, with a few images of the drought victims and the understanding that they actually would live through this experience, everyone got on board.  The biggest issue was the bathroom.  They were OK with not flushing urine.  However, bowel movements being left to sit all day really stressed out my two sensory disordered kids BIG TIME.

Lessons learned ~
  • 2 gallons of water will sustain 5.5 people (Dad being at home only half the time, being at work most of the daytime), as well as two dogs all day.
  • I must have tried to turn on the faucet 10 times to wash my hands.  I really missed washing my hands!
  • The water from the portable A/C unit can be used to wash hands (especially after crazy Mom let the kids do a painting project).
  • The poo will not jump back out of the toilet and get you. LOL! LOL!
  • A lot of food requires water to cook!
  • A little bit of sacrifice builds stronger character and empathy for others.
  • Life with Mom is never boring!
  • I was right -- the kids do feel blessed all tucked into their beds tonight with the knowledge that water will flush that toilet tomorrow.
I'd love to have others of you share what ways you have guided your children's hearts toward charity.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Day in the Life ... August Edition

Welcome to my monthly A Day in the Life post.  If you are a regular follower, you can skip this paragraph.  If you are here from The Not Back to School Hop, here is a little review.  We homeschool three of our four children.  Our oldest has already graduated from our homeschool and still lives at home.  He has many special needs but is busy growing, learning and testing his wings.  The rest of our children have special challenges that include vision, occupational therapy, speech and developmental issues.  One of our children also has severe food allergies, which has proven to be a difficult learning curve for us.  We love Charlotte Mason concepts.  We are also trying to do our history, science, music, and art as one week unit studies this year.  So far, the kids are loving it, and it seems like more concrete learning is going on.

This week the theme of our learning is art and we are studying Mary Cassatt.  Also, just to keep it real, I did have to adapt the day a bit for our son who was having a weepy, argumentative day (he had chicken stock with rice and soy in it which caused an allergic reaction the night before).  We ended up watching more TV than normal, and there were several struggles with obedience throughout the day.

6:30 to 8:15 am ~  Everyone woke up and had breakfast.  The kids did their morning hygiene chores, played with Lincoln Logs and watched Curious George.  Timothy trained his dog, Boomer, and took him on a long walk.

Grain-free applesauce muffins with applesauce

8:15 to 10:15 am ~ This was the core of our seat work.  We started off with an intro to the Impressionist Movement (my favorite period in art :) ).  We then played Go Fish with our Impressionist Art Cards (Art).

After that, we did Draw to Learn the Life of Jesus while listening to Luke 1:26-38 from our audio Bible (Bible and Art).

Check out my new Lazy Susan for our pens and pencils.

The kids did Math ~ addition for Little Red Ridinghood, place value for Goldilocks, and the 9's times table for Tom Sawyer.  Then they each did three pages in the Language Arts book of their choice.

I read them two chapters in our Literature book, The Mystery of the Alamo Ghost.  This is a light read that is more like brain candy than literature.  However, I found last year that practicing narration with some light chapter books every now and then helped the kids narrate better with the deeper books.  Also, this book touches on a period of history I decided not to spend a whole week on.  Lastly, I introduced Mary Cassatt, and we did a coloring page of her art work (Art).  This was when things fell apart.  Tom Sawyer, who doesn't like to color anyway, became very stressed by the choices in coloring sheets.  He wanted a coloring sheet with boys in it and there were none.  He said she discriminated against boys and generally fell apart.  Since we were going to have to leave for speech soon, I closed lessons for now.

10:30 am to 12:15 pm ~ We traveled to Speech therapy for Goldilocks.  We try to get there early so that everyone can do the craft at the Arts for Life table.  Today the kids made butterflies and flowers with paper and pipe cleaners (Art).  While Goldilocks was in Speech, the remaining two did reading lessons with me or silent reading on their own (Language Arts).  We then bought bananas from the hospital cafe, and they watched part of a Scooby Doo video on the laptop.

12:15 to 2:00 pm ~  We returned home and had free time.  I made and ate lunch, went through email, cleaned a bathroom, talked with the oldest for a while, and blogged a bit.  The kids ate lunch and watched Scooby Doo for a long time.

Organic Polish sausage with potato chips and blueberries

2:00 to 2:30 pm ~ I forced the kids outside on this lovely day.  Usually they are happy to go outside.  However, today they all seemed to be struggling with the temperature change (it's now in the 80s rather than the month we had of weather in the 90s every day) and did not want to be outside.

2:30 to 3:15 pm ~ We finished school by reading Suzzette and the Little Puppy.  This is a lovely story about Mary Cassatt, and we talked more about why she did not marry and her innocent yet intimate relationship with Edgar Degas.  We did a picture study of The Girl in The Blue Armchair (Art).

3:15 to 3:45 pm ~ Chore time ~ We changed all the pet cages, swept several rooms and cleaned up the front yard.

3:45 to 5:00 pm ~  The kids took turns on the Wii.  They played a horse show and Lego Indiana Jones.  I cleaned all of the windows inside and out while they played.  It feels great to get one more thing off my summer wish list.  Even though we have started school, the real busyness does not start until dance classes in the fall.

5:00 to 6:00 pm ~ Dad is home!  I made dinner while kids jumped on Daddy.  We ate dinner and made plans for an evening walk and play at the park.

100% buckwheat noodles with meat sauce and peas.

6:00 to 7:45 pm ~ We played at the park and took a walk.  This park has an amazing slide that works really well if you sit on wax paper.  You fly down the slide.

Little Red Ridinghood stuck the landing every time!

The end to another good and busy day.  The day was not without complications and interruptions!  Our resident toddler, aka the puppy Boomer, got into plenty of trouble.  He destroyed a child's pillow, ate another blue crayon (why only the blue ones?), plus stole a pan off the counter and finished off the potato soup.

Do you see the snout of our older dog looking on?  She did bark a warning bark at him.

Look at that face.  If he could talk he would say,
"I was framed, ignore the potato all over my face
and the pan at my feet."


Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Celebration of Lewis and Clark

We spent our first week of school learning about the Lewis and Clark expedition.  The kids really enjoyed our study and we decided to celebrate the close of our study with an expedition of our own.  We went on a four mile hike in a local national park.  We picked this hike because it had two waterfalls and several different environments (wetlands, waterfalls, mountain trails, and large fields of wild blueberries).  It gave us a feeling of walking much farther than 4 miles.  It also was someplace we had never been before, so it was a brand new experience for all of us.

Several of us decided to be different characters. Daddy was Clark, Tim was Lewis, Little Red Ridinghood was Sacajawea, and our dog Boomer was Seaman (Lewis Newfoundland).  The rest of us were just explorers.

We had a picnic of lunch meat, dried fruit, fresh blueberries and nuts.  We drank lots of water, since it was still pretty warm even at the higher elevations.  The girls also picked blueberries for a little while.  I am glad we took several pieces of clothing for Tom Sawyer.  He used everything that I packed.  Sensory issues, mud and waterfalls do not always mix.  It was important to him to change quickly.  As you can see from the pictures, he changed clothes often.

I think my children are part mountain goat.  They launched themselves from one boulder to another.

They also went swimming in a cool mountain pool at the base of one of the waterfalls.  There was also lots of sun bathing to be had.  At the second waterfall, they found a natural water slide and had a blast sliding down it. 

It was a wonderful day.  The kids were brave explorers and managed to carry their own packs most of the time.  We really got the feeling of being out on a real expedition.

Let's Hit the Road field trip blog hop!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Our Classroom

It is time to show off our classroom for the Not Back to School Hop.  I love seeing everyone's classroom.  The truth is the world is every homeschooler's classroom and that is no exception for our family.  We "school" a great deal outside of our home.  In fact, we do a lot of our lessons in the car on the road.  I love books on tape!!

My kids also love to read in their tree house.  

We also do lots of school in doctor and therapy offices.  This year we will have 5 hours of doctor/therapy appointments every week in addition to 5 hours of dance classes each week.

Then there are field trips.  We love to learn out in nature and at museums.  We try to do a field trip every week.

We learn in our library when we are at home.  Our library is the living room that has been re-purposed as a schoolroom/dining room.  Our original dining room is now our sitting room.

Here are our baskets of travel games and small art kits that can travel easily.  When we are leaving the house, I just grab a few things from here to add to our school books.  The photo boxes in the corner are our "continent boxes" for geography.  They are filled with things from all over the world that add so much to our explorations of the continents.

Our home is filled with bookcases.  This one is one of the most important to my homeschool.  I fill it  each year with most of the books we will be using during this particular year.  I pull most of the subjects from our other bookcases at the beginning of the year so I can easily see where we are lacking books that I still need to find.  The desks are for when someone is struggling to concentrate at the table and needs to be able to work alone.  Most of our seat work is done together at the table.

Here is our table and beyond is the piano and more of our bookcases.  We also use the floor space for science projects, art projects and many, many puzzles.

We also use our stairwell for circle time.  There is a calendar, time line, and many posters that we are currently learning.  It is a nice spot for planning the day and using space in an otherwise empty hallway.

Thank you for visiting our homeschool.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ... Week One Done!

The Homeschool Mother's Journal 

In My Life ~ It is so nice to see all those weeks of planning and reworking coming together.  We just finished our first week of school and it went much better than expected.  The box of goodies and fresh books to open up on the first day was a hit.  It helped so much with the transition into a fresh school year.   It is funny how things change.  When I pulled my oldest out of school, I had to be careful to make sure nothing in our homeschool appeared to be similar to public school.  That included back to school sales and new book bags.  I got so used to our homeschool being that way.  However, my three little ones never went to school and are not traumatized by it.  So they really want the transition from home to homeschool.  All of their public school friends are doing the sales and getting new stuff.  I thought back to my school days and tried to remember what the first week was like.  It seems like lots of it was helping the teacher put the room in order (where things were and whose stuff went where).  That is exactly what I did with the kids this week.

Our Homeschool ~ One of the kids favorite activities this week was making their own creative writing books.  They pasted pictures my Mother and I cut out of magazines into notebooks that they will write stories in later.

They also are excited about making a lapbook each week to review the theme of the week.  This week was Lewis and Clark (history).  They also loved putting together a puzzle based on our history theme.  I plan on having a puzzle for each history theme.  We glued it together so it will be permanent.

I will be posting a blog entry all about our Lewis and Clark Expedition out into the wilderness that we plan to take later this weekend.

My Favorite Thing ~ I really enjoyed doing our first Coming of Age evening with the kids.  We mostly had fun with it this first time.  The boys and dad made air cannons and shot each other with them.  They then made cootie catchers and started a book about what they appreciated about each other.  The girls and I did a foot bath, learned how to cut our toenails, made a yogurt and cucumber facial mask and gave ourselves facials.  The room was filled with giggles.  We then talked about the concept of "after you" (letting someone go through a doorway before you, giving up a seat on the bus, etc.).

My youngest also won the summer raffle at the library.  She got lots of books, stickers, pencils, a book bag, ball globe and water bottle.  She was so excited and very gracious in sharing with her brother and sister without even being asked.