Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How Was Your Year: My Point of View

Wow! I just finished my 13th year of homeschooling.  What an amazing journey it has been so far.  I started 13 years ago with a very learning challenged, medically fragile 3rd grader.  We lived in a condo near a military base where my husband was serving in the army.  Our days were filled with reading great literature, exploring the local pond and swimming in the neighborhood pool almost every day.  We joined 4-H and the Boy Scouts ~ the first was much fun and the second was a bad experience for us.  My son's doctor suggested he not attend school where he was exposed to so many germs.  Indeed, our son's health improved as soon as we started homeschooling, so we had a minimum amount of appointments. We were hooked on this lifestyle within weeks!

Fast forward to this year and things are very different.  Our son is now a special needs adult living in our home, and we have three children that are still in the elementary years.  Each one of our children has some kind of special issue ~ whether it be vision, dyslexia, neurological issues, heart condition, developmental delays, blood condition, speech difficulties, severe allergies and food diets, FASD, sensory or emotional problems. Our lives are filled with medical appointments.  A normal week finds us in doctor waiting rooms for 6 hours (that is just the routine stuff).  In addition to that, there are about 8 more hours of doctor appointments a month that are rechecks, evaluations, sick visits, and check ups. Our adult son can't drive and needs to be transported to/from his traumatic brain injury college program (3 days a week), fencing (two times a week), his volunteer job (two times a week), social activities and his own doctor appointments.  Then there is the kids' dance lessons (4 more hours of waiting rooms).  Lastly, there is all the fun field trips and adventures that I like to go on.  I refuse for our homeschool to be completely defined by our special needs. As my husband put it recently ~ we are a mobile homeschool.

On with my perspective of how the year went!

You know, it has been a great year.  We found a nice balance for most of the year.  Some days were really long and hectic, but overall we had pretty smooth sailing (by our standards).  Below is a list of things that really helped with our mobile lifestyle.
  • A laptop that can go with us everywhere.  We use it for educational movies, math, chess, and just plain silliness.
  • Flash cards ~ spelling, math, art, and memory work.
  • Books on CD ~ We listened to some great literature in the car this year.
  • Getting Reading and Language Arts done before leaving the house every day. 
  • Teaching Textbooks for Math ~ I can't say enough good stuff about this program!  My kids love it, actually argue whose turn is next to do it, and it works with the laptop so can be done anywhere.
  • Educational board games ~ With a little planning, a game can easily reinforce a concept in a doctor's waiting room.
  • Remembering that the world is our schoolroom ~ There are opportunities to learn everywhere if you keep your eyes and ears open.  Just last week the kids got an impromptu lesson in elevators from an elevator technician.  He showed them how to change the hydraulic fluid and what it looks like under the elevator (from a safe distance).
  • If it is not benefiting the kids ~ drop it!  For instance, I haven't regretted dropping Goldilocks' speech therapy for a moment.
  • Not every opportunity is a right fit.  This year, we decided not to do homeschool science and art classes that were held out of the home.  That was a good decision.  We very much enjoyed art and science by ourselves at home, the museums, the university, the library, in the woods and a friend's home.
  • Have a few worksheets and coloring pages for other people's children.  Seriously, I can't tell you how many times parents have seen me teaching in the corner and sent their kids over for a "Bit O' Schoolin' "!

I have really struggled in the past with the amount of or lack of seat work that our kids get some days.  Some days they may only get 1.5 hours in a chair.  But, I have come to realize that seat work is a "new" reality in the history of humans.  Through history, people have learned what they needed to know when they needed it (on the job).  Now, I agree that things have changed.  There is a large base of information that kids need these days before going out in the world.  However, I also need to drop my internal guilt trip and remember that doctor after doctor is amazed at how well my kids are functioning, considering their difficulties.  I must be doing something right.  Leave the hours of seat work to the public schools; we are homeschoolers and are out learning in the world, thank you very much.

Things we will keep (besides what I have already mentioned) ~
  • Dance classes ~ We love our dance studio and the opportunities the kids are getting there.  This year they performed in the Nutcracker and in Sleeping Beauty. It amazes me how the kids have no stage fright.  They take it all in stride. 
  • We will do a large-scale research project for public viewing such as the Festival of Knowledge. 
  • Our homemade history program.  I made it up myself based on biographies, picture books, a timeline, movies and YouTube!
  • Five in a Row (FIAR) and Beyond FIAR ~ I love these programs and it fits well into our learning style.
  • Prairie Primer ~ We adapt it like crazy, but it works for us.
  • Teaching Textbooks ~ Love it.
  • Friday field trips ~ These may turn out to happen only once a month next school year if I start a co-op with a friend.
  • The way we do art ~ Charlotte Mason style.  The children have requested more picture study and narration and less art project, which will be a little tweaking from this year. 
  • Attending the library's homeschool program ~ Awesome activities every time.
  • Doing charity work ~ Charity is one of the core things I want to pass on to my children.
  • Field trips ~ We love them!  You never know what you will see next.

What I would like to change ~
  • We are moving from Spectrum spelling to All about Spelling.
  • We are moving into English for the Thoughtful Child and The Grammar Ace.
  • I am still thinking about what geography program to use for next year.
  • I would like for the children to start taking a musical instrument, but I'm not sure how this is financially possible.
  • Per the children's request ~ We will do chemistry and dissect at least one animal or at least owl pellets next year.  This is the downfall of them seeing a teen do high school (a few years ago).  They think they should be doing all of this right now, too.  LOL
  • My friend and I are seriously considering a Friday afternoon co-op.  She would teach science and I would teach history through American Girl dolls and boy centered biographies.  We would still do our own history and some science, but this would be a great collaboration of our respective skills.
  • Writing everyday!!  I want my kids to enjoy writing.
  • I know all of my kids would like to be at the theater more ~ Aerial arts and acting classes beckon.  However, unless we have a major reduction in health appointments, I don't see this happening.  I will keep their desires in my thoughts and look for other creative ways for them to learn some of these skills.

Well, that is enough thoughts for today.  I am looking forward to a somewhat lighter schedule for the next two months.  HA HA!  Will it really be lighter with swimming, library programs, day camp (one week for each child) and free movies at the air-conditioned theater?  Who am I kidding?

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How Was Your Year: The Kids' Point of View

Today is our last day of this school year.  We had fun doing our traditions.  The kids took their report cards to Chuck E. Cheese, wrote their summer bucket list on a poster and hung it up in a central place, and had their end of year interviews.  I love to do these interviews with the children.  It always fascinating to see how they think the year went.  The following is their assessment of the school year.  They were each interviewed separately, out of earshot of each other.  Still, to my surprise, many of their answers were similar.

Little Red Ridinghood 8.5 years

What worked for you?
  • I love my report card and getting A's.
  • I love our new math program (Teaching Textbooks).
  • I like Five in a Row (FIAR) and Prairie Primer.
  • I like coloring during literature time.
  • I like books on tape better than you reading.
  • My favorite part of art is picture studies.
  • I like field trips.
  • History is fun.
  • I LOVE my dance class and being on stage.
If you were going to learn a musical instrument, which would it be?
I always wanted to learn the violin, but I think the piano is easier.  I guess the piano.  I do NOT want to go to choir.

If Christine and I start a Co-Op next year, what do you want to learn in it?
I want an American Girl Doll Club and to do biology with an expert (Christine is a nurse practitioner).  I want to dissect things in science next year.

What is your favorite thing about school?
Math, hard puzzles and beating Daddy at strategy games.

What is your least favorite thing about school?
I don't like spelling and how you always make me write my paragraphs over to make them right.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a dancer.

What is one thing that Mom isn't or can't teach you that you want to learn next year?
Aerial arts.

Tom Sawyer 10 years

What worked for you?
  • I like math the best.
  • I like getting report cards and going to Chuck E. Cheese.
  • I like to listen to books on tape in the car.
  • I like to do picture studies for art.
  • I like snack time.
  • I like playing board games and chess.
  • History is fun with videos and wrap-up parties.
If you were going to learn a musical instrument, which would it be?

If Christine and I start a co-op next year, what do you want to learn in it?
I want to learn chemistry and biology.

What is your favorite thing about school?
When we do science projects.  We need to do MORE science.  I also like it when you let me build Lego things that go along with our studies.

What is your least favorite thing about school?
Writing, because I have so much trouble thinking about what I want to say.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a Lego engineer/designer.

What is one thing that Mom isn't or can't teach you that you would like to learn next year?
Lego designing or robotics.

Goldilocks 11.5 years old

What worked for you?
  • I like going to Chuck E. Cheese when we get our report cards.
  • I love field trips.
  • I like my Disney workbooks.
  • I like to write narratives.
  • I like our history timeline.
  • I like arts and crafts.
  • I like writing stories.
  • I like stories and going to the library.
If you were going to learn a musical instrument, which would it be?

If  Christine and I start a co-op next year, what do you want to learn in it?
Geography and field trips.

What is your favorite thing about school?
Doing arts and crafts.

What is your least favorite thing about school?
Spelling and grammar.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Work with animals ~ horses or cats.

What is one thing that you would like to learn next year that you are not learning now?
All about the world and about the food people eat in other countries (we have done some of this, but she wants to do more).

Lots to think about.  I will be sharing our plans for next year in a few weeks.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, May 20, 2012

FIAR ~ Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car in England

We just finished a week of studying England.  To go along with our studies, we read Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car.  What a fun story about a drive in the countryside of England!  There are very few words in this book, but the illustrations are wonderful.

For art we studied the illustrations and learned how to give a textured look by using checkered lines and circles.  We practiced different techniques on a coloring sheet of the tower of London.

For science we studied clouds and what clouds teach us about the weather.  I made laminated cards (found here) that we could keep in the car to study the clouds we see when we are out and about.  On the back of each photo card is the name of the type of cloud.  We also made clouds by placing Ivory soap in  a microwave and setting it for 2 minutes.  This is a fun and impressive project (see photo of puffy cloud)!

We had several English meals during the week.  I think the kids enjoyed Bangers and Mash the best.  They were pleasantly surprised to find out that Bangers and Mash was really sausage and mashed potatoes.  Another night we had Bubbles and Squeak (mashed potatoes with left over vegetables).  We finished off our English dining with a Fry Up (large English breakfast).  I was shocked to find that much of the food in England is fried.  We decided to make the Fry Up very small portions for health reasons.

Our puzzle of the week was a small village that reminded the kids of Black Beauty  (which we read last summer).

We enjoyed many books during our study of England.  We read books about castles, Mary Anning (a fossil hunter), stories of queens and of London.  The photo shows are our favorite books from the week.

Lastly, we enjoyed a cartoon version of Great Expectations and a travel show about England called Travel with Kids London and Travel with Kids the United Kingdom.  You can find much of the Travel with Kids series on You Tube.  We really enjoyed our week of studying England.

I am joining around the world in 12 dishes.  This is a fun group of families that is following the journey of Phileas Fogg from the book, Around the World in 80 Days, through 12 different ethnic dishes. 


Friday, May 18, 2012

Collage Friday ~ A Week at Hogwarts School

Our little homeschool is enjoying exploring the world of Hogwarts School and Harry Potter this week. Before I go into what our curriculum is for the week, I want to express my feelings about Harry Potter. I know some Christians feel that all things about Harry Potter are evil. I strongly disagree. I have read all the books (more than once) and seen all of the movies (in fact, we own all of them). Our oldest son read each of the books as they came out and "grew up" with Harry Potter, since he was the same age as the character as each book was released. Our girls have heard the first two books and our younger son has read all of the books with a parent. They have all seen the first two movies. In my opinion, Harry Potter is a good role model. He is brave, sincere, fights for justice, has a deep understanding of good vs. evil, is filled with love, and willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Whether he is helping a house elf escape slavery or protecting a stone from falling into the hands of a greedy wizard who would do harm with it, he always comes out on the side of justice and good. His friendships are filled with loyalty and kindness. He is a leader, but never cruel, selfish or greedy. For all of these reasons and many more, I see Harry Potter as a positive influence. You are welcome to disagree with me, but please keep your comments polite.

Now on with the fun ~

We opened Hogwarts school with each child taking the Hogwarts Sorting Hat Test to see to which house they belonged.  All of our children were very worried they might get into Slytherin (considered the house that sometimes produces bad wizards).  They had nothing to worry about.  They all came out Hufflepuff (known to produce hard-working students and loyal friends).  They then sat with the sorting hat on their heads to hear the official announcement of their placement.  The sorting hat told each child their character traits and why they were being placed in Hufflepuff.

We then had an English feast of Bangers and Mash with watermelon on the side.

Then next morning it was time to start our lessons.  Each day we concentrated on a different wizard class, except potions (chemistry) which my dear husband has taught every night.  Each day began with Muggle studies (math, language arts, and geography/cultural studies of England).  Then we moved onto our wizard study of the day.  On the first day we studied Defense Against the Dark Arts. The kids and I reviewed stranger danger, some child-friendly self-defense skills (yell, run, tell someone), and how to maintain a safe distance between them and a stranger.  We then watched some You Tube videos and discussed telephone safety, 911 and basic first aid.  Then the kids got to have a wizard duel with silly string.

On Tuesday, Grandma came as Professor Sprout and taught Herbology.  She taught us how to make a fairy garden.  It came out so cute and will give the children hours of play this summer.  We planted herbs, moss and a strawberry plant.  Each child has an elf or fairy to play with in the garden.

On Wednesday, Tim took on the role of Hagrid and taught the kids a class called the Care of Magical Creatures.  He concentrated on teaching that dragons were invented to explain the many dinosaur fossils that were being found in the Middle Ages.  He then read to them Stone Girl, Bone Girl, which is a great book about Mary Anning (a fossil hunter in the early 1800's in England).  They looked at several more books about Mary Anning and dragons.  He showed them a few videos on YouTube about Komodo dragons (a kind of lizard).  Then he made dragon's breath with them. This is made by touching a 9 volt battery to steel wool.

Tim also is helping the kids hatch and raise sea monkeys.  They are so tiny right now that you cannot see them without a magnifying glass. However, they seem healthy and are swimming around a lot.

On Thursday, I taught the kids Transfiguration.  First, we defined transfiguration, defined as a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.  We then changed little plastic capsules into sponges by placing them into water. This was a fun activity and was also our sensory bucket for the week.

We then pulled out our dinosaur plant and woke it up.  It can "sleep" for up to fifty years.  All you have to do is put it into water and lava rock and it will wake up and grow within minutes.  We have had this plant for about 12 years.  We take it out of the closet every two or three years and enjoy it for a few weeks before storing it away again.  Now, that is my kind of plant!  It will grow so big that it will overflow the bowl over the next few days.  However, it will shrink down to it's original size once it has no more water.

We finished off transfiguration by going to a friend's house who has a microwave.  We do not own one.  We transformed a cake of Ivory soap into a cloud of soap.  This is so amazing to watch!  You put the Ivory soap on a plate in the microwave and set the timer for two minutes.  We had to do this experiment a few times with several cakes of soap so that everyone could stand in front of the microwave window to watch. 

We had a wonderful time in Potions class.  My husband pulled out several chemistry sets that we had saved from our oldest son's high school years. Here are some fun pictures of our discoveries.

I will be telling you more about our studies of England and Five in a Row (FIAR) book of the week in another post.  I am joining Homegrown Learners.  Okay!  

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, May 14, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday ~ Fun With Literature

We have enjoyed several books on tape in the car lately.  I wanted to do something hands on to go along with our listening and decided to make a muffin tin to go along with each book.  Our first book was How to Eat Fried Worms.  This book truly speaks to a boy's heart.  LOL!  My youngest son LOVED this book.  I was fortunate to find organic gummy worms that were free of corn (he is allergic to corn). The muffin tin had potato chips, yogurt, green beans, cheese cubes and a turkey meatball.  I added gummy worms to each section.

The kids enjoyed the fried worms muffin tin, so I went on and made one for Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.  This is such a wonderful and practical story about a wise woman who helps all of the mothers in the town train up their wayward kids. Each chapter covers a different fault that is plaguing a child.  I filled each muffin space with a food reminding the kids of each chapter in the book.
Top row of tin~
  • Chocolate coconut milk to represent the chapter on kids who never want to go to bed.
  • Little tiny cheese cubes to represent the chapter on kids who are small bite takers and never finish their meals.
  • Hot dogs and pickles on a stick represent the kids who never clean their rooms and need their food lifted up to their bedroom windows on a pitch fork (because they are trapped in their messy rooms).
Bottom row of tin~
  • A root beer float to represent the sweetness that comes when siblings stop fighting all the time.
  • Sunflower seeds that represent the parrot that taught children to stop talking back to their parents.
  • A radish to represent what could happen to kids who never take a bath.  (They just might get dirty enough to grow radishes on.)
  • Finished off with a label that read, "Don't Touch (insert child's name) Food", to represent the selfish children who never share.
The kids really enjoyed this activity.  I will use this for more books on tape.  I am joining Muffin Tin Monday.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Summer Bucket List 2012

Summer is almost here!  We finish up our 2011-2012 school year just before Memorial Day weekend. We are busy making our bucket list.  I told them that they could each come up with as many ideas as they wanted, but only one idea from each child could be a day trip or be something that would cost our family no more than $50. We are doing some different things this year.  The biggest change is that, in lieu of a family vacation, the kids are going to have one week of day camp each.  I found a very small camp with people I really trust.  This will be their very first taste of camp.  I hope it will be a wonderful experience for them.

Our "Will Attempt To Do" Bucket List
  • Go to pool and pool and pool -- LOL
  • Go to the lake
  • Go to a nearby water park we've never visited
  • Go to Splashville
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Go fishing
  • Wander in a mountain stream
  • Play Ping Pong
  • Camp in a tent
  • Blow bubbles
  • Go to Lego Discovery Center in Atlanta
  • Have play dates with friends
  • Mom and Dad go to see Wicked
  • Maintain veggie garden
  • Go roller skating
  • Paint bathroom
  • Paint interior doors
  • Finish another side of yard with 6 ft fencing
  • Go to July 4 fireworks
  • Attend summer day camp
  • Catch fireflies
  • Label and organize the books in our home library
  • Climb a mountain
  • Paint and build more on our tree house
  • Pick blueberries
  • Tour our city on a trolley
  • Learn how to make slides for our microscope
  • Paint trim in bedroom
  • Read lots of books ~ kids and Mom
  • Attend library program
    Whew!  It sounds like it is going to be a FUN and BUSY summer!  I am looking forward to it.  Do you see the theme of water in our lives?  In addition to all of this fun, we will continue with some schooling.  The kids will do math each day, maintain summer journals and READ! 

    Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Science Party!

A few months ago, my kids won first prize for their join project for The Festival of Knowledge.  The prize was a science party put on by Hightouch Hightech.  This organization exposes children to the world of science in a very exciting way!  They had several choices of parties.  We decided to go with the Sizzilin' Science party that had a variety of experiments.  Trying to be more frugal, we are not having birthday parties (outside the family) for the children this year.  So instead we threw an "end of the year" party for the kids.  Although school is not quite out yet, this is when Hightouch Hightech had an opening.  Each could invite a few friends.  The kids started off making space mud.  Several of them did not want to touch the space mud because it was so sticky.
Next, they made volcanoes using a baking soda slurry.  I never made the baking soda into a slurry before.  It sure made for an exciting explosion!
I didn't think the kids could get anymore excited.  However, the scientist pulled out the Hair Raising static electricity machine.  Oh my, were they excited.  My pictures do not really show how much their hair stood up.

If that was not exciting enough, they moved onto launching water rockets. These rockets really took off. One went all the way over our neighbor's house and into their driveway.

The kids who weren't helping to put off the rockets enjoyed standing in the splash zone.  You can see the spray of water in one of the pictures.  After launching several rockets, the kids did a winding down activity.  They enjoyed playing with tornado bottles.
What a fun party!  Plus, its low cost made it even more fantastic -- a total of $40, including balloons, food (water and juice bottles, watermelon, chips, and fruit roll ups), and party favors (bubbles with a lollipop attached).

One funny ~ We have always had mixed age and gender parties with all of the kids playing together.  However, this time the boys and girls separated.  The girls went out on the trampoline and played Duck, Duck, Goose and the boys played with Legos.  I guess they are growing up.  I better enjoy it while this stage lasts.  LOL!
I am joining Science Sunday.

Blessings, Dawn