Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Family Room Tween/Teen Makeover ~ Homeschool Style

Tomorrow we will have a teenager in our home. I can hardly believe that I only have one remaining child under 13! The years race away! I am so blessed to have these years at home to train and enjoy my kiddos. This year I have seen the kids let go of many toys. Things that used to be permanent fixtures in our home, such as Lincoln Logs, Playmobil and Polly Pockets, have given way to guitars, computer time, reading and crafts. They are growing and preparing for adulthood. With that in mind, it is time to rethink our family room. This room has been utilized much less than I expected since we moved to this house. When we moved here, I thought this room would be the hub. Instead, the kitchen/dining room is by far the hub of our home. The library room in our home is very popular with adults, but not used by the kids much. They take their books to their beds. I wanted to give the kids a place to explore their interests and a public place to hang out with friends. We do not allow friends of the opposite sex into bedrooms ~ NOPE ... NO WAY ... NOT HAPPENING!

First, I will share an overview of the room from opposite corners. We are blessed with ample space in our home.

As you can see, we have lots of seating space for family or friend movie nights. Now, I will go around the room and show you all the highlights.

I bought this sewing machine a few months before we became foster parents and immediately brought Tom Sawyer and Goldilocks home. I haven't touched it in 13 years. It has been living at my mother's home, getting an occasional workout. I've been really busy. However, I have great hopes that Little Red Riding Hood and I will be sewing on it by the end of the summer.

This is our microscope corner. We are blessed with two different types of microscopes. Grandma gave the children a stereoscope (on the left) for Easter. It took us some time to figure out how to make it work with our old computer, but now it is a great tool. I will show you how we use it in a future post. The compound microscope on the right was purchased for Tim (our oldest son) when he was in homeschool high school.

Our Lego corner. Lego's are the most played with "toy" in our home. They seem to be retaining their popularity into the years of puberty.

This is our media area. The kids play on the Wii, watch DVDs, and listen to music and audio books on the CD player. They occasionally watch a cooking show on cable. 

This is our overflow cabinet of science and math manipulatives that are not part of our current lessons. The bottom shelf also holds games that are not currently in use or require floor space to play. 

Below our science/math cabinet are Tom Sawyer's physical therapy supplies. The Bosu ball is used to train midline strength and stability, as well as for balance and coordination. The blue beam next to it is for him to lie on to stretch his chest wall.

Lastly, we have our multipurpose wall. On this wall is our "getting ready to leave the house area" (coats, shoes, etc.), Tim's microwave, library book area, the guitars (one has wandered to my son's bedroom), and a bookcase filled with all of our kids's medical records, continent boxes and seasonal books.

We are really fortunate that the room is large enough that there is still plenty of floor room for gymnastics, dancing or putting together a project that requires lots of floor space. 

What would you add to a tween/teen space?

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lots of Science Fun

Our season of "extreme busyness" is well underway. The kids performed in the Tween Company showcase last weekend. They did a great job and the show was really well done. They explored lots of different movements and spaces. They even had the audience move onto the stage while they performed in the seats. Unfortunately, the show's lighting was especially dark this time, so my camera was not able to take high quality photos.

Here is Tom Sawyer posing in one of the dances.
Little Red Riding Hood is on the far right siting up.
Tom Sawyer is on the left and Little Red Riding Hood is on the right.

Another Birthday ~ We had a lovely birthday dinner for Grandma. Little Red Riding Hood bought her a ticket to the showcase as a gift.

A Science Adventure at the Library ~ We attended a fantastic program at our local library where we learned all about liquid nitrogen. It was taught by a man who gave a wonderful presentation, including pouring the liquid nitrogen on the floor several times. It made a cold wave of gas that came over our feet. It was so cool! We followed up with this video to reinforce the concepts he taught.

Life Skills ~ We have been working on life skills and budgeting for some time now. The kids are being given $50 to pick out their own clothes for this summer. I told them that I would provide a swimming suit and two or three outfits of my choosing beyond what they could purchase with their own clothing allowance. Little Red Riding Hood shopped for her clothes this week. She asked to go to a local children's consignment shop. I think she did a good job for her first budgeted shopping spree. She thought carefully about what she had at home that still fit from last year and what would coordinate nicely. She got four complete outfits, an extra shirt and a pair of sandals. Tom Sawyer will be doing his shopping in the next week or two.

Our School Week ~ 

There was lots of learning this week. I love weeks that go smoothly. Here is a list of our learning:
  • Read Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring ~ a lovely book about Martha Graham
  • Did research for their next paper which is on Martha Graham
  • Watched Appalachian Spring, which is a delightful play created by Martha Graham
  • Finished two language arts workbooks this week
  • Completed four Teaching Textbook lessons
  • Started our lotus seeds that will turn into lotus flowers
  • Started reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 
  • Read five more chapters from the book, The Pushcart War 
  • Watched three hours of the DVD, A Story of Us, which gave us a nice review/overview of World War II to September 11, 2001
  • Spent several hours in independent reading
  • Completed four lessons from Draw Write Now Book 2
  • Watched CNN Student News daily
  • Finished Lesson 3 of Minn of The Mississippi 
  • Learned about the International Space Station
  • Explored out latest Tinker Crate box, which is about polymers
  • Attended writing and math classes at homeschool co-op

The kids made slime, putty and a bouncing ball with their Tinker Crate box. They conducted lots of experiments with their creations. There are a few more great creations to make next week. 

The last picture in the collage is the Mindware catalogue. There are some great science things in there. My dream list for next year is getting really long. What a blessing to homeschool!

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, April 13, 2015

Our Plans for the Last Seven Weeks of School

We decided to go to a 40 week schedule this year. Our state only requires 36 weeks. I am very pleased that we added on the extra weeks. We had some catching up to do, and learning truly is the focus of our days. My kids have never thrived with free time. They do so much better with structure and parent-led activities. This is our last week off before summer break, and my son has already been on the verge of tears twice because he can't figure out how to entertain himself without media. Ah, I digress. Here is the plan for our final seven weeks of school.

Literature ~ 

We will be reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Elijah of Buxton, and  Childhood of Famous Americans Mark Twain. We will also be having two poetry teas and learning two new kinds of poetry.

Science ~ 

We will finish reading through Focus on Middle School Astronomy and make a solar system model. We will also be doing numerous experiments from Exploring the Solar System. In addition, we will be attending some science days at the library and going on a few field trips to science museums. Lastly, we will be exploring our Tinker Crates as they arrive in the mail.

History ~ 

We will be focusing on the 1960's through present. We have already covered the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race so these parts will be review. Our spine will be The Century. We will be using library books and DVDs to supplement. We will also be focusing on the Kennedy family.

Art ~ 

We will be completing books 2 and 3 of the Draw Write Now Series. We will also be having Art With Grandma


We will be picking up where we left off in our study of Minn and the Mississippi. We will also be studying Norway for our last Culture Club of the year. Lastly, we will be learning a little bit about Maryland in anticipation of our trip there this summer.

Math and Language Arts ~ We will be finishing up Teaching Textbooks 5 (Little Red Riding Hood) and 6 (Tom Sawyer). The kids will be finishing all of their language arts workbooks. Little Red Riding Hood has about 200 pages to go in three different workbooks, and Tom Sawyer has about 100 pages to go in several workbooks. Lastly, they will be writing a weekly paper. 

Out of the Home Classes ~ It is crunch time in their out of the home classes. In the next seven weeks, Little Red Riding Hood will be on stage in 11 shows in two different productions, and Tom Sawyer will be on stage in 12 shows in three different productions. There will be extra classes in preparation for all of these performances. Also, there will be out of the home math, drama, and writing classes. Lastly, Tom Sawyer belongs to our church youth group, and they will be running the entire service one Sunday in May. Yep, it is going to be a very busy Spring!

 UPDATE ~ I decided to make two changes before we even started the last seven weeks of school. I had a heart-to-heart discussion with Tom Sawyer about his drama class. He really hasn't enjoyed it this entire semester. I usually make my kids stick to their commitments. However, I decided to let him switch to the math class which is held at the same time if the teacher felt that his part could be easily replaced. She agreed and he switched to math. He is much more contented. 

Secondly, the kids received guitars off of Freecycle. They are both super excited about learning to play the guitar. I would normally say that our plate is full and that we will take up lessons in the fall. However, I have seen their interest in musical instruments lost when in the past I haven't encouraged them immediately. I really want them to know how to play an instrument, so we are fixing the guitars today (they need new strings) and starting lessons within the next two or three weeks. A teenage boy at our homeschool co-op has already offered informal lessons while we get formal lessons established.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 10, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Egg Drop, Birthday, and Learning All the Time

Easter Egg Drop ~

We attended an Easter Egg Drop at a local private school. The crowds were huge and overwhelming with thousands of kids encircling an area the size of a football field. Tom Sawyer and Daddy decided to stay in the car at the end of the field, since they dislike crowds. They ended up having a fabulous view of the drop. I took Little Red Riding Hood up on a hill to get a good picture of the scene below. We decided that getting eggs just wasn't going to happen. In the end, a few eggs fell almost at our feet and Little Red Riding Hood got five. I had a few friends out in the crowd and one of them lost her child for several minutes. I am glad we stayed on the opposite side. It was enough of an adventure on the hill side. We were with all of the press and the helicopter came very close a few times. We all ran down the hill a few times to get away from the whirling blades!

Easter Morning ~

We had a nice Easter. The kids each got either a chocolate bunny or chicken plus one gift. Little Red Riding Hood received Bon Bon the dog; Tom Sawyer got some magnetic thinking putty; and Tim received some much needed socks. We sat in the balcony at church. It was a full house with standing room only for many.

Tim's Birthday ~

Tim turned 25 years old this week. How is it that I am a mother of a 25 year old? I know I started early. But, really? 25! He wanted a quiet time at home with BBQ from a local landmark. We had a nice dinner with cake and enjoyed watching him open his gifts.

Stem Activities ~

I was concerned that I wasn't getting enough STEM activities into our homeschool. Now, thanks to Tinker Crates, we are having lots of great STEM activities. This week Tom Sawyer made a crane. He did lots of calibrating to get it just right and was soon able to pick up very small items, like this miniature marshmallow.

Homeschool ~ We had a really good school week. I love it when it flows smoothly. The kids attended Culture Club this week. The country we learned about was Russia. The kids' presentation was about Faberge eggs. Their PowerPoint presentation came out well, and they are really improving in their speaking skills.

Here is the rest of our week ~ 
  • Finished reading Mama's Bank Account
  • Did 6 lessons in Draw Write Now Book 2
  • Worked at Teaching Textbooks lessons daily
  • Painted secret compartment wooden boxes
  • Made wrapping paper
  • Watched CNN Student News daily
  • Watched Space Shuttle Columbia DVD
  • PowerPoint presentation at Culture Club
  • Read Keeping the Promise a Torah's Journey  (A great book about a Torah that was handed down from a Rabbi in a concentration camp and went to spSpace many years later)
  • Lots of individual reading
  • Lots of crafts
  • Drama, writing, and math classes
  • Dance classes

Tom Sawyer's Viking Costume ~ Tom Sawyer is going to a Viking costume party this weekend. Grandma worked with him on his costume. He also completed his metal sword with the help of one of his dance and theater instructors. It all came out great.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 3, 2015

Our Egg Heavy Week in Pictures

Easter Egg Hunts ~ We attended two Easter Egg hunts for our daughter who loves egg hunts.

April Fool's Day ~ We tricked Daddy with a "mint Oreo cookie". We took the cream filling out of a cookie and replaced it with Aim toothpaste.

Gem Museum ~ We went on our second field trip to our local gem museum. Today the kids did the silver scavenger hunt which was geared toward 5th and 6th graders. We learn so much from the scavenger hunts. Even the easier ones are worth the time.

Opalite Egg ~ We picked up a "magic egg" made out of opalite at the museum. It was fun to see how it changed colors depending on what type of light bulb or paper we placed it near. We tried black paper, white paper, water, light bulb, green light bulb and a black light bulb.

Tom Sawyer and the Tinker Crate ~ Tom Sawyer's Tinker Crate finally arrived. It is about hydraulics this month. He did the first two experiments. There are so many great things to learn about hydraulics. I am impressed already. Here is the second experiment in which he made a hydraulic claw. Click on the window to see.

Tom Sawyer Designed a Sword ~ Tom Sawyer made a template for a sword and then took it to a welding company this week. They cut out the sword for him and now he will put on a wooden handle. This sword is for a Viking costume party he is attending soon.

Art with Grandma ~ Grandma gave the kids a wonderful lesson on egg decorating around the world. We learned about eggs from India, Ukraine, Mexico, Denmark, Norway, Africa, Poland, Russia, Australia, China, Hungary and Germany. They are all so beautiful. We then painted our own eggs.

A Sleepover ~ Little Red Riding Hood had a sleepover with her best friends.

Our Easter Dog!

Book Learning ~ As you can see, we had lots of real life learning this week. However, there was a fair amount of book learning as well. 
  • 8 lessons in Teaching Textbooks (math)
  • 5 lessons in Draw Write Now, Book 2
  • The Pushcart War ~ Almost done reading
  • Mama's Bank Account ~ Half way done reading
  • Personal reading ~ daily
  • 30 minutes of language arts workbooks daily
  • CNN Student News ~ watch daily
  • "Apollo 13" DVD 
  • Three stories from The American Story 100 True Tales from American History
  • Ham the Astrochimp ~ Animals in the space program
  • Code Red The Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion book and documentary
  • Families of Russia ~ watched video ~ 
Blessings, Dawn