Friday, September 25, 2015

A Look at the First 10 Weeks of School

I can scarcely believe that 10 weeks of school is already complete. It went by so quickly. But then doesn't everything? We had a great rhythm to our first 10 weeks. We aren't as worn out as I thought we would be after 10 weeks with no break. However, we are feeling a little bit worn (or at least I am). It isn't the schooling (it never is); it's life and all of its demands. The To Do list is very long. The house is still standing, and although my To Do list has grown long, the most important things didn't get bumped week after week. There are a few things have helped us tremendously.
  • I revamped chores before we started back to school. Now we do certain chores before we start school (laundry rotation and dishwasher rotation), a big chore time in the afternoon and a quick kitchen/dining room clean up after dinner as a family. The kitchen evening chore time means that things like mopping the kitchen floor and cleaning out a cupboard can happen more frequently because more hands are working. 
  • We are keeping our weekends free of activities more often this year. They will get busier soon with Nutcracker rehearsals in a few weeks, but we are trying to keep closer to home most weekends. 
  • I am doing a better job of setting aside activities that are not working. There is no reason why we have to waste time on activities that turn out to be a bad fit.
  • Instead of taking an entire week off for a break, we are taking a day off here and there when we need it. I find that we can often make up a day we took off by adding one extra subject the other days in the week. 
  • I am taking a few minutes during my weekend lesson planning to plan our meals, as well. I don't decide on which day we will eat a particular meal, but I do know what meals we have on hand and about how long they take to prepare. 
  • Chores can count for home economics as long as they are new to the kids or not yet fully mastered.
Dean's take on the year so far ~ 

He likes his writing and guitar classes. The guitar is much easier than he thought it would be. He is having a hard time with the really old version of Teaching Textbooks math that we have for 7th grade. He can't erase problems that he has gotten wrong and retake them. Also, the Teaching Textbook DVD glitches sometimes. I may need to replace it. Can you believe he wants to try Saxon Math like his sister is using if we do switch it out? I better find one with an answer key if we do. (Anne's old version doesn't have an answer key, and I am having to work out each problem in order to grade her work.) Dean thinks we have been doing a good amount of field trips and wants us to keep that up. He is relieved we are almost done with studying Ancient Rome. He likes the literature we have been doing so far this year. He is looking forward to performing in the Nutcracker. He was happy with his report card that had a good mix of A's and B's.

Anne's take on the year so far ~ 

Anne is very pleased with all of her dance classes. THEY ARE GREAT -- according to her. She is liking Saxon Math (she is currently getting a 97% score on her lessons) and our weekly writing projects. Spelling is still a huge struggle for her, but I am seeing improvement with our switch to A Reason for Spelling. Reading time is her favorite time of  the school day, and she is cruising through American Girl Doll books, one historic doll series at a time. She does not like her American Sign Language class and will hopefully come to terms soon with the importance of knowing a second language and stop complaining. She is picking up the words and has learned about 60 signs. She loved our zoo trip and learning to kayak.

We are going to continue schooling for now in the hopes of having an extended break over the Christmas holidays.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Wrap Up ~ Art with Grandma

This has been a pleasant and smooth week. However, not a very picture worthy week since  I discovered I had only taken four pictures before our art class with Grandma today.

Art with Grandma ~ We learned about Maria Martinez (a famous Native American potter) and a little bit about the Pueblo Indians. We learned about Maria Martinez's techniques and how her husband painted the pots she made. We then learned how to make a coiled pot using a plastic bowl as our guide (mold). They came out great and the kids stuck with this project for a long time. When the bowls dry in a few days, the kids will paint them with acrylic paints.

Dance ~  Dance went so much better this week for Dean. He enjoyed both of his classes and is finding his way through the mass of girls. He is one boy in a class with 15 girls. He is still disappointed that no other boys have joined the Tween Company, but, fortunately, the girls accept him since most of them worked with him last year. He is really enjoying the creativity and collaboration in the classes. Anne loves dance as always. She is finding that pointe hurts and is glad that the teacher will be teaching it slowly. Despite the increase to seven hours of dance a week, she doesn't seem at all tired.

Anne trying to teach Dad a few dance moves.
We are almost done with a quarter of the school year ~ We finished our ninth week of school today. Report cards (my kids demand them) come out next Friday. I can't believe we will have completed a fourth of our school year next week! Time flies.... I am in finish-up the quarter mode around here, since my brain works well with goals, lists and deadlines. I want to be done with Genevieve Foster's Augustus Caesar's World by the end of next week so we can move on in our survey of world history. That will be a feat if we accomplish the book. We go off on so many conversational rabbit trails. I know it is all good learning. I just struggle with my goals, lists and deadlines type of brain. If we are going to finish the book, we will have to set something else aside. I don't like that idea much, either. Oh well, we are not yet behind in any of our other studies.

Dean is making lots of pinwheels for a church project to give away pencils.
Update on Goldilocks and school ~ I attended the first school meeting for Goldilocks this week at the high school! Talk about time flying! Goldilocks is struggling (my word). I consider a child struggling when he/she has multiple F's on school work/tests and is pulling barely C's for overall grades. However, the schools said she is doing great. She also feels that she is doing great, especially since she has a few friends. That is what is truly important in her eyes. I can see that. I thanked the high school for giving more realistic grades -- unlike the school last year which gave her straight A's the entire year, despite her insistence that she didn't know what subjects she was taking. She got A's in classes that she wasn't aware she was even studying. For instance, you could ask her how she was doing in science and she'd tell you that she didn't think she had a science class. At the end of the school year, she failed every single end of grade test (these tests are scored outside of the school system). I guess she knew what she was talking about. They passed her on to ninth grade anyway. As I have stated before, I am less than impressed with the school system. I was hoping that they would improve her chances for a successful future, but I now suspect that they are NOT going to do anything except pass her along.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, September 11, 2015

Weekly Review ~ State Fair, Sign Language, and Zoology

This was a quick week. Sometimes the time just flies by so fast! This homeschool week was filled with lots of hands-on learning, but we did get the basics in as well.

Zoology ~ We started our study of zoology this week. We will be working our way through the book, Zoology for Kids: Understanding and Working with Animals, With 21 Activities for the next few weeks. Of course, we started our study at the zoo. Our state zoo is a three hour drive each way. It was a big trek to go round trip in addition to spending more than four hours at the zoo and all in one day. It was well worth the effort. We went on Labor Day since my husband had the day off. We also took Grandma along. The NC Zoo is huge, and if I go again, I want to remember to enter from the Africa side. We entered from the North American side and we were pretty worn out by the time we got to the animals we think of as "zoo animals".  We also paid for the fun pack which ended up costing us just as much as it would have cost to pay for the special exhibits as we came to them, since we ran out of time to do it all.

My dear husband and kids enjoy posing.
The carousel is always a hit.
The kids liked the dinosaur exhibit.
The kids got me up on a crazy rope ladder maze.
Most of the animals were pretty close to the viewing areas this time.
This week we read the first 13 pages of our zoology book and did the first project. We made an edible animal cell model. 

  • frosting = cytoplasm
  • colored frosting line = plasma membrane
  • peanut butter cup = cell nucleus
  • gummy worms = organelles
  • sprinkles = ribosomes
  • licorice = Golgi body
  • Kit Kats = mitochondria
  • chocolate candy = lysosomes
Changing Our Foreign Language ~ Anne started the year off with French. She wanted to learn it more than any other language. However, she began to struggle almost immediately. She has a terrible time with spelling and has dyslexia. We decided to research what language was best for a dyslexic child and discovered that French was one of the most difficult to learn.  We found that most experts recommend sign language, Latin or Spanish. However, researchers say all languages will be very hard to learn for those with dyslexia. Our homeschool co-op just happens to have a class in American Sign Language this year, so I immediately signed Anne up. I struggled horribly with languages in school and was only truly successful with sign language, so I hope this will be a good fit for her as well. She was less than thrilled with the first class. She is by far the youngest student (the rest are high school kids) and she started the class two weeks late, so she feels very behind. However, after the very first class, she was showing me more than 20 signs she had learned. That is a vast improvement over the five or six French words she has picked up in the last six weeks.

Pointe Shoes and Dance Classes ~ The kids started dance classes this week. Anne is so happy to be back and loved all of her classes. She sewed her first pair of pointe shoes and is looking forward to actually putting them on in class next week. Dean was not very happy about the first week of classes. He feels like he isn't moving forward in his skills fast enough and is frustrated with having cerebral palsy. We are going to try him in an extra class next week to see if being with other young men in a hip hop class will make him feel a bit more comfortable. He also wants to remain in the Tween Company classes he is currently taking as well. I think we will get it all worked out. Adjustments and changes are always hard on Dean.

State Fair ~ We had a wonderful time at the state fair on education day. The kids loved the Mixer ride. Anne and Dean worked on the lathe with professional wood turners. Anne made a wine stopper and Dean made a honey dipper stick. They each went on three rides and had a caramel or candy apple. Lastly, we attended two shows. The pig races were fun as always, and the Kenyan acrobats were very impressive.

Somewhere I have a picture of Dean in this tire when he was just a toddler. I really need to find it!

It is good to homeschool!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, September 4, 2015

Weekly Wrap Up ~ Harry Potter, Writing, Robotics, and The Iliad

Another week has come to a close. The time goes by so fast and it is only going to get faster. We will be in our full autumn schedule next week. Dance starts on Tuesday. Anne is able to tell you exactly how many hours until the first class starts. I am going to have to keep her busy this weekend so time doesn't drag too much. We sat down as a family and discussed our school year schedule. We usually take a break every five to six weeks. It really has worked well for us in the past. However, when I realized it was time for that break, we didn't feel like we needed it. The house is still looking pretty good (usually the first thing to fall apart when I am stressed out); the kids are still engaged; and our routines are working. We have completed seven weeks of school. I realized that if we took only one week break between now and Thanksgiving week, we would be able to take off the entire month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have never done this before but we are super excited about trying it. This would make the Nutcracker performance week so much easier and maybe we could enjoy the Christmas season without trying desperately to tie up academic loose ends like we have in the past. One of the things I really love about homeschooling is the flexibility to do what is best for our family.

Harry Potter Cooking ~ The kids did a great job being independent with the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook this week. They made beef stew with herb dumplings, lemon drops, and Triple Lemon Pops. They did almost everything by themselves, including using the candy thermometer. Their first attempt at candy came out pretty well.

Kids Write ~ We started our at-home writing program with Kids Write: Fantasy & Sci Fi, Mystery, Autobiography, Adventure & More!. The first project was to make a treasure map and then write a story about a treasure seeker finding the treasure using the map as inspiration. They loved making the maps. I have two very different kids, with very different challenges when it comes to writing. Anne really struggles with spelling and grammar but turned out a seven page paper which was a good draft of a story. Dean had very little trouble with the grammar or spelling but struggled with every single sentence. He needed who/what/where questions asked all along the way to help him develop the story. His creative writing really regressed over the summer. I really like the program. It has a very nice step-by-step guide to help keep the kids thinking and stretching them to do more.

Black Ships Before Troy ~ We finished Black Ships Before Troy and the study guide by Veritas Press. The kids really didn't like the book at all. It was just too gory for them. I asked them at the end on a scale of 1-10 (1 being horrible and 10 being great) how they liked it. One voted minus 1 and the other child gave it a zero. I told them it was still worth knowing the story because they would hear terms of Achilles heel and Trojan horse many times in their lifetimes. Hopefully, our next literature book will be better. I think we are going to read a real short book about Pompeii.

Snap Circuits R/C Rover Electronics Discovery Kit ~ Dean received this kit a few months back from his grandmother for his birthday and immediately made a rover. This week, he completed all of the 23 Snap Circuits R/C Snap Rover projects. He especially liked the night rover, pencil buzz, and the water/salt water detector. I think he learned more than he thought he would.

They also completed a week's worth of math, spelling, independent reading, history and earth science. Anne finished two more lessons in French. She still doesn't like it. Dean still loves guitar and can't wait until his next class. We will see how my household routines and plans will hold up under a full schedule (with several dance classes) next week. It should be interesting.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Our Fall Wish List

Fall is here (at least in my book). I count the days of autumn from September 1 to Thanksgiving. We love this season even though it is usually extremely busy. We may not make it to all that we want to do, but here is a guide for when I can squeeze something in to our schedule. 

Our Fall Wish List in no particular order ~
  1. Make apple pies
  2. Make homemade candy corn
  3. Do the exploding watermelon and rubber bands activity (we never got to this summer)
  4. Go apple picking
  5. Make Halloween costumes
  6. Go trick or treating
  7. Go to the homeschool Halloween party
  8. Go to the Mountain State Fair
  9. Have a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
  10. Go to a pumpkin patch
  11. Carve pumpkins
  12. Make homemade caramel sauce
  13. Go to Duke for my son's cardiology appointment
  14. Visit the Mad Hats store while in Durham
  15. Attend many Nutcracker rehearsals 
  16. Watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  17. Watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
  18. Celebrate Husband's birthday
  19. Celebrate Anne's birthday
  20. Have a sleepover birthday party for Anne
  21. Paint baseboards in two more rooms
  22. Make mulled cider
  23. Go on a hayride
  24. Celebrate Boomer's 5th birthday (Tim's dog)
  25. Look at the stars through the telescope
  26. Make 12 lunches for homeless ladies staying at our church (October 11)
  27. Attend the Renaissance Fair on education day
  28. Listen to Spooky Classics for Children by Jim Weiss
  29. Listen to Sherlock Holmes for Children by Jim Weiss
  30. Listen to Mystery! Mystery! for Children: Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Auguste Dupin by Jim Weiss
  31. Pose for a fall photo shoot
  32. Go on fall nature drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
  33. Take leaf nature walk
  34. Attend Robot Zoo Exhibit at the Arboretum