Saturday, August 27, 2016

Weekly Wrap-Up 4 ~ Bears, Books and Banter

We had a fine week. Nothing really stands out as especially stellar educationally. However, we had a solid week of book and real life learning. I continued to hold steady on my goals to let the children have larger control of their education and embrace letting go of things immediately that are not working. With that said, Anne's writing program was set aside this week which she had been avoiding and loathing. She immediately started writing a short chapter book. Now she is happily writing away and I am happy to see her making progress.

Bears ~ The saga of bears visiting our yard continues practically every day. We reviewed black bear safety this week and acted out what to do if one encounters a bear. We look  around real carefully before leaving the house nowadays, since the bears especially like our carport.
A baby bear in our tree
A New Adventure ~ A mother and daughter we have known for some time have decided to embark on the homeschooling journey. They asked if we might want to do a trade off. I agreed and I will be teaching science for a few hours once a week, and she will be teaching art once a week. The kids are all within a year of each other and go to the same dance studio. Hopefully, it will be a delightful experience for everyone.

Books, Books, Books! ~ Another homeschool mom blessed me with four boxes of books. She knows I sell on eBay to supplement my kids' dance classes. Some of them will be donated to the various Little Free Library boxes located around town, but some of them had value and are already making me money on Ebay. I feel very blessed. 

Mean Words vs. Banter ~  I have been hearing an increase in insults between Anne and Dean. So we did an exercise this week in choosing words carefully. I gave them a tube of toothpaste and told them to squeeze it all out onto a plate. They did so with delight. 
Then I told them to put it back in the tube. They were unable to do so. I told them that the toothpaste tube was their mouth and the toothpaste was their words. You can never take back your words. You can and should apologize, but it will always be messy and broken.

The moral to this is to always choose our words carefully and try only to speak kindness -- a challenge even to an adult to be sure. 

Dean Made a 3D Viewer ~ Those who hang around my blog know that Dean loves his monthly subscription box, Tinker Crate. He had a fantastic time with the latest offering. 

Anne's New Space ~ Anne is loving using my antique desk for her alone time schooling. She keeps it neat and sweet (although you can't tell from all of the crumbs on the desk in the picture).

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reviewing Bear Safety

The bear activity in our neighborhood has been very high this spring and summer. We have a mother bear and two cubs visiting our street and yard daily. In fact, my husband and dog got up close and personal with the bears in our backyard twice in the past two weeks. Once recently, our dog chased the mother bear out of the yard. She ran away, but as soon as she got on the opposite side of the fence, she stood up and roared at the dog and my husband. Then last night, two baby bears were in our backyard and ran up a tree when they heard our dog barking. Luckily, my husband saw them from a good distance and was able to get Boomer (dog) back into the house quickly. They had a field day with our trash cans and trapped us in our house for about an hour. We didn't see mom. We see them walking through our yard or down the road several times a week. So now we are not letting the dog play in the backyard anymore.

All this to say, we really need to review bear safety with our children. Below is a list of suggestions.
  • Do not approach or sneak up on a bear.
  • If the bear stops its activity, you are too close.
  • Never turn your back on a bear or run from a bear.
  • Slowly back up and make lots of noise.
  • Raise your arms above your head and wave them vigorously.
If a black bear attacks you, fight like mad. Use anything you have as a weapon. Never play dead with a black bear.

We will be ordering an air horn. It will hopefully scare away bears and warn others inside that someone in the yard is in trouble. 

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Week 3 ~ Making Changes Already

We had a successful week. It was a crazy week in which I was fitting school in around life's edges. We had seven appointments this week. Only one had anything to do with school. There is also a huge amount of extended family drama going on right now, which is a distraction to our daily lives. With a high-end special needs family, this is an issue that seems to come up at least once a month. In the past, I would have looked at my planner and crammed in the learning around everything else. This time, I just made two goals for each day -- independent reading and one more subject. We did more than that each day, but that is all I wrote down for the week.

Changes ~ I decided after a long discussion with Anne to drop the curriculum she was using for music appreciation. She will still be having music appreciation but we are setting Zeezok aside. We love Zeezok and have used it for years. The truth is, though, she already knows most of what the curriculum had to offer, and what she doesn't know she could learn in a matter of days as an adult, if she needed it. As a person working toward owning a dance studio; Anne feels that she needs to know many genres of music, know how to play an instrument and be able to read music. I agree that she already has a good grasp of the classics. So now she will be moving on with taking at-home piano lessons, studying as many musicals as we can, exploring different genres of music and continuing to learn how to read music.

Last Weekend ~ We attended our church retreat last weekend. We were granted a full scholarship which made that wonderful weekend possible. Our church is a graying church and there are only about 18 kids under 18 in the congregation. As it turned out, Dean and Anne were the only kids who attended last weekend. The youth leaders held activities even though there were only two kids, so they got loads of one-on-one attention. They enjoyed the lake immensely, talked about being a positive person in the world and played chimes for the Sunday morning service. They also got tons of accolades from a dozen or so individuals. It is really nice to hear so many people complimenting our children.

The School Week ~ 
  • Anne discovered Great Illustrated Classics. Did you know that there are 70 titles in this series? She loves them. She has read in the past week Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and  Peter Pan. She started Oliver Twist.
  • Dean is still reading the same book, The Night Gardener. I am a bit concerned about the speed of his reading. It seems very slow to me. I will be watching that over the next few weeks to determine if there is something I need to do.
  • We read Anne of Green Gables and are almost done.
  • Anne started at-home piano lessons.
  • Dean played at least an hour each day on either the piano, guitar or tenor ukulele.
  • Anne completed a lesson in her spelling book, but she still needs to take the spelling test for the week.
  • We played lots of board games (Imagine If, 10 Days in Asia, Take Out, Art Shark, and Apples to Apples) and completed the Harry Potter puzzle.
  • We did three science experiments in which two failed or barely worked. 
  • Dean completed seven pages in his Wordly Wise book.
  • We did a chapter in  Life of Fred Fractions most days.
  • The kids made hot sauce from our peppers, picked our grapes and made grape juice, and also made jello, guacamole and mac and cheese. 
  • We did just a touch of history with Washington, DC History for Kids: The Making of a Capital City with 21 Activities.
  • CNN Student News started back up -- much to the kids' delight.

Out and About School-Related Activities ~ The kids went swimming with Grandma. Dean started Robotics Club and Anne tagged along to play with other homeschoolers.

What I Am Reading ~ I am really enjoying A Different Kind of Teacher by John Taylor Gatto. I find that it is just what I needed for advice during this transition of helping my kids take responsibility for their own education. I am sure I will have much more to say about it in the coming weeks. I am also reading Worldchanging 101 Challenging the Myth of Powerlessness by David LaMotte. I picked this one up at the church retreat book sale. It is another thought-provoking book. 

They guys are hopefully going to get the rest of the shed they pulled down a few weeks ago to the landfill today. Anne and I are going to start organizing for two yard sales that we are participating in soon. The guest room/office is a mess of stuff to sort into Ebay, Goodwill and yard sale piles. I love to reduce our stuff and make money at the same time. We are busy saving for dance classes. It is nice to start with a bit put by before classes even start. 

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 12, 2016

Week 2 ~ Finding Our Groove

We had a great second week of school. I kept myself in check and didn't push the kids through subjects at all (ahem)! One of my major goals -- okay the most important goal to me this year -- is to relax and let the kids learn at their own pace. I will still be directing what they learn (with a bit of their input), but we will be working at whatever pace they set. If they are enjoying a family read-aloud immensely, then we will continue it even if it is more than the two chapters I had planned. Furthermore, if I find something isn't working or there is a lack of interest, we will learn the bare minimum required and in a way that sticks for them. I very much felt like I was dragging my son through his education last year. I do not intend to work harder than him for a minute this year. This is his education, after all. This year is all about learning what needs to be covered but also reigniting the joy of learning that has been fading in recent years.
We discovered which will float. The one with sugar has a higher mass and therefore sinks.
What we did this week ~
  • We read the interesting parts of Washington, DC History for Kids: The Making of a Capital City with 21 Activities. We will do some of the activities next week.
  • We read and did the first five chapters and review pages of Life of Fred Fractions.
  • Anne did 10 pages in Math U See (fractions).
  • We very much enjoyed our new family read-aloud, Anne of Green Gables
  • We watched the movie, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. It is not nearly as good as the book.
  • Dean began his at-home lessons on the piano. I was pleased to see how much he remembered from when he took lessons as a six year old. He is working independently through an adult beginners book.
  • Dean learned two new songs from his guitar book.
  • Anne started her Writers in Residence program and her new cursive handwriting book.
  • We did a little bit of science and wrapped up density and the introduction to the periodic table of elements.
  • Dean did one lesson in his independent U.S. history course and did the activity for the lesson (tying three different kinds of knots). 
  • Dean did a few lessons in Wordly Wise 3000 Book 9.
  • We went to a local small aquarium that was about the size of a storefront. However, they had a really neat display of shark eggs held up to the light. You could see the baby sharks swimming around in their eggs.
  • We did cotton candy science.
Cotton candy science
Shark eggs
The main thing that the kids wanted to do this week was work on their back to school 550 piece Harry Potter Puzzle. Anne was especially in love with the puzzle and picked it first every day. They spent hours working on it this week. This is where I had to struggle with letting them go at their own pace. I struggled with whether or not this activity was educational enough. So I did some research on jigsaw puzzles. I knew they were good, but I didn't realize how many benefits they had. Here is a list of what my kids are working on this year that is covered by jigsaw puzzles: 
  • social interaction
  • analysis
  • categorizing
  • attention to detail
  • collaboration
  • flexibility (I will try another area when I get stuck)
  • concentration
  • memory retention
  • organization
  • contrast
  • patience
  • perseverance
  • spacial orientation skills
  • sequence
  • sharing behavior
  • problem solving

The list of educational benefits was much longer, but this is my kids' personal goals. So doing a puzzle was a win-win in our home. They were learning and loving learning. That is my ultimate point. 

Lastly, Dean did a great job on his physical therapy evaluation. He doesn't need to go back for 10 months!! We are so happy that his at-home program is working.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 5, 2016

Week 1 ~ Stories

Our first week of school was a little different than I had planned but still successful, thanks to planning. The dance intensive that Anne and Dean attended this week proved to be, well, INTENSE. Both children were pushed out of their comfort zone, and Dean in particular really struggled. It is often very lonely being the only boy in a sea of dancing girls. Also, the ballet class was especially hard this time around and caused my perfectionist, highly-critical son a great deal of stress. They came home each day with a friend who needed childcare. So, we did get some additional school done, but not as much as I had hoped to complete. They were just too tired by the time they got home. Thankfully, they really love their dance lessons, even when it is really hard.

One thing I love so much about homeschooling is sharing wonderful stories with my kids. This week was filled with stories. We wrapped up our summer reading, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943). I loved this book as a child and was happy to finally share it with my youngest two. I waited to share it with them for years because it has many mature themes -- poverty, alcoholism, honesty or lack of in marriage and a near sexual attack on a minor. It also has many positive themes about family togetherness, importance of education, rising above struggles, saving and managing money, value of hard work, and sacrifice. It was a perfect book to complement our recent trip to New York City and the Tenement Museum. We hope to watch the movie in the next few days. 

A second story this week is the new Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We attended the Midnight Release party at Barnes and Noble on Saturday. Anne and I attended with two of her best friends, twins whose birthday happens to be the same as Harry Potter's. The girls were so excited to be out that late at night. The party attendees were sorted into Hogwarts Houses. Anne got into Gryffindor, much to her delight. 

We are enjoying the book. It is a play and the kids are learning more about keeping up with listening to a script being read by one person. We should be done with it in the next three days. (Well, I stayed up very late last night to finish reading the book, but we won't tell the kids. HA HA!)

The third story of the week was the original version of A Chorus Line. Anne is watching at least eight musicals this year as part of her music appreciation course. Once again, this has some mature themes; but since Anne is so interested in a career in dance, the movie was an irresistible choice. We watched it together and she loved most of it.

The last story of the week was the movie, Fame. The kids sang and danced to "I Sing the Body Electric" at the intensive this week. They came home wanting to see the entire movie. We decided on the 2009 version. Fame will count for Anne's music appreciation course. Anne enjoyed seeing both movies in one week. They were a good comparison of the joys and struggles of following a career in dance. I appreciate that, so far, Anne has "kept her head" about a career in dance. She realizes that it is hard work and that very few end up on Broadway, in a large traveling dance company, dancing on a famous cruise ship or being a Rockette. Thankfully, she has always been family-oriented and doesn't really want dance to be the only thing in her life. She is content, so far, with more obtainable goals --such as being a dance teacher, dancing in a small company, and maybe owning her own dance studio some day.

We also started science this week. We reviewed density, atoms and molecules. We did six different density experiments from the book, 150 Captivating Experiments, and covered the first chapter in Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry.

We had a good first week back to school. We will have to double up on math next week, since we didn't do any this week.

Blessings, Dawn