Saturday, December 30, 2017

Goodbye 2017!

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We had a lovely Christmas, filled with joy, peace and abundance. Anne thought the tree with all of the gifts was embarrassing because we had so much for just six people plus a few extra gifts for visitors throughout the week. I am glad that she feels grateful and knows that the main focus of Christmas isn't receiving tons of gifts. I did point out to her that much of the gifts were simple things such as soaps, candles and clothes to enjoy throughout the year.

We spent the day having two lovely meals, playing board games, and with Dean building his gift (a new wardrobe from Ikea) in under three hours almost completely by himself! I am so pleased that he was able to do such an important life skill so easily. Christmas Day was wrapped up with the new season Christmas special of Call the Midwife. Anne and I couldn't be happier. We love that show so much!

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The rest of the week had tons of free time for all -- it was spent reading, dreaming, playing lots of board games, and staying in pajamas most, if not all, of the day. Our favorite new games are Cashflow for Kids and Asheville-oply.

I was amazed this week how much "school" happened without direction. Anne decided what she was going to do for her solo in the Junior Company Showcase in March. She plans to dance to a poem with no music. This involved planning, research, listening to tons of poems and then starting the choreography for the piece. There were also many math games played this week and also Dean's building project. Dean spent hours writing a new guitar piece and recording it. It was a great week! I am trying to decide if we are starting back to school half-time, full-time or not at all next week. I still feel like I need a break and the kids are doing okay with so much free time. I read three books this week and would like to get some projects done in the house next week. I think we will most likely start back to school with two or three subjects a day that I will write down in the lesson plan books, but not count as full school days. I just need a few more days off.

We are having a small party on Monday with a few friends. We plan on having a baked potato bar for dinner and a few board games. It should be fun. I plan to get us socializing with a larger variety of people in the new year. Anne's dance is so demanding of her/our time, and she hasn't found a very good friend base at our main studio. The girls just aren't interested in having her as a friend outside of the studio. I think they are just too busy and don't have the time or interest to have friends outside of school. Also, Dean has made some new friends this year, and we would like to get to know their families better. Hopefully, it will go well. I will post about how we pulled it off next week.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Last Week of lessons for 2017

This last week of 2017 was pretty quiet. The kids finished up their lessons, and I planned out the next two months of lessons. Dean has just two hours of work at his art gallery internship today and then we have completed every planned lesson. We are ready for a well deserved break.

The only pictures on my camera this week are food. Anne has really embraced baking and cooking. She made three dozens of muffins from scratch, cranberry sauce, and helped to make dog bones and gingerbread cookies. Dean decorated the cookies in the photo below.

Other than wrapping up school, dance and lots of baking, there isn't too much to report. We did take a quick day trip to Ikea to purchase Dean's main Christmas present. He picked out an armoire that he has wanted for more than a year. He plans to assemble it all by himself over Christmas break. We will see how that goes! He does have amazing visual-spatial abilities and has always been able to put together the most complicated Lego sets, so maybe it will be a piece of cake for him.
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Now it is Friday. I plan to defrost the freezer, which has been emptied, so I can prepare it for being restocked in the coming year. I empty the freezer for meals each year in December. It saves us tons of money on groceries, so I can use that money toward Christmas and it ensures that we always have fresh food in the freezer. I will have to pack some things better next year. Bread that had been tossed into the freezer in its original packaging turned out to be hard or damp when it was thawed. Also, some of the meat needed to be packed better or stacked in a way that the plastic wrap didn't rip and cause freezer burn. It was all edible, just not as delicious as it could have been.

May all of you have a blessed and peaceful Christmas and holiday weekend.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Our Plans for January and February

I love planning our educational journey. It doesn't always pan out the way I plan it, but it feels good to have a structure to fall back on. This week, I am preparing for our lessons in January and February. I am glad to have this done before Christmas break. So here are some of the highlights.

British Literature ~ Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (for both students)
We will be reading the book as a family and drawing from two unit studies, one by Progeny Press and the other from Lighting, Lit and Comp. This is one of my favorite books from one of my favorite authors. We will be taking a full eight weeks to complete this book and study.

Earth Science ~ (Dean)
Earth Science was carried over from last year for Dean, and it is proving difficult to complete or even get to most weeks. I realize that part of the issue is neither student nor teacher really cares for the topic and that Dean already has a working knowledge of the basics from his elementary/middle school years and doesn't have a desire to know more. So we will be moving to an experiment and field trip rich study of earth science, with only a tiny smattering of workbook pages presented. We will be concentrating on weather, environment, alternative energy and botany. We will be conducting nature studies of the greenhouses at Biltmore Estate. Here are our experiment plans for the first week back to school, taken from the book, Try This Extreme.
  • Drippy Stalactites
  • Freezing In Time
  • Orange Oil Lamp
  • That Sinking Feeling
  • Instant Slush

Biology ~ (both students)
Biology got a bit derailed with the changes created by our homeschool friend who was taking the course with us. She has completely dropped out of biology now, so we can move on at our own pace, using our own choices and materials. We are weeks behind and need to do some real catching up.  For the next two months, I am switching over to an anatomy course with Guest Hollow. We will be concentrating on the human body and organs with lots of hands-on experiments. We will also be doing dissections of a sheep's brain and kidney. I then plan to move into dissection of other planned specimens from the beginning of  the year that we did not get to do. I am very comfortable with this subject, so I am not at all concerned about catching up.

History ~ Anne will be starting a long study of Queen Elizabeth II which with be completed with a five to eight page research paper. She will be watching most of the episodes of season I and II of The Crown on Netflix. She will not be watching one of the episodes, however, because its portrayals of physical intimacy in group settings is inappropriate for her age (in my view) and not necessary to her study. She will also be reading a variety of books about Queen Elizabeth II.

Dean will continue with his Early American studies. He will be adding in another book, American History Vol. I Art History Disguised as Fun. I like the way this book will incorporate Dean's love of art into his history lessons.

Health ~ (both students)
The kids will be using TED Talks videos and the Scholastic Choices Magazine to continue their health lessons. I am also looking into CPR classes, but think I may wait until spring to have them take these.
If you are interested in the Scholastic Magazines, ask for the Homeschool Special. 
They give you the Teacher's Edition and it is much more affordable.

Career and Technology Education ~ Dean is earning credit by interning at an art gallery, and Anne is earning credit as a teacher's assistant for a ballet class of younger students.

Math ~ They are both in a pretty good place right now, considering that they both dislike math. Dean will continue with hands-on math through Scholastic Math Magazine, Life of Fred, and real world math for math that we experience in daily life. Anne will continue with her math book, Everything You Need To Ace Math In One Big Fat Notebook, and complete workbook pages to reinforce any concepts that need more practice.

We will be adding the board game, CashFlow for Kids. The teens will be learning about investing and financial literacy through this game as well as a small list of books. I will be sharing more on how we use games to increase math skills in a later post.

I am not making any changes to Physical Education, Performing Arts, Visual Arts II, or English. They will continue unchanged into the next semester.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Week Full of Cookies, Advent Fun, Snow and Learning

Our week started off with a blanket of 11 inches of snow on the ground. It was very beautiful, and there is still snow on the ground in the shaded areas. Snow lasting the whole week is pretty unusual in our area.
Our back yard and old shed
We keep adding to our 1800's tree. Anne added an orange with cloves and little empty packages all wrapped in brown paper under the tree. We also put our fruit basket under the tree. Our family is  having so much fun making homemade ornaments. In fact, we are thinking of adding even more next week.
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Our 1800's tree

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We did a unit study on The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in November, so we were excited to see the movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas. It is about Charles Dickens and it was only showing in one theater in our area. Does anyone else find that the movies that may be considered a bit educational don't show up in most of the theaters? We thought the film was great and enjoyed seeing it on the big screen.
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Our baking day this week was calmer than last week and I got two pictures. We made more than 120 Chocolate Kiss Surprises. They already are almost gone.

Late in this semester, we decided to purchase a subscription to Scholastic Classroom Magazines. We purchased three of them -- Choice (the health magazine), Scope (the language arts magazine) and Scholastic Math. We only have started using the math magazines, but we are enjoying them very much. They are a perfect fit with Dean's need for real world and hands-on math.

The children and I went on a wonderful field trip to see a display of 250 nativities from 60 countries. A local church in our area has hosted this exhibit a few times and I love it. I love the creative touches each culture brings to their nativity and how the nativities bring all of us together in love and peace.
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Native American

We are now at the end of the week. It was a great week, although not without its trials. The mini-van died in a parking lot from a failing alternator. We hope to get it back in a few hours and are bummed about this huge surprise cost so close to Christmas. However, we are blessed that it died in a parking lot, no one was stranded for long, and we have savings to cover the cost of the repair. All blessings that do not go unnoticed.

We have just one more week to go before our week or so break for Christmas. I will do an update next week on where we are in our lessons, since we will be at the almost halfway point (17 weeks) for our school year.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dean's Transcript ~ String Instruments

Dean has a strong interest in music and decided he wanted to study several different string instruments. He completed this credit with 147 hours of study. He learned to play four string instruments and how to read music.

Dean first took a strong interest in the ukulele. He learned how to play the soprano ukulele by watching many lessons on YouTube and by listening to music and then picking it out on his ukulele. He also used the book, Ukulele Chord Finder, by Hall Leonard. He learned many songs including eight Christmas songs and popular tunes on the radio. He learned most of the popular tunes by ear. He also learned how to play an electric ukulele and learned how to use a small amp.

He then moved on to the acoustic guitar and the electric guitar. He took 30 hours of private lessons with Matt at the local Guitar Center store. Under Matt's tutelage, he used the books, Guitar Method Book 2 and Method Berklee Press Vol. 1. He mostly studied the electric guitar with Matt and worked with the acoustic guitar on his own at home. He learned many riffs, tabs, and chords by heart and spent hours upon hours practicing them.

Here is a  list of a few songs that he accomplished ~
  • So Cold
  • We Three Kings
  • Silent Night
  • Teen Spirit
  • Mother Earth
  • Truce
  • The Star Spangled Banner
  • Sugar
  • Jingle Bells
  • Pirates of the Caribbean theme song
Dean also learned a lot about guitar maintenance. He learned how to replace the strings (although he prefers to let the professionals do it at the Guitar Center).  He also learned how to maintain and use his multi use amp and how to clean and restring his ukulele. 

Dean also worked at creating and writing down some of his own music. He created some lovely short tunes. Dean earned an A (92) for completing his homework for Matt most of the time, learning new songs, being cooperative and trying hard even when the lessons became very hard, committing to his practice time at home and taking good care of his instruments.

 Now that he has completed the course, he continues to play on his own time and may decide to study further with a teacher in the future. But for now, he has all he needs to add pleasure to his and others' days by sharing his music.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 8, 2017

Weekly Wrap Up ~ The Week that Ended with a Surprise Snow Storm

As I write, we are all snuggled up with six or more inches of snow outside. We may get a few more inches overnight. We have been without electricity for most of the day, but, thankfully, it is back on and the house is warming up. We did several subjects of seat work school each day, but we are definitely in Christmas mode around here. There is a fair share of life going on that is much more exciting than seat work.  Here are the memorable highlights from our week.

Sunday ~ We attended an outdoor performance of  A Christmas Carol. We had a couple friends performing in it so it was worth the cold temps. It was fun seeing a performance at night under the stars and our friends did a great job.

Dean still participates in boffing every weekend with the Wandering Swordsmen, even though colder temperatures are upon us. He told me this week that he loved boffing, because it made him feel healthy and confident.

Monday ~ We accomplished several charities this week. We started handing out the homeless kits we made last week, turned in a few picture books to our library's Santa Tree, and sent out the box we prepared for the young boy in St. Croix we were assigned through the Adopt a Family program. Did you know there are people all through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico who are still without electricity from the hurricanes? My kids really enjoy these hands-on projects. They especially like it when we carry a box of our homemade kits in the car, ready to hand out to the homeless. Dean, especially, has a heart for the homeless.
Library Santa Tree
Our St. Croix box also includes a mosquito spray and mosquito repellent candle.
Homeless Kits
Tuesday ~ We had a fantastic time seeing the inside of the Biltmore House all decorated for Christmas. I think we are just going to adore having this annual pass. It allows us to go onto the estate and do just one or two things, instead of trying to get our money's worth and wearing ourselves out running all over the estate trying to do too much. We could go every single day of the year if we wanted.

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Wednesday ~ We finished decking the halls of our own home. We were given a free tree and had already bought our own, so we now have TWO trees this year. We feel like royalty. Anne decided to make our second tree into an 1800's tree complete with homemade fan ornaments she created from an old Harry Potter book that had been read until it was in tatters.  She also made cranberry chains.

Thursday ~ We did tons of baking and I must admit I didn't get a single photograph. Maybe I will succeed when we bake more next week. We are having one baking day a week until Christmas. 

Friday ~ We woke up to a surprise snowstorm and a very important doctor appointment that we had waited for nine months to attend. Luckily, we were able to make it there and back. Dean took a picture of our morning commute. The rest of the day was filled with outdoor play and board games by candlelight as we didn't have electricity for most of the day and evening.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Nutcracker Fever and Christmas Field Trips

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Anne as the Princess, a main character role

Out of necessity, this past week we were on break. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King always takes over our lives. It went more smoothly this year. Having only one child performer and tons of experience in managing this particular kind of adventure, does make a difference. Even though we were on break, the kids logged lots of school.

What They Accomplished ~
  • Anne ~ 20 hours of Performing Arts credits
  • Anne ~ 8 hours of Physical Education
  • Anne ~ 2 hours of History (field trip)
  • Anne ~ 2 hours of Home Economics
  • Anne ~ 2 hours of Literature with our Movie Literature Club ~ Little Women
  • Dean ~ 4 hours of Art, including Teen Art Lab
  • Dean ~ 2 hours of Literature with Movie Literature Club ~ Little Women
  • Dean ~ 1 hour of Math, using math games
  • Dean ~ 2 hours of History (field trip)
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Anne dancing with her long-time teacher, Giles.
My children have had an extraordinary experience with this dance studio. This year has been the same as in the past. Anne performed in seven roles this year -- as the ugly princess, cat, guard, elastic doll, pop rock candy, sailor and African sugar mask. After eight years of the Nutcracker, Anne now has performed in over half of the roles and many of the roles several times. She loves every minute of it. The pictures are a bit fuzzy; my camera can do only so much with the darkness and action. I do have some full-length videos of dances and hope to put them on YouTube and then here later in the week, but for now I will post a few fuzzy pictures and a clip from the bows. Even the bows at this dance studio are unique.
Anne second from the right as an elastic doll
Sailor (6th sailor from the left, wearing solid black shoes)
Anne far right front
Pop Rock Candy (Anne in free fall)
Anne front center with hands in the air

We had lots of other fun this week, too. We went on our annual trip to see the gingerbread house competition at the Grove Park Inn.

We took my father and step-mother to the Smith-McDowell House to see it decorated for Christmas. It was stunning.
This is a typical late 1800's mountain Christmas for an upper middle class family.

The cobweb game. Participants follow their assigned string color to get prizes.

We had a little bit of extra money that we didn't need to spend on homeschool curriculum this year, so we bought an annual pass to the Biltmore Estate. You will be seeing lots of photos from there over the next year. This week we took a quick hike and went out to lunch with the visiting grandparents at the Stable Cafe. Next week, we hope to take a tour of the inside of the house to see all of the Christmas decorations.
The back of Biltmore house off in the distance.

What a fun week!

Blessings, Dawn