Friday, November 30, 2007

Photo Friday

Here is Ben a few months ago breaking into a (broken) hard drive that a friend gave to us. He was very persistent and was rewarded with a set of heavy duty magnets that he enjoyed playing with for a week or so. Levi was his not-so-helpful assistant!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Week 12 and 13 Report

We have finished Story of the World pt. 2!!! Woo-hooo!

We read a version of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, we listened to Jim Weiss retell it, and we'll listen to his Taming of the Shrew on the way to grandma's tonight. I think there is a video that I can get ILL, but that will have to wait. I plan on always trying to expose the kids' to Shakespeare, so our "unit" won't really ever end.

Ben finished Singapore 2B reviews, so we're finished with that level. He is doing well, still having a little trouble with fractions (figuring out if 1/12 is less than/ more thn 1/7 for example) and we did a few days of review of 3-digit addition/subtraction with regrouping. So, I printed of an online generated drill page, and first time through, he got 91% accuracy.

He presented the poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth

We have thoroughly enjoyed SOTW, but I must say, I'm ready to move on. I'm preparing now for our first jaunt into US history in January using Sonlight's (SL) Core 3. Because there is some overlap between some of the European explorers and settlers at the end of SOTW, I've decided to not do those now, and we'll learn all about it in SL.

About the only thing I'm a little apprehensive about is my ability to remember to continue to notebook and narrate our way through SL. Although it will be easy to do, SL makes no mention of these activities in their guide, so I'll have to add these into the schedule I've uploaded to Homeschool Tracker (HST). I am thinking of purchasing the History Scribe notebooking pages; Ben is becoming more willing to illustrate (woo-hoo!) what we've read, and I want to continue this informal artistic experience for him.

So, what will we do for the next three weeks until our Christmas break?

  • double up on science and science experiments, since we got a little behind and since Ben loves it!
  • Complete a Symbols of Christmas lapbook. It looks great!
  • Finish our last SL gr. 3-5 reader: Mustang, Spirit of the West
  • Make Christmas cookiesR
  • Re-read The Light at Tern Rock and The Family Under The Bridge and other seasonal books from the library.
  • Learn some Christmas carols so that we can go caroling to our neighbors some night.
  • Finish up our All About Spelling Level 2 and retest with the materials from The Writing Road to Reading
  • Re-baseline Ben's mastery of arithmetic on Flashmaster and work through some Challenging Word Problems and math games
  • Work through some geography workbooks that I have and listen to geography songs

Hopefully, none of this is too ambitious. I've purposely not signed us up for a short extension of our swim lessons in December, and aside from Community Bible Study, we should be able to enjoy a wonderful Christmas season. We'll be reading Jotham's Journey this year, which marks the beginning of our second 3-year period read through of these great Advent books.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

How We Got to Here, Pt. 3

...Or, Why We Homeschool
I mentioned Debra Bell's book, which jump started my heart, mind, and soul to consider and pursue a homeschool lifestyle for our family. She clearly articulated many incredibly wonderful reasons for homeschooling her four children, and I like it so much, I created a similar Mission/ Goal statement for our homeschool:
  1. To bring glory to God
  2. To provde an excellent education for our children
  3. To foster a close, trusting, caring relationship with our children
  4. To build godly character in all we do

I'm in my 3rd legal year of homeschooling (in my state, kindergarten is not a requirement), but 5th year overall, I can comfortably say that homeschooling is not just an educational process for the children, but it is a spiritual journey for the educators as well. I am constantly confronted with faults in my own actions and character that I know God wants me to work on. The fruits of the spirit are always being worked on in my life. I am constantly having to trust God with my family, my actions, my choices. I can say without a doubt that I could not homeschool my children without Christ as my strength. (Well, I could do it without Him, but it sure would be ugly.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Photo Friday

[I've transferred this from my old blog because it is absolutely adorable and I don't ever want to forget Levi at this stage. I've decided I can't do Wordless Wednesday, because I want to say something about the picture!]

This is Levi dancing. Whenever he wants to dance, he pulls his arms out the neck of his shirt and becomes Tube Top Toddler. Only then will he allow himself to sway to the music.

How We Got to Here, Pt. 2

....Or, Our Homeschool Philosophy
So, when Ben was not even 2 1/2 and I started collecting catalogs from homeschooling companies. I'd do internet searches on our verrrrrrrrryyyyyyyy sloooooooow dial up connection for homeschool curriculum and request catalogs. I don't recall fully how I found Sonlight Curriculum, but it was an earth shattering, life altering discovery. I absolutely love to read, love history (my undergraduate major), and love to cuddle with my son and read to him. Sonlight's rich literature base approach was just the educational method that I wanted for my son. At 30 months old, Ben's education was charted out until he left for college -- all in one catalog.

Now, as a first time homeschooler with The Most Brilliant Child in the World entrusted to me, there just seemed like no reason to wait to start his education. By this time, I was pregnant with Budding Brilliant Child #2, and decided we needed to "play" school and get used to a routine. So, I purchased Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Explode the Code, Sonlight Preschool, A Reason for Handwriting, and Singapore Math, and we were all set to go! We'd read, read, feed baby, read, sit at the table and do some workbook stuff, feed baby, eat, nap, feed baby... it was great.

In between all this wonderful bonding time, I also heard about The Well Trained Mind (TWTM) and borrowed it from our library. As much as I'd fallen in love with Sonlight Curriculum, I fell in love with this curriculum guide doubly so. By the time we'd worked our way through Sonlight's preK twice, I began to make plan to change to the neo-classical model outlined in TWTM.

Why? I love the organized nature of the neo-classical model presented by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. It just suits my nature perfectly. I also love that the neo-classical model focuses around history. Again, this suits me. Finally, I really agreed with the three stages that a child passes through in their cognitive development; much of this resonated with my professional training (MA in Communication Disorders: Speech Language Pathology).

The final key to our educational philosophy involves God. Since one of the biggest reasons for homeschooling our boys was discipling them and preparing them for their role in God's Kingdom, I wanted to make sure that all our studies glorified Him and encouraged us to look for His hand in all that he created.

Skip ahead to more online searches and surfing and I found Tapestry of Grace. This, dear reader, was the cornerstone I'd been missing in my desire to provide a top-notch, Christ-centered curriculum that didn't recreate school at home. I'm quoting from Marcia Somerville and Lampstand Press so carefully explain:

“As Christians, we believe in a sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient God who
rules and reigns in all the details of history. We believe that He created
all the earth and its inhabitants for His divine purposes. Therefore, all of
history glorifies Him and teaches us something about Him. Knowing history
helps people to know our origins and sense our destiny. It humbles us,
reminding us that we are creatures, finite, small, and completely in God’s
power. We do not deny that human beings have free will, nor that our
choices are real, and have real consequences. But, in our modern world where
we seem to have so much control, it is important for our children to learn
that their lives are to fit into God’s plan, not that they are only required
to "make room" in their busy lives for Him.”
The rest of our philosopy can be summarized here:
  • Children are naturally curious and this should be encouraged and nurtured, never sacrificing this curiosity to stay “on schedule.”
  • Children in the early elementary years are in the “grammar stages” of learning: they are learning the details of academic subjects – facts, lists, rules, etc.
  • Education should create children who want to learn, know how to learn, and can communicate what they learn to others.
  • Use living books as much as possible.

I try to keep these points front-and-center as I plan our year, month and week. I don't always get it all right -- I am very black-and-white and sometimes get stressed out if we stay on a topic too long or don't finish our week's plan as scheduled -- but I do try and more importantly, I pray and ask for God's grace to wash over my mistakes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How We Got to Here

"Why do you homeschool?" "Don't they miss out on being with other kids and socializing with them?" "How do you decide what to teach them?" "How do you know you are doing a good job?" "Who tells you if you are doing a good job?" "How can you be with them all day long?"

This is just a sampling of the types of questions I've been asked over the past 4 years I've homeschooled Ben. Most people ask with geniune interest and curiosity; occasionally I'll run across someone who thinks I'm just nuts and determined to ruin my children and turn them into social and economic outcasts.

That is not our plan at all.

But, I'm not posting about our homeschooling plan, rather how we got started.

It's all my husband's fault.
Ben was just a baby, really, when the seed was first planted. Off the cuff once, he said, "You should homeschool. You'd be good at it." My immediate reaction was, "Man, you are nuts!" At that time, I had a stereotypical view of homeschooling and knew only 1 person who was homeschooling at the time. She was nice and all, but I just didn't think it was for me.
We moved across country, however, when my Ben was 19 months old. It was during that time that my heart began to soften to the idea. We moved to a more politically liberal part of the country, and I think that the impact of secular and evolutionary influences on my child became more important to consider.
So, I purchased a book on one of our favorite date night activities (hanging out at a bookstore after a fun dinner) -- Debra Bell's Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling. It was the perfect book for me to buy, because she held my hand from the beginning questions of "why homeschool" all the way through to homeschooling for high school. Her reasons for homeschooling --spiritual, academic and relational -- resonated with me, and I remember thinking, "Yes, I want that for us!"
I even gave the book to my father once and had him read the chapter on "why homeschool" because I just couldn't answer his questions on my own yet. After reading it, he nodded his head in understanding of our desire to homeschool our children.
That's how we started...and I'll thank my dear husband forever for his off-handed comment, his encouragement, his confidence in me, and his financial support for us to chart these wonderful waters.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Week 11 Report

A good week was had by all. We've started a couple "new" behavior plans for the Hugs and Smiley because they were being very grumbly and whiny of late. So, far, it seems to be working, which means DH and I are being more consistent enforcing the boundaries we've set.
We had our last swim lesson this week. Ben is a solid mid-Level 3 (somehow, he go put in a class with a bunch of Level 2s instead of what I'd requested, but I think it was a blessing in the end, because he improved the quality of his skills and is an awesome floater now!). Luke passed level 1, and will move into Level 2 the next time we sign up for lessons.
We studied about the Periodic Table this week and made a cool project to learn about organizing information. Ben organized friends by their name, number of letters in their name, favorite color, number of siblings and age. Then, we put two of these on a grid and call it The Periodic Table of Friends. All the "?" are for "undiscovered" friends, just like Dmitri Mendeleev did when he started the periodic table of elements.
We studied about Queen Elizabeth this week in SOTW. I've decided that next week's Shakespeare unit will be the last one for SOTW 2. The last few chapters of the book contain a lot of information about explorers and the beginnings.
Other subjects are plugging along. I'm really, really getting excited for a change in our subjects after the 1st of the year.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Week 10 Report

Our week started on Sunday the 4th with a temper tantrum. Mine. Yes, you read that right, just before we left for church I had a mini-meltdown. My darling DH calmly and patiently said, "I think that you need to have some time away this week. Why don't you take every night this week and do something for yourself?"

It was just what I needed. Some time to do things without the kids. I am really low maintenance, so this is what I did: I went to the library by myself to pick out the last set of books we'd need for our history studies before we switch gears to Sonlight. It was fun to browse through the stacks -- even though I stayed in the Children's Room. I got a Starbucks coffee (cinnamon dulce - totally the best) (we finally live in a town with a Starbucks. Please, God, don't move us!). I went to a Moms In Touch prayer meeting. It was an incredible experience, and I hope to be able to go about every other week. We prayed for peace in our homeschools, our children, and ourselves. I went to Walgreens to buy hair color and came home and colored my hair. Thursday I tried to stay home and finish my Bible study ("Mom!...Mom!.." says Hugs from outside my room about sixty thousand times in one minutes. "Hey, close the door and get out. Pretend I'm not here," I say. It finally works). Then Friday my Creative Memories consultant calls and says I can come work on my scrapbook. So, I visit a different Starbucks (two within a 6 mile radius. Heavenly.) and spend a few hours working on my stuff and watching her and her husband help their daughter's First Lego League with final preparations before their tournament on Saturday. In all, it was a great week for me. I do feel a bit refreshed and am so thankful for my wonderful husband.

So school. That went well, and our Flip Flop has continued for the week. I'm pleased to be able to start our homeschooling day cuddling with Hugs and enjoying some literature, poetry, and Bible reading. Oh, and history and science, too. It reminds me of our early days of homeschooling and Ben would get a "whole pile of books" and we'd just hang out on the couch for the morning reading. This also gets us back to the heart of our homeschooling and one of our reasons for homeschooling, which was to build incredible relationships in our family.

Our history lessons this week were about Galileo and Copernius. We enjoyed a supplemental book from the library Starry Messenger. Hugs did a great pre-/ post- Copernian universe drawing for his notebook.

We also read through a biography of Marie Curie for science. I really need to kick myself in the behind and do an optional experiment on weeks when there are no scheduled experiments. So, we're going to make some kind of bouncy blubbery thing with borax this week. THIS, my friend, is why we're studying chemistry this year -- bouncy, blouncy, blubbery, rubbery things.

Ben hit a lesson on flats in piano this week, and it seems to have really thrown him for a loop. I found an online Quia game to help him name his notes, and plan to make some kind of game for him to practice knowing the name of the notes better. He does an excellent job of memorizing the tune and finger placement of a song, but is struggling with note reading (where I also struggled as well).

Red Sails to Capri is our read aloud this week, and it is a wonderful adventure story. I highly recommend it. It is especially a good boy book, as the main character is a 14 year old boy.

Our review of Latin was a bit lackluster this week, but I've decided that we're not going to learn a new prayer in Latin, rather we're just going to review our previous learned prayers, the Sanctus, the Doxology, and the table blessing.

I've also been mooching this week. I acquired a bunch more books from Bookmooch and PaperbackSwap this week, and I now only have to purchase about 6 books for SL Core 3. Whoopee! What a great service this is -- all you do is pay shipping for the books, and you earn credits everytime you give away one of your books. I'm pleased to have cleared off a small space on my shelves to add in some books I think we're going to love.