Monthly Archives: August 2011

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Wordless Wednesday — Irony

Do Field Trips to McDonalds Count?

You know how when you start out homeschooling, you have all of these ideas for field trips?  Yep, I had them too – and, we did do quite a few.  We even went 2 hours away to a nearby (sort of) college to see their bird rescue dept and go to the campus museum.  That was pretty awesome as we were there at the same time as a school group, so we had birds swooping over our heads.  They had a gorgeous European Owl that I’ll have to show you one day.  We’ve also gone to the zoo, a lighthouse, and several forts.  Until last year.  When all field trips stopped.

It wasn’t intentional….just less funds so the money always seems to go somewhere else.  I realized today that our trip to the Hawaiian Themed McDonald’s is the closest we’ve been to a field trip in a long time.  And, yes – they are sharing that massive sweet tea – just another way to save money (hey, as long as we don’t get more than I would have refilled anyway, it’s fair, right?) 

So, how do you guys find budget friendly field trips?  Any ideas other than zoo, museum, etc..? as they are all quite a drive away.   Actually, that college is sounding pretty good….after all, it’s only food and gas – oh, wait 160 mi each way at about how much a gal?  Maybe not, after all……  yeah, I need ideas – looooots of ideas.

Learn From My Mistakes

It seems that I have so many friends that are starting up homeschooling, and I find that I am biting my tongue with all the information that I want to give them.  The #1 thing being – don’t try to make it too much like “school.”  But, then I started thinking about the things that I would do differently if I were to have a magic time traveling Dellorian (I have no idea how to spell that) and could start over again at the beginning.

So, if I had it all to do over again, I…

Would skip private “preschool”
At the time, it made so much sense to me – put them into preschool (ages 2 – 4) for early socialization skills and then we would move on to homeschooling for Kindergarten.  Yeah, the problem with that is that they are also getting all kinds of bad information at their most impressionable age.  I have had to undo reading training, build up self esteem, and a whole world of other things that I can’t really remember right now because of this mistake.  It would have been so much more fun to have spent our days together just experiencing the world.

Would not buy one of those little school desks for each child

Wouldn’t buy even one of them.  Not that the desks themselves are bad, but they were a symptom of what I was trying to do.  For some reason, I had it in my mind that homeschool was supposed to be just like the school that I went to – only at home.  After all, I turned out great, didn’t I?  I was just doing it at home because of all the negative influences out there.  So, while my own schooling was adequate and I learned a lot, I realized that it was not the only way to learn – it IS possible to learn about a new math concept while snuggling on the couch or learn about sea animals while walking on the beach.

Would not buy any workbook that looked like busy work

Oh, my goodness, how I used to love the workbook.  What a simple way to find out what they know, right?  Wrong – it is a way to make them realize all the things that they do not know.  Now, we much prefer the Charlotte Mason practice of narration to discover what they truly remember.  If they don’t remember much, then it’s my job to find a way to present it in a more interesting manner or consider that maybe what they remember is the most important part.

I would have read aloud more

I would love to have those days back and just snuggle on the couch with them reading the day away.  I was way too focused on getting them to be able to read for themselves as early as possible instead of realizing that it would come and it wasn’t a race to see who could get there first.

I would have taken them on nature explorations more 

I wish that we would have gone to the beach or for a walk on a nature trail more – wouldn’t it have been so much more interesting to experience nature instead of just reading about it.

I would have done more projects

I wish I would have known about lapbooking back then.  I really think that would have been something that we would have enjoyed doing – but, now they tell me they are too old for such things.

I guess, what I’m saying is that if I had it to do all over again, I would have just flat ENJOYED my children more – not that I’m not enjoying them now, but I hate looking back at all that wasted time trying to recreate a school environment at home instead of celebrating learning in a HOME environment.

Favorite Math Resource – EVER!

There are two main things that were holding my kids back with math. It was taking too long to do the problems – they could do it but it was so time intensive that they hated it. And, they were making “simple” mistakes. Both of them are great about being able to grasp complex concepts but when it came to simple multiplication they had up a mental block….mostly because they didn’t want to learn their tables.

Speed Mathematics: Secret Skills for Quick Calculation

We decided to take the first six weeks of school this year and devote it to studying the concepts in this book.  We figured that if they could do the work faster, we will be able to cover more ground in the remaining 30 weeks.  This book has been absolutely amazing (so far….we’ve gotten through the first four chapters in the past week).  The author makes a very compelling case for the fact that the simplest way to do a problem will usually yield the fewest mistakes. 

So now, my kids don’t grumble when doing their math….I think it gives them a sense of accomplishment that they can do things in their head faster than many adults can do it on paper.  How quickly can you do 97X98?  They can do it in less than 30 seconds. In their head.  (this is a 12yo and a 10yo!)

The author also has a website with products geared towards teachers with worksheets, etc… but we picked the book up in our local bookstore and I’ve been creating the worksheets by hand.  It looks like there is also have a computer program that generates questions (may not be the same author) – I haven’t used this yet but I did just download the Demo.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments – I’d love to help more people discover this awesome way of doing math!

An Unscripted Day

Today it’s time to finally do my day for the “Not” Back to School Blog Hop.  There are only a few days left, so it’s now or never……  To post your own “Day in the life of” post or to view the others, click on over to Heart of the Matter.

For us, no two days are really the same but I suppose there is a general overreaching schedule that continues through the days.
We are for the most part a “night oriented” family, so bear in mind that our times may be *very* different from a typical family, but it works for us and that’s always what I say is the most important thing.  

DS (age 10) typically wakes up first around 8am or so.  When he wakes up, he is to empty his half of the dishwasher and then do any schoolwork that he can do on his own that is listed in his schedule and then he is free to play or watch educational shows until the rest of the family is up and about.
I tend to wake up around 10:30ish (seriously – ish) and then it’s time to drag the DD (age 12) out of bed – she likes to sleep like her momma…  At this point we all grab something to eat (or drink) for breakfast and settle in to the living room for the subjects that Mom is involved in which includes Bible and History on a daily basis, and then there are other rotating subjects that we also cover during this time such as science, geography, Shakespeare, etc…  This usually takes about 2 hours or so.  (I really try to keep all of this stuff together or else I find that there is never any time to complete *any* housework because of the start/stop nature of the day.)
DD then does her half of the dishwasher and heads to her desk to take care of the work on her scheduled tasks that she can do on her own while I work with DS on anything that was on his schedule that required my help. 
Usually I *try* to get some housework done here and there.  (Any suggestions on that aspect are greatly appreciated – I’ve tried Flylady and it didn’t really work for me – would love to hear what works for others.)
After DD is finished with her tasks on her own, then I usually work with her on Grammar (we use KISS grammar) because I’ve found that after it’s done wrong then it’s very difficult to go back and undo what has been learned wrong. 
We typically grab lunch around 2:00 (again, this is a huge -ish).  The afternoon is spent going to the library, playing, or working on the computer.  Usually around 5, I remember that once again we’re going to have to eat dinner (I truly don’t understand why this is a surprise to me each night, but alas, I can never seem to plan ahead.)  So, I burrow around to see if we have anything that I can whip together but more times than not, I need to either run to the store OR we have what’s called “everyone for himself” dinner where you can have eggs, PB&J, ham (always in the fridget), etc…   And, then because the kitchen table is covered with stuff, we really break all the rules and eat in the living room (although our living room is IN our dining room  hmmmm) – in front of the TV (gasp) usually watching something from the Food Network or Discovery Channel.  (I figure that the idea of a *necessary* dinner together around the table refers to those families that are not together all of the time and who really only talk to each other at the dinner table.)  (This all happens around 8:30 – ISH)
Bedtime is at 10 – promptly – this is NOT an ISH – mostly because DS had a seizure this past summer and we’ve since learned that exhaustion can bring them on for him and so bedtime is no longer a negotiable fact.  I typically work on the schedule for upcoming weeks and get ready for the next day’s work as well as blog and watch TV w/hubby for a few hours (ok, many many hours) before bed (anywhere from 2 to 4am)  I try (TRY) to clean up the kitchen before bed but at least get the dishes in the dishwasher so they are ready for the kids to put away the next morning – when it all starts again.
Again, this is a very very loose idea of what goes on in our house – but because I’m such an unscheduled person, we may veer off course at any time – one thing’s for sure – its never boring in our house.

Wordless Wednesday – End of Summer…Homemade

First Post Ever Link Up

Thanks to a new blog I’m reading,  Eclectic Ramblings, I happened across a First Post ever link up.   I thought it would be fun to participate – although my first post is kind of weird all things considered.

And, then head over to Training Children for Christ to link up your first post ever.

Books Your Kids Will Love

Want to further inspire your kids using subjects they are already interested in?  I happened across a GREAT book at Goodwill called  Great Books About Things Kids Love, and it helped me find some great books for my DS (10yo) that focused in on his interests.  The books that I chose are mostly fiction because he has been able to find plenty of non-fiction on the subjects he enjoys, but the book does list both Fiction and Nonfiction choices.  They have topics such as inventing, aliens, dinosaurs, cooking, math, art, etc…  – you get the idea.  The author also lists the number of pages in the book, the appropriate age range as well as the type of book (Picture book, fiction, nonfiction, biography, etc…)

Want to know some of the books that I recently chose for my son?  Now keep in mind that all of these were chosen for their length (under 100 pages so designed to be a quick read) and the subject matter.

Gadget War The Gadget War (Puffin Chapters)
(Listed under Science Experiments & Inventions)  This story is about an 8 year old little girl who loves inventing and does so with careful note-taking.  Then a new boy arrives and they try to outdo each other.

 Me Tarzan
Me Tarzan(Listed under Zoo Animals and Others)  This story is about a little girl that auditions for a play in her school, but the only part that she wants is the part of Tarzan.  Luckily she has a yell that lands her the part, but the yell seems to be a magnetic pull to animals in the area.  The night of the play is also the night that a circus is in town, so I’m hoping that my son finds this tale entertaining.

Troll with No Heart in His Body and Other Tales of Trolls, from Norway
The Troll With No Heart in His Body(Listed under Folklore & Fantasy) This book was chosen because of the subject of Trolls and also because we are studying the location of the Nordic Countries right now.  There is a warning that the book is not suitable for bedtime reading because trolls are not always the nicest of creatures.

Aliens for Breakfast
Aliens for Breakfast(Listed under Ghosts, Aliens, and UFOs)  This story begins with a little boy named Richard who finds a tiny alien in his breakfast cereal.  The alien is trying to warn Richard that there is an evil alien who has come to take over the earth.  According to Books Kids Love, there is some funny dialogue.

Bad Guys: True Stories of Legendary Gunslingers, Sidewinders, Fourflushers, Drygulchers, Bushwhackers, Freebooters, and Downright Bad Guys and Gals of the Wild West
Bad Guys: True Stories of Legendary Gunslingers, Sidewinders, Fourflushers, Drygulchers, Bushwhackers, Freebooters, and Downright Bad Guys and Gals of the Wild West(Listed under Cowboys, Cowgirls, and the Wild West)  Well, isn’t that a mouthful?  While my son isn’t normally that interested in cowboys, I thought that the title sounded just interesting enough that it might draw him in. This is also one of the few nonfiction books in this batch.

Black Whiteness: Admiral Byrd Alone in the Antarctic
(Listed under Explorers and Adventurers) This is another Nonfiction, but we love Mr. Popper’s Penguins so this Picture Book Biography seemed a good choice to find out more about the Antarctic.  I do find it interesting that the book is listed as ages 6-10, but Amazon lists it as 4th grade and up.  Hmmm….I suppose that we’ll have to make up our own mind when we read it.  Unfortunately, Amazon isn’t allowing me to share the picture.

Sword of the Samurai: Adventure Stories from Japan
Sword of the Samurai: Adventure Stories from Japan (Trophy Chapter Books)(Listed under Knights and Castles)  My kids are both fascinated by Japan and of the Samurai soldier, so this seems like a natural book for us.  There are 11 fictional stories that have martial arts woven into the tales.

Stories to Solve: Folktales from Around the World

Stories To Solve: Folktales From Around The World (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

(Listed under Brain Teasers and Riddles)  This book contains 14 “mini-mysteries” that allows children the opportunity to stretch their brain and see if they can figure out the solution.  The answers are listed on the following page.  This author has at least 2 follow up books that we will look into if we enjoy this one.

What’s Cooking, Jenny Archer
What's Cooking, Jenny Archer?: Book 4(Listed under Cooking)  In this book, Jenny Archer decides to start making her own lunch when she decides that she doesn’t care for what the school cafeteria is serving.  Her friends like what she’s preparing so much that when they ask her to prepare theirs too, a business is begun.

Houdini Box
The Houdini Box(Listed under Games, Hobbies, Toys, and Magic Tricks)  This is a fictional account of a little boy who loves Houdini and has a chance meeting with him.  Houdini bequeaths a box to the boy that he discovers the meaning of after he is grown up.

As you can see, there are LOTS of categories hidden within the pages of this fabulous book.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t have this goldmine when the kids were younger as the resources listed are for ages 3 – 14.   I highly recommend this book as an addition to your bookshelf – it makes finding new books that interest them so much easier – even if just used as a jumping off point.  So, Make sure to check out Great Books About Things Kids Love!
Great Books About Things Kids Love: More Than 750 Recommended Books for Children 3 to 14

Geography for Jesus

Today I asked my kids, “What is the real purpose of studying Geography?”  It took a little bit of drawing it out of them, but the 12yo did answer “in order to spread the Gospel.”  Which is exactly our focus as we study Geography.  They are learning countries in general and in association with history, but for the real meat of Geography this year, we are taking a country and studying it closely for 2 weeks.  The countries have been chosen to go along with our history so that they are in some context.

In History, we are studying Prince Henry the Navigator and how they went out exploring, but that the first stop was Morocco.  So, Morocco is the country that we’ve chosen for the next two weeks.  As Charlotte Mason suggested, we are using a Travel Guide to learn more about the country.  And, she is absolutely right that Travel Guides make the country so much more interesting!  Some of them use such wonderful vivid language that you really do feel like you are experiencing the place.

I don’t know about you, but we don’t really get excited reading about the major exports of a country or what the weather is like there (well, maybe a little bit on the weather one…) which seems to be the information that most Children’s Books feel that it is most important to impart.  I do however disagree with Ms Mason in that I think that books with pictures are a wonderful way to really get to know the beauty of a nation.  With the marvelous photography we have available to us, why wouldn’t you use it to make a place more real while being half a world away?

The trick is that you have to find an interesting travel guide.  I went to a local bookstore, took a seat in the aisle, and went through all kinds of different brands of guides to find the most interesting to read.  Some of the most famous names are just too “go here and see that – go there and see this” to be interesting to the person not actually touring the area.  But, I did find several Guides that did fit the criteria.  My favorite was the Insight Guides and a close second was the Lonely Planet Guides.   For Morocco, I decided to use the Insight Guide, but for future units, it may be another so that I can always try to choose the one that is more interesting for each individual country.

I happened across a wonderful website that describes the barriers of spreading the Gospel in each nation around the world.  They also show what religions are present in the nation and have links to the Joshua Project which shows the different people groups in each nation.  Operation World is great because we are able to find out specific prayer requests that we can focus on during the geography unit.  Otherwise, if it’s too general, it’s hard to really have it feel real.

To tie it all up, we are reading A Bachelor and the Bean: A Jewish Moroccan Folk Tale and Into Wild Morocco (did you know that there are many types of animals that ONLY exist in Morocco and no where else?)  I think that we’ll try to do this for each unit – have a book with a folk tale and hopefully one on the animals.  We’re doing this in depth study 2 times a week, so hopefully they won’t tire of the country but will get enough information to have a real glimpse of the country. 

My son is already talking about that we should be missionaries to Morocco, so I have high hopes for this method but I hope he continues to accept the answer that we will go if that is the plan that God has for us.

First Test of the New System

So, tomorrow is a big day for me – “why is that?” you ask.  Well, it’s the first test of whether or not I’m going to allow myself to stick to the idea of “Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc…”  as opposed to being stuck to actual days of the week.  The theory is that this way I don’t feel “behind” if something comes up for a day.

Yesterday – aka Day 1 – the doctor’s office called me to set up an appt for DS (age 10) for today – aka Day 2.  So, no big deal – I take the appt.  DD (age 12) stays with Grandparents for the day and does her schoolwork.  Uh-oh now what do I do……DS still has his schoolwork for Day 2 and what about all of those extra things that we all do together.  Do I try to squish them all into Day 3?

Nope – That is supposed to be the beauty of this plan…..Day 2 can be on Wed – it only means that it is Day 2 of Week 1.  And, DD just has a little extra time to draw tomorrow.  I’m sure she won’t mind spending some extra time on Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels.  I’m sure she won’t mind…. 

How do you deal with schedule de-railers?

We’re a Pajamas Family

So, today was the first day of school for our 2011-2012 school year.  The alarm went off at 9 o’clock sharp and I groggily considered delaying the start of school…..but luckily it was only for a moment.  After all, if I delay one day – then I know that the delay might as well be for the foreseeable future.  So, I stumble to the kids rooms and wake them up and as I leave my daughter’s room I call out – you have 30 minutes to eat and get dressed.  Wait.  Stop.  Did I just say get dressed?  and, then I think….. “Why?”  Isn’t one of the great luxuries of homeschooling supposed to be that you can do your school work in your jammies if you want to?

So, what do I do?  I call back in – scratch the getting dressed part – you can stay in your PJs if you want to.  Because quite frankly, I wanted to stay in my pjs too.  I know that not all families are the same and many swear by getting dressed every morning, but that is just not us.  We like living in our comfort clothes – why be uncomfortable when you are at home?

So, what about you?  Is your family a Pajamas family?

First Day Jitters

So, I’ve been homeschooling for 6 years now, and this year is the first time that I have taken the time to plan out the year in advance.  This has given me a lot of peace because I know where everything fits and I won’t be trying to force too much into one day because I can visually see all of the time that I have available for the year.  However, it has also made me a bit nervous…..what if we get off track?  what if I still scheduled too much and now I’ve got to switch the *entire* year?!?  

Another addition this year is the “mom schedule.”  There are several subjects that we do together, so I’ve come up with a schedule for me as well that lays out the plan of each day for what I need to do.  This also helped me because as you may have noticed on the weekly schedule, there are several items that just happen weekly.  Well, I was stressing about how to get all of that done – and, then it came to me last night.  I have assigned each item to one day a week – that way we’re not jumping around from one subject to another every 5 min in order to do a little bit every day.    

So, why am I nervous you ask – after all it sounds like you have it all planned out perfectly……What if after all of this planning my kids don’t enjoy what I’ve labored so many hours to create for them?!?  I think that their subjects are fascinating this year but what if I missed the mark for them……  

Oh well, no use in worrying over tomorrow – I’m just going to jump in and trust that the Lord has guided my planning and lay it at His feet!