Showing posts with label ed. resources. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ed. resources. Show all posts

Friday, April 7

Big Doings

Well, this has been an interesting week! Tomorrow is Round 2 of the ACT for John. He's been balancing study, work, test prep, Scouts, and sanity saving downtime like a champ. He's not a strong tester, and has had to work diligently to deal with the anxiety that wells up around it, in addition to any standard preparation. However, the other day, he said he feels a lot more confident going into this round. Still not stoked about it, or looking forward to it, but a lot less anxious and better prepared, overall. That, in itself, is a life skill I'm glad he's developing.

For his brother, standardized testing was an easy means to open opportunities. For John, it's a bar he has to clear to get where he wants to go. He's probably getting more from the process, in terms of personal growth and clear vision forward, because of it. I think the biggest benefit I've seen as we work our way through this is how the kids have encouraged each other, each meeting their siblings where they are. So he's got a goal to hit that will allow him to do what he wants to do, making this more than a routine exercise in hoop jumping. It's personal, and it matters to him. The rest of us are just here for brainstorming and general cheering.

I don't know if you have students taking standardized tests, but thought I'd share a few things we've found helpful:

Reading speed - I kept hearing - from the kids, from their friends - that they run out of time. It's not a matter of being strong readers or not. It's just being able to maintain the pace. We've kept reading, but upped our speed, increased our narrations, and added read alouds to the mix - them reading to me, to their siblings, to anyone who will hold still and listen. Measured in words-per-minute-comprehended, the reading aloud has had the best return on investment. Couple that with discussion, and it seems to be a strong booster to reading speed.

Math - Mine just don't test well with math. One of them is even a mathy-math kind of guy, but he'll groan a little and slink off with his coffee cup if you start talking standardized math tests. Something John has said he's experienced is that a firm familiarity with the concepts helps a lot - so even if you're not a math guy, and you don't love math or plan to pursue it deeply, being familiar with the vocabulary and the themes goes a long way toward quieting the roar in your head when you pop that section open. Go over the concepts you haven't gotten to in your math studies yet, and they're less overwhelming when you hit them on the exam.

ACT online learning - this is $35, you pay when you register for the test, then you can access it any time. They have two learning paths - one goes straight through the material from beginning to end, the other starts with a practice test and then adjusts your study using a combination of your own strengths/weaknesses and the highest return on time invested to help you get the most bang for your buck. You can switch between the two at any time.

There is no predetermined schedule for this study tool. To set up our schedule for this, we took the total number of questions, divided by 7 less than the total days left until test day (this gave us a buffer for getting sick, having to dig new gas lines, random attacks of Can't Even...) and that's your minimum number of questions to hit each day. It's not a good substitute for sitting down with a book, paper, and actual pencils for a practice test, but it's an excellent way to at least touch on every topic you'll be seeing on test day. When test prep is peripheral, rather than the bulk of your academic time, this is a fantastic tool.

What about you? If you've done test prep, what tips would you recommend?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, February 26

Stress. It's so stressy.

The other day, James brought up an idea in an article that he'd read. I'm going to try to find it, but the gist was that one of the biggest stressors in life is Unmade Decisions. While it seems silly that opportunity is stressful, it also makes sense. There's that level of uncertainty - if you don't know what you want to do, what are you going to do? If you can't make a decision, opportunities dissolve (and they may not be ones you wanted to take in the end, but you'll never know, now), communications dwindle (we all know the discomfort of realizing you didn't communicate something, and now it's awkward, so you keep putting it off, and it keeps getting more awkward... but the need is still very much present), the pressure of deadlines and expectations and disappointments pile up. It's all very paralyzing.

You may have plenty of options in front of you: gap year, wander the earth like Cain, work, intern, university, community college for a bit with an eye to transfer, community college with an eye toward certifications, apprenticeship. But where you're going to be in a year, in two years, is going to look very different if you take the wandering route than if you take the work route. So there's that high-level, intrinsic uncertainty that erodes as any attempts to make plans or decisions when there are Unmade Decisions - especially the ones that hinge on an Unmade Decision.

Some of this seems unavoidable, and I default to rest, hydration, nutrition, and spiritual care. Then just suck it up beyond that. But I did find this article at Psychology Today, which doesn't address the stress of Unmade Decisions directly, but is very thoughtfully presented input on making sound decisions.

This discussion came up in the context of James' stress, specifically. He is so stressed. Honestly, he's doing fine. He's on track-ish. (There's always room for improvement when your parents aren't doing the paperwork and planning. It's harder in the short term, but so much better in the long run. Hence, the -ish. It's said with love, and a nod at reality.) He's got ideas and plans, and they're good, but the stress in his head is impacting his ability to think, or to plan. It hit me the other night that he really needs to make the decision as to which college he will commit to attending. I suspect that having that uncertainty no longer floating in his head will smooth out the chaos in there a bit and let him get to working on the immediate tasks with a little more confidence. (And, honestly, I pitched that half expecting it to be blown off as Crazed Mumbo Jumbo Mom Spouts, but it wasn't. He gets that that is contributing to a certain inability to make other plans, to engage and get excited about something concrete and attainable. So, whew. I'm glad he pulled something helpful from what I put out there. I'm even more appreciative that he shared the information he had on Unmade Decisions - it was like connecting two dangling thoughts into one coherent concept, for both of us.)

I need to keep reminding myself that it's best to have the mind of a beginner, even as the parent. We don't really have to have all the answers - we just have to be willing to wend our way toward finding them.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, February 25

First Visit Without Me, Still Don't Know What I'm Doing

It's John's turn to visit colleges he's picked this Spring. He's at his first visit without his brother, which I think is going to be really great for him. They get along well, but they are so different, and they operate on different frequencies. So it'll be good for John to explore at his pace and see what resonates with him.

He's also there without me, and while it's fantastic for him to have time with Z, and all that ... This is weird. So I'm up, doing paperwork, paying bills, quieting the Calendar Vikings.

And texting with a friend who is about the same distance down this path as I am. (She's got one fledging, and one running the system check to get on deck next year.) She, too, sounds like she's being held hostage in a game show where you have to figure out the rules as you play and they throw wet things at your head when you get a question wrong. I had no idea this was what we sounded like, but there's been a lot of, "You, too!" and "I'm so glad it's not just me!" flying back and forth this morning. So, yeah. There's that.

So, to those of you fledging your first this year, we raise a toast. Yes, it's before 5. Yes, it's a stout one. We salute you. You are not alone.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, February 23

Homeschooler's Peace

I know, there's spiritual peace. It's a thing. I do understand that, and totally embrace it. But that's not at all what I'm talking about. On a practical level, when I'm talking about peace, I'm talking about whatever dampens the noise in my head:

- The frequency that broadcasts financial recaps from eleven o'clock at night to three in the morning. There's a lot of speculation and wild guessing.

- The Question Channel, which seems to be staffed by precocious toddlers - Constantly asking "why", but about deep things, like educational plans, curricula choices, the meaning of life.

- Calendar planning. That's just a lot of Vikings grunting and bashing, really. I don't think anything will shut them up.

This morning, I found online Russian classes for John. And ordered a ton of Russian children's books. Why? Because between keeping up with Latin, Spanish, and ASL, I just. do. not. have the bandwidth to learn Russian and be of any use to him. He'll be fine. I'll learn it someday. But we needed something to add support for him, now.

In case you're interested:

CLRC offers them.
So does Wilson Hill.
And Amazon has a fantastic selection of books.
And Audible has some good material, as well. Great way to blow some of those six credits that just sit there, month after month.

For Spanish (and French) for Jacob, I bought a one-year family subscription to The ULAT. (I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I'm cramped for time and can't go look it up just now. I'll edit later to add a link if I have.) Anyway, we tried it for a month and I was impressed. Even my Verbal Language Resistance Protesters got a lot out of it - and they were trying diligently NOT to.

The cost is $35 for a year. $180 if you want graded quizzes and exams. Not a bad deal. So if you're in the market for French, Spanish, or English lessons (not English grammar, but someone who needs to learn English as a second language), this is a great resource. You can couple it with DuoLingo and really knock it out of the ballpark.

That quieted some of the static in my head.

Then I paid the bills. So now there's weeping, but at least the financial report tonight won't be quite so full of speculation. That's something, right?

Now, to hide from the Vikings!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, January 9

On That First College Acceptance Letter

How your children end up, as adults, is pretty much up to them. It really is. You spend years reminding yourself as they grow that they are nearly adults, now, and they have to make their own decisions. That they have to live with the consequences as well as reap the rewards. That you can't force them to make the same calls you would, and that sometimes they make better calls than you would. But there's a big difference in the philosophical aspect of parenting, and the natural inclinations that drive much of our internal dialogue.

And mostly, we're OK with it. Except when we're not.

While I love my kid, and am proud of the young man he's become, I will not lie to you: getting that first acceptance letter from a college application is a huge relief. At least, it was to me -- not because I felt he was a failure if nobody said yes, but because I was terrified I might have failed him, and that would be proof. Some of combating that is in knowing what path they want to take, and some of it comes from applying to places that are a good fit for them. But still, there's that niggling worry... what if all our decisions have effectively barred you from pursuing the very goals we've fostered?

You spend an inordinate amount of the time right before they leave home vacillating between, "It's really up to them" and "Please, Lord, let me not have broken them". It's a hard, weird process -- one that will strip you of your vanity, expose your deepest fears and failings, bring to light your heart's desires (both for your child and, less altruistically, for yourself), and quite possibly tax your liver. I highly recommend it, though, because I am convinced that if you can hang in there long enough, things are pretty fantastic on the other side. (As my brother-in-law says, an adventure is what you're having once you realize you're not gonna die.)

So. I'm not gonna die.

That makes this an adventure.

If parenting is the process of guiding a born person into self-sufficiency and full development, it is also very much a process of dividing yourself up and apportioning bits of you into this same autonomous creature. Then watching in horror as this individual goes off and acts like, well, an individual -- as if your heart weren't wholly vested in this person's safety and well-being and success.

Your heart, but also a bit of your pride. Particularly if you've homeschooled your now-autonomous individuals. (Although whatever educational path a family has taken, a parent's got a lot vested after nearly two decades. That's just the nature of the process.) And if you've got a child who has decided to go the post-secondary education route, that whole process is very invasive and scary. People with magnifying glasses and deadlines hit you with questions, and make demands for referrals and money. And no matter how fervently you swore you would not default to box-checking and hoop-jumping... well, there you are. It's tempting. Because this is your BABY. And we really don't want to be the reason someone said no.

But you know what? They really are their own persons. You have given them the best of yourself, your time, your talents, and above all, your love. The people or places that recognize whatever kindred energy exists between them will honor that and welcome them in. The people or places that don't are likely not going to be a good fit for them, anyway.

But I recognize that that's a much easier thing to say after one "yes".

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, January 6

Snow Day!

First snow day of the year!

After the Snowpocalypse a few years ago that brought most of the South to its knees, everyone is a bit twitchy over the potential for snow. The schools are closed. Skate Day is canceled. Even the arsenal is closed today.*

This picture was taken at 10:45 in the morning. (Forecast accumulation says it'll be a bit worse than this. We just thought this was adorable.)

There is, however, no Snow Day for homeschoolers. (Or, rather, no snow day until you can actually play in it.) So the kids are working on writing.

After my dry run with the Prototype Child through the college admissions process, I've decided that we're adding a weekly journaling time to our schedule. This isn't going to be tied to what we're reading or what we're doing, which they can write about any time, but will use various essay prompts I dig up around the web. Theoretically, by the time they're ready to apply, they'll have ample experience with thinking about the sorts of things the essays ask them to think about. (To be truthful, I had thought that was what their education had done, but it turns out as soon as they're asked to jot down a few thoughts about very specific applications of their brains, they draw blanks. I admit I did not see that coming. Good to know now.)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

*(Please note that it was not because we're all idiots, but because we have no snow removal in place, and also because the South just doesn't get cold and stay cold - it gets cold, warms up just enough to turn everything to slush, then re-freezes and snows over the ice - that's tricky, no matter who you are.)

Friday, September 25


It's my favorite time of the year - time to sit on the balcony in the mornings and shiver with a cup of coffee. In a little while, I'll be able to grab a hoodie and curl up. This is the reward for surviving the Summer, and it is awesome.

In the meantime, this is also the time of year when ALL THE THINGS need doing: ACT registration, PSAT registration, clearing leaves off the roof and driveway, last mow of the season, winterizing the home, planning for the holidays. Additionally, there's driver's license road exam (James), permit (for John), switch out the clothing (gah, the basement is the bane of my existence these days), and staying on task for school.

About the only thing we're not doing this fall that we normally do is getting firewood onto the porch. We took the wood stove out in April when we built the wall, and there just isn't anywhere for it to go, now. Fortunately, we have a dual fuel HVAC system - heat pump and propane - so we're all set for winter. It'll be different not having wood heat this winter, but I'm more than a little excited about not having the master bath be ass-bitingly cold in the mornings. There's an up side to everything.

Meanwhile, school is going along swimmingly. (It's actually going well, even without grading on a chemo curve!) The older boys are enjoying Lost Tools of Writing. John even mentioned the other day that he took out his ANI template in order to write a history essay. "It really helped!" (Oh, hallelujah!) **** James is hoping to sign up for AoPS' Intermediate Counting and Probability class in November. I'm just hoping they don't fill up before I can get the registration done. **** Jacob has stopped glaring at the First Form Latin videos (years of butchered pronunciation on my part is making the transition to their pronunciation difficult, regardless of how much more clear and accurate theirs is - I've apologized, but change is hard).****  Em and Jase are loving - absolutely loving - Memoria Press' Insects study! That was a sleeper win that I wasn't expecting, and I am so thankful for it. It's been helpful that we started early enough in the year that insects have been plentiful and given us ample opportunity for sketching and observation.

We'll be taking a break in a bit to enjoy the Autumnal weather, make some warm cider and read some books just for fun. I'm looking forward to that the way a six-year-old looks forward to Christmas morning. Good stuff.

Be encouraged,

Friday, August 28

Crazy Good Week

I love those. The kind of week that brings beautiful weather (that it's been in August is a double-bonus), good food (menu plan for the win!), and fun interactions with the kids (on top of, or in lieu of, the regular routine of "do you have this" and "did you do that" and "seriously, please just get up"...)

We're at about 85% on schooling. My goal for August was 50%, so W00t! I'm not sure what it will look like once we add Chemistry to the schedule and Latin's in full-swing, but we're about to find out. Every year, it's like we're new here. Some things don't change, and to some extent you do hit your stride and feel like you can say you're a veteran homeschooler. Some things, though, seem to morph and change each year and you're starting over. I may have seen two others through 7th grade, but this is JakeRabbit's first year as a 7th grader... SURPRISE!

Em and Jase have been prepared to hate everything. So far, they've loved all of it. We chose Memoria Press' Insects study for science -- they do nature study regularly, but I thought a few years of focused instruction on specifics within the animal and plant kingdoms would be beneficial. This way, we aren't always having to look up what we find - sometimes it's a nice treat to be out and about and be able to say, "Oh, look! I've found a such-and-such!" or "Ohhh, the whatsits are out!" Huge win. There's a certain boost a child gets from checking out a library book and discovering he already knows the terminology in it. Or from seeing an unidentified animal in a book and realizing he knows what it is (thank you, Google, for providing verification on that one - totally made his day!)

And last night was Shakespeare in the Park, up in Nashville. (It's actually running until mid-September -- if you can make it, you are in for a treat! Check it out at Nashville Shakes.) They're doing Henry V. We had a wonderful group of young men and fun parents. The whole evening was, as is normal for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, top notch and magical.

Soon, we'll be back to ballroom dance, Jr. Master Gardener, classes and outings and fun. Plus, Fall is coming!!

Be encouraged!

Tuesday, September 23

Tiny Co-Op

I've avoided using a co-op for ten years. Mostly, we just never found one that would fit what we'd need from an outside source. But this year, we have six students who needed Biology. And labs sound like a lot more fun with friends. So three families got together and put together a Tiny Co-op. It's just Biology. And snacks.

The Littles do their thing during the class period (usually begging food off the host of the week). JakeRabbit works on whatever he needs to wrap up before the next library trip, and wanders in to observe. (He's made it fairly clear that I need to plan on doing something similar when he hits high school.) The high school students do their research independently and the labs in pairs.

They have absolutely blown me away with what they're doing. Not just the way they cover the material, but their willingness to discuss topics in depth. And one of our students does some absolutely fantastic lab drawings! I'll see if she will let me take a picture next week so I can share it. All around, it's been a fun reminder that teens are incredibly capable, funny, insightful, and diligent. (Or they can be, when they have the opportunity.)

We're using High School Biology in Your Home, from Bridget Ardoin. The students are given the topic and questions to answer over the course of the week. They can use whatever material they want to do their resource (so the first week we covered the elements of a trustworthy, reputable source). They learn to cite their sources, follow rabbit trails, and fill in the depth of their knowledge as much as they are motivated to. The labs are fantastic. There are enough typos in the printed material that it's a bit distracting, and I'd love to get my hands on fixing them. But the process is sound, and we'll definitely be using her Chemistry program next year.

I hope everyone else is willing to co-op again!

And just for fun, the boys' Troop had a cook-off at the meeting last night. Each patrol had to prepare a trail meal over a camp stove, and then present its meal to the judges. That was hilarious and fantastic. After the judging, the boys ate the evidence. (I didn't get to the camera in time to snap a shot of the full production.) Once again, kids will blow you away if you give them half a chance.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, September 6

This is the week that will not end

Some weeks seem to go on forever in an idyllic onslaught of joy and adventure.

This is not one of those weeks. This week we're all on full throttle, but only half the cylinders are firing, so there are are lot of backfires and rough starts. It's crazy. We've been up and out the door early every morning this week, and that's starting to wear on our collective nerves. We'll have to be out the door early both mornings this weekend, too, and I suspect the boys are about to lobby for a Late Start Monday policy after weeks that carry this level of intensity. If they don't, I just might.

But it's all good stuff. Today was particularly fun: our local homeschool social group started back. It felt so good to get in there and *know* people, to see kids we haven't seen all Summer and spend time with friends we've seen just recently, to hear the plans for the coming months and get excited all over again about what we've got to look forward to. That part was awesome. Today, I felt like I was home, and remembered being new and feeling like an alien interloper every time I walked in to the meeting. It's good to be over that. It's good to be home.

And we have a lot of new families with teens, so that's also exciting. Except for the part where people seem to think I'm in charge of teen activities... which I'm not. Or, more accurately, I strive very hard not to be. I will continue to insist that I'm just inviting people to come do things we were going to do, anyway. The idea of giving the impression that I'm organized, or that any of our outings resemble anything other than relatively organic eruptions of activity in beautiful surroundings, is likely to leave people disappointed. But if they show up to hang out with friends, make new friends, and maybe see or do something interesting in the meantime, then yeah, I'm your gal. I hope the new families are very laid back and understanding. That would also be pretty fantastic!

Homer took off Tuesday to do... whatever it is cats do when they take off. I don't know. This is the first time he's done it, and he hasn't really told me much about his trip. Kerouac impressions? Do they find wild catnip and discarded absinthe bottles and channel their inner Hunter S. Thompson? Whatever it was (and based on his condition when he showed up this afternoon, I'm laying odds he could tell you stories about those bats), he is home. He's eaten an entire can of tuna and hasn't stopped purring and kneading the floor since he got in. He hobbles around like a 90yo after hip replacement surgery, and he with every step he gripes like a hungover co-ed: "Ow. Ugh. Ow. Damn. Ow. Oh, cold floor. Gah, I should have just peed in the closet."

Bless him for not peeing in my closet. And we're all really glad he's back. But dang if that wasn't the longest week of trying to be optimistic I think I've had in a while. I tried to keep it positive for the kids, but by this morning, they were looking at each other skeptically, as if to say, "Do you think we should tell her he's probably dead?" So, yay for having Homer Kitty home.

Z was on the road for work the first half of the week, but he got home a couple of days early. The littles made him a welcome home banner and hung it on the door. The boys refrained from watching shows they know Z would like to watch with them. I love that they notice his absence. I love that his presence makes such an impact on our home, and our lives. He is pretty much everything a family could want in a Dad. And he puts up with us and our weirdness - our wonky schedule, random animals, weird diet, non-stop talking. Yep, we're pretty fortunate.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 24

Re-Entry is Hard

It's Thursday, and we've been just wallowing in indecision. Do we hang out? Clean? Plan? Go adventuring? Oh, look, Netflix! I should consider asking for a coupon for a maid service to clean the house the day before I return from Circe next year.

It's not the house's fault for being untidy, and having a clean home wouldn't buy me more hours in a day to get in all the planning, adventuring, and hanging out with the children that I would like. But it feels like it might, and so, I daydream. (That doesn't particularly help with the paralysis.)

But, the older boys' 9th and 10th grade years are mostly planned out now. We're using Norms & Nobility as the basic guideline. I've spent the last few days parsing the titles out into 12-week terms, matching the memory work up with the historical and literature content. It's coming together, and I'm looking forward to the Renaissance! The only change I'll make (and it's small, but as with most things, I reserve the right to can the plan and run off with the family at any point in the year), is that we're swapping out The Tempest in favor of As You Like It. We read and watched video of The Tempest last year, and we have the opportunity to see As You Like It performed live next month. Seems like a no-brainer. And let me tell you, three chapters into Norms and I need a no-brainer tossed my way!

No, wait. Also foreign language. We'll keep Latin, but James wants to take Japanese, and John wants to take Russian. I found online high school courses for both through BYU, which was incredibly exciting (for me) because I'm just not going to learn Japanese, and if I'm going to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, it's going to be for Greek studies. So, there you have it: we need to find someone else to keep up with modern languages. I'm good with that. If you have used a BYU online course, I would love some feedback. It looked good, but I've since heard some negative experiences (nothing drastic and terrifying, just experiences that indicate it may not be a good fit for us). So now I've pushed our start date back a bit while I do more legwork.

JakeRabbit, Em and Jase are going to continue on with Ambleside. And wandering in the woods. And catching animals. Because honestly, that seems like a pretty darned fantastic childhood.

Meanwhile, James has got to learn to drive. But he's in no hurry. None of his friends really are, either. What is that? I was willing to give up a kidney to get my license the day I turned 16. Not that it helped a lot (and thankfully nobody took me up on that offer), but it was such a nice bit of freedom. Even today, I love to get behind the wheel and just GO. I felt guilty doing all the driving last week, but it turned out my traveling companion was fine with that, and so my gypsy self just soaked it all in. James? Not a gypsy. And that's okay. But it would be nice not to have to drive to Scouts.

And tomorrow, we get to spend some time with friends! But not here at the house, which means we still have quite a bit of cleaning left to do (we should just host something - that would get it done quickly and well).

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, January 29

Old and Cold

I feel like I'm 97, shuffling about with my cardigan and hot tea, talking about the weather. But not talking about the weather right now is like tossing a slipcover over the elephant and trying to pretend it's a beanbag chair.

Do you know how cold it is right now? It's so cold I don't have to tell the kids to keep the door shut. That's cold! The wind chill is -5 at the moment. I understand if you're in Wisconsin or Maine that's not a big deal. Down here, we have native plants that are staggering about in shock, gasping, "It's the big one, Ethel!"

I-65 was a crazy mess, and we've tried to keep an eye on local friends. But wow. 

Thankfully, this should put the kabosh on the tick population for 2014, and that would be all kinds of wonderful.

School's going well this year. First term was pretty fantastic, once you grade on a curve for all the reasons they can't live on their own yet.

Jase loves his phonics lessons (using Memoria Press' Classical Phonics and the First Start Reading workbooks). I think some of it is peer pressure. Em used that, and she got to make beautiful pictures and read books together with the rest of us. Everyone else was already reading by the time he had any cognizance of the issue. So, to his mind, this is how you learn to read. And it is happy making.

Em's finally over King Harold's death, but I doubt she'll ever be a fan of the Normans. (This makes me laugh. Seriously, I had no idea. When I was her age, I didn't... oh, where to begin. No clue. Anyway, she cracks me up.)

Jacob has thoroughly enjoyed Ambleside Online's Year 5 program. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him learn, and hearing his narrations. This is possibly the first year (out of... *phew*, ten) that narrations have come easily for any of us. It's a huge relief.

James and John are working together on a modified schedule of AO Yr. 7. James has additional Logic, writing, and programming work, and that seems to be working out well for him. It's hard to tell. John is nailing it. He's engaged and, if not enthusiastic, at least paying attention. Mostly. My hope is that the various developmental highs and lows of growing up hit at somewhat staggered intervals - more for me than for them. They've each only got to get through it once.

And that's about it. Time to throw more wood on the fire and see what we can get done today!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, April 9

Scholaric and Such

We had a great weekend, filled with a little productivity and some really good family and friend time. MeWa and MeTae came down to celebrate Jase's belated birthday. She made him a cooking apron and brought him goodies to make (or, put together). There were all kinds of things in his little bag. The one thing he loves, though? The red rubber spatula that is All His Own. Pure joy. He used it to make the spinach yesterday morning and just chattered away about how great his spatula is. It's crazy what they zero in on.

And, now that he's five, he's decided it's time to learn to read. I don't know. I still need to get him in to see the ophthalmologist. And convince him to hold his pencil properly. But Em gave him the Classical Phonics books she's already done with, and he's happy drawing in them, tracing over her work while we do her lessons. He's got to be picking up some of that, and he's happy and engaged. I look around and realize that's a good half the battle, right there. (Also, we're loving Classical Phonics! If you aren't going to use Writing Road to Reading, and you have a child who loves to draw, but you worry that you'll pull your hair out with some other phonics programs, give this one a look. It's a delight to use.)

I got a wild hair last week and signed up for Scholaric, for our lesson planning and tracking. (Wild Hair Academy -- would that be too hard to explain on transcripts?) It's a very plain and simple program, and I wasn't feeling the love at first, but then we used it last week, and we like it! It's straight forward and easy to use. Set up didn't require that I haul out every title we plan to use for the term and enter all the details for that title before I could get started. (Something that drove me to some serious hard drive cleansing in the past.) The printouts seem to be a good fit for both my list maker and my schedule hater. (He doesn't hate schedules so much as he's just easily overwhelmed by myriad things to check off in the course of a day. The simpler, the better, for that one.) It's just customizable enough that I can make it comfortable for each of them. And if they :aherm: lose their pages, I have a digital copy on hand. So, theoretically, this will also be good for my blood pressure. After the trial period, the cost is $1 per month, per child. This maybe just what we were looking for.

In the rest of the news around here, no chicks have died, no children have wandered off, and I'm sleeping like a proverbial baby (not like any I ever had, but, you know). We've been going 90mph since we got home, though, and we're all in desperate need of a full week to just be *home*. I don't know what I was thinking when I scheduled ALL the things for right after we got back. Braces for James, braces for John, extractions for Jacob (the new teeth came in way behind the baby teeth and never triggered the roots to dissolve - he wanted to keep them and pretend he's a shark - we nixed that for what I hope would be obvious reasons, although he's still not convinced), groomer's for Buddy, clothes shopping for all the people who keep growing. I want to stay home and have tea, dangit! Maybe next week...

Z suggested we skip the garden this year. His reasoning make sense, but it feels like defeat. *Everything* grows here, often without any provocation at all. It shouldn't be that challenging for me to grow a garden. :sigh: But it is. And we do have other things to tend to this summer. So, we'll see. John suggested square foot gardening in the upper meadow. We'll have to do something about the moles, first, but that may be the way we go. The boys have already said they plan to plant their earth boxes. That's a ritual that doesn't get messed with. I do love that.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, April 4

Moving Right Along

I stayed up way too late the other night re-reading Charlotte Mason. The irony (of going headlong into sleep deprivation to read up on the importance of balance and healthy habits) wasn't lost on me. So I chuckled at myself and poured another cup of coffee (because when it's already too late to go to bed at a reasonable hour, you might as well really go for broke, right?) It was a good refresher, and a great reminder about the purposes and goals of education. With our extra-curricular schedule reined in, and a decent head of steam going on our routine academics, I thought this would be a good time to formulate some simple steps we could take to get back to the things we enjoyed when the Bigs were smaller -- things like afternoon teas, regular nature study, oral narration (well, nobody enjoyed oral narration, which is a big part of why we don't do it anymore, but that doesn't mean it lacks value. It just means it's really hard to get water to run uphill without a good pump.)

The next morning, I pitched some of my ideas to the kids. The littles are gung-ho. Art study! Afternoon tea! More stories! More time outside! (The narration bit didn't really ping the wee radar, which is probably a good thing.) The bigs... well, they're polite. They smile, nod, offer input and suggestions, and ultimately agree to give pretty much anything a try. I have no idea if they think this is brilliant or if this will be one of those memories that causes them to smile gently when they're grown, and think, "Mom was so quaint with her quirky educational theories..."

What caught my attention the most, though, was the input.

J: Wow, why didn't we do these things when I was little?

Me: Um. Yeah, wow. :pause to see if he's joking: You really don't pay attention, do you?

J: What? We DID?

Me: Regularly.

J: When? Was I four?

Me: Noooo... we still did them when we moved here. You were probably eight before I gave up and started drinking.

J: Oh? Huh. Did I start drinking, too? Maybe that would explain it.

He makes me laugh. That helps. (And for the record, no, my son has not taken up drinking. He's just naturally not aware of his surroundings. But he knows this, and I'm not telling tales out of turn, here. He also fixes all my electronic problems and makes a magnificent omelet. We all have our strengths.)

So, anyway, I blew all our grocery money on books. Had to pick up the usual suspects - biographies and Omnibus titles, some more history and a little literature. Plus a few goodies "just because" -- another Andrew Lang Fairy Book (red, this time), an interesting Shakespeare book (the two we've had haven't been big hits, and the older kids dig Shakespeare, but the littles shuffle off to watch My Little Pony in James' room whenever we start discussing it). I'd like to bring Em and Jake into the book-fold a bit more. Jase still gets to run his barefooted little backwoods heart out. And if we do this right, we'll all get a little more barefooted outdoors time, too.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 7

Back to School Day

The pencils are sharpened, the planners are filled in, the kids are asleep. For now, that'll do. I got up early this morning so I could have a little peace and maybe tackle the day head-on instead of letting it clothesline me.

So what are we doing this next block? It looks like we're reading. A lot. James is reading the Orestia and the Theogony, as well as The Last Days of Socrates. He'll read some histories (Early History of Rome, History of the Peloponnesian War). And then some fun reading. Right now, he's enjoying Piers Anthony's books, and some of the Jasper Fforde titles.

Before he dives into Physics (doing a non-Calc based Physics this time around), he'll read a translation of Euclid's Elements of Geometry and Archimedes' On the Sphere and the Cylinder.

He's going to finish up Memoria Press' Traditional Logic (yes, it's taken us way too long to do that, but we will finish), wrap up pre-Calc with MUS, bebop through some Henle, and get some good, solid writing under his belt with MCT's writing course. He asked for some of the Art of Problem Solving books before we move into Calculus. I can't say that sounds 'fun' to me, but he thinks it sounds a lot more interesting than the next level of Logic. Perspective matters.

John's set to wrap up Zeta, finish First Form, push his way through the end of Essay Voyage, and follow us through the rest of the Ancients. History isn't as hands-on-fun in the Logic stage, but it is more interesting once you have those pegs tacked into the wall. There aren't a lot of fascinating titles for that stage, though, so we're cobbling, mostly. He's reading through the Yesterday's Classics collections, and some of the Memoria Press titles. He's got the outlining down, which is far ahead of where I was at his age. I'd forgotten how much of a skill it is to be able to pull the main idea out of a collection of thoughts. Good skill to have, though. He may not appreciate it much, now, but he will when he's trying to make sense of the world.

He's nearly done with the Thinking Toolbox and we'll play with The Fallacy Detective for the rest of the year. I think that's one of his favorites. He's been reading poetry and short stories this year, in his free time. Haven't had to add much assigned reading to it. He's found a few new-to-us authors, and we hope to hit the Booklegger sometime this week to pick up some more titles. He's also hoping to get the forge fired up a bit this block, and get some projects done with it.

JakeRabbit is flying through anything I give him, which I don't understand because every time I turn around, he's outside doing his Peter the Goatherd impression. Kid's happiest when he's out there with his satchel, walking stick, and hat. The chickens and dogs follow him everywhere. He's always out there, and he'll come in when I call, but the second he can feasibly excuse himself, *poof*, he's gone again, collecting insects, finding birds, identifying plants, tending the critters. But... his work is done, he knows more now than he did in the Fall... :shrug: I guess that works. When I put together his schedule for this block, I tacked in large chunks of blank time. Why fight it? If he starts to slip, we'll reconsider, but the out-of-doors seems an appropriate place for a 9yo boy to spend his time.

EmBaby is reading, writing, doing sums. She's loving Granny Fox tales and stories from The Blue Fairy Book. So much drawing. Drawing, sketching, painting. More drawing. Such a content little learner. Then she goes out to follow Jake around the property. This level feels downright magical.

Jase is feeling the pressure of not being able to read. So he's asking, now, "What does this say?" and "What's that?" It won't be long before they'll all be readers. Wow.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 19

Learning in the New Year

I've been quiet about our plan since the Big Epiphany. Sorry about that. We were thinking, and working, and wondering how to pull this off. I still don't have a taker for the Committee Chair position, but I'm hopeful. Beyond that, though, I think we have eliminated much of the extraneous mess and have a good, solid plan in place.

Starting in January, we have three strong, traditional, academic days a week carved out. These days will carry the brunt of the hard labor - the math, languages (both foreign and domestic), and the science and history. We still have to go through the lesson plans and make sure this will work, but it looks good.

Wednesdays will be our heavy literature day. I'm considering making some Ozzy or Metallica book covers to go with it, and of course I've got a soundtrack in my head. This will be a day of reading, music, reading, and literature discussion. We will probably re-institute afternoon tea for wrapping things up. History is still tied to literature, so there's a thread of continuity, there. And we already have memory cards in a travel case that we've been using for foreign language and poetry, which we'll use on Wednesdays, as well.

Fridays - and this is where we went off the rails a bit, but I think it could work - Fridays will be our Independent Learning Days. This is the day the boys take charge and lead us on adventures they want to explore. We have Cubs in the mornings, and one Friday a month we have Skate Day, which is only slightly less inviolable than, say, Easter. So we needed to find a way to work with Fridays that wouldn't make the entire day a wash. The boys are old enough, and engaged enough, that I decided to give this day to them. This is the day we'll hit museums, do volunteer work, visit artisans and shops. This will be the day for projects - to make movies or write games, to build models or develop interpretive dance routines based on the Abyssinian military model. Whatever. And I've given the boys a heads up that there are plenty of things *I* want to learn about, so if they don't step up and make suggestions, well, then we're going to have an entire semester of architectural history and more literature!

We've discussed how often people complain that learning this or that is dumb, yet when you give them leave to study things that aren't "dumb", they don't know what they want to learn. They cannot fathom that learning is fun, or that you can sometimes wield your own carrot and stick. There's a disconnect between the mere idea of learning and the joy that it brings. Mine don't, and I appreciate that -- although they've been known to express skepticism about the validity of a lesson or two, they acknowledge that there's probably shizzle they aren't privy to, and they trust me -- that good faith goes a long way. Still, I want to make certain we keep those two ideas connected, without sacrificing the rigor of a quality education, or sucking the joy of a delightful journey from them. We lost some of that this past year, and we aim to get it back. (Way to set the bar at just the right height for a good clotheslining, huh? I hope it doesn't take us down. We'll see.)

And there we are. Now to get to the lesson plans and shuffling of the shelves. Zorak has agreed to build a coat rack for the new dining room similar to the one in the foyer, but with a shelf below it where we can stage our things for each day's adventures. (Now that we use the balcony to come and go, the foyer is less relevant and ends up being more of an open-sided storage cubby than a functional staging platform, so this will be great!) Theoretically, we are set for a fantastic year ahead!

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, September 23

A Busy Day, and a Night with the Moon

We had a crazy, lazy, busy day. Yes, really -- all of it at once. The kids were up and at it early this morning, in anticipation of playing video games with friends for the morning. Zorak and I slept in, in anticipation of... not moving much until we had to.

Friends came - we talked, worked, played, and generally had a lovely morning.

Then more friends came - we talked, watched the children play, relaxed, and generally had a lovely afternoon. Our friend, Larry, helped James with his computer project, which absolutely made James' day. (Although right now there's a second computer piggybacked onto my monitor, hogging up the leg room under the computer desk. James and I don't seem to use the same ranking process to determine what makes for a great set up. He says it's temporary. I'm hoping our definitions of "temporary" are not equally askew.)

Before we knew it, it was time to eat and head out for International Observe the Moon Night up at the NASA Educational Building in Huntsville. That's one of the things we love about living here: this place is a full-up cornucopia of fantastic opportunities. Science, art, history, music - you name it, Huntsville has it, and usually it's hosted by a group of civic organizations so odds are the event will be full of knowledgeable people with a passion for the topic at hand and an interest in sharing with those who are interested.

Tonight's event was no exception. We were treated to face time with some fascinating people who shared with us about robotic design, imagery technology, colonization research and programs, geology, astronomy, and more. We wished we'd had time to go earlier the event. An hour and a half just wasn't time enough to see and hear all there was available. But we're all really glad we went and enjoyed the time we had.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, July 2

Liberty Lee's Tail of Independence

Welcome to TLC Book Tours' virtual tour of Liberty Lee's Tail of Independence.

This picture book, written by Peter W. Barnes and Cheryl Shaw Barnes, published by Little Patriot Press, is an illustrated poem that tells the tale of America's founding through the narrative lens of a mouse counterpart to the Framers of the Constitution, the title character, Liberty Lee.

I wasn't expecting a poem. It's enough of an undertaking to explain everything from Colonization to the Battle at Lexington and Concord to a target audience of squirrelly 4-6 year-olds, without trying to do it in rhyme. Yet, they've done it, and surprisingly well, as long as the reader can avoid falling into the cadence pit. The authors did not skimp on vocabulary, but used traditional verbiage connected with the American Revolution. I appreciated that. It helps make this story more than a mere sing-song tale that one tires of reading after one or two rounds.

It took us a full two weeks to read the story, not due to rhythm issues, or wordiness, but as a result of the illustrations. They are vivid, and rich. They look simple, but are incredibly detailed. Each illustration (most are full, two-page spreads) offers a panorama of delightful scenes to unfold and delve into. The detail is fantastic, and it's not unusual for the children to spend ten or fifteen minutes going over every vignette on a page.

This isn't a book they'll want to fly through, and if you try, you'll be frustrated. Liberty Lee's Tail of Independence is the kind of book you meander through, letting your children show you all there is to explore, doubling back, spinning off for a while on inspired tangents, eventually settling back down to continue the journey.

There are additional bonus features for adults and children. The children enjoyed finding Liberty Lee (or one of his ancestors) tucked away in each page. There is also an eagle hidden in each illustration. (It's not always the whole eagle - sometimes it's just his head. It's a nice added layer for older, or more ambitious, children to take up after they've found all the mice, and poured over the other scenes.)

The Tail End offers additional tidbits of information and resources designated for parents and teachers.

In sum, we enjoyed this book. The authors attempted to cover a lot of ground in a condensed space, and the narrative doesn't flow as smoothly as I would prefer for a storybook, but it is solid, and unabashedly designed to be an uplifting, encouraging story, which the authors performed nicely. The illustrations tie the story together well. It's the combination, though, that makes it the type of picture book I'd want to have on my shelf: a good story that piques the children's imaginations, set among lavish, many-layered illustrations that draw in a child's eye and mind. I love that, and I enjoyed this book, on many levels.

Kiss those babies ~ and keep reading with them!

Wednesday, May 9

You May Be Right

I've got Billy Joel songs stuck in my head. It's been a crazy day. But Good Crazy - anything that conjures up songs from the 80's can't be all bad.

Kids got a lot of school work done. If they did this every day, we could have school three days a week and still be ahead. Then James got to enjoy some Skype time with his buddies. John and Jacob took to the woods (while I stayed inside and tried not to twitch).

We started the Atelier Art program today. It seems good, but I think I may have underestimated the kids' knowledge and abilities. So we modified. This lesson was on lines - specifically, they were asked to draw a turtle and decorate its shell with various line patterns. (This is Level 2, the 5-8yo level - I'd grabbed it for Em, who loves to draw, and Jase, who needs an outlet - but all the kids joined in, because they're cool like that.) So we covered lines, then I turned the kids loose with the guideline that they aren't tied to the turtle, but to draw something and be aware of how they use lines for various features of the art (shading, contour, texture, flow, etc.). When they finished, we put their pieces in the 8x10 frames we'd hung in the hallway last week. The finished product is quite fun, and it's nice to have art in the hall. Plus, they enjoy being able to display their work in a meaningful way. The goal is to have them complete one piece a week for display in the rotating hall gallery.

We slipped out this afternoon to see about getting some nicely fitting t-shirts for Scouts. The 50/50 blend, unisex, chokingly-high crew neck style is not only uncomfortable, but unattractive. As much time as I spend at Scout functions, I'd love to have a shirt I don't hate wearing. Hopefully, we can score some from our regular guy. He's a good printer, and does a beautiful job - plus he's all set up with the approved Troop/Pack graphics. He just needs to narrow down an available style for us. Yay!

Jacob goes to be shorn in the morning. He's bummed about losing his hair after he's upheld his end of the bargain (gotta keep it clean and well-kept if you want it long), but he's on board with his usual sunny attitude. I appreciate that kid more than words can say.

And so, to bed!

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, September 8

Back to School - 3rd Grade

HOW is he in third grade? Sheesh, that happened quickly. Ah, well, that seems to be what they do.

So, Jacob's 3rd Grade year is shaping up thusly:

Math - MUS Gamma. I kind of hate this one, but it won't last forever. (Seriously, it's good. It's thorough, but it also seems to be the only one that causes stress and angst in my children. I don't get it, but I suspect it's a housekeeping issue with respect to multiple digit work. So far, though, we're three for three on that point. :sigh:)

Greek - Year One, Elementary Greek. He's rocking this.

Reading - (this list develops as we go)
Huckleberry Finn, The Doll People, Twenty-One Balloons, Calendar Quest. He reads a lot on his own - he's read a good many of the Boxcar Children, is re-reading the Harry Potter books, and informed me the other day the he really prefers mystery, fantasy, and action genres. Funny kiddo.

Writing - Imitations in Writing, Aesop.

History - Story of the World, Vol. 4 (Modern History)

Science - nature jourals, taking things apart, building things, setting things on fire - general curiosity, coupled with plenty of discussion and engagement, goes so far at this age.

Music - he'll start piano in January

Typing - Typing Instructor Deluxe

Kiss those babies!