Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Crud.

I am in a desperate need for someone with some Mozilla Firefox experience!! I had about 45 bookmarks for homeschooling sites alone (not to mention an additional 20-30 for personal use) that are now GONE from my Bookmarks on Firefox!!! AND!! I can't even put bookmarks on anymore, so I am screwwwwwed for finding my good sites for printing worksheets and such! HELP!

Really, if anyone knows ANYthing about this, I need the help. What did I do wrong? Do I have a virus? Can this be fixed for free (because otherwise? I can't do anything about it...)???

Crud. I had so many plans on getting ahead on curriculum and lessons for January and now I'm stuckstuckstuckstuckstuck.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Homeschooling Physics on a Budget 101

"Ok, guys. Listen closely... That sound you heard when the champagne cork popped out? That was the pressure from the fermented alcohol that your mother is going to ingest!! What do you think causes it?"

(Dang, I look ragged...)

See? Every thing is a possible learning tool. Just a little creativity and a glass or two of wine goes a long way...

Friday, December 4, 2009

The End

Oy. Today was not one of those stellar days. Today was not a day I felt all rosy and content in our little homeschooling family. Today, I yelled and stamped my foot and acted like an all-around child. Today I showed them exactly how to NOT behave. Sooo... a learning experience? Right? Yep. We're calling it that and we're calling it a day.

Thank God today is almost over. I am off to put together a few projects for next week so that we don't have a repeat of today on Monday.

After I have a glass of wine, that is...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

23 days and counting...


The paper chain has been made. The countdown has begun...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This is what it really looks like...

Day 1 on making our First Thanksgiving Diorama. Justin is in the background writing an essay about 1621 while Corinne and Evan were in charge of artistic properties...

A little break for self-expression. I had no idea he knew how to put a pick in his hair...

Recess!
Just a cute shot of Corinne matching her numbers, opposites, and other card games. Evan likes to play with her, which is wonderful on so many levels...
My kitchen table. Math, art, spelling words, and Raisin Bran.


The almost completed diorama! We want to put a garden, fire pit, and more people in. Wait a minute... Is that a... ninja? At the 1st Thanksgiving?Yes. Yes, it is.
What does "sour" mean, Mommy?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lapbooks and Journal alternatives

Journals are a pretty big deal in our public school system. Every day, for every grade, my boys were supposed to journal. Only problem was? Neither ever actually WROTE much down! I wonder how many countless hours were wasted, 10 minutes at a time, day after day, as my children stared off into space?

When I began homeschooling them, I tried to follow the journal routine. Many, many days of frustration on all of our parts as I attempted to force them to record something trivial about their lives. Finally, I stepped back and realized that the process of journalling is supposed to be relaxing. I also realized that the main point of writing in a daily journal for public school was about sentence formation, imagination, and penmanship. NONE of which were being accomplished by my children in their forced one-sentence pages!

I heard about "lapbooks" from a very organized mother in our homeschooling group. She directed me towards many online sites where you can print out EVERYthing you need, right down to the smallest details. I printed out a few pieces, here and there, and then realized that my ink on my printer is VERY expensive and that all of those color pages were sucking it dry!

Enter the scrapbooking supplies!! I used to scrapbook a LOT when the boys were little. Sadly, the joy of it was lost somewhere along the time that blogging came into my life. One can only have so many outlets, you know? For homeschooling, though? The extra scrapbooking supplies have been a lifesaver! All of the colored paper, stickers and cutting supplies are PERFECT for the lapbooks! I lugged it all out and began laying out designs for the boys to fill in. Basically, I ask questions, leave space for artwork and graphs, and direct the boys in learning certain aspects about the topics they're studying. For Justin, who abhors anything with the word "art" attached to it, asking him to design a cover for his Energy lapbook wasn't "art". It was just another step in the project. Submarines and Airplanes by Justin

For Evan, who needs extra help on reading and writing but loves to draw, the lapbooks offer variety and a break from something that he doesn't feel he is very good at (writing/spelling).

Another way I've found to encourage Evan and Corinne's imagination, spelling, and writing skills is to offer them small booklets to fill in. Using colored pencils and his own creativity, Evan has written about 4 different short books! He can do one page a day or 4, there is no limit or requirement needed. Arachnid Wars by Evan

Even Corinne has benefited from making these booklets and is currently writing a fantastic story entitled "Princess Wars." (Can you tell she's a girly girl who has older brothers?)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Check Cubed

What a nice day. Really! A really nice, easy-going, much-accomplished day.

Everyone's lists completed from start to finish?
No crying or complaining about the validity of the work assigned?
3 children actually learned something NEW and held the material from the day before?
Quality of work of all 3 was outstanding?

Check! Check! Check! CHECK!

Between the above and the fact that my kids fell asleep watching Finding Nemo to the sound of the rain on the rooftop, tonight ended on quite a lovely note.

I'm all geared up for tomorrow, when Justin learns that Daddy will be doing the P.E. training class (Navy style) again. I do believe he thought it would be a one-time deal. Heh. I need to remember this happy place of peace when he's fighting the work-out again. (Yesterday was a day I just cannot retell. It's too painful to recount my son bucking the physical work we were asking him to do!)

Crossing my fingers for another Good Day on Friday...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A slow morning...



How many times do I say "Evan" ? How many times do I say "Keep working!" or "Focus!" ??

First person to answer correctly gets the privilege of coming over and being a teacher for a day! You lucky, lucky person!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Note to self:

Be prepared for your monthly week of communing with the universe and all its wondrous glory. Because having your period and NOT having the school week planned out isn't the best combination. Maybe "winging it" isn't a good choice when your hormones are on a trampoline and the mortgage is due.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chilly fingers are hard to type with.

Brrr!!! We were supposed to go to a local petting zoo and playground for our weekly homeschooling meetup, but it is REALLY cold, and we are REALLY tired. So instead? We are doing our work in jammies drinking coffee and hot chocolate. After we do our schoolwork, there are peanut butter cookies begging to be baked by 3 little kids.

Corinne and I have already spent an hour doing sweet watercolors. Fall scenes, ballerinas, dragons, everything. Very random and very tiny, cute pictures. Rediscovering my love of painting and drawing has been a big plus for me. And it's been showing the kids that EVERYONE does art. That's a big deal for the boys. They aren't as imaginative when it comes to arts and crafts as I'd like, and I think being able to just paint or draw SOMEthing helps you in other areas. I.e. I have a 10 year old boy whining behind me that he caaaaan't just "write" a paragraph about dolphins without having specific instructions!

Coffee. More. Coffee.

Ahhhhh....

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A few lessons learned

Lesson 1: If Mommy hurts her neck doing something that was meant to be helpful but ends up being not a brilliant idea (like, say, she does a backwards somersault for Cub Scouts even though she's 33....), it's ok to skip the math pages that Evan doesn't understand. It's ok to have him read 10 books to Corinne instead, especially since his reading skills need lots of encouragement. It's ok to cop out of one or two subjects when the teacher (ME!) is screaming in pain. We can make it up later on (most of the work got bumped back a day and I've just reassigned the missed work to this week, instead).

Lesson 2: Poker is great for number recognition, money skills, and encourages critical thinking. Also, Justin will be in good form for his college dorm days since he kicked my ASS on Thursday!

Lesson 3: They ARE learning. A LOT. A lot, a lot. No less than they would in public school. The material they are working on may be simultaneously on higher levels AND lower levels than public schools offer, but they are on THEIR levels. My kids are learning what they don't understand yet, and we're focusing on what they need to improve upon. And it's being done without hours and hours of time at p.s. and then hours and hours of exhausted arguments over homework. Homeschooling IS working for my family. I can see this and it's extremely encouraging.

Lesson 4: Sometimes Mommy is too ambitious. Sometimes I need to step away from the curriculum and exciting projects and remember each child's learning style and speed and just let them absorb it a little more slowly. Sometimes a 7 year old just needs to run laps around the house when printing out ANOTHER tricky word is just too overwhelming...

Lesson 5: My kids are so much happier. SO much happier... It's kind of sad, actually, to think of all of the years that we forced our square-pegged Justin into the circle-shaped schools. It just wasn't a good fit and his edges are still a bit banged up from it. With a little bit of work, we can sharpen them up again. I like having a square-pegged boy.

Lesson 6: I love these art sites for kids!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some pics. Some captions. Enjoy.


Baking brownies in the afternoon, just because we can! My kids are excellent egg-crackers and I've been making a conscious effort to have them read the boxes or cook books as we bake. Corinne and Evan are already grasping the whole "fraction thingy" much earlier than I expected!
Not brownies, but one of the biggest perks of homeschooling: home-baked breakfasts without the rush to get it down the hatch and get out the door. Today we made baked French toast and it was HEAVENLY to eat it with my children at 9:00 am. It baked while Evan did spelling. If that's not a perfect way to start a school day, then I don't know what is!
Best $1 I ever spent at a clothing/toy sale is this floor desk. Evan does 90% of his work here...
Her handwriting is going to quickly surpass Evan's. I'm keeping that fact on the down-low, though... Can't be beat by a PRESCHOOLER, you know!

Guitar Hero TOTALLY counts as music appreciation. Ok, ok... I know. I'm working on something a little more educational. But, for now? This will have to suffice.
I dug out my good old Discovery Toys to find other preschool stuff for Corinne to occupy herself with while I'm working with the boys. She is adoring the shape sorter, even though most of these foam pieces have cat teeth marks on them...

Both of the boys are working on lap books right now and I'll update more about that once they're finished. I'm finding that they are a great stand-in for the traditional book reports or class projects that children would normally work on in a public school classroom. Plus, they're perfect to use as a marker for that question every homeschooler hears: "What did you learn this year?"

Monday, August 31, 2009

Oh Crap

Corinne (age 3 years, 10 months), as she colors the shapes in her preschool book today:

"Circle, circle, triangle. Square, square, rectangle. Hey Mommy? Where's the Crapezoids?"

The child made me pee. Just a bit.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First Day!


Pre-School

2nd Grade


5th Grade

No tears!

Work done with effort and CORRECTLY!

The sun is shining. The breeze is blowing. And we were finished before noon.

Here's to the rest of this school year going as smoothly as today went....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hope and Plan and Pray

It's more than just a date on the calendar. It's a feeling and rhythm in the air. Tensions change, the clock is ticking and the hourglass is nearly empty. Every activity is done with a frantic need to have a Really! Fun! Time! before the opportunity slips away.

Each year, the scramble to secure the proper supplies and paraphernalia associated with the Back To School Season stresses the heck out of me. The fact that we are homeschooling this fall instead of "going to school" doesn't eliminate that stress. It's just taken on a new face!


Read More...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Remembering why...

I have read several "back to school" posts lately that are reminding me of why I believe in homeschooling. Complaints of gifted kids not having the opportunity to continue to grow. Worries of children who have continued to learn all summer (and not having the "summer slide" effect) who will be bored out of their minds when the material presented next week is well below their knowledge levels. Stress over children who need that extra push (but not an aide) not getting the extra time it takes to learn what's being taught...

Though I'm nervous about the initial start-up of this school year, I am more cemented in my belief that this WILL be the best thing for my kids. I have to be positive about that, or the whole system will crumble around us!

~~~
On a slightly different note, I was recently asked what was "Wrong" with our school system that I didn't want to use it. "It's not a bad school," I said "It's just not the right choice for our kids, right now." I think the question (which has been asked of me time and time again, and I've only been doing this a short time!) unnerved me because the mom was someone who is in our school district. I didn't want to give the impression that I hate our school district, because I don't! There is a very great chance that our kids will attend public school in this district again, and I am (moderately) ok with that.

But the funding HAS been cut. The classes HAVE grown. The ISN'T any help available for my children's individual needs. What can I do about that? How can I ensure that my very different kids who fall on different ends of several spectrums receive the education I feel they deserve? How can I add extra learning experiences to their day after they've spent 7 hours at public school and have an average of 1 hour (or more) of homework a night?!?

I want them to enjoy learning. I hope they remember this school year as the best year of school, ever!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pre-game motivation

The desks are cleaned.

The old papers are filed away.

Review sheets are awaiting their dusty brains.

Flip books on dinosaurs, sharks and the US government are freshly glued but empty of information.

We are heading to my parents' home tomorrow to search through my dad's vast collection of history books.

I just need some school supplies and printer ink and I will be READY TO TEACH.

Still gotta convince Patrick that Evan deserves one more chance. Once that last hurdle has been crossed, I will feel confident that we can DO THIS. I will feel confident that we can not only DO this, but do it well.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Deep breaths....

Well, after being on the fence for a few weeks, it appears that Evan WILL be staying in homeschool this year. I had just gotten used to the idea of him returning to public school when he changed his mind and convinced me to let us try homeschooling for 1 more year.

And now? Now I'm.... undecided. I know that it will be 1000% more difficult with Evan here. He isn't as willing to go with the routine that works for me, Justin and Corinne. He and I don't always click quite as easily when it comes to discipline and schoolwork. We'll see... I am planning on writing up some "contracts" for the entire family to sign. Something along the lines of "I promise to work hard, to ask questions without whining, and to treat homeschooling like REAL school in that the work must get accomplished." The parent contracts will have words such as "I promise to remain patient. I promise to not focus on the negatives of homeschooling but to support myself and my WIFE (Pat's contract) in this important endeavor..." yadda yadda...

We need to commit to this. Either we're in or we're out. The goals for the year must be known and posted on the wall. What do we all want to accomplish this year? Where would we like to be at come May, 2010? How can our entire family benefit from homeschooling? How can our entire family contribute to our goals?

Taking a few deep breaths. Gearing up for the heavy stuff. I have started reorganizing the office/school space and hope to have a BRILLIANT first month. We WILL have fun! We WILL learn and discover! And we WILL do this without horrendous arguments or emotional breakdowns (me...).

Deep breaths....

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wait. Scratch that.

We may be diverging from our original path here. Evan and I are in the midst of many conversations about where he will be learning next year. Let's just say this: it could go either way at this point.

And I'm ok with either direction.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A, B, C...

Hey, guess who's reading?

You guessed it! Corinne!

Thanks to Starfall.com. I swear to God, she was only mildly interested in her letters and putting words together before I started showing her the site. I had used Starfall before for Evan, but it just didn't work for our schedule back then. But for Corinne, right now? She is INTO it. Between Starfall, Webkinz Jr. and JumpStart, she is really grasping the letter sounds and word chunks! She actually read the first 2 stories on the introduction to reading section on Starfall!

I hadn't realized before how many areas there were in the Starfall site. I do believe that this will be a good place to visit with Corinne and have Evan "help" her so that he can strengthen his reading skills. The words just don't come as easily for him as they did for Justin. But I think that by being the "teacher" for Corinne, he can benefit from the site without feeling like he's re-learning stuff from his old first grade classroom.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Science giveaway!

Hey everyone! I have a new giveaway for a fabulous chemistry set on my other blog. Click on over to try to win the Chem C1000 for your budding scientists!!!
Another topic I want to cover next year and could use some brainstorming help on:

How ALL People are Different, which makes us ALL the same.

I want to discuss different handicaps, body abilities, mental capacities, etc. I want to talk about languages, religion, ethnicity, etc. I want the kids to get a better picture of what it means to be "different." I hope that this will reinforce my mantra of "Everyone has something different about them. Some of us have our differences on the inside and some on the outside."

Any ideas for field trips/projects/good books/topics will be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A little update.

Poor little homeschooling blog. All alone and neglected. Waiting for me to update with any tiny little post. Waiting for a tiny nod of attention...

Things have been... ok. Justin is still doing great at homeschooling. He takes his work, does it with little complaint, and completes most of the work correctly the FIRST TIME through. We're using his math and spelling books from public school to finish out the year and he has done so much better on them than he was doing on his own. Having the ability to have things explained more than once and not moving on until the information is more secure is definitely good for him.

Evan... Well. Evan is still struggling. He and I haven't found the proper way to communicate regarding school work. I don't feel comfortable using an unschooling method with him or anything much looser than what we're doing. I just want some basic work to be accomplished at the end of the day. That's all! The arguments he has been giving me every morning are painful and only add to the stress of my already overburdened load. Seeing as how public school ends on Wednesday of next week, we are ending at that time, too. And seeing as how public school is usually review work and parties the last week of school, I can't say that our days will be much different, either. In that regard, I don't feel worried about Evan for the rest of the school year. I know that we will have to start from scratch come the fall, anyway, so I am trying to let this one issue roll off my back for now.

My plans for the summer and homeschooling will simply be to make sure that everyone reads every day, and to get some science experiments done. Just wait till you see the chemistry set I was sent to review! If it's anything close to as cool as it looks, the kids will get more science in the summer than most kids get all school year.

I hope to make at least 3-4 lesson plans each week to be used in the fall of next year. I'm hoping to do unit studies that the boys (and Corinne) can do together, but tailored to each child's level. We'll see how that works out. Some of the themes I think we'll be doing will be:

Marine life - sharks, fish, food chains, fresh vs. salt water..

US government - chain of command, bills to laws, what does "freedom" mean?

Human body - how does each part relate to the other, labeling parts, how does the heart work, what does living a healthy life mean?

Dinosaurs - knowing the different times of the periods and eras, how the Earth was formed, what animals evolved into animals we know today?

Civil War era - causes of disagreement, what does "slavery" REALLY mean, living situations of the different classes of people, were the arguments ever really resolved? (reenactment field trip)

Fractions - Having everyone in the family really REALLY understand fractions at their own level, how do we use this in real life?

Geology - how was the earth formed? What makes gems and stones different, what geological features are in our area? (field trip to natural geological formations - Starved Rock, etc.) (field trip to gem museum)

Local history - native Americans' history of Illinois, settlers in the 1800's, their lifestyles and how each side impacted the other.

Piano - I'd like to reteach Justin the piano and have Evan learn the basics on reading music and finger placements.

History of holidays - as each holiday approaches, provide the true history of each one: Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.



More will come to me and I'll update this list so that I can use it next year. If anyone has any ideas (small or big) please let me know in the comments. I would appreciate any help from anyone who has homeschooled the lessons, too!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

11 days of school left!

I feel so extremely lucky that I have such a great homeschooling group in my hometown. Today we played outside with the kindergarten neighbors and then headed to meet at the local church. We made jellyfish (really cool!), watched Billy Nye on Fish, and then studied loads of sea animals that one of the group's leaders had on loan from a nature museum. Bio-cams and magnifying glasses and everything! The kids had a great time. It is STILL gorgeous out and I am off to drink some lemonade and watch the kids swing.

Check out my reviews and giveaways on JAMB!

Adios.

Monday, May 11, 2009

No title comes to mind...

What a day!

We spent the day at the Field Museum in Chicago. Despite the fact that I didn't realize I had left our lunch bag on the grass beside the driveway until I bent down to get it out of the car, we had a great time. Thank GOD I had $6 singles, a $2 bill and $5 in quarters. We were able to get McDonald's downstairs and drank the juice boxes we had in the Flex's refrigerator.

We were lucky enough to go on a beautiful and uncrowded free day. The kids had lots of questions about everything we saw. In the Ancient Americas section, a museum employee who had gone on excavations to the sites we were looking at was very informative. It was really cool to talk to someone who had helped to pull the artifacts from the Earth.

Justin watched and did just about every interactive show they had. His favorite sections were the Ice Age and DNA. Oh, and any of the gems and minerals they had scattered about the museum, of course.

Evan loved every single diorama we saw. We couldn't pass up a single one! Sadly, the interactive children's area with the "make your own diorama" didn't have the pieces out and available to play with! They were being WASHED. At 3 pm. On a FREE DAY. I was not impressed with this poor planning, but he got over his disappointment even though he had been talking about building his own set-up ALL DAY. :( I'd post a picture of him playing with the 1 figurine they had left (a German shepherd, of all things!) at the ready-made Native American site, but, well, the cameras were in my bag, on the grass, in front of my house. (Thank God for a good neighborhood, right?)

Corinne was most interested in annoying her brothers and getting in and out of the stroller. She succeeded in the first and was able to add "annoy Mommy" to the list.

And now? Now they're killing each other in the other room. I have tons of things to organize and clean and my voice is pretty shot from yelling across the house. Gotta jet.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Old and festering wounds never really go away...

Through a torrent of tears, he spilled the truth.

Finally.

A bully. One who tripped and laughed at my sensitive middle son. Evan claims it was a regular occurrence. One that happened on the playground. The reason that recess wasn't always a fun topic when I'd ask him how his day had gone.

"That's why I wanted to be homeschooled so bad! I hated that bully! He made me feel so sad inside!"

Tears ran down both of our cheeks.

We talked. I consoled. He released several months' worth of sadness and pent-up emotion. I listened and stroked his sweaty forehead while suffering my own torment. Why didn't he just come out and say something earlier? Because this child doesn't work that way. My baby was in anguish for God only knows how long (he even went so far as to talk about a different boy who picked on him in kindergarten) and I couldn't find the right strings to pull to help him open up.

Once he spills though? It's a lengthy episode. Many problems will be released at once, which wipes us both out.

I am so glad he opened up. I am so glad he is able to make friends in a situation where the adults are able to listen to him. The playground is a fun place for most, but brutal for those who are targeted...

Suddenly, the lights are switched on and many questions about Evan are easier to decipher...

Friday, May 1, 2009

This is what happens when you write in metaphors...

Today? Today has been a leaky boat day.

Many leaks.

I reallllly want to throw an oar overboard.

Tomorrow, can I go for a boat ride alone?

PLEASE?!?

The BEST part? I can't complain to my husband or I'll get the "just quit" response.

Again.

Which really only makes my hopes for this whole situation more defeating.

I feel defeated. By a 7 year old. And a 10 year old who had his own issues. And a 3 year old who only wanted to run with scissors. And glue on the table and mac n cheese congealing on the stove.

I need an extra life jacket...

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Biggest Fish Metaphor Ever Created

EDITED to add: I know it's an analogy, not a metaphor. Not sure why I make that mistake so often, even though I went to a great public school. OH THE IRONY.

~~
So, there was this lake. Great spot, lots of fish.

All of the parents and children would gather upon its shore to test the waters and exclaim over the variety of fish they would catch. Some days, the kids would reel in tons of marine life: catfish, turtles, bass, walleye... Some days, they would go home empty-handed, but happy from the fresh air and chance to try new lures.

As people began to notice this lake's abundance of fish, more families would gather together on its sandy banks. Soon, the "good" fishing spots became a bit crowded. Many times, hours would be spent untangling one line from another, unsnagging hooks, and anxiously waiting for a good bite that never came.

Some families moved to new fishing spots. But many found that moving to a new spot wasn't suitable for their footwear. Not all banks are sandy and rock-free, you know!

One mother looked at her children and said,

"This fishing spot is still lovely. The view is pleasing and the water is filled with interesting water life. But my children only catch a few fish a day. Sometimes, they come home empty-handed! We can see the fish in the water, but it's hard to cast when so many are throwing their lines beside you."

She was concerned. She could see that they were becoming discouraged over their lack of bites. If they didn't fish, what would they eat? If they didn't learn to fish properly, how would they know to feed themselves as adults?

Day after day, she pondered the situation. They tried to change position on the shore. Perhaps a new fishing pole? A new reel? What could help her children catch their share of the abundant fish?

One morning, her child cast his line so far out that his pole slipped out of his hand and began to float down the shoreline! The mother frantically scrambled over rocks and brambles, chasing the pole on its path into uncharted territory. The pole snagged upon a stump, allowing her to snatch it up from the water. Exhausted, she blew the hair from her eyes and looked around at the new surroundings.

She was standing beside a dock. This dock stretched far into the lake. Tethered to the dock were a variety of boats. She watched in wonder as these boats paddled in and out and noticed something she had never considered; they were fishing from the boats! They were leaving the shore in small groups, looking for the fish! If the fish weren't by the shore or dock, the families with the boats simply tried a new spot! And the most amazing thing was that the children were smiling in the wind and helping to paddle the boat! They were learning to love to fish!!

"How can I do this, too?!?" she wondered. "Is it difficult? Do I need a special license or is this something that only the incredibly rich and privileged can attempt?"

Her surprise was unimaginable when she found her answer; Anyone can fish from a boat. All you need is the courage!

Was she brave enough, though? There was the harder question...

The boats seemed so far out in the lake. Was she strong enough to paddle that far? She then remembered that the children were all helping. No parent paddled alone...

The lake was so big! How could she cover the entire lake and help her children catch every single type of fish available? She then remembered that the crowded lake shore provided no more diversity than her own boat would provide. In fact, her children might be able to catch MORE fish, simply because the competition for each fish's attention would be less when there were fewer lures to look at.

The boats were all alone, though. Wouldn't her children get lonely, so separated from the other people on the shore? She then watched in amazement as the boats gathered upon the lake; showing each other their catches and sharing the best fishing spots. At the dock, more boats pulled in for the day, exuberantly holding up their fish and laughing as the children ran off to play. No more fishing was needed that day! Their families had caught their limit!

Determined, the mother raced back to her children. She would make this work! A new way to fish! A new method to help them love not only the fish they caught but also the process in which to FIND them!! How marvelous! Surely everyone would feel the same way about her discovery!!

The mother and her children began to go boating together. Not wanting to push them too fast, too soon, she encouraged them to learn the ways of boating before focusing on actually catching any new fish. They would throw their poles into the water everyday, and be thrilled with their ordinary bass and perch, because paddling together was definitely an effort. Some days, they needed to return to the dock early. The sun was too hot or the boat had a slow leak that needed patching. But everyday, they faithfully returned to the boat, for the enjoyment they had from the time spent together was too great to abandon for the simplicity of the crowded banks.

Gradually, the mother began to notice small miracles; The boat was springing fewer leaks. Bigger fish were being caught. Her children were leading her to spots that she hadn't even considered to fish in. New species of aquatic animals were making themselves known to the entire family. Even SHE was learning to love to fish!

Others upon the banks were too far away to see the joy that the boat was bringing the family. Not willing or able to take even a short boat ride, they turned their heads in disgust over the leaks and windburn, the choppy waves and strange coves the family was exploring. When the mother would grumble about needing another new paddle to replace the one her child had lost in the lake, the shore fishermen would demand that she give up and "give into reason" by returning to the banks. "After all," they declared, "There is only one way to properly fish."

No.

I am here to tell you that there is more than one way to fish. I am here to tell you that a leaky boat or choppy water isn't a reason to abandon your boat.

Personally? I never enjoyed shore fishing. I mean, it's okay, but I always get snagged on the plant life and there tends to be lots of pop cans littered on the banks. When I'm on a boat, though? I don't even CARE how many fish I catch! I have fun just enjoying the ride!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Going with the flow...

Days like tomorrow are one of the reasons that homeschooling appeals to me. We are taking a spur of the moment trip to the arboretum. It is supposed to be beautiful out and, best thing: Friday is a FREE DAY!

Rock on.

This flexibility is something I had back when the boys were little, but had lost a bit due to the scheduling of public school. I adore the fact that we are going to enjoy a little nature and fresh air. I love that the kids will get lots of exercise while having a blast. The math can wait. Monday will still come and the problems will get done then. But Friday is calling to us... All of those newly budding trees and interactive exhibits!
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I did find a way to "encourage" Evan to get his paperwork done without the arguments. Now, before I tell you, just remember not to judge until you've been where I am, ok? Also remember that the idea here is to help him to enjoy learning. And he wasn't enjoying ANYthing before. In fact, we were arguing just like when he did p.s. homework.

What is this magic solution?

By Gum, it's GUM!

Yep. I paid Evan in gum to get his work done. We set the timer with pleeeeenty of time to accomplish each sheet. After each sheet was done in the allotted time, he got a high five and a piece of gum from the Easter basket.

Bribery? No more so than the bribes his public school teachers gave him for good behavior. (paw prints for finishing work which could then be turned in for special treats.)

See? I AM a Genius!!! It has been confirmed.


The remains of the monkey bread that Evan made ALL BY HIMSELF. He read the instructions, measured the ingredients, and did (almost) all of the prep work. It was delicious!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Baby steps

I am still alive.

Barely.

Hanging on by a couple of threads. Hoping to keep the family on the right track. Feeling that I'm doing the right thing, but wishing I had just a touch of precognition. Just to next spring. Just to make me remember that the daily struggles aren't what matters right now.

What matters is the slow process we've begun in changing the way we look at education.

What matters is that Evan may have fought me on his spelling books today, but he read a Berenstain Bears' book. By himself. Which I had no idea he could do, until he chose it himself for free reading time.

What matters is that Evan tried to teach Corinne to read a book today and they played almost as much as they fought, which is a step in the right direction...

I guess I feel a little vindicated in this one fact; I KNOW my children. And I know them well. I knew exactly what issues Justin would have before we homeschooled him. I knew how he and I would react to each other. And I was RIGHT.

Unfortunately, I also knew exactly how Evan would react to homeschooling. I knew how he and I would react to each other. And, sadly, I was RIGHT. We're like two bull terriers, snarling over a ripped up sock...

Baby steps. Baby steps to finishing work sheets without whining. Baby steps to gaining more respect from him. Baby steps to experimenting with new responsibilities and chores. Baby steps to him actually liking school, no matter what format it is presented in...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Field Trip!

Instead of focusing on the not so good stuff from our venture into Chicago today, let's zero in on what DID go well, ok?

Even though we found the museum quickly, but had to drive around for half an hour before we found a parking garage (at the hospital, which makes me feel REALLY bad!) at least we got to appreciate the incredible beauty that is The University of Chicago on a sunny spring day. The architecture and design in that area is absolutely gorgeous!
The museum was only 7 or 8 blocks away and the kids ran and skipped while my heart had palpitations. Honestly, I don't know how you city parents do it!

The Oriental Institute is a small but free museum. It was worth the drive in MY opinion, but my kids were a little disappointed. Justin was expecting something else. He can't quite explain WHAT he was expecting, but it didn't live up to his imagination. Evan was soooo excited to see a mummy and then, when he finally did? He turned to me and said he wanted to go home because all of "these mummies and dead things are freaking me out!" (This is the same kid who went through the haunted house with the chain-saw guy about 20 times in a row.) Corinne, who had just eaten a huge lunch in the van, claimed she was staaaaarving and had to go hoooooome.

Wait. I said positive only, right?

Moving along.

Oooh! Big Sphinx statue from Mesopotamia!Interactive games about Assyria and Persia...
Ancient Nubian bull (minus the horns).
Justin had the camera at this point and liked this Mesopotamian chariot wheel. My question that we will google later on is this: Why isn't it ROUND?!?What happens when your 10 year old gets ahold of the camera...

Evan's favorite is, shockingly, the spear heads. "Did I blink?" (his favorite question....)

We got home in time (without getting lost!) to enjoy a quick but early dinner and soon we'll be off for more errands and functions than I care to focus upon.... Have a great weekend!

Hey, if you didn't know, I have a cool giveaway on my other site! Check it out!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Boot Camp

No surprises on day 1 with Evan. We handled everything from a little boy with a "tummy ache" that didn't want to do any work to a kid who solidly refused to do something because "that's not how we did it at REAL school!" Basically, he was straight out of the text book of The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child, by Linda Dobson (excellent book. Check your library. It ROCKS.)

But there were lots of good moments. Though he struggled with his journal writing (as he always has), he was able to think of a good story to write. It was just difficult to get it from his head to the paper. That's something that will only come with lots of practice. He also surprised me with how athletic he could be. We decided to record how many push-ups, sit-ups, arm curls, and jumping jacks we could do so that we can track our progress and "become stronger than Daddy when he's not paying attention!" Dude, that kid can rock on the push-ups. And Justin is really good at the arm curls. But the biggest surprise? Corinne can crank out the sit-ups better than an army grunt after boot camp! Seriously, that girl has got some AB STRENGTH!! (Mommy, however, is a weakling who is feeling the pain....)

While we didn't cross ALL of our items from our to-do list, we did get most of them, and that is a good start. Justin did pretty well with Evan's intrusion into his "space", with just one issue with ME when I insisted he make an attempt at creative writing. Ugh. Anyone have suggestions on how to encourage a child to write, without forcing them? He is insistent that he isn't any good at it and doesn't like it. I am insistent that he COULD be good at it, if only he'd stop saying that he ISN'T! Sort of like arguing whether the word "color" should have a "u" in it or not, you know? Neither is wrong, but neither is correct...

I will be reviewing a new spelling site that sounds promising. I'll let you know more about that, soon!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gearing up...

I have the daily plan for Monday all written and organized.

Evan's little desk has everything he's used to having at "school." I want to make this transition as smooth and enjoyable for him as possible. I'm betting on the notion that by using his old workbooks and worksheets that are left from school and similar to what he was used to, that he will enjoy homeschooling, too. I'm hoping that he loves it as much as I have begun to...

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We will be going to the Oriental Institute in Chicago this week. It's a great museum. Smaller, but just the right size so that you don't leave feeling like you missed something. And, best part: It's FREE.

I haven't been there since junior high (ah, memories. I got my first period there. While wearing white capris... Lovely times...) but I remember the mummies and huge statues. I KNOW the kids will love it. We have reserved several books from the library on the different regions and time periods. I just hope they call us soon, so we can actually study them BEFORE we go! Of course, being that we are making our own schedule, we can always push the field trip back to allow ourselves time to really know what we are going to go see!

I just love this homeschooling thing more and more each day... :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Random shots....

Apparently, just the THOUGHT that she will be homeschooled is making Corinne into a super-genius prodigy who does puzzles UPSIDE DOWN....*
Geometry. Still working on classifying parallelograms properly, but he's getting there. I know that this was taught in 2nd grade. Shouldn't he have had it down pat by now? We are doing serious review on polygons and the features that make them what they are.
Finding the volume of a cube was brought into 3-D, too.
"I don't like Art, Mommy." HAHAHAHA. I fooled him into loving art by making it a social studies project...
Just wait till you see the finished products. They are AWESOME!

*For all of you newbies, that was SARCASM in my voice. M'kay?