Sunday, October 2, 2011

Merging the Blogs

I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this ... I can understand, what will all the cobwebs that need clearing before you can get to it. I've neglected it and have decided to just merge my homeschooling blog with my "this is the rest of our lives" blog. Maybe if I only have one, I'll be able to actually add some homeschooling information to the mix. Maybe. ;) So, for anyone that may still be reading this blog, you can come follow me over at My Little Wonders.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I love Jon Stewart

I am a homeschooler, but I am also a former classroom teacher, married to a classroom teacher, the daughter-in-law of a former teacher, the cousin of a teacher ... in other words, teaching is in my blood one way or another, and I have the deepest respect for those who choose to teach children. Teachers bust themselves every day (and yes, I do acknowledge there are those who should not be in the classroom, but they are far outnumbered by those who are dedicated and pour themselves into their job), and get so very little respect. Though I have been a fan of Jon Stewart's for a while, he has earned yet more respect and admiration from me after this ...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in Dairyland - For Richer and Poorer - Teachers and Wall Street
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Balancing Act

I have to admit I've never been the best juggler. I'd start with 3 juggling balls going smoothly for about 3 exchanges and then the balls would keep moving further away from me and I would keep moving forward, trying to keep up with them. Eventually the balls would fall to the ground and I'd have to pick them up and start again. I know there is a metaphor in there.

Many days I find I am juggling much more than those three balls. In contrast, though, to my futile attempts at juggling balls, I am getting much better at juggling life. Admittedly I had forgotten how crazy life can be with an infant, even one as easy going as Miss K. To extend the metaphor a bit further, if everything I do in my day has a one-to-one correspondence to a juggling ball, then Miss K equals about four of them. But, I wouldn't trade any of it for the world.

All this to say that I have found there is a fine line between keeping the juggling balls in the air and allowing one or two to drop every once in a while. An expression that tends to float around homeschooling boards is "it's a marathon, not a sprint." In other words, we have goals of where we want our children when they move onto college (yes, we plan on homeschooling through high school). But, our journey to that point is a marathon.

In high school I was a sprinter. I had nice, short bursts of energy but never learned how to pace myself in a long-distance race. Sometimes that extends to our homeschooling. There are moments where I begin to doubt what we are doing on a day-to-day basis. Then I begin to feel pressure to get more done in the day. I start thinking we need to pile on the school work for fear of falling behind.

Eventually common sense sets in and I realize I was trying to sprint our way through life. So, we slow back down again and take things at a marathon pace. But then I worry about becoming too complacent and not doing enough. In the end it is a balancing act. It's learning how to live like this is a marathon while also trying to keep the juggling balls in the air. Some days I need to allow a ball or two to fall so that we can keep moving on this journey. Other days I need to act a bit more like this is a sprint, if even for a small while, in order to force myself to learn how to keep all balls in the air. A balancing act. Balancing pacing with needed quick bursts of energy. Balancing juggling life with knowing when to drop a bit. I have a feeling I might finally get it figured out once my children are adults. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sentence Composing

We are only a few lessons into Sentence Composing but already I can say that I really like it. We are practicing our grammar skills from MCT to analyze the model sentences and using that to unscramble the imitation sentences. Our current lesson now has us writing our own sentence in imitation of the model sentence. Mr. I, Mr. A and I did this together by first coming up with a subject and verb. Then we added in the other components. I have to say I am impressed by what they wrote.

Based on the model sentence
They parted the bushes on the bank and peered out over the water.
from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the boys wrote
The giraffes ate leaves from a tree and walked over the savannah.


Today we will continue the exercise (we split it into two days - I'm aiming for quality and not necessarily quantity). The model sentences are a bit more complex, but I have faith that the boys will have some good imitations from them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

(Disclaimer: Yes, I do have a habit of breaking into songs to fit a given conversation.)

It's nice getting back to school after being sick for the last couple weeks. I wish we could figure out how to start sooner in the day, but by the time I'm done getting ready, getting Miss K ready (and nursed and changed and nursed again ... you get the picture), making breakfast, doing the dishes ... well, it's always later than I wish.

Mr. I is struggling a bit with math this week. It's a Bridge week in Life of Fred, and though the book says that if you score 90% on one, you can move on, John and I have decided that he needs to do all five bridges. But, we also have 4 days of Singapore Math. Today went more smoothly than yesterday, but oh it was a struggle yesterday and Tuesday. Tomorrow he's happy that he only has two bridges to complete and no SM.




Mr. E is making some big fine motor strides lately. He is determined to learn to fold paper airplanes and is getting better at folding the paper in half. He's also improving his cutting skills - today he did a great job cutting out an oval, with very few chunks missing here and there.

We finally got back to Sentence Composing today. I do like that program a lot. I think it'll work well for both older boys - it seems, at least right now, formulaic enough for them to catch on quickly. We have only been putting sentences together given the pieces, to match their models. I think upcoming practices have them creating their own sentences based on the models.

And I realize now why we normally do spelling five days a week, every week. Fortunately the dictation sentences have so much built-in review that it's easy to recall previously learned spelling rules.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Welcome Back, Kotter ;)

A year and a half ... that's a long time. I've updated the sidebar with what we are doing now. After our newest addition, I decided I needed to streamline our days a bit. Even though Mr. I and Mr. A are two school years apart, I am able to combine them in quite a few subjects including Latin, history, science, art, nature study, and parts of language arts. (For L/A, we do MCT series, Sentence Composing, and WWE-Mr. Popper's Penguins together; I just modify what I need for Mr. A, which isn't usually very much.)

I'm liking not using the WWE workbooks. I have had a love/hate relationship with them since we started. I loved the open-and-go aspect, but didn't like how disjointed they felt since the subject matter/book being used changed each week. It was also getting a bit tricky juggling Mr. I's dictations with Mr. A's narrations, and vice versa. I love reading to them from Mr. Popper's Penguins, doing some oral narration together (they both are pretty good at this), and then doing a writing assignment together. Some chapters, we do vocabulary using a couple of the sentences from Memoria Press's M.P.P study guide. What they do is copy the sentence from the book, underlining the vocabulary word, and then one of them looks it up in the dictionary. Then they copy the definition. They do two-three sentences, so they each get a chance to use the dictionary. One of these chapters, we'll use the thesaurus instead and look up synonyms and antonyms. Other chapters I'll give them each dictation sentences (usually Mr. A has one or two sentences from a paragraph and Mr. I will have the entire paragraph). I do a modified mash-up of the WWE way and the Charlotte Mason "studied dictation". I also write words on a small white board that I think they might need help with spelling.

We also just started Life of Fred: Fractions this January and it is a hit. I'm teaching Mr. I how to read the chapter for learning (rather than learning to read), and then to do his work on a separate piece of paper instead of having a workbook. We bought him a 70-page spiral notebook, and he's learning to write his name and date in the corner, and label each new chapter. I need to remember that slow and steady wins the race. :)

The past month and a half, we have been focusing on Latin, math, and language arts. Sometimes we get some history in there. But, with 38 weeks of school planned for this year, and the local school only getting in about 35 weeks with the furloughs, I think we're doing pretty darn well.

In the midst of everything else, I can say I finally cleaned up the homeschooling area (also known as the dining area and the only table in the house for meals!). I boxed up what we are currently not using, and organized the rest. It's not perfect, but with hubby's laptop and papers at work, someone could actually sit on the spare chair. ;)


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feeling uninspired to write

I knew I hadn't be on my blog in a while, but I didn't realize it had been a couple weeks. We've been plugging along with life and school here, but I think whenever I sit at the computer, I'm looking for escape through reading rather than having to think and write. ;) 

As my oldest is showing more and more proficiency with reading and writing, I've been wondering where I wanted to go with his writing instruction. We have been using the "writing elements" outlined by Susan Wise Bauer in Writing With Ease, recently moving into the Year 2 elements. We've also been (slowly) making our way through First Language Lessons written by her mother, with both older boys (and the youngest likes to memorize the poems with us). But, I just have not been sure if I wanted to continue along these lines with Nomar as he advances in skill and ability. So, the curriculum junkie that I am went looking and reading and researching. 

I have been very interested in the Institute for Excellence in Writing materials, but have found the website a bit confusing in terms of navigating. Fortunately, my friend IRL that homeschools has the teacher DVDs, so I have been slowly making my way through the first one and taking notes. I like what I've heard so far (has not been much) and what I have read so far. But, then I had to go look up Classical Writing as well, and found out they just put out a Primer series (well, I'm not sure how recently it has been, to be honest). I was at first debating using the IEW - Student Writing Intensive with Nomar after the new year, but saw the CW Primer series and felt he could start that now (and Vladdy could start some of it now too - especially the narration, picture study, and nature study portions). So, I ordered it. Only the Autumn Primer. I also printed the free Week 2 download on the site to get started now (I am SO impaitient!). 

I am still interested in the IEW method. For now the CW Primer is similar to the WWE - narration, copywork, eventual dictation. But, it also pulls in some spelling (for us, it serves as reinforcement as our spelling instruction comes from All About Spelling), grammar (Nomar is ready for a bit more than learning about nouns ad nauseum), and has weekly nature and picture study. Some of the artists being studied even match what we will do this year through Meet the Masters. I think it is going to be a good program for us. 

Here's what I'm thinking: we use the CW materials (for now the Primer series and probably when I feel he is ready - sometime in the spring, move onto CW - Aesop) as our language arts program (along with continuing in All About Spelling and reading instruction). I'll watch the IEW DVDs and start using their method for writing across the curriculum, which for now would just be history and science. That way, hopefully, the boys will eventually have a large toolbox, as it is, of writing and will be very proficient writers.

I also finally purchased the simple machine kits from Lego Education. We are all very excited - I think the hard part will not be getting everyone to do the learning, but trying to spread out the creations over a few weekends instead of all in one day! I have some books and background activities to do before they get here on simple machines, work, and force, and hope to start this week. I picked up an Evan-Moor book on Simple Machines at the teacher's supply store that I plan on incorporating.

I think I'm using today as a planning day - our PE class has been canceled due to inclement weather (we weren't going to go even if the rain started to let-up; it's cold, windy, and muddy outside). Two boys are up and are getting to watch TV (it's a "rainy day" :) ). I think we can still get most things done in a relaxed manner today and then get back into the normal flow tomorrow (somehow it is supposed to go from cold and rainy today to the mid 80's by Friday ... still not quite sure how that works!).