A look at this week at Home

This week at Home, October 19 - October 24, 2009

The Home crew had a busy homeschool week, here is a look at some of the things we did, in and out of homeschool...because of course, the learning never stops:

Early in the week we had our Classical Conversations classes, this week we dissected a crayfish. I teach the 4th/5th grade class, which has 6 boys and 1 girl. It was about what you would imagine...I tried to stay with the physical parts on the outside of the crayfish, but at some point the boys tore into it, looking for the heart and brain and finding instead, the spine. The lone girl in the class fled when body parts began flying. !!!

We also started playing the Irish Tin Whistle for music theory. I had a difficult time playing the D scale on that durn thing..but for some reason I was able to play "Mary had a little lamb" Well- Go figure. **This lesson series on youtube helped me out , saved my bacon, really!

We had the monthly learning record meeting with out charter school teacher. We went through all our work for the past month. It went well, as always, but it always stresses me out a little the night before..

Josie and Meg continued with their readings for Sonlight Core 6 for history and literature. Meg is going through it at a double pace, Josie at normal speed. The 3 littles began reading
A Child's History of the World for Sonlight Core 2. We read about Monks in Monasteries.
I gave up reading Red Sails to Capri...the kids had little comprehension retention, why beat a dead horse...but I think I will finish it myself, I'm hooked into the story now!

Amie and Demi started new math books, they all wrote essays for a writing assessment, and Meg had a high school Science class and photography/year book class. Meg had a violin lesson. Josie, Amie and Demi all had piano lessons.

Josie, Demi and Amie had an art lesson, Meg and I went to a bagel shop and had our history discussion and worked on Science homework. This is the day that Teddy does not come to our house, his mom is home this day and works with him at their house. Later, we took Emma to the vet to have her stitches removed.

We completed the bulk of our schooling one morning and then headed out to the skateboard park for p.e.

That same evening, Demi had a hockey game and Josie had her very first fencing lesson. Josie is my Eeyore child. If you have an Eeyore child, you will know what I mean...it was very exciting to watch her immerse herself wholly into this class. She loved it.

Friday we took advantage of returning hot weather to head to the beach, thinking this might be the last nice beach day of the year. The kids body-surfed and rode boogie boards..again, I count that as P.E.!

Meg had another riding lesson. We've ended our relationship at one stable where she was working for lessons- it began to be a negative experience...I was kind of hoping her enthusiasm would wane...but she called around and found herself a new teacher and a new stable. I like her initiative! So, the horse craziness continues. We informed her that this year we could not continue to pay for any riding lessons...so she has come up with some interesting ways to earn money, -dog walking being a more traditional way, playing on the corner at the local antique district is the other, more non-traditional way she came up with. This weekend, the owner of a restaurant invited her to play for his patio customers. She would do this several days a week, if we would let her...but my parental caution holds me back, we let her do it every few weeks for a few hours.

We came home from her surprise invitation to play at the restaurant...and Amie and friends were inspired to set up shop on our street and play the tin whistle and clarinet for money. They hope to take it on the road soon...

It's been a busy/productive week, thanks for visiting!

The dry- erase- board of ultimate power

"Padawan, discovered the seat of ultimate homeschool power, have I? -Yes."

Behold the ingenious white-board concept I discovered through our Classical homeschool group.
I mentioned it here briefly in *this post

Here is the deceptively simple, yet brilliant concept: The grammar to-do list is written on the board, in list form on the left-for what we will cover, and then else-where on the board in actual content. And then we erase it has we go. No more ambiguity about what else I need to cover or when I should get to it...if it's there, it still needs to be done.

The second photo has the timeline cards we memorize for the week on the bottom ledge, we do those first and get them out of the way.

I can see this working for a general homeschool mom's day- plan...list all the subjects and pages you need to get through and even things you forget to do like, "call the vet", "drop off books at library" and then erase as you go.

I'm so doing this. Sky is going to put one up in the dining room for me, since that is where we do our homeschooling.

Embrace the force.

Grammar is good, more grammar would be gooder..

I took Emma the Wonder-labradoodle for a walk the other day. She is now wearing the cone of shame, and though she is doing well with it for the most part, she was starting to look a little depressed...so I decided a walk was in order. I invited Demi-Sky to come along, thinking we could get in a little good conversation.
He did, and we did.

At one point in the walk, Demi-Sky said, "Mom, I'd like to learn English".
Amused, I replied that he already speaks English, and very well. He went on to explain that he was desiring to learn the mechanics of English. A light bulb went on in my head...these are the moments I live for, as a homeschool mom.

Sky began a story club with Meg and Josie 2 years ago, the purpose; to encourage the girls to write creatively and to better their writing skills. They each work on their respective stories, Sky included, and then every once in a while they read each other's continuing stories and offer critiques, or just enjoy. 3 days ago, Demi suddenly wanted to write a story on the computer. It's a joy to watch him working on it, creatively making a story-world. It's very rough, very creative...spelling-wise. I loove it.

My philosophy for language arts has been that less is more while in the younger grades. We just started using a language arts program for Demi, Amie and Teddy late last Spring..we took a break for summer and have continued on with it this fall. Sonlight Language Arts 2 fits well with my gentle LA philosophy, I've been delighted with the small portions of work for each day. It's good, solid LA without overwhelming. I am not an unschooler, I'm more of an electic/Charlotte Mason homeschooler with a classical bent...but for LA, I tend to run closer to the unschooling thought; for me, less is definitely more while young - I concentrate first on the mechanics of learning to read, and then aim for a joy of reading.
**The unschooler part of me stood up and cheered when Demi took the gentle bit of learning, began to apply it for his own creative interest and then asked for more instruction to improve his creative effort. Love, love, love it.

"Demi, I think you are asking about learning more English Grammar", I replied. "Yes, we can do more of that, in fact, the worksheet you did today on exact verbs was a grammar lesson." - and then I watched the lightbulb go off in his head, I could see the wheels churning as he considered the fact that mom doesn't make him to do schoolwork just to torture him, but that it was stuff that actually might be useful....

I love being a mom, and better, I love being mom who is always right.

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire" -William Butler Yeats

Grammar material I have used and found worthwhile;

** Sonlight Language Arts 2

** Flashkids writing workbooks

** Growing with Grammar 3, 5 and 6

Classical Conversations, my view

I joined a new Classical Conversations group, without understanding what it was. Actually, I didn't just join, I had to Jenny-fy it and sign up as a tutor, too. I like things messy.

Not totally my mistake, really, Classical Conversations is kind of hard to explain. Here's my take, as I see it, after going through tutor training and having taught now 3 weeks....

The clearest way I can paint what CC is, would be to say it is closest to a co-op, but it's NOT. Clear?

It looks like a co-op, walks like one...but is not. Classical Conversations is a community of homeschool parents (mostly moms) who come together once a week to hold "Classical" classes. The big lure, the reason it is so brilliant,-- all the decisions about what to learn/memorize, when, how, how much...have all been made by Classical Conversations-the organization; and---- I love this part----they even have ready made materials such as songs and flashcards to help you do it.

I love the thought of Classical homeschool, I agree that memorization is very important at the grammar stage. But.- it just wasn't happening at my house. I'd research, collect some catchy songs to memorize things, intend to put it on my ipod and "start me some learning"...and never get around to it. Kind of busy doing the basic three R's, teaching phonics, keeping the dog from loving the hens too much, cleaning, laundry, making meals, being taxi mom...

My Classical Conversations day looks like this so far.... stay up way too late Monday night gathering my materials, packing them up...like the bell for family feud game, flashcards, cd player, maps I printed out from the CC website. But, I'm getting better at it and each Monday has been less late.

Tuesday, I arrive early, set up my classroom and then we all meet in a big assembly. There we have prayer, pledge of allegiance, Bible memory work and one family does a public speaking sort of presentation. We run through the history timeline cards with hand motions, too.

Next we split up into individual classes, which are set up by age. I have a 4th/5th grade group. I then have from 9:30 to 12 to push them through all our material before we break for lunch. It is a dizzying large amount of material and so far, as I'm setting up, I'm thinking..."why am I doing? This is crazy? I don't want to do this..." I clearly have issues with teaching in front of a classroom, but I knew this going into it... I should mention the class size is 8 students, it's kind of cozy and not as scary as facing a class of 30...

And yet, it is a fast ride, we have a blast, and before I know it, it is lunch time. And, get this...

The kids are eating it up, and they are learning all the material. The material I keep thinking is too much. They memorize it, and spit it back at me with glee.

I write up my white-board diagram the night before. People, I have to tell you, the white-board idea is inspired! It's genius! I've decided it's the answer to my life's problems...but that will have to be another post...

ahem, I set up my white-board, it has listed on one side each subject we will go through, including 'review old grammar work' and also I write out the new grammar, such as geography terms, Latin nouns, the history sentence, etc. As we work down our list, I erase each item.

It's stinking brilliant, I'm telling you!

The kids start each week with a public speaking turn. We then work through our new grammar, reciting/singing/using flashcards. I throw in some quick review as we are doing it and award tickets that they can cash in once a month. We have a time slot for a science experiment and a slot for a simple art lesson. We have a big slot for reviewing all the old material from previous weeks, this is the kid's favorite part. We play games, such as jeopardy style, family feud style, what-ever the tutor comes up with...and the kids just love it!

and then it's time to stop, and we all meet for lunch...the moms visit and the kids play.

After lunch, there is a class for the older kids covering English grammar, math games and writing. It's like a co-op because all the moms have to attend with their children. But, it's not a co-op because the moms do not take turns teaching, one tutor teaches each class all year. The moms are there to learn from what the tutor is doing, so they can run their children through the material at home. As a tutor, I'm not really teaching...just facilitating, presenting the material. The moms do help out and pass out papers and help with bathroom breaks and such. Or, like last week, I tried to sing the parts of an animal cell to the tune of 'happy birthday' and could not pull it off...I asked one of the moms to bail me out!

So, this is a view of what CC looks like from where I am sitting. In case you were wondering.

did I mention I now know the 5 kingdoms of living things, and the classification of living things? Also the definition of a preposition. I have to say the Latin is just enough to make me dangerous...

homeschool- we are forever learning.

Summer is done!

Okay, panic has set in, I have less than two weeks to organize and plan for the new homeschool year! Where did my summer go?? It was just here where I left it,...what happened?
-Where did my super planning and feng shui go? I was going to wake up and magically be the new and improved, utra-efficient, ultra organized home-school mom...and lose weight, become super-fit and become self-actualized.
cue angels singing...
I guess I will go to plan B and just try to get my Sonlight core 6 shelved. It's been a few months now since I opened the box...Core 2 will be arriving soon and then I will have even more to shelve!

This summer has been very full and topsy-turvy. I had my trip to Singapore, then we took the kids to Boston, then we got Emma the wonder-labradoodle, hosted people for the Bible conference, went to the fair, registered Meg for a classes for high school at a private homeschool group, sent Meg to Bible Camp in Canada!, decided very last minute to join a
Classical homeschool group and teach a class there.. no-less and had a surprise visit from the local truant officer. Fun, fun, fun! I had to do a 3 day teacher training for the new group in LA...I don't like driving thru LA..it took me a few days to recover from that!

Summer-lov'in...happened so fast....

I am really excited about our new Classical group, I think it is going to be a really good year for us, the kids are going to memorize lots of important and good stuff and have fun doing science experiments and art activities. The other teacher-moms are all very nice, I haven't been this excited about a group in a long time. They have some really impressive stuff for the older kids, logic, Socratic discussion, essay writing...I'm kind of hoping we can fold Meg into this group next year..we'll have to see how it would fit into the classes she is involved with right now.

On the starting school front, I actually have all the books I need, except for the
Sonlight Core 2, which is the second half of Ancient World History- for Demi, Amie and Teddy. We have all our math, LA, Latin, handwriting...so far I am thinking of building around the science we will be doing in our Classical group, we will see how that goes.

How's school planning going for all of you?

Rock n roll homeschool

Our homeschool plans for the up-coming school year are very different from our usual course of business, add in an unexpected program...and things are kind of topsy-turvy in my head right now.


rock on....rock on...

First, Meg's run with a home-based charter school program has ended. We will either be homeschooling her under the private option here in California, or hopefully join an umbrella school (now called psp's in Ca). We have contemplated this change for a year or two now, the big factor is Meg's need of more interaction with other teens. She's feeling a little isolated, and she has always loved to be social. This psp group will have a few classes she can attend, and some social opportunities, they even have a yearbook, prom and graduation ceremonies. She is very excited.

The deciding factor was our charter school's push (for High School) to move towards text-book/online syllabus type schooling to satisfy the No Child Left Behind- 'qualified teacher' mandate. I looked over the programs they were recommending, and frankly I was not impressed...besides being dull, I saw no 'qualified teacher' involvement beyond possibly the creation of a syllabus to follow.
Dull, insipid, un-inspiring...not what learning could or should be all about. Frankly, the course of study we are planning for Meg is so much more interesting..and really a higher level of learning than what they were requiring.

So, things are being shaken up a bit, I will be taking Meg to classes possibly on two different days a week... we are hoping to sign her up for Spanish, Science and yearbook classes.

But wait! - let's shake things up a little more...

a few weeks ago I received an email about a Classical group 'community' forming in our area. I've heard of this group, but didn't really know anything about it, how it is run, how it functions...beside just the impression that it is expensive. So, I looked it up- and wow! How did I ever homeschool without a group like this!

Actually, I know how...the answer is: it probably wasn't the season for me before. Had this email reached me 5 or 2 years ago, or even last year, my reaction/impressions would have likely been different. I guess I am just at a place now where I could welcome this level of work/interaction...taking us out of our cozy home atmosphere more...

So,- I do some research and really like what I am seeing...but yikes! It is pretty costly, specially when you are talking 3 kids! (I'm not going to mention the name of the group yet, I'm not sure if I want to be searchable on this subject yet...but I am sure you can guess from my descriptions,)

I'll give you a brief breakdown so you get the idea... it's $312 per kid(for 3 kids) for two semesters, this is for the lowest level they have, add in another $312 for Josie so she can attend the afternoon session for older kids. To keep the shock factor down...they separate costs, so they also ask for a $50 registration fee per kid and $50 supply fee per kid and $35 facility fee per kid.

Okay, the extra shocker was that Sky did not faint when I added these all up! He was actually really impressed with this program. It's not totally out of the world when you divide the cost out by weeks...but the kicker is that the program asks for all of this upfront, all at once. I can understand, since homeschoolers can be notoriously fickle and flaky and of course people esteem and darn well make sure to attend- classes they pay dearly for.

Problem is....we don't have it! We already budgeted out expenses for this fall, which were unusually big, now that Meg is out of the charter, and attending a new program with new expenses. Did I mention she needs a new violin? It never rains but it pours...

I wanted to join this community so badly, I signed on as a teacher to help pay for our kids to attend.

I am really excited, I think it will be a really good year. You can see now why I didn't want this post to be easily searchable by keyword...

do they find out now or later that Bridget Jones is teaching their children?