Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winter Nature Walk

This morning, I took the kids out to Lake Arrowhead for a winter nature walk. Despite the temperature (mid-30s), it was very pleasant, and we collected plenty of rocks (Ginny, the geologist), sticks, pine cones and needles, and acorn and walnut parts for our seasonal shelf. I actually found it so pleasant that the kids didn't complain about the walk (a big improvement over walks in the summer heat).

We listened for nature sounds (like woodpeckers, mystery chirping birds, geese honking, dogs barking, some people yelling in the distance, and I think I even heard a frog chirping--that or a really strange-sounding bird!). With Ginny, I just had to watch with the water and tell her and Lily that they could get sick if they got into the water when it's this cold. A.J. was happy to reinforce this by throwing out words like "hypothermia" and such. ;)

I got a lot of "Mom, take a picture of this!" I was happy to oblige. A.J. even got a shot of me with the girls.

A.J. is going to do his history with Dad and work on his Restaurant Rush wiki, too, later while I am working. All in all a nice day so far.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Flexibility a Point

Today was one of those days (back to a structure after several weeks off) where I was able to keep on task with the kids and still stay flexible. Personally, this is a real achievement and required me to be in a good mood, well-rested, and most of all, flexible.

When A.J. started wandering over toward his little sisters while we practiced knots, I reminded him that I wasn't teaching him knots so that he could tie up his siblings. However, when he tied the rope to an empty soda can to make a "can whip," I let him go with it, providing there was no contact! (Those YouTube videos were a lifesaver, let me tell you!).

I also added the element to Science Wednesday of watching one video from The Happy Scientist. We get a free subscription as part of our membership with The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. I let A.J. pick the video and watched it with him--polarized lenses turned out to be much cooler than it sounded ;)

With the girls, we drew on the whiteboard instead of in our lesson books and when Lily showed no interest in drawing 4s and instead wanted to draw trash bags, I improvised. "Oh, no!" I said with plenty of drama. "Look, someone threw away all these fours!" I also drew Fourbots because Lily wanted to make robots this morning.

Then, we dug into our box of recycle materials and made fourbots out of old Chinese food containers and paper and tissue rolls. A.J. even joined in.

Then, Lily made herself into a robot, just like Curious George did.

We had lots of fun, stuck to the topics (we certainly experienced the number four in a very physical way, which Oak Meadow recommends for learning letters and numbers), and practiced flexibility. I wish most days could be like that.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Survival Skills for Kids: Part 1

My 11-year-old son wants to learn about survival skills. He's already read a ton about first aid, and we're moving on from there. In addition to probably getting him his first Swiss army knife and teaching him how to use it safely, here are some handy resources I found to start us off this month:

Read and practice "The Five Knots Every Boy Should Know," The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Hal Iggulden, p 9, with backup from YouTube:

The Reef Knot or Square Knot

    Figure Eight Knot

    Bowline Knot

    Sheet Bend Knot

    Clove Hitch Knot

Wilderness Survival

I hope to post more on Survival Skills for Kids next month as we work our way through them.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winter Insanity

Well, I'm going to sneak in here at the last minute and get in a blog post, just so I can say that it has not been an entire calendar month without a blog post. We haven't quit homeschooling if that's what you're wondering! Or even quit our curriculum, which I guess would be the most likely scenario. It's just been come and go with the holidays and work and such. DH and I have been e-baying a collection of coins and related memorabilia for a friend. Also, I started freelancing for a new company and just barely didn't get another regular freelance gig, so all that applying and copyediting tests, etc., took up a lot of my time and energy.

So this has been a month of doing what we could when we could. We did crafts on occasion. We had a completely awesome Thanksgiving table decorated with our own crafts:

DS did some history with his Dad and some of his math work, the one thing he never complains about. I'm also looking forward to introducing some real-world-in-a-book math to him in a couple of weeks with a Finite Mathematics book. I'm interested to see whether figuring out other people's lists of numbers and calculations for real-world scenarios piques DS's interest as much as planning his own (often unfinished) events does. I often thing his Aspergian obsession with numbers leads him to planning things just so he can crunch all those numbers in his head. This is the book we're trying out (I managed to get it on PaperbackSwap):

We've done a lot of holiday-related things, including making Christmas lanterns and holiday hand-print wreaths for Daddy, making holiday treats, and attending our town's Christmas parade. We even attended two youth holdiay plays and watched some of our friends perform:

DS and Dd1 waiting for the plays to begin.

A homeschool friend playing Cheesehead in A Christmas Cinderella

 We're not going to really be getting back into the thick of things schoolwise until after the New Year. This week will be hanging out, catching up, and traveling. I am really hoping to do 3 weeks worth of school planning in the next couple of days, but we'll see how that actually comes out. I may take the books, etc., with me on our trip to finish up. Again, we'll see.

At least, after months of trying, tweaking, and trying something else, I found something good to organize my curriculum, which also works well for many other organizational task: the online Cozi calendar, created by the same geniuses that handle the Flylady website. I basically make up a To Do list for each of my kids for the week, organized by day and/or subject and print it out for my binder at the end of the week, after I've modified it for what we actually did. I am thinking about getting an evaluation for proof of progress this year, so having this stuff written down should be helpful. This blog doesn't hurt either. Here's what a plan might look like:

It's easy and convenient. And the handiest thing is that when I type those dates in like "12/8," Cozi automatically adds the item to my calendar that day. I can also check Cozi on my Kindle, which is great for keeping track of appointments, etc., when I'm not at the house.

Another tool: an upgrade to The Journal 5, which I'm using to type this blog post right now. It's personal journaling software, but I've created a separate account in it just for the blog. Once I've finished a post, I can upload it directly to Blogger. Pretty handy. It might be handy for lesson planning, too. I have to explore that aspect a little more. The one thing about Cozi is that it won't keep the lessons week to week unless I want to create a gazillion of those To Do lists. J

So, basically, if I can't get organized, it's totally my own fault and I'm hopeless, which might be true, but I refuse to admit it. Hope everyone is having a terrific holiday season. Wish me luck in getting into a nice groove in the coming weeks. I'm gonna need it!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool: We Have a Visitor

Today, we had a guest in our homeschool. The kids' friend Riesling got to come for a sleepover, and they had a blast. They squeezed every moment for life and fun. Riesling decided to join us this morning for school (the girls' Oak Meadow Kindergarten studies, Lesson 5). We did circle time with songs, rhymes, and games, and then moved onto a craft with the number 2. Then, we moved outside to do tree rubbings (leaves and bark) and just to have fun. Finally, we had our second tea party this week (to go with the story The Pie and the Patty Pan by Beatrix Potter but tons of fun in its own right).

Here are some pics of our great time.

We had a guest this morning for school: Riesling! She joined us in making the number 2 with glue and glitter and colored sand.

Lily's glue and glitter (and sand) 2s.

Riesling shows off her 2 while Lily works on hers.

Ginny trying her hand at a rubbing on the clothesline pole outside. We also did tree and leaf rubbings all over the yard and experimented with rubbings on other surfaces, such as the brick on the house.

Our neighbors dogs kept barking at us in the backyard. So fierce.

Girls in Trees. We talked about getting to know the tree so we could be more comfortable climbing it. Lily still holds some fear, even though she loves climging.

Riesling and Lily in the Dogwood.

Ginny got up on the lowest branch all by herself. It helped when I told her to ride it like a horsey.

Another Tea Party! Two days in a row!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fall Break/Unschooling Weeks: A Photojournal

We've taken a break from much structured schooling the last couple of weeks, but we've kept plenty busy, even doing a few crafts related to Halloween and some cooking together. Here is a brief photojournal to show you what we've been up to.

First, we took an overnight field trip to West Virginia to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

We saw the Green Bank Telescope, the world's largest movable radiotelescope, did some workshops, and stayed in a bunkhouse overnight with friends from Raw Learning.

Lily made stomp rockets at the observatory while her brother looked at the sun and listened for radio signals.

We spent some time with good friends.

Before leaving West Virginia, we took a ride on a steam locomotive.

We took advantage of an unexpected October snowstorm.
We carved pumpkins and even made pumpkin faces to hang in the window (not pictured).
We celebrated Halloween in cute and scary ways.
We celebrated Lily's 5th Birthday.
We made Italian cannoli.

So, even when we're not "doing school," you can see we keep busy and keep learning. We'll do a little more learning in our books this week and, I'm sure, a lot more out of them ;)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Homeschool Mother's Journal 4

The Homeschool Mother's Journal
The Homeschool Mother's Journal is a linkup via

In my life this week…
We have been busy planning the combo birthday party for the just-turned 11 yo and the about-to-turn 5 yo at the local jumping/bouncing arena. It should be tons of fun, but I'll be glad when the planning is done!

I also sent in a resume to my old "alma mater" (someone I used to work for full time) to apply for some new freelance work. I have plenty, but I like to have diversity and also having more than once source of income unless something falls through. I hope they call me for some work soon.

My newish camera also went kaput. Fortunately, Amazon took it back and gave us a refund without any fuss. Now, I just have to decide what to replace it with. DS is being nice and letting me use his little point and shoot when I need it.

In related news, I need someone else to be in charge of my finances. Although I consider myself a smart person, in money management, if I were in school, I'd get an F minus. The stress I cause myself is just too much.
In our homeschool this week…
It was kind of a catch-up week, so that we could finish some projects we didn't get to last week.

DS11 worked on dividing decimals by whole numbers and also built a wetland to study the benefits of wetlands on the environment and pollution.

DS11's wetland model with sand, carpet (to serve as "absorbent" wetland grasses), clay creatures and tree, and some real leaves and twigs.
The girls learned "Hickory Dickory Dock" this week. We also did a supershort nature walk (it was colder than we expected!), made leaf stencils, and made letters and numbers out of air-dry clay.

DS4's leaf prints. The one with the the yellow and red outline was the leaf. Otherwise, she was just having fun exploring with sponge painting.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

We took a field trip to watch Bradley Fields in MatheMagic!, a combination magic show/educational program. It was really geared toward 5th and 6th graders. My 3 and 4 year old found some things interesting (like him finding coins everywhere, including in people's armpits!), but they were a bit antsy. My 11 yo enjoyed it more because he knew the math and enjoyed the magic.
My favorite thing this week was…

My plantar fasciitis is doing better (mostly due to wearing crocs or thick-soled flip flops all day, even in the house). The field trip to the theater, despite some standing on hard surfaces and doing some walking, did not make my feet sore! That's the first time in a long time. They still have some healing to do, but they are on the way!
What’s working/not working for us…

See yesterday's post!
Things I’m working on…

In my few moments of spare time, I've been playing with wirework jewelry making. I'd like to be able to make rings, but my spirals really need work. I can't seem to get them even. However, I made a cute copper music note zipper pull for my purse and a cute pair of earrings that I'll probably end up giving away since I don't usually wear them ;)
I’m reading…
Amazingly enough, nothing! I have been too busy to start anything, although I have a big pile of to-read books on both paper and Kindle.

I’m cooking…

I made some peanut butter muffins from Paula Deen's Cookbook for the Lunch Box Set for a playdate that turned out pretty yummy. I need to make ahead more of this type of thing so we're eating breakfast out of a box less often. As soon as I get some more time...
I’m grateful for…

My family. I'd be nothing without them. Honestly.
A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

I found this on Knowledge House totally describes my life.

"Real Homeschool Mothers don't eat quiche; they don't have time to make it."