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 ww.TheHomeschoolChick.com.

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."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Teetering Again

As is true for many of us, I suppose, I find my life to be a constant search for balance or at least a semblance of it.

Homeschooling is no different. It seems we're always at a spot where there is "too much" of one thing and "not enough" of another. Introspectively, it seems that I am not very comfortable jumping entirely onto one end of the see-saw either. Perhaps it was the wildly swinging pendulum of my childhood that made me this way, but in any case, I often walk the line as close to the middle as I can.

This year, I started using a curriculum diligently for the first time. It's not the first time I've ever tried to direct my kids more, just the first time I did it on a daily basis. I don't regret it, but I do have my moments of frustration, as do the kids.

After about six weeks of working with this, I feel like ruminating over what is working and not working or just what is delightful and what is challenging:


  • I love sitting down with the girls and doing art together, even though they very rarely try for too long to do the actual project. They've already had a taste of free learning are highly motivated to go their own way. My approach has been mostly to have the elder daughter (almost 5) pause for a minute or so, give the lesson a try, show her how it can be done, and then let her go, whether that leads her to following the project or letting her mind roam. It's usually the latter, and that's fine. Actually, it's good. I want my kids to be able to follow directions, but that is far from all I want for them. The youngest (3) is such a free spirit. I hope she does develop some discipline some day but not at the expense of her creativity ;)
  • On the same note, I love cooking with my son and seeing what he comes up with in computer programming. These are the two activities he enjoys most, especially the cooking, and I am going to see if there is a way we can do more of it. Unfortunately, my time is so limited; it already feels as though I am squeezed dry like a sponge every day, to make every minute count.
  • With fewer days on the run, I love to hear the kids get together to work on something or play together, especially the elder two (11 and almost 5). This is getting more common, and I love it. They used to fight constantly, or the older would pick, pick, pick on the younger. I believe that it is more related to some therapy than time at home (my eldest is my Aspie), but it's still wonderful that they have time to appreciate and enjoy each other. I have found myself delaying lesson time so that they can have their time together and not be interrupted because there is "stuff to do."
  • Time, time, time. How am I ever supposed to get everything done and not feel so short on time??? Even when we were unschooling, I felt this way. 
  • Getting the kids to give new things and themselves a chance can be pretty difficult. It doesn't help that DH and I don't always see eye to eye on this. I'm usually willing to back off a bit and wait if the kids are really staunchly against something, but my husband states, "If you just keep making them do it, they get used to it, and it's no problem any more." And sometimes he's right. (Not that he would ever admit that he was wrong ;)). I'm grateful for the way he's been working with the kids to clean up after themselves more. Even the 3-year-old participates some now without much whining. Some may say wait until they're ready on their own, but for some of us, a messy house is so much more stressful, and if the kids don't help, you end up cleaning it up all yourself, being resentful, and not having any time to play with them. If they help out, there is more time for everyone, and things can be more relaxed and happy. Yes, there can be some initial resistance, but it seems to have been worth it in this case. Family harmony has been improved.
Well, this week has kind of been a catch-up week as I finish planning up a combo birthday party for the older two kids, and next week, we're taking a Fall Break on classwork. The week is starting out with an overnight field trip to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Durbin Rocket train with Raw Learning. It should be enlightening and fun, but I'll be playing catch-up again when we return.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


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It's been a busy week, as usual, but we've been extra creative, I feel. First, here is a easy tie-on scarf dress that DD1 wore for a while. The second scarf was bigger than the first, so I kind of had to improvise, but I think it looked cute. Great, easy dress up idea. I got the idea from a pin on Pinterest.

Our second creation, which we just whipped up this morning was a pillow, idea by DS. The kids are all fascinated by the box of fiberfill that I keep under my sewing table, and DS suggested that we make a pillow out of one of his old shirts that is too small. I'm often reluctant, as he often comes up with hard to pull off ideas, but I said, "Sure, let's try it." So, I sewed most of the holes with the sewing machine, with all three kids looking on (11, 4, and 3) in fascination, and they stuffed the shirt before I sewed up the last sleeve. It was quick and easy, and it was great to see everyone working together. Next time, I'll see if one of them wants to try the sewing part :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Homeschool Mother's Journal 3

The Homeschool Mother's Journal
The Homeschool Mother's Journal is a linkup via www.TheHomeschoolChick.com.
In my life this week…
We kept busy as usual, this week, although I'm always busier than everyone else, it seems, since not all of our activities involve all of our children. My husband does his fair share, too! We skipped a field trip because my plantar fasciitis was really acting up. I went to the podiatrist Thursday for a shot and am vowing to keep up with all the things that I am supposed to do to help it heal. I really hate not being able to walk. I let this go on too long before the initial treatment, and now, I'm afraid I psychologically associate so many activities with pain (walking, the grocery store, basically anything that involves standing around or walking for more than a few minutes). It's something that I'll have to deal with for sure.

In our homeschool this week…
My husband officially started the Oak Meadow 5 History and English curriculum with DS (10) this week. As I sort of expected, there was much gnashing of teeth, after which lessons were done. I am hoping this smoothes itself out soon. They are both much too independent (and maybe just a bit stubborn ;)) to do what the other wants, and it can be stressful on those of us who just want everyone to get along!

My favorite thing this week was…
Okay, three favorite things: (1) seeing DS take a real interest in Scratch and start to do some work with it independently, (2) milk painting together, an idea that I got from the web and pinned on Pinterest (see below for picture), and (3) taking DS out to the Japanese steakhouse to eat at the Hibachi and celebrate his 11th birthday a little early.

What’s working/not working for us…
Not working: My feet, obviously. :) Also, my four-year-old seems to be having some self-confidence issues, at least when it comes to guided art. Whenever we try to draw a certain picture, she seems to think that if it doesn't look like mine or even a simple line drawing, it's not good enouogh, and she wants me to "help" (aka draw it for her). I try to be encouraging but so far, no dice. I'm seeking advice and may just stick to free drawing or even "why don't we draw a picture that reminds us of what we read about." With free drawing, she's happy and imaginative. I'm not sure why she compares herself to me or others so much, as I have tried not to do that. Maybe just natural human behavior. One step at a time, I guess.

Things I’m working on…
There is not much time beyond work, but I just bought UDraw game tablet for the Wii, and I hope to play around with it a little this week. DS's birthday is Monday, so it's gonna be a busy one!
I’m reading…

I haven't started anything new yet, but I just finished reading Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden book 1) by Charlaine Harris. It was my first e-book checkout from the library. I have a ton of both paper and e-books in my stack to read, so I'm sure I'll find something new.

I’m cooking…
Plenty this week! DS and I cooked American apple pie for World Cooking. The girls and I made homemade whole grain crescent rolls during school time. The girls also helped me with some baked apples, which I burned by leaving them in the crock pot too long (who knew you could do that?).

I’m grateful for…
A couple of weeks where we've gotten most of our lessons done (thanks to handing over history and English to DH) so that I can at least see how Oak Meadow really works for our kids and how we work together. I already know I need to schedule in a little more free time (for myself as much as anyone), even if it means other busier days.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

One of our milk painting examples. They changed constantly. You get the most color when you put all the drops of color in that you want before you stick in the soap-covered toothpick.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fire and Fun!

On our unschoolish, eclectic side, we did some experiments with fire last week at the request of DS (10). DDs (3 and 4) looked on in awe. It was a lot of fun, but I talked a lot about safety, too. DS picked out almost all of the materials we tested. Hat tip to our friend Joe at Raw Learning, who gave us some wonderful ideas, including the very basic one that the best way to learn about fire was to light things and see what happens. Here is a photolog of our experiment.



DS recording results such as how fast each item ignited, the color of the flame, and what kind of material  remained


Hand sanitizer: It is burning, but the flame was basically colorless.

Adding salt to the sanitizer revealed the flame.

Dried leaves.

Copy paper.

Copy paper remains.


Fresh leaves.

Cardboard. We added tongs to create more surface area
(and thus more access to oxygen) on the items.

DS takes a turn at holding the tongs.


Newspaper remains.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tired and Frustrated

Oh, here we are. I knew it would come; I wasn't sure exactly when. The "I don't want to do any school" day. The "why do I have to do X" day. The day when DH comes in and steps all over my figurative toes and then gets defensive when I'm upset about it. The everyone is just in a tither day. The "I can't" day.

Today, I am just going to try to get through it without any (more) yelling, and take tomorrow as another, fresh day. It was actually okay for most of the day, so I shouldn't complain.

Maybe tomorrow I'll write a post about our exciting fire experiments from last week, or how I've actually been sticking to our schedule for the most part and getting things done.

See you then on a better, brighter day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Switching Things Up a Little

Well, we're still here. I don't want to just post a litany of things we do every day, especially when things are so slow, but we're meandering along.

My schedule has still been a challenge. I have managed to increase my work hours over the past couple of months, which is a good thing in terms of income. However, it's made school scheduling a little more of a challenge, especially when you toss in field trips and so on.

Today, my husband agreed to take over the History & English part of my son's 5th grade curriculum. That is a real load off my shoulders. Not only does it give me a lot less to do (History & English in this curriculum also encompasses geography and arts & crafts), but it leaves the fun stuff for me: programming, science, math, and cooking. Guess I'm not that big of a history buff, although I do like writing :)

I'm still enjoying using the Homeschool Tracker Software, although I'm adding Cozi in this week to schedule actual (but flexible) times when "school" will take place. I remembered to add things like ballet, gymnastics, and karate to the list, too, as phys ed is part of learning, even if I'm not the one doing the teaching.

I'm also going off the grid and teaching a lesson or two on fire, at my son's request. As I might have mentioned, a big part of the reason I wanted a curriculum this year instead of strict unschooling was because it is making me "pencil in" time to spend with the kids that has some real interaction and meaning. If he had suggested doing anything together other than playing video games before, we might not be here, but it's been a long time since he really had. Anyhow, we got some really cool, hands on (or "hands off") ideas from an engineer friend, and it should be a blast ;) We're also working more on programming and cooking beef stroganoff!

With the kindergarten curriculum, we're still finishing up Lesson 2, talking a lot about B's and butterflies. This week promises to be fun with a "nature treasure hunt," crafts, singing, and painting. Hopefully, I'll have photos to share by the end of the week!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

One: A Meme Post

I was tagged by Steph over at Confessions of an Erratic Homeschooling Mom for this one. Tag me back if you continue it. I'd love to read your posts.

1. One homeschooling book you have enjoyed: Homeschooling: The Early Years by Linda Dobson. This gave me a great start and talked about the different philosophies and encouraged us to go our own way.

2. One resource you wouldn't be without: The Internet :)

3. One resource you wish you had never bought: Science kits from The Young Scientist Club. I really need to not buy things like this unless I have plans to use them immediately. My oldest at least generally doesn't have the motivation to get them out and use them on his own, not when the computer is sitting right there. We have remaining a stack of about 20 of these kits (it was a monthly subscription) that we have yet to use, and it was a bit difficult to cancel once I decided to end it. Maybe someday we'll get to all of them...

4. One resource you enjoyed last year: Gleamer at Raw Learning for planning so many great field trips.

5. One resource you will be using next year: I'm adding "New" to this since we'll still be doing field trips with Raw Learning. This year we're adding curricula from Oak Meadow. I'm looking forward to continuing to explore and learn with it with the kids.

6. One resource you would like to buy: Oh, I can't just stick to one here, but some of the things on my wish list for homeschooling are a butterfly garden, Horrible Histories, and The Waldorf Book of Poetry.

7. One resource you wish existed: A group of secular homeschoolers in my small hometown. I've been able to hook up with homeschooling parents of younger kids (my daughters' ages) here in town (although not too many secular ones), but we have had to drive to meet up with kids any older, enough so that I often wish we moved closer to them, even though I like my town for the most part.

8. One homeschool catalog you enjoy reading: Rainbow Resource Catalog. Are there any others? Honestly, if there are, I don't get them. The one marketing thing I could use, and I somehow missed the mailing list.

9. One homeschool website you use regularly: Facebook and Google probably give me all the information I need. I really don't use any one regularly, although I might be visiting the Oak Meadow web site more as the school year rolls on. Now, e-mail lists, I have plenty of those!

10. Tag six other homeschoolers: I'm still exploring the homeschool blogosphere, so I'll be sure to tag some friends as a note in this post  as a note on Facebook :)

The Homeschool Mother's Journal 2

The Homeschool Mother's Journal is a linkup via www.TheHomeschoolChick.com.
Whoo boy, what a busy couple of weeks. I'm glad for these writing prompts to give me a starting place and a good prompt to write a blog post.
In my life this week…

We have been superbusy the last couple of weeks (I didn't post last week) with a trip out of town, neurofeedback appointments for DS, trying to schedule and fit in a little school, ballet starting up, karate continuing for DS, our first field trip of fall, work, and just life. You know you're busy/overwhelmed when you have to look back at your calendar just to see what you did the past few days ;)
In our homeschool this week…

We didn't do a whole lot of "lesson time." I did do circle time with the girls and start on the letter B with them on Monday, and DS did his second math lesson, but we did more eclectic type stuff. First, my girls, 3 and 4, started ballet on Monday for the fall. DD4 (almost 5) has been with this teacher the past 2 years. I considered moving her up to the next class, but she is kind of attached to her teacher, and I thought it would also help her younger sister (who has a short attention span) transition if they were in the same class. We also had a field trip, right here in our own town at The Art Warehouse, completely devoted to art. We did pottery with the Pottery Lady and explored colors with paint and other materials with Nancy from S&N School of Music & Art (I'll try to post pictures when the pottery is finished).

There was something for all three of my kids, and they also got to visit with friends, as the trip was organized through Raw Learning, a regional free school. I was amazed at how interested my youngest was in all of the artwork in the gallery, especially the sculptures and a little house and yard made entirely of sticks and twigs and other natural things. 
My favorite thing this week was…

Getting paid! LOL. I've been working consistently as a freelancer, but as things are bound to go sometimes, the checks don't always arrive on a consistent basis. We were kind of in a rough spot anyway, and then, it was almost 6 weeks without a check. I was very happy to receive 5 checks all at once this week. It will be helpful for both home and homeschool. DS and I can finally get to work on that Pan Bagna recipe this week!
What’s working/not working for us…

Organizing our schedule is still a work in progress. As my friend Steph over at Confessions of an Erratic Homeschooling Mom expressed in a recent post, every time I try to get "school" started, life gets in the way. But that's okay. I believe that life as plenty to teach me and my children as well. It's no less valuable than school time.
Things I’m working on…

How about things I'd like to work on if only I could squeeze out the time? Learn more about wirework jewelry, do more drawing and photography, play more Diablo II with my son. I do actually need to organize my kids' birthday party (my two older ones are having a combo party) and buy presents for my son, who celebrating 11 years in early October. I'm also researching the idea of hiring a mother's helper (perhaps a homeschooling teen) that could help me out on field trips with the kids. I have a foot issue (plantar fasciitis) that makes long periods on my feet extremely difficult.
I’m reading…

The Freedom Writers' Diary by Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers. Wow. I was inspired to read this book after watching the movie, and I'm being well rewarded.
I’m cooking…

We made No-Bake Energy Bites for a playdate this week. They were a hit, both at home and the playdate. Easy, healthy, and superyummy.
I’m grateful for…

My family, both immediate and extended. My mother turned 70 this week, and I'm so glad that she's a part of my life, even though she lives 700 miles away now. She's an awesome lady.
A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

My favorite photo this week: my youngest, asleep in her favorite place, the dining room table.