Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Day of School

On a whim, we started school today. After I realized that planning was getting overwhelming, I thought that that maybe we should start things a little more slowly instead of jumping in headfirst with all subjects at once. I also haven't gotten all the supplies we need for every subject for the first few weeks, and it might be a while before I can. So, I thought why not start with what we can do?

The kids all agreed, so off we go!

I started Monday evening reading Peter Rabbit to my girls. Then, we did circle time while breakfast was cooking, and I made a grand discovery! I've got a budding singer on my hands. Lily (4) loved doing the rhymes Lucy Locket and Little Miss Muffett. She had the first memorized before the morning was over.

Ginny (3) tried them, too. They both sounded adorable! I had to really watch our candle, which we light at the start of circle time and blow out when it's done. Ginny is still a bit too young to realize that she needs to be careful, but it went all right. A.J (10). even joined us to blow out the candle together.

Ginny, posing while we did our drawing. She's a ham for the camera.

 After breakfast and cleanup, we did the drawing exercise, focusing on the letter A. My drawing was of a garden gate, as in the Oak Meadow Kindergarten Syllabus. Lily seemed a little intimidated by it at first, but I encouraged her, gave her a few tips, about filling up the page and drawing the A in the gate, and told about how the word gate has the long A sound. I love it that she took what I said and still put her own spin on it, filling up the page with A gates. Forget the garden! Well, the point of this exercise is to make the letters real and tangible to them, which her practice was certainly doing. Also, in the evening, we took a walk on our town greenway and looked for As in nature and made As with sticks. She brought home bunches of dry leaves and sticks to add to our yard. It seems we don't have enough :)

My version of the A gate, as a guide.
Lily's completed picture. It's hard to see, but it's covered with yellow A gates.
A.J. and I also began our exploration of Scratch, MIT's free software for kids to teach them computer programming. They have some videos on their web site that help kids get started. A.J. learned how to choose and delete "Sprites," how to change their colors, and how to use effects on them, such as swirl and brighten that are initiated by mouse movement or space bar clicks. He really seemed to enjoy it and had a big grin on his face. The videos really only served as a starting point; once he got the idea, he was off and running.

A.J. getting his first taste of programming.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fine Tuning: Cooking Class

DS10 and I had to do a bit of driving for an appointment yesterday and had a really nice time together. After the appointment, we had dinner together, and we talked a lot about different things, including what he's interested in learning this year.

If you're keeping up, you'll know that we're doing cooking once a week. I was imagining him or me looking up recipes every week and just cooking. However, he came up with a brilliant idea: foods from around the world! He decided to use a book he already owns: There's a Chef in My World by Emeril Lagasse. Funny thing is, he loves Emeril's cooking books for kids so much that this one is falling apart (we might get another when time allows, but for now, we're scanning and printing the pages so they don't get more damaged). He has two more of Emeril's books as well, There's a Chef in My Soup and There's a Chef in My Family, and we've used them quite a bit, but there are still many, many to try out.

We're going to cook a recipe from a different country every week. To flesh out the class, we also plan on reading just a little about the culture and watching a short video on technique related to the recipe (probably from YouTube or a site like Kids Cooking Activities).

DS has already picked out his first three recipes: Mango Lassi from India, Pan Banga from France, and Beef Stroganoff from Russia. I'm really looking forward to this! It sounds like fun.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Whew. I finally got a draft of the first week's K and 5 schedules, based on the Oak Meadow curricula, written up for the kids. I am going to have to keep reminding myself to relax, breathe deep, and just see how it goes. I wonder if I shouldn't change it from a schedule to more of a checklist, moving on to the next area when we've finished the first? Maybe ease into it more? As I said, I'm just going to relax and see how it goes. It does look fun. And I'm sure we'll be spending more time outside and doing fun things like making letters out of bread :)

Well, this is what we're looking at for week 1 (which will probably be the first week of September). I want to have 2 or 3 weeks planned ahead of time. It's important, especially since I figured out today that the first reader was missing from my fifth grade set, and I had to order it. These things are bound to happen. As you can see, there is a blank or two to be filled in, as well.

Kindergarten Week 1:

Circle Time
Opening verse
Field trip day
Opening verse
Opening verse
Opening verse
Start seasonal table
Morning Main Lesson (LA/SS/Math)
Review story/draw A

Do A tongue twister
Do A tongue twister
Go outside and gather sticks to tie in bundles and make As
Do A tongue twister
Find tree branch As and tie a string to make As.
Do A tongue twister
Walk and run the letter A
Look for other As.
Creative play stations
Afternoon Hour (Arts, Crafts, Science, Music, and Health)
Recall summer/draw a picture of summer
Press flowers to recall summer
Make bread snakes
Music/Movement: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and another song or finger play.
Health: Parts of the body.

Bedtime Story
“The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter

Supplies: crayons, flowers, recipe ingredients, Wee Sing CD, start gathering fall items for seasonal table.

Grade 5 Week 1:

Vocabulary/grammar review
Read Lesson 1 ("Explorers")
Field trip day
Intro to writing assignment/research
1. Plant shadow stick/measure
2. Observe North Star and night sky and note impressions

Read Science Lesson 1 (“Scientific Inquiry”)
Bird observation/
hypotheses/design experiment

1. Conduct bird experiment
2. Night sky poem/picture


Lesson 1 to Skill A ("Common Denominators")
Remainder of Lesson 1 ("Lowest Common Denominators"

Computer Science



Pick a recipe or do bread with girls

Independent Work/Reading/
Collect bird pictures and arrange by beak type
Read CC
Writing assignment

CC: Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz
Supplies: Bird pictures, encyclopedia, globe, stick, measuring tape, colored pencils and/or watercolors, recipe ingredients

I'm also stopping to tell myself right now to not be upset if the kids don't appreciate the work I put into this. They have a different perspective about this. I put this together for me, anyway, the schedule, that is. I don't want to be grasping or grossly unprepared when it's time to start. I am also open to spending more time on some topics and less on others, depending on the kids' interest. I'm already worried that DS will be bored with the math, even though we're using Oak Meadow Math 7 (7th grade). We may have to skip ahead to the more complicated stuff, depending on how he does.

I am also willing to take the very un-Waldorfish approach (from the little I know of Waldorf, anyhow) of using an Internet encyclopedia and letting DS do some of his writing on the computer if he wishes. We'll take things one step at a time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scheduling and Getting Organized

I just popped over to Donna Young's page (Donna Young's Homeschool Resources and Printables) to download some organizers. As I was reading and getting into the nuts and bolts about the Oak Meadow Kindergarten curriculum, I realized that I was going to need at least some kind of planner if I have any hope of keeping up or at least know what I'm supposed to be covering in what order, especially when you add in DS's 5th grade stuff, which I'm still waiting on. I want flexibility, but I also don't want to be floundering.

Hopefully, the subject planners on her page will work for that. You can use them to plan out what you want to cover in a semester without being tied down to a certain thing each day. She also has a good idea, the curriculum key, which allows you to create a shorthand for your curriculum to use in your planner(s). For example, I might code Growing, Growing Strong, page 1, as GGS1.

I'll probably put the pages all together in a notebook, along with some journal pages for notes. I really like her decorated journal pages. Very cute! This a site you could spend a long time exploring, with lots of resources.

Too bad it can't add more time to my day. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm supposed to fit all the homeschooling in before work time (usually about 2 p.m.) and still take care of household chores, exercise, and all of the other things (therapy appointments, etc.) that manage to squeeze their way into my life. I've considered getting up earlier and/or exercising later, but I'm still working on that part. It'll be easier to figure out once I get DS's curriculum and get an idea of what is involved there.

Well, that will be another day. It's amazing how little one can accomplish in a day. Let's just hope it adds up :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

A New Chapter

We have been homeschooling for five "official" years. My oldest, DS, 10, would be in fifth grade this year were he in school, and he has always been homeschooled.

Up until this point, you could have labeled us as either unschoolers or ecelectic homeschoolers. We've done various levels of structure, mostly on the low-structure side. The most we've done lately is a little Time4Learning every day. However, the kids are a little bit bored with it, truth be told, and they are craving more attention from me.

Thus begins my quest for more structure this year. Mostly, it's a way of kicking myself in the rear-end every day to make sure I spend some good time with the kids, seeing where they are (and not just what level of Diablo II DS has gotten to) and not getting to the end of the day feeling like it got away from me.

My life is full, jam-packed, crammed to the crannies, about-to-explode, full. I work 30-35 hours a week from home. I have three children, DS10, DD4, and DD2, who are all homeschooled. DS, in addition to being an all-around smart guy, also deals with Aspergers (a gift as much as a curse) and anxiety issues. He often has various "appointments" in our never-ending quest to get him/us help when needed. We attend group field trips, visit family/friends out of town, and are generally constantly on the go. It's no wonder that I sometimes wonder where my days have gone.

It's not that I don't think my kids are learning. They certainly do that every day with no help from me. But why not do it together more? If I have to pencil in quality time with my kids to make sure they all get it, then so be it! NOT doing it is not a regret I want to have.

So, how to reconcile our unschoolish ways with my desire for a little more structure?

I think I may have found the answer in Oak Meadow's homeschool curriculum. It is Waldorf-inspired, and as I commented tonight to a friend on Facebook: "it's got the spirit of learning that I've always believed in--using what they're interested in, not worrying about it so much if they're not, giving them different options for completing assignments, considering learning styles, and it's slow paced, which I'm coming to appreciate more and more." The curriculum is also heavy on the creative arts and the spiritual (though not religious), the latter of which I feel has been a bit lacking in our homeschool thus far.

Another thing I've decided to try this year is using an evaluation or portfolio at the end of the year for our state's proof of progress requirement. DS has scored very well on the tests so far, but to be honest, the stress and anxiety they cause are just not worth it. I'm sure would rather sit down and talk with an evaluator (a.k.a. another homeschool mother who is also a certified teacher and qualified evaluator) or not have to do anything (i.e., me creating a portfolio) than go through all that again. He'll have his share of tests, I'm sure, but these particular tests are so imbalanced (all that counts is math and reading) and arbitrary that I'm not worried about skipping them.

So, in that vein, I'm blogging again. I want to record our progress, our challenges, our creations, and use those records for either a portfolio or evaluation at the end of the year. In the meantime, maybe I'll entertain a few people besides myself and maybe even inform some or at least provide some options. I hope you'll join me.