Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Homeschooling Adventures: "Summer School"

Summer doesn't look a whole lot different for us except we have more activities with friends who are off for the summer and, of course, pool time!  We are more relaxed as far as school stuff goes but there is definitely a lot of learning going on, no less that during the typical school year!  Big news though, our first year of high school was a success!*I think* 

I thought this week was a good example of some typical summer days for us: 

One day after everyone woke up we read aloud at breakfast, currently our read aloud book is The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place book 2) then a couple of the kids worked on math until it was time to get ready for the pool.  After swimming and lunch we all gathered around in the living room and my 11 year old read Aesop's Fables, after reading one she had someone narrate it, then for each fable she had the younger kids (ages 10, 9, 7 and 6) write on a dry erase board what they thought the moral or lesson of the story was, then we would discuss it.  Bonus with this was that any words that were misspelled were added to their spelling list. 

Another day on our morning walk we spotted a turtle in the middle of the road that we rescued from getting run over!  The kids studied it up close then a couple of them came home and drew or wrote about it in our Nature journal.   

My oldest son is very interested in clocks, it started out as a Big Ben obsession in which he read about Big Ben, built it countless times out of Lego's, drew it, painted it, etc.  Then he started wanting to see other clock towers, went to the library and found books about how clocks worked and started taking apart old watches.  My grandpa happens to work at a clock repair shop so we set up a visit there this week for the boys which further sparked his interest.  Now he is researching different types of clocks from the past.
      I love this kind of self-delighted, self-directed me, this is what unschooling and homeschooling is suppose to look like...following your child's lead, facilitating, providing them the information, tools, whatever it is, for them to learn what they are craving to know.

It's not always that "easy", sometimes they don't seem to have any big interests that leads to wanting them to know more, do something, etc.  When it does happen though I always try to support it in whatever way I can.  

Something that my 14 year old(almost 15 EKKK!) and 11 year are really into right now is sign language, the 3 of us started taking an ASL class and then we come home and teach everyone else what we learn.   They are LOVING this!

Currently 5 of the kids are making parachutes with plastic bags, yarn and Lego men, I love their creativity!  We may not have finished our curriculum for the year but there's no way I would stop their play!

P.S. We use My Father's World curriculum, which I love because it is a mixture of Charlotte Mason's ideas, unit study's, biblical, hand's on and multiple ages at once, but we very loosely follow it since it is also important to me for the kids to have time to study what they are interested in when those obsessions emerge!
Most of our read alouds are with all kids, but just the boys and I taking turns reading Farmer Boy out loud together


Us "girls" idea of a fun Saturday morning out... reading at the coffee shop!

kids spray painting at church to help with VBS decor!

This is not a math sheet, it's an airplane, of course!

Who doesn't love a good game of Scrabble!

It's not just Big Ben that he's been interested in! It's most international landmarks!

With Great-grandpa at the clock shop
Cambree loves this books and wanted to read it while eating homemade Chicken Soup with Rice
some of the books being read this past month
Aerospace Exhibit

Monday, March 5, 2018

Homeschooling Adventures: Reading, copy work and FUN with friends!

This “school year” seems to be flying by, I can’t believe I haven't written since August!  I’ve been wanting to give more frequent updates on our homeschooling but never seem to make it a priority, I always have too much I WANT to do…or maybe I should say I always have too many books I read instead :)  Anyway… 

Someone recently asked “Are you ready for the school year to be over?”  My response was “No!” Not just because we don’t take a full break in the summer, but also because we are just having fun learning, and of course also because we still have a lot more I want to accomplish!

We have been having a pretty good homeschooling year, not saying the kids are always excited about everything we do, because they aren’t.  But I feel like we have struck a nice balance.  
We do a lot of reading aloud, all of us together, high-schooler down to toddler, we always have a fiction book we are on, currently we are halfway through The One and Only Ivan.  Plus, we have read (and continue to) a bunch of child friendly versions of Shakespeare plays and lots of poetry. We do a lot of our other subjects by reading aloud too and just discussing the topic, asking questions to one another, so sometimes our schooling doesn't have anything necessarily tangible to show for it, besides things we do for writing & math or when they draw about it.  

Our homeschool style isn't about checking things off the list or getting so many pages completed just so that we can say we are done.  I say this because there was a time early in our homeschooling when I felt like that's what I had to do. Other than their math books, Math-U-See, we don’t do workbooks or tests, unless a particular kid requests it, for example over the years we have acquired (mostly through someone giving them to us) random workbooks so sometimes they ask to do them, I just let them do as much or as little as they want from them, no pressure.  I ask them questions to gage how well they understand or are playing attention so I don't feel the need for tests.  Sometimes a kid will say “can you quiz me on these spelling words?” so I guess that would count as a spelling test, but thats usually something they enjoy, and it’s never about getting it right or wrong for a test, it’s just about learning it/knowing it.

We do have curriculum (My Father’s World, among others) materials that we use as we want without feeling like we are tied to any certain thing.  One of the things the kids are liking this year is our art lessons from God and the History of Art, we just all sit around our big school table, whoever wants to do it (which is usually my 6th grader, 4th grader, 3rd grader, 2nd grader and sometimes Kindergartener) and I will read and talk about what the lesson is, maybe give a demonstration, then they are free to practice it however they want, lessons are anything from learning to shade in your drawing or making things looks 3-D to drawing Obelisks from ancient Egypt and hieroglyphics. 

Now that I have 5, almost 6, students that are readers, one of my biggest requirements is just reading.  In addition to the reading aloud we do as a group, they need to read to themselves every day, I don’t set an amount of time for this but just that they progress through whatever book or books that they are working on at a nice rate.  At the beginning of 2018 I had each of them start reading aloud to each other for at least 10 min every day.  It started as a “Reading Challenge” for January but is something we are continuing indefinitely.  They get rewarded at the end of the month (last month was with donuts from our favorite local donut shop!).

We have done several free field trips this year, including restaurants where the kids have learned how things work there or how to make something, a place that does history/art classes (we’ve done quite a few of those), biography and geography fairs with our homeschool group, etc.  We’ve been to a Shakespeare exhibit at a museum and homeschool days at an Air Force museum.  In the fall we did nature classes almost every week and will hopefully be starting those back up as the spring weather begins. 
learning to make homemade pizza dough 

Every week we do “poetry tea time” where we sit around the kitchen table reading poetry while drinking or eating some kind of treat.  We do writing in the form of freewriting, usually once a week, and copy work, a few times a week.  For copy work we use phrases from the books we are reading, inspiring quotes, bible verses, lines from Shakespeare, etc.  Recently they did a few lines from the Declaration of Independence and then memorized it.  At Christmas time we used quotes from Scrooge and the Grinch for our copy work.  It’s just a good way to check on their handwriting, practice cursive for the ones doing that, help them see how quotation marks and punctuation are used, and helps them become familiar with and remember passages.  Sometimes I will have the kids write it again with me just reading it to them without them looking at it to see if they can remember the correct spelling and punctuation.

We have done a lot of fun “lessons” with friends as well this school year, we did activities to go along with The Indian in the Cupboard, made up our own definitions for all the crazy words in the Jabberwocky poem (by Lewis Caroll), had a Harry Potter party with friends who also read all the books, wrote comic strips, celebrated Dr. Suess’s birthday, went creeking, hiking, did Lego Clubs with topics like The Periodic Table of Elements, careers, the Wright Brothers, engineering, etc.  It is always nice getting together for educational activities with another homeschooling family, we can all learn something from each other and it’s good for us to switch things up.  This week we have a spelling bee with friends!

I should have been writing/sharing more often because I know I’m probably forgetting things from the beginning of the school year, and this is getting long, but I think this is a pretty good overview of our year so far.

I don’t share all this to say “look how awesome our school year has been!!” all these things I have shared are the highlights, some of my favorite things that have worked for us for this season of our lives, with the ages of my kids.  It is not always fun and games.  We have read aloud times that I feel like I have to shout just to be heard over our toddlers loud voice, we have math times when I am overwhelmed with 2-4 kids asking me for help at the same time, we have a teenager that is moody (!) and has math problems that sometimes I don't understand, we have fights amongst siblings over who goes next and who is the best reader/spelling/multiplier/drawer/etc., we have a toddler who is into EVERYTHING (and if he’s not into something then he wants to be held)! 
my brother helping my high schooler with her math

This whole homeschooling journey is not easy, but you can make it a little bit easier on yourself by just trying to have fun with it, when you are enthusiastic about something it rubs off on the kids!  Give yourself the freedom to mix things up when what you’re doing isn't working, you’re relationship with your kids is more important than whether or not they get an assignment done. 

Hope maybe this post has inspired some ideas to try if you aren’t happy with how your school year has been going or you are just feeling the need to change things up.
She's doing a great job learning to read this year!

Lego Club
creek school

nature class

They cut strips of poems, mixed them up and made their own poetry

Potions a.k.a slime

working together with a friend

She was reading "Little House in the Big Woods", he was reading "Treasure Island"

Read Alouds in January 

What is a Paradox?

Comic strips

magnetic letter tiles are FUN!

science outside

Green Eggs for Dr. Suess's B-day

Math strips, how many can you get done with the timer going!?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Homeschool Adventures: Shakespeare, Brave Writer, & a new High Schooler

Even though I consider us year-round homeschoolers, we always have week when the officially, or maybe unofficially :), move up in grade level.  This year we did it the week before our church moved all the kids up in classes.  It’s a fun time to take their “school pictures”, start a new study or implement a different approach to something, etc.

This year we started out our new school year studying Shakespeare.  We kicked it off with going to a free performance at a park, and we plan go to another one this weekend.  We read through A Midsummer’s Night Dream aloud (a children’s version, that was easy to understand), as well as passages from the original. The kids are all memorizing bits of this play as well. One of the books we are using is How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. Our local museum, in which we have a pass, has a Shakespeare exhibit going on right now that we will go to next week. I haven't planned everything out but I think after we finish with our initial study (his life, studying a few more plays in depth, etc.) that we will continue to just read aloud some of the other plays throughout the rest of the school year. 

Poetry Tea Time is another thing that we started last month before our new start of school, it was an idea we got from Brave Writer (a new, not just writing, but learning philosophy we’ve been into, which I am loving(!) it basically reaffirms everything I have been doing/my own homeschooling style, and is giving us some fun new ideas) In the past we have done many “tea parties” and things like read aloud’s with hot chocolate, etc., so the idea of pairing poetry with a tea party was super appealing to me!  My 11 year old is really into it and picked out a tea pot and tea cups from an antique store for her birthday, she sets our table every time.  We’ve been doing it once a week and the girls usually take turns (or the boys will help me) making a homemade treat to go with it…and this is why even my boys love poetry tea time!  They won’t complain about reading poetry when there’s treats involved!  We’ve also had fun including friends or Nana in our poetry tea times.

Freewriting Fridays is another “Brave Writer” thing I have started this new school year with my oldest 3 children, ages 14,11, and 9.  Each Friday they free-write about anything they want, I will give them a topic only if they ask.  It’s completely free writing, I don't check it for mistakes of any kind and they don't even have to show it to me if they don't want to, it just goes in their binder. After 8 weeks they will each get to pick out which piece of their writing they want to improve on/revise/share with someone outside the family. So far they have enjoyed this and it seems to have inspired even more writing out of them.  My 11 year old has always been working on stories and writes poetry, plays, etc. But last week my 9 year old wrote a cute story/play all on her own, 4 pages handwritten front and back. She wanted to work on it by herself but has trouble with spelling so I told her to just spell it how it sounds so that SHE could read it to me and then as she read it to me I typed it all out for her, spelling everything correcting and adding appropriate punctuation, then we emailed it to my mom who printed it off, put it in a “Lily’s Stories” folder, and gave it to her. She loves it!

Even though it is still summertime the weather hasn’t been too hot so we have been getting outside and doing a lot of nature activities that sometimes we don’t do until fall.  We’ve been doing little nature classes at a nearby “Discovery Garden” each week, my 8 year old boy is obsessed with the little frog ponds there, last week he found 8 and his hoping to beat that number tomorrow when we go again.  

My oldest is doing high school now, which is intimidating and sometimes gives me anxiety.  My laid back, unschoolerish approach works wonderfully with my younger ones but when I think about high school credits, ACT/SAT testing, colleges, etc. it can be scary!  We have never done testing, I don't grade papers, we just learn, I know that they are learning because they can narrate it back to me, or draw a picture of it, or tell dad about it, etc.  I’ve never felt the need to keep track of things so that has been a challenge already for my oldest, she is keeping track of all her hours in each subject so that we make sure she gets the credits she needs.  She has picked and pieced together her own curriculum or topics to study this year, but she has no idea what she wants to do after high school and whether that will involve college or not.  This is the first time in a long time that I have felt like I don't know what I’m doing when it comes to homeschooling.  She’s in her fourth week of high school and so far I feel like we’ve been able to have a good balance between bookwork type things and hands-on fun learning for her.  I definitely don't want it to be all work and no play but I also want her to be prepared for college or whatever else she wants to do, so just keeping a good mix of both will be the key for her high school years, i guess????

Well, at any rate we have some fun (and educational) things planned coming up over the next month and I have been enjoying being able to gather ALL of them around to learn.

Back to HomeSchool Picture
Brave Writer online "camp" I did the beginning of August

My evening out planning and getting mentally prepared for the upcoming school year, it was wonderful!

big brother pumping water for baby brother