Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Weird Science Night

One of the things I love about being part of a home school co-op is having the opportunity to do 'group' learning activities that we might not be able to do at home with only 3 students. In the co-op setting we can practice persentations, public speaking, team sports, and other activities. But just last month we were able to participate in a "Weird Science Night" at our co-op!  Each kid got to choose a scientist to learn about, dress up as, and do an experiment or research project about.

Of course, Jefferson choose to do something Myth*busters related!  He has been obsessively watching that show on net*flix every chance he gets. I love how it stretches his imagination as to what he can figure out if he wants to set his mind to it - those guys never give up on a hypothesis! It always amazes me how my kids can be so self motivated IF they are interested in their subject matter. For his science project, Jefferson basically took a MB kit (he got for his bday in Sept) and ran through the experiments (all related to AIR PRESSURE) himself. Then he used his mad glog*ster skills (taught to him by his wonderful Mrs. Third Grade Teacher a few years back) and started slapping out his "lab write-up" pages on MB designed pages (that HE put together - glog*ster is kinda like an online scrapbooking or blogging arena). He poured every minute of his school day into it for 4 days while I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get display boards, display board decor, help the 3rd & kindergartener with their projects, and cater to Jefferson's demandingness (he hasn't quite adjusted yet to NOT being the only child - sheesh!).

I was really thrilled with his effort, his hard work, and his end product! He dressed up like Adam Savage to show it off at Weird Science Night (and I'm happy to say that although he's growing like a weed - I still had to draw his beard onto his face - lol!).

Reagan (3rd gr) took a different approach to her science project, choosing to build on the science that we were already studying this year. Since we have been focusing on ornithology for weeks, she choose to dress up as John James Audubon, a famous naturalist and artist known for his work with American birds. [We later visited his early American home in PA] She added her journaling pages to her display and added different 'habitat' scenes as a background for her display board. I took her to the library to do some more research on Audubon and she decided to try to copy one of his painted birds. The green parakeet at the top of her display (as well as the flamingo in the frame) is the beautiful result!

And as usual, Adam wanted to participate in all the science hooplah that was going on around the house.  So we turned him into Archimedes since that's what was fresh on my mind from Jefferson's history studies and we could make some of his concepts understandable to a kindergarden kid. We tried an experiment with aluminum foil to show how density affects how objects float. It didn't work well but he was super excited about his foil boat - lol! We tied a string onto his display board to show that the shortest distance between two points in a straight line. And he colored, traced, cut & paste bits & pieces to tell others about this ancient Greek. Although he wasn't too thrilled with wearing his adorable toga, he had a fun time & was so happy with all the work he did on his first science project!

What a fun & interesting time the kids had! They still pull out their display boards to enjoy their work and would love to do this all again!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

16 Weeks Complete!

So we're speedin' chuggin' trudging right along with our school work around here and I just realized that we have carved quite a little chunk out of our total school year! 180 days doesn't seem that bad until you start counting them out ....or missing them for this or that illness or event. But I really wanted to see what it would be like to take the entire month of December off, so we started in July (too hot for the kids to enjoy playing anyway & we aren't beach peeps) and have managed to get 75 days finished so far.  How do our days go around here?

As usual, I haven't managed to keep up with photojournaling my brood but I'll share what I've got.  In our earlier school days we were able to study the creatures in our backyard as well as my new flowers (I swapped out my veggie garden knowing that the baby would keep from it). It was a fun place to read outloud, bird watch or practice some ball skills as well.

But most days now Jefferson is the first to get up around 7 o'clock (I am still slacking off in the a.m. and 'blaming' it on the Baby even though she sleeps well through the night for us) and get started. He walks the dog and then starts his Bible reading and study - this year we've gone with the Sonlight plan. It works but isn't the most motivating for him.  I haven't yet figured out if that's just a curriculum issue or more of a heart issue. Or possibly the fact that he does it on his own and I'm not in discussion with him about what he's learning as I used to be.  :-/  Hmmmm....might need to rethink that & get us all back into a family sit down study/read instead.
(Daddy leads home church some Sundays)
But I usual...

Baby & breakfast keeps us from starting much else until 9a.m. but at least Jefferson can still get a little independent reading or vocabulary or grammar done while Reagan can get her phonics finished before then.  Granted, that's all on a 'good' day where no one is cranky, sleeping in, or ignoring my pleading to "put that dog down and get started so we don't have to be all day at this!"

If (and this is a BIG 'if') I can manage to get the little boys somewhat quietly occupied and the Baby sitting on the floor (she loves to cry after me to see if I'll just sit with her instead of heading to the table to teach), then we work on math and spelling.  It's the only combo that I can manage to multitask - calling out a word & sentence for Reagan while I help with geometry for Jefferson (his lessons are done independently with this program).  This is his 5th grade year and he's finally come to the place in math where he meets frustration weekly and I'm struggling to teach him to perservere and read through twice when things aren't 5-second simple (as they almost always were in arithmetic).  This is where he frequently speaks out of turn at me in his impatience with himself and me. In return he receives my montra "This is not about finishing your checklist. This is about learning so please slow down & try again!"  I think I should tatoo it on my forehead so don't become hoarse - lol!

Reagan's response to spelling has been quite positive considering this is the first year that I am teaching it formally to her. At first she would get upset if she missed a word, but we have gotten into a pattern that works for her. I 'say-spell-say' the word after using it in a sentence and then she traces it with her finger in order to study.  We do this for however many days we need to until I see that she's ready to write the words at which point she will do them on paper. If we've studied them, she almost always get the paper 'test' correct and then she feels great about herself! It's always such a blessing when we find something that works for her, even if it takes more times for me to integrate into our day.
(Reagan working on her Early Explorer's lapbook)
(Archimedes science experiment with Adam)
(Jefferson beating me at Scra*bble - a.k.a spelling practice)
Usually by 10:30 in the morning I am just starting to feel like we are getting somewhere (IF I've gotten the meal planning done the evening before, otherwise that totally clutters the morning. Ugh.) when someone somewhere ends up screamingyellingstompingthrowingdying about some ridiculous thing. My first thought is usually "Please, please settle down so I don't have to kill anyone!" and then they push my thoughts on to "Alright - find me the duct tape & the padded room so I can just get these lessons done!"

Ahhh, the joys of toddlers!  Don't fret - I don't have a padded room or duct tape - lol!

Math is next for me to work with Reagan while Jefferson works on more independent work, such as his dvd spelling lesson, a composition revision, spanish, latin or piano. I always hope that her math lesson will be short & sweet so that I can get Jefferson's Institute for Excellence in Writing lesson finished before lunch. It's rare that she gets hung up on something - the Right Start Math program just seems to lay things out in small, manageable pieces allowing for plenty of practice. Our biggest problem with this subject for her is that the doggone noise level in the house has usually reached ear-splitting decibels by then which is VERY difficult for her auditory processing ability. I used to be able to toss those other little people outside but more often they are getting exiled to the basement play area for this lesson. There just is no sitting & playing quietly at the table with those two!  :-/

At some point in the late morning I try to slap a lunch meal together. It's always boring and always light and almost always late. *sigh* I've gotta start planning better so I've got leftovers ready cuz once that Baby is down at 11:30 I don't want to be bothered with food -I just want to get some more lessons finshed while I still have the energy! On MWF, this hour is when I try to stuff in some phonics and/or math and/or penmanship and/or reading for Adam (who has usually been begging me all morning to 'do kindergarden').  I LOVE his enthusiasm and have finally learned (what is this - my 6th year?) to go with the flow & just photocopy something for him to do to feel included in whatever topic the 5th & 3rd grader may be working on. For example, he hasn't a clue when the ancient Greeks lived but had a ton of fun coloring in their buildings, warships, and all of their gods/godesses and slapping them into his own handmade lapbook (along with Spiderman and Woody of course) for him to enjoy 'reading' later. His creativity makes me happy (and it keeps him from bugging the other noisy boy in our house - lol!)! It's so nice to see his personality through his tablework!
(Working on his science project)
Well, if you've read this far I assume you're tired already.  Well, so am I by this point in a typical day!! My energy has been slow to return after the lastest baby and my poor diet doesn't help me to get through the days well. Lincoln STILL is waking us 1 to 3 times many nights each week.  That combined with my body's reaction to sugar & junk (my go-to stress food!!!) does not bode well for the character development of my children. I carry much guilt in this area because if there's one thing I can do to help my kids and to love them, it's to keep my own self healthy & rested so that I can be joyful and patient with them. A day at a time, I guess. I am learning to choose sleep and Plan*et Fitness over chocolate - but only slowly - lol!

Anyhoooo... I don't even know the real point of this post since I'm just kind of meandering around my own thoughts here. Day in the life kinda thing I guess....

After lunch, I feed the Baby Boo (this is the name that has stuck around here as well as Boo Bear - so silly but very sticky) and try not fall asleep in the chair as I do. My montra at this point in the day is usually, "Someone get on that piano NOW!  Jefferson, get outta that computer chair!  Boys stop killing each other!" all from upstairs to down. BabyBoo won't eat well if I sit downstairs with her and so the house goes to chaos while I let myeslf rest & try to enjoy my little bit of time with the cozy warm smiling baby. Thankfully, my older two kiddos also substitute as my coffee baristas and bring me my afternoon 'kick-in-the-rear' (cuz 2:30 always seems to drag on my eyelids)!
(Jefferson w/ his piano teacher - Ms. Laura)

3:00 is when I drag myself back into focus and we work on a couple more lessons. Most days we have history books for me to read aloud to them as well as either a science lesson, art lesson, or intro. to music lesson. We're using Apologia Zoology - Flying Creatures this year and have only just finished the section on birds (thus the ornithology science display for Reagan at the science fair). We are finding it pretty cool to learn to be amateur birders! We've visited Middle Creek Wildlife Preserve and I'll post later on our field trip to John James Audubon's Mill Grove house.

I've been pushing pretty hard to stay focused this year because I want a long Christmas break. The baby sure does change the dynamic - really defines what it means to 'juggle'!  But for as much as I make sarcastic comments about trying to sell this or that child on e*bay, I know that the grass is not greener anywhere else.  I love this job. I LOVE my kiddos. I love teaching them and cooking for them and being here with them everyday ....even if it IS a noisy and messy and sometimes frustrating task! 


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Equating to the Equine Heart

In an attempt to teach Reagan how to better communicate and to grow her in confidence, we started her on horse lessons this summer. I don't think we could have chosen any better activity for her! Our goal was not that she actually learn to ride the horse well, but that she develop skills that one wouldn't normally see as having anything to do with horse riding, namely understanding the body language of another creature, learning to express her frustrations in a mature manner, building the confidence to direct something "greater" than herself, and learning that perfection is not the goal, rather it's the connection to another 'person' that matters.  She loves animals and so, is much less likely to revert to her typical 'raging' behaviors while around them. They soften her heart so that even when they don't behave she doesn't play the 'blame' game as much with them.

Most of the summer she rode with her teacher leading the horse and so there was no fear for her to deal with at first. She thoroughly enjoyed 2 weeks of summer days camps and learned about breeds, behavior, body parts, cleaning & care, tacking and riding. She began learning to read the body language of the animal both on and off of it (I'm hoping this will make her more observant of other human's body language). She got to know the different personalities of various horses and her confidence grew. She even got to ride in her first local horse show (still on lead) and was encouraged by the ribbons that she brought home.

Recently, her teacher has decided to push her a bit further by teaching her to ride off-lead, as well as learning to trot while working on her form. At this point her teacher gave her a more fidgety horse than the one she usually rode. It continually pulled it's head to the ground or around to look at various things which leaned the saddle this way and that, getting Reagan much more freaked out than she'd been in any other lesson. At one point the horse decided to neigh very abruptly and loudly and Reagan gave out a long scream in response. I almost died laughing (to myself of course) because I knew it was something she would laugh about later and something that she would be able to get over (she's much more forgiving of those horses than her human family & friends). Her teacher calmly told her that she was ok, the horse was only 'singing' and that she needed to learn to let the horse know who's boss. Later, as Reagan walked her horse back to the stable I saw her give it a good shove when it decided to stop to chew grass. I was so proud that she took that control back from the horse even though it had cost her a tearful lesson!

I find it strange how controlling a fidgety horse is actually a difficult thing to manage for my "strong-willed" child!  Even in her school work, I often see her express that she thinks herself incapable of doing things right.  But then I've realized that her strong-will doesn't actually equate to the confidence she'll need as she grows & steps out in the world.

But the horses?  That's *her* thing. There is no older brother to outshine her or little brothers to distract her or mama who doesn't always approach her correctly. It's just her and an animal with it's own mind but loving heart and a very patient teacher. She feels so good that she can care for it, talk to it, make it feel good, make it follow her instruction, and enjoy it all!

I love to watch her ride and plan to continue these lessons as long as we can!
 (With Mikimoto, her favorite Arabian)

(With her handler and her show ribbons)


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Update from the Silent HA

I feel so terrible about being gone from the blogosphere for so long!  I love posting here & journaling about my kids, even if just for future's sake. I haven't even been reading any of my favorite blog & I miss them - they are such a great source of encouragement & help as I travel this path. But I know I'm not the only busy momma around so I won't even bother to complain about all that's kept me away from here for so long - lol!
Baby I is already 8 1/2 months old!  She's a rockin' & a rollin' a ton of joy around here but also adding to the day to day chaos. She started crawling 3 weeks ago and is constantly giving me mini-heart attacks by pulling up all over the place and falling over & over again. Into everything, of course! Now she's starting up with the "cry until Momma picks me up" phase, which is oh, so lovely while I attempt to school. Or cook. Or anything else. Good that's she's so doggone adorable!

We are 12 weeks into the school year already! I can't believe how much the kids have learned already and I'm thrilled with how things are going.  Jefferson, now 10, is really learning how to work independently on his 5th grade work. He doesn't seem to have too much trouble with all that's on his plate this year and is making good mental connections in history, math & writing (new program - Institute for Excellence in Writing - we both LOVE it). He struggles with keeping out of the 'checklist' mentality and accepting what I plan for him to *learn* each day rather than just finish his assignment sheet.

Reagan (8.5 yo & in 3rd grade) is not working as independently or as quickly as *I* would like. But I am slowly realizing that I don't get to choose how she learns. She is doing very well at her own pace and I am seeing how wonderful it is to watch her grow! The joy on her face as she pieces together new ideas or something new clicks for her is so precious for me ... if I will just have the patience to enjoy it with her. We are still working on helping her to deal with her anxieties and her explosive behavior has slowly been decreasing (with much prayer & hard work).

Adam (almost 6) had finally started Kindergarden and at first was very excited. He still is actually - but that's only if I do everything EXACTLY as he wants me to - lol! I very much enjoy his enthusiasm at every activity. He always wants to do what Jefferson & Reagan are doing with their subjects too. He always wants to do something & gets irritated at the repetition that learning requires though. I try to tap into his creativity whenever I can - he could sit for hours coloring, cutting, & pasting!

Lincoln (almost 4) is headed to 'away' preschool 3 times each week. And this is what's keeping me sane! He is so cantancarous right now that I wonder if he'll ever grow out of his trouble making. I do believe that he is just too smart & gets bored easily. But he loves being an older brother and is still willing to help me as much as he can! He's very, very loud (we call him 'passionate' - lol!) but he's so doggone cute...

So!  On with the photos!

 (Our new 'student' computer)
 (Study of Bethoven)

 (Trouble with a capital T!)

Oh - and somewhere in the chaos of adding another baby to our lives, teaching another student, and dealing with food issues we decided to get a dog! Found her on crai*g's list and she is just perfect for our family!  No training required, very happy & friendly, and hypoallergenic (as much a dog can be anyway - she's poodle mix). We had to change her name since everyone was started to call Baby I the dog's name so now we call her Ginger - short from Gingersnap!

 Hopefully I will have a chance to write a little more at another time - as in before another 7 months pass! I really want to get hte blog updated and write more specifically about what we are covering in school this year.  But we'll see - it's kinda nuts around here!  ;-)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

4th Grade Mini-Office

I have lamented my lack of wall space in this house & our school room/kitchen eating area since we bagan home schooling. Having been educated in a public school class room, I have the notion in my head that I need to have all kinds of visuals hung up for my 'students.' But I do not have space for much more than a large map of the world and alphabet flashcards around the top of the room. I have managed to put our list of important 'scriptures' in a tiny spot and have hung a bit of grammar examples on the window.

I have noticed that Reagan sometimes mixes her letters up and seems to search for something to copy (the alphabet is up high, behind where she usually sits) and will look for examples of grammar on the window with each weekly grammar lesson. And even though Jefferson is in 4th grade, he will sometimes forget a cursive letter, composition revision symbol, or grammar example as well. Since we don't have space, I cannot have reminders for these things on the walls for them as they write and learn.

So, a friend from our home school clued me in to these cool things called "mini-offices" - lapbooks which are fiiled with reference charts for the child to have when working. I made one for Jefferson first. The idea is that you take small versions of graphs & charts that a child would normally find on the walls of a school room and you put it in a lapbook that the child stands in front of his or her workspace as he or she works. This space acts like their own little 'office'! It provides all the basic reminders they might need as they write & learn and also helps to block out some visual distraction from other kids. Each mini-office can be tailor made for the student or for the grade or for a specific subject which is being focused on.

I find that Jefferson uses his mostly when he is writing something but he'll often refer to it for the maps or spelling words (days of the week, months of the year) as well.  I will try (I seriously can't recall where I found most of them!) to provide links to the sources of some of the charts & graphs if I can so you can make your own! Here are some photos of what his looks like:

This side holds:
The Writing Process
Key Proofreading Marks
Months of the Year (ours is homemade)
Skip Counting Chart (from our math  book)
Fraction Chart (from our math book)
(I also had to paper clip a list of 'transition' words after I laminated. It wouldn't fit but it seems to help Jefferson's compositions)

This side holds:
A Celsius & Fahrenheit Chart
World Map (Continents & Oceans only)
Map of the United States (state name & abbreviation)
American Wars list (homemade)
Books of the Old Testament
Books of the New Testament
Presidents of the United States (photos & dates in office)

Here are some more links & resources for mini-offices for various ages: