Sunday, August 26, 2012

And the verdict is....

We LOVE homeschooling!

We are two weeks into this adventure, and we really enjoy it. That's not to say everything has been perfect. Oh no. So far from perfect. Tears (from everyone) were involved. But we are adjusting and settling and finding just the right fit for our family.

Things we love include:

More family time- We actually see each other. Since my husband is a restaurant manager, he works some really strange hours. When the kids were in public school, he would sometimes go three days without seeing them while they were awake. Now he not only gets to see them, he gets to interact with and teach them.

Sleeping in- Yeah, I know I sound like a bum. But I love that we don't have to get up at 7. We can get up at 9 or 10. We try to do school by no later than 10, but it's not a rule.

Summer vacation never ends- We get to have that lazy, family-fun feeling all the time. I love that we don't have to end our adventures.

Amazing experiences-Last week we went to Edwin Warner Park. While we were there, we got to observe the naturalists studying ruby-throated hummingbirds. They measured and recorded details about each bird. Then Jerimiah-boy got to hold them as they were released! Such a cool experience, and one he wouldn't have been able to have if he went to traditional school.

More down time- Previously, we were always hurrying from school to somewhere else. Wednesday nights were the worst. The kids got home at 4 pm, and we had church at 6. That didn't leave much time for homework, dinner, and chores. Now we don't have to rush.

Things we don't love so much:

Grammar- It's just not fun for us right now. We are working to find some fun ways to learn grammar. One, I want them to be well-educated. Two, our state law requires that the boys take standardized tests at intervals. It's important that they can pass those. I hate standardized testing. But that's irrelevant. The boys hate grammar.

Worried Mom- I worry sometimes that I'm not getting enough "learning" into our school day. I try to remind myself that we don't have to learn everything in one week!

Explaining to people why we are homeschooling: I still feel like I have to justify why we are homeschooling our boys. Part of the issue is that we have excellent schools in our area. Any advice for this one? I know why we are doing it, but I don't want to be preachy or obnoxious.

I have to say, I was a bit nervous about this. I mean, I'd built it up so much in my mind. I'd had all these dreams about the magical bonding and exploration time my little family would enjoy, while we skipped through meadows holding hands. Yeah. It's true. The good news is, that imperfections and all, we like homeschooling. It's a good choice for our family. The verdict is in, and we are homeschool lovers!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Spelling can be fun!

Remember the hours you spent writing your words three times each? Crazy talk! C-R-A-Z-Y!

Let's not do this to ourselves or our children, unless of course you and your children enjoy it. In which case, please continue.

Both of my kids hate writing their words to practice spelling. Both of my kids love to fidget with things and rummage and sort. So why not let them fidget to their hearts' content, in a way that is productive?

One great way to practice spelling is with cut-out letters. Recently, I've discovered I really love to save cardboard boxes to cut out letters. Okay, that part is a fib. I don't really love it. But I do love having a container full of letters for the boys to use to practice spelling words. Also, actively searching for the right letter helps keep them focused on actually spelling the word. I think it helps with retention.

Another idea is to use magnetic tape and a Sharpie. Write the alphabet a million or ten times and then cut between the letters. Add one cheapie cookie sheet from Dollar Tree, and you have hours of spelling fun.

One option is to set your letters to music. "Happy Birthday" and "London Bridge" make great spelling tunes. If it worked for Bingo, it will work for any word! In fact, my youngest son learned to spell his name through a song.

Into stretching and yoga? I'm not either. But someone who is into it could definitely make alphabet shapes to practice spelling. (YMCA comes to mind!)

If you are the kind of parent who doesn't mind messes, shaving cream and a cookie sheet provide a great opportunity to practice spelling as well. Have your child write the words with his or her finger in the shaving cream.

If you have an artist, have them draw a picture of the word they are spelling. Then they can write the word below the picture. 

What about creating a Boggle board? To practice specific spelling words, you would need to plan this one pretty carefully. Boggle is a great way to improve general reading fluency.

I made mine by taking 65 index cards. I wrote one letter on each card. I went through the alphabet once, then made three more of each vowel. Then I just randomly made other consonants. Depending on the skill level of your reader, you can make the board any size. Once the Boggle cards are made, they can be used for spelling practice also!

There are so many alternatives to writing words three times each. How do you practice? Leave me a comment!

Sidewalk Adventurers!

Yep, it's true. I'm a superhero. Sidewalk Adventurer! Well, I'm actually part of a club of superheroes. We walk around, following the sidewalk, to discover and observe the world around us. I feel lucky that the kids that created the club let me be a member.

Today I learned that learning just happens sometimes. Like on a hot day with 90+ temps, when you have six cranky, bored kids in desperate need of physical activity begging to do something. Anything.

And so the Sidewalk Adventurers were born.

Some of our observations included:

The inside of a car fender. (I didn't take a picture of this one. I thought it might be an invasion of...I don't know....dignity?)

The way the sunshine looks through the branches of a willow tree

The amazing, bumpy, grooved texture of a willow tree

 These weird curvy lines on the branches of the willow trunk (Anyone know what these are?)

 The way willow branches sway in the (tiny) breeze

Five of six adventurers discovering a lightning bug

And then sharing it

The shape of willow leaves

 An orange rock

The many different shapes of leaves

How branches spring up in unexpected places- just like learning

We really had a good time. In case you are wondering, the green bags are "Poo" bags found at our apartments. I promise that they were clean. :) The kids are obsessed with collecting things in them.

Keep Adventuring!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

If you give a mouse a cookie....he'll probably take a month to blog about it

Hey there!

So I know I promised a blog about the cute activity we did for "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" months ago. Years ago. I don't know. It's all a blur. :) We've been super busy this summer. We've been blessed to be able to babysit for a couple of families. The kids and I have spent an unreasonable amount of time at the pool, and we've even made a few trips to our favorite park.

But back to the learning. This is a serious, education-focused blog. We only talk about homeschooling here, folks! ( But I'm pretty sure all that other stuff we've done counts as "schooling.")

One of the state standards for Language Arts is being able to retell a story. I love this story, so to me, it seemed natural to choose this book. This activity requires quite a bit of prep time, but it's a pretty lengthy activity. The activity portion took about an hour for four children.

Materials Needed:

Construction paper in assorted colors
Pencil or pen
Small square of aluminum foil

Basically, I went through the book and created paper cut-outs of each item requested in the story. I made scissors, tape, a straw, a glass of milk, a napkin, etc.

The broom, bed and pillow, and mirror I left separated, for the kids to glue together.

I read the story to the kids, without explaining what they needed to do.

Then we began making our pieces of the story. Most of the pieces needed to have something done to them. For example, I had the kids write "Book" on the cover. For the pen, I had them write "Blue" and for the crayon, they wrote "Red." We made each piece in the order it is found in the book.

Once the pieces were completed, I read the story again. This time, I had the kids show each piece of the story as it appeared.

Finally, I had each child retell the story, using the manipulatives they had made.

Anthony got his pieces out recently and retold the story to me again. He did a great job. This was an activity that the kids enjoyed, and Jerimiah created his own manipulatives for "If You Give A Moose A Muffin." He then led the kids in a similar activity. This was completely unprompted by me.