Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Field Trip to Museum of Natural Science

We had a blast on our field trip to the Museum of Natural Science.

We started out the day with our good friends riding with us to the museum, and that always makes the day feel even more like an adventure.

We saw the most amazing IMAX movie about baby chimpanzees and elephants. I am a silly sap who cries at anything remotely sentimental, I cried twice. Then we headed into the butterfly exhibit. John was really excited about the scavenger hunt. They gave each of the kids a chart with all the butterflies listed on it and John loved identifying each one of them.

After we finished with the exhibits we stopped by Herman park for a picnic. At the end of the day, we had so much fun it was hard for everyone to decide which was the best part.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Weekly Wrap up: the one with no school pics

This week we finished up our unit on Charlemagne. At our house along with the clicks of a computer mouse, and the turning of pages you usually hear the snoring of a pug. And not always soft snoring, sometimes I think we need a tiny CPAP machine for her. Petunia loves to join us for school, mostly because there is always a lap open for her to snuggle up in. This week was so much fun, but I didn't get many pics of our actual school work. But I have plenty of random pics of fun!

Wednesday, after a hard day of work, we had the most awesome recess ever at the splash pad!!!

This is a pic of the cart one of my children got stuck in at Academy Thursday. I can't name names, because I promised I wouldn't. Brian bought the kids a .22 Winchester 73 reproduction for them to practice their marksmanship with and we had to to grab eye and ear protection for them. Someone who is far to old for a cart ride got tired and climbed in the cart when no one was looking. Then couldn't get out. So there we are in academy overturning a cart so gravity will work with us and dragging a child out. Yeah, we are THAT family. I couldn't get the victim to pose with the cart. :) But had to snap a pic for posterity's sake, because one day this will crack them up :).

After Our Music Co-op (Band/Choir) on Friday morning we moseyed down to the waterfront to price the fish markets. Clearly, my girls can accessorize anywhere. They found these awesome fans at one of the fish mongers. Not only did it keep them cool, it wafted all the fish market stench from them.

The one thing I DID get a picture of from this week's school is our new "News Board". I think sometimes that my children have short term memory loss. If they have slept since I mentioned something, it is forgotten. This is our solution, and so far it is working beautifully. We have the mini snap shot of our week calendar at the top (I hadn't filled it in yet in this pic). Over to the left I tell them what our unit of study is for the week. They get the info on where Daddy is, and how they can contact him (he travels all over). What to expect for school, and reminders for work in their outside classes. The preparing for tomorrow section helps us get everything ready to walk out the door for the next day. This really simple idea has solved a BIG communication gap in our house. I think because the kids can see it all through the day, it helps them to know what to expect.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Weekly Wrap up: The one where mama got her groove back....

We are having so much fun with Tapestry of Grace. Last week we had a field trip to the museum of fine art to look at all the Byzantine art. Then we chose a picture to sketch and we glued a foil halo on it. This required me smuggling in tin foil and scissors. I tried very hard not to flash my scissors around. Those docents are old, and probably don't need to be startled.

We crushed up chalk to make our own tempera paints. I recommend going one aisle over and picking up some earplugs when you are shopping for chalk. The racket is unbelievable! But so is the fun. Everyone practiced their calligraphy and pretended to be a monk. But that is not the most exciting news. The most exciting news is:

Its official, we are in fact on a schedule.

It only took five years to get one :). I know, ridiculous right? Strangely, it had nothing to do with the kids. The kids are always going to be just kids, and they are notoriously unreliable when it comes to chores and schedules. Also, it doesn't have much to do with the schedule I choose. I had spent a whole lot of time trying to find the "perfect" schedule. I think I can safely say that holy homeschooling grail doesn't exist.

Nope, the two things that make or break it: Managing social commitments and Mommy. No schedule can be successful unless I
have managed our social commitments and not allowed them to overwhelm us. I learned that lesson last year and it has stuck with us. But I had neglected the other key part of scheduling..... Me.

The reason our schedule works this year is because my nutrition, exercise and health is working for the first time in a very long time. Getting this worked out meant doing things I never thought I would. We have gone about 60 percent raw. Over half our diet is raw fruits and veggies. We also became mostly vegan (except I allow fish) which is startling when you know I really loved meat and anything that remotely resembled a simple carbohydrate.

But the payoff has been amazing. Because I paid attention to my nutrition: I reliably wake up on time with energy to get the day started (before I wasn't completely awake until about 11am), I sleep well without any medication, most of my health concerns and immune issues have vanished, we aren't rushed or late everywhere. But the absolute defining development is that I have extra patience and emotional reserves for when things go wrong. If you have more than one child, things will always go wrong. It has to be a written law somewhere. Nothing else has changed, but I have. I am more flexible. Even though I miss eating whatever I want, I wouldn't trade what I have gotten in return. It was my Mount Everest, and I conquered it (five years later, but I am still counting it as a win)!

Monday, August 1, 2011

2011-2012 Curriculum

Not Back to School Blog Hop

I am so excited about this coming school year. We began our school year last week. Link Last year was really quite difficult for us with an illness in the family. We are looking forward including all the extra hands on activities this year, instead of trying to get the minimum done.

We are using
  • Tapestry of Grace Vol 2: The Middle Ages as the spine of our school year. This will encompass our history, geography, literature, art, and philosophy. I can't even tell you how excited I am about this. I go all nerdy when I start to talk about it. I love literature, so I had to pick a literature based curriculum. I LOVE love love love all of the hands on activities. When I imagine my perfect curriculum, this is what I imagine. I don't love how it is laid out and planned, but I can get around that easily enough.
  • Math U See is what we are going to use for our math program. Up until now we had been using Singapore Math. I like Singapore Math, and was happy up until now. I noticed this past year (which would have been third grade for us) the tempo picked up. The lack of review became a problem for us. I started having to supplement our math with lots of visual representation of the problems in Singapore, and since that is the cornerstone of the Math U See program; I am hoping this will be an improvement.
  • Rod and Staff is still our pick for Grammar and Spelling. I like the plain, simple, "let's just get this done" nature of it. Grammar is tedious, and I think maybe it is just the nature of the beast. So, at least this is short and sweet.
  • Real Science 4 Kids: Chemistry is new for us this year. But the kids are excited about it. It seems to heavily lean toward a little learning and then an experiment to test the knowledge. The kids favorite part is the experiments, so they gave this curriculum their stamp of approval.
The kids are up and ready to start school, so now I had better get all these books off the bookshelf and get started!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: the first week of school...

Ordinarily we school year round, but this year we quit at the end of May for a summer break. About two weeks ago my kiddos started complaining that they were "bored" and didn't have anything to do. Thankfully the new curriculum (Tapestry of Grace) came and I was excited, so we started early.

Folks have mentioned it seems odd to start in July, but I have become something of a homeschooling snob. I like it when the museums are empty during the school year, and the weather is cooler for the parks. In the summer everything is just so crowded. We live in Texas and it is just Africa hot right now. I would rather start early, and have no guilt taking off school for more field trips. Plus, we have a major trip to Disney planned and hopefully we will be ahead of the game by the time that rolls around.

I purchased a tablet PC and I LOVE IT! So does John. I have to wrestle him to use it. I had no idea how many educational apps there are. We found one that will allow him to do phonics on there... well, phonics and "angry birds".

Sine it was our first week, a Roman dinner to kick off our study seemed appropriate. I made roasted dormice (chicken thighs) for dinner. This was so much fun, and pretty easy to throw together. I think we might try to have a theme dinner one night each week. Next week we are studying Islam, and I am thinking of doing fallafel, or at least attempting it.

On Wednesday, we had "widdershins" day. The concept is much like opposite day for Druids. John wore his clothes backwards. But then, he does that most days. Emma's favorite part was having breakfast for Dinner. She loves waffles, and these days they are a rare treat.

We were supposed to make a salt dough map of a mythical country with geographical features. I don't like salt dough, and I didn't want to run out to the store to get all the ingredients. So we made our map edible, out of rice crispy treats. We used blue frosting for the rivers, yellow frosting with brown sugar sprinkled on top for the deserts (and the dessert :), and chocolate chips for mountain ranges. Chloe's country is quite mountainous. She loves her chocolate chips. Not surprisingly, this was everyone's favorite activity for the week.

Daddy was a substitute Teacher/engineer this week. He helped the kids assemble the catapult kit. I was so glad he was home sick, I can't even manage to assemble IKEA furniture, and those direction have pictures. This looked much more complicated! We had so much fun on our first week, I am really looking forward to next week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Homeschooling with a Chronically ill Child

Our family is emerging from a year of homeschooling with a chronically ill child. Our oldest, Emma, was eventually diagnosed with Menagerie's Disease (although we had a few red herrings). She had chronic dizziness every single day severe enough that she couldn't function and often it led to vomiting. The medications used to treat it would leave her so tired some days she spent all day in bed. We were housebound much of the time because any kind of travel made her condition so much worse. Right now she is feeling much better, and the symptoms have receded and seem to be in remission. I am not an expert, but these are the things I would tell anyone in my situation.

  • being ill is isolating. The reality of our circumstances was we couldn't get out of the house with any reliability. No one wants to drag a sick, miserable child all over the city and goodness knows all the sick child wants is to relax and be still. My advice: stock up on board games, and even on video games. This is the perfect time to start a tradition of reading a book aloud as a family. During this time where your social circle is narrowed, use it as a chance for your family to draw closer together. Every cloud has a silver lining. We have come out of this season of our lives with even stronger bonds between us as a family.
  • Your friends still care, even when you feel isolated. We live in a super busy society, people struggle to find the time for their own families. Our current way of life just isn't conducive to the challenges a chronic illness brings, because it is so different than just having the flu. Also remember that your schedule is now full of doctor visits, and has an inflexibility of its own. Sometimes you are just too tired to hold a great phone conversation. My advice: lean hard on extended family and on friends who have the flexibility to come and visit. Stay in touch with friends who don't have flexibility in their schedules through social media like facebook, message boards, and email.
  • Your academic school year is going to look different than you expected for your ill child. It's okay, give yourself a break. Homeschooling with perfectly healthy children is challenging. If your daughter doesn't learn Latin this year, it will be okay. You have enough stress and pressure already, you don't need to add any more guilt or stress at this point. You may have to look at what you consider "learning", or "schooling" to be defined as. This is most definitely not the time to lean heavily on a workbook based curriculum. You would be surprised how much everyone in the family is learning through this process.
  • Pare down your academic expectations to the "bare necessities". It is important for the ill child to be able to rest and focus much of their energy toward healing. We also had doctor appointments to juggle, and other health professionals to see. I found myself with much less time, a child who needed more time to recover, and I still had my household schedule to run and other siblings to maintain normalcy for. I decided that I was comfortable if Emma was only progressing in Math, and reading (or being read too). We saved everything else for days when things were going well.
  • Anytime is a good time to do school. In past years our family had a pretty structured homeschool schedule. This past year, that was not true. We did school whenever Emma felt like it, even if that was 10pm.
  • Be willing to use alternative media instead of textbooks. If you planned your academic year heavy on textbooks and workbooks, be willing to chuck that out the window. Most libraries have audio books and e-reader books available to loan. Be willing to switch over to a year that just includes reading, or hearing good books. If you have a Wii, or your child has a Nintendo DS, both offer educational games that teach foreign languages or challenge problem solving skills with puzzle oriented games.
  • Try to reduce the impact on siblings where you can. When one member of the family gets chronically ill, the whole family experiences it. There really isn't any way to avoid that. But when you can, make sure that siblings are able to make their classes, or continue with events that are important to them.
The most important thing I can offer is be patient with yourself and your situation.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Our newest addition

She is a sweety. We named her petunia. She is now terrorizing the whole house. Good thing she is so cute with all that pug-ness

Monday, June 6, 2011

On the school front

How to make spelling fun? Let the kids squirt shaving cream all over the dining room table and trace their words in the foam. They had a BLAST :). Especially my very hands-on man-cub. I couldn't persuade a single one of them to break concentration and smile at the camera.

This was such a normal day for us. I have missed normal. Emma has struggled with vertigo since November. As you can imagine, reading and doing schoolwork while the room is spinning is pretty intense. But today it wasn't an issue, and I couldn't be more thankful. We played, all of us together, at the same time. All of my baby chicks in a clutch. It was peaceful, and we took total advantage of it. I can only hope it is a sign of things to come.

Down the Rabbit Hole....

The girls were in a production of Alice in Wonderland. They did terrific. Emma was the Cheshire cat and Chloe was the Dodo Bird. I was so proud of both of them.

They were both so very nervous going in. But they studied hard and learned all their lines. I couldn't have been more proud.

Especially for Emma. She is recently diagnosed with Meniere's disease. It makes her dizzy with vertigo and nausea. She had to give up dance because of it, and I know that made this play all the more important for her.

Friday, January 21, 2011

John's Pet Store

We have been studying domestic pets in school. The kids have learned all about their care, what the animals need, habitats and anatomy. John decided to open up his own pet store, and the girls thought that was an awesome idea too! I could not resist the chance to take pics of this. I think he chose to wear his glasses because it makes him look more trustworthy.

He also made sure to demonstrate for us how a snake would strangle a rat, or a boy.

Chloe put most of her faith in flashy signage. :)