Homeschooling Five Again

August 8

I have five kids at home again.

Victoria’s foray into the world of public schooling didn’t last long.  While P*rpich is a great school, it was not a good fit at all for my nontraditional girl or what we wanted for her.

Among the reasons:

  • There was no Wi-Fi in the dorms and cell service was iffy, so she was quite cut off from outside friends and family.  While Victoria travels away from home a lot, we always stay in touch and do lots of chatting and such, plus she uses the net to stay in contact with many of her friends and to keep up with what’s going on in the world.  She had very limited access to family, friends and the internet.  None of that is ideal for my kid (or me).
  • We were assured that her gluten allergy wouldn’t be an issue (“She’ll just have to pick the foods that don’t have gluten”) but lunch generally consisted of plain lettuce.
  • The days were LONG.  She registered in the spring for her morning (academic) classes and was told that her afternoon (media arts) classes would be assigned.  We knew that the mornings started at 8 a.m. but she found out how long the day was only after she got there.  Every day went from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. — over 8 hours.  From there, she generally needed to head to the computer lab to do homework before it closed.  Once the semester got into full swing, it would have been even longer with the level of projects and homework assigned.  I was quite surprised that the schedule was more rigorous than my college years, for sixteen and seventeen year old kids.
  • While the school specializes in the arts, it is still a very traditional high school.  For a kid who grew up with lots of autonomy and empowerment, this was major culture shock.
  • The kids were really on their own in the dorms.  While there were lots of policies in place to keep them safe and control them (curfews, rules, guards, all meds and supplements had to be locked up with the nurse….), there was very little adult support.  When Victoria had a minor crisis the first night and was trying to figure out how to get some supplies she needed by morning (without a car, a store within walking distance, or family less than 3 hours away), I suggested talking to the “dorm mother.”  I was quite surprised to hear that no adults had introduced themselves to the kids at any point as someone to come to if they needed help or support.  The kids seemed to be essentially on their own.  Since there were testimonials on the web site from parents who said they felt their children were in such great hands, I was really bothered by this, though Victoria took it in stride.
  • Victoria quite simply didn’t enjoy it the way she thought she would.  My kid loves to learn.  She loves photography.  She loves challenges and new experiences.  But it was just not the kind of educational and creative environment she expected.

Ultimately, we drove up and got her before the end of the first week.  She had already made some really wonderful friends that she’ll miss (though they’re keeping in touch online) but she was really happy to come home.  She told me afterwards that she had been sad ahead of time thinking about all of the things she was giving up by going off to P*rpich (travel with us, home, family, freedom, our homeschool adventures…), but she felt that it was going to be worth it because it was going to be such a phenomenal experience.  Then, she said, she got there and realized she was giving all of that up for something that she didn’t even enjoy.

I am not one of those parents who makes my kids finish things they start even when they hate them.  I had one of those parents, and the only thing it ever did for me was give me panic attacks by grade school.

Her childhood is too short to waste a year of it as some kind of life lesson.

I am all for canceling that wedding at the last minute when you know in your heart it’s a mistake, quitting that job that pays well but kills your soul, and having the courage to say “this is not for me” when an opportunity comes along that looks great on paper but is just not a good choice for you.

Victoria has already heard from a boy at the school who wants to go home but his mom doesn’t know how to help him finish his high school years now.  They are looking into online school.  I’m glad that Victoria had an educational life waiting for her back home that she could slip back into — one where she can learn and grow and create in ways that feed her soul.

And that means I want to plan some travel sometime soon……

Free Metals Lapbook!

Hands of a Child is currently offering a free lapbook on metals for grades 4-10.  It’s a huge file full of all sorts of goodies that you can incorporate into your lapbook (or notebook if your kids prefer notebooking).  You can check it out here.

If you’re new to labooking, these articles might help make the first time a success.

Have fun!

Oodles of fun science inspiration

I’m loving this middle school science teacher’s blog, The Simply Scientific Classroom, for fun science inspiration.

Among the ideas I’m excited about incorporating in our homeschool this year….

End of Year- Vocabulary Photo Album

“I had purchased photo albums/brag books from a local dollar store. We used the photo albums to store the completed vocabulary cards….”

I’m thinking this could be a great way to do all sorts of subjects, from math cheat sheets to presidents to countries.  :)

Element Superhero

“Students were assigned an element and were instructed to create a superhero based on the element’s properties….”

(Her students just did one each, but I think it would be fun to do a whole set with the kids here.)  :)

Science Notebooking Ideas

“Make notebooking enjoyable for all!  The best way to do this is by using creative activities with notebooking.  Allow the students to get creative as long as they don’t lose focus of their learning target….”

There’s lots more to explore on the site and I subscribed by email, too.  Neat stuff!

 

10 Ways We’ve Learned and Played Here Lately

July is flying past!  We’re so busy, as usual.  Here’s a bit of what homeschool looks like around here lately….

  1. Daryl and the boys just finished the second weekend of the Wilder Pageant. Attendance is averaging between 800 and 1,000 audience members a night.  The performances have been really good and the weather has held out.  Next week is a huge production with many of the cast members from the TV show attending.  Ticket prices are higher, reserved seating has been sold out for months, and we’re anticipating crazy crowds.  It should be fun!
  2. Jack took part in a 6-week day camp at a horse stable with other boys his age. They focused on crafts, woodworking, care of the horses and developing self confidence.  Daryl paid off part of the tuition with volunteer hours, including teaching the boys how to play the spoons and teaching a group of 150 senior citizens about old time musical instruments.
  3. The kids have learned all about the brain from my many medical procedures. Last week I had another EEG, this time after sleep deprivation.  The good news is that my MRI showed no sign of a tumor or stroke.  My neurologist is continuing to look into the cause of  the “sharp waves” and “lightning strikes” that showed up on my EEG and the source of my neurological issues.  Bonus:  I asked for a copy of the MRI on CD so the kids can see pictures of Mama’s brain.  ;)
  4. I printed out these Minecraft math worksheets for the boys. I thought they’d love them since they were Minecraft themed, but after an initial cheer, Jack got a closer look and asked what was Minecraft about them.  I had to admit it was just a graphic on the bottom of each page and neither boy was very impressed.  They did them anyway, but they weren’t pleased!  I have to see if I can figure out how to really make Minecraft math worksheets.  Maybe word problems?
  5. We’ve gone to the family festival in the park at Walnut Grove each Saturday. I love the family festival!  It’s free and full of fun crafts the kids can do, plus lots of demonstrations of old fashioned fun.  There is also lots of great food to buy (go to the Hmong stand! the egg rolls and sesame balls are awesome!), plus there are vendors who sell everything from handmade jewelry to old time bonnets to pottery. 
  6. The three big kids continue to do Khan Academy for math. It’s just an ongoing assignment around here — “Do some math.”  They do the subjects and amount of time they want and I get a report once a week telling me how much they’ve each done and what they’ve learned.  I congratulate whichever kid did the most minutes for the week (it’s almost always Jack).
  7. Anna is writing a book. She’s been writing for a couple of months now and is quite serious about it.  She’s on page 80-something and plans to self-publish it on Kindle.  She has been a writer all of her life but I have never seen her stick to a project for this long.  I’m looking forward to reading the finished book!
  8. The kids have been doing a lot of swimming at the city pool. We got a summer pass and Daryl has taken Victoria, Jack, Alex and Fiona just about every day for an hour or two.  Anna prefers lakes.
  9. I’ve had lots of long conversations with Victoria and Anna. Recent talks with Anna have included the topics of the Gulf War, transgender issues, Iraq, Afghanistan, women’s rights before and after the Taliban, abortion, contraception, medical marijuana, photography, endangered animals, killdeers, toads, college, careers, Facebook, personality types, Edgar Allen Poe and lots more.  Recent conversations with Victoria have included the topics of finances, relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, #IamJada, naturally healing sinus infections and UTIs,  single-celled organisms, LGBTQA issues and oodles more.
  10. We’ve been raising a baby praying mantis from birth! He/she is currently about 3 weeks old and about 3/4 of an inch long.  Praying Mantis (PM) lives in an antique mason jar with a paper towel and rubber band lid, with an assortment of fruit on the bottom of the habitat.  Every day or so, I tap the top enough to get PM to scoot off the top and then I remove the paper towel for a few minutes while we all watch carefully (we do not want a wild praying mantis living in our kitchen) and lure in some innocent fruit flies that are menacing my counter.  PM is speedy fast at catching them!  We’ll release our pet at some point into the garden, but it’s been a lot of fun to watch him/her grow.

Life is also full of gardening, sleepovers, park days, sprinklers, sandboxes, picture books, chapter books, photography, poetry, video chats, art, play dough, hair experiments (Toria is currently bleach blonde and awaiting a new crazy color and Anna asked me to chop most of her hair off into a bob that looks adorable on her), bike rides, homemade contraptions, berry picking, LEGOs, Minecraft, beading, nature documentaries and the usual mayhem.

Lots of that mayhem!  But it’s all good.  Wine helps.  :)

Anna’s Photography

Toria has been our resident photographer for a few years now and she’s starting art school in the fall to specialize in it, but she has some competition in the family.

Anna has become quite a photographer herself.

Check out her Flickr page here.  She’d love it if you followed her, too, if you’re a photography fan yourself.

10 Things I Want to Do in Our Homeschool in July

I have a Pinterest board just for things I want to do soon, but my list keeps growing.  I’m logging ten homeschool-related ones here so I don’t forget them.

  1. Go hiking at night with flashlights.
  2. Take part in Maker Camp, and at least one of the virtual field trips (Blue Man Group! Jim Henson’s Creature Shop!) too.
  3. Gather mulberries.
  4. Do some new lapbooks.
  5. Take part in education.com’s DIY summer camp with the littles.
  6. Do daily messy art or science.
  7. Keep having Jack do daily pages of writing his story for handwriting/spelling practice.
  8. Do this math art project with the younger kids.
  9. Do lots of algebra and geometry with Victoria to make sure she’s “up to code” before starting Perpich in August, and involve the other kids too.
  10. Standardized tests (per MN law), via the CAT.

I’m due for an MRI next week since my neurologist said my EEG results showed some abnormalities in my brain, specifically “lightning strikes” and “sharp waves.”  I’m hoping it goes as well as possible (IV’s are not my friends and the bruises are just now finally gone from all the blown veins from last month’s IV Venofer treatments) and that I get some answers about my headaches, vision problems and neurological issues.  And I’m hoping to get a copy to show the kids.  You know how homeschoolers turn everything into a teachable moment.  ;)

Another Nebraska Getaway

We were lucky enough to get to spend another week at the fabulous Baker house in Nebraska last week, and it was a wonderful break.

The original plan was for me to go down with just Fiona and Anna since Daryl and the boys have pageant practice, but Alex missed me so badly that Daryl brought him and Jack down to join us a couple of days later.

Tiffany is doing day care out of her home now, and it was fun getting to help out.  Most of her day care kids are around toddler and preschool age, so they were great fun for Fiona to play with.

There was lots of painting, lots of messes and lots of chaos (though still less than there generally is in my house with just my kids!).  :)

The big kids even joined in the day care fun on some days!

The theme for the week was dinos, and we did all sorts of dino-related fun such as……

  • Drawing the length of an apatosaurus on the sidewalk and marking its stride, and then seeing how long the kids’ stride was in comparison.
  • Having dino snacks (carrot sticks carved like dino teeth, hard boiled eggs, etc.).
  • Reading dino books.
  • Singing a dino song each day about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores (we considered it a great success when Kennedy was overheard singing “carni, carni, carnivore….” on Friday).
  • Cutting out life-sized T-rex feet and putting them on the dining room wall at the proper spacing for how far apart their footsteps were (it took up the whole wall!).
  • And so on!

I’ll try to post some examples after I download the pics from my camera.

I’m inspired to do some themes around here each week now, even for the bigger kids.  Some of the ideas I have are seeds, space, fire, continents, oceans, mammals, fish, birds, invertebrates, amphibians, weather, the periodic table, colors and senses.  I am thinking of having a different general theme each week, and maybe doing lots of science themes too — magnets, electricity, evolution, etc.

As always, Tiffany’s house has inspired me to try even harder to get organized too.  Hope springs eternal.  ;)

 

 

Summer Goals

Last summer, I journaled 50 or 100 things I wanted to learn about as a family over the summer.  Daryl and the kids helped make up the lists.

We knew we wouldn’t get to all (or even most) of them, but it was fun to have a go-to list of neat stuff to throw ourselves into.

Some of the things on the list were big successes.  I wanted to learn to forage for wild edibles and wow, did Daryl (and I) run with that.  Over the summer and fall, we got hundreds of pounds of mulberries, walnuts,  apples, crab apples, black raspberries, and less-conventional goodies like milkweed pods (they’re scrumptious when they’re tiny, battered and fried like poppers), acorns (for acorn flour) and even cattails (delicious when you boil the tender new bottom shoots and serve with butter and salt like asparagus).  (See my Wild Edibles board for info on all of these and more.)

We also really got into lots of other subjects on our list, from the Civil War to animals and colors for our youngest homeschooler.  :)

I’m making up my list for this year.  I really like having it hand-written in my journal, in all different colors, full of scribbles and notes and silliness.

If we get to 3 or 5 or 30 of the things on the list, I’m just hoping it will lead to some of the fun we had with last year’s list.

Now to get on with the making of it…..

25 Poetry Prompts

Got a kid who loves to write poetry?  Got one who wants to but can’t think of what to write?  Want to get past some writer’s block yourself?  Here’s a few random prompts to play along with, off the top of my head because I’m in a poetry mood again lately.  :)

  1. Write a sentence about how you feel right now, with each word starting one line.  Fill in the lines with a poem about anything.
  2. Write a poem that starts with the words “I never thought…”.
  3. Repetition can be a powerful tool.  Write a poem that uses any of these words at least 10 times:  rub, blind, so, pulse, knock.
  4. Write a poem through your mother’s eyes.
  5. Write a poem through your pet’s eyes.
  6. Write a poem to yourself as a child (or younger child).
  7. Write a poem that uses these words anywhere in it (all of them):  my, high, shy, white, flight, right.
  8. Write a poem that is exactly 25 words long.
  9. Write a poem that starts every line with “and then.”  Don’t capitalize anything in it.  Punctuation is optional.
  10. Write a poem using 5 random lines you pick from the newspaper.
  11. Write a poem in which every line is exactly 5 words long.
  12. Write a poem about something that scares you.
  13. Write a poem about a color.
  14. Write a poem about something you dreamed, as if it were real.
  15. Write each letter of your name (first or full) down a sheet of paper and then write a poem about yourself starting each line with that letter.
  16. Rewrite a nursery rhyme into a new poem.
  17. Write a poem about a part of your body and what it represents.
  18. Write a poem inspired by a song.
  19. Write a short poem that would be good for a gravestone.
  20. Write a poem with your non-dominant hand.
  21. Write a poem that involves science or math (even in vague ways).
  22. Write a haiku (5-7-5 syllables) about a memory.
  23. Search random key words on Morguefile and then write a poem about one of the pictures you find that inspires you.
  24. Write a poem about a character from a book.
  25. Write a poem that starts with a number.

Feel free to come back and post poems here in the comments or post links to where you post them!  I’ll do the same if any of my kiddos or I tackle some.  :)

 

 

Free Fun U.S. States Game!

Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational has created an awesome free printable card game that helps kids learn all about the geography and history of the states.

Battle of the States is played a little bit like “War” but by comparing numbers and dates related to the states such as population, number of counties, electoral votes and year of statehood.

One nice thing about it is that it is slightly skewed in favor of younger players, since they start the game and pick the category to compare first.  The player who has the higher number in that category gets both cards and gets to choose the next category.  The player with the most cards at the end wins.

I’m hoping to try the game with at least a few of my kiddos once I find enough cardstock to print them out.  I seem to have been raided by small crafters lately.  ;)