Monday, August 31, 2009

Beginning Week Two

Today we started Week Two of the academic year. Our day began later than usual because everyone slept in (myself included). Thank goodness! It was a very busy weekend with late nights, and the lack of sleep was/is apparent in both the kids and myself. Despite the late start and extra crankiness we ended up having a good day.

There is much to look forward to this week... I'm most excited for the art project of the week (we will be making an impressionist-style painting on muslin using pastel chalks). We are also learning about Mercury and Venus and their respective atmospheres by creating mini-atmospheres in jars. In history, the younger girls are exploring Ancient Egypt while the older two are working on projects to learn about the various sea voyages and "discoveries" of the late 15th/early 16th centuries. We are reading a wide variety of books and poems, and will have our first poetry recitation at the "Poetry Jam" on Friday.

On our daily walk through the neighborhood, the girls and I were excited to see some signs that autumn is not too far away. The most obvious sign is the first wave of Canadian geese arriving at the pond behind our house. They sounded like relatives catching up as they flew in this morning - as if it were a family reunion and they were the first to arrive, all talking over each other in their excitement. I estimate between 50 and 60 geese arrived today, but by the end we will have hundreds of chatty, noisy geese back there. They seem to argue over the best places to eat and sleep, which part of the pond belongs to what unit, and so on. But, like any good family, despite their squabbles they stay close to each other and work together to keep their enemies at a distance. I am so happy they are back - I miss them and their drama when they're gone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

From the Bookshelves

I thought it might be interesting (though I could be wrong!) to post the books we are reading each week. I plan to include only our "school books" because we, as a group, are always reading many, many books and the list would quickly grow too long. However, I reserve the right to include any books that we find so absolutely wonderful that we simply must share.

From the Bookshelves, Week One:

Monday, August 24, 2009

One Down, How Many to Go???

Today was the official "first day of school" at our house. What a tremendous sense of relief I feel - all the planning and arranging finally put into action, and I have to say things went off without a hitch. Better than I'd anticipated, in fact. My girls were all VERY, VERY excited, which made me feel great. My oldest was so excited she had a hard time falling asleep (I'm not sure what she thought was going to happen, but I'll take it!). That being said, I already see things in my plan that are going to work wonderfully and things that will not, which is all to be expected. In fact, I actually enjoy figuring out what doesn't work because I can cross it off my list!

My least favorite things about today: (1) constant interruptions (ahhh - the dream of more peaceful one-on-one time with each child); (2) Hooked on Phonics - my five-year-old really wants to do this... not sure how long I'll last (I'm hoping she loses interest quickly); (3) lack of preparation on my part regarding down time for my youngest - I really need to have a good supply of games/activities/projects/etc. to keep her busy while her sisters are finishing their work and my current supply is lacking.

My favorite things about today: (1) my two eldest daughters' genuine excitement and interest in our history topic and the fabulous discussion that ensued; (2) the creative works of Dada art that my girls made - especially my five-year-old's "Landscape Habitat" sculpture (see photo); (3) reading a French fairytale to my little ones and my six-year-old later looking up France in her children's atlas to learn more about the country.
Ahhh... one down and... uh, let's not list how many to go. I'm just going to enjoy today.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Amusement Park Homeschool

Yesterday my family took a trip to a local-ish amusement park. After hours of riding on roller coasters, my youngest daughter pointed out that people don't fall off of the roller coasters because of gravity and because "they are moving so fast!" She then added, "Oh yeah, plus you're all strapped in and stuff." Her observations prompted my other daughters to begin asking more questions - mostly physics questions, but some related to the different types of harnesses and straps. So many questions, in fact, that today we hit the library and checked out several books plus a video on the history of and science behind roller coasters.

And I was afraid that the only remnant from yesterday's trip would be my roller-coaster-hangover-headache...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

When I Grow Up...

Our local newspaper is holding an essay contest. The directions are as follows: "In 200 words or less tell us about what you want to do with your life." My oldest had no interest in the contest despite the lure of a $50 Walmart gift card. But my younger three excitedly set to work writing their pieces. Here they are, from youngest to oldest. These made me laugh, and I hope you get a smile out of them as well.

Dictated by DD, age 5:
When I grow up I want to be a veterinarian. I want to help animals be happy. If an animal is sick I will help him. If there are animals that don't have a home I want to give them a home. I want to teach people to take care of their animals so they can be healthy. I like cats and dogs and beavers, but I can help all the animals.

Written by DD, age 6:
When I grow up I want to be an adventurer. It will be fun! I will be able to see the world and find great things. I will be able to camp out a lot. I will get to see lots of animals and lots of plants, and to kayak on lakes. Maybe I will be able to see plants and animals that people have never seen before, and to discover lots of birds and trees. These could help scientists learn more about our world. I cannot wait to start my adventure!

Written by DD, age 7:
When I grow up I want to be a dentist. I'm going to work in a shop in California. I will not let cavities get into someone's teeth. When I have a break, I'm going to go around the world to help kids who do not have dentists near their home. I'm going to show them how to clean their teeth and teach them how to fix a problem. I will give them toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss for a year. By doing this I hope they have a long, healthy life with clean teeth!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Activity Hustle and Bustle

I cannot bear to feel that my days are void of down time. Yet I always feel busy. This is probably due to the four children who are always with me rather than scheduled activities, but nonetheless, I crave more free time. As such, I try to limit our activity schedule. At the same time, I want the girls to have the opportunity to try new things and make friends. Here is what we have on our plate for the fall:

  • Music Lessons - DD9 (piano), DD7 (violin) & DD6 (piano), 1 x week
  • Swim Team - all DDs, 3 x week
  • Girl Scouts - all DDs, 2 x month
  • Various library programs - all DDs, 2-3 x month
  • Lego Club - all DDs, 1 x month
  • Homeschool Rollerskating - all DDs, 1 x month
  • Poetry Jam - all DDs, 1 x month
  • Various operas, plays, ballets, etc. - all DDs, ~1 x month (typically weekends as a family)

(Hmmm.... it looks busier when written in list form than on the calendar! Probably because most of these are only 1 or 2 times per month...)

Monday, August 17, 2009

"No, we are not Moonies!"

While out running errands today, my children were asked "Are you ready to go back to school?" and "What school do you go to?" about 400 times. Okay, that may be a hyperbole, but it definitely felt that way. The girls even asked me why people kept asking them the same questions. These inquiries don't bother me - why should they? Most kids go to school and it's that time of year. No, what gets to me is the follow-up question I get 90% of the time after the asker finds out we homeschool (and that's not a hyperbole):

"You homeschool? What church do you go to?"

I am always at a loss when this is asked. Depending on (a) my mood and (b) who's asking, I either skirt the question completely or answer with extreme reluctance because my answer usually leads to major confusion and a lengthy discussion - we attend a UU fellowship and most people I run into do not know what Unitarian Universalist means or confuse it with the Unification Church and think we're Moonies. I sometimes wish to give a really flip answer and play up the Moonie bit, but I don't. I just sigh.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A New Outlook

I've decided to move our homeschool home base from our main-level study to the bonus room upstairs. I call it our "home base" because while I like to store my supplies and books in one room, and while I do like to start the day together in the same space, we often take our studies to different rooms, the outdoors, coffee or book shops, etc. But I find it helpful at the beginning and the end of the day to have everything in a central location. I also know that when the weather gets colder we tend to stay home more often, and the girls are still young enough that they like to stay together for long stretches at a time. There were days when we spent several hours in the study, and because it is a small room to start with it felt smaller and smaller with five people and every book, game, project, craft, toy, lego - you get the idea - that came off the shelf.

So we're getting a fresh outlook on things by moving upstairs to the playroom. The playroom will still remain a playroom to some extent with games, puzzles, the doll house, and so on, but it's had a minor facelift with the removal of the couch and end tables and the addition of several bookshelves, cork and dry erase boards, work tables and storage units. I'm still in the process of setting up and already I feel like I have a sunny, new perspective on the year. Call me crazy, but I think it's the yellow walls and light-colored furniture coupled with the extra space working on my senses. I can't wait to post pictures of the finished (or as finished as a play/school room can ever possible be) product.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Short and Sweet

My good friend and fellow-homeschooler sent this to me, and I find it encouraging as there are days when one may wonder if anything is sinking in...

"In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day's work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years." ~Jacques Barzun

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

General Plans

In responding to a post on Secular Homeschool, I wrote out my general plans for the upcoming year. These are subject-to-change! I'm hoping to post the more detailed plans after I'm done making them, but here is the general plan.

Input & feedback very welcome!!!

4th Grader

Math Mammoth (Multiplication 1, Division 1 & 4th complete)
Writing Tales (when finished we'll do Igniting Your Writing)
Journal writing - although they write in their journals whenever they want, once a week I do a structured write
Exercises in English (grammar) - notebook the rules
Spelling - notebook any mistakes from own work
Vocabulary - notebook words from reading that are new (required to do 3 per week)
English from the Roots Up (**after much research, I've decided to drop Latin as a language until about 7th grade and use this in the meantime)
McGuffey's 4 (even though she's a great reader, I think a daily dose of oral reading is helpful) - narration if wanted
Literature and Reading - I pull most of her lit. books from the time period we're studying, but not all; some are from other reading lists - I try to get a variety; she then notebooks her assigned book (additional books don't have to be notebooked) and we discuss; I also read a variety of books to the girls and this is part of the literature study

I combine this child with the next in history & science:
Story of the World 3 & Usborne IL Encyclopedia
- we do narration & drawing, mapwork, a hands-on project, extra reading
REAL Science
Structured nature study once per week

I combine all four girls in Art and Music (at their own levels):
- Great Artists (project and notebook page for each artist - we'll cover 20 -30 this year) plus we sketch a ton for the notebooking pages
Music - Monthly composer study that I pull together (I try to keep it simple - read the bio one week, listen to the music, draw/write a reaction to a piece, learn about a key instrument from the time, etc.) & Piano lessons

2nd/3rd Grader

Math Mammoth
Explode the Code (this year will be books 6, 7 and 8)
finish Phonics Pathways (with occassional copywork)
Daily oral reading from McGuffey's and Aesop's Fables (I alternate) - notebook narration 1- 2 times per week
Spelling - from her own mistakes (same as above) - no formal vocabulary
First Language Lessons
Handwriting Without Tears - cursive
Writing program - undecided - still not sure if we'll do formal writing this year or hold off; leaning towards holding off
Journal writing - same as above
Literature / reading - same as above but on her own reading level

History -Story of the World 3 - same as above
Science - REAL Science - same as above
Art - same as above
Music - same as above except violin lessons

1st Grader

Math Mammoth
Explode the Code (books 3, 4, 5)
Phonics Pathways (with copywork)
Daily oral reading from McGuffey's and Aesop's Fables (same as above - though the older child is farther along)
Handwriting Without Tears - continue printing
First Language Lessons
Spelling - same as above
no formal writing program
Journal writing - same as above
Reading & Literature - books she can read from history, easy chapter books, and the books I read aloud as part of our literature study - she can notebook 1 - 2 books per week (1 is required) at her own level

I combine the younger two for History and Science:
- Story of the World 1 & Usborne encyclopedia - do narration/drawing, mapwork, coloring and hands-on project
Science - living books, I have several books of easy experiments - we will try to do a notebook page or two a week
Nature study as above

Art- as above
Music - as above with piano lessons


No formal math - work with real life math - notebook key ideas
Explode the Code (1, 2, 2 1/2 - as far as she gets - she's not a seatwork kinda gal but she likes to 'do school, too')
Oral Reading from McGuffey's and lots and lots and LOTS of readers - she loves this
Hooked on Phonics (she wants this; it's not my 'usual' - it was a gift so we'll give it a go)
Handwriting without Tears
Literature & Reading - basically the same as the 1st grader, but at her own level and participate in literature studies as she can/wants
History - as above
Science - as above
Art - as above
Music - as above, no formal lessons - I will teach her the basics of the recorder if she wants/has interest

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

All in the Family

One often reads about the amazing creativity displayed by homeschooled children. My own four daughters frequently demonstrate outside-the-box thinking in art, writing, play, and so on.
The following statement, made by the oldest of the four girls to her younger sisters, is not an example.

"Okay, now let's pretend. We'll pretend... that we're a family. Pretend we're all sisters."

Hmmm - that will be a stretch of the imagination. =D

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chronological History of the World

Does studying this topic sound daunting? It should! We're only talking a few years of history... But here is a site that will make it easy to take on THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD (does anyone else hear "Monty Python, History of the World Part I" when you read this, or is that just me?). The best thing about this unit study? It's free!

This unit study was created by a homeschooling mom of two. Just when I thought I was busy sorting through everything for next year, I see something like this that puts things in perspective.

I'm grateful for resourceful moms like Sam ... with people like her around I can still get some sleep.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Biting the Bullet

Okay, I'm doing it.

I'm actually beginning to plan for the upcoming year. Don't get me wrong - I'm far from done "organizing" (if you can call it that). I'll probably be doing that for the next fifteen years. But I've actually taken the plunge... I've started writing out our academic plans. I've even created a fancy little grid to help me sort things out. Granted, it's blank. But it's there. It's waiting for me to start pencilling in books and projects.

I feel so much better.

The feeling is similar to running on a dull and boring road. The scenery doesn't seem to change much and the sky is endless. You feel like you've been running for miles but going nowhere. And then, there it is - all of a sudden you can see the end. It's not close. You've still got a ways to go. But it's there.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Think big, lose weight

The past few days have been instructive. Going through so many homeschool items, books, websites, etc., I began to feel (a) overwhelmed and (b) like somewhat of a failure since I'm not fitting in all these wonderful resources. Nevermind the piles of projects, worksheets, narrations, drawings, books, art creations, etc., that we have done this year - it's the things that we either didn't get to, didn't finish, or didn't even know about until I accidentally found them online yesterday that get to me.

I realize it's because I easily lose sight of the "big picture" when I'm surrounded by the "weight" of hundreds of papers, books, projects, etc. If I return to the big picture - why I homeschool in the first place, my long term hopes and goals for my children, myself, and my family - I feel much calmer, more accomplished, and definitely have a more posistive, happy outlook. (I should probably write them down and post them on the fridge.)

When I do this, I don't feel so lost.

So my goal for the next week (and really life): repeat my new mantra of 'Think big, lose weight" over and over and over and over and over.... until it sticks.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Getting Started

When approaching the new school year, I sometimes feel like a squirrel that's darted out into traffic - running quickly in many different directions, but ultimately getting no where and running the risk of getting hit by a car (or in my case, being taken to the mental institution for crazed and dazed homeschoolers).

To at least keep myself moving in one direction, I decided to go through all educational materials and resources I currently own and take stock. I figured that from here, I could see if what I have will work for me for next year, or if I should try something new all together.

Sounds simple, right?

Ha! I started this process back in June when the kids were enrolled at day camp, figuring that with the four girls gone I'd have ample time to go through everything and come up with a plan.

That didn't happen.

But I had at least started the process. Then, a day or so before we had a tag sale, I quickly went through things taking anything I hadn't and wouldn't use off the shelves. Given the venue, I didn't sell much, but at least those items are crated and I refuse to take any of it out of the crates (I will eventually either sell it at a local homeschool sale/swap or donate it/give it away).

Two days ago I started really going through what was left. To help keep me organized and moving in the right direction with this very daunting process, I started tab with links to most of the resources I've found: Our Homeschool Resources At Your Fingertips (see sidebar; I would make a separate page, but I don't know how). I've limited the list to items that we actually use or will use. We don't use every resource on this list every day, but we have used them and found them helpful. My goal is that after going through all of this I will be one step closer to formulating a plan for next year (no laughing - I only said I'd be one step closer, not there!).

Thursday, August 6, 2009


You may be wondering how there can be lost persons in a homeschool. Have I lost my own children? Do I take in wandering, stray homeschool kids? Am I failing my children so much that they are truly lost with no idea as to what's going on around them? Or is that me?

Not quite...

As I enter my fifth year as a homeschool mom, I realize that while I may not be quite as lost as I once was, I am still struggling to find my way. It seems that every fall, after having spent weeks preparing for the upcoming year, I vow that I will not fall prey to second-guessing myself next time. I will not jump, with both feet, into the next latest-and-greatest. I will ignore what the homeschooler next door (okay, not next door - several miles away) is using even though it sounds so fabulous. And before the start of each new school year, I'm right back where I was the year before: researching, soul-searching, discussing options for hours with other homeschoolers, friends, and perfect strangers, making piles of old and new books all over the house. Wondering if I should stick with being a classically-eclectic, (somewhat) relaxed homeschooler, or if I should switch to a new approach. (School-in-a-box? Unschooler?) And in recent years, the sheer volume of options has become overwhelming and definitely contributes to my "lost factor."

And perhaps most importantly, every fall I hope to find a true sense of community. Living in a rural area means less people, less homeschoolers, less options. I have yet to find a place that feels comfortable. We're still searching - we're still lost... hence, Lost Persons Homeschool.