Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Poetry

I thought this rhyming couplet was actually pretty good. It was written by my ten-year-old daughter for an assignment during her poetry unit last week. Considering the lack of almost everything in our town, I'm impressed by what she came up with.  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Art a la Van Gogh

For the past two weeks we've been studying Van Gogh. We learned about his life, his major works, and his time period. Last week we created our own version of Van Gogh's Sunflowers with torn paper and glue. Yesterday we continued using Van Gogh for inspiration as we delved into a project using Starry Night outlined in one of my favorite books, Discovering Great Artists. As the book suggests, we used construction paper to create the silhouette of a village, then used paint to mimic the movement of the wind and light of the night sky.
Both projects were fun and simple. We added a Van Gogh biography page to our art portfolio, and today my youngest asked, "Are we were going to make any other art a la Van Gogh?"

Monday, September 27, 2010

Second-guessing

This year I tried something new. I've always said that I take things year by year, and after last year I felt that while I was largely successful I also had room for improvement. My biggest wish was to "combine" more. Up until this year, I did separate math and reading/grammar/etc. for each child, combined the oldest two in history and science, did the same for the youngest two, and combined all four in art and music. Another big wish was to reduce the amount of planning that goes into organizing each year. While a complete boxed curriculum made me nervous (tempting though it may be), I thought I could try something that was partially ready-made. As an added bonus, it seemed like my middle two would fit into the same level so instead of four levels I'd be able to get away with only three. And at least three subjects would be planned for me.  Lastly, I really wanted something more independent for my oldest and this program is written directly for the student starting at the level of my oldest child.

After much (MUCH) deliberation, I decided to keep doing my same approach with phonics instruction, math, music, Greek/Latin roots, and art. The only new bit would be a ready-made language arts and ready-made social studies/science (as opposed to our classical approach doing history and science, and pulling literature from those). I figured that if I didn't like the break from a classical approach I could always go back next year. The product I chose integrates the Language Arts with the Social Studies and Science (something I love from the Classical approach) and is project-based (something I try very hard to do in our homeschool, and I believe I do a good job - it just takes a tone of planning). This was a very pricey endeavor as I purchased for the entire year, but I thought I'd be able to unload a lot of planning and make my life simpler.

I could not have been more wrong. We are currently in week three of school. I did more planning and organizing this year than I've ever had to do. I feel like our days are longer and I've got less time than before. Part of me thinks this will adjust as we get into a groove, and that this is normal as the kids get older and older and have more and more school work to do. But another part is nagging and whispering that I made a huge mistake. I'm actually starting to wonder if I'm cut out for homeschooling the middle years, whereas before this year started I wrote about how I actually felt comfortable and confident as a homeschooler. My experiment has totally wiped away all the good feelings I was having and I'm left feeling inadequate.

Well, that's not completely true: I know I'm being thorough and doing a good job. The kids say they enjoy the projects, like the new curriculum, and love doing school. So it's not all bad. But the bad part is seriously getting me down. I feel like I'm "doing school" all day long. And I'm second-guessing having talked myself and my partner into spending more money than I've ever spent on homeschooling product. I am cranky and grumpy more than I'm happy (this is totally unusual for me) because it seems like my oldest can never stay focused on her work and get anything done in a timely manner. Then I wonder if it's because there is too much for her to do. At the same time, I wonder if any other approach would really be any better? Maybe this is just how it is when you have four kids, close in age, and are responsible for their education. When I do less, I second-guess myself on that and worry that I'm doing them a disservice. When I do more, I worry that I'm trying to do too much and am doing them a disservice. Like I said, before this year started I was feeling very comfortable and confident with myself as a homeschooler. Now, not so much.

Maybe I just need to ride out the first "quarter" and re-evaluate before making a judgment call on my decisions.

Sigh.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fablehaven Heaven

We always listen to audio books in the car. Not only is it interesting and helps to pass the time, but it cuts down tremendously on bickering and arguing. A bonus is that as they read along with books that are above their reading level, my younger girls become better, more fluent readers. We have listened to a wide variety of books - classics, fantasy, mystery, adventure, non-fiction, etc. Currently, we are finishing the Fablehaven series. This series is rapidly climbing very high on my list of all-time favorite audio books. I find myself thinking about taking the long way home just to keep listening. My husband feels the same way and told me he wishes he could listen more often (he managed to hear a good part of several of the books as we drove across the state this summer). He made me promise to tell him how the story ends. In detail.

While the series is probably best-suited for middle school children, my group (six- to ten-years old) loves the series. Two children play a central role in a traditional battle of good versus evil. Despite the somewhat predictable overall theme, I find the characters intriguing, the storyline fun and engaging, and the way the author entwines the magical world with the real world inventive. Additionally, Brandon Mull finds many opportunities to impart valuable life lessons to the readers without making it overly obvious. Many times in the past weeks I've compared a current real-life situation to the fictional dilemmas the main characters encounter in the story. Overall, I recommend this series - especially if you have a long car ride ahead and want something the whole family can enjoy*. 

*The story does contain scenes which may be scary for younger children (in my opinion, similar to Harry Potter).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not-Back-to-School Self-Portraits

This year, we're using what used to be the playroom as "home base" for homeschooling. We have lots of workspace, two computers, arts and crafts supplies, and a beautiful view of the farm and pond behind our house. Outside the room, the doorway is flanked by two bookcases which house many of our childrens' books (both homeschooling and other).

I decided it would be fun to put up four frames (one for each girl) next do the door. There are two on each side, and last week for art I had each girl make a self-portrait. We followed the Hundertwassen-inpsired self-portraits that Kathy describes on her blog, Art Projects for Kids. We had so much fun making these - I highly recommend this project! I even made one, but as I don't have a frame it's on the bulletin board over my desk. At the bottom of each picture the girls wrote their names in block letter, but I cut them out of the picture (cyber-safety and all that). I am happy, not only with the results of the project, but with all the learning that went into it - we read the Hundertwassen biography, looked at his work, looked at other work from the same genre... overall, I think this was a big hit.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who, me?

After a super busy first week homeschooling, I was feeling like a terrible blogger - almost as if I should be on the lookout for Blog Services to come and report me for being negligent - when I received my first ever blog award. I received this comment from InstinctiveMom over at This Adventure Life: Finding the Fantastic in Everyday Learning. What a great way to end the first week back to homeschooling. And a fun way to re-enter the world of blogging.

I read so many wonderful blogs, though not always as often as I would like. I love how blogs allow us snapshots of lives, insight into mental processes, and a glimpse of the beautiful, the terrible, and everything in between. I have found blogging provides an outlet to express myself regarding my homeschooling journey (and life) that is hard to find in other places. I know that other bloggers enjoy similar assuagement from the daily grind as well, so I'm passing the award along as per the award rules...

The rules of this award are simple and straightforward:
  1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
  2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.
  3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they’ve been chosen.
Here are the fabulous bloggers to whom I'm passing along this Lovely Blog Award. They don't need to accept it, but I want to pass it along so that anyone reading will check them out (this was quite hard because I've noticed so many blogs I read have received this exact award... pardon if you receive it twice!).
  1. Windshield Rosary
  2. Athena Academy
  3. Ramblings of a Dysfunctional Homeschooler
  4. Grandview Home Learning Academy
  5. Camp Creek Blog
  6. Homeschool on the Edge of Nowhere
  7. Schola
  8. O'DonnellWeb
  9. Niqis Nook
  10. The Fantastic Robot Palace
  11. The Scientific Homeschool
  12. Home Educate in Italy
  13. Our Splendid Adventure
  14. Homespun Juggling
  15. Raising3Thinkers
Happy blog reading! And thanks, InstinctiveMom, for thinking of me!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

School is in Session

Once again, school is in session in our house. Which basically means that I have less time for the computer, checking email, message boards, and blogs... sigh. Having taken off a lot of time this summer, it also means that I am re-adjusting to the daily schedule as much as my children are. Of course, my mother chooses today to drop by unannounced, just minutes before we had to be out the door for a new class. Argh. I don't know if I can handle having the same conversation with her for the thousandth time, and I definitely don't want to write about the same aggravation again. In actuality, I wanted to write a lovely and interesting post on our first two days, what we have planned for the month, and all of that... but I'm just too tired from actually homeschooling and running around to the kids' activities. Maybe tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ready to Roll!

I am officially done planning, scheduling, cleaning (at least cleaning our workspace), organizing, and otherwise preparing for our new school year. Preparing for the year is always tiring but the results are satisfying. (When else would I feel the urge to clean out and organize my craft closet?) We are set to begin "school" on Monday the 13th. Phew!! It feels good to be at this point. It means I have a few days off before I start to feel the true busyness of our year. I'm excited about what we have planned in terms of academics. I feel reasonably good about our extracurricular activities (though there are a few nagging thoughts left in that category but I'm attempting to ignore them for now in the hopes that they will go away). The room I've turned into our homeschool "home base" is tidy and inviting. Life is good. For now.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What a Find!




Check out the Khan Academy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Secular Thursday

"People who want to share their religious views with you, almost never want you to share yours with them."
~Dave Barry