Thursday, September 29, 2011

Homeschool Photography

My oldest daughter is very into photography right now. She wanted me to share some of her latest photos:
View from the Back


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Homeschool Music

by DD 8
Homeschool music... sigh. I remember years ago hearing people question what to do for "Music" and thinking, "Are they nuts? How is it you need to actually do anything for music?"  I have always felt that music is an important part of life - not just "school" or homeschool. So I think my reaction from so long ago was more a reflection of my shock at needing to have a program in order to include music in your life. But I've actually changed my thinking about music, and I've realized that I was completely misunderstanding the question and concern expressed by the more veteran homeschoolers (in much the same way that I've been humbled as a parent over and over).

by DD 7
I started out simply living our life without adding in any extra music "stuff" - and I recorded our music "program" to turn in to the state review. I was shocked the first year. Yes, we listened to tons of music. Yes, I pointed out rhythm and tempo, beats, dynamics, etc. Yes, the girls were exposed to symphonies and orchestras... but I felt disappointed in myself.  All in all, when I went back and looked at what I thought was a rich and diverse musical life, I realized that wasn't the case.  I was like a totally out-of-shape middle-age woman that has tricked herself into thinking she's actually in great shape because 20 years ago in high school she ran cross-country, or was on dance team, or whatever. In other words - I had been somewhat delusional.

by DD 11

Now, of course this wasn't the end of the world. I didn't sit and cry, shaking my head at how I'd wronged my children. Instead, I just thought about what it is about music that I want my children to take away with them. And I realized that some of my favorite memories from my school days were centered around music. I remember learning about the orchestra and all the instruments. I remember learning about music around the world, the different sounds and instruments that evolved in far-away continents. I remember being able to try out different instruments, singing in rounds and in groups. And I remember learning about many, many different composers and musicians, what influenced them, and the timeline of music. And I want my girls to experience some of the same joy and wonder of music that I did.
by DD 9

Most of all, I recognized that if I didn't plan at least some of this, we probably wouldn't ever get to it. So for the past two years I've introduced a famous composer or musician every month. For the entire month we focused heavily on that person and his or her works. We read a biography together, listened to the music over and over, did emotional reflections, wrote about the composer, etc., etc., etc. This year, I'm turning the focus onto the orchestra. We are dedicating our entire year to learning about the history, the instruments, and the importance of the orchestra. So far, it has been wonderful. I am using two books as my spine: The Story of the Incredible Orchestra and The Story of the Orchestra (very similar titles, but different enough in information that I'm happy I have both). We are utilizing the free game by Carnegie Hall. And we are constructing lap books to help us remember what we've learned - we are adding a little to the books each week (I'm using the free templates as a base and adding things to it as I see fit). Oh - and of course I have several trips to the orchestra planned!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Great Buy

So... I have yet to use Intellego Unit Studies, but have looked at them seriously over the past year. They are secular and seem to have great activities. In fact, a week or so ago I asked around to see how people that use them are liking the product and found the general response to be very positive. Still, I didn't buy. Then today, I found out that they are 45% off at Homeschool Buyer's Co-op. Perfect! Now I can try a few without breaking the bank.

I am specifically interested in how they work for the younger crowd as I'm trying some new things with my youngest daughter this year. If you've used Intellego please write a comment about your thoughts and which units you've found to be the best. Thanks!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Great Games!

At the start of every academic year, I give the girls little gifts to celebrate. Normally I buy new supplies, a few new accessories, etc. This year I purchased four new games (to be shared). You never know how much fun a game will be until you play, so I felt like I was taking a bit of a gamble.  But it turns out, these games are all absolutely wonderful! Each one is very different from the others, and fun in a very different way. I really scored (pardon the pun) with these gifts!  It probably helps that it's been raining and dreary outside, plus swim team was canceled for the week ... so we've had a lot of indoor free time this week - perfect for games! I thought I would share them with my fellow homeschoolers as the fall and winter months approach us...

Gobblet Classic Edition - Deluxe Limited EditionThe first game is called Gobblet and is a game of strategy. You try to get four of your pieces in row, and you can "gobble" or "be gobbled" by larger pieces. The pieces are all made of wood, as is the case. One of the best things about this came is that it is highly portable - we're taking it along to music lessons this afternoon. This 2-player game is recommended for ages 7+, and like chess or checkers, the better matched the opponents, the better the game.

The second game I gave the girls is called Anti-Virus. This is a one-player game, and the point is to get the "virus" (red piece) out of the "system" (game board). This game goes from super simple to insanely difficult. The player follows the starting set-up in the booklet and then using only diagonal moves tries to get the virus piece out. We've all had a lot of fun with this, and again it is a highly portable game. I've found that my 7-year-old, especially, likes this game. She plays by the rules about half the time - and the other half just has fun setting up the board and moving the pieces around. Again, ages 7+.

EDUPRESS DRAWING CONCLUSION SHIPWRECKED BLUEI also gave the girls Drawing Conclusions: SHIPWRECKED!. The premise of this game is that each player is stranded on the same island. You move your piece around the board, the goal being to collect four cards, one from each category - Math, Geography, Health and Biology. The player who collects all four first wins. Each card has a brief paragraph with a question that follows (basically, the card tests the player's reading comprehension). The game comes in three levels - I purchased the middle level (grades 3-5). I will say that the questions seem very easy, but the reading itself is not. I think I may also purchase the cards for the next level up to see how different they are. My gut feeling is that my younger girls would have a hard time - meaning the game will no longer be fun - if the reading level is significantly more difficult. Right now, they can read the cards, they are challenged by the words on the cards, but not so much so that they get frustrated, but the questions are very, very easy to answer. My oldest daughter finds everything very easy, which is why I'm considering buying the new cards. However, she still really enjoys the game. We've added our own rules to the game to make it longer (e.g., landing on a message in a bottle means you have to give one card back). Overall, I'm very satisfied with this game.

Snap TrapAnd lastly, my personal favorite of the bunch: Snap Trap! I love this game! We all love this game! One person can play or fifteen. The game pieces are worth different points depending on color. You simply take turns taking pieces out of the board while trying not to let the spring snap. If it moves more than a certain distance (good practice reading a ruler), you owe 3 points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins (great addition practice for little ones). The game is recommended for ages 6+. It is also somewhat portable, though I'd worry about losing pieces. We played a family round last night and everyone had fun. The game seems simple enough, but choosing the right piece (to either stop the spring, or to ensure it snaps on the next player) is trickier than it appears at first glance. This game is super affordable, too, so you get a lot of "bang for your buck." This would make a great birthday or holiday present.

Please share any of your favorite games with me - I'm always on the lookout for something new!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Not-Back-to-School 2011

Not-Back-to-School 2011
Last Year! 9/2010
Yesterday was our first day back! It was a great day, and the only downside was that the weather was gray and rainy. We usually take our picture in front of the front garden, but the weather did not cooperate so our photo is in the kitchen. Comparing this year to last year, I can really see how much everyone has changed! Despite the rain, we did try to take our morning walk (I thought there was a clearing in the clouds) but we were drenched just walking to the end our driveway. The neighbors must have thought we were crazy - we got all geared up (boots, slickers, etc.) to walk to the end of the driveway and around the cul-de-sac before heading back into the house.  This morning was overcast but we managed to sneak in a quick walk during our usual snack time. I'm glad to be back into a routine and so are the kids. They've been looking forward to this all summer long!

Neck and Neck! (younger on left)
We also decided to chronicle my third daughter's climb to overtake her older sister in height. My second is the tiny one in our family in terms of height. The tallest she's ever measured was in the 50th percentile, and it's been below that for the past the few years. My third daughter is tall for her age and is gaining on her sister. As of yesterday, I believe the older sister is ahead by about one hair. The girls wanted a photo journal of the little sister's progress. :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

Before the endless hours of practice and performance,
before the rush of getting in and out of the car,
before being early, being late, trying to be on-time

Before the planning, scheduling and the projects,
before the library programs and bowling days,
before the meetings and events, groups and get togethers

Before the storm of life, before the excitement of chaos
there is a calm, a relaxed tranquility of peace

This weekend is the last of the calm before the storm of our normal lives kicks back in. We will soon be back to our swim practices, music lessons, drama classes, various clubs and meetings, exercise programs, library book clubs, and weekends full of religious eduction at our fellowship, swim meets, nature programs, etc. There is a beauty in the busyness, in the sharing of experiences and expanding of boundaries that leads to incredible growth. And I find time within all of this for quiet moments at home, unhurried days of leisure... but the reality is that life is very busy and I've enjoyed the lack of structure these past few weeks have offered. So I'm soaking it up this weekend as we get ready to head back into the eye of the storm on Tuesday. :)