After five years in school, will homeschooling be a fit for our family? Walk with us as we try to find out!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: They Are on to Me!

Officially, we are on Winter Recess this week.  And while we have spent most of the week having fun with family and friends, I must admit that I have squeezed a little "school" in as well.  You see, we are having our Medieval Feast Unit Celebration tonight and we had some work to do in preparation for it.  The test subjects spent a few pockets of time on Monday putting the final touches on the art projects we are displaying at the Feast.  

We also hit the craft store on Monday to buy supplies to make TS 1's Medieval Lord costume.  I have never made a costume in my life.  I can't sew and have no desire to learn how.  For a no sew, completely off the cuff costume, I think it came out pretty cute.  I'll reveal the completed costume in next week's wrap up, but here is a peek at the process...

On Tuesday morning, they each wrote up a few paragraphs explaining the government, art and way of life of the people of the Middle Ages.  The rest of Tuesday was spent hosting a fun playdate with friends.  The day was topped off by going out to dinner courtesy of Papa.

On Wednesday, we worked on the menu for the feast and the scrolls we would be handing out to our guests on Friday evening.  By this time, the test subjects began to revolt, reminding me that this was supposed to be their week off and THIS WAS WORK!  They are on to me!  Fortunately, we had a fun overnight trip planned to the Basketball Hall of Fame, so I was able to convince them to just finish up these final preparations and we would leave by lunch.

Wednesday and Thursday were filled with swimming at the hotel pool and touring the Basketball Hall of Fame.  We went with friends, who sadly wound up leaving early Thursday because one of the kids took ill with the stomach virus.  Although we missed their company, we had a great time exploring the Hall of Fame and all the hands on activities they have for the kids.  I must admit RA was not as enthralled as the test subjects with the Hall of Fame, but she hung in there with us.

This morning, I dropped RA off with my sister's daughter at a craft and baking mini camp, while the boys and I finished up the preparations at home.  We are looking forward to celebrating our study of Medieval history with family in just a few hours!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: The One with the Lists

Joining the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers and Homegrown Learners once again...

We had a lovely week here at the lab, but my energy level to blog about it is very low this afternoon.  Rather than skip the Weekly Wrap Up altogether, I thought a list of the highlights and a collage with some captions would suffice.  So, here goes:

1.  On Monday, I had the chance to have brunch with a dear friend.  (Shout out to Abuelita and Papa who stayed with the boys for a few hours so I could do that!)  We had a wonderful time and I'm so thankful for our friendship.

2.   Tuesday was Valentine's Day, and I made a heart-shaped breakfast to celebrate my three funny valentines.

3.   Wednesday and Thursday were typical and productive days here at the lab.  

4.  RA had a half day on Friday, so we played hooky from Kindergarten and she came to co-op with us.  Then we all headed to the monthly homeschool ice skating meet up.  

5.  Since RA has the coming week off, we decided to take a Winter Recess, too.  See you in two weeks :)

1.  Heart-shaped strawberries
2.  Heart-shaped pancakes
3.  RA, our "baby" Valentine
4.  TS 1, our first-born Valentine
5.  TS 2, our funny Valentine (literally!)
6.  TS 2 at his Five in a Row co-op class, trying to identify different foods by their smell
7.  The Art Show at co-op
8.  TS 1 admiring some art at the Art Show

*I realize the numbers on several of the photos are almost too small to see, but I figure you all are so smart, you will figure it out anyway. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: The One with the Surprise Assembly!

Joining the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers  and Homegrown Learners once again...

First things first, in case you were waiting on pins and needles, I finally got around to writing that post I promised last week about the best field trip ever.

Although not technically a homeschool day, I have to start with Sunday this week.  We hosted a fun Super Bowl party at our home with lots of yummy food and great friends.  All three kids helped decorate and set up for the party, so that has got to count toward home economics skills or something, right?

Despite all of us getting to bed too late Sunday night, we started our week with a productive day of homeschool on Monday.  We topped off the day with a fun art activity with our homeschool group in the afternoon.  The test subjects each worked on his own Make-A-Plate project to commemorate the homeschool year.  TS 2, still fresh with excitement from our Challenger field trip, made a space themed plate.  TS 1 went with his passion, baseball, and made a plate featuring the logos of all the Major League Baseball teams.  As a bonus, the family who hosted the activity has a trampoline in their yard, so we squeezed in some PE, too :)

Still riding the Super Bowl wave, TS 1 created this football game this week.  

Poor kid!  Tom and I quickly turned it into a game for reviewing science and grammar facts.  Each time he got a question right, he got a first down.  He had the chance to quiz us too.  As it turns out, I am NOT smarter than a fifth grader.

On Wednesday, we set off bright and early for RA's school, as her Kindergarten class was leading the chapel service that morning.  They did great and my girl was unbelievably cute, if I may say so myself.  

On Thursday afternoon, we got word that several families from co-op had the stomach bug and would not be at co-op on Friday.  We were asked to move our assembly date from the 17th to the next day if possible to take the place of a family who could not make it.  I said yes right away, knowing that the boys had been practicing their piano pieces for weeks and were ready to go.  TS 2 was confident and ready to go!  But, TS 1 was not happy with me, telling me he was not, in fact, ready for assembly yet.  I assured him that he could choose to do something other than piano and suggested he give a "mini-clinic" on baseball skills, since that is what he loves.  He totally shocked me by asking if he could do a lesson on Roman Numerals instead.  I told him to go for it, and in an hour or so, he pulled together a presentation complete with notes of what he wanted to say, a poster and clip art!  

We pulled up to co-op this morning with a few jitters, but ready for assembly.  The boys did great!  I was surprised at how confident they seemed up on stage.  

This Week in Pictures:

1.   TS 1 working on his evaluation of the second quarter
2.   RA working on her 100th Day project for Kindergarten
3.   Test subjects playing the football game TS 1 created
4.   TS 2 working on his evaluation of the second quarter
5.   TS 2 working on his Make-A-Plate project
6.   TS 1 scanning the dictionary for fun during lunch one afternoon
7.   TS 1 working on his Roman Numerals poster for Assembly
8.   RA waiting for our Super Bowl party guests to arrive
9.   TS 2 decided to make a 100th Day project as well
10. TS 1 working on his Make-A-Plate project

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Best Field Trip Ever!

Last week, we went on a field trip with our homeschool group to the local Challenger Center for Space Science Learning.  I really did not know what to expect, but the description of the trip sounded interesting so I signed us up.  Wow, were we in for a wonderful experience!  As we learned, the center is one of many throughout the United States that were created as living memorials to the crew of the Challenger.  The goal of these centers is to "carry on the educational legacy of the Challenger crew."  If you have a center near you, I cannot recommend a trip highly enough!

Here is a taste of what we experienced:

In the lobby of the center, we examined rockets, models of rockets, space rocks and other interesting items as we waited for our "trip" to begin.  When it was time, we were greeted by two knowledgeable and friendly guides who escorted us to the briefing room to get us ready for our "flight."

Our guide first gave a short history of the Challenger Mission and how these learning centers came into existence.  She then moved right into a brief description of our mission and what we should expect once we entered the "spacecraft."  The guide at the center entered the spacecraft with us and remained our main help throughout the mission.  The guide at the podium stayed behind and acted as Mission Control throughout our journey to the moon, communicating with us in real time via the spacecraft's PA system.

After we suited up in our flight jackets or lab coats (depending on our job on the spacecraft), we traveled through the airlock and then entered the spacecraft.  Once inside, each child chose a job and our guide rotated through the stations explaining each job in more detail.  Our mission was to land safely on the moon and test the surface for raw materials and to determine the location's viability for colonization.

TS 1 chose the job of the ship's doctor.  He was tasked with continually checking various vital signs of the crew members to ensure the well being of all aboard the spacecraft.  As part of his work, he entered the data into a computer and electronically transferred it to Mission Control, who responded via the PA system when clarification or further testing was warranted.

TS 2 was our ship's communication's officer.  We had no idea what to expect and chose this job at random, but it turned out to be so much fun!  His job was to communicate with Mission Control all voice messages from the various teams.  It was fast paced and exciting, as the communications were done via a headset that projected his voice over the PA system.  He felt very important indeed!

There were several "emergencies" on board while we were in flight, and through them the children learned a little about what kind of emergencies could occur aboard a spacecraft and how they might be handled.  We watched our countdowns, takeoffs and landings via video monitors inside the spacecraft.

I've been on my fair share of field trips as a mom, but this one was by far- the best field trip ever!  Run, don't walk to your local Challenger Center!  In addition to field trips, our local center hosts public missions every month and is available for private parties as well.

I'l leave you with this adorably cute video of TS 2 as Communications Officer:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Re-examining Our Mission

Joining the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers  once again...

It's been a laid back, pleasant week here at the lab.  Even though we have been back to a full schedule of academics with co-op resuming today, it seemed a peacefully easy week.  Perhaps it is because I realized TS 2 is way ahead in Math, and I slowed him down to one page a day in his Math-U-See book.  (He is still doing online drills with ALEKS and working in his other Math workbook each day.)  TS 2 is enjoying the last few lessons in his Math-U-See Delta book on Roman Numerals and Fractions.  These topics are much easier than the multiple digit long division he has been plodding through all year, so he is also finishing his math lesson more quickly than usual.  

During these slower-paced weeks, I sometimes question whether we are doing enough, but we are covering all the basics comprehensively plus many enrichment subjects, including Piano, Spanish, Health, Keyboarding, Co-op and regular field trips.  When I begin to fret, I bring myself back to our homeschool mission statement.  We are homeschooling, in large part, to restore a love of learning in the test subjects and to offer them more free time to pursue and develop their God given passions and gifts.  So when I hear TS 2 proclaim, "This is interesting!  I love history!" or "Wow, I never knew reading about ants could be fun!", I know we are doing something right.  When I see the test subjects playing together, making up elaborate sports tournaments or building amazing structures in the playroom, I remember why we are doing this.  And when we have time for play dates with friends after-school every week, I am grateful for the opportunity to give this slice of childhood back to the boys.  I remind myself that we are doing this because we believe that there is much more to learn in childhood than six hour school days plus hours of homework each night alone can provide.   There may be a time when returning to school is the best option for all of our children, but right now, I feel confident that we are where we should be and I thank God for giving me the courage to step out and try homeschooling.

Hmm, when I started this post, I hadn't planned on writing about all that :)  That is one of the reasons I love writing.  It helps me process my jumbled thoughts and feelings.  I just hope it makes for interesting reading at the same time!

I can't close out this post without noting the highlight of our week.  The kids bought an iPad with the money they have been saving from their allowances, gifts and working extra jobs around the house!  We walked in with a wad of cash, mostly fives and singles, and left with an iPad and proud smiles on our faces.  The thing I am most proud of, though, is that they willingly put aside money to save and to give from their weekly earnings, even though they knew it would delay their purchase.  There was never any grumbling about it.  We are happily splitting the "give" money between our church, Watoto Childcare Ministries and Compassion International.  It's not much, but it is given with love, and we trust God will use it to bless those in need.

I've been wanting to participate in Mary's Collage Friday link up at Homegrown Learners for a few weeks now, but could not remember to take enough pictures to do so- until this week!  I still have to figure out  how to make the collage bigger and number the photos so that I can easily explain each one in a list.  For now, I'll describe the pictures from left to right, starting in the top row:
  • TS 2's assignment sheet from earlier in the week
  • TS 1 working on the final copy of this week's writing assignment
  • TS 2 working on a math assignment 
  • All three smiling triumphantly outside the Apple store after the big purchase
  • Our cozy homeschool room, that often sits empty, rejected for the comfy couches
  • TS 1 working on math assignments
  • Checking out the iPads 
  • TS 2 working on a writing assignment
  • TS 1 practicing the piano
  • TS 2 having his weekly piano lesson
Well, there you have it.  Our week in words and pictures- minus an amazing field trip that deserves a post of it's own :) How was your week, friends?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Natalie's Homeschool Day in the Life (with a 10-year-old and 7-year-old)

I'm linking up to Simple Homeschool for their Day in the Life Series this week.

If it's your first time here, welcome to Our Great Homeschool Experiment!  Because our youngest attends a full-day Kindergarten at a local private school, our day starts a little differently from most homeschoolers.  I hope you enjoy a peek at a Day in the Life of our homeschool...

6:00 a.m. I (am supposed to) wake up for a shower and my Quiet Time before the kids rise.  If I've hit snooze too many times and just have time for a shower, I'll try to do my Quiet Time later in the morning when the test subjects are working on their Bible curriculum in the morning.

7:00 a.m.  I wake RA, and get started on breakfast while she dresses and makes her bed.

7:15 a.m.  RA comes down for breakfast and I wake the boys.  While they dress and make their beds, I make RA's lunch and pack her backpack for school.

7:30 a.m.  RA is usually still eating breakfast and the test subjects have joined her by now.  While everyone is together at the breakfast table, I read a chapter from the Jesus Storybook Bible aloud.

7:40 a.m.  While RA brushes her teeth, I eat a quick breakfast.  Then I brush her hair and help her get ready for school while the boys finish eating breakfast, brush their teeth and get ready to go.

8:00 a.m.  We all pile in the minivan to drop RA at school.  This is a quick trip and unless I need to walk her in to her class on a particular morning, it only takes about 15 minutes round trip.

8:30 a.m.  If all has gone well, by this time, we are seated at the homeschool table and working on the assignment sheets for the day.  The test subjects fill out their daily assignment sheets based on a weekly calendar I give them on Monday mornings.  I supervise to make sure they each copy their assignments correctly and hopefully within 10 minutes or so, we are off and running.  The boys do most of their work tucked into couches or comfy chairs with tray tables for writing.

8:40 to 10:30 a.m.  With the exception of Bible, History and Science, the boys are not usually working on the same subject at the same time.  This gives me the opportunity to work with one in a subject he might need help with while the other is able to work more independently.  Each morning we begin with Bible Time and then proceed through the following subjects, not necessarily in this order:
  • Bible
  • Handwriting (for TS 2)
  • Math
  • Language Arts

10:30 a.m.  Snack and Break Time- while the boys have a quick snack and break, I usually try to do some paperwork or make a brief phone call. 

11:00 a.m.  to 12: 30 p.m.  After snack and a short break, we have another stretch of time to work.  We often begin this time with our read aloud for History, and then work through some more academic subjects:
  • History
  • Independent Reading (chapter book of their own choosing)
  • Reading Responses
  • Piano Practice

12:30 p.m. Lunch and Break Time- we eat lunch together and then while the boys play, I usually do a chore or two around the house before our afternoon begins.

1:00 p.m.  After lunch and another short break, we spend the afternoon finishing up any academics that have not yet been completed and begin working on "electives."  None of these electives are done everyday.
  • Finish up academics
  • Piano Lessons (on Tuesdays)
  • Health
  • Spanish
  • Keyboarding
2:20 p.m.  We pile back into the minivan to pick up RA from school.  

3:00 p.m.  We all have a snack together and share about our day.  Lately, I've been talking to the kids about what the Bible says about attitudes during this time.  

3:30 p.m.  I help RA with homework while the boys enjoy some free time.  They are limited to two 30 minute "media times" per day that they can use only after we have our snack together after school.  Sometimes, they choose to take advantage of those media times right away and other days they play together instead, usually something physical like basketball, baseball or football.    

4:30 p.m.  I try to get dinner started around this time.  Or I at least think about getting dinner started at this time :)

5:30 or 6 p.m.  Dinner- sometimes Dad is home in time for all of us to eat together and sometimes he is not.  Either way, I eat with the kids and we do our evening chores after dinner.

7 p.m.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the boys have Science with Dad.  On the other evenings, they have free time again until bedtime.  

7:30 p.m.  Bedtime for RA*

8:30 p.m.  Bedtime for TS 1*

9:00 p.m.  Bedtime for TS 2*

*Lately, it seems like these bedtimes have become more of a nice idea than a consistent routine.  We just finished a health unit on sleep though so we are working on getting back into a healthy sleep pattern :)

You may have noticed that Gym and Art are missing from our school days.  That is because we attend a weekly co-op on Fridays where the boys each take an art and gym class.  They also take another enrichment class at co-op.  This semester TS 1 is taking a class on Native Americans while TS 2 is taking a class based on the curriculum Five in a Row.

If you're curious about our curricula, you can check it out here.

I hope you enjoyed a peek at our day.  Is your homeschool day similar?  Is it very different?