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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Writing and Piano and Webinars, Oh My!

We have had a relatively peaceful and productive week here at the lab.  I guess we are still running on our post-Spring Break energy.  With the end of the school year less than two months away, the test subjects seem to have settled back into a comfortable routine with more pleasant attitudes overall.  I'm very thankful for this :)

On Monday afternoon, TS 1 had his weekly writing class.  He is working on a very clever interview of a fictitious circus acrobat.  Perhaps he will allow me to post the final copy again here.  I am so pleased with how TS 1's composition curriculum went this year.  We spent most of the year working on the fundamentals of writing using the Student Writing Intensive from IEW.  Right around the time we completed that curriculum, this class was offered through our local homeschool group.  It has allowed TS 1 to take the fundamentals he learned and expand on them with longer, more challenging and more creative composition assignments.  

On Tuesday afternoons, we have piano lessons.  I am so pleased with the boys' progress!  TS 1 is working on some really advanced pieces already.  These two clips are songs he is working on right now.  They still need practice, but they are coming along really nicely, I think.

TS 1 is also learning some music theory and composition as well, simply because he thinks in such a technical way and asks detailed questions of his teacher about how music is composed.  

TS 2 is also doing wonderfully with piano.  Here is a clip of a  little song he composed himself.  Of course, I think it sounds fabulous!

And this is a song he is working on for the recital in June.

A friend and fellow homeschooling mom sent a link to a free astronomy webinar through Super Charged Science on Wednesday afternoon.  Since the test subjects have been studying astronomy all year with dad, this webinar sounded perfect!  It turned out to be very interesting and a good review of the solar system. 

Although Super Charged Science is a secular science program, there was no evolutionary perspective presented during the webinar.  Since it was a free webinar, the presenter spent a bit of time at the beginning and near the end of the presentation on a sales pitch for her online homeschool science curriculum.  That did not bother me at all- I felt she was entitled to tout her program since she was offering the webinar free of charge.  The only criticism I have of the experience is that it went a bit long (about 80 minutes) and the test subjects had lost interest by the time the question and answer portion of the webinar began.

The highlight of Thursday was our Tapestry of Grace review of the current week's lesson on Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.  We used the assigned lapbook and evaluation to guide our discussion.  This is typical of how we have handled our history review this year.  We started out using the weekly evaluations published by TOG, but I quickly realized a discussion and review feels more thorough and natural for our family at this stage.  Perhaps when TS 1 moves into the dialectic stage, we will use the evaluations as actual assessment tools again.  

On Thursday evening, we headed over to RA's school for the annual book fair.  It was fun to see old friends and we scored lots of great books, too!

As always, Friday morning brought co-op.  TS 1's PE teacher was out this week so the other assistant and I led the class this week.  We started with an obstacle course and then spent the rest of the period playing a kickball game.  The kids seemed to have a great time.  

We are all looking forward to our weekly Friday night playdate and a Saturday full of baseball.  I hope your weekend is blessed!

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Friday, April 20, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Getting Back into a Groove

Joining the Weird, Unsocialized HomeschoolersHomegrown Learners and The Homeschool Chick...

We started back to school this Monday after a little more than a week off for Spring Break.  As I mentioned a few times, we had a rough March here at the lab and were all looking forward to some time away from the routine.  Despite the kids taking turns being sick (thankfully all fairly mild) most of the week, we managed to have a fun and relaxing break.  On the day after Easter, we had a total of 11 little cousins here, ranging in age from 2 to 11!  It was great fun, and a little hectic :)  We had playdates with three different sets of friends the rest of the week, and the weekend kicked off our baseball season!  TS 1 was too sick to play in his first game, which seriously bummed him out, but TS 2 was able to play.  He had a ball, literally and figuratively!  TS 1 was able to play by Monday, and even took the mound for the first time.  I was much more stressed than he was.  He did a great job!

By Monday, we were all refreshed and ready to hit the books again.  Since our week was fairly typical in terms of routine and I took almost no pictures, I thought I'd share this week a little about what each test subject has been learning as of late.  In Tapestry of Grace, our Humanities Core/History Curriculum, we have moved into the Renaissance time period and have so far studied the Southern and Northern Renaissance, major artists and their works, and are now in the midst of a study of the major figures and events of the Reformation.  We have been reading a ton and both boys seem to be enjoying it!  Our read aloud this week was the Twelfth Night from the Children's Shakespeare.  It was hilariously fun and confusing, so much so that I had to draw the major characters on our dry erase board just so we could keep track of who was in love with who and who was pretending to be who.  I have to give TS 2 credit, he hung in there with the convoluted plot until the happy ending!  My mom happened to be with us the day we read it and thoroughly enjoyed herself along with us.

In math, TS 1 is working through the Epsilon book of Math U See, which focuses on fractions.  He is doing fine, as math typically comes easy to him, but I am not sure it is the right fit for us.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I (and TS 1 up to this point for that matter) learned math in such a different way, but the methods, scope and sequence for teaching fractions seems contrived and confusing.  However, I am by no means a math scholar, so what do I know?  Needless to say, I plan on spending some time researching math curricula at the homeschool convention I will be attending in May.  

TS 2 has a handful of chapters left in the Beta book of Math U See.  I have encountered less of the problems I mentioned above in the Beta level, except for the way time is taught.  He has learned addition and subtraction of multiple digit numbers with regrouping this year.  We have also focused on getting his addition and subtraction facts up to 12 solid through the use of online tools and iPad apps.  

TS 1 continues to enjoy the challenge and creativity of the writing class he is taking through our local homeschool group.  So far he has written an autobiographical incident essay, a critique essay on a book he recently read, and is working on the rough draft of an interview.  He is also working through the Growing with Grammar curriculum and has about two more units left.  I'm not sure he will finish the book this year, but I am not concerned about that since I know the material will be covered again in the next level of the series.

TS 2 is working steadily through Writing with Ease, First Language Lessons, All About Spelling, and A Reason for Handwriting.  I have seen a lot of improvement in his narration skills using Writing with Ease over the course of the year so I am glad we stuck with it.  I've also been trying a variety of reading comprehension materials borrowed from friends to determine what I might like to use with him for that next year.  So far Christian Light Publishing's Reading Series is the frontrunner.

Dad is finishing up the last few chapters of Apologia's Exploring Creation through Astronomy with the test subjects.  Both boys really enjoy science.  They plan to celebrate the culmination of their study this year with a trip to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City!

On Friday morning, we head back to co-op.  The weather is supposed to be sunny and mild, which makes this gym class teacher assistant very happy indeed. We are all looking forward to seeing our friends again.  After co-op, we will be sticking around for a Mad Science workshop.  

Our weekend plans include fun with friends Friday night, baseball on Saturday and church on Sunday.  I will only be around for the Friday fun, though, as I am headed for an overnight with my mom, sister, aunt and cousins at my sister's beach house.  I am looking forward to great food, wonderful company and peace and quiet for 24 hours :)  

Hope your weekend is filled with love, laughter and a little peace and quiet, too!

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Friday, April 6, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: The One with Another Birthday

Joining the Weird, Unsocialized HomeschoolersHomegrown Learners and The Homeschool Chick...

We started off our week with another birthday.  It was TS 1's birthday this time, and he turned 11 years old on Monday.  I do not know how this happened.  Just last week, he was a tiny infant!  We started the day with his breakfast of choice- chocolate chip pancakes- and presents.  These photos make me smile because he was still sleepy-eyed in them :) We also celebrated by going out for a family dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  

After the birthday breakfast, we had a typical school morning.  After lunch, we headed to TS 1's writing class.    Speaking of writing class, he did give me permission to post his autobiographical incident essay: God on the Diamond on the blog.  You can find it here.

On Tuesday, the contractors returned to complete their work.  That meant some more real life learning for the test subjects.  The contractors poured the blacktop for the driveway, and everything looks so beautiful.  

I can't wait until it will all be useable.  We have to wait one more week to park in the driveway and two more weeks before we can walk on the newly planted sod.  I'm looking forward to planting some colorful flowers at that time.  I'll be sure to post pictures of the completed project!

Wednesday and Thursday were typical homeschool days.  On Thursday afternoon, we joined some friends from our local homeschool group for a field trip at a nature preserve.  The workshop was focused on weather, and was primarily a hands on, game and activity driven event.  The last activity was a scavenger hunt in the woods to find all the items one might keep in an emergency kit.  The kids LOVED that!  My kids are a bit nature deprived.  I'm not one for hikes, woods, country, etc.  I grew up in New York City, that's my excuse :)  So this field trip was a special treat for them.

There was no co-op Friday and RA had the day off as well, so it was the official start to our Spring Break.  The boys spent the early afternoon at a kickball game with some friends from school.  They won the experience in a raffle benefitting the school a few weeks ago.  Three teachers from the school ran the game and provided a pizza lunch for the kids.  It was great fun!

Warmest wishes for a Blessed Easter from our family to yours!

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

God on the Diamond: An Essay by TS 1

TS 1 wrote the following essay for the Writing Class he is taking through our local homeschool group.  The assignment was to write a five paragraph essay about an autobiographical incident, which included a moral lesson.  He immediately knew what topic he would share.  He is graciously allowing me to publish his essay on my blog :)  I post it not only to share what he is learning, but also to give glory to God who taught him the lesson he describes here.  As a mom, I do my best to impart God's truth and wisdom to my children in the circumstances of their lives.  I often fail and fumble my way through it, but God never fails.  

God on the Diamond
By TS 1

     Before I became a good hitter, I had to learn an important lesson.  The lesson
 was to persevere through things which I had never experienced before.  I also
 learned to trust God in everything, including baseball.  I had to learn an important
 life lesson.
    It was Spring 2010, and I had just started the “minors” in my league.  The
 minors is kid pitch, with 3 strikes, 3 outs, an umpire, and a game played under
 Little League conditions.  My team was the A’s, and my league was AYYA, which
stands for All Yonkers Youth Association.  Whenever I put on that green A’s
jersey with the yellow “Athletics” fastened on the front, I felt prepared for the
game. Although it didn’t really seem that way because I was having,
unfortunately, a slumping season with no hits going into the last game.  In Spring
2010, I needed to get a hit in that last game.
     On that hot, sunny day, I had to accomplish something that I really needed to
 achieve: a hit.  The game took place at Cook Field, a remolded soccer field
 converted for the Spring to 3 Little League fields, in Yonkers.  The three baseball
 diamonds were set down in a valley with grassy hills for sides that we had to
 climb up and down to get to the fields.  I was extremely nervous when I stepped 
up to the plate.  With a 2-2 count, I saw the ball, and I swung hard, I heard the
 “ping” sound on my bat, the one you hear when you hit a homer on a metal bat. 
 As I heard the fans’ loud cheers on that hot day, I wondered, “Had I done it?”
    As I saw the ball flying through the blue sky over the infield, I felt very
 shocked.  It whizzed into left centerfield, and the runner, who was on second
 base, scored easily.  That was a feeling of amazement to me!  As I rounded third
 base, I took a quick glance into left field, and I saw the outfielder still sprinting for
 the ball.  I knew that I should attempt to score.  As I easily scored, the fans went
 wild.  My heart was pounding after an exciting 13-11 victory.  Even almost two
 years later, I can picture the homerun in my head and still feel proud.
      In the Spring of 2010, on the baseball diamond, I learned to persevere
 through hard things, and to trust God.  I had to pray a lot and trust God to know
 that He is doing everything right.  I was, at many times, discouraged.  My mom
 and dad told me many times that I had to trust God’s plan.  I had to believe even
 when my prayers weren’t being answered the way I wanted them to be.  Of
 course, it also took many hours of  batting practice.  I practiced at home with a
 very useful hitting machine called the Swing Away, which is an adjustable ball on
 a rope that you swing at, and you don’t have to pick up any balls.  I also went to a
 hitting clinic in Pelham, which  helped me with my swing.  I persevered through
 this  slumping season because I kept on going.  During my slumping season, I
 had to learn an important lesson, which was to persevere and trust God.