Next Phase

September 17, 2014

Many of the blogs I used to read daily have dropped off significantly in posting in recent years.  I’m pretty sure at least some find themselves in the same position as myself.   Teens are fascinating, complicated, confusing, frustrating, thrilling and give you plenty you’d like to talk about.  But they’re also teens – young adults – and it’s much harder to write about  parenting and/or homeschooling them without spilling more beans than they’d be comfortable with.

We’re in the next phase.

Without giving too many specifics I can say that the teen daughter who homeschooled from 2nd grade to 9th grade is in her second year in public school and doing very well there.  The situation reminds me to remind other homeschooling parents that it’s good policy to make educational choices year by year, child by child.  Consider all your options (private, public, homeschool, etc.) and be open to the fact that what’s best now might change in the future.

Ditto with the kid who homeschooled up till 3rd grade when he made the switch to public school.  He’s in 5th grade this year and thriving in public school.  He needs the competition, the routine, the ability to run for student council…  Again, that’s not to say that he might not come back to homeschooling some day.  But for this year, this is the right choice for him.

And then there’s my teen homeschooler.  She will take the TASC, a high school equivalency exam, sometime in 2015.   This is my last year homeschooling her.  By January 2016 she’ll be attending college full time. Wow.  Talk about next phase stuff!

So that’s where we are this year.  Not very exciting.  Just everyone where they should be. 🙂

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Literature has never been my thing.  Ever.

I clearly remember the fight I had with my 5th grade teacher over my lack of desire to take a book out on library day.  I explained I had no interest in fiction.  She was bent on proving me wrong.  If only I found the ‘right’ book(s), I would adore fiction.  Doesn’t everyone?

Well, no.

I’m sure I would have been more inclined to check out a book or two if we had been encouraged, or even allowed, to consider the non-fiction section.  But it seems that part was reserved for serious research… you know, that thing you’d do only when your teacher assigned you one of those serious reports.   No, both the librarian and teachers knew that kids like fiction and so they herded us into those rows with enthusiasm.

That particular misconception carried on straight through high school.   My English teacher had a cabinet full of books.  You picked one of his books and read a certain number pages each week.  You had to pick from his cabinet because those were the books he’d read… and how else could he quiz you on the book so he’d know if you’d actually read it?!

“Don’t you have any non-fiction books?”

He’d look at me with that little smirk.  I’ve no doubt he thought I was simply trying to get out of reading all together.  He suggested book after book from his collection.   If only I could find the ‘right’ book….

So I’ve been quite happy that my children will not suffer my fate.  The are ‘normal’.   They enjoy fiction, they read because they want to.   They choose their own books, they’ve read and enjoyed several classics among their many choices.  Yay!  I don’t have to torture my kids with literature!

But wait.  Here comes the principal (aka my dear husband) and his school-indoctrined ideas.

I’ve been assigning famous works of literature from the time periods we’re looking at in US History.  I usually ask the girls to read several chapters.  If they hate the book, they don’t have to finish.  Again, I don’t see the point of torturing them with literature.  Some they like, some they do not.  Let’s face it, there’s enough literature out there that you can find options in any time period that you find enjoyable (ok, except for someone like me, but then we’ve already been over that).

For our current time period, I put Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle on the listMy husband handles our virtual library, loaning ebooks from the library and putting them on the girls’ electronic readers.  Upon seeing this book listed, he commented that he hadn’t read that till he was older (by only a year or two at most) and, the kicker for me, that they could not read that book without an adult reviewing it with them, pointing out all the  appropriate themes and symbolism and political ramifications.  It’s a book that must be properly analyzed in order to be read at all.

Now understand, my distaste for this whole analysis of literature goes back a long, long way. And I feel that it’s not solely based on my underlying dislike of fiction pieces in general.  I just think that it’s the right of the reader to decide what, if any, messages, themes, symbolism or politics they wish to draw out of the text the author has presented.   What use is a piece of literature that *requires* a third-party to analyze and explain what they think is the author’s point or purpose?

I get that there are people who love literature.  There’s even a subset who love to study, analyze and discuss these works in-depth.  Heck, my own kids may very well turn out to be among them.   More power to them.

But the idea that a piece of literature is only as good as the guide that explains it to you?  I don’t think so.  Literature is just another art form which can and should be experienced for its own sake, with no obligation on the part of the one who experiences it to make more of it than they wish to.

Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong.  I’m sure my literature loving family and friends will. 😛

I’m pleased to say we’ve hit a nice groove in our schooling here.  What needs to get checked off the list, gets checked off most of the time.  The girls aren’t complaining about most of what they’re assigned.  Zee?   Well, Zee is Zee… and almost 8 years old.  I think that makes him legally bound to put up at least a little fight. 😛  Despite all that he’s still progressing in leaps and bounds.

Since we’re easily finishing all that work that makes that inner school teacher so happy, we’ve got time for all that other stuff. You know, the important stuff.

Gee’s been blowing through tutorials on programming apps using Corona.  Dad’s been heavily engaged in this also so the two are working together to share what they learn and show off their projects.  This girl has definite potential to be a computer programmer and I couldn’t be more thrilled. 😀

I sent Bee a link to http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/ on November 2nd.  She jumped at the chance to participate.  I helped her set up her account, showed her how to use the forums and let her loose.  We went with the default 50,000 word count, what the adults use.  Several times she’s come asking if maybe we should reduce it.  I encouraged her to keep it, that she could do it.  A week or so later, she’s glad we left her goal 50,000 because she really thinks she can do it! 

And Zee?  Well, yeah, he’s still reading like a madman.  I wasn’t able to get the 3rd Harry Potter book from the library ( can you believe they don’t have copies which aren’t out or lost?!) so that’s on hold. Meanwhile he’s whipping through every other book we own. 

Many of the earlier chapter books he sorta skipped over.  He wanted to get to the ‘good’ stuff already!  So now that’s he’s a proficient reader, he’s going back  to check them all out.  He’s read every Junie B. Jones book we own and several more from the library.  He’s read each and every picture book we own.  He’s working his way through the chapter book shelf right now. 

His birthday is in a couple of weeks.  What does he want?  His very own Kindle so he can read even more! 

I know for a fact that if my kids were in school, they wouldn’t have this much time to devote to all these important things.   I’m soooo glad I can give them this opportunity to explore, perfect and enjoy their favorite things.  🙂

Sunday’s School Prep

September 12, 2011

Ok, ok. I know, it’s Monday.  But I started this post yesterday.  Honest 😉

US History – So much to touch on!  Morse code, Johnny Appleseed, the invention of the donut, the Oregon Trail, the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and Lewis & Clark.  The girls will be taking notes on their report topics too.  Bee will look at the invention of and early use of photography and Gee is investigating more details about the Oregon Trail. 

Science – In honor of the ‘Year of No Summer’ we’ve got books on the science of the seasons and weather.

Language Arts/Writing – The kids have a collaborative oral story they work on together.  Bee, our resident writer, has been taking much of her free time to type out many of their favorite episodes.  I could make them do the grammar books, the vocabulary workbook, the spelling lists and assigned essays…. OR I can take advantage of this very creative, highly motivational work of art and use it to teach all that stuff. 

Being the sneaky mom I am, I’ve announced we’ll spend our language arts/writing time this week working together to edit Bee’s rough draft.  They were bouncing around the house with excitement.  *sly grin*

Math – Still plugging along in Integrated Algebra.  The girls are getting better and faster at completing each section.

Social/Outings – I don’t usually go out of my way to record this type of thing but it’s going to take up a rather large chunk of our week this time around.  Tuesday is tennis with another homeschooling family (5 kids on her end and 3 on mine should make for lots of fun), Thursday we’re back to the homeschool co-op group and Friday we’re going to try out another, less structured homeschool group in the area.  All that and it’s time to end our summer break from music lessons, there might be a grandparent visit later in the week and we’re going to the community center to play in the gym and swim for PE.

That’s our week.  Thank goodness there’s a weekend on the other end cause I’m tired just thinking about it all!

Soft Start

August 25, 2011

Amidst the chaos of starting a difficult diet with Adrian, we’ve also begun our homeschool year.  I learned the hard way in years past that a ‘soft start’ is best.  Even the short vacation we take during the summer is enough to put everyone’s brains into hibernation. 

I’ve started the kids out with about 1/2 of what will be their normal work load. I’ll slowly bring that up over the next couple of weeks.  By September we’ll be fully up to speed.

So what have we been doing?  Well, we’re looking at US history between the years 1776 and 1800 this month.  Zee’s read biographies about George Washington, they’ve all watched several episodes of Liberty’s Kids and the girls have seen several of the lessons on this site.

The kids have undertaken several other projects that relate to this time period including building a suspension bridge (the first modern day suspension bridge was built during this time), eating cupcakes (the first mention of this treat was in a cookbook written around this time)  and learning to play Yankee Doodle on their instruments.

 The girls have started the Integrated Algebra course.  Already that Algebra Unplugged book has come in handy in explaining things in a different way. 

The girls are back to working on essays.  We’re reviewing good outlining practices together.  The girls are writing persuasive essays from either a federalist or anti-federalist viewpoint on a topic that would have been pertinent at the Philadelphia convention.

Everyone did some vocabulary/grammar workbook stuff, looked at the art of John Trumbull, made some things with clay and had several hours of PE time.

Beyond that we’re just trying to keep Adrian busy and calm till school starts back up for him.  That’s a job all by itself.

How We Eat: Beverages

August 1, 2011

Ok, so technically this is what we drink, not what we eat.  But in many families it’s a neglected source of calories.  I know it used to be in ours.

Years ago we thought nothing of buying iced tea or soda for the grown-ups and juices or Hi-C for the kids. 

We thought we were doing pretty well at the time. We were proud of keeping our eldest 3 kids off soda till they were 6 or 7 years old.  The juices and fruit drinks we gave the kids were always diluted and they drank reduced fat milk as well. 

Then the sugar thing happened.  You know, where I learned it was bad for us.  😛

We switched to diet soda.  Which is better in terms of calories and sugar but let’s face it, it’s filled with chemicals and artificial sweeteners which are really just as bad.  Still, it was a step in the right direction.

We started making efforts to replace our usual drinks with occasional glasses of water.  I won’t say everyone took to it well.  It was hard for all of us to go in that direction after years of sweetened beverage bliss.

We diluted the kids drinks more and more.  We drank water between meals.  Then we cut back on the soda, making the rule that it would only be served at dinner.  I switched to homemade iced tea with little or no sweetener at all.

And that’s about as good as it got.  We spent several years there until my husband decided he’d had enough.  I was shocked as could be when he announced he was giving up soda and sweetened drinks.   For good.   :O

He would only drink water and, on occasion, a glass of 100% juice.   No more soda or drinks with artificial sweeteners or added sugar.  He stuck to it too, for weeks and weeks on end while the kids and I kept to our old habits.

Then, an amazing thing began to happen.  We all started to drink water with him.  Each night at dinner someone else would make the choice to have the water.  It happened in restaurants and at lunch and even breakfast till I realized NOW was the time to make my move.

I quit buying soda.  The only one who even cared was the 7 year old, Zee.  But even he didn’t put up much of a fight. 

The kids still drink Arizona’s Lite Half & Half  Iced Tea on a daily basis.  Still not great for ’em.  But we are all totally off soda.  And even in the restaurants, everyone but Zee orders a glass of water.  That’s pretty darn good when I consider where we came from.

And it just goes to show you, the example you set for your kids really does count!

We did pretty well using Words, Words, Words for vocabulary last year.  There’s a nice mix of puzzles, fill in the blanks, etc.  The only problem we had was the girls trying to share the one book.  So we bought another.  The girls will only have to do 2 pages from this a week so there should be plenty to cover the whole year.

For grammar this year we’re going to give Giggle in the Middle a try.  It’s geared toward a more traditional classroom but I think we can make it work for our homeschool as well.  We’ll see what happens.

I’m letting the girls slide with spelling for the time being.  Other than a few homonyms, the work they’re turning in is error free. 

Zee will be using one of several 1st/2nd grade language arts workbooks we already have.  We’ll use Natural Speller for his spelling lists and use the spelling practice to also work on his handwriting and basic grammar principles (capitalization, punctuation, paragraphs, etc.).

Beyond that, there will be the usual grade level test prep books later on in the year to cover anything else we may have missed.  We use and love the Spectrum Test Preps for this purpose.   They’re also great for sharpening those test taking skills before we do the end of the year CAT.  😉