Sunday, 28 August 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Week Two

This past week was our second week back and it went really well. We continued working on Math and Language Arts and we added history, science, world geography, and art to our schedule. We ended up completing four days of school work. We took Friday off and met our homeschool group at the local splash pad/park. The weather was awesome and we took advantage of that this week. We went to the beach twice!

In history, we are studying the ancient civilizations. Celeste and Andre are using Classical House of Learning History Literature Guides and Story of the World 1. Andre is doing the logical level and Celeste the grammar stage.
We started by reading about different creation myths. Celeste and Andre made a representation of what I read in Crayola Model Magic . We have never worked with it  We liked it but I think we still prefer playdough or plasticine.

This week, Andre read  "Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos" and really enjoyed it.

Adrienne is reading The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer for her history and narrating it.

On Tuesday, we added Science to our routine. Adrienne started her high school biology course from Oak Meadow. She read through the first chapter, answered all the related questions and completed a lab. Celeste came along for the lab halfway through it. Who knew pH strips could be so much fun! I don't think the dog and the cats enjoyed getting their saliva tested, but they were patient with the kids!

Celeste and Andre are also studying biology this year. Celeste is using REAL Science Odyssey . She learned how to tell if something is a living thing or not. We had fun with her first lab! She had to guess if a rock, a bike, a plant and people were alive and then check. She was laughing hard when I was holding the rock and asked her if I should be careful because it might relieve itself in my hand! Science is fun for her and I am so happy to see that. Andre tagged along and had fun too, he also read the first chapter from the Story of Science and narrated it.

On Wednesday, we added World Geography. I am really looking forward to this subject. Geography is always one of my favourites, and this year we are using Barb's (Harmony Art Mom) plans. This is a high school plan, but I am using it with all 3 of my kids, adjusting it as needed. We started by reading from the What The World Eats book and on Thursday, we read the introduction from Usborne World Religions. Adrienne and Andre narrated what I read in the religions book, explaining what religion is and what all the world religions have in common.

On Thursday, we added art appreciation. I am using Barb's plans for that too. We used her plans last year and it really helped. I found in previous years that art and music appreciation were easily forgotten. Not any more! Andre and Celeste are doing the same level together which matches with our history period. Adrienne is also following her history rotation. We all started by reading and viewing cave art. Andre, Celeste and I then did a simple art project suggested in the plans: take a brown paper bag, crumple it and then smooth it out. Using oil pastels or crayons, draw some cave art. Celeste, who is not into crafts, really loved doing this! I did too. I always enjoy taking the time to do art projects with my kids. It's relaxing and fun (my cave art is the last one).

This was another great week for us! How was yours?

If you would like to read more wrap up posts, visit Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Nature Study :: At the Beach

We spent an afternoon at the beach on Monday. It was a gorgeous day and we had a great time. We were also able to enjoy a little nature study!

We first noticed the beautiful Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies. We first saw one flying around on the sand, then a second one came along. These  appear to be both male, since the females have more blue than yellow. They look like they were playing around, but maybe they were fighting? Either way, they were very interesting to observe.

Shortly after we arrived, the female Mallard ducks came. These ducks are obviously used to people and know that people = food. They were not scared of us and came very close, especially while we are having snacks! We noticed that they were making their rounds on the beach, walking around everyone's beach blankets looking for food! We had brought a plain bread bun and some plain low-salt tortilla chips, so we shared a little of those with them. They were more and more friendly after that! They even walked right up on our beach blanket and ate our of our hands. I kept on thinking that we shouldn't feed them this people food, but they were probably picking up worse things on the beach.

It was really interesting to see how each duck had her own personality. Adrienne gave them some names. Some didn't hesitate to come right up to us. One even tried to take a bite out of Andre's apple while he was holding it! Others didn't come as close but still stayed around to get food. They continued walking around the beach, checking out everyone else, but kept coming back to our spot. They also went to the lake to drink and swim. We watched them duck under water. Some children chased them off the beach, so we also saw them flying and landing in the water.

An afternoon at the beach is always fun, playing in the lake and making sand castles. Being able to observe nature made our day even better!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Morning in Our Life

A Morning in Our Life. There isn't a typical day for us, something new happens every day, but there are similarities and a routine.  Here is a breakdown of our day, yesterday, with a few photos.

I woke up at 7:15. I usually relax for a few minutes and often reflect on the fact that I don't have to rush in the morning and I love that! No kids to rush off to school, no job to rush to. By 7:25 I am up and taking Orion outside.

The girls are still sleeping, Andre (12) already had his breakfast. Since all of us eat breakfast at different times, I usually have breakfast by myself while reading a book or checking my e-mails/facebook/blog.

At 8am, I wake up the girls. Adrienne (14) likes to have 1 hour to get ready for school. This gives her and Celeste (7) plenty of time to have breakfast, and to get ready. Once they are up and awake, I am ready to take Orion for a walk. He is too. We usually walk for about 20 to 30 minutes (around 2km). I love the fresh air in the morning and the little bit of exercice this walk gives us both. I realize how fortunate I am to have children old enough so I can do this. 

When I get back, Celeste is ready for me to do her school work. Adrienne has started her math and Andre is almost done his. Celeste and I sit at our table and start with Math. We then work through all her Language Arts: handwriting, phonics, grammar, reading aloud, and writing. 

We take little tiny breaks and I check to make sure Adrienne and Andre are still working on their independent work. Adrienne works on her math in our bedroom. She likes the quiet there.

Celeste and Andre are now both at the table, it's around 10:40. On average, it takes all of us 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete Math and Language Arts.

Around 11am, Andre reads his history and science. He completes his notes from his reading. Before doing that, he sat with Celeste and I while I read aloud her history and science. We also did a little science lab work together.

11:50, almost lunch time! Andre and Celeste go outside to play. I check e-mails and facebook again. Adrienne is finishing her science reading assignment.

Around 12:30, the kids have their lunch and I have a Usborne Books web meeting.

That's the end of our school day for that day. We started back-to-school last week and are adding subjects on throughout this week and next.

The kids spend most of the afternoon outside playing with their friends. After my web meeting, I took care of the usual, laundry, kitchen, clean-up, etc...and prepared our lessons for tomorrow.

Every day is truly different, I picked a pretty boring day to document. The day before, we had spent the afternoon at the beach after our school work was done!

Some days go very smoothly, others not so much! There wasn't any major drama from any of the children that morning. Besides the earthquake in the afternoon, it was a truly uneventful day. Sometimes, those types of days are the best, don't you think?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Our First Week Back!

Our first week went great!

Our back-to-school actually started last week with a little "orientation". We spent time on Thursday (11th) organizing ourselves and getting ready for the new school year. I reviewed with each child their plans for the year. We looked over each subject, checking the textbooks, workbooks, novels, and making sure we had all the binders and notebooks we needed. We talked about scheduling. I explained how often we needed to do each subject in order to be done by June. You can see our curriculum choices (with links) here.

My requirement is that everyone is ready to do school work at 9am. If someone is ready before, which is usually the case with Andre (he's my early riser), then he can start on his independent work if he has had his breakfast, is washed and dressed. This might sound a little strict, but if I don't put that in place, we would very often be in pjs all day long! I don't mind pajama days, but not all the time.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Friday we completed our Math and Language Arts lessons. Adrienne and Andre are continuing with Teaching Textbooks, Algebra 1 for her and TT 7 for him. Celeste is working with Saxon grade 2.

We started using Vocabulary from Classical Roots this week. We have never done this type of vocabulary work, so this is new for Adrienne, Andre and I. This first week went well, and I am pleased with how much information the teacher's guides have.

Another new curriculum for us is the Gage Language Power grammar workbooks. Not as much of a lesson in the workbooks as Growing with Grammar, but Adrienen and Andre have done grammar for several years now, so I think this will work out fine.

Celeste and I started Writing with Ease. She had to do copywork and a narration. It seemed a bit easy for her, but it is only the beginning.

We also started Lightning Literature. Adrienne has the grade 8 and Andre grade 7. This seems to be a great choice too. There was a lot of information on how to use this curriculum which I thought was wonderful.

As you can see, this was a great start for us. A bit of a slow start, but I think it was perfect. We were finished in about 2 hours on all 3 days, which reassured me that we will still  have lots of time left for our other subjects as we start adding them in our schedule. The kids were all happy to get back to work too, there was minimum whinning or complaining!

As for the rest of our week, we took two days off because my in-laws came to visit us! We all had a great time. We went mini golfing, watched movies, played games, and more.

We also had a great time with our homeschool group at the local splash pad! It was perfect summer weather.

Finally, I will leave you with two photos of the latest creation at our house.

We had a big box lid from a garden bench we bought (got to love end of summer sales!). We have used box lids in the past as backgrounds for playing. This time, Adrienne decided to make a zoo out of it. She painted all the different zoo areas, the parking lot, the exhibits, different habitats...It's perfect for their hot wheels cars and their figurines!

How was your week? Are you back to the books too or taking a little more time off? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thank you for all your comments for my last post "What I have learned". It was so nice to read your positive feedback!

If you would like to read more wrap-up posts, you can visit Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see more links to other homeschooling families.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

What I Have Learned

We will start our sixth year of homeschooling on Monday. I truly have enjoyed every single year. I have enjoyed them, but it doesn't mean that every day has been picture perfect! I thought it might be useful to share with you what I have learned so far about homeschooling.

I find myself repeating the same kind of "advice" to moms that are considering or are just starting homeschooling, so here is my little list (with explanations!):

  • Homeschooling is a lifestyle: think hard about it and do your research.
I think this is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. Check out books on the topic at your local library, try to find families in your community that are already homeschooling and talk to them, try to imagine being with your kids ALL the time (if they are currently in public school).
The reason I write that first point is because I feel strongly that it is necessary to do this. I spent almost a year reading about homeschooling before starting. I also met with a local homeschool group at a bowling alley which gave my children and myself a chance to talk with families that were "doing it" already. We then took the summer to try homeschooling. We did small unit studies and workbooks before making our final decision.

  • Once you start, give yourself time to adjust to this new life!
If you are starting with young children, you are probably already used to spending a lot of time together, but maybe not with a routine that might involve structure or focused learning activities. If your children are school-aged and have been in public school, spending a much larger amount of time together is new to you and your children, and that might take some adjustment. Also, your school aged children need some time to "deschool", which means some time to adjust to this different learning environment. Depending on the homeschool style you are choosing, you will now be a "teacher" as well as Mom. My oldest daughter, who was in public school from kindergarden to grade 2, took some time to adjust to that. She often would tell me how I was doing it wrong, that this wasn't how Mrs. X did it in school!

  • Take it one year at a time, but keep in mind a long-time goal too.
I know, this is contradictory, but let me explain. I feel that it is good to revisit your decision about homeschooling at the end of every school year. An assessment to see if it's still working for your family. Maybe it isn't, maybe not for every child, maybe your family situation has changed and homeschooling isn't an option or maybe it is just perfect! I usually also assess our curriculum choices at the end of each year. I do think that it is important to keep a long-time goal in mind. Do you want to homeschool until high school? Or until your children are ready to enter college or university or the workforce? This might affect your curriculum decisions and how you homeschool.

  • Bad days happen and it's ok to take a day off sometimes.
Yes! Bad days. Everyone has them. Give yourself permission to take a day off if you and/or your children really need it. If someone is sick or particularly off, it's ok to take a day off and "catch-up" if needed on a different day. Spend the day playing games, reading aloud, or just relaxing, or get out of the house for a walk or something special. You will very likely feel better the next day because of that little break. The beauty of homeschooling, in my opinion, is the flexibility with your time. My husband works in retail, so his schedule is not your typical Monday to Friday 9 to 5. We have often switched our schedule to accomodate his, so we could spend time together as a family on his days off from work.

  • Homeschooling is as expensive as you want it to be.
Curriculum, if you choose to use it, can be costly, but if you divide the cost over the months you will be using it and for every child that will use it, then the cost is still less than the tuition to a private school. There are more and more curriculums available every year in various price range. Request several catalogues from homeschool suppliers and shop around (check amazon as well!). Use google or sign up with a homeschool chat board to help you find the many options available for free or very little cost. Depending on where you live, the province or state might have support for this too. We have used the public library extensively over the years, it's free and saves us a lot of money. One last point, if you are currently working and considering homeschooling, you might choose to leave your work which would mean loss of that income. That is something to keep in mind, but there are many families who homeschool while working. I worked part-time at the beginning of our homeschooling adventure.

  • Every homeschooling family is unique.
As I said at the end of the last paragraph, some families work while homeschooling, some don't. Every family has a different take on many aspects: method, curriculum, schedule, beliefs, etc... I think it is important to keep that in mind, especially as you connect with other homeschoolers and respect our differences. Support groups are great for just that, support and shouldn't become a competitive or judging ground. A good homeschool goup should be a safe place to meet other families, develop friendships for kids and moms, maybe even have field trips or activities.  With homeschooling becoming more common, more groups are available, so if one doesn't give you what you need, go look for another one, start your own, or just choose to "hang out" with the homeschool families that you have connected with. The important point, I think, is to have your own group (however small or large) that you feel confortable with and enjoy spending time with, for your children and yourself.

  • Learning is fun!
As I "teach" my children, I am learning myself. I never knew learning could be so much fun and so interesting. I certainly didn't know that when I went to school as a child. School was just something I had to get through, not something I enjoyed. Learning with my children has given me a new attitude towards learning.

  • Don't forget about yourself!
Homeschooling requires a lot from the person "doing it". It is a lifestyle and if one really enjoys it, then one doesn't mind spending a lot of time researching, reading, preparing, etc... It is like a full-time job! Homeschooling is very important to me, but I have learned that I need to have some other interests just for myself. I learned this lesson during the year that my children attended public school. It was a great experiment for them and for myself. I had dedicated my life to homeschooling before that year  and when they left, I felt lost. I really did! All of a sudden, I had nothing to do. It soon became really boring! I decided to re-visit hobbies that I had enjoyed in the past and rediscovered quilting in that process. I took up running again. I read books for pleasure! When my children finished their year at the public school and we all decided to go back to homeschooling, I knew I couldn't let go of my interests. It can be a challenge to include some of these in our daily homeschooling life, but I have found that if I do take some time regularly, even if it is only once every week or so, it is enough for me. Some activities, like reading for pleasure, I can squeeze in daily, others every other day (like running or walking). All these activities recharge me. It also has a "side effect": my children see me pursuing my passions and it rubs off on them. They see and hear how enthousiastic I am when I complete a quilt or when I finish a long run or a good book. So, whatever your interests are, don't forget about them.

My little list turned into a long post, but I wanted to explain each one of my points. I hope you enjoyed reading this post, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

"Not-So-Wordless" Wednesday

I first posted this as a true Wordless Wednesday, but I wanted to tell you more...Here is the story behind this photo:
My oldest daughter loves these Pillsbury Ready to Bake sugar cookies...and I had promised her last Easter that I would buy her a pack of the next holiday ones we see. We both laughed when we saw these school bus ones at the store on Monday, but I kept my promise and took some home.
After baking them, I thought it would be perfect to use some icing to add a line across each of these! I didn't have icing, so I just played around at picnik and voila!
This would be perfect for a not-back-to-school homeschooling get-together, don't you think?

Monday, 8 August 2011

Our Home Learning Space

We will be starting our 6th year of homeschooling very soon and I thought I would share with you photos of our learning space. I have noticed a few posts on other homeschool blogs that showcased their space and I really enjoy seeing these.

We don't have a seperate school room, instead we use mostly our family room. Our house has an open concept design, with the kitchen, eating area, dining room and family room making up one big room. We use all this space plus a little bit of our basement for messy painting and craft projects.

I hope you enjoy your tour. Welcome to our home learning space!

First a wide view, our husky is often laying down in that spot when we are working at our school table. We are using the dining area for our school work table. One of my aunts passed this table down to us and it has been perfect, especially with the glass top. I switch around the things I put under the glass. Last year I had a big calendar and some study aids. This year I put a world map. We love maps.

The kitchen is on the other side of that table. We don't often use for homeschooling, sometimes for science experiments, but I really like the convenience of having it close. I can prepare food or clean up while my kids do their independent work and still keep an eye on them!

Here is a close up of our table. This table is perfect when we are all working together, it has enough room so we can spread our books around.

After the table, the family room starts which is our reading area. We also use the floor space for playing games or looking things up on bigger maps.
We use our couch a lot, like many homeschool families, to read aloud or the kids even do some of their school work there at times.

See that big basket on the left side of the coffee table? That's our library basket. I have used this one for years. It is always filled with books. My kids were taught at a very young age to always bring back the library books they look at or read back to this basket. Now it's second nature for them! I often leave our library book bags in the basket too, if there is a space. We visit regularly two different libraries, not just branches, but actual library systems (the county we live in and the city nearby). It takes a little bit more attention to keep all those books sorted out, but it's worth it for us.

On the coffee table, I try to rotate the books or magazines regularly. I include some for the kids and some for me. We also have other interesting things like the small globe and a bowl full of the sea glass, rocks, and shells we collected. I opened the drawers so you could see how they hold card games and other small games we play like Bananagrams and Yikerz.

We have one armchair. It's the perfect reading spot. The little square stool on the left side of it is Celeste's box. It holds a lot of the toys that she likes to have around all the time, and she can also sit on it. Actually any of us can, but it's not super sturdy!

We have three bookshelves and they are somewhat organized. I try to keep them sorted by subjects.

The one that sits by itself has a lot of my resources: teaching manuals, answer keys, some spine books for the subjects we do together. I keep most of those on the three bottom shelves. The top shelf has my homeschooling "how-to" books. The other two shelves have our art and music books. 

The other two bookshelves are organized somewhat by subjects. History and Geography related books are together on a shelf. Science has a couple of shelves, including one for nature guides. Celeste also has her own shelf! I tried to put on one shelf all the books that she can read herself and also her favourites that I read aloud to her.

Keeping these books organized by subjects help us find them quickly when we do need them.

Last year, I added a small bookshelf to help us keep our curriculum better organized. The large bookshelves didn't hold the kids' workbooks very well, so I wanted something more like cubbyholes. I finally found one that could hold the binders upright and brought it home. It has three shelves which is perfect since we have three kids! Each shelf holds all the workbooks, textbooks and binders needed. Adrienne has the top shelf, Andre middle, and Celeste the bottom one. You can see part of it in the photo above, on the right side and here is a closer picture:

Above that small shelf, we have our wood box. I had found this at the thrift store a couple of years ago. I am not quite sure what the true use for it is, but we use it to hold our pencils, erasers, glue, scissors, and pencil sharpener.

Next to that small black shelf, there is one more side table that we use. It holds more supplies. Our new microscope is there, a few more games/flashcards, more pencil cases are on the top. This particular shelf has 2 baskets which hold markers. On the bottom are stamps and crayons.

We also have our computer in this learning space. We use it often for homeschooling. Two of my children use Teaching Textbooks for Math which is on the computer, and we all use the internet for different subjects.  As a parent, I also prefer to have it set up in a main area like this one. I also use it a lot myself!

There you go..our learning space! It's not always this tidy. We do usually have books, papers, and some toys sitting around everywhere! We just replaced our carpeting so we had to get everything out and then back in again. This was the perfect time to take photos!! Anyway, this was a long post, but I hope you enjoyed your tour. I would love to see your space, so take this post as an invitation to share yours..leave a comment with a link to your homeschool room post and I will make sure to visit.


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