Thursday, August 09, 2012

Daily Life Update

School is back in session, and it is MUCH improved over last week!  Now that everyone has their head in the game, we are moving along fabulously well.

I was thinking today just how much I actually enjoy teaching our children.  Of course there are days that are BORING with a capital "B".  I mean, just how many times can I go back over phonics with Kenny and not find myself hiding a yawn?  How many explanations do I need to offer to explain that "the", "a", and "an" are important in the English language?  That is definitely NOT the fun part, as any mom would attest I am sure.

So what IS fun about it?  I get to use my ingenuity to try and find new ways to present old material, I have the opportunity to move away from the traditional textbooks for some subjects and teach it in a whole new way, I get to spend hours and hours looking for resources that are GOOD and that the kids will enjoy learning with.  I know it may sound nuts, but I love nothing more than trying to find a new resource or reference tool that will work better for our kids.  Our new math curriculum is working so well, and they all want to do math first in the morning these days!  When does that ever happen?  Olesya is enjoying a lot more success with it, and her lack of dread over a subject that doesn't come easily to her makes all those hours of research worthwhile.

I love that we can use real life for Matthew having to write a letter of thanks which also outlined what he learned from his Civil Air Patrol camp and making it into a writing assignment.  What could be better than crafting a letter that someone really will be reading?  Or assigning a page of writing about our corn festival experiences this weekend, then sitting with the girls as they shared the similes and metaphors they included?  Or having Kenny learn how to program a cash register and make change, while also calculating sales tax?  Having the kids see how they will use what they learn in real life makes it all more valuable, even in their own minds.

I had a conversation today with them about why we are studying Westward Expansion and creating a notebook to highlight our studies for the year.  They all enjoy history, so I didn't hear any "This stuff is stupid and we'll never use it!" but Angela hit the nail on the head when she clearly understood why we study it and said "Mom, I know why!  Because you are using history to teach us how to think about the world, how to know what is truth and a lie or...what is that word?"  and Kenny threw out "biased" and she said "Yea!  That's it!  What is biased or not.  You are using history to get us to use logic, and history is just on tool to teach it."  Then Josh said "Plus it is cool!  We learn about things and then see how we are still the same, and yet different, from all those old people a long time ago.  Like our politics is still the same, but we have TV and the internet so we get our news differently."

I am giving a lot of thought to high school and how I will approach it with Matt.  I have some subjects ironed out, but I asked him today about history and general social studies, and he admitted he preferred not to use just textbooks, and hoped we could find ways to learn like we use now at lower grade levels.  I am thinking of using The Teaching Company DVD's for many topics and then assigning "real books" to flesh out topics.  For those unfamiliar with The Teaching Company, they have terrific courses of lectures from the best college professors in the US.  I have sampled  a couple of them and found them to be extraordinarily good.  I have also found a couple of textbooks I might use as supplemental material with questions and assignments on certain topics, so that I wouldn't need to be all that creative to come up with appropriate essay questions, Q&A, etc.  It would be a lot of work to pull this all together into a seamless course, but it would also be interesting.

it is not always easy to find ways to keep the kids learning a couple of subjects together, so Matthew isn't isolated in his learning.  That is probably my biggest challenge as a homeschool mom.  Well, that and keeping laundry moving :-)  I am exploring all sorts of options for high school and post-high school, and just recently learned that our state offers a 5th year senior program which will pay the tuition costs for high schoolers remaining technically high schoolers for a 5th year but attending college. I need to learn more about it, but that could be a huge bonus for us if we could take advantage of such a thing.

Our Westward Expansion study is going to be cool!  We have started it concurrently with our Elections study, which we will conclude with the election in November.  We are "notebooking" our Westward Expansion unit, creating a divided notebook filled with all that we learn and paper activities which I will show later in photos.  I have two pages of resources we are using, from books and worksheets to movies and documentaries.  We will be creating poster board maps of the Lewis and Clark journey, the Oregon Trail, the Native Nations that inhabited the areas, the forts that were established...and they will research it all and put it on one map.  They are all actually looking forward to that part of the project.  Then there are the questions I will throw out that they will create small charts or essay answers for, such as "From the French perspective, what were the positive and negative sides to the sale of the Louisiana Territory sale?".  Olesya struggles mightily with that sort of thinking, and yet she sees the need for her to develop that sort of ability to think things through with the facts on hand.  It is neat to watch the kids as they grow in their ability to think deeper and more logically.

Volleyball begins next week, and that will take up a lot of time...three afternoons a week for a good portion of the afternoon.  We need to be very intentional about school work so we can actually get it all accomplished!  TaeKwonDo won't be too far behind either, starting sometime in September.  We have a very busy fall ahead of us, but all 4 kids are looking forward to volleyball, and so are we!  Watching them all will be a joy, and poor Joshie has just one more year to go until he can play.

On a sad note (sort of), we have had to make the decision to sell Old Blue (our big van) , and are also going to put our beloved Big Bertha on the market.  Old Blue already sold, and we were pleased we got what we paid for it 4 years ago!  Can't beat that!  Now Big Bertha needs to say goodbye.  We want to keep her, but we really need to be practical and purchase a larger van.  With the kids growing, and our frequent road trips due to where we live, we decided we need a better suspension and larger vehicle to carry the load.  When fully packed, we are close to bottoming out on longer trips, and the kids are only going to get taller.  We will keep our minivans for running around town economically, but we must find something safer for the longer trips to Denver, California, field trips, etc so we can be safer.  We are thinking a full size van conversion.  Hopefully someone will buy Big Bertha quickly, and we can use that money to put towards a van that will work well for us.  We hate doing it, but maybe we can find an older used trailer to pull with a van somewhere along the line.

What else is up?  Not much, just the daily grind.  I am ready for fall, my favorite season of all, but we have a few weeks to go yet.  I am ready to settle in and am not much of a summer person.  I could do without a really cold winter anytime soon, but the brisk air and changing of the colors is something I adore.

Not much else to report.  Will try and have more pictures soon of something to post!!


Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy!
I just came across this
She mentions a Homeschool Highschool blog carnival that is starting in Sept. You might find it interesting.
Teresa F.

Lindsay said...

Your comment about "the, a and an" being important in English did make me smile. I work in an international school where most of the children are non-native speakers. Certain of our central european children have real difficulties with remembering to use many of these - "the" just doesn't exist in Slovak grammar for example. Even after learning for years some kids seem to find it a challenge.

Hope you have a good school year together.