Monday, August 25, 2014

Thoughts...

Today I sent the following IMs to my good friend Laura who also homeschools:

Sigh....I'm getting that anxious feeling that I get when I feel like I'm not going to be able to DO IT. I want so much to do this awesome mashup of Brave Writer and Project Based Homeschooling but I'm afraid that it won't feel enough like "learning" to me and I'll sabotage it. I am afraid to trust it, even though it really seems philosophically sound.

  I don't want my kids to be "schooled" I want them to learn how to learn, but I only have an example of being schooled...at least until graduate school. And in my regular, non-school based life.

 After a nice chat with Laura more time reading today and corresponding some with Pam (Noodle's super fantastic writing tutor/mentor), I'm feeling better.  I'm actually feeling pretty excited, but I'm trying to keep my excitement real since by now, going into my 8th year of homeschooling, I know that reality has a way of kicking even the most delightful plans in the shins. But I am excited, and I hope that I can remember to have a more Zen approach to the hiccups and interruptions that are inevitable in any life, but especially in a life with twin toddlers.

One thing Laura mentioned was that she has an easier time feeling productive if she blogs about what gets done. I relate to that as well. Even though in retrospect I find it amusing how I blogged about our little accomplishments and projects when Noodle & Spud were in early elementary, I felt happy and productive. As they've gotten older, I've felt more pressure to do things that seem more like regular school, and in the process a lot of the joy has left. One of my primary goals this year is to make room for that joy. To cut out what really doesn't need to get done and spend time learning as a family. Less school-at-home and more cultivating learners. In public schools we spend 12 (usually 13, more if you include preschool) telling kids what they have to know and what is important to learn. But throughout those years we are constantly asking them what they want to do or be when they grow up. Do we really expect them to know when we don't give them a chance to develop their individual skills and talents now?

I have a talent for school. I was always an excellent student, and most of the time that corresponded at least somewhat with being a pretty decent learner. But I haven't been in school for almost 10 years now (I defended my masters' thesis two weeks before Spud was born), so that talent of being a student doesn't serve me that well now. The talent of knowing how to learn does, though. A major mistake of traditional schooling, as I see it, is that the talent of being a student is the only one that is really measured, and therefore valued. There is a parallel track of being a good athlete or a good performer, but there are so many other talents that get ignored and go undervalued. We give every student the same box of tools while ignoring their natural gifts, and then expect them to do great things and have new ideas. I just don't think that's the best approach.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Engines

Sprout sat down next to me while we were eating our dessert and said, "I want to talk about cars and motorcycles and how they work."


Me: "Hmm. Okay, well I don't know very much about that."

Spud: "Okay, well just tell me about how engines work."

Me: "How about we find a video?"

So we watched these two videos and I learned quite a bit! 


Hooray for the Internet and YouTube! 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lattice Multiplication

I'd inadvertently downloaded a lattice multiplication app a couple weeks ago and thought "Huh?" when I looked at it. But yesterday I watched the Khan Academy video on lattice multiplication and now I'm sold!

I'd never heard of it before, but I think it is a really nice way to do multiplication of multi-digits. Better than remembering the 0 in the standard way--so nice to do all the multiplying then all the adding. Plus it's kind of fun. It feels like it is too tricky to actually work, but it does.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

We are really liking Real Science Odyssey: Life Science

I got an MS in Zoology, so it's a favorite subject of mine, but I have a hard time sharing my interest with my kids (besides catching bugs, having lots of pets over the years and reading National Geographic...) This year, on some recommendations from a couple of people here, I got Real Science Odyssey for Life Science. I have really liked it, and the kids have, too. So far we have done some good observational activities (outside doing a plot study and studying the parts of an egg) and some fun models (jello models of plant and animal cells and this week a karo syrup based model of blood). I love that the lessons are one page of text. I feel like it hits the key points of the material, plus gives a good explanation, but keeps it short enough so the kids stay interested. We've been supplementing with relevant Bill Nye videos and the Discovery Ed streaming stuff (the kids dig Slim Goodbody) and I feel like it's a really good curriculum for my kids.

Anyways, just wanted to share as I've seen lots of science threads pop up lately. You can download a pretty good sample at their website. I'd looked at the sample before, but it didn't win me over. Really doing it, though, has made me a fan.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

still chugging along

So I started working part-time from home in mid-October (the astute among you might notice that that date coincides with the date of my last blog post here), so it hasn't left a lot of free time for blogging. Yes, I do set my own hours, but with money always managing to find uses for itself, I don't spend a lot of free time blogging or otherwise enjoying the internet like I do when I'm not working.

Homeschooling is going well, though. I introduced "Independent Folders" to each of the school age kids, into which I put any of the stuff for the day that they should be able to do without my assistance. It has really helped us get started more smoothly in the mornings, as they can just open their folders and get to work. Then I can jump in between assignments if I want to do some of the work they need me for. Right now, Spud only has math, a maze (for fine motor skill development plus some fun), handwriting practice on a lined white board, and Explode the Code in his folder, but it is enough to get him going. Then we do reading time and a computer program for reading together.

Noodle has her math, cursive, Latin worksheets (2 per week), spelling, and sometimes math or Latin flashcards in her folder. She also does her piano practice and independent reading time on her own as well. I work with her on grammar and writing, and we all do history and science together.

I am feeling pretty good about our current curriculum setup. It is always a temptation to see if the grass is greener on the other side of some hill, but there is SO MUCH OUT THERE that I find it is better not to look for something new unless there is a legitimate reason to do so. So, I try and not look for problems. I am trying to figure out an approach to geography, though, as I'd like to do more of that.

We've started working with Sprout to learn his ABCs, and he seems really interested. he calls letters "ah-ees." I made a simple ABC book that I'm having printed, and I also compiled an ABC playlist on youtube. Youtube Playlist It's my hope that with a lot of exposure he might just kind of "pick up" on reading a bit more than the other kids have. It has been quite a bit of work getting the other kids to learn to read, so anything that makes it easier I figure is worth a shot.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

happy reader(s)

So Noodle was a bit late to the whole reading game. A year ago at this time, we were diligently working through beginning chapter books (like the Rainbow Fairy series) by having her read aloud to me for a while every day. It was quite tedious at times, but I felt that she just needed to keep practicing to improve her skills, more than more phonics work, so that's what we did. Now she is at the point where she really does enjoy reading, and she is skilled enough that she does okay reading on her own. She started Scout, one of the Puppy Place books last night at bedtime and then finished it off today, all on her own! I was thrilled! I will continue having her read as part of our school day, but it is just so rewarding to think of the progress she has made over the past 18 months.

Spud is also doing really well with his reading. He is really getting his beginner books down solid and he is much less intimidated when encountering new words. He is working through Explode the Code book 1, and I think that is a really good way for him to practice & review.

Hooray for books!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Term A, Week Three

Highlights from the week:

We have been getting together with some homeschooling friends in the neighborhood one or two mornings a week for some "P.E./recess" type fun, and this week we biked down the River Trail to Utah Lake. I had never biked out there before, and it was really fun and beautiful. The kids did great. It was 4 miles round trip but nobody got too tired or complained (I think that's an advantage of doing these things with friends). It took a couple of hours, and we didn't get started doing "school" until after 1, but it was worth it.

On Friday we had arranged a field trip up to Tracy Aviary with the Boys Club I coordinated. It was a follow up activity to our owl pellets a couple weeks ago. David was able to come with us and we had a great time. My favorite parts were seeing the birds in the bird encounters (a red-crested turaco and an American Crow), seeing the HUGE Andean Condor basking with his wings open (very zen-like) in the sun, and hearing the family of five kookaburras laugh and laugh and laugh. I don't know if I knew (if I did, I'd forgotten) that they are called Laughing Kookaburras.

Kookaburra


Red Crested Turaco

Kookaburras have long been one of my favorite birds. I think they are just so cute and chubby. I learned that older offspring often stay around and help care for their younger siblings. David said he read that on a couple other bird species' signs, too. So neat! The kookaburras at the Aviary were a mom and dad and their three youngsters, all hatched this past spring. The chicks were already full-sized, though.

In other news, Spud is doing really well reading his beginning reader books. We have quite a number of Bob books, which he likes okay, but he really likes the Clever Critter books by Nora Gaydos. We only have the Advanced Level One set and one of the Level Two sets, but I am tempted to get more because he likes them so much. I think I should probably just check out other first readers from the library and save the $. I've reinforced to him over and over that if he doesn't know a word he can either sound it out or ask me (or both), so he has stopped doing his, "Uh, uh, uh.." pathetic thing when he gets stuck. That is big progress!

Noodle finished her math on the Green Track (I'll explain more later) so she was able to earn the cute hedgehog she'd picked out at This is the Place Park gift shop, plus an extra four dollars. The idea is that she controls how quickly she moves forward with math and if she can master the material faster, and have a Green Level Effort (finish with minimal mistakes in an appropriate amount of time without needing reminders to focus), she can earn rewards. If she moves at our old pace, one chapter a week with many "focus reminders," that's a Red Level Effort. In between is a Yellow Level Effort. Probably sounds a little more complicated than it is. Anyways, her math covered some new ideas the last three weeks and she is doing well at understanding them. I think she needs to solidify her add/subtract facts, though, so this next week we are going to do review and drill. I'm hoping that it will be easier for her to stay on task when the small tasks that make up the problem can be completed more automatically.

We are using Prima Latina for Latin this year (only Noodle and I, though Spud does listen in some), and I am really enjoying it. I think Noodle enjoys that we are learning it, though she kind of grumps when it is time to do it. As we learn a bit more vocab and can talk "secretly," though, I think the allure will be stronger. But I'm enjoying it a lot!