Monday, September 27, 2010

Boy Scouts

My son has finally found a cub scout den to join!  We have certainly had a tough time finding boys his age in the immediate area to play with, so this is the perfect answer.  He is thrilled!  I'm even having a tough time keeping him out of his scout uniform (Aren't they funny).  Our first meeting went wonderfully.  He knows a few of the boys from the short stint of PS so he doesn't feel like an outsider.  Also, it is a small enough group that he isn't overwhelmed.  Neither of my kids are large group types.  They definitely thrive in one-to-one or small group environments.  H is now on a mission to earn his patches.  He already earned a zoo patch at the pack meeting, and likely will earn another for his efforts in karate (need to update the karate situation in a later post).  Little L now wants to find a girl scout troop to join, so the search is on.

On a side note,  I have never heard of this before - the boy scouts sell popcorn for fundraising.  I know all about girl scout cookies, but not boy scout popcorn.  I don't know how I made it this far in life without ever hearing of it.  Oh well... The boys set up a popcorn table at the grocery store on Saturday and sales were fairly good.  I was actually surprised at how supportive people were of the scouts.  A very senior and enthusiastic former Eagle Scout even drilled the boys on their motto and promise.  He told us of all the fond memories he has of scouts, even after all these years. It was quite charming.  I got to sample some of the caramel popcorn... mmmmmm.  Yummy stuff.  Pricey but good.  I bought a bag on the spot (must have been hungry) with plans of more.  As you can guess, H is now selling popcorn to raise funds for the boy scouts.  Would you like to order some?  Here is H's link to the online ordering site.  He would be very thankful for your support.
Now I'm hungry.... sigh.  And not one popcorn kernel in the house....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Change of plans, just for a day

Instead of our usual academics we took a different approach to our day today.  The fall colors are simply stunning right now - leaves freshly dropped from the trees are crisp and richly colored and smell of earth and autumn.  I have had the idea in the back of my mind to get out and collect leaves for a fall project and today was the day.  With rainstorms brewing, we rushed outside with grocery bags in hand and headed up the trail.  Approximately 10 minutes into our hike we arrived at the mother load of autumn leaves.  All colors, shapes, and sizes.  Leaves, twigs, pinecones, and the occasional rock all made their way into our overflowing sacks.  The kids chattering the entire time, picking here, picking there, and helping the branches shed just a few more leaves, breathing the fresh autumn air and simply being in nature was therapeutic for us all.  I once again became the best teacher on the planet, at least for today.  Once our bags were full to bursting, and the threat from distant thunder drew closer, we headed back home with our bounty.  Immediately upon arrival, much like after a Halloween outing, the kids poured out their goodies all over the middle of the living room floor for closer inspection and sorting.  Fall had moved indoors!  As the world's best teacher I prepared for some actual crafting, the kids busied themselves with dreams of collecting more leaves to jump into and then headed to the kitchen table.  Today we would be making fall wreaths, with the added bonus of using hot glue guns for the very first time.  And a bonus it was!  H quickly discovered you could make some pretty neat crystal looking blobs with this glue. After the initial novelty of crystal blobs wore off, the real work began.  Here are some photos of our fall decor creations in progress and finished.  Oh - and the best part, we spent some quality time together, we all had fun, and the cost was FREE! (except for some glue sticks).  Life is good.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Almost Friday

I am astounded at how fast this week is flying by.  Tomorrow is Friday - already!  And Friday signifies our Life Skills day, which means COOKING LESSONS!  The kids have been asking for two days now to do another cooking lesson (it is easy to deduce that this is their all time favorite HS lesson) and so tomorrow their wish will be granted.  On the menu for tomorrow is banana nut bread.  Not because I have any specific plans or lesson to teach, but because we have some very ripe bananas that are screaming to be used  soon - very soon.  I can't wait to sample the goodies!  Yum!

So, I mentioned that this week has flown by.  This is a good thing.  It means we actually had a good week without too much drama (except when I noticed that my son no longer knew how to properly hold a pencil - nor did he wish to adjust his grip... sigh).  We actually covered all lessons planned for the week, and even finished early on two days.  This was a great motivator for the kids (and me).  I am noticing an improved sense of cooperation and less resistance on the kids part (the pencil grip was self-rectified the following day) as we near the end of week two of HS.  Oh JOY!  We CAN do this!

The reason I make the above comment is that I just read a wonderful article at The Pioneer Woman, entitled "Erasing the fear of Homeschooling".  It has taken me two solid years to finally find a sense of confidence in my ability to teach my children and to loose that frantic feeling of "Am I doing it right?".  If only I had seem this article two years ago...  Confidence does come, it sometimes takes a while in getting here though.  Take a peek, perhaps it will help lay some fears to rest for you too.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Week 1 Review

I am so very pleased.  Overall it was quite a successful week one of homeschooling.  Even with the behavioral hiccups, we had a great start to school this year.  A LOT better than last year I must say.  I hate to brag, but I would venture to say that this has probably been our best start yet!  I am very optimistic for a great year full of accomplishments and learning.  It is my biggest hope however, that my relationship with my kids will transform into something deeper, closer, and more harmonious than what we have experienced thus far.  As the teen years inch their way closer and closer, I am so much more aware of how quickly time flies and how soon the kids will begin to follow their own paths.  It pains me to say that I feel like I haven't been able to "really" have the kind of relationship with my kids that I envisioned not so long ago.  Thank goodness there is still time to change the tides in a more favorable direction.  I so look forward to building a new level of closeness with my kids, built on mutual respect and genuine interest and caring for each other.  There is no other time than the present...  My focus is clearer now than it ever was before, and I think I finally have all the tools I need to fulfill my vision.  A favorite quote of mine is ringing so true for me right now -

"Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's time for me to start living the life I have dreamed for myself.... 

ON A LIGHTER NOTE:  Boy did I go off on a tangent... Back to the subject of school now.  We had a fantastic week.  It looks like the schedule I pieced together is going to work nicely (although we may have to start a touch earlier in the morning).  Our accomplishments of the week included;
Basic math review and practice - place value to 100 million, carrying, borrowing, rounding and estimating.  Multiplication begins next week!
Language arts - basic spelling review (actually more like a total refresher), some actual writing (pen to paper) and light grammar and punctuation review.  I am SO THRILLED to see that the kids are much more interested in reading now!  Neither one of them was too thrilled about reading last year, so this is a major hurdle we have overcome.  YAY!
Poetry review - unfortunately the kids have forgotten about half of the poems they memorized last year, so we will begin anew with those.
And the highlight of the week (drum roll please) - the kids got their first official cooking lesson!  Woooo Hooo!  They had a grand time making chocolate chip oatmeal cookies!  I am now considered the "best teacher" in the world.  (Aren't they funny?) It really doesn't get much better than this does it?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A much improved Day 3 of HSing

What a relief!  Our HSing Day #3 went as well as Day 1.  The kids have come to the quick conclusion that it does not pay to be difficult.  Thank goodness!  We swiftly moved through all our lessons without all the moaning and groaning of yesterday.  When the kids showed signs of loosing control of themselves, a quick reminder served to shape them right up.  I feel good!

However, the kids aren't the only ones who learned a lesson.  I am getting back into the swing of things, and am finding that planning a lesson that's not too short or too long takes some practice.  Yesterday was a great learning experience for "what happens when the lesson goes too long".  Oh well.  We all survived and came out in one piece in the end.

I hope that other HS moms out there are having quick and easy success with their students/lessons! What a blessing for parents to be able to stay home and have this time with our children.  It feels so right to be the one who teaches my kids not just academics, but also good character and general life skills.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What a difference a day makes

Oh brother.  It's 3PM and my daughter is STILL NOT DONE.  I have been at this table since 10AM this morning.  Obviously things have not gone according to schedule or even remotely close to how the day went yesterday.  The kids have been testing me ALL DAY LONG.  I figure if I stay tough today, we may have a chance at a smooth rest of the week.  I can only hope.  So, today we did get through all our studies, but not without lots of interruptions, goofing around, complaining, whining, several time outs, some arguing and a temper tantrum... Where is Santa with the pear tree when you need him?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Our first day of school!

What a wonderful start to our HSing year! We started on time, there was no whining or complaining, and the kids actually even enjoyed our first day! The teacher was quite pleased as well.  So - what did we do?
After the kids finished their morning routine and breakfast, and after they tended to the animals (while I cleared the table), we all took our seats in the kitchen classroom.  The funny thing is that the kids happened to remember that last year's teacher had a very strange name (I forgot all about it).  Mrs. Kronable...  Yep, that's me!  They insisted that I introduce myself before beginning and so I did.  I introduced the schedule of the week and month to the kids and they seemed rather pleased.  It looks a bit like this -
M-F  Journal
M-TH  Math
MWF  Word of the Week (aka character study)
TTH   Poetry Memorization
M-TH Spelling
M-TH Writing
M-F  Music lesson and practice (The kids will be learning the recorder)
M-F     1 hour of daily quiet/reading time

Our Fridays aren't as academic

Journal and Math are still required, but then the remainder of class time will be spent on Life Skills.  We will be starting with cooking lessons.  The kids already have a long list of things they are ready to prepare.  Mainly cake, cookies, candy and chocolate.  They may be disappointed to learn that they will be learning more than just baking, but I won't tell them just yet.

Something I am doing different this year is incorporating one week per month of concentrated Art, History, or Science studies.  I had a difficult time before fitting adequate time in for these on a daily basis, so rather than have it all spread out, we will take a solid week to work on a unit study.  The kids      
thought this was a great idea.  I'm liking the idea too.  It just seems to make sense.

SO - After explaining the schedule and the things that will be expected of the kids, the kids started with their first journal entry.  They were reminded to use neat handwriting, and were discouraged from writing the same entry over and over again for each day (something my DD did at daycare Public school).  (I had to laugh at myself over this issue.  At the end of PS, my daughter brought home her neatly bound and beautifully decorated journal from first grade.  It was a work of art which I eagerly looked forward to reading.  In anticipation of finding profound words of wisdom that only a seven year old could fathom, and glorious insights into the mind of my little princess, I opened her journal and began to read.  I turned the pages with mixed emotions.  I was glad to find that she really really likes our dog and our two cats.  But an entire journal dedicated to the subject was a bit disappointing much.  Out of approximately 25 or so entries, all but two introduced our dog and cats... over and over again... sigh.  So much for my profound reading experience.)

Next, we moved into some basic math review.  I figured I better make sure they remembered place values, and how to add, subtract, carry and borrow before starting with multiplication.  Thankfully they did remember (dd needed a little reminder but was quick to pick it up again).  We practiced a few questions on the white boards and then moved ahead with some basic worksheet practice.  It was quick and easy.  And a great confidence and enthusiasm builder.  ;)

We took a short break and returned to do some penmanship practice.  My son has always had messy writing and any bit of dedicated practice is of great benefit.  We didn't get into any language art instruction today mainly because I still need to figure out what to review and where to begin anew.  Tomorrow is another day, and I have another few hours to dig into our spelling lessons and figure out a starting point.  Anyyyywayyyy, once they finished their penmanship, they were free to have lunch and recess, followed by Quite/Reading time.  This seemed the perfect way to end our first day back to homeschool.  And so it was.

My son tonight told me he was happy to begin learning again and that the first day back to HS was "fun".  It makes my heart smile.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gearing up for a fabulous Home School year!

I must admit that I am very excited to begin HSing again.  After sending the kids to 6 months of Daycare public school, and seeing the regression dismal progress they made, there is no doubt in my mind that homeschooling is what we need to continue with.  We have taken the entire summer off for decompressing and relaxing, which was badly needed for all of us, so it really amazed me when my DD started asking to begin school again.  It made my day and brought a smile to my face.  DS has also expressed his joy of returning home for our lessons.  We are at peace with our decision to come home.
So what are we doing this year?  We will basically be starting again where we were last year....  I plan on backing up a bit from where we left off and going through a solid review to bring us back up to speed.  I plan on beginning with MathUSee and All About Spelling.  I found some workbooks for the writing process (can't remember the title at the moment), so will be integrating those after a few weeks of warming up again.  We will be incorporating more read aloud time in the Charlotte Mason style as well, and will have one day a week for life skills and character study.  After the holidays I will make adjustments as needed and hopefully keep our learning sessions fresh and interesting.
I feel like I already had our school planned out since last year (but never got it off the ground), so my planning for this year has been easy-peasy.  YAY!  Now with some calmer and clearer weather in our household, we can actually apply the plan and see the fruition of our efforts.  I am smiling and sighing with great joy and relief.
New beginnings are often the Best beginnings!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Family time

What a beautiful day today! The kids and I took our first official bike ride of the year complete with a stop at the playground. Then we worked a bit in the yard followed by violin practice (without moaning) and a yummy dinner that my daughter helped prepare. It feels so good to see the smiles on my kids faces. I am at peace today.

I am so excited about the end of PS and going back to HSing!  There's no place like home.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Guilty or Good?

It's amazing how quickly things can change, right beneath our noses.  And it's also amazing how long the process of change can wreak havoc on our day to day lives.

I write this today with the (in my mind shameful) admission that in January I had to put the kids in PS.  Oh DREAD!   But in reality it was likely the best thing to do at the time.  My marriage and life in our household had deteriorated to such a point that I was physically, mentally and emotionally unable to function in any real capacity.  It took just about every ounce of energy I had to get out of bed and deal with the basics of meal prep and general household maintenance.  Yes, HSing was still taking place, but honestly, it was sporadic and always came with a dark cloud looming nearby.  Patience was no longer in my vocabulary, nor did I have the energy to combat the ever increasing incidences of student resistance.  Needless to say our HS schedule, and life in general for all of us, had been negatively affected by the incessant arguing between myself and my husband.  TOTAL BURNOUT had moved in and taken over our household.  It pains me to even think how dismal my world seemed at the time.

Fast forward 4 months.  Had it been so long???!  The kids have adjusted to PS and for a short while even enjoyed it.  My daughter has made progress in spelling, however has lost ground in math.  My son however has made no real progress in any subject that I can identify, but thankfully has not appeared to lose ground in any subject either.  Yet in the past several months, I have found greater clarity in WHY I felt so strongly about homeschooling in the first place.  I have reconnected with my values and my self.  I feel like I can stand on solid ground now, and not be shaken to the core by the negative energy that is unfortunately a very real part of life.  I have collected myself and I am ready to begin again.  This time with a new set of priorities, a clearer vision of how to meet them, and perhaps a thicker skin as well.  I couldn't have found this clarity had I continued to "go through the motions".  Yes, I still think of PS in negative terms, but at the same time realize that it was better than sitting at home with a miserable mom.  Sometimes we need to bite our tongue and do something we don't want to - in order to save the things most important to us.

The reason I write all this is that I know for certain there are other HSers out there experiencing tough times.  If I can offer just one bit of hope to someone out there suffering the effects of burnout, I am happy.  I have learned from experience that we don't have to feel guilty about sending our kids to PS for a while.  It might be the best favor you do for your kids and yourself...

Ready to start anew!  Look out HS - here we come!