Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Timing of Life’s Lessons

I’ve spent a lot of the last week engaged in mental conversations with myself. Most of them are made up of defending and refuting homeschooling and my reasons for doing so. I haven’t had any direct confrontations; rather, I’ve heard ghosts of conversations past whisper through my memory and I’ve felt a need to end the conversation better than I did in person.

Through this process, I stumbled on an epiphany and it was simply that regardless of the mode of delivery of an individual’s education, everyone still gets to learn the same life lessons. When those lessons are learned is more dependent on mode of delivery.

For example, by homeschooling my children, they may not be exposed to bullying or dishonest behavior or pornographic material on the playground at recess when they’re six or eight or ten. But guaranteed, they will be exposed to these things at some point in their lives. They may not confront a bully until they join a Boy Scout troop, or encounter cheating, stealing, or lying until they enter the workforce. You just don’t get through life without these lessons because unfortunately, life is full of this stuff.

Conversely, by homeschooling my children, they may be able to develop the ability to think and rationalize and create, and they may do it earlier than their peers. As a product of public education, I don’t feel like I gained these skills until I was halfway through my college education and had some wonderful life experiences outside of the classroom. I’ve always felt a little sorry that my ability to do well in school had more to do with my ability to “play the game” rather than my ability to think things through for myself and arrive at my own conclusion, ready to defend it. I hope homeschooling will provide a place for my kids to develop these skills. And whether or not it does, I am assured that my kids will come to these things in their own time.

I felt better after thinking through this little epiphany. It made the arguments echoing in my head seem more flimsy.


Life as School

The pattern of our Mondays consists of an entire day of laundry and bread- and roll-baking.

Most of the time, I’m able to make it through the mound of clean laundry by bedtime.

Last week, it was Thursday and we still had clean laundry piled on a chair in the living room, surrounded by laundry baskets spilling jammies and socks on the floor.

I didn’t have it in me for our usual school routine. Chaos was reigning. Instead, it was time to teach the boys how to fold more than towels and washcloths.

We spent nearly two hours sorting clothes into boy and girl piles, sorting those piles into categories of clothing (shirts, shorts, underwear, socks, jammies, church clothes), and learning how to fold and put said articles away. Given the fact that we spent time last week in math working on sorting and categorizing, I didn’t feel one bit bad about calling “teaching my kids how to fold laundry” school for the day.

Who said you don’t use math skills in real life?


Random Ruminations

Ruminations on Reading: Reading is going well. Henry is able to sound out the words in his workbook every day with very few hang-ups. He is always excited to read a story or a book and get a sticker on his progress chart. And he’s always willing to pull his workbook out whenever I ask him if he’s ready for reading. Okay, those were more observations than ruminations. But they set the stage for the ruminations.

I wonder when Henry will start seeing the words he knows how to read in picture books not part of Hooked on Phonics. I wonder when that light will click on for him and he’ll start transferring his skills outside his comfort zone. He’s only been reading, really, for two weeks. I’m not trying to rush this. I just wonder.

I also realized with a start this week that Henry becoming an independent reader means that my days of snuggling on the couch with him, logging hours of reading together, are numbered. Sad thought.

Ruminations on RightStart: We introduced the abacus to the boys this week. They both liked being able to represent quantities in a way other than their fingers or their tally sticks. I asked them to show me “4” on their abacus. Henry selected the right amount and pushed them to the left as a unit. It was exactly the way the textbook wanted him to and I didn’t even say anything to him about it. Yay, #1! Then, I asked him how he knew it was four. He said, pointing to the lone blue bead at the right, “Because there’s only one blue bead left!” That was literally a textbook answer. Yay, #2! I think I did an inner Toyota jump because he’s getting it. So exciting.

This math curriculum is geared for two lessons a week. Sometimes I wonder if I ought to do one more day a week since they both seem to like it so much. But sometimes I think I should just hold back a little and keep from overwhelming them. Fine balance.

Ruminations on Art: Not our best week. I didn’t do a very good job of explaining the scope or what I expected of them. Oh well. It’s okay.

We did Fanny Joly’s “Mr. Fine, Porcupine” (Storybook Art, page 31). The boys think the story is hilarious and it’s one of the most requested reads from this round of library books.

The idea was to finger paint a simple large line drawing of choice (think a drawing of a sheep or a house) before using craft sticks to scratch away paint to create a textured look. Instead, both Sam and Henry opted to recreate a page from the story. Sam did a darn good job of creating Mr. Fine, Porcupine, and Henry chose a page with a town on it. Here’re the finished products:

Please meet Mr. Fine, Porcupine.

This is the town Mr. Fine rides his bike through, a la Henry

So…the ruminations in my head that are art-related are mostly happy thoughts at finding such a great resource to gently guide our creativity. I love that my boys are creating. It’s fun to see them be more excited over a blank piece of paper and a box of markers than a coloring book. It’s fun to see what’s in their little heads—especially the level of detail! I love learning new techniques and love that we’re being exposed to more than just line drawing or painting with watercolors.

Ruminations on Science: My biggest concern in this area is that I need to practice with different settings on my camera. I need to learn how to take better pictures. I know what I want different compositions to look like in my head; I just haven’t figured out how to make them happen. Not even school-related. For the boys, anyway. Just realizing that if I’m going to document our journey, I’d like to figure out how to capture better shots than blurry stills or flash-washed close-ups.

But our science experiment this week was tops. We tackled “Shine Your Pennies” (Mudpies to Magnets, page 99). I was messing around with the camera more this day, so my explanation of our experiment will be peppered with pictures.

The set-up was pretty basic: four bowls, varied combinations of salt, vinegar, and water.

(Yay! I figured out the macro setting!) 3 of the 4 bowls required 5 mL of salt. Thank heaven for medicine cups. I had no idea how I was going to measure 5 mL!

Our first bowl had vinegar only; our second, salt only; our third, salt and vinegar; and our fourth, salt and water.

We placed one dirty penny in each bowl and made observations after five, ten, and fifteen minutes. The most pronounced changes were observable at the five minute mark.

The penny in the vinegar didn’t get shiny but it put off a lot of bubble chains from the penny to the surface of the vinegar.

Hmm…nothing’s happening…

Ooo! Can you see it getting shiny?

The boys thought this one was cool. Maybe a teensie bit more than the shiny one.

After we recorded our observations and the boys made their notations in their science journals, I let them go crazy trying to shine the rest of their pennies. It made for a fun project.

Ruminations on Spanish and Social Studies: I’m kind of bored, not going to lie. I’m pretty sure we’ll be through both the yellow and red levels of Spanish by Christmas. Then what? Who knows.

I think if I cared more about our approach to Social Studies this year, then I could make it more fun with menu plans and supplemental library books. Maybe when I find my groove again in the menu planning arena. Hmm. Something to think about.


Learning to Juggle

This past week was a really good illustration of what happens to well-laid plans when life gets in the way. For various reasons, it was hard for us to find our groove.

However, I will say that the flexibility of homeschooling is something to love. Even though we still tried our best to do some learning during the girls’ naptime, I loved that when it didn’t happen, I could do it whenever it worked best. Sometimes it meant doing math with the boys while the girls were in the tub and couldn’t steal the manipulatives. Sometimes it meant working on our art project with all four kids at 8:00 in the morning. Whatever, you know? It’s working.

Henry made some great progress with Hooked on Phonics this week. He read his second story, “Dan Ran,” and his first book, “Cat.” He was so thrilled to be reading an actual book (term used loosely) that he called Nanny and Poppa to read it to them. I’m sure they understood every word of the six page plot, no problem.

Our two math lessons were pretty basic. I think both boys will be happy to move onto more challenging things. Still, they did hands-on exercises with patterning, matching, and sorting, and learned about parallel and perpendicular planes.

This week the boys joined Joe at the convention center for a morning to go see and play with the robots during the company’s yearly conference. Daddy was happy to fill in for me on science this week! Here are some pictures of the boys before the camera conked:

Operating a robot with a joy stick

The boys in front of “The Bear,” a rescue robot

So yeah, science this week was a raging success. The boys couldn’t stop talking about all of the robots they had seen and I think gratitude for being part of the event was even expressed in their evening prayers.

I am still loving Storybook Art. This week, we checked out Donald Crews’ Ten Black Dots from the library and had fun with stickers. All four kids gave this one a thumbs up. The question is posed at the beginning of the book: “What can you do with ten black dots?” The author/illustrator used various numbers of dots as a starting point and then created a picture around the dots (Storybook Art, page 46). Henry jumped right in and had created this before I had finished passing paper and sticker dots out to the crew:

It’s an alligator, folks. A five-legged alligator with menacing eyebrows. I love it.

Here’s Samuel’s creation, a water slide, complete with splashes:

Henry did two more pictures, one was a spaceship and the other a train. Here, he’s working on the train:

Not to be outdone, here’s Becca’s creation. Once she saw the boys drawing on and around their dots, she followed suite. The boys and I thought this looked like a bunch of lightning bugs.