Mar 30, 2011

Expedition Week - Spice Up Your Week With FREE Resources!!!

Next week is Expedition Week on National Geographics Channel and there are some great resources available for FREE through this link - HERE

This is a great way to get out of the end of the year funk and put some spice into your week! See what you can entice your learners with by switching things up a bit!!!

Mar 29, 2011

Stay Day System

I have been asked many questions about stay days since I posted our spring session plans, so while I was reseting our white board calendar for the month I thought I would take a few seconds to explain this simple process that we use.

I require that we stay home for three days each week, no ways around this. There are so many activities and things to do that if I don't we would be out every day, my house and work become neglected and KM becomes exhausted, cranky and CRASHES! So I took a tip from a fantastic homeschool guru and I created a Stay Day System of our own.

Here is what are calendar looks like at the beginning of the month. I list all the things that we already have scheduled or planned and then I choose 3 days a week that we stay home, I mean I don't leave the house. Each of the three days gets designated a number 1, 2, or 3 because different chores need to be completed on those days. The three days can fall in any combination during a 7 day period. I try to space them out if possible, but sometimes it just isn't. On these days KM can have people over once she has gotten her assigned chores done for that day, but I will not take her anywhere or pick anyone up as I need to be able to get my household chores and work completed. This system works so well and each time I have allowed us to slip out of it, it has backfired and the house and the families attitudes fall to pieces.

Now I was also asked what sorts of things get completed on these stay days and this is going to be something that if you decide to implement you would need to decide for yourself. For us the days look like this -
  • Stay Day #1
    • Weekly baking - deserts, breads etc.
    • Meal Plans for the Week
    • Bathrooms thoroughly cleaned
    • Full Kitchen Clean Up
    • Laundry - Linens
    • Vacuuming
  • Stay Day #2
    • Project - art, household, yard ~depends on what is needed~
    • Vacuuming
    • Clean Bedrooms
    • ALL trash barrels emptied
    • Laundry - K
  • Stay Day #3
    • Laundry - M & D
    • Vacuuming
    • Floors
    • Fully Clean Dining Room & TV Room
Having this routine and schedule allows us to not get overwhelmed with the household chores. We do pick up things as we go along and there are other daily things - compost, feeding animals, recycling bins, etc - that are done, but those things take little to no time and allow us to be able to the "Full Cleans" in a much quicker way because things aren't left to get out of hand. 

This also allows KM to quickly be able to answer her friends when asked to setup an activity. If the day is blank or only lists library or something then she knows she can go ahead and say yes, if there is a number in the block she knows that the friend can come here or if she can get a ride from someone else - even CJ - she can go, but that I can't take her. There are of course ALWAYS exceptions to these rules - like birthday parties etc. but in general we have those things on the schedule in advance and I work the stay days around them. 

As always this is something that needs to be tweaked for each family - it will not work the same for yours as it does for ours - but it is a great place to start from! It also gives the kids a sense of knowing what is coming and if they want to spend the day in their PJs they can because they know they aren't going anywhere! 

I hope that clears up the questions that I received! Please let me know if there are any others. 

Mar 26, 2011

Incredible Commercial

First I want to say that I am NOT endorsing the product as I have NO experience with it!
I missed Grey's Anatomy the other night, so I was streaming it this morning and this commercial popped up -

I HAD to share! This is so mainstream and realistic! There was no overly dramatized stereotypes and they didn't even use the word "homeschool"!!! It gave me chills and I had to pass them on!!!!! --- now back to Grey's Anatomy!

Mar 23, 2011

African Cats - DisneyNature Film

We have loved the DisneyNature Films in the past and we can't wait for African Cats to come out next month.

An epic true story set against the backdrop of one of the wildest places on Earth, African Cats captures the real-life love, humor and determination of the majestic kings of the savanna. Narrated by Oscar®-nominated actor Samuel L. Jackson, the story features Mara, an endearing lion cub who strives to grow up with her mother’s strength, spirit and wisdom; Sita, a fearless cheetah and single mother of five mischievous newborns; and Fang, a proud leader of the pride who must defend his family from a rival lion and his sons. Disneynature brings “The Lion King” to life on the big screen in this True Life Adventure directed by Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill (“Earth”). An awe-inspiring adventure blending family bonds with the power and cunning of the wild, “African Cats” leaps into theatres on Earth Day, April 22, 2011

Take a minute to download the educator's guide for some great resources HERE!

Mar 20, 2011

Lemmings Law

I am finding it harder and harder to appease people. While I think that people should respect each other's choices, I know that is never going to happen 100% of the time. People assume that you are attacking their decisions - or really their conformity - if you make a choice other than the one that is in line with theirs. If you are making a choice that is better for YOUR family, why wouldn't you automatically assume that the decision would be better for EVERY family? It is the lemmings law - follow, follow, follow, don't get out of line - if someone else gets out of line ATTACK!!!

Those of us who tend to make choices that are off the trodden path are often far more understanding, open minded and accepting of choices. We see the great joy that options can bring. We realize the importance of indivual preferences. We accept that customization is KEY! We need to stop coddling these parents. I don't think the public schools are okay for anyone, they aren't! They can't be FIXED! Charter schools and privates are just as bad in most cases. We ALL need to learn to respectfully stand our ground and disregard the falsified counterattacks that are based on the insecurites of those shouting the loudest!

As I have seen these debates getting more and more ferocious with the ease of social networking sites in cyberspace, the anonymity of yahoo groups and the ability to hit send before you reread things or without thinking about the consequences. This is just another reason I DON'T have a facebook account!
 I reread this several times and STAND behind every word!

Mar 19, 2011

Iceberg Formation

 Unfortunately our harsh New England winter was too much for our pool to take this year. The weight of the snow and expansion of the ice caused it to crimp about 3 inches from the bottom and was unsalvagable. So Friday we all got out some screwdrivers and pry bars to dismantle the damaged wreckage. Once apart, we were left with an incredibly upclose example of the intricate formation of icebergs!


Mar 17, 2011

Work Harder to Get Smarter

I received a phone call today from a relative whose child is in 2nd grade at a local public school. She has become increasingly frustrated with the child's teacher and needed to vent to someone who might help her not feel so crazy.
In an email from the teacher she expressed concern for the aforementioned child, that he wasn't working to his potential and wasn't embracing the class motto of "Work Harder to Get Smarter."
I try very hard to not bad mouth the public education system, as I don't want to offend anyone who feels that they "can't" home educate their children for whatever the reason. However, I am getting to the point where I feel like I need to come out and say, "It is wrong! It is screwed up! It CAN'T be fixed!"
To drill into 7 year olds that learning is "hard work" is WRONG! It is wrong on some many levels!
For most people, if they are truly learning something it will come rather easily to them. Generally speaking you know the most about things that you like and that interest you. When you are forced to take tests on something that you don't like or aren't interested in then yes it does become work and you need to work harder to retain the information - this does NOT mean that you are SMARTER. It also does not mean that you "learned" anything. It means that you worked really hard to remember the information long enough to take the test and get a good score. Will you remember the information next year - probably not! You probably won't even be lucky enough to remember it next week.
When second graders are being forced into working harder so that they can make the grade and the teacher's get their raises, there IS a SERIOUS problem! The schools are producing incredibly gifted test takers who are taught to retain the information, take the test and then dump the files.

Learning should be fun! 
Learning should be enjoyable! 
Learning should be EASY! 

Mar 16, 2011

Finishing up Winter Session and Prepping for Spring!!!

This is our last week of our winter session and KM has continued to do really well and is truly enjoying her topics of study. As always we have tweaked and evolved things throughout the session and will continue to do so as we set forth our plans for next session. I have most of the outline planned and over the next week will be fine tuning things.

First and foremost we have both decided after a long discussion, that we need to slow down a bit. We went FULL THROTTLE through the winter and managed to not get any winter duldrums or cabin fever, however we are EXHAUSTED! I have made a last minute decision to go back to our 3 stay day routine and with all that is coming up I am feeling a NEED to really stick to it.

There are some big jobs around the house that need to be taken care of and we are hoping to address a few this weekend ~ including taking down the snow damaged pool ~ while we are all around. The spring brings different chores and household responsibilities that need to be addressed and with CJ starting a full 6 week course to get his advanced licenses, KM and I are going to have to step up and take on some of the things that we would normally leave for him to do.

As for our lesson plans we will be continuing with a majority of the programs from the fall and winter we have been doing, but have decided to tweak a few areas including -

  • Science - After some dissection of the Spectrum Science Workbook we both felt like the last few chapters were so disconnected in their content that it was too chopped up and KM didn't really want to finish it. On top of this KM has been very Science focused over the last two years, doing multiple programs at a time, so we decided to back off a bit. She will finish up the next few issues of Scholastic's Science World and will be doing the Environmental Study - see below - that she had planned on doing over the summer during the spring instead. I think this will tie in nicely to our gardening and landscaping plans as well.
  • Math - She will be completing the Straight Forward Math Series Algebra Book 2 this week and will begin Book 3 after the break. She is moving very smoothly through this series and really seems to be retaining the information well. 
  • Social Science - 
    • History - KM has completed Volume 3 of Story of the World and has just begun Volume 4. It seems to be just as intriguing to her although the style is a bit different in this volume than in the ones before. She has been a bit stumped on the outlining portion, but I think with continued practice this will improve. As she is moving through this program at a more advanced rate and completing two to three chapters a week, I will not be requiring that she complete all the outlines and we will be  doing far less of the activities as well. I have, however, chosen to incorporate more of the Brain Pop! videos into the the history areas to hopefully bring a bit more life into it. 
    • Current Events - This is an area that we have been a bit lacking in lately and CJ feels we should put a bit more energy into. KM does read Youngzine each week, but I stumbled across the CNN Student News and I think this will be a great resource! 
  • Art - I went back and forth in this area recently. We tried a Great Course series from the library, but it was more than a bit DRY! KM is always working on different projects and crafts, but she also likes well done documentaries and shows having to do with art. So after some poking around online, I landed on Netflix and found this rather intriguing looking PBS series called Art 21 which we can stream live through the ROKU and/or the Wii onto the big screen! There are also free downloadable educator's guides to give some extra insight and ideas on how to use the program in an educational setting! We are both looking forward to utilizing this resource.
  • Environmental Study - We had planned on working through this unit study over the summer, but as I mentioned earlier our plans changed a bit! We will be reading the Cartoon Guide to the Environment and going through the Our Fragile Environment Unit on BrainPop. We will also be watching documentaries that will correlate with each weeks topics. 
  • Music - This is another area that we tend to focus a lot on around here. KM is more than halfway through the Annenberg Media course Exploring the World of Music and is thoroughly enjoying it. She will continue with and hopes to complete Piano Adventures Lesson Book, Level 2A by the end of this next session. She has been doing incredibly well considering she is self teaching and neither CJ nor I have any instrumental talent! She also continues to utilize the Wii with Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero, as well as a multitude of Sing It games that she has acquired. There has been talk of wanting to take drum lessons next year, but she is wavering as to whether she wants a traditional drum kit or an electronic one. 
  • Literature - KM has picked two pieces to focus on this session Old Yeller and Wright 3. For Old Yeller we will take advantage of this online resource, as well as doing a movie comparison. For Wright 3 we will be using this guide put out by Library Sparks. 
  • P.E. - Ice skating was fabulous over the winter and KM really took to it! For the spring the kids will be finishing up their bowling league and we will go back to Basketball and Tennis as the weather permits. When the weather is against us we will be using the Wii Sports Resort and Just Dance to get our sweat on! We have also decided to start incorporating more family fitness activities like hiking, bike riding and roller blading on the weekends when DN is here. These are things that we used to do regularly when KM was little, but have just moved away from over the last few years. 
Will you be changing things up for the spring? What kinds of fun activities does your family have planned?

I will be updating the Current Curriculum & Schedule page soon!

Mar 11, 2011

Mar 9, 2011

What do these things have in common? - Sewing, Quadratic Equations, Ice Skating, Opera, Shopping & Science

They all fit into the week of a home educating family! 

This was the last week for ice skating at our local DCR rinks and though KM will be missing this time each week, she is going to be quite surprised when she finds out what will be going into this time slot - can't disclose this info yet!

For our weekly project I thought KM would enjoy making an owl messenger bag. This simple project kit was a great way for her to build confidence on the machine, follow cutting instructions and have a super cute outcome!

On the more academic front we started a new chapter in Algebra and she is charging through quadratic equations! We finished up the Spectrum Science Grade 8 workbook and she did an excellent job on the Final Test. To celebrate her wonderful achievements we went out to breakfast and did a little spring shopping. I somehow ended up wandering into the infants department where I just couldn't help myself when I saw these SUPER cute tees for the "littles-2-b"! 

Tomorrow we will be heading to the much anticipated Hansel & Gretel performance by the Boston Lyric Opera. This has become an annual tradition and we always LOVE the show! 

What sorts of oddities fit into your week?

Mar 4, 2011

Journey North Mystery Class - Approaching Midpoint - NOT TOO LATE TO JOIN IN

We are almost approaching the midpoint of the Journey North Mystery Class: A study of sunlight and the seasons, but it is NOT too late to join in!
Next week we will begin to receive the longitude clues, so we had to update our display area to include some useful tools. Can't wait to see how well we do locating the mystery classes!

Mar 2, 2011

Home Education: Between the Extremes

This video is FABULOUS!
I can't tell you how many conversations I have had to walk away from - IRL and online - when the topics of labels gets brought up. Whether it is educational labels, spiritual labels, nutritional labels - WHATEVER. Why do people have to get so angry when someone makes a choose that is varied from theirs? Why do some people feel compelled to impress their beliefs on others as the one and only path? Why do LABELS have the power to tear apart friendships?