Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Look Ma! An actual homeschooling update!

This year Brighteyes is seventh grade, Sunshine is fifth grade, and Owl is three years old.

Location -- The biggest change is location of course. We have a new house with an actual "kitchen" (dining room) table to work at. We were so crammed for space at the old house we had to do lessons on my bed, as it was the largest free surface available. There's a built-in china cabinet, and the bottom shelf (the one without the glass doors) is dedicated to their schoolbooks. Also the girls' dresser can double as a desk and there's a resin chair in the unfinished den for those "I can't stand to be around her/him a second more!" days. Eventually they'll each have a desk in their room and there will also be tables and chairs available in the den.

There's also a detached shop in the backyard that was originally part of the preschool when this house was used for that, so they can work on things out there that Owl needs to stay away from. Right now they're using it for their biology experiments.

We still don't have any of the secondary teaching materials moved except for a dictionary though.

Placement -- Last year's lessons were truncated. What wasn't already packed when we scrambled in the literal hour before dawn last October got left. So the girls are up on math, spelling, handwriting, and writing; and behind on grammar, history, and science. I can't complain. DHS is used to working in cooperation with the school system. I've seen them send officers after someone within two hours of a child being enrolled in a school system on the other side of the state. If we hadn't homeschooled and been relatively "invisible" to their system, things would have been a whole lot worse.

On the subjects that we took with us, Brighteyes is slightly ahead of schedule and Sunshine is slightly behind. Brighteyes has also completed two unit studies on diagramming and outlining each and one on geometry (The only part she had trouble with was the trigonometry.) Brighteyes is a puzzle-solver. Sunshine is a "big picture" global thinker who tends to trip herself up by forgetting the order of the steps. At least she no longer takes it personally when I explain to her that that's why I teach her only one step at a time, and not a single step more until she's got that one down. Dh tells me it's a problem he saw often in junior high and high school girls in his classes, and one that clears up in adolescence.

We're a year behind on grammar, and I still need to get Brighteyes' grammar texts -- Growing With Grammar isn't available a lot of places. We're back to doing history summaries and timelines. After pulling our hair out trying to find a decent early biology text, we went with Explorations in Backyard Biology: Drawing on Nature in the Classroom for Grades 4 - 6 It teaches elementary biology the way it was originally discovered -- through observation, note-keeping and making drawings in a naturalist's notebook. It's also similar to the artists' notebooks they're already keeping for their weekend art lessons with Daddy.

Literature has been frustrating since my library is still at the old house, but I've taken to reading to everyone in the evenings. It's hard to find really good books and I refuse to waste my breath reading sub-par books aloud, but I scrounged up copies of Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of Nimh, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Canticle for Liebowitz. These have lead to some fascinating discussions. It turns out there is hardly any aspect of 20th Century culture that can't be discussed using Mockingbird as a starting point. (I want to revisit that one when they're teenagers though, as some aspects of that story they were too young for me to discuss in detail.)

Extra-Curricular Activities -- We're now further away from any children's activities than ever before. Ironically, we're also doing more. While distance was part of the problem at our old house, fatigue was an even bigger part. Dh was working in what was rated as the worst high school in Mississippi, which was rated as having the worst schools in the United States, so -- yeah. In 13 years he taught under 10 principals and 6 superintendents; as he put it, "It was like a new job every year." I don't think he fully realized how exhausting that mess was, and how exhausted I was from being his support system, until after we moved. But now we're both getting out more and seeing about more opportunities for the girls. Brighteyes is enrolled in a Dance class; Sunshine will follow when she stops giving people who tell her to do something the "deer in the headlights" look. There are nature programs in the vicinity, and we're about to see about a piano teacher. Supposedly the 4H program will fire up this fall. Things are looking up on that end.

Owl is doing stickers. He gets a page of stickers a day, which he arranges in patterns on a sheet of typing paper. The first thing he does in the morning is run to the office to get that sheet of typing paper. He's also scribbling with crayons and pencils. I see washable markers in the very near future.... But his heart belongs to his beloved trucks, which he arranges in traffic and parking lot patterns all over the living room floor. He insists on sleeping with the biggest one.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Owl's Third Birthday

"Baby" Owl turned three this week. He's now a wriggling mass of high-speed, car-crazy energy. For his birthday he got a board book set, a toy toolbox, trucks, and a bilibo (which his big sisters think is the perfect accessory for their 3yo doll-baby). I got out the antique car cake pan I'd bought earlier this summer and made car-shaped banana bread for breakfast. Daddy made a chocolate birthday cake. Brighteyes (12) made the frosting and decorated it. Sunshine (10) made up songs in praise of the bilibo, most of them set to The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers. For his birthday movie we watched -- what else -- Cars, the sweetest love letter to car culture I've ever see. The next day we went to a water park and downloaded the new Doctor Who episode.

And a fun time was had by all, which made it a vast improvement over last year's catastrophic August 26.