Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Week 9: Hurricane Sandy and Halloween....

...seriously, does this school week even count?! LOL...With all the panic about Hurricane Sandy this week, I didn't even bother to "school" on Monday and Tuesday. Although Danny DID buy a weather station at the Maryland Science Center at the Members' Halloween event, and he put it out both days. When he brought it in, we read it, talked about hurricanes and I followed that up with a great video about causes of tropical storms, cyclones and hurricanes on, so yes, it DOES count for science :)

Today was ALL about Halloween...we didn't even have time to  miss our traditional public school Halloween Parade, which I thought we would. It really helped when I found out their "old" school didn't have one as well with the rain being so soggy and all. So we spent all day making pumpkin shaped sugar cookies and decorating them with icing and sprinkles while we watched ALL the episodes of Schoolhouse Rock. That DEFINITELY counts...I can't remember a word of the Preamble to Constitution without singing it! :)

And we spent the rest of the afternoon - right up until the first doorbell rang - finishing up making foamboard swords and pickaxes to go with their Minecraft costumes. They really rock, if I do say so myself! Thank you SO much to the wiz who created the files on the internet so all I had to do was print them, glue them and cut them out. So VERY cool!

So, tomorrow we are already on Thursday and it will definitely feel like Monday in our homeschool doing "real" work. I know we "could" have done our schoolwork while the storm raged, but I've been busy as all getout for the last FOUR weekends, so I decided to call some "hurricane days" so I could get caught up on laundry, pulling out winter clothes and packing away giveways, Avon orders  and Cub Scout popcorn orders. Got a lot done! Now, to move onto Avon management duties and paying bills. Fun.

Only 9 days til my long-awaited (17 months) weekend away with my darling hubby. Not one night without the kiddiewinks in all that time and now that they are with me 24X7 with homeschool, I will appreciate every minute away even more! See ya next week when we get to double digit weeks!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Week 8: Flashes

Some days, regardless of the overwhelming turmoil of my life, I see flashes of what our new life can be - and is.

Today we didn't have school because the boys both had fevers last night, so I used it as a day to "catch up" as best I could. Not catching up with the overflowing laundry baskets (that seem to be in their breeding season these days), but catching up with my school planning. I took a long overdue solo lunch break at David's Natural Market with a Powerhouse sandwich (BEST sandwich EVER, I might add), and updated my week's lesson plan. I seem to be constantly tweaking it - and I think that might be the bumper sticker message of homeschooling. To homeschool is to tweak. Find a better subject curriculum. Move things around. Eliminate books/texts that aren't working for the boys. Find a writing method that works with their individual minds. Tweak, tweak, tweak! But I SO enjoy being able to do it. :) This wasn't today's flash, but this was the warm glow that replaces the anxiety panic that I've lived with lately (seems weekly these days) because my lesson plans were out of sync and not really working well and I hadn't had time to sit down with them and work on them. Nice lunch, nice time to breath and the unwinding happened...

My flash happened tonight. Not at Ben's first cello class, although that was nice. After I made it clear to the teacher that I am NOT that "competitive mom" type, we had a great class and I loved watching him relax and learn his first instrument. It also wasn't at the intro 4H meeting at the library afterwards, although the people were lovely and we got some good leads on specific 4H groups the boys will like. It was when we finally got home.

I had been running all day. When we finally got home after the 4H meeting, I was DONE. I wanted yoga pants, snacks and chilling out. But Ben was excited to show his new cello to Danny and George. Since Danny and Ben had a weekend apart (Danny at the Webelo-o-Ree and Ben with boring Mom at home :), they have really been enjoying each other. Not only have they disappeared twice today into the basement to play with Legos and trains, (which hasn't happened in forever), but tonight Danny got out his viola while Ben got out his cello and I sat and listened to my two boys play their viola and cello together. It wasn't Beethoven, but it was the most beautiful music I had ever heard. Maybe this would have happened if they were playing instruments at their old school and maybe it has nothing to do with their schooling, but somehow I think it's related. I feel relieved that the music curriculum is taken care, but also totally blessed that I get to hear it all. How did I miss all this before? It's the sweetest music in the world :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Week 6: Life is a highway...or at least zooms past like one!!

Even though we're running at full speed this week, we're starting to hit a stride here at Varga School. :) Six weeks into our schooling and I'm finally doing some "unschooling", as they call it. I'm finally starting to do more things in our "off" time that really count as schoolwork and work it in. 

For example, today I could NOT get out of bed. After a full week of school last week, a weekend with Cub Scouts camping, a full (9 hour) day field trip to DC in three Smithsonian museums on Monday, full day of school on Tuesday followed by two - count them, TWO - Den meetings on Tuesday night....and I was DONE this morning. When I finally came downstairs hours after my normal wakeup time, I told the boys, "You broke me!" So we did a more relaxed day after I finally got started but still got so much teaching done!

First, we printed off the Minecraft creations they had made in conjunction with our Reading/History unit on Jamestown and Pocahontas. Ben had made an Indian village and Danny had made an English ship. After we printed them, they wrote  sentences about their picture (writing and history). Next, we did our weekly ice skating at the Columbia Ice Rink (P.E.), followed by a run to the grocery store to pick up some things. While we were there, we discussed nutrition and had them compare labels for content and sugars (health class here :) After we picked up Shayla from kindergarten, we came home and they wrote a science journal entry about the experiment they brought back from Scouts last night and repeated to the squealing delight of Shayla and Piper today (writing and science). Brief description, it involved Alka-Seltzer, water and small plastic containers with caps. Fun little explosions

I thought we were done at this point. Had a nice visit with both daughters and granddaughters - a great excuse to skip my afternoon nap again. :) But after they left and I was browsing through the Netflix movies, I hit the motherlode! A National Geographic hour long special on Machu Pichu - the lost city of the Incas, which we just happen to also be studying!! Bingo! We ate dinner and watched this great show on our big HD tv and that, my friends, will count as our history class tomorrow :) Such wonderful timing because I knew our history book about the Incas/Aztecs/Mayans was a little long on words and short  on beautiful visuals and this was a Godsend. 

So, we had a full day of class and the boys really only had to sit and do writing for 45 minutes or so. It's starting to work, to make more sense, and fit in better with our boys' lives. Makes running into Danny's 4th grade teacher last night (while at the school for Cub Scouts) all the more gratifying. Go me :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A new dawn, a new school day

Good day yesterday..and in general I'll call this week a success. I've started doing our days "backwards"...the curriculum as it is written from Sonlight starts with Bible, History/Geography, then Reading. Then I would follow with Spelling, Math, Handwriting without Tears and electives (Art, Music, PE, Health,etc). One day we started with science because of something we saw on the internet during breakfast ...and it worked out much better. The next day, we started with Math and had a great time talking and filling out the entire 1-12 multiplication table, so backwards again. Now, after prayer, the boys get to start out with something fun and interesting and we leave the quiet topics and reading to the end of the day. 

Yesterday was a very full day, but I did more creative teaching and it was definitely more fun. :) I may have trouble sticking to the curriculum! I started our Health units with Fire Safety and we went over the escape routes from the house and how we would handle different scenarious. I think that helped Ben's anxiety alot, because he always worries about things like that. We walked through the drill, then took the dogs for a walk. Next time, I'll just set off the alarm in the house and it will be a "surprise" drill. I also did our first Science activity on biotic/abiotic things from the text and the boys really enjoyed it. A quick Sequential Spelling drill and then we were off to ice skating. With their  new pedometers, the boys loved keeping track of their steps all day, too. It finally made obvious why all of Ben's jumping all day keeps him so skinny!

When we got back from skating, the grocery store (and a quick lesson on unit pricing :) and picking up Shayla from school, they still had to finish their school day with Math - but we had an interesting development. When I mentioned that if the lessons were too easy for Ben, he could skip ahead, he jumped at the offer. He immediately wanted to do the last lesson on his current CD lessons, skipping 15 lessons - and he got a 92% on it! I told him that if he can pass the quizzes on the chapters by over 90%, he can skip to the next one. If he can skip all the way to 5th grade math (which I have no doubt he can do), I can start giving them both 5th grade math work and do more interactive math with them. Because they are at 2 different levels, I've been relying on them doing their CD lectures individually, but I really enjoying do their lessons with them together!

So, more developments on the homeschool front, but it's very clear that is the "norm" for our school. And I love it! Off to find out what today will bring....:)