Monday, December 17, 2012

Week 15: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...and when he comes I will be so happy!!!

It's Week 15 here at Varga school, and for those of you who wonder if trying to get children to homeschool during pre-Christmas week is as hard as getting them to do homework for public school - the answer is YES. Big, fat, definitely YES.

I'm having a hard enough time getting geared up for teaching this week. I'm not sure if it's because this is probably our last "Santa" Christmas at the house (having 8 and 10 year old boys, this is about time), or because I always miss Mom at Christmas, or because of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last week or just because I'm an emotional basket case at random times anyway - but I've been miserable, horribly, painfully depressed for days now. So school has not been getting my full attention. Thank goodness I had a weekend to try to recuperate. 

So today, we started with ornament making. A little de-stress for me, a chance to catch up on the many Art projects we never got to this year and a reason to put off academics til after lunch. For whatever reason, we made awesome ornaments with clear plastic balls and acrylic paint and it worked for everyone. This afternoon I only attempted to do our daily spelling, math worksheets and weekly household chores  - and if it fails, I don't have the heart to be wicked, so my kids say...WHATEVER!! 

Take it easy, don't stress it, enjoy your kids every minute of every day and Happy Holidays, everyone!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Little things are the biggest breakthroughs...

Homeschool days are long, but they are full of important moments. I don't remember what I did during the day when  my boys were in public school, but I do know it was easier on my nerves and completely unfulfilling compared to what I am doing now.

Today was destined to be a good day anyway, given the fact that I woke up without a headache. A first this week, so things were already looking up by the time I got my first cup of coffee. My shower happened before school started, so that meant I was already ahead by two things before I even started teaching. Got started only 15 minutes later than usual - good again. But nothing compared to what happened when we got to our writing lesson today.

I need to explain first that we are 5 weeks or so behind in our writing curriculum. I did some of this on purpose, because last year was such a fiasco with both our boy in writing, both in writing mechanics and process. I consciously "unschooled" them on writing when we started homeschool because I wanted to "start over" and undo some of the damage that had already happened. Danny need to relearn how to make his letters and numbers correctly in print before we moved forward at all. So the first month, we only did Handwriting without Tears. Benjamin also, as well as the fact that he held his pencil very awkwardly with all his fingertips. Last year at school they had started having him use a pencil grip, but that hadn't done much. So I worked for his first month just having him hold the pencil correctly and make his letters correctly with HWT.

Fast forward to week 13 of school this year. Danny's handwriting is amazingly better and he has a wonderful easy grip. His writing is legible for every assignment and he writes his letters correctly  - most of the time. Note to self: Need to remember to have him work on numbers now... :) Benjamin is holding his pencil correctly for the first time - EVER - without a pencil grip. His handwriting is still a work in progress because he's RElearning how to write, but it is really very good. I need to do more HWT on him for letter formation, but I'll go through some of that on our "off" days.

So, needless to say, actually "writing" was put aside until I could get the mechanics down. The last few weeks, I started to bring basic mechanics in, like noun/verb/adverb/adjective usage. (This always works because it gives us another chance to watch Schoolhouse Rock! lol) Everything went pretty smoothly and Danny even said "this is writing? it's easy!" I bit the bullet and pulled out some "real" writing. It worked out well when our LA writing assignment  was about Jamestown - and we are working on our Jamestown field trip scrapbook! We worked on some who/what/when/where questions and Danny gave some good, solid answers - but only in partial sentences. So last night I Googled for "rephrasing the question" and found TTQA - Turn The Question Around. Probably a very old teacher tool, but it was perfect for me and I created a personal worksheet for the boys for them to practice the concept. Once we did a few, I actually saw the the light dawn in Danny's eyes! He totally "got" the concept - and then he worked on his Jamestown piece. He took all his partial answers, created full sentences with the TTQA concept and finished a beautiful paragraph. When I showed him how good he did and he realized it WAS good, he started talking about how he can go back to school one day because he "can do the work like everyone else" because he misses his friends - especially Bryan. I was just flabbergasted! He hadn't mentioned going back to public school ONCE - and I now I realize it was because he KNEW he couldn't do the work. Just giving him the hope that he CAN do what the other kids can do and that he could join his friends again brought all that cheerful school attitude back that he had lost over the last two sad years. It was amazing!! So now we'll see if we can bring him up to speed and what grade he might "re-integrate"...what a change!

And what about Ben? He swears he'll "never go back to public school"...and he does have alot of anxiety issues that we'll need to work on. Plus, I realized he has a reading retention problem that was hidden because he was so quiet and shy. He's sure not quiet and shy at homeschool!! I'm sure we have years with him to see what develops - who knows?

Every day is a surprise - good and bad - at homeschool! :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Week 13: The beginning of the end (school year, that is...)

Last week completed Week 12 and today we officially enter into the 2nd third of our homeschool year - HURRAY! It is a weird feeling...we're no longer beginners...however we are still so far from the end of our first year. And yet, I have started thinking about how we will end this first year. 

Since my oldest child started kindergarten 22 years ago, the last day of school has been IT for my kids. A children's holy day, in so many ways. When I was a working mom, it was a bittersweet day for me, because it meant that we had survived yet another year of the public school rat race, but it meant another summer of "free days" that I would miss with my children- again.

This year, the "end of school" will be a first-which is rare at my age, unless you count new age spots or new creaking joint pain. :) I have so many questions. 

  • When do we finish - when we are done our last subject assignment? This is difficult, because in some subjects we are "on target" for finishing in 36 weeks, but other subjects were started later and won't be "finished" by then. 
  • On a certain "day", because I can always stop when I feel we are are mostly "done"? 
  • Do we stop when it is good for our family and celebrate alone or have our last day with the public school children? This one is hard, because we already feel so separate from the public school schedule that it doesn't really affect us at all....but we're not completely separated from that entity that used to be "us". It helps that last year's "last day" was so completely and hideously painful for me that I almost RAN to get away...this year will be completely different!

Then it hits me - we'll be moving onto a second year before I know it. What will we keep? What will we change? It seems to be constantly changing, but refining greatly over time. I just developed a health and art curriculum that we can follow through the rest of the school year. It took this long to figure out how to do that! The downside of using a "canned" curriculum when I started - I only had to create curriculum for the subjects not covered by Sonlight...and I had no clue how to do that! Thank GOD for the internet! lol

So, here we are in Week 13 and I had more questions than when we started. I guess that's good, since that means we are learning what is right for us....right? One thing I do know...these questions are ones that *I* am asking and that *I* can find the answers to, not someone else. Yee-haw!!!