Friday, September 26, 2014

When You are Too Busy......

When you are too busy to post on the blog then you know that there have been tons of great learning opportunities.

So let me begin with something most recent but it ties into the last few post about the Cahokia Mounds.  This week the girls and I got up early in the morning to watch the sunrise.  That certainly does not sound like an important event.  The sun rises and sets everyday according to God's plan.  This one was particularly special.  Since we have recently studied the Cahokia Mounds Historical Heritage Site we learned about the Woodhenge and the determination that it was an important time keeper of sorts to the Mississippian Culture. 

Tuesday was the first sunrise for fall.  So our sunrise was not just any day.  It was the first sunrise of the 2014 fall season.  It was experienced at center pole Woodhenge at the Cahokia Mounds Site. 
Here is a fabulous photo of the morning.  I must add that these kids are bundled up for a chilly morning, still in our pajamas as that was part of the FUN we put into the experience.  I made a video of it as well and set it to music but have been unable to get the computer's card reader to work for some reason. Perhaps we will get that figured out and perhaps it just was not properly formatted or something.  I can see it on the video camera though.  So here is our sunrise photo, messed hair and all.

Behind them you can see the Monks Mound and the glorious Sun on this first morning of fall.

So what else have we been up to you may ask.  Gee, it seems like we must have more than 24 hours in a day when you hear what we are doing. 

Our typical school day is still looking the same.  Be are sure to honor our Flag, to sing our National Anthem and to appreciate our Constitutional Freedoms.  We began reciting the American's Creed as well and will do that for four weeks as part of our lesson plan.  From there our day declines quickly. 
I have once again stopped setting up the daily schedule of what lesson will be done at what time.  As time goes on I have discovered that they do best if they get to choose which subject is going to be done next.  I try to set a schedule for them to follow but they are more eager learners when they feel they are given options.

Faith has begun carrying with her multiplication facts and she really enjoys this process.  While we do not do common core, the A Beka Book begins explaining the process of carrying in multiplication much like the common core handles all aspects of the process. Faith looked at the board, her text book and my eyes.  She was lost.  So instead I said, lets try it this way.  We multiplied, carried, multiplied and added.  Her response was classic.  "That is a whole lot easier. My brain was lost the other way and this way is tons faster. Why would we do it the other way?"  I explained that we would not do it that way but it is important to know why you are putting that one above the next digit.  Needless to say, she flew through the rest of her lesson for the day.

Grace's math continues to make progress.  I wish I had some magic fix for her math block. She is doing simple measurement conversations.  Her basic skills are really shaping up nicely as we continue to use them more and more.  I know without a doubt that she would be failing math if she was in the public school system.  I have faced this before with my son.  The ps does not have some magic formula either to help the struggling math learner.  AT least we can keep her at the level she is working and work forward in the process.  The important thing to know is that she is learning. She is not crying. She does not have 2-3 hours of math homework every night.  Her public school counterparts that are in her girl scout troop are really having a hard time with the new math. 

Other core subjects are really coming along great. Faith's language this year is real language arts. She is not too thrilled with it but at least I can make it fun for her.  It seems she never considered reading to be part of language. This past week as we were reading a poem I began to write the poem on the board as she read it.  I was thrilled when she caught on immediately that the poem topic was the Lord.  She did this because she found an upper case letter in the word One and His.  When she saw that she quickly shouted, "its the Lord" and explained to me that she knew it because of the capitalization of the word as it referred to God/Jesus.  I then place the words on the board and she got her first taste of ABABCDCD rhyming patterns in a poetry stanza.  When we were all through she was having fun with it and went on independently to the next poem in the book. No, it was not on the lesson plan but I am not going to stop a learner when they are in full swing.  To her amazement, the lessons she has been learning in her "real language" class helped to better appreciate what she read in
Reading Class. 

So your getting the picture that our classroom time is a huge success lately.  That does not make us busy.  What makes our time fill up is all the living that happens between the learning and during the learning.  I think I will start with Faith.

Faith decided that she did not find gymnastics to be her passion. She enjoyed going to gymnastics and actually did well in the advancement of skills.  She asked to try dance lessons instead. This is not something that Grace is at all interested in doing.  So Faith is not doing ballet/tap/jazz on Monday evening from 5:30-7:00pm.  She is very tired at the end of the session but seems to be excited about it.  That is not to say that she will find her passion in dance but time will tell.

Faith's Brownie Girl Scout Troop on the other hand has resumed their weekly meetings on Tuesday evening. I am the leader for the group so that means that I am managing Faith's evening activities twice per week.

As we move onto Grace's activities it was clear that gymnastics is not her thing at all.  Her skill was slower to develop but she did progress.  It was not a confidence builder for her and never seemed to be something to fill her with much joy.  She enjoyed going and getting out but I think she liked the time with me more than the class.  She asked to stop before the last session was even over.  I must say, she gave it a try but not her cup of tea.  Perhaps the fact that the girls there were so much younger than her had a hand in that.  She got started later than most.  So I have been trying to line up a person to work with her and horses.  Nothing is set in stone yet but I do have a local person who has stated they are willing to provide lessons regarding riding and care of the horse.  (no, I have no plans to get a horse)

Grace did manage to get a new piano teacher that was available and closer to home than the one we had before. She has sparked a renewed flame in Grace to achieve in the piano.  The best part is that the teacher is on the way to ballet and had openings on Mondays. 

So just what does our week look like right now?  OK here it goes:
Monday: The day begin with tending to the farm animals and gathering eggs. Lessons in all subjects in the classroom.  Done with a sluggish start as I have just  worked the weekend.  Our Kitchen Table Monday projects are really thrown out the window or we would never get any subject lesson progress.  We prepare an afternoon snack and hit the road for 4:30 piano and 5:30 dance.  During dance Grace and I go to the library two blocks down and Grace gets to experience a HUGE library compared to our own.  Return the children home to their mother very hungry by 7:30pm

Tuesday:  Farm animals.  Archery team lesson/practice from 10-12 but it takes 35 minutes to get there and I am the coach so it takes 30 minutes to set up the archery range.  Lunch out together.  Return to home where we can work on our archeological digs or our "thinking out of the box" sort of projects we use to do on Monday.  Meal preparation together and thus working on some domestic issue along with some practical math.  The day is not over until Girl Scouts are over. We meet at the library so Grace comes along as she is a regular at our library and can always find something to do.  Following the Girl Scout meeting the girls are returned home about 8pm.

Wednesday: This is our no nonsense class day. We get tons of lessons completed. The girls know that if they want to do archery and the cooperative that they must do more than one lesson per day.  On Wednesday they tend to really be eager learners.  Of course they must first tend to the animals.  I manage to always find a way to keep the day more interesting than doubled up lessons.  ON this night the girls are staying the night with me.  The next day is the Cooperative and enrichment classes.  (I think this probably needs to change but when they are at home then the whole process of getting ready get complicated somehow)--besides I like to have the spend the night at least once per week.
On Wednesday evenings Grace has her Girl Scout Troop meetings but Kelley is the leader for that troop and I get some time with Faith while Grace is gone.  When Matt works I will have Owen with me as well.

Thursday:  Early to rise, eat a meal, pack the car, pack a lunch, and feed the animals before we leave. Owen arrives and by 0800 we are on the road again. This time traveling 45 minutes to our gathering place.  We are there until around 3:30pm.  We have 1 hour for lunch that can be experienced in a picnic at the park down the road. Each child has three classes and one PE period that they participate in for the day.  I have four class hours that I teach, leaving me free for one hour without teaching.  We get a snack on the way home and by 4:30 the children are delivered to their mother again.

Friday:  Kiddos arrive whenever they get here. Flexible but all subjects are again accomplished.  There are several times that we have field trip opportunities arise on a Friday.  I am trying to avoid committing to all of them or we would never get core subject matter completed. 

Well, that is a snap shot of the week with the kiddos. Kelley is in the classroom a large part of the time as well but not all day every week.  I still work on the weekends but that has nothing to do with the education of grandchildren. 

Keep in mind that this is all flexible.  For instance, the sunrise lesson does not fit the plan that has been listed above at all. Neither do the Powell Symphony Hall trips or the glass blowing trips that we are doing.  They are not weekly but they manage to fit into this plan somehow. 

I must end this post somewhere along the line so I guess this will be the end point. I have so much to say about Grace's animation class and Faith's chess club but find it is just too long and boring to go on.  The post has lost its flare.  SO TTFN.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Catching up #3. Our dig has begun

Finally I get to the point that our own archeological dig has begun.  I know I know I have you on your seats waiting.  If you have not read post #1 and #2 then be sure to scroll past this and get caught up with the process. 

We have about six acres, live in a log kit home that is about thirty-five years olds.  It is not one of those fancy log houses. I tend to chuckle that I live in a cabin so dusty floors are only natural.  There is a space to the south of me that is large open space and I call it the pasture.  There was a fence before we moved here as well and the prior owners had horses.  Long ago I met a man in a nursing home who was telling me about his hog farm when he was a younger man.  He did not know where I lived and we came to understand that this space was part of his holding.  Much of the surrounding area has been river edge fishing cabins and in the roaring times there was a honky-tonk down here that was only accessible via the Kaskaskia River.  I thought we would find a something of interest but had no idea just how quickly we would hit pay dirt.

We did not use some scientific method to choose our area to dig. It was merely determined by the geographical location of the property.  I knew we could not dig in the back half or we would be bothered by the donkeys the entire time.  If I wanted the blessing of my husband it would require not being part of his yard that he enjoys.  I picked a spot to the far south of the front pasture and away from groves of trees so I did not hit tons of roots.  I chose a spot that is near a peach tree that struggled and finally died.
I went to great lengths to let the children know that it would be weeks before we find something, if we ever did.  Then, suddenly, only a few moments into the process we hit a rock.  Not some small rock but we were pulling up rocks quickly that were small and white.  They reminded me of landscaping rocks. Not sure why but the large rock was gently cleared away.  We kept going as they got all excited and below that rock was another rock. Wait!  It is not a rock. It is a stone and they belong together. The area next to the stone will not dig away. We head to the left of the first stone instead of the one that it was stacked upon and decide that there is another stone there and the dirt that will not dig between them is not dirt but some form of mortar.  We brush away the dirt from the bottom stone and see that is has been manipulated to have a grove of some sort. 

You see in this photo the stones as we begin to uncover them.


As if that was not exciting enough we also found treasures within the dirt.  At Cahokia Mounds the girls learned to look at the dirt. Observe for color changes that might indicate something other than dirt had been there.  The watched for color changes in the soil. 

While we did find one really cool thing to be revealed tomorrow when I can get the photo uploaded that is a cool archeological find we also found a colony of some sort.  There were various stages in the larvae stage.  We then found an adult beetle.  "COOL!"  Better than that. As they tore into the dirt that they dug up gently they also found it in a pupae stage.  This photo is from that find as well.  This dig is not just about finding the history of our soil but we explored the layers of soil and live we found within it.  Science along with history makes homeschooling extra spectacular. 

Here is the photo of our insect stages.

 The best part of this day was that we shared it with some new, old friends.  A new homeschooler was six days into the process. She was a girl in my Girl Scout Troop as a child and now has three of her own children.  I met her kiddos and they all played together and got to know each other.  We will continue this dig as the months go on. 

I never did get to the Bird Man Tablet today. Guess it will wait for our great find within the clay on the next entry.-

Monday, August 18, 2014

Catching up #2

Let me first say that I certainly attempted to get back on to work on the blog entry. I struggled a bit to get this silly blogger to upload my files.  I do not make my entries via my goggle+. I don't really head to the main page for that part of goggle either.  It seems that the only way to get the photos to load from my current storage to this blog is to sync more of my computer to the web itself.  It seems I am forced more and more into this automated system of collaborating programs to get what I want done. I fear one day, my dell wake up and be found sitting in this spot, demanding that I actually dust it out.

Back to our trip to Cahokia Mounds and the experience the archeological dig in our pasture:

Let me first share this photo with you.  It is of Grace and Faith with a 250 cake.  This is the 250 birthday of St. Louis and in commemoration there are 250 birthday cakes that are placed throughout the region, yes even in Illinois.  The cakes are made to represent a "point" of significance for STL. 
It goes unsaid to realize that Cahokia Mounds is indeed a significant point.  I am a bit saddened by the fact that they did not place one near some of the sites not far from here.  They went some wide distance but did little to acknowledge that without Kaskaskia, Illinois and the French forts, STL would not even have existed.  With that said here is the picture.

I have learned that it often takes a spark from another to kindle the fire. That is the case with the choice to do our own dig.  During our experience at Cahokia Mounds we participated in a FREE docent lead tour. It takes about one hour to take the tour. You walk some, stop and chat some, then move on to the next leg of the tour.  There was an elderly man that lead our tour.  I would like to say that the girls were perfect, attentive students that I was proud of but the fact of the matter is that they were children who find interest in the bugs and stones that they see more than what the man is talking about.  Well, that is at least what it looked like. UNTIL we began our journey home and the two start talking about the tour.  It was this elderly man, whom I am certain felt underappreciated at the moment that kindled their fire to know more not only about the Mississippian culture but about the process of archeology.  It was his words that helped them to find more interest in the displays within the building itself.  Had we not attended the tour then the experience at the top of Monk Mound would have been much different. 

Grace stood at the top of Monks Mound and looked out to find the structures he had spoken about to us.  I know he thought that she did not hear a word that he said but it was clear she had.  I of course know that Grace and spin on her toes and listen at the same time but the general public expects students who are use to sitting in a desk all day and afraid to fart.  So that brings me to the next part of our picture display.  He taught them about the Bird Man Tablet, about Woodhenge, and the chief that was buried at Mound 72.

Here are some photos to share with you from that follow up experience.  Stay tuned for the next posting as we go further into our own archeological dig experience.

Stock photo of Woodhenge from the Mounds web site

Faith asked me to dance around the pole at Woodhenge. This is the center pole. We danced together then I captured this fabulous photo of the experience.

Nearing the end of our day we are finally going to climb Monks Mound.  The girls stopped along the way to recall the information that our guide had shared.  Grace recalling a fact about how it got its name and Faith recalling why the first platform of the mound is higher on the left than the right.

This was the view that day of St. Louis.  It was a yellow air quality day in the city.

The girls drew their own versions of the Bird Man Tablet in the dust of the rock path on top of the mound.  They chuckled that perhaps somebody will think an Indian place it there. 

So there you have it.  More on the Bird Man Tablet and our own site very soon.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Catching up post #1

It has been forever since I made a post to the blog.  Not that I have not begun an entry.  I have been so darn busy that by the time I begin to type and think about what I want to post, I begin to let my eyes close and cannot complete an intelligent comment.

Knowing that there are only a few who read my blog I have used that as an ongoing excuse to stop.  Well, now our friend who live far away is not able to have much contact with us without the blog.  So read it if you want but don't expect a lot from me.  I will try to keep it interesting but most of all I want JR to get information and share some great school photos.

I cannot possible go back very far but think I may start with the most recent while it is fresh and then if I manage to catch up going backwards then great.  I do expect more happening as well since we begin our fifth year homeschooling.

This past week has been rather interesting.  We decided to do an archeological dig in our pasture.  This all came about at the request of Faith.  We experienced a wonderful day at Cahokia Mounds.  It has been several years since we had gone there.  The girls enjoyed it much more than I had anticipated.  They of course are older and more involved with their own education but we did the whole day there.  At the end of the day they both told me how much they enjoyed it.  Faith let me know that this was the best history field trip we have ever had. 

Faith went on to explain how wonderful it is that we were able to see "real" artifacts that "real" people handled in their every day life.  I have to agree with her.  Such an opportunity that is so close to home is wonderful.  Cahokia Mounds is considered a World Heritage Site which puts its amazing contribution like that of the Great Pyramids.  Thus came her request to dig up our yard. 

Before I share with you our archeological dig let me share some of our trip to Cahokia Mounds.
We began by watching the movie.  I will post more later as I seem to be having problems getting picture to upload without closing this site.  I promise to finish it within 24 hours.

Now that you watched the video, imagine if you will, that as the movie ends the screen raises and it reveals the inner museum display of daily life of the inhabitants of this city. It is really a wonderful experience.  You then exit to the display and take your time to go to each exhibit.  I am so pleased to see the girls taking the time to explore these displays and not just pass by them.  To me, it is a way to give respect to all the ancestors of this earth.  To actually stop, read, touch and ask. 

If you can ever get to this location I do suggest that you visit the Mounds.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It has been more than a month since I blogged

I do not have any grand excuse other than to say that we have been busy, busy, busy.  It seems that once I get one thing accomplished, another something comes along.  So let me try to recall what we have been up to in the past six weeks.

Going from the most recent event would be the fact that we just spent on week attending Girl Scout Day Camp with the Southern Illinois Council.  There are several day camp opportunities but I have come to enjoy the one held by service unit 211 out of Waterloo, Illinois.  They conduct their camp within the beautiful grounds of Camp Vandeventer, which is owned by the Boy Scouts.  The theme of camp was Surf's Up and the girls worked on a patch that they can only get from the GS Council of Hawaii.  They are looking forward to the delivery of the patch.  Grace also walked the Eagle Trail Challenge again.  It is at this camp that one can earn that patch and no place else. This was her second year so she got a feather for her repeat of the trail.  I volunteer for the week of camp and this year it was very different for me. This year I was the camp nurse.  I missed out on tons of fun that was being experienced by the girls.  I had a girl in sick bay when the girls did their big hula dance display as well.  Not so sure I liked that part but it was a much easier week for me than walking miles and miles each day in the heat.  Although I had an AC in the building, I set out in the warmth along with the girls and reclined in my chair most of the time.  I took time to do some lesson planning for the cooperative classes I will teach this fall.

I would like to say that we are finished with school but honestly we are not.  We have gone to a M-W-F schedule for the summer but I have tons to do with them yet.  My planning of time next year is based on what I learned this year.  The previous years we did not have this issue.  Truth be told, year round math is a must for Grace anyway.

So let me think, think, think.... ( I love Winnie the Pooh).  What did we do before camp and what is around the corner?  Well it is hard to say as we are always doing something and I love having the opportunity to have the children with me.  Next week will be VBS all week in the morning.  The library reading program has begun on Thursday afternoons and the girls have been at the library several times per week. 
Tons of spot thunderstorms keep limiting some of what we accomplish is the day.  The pool is open and not being used as much as it should be.  My great nephew is in town and I got to have him here for a night. They were in the pool by 10 am.  That was a good day.  Unfortunately, it was also the day the Grace has piano lessons and the girls have gymnastics. So the afternoon was not much fun for him.  He also does not tolerate the heat well. 

The archery team is making progress.  We just need to get some funding to help make some purchases.  I plan to have archery every Tuesday morning, Co-op will be all day Thursday so you can see why I have to do creative planning for the next school year.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Always Organizing Something

The Homeschool Cooperative, the hen house, the lessons, the kitchen cabinets, the bookshelves, the entire schoolhouse, the closet, my drawers, the toys, the linen closet, the laundry room, and the space under the bathroom sink.  That is my list of constant reorganization projects.  Mind you, I do not like to feel organized.  I actually thrive better on the spur of the moment snapshots in life. My house in general is so disorganized that it is always in need of a good cleaning.  Still, I find that I do indeed spend too much of my time getting things in order. 

The kitchen seemed to implode and so I began to tackle it.  I looked at it for days.  I kept the dishes going in and out of the dishwasher but did little with the rest of the disaster.  The time came that is had to be tackled.  I could have just cleaned it up but instead I ended up emptying the cabinets and decided they needed a scrubbing (not done in years) and reorganized everything that I have on the shelves. I even have great plans in the next several days to move the plastic storage containers to a new area of the kitchen.  One that will not have it all fall on my head when I open the cabinet. 

My role with the cooperative group is "class coordinator".  I have been encouraging people to think ahead for the fall since the second day of spring semester.  I know that time will pass quickly and the classes will need to be approved, assigned a class hour, assigned a room and hope that it will flow well for the children who will go from room to room.  Yesterday the coordinator group met for four hours to adjust some of this year's plans.  When seven people sit at a table, mostly strangers, on a July afternoon and conceive an idea, somebody should stop them.  As it turned out the cooperative group was unbelievable, especially for the first year.  Now we face a little growing pains and have had to make some pretty business like choices to assure it's success.  I am thrilled with the results and envision great things in the fall.  Yet, it was another case of reorganization that had to take place.

Let us not forget the horrible part of the house that I call "break your back alley".  It is the narrow opening to the area under the bathroom sink.  Items tend to dance around in there at night and so it is a never ending project so that when somebody needs to reach under the sink they do not have to call for me to be present.  They can find what they need without me. 

The schoolhouse is the part that surprises me.  As we try to set it up to be efficient I also want it to feel warm and inviting.  It was OK but not really set up the way I liked it.  Then a wonderful thing happened in the room.  The two girl rabbits had babies.  I guess somebody made an error.  I had noticed for several months that we seemed to always having to clean around their pen much more. That areas of something spraying looked possible.  Needless to say I have found a new spacious home for the rabbits.  They now live in the hen house.  They seem to love it there.  I do not like rabbit hutches unless you are raising the rabbits as a source of food. 

As it turns out the two year old also tends to hit and run.  When Kelley drops off the girls he will play.  He will pull out items.  He will explore them.  He will not pick them up and Kelley is out the door while we are faced with a mess.  Combine the rabbit issue with the Owen issue then surround it with the final weeks of cooperative classes and teaching Grace and Faith.  It becomes a room that is impassable.  It no longer is conducive to a positive learning environment. 

Remember however that I really did not like the room set up as much as I had expected.  So, all items. YES all items were removed from the schoolhouse today and set on the deck.  I cleaned the wall that had be soiled by the male rabbit and I had to clean a carpet that had also been victim to the incorrect gender identification.  Then in it came.  First to go were the bean bags that I had in the reading corner.  Turns out it was not as comfy as I had expected and the bags were very cheap items purchased at Big Lots store.  Desk no longer angled to the girl's design but place directly in front of their large white board.  Then I took the Melissa and Doug easel that I have and put it in the reading corner. I made an area that will better fit Owen for the brief time he is in the schoolhouse.  The easel will be his white board for a while.  Until now, it has been a primary items used for each girl for four years.  I moved the display table. I moved my table. I moved the printer and organized the bookshelves. 

I kid you not, I never have cleaning energy.  Today it became one of those moments that something had to be done so lets start at the beginning.  As my husband came home tonight he checked in on us.  He really liked the new layout as well. Most of all he liked the mess to be gone.  I forgot to mention that after the rabbit issue I got new chicks.  They were in their tub and doing well until spent two days at work.  Upon my arrival home I found that they were now able to jump from their bin.  Just another, not so pretty sight.

So here it is:  The reorganized schoolhouse.  After today I hope that the reorganization comes to an end for a while.  I have tons of things that have been building as we tried to juggle everything the past three months.  OH YES.... that is another item I now need to reorganize.  We must adjust our activities.  OK you know that will not happen. Perhaps we can reorganize what we do with the rest of the day when all the craziness is done.  So here is the schoolhouse as it looks tonight.  You many notice a large structure with exhaust tubes.  I am getting ready to set up the air conditioner.

Now, if you look close out the door you will notice the large trash can.  Believe it or not, only one small trash bag came out of the room but I was prepared.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother's Day Craft

I so rarely do crafts.  Art projects are the one part of our classroom that is left to their mother to teach. This year we did a project with paint and feet.  Each one is on a canvas and marked with their initial.  Each child got to choose the colors they wanted on their butterfly (feet). 

I think it turned out nice but glad I do not manage the art projects on a routine basis.

Feeling Successful

This has been a week of great accomplishments.  Math is no longer Grace's enemy.  Faith overcame a fear and finding pleasure in bike riding. Owen taking traits of the big kids.

Now that math is not feared we are moving forward. She is not fast but she is accurate. She is not crying but feeling great success in her ability to do long division without a single verbal cue. 

Faith has been afraid to ride a bike but managed to do it well enough the moment I sent her on her way that she kept at it all afternoon. She can now get the bike started and go a good distance before leaning it over. Her falls are controlled.  All she needs to do now it to hold her head up and guide it better.  Grace is excited in this accomplishment, she will have somebody to ride along with her.

Owen is acting more like the bigger kids. When Faith was working on the bike her figured out how to make the tricycle go forward.  He is quick to tell his mother to go and plans to be with me instead. However, he is still too disruptive to be left with me when teaching. 

Plans for the morning will include making a gift for their mother.  Continuation of our lessons plans is mandatory.  I do not want to conduct formal lessons all summer but will do math all summer long or Grace would need to restart. She seems to be OK with this idea.  Grace has begun an online computer programming class too.  She is doing well and enjoys very much.

I know this post lacks a humorous flare but I can't be cute all of the time.

On a personal note, this evening I ate dinner with my mother and my sister.  I would like to say that I enjoyed it very much but truth be told it would have been a better night had I just spent it with my big sister.  I am not sure what makes a person get old and become a complainer.  Being a nurse I meet tons of geriatrics. I know crabby does not come with age due to my extensive interaction with the elderly.  I also know that a fair amount of people become chronic complainers.  I tried a new food and enjoyed it. Nothing about the meal was right for my mother.  My sister tried really hard to encourage mom to indulge in the experience.  It was her treat.  She was even thoughtful, giving me a card and flower in recognition of Nurse's Week.  I find that people do not understand my big sister very well.  I wish they could see her heart the way I do. 

On  final note, my oldest grandson turned 15 years old this week.  Hard to imagine.  He is a good kid, gentle natured, faithful and a great student.  I hope he stays on course.

Friday, May 2, 2014

How I Keep Learning Positive

It is that time of year again.  The typical school year winds down and people begin to investigate the possibility of homeschooling their children in the upcoming year.  As they begin to seek information I am sure they are experiencing the same thing that Kelley and I discovered. 

Tons of articles that compare scores of homeschooled children to those in public schools. Articles about institutes of higher learning that are beginning to seek the homeschooled student.  Finally, they are reading pro-homeschooling articles about the age old argument about socialization.   We are ending our fourth year so of course I have come to some conclusions myself about these issues and others.  Oddly, there are tons of methods to learn but in all of the methods I have not seen any reference to the need to keep the atmosphere positive.  It has to be positive all of the time. 

Even the best Charlotte Mason style blogs don't address the importance of positive attitude while teaching.  I try to tell new moms that they need be on stage during lesson times. It is important that teacher at home performs at the level of perfection that they expect from a public school teacher.  I expect a teacher to smile all the time. I expect a teacher to hand out compliments every day to every child. I expect a teacher to establish an environment in which a child wants to achieve to their best ability. I expect a teacher to meet each and every child's specific need and accommodate to their learning style without the need for IEP paperwork.  I expect a teacher to be like Mary Poppins.

So when I enter our learning environment I feel like breaking out in a song about flying kites and a spoonful of sugar. (OK that is a bit much) Not only does it foster a relaxed lesson time, it also tends to separate me from my roll as their grandmother.  I am not the kind of grandmother that says yes to everything.  Particularly because I am with them so much, it is important to instill discipline and not undermine the efforts of my daughter and her husband. Therefore, I have a stage and a performance.

If you happen to come across this blog in your search about how to homeschool, let me encourage you to be Mary Poppins.  You child deserves the best experience you can give them.  They deserve to have you perform each and every day.  You expect this in your public school teacher.  Why shouldn't you expect it of yourself? 

Everybody has a bad day. I have discovered that when I cannot be positive that it is best that I do not attempt to do much teaching. Not that we do not still have school.  I will give them a little seatwork to complete and then find other activities to accomplish. Some days that means tending to the barn or the house.  It may mean an impromptu field trip. Even a trip to the grocery store where we can plan meals and manage a budget.  I just hate to introduce information about math, history or language in our curriculum when I am clearly not able to keep in character. 

The result to this approach has been amazing. Some days it is initially difficult to get the kiddos on track. They tend to dream of flying kites and jumping chimney tops. Today I had to tell them I was serious. They looked at my face and were not so convinced but as I began writing on the boards they knew it was time to settle in and begin the day. 

I encourage those who seek information about homeschooling to avoid the fancy articles about how much smarter your children will become. It simply still depends on the effort from you and from them.  Do not worry about how you are going to socialize them.  Unless you are living under a rock they will interact with a wide variety of people in their years and as they age they will learn how to effectively socialize with a diverse group.  AVOID the traps about how perfect homeschooling is and remember that it is only as perfect as you make it.  So in conclusion try to be practically perfect in every way.  Of course you will not succeed every day but if that is your goal then you cannot fail.  If you can keep up the performance during lessons then you will encourage a love for learning, a positive approach to the difficult situations in their lives. 


Hopes for Deep Understanding and Solid Foundation

The title of today's posting refers to the type of adults that I hope the grandchildren can achieve.  Today I see  another person make a comment on Facebook about how devastated their child is for missing the red moon.  I have seen this same person tell me about the Kleenex box that they have next to them as they watch the final show called the "Bachelor".  Let me be clear.  Grace and Faith have participated in the birth of kittens, puppies and foals.  Without understanding the how, they know that to get chicks you must have a rooster in the hen house.

Why would a person who shelters their child in a protective homeschool world permit them to watch such a show?  How do we come to let reality television become so real to us that we cry together if they do not choose the one we want or to cry in joy if they do choose the one we want?  So the same child attends a group activity and discovers that there was a special lunar event that others saw and she did not.  The mother actually post how this child cried all the way home.  Oh my gosh, how superficial can we become?  I simply would not have permitted such conduct, even thougth I am a grandmother.  Fortunately, I have not seen these traits in my grandchildren.

That is not to say that they do not have wants in life. They are children.  They have wants. I also know that they have be taught and reinforced not to covet thy neighbor.  Part of what we teach as a homeschool involve Biblical principles.  That means translating to the young children what is meant by the laws laid down to us by God.   Teaching commandments does not mean memorizing them but learning how to put them to your own life now.  As we grow we come to apply those lessons differently. NEVER in a million years would I post something that would so clearly demonstrate the shallowness of a moment.  I believe those moments are best kept within a private moment and used for better education and preparation of the future.

Oh my goodness, that sure sounds judgmental but the intent is to simply state that when we choose to homeschool then we are choosing a life that is generally outside of the norm.  Today as Grace went outside she had pulled her hair up in a ponytail and proudly announced, "We country girls don't require fancy styles."  I am not afraid that they are not comfortable with their body image.

Finally, let me say that Grace has experienced an bad outbreak of her eczema.  People will ask about it and draw attention to it.  She tells them what the rash is.  One would that that would be the end of it but generally it is not.  The worst offenders are adults.  I cannot imagine what to expect from the children of this generation when the parents are so poorly equipped to handle themselves with some level of etiquette.

IT is my hope that the girls discover a deeper understanding of things in this world and with a solid education of God's laws they have a solid foundation for their lives as adults and perhaps a parent some day.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Just a quick WHATS UP

The end of co-op semester has come and gone.  The joy the girls feel on co-op day is wonderful.  I know most kids are ready for school to end but co-op days, while educational, are very enjoyable.

Grace's classes were advanced sign language, piano, lego machines and Narnia. Each class had great educational value offered in a relaxed environment.

Faith's classes were Art around the World, American Girl, Jr. Math lab and French II.  I know they will miss our Thursday classes but it does give me another day to get us up to date with current status.  I do not imagine we will see an official summer break. 

We just have too much left to do.  This week the girls will have their last class at the St. Louis Zoo.   I get the feel that I need to hunker down and get very serious about getting the year done.  Then as soon as I let myself think those thoughts then I remember what my goal is about.  Outcomes are important and to have the outcomes I shoot for then I know need to keep our lessons fun and focused.
Other plans for the week will include decoupage of Easter eggs. I am not very good at adding in craft and arts but this will be fun.

Next week they have a field trip to the Riverlands area for a water sampling class conducted by the Corps of Engineers.  Their programs there are always first rate.

I almost forgot to mention that the girl completed their geography fair projects and presentations. I was so proud of them.

Nothing exciting to post or talk about and trying to do it on this laptop is awkward for me.
May your days be as blessed as mine are.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Trying to Keep UP

I am certain that there is no way that this aging woman can keep up with the energy and actions of children under the age of ten. I am sure I cannot even keep up with a person under the age of twenty-five if truth be told.  My wheels seem to be in motion all of the time. My mind is forever racing to think of new ways to make a subject interesting and my body is in motion to physically keep up. 

Today we anticipated more about our group weather class but nobody came.  The fact that I was under the weather a bit last week is likely to contributed to that.  I would have had pictures to post with the creation of anemometers and weather vanes, not to mention some cool experiments to show how cold air and warm air create a current of wind. So what did we do today instead?  FINISHED!  That is right, we finished our geography fair displays and speeches. 

Grace created a scorpion out of her Legos for part of her Brazil display. They each practiced their spoken portion of the display to be sure it was not too long.  Seems that last year the girls did an extensive display. This year, as they are getting more and more homeschoolers interested, there is a time limit. 

One more stop at the Dollar Store after gymnastics today so that Grace can title one more area on her board.  I checked the body count and apparently there will be 51 people attending the fair.  Girls are making a dish to share with them.  Faith will make Chinese Cole Slaw and Grace will make cornbread pudding.  hmm.... wonder if I can get their mom to make the grocery run for this?  I just run out of time every day.  I do think I need the perfect twin.  Now that the world revolves so much more on a 24 hour schedule.  Imagine what you could get done if you could double yourself just two days per week.

Next post should have pictures of the projects so far.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Getting the Week Started

I have once again worked my weekend shifts and very tired. Yet, I know that class must go on in the morning.  Our routine of KTM has changed much now that we have our own school house.  It seems that the organization of our own learning environment has a way of promoting some rest on my end.  We are leaving it clean and ready every Friday.  All we have to do is step into the room and move forward with lessons.
I still use most Mondays for special projects though. The girls have finished a story and art project about the underground railroad. Both really enjoyed it.  We also watched the old Cecile Tyson movie about Harriet Tubman.
Come tomorrow we will do work for our geography fair projects. Faith has accomplished more than Grace. She has been practicing writing her numbers in Chinese and learning about the general location of China. It always amazes me to see what we do accomplish on a Monday since I tend to fly by the seat of my pants.  God always puts something in my lap and we enjoy it tremendously.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Our One Room Schoolhouse

BTW while my posting ability was halted due to google constraints and the loss of my wonderful template and background, we finished our lesson room.  Actually it is a building that is separated from the house but connected by the decks.  Here are a few pictures.

The green walls are chalkboard paint.  I thought I would like it and I will use it for things but I want a couple large white boards badly.

It is about a 20x30 space.  Hard to notice but on top of the one book case is a smartTV, we got a new laptop and a wireless printer.  The nook area is not well defined in the photos but it contains another book case for children items and the one with the tv on the top has a dvd/vhs player and teaching supplies. 

The girls really like having their own space.  They got to decide how they wanted to place their desk and organize their items.

WE have lots of natural sun light. The last one is the teacher desk which seems to double as a cookie base for girl scouts right now.

This is just a small representation of the draws they keep their subjects in. One side is for the student book and the other is for the teacher keys.  With the proper training they know to get my items ready for a lesson when they gather their own.  Working well and they often grade their work which I feels promotes accountability, honesty and a quick look at why they got it wrong.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stay the Course

I feel like a ship navigating the seas. I remind myself that I must stay on course. I begin the week with a plan that has been very carefully thought out and placed in a nice neat format called A Beka Curriculum Guide.  All that is required of me is to read the lesson plans, copy the material on the board and tell about it. 

Stay the course, I think to myself. Today I will cover all subjects exactly the way it is designed. I will use all of my visual aides that go with the program. I will be sure to get it set up the night before so that I look like I have it all together. I will not fumble around and look for things. The room will begin neat, clean and organized every Monday morning. Yes indeed, this week I will stay the course.
So I wake on Monday and discover that my body is not use to some crazy time shift. I am not yet recovered from working my weekend shifts in the ICU. I will wake. I will go to the room and be sure it is all neat, clean and organized. I will gather the material that will be needed and set my sail to the wind. I plan to hold tight to the wheel and stay the course.

Then the telephone rings. "Good morning mom" she says. "he left for work and did not move the car seat to my van".  "I am exhausted, my feet are aching something terrible and I really do not feel like coming to pick up the kids." I say.  "Tell you what" I continue, "the temperature is going to be wonderful today"  I convince her that they will not even be able to concentrate.  See how quickly the tide can change?  The wind blew one way and I let it carry me over that edge.  I wanted to stay the course, I just could not control the tide and the winds that change them.

Suddenly, I have sunk to the level that I am afraid happens far to often some days. Then I see them in a co-op classroom with others their age and feel confident that we are doing very good overall. Sure the public schools had just celebrated their 100 days of school. We will too in 38 more days. We don't have a calendar that tells us what to do, I think to myself. 

Oh no!  I look at the calendar and it tells me that we have homeschool classes at the St. Louis Zoo at 11:30 today. I had just suggested to my daughter that she take the kids out for a walk and get some yard work accomplished as a family. After all, that has educational value as well.  I must call her.

Ring, ring...."you have reached the voicemail..."  Let me try again. Let me try again. 

"What?" she says as she picks up the phone.  "Are they dressed" I ask. "Yes" she replies.  I am elated because as it turns out I can now once again stay the course.  It was planned months ago that school today was not my responsibility.  I have paid for classes to be taught by professional zoologists.  I hop in the ship and head to her house. All would be fine if I was not feeling rushed.  If only, in my charting the course for the week I would have turned over the page on the calendar last week and discovered the plan.  Oh well, I can't bother with that now.  The day was going to be sunny and actually hot, so this is a win-win sort of day.  Again, the winds have shifted the tide but we are back on a course that was plotted out by a much more rationale person than I am now. When I plotted that course the year was fresh and new.

Load in girls, we have to get on the road but wait a moment. Here comes the two year old. He heard the word zoo and put on his foot braces and shoes while I was on the way.  Seems we are now all going to the zoo. 

Arrival is a success with fifteen minutes to spare. That is provided that the rest of the St. Louis area was not out on a spring break and all those crazy parents who took vacation time to spend the week with them have brought them to the zoo.  The presence of my daughter becomes very evident and I use her.  Two hop out of the car while the rest of us head to the south parking lot.  The north lot is full and the parking down the roads make it difficult to navigate the streets of Forrest Park.  Being a zoo member means free parking, trust me, it pays for itself in no time at all.

Educationally speaking we are on course again. The pain in my feet is about to feel like hot, sharp razors slicing through my skin. Being the driver I was left with the car seat child. That child becomes a stroller child as soon as the car door opens.  We make our way toward my daughter and find that they are still waiting for the teacher to gather the children and head to the classroom. 

Next comes the dreaded stop. Well, I say dreaded but it was a promised stop months ago. This is the month that Grace was promised she could go to the Build-A-Bear in the zoo. She saved up money and even chose to avoid a souvenir at the Disney on Ice show.  Owen wants a flamingo.  Really, does he need a flamingo? He did not count every penny and help clean my house to earn money.  He was a fish tossed onto my ship today when the wave came through. So he gets a pink flamingo but no clothes or other items. Thankfully he is not into such things.  He loves his flamingo so much. Names it FeeFee and later that night sleep with him.

Now that we have accomplished this I must eat.  I did not have anything and I feel like I could pass out.  Another wave comes over my ship and we realize that the hundreds of people at the zoo will also be hungry and thirsty. Normally there are plenty of venues to accommodate such a crowd. That of course is provided that it is after freeze time zone. The calendar on the wall says that things are still locked up and the pipes have been winterized. 

A short time passes and it is time for Faith to get out of class. We have one hour to wait before Grace's class will start. Glass cuts into my feet.  My back muscles begin to weaken and I am stooping over in my steps. Faith will need to get a snack as well, so I can stop and sit.

I must have let go of the wheel because havoc breaks out. Grace dropped her hippo into the prairie dog  area.  I grab a child by the ankles and hung them upside down. I do not plan to drop the sails yet, there is still wind a blowin'.  Crisis averted. 

Fortunately it is time for the next class.  I take a child and leave everybody behind.  Upon my return I discover they have left the area. No problem, with modern technology I will just send her a text and find them.  Modern technology has not yet figured out how to be sure that I have a charged telephone when I leave the house.  Truth be known, I had lost the thing in the car and it was only while we were looking for a parking place that it was found and put on a charger in the first place. 

I turn to these nice city folks and ask if perhaps I can call my daughter, as I show them my dead telephone.  Turns out that I could not find a nice city folk. Being the captain of this voyage I am able to problem solve.  I will go to my car where I can sit and relax. I can charge the telephone and when the class is about over I will drive over to the north lot pick up area. I will send a text to my daughter so she knows the plan. 

In my ship, that we affectionately call Bessie, I make several turns of my rudder and get to the pick up point. I never hear back from my daughter. What in the world? I get a text from a co-op buddy who is with my family and she tells me the cell is dead.  Class is about to be over and they need to know where I am and what the plan is going to be. Text messages back and forth.

First set of children arrive to car. Daughter goes in the building again to gather Grace from class. I find myself at car seat duty again. I teach Faith how to change into her gymnastic clothes in the car, un-noticed.  She is finished and buckled in when the next child arrives. She knows the drill about how to change.

We again catch a good tide that take us back out to sea. I have managed to get back on course several times today. We arrive at gymnastics class with three minutes to spare.

I find it is pushing 6pm.  I am on my way home. The telephone rings.  Honestly, I do not know how he knew I had found my phone but I hear on the other end, "What do you have planned for dinner?" 

HA!  Turns out that I never completed the plan from Friday so I was able to appear as if I had managed to stay on course as a wife too. 

I do think there is a moral to this very true story and turn of events. Let me begin with the fact that I know we are not on schedule for the typical school year. This day only goes to show that if you just steady your course from time to time, the wind and tides that will distract and move you in a different direction will also give you an exciting journey as your reach your final destination. We all reach our destination at one point in time. I will not worry about the time, I will be sure to keep us on point and most of all, I will enjoy and endure the journey.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Finally able to read what is typed

I am sorry that this blog has not shown the typed words. Seems some sort of google chrome has messed up my old template. I do not like the one I have but have spent too many hours messing with it for now. But for all those post I tried to make and it did not provide more than the pictures you can now read the words from the past

Monday, January 13, 2014

Todays moments in time.....

Faith is working hard at learning her cursive letters.  Between lines she nibbles her cookie.

Capture another moment with Grace in the reading corner. Her Kindle has several new books. Most recently she is reading  "The Blue Dolphin."

Notice the stress reliever.  She had just finished math and the cat helped her through it.

Friday, January 10, 2014

No Snow Days for Homeschoolers

While the entire Midwest has been locked down with bitter subzero temperatures and locally fifteen inches of snow, we have hunkered down, settled in, and found the joy and beauty hidden in the winter.  Schools are now called off an entire five days. That is of course except for the homeschool crews.
Let me first discuss the irony of the public school being called off.  It turns out that there is a special rule that has not been used in this area for an unknown length of time.  It says that if a school is not able to be in session for five or more days due to an act of God, then the school days do not have to be made up at the end of the year. So God is taken out of our public school except in moments of when an act of God appears.  What do we need to do as a homeschooler.  Technically there is not way that the state can hold me more accountable than the public system. WHAT the heck am I talking about?  I don't report to the state. I just thought it was ironic that they refer to God instead of calling it natural disaster or something.
Our schoolhouse has a beautiful view.  There seems to be a bit of tranquility in a warm room that is surrounded by white snow. The view of the birds at the feeder from the reading nook makes it a bit hard to focus on our reading. SO, what does a homeschooler do with a moment like that?  I took out our bird identification book and we tried to better develop our skills of observation as well as reading about the birds we discover.  I am so happy with the decision to place a carpet in the schoolhouse instead of a wood floor. It really makes it feel more comfortable when we are playing games and doing puzzle work on the floor.
To be totally honest the girls did get some snow days but only because with the -20 temperatures the room was just not warm for two days.  Thank goodness for our electronic devices that have a variety of books and flash card games to keep them in the groove just a bit.
We are gearing up for another semester with the new co-op.  This next semester Grace will be having private piano lessons, advanced sign language, legos machines and a Narnia class.  She will also participate in an extracurricular service project called Libraries for Africa.  I know this is important but am a bit concerned about the fact that the items sent will not be received by those it is intended for.  I know this as my husband works with a senator in some water projects in Africa.  They have found it is best to take items directly to those who need it.  Still, she is not aware of this and I will not burst her bubble.  Reading is important to her and she cannot imagine a child being without a book to find comfort.  Then again, she does not know hunger, thirst and suffering.  I am not sure that a book can give comfort amidst the other issues. 
Faith will be taking an Art around the World class, American Girl (Felicity), French II, and Math Lab.  She was not too fond of the AMG class but I was not too fond of another semester of French. We compromised. 
I am only teaching two classes and of course volunteering throughout the day.  First hour it will be my job to man the sign in desk.  I will teach a Jr. Math Lab and GYM class then volunteer as the second adult in the Math Lab class.  I hope that goes well since Faith is in that class.  She seems to be happy about it.  The next semester is only four weeks away. 
We continue to use 100% self directed ABeka curriculum.  I have not complaints about the program.  I am amazed at the number of people who do not seem to understand the program.  There is a support page and some of the questions baffle me.  I am not sure that people have taken the time to really delve into their curriculum so that they could see how well it all fits together and what to do.  I mean, there are questions about how to handle it when you are teaching multiple levels.  I try to be open minded.  I believe that each family will have their own style and that we all will have our similarities. Still, some of the questions that I see from others cause me to think about if homeschooling is the right choice.  First, and foremost, the adult needs to be on a learning curve all the time and able to determine the intend of a lesson plan and creative enough to make it fit their school's needs.   Some questions are so basic that I wonder how they ever thought they could do this.
To me the first step is to learn about the laws of your state. Two days ago somebody asked about how to test their first grader for the year but had not clue if their state required it.  HOW in the world does a person seek support online but not know to search homeschool laws?  I mean, HSLDA has it available regardless if a person is a member or not.  Then each state has a section about it online as well.  I want to support homeschool freedom for all but some days I wonder.  Then again, there will those who will likely think or feel the same about me and so I return to the old adage that you cannot judge a person or know how to walk in their shoes.  When I read a post that even causes me to create thoughts of doubt I turn to the Lord to guide me away.  I do understand how others do not "get it" when they hear that I homeschool some of my grandchildren.
It seems that it is getting late and I need to do some school before the girls are ready for a nap. Some days I find meals blend in to each other.  Today is one of those days, thank goodness that brunch is pizza leftovers.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Where Have I Been

I have not made a post for months.  We have gotten so busy that there was simply no time for me to get here.  I could have made time of course but something else would have been put on the backburner instead.  The classroom, better referred to as the one room schoolhouse has been completed.  It has a new computer, a smart TV, a microscope, new desks, new book carts, new bean bag chairs, a workbox system and learning games/manipulates. Seems the TV is smarter than I am but I have great hopes for future use.  I will make a post and get some pictures up very soon. 

For now, I just thought I would make mention of what is going on and get started again in keeping up the homeschooling blog.

More to come later, Happy New Year.