Sunday, August 30, 2009

School is in session

It's the end of August already... The new 2009/10 school year officially started last week for the public schools and for us as well. We got off to a rough start with some interruptions on Monday, but we managed to salvage the week by beginning on Tuesday instead. Overall, our first week went very well! The kids willingly, even eagerly, jumped into their studies without any resistance or complaining. The time spent last month in planning our lessons has been worth the effort, affording us a clear direction for this year and an easier start. Also, I think that our new approach to discipline and communication has helped make an enormous difference in all of our attitudes and behaviours and is a definite contributor to our positive start for school. My discovery came at a class at the UHEA conference this past June called "Teaching Self Government". I have been slowly implementing the techniques I have learned over the summer and it really is working! You can find out more about it here - I am very thankful to have found these parenting techniques. My sanity has been spared! :)
Regardless, we are all grateful to get back on a normal, and less hurried schedule. Fall is already in the air and we are seeing the first few trees displaying their autumn colors. The night air is bringing in an early chill, and we all seem to be getting ready to hunker down for another long winter. The garden has not withstood the cold snaps that have been moving through, with our corn, cucumber, and pumpkin plants all falling victim to a summer cut short. The cold weather crops are fairing much better, but I suspect they will require an early harvest. Such is life in the mountains... Sigh...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

MidSummer already! Getting ready for a new HS year...

Here we are, enjoying the fantastic mountain summer at last. It's weather like this that makes mountain living worthwhile. Summer got off to a slow start with most of June being plummeted with LOTS of rain, but alas summer finally arrived. The garden is now beginning to grow, and I am beginning to see that cold weather crops are necessary for a successful harvest up here since the growing season is quite short. We do however have a very nice bunch of potted tomato plants growing on our sunniest deck. I'll move them indoors in Fall, so we will actually get a pretty good tomato harvest this year. Out in the garden we have two variations of kohlrabi, beets, carrots, pumpkin, snap peas, asparagus, and we did have some cucumbers, but something ate them. Oh well. In pots we have one cabbage plant, potatoes, chard, spinach (which mostly drowned in June), radishes, and the previously mentioned tomatoes. The kids loved turning the soil, planting the seeds, and are thrilled to see how things are starting to grow. The radishes are mostly harvested already which gave the kids a thrill. Our lettuce seeds did not sprout, but I knew they were old. We'll try again with some fresh seeds. The flowers and weeds are growing like mad from the rain, but luckily everything is growing where it is supposed/allowed to.

We are still HSing through summer, but on a lighter schedule. The kids just finished the Beta level in Math U see (today), and we are continuing with AAS level two on a regular basis. I would like to finish our Body Systems study by mid August, and then for the new school year, we will be digging into Writing, Astronomy, Home/Life Skills and Character studies. So, in a nutshell here's what is planned for 2009-10 school year starting end of August/early September:

Math U See - Gamma
All About Spelling
Writing Strands
Apologia Astronomy
Character First
Sewing/spinning/kitchen and cooking skills, etc...

When we finish with Astronomy in/near March, we will switch to social studies and geography, with a possible unit using the Little House series. I think our Life Skills will tie in very nicely with Colonial and Pioneer Times, so that will be our focus when the time comes.

The most important thing I have learned this past school year is to have faith in the curriculum choices I have made, and to not overwhelm myself with too many different sources of information. I was going nuts with too much information, and ended up crippling myself. We are keeping it simple this year, and not worrying about what the school or anyone else is doing. I think we will all be much happier.

In the mean time, I have created an outlet for my photography. My new website is Please take a peek and let me know what you think.

Until next time -

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The best laid plans

Life has a way of interfering in even the best of plans and we are no exception.

We plodded our way through winter and actually were doing quite well. We have been moving through our math and spelling lessons swiftly, language lessons were falling into place, science found it's way into our schedule.... then March came. I had surgery to fix a small (and I mean tiny) umbilical hernia. I thought, "Okay, it's a teeny tiny incision, so this will be easy. Like a paper cut." HA! What a joke. What I thought would take 3 days, took weeks! I suppose even the smallest of surgeries are still a big deal. It's tough to teach when you can't move, so our lessons slowed significantly. BUT - blessings do come in the strangest packages. Since I was not allowed to do any lifting of any sort, the kids got a few lessons on cleaning house. Both kids are now proficient at vacuuming the house, and H is now a laundry aficionado. I have been informed that he will now do all the laundry. We'll see how long his enthusiasm lasts. :)
So that was March - then came April..... After being cooped up in the house all winter, we finally had enough! April was a perfect time to take a trip to Grandma's house in CA and celebrate birthdays there. What a glorious trip we had! Spring had sprung and the weather was outstanding! We stayed the entire month and the kids played outside everyday! We went to the Redwoods, the ocean and beach, got a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands, visited Marine World (now known as Six Flags Discovery Park) and the Exploratorium in SF. We celebrated Easter and two birthdays (H is now 8 and L is 6). Needless to say, our education was very hands on for April. The books stayed quietly in their bag. We finally made our way back home just in time for May to begin. My homecoming was celebrated on a heating pad with a backache which is now going on week 2..... We are very happy to see that the snow is melted away though, and spring is arriving here in the mountains. We are off to a slow start this week, working on Math and continuing our "body"books as a start. It is time to start our garden (and gardening lessons) as well. It will take another week or two before we are back to speed, but we are all thankful for the wonderful time we had in CA. The break was worth it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

About Writing

So, I went nuts this week and ordered Step up to Writing AND Lessons That Change Writers. I found Step up to Writing on the web and really liked the way it seemed to operate. I watched all their sample videos of the program in action and actually tried it out with the kids. All I can say is WOW! The kids each wrote their first paragraph! And I must say, they turned out beautifully. It took two days to work through the process, although I think I should have been happy with three. The kids were definitely tired when we were done. I was so pleased with the outcome that I decided to go ahead and order Step up to Writing. I'll post more when it gets here.
I heard rave reviews about Lessons That Change Writers from our local librarian. She happens to be a teacher and couldn't have been more excited about this book. She even refused to switch to the school district's writing program as she thought this one was far superior. So, I ordered it as well. Since I feel that writing is such an important element in the kids' education, I feel like I can never have too much information. Between all the writing plans I now have, we should be covered through high school and hopefully the kids will find enjoyment and success in their writing.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tooth Fairy on the way!

H lost another tooth today! He is hoping to catch a glimpse of the tooth fairy tonight, but is just as eager for his reward in the morning. Isn't it nice to be young??

Progress report

We have completed MathUSee Alpha and are now starting in Beta. H is chomping at the bit to get to the hard problems. I never imagined I would have to slow him down in Math, and believe me, I am not complaining, but he will still be required to work his way through all the assignments in order. L is keeping up beautifully, although she has been sick this entire week and is feeling quite sluggish. This too shall pass... I couldn't be more happy about the progress I am seeing. The kids are enjoying their MUS lessons which sure makes Math a lot easier for all of us. Thank You MUS for a Great Program!!!!

We are also making good progress in Level Two of All About Spelling. The spelling rules are sticking in the kids memory nicely, and it is great fun to see the kids applying them in other activities. L's reading is automatically improving, as we haven't worked on any Phonics this month, yet she is reading more difficult words. I think our recent lessons about syllable division have really made an enormous difference in how she decodes words now. H is also improving greatly, and is using less and less invented spelling. He is making more effort at thinking his way through words, and the results have been very positive. It is astounding to me that such a simple and straightforward program can make such a huge difference in the kids abilities. I am SO GRATEFUL to have found this wonderful spelling program! We really Love it!

I am ramping up our writing lessons now to include sentence and paragraph formation. I have IEW's Excellence in writing program, and really love the approach, but I feel like something is missing at the onset. I really feel like some introductory sentence and paragraph basics should be covered before venturing into full out writing. I have been researching a few other writing programs and came across Step Up To Writing. It looks really interesting and easy to implement (Can you tell the ease of implementation is a running theme with me?). On Monday I plan on calling them to see if it includes an actual lesson plan. If so, it will likely be on it's way. I'll keep you posted.

We recently had a great time learning about magnets too. It was a basic lesson, but the kids had such a blast playing with the magnets. They went wild figuring out what had iron content, and what did not. H found it particularly interesting that the earth itself was like a giant magnet, and that there are actually magnetic rocks (magnetite).

I have a lot planned for the next few months, and will post as we move along in our lessons. Have a great day!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A New Year

Wow - it's 2009... Where does the time go?
Just many folks make their resolutions, this year I have decided to do the same. I usually don't bother, but this year I feel like this is a great time for a new start and fresh outlook. So, without further adieu, here are my plans for the new year...

Become and remain more organized. My biggest problem is that there are still things in my house that don't have a true "home". It's those very homeless items which clutter the house and get in the way of just about everything. We have been in this house for a year now, and there is still a storage room FULL of boxes and bags of "stuff". It is time to pull myself up by the bootstraps and muster up the courage to actually sort through the junk. We have already started the organizing process before xmas (with the simple stuff) and we all feel better for it, so now for the grand finale, we will tackle the "junk" room.
Also, with the house more organized, it generally is easier to keep tidy. One of the biggest obstacles in our homeschooling day has been to first have to clear off the table and tidy the room we are working in. If I have trouble focusing on our lessons when the room is a mess, then I can only guess the kids are equally distracted. It's time to end the constant struggle with clutter.

Less Pasta, more veggies and fruit. Pasta is such an easy and quick meal to toss together at the end of a long and busy day. We seem to have lots of those... I am working more and more veggies and fruit into our diet and the difference is already noticeable. We don't seem quite as sluggish throughout the day (and especially after dinner). Also, the kids are getting less picky as more veggies keep appearing on their plates. An added bonus! :)

Streamline our HS schedule. After reading Ruth Beechick's You can teach your child successfully, I came to realize that what I was doing previously basically amounted to doing "school at home". We tried to cover too many subjects at once and we never got into any real depth with each one - and we (I) were going nuts. I have finally found peace with the idea that "Less is more", especially when it comes to HSing. We are working more in depth with the basics (3 Rs) and adding in additional topics as we progress. I started this approach about a month or two ago, and it has really been working well for us - So we will continue.

I suppose that covers the primary personal goals have for myself this year. I'll keep you updated with our progress as time goes on.