In Homeschool this Week (take 8)

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Fiona has been enjoying this “Read, Build, Write” activity. We used lots of fall words this week. You can find this free resource here.

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Kali started this Self-esteem Workbook for Teens and has really been loving it. This is a great series, they have lots of different workbooks for different issues that teens face.

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The boy got braces. Ouch. This is a great self-portrait, don’t you think?

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Pajama Day!

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Meet Stuart. We found him Geocaching (it’s like treasure hunting). We are getting back into it after a bit of a hiatus. Brandon has a knack for finding them when we’re hiking even when we’re not looking!

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A little spontaneous Yoga

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In other news, we are trying to finish the entryway right now. I may have mentioned that we are currently renovating my great-grandmother’s Victorian home. It’s quite the project! More about that here.

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Fiona spent about 4 hours creating this little friend with found objects. All I did was help her with the hot glue.

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She also colored in these leaves and created a little tree with a pretty branch we found outside. We do lots of art and spend a lot of time outdoors!

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In Homeschool This Week (take 7)

The theme of the week was tradition, ritual and sacred wisdom. It is important for kids to have family rituals that tie us all together. For example, every Christmas Eve the kids sleep under the Christmas tree. This is a tradition that my sister and I did as children, that we now have passed onto our own children. But there are rituals and traditions that we carry on in daily life, and these are just as important as the big holiday ones.

I found this great book at the library:

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From Amazon: “Quality family togetherness—everyone wants it, but it seems increasingly harder to achieve. In a world run by cell phones, computers, and virtual networking, the comfort of human connection grows more important— and rarer— all the time. In a guide newly updated for the next generation, family expert Meg Cox offers a solution. Family rituals provide a sense of home and identity that kids and parents both need. From holidays and birthdays to bed times, meal times, pets, and even chores, The Book of New Family Traditions spotlights hundred of ways to bring the fun and ritual back to family life”

In this book, there was another book suggestion: “The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens”. This was particularly interesting to me as the mom of two teens. I think it especially important for teens to go through the process of the “rites of passage” or “initiation” into adulthood. Native Americans describe these years as “The Thundering Years”. I immediately bought this book.

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We started out this week by going out to my dad’s prairie/creek land and observing/drawing nature for an hour in silence. It was the best. Then, we sat down in the tall, dry, autumn prairie grass and read the first chapter of “The Thundering Years” together.

This chapter, “The Way of the Spiritual Warrior”, talked about the intensity, beauty, difficulty, and questions of the Thundering years, and how they are designed to challenge us to determine what path we are going to take in life. A Warrior’s way includes a journey to oneself and to one’s purpose.

The next day we used watercolors and worked into our drawings:

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At the end of the first chapter of “The Thundering Years” there were instructions on how to make a Medicine Bag. So we did this as well. Pictured above is Kali with her artwork and medicine bag.

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Kali’s completed artwork

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I also created an artwork!

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Fiona stitching her medicine bag together (not just for teenagers!)

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One tradition that we have in our family is Movie Night! Is there anything better than sister snuggles?

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Fiona strumming for mommy after bath-time. Music is so important to us.

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Yoga in the woods at Blue Mound State Park

We read Sonnet 73 by Shakespeare in the woods, and then left it on a bench for another person to find. I’m going to start leaving poetry in the woods more often!

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
   This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

In Homeschool This Week (take 5)

Online Resources That I Love This Week:

Thug Notes (not for everyone and DEFINITELY for teens/High School): A very different take on literature analysis. My teens LOVE this.

ReadWriteThink: Excellent site with lots of free printables and ideas for reading, writing, and thinking!

Democracy Now: An independent, daily, global news resource that I find very valuable. I watch this daily with my kids for “Current Events”.

Crash Course: An insane amount of excellent videos on a wide range of topics. A must see.

Books That I Love This Week:

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi
My teenage son LOVES to argue with me. The problem is, he doesn’t exactly use any LOGIC to win his arguments. This is an awesome book for all ages, even adults, to learn about that little thing called Reason.

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Physics: Why Matter Matters by Simon Basher
This book is AWESOME. We found it at the library, and it is such a great introduction to all the different concepts in Physics. I might need to buy this one. Even my Kinder loved it, yet it still has enough information and detail to be appealing to the older kids. There are a whole series of these books — worth checking out.

On Thursday, the teens did their work for Math on Khan Academy and their Spanish on Duolingo right away in the morning while I was getting some of my own work done for our small business (i.e. accounting). Fiona did some art and imaginary play, and then we created special index cards with all of her school subjects and activities (along with some fun things like “do jumping jacks”) and put those into a basket so that she can pick them out throughout the day.

Then all three kids started a project I found on the website ReadWriteThink, which has some great resources! They created found poems! I set out a few books for this kids to pick from, without telling them what we were about to do. Then they selected a section of the text, and edited it down until they created a poem (essentially). The full instructions can be found here.  They turned out great!

During lunch we discussed poetry form a bit more and I read some poems aloud, which my teenage son promptly made fun of. Oiy.

After lunch, we continued our discussion about “Animal Farm” by Orwell. We watched the Thug Notes video on it (my kids love these….yes they are inappropriate, that’s why my kids love them).

After this, we were going to continue on with our movie-based Literature unit and start The Color Purple, when my son asked me, “Who was the first human?”

Well, that’s a big question. Let’s stop what we are doing and do some research about that. We ended up starting the Nova series “Becoming Human” on PBS (via YouTube).

Which leads to the next question from my son, “Who was the first white person?”

I responded, “Did you know that race is a social construct?”

WHAT?!!

Our research led us to the TED talk, “Nina Jablonski Breaks the Illusion of Skin Color”. Awesome video and explanation.

Side Discussion: Know Your Sources — how to sort through all the nonsense out there.

Also, Race may not be real, but racism is.

Question #3: “So what about the first ever life on this planet?”

OOOfta. They are hitting it hard today! We dipped our toe into the immense ocean of this discussion by watching a video on Crash Course – The Origin of Life. Obviously, it is a very short explanation but it started a discussion.

That discussion escalated very quickly into a heated debate between my son and I, where he used comedic tactics (and absolutely NO data or logical points of any kind) to try and win an argument with me against evolution. It was…..interesting.

So…we watched a little TED talk by David H. Cohen “For Argument’s Sake”, which was very interesting to me but my kids were still laughing so hard they didn’t pay much attention to it. Yeah, school was done after that.

However, I immediately looked up some teacher resources about LOGIC, and found this gem of a book, which I ordered immediately and cannot wait to dive into. It is called, “An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments” by Ali Almossawi, and you can find the entire book for free on his website, or purchase the hard cover on Amazon.

Our afternoon of “Question School” was a success and a challenge. I want to continue doing this a lot, because I want to know what do my kids really think about and what do they want to know? If they are learning questions that they are asking themselves, they will definitely be learning and retaining the knowledge better!

In Other School….

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Fiona created a “twiggy hat” out of some found bits of nature

She also had fun at the Library this week, and played Blokus, I Spy, and read lots of books

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And we’ve been playing a fun math game at home for adding and subtracting with dice and wooden shapes:

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Most of all, I love it when my kids make music!

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In Homeschool This Week (take 3)

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Fiona making “potions”

I am loving the natural curiosity and love for learning that Fiona has. One of my main reasons for wanting to homeschool her was encouraging this! She had fun mixing up “potions” this week with water, food coloring, and salt. She created her own experiment where she tested the taste differences when she added the different ingredients. Plus, it’s just fun to play!

This week in Kindergarten, Fiona continued with her core subject studies, but I feel like she is learning the most by going out into the world and observing and participating in real life, and our discussions as a family. I’m very “unschooly” with Fiona, because she is so smart and I don’t want to put ANY pressure on her learning.

I LOVE this Native American model of education, The Circle of Courage:

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For Kali, Monday and Friday mornings are dedicated to horses! She is learning how to ride and take care of horses. This is a dream come true for her, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she owned a horse farm someday!

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Our time at the horse farm is also really great for Fiona. We are lucky that the farm is very accommodating, and I’m able to do school work with the other kids there as well.

But the main thing we have been doing while Kali is at horseback is to go to the YMCA!

We are having SO MUCH FUN at the Y. Especially Matthew. He is in 9th grade and I have mentioned before that it is hard to get him motivated to learn at times. He is taking “coaching connection” sessions and they are really helping him set goals, and he is really getting into fitness now. The best part is, going to the Y has motivated ME! I am working out several times a week now and loving it! So needless to say, we are getting a lot of Phy Ed in.

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For Social Studies this week, I had Matt and Kali choose articles out of National Geographic Magazine to read, and then we discussed. Ebola and Global Warming were two main topics.

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We found ourselves in Madison one day, so we stopped by Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which is a gem (and FREE). The kids loved the succulent kaleidoscope, and had fun observing monarchs and a TON of hummingbirds (not to mention the beautiful flowers). They also have an amazing (and authentic) Thai Temple, which was a wonderful experience, and we were able to discuss even more about our Buddhist studies.

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We also learned about Monarch Waystations at Olbrich. This is a program that creates, conserves, and protects monarch habitats. This inspired us to devise a plan to create a monarch waystation in our yard. We started by heading out to my dad’s land, where he has been doing prairie restoration for the past 20+ years, to collect seeds from many of the plants such as milkweed and other perennials that are beneficial to the monarchs. We were lucky that he could identify and teach us about many of the different plants. He has quite the habitat already (we will have to get him a Monarch Waystation sign, too)! We are drying out our seeds now and will be ready to plant them in the spring!

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On Friday, we had another horseback/YMCA morning, followed by a picnic lunch, and then we visited the Monroe Public Library for their “Homeschool Hub: Make It” series. This library is absolutely wonderful! The kids made flextangles (check out the free template here, they are really cool and fun geometry), paracord slings, played some new educational apps on the iPads, chatted with their friends, made some new friends, and best of all, experimented with Snap Circuits!! If you have never played with Snap Circuits, I would highly recommend them (and I’m not getting paid for the mention, either). They. Are. Amazing. There are not many things that both my 5 year old and my teens find interesting and challenging!

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Fiona did a great job looking at the diagram and figuring everything out, with a little bit of mom’s help! She was amazed to create a circuit that powered a fan!

Let’s see what else? Kali finished The Island of the Blue Dolphins and completed some worksheets on that. She started reading “Marie Curie: Pioneer Physicist”. Matt continued reading his Twilight book, and Fiona and I just read a TON of books.

The older kids did some reading, videos, and worksheets about chemical reactions for Science. Matt continued with his video editing course. Overall it was another amazing week. We got out into the real world, learned and experienced a lot, and had our challenges and triumphs, too.

14322552_1011745612277971_3379652539635327285_nJust a note that in my blogs I definitely focus on the positive, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our hard times as well. It is REALLY HARD to homeschool (for so many reasons that I won’t get into right now). But it is soooooo worth it!

 

In Homeschool This Week (take 2)

Last week I said that I would not “plan any short weeks that also included two field trips” but then this week we had a regular 5 day school week that included FOUR. What is wrong with me?! Clearly, I am a homeschool newbie haha. In my defense, we do live in Wisconsin, so I have to take advantage of the good weather while I can. I will not be driving so much in the snow.

Monday started bright and early with a twenty minute drive to Kali’s first horseback riding lesson. She had taken some lessons before when she was younger, but she hadn’t ridden for a long time. She has always had a passion for horses and I am so excited that she is getting back into it. I highly recommend the Country View Equestrian Center if you are in the Monroe, WI area.

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As luck would have it, Kali was offered an opportunity to earn more riding time by working doing chores at the stable. So now, we will be heading there on Monday AND Friday mornings! It is such great work experience while also being FUN!

On Tuesday, we headed over to Janesville to attend a picnic for the Rock Valley Homeschool Group. It was a great occasion to meet up with yet another group in our area and meet new friends. We had a blast at Peace Park, and I am constantly amazed at how nice and welcoming all of the other homeschooling families are. This is truly a great community!

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We paused our Social Studies about the Sioux Nation to start a long-term study about Buddhism. We had the most amazing opportunity to see Tibetan monks creating a sand mandala at the Memorial Union in Madison. On Wednesday, we went to the Madison Public Library Central Branch (amazing) to read books about Buddhism and do a bit of Minecraft. I totally count Minecraft as school.

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Then we walked over to see the sand mandala creation. We were all mesmerized by the beauty of the work and the concentration of the monks! In addition, we talked with one of the monks who showed us how to use a prayer wheel, let each of the children use it, and taught us about the symbolism and language in Tibetan Buddhism. It was a really special experience.

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We bought a prayer flag from the monks, and we studied about that on Thursday and hung it up outside so the wind can carry our prayers and wishes for peace around the world. We also continued our mandala studies, and learned about the Eightfold Path. I found two wonderful PowerPoint presentations at TES.com. One was about the Eightfold Path and the other was about the prayer flags, so now we fully understand the significance and also made sure we hung it up the right way. I also found this great worksheet about the Eightfold Path, and the older kids did that Follow the link for more worksheets on Buddhism and other religions as well.

Here’s another link I found with great teaching resources about Buddhism (via PBS).

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Lunch with grandma at the iconic Memorial Union Terrace in Madison. We didn’t just eat chips and beer, btw…

 

So Thursday was our big at home day. The older kids finished their PowerPoint presentation about bees. All of the kids did their core studies on Time4Learning. We read books, did art, music, and more!

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Fiona said, “Am I concentrating as hard as the monks?”

 

On Friday, my 14 year old son communicated (which is nothing short of a miracle sometimes) that he did not like Time4Learning. So, we looked into some other ways of doing his core High School curriculum and we decided on using Khan Academy for math and science, along with other science projects and experiments, and that I would assign him English and Social Studies projects (those are my personal strong subjects, so I feel comfortable teaching those myself).

We absolutely love Khan Academy. Along with using it for math and science, he has also started learning about Drug Addiction in the Health and Medicine section, and is currently writing a research paper on the topic.

Below is a wonderful video about educating for mastery by the founder of Khan Academy:


In Kindergarten this week, Fiona and I made a “hundreds box”. We filled it with 100 pennies, 20 nickles (to practice counting by 5s), 10 dimes (to practice counting by 10s), 4 quarters (to start understanding fractions and coin recognition), a $1 bill (understanding the concept of what is equal to $1), and Fiona’s choice of 100 safety pins, 100 beads, 100 white buttons, and 100 smiley faces (which she drew herself).

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Then we added 100 stickers to the outside of the box and a 100 chart to help her count! Big brother was really sweet and helped Fiona count and taught her some tricks for working with the number chart. Fiona did a lot of work with math this week. She LOVES this box and carries it around everywhere using it for practice!

Overall, we had a great, yet very exhausting week!!!

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via eclectic homeschool

First Day (Ever) of Homeschool!

Wow, wowza, wow, wow, WOW!

I am sooooo happy with our decision to homeschool! Today was our first official day ever of homeschooling. Well, it wasn’t my first day, as I was homeschooled Kindergarten through 5th grade, but it was a first for my kids. I wasn’t sure that my son, Matt, was into it. He is 14 and was getting ready to head into High School after being in public school his whole life. When my husband, Brandon, was driving him to his Freshman orientation, he exclaimed, “I don’t want to go. I would rather be home schooled with the girls”. Well, we thought we had talked about this many times before and figured it out, but it takes Matt time to process things, and he is not the best at communication. We discussed it, in depth, again, ONE MORE TIME, and we told him we were on board. So that meant I was scrambling last minute to get a NINTH grade curriculum planned out!

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I am beyond happy, though. Do you see that smile up there, on that young man’s face? That is not normally there (haha)!

Today was our first full day, and it was AMAZING! I saw my teens HAPPY! And I got to witness it, because I was right there running the show. They were engaged in learning, interacting with each other, myself, and their little sister. I could already see after ONE DAY that Matt’s confidence in his own abiliiies were starting to bolster. Last year, and this happened all the way though middle school, he would say negative things about himself like, “I’m not smart”. Today, he was beaming when he go 100% on an English quiz via Time4Learning.

Yesterday, we went to a picnic with other homeschool families. I was very excited and nervous to attend, because I really didn’t know anyone. I had met a couple of the moms once or twice, and they were there, and another mom greeted me warmly the moment I arrived. It turns out there is a great network of other homeschool families in our area. It seems like a very diverse mix of people who are all educating their children at home, and there are a TON of activities planned throughout the year that we can participate in. And that is only one group out of 4 in the area that I would like to be involved in.

On a side note, I just bought a total mom-mobile. Field trips are a big priority for me, and our other vehicle would be too crowded for our growing family (and dogs, etc.) so I thought to myself, you know I really need one of those big, old conversion vans like my Uncle Dewey used to have, and I looked it up on Craigslist and Voila…!
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I may be a little too excited about this van but I LOVE IT! Photo by Matt at our trip to Wyalusing State Park last weekend. 

So, our first couple days were wonderful, and I am so GRATEFUL that I have the opportunity to be able to go on this journey with my kids. I kept pinching myself the entire day, I felt like I was living in a dream. Wow that is hokey, but I’m not even kidding.

The little one, my sweet and sassy Kindergartner, Fiona, well she’s as bright as a button. Light years “ahead” academically, I’m not worried about her education one bit. I just want to hold on to that natural love of learning that she possesses, and encourage her endeavors and creativity as much as I possibly can.

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Fiona is really happy that she is able to have more (healthy) SNACKS!

Last year at this time, I thought I would have a kid in each school – Elementary, Middle, and High schools. Now, I feel so much closer to them, especially the older two, having them at home. It means so much to me on so many levels, and I can tell even after one day that it means a lot to them as well. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ll just keep posting on this blog so we can let this journey unfold and see the magic.

Until next time, happy learning!