Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: Sept. 26-30

I'm going to experiment with writing a summary of what my home learners did each week just as several of my friends do with their kids.  Hopefully this idea will lend itself to more regular blog posts and also give me a little bit of extra motivation to get something done at home even when none of us feels like it!

We're still slowly adding in subjects as September comes to a close.  Grammar Town, Writing With Skill, and Artistic Pursuits start next week!

JaneG. is thrilled with Spelling Workout--spelling is quickly becoming her favorite subject.  She completed one lesson and began the next this week.

Teaching Textbooks Math isn't a favorite, but it is getting the job done with few tears and complaints.  She is more concerned with her score than I thought she would be, and aims for 100+ percent for each lesson.  She completed seven lessons this week.

Jane is slowly getting a handle on Vocabulary from Classical Roots, and finished the first lesson with a smile on her face.  Her least favorite part is reading about each lesson's words and roots; she prefers the activities that help her to learn the definitions.

We began science this week by learning about the scientific method while reading Stephen P. Kramer's How to Think Like a Scientist.  Using well-written passages that are a pleasure to read aloud, Kramer tells stories to illustrate how the scientific method works.  Charming pictures by Felicia Bond (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, et. al.) are the icing on the cake.  Highly recommended, and we'll be looking for more books by Kramer, a former junior high school biology teacher.  School Library Journal puts this book at the 3rd-5th grade reading level.

Jane read some of Thorkill of Iceland: Viking Hero-Tales, and explored the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia's entries about the Vikings.  I helped her find one important thing in each section in the encyclopedia to write down in her history notebook.

Both Jane and J.J. listened to several read-alouds this week, including the Story of the World chapters that have to do with the Vikings.  The D'Aulaires book  Leif the Lucky was read and enjoyed as well.  We're going to give The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum (whose Children's Homer we so enjoyed a couple of years ago) a go next week.

J.J. continues to show reluctance to learn how to read, and would prefer to play with Lego rather than work in his Miquon math book.  He completed a math lesson or two, though, and several pages of Explode the Code.  He listened to his first (in his memory) Jack & Annie book this week, and is showing signs of developing a Magic Tree House passion already.  Both Dogs in the Dead of Night (monks in the Alps)  and Polar Bears Past Bedtime (the Arctic) had a (loose) tie-in or two to the Vikings that I took full advantage of.  Now if I could just find our copy of Viking Ships at Dawn, I'd be a happy homeschooling parent.

Jazz is at the charter school, happily reading and discussing The Outsiders, writing personal narratives, learning some algebra, and getting to know many kids his own age.  He's still finding his way, but he seems to be enjoying the journey.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Remembering Jim Henson

My kids and I were privileged to experience Jim Henson's Fantastic World at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA in the spring of 2010.  There were several short films available to view within the exhibit, and this one was one of our favorites.

For more to watch, check out The Jim Henson Company on YouTube.

Happy birthday to a much missed genius!

Sunday, September 04, 2011


To borrow from the Scottish poet for a moment:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley.
I hadn't written up our homeschooling plans for the fall on this blog quite yet, though we did start back on Tuesday with a few subjects after an August hiatus for camp and vacation.  We generally ease back into things oh-so-gradually, and were following that pattern, when a call from a local charter school came the day after we'd begun.  Jazz's number was up.

We'd originally applied to this school, which is part of the Coalition of Essential Schools, when Jazz was halfway through his sixth grade year of homeschooling.  He was waitlisted.  The school has three or more applicants for every space available, so we weren't too surprised, and we were grateful that his number wasn't in the triple digits like it was for a couple of our homeschooling friends.

This past spring we learned that he'd moved up to #14 for 8th grade, which was a vast improvement on his initial number but, since the school generally sees a turnover of 0-3 students between 7th and 8th grade, we didn't expect him to get in for this year.  But we were hopeful for 9th grade, so this year (2011-2012) was supposed to be our Big Push, the Last Chance to Get Everything Done.  We were planning to do a lightning round of Joy Hakim's A History of US (three weeks per book), get two years of math done in a matter of months (via Teaching Textbooks), dissect frogs & other slimy creatures plus view onions and a whole host of living and formerly living things under the microscope while noting it all down like good classical homeschoolers via Classiquest Biology, and forge ahead with Michael Clay Thompson's language arts programs, as well as read literature on a regular basis, including several Great Books.  Oh, and we were also to begin our study of R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish, since that is the foreign language option at the charter school.

With the exception of MCT's Caesar's English, which Jazz wants to keep going with on his own, none of what we planned will be part of Jazz's education this year.  I'm mourning the loss, even while realizing that accomplishing the list above was probably somewhat idealistic, especially with a 5th grader and a 1st grader tagging along.  At the same time, I know he will be energized by his exposure to new teachers and peers and ideas, and will be motivated by someone other than Mom, which is a great thing for this kid at this age.

Essential Schools follow ten Common Principles, which list is one of the things that drew us to this charter school in the first place.  They are definitely ideals that apply to our homeschooling philosophy, as well.  My favorites are the following:

  • learning to use one's mind well 
  • less is more: depth over breadth
  • student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach
  • a tone of decency and trust

The following few weeks will bring many adjustments for Jazz and for the rest of us, who are trying to figure out what shape our home education will take now that the driving force of the year is no longer present.  Wish us luck!