Saturday, March 31, 2007

The next step for us is implementing some of this Charlotte Mason method into our day. So first, we needed to come up with all the subjects we want to cover. The kids decided on all the basics, which was easy, since this method incorporates fun ideas for them. Here’s our list: Reading, Writing, Math, History, Geography, Science, Art, Music, and Foreign Language. Then we used a guideline to turn them all into a Charlotte Mason format. So here’s the breakdown:

Reading will consist of readalouds with narrations. A narration is just the child telling back what they remember from the reading. It will basically be me discussing the story with the kids, having them share with me their favorite parts, describing any part that was funny, sad, or scary, telling how it made them feel, maybe even drawing a part they liked. This is a great way to tell if they're really understanding the stories. I want to have bedtime readalouds on the schedule, too - more as personal reminder if anything. The kids love that. The key here is to use "living" and "whole" books, which I usually do anyway. Of course they’ll still do their own independent reading, too, and that is totally their choice.

Writing will consist of handwriting practice, copywork, and journaling. For handwriting, the kids want to try italics or calligraphy instead of standard print. J loves learning different ways to write, which I found out when she did a homeschool calligraphy class. K knows calligraphy pretty well (took it as a school elective) and is interested in learning new types, and W just wants to try it too. Copywork is just copying stuff. They will copy poems, quotes, short passages from a book, etc. It’s said that this is a great way for them to learn proper grammar and prepares them to write well on their own. Finally, they all like keeping a journal but usually forget about it after a week, so we’ll have that on the schedule as well - probably for the end of the day.

Math will come from the workbooks and websites they already use and enjoy.

History will be a fun project where periods of time are listed in chronological order using something called a "book of centuries”. This is just a book with every open 2-page spread covering 100 years on a timeline. They think this sounds really fun, marking off events and gluing/drawing in pictures or other facts. They’ll just use their loose-leaf binders for this. It can be as creative as they want. They want to start off with Ancient Egypt.

Geography will not really change from what we do now. It's a fun subject for the kids. We already spend a lot of time playing games with maps, globes, and websites. We'll probably try intertwining it more with the history we read and talk about.

Science will come from nature walks, nature notebooking, and experiments. We’ll do a nature walk once a week and the kids will bring their sketchbooks to draw what they see. We have a field guide they love using, too. J used to find the species of plant in the guide, draw it with colored pencils, and write out its Latin name. I think they’ll enjoy this. Science experiments are something else we’ll put in the schedule since the kids always love those.

Art and Music will be based on biographies of artists and composers and examining their creations. J always liked having classical music on while she was reading or writing. K used to ask for the classical station in the car. It will be nice to bring that back. As far as art, I remember how many favorites the kids had at the MMA in Manhattan. They sketched different paintings and sculptures and felt like artists themselves. We’ll also do drawing and/or a craft on the art days (to keep with the theme). For the music days, the kids also came up with learning, making up, and singing new songs. But of course every day is some sort of art and music day!

Foreign Language will be once a week for Italian and once a week for American Sign Language. We have study cards for ASL that they use now and are doing great with, and I want to purchase a CD-ROM Italian program for them.

The thing we're going to love the most about a written schedule is that it will keep us from forgetting about the stuff we love doing. Sometimes I promise we'll do that science experiment tomorrow or pick up supplies for that great craft we saw on tv and completely forget about it within hours. If we see it on the schedule, we'll remember to get what supplies we need in advance and set aside enough time to be able to finish. We're a bunch of busy folks. I can't live without a calendar in my bag. I think the kids will feel more in control knowing what the week holds for them. I love unschooling, but the one obstacle we always come across is their (and sometimes my) feelings of aimlessness and not getting much accomplished in the day. The kids don't see their days as being productive and full of learning, like I see them. Maybe they just need that check-off list for a while - some tangible piece of learning that proves something to them. It's all okay. I'm proud of them for coming to me. I'm proud of them for wanting to change what they weren't satisfied with. I'm proud of them for trusting me. But I will admit it'll be easier for me to keep track of what they're learning and I can breathe easier when reporting to the hs coordinator. I'm excited to see how this goes.

Simple Overview

More in-Depth Overview

A Mom's Opinion

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ok, so I'm open to the idea of more academic structure for the kids. K, J, and W have been wanting more mom time for workbooks, learning sign language and Italian, readalouds, crafts, etc etc etc. I love that they're so eager for knowledge, but with our busy schedule, it's hard to try and accomodate what everyone wants to do every day. I've been thinking about this a lot and with their input, decided on a new plan. We definitely need to create a weekly schedule. We need to have a set time for academic work where they can all learn together, but at their own levels. It has to be fun, interesting, and encorporate what the kids love doing. And I need to have it all in an easy to implement style. Well I put all their ideas together with what I can feasibly manage and can only think of one homeschool method that ties into all of it...Charlotte Mason.

And it's funny, because we've come back to what we started with. Before we were unschoolers, we used the Charlotte Mason method. A week or so after she started homeschooling (2/05) we jumped into CM with both feet. She loved it for a few weeks until she started wanting to skip most of the scheduled things. I then learned about deschooling and realized she needed to have time to get the school mindset out of her system. That's when she started printing out her own worksheets, asking for readalouds, and finding educational games on the computer. I spent weeks reading about unschooling and loved how J was doing so much on her own. Unschooling has been an amazing discovery journey and I'm grateful my kids are very self-motivated.

But when they are so obviously yearning for MORE, I couldn't imaging not giving them that. J, especially, has always been one who needs to really know she is learning and accomplishing. It's not enough that *I* know it. Workbooks aren't proving anything to her, although she enjoys them, but it's something. The Charlotte Mason method is the only hs style that made any sense to me (besides unschooling). It entails everything the kids love. I can organize the day in such a way that it won't feel haphazard anymore - not that there's anything wrong with haphazard, but it's not what the kids want right now. I have been looking at CM websites again and I find myself smiling and knowing this will satisfy their cravings for academia, semi-structure, and more mom time.

So, we're going to try it for a while. I'll keep you updated on what we do each day, what the kids think about it all, and any positive or negative changes I see in them. We're pretty excited to try this again. I feel better about it now than I did 2 years ago. The kids have had ample time to deschool and spend many months learning about themselves and what interests them. I'm open to a new adventure.

I'll be doing a major organize this weekend, throwing out tons of stuff, tallying up the supplies we have, and making lists of what we'd like to buy. I promised the kids we could start CM'ing on Monday, so I want to be ready.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

We got the letter yesterday that K was accepted into her first choice high school! She is so thrilled! This is a great school - she loved it the minute we stepped inside at the Open House. It's very small public school (80 kids per grade), in a really nice part of town, and is extremely progressive and technologically advanced. The school is themed (which means it focuses on one main subject), and it's K's favorite subject. I'm so happy for her. She came into homeschooling knowing it would only be for one year. She grew to love homeschooling, and would have agreed to continue if she did not get accepted at this school. But she enjoys the structure and chaos of school and admittedly has always excelled there (well, except for 7th grade when she couldn't break free from the evil cliques). This year at home has helped her to decompress and shed the shallowness, inhibitions, and people-pleasing she learned in middle school. She was able to rediscover who she is and more importantly, who she wants to be. These homeschooling months have brought us much closer as a family. That's a benefit that will hopefully last all through high school.

We got together with the homeschool group on Friday to fly kites in the big field. All 3 of my kids had their best hs friends there. Games were brought and played and there was lots of running around in the rain. It's always fun at these get-togethers. The parents have a great time too, just sitting and talking for hours.

J has been on a math kick again. I called over to the kids, "who wants to take a Saxon math placement test?", and she yelled "Me Me!!" and ran over to my lap. We spent about an hour on various math problems until she started getting sleepy at 10pm. Then first thing in the morning she asked to do more math, so we used the Singapore placemement test so she could see what she knows. She just sits there contemplating each math problem with a blank pad of paper and a good pencil. She discovered she really enjoys long division and wanted a whole page of those to do. I swear, I find this fascinating. J has a real love for math that developed from having no pressure. Math never had to be scary for her. In school it was easy, but tedious and very boring. Now it's enjoyable and purposeful.

B took the kids into work with him Saturday. I knew he wouldn't get much done with them there, but they love being in Manhattan. It was easy to drive in (10 minutes) and park on a weekend. The kids were excited to see daddy's new building and new office. They picked me up from work at 6, we drove to kids to my mom (she drove in to meet us near Queens), rushed home to get dressed, and went to my 20-year high school reunion. What a great party!! I knew more than half the people from my year (which aint bad considering we had about 500 in our graduating class). People were coming up to me and hugging me and there was so much talking and catching up going on. The food was great, there was a DJ, and an open bar. After it was over at 11, most of us headed over to a nearby bar to catch up even more. B and I really had fun and now B can't wait to go to his 25th reunion next year!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sleeping Baby Hamster (Waffles)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Back from another competition! This one was in Waterbury, CT. It was great! J's jazz group got a gold, tap group got platinum, production got high-gold, and solo got gold - and she placed 3rd out of 13 in her category. The teens category started Friday at 3, and although we planned on heading up there after work (9pm), the weather kept us home that night. It was a mess, with snow and sleet coming down hard, icing up the roads, and causing tons of accidents. We left Saturday morning instead. It was better outside, but still hard to be awake enough to drive at 6am, lol. J's solo was at 7am this morning and I had been getting ready from 3 hrs before. So, yeah, I'm running on very little sleep. zzzzzzzzzz

The kids enjoyed themselves. K hung with the teen group, J hung with everyone, and W preferred to be with the older boys (10+). He attempted playing with the other 5 y/o little brothers, but he just has no patience for them. Every now and then he'll just push one of them when they start annoying him. W is the kind of kid who will never tell on another kid, cry when he's picked on, or act babyish. And he can't tolerate anyone who exhibits these traits - no matter what age they are. He is definitely better now, though, than when he was in school, since school is where he first learned this intolerance (from his friends who were all pretty tough and streetwise for 4 y/os). I'm pretty confident he'll gain more and more patience the longer he's homeschooled. He's a smart kid and he's way too cool to let this get in the way.

This week is going to be a quiet one. J and W have a dentist appointment on Tuesday and there's nothing with the homeschool group until Friday. I plan on doing lots of fun stuff with the kids. They've been requesting some art projects, science experiments, read-alouds, Monopoly, and planting some seeds and bulbs in the garden. We'll hit Costco one of the days and maybe the nearby shopping area - my 20-year high school reunion is this Saturday and I need something to wear. 20 years?! It's very hard to say that out loud, btw. It certainly has been a fantastic 20 years, though. :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

We went into Manhattan today with the homeschool group to the Center for Jewish History for a Garment Factory Workshop. In honor of Women's History Month, the kids heard about turn of the century women working in sweatshops for measly wages and cramped quarters. We aso learned about the Triangle Factory fire in 1911, and how so much was reformed after that. Then the kids got to be part of an assembly line, making denim aprons. 5 groups of kids all had a different job: stitiching up the middle, stitiching up the sides, sewing on the label, attaching the belt part, and punching in the rivets. Then they got to take an apron home. It was geared toward middle-school aged kids, but the younger kids had fun too.

After the museum, a bunch of us went to Union Square Park to hang out and play. It's a weird park - smack dab in the middle of the street, it seems. There were lots of nanny's there with their charges, looking indifferent and like they wanted to be somewhere else. The farmer's market wasn't there today, but there was some kind of bike race going on (sponsored by the Subway sandwich chain). We also saw some jugglers and a ton of squirrels.B works nearby, so he met us at the park and we went for lunch at Chat 'n Chew. Good stuff. Very family friendly. The waiter was a rip, lol, and asked the kids why they weren't in school. The girls said "we're homeschooled" at the same time and the waiter asked "oh so that means you must be smarter than everyone else". The girls said "Yup!". It was so funny.
After lunch, we said goodbye to B and hit the Juicy Couture store that K was dying to go to. We were running a bit late and had to bypass the Coach and American Eagle stores, but I think K will live, lol. The subway ride home was nice and we made it to dance with time to spare. I think we all had a really great time today.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Friday, the girls went to the monthly book club with other homeschoolers. The short story was "Raymond's Run" (which I really liked, btw) and they discussed that for about an hour in one of the library rooms. W and I hung around in the children's wing again, browsing through some books. He had fun playing with the building toys and helping little kids with their towers. I kept busy with a small stack of HEM - a homeschool magazine I love - while W played. When the kids came out, the librarian gave them all a scavenger hunt sheet based on the Dewey Decimal System where they had to find certain books, call numbers, authors, etc. It was boys against the girls and everyone ended up with a nice prize. Then they went to the computers and played Runescape with each other.

Saturday, J had dance most of the day and I worked, so B took the other kids around town. Sunday, they went to religion class and then we drove out to my mom's. We had another birthday party for W and he got more clothes, games for his new DS Lite, a hydro-rocket launch thing, and a Webkinz. Webkinz is a stuffed animal with a serial number that you punch into the computer, create a username and password, and earn points/money by playing games so you can buy cool things for your pet's room. I'm sure there's more to it, but it seems great. The kids got to spend time with the neighbor kids (same ages) and play a little basketball in the beautiful weather.

Our homeschool group had an art class today. It was all about drawing with charcoals. We had "toothed" paper, kneaded erasers, and 2 different kinds of charcoal. We all got a piece of popcorn and were told to draw it big and try to observe and copy the shadowing in all the crevasses. That was cool. There were a couple of new families there today. K found a great new friend who is her age and loves all the same things. She's so thrilled. Since she's been out of school (5 months) all she wanted was just one girlfriend to click with. They're already making lots of plans. W also made a new friend today. The other new mom has a 5y/o boy and W hung out with him all day. So, yay, this was a great day.

This morning before we left, W did a few pages in his new workbook with me. All of them were on ABC order. For some reason I thought it would be a difficult concept, but he picked it up immediately and really enjoyed it. K finished all the books in the Clique series and now wants to find a new series to read. J and I were talking about reading and she admits that she dislikes it so much because the teachers made sure she could never enjoy a book because they picked it apart and made them answer a ridiculous amount of questions. She remembers the homework battles and the humiliation she went through if she happened to misunderstand a homework question and answer it incorrectly, didn't write an answer exactly half a notebook page long, or didn't write neatly enough. She said she just lost her excitement over reading. I explained that things are different now and she can snuggle up with a cup of tea and really throw herself into a book without having to worry about anyone breathing down her neck or demanding anything from her. It was a nice talk and she agreed to try and change the way she thinks about it and re-learn to enjoy reading. And I will do what it takes to help.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

W is 6 today. It feels weird when your last baby is 6. When K turned 6, J was 3. When J turned 6, W was 2. Now W is 6 and that's it. He's such a big boy, too, that he almost seems older. He's lost 4 bottom teeth, and 2 huge ones came back. He's 46"---taller than other 6 y/os and some 7 y/os. He's almost into a size 2 shoe and a size 8 shirt. It's fun having a boy after having 2 girls. It's such a different experience. W is big and tough yet sweet and gentle. He loves animals, cartoons, video games, weapons, action figures, eating, and being curious about the world. He's handsome like his dad and already knows how to use it, lol. I feel 6 is the age where babyhood is left behind. I think I'm ready. Happy Birthday, my awesome boy!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Friday was a great class with the homeschool group. It was "The Art, Science, and History of Henna". The kids each got a henna "kit" which included cotton, carbon transfer paper, a small pencil, a small bag of a coconut oil/cocoa butter mixture, and real henna that was cooked up and put in what looked like a pastry bag (little kids got black eyeliner to use instead, lol). We had a binder full of pictures to copy. K picked a large butterfly for her lower back, J picked a small butterfly for her hipbone, and W picked a big dragon for his arm. First they used to carbon paper to copy and transfer the design to where they wanted it, then they squeezed out a thin line of henna to outline the design. We used a blowdryer to dry it quicker and it turns into a crust that eventually flakes off and leaves the nice henna stain. It's supposed to last for up to a couple of weeks. More henna day pix:

After the class, all the kids went outside to the playground and just ran around playing for the next 2 hours. It was a gorgeous sunny day - I think it got up to 60 degrees! They played manhunt and dug in the sand. It was really nice.

J had another competition yesterday. This one was in NJ again and just one day. We got there at around 11am and stayed til about 6. Only 2 of J's numbers went out as this was an "optional" for us. Both got GOLD (out of silver, high-silver, gold, and high-gold) and the group tap won best overall junior group. Our studio pretty much swept every category. And since J's team (8 kids ages 8-12) did so well, they will be getting a new competition group number they will start on this week. It's a musical theater number and the kids are really excited. They will also be learning a lyrical piece this month. The next competition in in 2 weeks!

The kids went to the eye doctor and dentist this week also. W is getting glasses (and omg he looks adorable in them). He is excited about it, since a skateboarder friend he looks up to wears them. J is doing great with her contacts so we got her 6 months worth of dailies, and K got 3 months worth of dailies as she got new "Juicy" glasses and wants to wear those more this year. At the dentist all was great. Everyone asked if the kids were off from school and I heard K proudly say they were homeschooled. We got the usual "Ohhhhhhhh, okaaaaaaaaay". But when W went in, he was so curious and full of questions, that they just loved him. They were very accomodating and let him see all the equipment and answered all his questions. He had no shyness and no problem talking with the adults in a very mature way (I have to say, I was impressed and very proud how we were "representing" homeschooling). And of course they all left with bags of cool stuff (new toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, stickers, and W got a toy). I'm glad the dentist isn't scary for them anymore.