Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Whole New Perspective

My kids have never been fans of workbooks. They love games, movies, projects, reading, field trips, so that's how I've tried to teach over the years. The girls have done well and seem to enjoy learning most of the time.

I've researched the benefits of playing games and am a believer that they are a great (often under-utilized) learning too. Studies suggest that playing educational games helps move information from the left side of the brain (short term memory) to the right side (long term memory.)

Recently, I started reading about "right brained" learners and was surprised to discover (even though I probably shouldn't have been) that both of my children are "right brainers." The more I learn, the happier I am that I chose to homeschool the way we did. With both girls in middle school, this was the year I was finally going to make the switch to more "traditional" assignments, but now I am convinced that I need to continue the current path with even more changes to maximize their learning potential.

I'm sure this will be a challenge for me. My teacher training didn't cover this kind of learning, so it's a whole new perspective.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

High school Form+U+La

Sarah's probably worried about high school because I am. Although she's only entering 8th grade she's thinking ahead. I'm reading everything I can get my hands on about homeschooling high school. Seems like the best advice so far is to look at college entrance requirements and work backwards.

Currently I am reading Barb Shelton's book, Senior High: A Home Designed Form+U+La. Although she doesn't seem sold on the idea of college (I am planning on it for my kids) there are some helpful ideas for planning and record keeping. Another point she brings up is that although we need to be mindful of requirements if our children are college bound, we don't need to necessarily follow the standard public school format for teaching required subjects to be eligible for college admission. That gave me alot to think about!

Almost a High Schooler

Sarah turned 13 in May. I don't know what happened on that magical day, but she has started showing signs of wanting to grow up and be responsible. :-) Happy day for me! She's made lists, organized a calendar, started gathering materials for projects and activities early in the day, finishing things she starts (like laundry), and overall showing more maturity.

She continually talks about starting high school and the need to get it together so she can go to college. (Yay!) This week she pulled a copy of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar off the shelf and started reading it to get a "head start" on high school literature. When she realized it was difficult to understand, she checked out the movie from the library to get an overview before digging into the actual text again. (Smart thinking!)

My baby is growing up! :-( and :-) all rolled into one.

Charlotte Mason

I've been doing some reading on Charlotte Mason. My biggest takeaway is her scheduling and narration. I really like how she breaks the subjects into "times" rather than assignments. My girls think getting their schoolwork finished is a race. Most of what I assign them is the same even though they are two years apart. I wish they would learn to spend the time they need to really absorb something that they read and when they are in a race to finish two chapters in a day, I don't feel like they do.

I wouldn't really consider us year round schoolers, but I guess we are because we never quit doing math for any length of time and we are always reading. This week we are doing an experiment. "Last year" we used Core 5 of Sonlight and because of all our travelling, we didn't quite finish all the reading before the typical summer break. So, instead of assigning pages for them to read, I told them they needed to read 30 minutes of the assigned book each day and write down for me the pages that they read. Later, I asked them to tell me everything that was in the story that day and what they thought might happen tomorrow. Sometimes, I have had to prod for more information, but overall they have been doing an excellent job of telling me the story and nobody is concerned about who read more in the 30 minutes. (I thought this might be a problem ~ they are pretty competitive.)

I am considering using something similar in the fall, but with more subjects. I almost wonder if they might actually accomplish more if they work diligently for short spurts of time. We'll see how it goes.

Jet setting

OK...So, I'm really behind! Can you believe we've been literally been across the US (to Alaska and Florida) since I blogged last?
Alaska was AWESOME!

We took a 7 day cruise from Vancouver to Seward, then drove to Anchorage to drive home. This has been a dream of mine for years. When my husband asked what I wanted to do for my 40th birthday, this was at the top of my list. I never dreamed we would be able to take the girls, but because of a cruise line special, the 3rd and 4th passenger in the cabin were FREE! Of course, I had to make it a super cool field trip after a 6 weeks unit study on Alaska.

Less than 6 weeks later we headed to Florida for our standard annual vacation at the beach with my husband's family. Several families rent condos and spend a week at the beach. 25 relations gathered around a dinner table at a local restaurant is a sight to behold. What a great opportunity to have these kids grow up knowing each other and their older relatives.

Lots going on "schoolwise." I'll try to get to that soon!

Monday, May 3, 2010

I thought I was behind!

Well, I am behind on my blogging, but what I was referring to was our science curriculum. This year we are using Sonlight Core 5 for science. Here we are the first week of May and we have only finished through week 20 (out of 36!) That's only a little more than 1/2 way, and we started in August. Oops!

I was feeling very guilty about letting my kids science go by the wayside, but then today I decided to look and see what they've been missing. Come to find out, they don't really need to "finish the book" at all. The rest of the lessons cover a little more on hormones and the growth process (covered in our "birds and bees" talks from last year), food and nutrition (a major part of our everyday lives is spent discussing this, so a few tweaks to our conversations over the next few days will fill in the gaps), and survival skills (which they learned in their Red Cross classes last fall.)

So being the relaxed homeschooler that I am, I've decided to just let that book go unfinished. What a relief!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


So, we've been skiing 3 times this year (thanks to the great homeschool deals offered by local ski resorts!) As you have probably heard, the Carolinas have had a blizzard like year which has made for great skiing. We were fortunate enough to be able to go after some monster snow totals...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Planning for Next Year

I guess you could say I'm a planner, but that would be an understatement. I'm already working on a curriculum plan for next year. Some people have asked me how I can even think about next year when this year is only half over. I can because I worked on this year at this time last year. Now, I'm just implementing the plan, and that doesn't take alot of effort on my part.

One of the benefits to having a few years of homeschool under my belt is that I have finally figured out how my children learn. Another advantage is that as they get older, subject matter choices begin to become more clear based on college entrance requirements.

Now I'm not saying that we don't run into "bumps" with what I've decided to do every now and then, but when that happens we all just adjust. I can also be flexible. For example, we have loved Sonlight the past two years ~ history is their favorite subject and they both love to read, but as we have worked through this year I have found the schedule that is laid out in the instructors guide to be more than confining. In November, I found a few other booklists online with some great read alouds that fit into Core 5, so I picked them up and we have really enjoyed them.

In getting ready for next year I made a big "spreadsheet" of book titles that were suggested to go along with World History (basically Core 6.) Instead of sticking with the Sonlight list, I added Beautiful Feet, Notgrass, Winter Promise, and Mystery of History. I also scoured Books Children Love and All Through The Ages for things I thought would fit well. Unfortunately, my world history book list was MUCH too long to do in a year's time.

So, I decided next year we would focus on Ancient History. We'll do one more heavy study of this time period, then probably leave it for good. Waaaa! :-( That means my kids are getting old! I have narrowed my list to about 30 really good books (fiction and non-fiction) that cover the beginning of time through about 200 AD. Now I'm on a mission to add them all to our collection.

I'm not sure why I go to all this trouble of planning and research when there are good programs out there that would be fine to purchase and teach "straight out of the box." If they missed a book here or there, they'd still probably be better off than most kids. I guess it's that part of a mom that just wants the best for her kids and if it takes a little extra work to make it the best, I'm going to do it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Time Flies...

Time flies when you are having fun.

We had a wonderful holiday and I am struggling to get "started" with school again. The girls are good about doing a math lesson each day and we've completed some read alouds and watched a few "school" (if you stretch it) movies.

Here's some of what we've been doing:

We got a big snow the week before Christmas (I'm still waiting for it to melt!)

Sarah got a video camera for Christmas! Maybe she'll take some video I can post here...

Rebecca got a bike!

Rebecca made us a lovely maroon throw.

Sarah made us matching Gator blankets.

My dad flew up Christmas night. Then, the Petersons (my cousin Dan's family) stopped by for the afternoon on their way to Maggie Valley. I haven't seen him in probably 9 years. It was his kids first time to see snow.

Some of the Harts (Fred's brother Billy) came up from Florida to see snow (again a first time for the kids), and they got it!

Flat Stanley came to visit from our friends the Thompsons, who live in Tampa. We showed him all around! Pisgah National Forest, Biltmore, Flat Rock Bakery, Carl Sandburg House, Flat Rock Theatre are just a few of the places we went. He got too cold and wanted to go back to Florida!

Skiing at Sugar Mountain is good fun after a big snowfall!