Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Homeschool in the Woods

If you know me, you know that I wouldn't actually do homeschool in the woods. I'm not exactly an "outdoor" girl. No, that's the title of the history series we have fallen in love with. (yes, I just used a dangling participle. We don't do much grammar in our homeschool).

This is a Christian lapbook series focused on American history, beginning with New World Explorers. We weren't exposed to it until a friend used some of the Colonial Times lapbook for pilgrim class in co-op. We did the American Revolution, were greatly saddened (or at least I was) when I realized that we hadn't taken advantage of the Early 19th Century (call me a dork, but I was confusing it with another century!), and have just finished the Civil War.

I had one of those "You know you're a homeschool mom" moments when I went online a month ago and was perfectly giddy when I saw that they had just completed the "Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression" lapbook. Perfect! Just in time!

They also have an Artists lapbook and a Composers lapbook (we learned so much from those!) and also Old and New Testament which we have not tried but are always tempting me.

I like them because they give us lots of fun projects to do and makes history come alive for the kids. The only downside is that the text is, well, textbook like, rather than a story. I prefer living books so I supplement with those.

Our new lapbook DVD arrives next week with some friends coming from the States. We can't wait! We're such homeschool geeks.

The cover of our lapbook - we took out some projects that are supposed to be in here, and put in some that are supposed to be in the notebook, so ours is a little crammed!

Motivate me

For 6 years I have homeschooled, and for 6 years I have pondered the question, "What motivates my son?" Megan is like me - internally motivated, driven like a little hamster on a wheel both to please me and to accomplish much. She's my above and beyond girl. But Ethan? Despite his compliance and general cooperative spirit, he just doesn't care too much about school.

Until I gave him a D on his math test.

Only recently have I bothered with math tests, and not until Monday did I translate one of their scores into an actual grade. But looking at 13 out of 20 made me think, "That seems really low - what is it really?" None of his mistakes but one were caused by a lack of understanding (and honestly, that one I had to go back and review myself!). They were simply carelessness. As I look at our homeschool environment, it forced me to realize that my good efforts and desire to keep school relaxed and flexible may have swung the pendulum a little too far in that direction.

So I didn't feel badly about giving him a D because I knew it wasn't saying, "You really don't know this stuff." It was saying, "Up the ante kiddo - you can do better than this." I had no idea that it would be so motivating to him. Now he's asking me to grade everything - including spelling practice! He even suggested I give him two grades - one for whether or not he spelled the words correctly, and one for how neat his handwriting was. And even in 3 days, I have seen improvement.

We've hit on something here people. I really shouldn't be surprised. Hello? Who's their mother? I was all about grades. Now, granted, one of the reasons I like school is the freedom from things like that, but I think this is showing me the value of seeing the standard and letting it push us to do what we are capable of doing. Yay for finding motivators!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No need to learn

Yesterday Megan started a particularly tedious chapter of math, 3 digit by 2 digit multiplication. Her teacher has taught her a different method than the one I was taught, so even sometimes I get confused. At one point she gave up and said, "You just do it for me!"
I was just about to remind her that if I did it for her, she wouldn't learn, and she jumped in with, "I don't CARE if I'm dumb!"

Well, I guess if you're content staying at this level of math forever, what can I say? But we persevered (through the first page, not the second) and if I'm not mistaken she's up there right now working on it herself. So I guess she decided she does want to improve. I'm so glad.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Explaining myself in another language

Taking my kids out in the middle of the day is always tricky, because it raises questions in peoples' minds, "Why aren't those children in school?" (to which, in my mind I think, "They are. Currently they are learning about grocery shopping.") At least in the States, if you tell them you are homeschooling, they understand. Well, they intellectually understand what you mean. They probably don't understand why, and that's ok.

But here, where homeschooling is extremely rare, it requires a bit more explanation. Here's the conversation that went down at the carpet store last week:

Women in the store: Why aren't your kids in school?

Me: I teach them at home.

Women in the store: (Silence. Blinking eyes. Crickets chirping. Questions forming). You teach them yourself?? But . . . do your children obey you?

Me: What kind of mother would I be if my kids didn't obey me?

Women in the store: (Chuckles, nodding). But, they listen to you as their teacher? Isn't that hard?

Me: If children listen to their teachers, they should listen to their parents too.

This seemed to be a new concept for them to absorb, and an opportunity for me to realize again that educational philosophy isn't really in my Chinese vocabulary (I was already made aware of that when my chiropractor asked me about testing the kids. I couldn't begin to explain why I think testing is fairly useless).

It makes me think that having these conversations in America would be SO much easier.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Off and running

Ethan walked into the dining room yesterday and Megan said, "Ethan! Mommy made me a SPECIAL breakfast. And it's really FUN-NY!" So that seemed like a good start to our first day back (it was two halves of a buttered bagel for eyes, a few banana slices piled up as a nose and the rest of the slices for a mouth. They're easily amused).

The rest of our morning wasn't quite as stellar, as we had to navigate around the sounds of drilling from inside our apartment (but we're thankful for the worker who continues to make our house a home). We didn't get through everything, which I wasn't expecting to do, but all in all it was a decent start. So we're off and running! (ok, maybe off and at a slow jog).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Another reason I'm glad I homeschool

Every once in awhile, I start to wonder if my kids are getting the best education by being homeschooled. I don't know, but I do know that there are things that remind me that for now, I'm glad they are not in certain current school systems (particularly those that are pushing academics too early at the expense of exploration and play). This article is one of those things.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Looking back

We're looking at our last week of homeschool for the year. We could keep going, but I think we've had a good run and the kids have learned a lot. For example . . .

Ethan has now mastered division and begun learning fractions. He can write a multi-paragraph story or report using an outline. His handwriting has improved greatly. His spelling has gone up a solid grade and a half. His drawing has improved. He has started learning how to inductively study the Bible. He's learned about the human body, drama, music, etiquette, being a peace-maker, and soccer in co-op. He's dabbled in the recorder and the piano. He's been learning Chinese.

Megan has breezed halfway through her multiplication book. She has started learning to write using outlines. She's learned cursive. Her spelling is off the charts (as is her reading). She's learned soccer, human body, pioneer days, Chinese characters, music and crafts in co-op. She's played piano. She's learning Chinese.

Together, we've made our way through American History. We've read lots of great books like Mr. Revere and I, and Carry On, Mr Bowditch. We've done lapbooks on Colonial Life and the American Revolution. We're cutting off the year at the Gold Rush. Next fall we'll pick it back up with the Civil War.

But most importantly, we've had a lot of time together. We've learned a lot about how to love each other better, how to be patient and kind to one another, how to lean on God for what we need each day. Another year of investment in my kids - it's been so worth it!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Home Stretch

Is it summer yet? I have to keep telling myself "no" because otherwise I would succumb to the temptation to call it good for the year. Probably the thing that keeps me from it is knowing that if I stopped doing school in the morning and let my kids enjoy the increasingly warm and beautiful days out in the courtyard, my neighbor (who homeschools her 5 kids) would kill me. If her kids look out the window and see that mine are outside, it's over for her.

The main reason for this sudden desire to quit is that I was gone a week for work. Coming back and jumping straight back into routine (when my husband simultaneously left on another trip) was tough. Not to mention the fact that the kids are both doing quite well in all subjects, especially Megan. Permit me a "brag on my kid" moment to tell you that I gave them another diagnostic spelling test the other day to see how they are doing, and she scored at the 7th grade level. Ethan was just a few months behind. Can you blame me for thinking they've learned enough this year?

But I've promised myself that I (we) will persevere for at least another eight weeks. I'm going to sit down today with the kids and make a list of goals for the rest of the year - how far they want to get in math, reading, writing, history, and handwriting - so that we can see the finish line.

Having said all that, my back really hurts today from an exercise injury yesterday. Can we play hooky?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lightbulbs going on

I am thankful that, for the most part, our kids haven't struggled much with any subject. Ethan was a bit of a reluctant reader at first, but we put it away for awhile and took it out later when he was ready. Other than that, it's been pretty easy to teach them.

But I knew that the first place we would struggle would be math, because in teaching math I am like the blind leading the blind. Ok, maybe the legally blind leading the blind, but that doesn't up our odds much. Ethan is now doing long division - double digits into triple digits. And the thing is, the program we follow teaches it differently than how I learned. Try teaching a kid something you don't understand! In the teacher's defense, once I did figure it out, this makes more sense. The first two lessons this week were painful - working through each problem together, probably 5-10 minutes on each one. The key was that we pulled out the manipulative blocks and used those. Despite that help, I saw a long road ahead of us filled with numbers and tears.

Then day three, I noticed that Ethan was pulling the blocks out more quickly, and, if I wasn't mistaken, was enjoying the problems. I pointed this out to him and told him to stop, because math is not supposed to be FUN. If you don't know me, well, first of all I'm surprised you're reading this, but secondly, you should know that I am kidding. I kid like that.

Today, he grabbed the blocks, headed off for a corner, and did the whole page without complaining. It was such a "this is why I do this" moment.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Future Note Taker

Monday was a red letter day because we did science experiments that ACTUALLY WORKED. That's right, folks, you heard it here first. It's possible.

And I have proof! Megan decided to take notes while we were experimenting. At some points she was writing down everything I said, which got a little creepy even. I could tell you about the experiments, but if you click on the picture you can see what they were all about. I told her she was learning a great skill for the future!

Want to know something wild? She spelled, "ethanoic" on her own! And I just noticed that a few of her actual spelling words are thrown in there too (piano, moose).