Monday, November 12, 2007

Fall Break...

I hadn't intended to take a fall break, but it somehow ended up that way. We pretty much kept up with reading and math, but history and science took a hiatus. I really need to remember next October how much more I enjoy fall when I am not running around like a chicken w/ it's head cut off. I was out of town more than I was home this year, and it was exhausting. Even worse I feel like I missed fall all together.

We seem to be back on course now. We are reading a few bits and pieces in Story of the World, and next week we are going to begin studying Ancient China. After that we are going to take a break from Story of the World to study winter holidays from around the world. As for science I am not satisfied with what we have been doing. I will probably alternate Story of the world units with science unit studies starting after Christmas. Curly Q.'s reading program at first glance seemed really "schoolish", but it is working for her. She is even taking pride in her handwriting, so I think this program is a keeper. We have been taking math really slowly. I think I have been hoping for her to have basic addition facts memorized and I am not sure that is realistic at her age. So we are moving forward with Singapore and supplementing with Time4Learning. I still haven't decided if Time4Learning is worth the price. I did figure out how to let Bear try it out on Curly Q.'s account today so that is a plus.

Bear is making great strides. She is progressing quickly through Study Dog, and she only has a couple of letters that are giving her trouble. Also, she LOVES her Singapore Earlybird Math workbook. She is ready to begin more formal work, but I am hesitant to commit to it yet. I think after Christmas I will do more with her. At the very least she can do more stuff on the computer.

Ok, so that's the update for now.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I wonder

Will I ever feel secure in my homeschooling choices? On the outside I appear confident, but still I have nagging concerns on a regular basis. Is homeschooling the best choice for Curly Q.? Is homeschooling Curly Q. the right choice for our family? Will Bear want to be homeschooled? Is Curly Q. gifted? Does it matter? Should I change some of our curriculum choices? Should school be fun most of the time, or is that unreasonable? I have vague answers to some of these questions, but I am not sure all of them have answers. Will I ever?

In other news, Bear is showing interest in being taught. That is a big deal considering that a couple weeks ago she wanted nothing to do with it. Maybe I did the right thing by stepping away from it. I never forced her to do anything schoolwise, and now she is discovering that there are things she wants to know. Of course that is what has lead to me to wonder if we should go back to unit studies. They were tons of work, but learning was tons of fun. I am thinking that we may revisit them after Christmas. I am too busy to plan them right now, but things will settle down then. I also decided to school year round. Curly Q. wanted to anyway, and I feel less pressured to fit as much as possible in if I know we are learning in the summer too.

Ok, so that is the jumbled update.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ruffled Feathers

I spend time reading and posting on a board dedicated to homeschooling. On this board a bunch of people are up in arms over an article on the National Education Association site about homeschooling.

You can read the article here .
There is even a petition you can sign, although I am not sure what they hope to accomplish with this petition.

As usual it seems that people are just looking for a reason to get their feathers ruffled. The letter in question was written by a head custodian at a private school. Does the opinion of a support staff person really represent the opinion of the whole NEA? If the lunch lady said that homeschooling is the best way to educate children would we count that as a win?

Yes, the NEA has made it clear that they do not think homeschools can offer students "a comprehensive education experience". Still, they have been pretty silent on the subject since 2002. That's five years! Why are we still worried about what they said five years ago? Actually why are we worried about what they say at all?

This is America. Let me say that again. This is AMERICA!!! Aren't we all entitled to opinions that make sense to us? Is it a surprise that the people who earn their living from teaching don't think untrained people should be able to take their jobs? Not to me! Of course, homeschoolers looking for a cause are also welcome to argue with them through petitions, letters to their representatives, or whatever other means they decided. I'll skip this petition though because if I'm going to join a cause it will be one that combats a real problem.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Why do so many parents feel their kids need to find a passion at such a young age? I am just as guilty as everyone else, so I'm not being judgmental. I guess when we think of people like Tiger Woods we know that part of the reason they are so far ahead of the curve is that they started the race years before everyone else.

So, as a parent, I find myself wanting to give my kids the best opportunity to achieve their potential. How is that done?

Curly Q. was invited to join a dance company. It is a great opportunity!! I must admit I am proud for her to be asked again. Yes, she was asked before, but that was as the company was starting and half of the dance school was asked so it didn't seem like much of an honor. This time she was singled out.

Part of me says there is no way to say "NO" to an opportunity like this. What if dance could be her "thing". The one thing she passionately loves. Other girls are starting their race now. Will Curly Q. be behind if we wait a year before indulging the passion? Two year? Is she already behind?

The rest of me feels differently. Curly Q. is not even 6 years old. Joining this dance company would prevent her from trying out other activities. It costs A LOT, and the company practices A LOT. We simply wouldn't have time or money for her to do anything else. What if her passion has nothing to do with dance.

So how can we decide? Well, in this case we took all the above arguments out of the equation. The dance class meets far later at night than I would like. In fact it doesn't end until 30 minutes AFTER Curly Q. is already in bed. Curly Q. needs her sleep to be able to function (and she is incapable of sleeping in). So she will not be joining dance company this year. Her biggest disappointment is that she can't take ballet with the teacher that works with the company. Otherwise she is ok.

There's always next year to try dance company (if she isn't too far behind by then ;-)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Not the best morning...

We were away for the weekend so we are all a bit tired. Add the fact that Curly Q. and I both have colds and you have the perfect recipe for a rough morning. I was excited about starting our new language arts program, but I guess I didn't do enough to build excitement for Curly Q. She started out dragging her feet because she had to write each of her new spelling words. So the activity that should have taken her 10 minutes took her nearly 30.

Then it was time to read, and I was explaining why certain words need -es instead of-s to make them plural and she was not even pretending to pay attention. I snapped and told her, "If you want to homeschool you need to pay me the respect that a school teacher would demand. You need to sit still and pay attention or homeschooling will never work." Not my proudest moment, and I could tell I went to far when her little chin started to quiver. I asked her if she needed a break and she nodded and ran to her room. I could hear her sobbing in there, and of course I feel like a heel.

When I went in to talk to her she told me that she was afraid I was going to make her go to public school because she wasn't paying attention. Obviously I never intended to make public school a threat!!! She may go to public school someday (even some day soon),and I don't want her to think it is a punishment.

Anyway, we managed to finish reading and writing (which she didn't complain much about even though she loathes it). Then Bear joined us and we read about hieroglyphs. Curly Q. decided to save Math for this afternoon, and to tell the truth I was thrilled to not push her through anything else.

I keep reminding myself that tomorrow is another day...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Someone asked, "What were you doing on 9/11" Of course like all Americans I remember in detail:
John had taken the day off work so that we could go to the car dealership. We stopped for breakfast, and when we walked in the whole place was silent except for the tv. We sat there watching the horrible sight in complete silence with a restaurant full of people. It was eerie.

In retrospect, although I feel terrible for the families of the people killed, I feel worse for what has happened since. I am not talking about the war in this case (although I could go there too) In the US we have always had a false sense of security. 9/11 woke us up to the facts that the world in a dangerous place. The rest of the world has always known that. What's worse is that some people have used this fear to justify taking away our civil liberties. Tis loss of freedom has not made us safer. In fact an argument could be made that is has made us less safe. Which would you prefer, knowing that we are mortal and there are bad people out there or losing the basic freedom guaranteed in the constitution. We as Americans cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear. We may live longer, but what is our quality of life.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Fresh Start

After my crisis of faith last week, I am ready to begin again. Here's the scoop subject by subject:

  • Until the new program arrives we will not be doing language arts. I am going to make use of my last month of Reading A-Z. So Kali will be reading me a leveled reader every day until we can begin our new program.
  • Math is still going well for both of them, so that is good. I chose singapore mostly because it was the cheapest alternative, and I expected to have to switch a few times before we found a fit. So it's a nice surprise to have it work.
  • I am very excited about science because I just created a reproducible notebook page that I am very proud of. The idea behind the animal notebook is that the girls can refer back to it and enjoy the work they have put into it.
  • I figured out part of my stress last week had to do with History. More specifically history library books. I feel pressured to keep moving because my library books are due right after I am supposed to have covered a chapter. I think I need to hold off on requesting the books until closer to when I will need them. That way I will have a bit of breathing room.
  • The pretend preschool I set up in the living room for Bear went over very well. I will try to recreate that each day. Also, I need to remind myself that Bear's wiggliness is typical of a child her age. Curly Q. didn't go through that, but that says more about Curly Q. than it does about Bear. Still (although others have disagreed) I do believe that she needs to practice sitting still for short periods of time. So we will work on that, but I will do my best not to take it as a personal failure when it doesn't go so well.
So that is the new plan in a nutshell. The good news is that since Curly Q. is academically ahead there is little chance of her falling behind as we flounder around looking for our path. I need to remember that the name of this journey is Follow My Whimsy. I wasn't feeling very whimsical last week.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Way off course already???

I know that one of the main benefits of homeschooling is flexibility. However, I am not prone to flexibility. In fact when I attempt to be flexible it makes me anxious. This week feels like a total bust to me school wise. We got to do all kinds of fun stuff, but very little school. I feel really bad about being this far behind already. Then I start to think about all the detours we have in the next two months and I am practically having a panic attack. Part of my brain knows that the only one putting pressure on me is me, but another part feels like I have to stay on track. This is important!! If Curly Q. ever goes into public school she needs to stay on track. Then of course there is Bear. I have no idea how many of her letters she knows. Half... Less??? Curly Q. knew all her letters when she was 3, and Bear is nearly 4 and doesn't know them. Also, she won't sit still for more than a few moments of organized activity. I should have sent her to preschool this year, but I didn't... Maybe I should become an unschooler. Then I could just know that living will teach them what they need to learn. If only I could buy into that...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Tweaking It?

Well, the first week is over, so, for a control freak like me, it's time to evaluate our curriculum choices (and second guess them all).

Reading: As I mentioned before it is WAY too easy. Even with the suggested modifications for "gifted" kids Curly Q. isn't really learning anything. I gave her a reading assessment and she is reading at a 2.6 grade level. So it's not surprising that a first grade language arts program isn't doing much for her. She isn't complaining about it so I think we will stick with it for a while longer.

Math: We are using Singapore Math 1A and it is a good fit. Since it has no drill work, I have been supplementing with some worksheets. I also bought a cd game of addition bingo which Curly Q. is really excited about using.

History: I can't really evaluate Story of the World yet because we just did the introduction this week. I do think that it will be Curly Q.'s favorite subject once we get into it.

Science: On Tuesday I tried to teach Curly Q. to use the library computer to find books about forests. The problem was that each search came up with tons of stuff that didn't apply to her. I ended up finding books for her and having her decide whether they would work for her lesson. The girls loved our field trip to the forest, and they are already begging to go back.

Bear: The Singapore earlybird math is a bit of a joke. Bear seems well past any of the activities presented s far. She did enjoy the montessori type activities I set up for her though. On the reading front I was happy that after only a tiny bit of work she finally calls S by its name instead of by its sound. Today she didn't really want to do calendar, but with a bit of coaxing she came and participated. She knows her months amazingly well.

So my verdict is that we should "Stay the Course" at least for the time being. Next week we will talk about apples during language arts. I also planned Bear's stuff around apples and the letter A. We will also start the first "real" chapter in history and do our first in depth animal study. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So far so good....

Well, after two days of school things are going pretty good. I managed to keep Bear busy and happy while staying on track for Curly Q. work. I put out three "center" type activities for Bear and called it preschool. She took the bait and spent all morning on Monday doing the activities. Today after we did reading and math we went to the library. I began teaching Curly to use the computer to find books about a specific topic while Bear played. Curly Q. seemed a little distracted so I am worried about whether my plan to do school work at the library on Tuesdays is going to work. I am also considering changing from the first grade language arts lessons I am using to the second grade ones. Right now it is nice because Bear has been joining us, but today's lesson was about opposites and Curly Q. didn't learn anything new from it.

On a different subject, a friend of mine just sent her daughter to kindergarten. She was telling me about the weekly schedule, and I cannot believe that the kids have time to learn anything. Kindergartners go for just over 2 hours. On four days they go to a special class (gym, art or music) that lasts at least 45 minutes. They have 15 minutes of announcements, 15 minutes of clean-up at the end of class, and a 15 minute snack. That leaves a whopping 30 minutes to teach a class of 25+ five year olds. My guess is that they won't be learning much more than how to stand in line and play dodge ball.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Back to School Jitters

I remember as a kid, every August my whole being would start to tingle. While many kids were dreading going back to school I met the prospect with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. It always felt like a fresh start. Of course that is pretty funny since every year until high school I HATED school by September, but for that week before school actually started I would think, "This will be the year!"

When I became a teacher I continued to get those jitters in August. Luckily I enjoyed teaching so they didn't go away so quickly. Still, by Christmas break, the monotony had set in, and although I wasn't hating every second like I did as a student, I wasn't really savoring them either.

So once again I am feeling the jitters of a new school year, but now I feel wiser. I have to get it right this time. I want to find a way to collect that feeling and keep it alive for me and the kids for the whole year. I think that will be the true testament to how great homeschooling can be. If we can keep the spark of excitement going for the whole school year I'll mark it a success.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The longest week...

I had planned to try to blog every day, just to get in the habit, but then this week got out of hand. I knew it would, since my sister in law, nephews and niece were visiting, but I didn't realize how exhausting it would be.

Monday we had a Peter Pan themed birthday party. Originally Bear wanted to be Tinkerbelle, but the birthday girl was being that so I thought she should choose something else. Curly Q. wanted to be Tick Tock the crocodile, but I had no idea how to create a costume that wouldn't be too hot. So after careful deliberation (we actually just watched the movie for inspiration) Bear decided to be Tiger Lily and Curly Q. decided to be Mr Smee. When I figure out how to attach pictures I'll post them.

The bad part is that that was just the morning on Monday. I'll save you the details, but after that we met up with my Mom and sister in law for lunch. Then we went to Mom's house where the kids got to play with their cousins. It is so funny how differently they play. Both the girls did play power rangers, but Curly Q. is just not that suited to super hero play.

Tuesday was our day of rest. We did go to McDonald's with an old friend, but otherwise it was a calm day.

Wednesday was the day we have been looking forward to for the whole summer. Curly Q. and I went to the American Girl store. She had so much fun (although I do admit to being in consumer hell). We got to do the lunch which wasn't that over priced for the amount of food. We got a picture of her with her doll (which was overpriced and not that good). And of course we bought a few matching pieces of clothing. All in all we spent less than $200 for the whole day (including parking). Not a cheap day, but Curly Q. is still talking about it.

Thursday we relaxed until gymnastics time. It as the last lesson for this session, and I was amazed at how much they have improved during the summer. After that we went to dinner at Benihana's. My kids have been there many times, but my nephew and niece had never been there. It was fun to see their excitement over the onion volcano.

Friday we spent the whole day with Mom and the kids. It was fun, but by the end of the day we were all in need of some private time. Unfortunately we won't be getting much of it today because of the birthday party for my oldest nephew and niece. Tomorrow should be better, but Monday we are going to the zoo.

Have I mentioned I can't wait for school to start? We will be starting on Monday the 27th just like the public schools. It will be nice to get back to normal. The past couple weeks have been so hectic, and I know we all will benefit from a schedule. (Ok I will benefit from a schedule).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I have a confession to make...

Until very recently I thought blogs were a waste of time. I mean seriously who really wants to read about everyone else's life. Shouldn't we all be busy with our own lives? My husband started a blog many years ago, and I teased him about it. Still when I started toying with the idea of homeschooling, it was blogs of other homeschoolers that made me feel that it was not only a normal choice, but a wise one too. For a long time all the homeschoolers I met were fundies who were scared their children might view evolution as fact if allowed in the public school system. Through blogs I began to see that homeschoolers are a diverse group. That I could be me and homeschool. I still think that reading blogs instills a sort of voyerism that seems a bit strange to me, but I suppose it is no more strange than watching tv dramas every night. So it is with some nervousness and a lot of excitment that I start this blog. Hopefully it will serve as a sounding board for ideas and a record of our homeschool (and life) journey.