A poetic day

Today was a good day.  I love being able to start posts that way.  We didn’t get everything done that I wanted to accomplish, but I feel like if we manage to meet our goals over the week or month, we can’t ( I can’t) get worked up over missing something here or there.

                What made it a good day was the fact that my children were engaged and interested in things.  Joe and I started the day discussing “This Lime Tree Bower My Prison”.  Apparently Joe thinks Coleridge is “emo”.  I mean, why get so worked up because you can’t go on a walk?  Don’t even get him started on the albatross.  Then we worked in his LLATL book; similes, metaphors, and personification.  He had to write a small poem of his own design.  There was much balking at this assignment, but eventually he came up with something quite nice.  This unit has been fascinating, watching Joe warm-up to poetry.  It seems so complicated and scary to people.  However, the more you read and just give yourself space to think and write, it can become quite simply beautiful. 

                Anyway…where was I (not in an English garden)?  Joe studied for his Algebra test on Wed. and then Elijah read the next chapter in history, “The First King of Sumer”.  He enjoys these stories so much. The ancient world completely enthralls him.  We reviewed the material and then looked up some books at the library on Mesopotamia.  I loved having Elijah home for the day.  I wonder if it would really be possible to home school both kids next year.  I’ll save that thought for another post. 

                Then it was time for errand running.  Refilling ink cartridges, the music store (the trombonist needs a new music stand), paint store, car wash- that was fun , the kids got to watch it go through with flashing light and everything- then the library.  Joe picked up a book for his John Adams biography, poetry books by Shel Silverstein and Poe.  Elijah found a nice book about Sumeria and an activity book about ancient cultures.  That will come in handy when we get into Babylonia and the Hittites.  As soon as the y came home, they dug right in. 

                Joe just came in and asked for some paper, apparently he is having an inspirational poetry moment.  Aahh, good day.

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Test Results

Well , it figures.  My children live to make fools of me. 

  After a really horrible week my son went and blew my mind.  Friday is always test/review/whatever day at our little homeschool.  This is the first year (6th grade) that I have actually given him tests and kept a gradebook.  I felt that it was important to start getting him ready for this type of evaluation if he decides to go back to public school at any point in the future, near or far.  This has helped with the accountability of getting things accomplished daily in that I give him a daily grade for work and then a more weighted grade for tests.  Unfortunately he figured out that he can slop through his daily work, study for the test, ace it, and then get a decent “grade” overall.  Smart kids are so trying sometimes.

   I am happy with his scores today and I am proud of him for actually studying independently. I purposefully left him to it.  So, yes homeschooling isn’t all bad these days.  I am just feeling a little on the whiny-side of the fence.

   Here is the link to the handy Excel grade sheet from donnayoung.org if you are interested.  We don’t have to keep that many records in WV, but it is nice to have that file to show people as necessary.  It also makes me feel smart to say I have an Excel spreadsheet for all my educational data. 

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Post- Elementary Depression

   The last few days have just been pretty crappy.  I am having a problem getting work completion from Joe and it is nearly exhausting me.  I used to think about homeschooling and get excited and start dreaming up new projects and field trips.  Now I am just tired.  I hope it is a passing phase, one that I will either grow out of or soldier through.  I wonder many times what next year will bring.  We have come to the place in Joe’s life where he either chooses to homeschool or chooses to go to public.  It has been a sober realization that I can’t entice him into having fun anymore. 

   It saddens me to have these thoughts because I have really come to identify with homeschooling.  I am a homeschooler.  And I cannot deny the things my child has learned that never would have graced our doorstep otherwise.  Maybe I am having a commitment problem.  Maybe I am over- committing emotionally.  Many friends tell me it is the age and the stage that Joe is going through that make things the way they are.  I hope that is true because he can grow out of it.  If it’s me, than we might have a bigger problem on our hands.

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Midtown Throwdown

   If you have never actually fanatasized about wrapping your trembling fingers around your middle schoolers neck…you may want to stop reading now. 

   We had a rough start to homeschooling after the holidays.  I wouldn’t charicterize it as a combative time, there wasn’t much fighting.  More like a work-stoppage.  We were doing Algebra one morning and Joe just shut the book. 

“I’m not doing this anymore today,”  he stated matter-of-factly. 

“Oh yes you are, ” was my very mature response.

“No, I’m not.”

   After I picked myself up off the dining room floor, we had a one-way heated discussion (guess who did all the talking!).  My husband’s response was, go enroll him immediately, ungrateful child. We went with some form of that, more along the lines of a probationary period.  I told Joe he had one day to decide whether he wanted to homeschool (according to our rules) or go to public school.  The choice was his.  We have never given him total control like that.  It was scary and freeing all at the same time. 

   Joe decided that he would like to continue school at home and have the opportunity to learn more than he would at school.  We had a nice long eye roll fest during my lectures discussions on proper behavior, etc. 

   Things have been better since then, but I still have the date of the next six weeks grading period on my calendar, just in case.

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Back in the saddle again

   Well, student teaching will wrap up next week and I could not be happier.  I will miss the children I have worked with but I am so excited to get back to homeschooling with Joe.  This semester has been rough on both of us.  I have just missed spending time with him.  He has been going through a mild depression…feeling sort of useless.  Working at the bookstore has helped tremendously, thank you Sara! 

   He has been practicing the trombone a lot and is doing very well.  We had our first rendition of Jingle Bells.  There will be a flurry of activity the next two weeks and then Christmas preparations. 

   Speaking of Christmas, has anyone found a web site for the 12 Days of Christmas that gives activities for each day?  I know someone posted it last year, but I can’t find it.  Thanks!

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Obligatory Annual Curriculum Post- Part 1? Oi vey.

   Well, here it is.  My declaration of intended curriculum for this “school year”.  I am very happy with our choices this year and I feel like Joe is progressing to an interesting place academically.  We are working this eclectic version of the classical spiral.  I am informed that we are in the Logic Stage now.  That is hilarious to me because, honestly?  I feel completely illogical when faced with adolescence.  Like getting into a shouting match about who tossed the paper towels down the stairs and whether my aim was off or I meant to hit him in the head illogical.  So I feel about as surefooted as a tight rope walker this year.          

      On the other hand, there are more “things” he wants to do and have now.  I can totally blackmail him into more algebra.              Speaking of curriculum (word I used to love and now fight vomit out of my mouth when I say it), here is our list for the year.           

      Math- Saxon Algebra ½- I like the straightforwardness of the Saxon program, the fact that it goes all the way through high school, and the step by step/constant review features.  So even if I feel like he has a good grasp on a skill I can skip the lesson knowing that he will at least get some practice later.            

       Language Arts- We are trying a few different things this year.  We had been using the straight up Rod and Staff hardcore Amish grammar series.  I think Joe was ready for something different and a little more cohesive.  We are trying out Learning Language Arts Through Literature.  I skipped him to 7th grade and right now that looks like the best choice.  It seems to be a little below level to start…but maybe my expectations of 7th grade work are a little off. This series reminds me of Saxon because of the integrated steps.  You don’t have a section on just nouns or verbs, they are all woven together with passages from great literature as examples.  I thought that would be a great way to up his diet of classics.  We will also do some book studies with this program, previously I had devised my own, and that will be a nice timesaver for me.             

     Writing- Writing Strands had worked really well the first two years we schooled, and late last year Joe got tired of it.  It’s a great program…it’s just all the same.  I’m glad there are so many choices out there because as Joe’s needs change there is always something for him.  I ordered a new program called Wordsmith (by the same publishers as LLATL) Apprentice.  It looks pretty neat, the kids pretend they are working at a newspaper and there are cartoon strips featuring messages from their editor.  The editor gives them assignments and the student uses real newspapers as a resource.  It seems like a great idea, let me know if any of you have used it.  I’d love some more feedback.         

          I’ve worn myself out now, I’ll get to the other subjects another day.  My inner Scarlett has kicked in. *swoon*   

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Brownie Support Group Activities

     We had our home school association meeting this evening and boy are my jaws tired.  Actually my belly hurts due to the ingestion of the most awesome peanut brownies EVER.  I love the whole dessert  social concept.  I really think skipping the potluck was an excellent idea.

                Our group is nice, all-inclusive, come- as- you- are party.  I really like the spirit of cooperation we have going on.  Two of the events we do monthly are a Project  Day and a just for fun skating party.  The project day has always been my favorite because it gave the kids a chance to show off their work to someone besides grandpa.  Along those lines, we are also working on getting a web-based site/newsletter/yearbook/brag board.  Kind of like an online refrigerator to hang good work on. 

                Science club was another topic bandied about.  We want to do something for our older middle and high school age students.  Anybody have any ideas?  I am working on partnering us up with the local college students/faculty.  If anyone has run something like this I would love some input. 

                The number of activities we are talking about really amazes me.  We didn’t do much of anything last year for schedule reasons and the first few years were just catch as we can.  This year…we are going to have so many opportunities to get together…well, let’s just say no one could dare call us unsocialized.    

                So what cool things are going on in your groups…do tell while I finish this heavenly, peanutty-filled confection.  Nom, nom, nom…..*bliss*

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Vacation…all I never wanted

   So today is like most days this month.  We are wrapping up a lot of loose ends for portfolio review.  We have been concentrating on history because that is the subject that suffers the most during the times I am busy with school.  My goal was to make it through the revolutionary war.  I am however making an executive decision to pause at the French and Indian War.  It just feels like I am rushing to “get through” a time period that is so important and interesting.  We have kind of a weird schedule.  Joe is taking July off, but then we will we be back to work in August and September.  Once I start student teaching Joe will lay low and unschool for that time. 

    I am not sure how well I am handling the concept of summer vacation.  I would rather do maybe 4 weeks on, 2 weeks off kind of rotation.  With my own school schedule, it just doesn’t quite work.  I know that it is hard for Joe when all of his friends are at their leisure and he has to get his work done before he can go outside.  Honestly, I am not forcing him to slave away by candlelight like some medieval scribe.  Especially right now… it’s just a few things we need for portfolio filler.  I have always been in the year round school camp.  Joe thinks I am torturing him slowly.  I feel like, we don’t get time off in the real world (because what is more real than homeschooling, honestly?)  and it cuts down on incessant reviewing.  Plus, it’s not like we are stuffing him in a classroom for 8 hours.  Sheesh.

   So what are your feelings on summer vacation, do you vacate the learning just because it’s warm out? :)

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Schedules and other middle school mayhem

Well, this year has gone fairly smoothly, save some scheduling and completion issues.  I can definitly tell that Joe appreciates the opportunity to homeschool after having been in public school some last year.  We had to rearrange some things in our schedule to help it fit my school schedule.  I am student teaching in the fall so we are working through June, taking July off, starting again in August and September, and then having a fall break in October and November.  That made my head hurt just to write it.  He is not loving working in the summer, I do however remind him frequently that if he would do the work when he is told to do it in the morning…. he wouldn’t be missing time with his friends later.  Honestly that has been our biggest issue this year.  If Joe is not completely feeling up to it he either “forgets” to do his work or says it was hard and “I answered the best I could.”  Last time I checked, “sort of” was not even a mediocre answer to the question, “Did Johnny Tremain agree or disagree with Sam Adams’ actions via the Sons of Liberty and why do you think so?”  We have really been in get it done mode, so maybe it is time for a break and things will be better in August.  He is excited about starting some new texts that he views as advanced.  I think I take for granted the things I believe him capable of.  He is superhuman, right?  Capable of understanding 7th grade literary analysis in a single bound! 

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First week of the rest of my life

   Well we made through the first week of homeschooling with few hiccups.  It is really amazing what a short stint back in public school did for Joe’s attitude.  We are focusing on tying up some loose ends while we wait for his books to come in.  This past week we reviewed our Latin from last year, restarted Japanese, and picked in history with the War of the Roses.  He is doing a novel study on a Wrinkle in Time and just finished The Candy Shop War  by Brandon Mull who also wrote Fablehaven series.  Oh yeah, and Writing Strands Level 4.  I thought I would be incredible nervous going back into this, but honestly?, it feels like coming home.  I love doing this.  I love knowing what he is learning and passing on the topics, subjects Ithink are important.  I love giving him the space to choose how he arranges his day and get a peek inside his creative mind.  I thrill at being able to provide the atmosphere that lets him learn and grow, not be stressed and weary.  I’ll probably have more thoughts to relate next week about some topics that have arisen this past week in education.  But for now, I am content and blessed to have a happy, healthy, and eclecticlaly educated 10 year old boy.

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