Thursday, March 26, 2009

Let the planning begin 2009!

My Sonlight catalog arrived in the mail today!

The 2009-2010 planning season can officially begin! :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Beginning to reap some of the fruit of our hard work!

I feel like I'm startin to see some fruits in following the scope and sequence for Language Arts in the Charlotte Mason method (as laid out on the Ambleside Online website). We've been using AO for the last 18 months or so. I will mostly use Riley as an example since she is a typically-developing child and therefore it's easier to see in her work. Not that Austin and Reece haven't made wonderful strides, and I will share an example from the both of them at the end of this post, but that Riley is more typical for her age and developmental level.

Riley's language arts exposure has consisted of oral narration, copywork, dictation (both studied and unprepared), and an introduction to formal grammar the last 2 years (First Language Lessons 3). She has had intermittent spelling instruction with spelling workbooks which we would give up because she wasn't missing words and it seemed like busy work. She is also learning to type this year.

The fruit that I am going to speak of doesn't have anything to do with any of these individual subjects. It has to do with what she is doing in her spare time: writing. Last November she wrote a story for National Novel Writing Month. Recently, she started a new book based upon the adventures she and her siblings and a neighbor girl have in our backyard. They have created a make-believe world out there and she's writing the adventures down into stories.

In each of her stories, she has used vocabulary and sentence structure that we have not formally discussed in any curriculum. She punctuates her sentences with about 85% accuracy, and I'm impressed with the way she can punctuate direct quotations despite having no real lessons about it yet. (I think it's coming next week in her grammar book! LOL). She has a style about her writing that is mature and draws the reader in!

That's not to say we won't ever use a formal curriculum for writing, because we will one day. But she hasn't learned to be phobic of writing because I didn't press it upon her too early. The daily bits of copywork, oral narration, and dictation have given her the practice she needs to become used to expressing herself while not forcing her to be "creative" until she was ready!

Now, I promised a little bit about Austin's progress as well. The best example I can give is in his narration for Robinson Crusoe. He began this book back before Christmas, and 2 chapters in, he realized he didn't understand it. That was the first huge step, because before he would just do the mechanics of reading without checking in himself to see if he was comprehending. So then I decided to read it out loud, and quite honestly, it was difficult for me as well. So I found an unabridged reading by a man with a fantastic British accent, and Austin listened and followed along. At one part, he came to me very upset saying he thought he was in the wrong place. He knew this part of the story, so maybe he lost his place? I took the book and looked it over - to find that the author of the story was sharing his journals where he had written down what had already happened! So Austin DID recognize that part! He was doing more thinking about his learning AND he was comprehending! After 3 long months, he finally finished Robinson Crusoe and it was time to narrate.

While it wasn't a long and detailed narration, it WAS fantastic in its own way: he started with the very beginning of the story (which he had read/listened to months prior) to explain that Robinson wanted to go to sea but his parents didn't approve. Then he told a bit about the middle, and a bit about the end of the story! There was an order to his narration, and he did not hyper-focus on unimportant trivia! It was thrilling!

As for Reece, I'm not requiring narrations of her yet - and therein lies the fruit I'm seeing with her. She is BEGGING me to let her narrate! She is BEGGING me to let her do copywork! She sees those things as what you do when you are a big kid, and she wants to be included! Her narrations are mostly a sentence or two, but she wants to do them, and I know she will get better as she gets older (and when she is narrating materials that are more appropriate for her developmental level).

It's not easy for a box-checker like myself to sit back and let a more natural style of learning happen. But it's hard to ignore the power of the process when you see the results!

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm getting better at this... really I am!

I don't have a weekly review for you because we didn't actually do any formal lessons. Everyone needed some time to recuperate from the busy-ness of vacation, and of mom being gone so long. I had planned a couple of field trips for us, as well as a doctor appointment, but then the van decided that it was time to have a flat tire, effectively canceling all of our plans!

Because it's the middle of March, it's time for that annual rite of passage - no, not the first day of Spring - it's time for planning lessons for next year!! I usually wait for the Sonlight catalog to arrive, but since I had some time to kill, I thought I'd jump right in.

And then I panicked again.

I've been in mini-panic mode for about a month, realizing that Austin has only 2 years left before he's a high-schooler and the lessons have to be tougher and they really count toward awarding him a diploma. It's scary, to be quite honest. How do I determine something is high school level work (without getting into textbooks), and since he probably won't be capable of high school level work in the next 2 years, how long will he have to be homeschooled to be able to graduate? Will Riley graduate ahead of him? Will he get discouraged and give up and refuse to do lessons with me if he's 21 years old and his sister has already graduated? (I've got quite the active imagination, you see)

And then I got Riley in on the action - started to panic about output again. Then my brain decided to go 3 for 3 and... well, you can use your own imagination for that!

While I was vacuuming this morning, I had a revelation. The panicking always seems to happen when I start comparing. And when I start thinking about what other people will think of me as a homeschool mom, or what they will think of my kids. And if I'm completely honest with myself, when I spend time reading the Well-Trained Mind message boards.

As I came to this revelation, I also had another one come quickly on its heels: "It's not that I can't do this... it's that I can't do this ALONE. I can't do any of this without God! I've got to TRUST in the plans that God has revealed to me and confirmed to me over and over again. So stop trying to take control."

So... let's recap for a moment: I panic when I compare my children to others, compare myself to other homeschool moms, and/or compare our homeschool to other people's homeschool. Then, as a result of the panic, I try to take control and think I can do it better on my own. Then I panic even more because it's too much and too overwhelming.

Sometimes I think God looks down on me when I have these "vacuum revelations" and says, "Duh!!"

I think I'm getting better at recognizing these times, taking my thoughts captive, and realizing that I need to rely on God for direction and my sense of purpose and accomplishment. Maybe next time I can reign it in at the first feelings of panic?!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 3/18

(on the bus back to the resort for the night)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back from Disney

Riley, Mom, and I got home on Sunday night from spending a week at DisneyWorld for Riley's 10th birthday! Here are a few snapshots of our adventures! (More posts of pics to come when my mom gets the pictures uploaded!)

Here I am with Riley, with Jan and her daughter (who we rode down to Disney with), getting ready to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom.

Jan and I got to ride Pirates of the Caribbean together!! We're both HUGE POTC fans! Jan went to see the last 2 pirates movies with me at midnight! This was on Sunday evening, after we'd driven the 8 hours to Disney!
Riley and I on Monday morning, walking into the castle to have breakfast with Cinderella!
Riley got a birthday cupcake... I remember that feeling! :)
Riley poses in front of the castle! Magic Kingdom was her favorite of the 4 parks!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Weekly Review: 3/2-6

Ahhh, our last week before spring break! And what a crazy week it was in the weather! Monday we had snow... today it's close to 70!!

Literature: Austin read in the 6th grade Pathways Reader since I didn't see any purpose in starting a new book right before spring break; Riley continued to listen to Anne of Green Gables; Reece continued to read Little Bear

Math: Riley converted improper fractions to whole numbers and back again; Reece started on the +8 facts; Austin took a math test and got an 88 (adding mixed numbers).

Grammar: Austin took the test covering Predicate Nominatives/Adjectives; Riley learned how to diagram sentences with contractions

History: We learned about the Wars of the Roses. A side note here - I talk about Twilight way too much. When the kids heard "Edward IV" in the history chapter they all swooned, "Edward!" LOL (Edited to add: Austin would like me to make sure you all know that he did not swoon. LOL)

Science: Riley learned about snakes; Austin learned about something that I can't remember right now! Oops!

Spanish: We completed lesson 12 which introduced "La Familia"

We started a new character trait -Obedience- which does not get a warm reception! And our hymn for the month of March is I Surrender All. This was our last week in the term, so after Spring Break we'll begin a new composer, artist, and poet. We'll also jump back into Nature Study as the world around us is coming into bloom!

I won't have internet access during spring break, but I'll post when we return! Have a great week!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Weekly Review: 2/23-2/27

Better late than on time, huh? ;)

Last week ended in a frenzy of "Nana Birthday", Monster Jam, and a snow storm! I wanted to hit upon a couple of highlights at least!

Austin finished reading/listening to Robinson Crusoe. He did a narration for it and I was very pleased. He started with the beginning of the story (which he started back in November - I had to look that up! LOL), included a bit from the middle, and then the end. Now, it wasn't a very long or detailed narration, but I'm SO pleased. Ordering his thoughts has always been a struggle for him. I feel like this narration was an indicator of progress. Riley's still doing Anne of Green Gables, and Reece began reading Little Bear.

Austin had a math test and scored a 96, began a new lesson and jumped straight into the review since it was fairly easy. Riley reviewed the chapter on addition/subtraction of fractions. Reece is wrapping up +9.

In history, we had quite an exciting day on Friday. We were learning about the Hundred Years' War, and all of the kids really seemed to enjoy learning about it. Riley drew a picture on the chalkboard illustrating what we learned - it reminded me of a political cartoon! When my parents arrived that night, everyone rushed to tell them all about Henry V and the tennis ball insult! That made me feel great! I love it when stuff like that happens right about the time I feel like throwing up my hands and ordering textbooks for everyone.

Reece finished Explode the Code 1! She wanted ice cream to celebrate! ;)

That's the highlights! Hope everyone had a nice week/weekend!