Quiet time.

August 4, 2014

After two weeks off for my tonsillectomy in June, followed by one week of school, followed by two weeks off because of morning swim lessons (my kids’ brains just do not function well in the afternoon and we need quiet time!), we are back at it again. Finally. I was desperately beginning to miss the routine and predictability of our schedule. Is it officially a habit? I’m not sure. There are many days I pass on formal instruction and feel no guilt about it. I don’t feel that we are missing something or breaking from a habit. But I DID notice when we were forced to abandon any hope of decent lessons. Things went south very quickly! Now that normalcy is almost reigning again, mostly due to returning to our schedule, I’ll update the blog.

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Tenel Ka has begun preschool. She had done some printables at the table with Leia and Luke, but nothing official. I finally needed her to DO something constructive during school, so I brought back some free preschool resources we used with Luke way back when and thought they would be right at her level. Only two days in and she definitely takes pride in her work, letting her siblings know that she has school now.

We had to start our lessons with history, rather than saving it until the end, otherwise we spend too much time waiting for Luke to complete his math. I also use the timer (15 minutes, typically) to determine the time Luke has to finish his lesson. He is so easily distracted that I have begun sending him to his room to focus. Today I informed him that unless he completed his work by the beep, he would not get media time (mind you, I would never send him with a lesson I did not believe he should be able to complete – the problems were very elementary). I know he is capable of so much more than he demonstrates and I need him to apply himself. He finished the work, almost 40 simple math problems, in less than half the time I gave him, which is a far cry from the three problems in fifteen minutes he completed last week when he was downstairs. A simple case of a distracted mind.

We are adding Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology back into the rotation. We had previously completed through part of Lesson 3, and just started at Lesson 4. Luke still has his Junior Notebooking Journal to accompany the lessons. I’ll just use appropriate printables for Leia. I’m not sure if I’ll have her use the journal or if I’ll wait for the next time around (with Apologia, they have six “Exploring Creation” books which are intended to be used from 1st through 6th grades). Leia, being only in Kindergarten this year, will get this text again in several years.

We have also reinstated quiet time. This is a one-hour period of time when each child goes to their own room, closes the door, and does something quiet. Kyp sleeps. Luke usually reads (he has legos in his room as well). Leia usually lays in bed and whispers an imaginary story to herself, although today I saw her take a book with her when I sent her up. Tenel Ka is the rebellious one who constantly comes out. She’ll figure out eventually that it’s enjoyable to be alone, though all kids but Leia fight quiet time. They want to keep playing together. They all benefit from it, obviously, but Leia regroups during quiet. She needs it, as do I.

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Baby Steps.

April 21, 2014

Time is precious and scarce, especially for blogging. Blogging is not a real priority for me (or my family), so I have just skipped it. It has been a solid six months, and an update is due…

School is becoming substantially more habit than I envisioned. I know it happens, otherwise families wouldn’t continue it, but I didn’t know how it would look for us. I’m starting to see it.

Typical school days include nursing/wrestling Kyp, followed by breakfast. Luke can make pancakes with minimal intervention. Leia can prepare oatmeal with a steady hand to carry the heavy and hot pan to the table. Tenel Ka can make a mess! Well, she CAN get the dry cereal out of the cupboard and get silverware set at the table, but at 3.5 years old, she is still a struggle for me. I admit I have hard time making time for her: big kids need me for school, Kyp needs me for baby-related stuff, and she is my middle child, with every classic middle child symptom. How did I not see this coming?! But that’s a different subject.

Okay, so we’ve eaten. The table gets cleared and the kids go make their beds and brush their teeth (only half the time, if I’m honest here – I don’t want to set the standard too high for other parents out there). Once I’ve got dishes done, I summon the big kids back to the table for school. We are still using and loving Explode the Code. Luke has just started book 4, Leia has just started book 3. I’ve upped Luke’s workload to 3 pages daily, while Leia works two pages daily. This pace is perfect for Leia, who is officially a reader! She gets enough challenge to sense the accomplishment without feeling that it is a chore to get done. Luke needs to do three pages each school day because this is quite a bit beneath his level, and we do it mostly as a handwriting exercise for him. Plus, it does teach the phonics of reading (endings, compound words, “I before E” and all those things I can’t remember from my own phonics education).

We still use and have no grumble with Making Math Meaningful. Leia finished the Kindergarten book a month or more ago, so we use the Mathboard app to drill about 50% of school days. I’m not ready to push her into level 1 – she’s not even in Kindergarten yet. Luke is still working through the Level 1 MMM workbook, and has progressed further than the first time, with little struggle. We have taken a break from the workbook and have been drilling with the Mathboard app, which has helped white a bit. Leia’s math equals or excels Luke’s, and both are actively working on sums up to 20.

After that we study history, which is still a simple read aloud. We used Mystery of History through about 500 B.C. and have taken a foray into American history using a book titled This Country of Ours by H. E. Marshall. We have reached about 1620 A.D in this book (a free ebook through Project Gutenberg). I supplement with coloring pages if it feels right, and we utilize Google Earth to study locations and geographical data. We’ve done reenactments of events, too, like Pocahontas saving John Smith’s life.

No, we don’t have a lot of papers and reports to document our progress. No, I’m not too good at keeping a recording of our lessons (this is a key habit I need to develop!). But we are making great strides. The kids will often grab their school books and finish their ETC and MMM with no prompting at all, which leads me to the last habitual segment of our school day: media time.

My kids love media. But I keep it so restricted that it truly is a motivational tool in our home. We quite regularly watch a movie on my husband’s day off from work. But there is little to no media during the rest of the week except after school. They love to play the Harry Potter LEGO video game together. About 20 minutes (the electrical timer that shuts off power to the PS3 lacks very specific time control) is all they get. And it’s enough to get them through their school work with little grumbling, although it didn’t take them long to realize that This Country of Ours takes three times longer than MOH!

We’ve added some foreign language instruction, some art appreciation, and some character training, but none of that is even close to becoming a habit. Baby steps, I say.


Reset.

October 19, 2013

Princess Leia and Tenel Ka have become a bit of a nuisance during math, and I feel that they probably need something more constructive than “Go play upstairs” if I want math to be productive. So I ordered the Level K math curriculum from Making Math Meaningful (of course!) for Leia. Tenel Ka will still have to color or play dough or something. Luke has also been struggling to grasp math for several weeks, so I ordered another Level 1 student workbook and we’ll go back through that to build his confidence. His brain is not quite ready for some of the Level 2 concepts we’re encountering (and rightly so: he’s 6 and trying to work second grade level math) and I don’t want him to be deterred from enjoying math! We’ll be back to Level 2 come springtime, I’m sure.

Leia still slowly sounds out words when we read but has now writing stories while I cook. She is frequently asking me how to spell words and names. She is experimenting with lowercase letters and punctuation marks. It’s adorable. Perhaps her activity in this area has piqued Luke’s interest. Maybe he would rather start writing just to “play” with her (he does not enjoy independent play if there is anyone else he might possibly play with). Luke has started writing! Wonder of wonders!

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Here he is working a chart for a history lesson (we are still LOVING The Mystery of History, by the way). He was so willing to write, copying the names from the text, and did not complain at all! This was an affirmation I needed. Whenever there is a struggle to learn/teach something, I question myself or my child. I question the decision to homeschool. Once the concept clicks or growth is noticeable, it is so validating! This is the right thing for us. My children are learning, at their pace, according to their ability and comprehension. I never need to force an education upon them because their brains thirst for knowledge all the time without any effort on my part. It is my job to simply give them the resources to grow and develop a working knowledge of the world. I love home education!

Here is Leia making her history chart.

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And here is a picture drawn by now-three-year-old Tenel Ka. It is our family. Kyp Durron is “going up in a balloon.” Or flying a Sun Crusher.

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It’s working. It’s working!

September 25, 2013

Luke has suddenly started flourishing in math when he gets to use this math app as an incentive for finishing his book work. At this point, the book work is less about math and more about giving him an opportunity to write. After seeing him use the app on the iPad for the first time several days ago, I discovered that his “inability to focus” during math is probably founded closely upon a lack of confidence.

To expand, I always thought he was slow to adapt to new situations – new environments, new expectations, new people (when accompanied by a new environment). He whines, complains, tantrums, etc when required to go or participate, until eventually he is comfortable. It has previously taken about 4-6 weeks before his is excited about the event and independently participating.

So out comes the app. And out comes my son from his “I don’t know” shell. The app allows the kids to “play” quizzes and then saves the score once they are finished. This allows me to do something else with another child for a few minutes. It is also a paper free alternative to drill sheets. Is this the beginning of independent study?

Much as I suspected he knows his stuff. Much less hesitating to answer problems on the app. But for some reason he lacks the confidence to readily put it on paper. The app somehow lets him relax into math, so we’re going to stay with it for now, using it as the second half of his math exercise. While I do believe he needs extra time to relax into new situations, I finally connected it with a lack of confidence in himself. Thanks, homeschooling (and math)!

The school year seems to be taking a more definite (and might I say, “habitual”) shape: Breakfast. Chores. Play (while I clean up and put Kyp down for his nap). School. And then it’s lunch time. After that it’s anybody’s guess! We have school maybe three or four days per week, although we read from Mystery of History almost every day. I really love that curriculum! Either I read the lesson during breakfast or I print coloring pages for all three apprentices to color while I read. Even Tenel Ka feels involved. I miss our anatomy study of last spring/summer, so I may bring it back into the rotation. This app is new and is amazing. The kids love it. A great retro and educational look at the human body.

Tenel Ka is now three years old. And still a nightmare of a Jedi. It will take the wisdom of a true Jedi Master for me to bend her will away from the dark side and move it toward the light. And true to his name, Kyp show immense potential. At barely nine months, he is pulling to standing and makes walking motions when you hold his hands. I’m not ready.

Also, because Star Wars is so prominent on this blog, I must conclude with this. Some sad fool lost his Yoda club cover on the golf course my husband was golfing on a few weeks ago. It makes me like golf a lot more, which is not a whole lot to begin with.

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What habits?

August 25, 2013

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My husband’s old K’nex have come out if the closet. Man, how I wish I had kept mine. I had some big stuff! This is a small set but all four Jedi have used it. Luke made this fish, among many other things, from the “constructions,” Leia makes flags and fireworks and people, Tenel Ka plays with remnants of things the others make, and Kyp, who can sit up on his own now, uses the firework-on-a-stick to bang on overturned pots. It’s refreshing to have new small things to pick up, not just barrettes and Legos.

So, we started The Mystery of History and love it! We read the story of a person, place, people group or event and there are suggested activities for each age level (young, middle, older students). We usually do something with play dough or youtube to reinforce the lesson. This is a definite Charlotte Mason text. Not dry like the history I learned. It is faith-based, too, so the theme does remain on Christ as the mystery of history. I usually read the lesson during breakfast or lunch and the kids are all physically occupied and able to listen.

We also have had a few Spanish lessons and Luke and Leia really enjoy them. This morning I was greeted by an unsolicited, “¡Hola! Buenos Dias.” I do most of the talking and they do a lot of repeating, but that’s a great start.

Math has slightly slipped from the radar right now. Luke’s working a full level above his peers, so I haven’t beaten myself up over it. I need to get the kindergarten level for Leia and then it might be more regular. She doesn’t need to be working math right now, but having them both at the table with math might make it easier to form a habit of it. It would be a joint effort, like Spanish and history. All of us working together. Life is so much more enjoyable that way!

I’m not very certain that I’m forming many school habits. More important to me, and a pinnacle of the Charlotte Mason method, is the formation of character and healthy habits around the house. I am definitely giving that strong focus. Have my kids started developing desirable habits that will aid them all through their life? I hope so…


Summer School.

June 16, 2013

Making Math Meaningful Level 2 arrived today in the mail. I scored the Parent/Teacher Guide for 50¢ at a used book sale a few weeks ago (regularly $25) along with the Apologia Exploring Creation through Astronomy textbook ($17 used vs. $29 new). I love saving money.

Anyway, it’s crazy to think that Luke, now six, is about to begin the equivalent of second grade math. I already have a hard time grasping the fact that he’s basically a first grader now! The Force is so strong in him.

As we finished the review pages in Level 1, I grew so frustrated with his lack of dedication when it came to writing the answers down that I told him to give me the book and I’d read it to him. Little did I know that this would be a great lesson for myself. It turns out that he can spout off the answers very quickly in this position:

20130615-235709.jpgI don’t mind, really, as long as he is learning. And he does know his stuff. I spotted the Explode the Code text in the school cupboard today and wondered if I should bust it out. It is very basic compared to his phonics understanding, but it may be great at getting him to write.

Also, as this blog is really about developing the habit of homeschooling, it is worth noting that I have been up and out of bed at 7am several mornings in a row. That’s a spectacular achievement for me and is a far cry from the typical 8 or 8:30 rise time (when the padawans come asking for breakfast). The young Jedi are supposed to retire around 9pm but it’s usually later, and then I typically read to them for half an hour. With their bed time closer to 10pm these days, it’s no wonder I am rarely asleep before 11pm. Awake at 7 has left me a zombie in the afternoons, but I need to create a habit of getting to bed sooner and waking before the students arrive. I’m struggling to find the “me” time I crave in order to recharge without neglecting someone (either the younglings or the other Jedi Master in the house). It remains to be seen if I can commit myself to these early mornings long enough for this to become a habit.


Birthday Cake.

June 1, 2013

So this doesn’t have much to do with homeschooling because I refused to let my kids do much with this cake. But our school is a Jedi Praxeum, and every Jedi turning six needs a cake, don’t they? Well, maybe cakes are forbidden for a Jedi… But I bet Padmé baked Anakin cakes for his birthday. And she would have wanted her son to have a cake, too. So Luke gets a cake! He gets one every year, but this year he gets a Star Wars cake. An R2D2 cake. Happy Birthday to my young padawan.

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