Monday, April 7, 2014

Active Education

Here are some of the activities that have kept me busy lately:
  • Books! I finished reading Lockwood & Co. by Jonathan Stroud (writer of the Bartimeus series). I then handed Stroud's book to Sierra and she finished it in two days. Imagine a teenage Sherlock Holmes with his own Ghostbusters agency and you have this book. Except with scarier bits. I also read The Giver by Lois Lowry. Lowry's book is about a boy living in a dystopian society where there is no choice. I would call it a junior 1984. I considered letting Sierra read it, but some of the subject matter is intense. 
  • Sewing. I found this pattern for a Minecraft Creeper doll, thanks to Once Upon a Family. Sierra loves Minecraft, so we decided to try to make it. Let me just say right now that I am sewing machine challenged. Helping Sierra make this was a "blind leading the blind" situation. I think her skills have improved as we pieced this together. Mine have not. I kept having issues of the thread getting stuck and pulling out of the needle. We broke two threaders (my sewing machine is not self-threading) and Sierra became my threader after that. She gained lots of experience threading the machine as I lost the thread regularly. I did about half of the cutting and sewing for her, usually when she started getting bored. It's almost together now. We just need to sew on the legs.
  • Yardwork. The weather has started to warm, at least enough for the crocuses to put in an appearance. We had so much snow this year that it compacted the leaves. I needed to gently lift my leaf mulch away from the shoots where they couldn't spear through. And then the flowers started blooming. And then deer started eating them. Or was it the squirrels? Maybe both. I pointed out deer tracks and scat to Sierra and we talked about how the deer usually shear off the vegetation while the squirrels pluck the flower blooms. I did manage to get a few pictures before the carnage.
    Next year, I might leave the leaf litter alone. Maybe the deer won't eat what they can't see.
  • Nature. We visited Cranberry Lake Preserve to see if anything was wriggling in the vernal pools. Unfortunately, the day we picked was cold. We heard plenty of spring peepers, but nothing was visible in the water. The nature center has several animals. One of the latest is a hedgehog. Sierra took photos of her. The hedgehog growls a lot, so the curator is thinking of naming her Monster. Have you ever felt a hedgehog? They are as prickly as they look. I poked myself trying to remove a scrap of wood shaving from her head.
  • Testing. Blah. But it's time to prove to our district that Sierra is surviving her unconventional education.
That's it for now. I hope life slows down soon, but since we are heading into Easter and then birthday month, I doubt a slow down will come any time soon!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Last Week...In Which my Activities Form a Harmonic Convergence

My life seems to be a whirlwind of activity lately.

I thought things would slow down once Marina was settled into college. I have read studies that culling deer doesn't work because new deer simply move in to fill the void. I think this can be applied to a homeschooling family's activities. As long as there is still someone left at home, there will always be a full schedule.

Who am I kidding? I can make my life busy without my children's help!

Last week's activities began the Friday before. I drove out to the university to pick up Marina for spring break. I'm not going to blame her, because we are a family of night owls, but we do seem to stay up later when Marina is in the house. You would think I could just go to bed ahead of everyone else and close the door. Not in my house. Somehow, they all end up sitting on my bed, talking and laughing together. It's wonderful having this level of family togetherness, but incredibly tiring! Add to that a cat who has been sick and wakes me up early because she can't breathe through her nose and it's a recipe for sleep deprivation.

Somehow I plow through. I count my blessings and enjoy every minute we have together. I take my son to his monthly teen game night and his internship two days a week. My monthly storytelling workshop was the same week. Marina needed to be at the library two days to work, and I volunteered there three days to help set up the mini-book sale (which I hear was a huge success!). Not to be outdone, Sierra had her weekly religious ed. class, but she also did a Minecraft build competition at the Digital Arts Experience, where her brother interns. I'm very proud of her for doing it. She didn't win, but she was complimented by many of her fellow Minecrafters on her build--a robot bunny spaceship--which I think was better praise than any award. Someday she'll believe me about that!

Anyway, one of the neat things we did together this week was to head to the Hudson River Museum for an Art of Video Games exhibit. I have been waiting two years for this exhibit to hit our area, ever since a blogger friend talked about it. It was so interesting! I enjoyed pointing out the games I remembered from my childhood, like Pitfall and Utopia. I hope we can make a trip back there for one of their special nights before the exhibit moves on.





Friday, March 14, 2014

Home Spun comic strip #830

Home Spun comic strip #830

I was purposely vague with this one. This is a talk I've had so many times with each of them for different reasons. One might be afraid to try to draw faces, another may be hesitant to take a class, or to make a new friend. I believe in letting them do things they want to do, but I also believe that sometimes we need to nudge, to encourage them to try something out of their comfort zone. Just as I am, my children are their own worst critics. I don't want them to stop themselves from doing things they might enjoy for fear of failing.
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If you enjoy my comics, the first collection, No School Today? is available from these sellers:

CreateSpace
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Home Spun comic strip #829

Home Spuncomic strip #829

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If you enjoy my comics, the first collection, No School Today? is available from these sellers:

CreateSpace
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Home Spun comic strip #828

Home Spun comic strip #828

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If you enjoy my comics, the first collection, No School Today? is available from these sellers:

CreateSpace
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Some Benefits of Our Educational Choice

We all glean different benefits from homeschooling. Here are a few of the benefits my family has enjoyed.

~ Honoring our natural clocks. Everyone has a bad night or reasons why they can't sleep. It's nice to know they can sleep in if they need to. Also, all of my children are night owls. They are much more productive later in the day. Our society caters to the early birds. In fact, we insist our children get up even earlier so that they are in school before parents need to get to work. My children will get up early for something they really want to do, but that means they need to crash by one or two in the afternoon. I remember feeling that way in school, but you can't exactly take a nap in class.

~ Better spending habits. Homeschooling is as expensive or cheap as you want it to be. We only buy supplies we need and finish them. Some notebooks and writing and art supplies lasted years. Schools in our area post back-to-school lists for parents at local office supply stores, noting particular brands and amounts to buy. I've heard many complaints about them. We may pay for a class or two, but I tend to try to find free or inexpensive learning resources by using the library and finding mentors in the community.

~ Better eating habits. My kids eat when they are hungry. They all know how to cook and bake to some extent. They use recipes more than the microwave. We don't eat out a lot. We discuss nutrition and healthy choices. I've been in school cafeterias as a student and as a teacher's aide. They are loud, chaotic atmospheres where students have little time to actually eat. You can't expect a child to make smart choices about their diet when they are starved and rushed. I'm not saying my kids never eat prepackaged food. They just don't crave it because they have the time to decide what they really want to eat.

~ Closer ties. When I tell people how much Chase and Sierra miss their big sister while she's away at college, they usually joke about how happy their younger children were when an older child left. Sometimes I feel we work harder to make friends outside of the family than we do to make friends with the people we have the most in common with--our siblings. I'm glad my kids are close. I hope they will always be there for each other. 

How about you? What benefits has your family gained from homeschooling?

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Inexpert Advice

When your children reach a certain age, it's not uncommon to be looked upon as an "expert" in homeschooling. I remember when my oldest was six and I clung to the expertise of homeschoolers with ten-year-olds. Obviously, they knew something I didn't know, because I struggled with homeschooling for a whole year and they had been doing this for four or more years!

With over sixteen years of experience and one homeschooled-to-college, I can assure you I am no "expert." I am a veteran of homeschooling, but I still view myself as learning how to do this. It would be nice to think that there is one simple way to home educate, but the truth is there are as many ways as there are homeschooled children. Not homeschooling parents, mind you. There are as many ways as there are homeschooled children.

Even if you are a fan of canned curriculum, you cannot possibly teach every child exactly the same. You grow in your experience homeschooling, the same as your children. At least, I hope you do. I've always had romantic notions that most homeschoolers love learning, which is why they want to teach their own. I love learning. I strive to improve myself and still puzzle over better ways to help my youngest enjoy learning. I shifted styles as my children grew and presented their unique personalities to me. I have tried to take things one year at a time instead of worrying about how it will all work out in the end. I learned to bend when things weren't working. I observed and listened, because listening is what I consider the most important part of successful homeschooling.

One of my favorite analogies is the tree in the wind. A tree that is unmoving is more prone to break or uproot when faced with a strong wind. A tree that is flexible and bends with the wind is more likely to survive, even if its shape is changed by the wind. I would rather be the flexible tree.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February Wildlife Watching

The downy woodpecker turns his head as I photograph him.
A wren and sparrow wait for an opening on the suet feeder.

There was some displeasure about having to share the feeders.
The mockingbird cheered up when I gave him some apples.



Even a nor'easter can't stop a squirrel from raiding the feeders.

The best way to watch wildlife.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Home Spun comic strip #827

Home Spun comic strip #827

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If you enjoy my comics, the first collection, No School Today? is available from these sellers:

CreateSpace
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Home Spun comic strip #826

Home Spun comic strip #826 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you enjoy my comics, the first collection, No School Today? is available from these sellers:

CreateSpace
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble

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