posts tagged with 'homeschooling'
Sometimes I work hard on gardening and woodworking and cooking and go on exciting adventures, and sometimes all I want to do is breed pretend monsters. This morning I capped off our study on reproduction by introducing a very simple pencil-and-paper monster breeding simulator, and it was an immediate hit. In the original version Zion and I worked to breed vicious fighting machines, and Harvey bred the cutest monsters he could; for his part, Elijah picked his breeding pairs pretty much at random and came up with the best names he could for the offspring. Only, since we had only seven traits and they always bred true if both parents shared one, by the fourth generation all my monsters were perfect and the only thing that kept me from keeping the lines going indefinitely was the small number of original stock. So we made a new version after lunch. That one incorporates dominant and recessive traits, with six traits that follow simple Mendelian crosses, plus four more numeric ones that are more fuzzy in their connection to actual inheritance but hopefully represent some actual real breeding goals. Which is great, but now it takes more than twice as long to generate a monster. So now I'm wondering how I can put the whole thing on to the computer, which is why I'm still awake past 10:00!
Leah is mildly interested in the genetics—she watched a video on Mendelian genetics this afternoon to get back up to speed—but her real priority is creating a game you can win. So she's figuring how to add money, and building a monster store that will offer set prices for monsters that fit particular characteristics. She's also telling us we should be charging stud fees. So there's lots more to develop! Will it take up all of our time tomorrow too?
When we started social distancing I felt like I had all the time in the world. Just think of everything I was going to get done around the house and in the garden! But actually it turns out that I still have to do my job, and help lead our homeschool group, and keep in touch with my friends... and all those things are more complicated now. Since I care about them, though, I'm hanging in there and trying to make them work by making more work for myself. Like in my job as a Kids Church pastor. How do I pastor kids when I can't see them? I started out by just putting my weekly stories online, which added maybe three minutes of work to what I was already doing anyway. Then when I got a little experience on Zoom I realized I could do Zoom meetings on Sunday mornings; the first of those was this past Sunday. That took some prep. But I was also thinking about the kids who couldn't do videoconferencing... how could I make the story engaging to them? So I made a video version. And since there's no way I can get through a six minute story without a mistake or an interruption I had to do multiple takes, and edit them together. It took about five hours overall. Take a look and tell me if you think it was worth it!
At the same time, I mentioned to the homeschool group that I was thinking of doing something around poetry with the boys for April (which is National Poetry Month, of course!). I may have used the word "curriculum" and offered to share it with them. When there was some interest I actually had to come up with something concrete for them to look at! Here that is. I have three daily activities done so far... the other 19 will come pretty easily, right?
Blogging is hard work, so I'm training the kids up to help me out. For the last few weeks I've helped them do some journaling—taking a couple minutes in the morning to think of something worth noting down from the last couple days. Here's Lijah's from today (as scribed by me):
Yesterday we went to Grandma's house. We went to see the ice. We went to the ice and adventured! Zion was smashing the ice. I was sliding on the ice. It was very very fun!
All I need to do now is teach him to type and I'm out of a job!
Wednesdays are usually home days for us, but we can never say no to a walk in the woods, so when the invitation came yesterday we headed off to Carlisle for a hike with members of the Greater Lowell Homeschoolers facebook group (including a significant overlap with our own co-op). That we'd never been to the Towle Land town forest made it even more enticing! Because we're getting good at this we were the first ones there, but it wasn't long before everyone gathered—a pretty good group, with six or seven adults and uncountable numbers of kids. It was good there wasn't much of a wait, because it was hard to hold the kids back from the trail.
Towle Land is a lovely woods: there are plenty of ups and downs on the trail, but nothing too steep, a generously-flowing stream, and plenty of vernal pool hollows still filled with water and ice this strange wet winter. Plus some awesome rocks to climb on!
With all the fun terrain we didn't just hike on through. In fact, I don't think we ever went farther than a couple hundred yards before we stopped to play on something or other. That's the way to make a mile-long hike take two hours! Two hours for us, at least; the group had varied levels of woods experience, so other people were done sooner. Especially the ones who didn't bring any food (you know we never make that mistake!). Also the ones who fell in puddles playing on the ice.
I enjoyed interacting with the (slightly) wider homeschool community, and meeting some new people. The boys were fine with it, but they were happiest when everyone else had headed home and they were free to play with their good friends from co-op. They can never get enough time with them. "Why can't they come over to our house after?!" is the constant refrain. Because everybody has lives to live! But don't worry: we've got full days of co-op fun with them today and tomorrow. Living the homeschooling dream!
Our homeschool co-op wrapped up a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, but we're not letting that slow our community gatherings down one bit. We're participating in one book group and leading another; plus, out of the ashes of our former co-op, which had been organized by AHEM (Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts; don't you just love that acronym?!), a new group is rising like a phoenix, bigger and better than before. So the last couple days we've spent lots of time engaged in some relatively organized activities, and it's been delightful (if exhausting).
Today, for example, we made butter. It was part of our Gone-Away Lake book club; we also made two kinds of jam and popcorn, did some art, and played outside. Oh, and finished reading the book together! I say "we", but in this context I'm mostly an onlooker—an assistant at best. Our friend Angel organized the proceedings and the kids did most of the work, though they did let me take a hand in the butter making. I've always wanted to paddle butter! It came out very nicely.
As I mentioned, we had our turn at hosting at yesterday's wreath-making event. I was out early in the morning shoveling off the new back deck (it doesn't matter that it's not quite finished, because I just left the snow on the unfinished part!) and clearing out the fireplace. It was lovely being out there in the sunshine with the fire crackling away (and smoking, but that can't be helped), and the wreaths came out great. It was super fun to see how different they were—big and small, neat and wild—depending on the patience and temperament of the creator. And all were well be-ribboned, thanks to a 70% off deal at Joanne Fabrics.
I made one on contract for Lijah, but I was running around too much to finish my own, the one I want to put on on the front of the house. Maybe next week will be calm enough for me to get back to it. I just need to get a little sleep first.
After a very busy day at our house, in which we hosted a segment of our new co-op for wreath making (11 kids in all), I was ready to go to sleep right after supper. To be honest, I was ready to go to sleep not to long after lunch, but it didn't seem appropriate to just abandon guests and children and retire to the bedroom, so I kept myself going. And then I kept myself going some more after supper, because the younger boys finally started writing.
Now, when I say writing I don't mean they were actually putting letters on paper themselves. Lijah can't really, yet—or at least you don't want him to, since it's tiring to not only tell him how to spell a word, very slowly, but also draw each letter in the air so he knows how to make it. And Zion's writing genius was stifled by my early attempts to make him write down his own stories. That was a mistake.
Happily, Lijah is unendingly creative; and having learned better, I now just do my best to capture his stories as they emerge and get them down on paper for him. It turns out that when I do it creates a positive feedback loop: he's tickled to hear his own stories and wants to make more of them. Mostly so far he's just done one page and moved on, but this evening he was inspired by Harvey's working on a comic strip (at the dinner table, but whatever) to string together eight pages of material featuring Thor, the devil, Wiley Coyote, Nuliujuk, and more. Not to be outdone, Zion created his own eight-page book. More coherent, if less wildly original, it's a story about a meteor crashing to earth and releasing a cloud of battling Pokemon.
All this creativity took place between 6:30 and 7:45, which may be early evening for some people but is definitely the center of the bedtime hour for us. So that was delayed. Worse, writing time also kept anyone from doing their kitchen chores, so after I got everyone tucked in bed at around 8:30—Leah is out for the evening—I had to come down and start the dishes. But I think it was worth it. Stories are important. I can't wait to see what they think of next.
As part of our program of home education, I try to have us make calendars every month. It has something for everyone: it's practice writing numbers, it gives anyone who cares a chance to look ahead at the month and see what we have scheduled, and it's a project that we can start and finish in one session. And of course, when you make a calendar you need a picture for the month! So part of our task is thinking of an image that can represent the month. Two out of three kids agreed on what that is for November.
Of course, the fact that I'm writing this post now shows that our November calendars were a little behind schedule. Ideally we'd make the calendar for each month before the previous month ends, but that's hard—I'm not super aware of a month drawing to a close (and then I go to write the date and realize it's not October any more). And at the beginning of a new month there are always things happening! Friday, November 1, we were away at Book Club; Mondays the boys are with their grandparents, Tuesday the 5th we were at Timbernook; Wednesday we had to rest; and Thursday we were figuring out how to live together and get things done. So on and so forth.
But on Tuesday, November 12, I finally got organized enough and we got the thing done—less than halfway through the month! And just in time to realize how little time there is before Christmas. Yikes! They came out well: Zion and Lijah did hand turkeys, Harvey drew a cornucopia, and I painted dead fields and gray skies. It may have been late, but I'm pretty proud of my November!
This morning we went to a "poetry teatime". What a great idea! Tea and poetry are definitely among our favorite things. We were almost late because we were having so much fun reciting poems and song lyrics over the breakfast table. And I had to make muffins. Because I don't know that it's possible for homeschoolers to get together for anything without treats—thematically appropriate if possible. Three families came; that meant two kinds of muffins and some scones.
Harvey showed us something else about homeschoolers too. Despite having already read his chosen poem—"The Unicorn", by Shel Silverstein—out loud to his brothers before we went, he wasn't feeling it when it came time to present it to the group. Before we finished up he did read a shorter poem to everyone, but it wasn't until the kids he didn't know as well had left that he opened up and read "The Unicorn", plus a selection of other favorites. He does "The Unicorn" so good: certainly the most hip-hop-influenced delivery of that particular poem you'll ever hear from a child in Bedford.
The problem with school is that you have to do everything on somebody else's schedule. Do poems now. Don't do poems now, it's time for something else. Harvey was still reading from Where the Sidewalk Ends for an hour after the other kids were done with poetry and on to playing—mostly to himself, but sharing a few choice selections with me at the other parent there. Which was totally perfect for the way our time was structured... or un-structured, if you prefer!
Our host's younger daughter wasn't there: last week she started preschool, on her own strong request. So far she's enjoying the chance to be with friends in that environment, so even when offered the chance to stay home and be part of a totally awesome poetry/baked-goods extravaganza she told her mom she had to be at school. Clearly it suits some people better than others. I wonder if she'll keep liking it? And how much poetry do they do there?
The best thing about homeschooling is that, by Wednesday, when you're ready for a change of scenery... it's yours to go find!
After just a little bit of work this morning, we headed up towards Gloucester and Rockport for an adventure. I had no firm plans beyond wanting an outing, and knowing we needed a bit more lumber for the new deck we're working on—and there's a Home Depot that direction too, so why not?! It's been a while since we visited the ocean in the northern part of Massachusetts.
There was some temptation to head to the same spot we spent so much time at on that last trip, since our memories of it were so positive. But I thought I'd check out the street parking situation at Good Harbor beach; and when I saw that it had opened up on September 15th we just had to stay. Our first try at exploring the beach was cut short by everyone needing to use the bathroom. On our second attempt we got down to the water, which was warm enough that we all had to go back to the car one more time to change into swimsuits. It was a lot of walking... but totally worth it!
For three of us, at least. Unfortunately, Lijah somehow got a nasty cut on his big toe yesterday, and crossing the bridge for the fifth time he stubbed it and it started bleeding again pretty good. So he wasn't as excited about getting wet. Instead he rested on our giant pile of gear.
While the water was warm—for the ocean in New England—the air most certainly was not. I don't think it got much above 60°F today, and at the shore there was a stiff breeze blowing the whole time. After a little while I headed back to cuddle with Lijah, so I was ready when the bigger boys were finally done in the water and needed some warming and drying (Lijah's towel was for warming purposes only, but he didn't want to be left out!).
We had lunches packed, but we couldn't eat on the beach: besides threatening to blow away all our food and containers, the wind also kept a constant spray of sand in the air to a height of about a foot. So we instead we went into Rockport to explore the rocks opposite the harbor from the breakwater, where we'd never been. It was just as windy there but there was no sand to blow around, and we were able to find a sheltered spot for lunch. Then we climbed all over the rocks and tried to take pictures of the breaking waves, which were quite impressive. Neither Zion or I—the two main photographers—managed anything especially good... but you get the idea.
Then it was time to go home. We were back by 2:30, with plenty of time to do the rest of the day's work and play with friends. Not a bad schedule!
There's always so much going on in our lives that it's hard to feel like we're living with any kind of schedule. This week it's planning for the church retreat that we're headed out on tomorrow afternoon (preparation needed because I'm running the kids program..). But some school year activities are getting going without needing any help from us, and one of those is our homeschool coop's weekly Park Day. And boy were we excited to get out there today!
Well, maybe it actually needed a little help from us. With rain in the forecast, I made the call that we were going for it regardless of weather. There's a pavilion at the playground; I figured if it was raining we could still meet there and hang out together, and if was absolutely bucketing down we could talk about somewhere else to go. Much easier than figuring out contingencies ahead of time. As it was, it was just drizzling when we got there and even the drizzle quickly trailed off, so the kids were free to have a great time running around together (and also sitting and listening to the adults talk, in the case of the older ones). With a couple new faces it felt like a strong start to our fall semester, and I was glad to get it going. We're looking forward to lots more fun Thursdays this fall!