posts tagged with 'homeschooling'

our home learning community this week

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.

homemade jam and butter on the counter

homework

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.

kids and adults making wreathes on our back deck

also homework

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.

more

unschooling children know no schedule

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.

more

calendar work

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.

Lijah's calendar, featuring a hand turkey

seasonal

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!

my November calendar; watercolor and ink farm scene

how I see the month

more

poetry on his own time

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?

more

on Wednesday

The best thing about homeschooling is that, by Wednesday, when you're ready for a change of scenery... it's yours to go find!

the boys crossing the bridge to Good Harbor Beach

to the beach!

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!

Harvey and Zion playing in the waves

yay ocean!

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.

Lijah lying on towels and backpacks

relatively comfy

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!).

the boys in towels and coats, looking cold

brrr!

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.

Zion and Lijah on the rocks looking at the rough sea

on the rocks

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!

more

cooperating

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!

kids playing on a big dirt pile

dirt pile fun

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!

more

school at home

These days I try not to talk about "homeschooling"... more "home learning" or "home education". Because, truth be told, whether from ideology or from lack of organization we don't always do that much schooling around here. Historically our more traditional educational time has been concentrated around the first couple weeks of September, then we lose focus. This year we're laying the groundwork for a little more deliberate practice, while at the same time not trying to come out of the gates too fast. In one area, though, it feels a lot like school here—and that's the noise at the lunch table.

I don't know if you've ever experienced lunch in an elementary school cafeteria, but it's really something. Those kids are loud. And we've got three elementary school kids living in our house right now—for this year only!—so they're doing their best to approximate the environment. And not just at lunchtime either... I get them for three meals a day! Besides the volume I also get to enjoy all the repetition and deliberate stupidity of the best of elementary school humor. So fun!

In their defense, they're also capable of quite sophisticated humor, as well as lots of hard work and generally pleasant company. Except not always at mealtimes.

more

pokeweed ink

In early September we're always on the hunt for interesting, school-adjacent outdoor activities—so it's nice to have the pokeweed berries ripening just when we need them. Pokeweed, if you're not familiar with it, is a tremendous perennial weed that can grow to six feet high in one season. It produces clusters of dark purple berries, which apparently are mildly poisonous; no fear that we would ever eat them, because they smell pretty bad. What they are good for is making ink!

the boys writing with feathers dipped in pokeweed berry juice

history in action

We play around with Pokeberry ink every couple years or so; I thought I'd written about it here before but I couldn't find anything. Even though the quill pens didn't really work (if anyone can show us how they're ever supposed to draw up liquid into the quill, I'd most appreciate it!) but there's still something amazing about the beautiful opaque purple ink. This year we just doodled and painted on some paper; good for 45 minutes of engagement. In the past we've dyed fabric, which looked fantastic at first but which then faded to a sort of purplish-brown. The color holds enough, though, that I was sure to keep this an outside project. And it's a good thing that both of the mashers were already wearing purple!

Zion smushing pokeweed berries with a potato masher

first you get the berries and you mash em, you mash em..

more

hard labor

We celebrated Labor Day today by doing some work. School starts here in Bedford tomorrow, and even though that doesn't have to mean anything for us I figure we can kick off our not-school year at the same time. The main reason for that is, with the other kids around all the time over the summer the boys and I don't get any time to do projects together; now that I don't have any competition I want to make the most of my time with them. So today we cleaned up the room that we variously call the playroom or the school room, depending on mood and time of day. It was hard work. Our boys have a life that includes many comforts and even luxuries, but one thing they're missing in our smallish house is a place to store their own stuff. Lots of it ends up on their desks, to the point that none of them—nor me either!—would have been able to find room for even a single piece of paper, should we have wanted to do some work. But not any more! Now all four desk spaces are a clean sweep from end to end. Plus the shelves are organized too!

In the afternoon I went into work to put together the classroom spaces for my Kids Church program. We met over the summer and everything was beautiful, but while we had a couple weeks off the floor and the rugs got cleaned, so everything was entirely disarranged. Before I had a chance to put it right the charter school we share our space with started up for the year, so I wasn't able to get into the classrooms during the week. So I had to labor on Labor Day. Three hours of work brought all kinds of improvement; it's still not totally ready to go, but it's a lot closer! And the boys were with Grandma and Grandpa all afternoon while Leah and I worked, so that was kind of like a holiday anyhow... especially since they also fed us dinner!

I don't know if we'll make it to the bus stop tomorrow morning, but I certainly feel ready for the new school year in all the ways it touches my family. Happy Labor Day!

more

our readers

We haven't made it to the library this week, so Harvey was grumbling about not having any books to read. He checked out, I believe, five chapter books last Tuesday, and eight days later they were all finished. I told that we have books here—as an elementary educator, I love scouring used book sales for good stories. I guess he knows that, but he didn't trust the selection. So I picked out a few good options to present him, and he chose Dogs Don't Tell Jokes by Louis Sachar. That was at around 2:15; by 5:30 he had finished it. It's just as I predicted back when he started reading so I'm not surprised, but the sudden increase in his rate of consumption over the last month is a little startling.

Zion is getting into reading too. He's at the stage of mostly doing graphic novels. We have lots of them around, and they're good for private learners: he spent a lot of time looking at them back when he wasn't reading, so now he can put as much or as little energy into the words as he wants without me paying attention to what he's doing. Self-directed reading instruction is what we like around here. I actually tried to do some actual reading instruction with Zion back in the fall, on the theory that he's not quite as self-directed as his big brother—I had to make him learn to ride a bike, for example. And for a little bit he was interested in phonics lessons. But then he got over it. Which was fine, because I know he loves books and can ask for help when he needs it. Then he surprised me a month ago when I asked Harvey to do some writing about the chicks, and he did a page too. I had no idea he could write! I guess that means he can read too. He also read from a chapter book this afternoon during rest time.

We're in the stage of the homeschooling year called pre-reporting panic; don't worry Town of Bedford, at least I know they can read!

more