posts tagged with 'homeschool'

Indigenous Peoples' Day, observed(ish)

Yesterday was the first Indigenous Peoples' Day celebration in Bedford history, and we had school anyway. It's not like the kids would have been engaged in respectful contemplation in any case—judging by the activity in the neighborhood they weren't thinking about the fact that they were playing on land stolen from the Massachusett any more than any other year they would have been contemplating Christopher Columbus. But I would have felt better about myself if I'd remembered to do the land acknowledgment I had planned first thing in the morning instead of just before our friends left. Also school was a little challenging with public school friends coming to the door in search of playmates from time to time. They were all very polite and understanding, but it was a little distracting for the scholars indoors! Sorry guys; we only have two and a half days of school a week; we need to get them when we can!

a day at the park

Our park day offering is going well. Yesterday was the third meeting of the four I committed us too, and it was the biggest one yet, with at least 14 families. The playground certainly felt filled up! Besides lots of free play and climbing, there was also some dodge ball, races, tug-of-war, and jump-roping. And for the most part, it was all kid-organized, with the parents free to relax and chat (and mind the babies, as applicable). I did step in a little bit to organize the tug-of-war and also joined in with a small group who were wishing their pirate game could have more participants. I only had to walk the plank three or four times before some of the big kids saw the appeal of the idea and joined in (and I could make my escape!). Parks Days are good. To quote an email from Advocates for Homeschool Education in Massachusetts (AHEM):

Park days are a melting pot. Homeschooling in Massachusetts attracts a pretty diverse group of people, and the families at our local park day have come from all different backgrounds and perspectives. I have seen the same scene countless times — kids of different genders and ages running around together. And not just running but playing organized games without any adult input. If you have doubts that homeschoolers can be properly “socialized,” this is the place to go to put those doubts to rest.

the boys playing with a parachute with lots of other kids

socialization in action

outdoor learning in the suburbs

One of my favorite things about learning at home is how much time we get to spend outside. Tons of playing, of course, and educational play opportunities like when the kids spent an hour last week picking wild grapes and then made grape lemonade. But also the chance to do more traditional schooling stuff out of doors amidst the beauty and decay of the early fall garden. All the fresh air makes those math brains work better! The only problem with outdoor learning in the suburbs is that you have a good chance it's going to be hard to hear each other. Because pretty much, as long as it's nice out someone's going to be busy with loud gas-powered lawn care.

Elijah and a friend using math manipulatives at the picnic table with a riding mower working behind them

the joys of garden school

I don't keep records, but it seems to me that the same thing happened last week at the same time. At least the lawn-service guys know their business and get in and out pretty quickly so we only had to deal with the obnoxious drone of the mowers, trimmers, and blowers for about 20 minutes—and it was only too loud to hear each other talk for about half that time. Then they left, and we were able to converse easily again... at least when there weren't airplanes buzzing overhead on their way to land at the airport a mile away.

As for our own lawn care, I'm proud to report I haven't contributed one bit to the noise pollution of the neighborhood in the past couple months. I'm so impressive, using the push reel mower exclusively ever since my gas mower stopped working!

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out of abundance of caution

We had to cancel school today because of illness. Our Friday school group is three families: last night one family's kids were feeling sick with sore throat and runny nose so they decided they'd stay home today; then the other family decided that it'd be safer to stay away too; and that turns out to have been a wise plan because in the middle of the night Zion woke up with a little fever and sore throat. Now, in pre-pandemic days none of these symptoms would have stopped us from doing anything—with such a fun day ahead of us we would have needed to be dying to call it off—but the coronavirus is a whole nother thing. Never mind not wanting to get it: that goes without saying. But almost as bad would be having to tell your friends that you had it and exposed them. How embarrassing!

It's probably nothing. Everybody will probably be all better tomorrow. But I don't mind missing a day. In the old days we probably used to all get each other sick all the time! At least today we spared giving one other family a cold, and that seems worthwhile. And just in case, we have Covid tests to take before church on Sunday!

can I organize things?

I don't think of myself as a particularly organized person, much less one who can organize groups of other people. And yet that's what I find myself doing this week. This past Sunday I had to lead a workshop at church for folks who wanted to learn more about the elementary kids program and possibly—hopefully!—volunteer, and with admirable forethought (if I do say so myself) I prepared a sign-in sheet so I could remember who was there and track em down later. In the event only two people came—two people who I already know well—so it wasn't needed. But I would have been ready! Then on Wednesday we ran a Park Day at Varney Playground in Chelmsford, which I advertised on a homeschooling group on Facebook. We're planning to meet weekly through the first part of the fall at least, and since I don't like Facebook I wanted to get people's email and phone numbers. So another sign-up sheet! And this time it was well worth it, since of the eight families who showed up I only knew three ahead of time. Plus getting the kids' names written down helped me learn them all instantly, unlike the last couple homeschool gatherings we've attended where I wasn't even sure at the end who all had come for park day and who just happened to be at the playground. The afternoon was fun for all, and we're looking forward to doing it again next week! Unless it's pouring rain, in which case I'll be able to email folks to cancel. Organization!

the 2021-2022 school year gets under way

We had kind of a soft launch to school this year: On Wednesday Zion took an hour and a half out of his vacation to participate in the first meeting of his Zoom historical fiction book group, then on Friday we went to our friends' house so that Harvey could kick off his book group and while we were there we did a few other things together. But today was the real launch of our two-family, three-days-a-week school group, and we had a grand old time. Unfortunately I had to spend a good two and a half hours away from the learning excitement at an in-person work meeting; but no worries, my co-instructor had things well in hand for the morning! The kids talked about learning, and about apples. Then in the afternoon we started a construction project rehabilitating the collapsing sandbox roof. Now that's educational! The only thing missing from the day was the formerly-traditional first day of school pictures, with signs. Oh well. This post will have to go unillustrated, and I don't think we'll do the pictures this year. It's too late: school is well and truly launched!

crystalized expectations

School started today in Bedford for the public school kids, but not for us: we've got a vacation trip planned next week so we're in summer mode for a little while yet. But that doesn't mean we're not learning! In advance of our geology study this September I checked out a book of experiments for kids, and the photos of crystals were deeply attractive to Elijah. For days he asked me if I'd help him make one, but I put him off: my feeling is that those things never work. You do all that prep work and imagine a beautiful crystal growing before your eyes, only to have nothing happen at all for days, and then only a vague scattering of grains. I wanted to spare him the disappointment. But he persisted, so a couple days ago we followed the instructions for experiment one: we boiled a cup of water, added three-plus cups of sugar—slowly, stirring the whole time—and some food coloring. Then we poured it all in a jar, let it cool a little, and put in sticks coated with sugar (seed crystals) for the thing to grow on.

As I expected, it didn't work. But the failure mode was the opposite of what I though would happen. Rather than nothing happening at all, within 12 hours nine-tenths of the solution in the jar had crystalized solidly to the point where we couldn't even pull the sticks out. Maybe we used too much sugar? Boiled it too long? The recipe doesn't say anything about what might possibly go wrong, so I guess more experimentation is required. Which is really the point of science, I suppose! It's going to be a good year.

summer readings

We signed up for the summer reading program at the library this morning. Well, the boys signed up; there's a thing for adults too, but I have enough trouble helping them keep track of their reading to try and record my own too. I guess the purpose of the program is to keep kids reading over the non-school months, like reading is something that otherwise you'd only do if a teacher was making you. That's not the case at our house! All I had to do today to get the boys to spend hours engrossed in books was to let them pick up some new ones at the library. Although in our case it's not even something I wanted them to be doing: after we read for over an hour in the library and then another hour-plus at home after lunch, I thought everybody would do better to go outside and exercise brains and imagination. I did! And they tried, but the allure of the books—and of the couch—was too strong. It's too bad that the library program this summer is based on days that the kids read, rather than hours as was the case last time. So their five solid reading hours today isn't going to serve them any better in the race for badges than someone else's 15 minutes!

Unrelated to that program, Elijah asked towards the end of the school year if he could work on leaning to read. So we've been doing that. He did awesome with phonics, and fairly well with sight word flash cards. So I got him started on a real book: Go Dog Go, my absolute favorite early reader. What I love about it is that it starts super simple and introduces words with picture and context clues to begin with, so that by the end there's a little bit of story and like half of the kindergarten sight word list. As the back of the book says, it's great for self-directed reading learning. Well, Elijah may be motivated to read, but the way his brain works Go Dog Go wasn't the winner I hoped it would be. Reading it with him I had a hard time containing my frustration when he painstakingly sounded out "dogs" for like the fifteenth time in five minutes. He's also been having some trouble with "the". Maybe it's my fault for starting with phonics! Or for trying to teach him at all... the other two boys learned to read pretty much on their own. But Lijah is his own kind of person, and he's needed someone to teach him things in the past: riding a bike, sitting up (that one was a long time ago)... He's a hard worker, though, and if he wants to read he'll get it. In the meantime, while he did spend some of the afternoon with his nose in a book—a series of books—he had no trouble getting his body and brain moving too. So that's fine.

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school's out for the summer

We celebrated the end of our school year today with a trip to Berry Pond, the gem of Harold Parker State Forest. The plan was to meet our friends there at 10:30, but we were ferociously late getting going. Never mind, so were they! We pulled into the parking lot at 10:50 only a little after them, and after that everything was pure relaxation.

the kids playing in the water at Berry Pond

summer

The best part of Berry Pond is that you can be on the beach and in the shade. You can even swim in the shade! Though it wasn't that warm a day, so we parents were happy to stay out of the water completely. Not the kids though: they were in it all day.

Or not quite all day: there were two exceptions. First was for food—befitting our celebratory gathering we had quite a spread, including chips, popcorn, crackers, veggies and dip, strawberries, brownies, cupcakes, and two kinds of lemonade. And then everybody had their own packed lunch, too, not that those lunches got much attention.

the kids at a picnic table loaded with treats

treats

The kids also took some time off from swimming to walk halfway around the pond to a beautiful rocky spot opposite the maintained beach. It's a perfect place for getting in the water, except for one thing: it's absolutely covered with "no swimming" signs. That's so unfair that I did have to let the kids go in for a little bit, but couldn't hold out against the pressure of the rules for as long as they wanted to swim. So sad.

the kids swimming off the forbidden rocks at Berry Pond

how can such a beautiful spot be forbidden?!

But never mind, the beach was good too—good for well over two hours of swimming and relaxing and being together to mark the end of this strangest of school years. Not that too much will change: our same group is getting together next Monday. Call it summer camp?

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not much of a holiday

In the past, Patriots Day has a been a big deal for us. Parades! Battles! Last year, of course, all the observances were cancelled, but we were still excited to follow along online. Then along came the second Patriots Day of the pandemic, and we put our trash out like it was any other Monday. What holiday?

Actually, while that is technically true, we didn't forget about the day completely. We watched the reenactment in the morning—the same reenactment we watched last year, since they haven't filmed any newer ones (does that make it a re-reenactment?). And Elijah wore a tricorn and carried a gun all morning. But it was hard to feel like it was any kind of a holiday. We even did school! Of course, in keeping with the day it was solidly Patriotic. Our poem for the day was Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride" and we started an overview unit on the American Revolution. The boys have research projects they're working on on Revolutionary topics of their choosing. Which is fun and all, but it can't really compete with a parade. Next year back to normal?