homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Journal Entry/Homeschool Snapshot, 3/5/11

It's been a while, how about an update on our learning journey?
The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week...

What, me personally? Outside of homeschooling? I'm doing a lot of pattern alteration and drafting. I touched on this in a few recent posts but need to catch up on blogging my trials. Trying to sew properly-fitting clothing for oneself is a real ordeal anyway. Add a rapidly changing shape and little opportunity to procrastinate (hello, I need something that fits!!), and it becomes pretty much all one thinks about. I often lie in bed at night, mentally drafting maternity patterns, and cursing the major pattern publishers for the problems I keep finding with theirs. Good thing I *like* sewing!!

I've also been doing a lot of knitting. Just over a week ago we got the news that someone very close to us has been diagnosed with cancer. I've shelved all other projects "on needles" to focus my work on creating a prayer shawl for her. I will post pictures here on my blog once it's finished; hopefully within the next week.

In our homeschool this week...

It's been a mixed bag. We're still trying to get through worksheets so I can see which skills the kids are ready for and which skills require some instruction/practice. For now I'm keeping my focus on basic math and reading. I've only recently moved from a learner-led approach to the determination to introduce certain things on *my* timetable. Both boys continue to crave our nightly "chapter book" readings, and often interrupt to identify words on the page. I've also renewed my whip-cracking with penmanship, much to T's dismay. (I haven't started with C yet.)

Places we're going and people we're seeing...

Since my last snapshot, we've done pretty much our normal "outing" routine: a few nature walks, a few playdates, a few trips to the library. With the exception of yesterday, when we took a field trip to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

My husband recently fielded T's curiosity about large birds by sharing some Internet research. For about a day, T was in love with the wandering albatross...until Dad located a few videos on the Andean condor. Thus started a solid week (and counting) of obsessing on the Andean condor. I've mentioned similar obsessions before...not only does he repeat (and request) facts, but he spends a great deal of time in fantasy play, "being" the animal of interest. We did some wishlist shopping online for merchandise (yes it exists), and I struggled to find information through our local library. (Because of the recent status--from nearly extinct to slowly recovering--of the California condor, most available materials seem specific to that species. I had limited success seeking books that generally cover the vulture family, instead.)

Until it dawned on me that we have an aviary within driving distance. I crossed my fingers and hoped that they'd perhaps have at least a California. Not quite perfect, but it would be close. But wait! It turns out that they house a mated, breeding pair of Andean condors. Score! I planned the trip, but did not tell T where we were going, other than "an errand in the city". When we drove past the entrance to the building, he saw them. The condor exhibit is an outdoor enclosure near the east entrance to the facility. As I slowed to turn into the parking lot, recognition started to bloom. "Mom? Do you see that? I could have sworn I saw an Andean condor!!"

It was a great parenting moment. Mom FTW!

We spent a long time watching the male, who had positioned himself near the fence.

You really cannot appreciate until you see one live, just how BIG these birds are. He was amazing, and beautiful, and like all of the other animals we saw on exhibit that day, very healthy-looking.

I'm tempted to start spouting cliches like "magnificent specimen", because it is true. What a neat, neat experience.

And yet again, I'm reminded of how very fortunate we are to live in our region. Pittsburgh has a wealth of resources for learning...from local and national history to world-class arts to a variety of museums and animal habitats (zoos, gamelands, etc.). A few years ago, when T became enraptured with Komodo dragons, it was a short drive to show him a real one. Now the condors. Tomorrow, who knows. I'm grateful that we have such easy access to so much, and that our learning need not be limited to books and multimedia, but can be actively engaged in our own community. <3

My favorite things this week were...

  • The trip to the Aviary
  • T's recent improved attitude and cooperation with doing the "work" of practicing writing/reading and math skills
  • C's spontaneous song he performed just for me, which showed both a regular rhyme scheme and a good understanding of meter. Who knew?! My naturally-skilled singer is also apparently a good composer. <3

What's working/not working for us...

As noted above, T and I have been working on the process of the "work" of learning academic skills. He's still not thrilled with the idea (he'd much rather be in the woods than staring down a worksheet), but I suspect that much of his frustration comes from not instantly understanding and excelling. Anything "hard" might as well be "impossible". We've had a lot of talks about some skills taking time and I keep reassuring him that his confidence and performance will improve with practice. I've been stressing not completion or correction so much as keeping his patience, being positive in attitude, and cooperating. I'm happy to say that at least in the short term, it has been working. We're making our way through material much more slowly than I'd prefer, but we've dramatically reduced, well, the drama. I'll take quality over quantity for now.

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...

Here's the Really Big question that's been weighing on my heart lately. C (nearly 5) wants to go to school. He has always talked about it, and I always blew it off as one of those little-kid curiosities about Things That Big Kids Do. However, he's not dropping it. He will be eligible to start Kindergarten in the fall. And he wants to.

A big part of me is having this emotional battle, between what I want and don't want for his education (and why), and honoring what he desires. This kid honestly seems drawn to school. Not for the reasons I've seen in other preschoolers (I'll get to ride a bus, and play on the playground!) but for real, academic curiosity. I often find myself not having the time or energy to give him enough of what he's asking for, academically, and I realize that part of this is a matter of me getting used to being in this role...but it also gives me the nagging feeling that maybe he might benefit from the all-day structured academics.

And then there's the baby issue. His new sibling will be born literally within a week (perhaps plus or minus a few days) of the start of the fall semester. Although children are resiliant and there's a good chance that he'd be more excited about his own new adventure...I cannot shake the feeling that I'd be literally jettisoning one kid at the arrival of the next. I dread the thought of "losing" my baby at the same time that I welcome another...

I have a lot more soul-searching to do before I come to a conclusion about whether to "allow" him to try this. I've always intended to allow my kids the opportunity to attend school after the elementary level. It would not be the end of the world if I actually put one of my kids into school now. But it does rattle my resolve, makes me question my convictions, and...yes...concerns me deeply with the timing.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share...

This website has a short list of URLs for interactive math activities, mostly for children in the elementary levels. It was shared by my best friend, and T and I tried a few of the sites for a little change in pace. Worksheets are nice and quantitative (and help to fill up that portfolio), but games? Games are way more fun...and much more likely to engage his attention and participation.


  1. I left a big long comment & it didn't go thru...grrr. Short story-I have a friend who teaches 2nd grade-she also homeschools (her dh & she have opposite shifts). She says that on our worst HS days, we get more accomplished than on her best PS day in a classroom. So many interruptions, kids w/ behavioral problems, kids w/ learning disabilities. She has 2 helpers, yet still feels that her advanced kids are bored, her middle kids aren't being challenged & her kids who aren't behind get more lost every day. She wants to do the best for each child in her class, prays for them daily, yet the classroom just isn't a place that fosters academic learning. I hope that helps you in your decision. It sounds like your weeks are packed full of living & learning already! Holly

  2. that should read "kids who ARE behind", not aren't. :)

  3. Thank you so much, Holly. That perspective really helps. I also just had a chance meeting with a mother at our local library who is a former teacher and she said much the same. So, so, true...and one of my original deciding factors. It's good to be reminded of things like this. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, and for reading!