homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Homeschool Snapshot, December 2012

I usually link these to the Homeschool Mother's Journal blog since I use their prompts for this journaling exercise, but I didn't bother this time because--crazy enough--I never seem to complete a blog post over the weekend, in time for the link-up. Besides, this is really more for my own temperature-checking than for public bragging anyway, forum notwithstanding. ;)

In my life recently…
Status quo. I've been fighting the eternal battle for balance. I lose a lot. I keep scaling back my expectations (regular blogging has obviously been downgraded, ha), but even so--there are never enough hours in the day, or enough me, to address all of the things I want or need to. Sigh. It's rough. And I'm constantly beating myself up for letting the whole "toddler" variable throw things completely out of whack. Other mothers have toddlers and still manage to homeschool. What am I doing wrong? *sulk*

Oh, and I'm busting ass trying to finish knitting sweaters for T and C for Christmas. They've outgrown the sweaters I knit for them years ago, and I have Distracted Mother of Toddler guilt. As noted above. The good news is that I'm almost finished. Woot!

And I don't exercise, well, ever. That sucks. I'm hoping that once the holidays pass, I'll be able to get back into some sort of routine. I think the glut of new gym memberships following New Year's has less to do with resolutions and more to do with folks finally breaking out of the time-suck of the holidays.

In our homeschool recently…
We have two emergent readers. That's the biggest, best news. I'm relearning lessons I should have internalized by now. It's true; trying to make a child do something before he's ready will not guarantee results. Waiting until he is ready will result in progress so rapid it will make your head spin. I watched one of their older brothers (my stepsons) do this with reading and swimming. I watched T do this with potty training and biking. You can prepare them from now until doomsday, but you can't force understanding, and even the best efforts at fostering desire will not take root until they are truly ready for it. After YEARS of struggling with CVC words, I have seen T in particular jump at least two grade levels in reading ability in a few short weeks. I am thrilled. Relieved. Overjoyed. Impressed. Thankful.

Beyond that, we've been making slow but steady progress in math. Both T and C get excited and want to skip ahead without fully understanding underlying concepts, so that part has been challenging. I've imposed a bunch of different drills for fact recall, and try to mix up the obvious (flash cards, worksheets) with the more subtle (card games, Monopoly).

We did a month long history study of American Colonialism, but I've kind of stalled on history. I want to get them to the Revolutionary War (especially because ever since our September readings on the Montgolfier Brothers, I've been promising a biographical study of Benjamin Franklin, but I want to keep our studies in context) but feel that I can't realistically skip over the French & Indian War, especially considering how very much of it happened locally (and, ahem, the fact that Pennsylvania History is required by the state anyway). If anyone happens to read this and has good ideas for a framework for a F&I War study for early elementary ages, please comment!!

And finally, T and C have been taking piano lessons...in a twenty-first century, non-traditional way. I discovered a little site called Free Piano Lessons 4 Kids. I was skeptical at first, but we were all hooked after the inaugural lesson. Instructor Joseph Hoffman is engaging, the lessons are short, and each lesson is simple on its own but taken in sequence, the lessons build skills quickly and in an unexpected but very efficient/effective manner. I'm sold. I bought the PDF download of supporting material and this program is still a steal. The boys don't think of this as a one-way exchange, with them watching a pre-recorded video. They refer to him as "my teacher". We love Mr. Hoffman. :)

That's the structured stuff. We've also been having plenty of other fun. After a long hiatus from the kitchen, T is again interested in cooking. In an effort to reinforce some of our math (measurement, fractions, addition) and reading, I've been preparing easy to follow recipes for him, and he has been delighting us with all sorts of delicious goodies. His cookbook (and repertoire) are growing, and "Mother [Surname]'s Cooking School for Boys" is a popular game these days.

We've also been reading about giant squid, revisiting an interest in birds of prey, and building and crafting like  crazy. :)

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…
For practicing basic addition facts (pair memorization), we have really been enjoying playing variations on basic card games. Our favorites are Go Fish (match numbers adding to 10 rather than twins) and War (each player puts down two cards; the largest product wins the hand).

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
This is a little harder to answer since I do these updates so infrequently. Most recently, we enjoyed a Solstice Celebration put together by a good friend of ours.

My favorite thing this week was…
C made a wreath for our front door. I wanted a "real" wreath but balked at the prices. A few years ago, I had saved the frame from a wreath we had purchased. Because I am frugal  crafty a hoarder. C located it, snipped some low branches from our pine tree, and voila--a custom made wreath.

Yes. My heart grew three sizes that day. He's so full of creativity and love.

Questions/thoughts I have…
I'm feeling cynical right now about a number of topics dealing with education in general, all of which should probably be worked out in longer posts. As always, I'm disillusioned by the false messages and hypocrisy of the meritocracy. I had a discussion with two other mothers this past weekend about a school handing a diploma to a student who had failed to even show up for 50% of the state-mandated attendance days, let alone what one can only assume was his poor academic performance as a result of that. I was in the minority position, saying that it is an insult to the kids who worked for their diplomas and that blatantly overriding not only school policy but also state law is shameful and makes a mockery of the value of that diploma. Apparently I'm wrong, and it's in the public's best interest to help such kids succeed in life by making sure they don't get judged as a failure or a dropout. My head hurts. What does that diploma mean? What do any of them mean, beyond a mark of (maybe just barely) participation?

I'm also reeling from the implications of the shift away from studying fiction in the upcoming common core standards for English. I need to read up more on this before I can really feel like I'm voicing an informed opinion on the matter, but I will say as not only a fan of literature and an English major but also as someone who for many years made a profession as a technical writer...the best curriculum for good writing and informed reading is rhetoric, which seems to have been missing from our schools for a few generations now. I'll definitely be blogging more on this as I read and think more about it.

Things I’m working on…
Balance. Did I mention balance? That, and pre-planning. I like the flexibility of not being tied to a curriculum but there are days that the structure is very appealing, and I haven't ruled out trying that approach in the future. I also need to get on the ball with record-keeping (some weeks are awesome, others I just seem to slip), and I need to order/administer some sort of standardized test in the spring semester (groan).

And finally...
Here's a picture of a happy toddler. You're welcome. :)