Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our New Puppy

This is Gypsy, our new rescue puppy. She was abandoned and has a bum leg.

Books for October

This is a short list of the books that we plan to read in October. Obviously, some of these will be just me reading. Some will be read alouds, and others will be just the kids reading. This isn't a complete list of books we'll read, either. I purposefully only put a few on here so we have plenty of opportunity to choose new books we find at the library. Our library will have all the Halloween themed books in one place, well the kids ones anyway. Of course, whether or not we read all of these also depends on if our library carries them or not.

The Halloween Tree - Ray Bradbury
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving
Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween - David Skal
October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween - Richard Chizmar
American Gothic Tales - Joyce Carol Oates
Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep - Jack Prelutsky
A Halloween Reader: Poems, Stories, and Plays From Halloween Past - Lesley Pratt Bannatyne
The Ultimate Halloween - Marvin Kaye

Movies For October

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I tend to celebrate all month long. The month of October, for us, is always full of Halloween themed movies, horror/scary movies, decorating for Halloween, making Halloween decorations, reading Halloween themed books, etc.

So, I've been working on a list of movies & shows for us to watch this October. I have it split into 2 parts right now - Kid Movies and Not Kid Movies. I'll have to do some editing & split again to make it work for us. In the end I'll have: Movies both kids can watch, Movies Dea can watch with me, Movies hubby will watch with me, and Movies I'll watch alone. Hubby isn't as into Halloween and horror as I am. So, I don't make him watch all the stuff I watch in October. I'll leave it as just the 2 lists for this post, though.

Kid movies: These are movies that I feel are aimed at kids and/or families. Keep in mind that my youngest is currently 7, so there's stuff on here that might be too much for younger kids.

The Halloweentown series - There are 4 movies in this series. I like the first 3, not much of a fan of the 4th. They are from Disney, which originally made me hesitate, but we gave them a shot & I'm glad we did. These are not scary. They are not gory. What they are is fun. The basic story of the first is 3 kids find out that their family is well-known, in a place called Halloweentown, for being very powerful witches. Their grandmother lives in Halloweetown, and the kids decide to pay her a visit. The town is full of various magical creatures & monsters (all pretty cheesy costumes, not scary gory stuff). Halloweentown is in danger & they have to save it. The rest of the series continues to follow the adventures of the family.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - The classic we all grew up with. We watch it on TV every year.

The Nightmare Before Christmas - Fun for the whole family. The king of Halloween Town discovers Christmas Town and tries to put on Christmas in Halloween Town. Strange, funky animated movie for all ages.

Corpse Bride - Yet another strange animated movie from Tim Burton. Johnny Depp voices the main character, Victor, who accidentally marries a dead woman.

Casper - Family-friendly, fun movie about Casper (the friendly ghost), his 3 mischievous uncles, and the 'fleshies'n that have moved into their house.

The Witches - Based on Roald Dahl's book, this movie is one I have enjoyed since I was a kid (I was only about 10 when it came out). Anjelica Huston is the Grand High Witch at the witch convention, which has gathered to plot a way of ridding the world of children (by turning them to mice).

Coraline - I haven't seen this one, yet. Dea has read the book, and both kids have seen & enjoyed the movie.

The Watcher in the Woods - Another movie I've enjoyed since childhood. I was so excited when I finally found it on DVD and could have the kids watch it. It's a good, creepy, mystery for kids.

The Harry Potter series - If I need to explain what these are, you have been living in a cave. My suggestion, in that case, would be to go to any video rental place, library, Walmart, or any other place that sells/lends/rents books/movies.

Beetlejuice - Another from my childhood, this one is a fun ghost flick, from Tim Burton. Although rated  PG, this one does have a questionable scene where Beetlejuice is in a brothel. (one of the two on this list my kids haven't already seen)

The Monster Squad - Yet another from my childhood. This one is a fun movie about a group of kids who fight to  keep Dracula and other movie monsters from taking over the world.

Ghost Busters - This one does have a few questionable moments. Mostly, though, it is a fun ghost movie enjoyed by kids & adults. It's rated PG, but was before PG-13 existed. So, maybe re-watch it before letting the younger crowd see it, just to be sure it's ok. Also, some of the content could be scary for younger kids. (the other one my kids haven't watched yet)

The Addams Family -  While a bit different from the TV show, this movie is fun for the whole family.

Addams Family Values - I don't enjoy this one quite as much as the first, but I do love the scenes at summer camp.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Another classic we all grew up with. We watch this every year when they play it on TV, too.

Not Kid Movies: These are the ones that I'll hopefully be watching - a few with all of us, some with hubby, some with Dea, and the rest alone.

The Shining - The Jack Nicholson one. This will be a just me movie. It might not be faithful to the book, but I still enjoy it.
Sleepy Hollow - Again, not a faithful retelling, but I enjoy it. This one Dea will watch with me.
Shaun of the Dead - This is a fun zombie flick. Hubby loves this one, so he'll watch it with me. We'll let Dea watch it, not sure about Jay.
Night of the Living Dead - the original. This year will be Dea's first intro to Romero. We might watch some others in the series, or some of the remakes.
Fido - This is actually a good movie. I was expecting it to be funny, but was not expecting it to be touching. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was both.
Bram Stoker's Dracula - not faithful to the book. However, even though it wasn't an incredibly impressive movie, I still enjoy it. This will be a just me movie.
Interview with the Vampire  - This will be one that Dea watches with me. I think it's time she gets to see a contemporary vampire movie where the vampires don't sparkle.
Dracula 2000 - The first time I saw this one, I didn't like it. However, I gave it a second chance and do appreciate it more now.
1408 - Hubby might be watching this one with me, since he does like it, not sure about the kids, though.
Children of the Corn - the original. Dea will get to watch this one with me.
The Birds - We'll all watch this.
Psycho - the original. We'll all watch this one.
The Haunting - The kids love this movie, so they'll watch it with me.
Omen - the original. The kids can watch this with me if they want.
Dracula - the Bela Lugosi one. We'll all watch this. It's hubby's favorite Dracula movie & totally appropriate for the kids.
Rose Red - The kids love this one, too. So, they'll watch this with me.
The Lost Boys - I love this movie. The kids will watch it with me. Hubby probably will.
Frankenstein - not sure which one yet
Creature From the Black Lagoon - The kids will watch with me, hubby might.
Wolf Man - Probably all of us.
Rosemary's Baby - This year will be Dea's intro to this movie
Sweeney Todd - I've never seen this. I've had it for years, but haven't watched it yet.
Frogs - Have never seen this one, either. The kids will probably watch it with me.
The Last Man on Earth - All of us.
The Ghoul - The kids want to watch this one.
The Mummy's Curse - Another one the kids requested.
The Mummy - We watch this & The Mummy Returns pretty much every October.
Jurassic Park - We watch this series pretty much every October, too.
IT - Dea wants to watch this one. Jay has asked to, but I don't think I'll let him this year.
House on Haunted Hill - The kids will watch the original with me and Dea might watch the remake with me.
Rocky Horror Picture Show - I watch this every year. I love this movie.

Now, I have no guarantee that we'll get to watch all of these. Some of these we don't own, which means we might not get to see them. Some are available on Netflix Instant Streaming. Others we'll have to borrow, either from Netflix or the library. Those will be the problem ones. Of course, these aren't necessarily the only movies we'll watch, either. We may come across others that we decide we want to watch. It's a preliminary plan, though.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Ok, this is a huge pet peeve of mine. I hate when people say that their kid IS ADHD. NO!!!! Your child HAS ADHD.

Why is this so freaking hard for people to understand? ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. When you say you child IS ADHD you are saying your child IS A DISORDER! Why would you do that?! What is so damn hard about using the word has.

Every time I'm reading something and someone says their kid is ADHD or refers to their child as 'my ADHD child,' I have to restrain the urge to scream at whatever I'm reading. I seriously want to reach through the computer screen, grab the person by the neck, and smash their face into their computer screen.

Would you say "My child is Cancer," or "My child is Autism," or "My child is Dyslexia," or "My child is pneumonia?" No, you wouldn't. So, why the fuck you say that your child is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Multi-Media Education

We each have our own idea of what a good education is. We each have our own ideas about what are the 'core' subjects, and what makes up 'the basics' that every education should include. We each have our own idea of what makes an education 'well-rounded' and even about how important a 'well-rounded' education is. There is one thing, though, that is NOT a matter of opinion or open for debate, each and every one of us deserves an excellent education.

In my opinion, an excellent education has to include multi-media resources. There is so much available to us, in this day of modern & fast-improving technology. If we refuse to use these resources, based on our own personal fears of technology, our own limited knowledge, or those many studies that link screen time to obesity & sedentary lifestyles, we are doing our future generations a disservice.

Thanks to TV & internet, my kids & I have seen footage of important Historical events that we were not alive for (Apollo 13, MLK's 'I Have a Dream' speech, etc). Since these things happened before we were born, we would have had no way to witness them without TV & internet. We've seen space shuttles launch, explored the inside of a pyramid, and visited museums in other countries.

Shows like Between the Lions, Bill Nye, and Cyber Chase make learning fun. They may help give a child an appreciation for a subject they don't like. They may even be a large part of how a child learns to read. Sites like Starfall offer interactive books to help children learn to read & improve their skills.

I have literally hundreds, if not thousands, of links in my 'School' folder in my Favorites. These sites range from webcams in Africa to educational games, to interactive museum exhibits, to instructional videos, to lectures from a variety of universities, to interactive maps, to informational sites, and more. My kids can use the games to review previously learned concepts (which they prefer to doing drill sheets or flashcards for review). They can watch animals, on another continent, going about their daily routines. They can listen to lectures from Yale, Harvard, and many other universities to supplement their Science or History courses (or just to learn about something they are interested in). There are museums that we simply can't go visit, but they can visit them online. It might not be the same as being there in person, but it's better than never getting to see it in any way.

By using the internet, my kids can see first-hand photos of the destruction caused by the tornadoes that recently swept the South, or the tsunami that hit Japan. They can also see/read first-hand accounts of people who live in those places, on blogs & news sites. Our local news wouldn't be able to provide that kind of coverage. We can find videos that help explain math concepts or Science topics. We can find resources for any interest, no matter how unusual.

My kids listen to audio books, as well as reading voraciously (sometimes doing both for the same series). They use audio books for car rides, long trips, while doing housework and yard work, you know, those times when it might not be feasible to have an actual book.

We use Netflix instant streaming & DVDs from Netflix & the library for documentaries about all kinds of things. We use software, DVDs, and pronunciation CDs to supplement our foreign language studies. We use the internet and books for research.

We don't watch much regular TV. The few regular TV shows that we like, we watch streaming on Netflix or on DVD (so we're about a season behind). We don't allow our TV watching to control us. We don't have to watch when the show is on; we watch when it is convenient for us. We have a healthy balance between screen time, down time, and physically active time. It is very possible to find that balance. We watch Netflix streaming on a Roku. We actually have a separate Roku for our 'school room.' That one only has educational channels on it. It has the Khan Academy channel (some, not all, of the videos from Khan Academy available right on your tv), NASA TV (real-time footage), and Weather Underground (local weather info from wunderground.com), among others.

Now, don't get me wrong. I LOVE books. I love the feel of them. I love the smell of them. I love the way they look lined up on the shelf. I've been known to buy a book because I thought it looked pretty (mainly leather-bound or really old books). We have a good sized home library & really need more bookcases to help hold it. There is nothing that quite compares to curling up in an over-stuffed chair with a good book in hand.

I just don't think that the educational value of other media-sources should be underrated. We can learn a lot from books. However, there is no reason, in today's world, for education to be limited only to book learning. Education needs to evolve if it is to meet the needs of the current generation. We need to be offering an education rich in good resources, not one limited to one or two resources.

I think back to my years in school. There was minimal computer use. We sometimes watched a video related to what we were studying (usually insanely boring videos), and we watched some movies. That was it; the rest was textbooks and whatever books we were required to read for English. I see no reason for my kids to suffer that same education. There is so much available today. Almost every home has a computer & internet access. Almost every home has DVD players and/or VCRs. I know people who are living well below the poverty line who have several TVs, cable, DVD players, computers & internet. It's not like it was when I was a kid (or teen) & it was normal to know several people who still didn't have most of that stuff.

Many homeschoolers have said that homeschoolers, as a group, are more likely to see the educational value of games, imaginative play, daily life, etc. Yet, there are still many who refuse to use TV and computers for their child's education.

With the variety of educational opportunities available and the speed at which we can now access information, children who are not allowed to take advantage of these opportunities will be left behind. It is a competitive world out there. I intend to do everything in my power to make sure my kids are prepared for that world.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Love a Cookout

I love cookouts. It's so great to get friends and/or family together, have awesome food, and enjoy nice weather. Of course, I personally feel that Spring & Autumn are ideal times for cookouts. Winter is really just too cold, and Summer is too hot. When it's already 85*F and humid, I have no desire to sit by a fire. However, when it's about 55*F and there's a nice cool breeze, sitting around the grill as the food cooks is so nice. There's also the fact the my husband almost always grills with wood, only using charcoal occasionally. So, cookouts, for me, are like the best parts of camping.

Yesterday, we took the kids to the Art Fair. We saw some truly beautiful work. There were paintings, 3D paintings, graphic design, ceramics, jewelry, woodworks, those cool lawn ornaments made from rusty old tools, and photography. Most of it was beyond what we were prepared to spend yesterday. We stopped and looked at each booth. The kids were very talkative and very vocal about which pieces they liked. Many of the artists appreciated the kids comments on their works, and some of them had conversations with the kids. There were a few who were too busy talking with other people to acknowledge the kids & their comments, though. After we walked through and saw everything, we gave the kids their budget and told them they could each pick one thing. Jay got a set of notecards that just beautiful. Dea got a really cool key chain with a ball of tiger's eye.

We also picked up the kids' Halloween costumes. We still need to get the makeup and a few accessories. We picked up a few decorative Halloween stuff, too. The kids would have bought everything Halloween in the store, if we would have let them.

After the grocery shopping, Halloween costumes, and Art Fair were done, we relaxed at home for a few hours before pulling out the grill. My sis and her fiance came over. We had awesome food - pork chops, steaks, broccoli, carrots, and mushroom caps on the grill, plus, potato salad, pasta salad, and French Silk pie. It was fairly late in the day when they came over, so there wasn't a lot of time spent outside. We spent the evening playing cards, listening to music, talking, and laughing.

We're doing another cookout next weekend. We're having Duct Tape Day - a day to make cool things out of Duct Tape, have a cookout, and make cool floating paper lanterns. In October, we have some fun, free stuff on weekends that we're hoping to do and we'll be hitting the apple orchard as soon as we can. So, the next few months should be pretty fun. See, this is when the Holiday Season starts for me. Halloween is my favorite holiday & I can hardly wait to start decorating. I will be waiting until after Duct tape Day, though. After we've cleaned up from Duct Tape Day, we'll start decorating the house for Halloween. Next weekend also starts of Horror Movie Month. For the month of October, we watch mainly horror movies and Halloween-themed movies. We watch some that are kid-friendly, and I watch the not-so-kid-friendly ones on my own. This year, though, Dea will be able to watch more of the not-for-kid ones with me. Isn't this time of year wonderful?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Everything Changes

Have you ever noticed that I post about something around here changing an awful lot? Well, guess what? That's right! Things are about to change again.

This time, it's not just school that's changing, though. My hubby's work schedule will be changing in a few weeks. He will be moving to a different shift. This will mean moving our big, hot, homemade family meal from dinner to lunch. That way, he still gets a hot meal with us and isn't stuck with just leftovers everyday (he takes leftovers for his lunch). Then, the kids and I will eat a smaller, lighter meal in the evening, probably something similar to our current lunches.

Since he'll be home for a different part of the day, we may be changing when we do our schooling, too. We tend to have some difficulties getting much school done while he's home, with the current schedule. So, the days of the week & the time of day we do school might change.

We're also changing Jay's Geography. He doesn't like the textbook World Geography & You, so I'm making Geography less textbooky. He likes Map Corner, so we'll continue using that. I had some state flag stickers and U.S. flag stickers. I put one sticker each on an index card. I hole punched the cards & put them on an index card ring. Each week, he'll have an assignment or activity to do. We'll start with finding basic info about the states - capital, flower, motto, time zone, etc. He'll write the info on the card for each state. Eventually, we'll  add more challenging info - National Parks, major industries, geographic features, etc. We have the Eat Your Way Through the USA cookbook, which we'll use to try recipes from each state. I'm not quite sure of all the work I'll have him do. I've only been working on this plan for a few days.

On top of all the other changes going on, Dea is dealing with some changes of her own. She finally made friends in the neighborhood, good kids that weren't a bad influence and she really liked them. Earlier in the summer, one of them moved away. The others moved away this week. They didn't just moved across town, but out of state. She is hurting, but is doing her best to feel better.

So, lots of changes here. Hopefully, the transition will be smooth & somewhat easy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy pics

Since I just did a post about the not so happy moments of our life, I thought I'd do a post with pics of some of the happier moments we've had lately.

These are pics of Jay playing lawn darts on Labor Day:

This is the desk I posted about, that I finally claimed for me. It took about 4 days to get it from so piled with stuff you couldn't tell it was a desk to how it looks now.

I recently took up wood burning. These are the first two things I've ever done with it:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Science Term 2

Science for Jay's 2nd grade term 2 is Flight and forces & motion. We decided to do this during term 2 because it involves going outside to fly gliders & paper airplanes. That should be much easier to do in the breezy autumn weather than in the hot, humid summer.

Jay is really enjoying this one already, and we haven't even done an activity yet.

History Term 2

Jay has started his 2nd term of 2nd grade. Our History focus this term is Native American History. He will be keeping a journal of his study. We will start in South America, then Mesoamerica, followed by the Southwest, the Great Basin, California, Plateau, Northwest Coast, Arctic, Subarctic, Plains, Eastern Woodlands, and ending with the Southeast. For each region, there will be more of a focus on 1 or more tribes. It will be a bit more of an overview than I would really like, but we will go more in-depth in later years (we want to make sure that the kids have a decent understanding of their heritage & we have Native ancestry).

I mentioned in a previous post that our Thanksgiving Dinner will be only foods available to the various groups of Natives, pre-Columbus. I haven't yet finalized the menu, but hope to have recipes from several tribes, as well as recipes of my own. So far, we've done a few things and read a few books, and Jay seems to be quite interested in our topic. I'm very glad of this, as I want the kids to enjoy learning about our ancestry.

Nitty Gritty

There is a conversation on Secular Homeschool that has digressed a bit into the topic of blogging just the shiny, happy days vs blogging the days when you wish you had a batting cage in your back yard for stress relief.

That conversation got me thinking about how often I post about the bad parts of our days. I know that I post about us not getting all our school work done, the many changes that happen within our schooling, and some of our struggles with getting Dea to do Math or getting Jay to write legibly. I also post rants & vents about how irritated I am at various people and/or situations. However, I don't know how often I really post the nitty gritty details of just how difficult our life can be.

So, I thought I'd give some nitty gritty details today.

This is what the kitchen looks like after a week of me being sick & unable to keep up on dishes:

This is what my 13 year old's bedroom looks like. It was clean less than a week ago.

This is the paint they peeled off a wall in the school room, for no reason other than they were bored (the joys of fidgety kids with ADHD):

This is the hole in school room wall from my daughter having anger issues & slamming the door open & into the wall too many times (the joys of Bipolar):

I've been spending much of the last week purging & doing a deep clean of the house, because there wasn't a room in it that was clean & uncluttered.

So, there are some of the nitty gritty details of our life. I'm not picking on my kids. I'm not posting this hoping to get more readers. Hell, I'm cool with the fact that I have less than 30 followers.  I'm posting this because it's honest. I'm an honest person. I don't like to sugar-coat things & I sure as hell don't like to lie. I'm not trying to appear perfect or like I have it all together. I'm not going to post only the good stuff because the truth is that my life also includes the bad stuff. I try to post more of the good than the bad, because I'm trying to be more positive in my life and bitching constantly won't help that. So, I try to focus more on the good. I'm not an optimistic person, I've always been a bit of a pessimist. I'm not trying to change that, I'm just trying to acknowledge the good when it happens. I don't want to push my perfectionist issues or my OCD tendencies on my kids. So, I try to focus more on positive than negative.

In other words, if you're looking for a blog that is full of the negative aspects of life in a house full of ADHD, Bipolar, and other issues, this blog isn't for you. If you're looking for a blog full of Happy Happy Joy Joy moments, only showing the shiny perfect days, this isn't the blog for you either. If you're looking for a blog about a real family, with real issues, real good days, real bad days, and a sometimes obnoxious honest streak, you just might stick around.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoughts on my education & schooling

I didn't attend preschool. Instead, I attended college. My mom was taking college courses and she would take me with her. I remember sitting there, with a snack of dry Cheerios, taking in parts of the lectures while I drew pictures.

Then, Kindergarten came. I went to the neighborhood school, two or three blocks from our house. That was, well, rather pointless. Toward the end of the year, they tested for the Gifted Program, for the following year.

First grade, I was in another school, in the Gifted Program. I stayed there for first & second grades. The work was too easy & boring. I was quiet and shy, not really social like most of my classmates. I started slacking, yes in 2nd grade, so my grades would drop & I'd have to leave the Gifted Program (I knew my parents wouldn't let me leave the program any other way). For 3rd grade, I tried out the Arts Program. That sucked, and was even more boring academically. So, back to the Gifted Program for 4th.

I won't bore you with details of all 13 years. So, I'll just give you the short version. School sucked. I went to 7 different schools.  I was in the Gifted Program, the Creative & Performing Arts Program, and the regular program. The work was boring and way too easy. There was no part of school that I found challenging. I was not very popular, seeing as it's hard to make friends when you are the weird smart kid, even in the Gifted Program (you know, the program specifically for the weird smart kids).  I spent most of class time reading novels.

Most of what I learned, was from things I did outside of school. I spent hours at the public library. I took classes at the Community College. I followed my interests, learned about things I wanted to know more about. I visited museums & zoos. I went to theater performances. I volunteered. I babysat. I had jobs. I read voraciously. I had plenty of time to do all of that since my homework was done before I got home, unless it was a long term assignment like a research paper.

I feel that my years in public school were a lot of wasted time. I could have used that time to learn & do so much more. However, I also feel that I did a very good job supplementing my education. Yes, my family helped, a little. It was usually my grandparents taking me to museums & zoos, sometimes aunts & uncles. My parents signed me up for the classes at the Community College and drove me there. Mostly, everyone kind of stayed out my way. My parents weren't very concerned with how I spent my time, as long as I wasn't getting in trouble. So, I had plenty of opportunity to follow my interests. My family wasn't always supportive, especially when my interests ran in a more creative direction, but I learned to ignore them and not let them stand in my way.

When I sent my daughter to school, I planned to supplement her education the way I had supplemented mine. I would take her to museums & zoos. I would take her to the theater. I would sign her up for classes that she was interested in taking. I would fill the house with books. I would allow her to follow her interests. I would give her the support & encouragement that I only sometimes had.

We haven't gone to as many museums, zoos, and theater performances as I wanted. Of course, that is because I spend so much money on their regular academics and the many extra things they want to learn. We do get in some trips to museums & zoos, though. We haven't been able to get them to the theater yet, but we're hoping to get to a performance of The Nutcracker this December and  My Fair Lady next year.

My kids enjoy watching documentaries and reading. They have huge rock collections. They enjoy museums and zoos. They climb trees, have their own tools, and start their own long term projects like keeping a weather journal. I'd like to think they would still do these things, even if they were in public school. I would still be supplementing their education if they were in public school. We would still have family game nights & family movie nights. I would still be introducing them to their heritage. I would still be supporting & encouraging them in their interests.

We homeschool, not because of the experiences they wouldn't have, but because of the lack of personalized education. They wouldn't be allowed to work at their own pace. I don't care what a school says; I have heard many claim that the students get to work at their own pace. However, I've yet to find one that would actually allow a child to truly work at their own pace - to be at a different level in every subject, to have their work spanning 5 or more grade levels. I could have sent my kids to public school, and just hoped that it didn't kill their love of learning. However, my daughter was suffering due to her being the smart weird kid. Her love of learning was being crushed out of her. So, why leave her there?

I homeschool because it is what is best for my kids. I don't homeschool because I had a bad experience with public school. Just because I though school sucked, it doesn't automatically mean that my kids would have the same opinion. It was a possibility that they wouldn't hate it as much as I did. It was possible that they would have been fine with the after school supplementing I would have done. However, that didn't work out & now we homeschool. I know my kids are getting an excellent and well-rounded education, and they are getting it all day, not just after school.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Last week was Jay's first week of term 2. His History topic for this term is Native Americans. Over his break, he finished his Native American flute. Last week, he decorated it and started learning to play. We were also going to make a Dreamcatcher, but I had a headache that day, so it didn't get done. We decided to make it today. I had to help him with it, because buckskin lacing and artificial sinew are not easy for a 7 year old to work with alone. It is now hanging in his bedroom.

He's really proud of it, and I think we did a pretty good job.

The kids helped their dad work on their grandma's car today. They had fun getting greasy and yanking parts out of the car.

Tomorrow, we're having a cookout at my sister's house. Dea is making deviled eggs. Jay is making cucumber salad. I am making stuffed burgers and potatoes of awesomeness (the kids named the potatoes). We'll spend the morning cooking and head over around lunch time.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Saying Good-Bye to The Magic School Bus

When I was planning Jay's Science last year, 1st grade, I thought it would be fun to do Magic School Bus based Science. So, I connected the topics for 1st - 3rd grade Science with Magic School Bus kits, books, and episodes. We, of course, add in plenty of materials that are not related to Magic School Bus but are related to the topic. It has been fun. Magic School Bus has always been a show we liked. Dea liked it, Jay likes it, and I even enjoy it. Connecting his Science to characters that he enjoys has been a fun way to do Science. However, it is coming to an end.

We will finish out the Magic School Bus based Science this year, but not next year. We don't enjoy the Teacher Created Magic School Bus Units. We have enjoyed the kits, but they really aren't challenging for Jay. They have been great for allowing him to do labs/experiments on his own with just supervision or mostly alone with a little help. However, many times he learns nothing from the activity itself, just the experience of working, at least mostly, independently. He did get some out of the kits last year, but got nothing from the Space kit earlier this year.

So, next year, we'll be getting kits for older students, in hopes that he'll actually be challenged to some degree. I really want him to continue enjoying his Science, but also want the activities to be something he learns from. If he doesn't get something out of the activities, he will become bored with them, as he does with all busywork.

Next year, we're getting a kit on volcanoes. We're also getting a Thames & Kosmos kit. It has 100 experiments in it, on a variety of topics. We won't do all the experiments for school, just the ones connected to our topics for the year. We may do some of the others on breaks, just for fun. We'll probably also get one or two kits on crystals. Jay will be studying Geology, Water, Meteorology, and Light & Optics. So, we're thinking the kids can do the crystal kits together, since Dea has requested Geology as her Science next year (she's changed things again, is doing Intro to Psych this year along with Anat & Phys, as originally planned, and is back to wanting to graduate at 16).

I'm sure we'll still watch some Magic School Bus episodes related to his topics, and may still pull out some of the books. I doubt even that will continue after next year, though. He's just getting too old for Magic School Bus. It's so weird. I've been reading the books & watching the show for so many years now, first with Dea then with Jay. It's kind of strange to know that my youngest is outgrowing it. Within just a few years, our collection of Magic School Bus books will be boxed up with the rest of the books the kids have outgrown that I'm holding onto. Luckily, we still have Bill Nye to watch (plus, one or two of his books). He won't outgrow Bill Nye for some years yet.

How Many Levels?

Last year, for 1st grade, our Language Arts focus was on reading. I wanted to make sure that Jay had a firm foundation for reading. We didn't do anything formal for Grammar, Spelling, or Writing. He did get Spelling and penmanship practice with the writing required in Explode the Code, which was good considering the ETC series was just review for him. We knew there was a large possibility of him having Dyslexia, which was a major driving force in my decision to hold off on the other aspects of Language Arts.

Now, we are certain that he has a very firm foundation in reading. Despite his Dyslexia, he is regularly reading (and comprehending) books at a 5th+ grade level. So, this year has more focus on other areas of Language Arts. Since this is his first year using a program for Writing, Grammar, and Spelling, I went easy on ordering. I ordered 2 levels of All About Spelling, because I was certain we would get through the 1st level fairly quickly. We haven't been doing it every day, and it is still averaging out to about 1 step a week. If we did it daily, we would definitely be further along. We'll get levels 3 & 4 next year.

I only bought one level of the Stack the Deck writing program (Discover the Deck is the level we have). I got the 2nd grade level, because he's in 2nd grade. I only bought the one level, so that we had the chance to try it out & see if we like it, before spending more money on it. He is moving through it at a faster pace than I anticipated. I'm actually having to slow him down and assign additional writing assignments, just to make this level last the year. Next year, I will be getting two levels, the 3rd grade & 4th grade levels. Even if he doesn't go through both levels next year, I'd rather have the next one if he needs it, than not have writing for 1/3 of the year.

I also only bought the 2nd grade level of Easy Grammar. I knew this would not last the whole year, but did not want to purchase more, in case he didn't like it. He does seem to like it, and is doing well with it. So, next year we'll buy the 3rd & 4th grade levels. He won't finish both next year, but we'll have Grammar for every day of our school year (one level leaves us with about 45 days without Grammar).

We also only bought one level of his Latin, Latin for Children, this year. We will continue to get just one level a year. We like to spend a little extra time and review what we're learning. So, it is taking us a bit longer to get through this. I want him to really learn the language, and I don't think he'd really learn it if we rushed through to stay on schedule.

We bought Mastering Mathematics for his Kindergarten year. It has 1st - 6th grade Math. This year was the first we've bought Math for him since then. We bought him Key to Measurement and Key to Metric Measurement, because I don't feel Mastering Mathematics covers measurement enough. Plus, he really likes measurement &  is always measuring something with his ruler or one of his measuring tapes. He's currently in Defeating Division (the 4th book in Mastering Mathematics). If he keeps up his current pace, he'll be done with this book by the end of the year or in the very beginning of next year. So, we're figuring he'll be doing Perfecting the Point (decimals & percents) and Finishing Fractions (fractions) next year. We're going to buy him the Life of Fred Fraction and Decimals & Percents books. We want to see how he likes Life of Fred, and if he'd want to continue with it. So, we're going to have him do the Life of Fred books alongside the Mastering Mathematics books. That way, he gets an intro to Fred, can decide if he likes Fred, and, if he does want to continue with Fred, it will be a smooth transition from one program to another.

So, as you can see, we tend to get more than 1 level at a time. There are many reasons we do this.

One reason is that our school year is longer than a public school year. Prior to this year, I planned 40 weeks of work per school year. This year, with our new trimesters, our year is 45 weeks. A typical public school year is 36 weeks. Most programs are set up for the typical 180 day/36 week school year. Our current school year is 225 days/45 weeks (previous years were 200 days/40 weeks). That would be a fairly large chunk of the year to not have work in a subject. That would be 45 days without the subject (whichever subject we only bought one level of). 45 days = 20% of our school year.

I can deal with that for the first year using a program, while we determine if we like it, how we'll use it, and the pace the child in question moves through it. However, I wouldn't be okay with that after that first year.

The other main reason that we buy more than one level at a time is the kids. My kids are academically Gifted. They grasp & master concepts faster. They move at a faster pace. They often work above grade level; not because we skip levels, but because they get through the levels so quickly. That is just how it is. I will not apologize for the fact that my kids are Gifted, work quickly, and need extra work & challenge.

A program for 180 days means a guaranteed 20% of the school year without that subject. If they work at a faster pace than was intended & take less than 180 days, it would lead to even more of the year without that subject. I've seen them get through something in half the time. So, let's say they finished a 180 day program in half the time - 90 days. That would then be 135 days without that subject. That would be 60% of the school year without that subject.

So, between the kids' faster pace and the length of our school year, we could be looking at 20-60% of the year without a given subject, if I only bought 1 level at a time.

I buy once for the year. We don't buy as we go. I plan out what materials we will use and buy all at once. I may buy from a few places, but only when I have to. I get as much form one place as I can. Most of our materials come from Rainbow Resource. Some of our arts & crafts supplies come from Oriental Trading. There are a few other sites I may shop at for Science tools, dissection specimens, and other random items, if we really need them & can't find them elsewhere. I shop local stores for basic items like tri-fold display boards, poster boards, paper, pencils, etc. I get as much from each place as I can. By keeping the number of sites I buy school supplies from limited, I  save money on shipping. The extra I would spend on shipping would have to be deducted from our school budget, meaning I'd be able to afford less of our materials. Since the budget is spent within days, I can't guarantee that I'd be able to just pick up the next level if we finish early. I really try to stick to the school budget. I could easily spend 3 times as much as I spend now. I need to make sure everything else is taken care of, too. So, I work hard to get us the right materials & the right amount of each material, all for the best price I can find.

In short, I buy so much each year because I like to be prepared, and I know my kids.