Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Home School PE: The Excuses

This subject has been on my mind for a while now and I haven't really done anything about it except make room for it in our schedule.  That's a step in the right direction, but it hasn't led to an increase in physical activity.

Here's what my excuses have been:
  1. "I don't know what to do!"
    On one hand, I have no idea where to start; and on the other hand, there are a ton of choices available to us for physical activity.  A quick brainstorm and some internet research on the matter led me to these ideas:
    A.  The Presidential Physical Fitness Award:  Remember this from your school years?  It's available for homeschoolers as well!  I want to implement this program in our home school because it has great goals and my kids love to earn awards.
    B.  Family Time Fitness:  This site has been adding fuel to my "We need Physical Education in our home school!" fire.  I love their article about how "going out to play" is NOT Physical Education.
    C.  My local Parks & Recreation department:  Sporting programs in a nutshell.  Research on my local site led me to a private swim club that meets just ten minutes from my house in the mornings before school.
    D.  Marathon Kids:  Running is free and great exercise.  I've actually remarked to Michael that I'd like to instill jogging as a healthy habit for our family because it's universally accessible in all phases of life.  All you need is a pair of shoes!
    E.  The Ultimate Home School Physical Education Game Book, by Guy Bailey:  I have seen this title thrown about in almost every homeschooling article about physical education.  I'm going to try to get my hands on a copy of it soon.

  2. "I don't want to get my clothes sweaty!"This excuse is just lame.  That doesn't keep me from using it!  I like to dress nicely for school, as I think it imparts a certain respect for our academic home life.  However, leading my brood through jumping jacks and sit-ups doesn't go very well with pencil skirts and blouses.  I've been thinking back on my elementary school days in Canada, where my classroom teacher was also my gym teacher.  (There weren't specialized PE teachers at my Canadian school like they had at the schools I attended when we moved to the States.)

    My classroom teachers wore nice clothing to school each day and still managed to guide us through the basics of team sports and personal exercise.  If they could do it, so can I...right?  I figure I have two choices:  1.  Start dressing down across the board, or 2.  Lay out a PE outfit to change in and out of each day for that hour.  (The second option is the one my Canadian teachers used.)

  3. "It takes up so much time!" 
    My research has brought up the mandate that children need 1-3 HOURS PER DAY of vigorous physical activity.  NEED.  As in, not optional.  I cannot shortchange my children's health now to get ahead academically.  Obesity is a rising problem in our communities that can be easily observed every time we step out of our homes.  Wouldn't it stand to reason that a child who is taught to be inactive physically can very easily transmit that philosophy to other areas of their lives, say, like academics?  I might be able to get ahead in some subject areas by skipping PE, but will that develop the best possible version of my child?
    I can across a quote from John F. Kennedy that I really liked:
    "The Greeks understood that mind and body must develop in harmounious proportions to produce a creative intelligence. And so did the most brilliant intelligence of our earliest days - Thomas Jefferson - when he said, not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise.
    If the man who wrote the Decleration of Independence, was Secretary of State, and twice President, could give it two hours, our children can give it ten or fifteen minutes."

    --John F Kennedy (1917-63), 35th President of USA, Address to the National Football Foundations, 5 Dec 1961.  (Found at http://www.exrx.net/Psychology/Quotes.html

    Once again, I'm led to remembering my Canadian elementary school teachers.  In the fourth grade, my teacher started out EVERY day with leading our entire class on a run.  At the beginning of the year we started with a route that took us halfway around the school boundaries, by the end of the year we were running the entire boundary line twice.  When it was winter, we ran around the gymnasium ad nauseum.  The only way you got out of it was if you were wearing dress shoes.  A few of us tried dressing up every day, but that wore out after a week and we all took to the course.  I remember a lot from that year of school, I think mostly due to the invigorating run we took before starting our studies each day.  We were still able to get through all of the required subjects that year, despite the thirty minutes dedicated to our morning run.  (I seem to recall that my class had less behavioral problems that year as well, a boon any teacher would love to possess.)
    I believe that there is a big pay-off in training our children in self-discipline, and that Physical Education plays a major role in teaching self-discipline.  Physical Education is your mind telling your body that it is going to do X, Y & Z, even though it doesn't want to do X, Y & Z.  It's practicing foreign movements over and over again until they become natural, which isn't that different from spending time with a spelling list or math table and committing either to memory.  The difference between the two is that one uses physical muscles and the other uses mental muscles.  There needs to be balance in our children's lives, and neglecting Physical Education throws the education of the whole person out of proportion.  Generations of our ancestors have learned Latin, Calculus and Philosophy while helping out around the farm and engaging in vigorous physical activities.  I'm pretty sure we can step up the task as well.
    I also came across a sobering quote: 
    "Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness." ~ Edward Stanley

  4. "I feel like a complete idiot 'leading' my kids through a workout!"Fake it 'til you make it, sister.  Odds are, your kids will think you are brilliant and never realize that you feel like a lizard in a tutu as you instruct them through the finer points of executing a sit-up, hitting a ball off a tee or stretching your hamstrings.

    I live in a densely-populated neighborhood and I am guaranteed that my neighbors are going to see us, so I also understand the nervousness that accompanies taking PE outside of your house.  We have a park in our neighborhood that I take my kids to during our newly-schedule PE time and I've come to realize that no one is home during the day.  Not that many people will see me leading my kids through the movements.  In the three years that we've been doing "real" homeschooling (ie. Homeschooling with a mandatory-aged child), I've received only one comment about us being outside during the day, and it was admiration from a friend who saw us going for a walk in a rainstorm with our umbrellas.  I highly doubt that was the only time someone has seen us outside, but it just goes to prove the point that everyone else is too wrapped up in their own lives to bother noticing me.  (While you would think that would be a depressing thought, it's actually been incredibly liberating!)

  5. "I don't have enough room to do PE!"This is an issue for us.  We have a spit of grass in our backyard and something that resembles a front yard which is studded with utility boxes, saplings and a cement path cutting through the middle of it.  You're not going to run off any energy in this space.  By the time you make a full stride, you need to start planning your turn-around.  Time for another brainstorm:
    A.  Exercise videos:  In extreme cases, these can obviously work.  They're not exactly inspiring to me, but they will accomplish my goals.  I've found ballet, Tae-Bo, plyometrics, Kung-Fu, and even "Yoga with Phonics" DVDs for kids.
    B.  Driveway PE:  Sit-ups and push-up can be done in the driveway.  You can jump rope in the driveway, even if there's only two of you.  You can stretch on cement.  It's not my ideal, but it is a completely viable option.
    C.  Go for a walk or a run:  Once again, walking and running are free.  Shouldn't we all own a pair of athletic shoes anyway?  If you're not physically active, this may be the best place to start--just go for a fifteen minute walk and start adding minutes as the weeks go by.
    D.  Nature is a playground:  Go for a swim at your nearby reservoir or lake.  Do a nature hike (double counts for science!).
    E.  Public parks:  They're all over the place, you just have to get to them.  You can drive or walk to the park.  If it's far away, then work up to walking the distance.  Bring strollers for Littles, who will likely be motivated to get to the park, but struggle with walking the entire way home.

I'd much rather spend my day reading out loud to my kids on the couch.  I like sports and being active, but I love reading and learning a few gazillion times more.  I am responsible for their education and training their bodies physically is a crucial assignment on the path to educating the whole child.  It is my attitude and my diligence that will make or break this subject for us.  I need to take hold of this responsibility and make it work for us.

These days are the days that establish my children's attitudes towards exercise and healthy choices--what do I want to teach them about those areas of their lives?  What choices do I want them to make and what habits do I want them to adopt?  Now is the time to guide them to the ideal behaviors they'll need to stay healthy as adults.  It's a big responsibility and I feel its importance keenly.  I don't want to let them down.

I'd love to hear your ideas about PE in your homes!  Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments section!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pembroke Sweater Vest for Monkeyboy

Wow, look at that, I can knit actual clothes!

PatternPembroke Vest, by Kirsten Kapur (free!)
YarnCascade Yarns 220 Superwash Paints in colorway #9997 "Juniper Berries."
Needles:  US 3 & 5
Modifications:  I mirrored the cables instead of having them all twist the same way as written in the pattern.

When I gave birth to Monkeyboy and found out he was a boy, this pattern (along with Roar!) went into my queue as soon as I got home from the hospital.

It has been sitting in the queue for over a year, mostly because I was a little afraid to take on something of this magnitude.  (In case you haven't noticed, I'm more of an "accessory knitter."  I haven't had much luck with my attempts to create actual clothing.)

Michael even encouraged me not to give this a go, stating that it was a whole lot of work for something that our boy would only wear for a short time.  I agreed with the logic of his observation and pushed aside all thoughts of casting on for the vest.

However, the vest kept taunting me.  I'd see other people finish their own vests for special boy tots in their lives and I loved each new creation!  I remained firm in my resolve, no matter how many cute Pembrokes popped up on Ravelry, I was going to be smart and not put my time into something that would be used for such a short amount of time.

My resolve dissolved completely during my second class for the Rock Island Shawl at Blazing Needles.  I saw the most beautiful variegated colorway of yarn and it screamed at me: "Make me into a Pembroke Vest for your son!"  I immediately purchased three skeins of the magical color and dashed away from the shop amidst "colorway coveting" from fellow shawl class participants.  We knitters are such enablers!

And once Rock Island was finished, I wound up those three skeins and went to town.  The majority of this was knit on our trip to Alberta.  I had only finished a few rows before starting the trip, and had completed everything except the last few rows of the neckline ribbing by the time we returned home. 

I enjoyed knitting this up very much.  I love to cable!  It's so simple to do and produces such complex-looking results.  I feel like a knitting genius each time I cross stitches against each other.  The entertainment value of cabling is high for me.

This vest was originally slated to be one of Monkeyboy's church outfits for the winter, but I'm loving it so much that I may just deem it an everyday outfit because he'll get a lot more wear out of it in the weekly "everyday clothing" rotation rather than the twice-monthly "church outfit" rotation.  (I'll just buy him another dress shirt and he'll be fine in the church clothes category.)

So pleased!  :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Weekly Report 2011-2012: Week 5
Gearin' up again

Too cool for school
This was our first week "back-to-school" after our trip up to Canada for my brother's wedding.  Coincidentally, it also lined up with our (public) school district's first week of school.  When I made this discovery, I declared Monday to be "NOT Back to School" Day and we spent the day doing all sorts of things that we can do because my children aren't stuck inside a school building during the day.  We went out for breakfast, bought their new Girl Scout uniforms and just bopped about doing whatever we felt like doing, because we could.

On Tuesday we hunkered back down and got out the books.  We had to spend a little bit of time calculating whether or not we are on track to finish up the assignments that I made the goals of finishing by the end of our first quarter, and we found that we're a teensy bit behind the schedule, so we're trying to catch-up and finish everything on time.  I'm so glad I figured out ahead of time where we should be according to quarters instead of just saying we needed to be at a certain point by the end of the year.  It doesn't take too much thinking to figure out why I always seem to be a bit behind when the end of the year comes along.

Math:  Bluebird had to find out what other people's favorite day of the week were for a graphing assignment in Math.  (Longest lesson ever!)  She enjoyed phoning everyone to ask them about their favorite day of the week and I had to cut short many conversations so we could move on with our lives.

Language Arts:  Penguin read an entire Bob book by herself!
Bluebird had her first exposure to dictation. It went well, far better than I thought it would turn out. She can remember the sentences easily, but needs a lot of help with spelling the words. I keep telling myself to not freak about the spelling. I'm sure I was still spelling words wrong in the second grade!

We finally finished up our First Grade Grammar curriculum.  Now she's in the Second Grade book.  Go us.  As part of finishing up, Bluebird had to recite all the poems she memorized over the year.  She did just fine, and when she finished she said that she had a surprise for me--she had secretly been teaching her little sisters to memorize the poem, "Mr. Nobody":

History:  Spent some more time with Muhammad and the beginnings of Islam.  We also got caught up with our map work, which I had completely spaced after the first week of school.  Ugh, I don't know where my head is right now!

Science:  We learned about seasons.  We discussed the tilt of the Earth and how seasons are dictated by which end of the Earth is more pointed at the Sun, and what the definitions of "equinox" and "solstice" were.  It was pretty tame.  I think we're heading into the subject of air or atmosphere or something as equally exciting next.

Extracurriculars were basically a no-show this week.  I promise to do better next week.  But (!) I did take them to Girls' Clubs on Wednesday!  Bluebird went to a Little House on the Praire birthday party and Penguin went to a Hawaiian Luau party.  Each enjoyed their respective parties immensely.  I guess we'll try to make this a regular occurence.

Highlights of the Week:
  • The look on Penguin's face when she finished reading that Bob book all by herself.
  • Bluebird beating the clock again on her math drill worksheet.  She is so proud of herself when she does that.
  • Junebug asking me if I'll ever teach her how to read like her sisters, and being excited when I said that I would.
Lowlights of the Week:
  • It's sagebrush pollen season here.  Yesterday was an exercise in pushing through the rough days.  It's going to be like this through the end of September.  Ugh.
Funnies of the Week:
  • Bluebird was very deep in thought one day, so I asked her what she was thinking about.  "I'm taking Shakespeare's tragedies and flipping them into comedies," she said.
    "Oh," I said, "and how are you doing that?"
    "By adding imaginary unicorns."
  • Every time Bluebird tries to pronounce "exclamation."  I don't even know what she's trying to say sometimes.  Cute girl.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day in the Life: Friday, July 29, 2011

Bluebird: 7 years, Penguin: 4 years, Junebug: 3 years, Monkeyboy: 15 months.I totally spaced the original date of this installment of Day in the Life, so instead of July 21st, this is from July 29th.  (Yeah, big brain fail on that one.)

5:00 AM:  The alarm goes off.  Time to start another day!  I throw on my workout clothes, scarf down a protein bar and head out the door to the gym.

5:23:  I arrive at the gym, avoiding eye contact with the guy who flirts with any girl he can talk to.  I am successful!  I get on the elliptical and put in my time, followed by some weights.  It's arm and back today.

6:16:  I arrive home and start getting ready for the day.

6:47:  I am clean and covered in make-up.  I skip downstairs to wake up Bluebird so she can take a shower before breakfast.  Monkeyboy and Junebug are already up.

6:55:  Michael heads off to work.

7:10:  Monkeyboy wants some milk.  NOW.  He also gets a diaper change.

7:16:  I go downstairs again and remind Bluebird that she needs to get out of bed and into the shower.  She's not happy about it, but she trudges up the stairs and into the bathroom.

7:20:  I toast up some frozen waffles for Junebug.

7:21:  I realize that the shower still hasn't turned on, so I knock on the door to the bathroom and find Bluebird sitting on the stepping stool, crying.  I ask her what is wrong and she says that she doesn't like to brush her hair in the morning.  Oh goody, it's going to be one of those days, how original.  We have a quick chat about being cheerful even when you don't want to do something you have to do and how she needs to get done with getting ready, like twenty minutes ago.

Junebug showing me that her eyes are green.
7:24:  The shower finally turns on, but only after Bluebird came out of the bathroom one more time to tell me that her belly ached.  I just silently pointed in the direction of the bathroom.  She stuck out her bottom lip and went back in.  Junebug is happily chewing her waffle and talking about how neat it is that we have green eyes.  I begin toasting some bread for Bluebird so she'll have something to eat when she finally emerges from her den of sorrow.

7:39:  The shower turns off.  Monkeyboy and Junebug finish eating their waffles and I scrub them down until I'm satisfied there is no syrup to be found on their hands or faces.  I knock on the bathroom door and inform Bluebird that she needs to come out because I need the bathroom to help her siblings brush their teeth and comb their hair.  She comes out and sits down to her toast, I wrangle the Littles into the bathroom.

8:03:  I confiscate the baby lotion from Junebug, who was trying to paint a picture on the carpet with it.  I send everyone down to the schoolroom with the instructions of clearing the table so we can do school.

8:10:  I put Monkeyboy down for his morning nap and I microwave a quick bowl of oatmeal for myself.

8:22:  I head downstairs to start the school day.  The school room floor is coverd in dried-up bits of Play-Doh, which I learn is from Penguin playing with it yesterday after I distinctly told her to leave it alone.

8:34:  We all sit down for our devotional after I've finished vacuuming up the Play-Doh.

She finished her drill in less than a minute!
8:50:  Bluebird and I start on her Math lesson, despite not being able to find a single sharpened pencil.  We make do with blunt pencils that barely leave marks on the pages.  All three pencil sharpeners are mysteriously missing this morning.  Bluebird beats the clock for the first time EVER on her drill worksheet.

9:20:  Bluebird starts working on her math worksheets, I start Penguin's Math lesson.  Penguin complains because her "pencil is bad at writing today."

9:23:  I require Bluebird to re-do her worksheet in neat handwriting and then go upstairs because I thought I heard Monkeyboy.  I stand outside his door for a minute and hear nothing, so I go back downstairs to resume Penguin's math lesson.

9:45:  Monkeyboy is screaming in his crib.  I go upstairs and pull him out and bring him downstairs.

10:08:  Monkeyboy will not stop crying.  I hold him in my lap and try to do some spelling with Bluebird, but my baby boy is so loud that I say we can skip spelling today.  We start in on grammar and Monkeyboy calms down and sits patiently on my lap.  (Does this mean that he hates spelling?)

10:17:  We are done with Math and Language Arts.  I send Bluebird and Penguin off to make their beds.  Junebug disappears for a moment and then returns triumphantly to show me that she has found all three pencil sharpeners.  Hmmm.

10:25:  We go upstairs and pack some snacks so we can go to Park Day with our homeschooling group.  I send the girls to get their shoes on.  Many shoes are missing, but we eventually find them all.

10:47:  We pull out of the driveway.

10:55:  We arrive at the park.  No one else is there, but that's not surprising because it doesn't start until 11:00 and even then there's usually not someone else there before 11:15.  I think the first other family arrives around 11:10, which is pretty stinkin' good for us.  I hang out on our picnic blanket and chat with whatever mom will chat with me.  The girls run off and play with their various friends and Monkeyboy hovers around me, snacking on animal crackers and fruit roll-ups.  I try to knit a few rows on a gauge swatch I'm making for a pair of socks in my future.
Homeschooling Friends!

12:40 PM:  I snap a picture of the group before starting to pack up to go home.  I round up the girls, who were happily digging holes in the sand volleyball court.  (That's not a good combo...)

12:55:  We load up the van and head on home.

1:04:  It's Friday.  I let the girls talk me into lunch from McDonald's.  We hit the drive-thru.

1:13:  We arrive home and pass out the food.  I unpack stuff from our park trip while the kiddos eat their lunch.

1:50:  I heat up some soup for myself and sit down for my lunch while the kids elbow each other for some video game time.

2:15:  I change Monkeyboy's diaper and give him more milk before putting him down for his nap.

2:32:  The girls and I head downstairs and start reading some history.  Bluebird does her narration.

2:57:  I send the girls to their beds for Free Reading Time and then get my shoes on so I can go run errands.  I ring my neighbor's doorbell and she comes over to sit with the kiddos while I'm gone.  I head off to the library.  Normally I take the kids, but they've developed a complete amnesia regarding proper library etiquette, so I'm giving them a break from library trips until they can show me they are capable of behaving.

3:25:  I check out of the library, after paying $20.40 in fines.  Argh.  I head off to the allergist for my shots.

3:49:  I arrive at the allergist, go to sign-in and knock all the pens off the desk and onto the floor.  A guy in the waiting room laughs at me.  I shrug my shoulders and say, "Yes, I am that awesome."  He looks at me like I'm an idiot.  At least I'm not the rude one laughing at another's clumsiness.
I get my shot, pick up the pens and sit down to wait the mandatory twenty minutes before leaving.

4:09:  I can leave.  I'm making good time today, and my local yarn shop is just down the street...I decide I have enough time to stop by for a brief moment.

4:40:  I leave the yarn shop with a new skein of alpaca sock yarn.  I drive to Michael's work to pick him up.

5:07:  We arrive home.  I make dinner for myself while trying to decide what everyone else is going to eat.  I'm on a very specific food plan in an attempt to lose some of my chubbiness.

5:30:  I start dinner for everyone else--chicken breast, corn muffins and mixed veggies.

6:20:  We sit down to eat.  Well, they eat while I input the day's school assignments into Homeschool Tracker.  I am such a bad example today.

7:00:  Monkeyboy gets a bath.

7:10:  Junebug gets a bath.

7:20:  Penguin gets a bath.

7:30:  I order Bluebird's new writing book and something else for school (I can't remember what right now) from Amazon.

7:40:  The kids settle into their beds for their evening reading time and I sit down to hash out lesson plans and scheduling.  Michael heads downstairs to resume building his new computer from salvaged parts.  (The man amazes me.)

9:00:  I grow tired of working on my lesson plan.  Michael did lights out for the kids at 8:30.  I spend some time checking over my blog posting schedule and schedule for writing posts for Latter-day Homeschooling and The Homeschool Classroom.

9:50:  I realize that I'm really tired.  I get into bed and fall asleep immediately.

Enjoyed this peek into our lives?
Read the previous Day in the Life from Monday, April 11, 2011.
The next Day in the Life post is scheduled for:  Monday, October 31, 2011.
(And let's be honest, when I say "scheduled," I really mean "will be done around this date.")

This post is also participating in Heart of the Matter's NOT Back to School Blog Hop.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shaun & Carly's Wedding

Carly & her father walking down the aisle.

I love the way that Shaun looked at Carly throughout the entire ceremony.

First kiss as husband & wife!

This is one of my favorite pictures!
Carly looked so elegantly beautiful on her wedding day!
L to R:  Bluebird, Carly, Shaun, Cherie (our mom), Steve (stepfather),
Me holding Junebug, Michael holding Monkeyboy, Penguin.
My mother and her children.
Portrait of a Husband

My handsome men!

First Dance
My brother is now a married man and Carly is now my sister!  The wedding took place in northern Alberta, which was a three-day drive both ways for our little family.  I would do it again in a heartbeat!

The wedding was beautiful and it was wonderful to spend time with my brother and new sister.  We were also able to catch up with other friends of the family that I hadn't seen in a decade.  Goodness, do I miss Canada even more as result of this trip!

Shaun and Carly are such a great fit for each other.  I look forward to spending more time with them in the coming years as our children grow up.  (Yes, people are already hounding Shaun and Carly about children...I will admit that I can be included in that group a wee bit.)

Congratulations to my brother and his beautiful, loving wife.
We are so very happy for you two and we love you so much!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Seven Links

I was reading over at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, and Kris posted this little meme which I found incredibly entertaining, so now I'm going post one as well.  The idea is to share one blog post for seven different categories.

Most Beautiful
I think that a lot of my posts are beautiful.  I admit it, I'm totally biased.  I don't want to just pick one!  Ugh.
Well, the first one that came to mind was a Wordless Wednesday post with three pictures of Hydrangea flowers.  I'm going to go with that and save myself a few hours of clicking through the archives.

Most Popular
Oddly enough, my post about making the Planet Earth Cake.  It easily surpasses every other post I've ever written in popularity.  (I set my Popular Posts widget to "Last 30 Days" in order to give the other posts a fighting chance.)

Most Controversial
The most controversial posts are no longer live on the blog.  I'd really rather not talk about them, as I wrote them during my "mid-twenties" and I was an idiot then.  (Because being in my "late-twenties" makes me oh so much wiser.)  They were hurtful to people who are close to me and caused a lot of contention.  Word of advice: Don't publish judgmental thoughts about others on the internet.  Play nice.

I haven't had many problems with controversiality since then.  I get random Mormon-bashing comments or "Homeschoolers are messing up their kids" comments, but I don't publish them.  Comment Moderation is a lovely thing.  The last post to receive such a comment was the last "Day in the Life" post.  (Don't worry, another "Day in the Life" post is scheduled to show up soon.)

Most Helpful
A lot of conversation was generated by Homeschooling...with Littles.  Seems to be the most appreciated post.

Surprisingly Successful
Pigtails and Overalls.  I'm baffled as to why so many people are still reading this post.  (In reality though, the popularity of the Planet Earth Cake post borders on being disturbing, but I already shared that link.)

Not Enough Success
Why We're Going to Homeschool.  I just expected that one to get a lot of play on a homeschooling blog.  Oh well.  It's there if someone wants to read it.

Post You're Most Proud Of
Right now I'm pretty puffed up over the Celtic Warrior Battle post from a few weeks ago.  The pictures just crack me up and I worked so hard on those aluminum foil-covered ax heads.  I pull up that post when I need a chuckle.

I'll carry on the sentiment and say that if you enjoyed this post and want to participate, then consider yourself tagged!  Please share your link so I can stop by and see your Seven Links post too!

Monday, August 8, 2011

NOT Back to School Blog Hop:
School Room Week

Once again, Happy NOT Back to School!
This week at Heart of the Matter, they're hosting the second week of the blog hop, which focuses on us all showing off our schoolrooms (or lack thereof).

We're in a bit of a transition in regards to our schoolroom this year.  Up until now we've been doing school at the kitchen table, using the pantry as our "homeschool closet."  However, due to the increasing nature of our family, I've found myself needing said pantry to use as a...pantry.  Meals were becoming a problem, as we couldn't just push aside a couple books to the middle of the table anymore.  It was a big, cluttered mess.

So we've moved downstairs into our unfinished basement, something I've been avoiding until the basement was finished.  Unfortunately, the funds never make themselves available for finishing the basement, so we're just going to make do without walls this year.  Hopefully we can tackle the finishing next summer?  (Don't hold your breath, I've been hoping for that scenario for many summers now.)

Despite the lack of walls and carpet padding, I like our new schoolroom.  It's nice to have a very dedicated space for this occupation that takes up most of our day.  The littler children can roll around on the floor and play with LEGOs within my sight while I work with an older sibling, and we're removed enough within the house to give Monkeyboy some serious quiet for his naps.  (Meeting at the kitchen table placed us ten feet from his bedroom door, which led to a lot of interrupted naps.)

I use rolling carts to hold each child's grade-specific line writing paper and to keep the construction paper sorted by color, and use the shorter drawers on top to hold each child's completed school work and art work.

I'm re-purposing our changing table as a school shelf.  It's a little messy right now because, well, it gets messy easily and I'm writing this post under a bit of a time crunch.  It holds the bins that houses each child's books for specific subjects.  On the bottom shelf are the jugs of paint for re-filling paint cups, the big box of construction paper for filling up the drawers when they get empty...those sort of things.

This is the "Preschool Cart," which is stocked with things to keep Junebug occupied while I'm working with her older sisters.  There's dress-up dolls, coloring books, lacing beads and things like that in there.  She still prefers to haul out the Math Manipulatives and play with those instead.  Oh well, at least you can't fault me for not putting enough effort into it.

I'm saving my pennies to purchase a cork board and a magnetic white board to go on the wall over the table.  I want the corkboard for our "assignments" that need updating each month:  lyrics for the month's Primary song, the scripture of the month, whatever poem(s) they're memorizing in First Language lessons, that sort of thing.  I've lately found myself having to get out our little lap chalkboard a lot in order to teach Bluebird's math lessons, so now I want a whiteboard that I can just reach up and write upon easily.

Our piano is against the one wall you don't see in the pictures, and I'd like to move that upstairs so I can line that wall with bookshelves.  (Homeschooler's Paradise!)  I'd also like to purchase cabinets to hang along the ceiling line to store more stuff (it will pile up in the next few years!) and acquire a standing closet with doors so I can stash the more distracting supplies (paint, glitter, board games, etc.) from my pupil's direct vision.

The hardest thing about our schoolroom is that we have no sink.  I thought that wouldn't be a hindrance, but it's quickly becoming apparent that the sink is an important tool in homeschooling.  (And trooping up the stairs and using the kitchen sink is a noisy and nap-interrupting endeavor!)  Perhaps, someday, when we finish the basement and put in that much-needed bathroom down there, our problem will be solved.

So there it is, where we spend a lot of waking hours during a school day.  It's a nice little spot.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Weekly Report 2011-2012: Week 4

There was a weird stomach bug making its way through our area and we caught it!  As an obvious result, very little schooling was accomplished this week.
Monkeyboy gave us a nice little scare with a temperature of 104.3 Fahrenheit one evening, which resulted in long nights and tiring days.  Ugh.  He's doing much better now and I think we will all survive this little mishap.

Bluebird did finish up her last bit of Writing with Ease 1 and will begin Writing with Ease 2 next week.  Yay for graduating to Second Grade Writing!

Other than that, we spent most of our week resting and drinking fluids.  Exciting times.

Wash your hands!  :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Double Dose of Brooketopia! (Kind of...)

Hello there Friends!  My, oh my, count yourself lucky today!  I recently was offered not one, but TWO writing positions for other homeschooling blogs and as luck would have it, my first posts for both blogs are going live today.

The Homeschool Classrom

I've joined the ranks of the writers at The Homeschooling Classroom blog.  My first post is:  What Can I Do to Foster Patriotism in My Home?
I'd love to hear your thoughts about it!  Leave a comment there and let me know what you think!

I've also partnered up with Latter-day Homeschooling and my post there today is entitled "How to Obtain a Vision for Your Homeschool." It'd be great to read your thoughts on that post as well.  :)

Have a great day!

Monday, August 1, 2011

NOT Back to School Blog Hop:
Curriculum Week

Happy NOT Back-to-School!

It's August, which means that lots of parents are gearing up to send the kidlets back to school soon, but not Homeschoolers!  Life will go on as normal for us, so it's Happy NOT Back to School month over at Heart of the Matter.

This week is Curriculum Week, where we get to share our "well-researched curriculum plans."  Here in Brooketopia, we have a Kindergartener and a Second Grader this year.  I'm not really trying anything new this year, just mostly progressing to the next level in the same curriculums we used last year.  Curious as to what we're using?  Here we go:

(Subjects are in Blue, actual curriculum or plans are in Red.)

Math:  We are sticking with good ol' Saxon Math.  It's always surprising to me how heated the discussion can get about Saxon vs. Singapore.  I must admit, I am attracted to the speed of Singapore.  However, I am not homeschooling my children so they can be more advanced than other kids their age, I'm homeschooling them in order to give them a solid foundation in their academics.  Sometimes Saxon can get so repetitive and I want to skip the lesson that day, but then I'd be working against the very reasons that I stick with the program!  I feel confident that my kids are getting a thorough understanding of math, which is very important to both my husband and myself, as science is a big deal in this family.

Feeling anxious about the repetitive nature of Saxon, I actually sat down this summer and plotted out when my children would finish curriculums in their 12 year homeschool career.  If we stick with Saxon and do our work consistently with our year-round schedule, my kids will actually finish Calculus their Junior Year of high school.  Forget Singapore, we'll be fine in the long run.

Language Arts:  We are sticking with Spelling Workout, even after all that hand-wringing and praying about what spelling program to use.  I just never felt drawn to a different one, and then I received the answer of "It mattereth not" to my fervent prayers.  Spelling is spelling, I guess.  We'll just try to work the program a little more this year.  Bluebird will need to spend more time "with" the words to get them into her head.

Phonics Pathways is our phonics program of choice because it works.  Why spend money on anything else?

We're still plugging away at our Zaner-Bloser handwriting books.  I have one child who hates to write and one who loves to write.  This series works well for each of them.

For grammar and writing we're sticking with First Language Lessons and Writing with Ease.  I don't like coming across as a Well-Trained Mind zombie, but their programs work really well for us!  I do my research and look around at all my options, but the Well-Trained Mind recommendations are in sync with my educational goals for my children.  I love them.

I'm thinking about using Prima Latina this year, starting in October.  This may not be a good "time fit" for us this year, so I'm going to worry about that when we get closer to the end of our first quarter.  Penguin is demonstrating a knack for languages, so I'm interested in seeing how she (being in Kindergarten) could handle this program.  Bluebird will definitely start her study of Latin next year, but would probably enjoy easing into the subject.

We had a Celtic Warrior Battle
when we studied the Celts in history.
The idea came from the
SOTW Activity Manual.
History:  Hee hee, The Story of the World.  Seriously, are there any other history programs out there that are this child-friendly, interesting and have an awesome activity manual?  Even my husband enjoys listening to the audio CDs on long car trips.  And corresponding literature suggestions and mapwork!  I heart SOTW.

Science:  We're giving Pandia Press' "R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey: Earth and Space Science" a go this year.  I'm already a tad disappointed with it, as it's rather low on actual lesson material.  There are a lot of experiments, but very little meat in this curriculum.  I've been supplementing the "lessons" with reading from our Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia.  I'm trying to do a better job at checking out books from the library that go along with our week's studies for extra reading as well, you really need that with this curriculum.

Bluebird loves astronomy, so the lessons in R.E.A.L Science Odyssey are way too easy and boring for her, so we'll switch over to Astronomy for All Ages and some sort of Astronomy Encyclopedia when we hit the Space sections.

I used to own God's Design for Earth and I really liked the lessons in it, plus the experiments were pretty good too.  However, the preaching annoyed me to no end and I ended up giving the set away.  It is not our science curriculum's responsibility to teach religion to our children, that responsibility lies with my husband, myself and our religious institution.  My husband and I do not like "religious" science textbooks.  In the face of R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey's shortcomings, I find myself wishing I had the lessons from God's Design at my disposal.  God's Design sure did a good job at covering a lot of ground.  *sigh*

"Going Out to Play" is great for our garden,
but not so great for our physical activity level.
Physical Education:  I've decided to make this an actual subject for us.  I read a great article about the need for an actual physical education program in our homeschools in Homeschool Enrichment magazine last month, and the idea has been pricking my conscience ever since.  Sending the kids "out to play" on the spit of grass in our backyard isn't enough exercise.

This is a challenging topic for me because we live in a densely-populated neighborhood with very little space for running.  There's a park across the street from us, but it offers little in the way of interest to my kids because there aren't any swings, the slides are usually sopping wet from the sprinklers and they've been going there since before they could walk.

It's no secret that I'm very overweight.  I wasn't overweight as a child because I hiked and played sports all the time.  Something about being pregnant destroyed that drive in me and now I have to admit that I have failed my children in this area of physical fitness.  They aren't overweight, but they definitely have no stamina when it comes to physical activities.  I am going to remedy the situation, starting this year.  The excuses have got to stop and we just need to get out there and run around and do something, even if it's inconvenient or difficult.  I see a lot of homeschooling blogs with pudgy teenagers--I don't want that for my kids!  It's enough that they're "different" because they're homeschooled, I am not adding obesity on top of that.  Carving an hour out of our day to spend in physical exertion will be so much healthier for my children in the long run than an extra hour of reading.  I need to establish healthy exercise habits in them while they are young.  Our family needs to change our sedentary ways.

I don't have a firm plan as of yet.  I'm thinking of dedicating a month to a different sport and then driving to an area where we can play the sport each day.  Convenient, no; necessary, yes.  (I'll have to write a post later about why we don't want to do team sports at this time.)

Arts:  For a person who loves the arts as much as I do, it is incredibly ironic that I never have a good plan for any of the artistic subjects.  AUGH!  I'm thumbing through my ARTistic Pursuits book again and finding that the lessons get more interesting as the book progresses, so I'm thinking about picking up where we left off and just finishing the work.  I'm amazed at how much brain activity is required to make art "work" for our homeschool.  It's astounding.

I want to start teaching Bluebird piano this year, but I'm having a hard time fitting in lessons and practice time.  I have the Alfred Piano books and they look like they'd be pretty good.  We'll see how this turns out--she doesn't technically have to start until she's eight, so I might just delay this a few more months.

I'm serving as the Choir Director for our church right now, and I've been encouraging Bluebird to attend ward choir rehearsals.  (She sang with the choir when we performed "Battle Hymn of the Republic" last week!)  I'm thinking about pushing for her to keep attending, as she's very obviously learning to read music, follow the conductor and sing against other parts.  Great musical training!

Music Appreciation is such an easy subject, and yet we don't do it.  Teacher fail.  I am going to be better about this this year.  It's listening to music and playing with Play-Doh, for cryin' out loud!  I match up the music selection with the area we're studying in history, and this year we're studying Medieval History, which is incredibly ripe with so much music history!  Gregorian chant, troubadors, folk songs!  It's so interesting!  I have got to make this work for us this year!

Extra-curriculuarsGirl Scouts!  We're registered as Juliettes again this year and Penguin is very excited about joining the program as a Daisy Scout this year.  Bluebird is advancing into Brownies and there is talk about forming a multi-age level troop in our homeschool group.  I think it would be a ton of fun for the girls if they could be part of a troop, and I am loving the idea of a multi-age troop.  (I only just found out last week that this is even a possibility!)

Michael is going to start a LEGO F.I.R.S.T. Junior League team this year that Bluebird will be a part of, in addition to five young boys whose mothers have expressed interest on their behalf.  Teams are limited to six members, so we've been talking about him heading up two teams--one for the neighborhood and one for our new Girl Scout troop, should it get off the ground.  Girl Scouts of Utah, in partnership with the University of Utah, are really pushing the LEGO F.I.R.S.T. League program.  We'll see how this all pans out.

I'd also like to place an emphasis on homemaking and nature study, but those are more in the realm of "We'll get to them when we find ourselves with some extra time on our hands."  Nature hikes would make for a good PE session...hmmm.  It'd be great of me to get my act together enough to follow the lesson plans on The Handbook of Nature Study blog.  I already have the book!

There is just so much to choose from!  I really have found myself with the problem of "not enough time for everything" this year.  I'm going to make sure the basics are covered, and then try to fit as much of the extras in as I can.  It makes me so sad to be limited by the hours in a day, but I remind myself that Heavenly Father knew what He was doing when He made the days the length that they are, and it's my imperfections that make the days seem too short.  I need to figure what's the most important and be content with that.

Once again, Happy NOT Back to School!