Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

History

Co-op and Field Trips and Fall, oh my!

co-opfieldtrip-fallsept2016I know I always say this, but holy Toledo – I cannot believe how quickly this month has passed! We’re officially into #allthethings now, and somehow that makes time pass even faster. On the one hand, I guess it’s good that we’ve been busy living life, but blogging helps me focus on the positive and awesome stuff that happened, so I have missed not posting regularly. I see a lot of bloggers get accused of glossing over the bad stuff, and that’s fair. I tend to focus on the positive because I am prone to depression and having a place to ‘store’ the memory of what we’ve been doing fixes that in my mind instead of all the other, stressful and negative stuff that’s been going on. So if that’s been something you’ve wondered about, please know that it’s not that it’s not my intent to misrepresent what my life looks like, but more that I want to keep my brain occupied with things that make me happy, which at this point is still pretty focused on the kids and homeschooling and all the associated business of being a mom.

In the interests of ‘keeping it real’, the past month has been filled with stress related to my aging and infirm grandmother and parents (all of whom live next door to me); anxiety over work and finances and the direction of my career; existential anxiety over realizing that with the progression to ‘high school’, my days and identity as a ‘homeschooling mom’ are coming to an end in a mere 4 or 5 years, with the associated “what does that mean? What do I do? Who am I, if not that?” types of thought processes; frustration over getting the kids to do their freaking work and all the worry that goes with ‘am I doing enough to prepare them for the real world and life as an adult?’; and a host of other things, many of which involve negative thought-spirals that I’d rather not dwell on. Despite those issues, life moves on, and now that we’re (mostly) fully settled into this school year, I can breathe a bit and play a bit of catch-up here to remind myself that in between pockets of ‘bad’ are a hell of a lot of ‘good’.

The biggest new thing we were anticipating was the start of our homeschool group’s high school cooperative group. We’re now 4 weeks in, and it’s *so amazing*.  Classes for this semester are: Life Skills, (which covers practical math skills like paying bills, balancing a bank account, planning for large purchases and managing credit, in addition to finding an apartment, buying a car, and things like that). Debate (Lincoln Douglas, which I freely admit I know nothing about and am thrilled to have someone offer this to my kids); Literature (Shakespeare; Romeo & Juliet and something else I haven’t decided yet, because I am teaching this one); and, of course, Orchestra. The boys are both playing violin, and I am playing cello. We have 10 students and 4 parents taking lessons along with the kids. Never too old to start a new hobby, right? The spring semester will have a couple of different classes, including a mental health for teen course that I am very excited about.

Overall, I am super happy with how co-op is organized and how things are progressing this time. The co-op we were part of last time had a wider age range of kids, and it was chaotic and stressful. Though this is tiring, it’s not ‘stressful’ in that way. I am really enjoying this smaller age group, and that it’s teens in particular. We’ve made a couple of changes to our original plan and moved some things around, but I really couldn’t ask for it to be better. The kids all seem to mesh well, and the class is small enough to feel intimate, but large enough for them to bounce idea off of each other and appreciate their classmate’s insights. Though it’s not ‘competitive’ in the way of classroom education, they do bring out the best in each other, and that healthy competition is really nice to see emerging.
cam04646

14199225_10207387077939379_2543684857120343076_n

14292401_10207387078819401_1741407457634883966_n

14291908_10207387084299538_986592631255636207_n

14238339_10207387082299488_748825280562373443_n

For everyone freaking out over posture and form, worry not – we’ve since moved to proper seating and standing for the violins. These pictures were from our first day when everyone was just getting acquainted with their instruments. We’ve also moved to a different room, with cellos seated in front and violins and viola standing in the back. We’ve progressed from pizzicato to bowing now, and about a third of the class has moved up from ‘baby bow’ to ‘teen bow’ as of today. We still sound like cats dying when we play, but there’s definite progress! Exciting!

In addition to music instruction during co-op, their music teacher also offers a bumper lesson every Monday (see? Standing!). Currently, they’re practicing with a rolled up tee shirt under their arm and a shoulder rest to correct posture and hold. It’s been a long time since I took any sort of music lessons, but it’s amazing how quickly things come back, and how important PRACTICE is. When I was in school, I was a lackadaisical student – practice was definitely not a priority (but I also had band every school day, so many it balances out?)…  however, because we’re only getting actual instruction time twice a week, an hour-long practice is part of the daily school plan, which means that I can actually see their improvement from week to week. cam04653

Our homeschool group hosts a public speaking class every 6 weeks. We started doing this last school year, and this year, we changed the format a bit so that it’s less ‘presentation only’ and more actual development and skill in presenting. During our most recent class, we focused on developing and delivering a persuasive speech, and the kids had to use an outline and note cards to help with delivery. They did fairly well, but there was a lot of room for improvement, so our next class will stay on persuasive speeches, but focus on Presidential candidates’ speeches and their considerable powers of persuasion. It’s been interesting listening to the kids talk with each other, especially after the Presidential Debates the other night – I never thought my kids would engage in thoughtful political dialogue, but I am both glad they are, and proud that they can do so somewhat intelligently. How this will translate to their speech class presentation remains to be seen, but at least they’re not as blind to the world as I was at their age.

cam04633

I have no idea what this face is about…

 

cam04641

we call this the ‘anime grin’

We’re also still participating in our homeschool group’s Art Guild, which is based on the book Discovering Great Artists. We meet every 6 weeks, and both learn about an artist and create a work of our own in that style. This month was Georgia O’Keefe in watercolor. For those of you inexperienced at watercolor, let me just say that it’s a hard thing to master, especially with 15 kids in the room! They made a valiant attempt, but we may need to refine our technique a bit more.
cam04694

Another addition to our schedule this year has been an Aquatic Science class, taught by one of the moms in our group who is a former science teacher. She’s using a really cool project-based approach which is giving the kids a lot of hands-on exposure that I am just in love with. This is the kids of thing that I have wanted to do as a homeschooling mom and always seemed to fall short of it. Their teacher is amazingly patient, and keeps them focused during class time and sends them home with follow-up work. This was from a couple of weeks ago – they were using an orange to map a globe, continent and island, and transfer the ‘globe’ onto a flat surface. Last week, they worked on land-forms, and made a contour map from construction paper and an elevation map from cardboard stacked and painted. We’ve been having classes every week, and in tomorrow’s class they’ll be using their models to work on ‘sounding’ the ocean floor.

cam04713

cam04714

With all of these additional classes and clubs, we’ve had to put actual field trips on the back burner this year! Our most recent was this week’s trip to Galveston to Seawolf Park. They have a battleship and a submarine open to tour, so we spent the afternoon on a lovely day trip. Ferry rides are always the highlight of our trip; there are dolphins in the bay and fat seagulls that follow the ferry looking for food offered by the passengers. You can see Seawolf from the ferry and it looks like it’s fairly close by, but it’s a 20 minute drive that I wasn’t expecting. Hurricane Ike destroyed the building that used to be the park’s eye-catching landmark; it’s still there, but disconnected from patrons by a huge fence. Apparently, there’s a proposal for renovation of the park, but it’s not underway yet. In any case, we still had a good time. LBB is somewhat afraid of heights, so he and I spent the majority of the time working on getting over that (without success this time), which was at times funny and others frustrating, for both of us. Afterwards, we spent the latter part of the evening on Crystal Beach, soaking up some sun before heading home (to practice our instruments, of course).

cam04771

cam04785

cam04793

In other news, FALL IS HERE – finally! The weather is forecasting 60’s most mornings this week and I am over the moon about it. We left for co-op this morning and it was cooler outside than it was inside (with the AC on). I am so beyond ready for sweaters and boots! Speaking of ‘favorite things’, we have gotten some awesome mail this week – our PhysicsQuest science kit, and the kids’ homeschool yearbooks arrived! This is our first experience with both of these companies, and I am thrilled with both. I’m not an affiliate; these are resources we’re actually using by choice with my very own monies. The PhysicsQuest kit (which was free), I learned about in a homeschool group. They sent a kit for each kid, with the book and most of the materials (everything except household things like water and paper) to work through the problems presented in the story (comic book). We haven’t started on it yet, so I’ll get around to updating that when we do.2016-09-26_10-10-12

The yearbooks are from Picaboo, and I am ENTIRELY pleased with. If you’re in the market for either a personal yearbook for your kids’ school year, or an option that works for your homeschool group, I HIGHLY recommend Picaboo. The quality and options for the price are incredible. After some tinkering to figure out their site, it’s super user-friendly to create the books, and the free customization option is really cool. My boys both got  their names and pictures on the back/flip cover, with pictures of ‘just them’ in the flip section, in addition to the main book. I am really considering creating a book to cover our entire homeschool journey as part of the boys’ graduation gifts. We’re still a few years away from having to think about that, but wouldn’t that be something?
2016-09-26_18-39-51

To sum up… we’re busier than ever this year. With just math, music and literature, the boys have a minimum of 3 hours of school work per day, not including the rest of their subjects. With clubs, lessons and classes, plus co-op, their time and mine are extremely limited this year. I enjoy being busy for sure, but I am maxed out by the end of the week. To combat that, I’m focused on self-care in a big way. Music practice is part of that for me – learning something new that has to potential for creative expression in such a beautiful way is extremely satisfying. I recently went to a weekend retreat with some very close friends, and spent a lot of time just focusing on my connection to life and nature and it was glorious. I have another retreat in a couple of weeks, and I am so looking forward to it as well. At home, I am nurturing my creativity with art. I always forget how much I need art in my life when I get stressed out. Our homeschool group is hosting a ‘mom’s night in’ every month, and this month, we decided to do a paint-along with The Art Sherpa on Youtube. We did the dragonflies with the Kevin modification, and it was so much fun! I also created my own version of Paint with Jane’s ‘A Walk in the Rain‘ that I am pretty happy with. I didn’t know that painting along with someone was a thing, but I am making it part of my routine now that I do!

cam04753

This one lives in my bathroom now.

 

cam04798

 

This is a pretty long post, so if you stuck with me through to the end, thanks for reading! My plan is to get back into updating weekly, so hopefully there won’t be so much to cover at once. So now that we’re all caught up on me, how about you – how’s your year going so far? Doing anything new?

Happy Fall, y’all!
~h

Weekly Wrap-Up

 


NBTS Blog Hop 2016: Curriculum Week – High School Lesson Planning

curriculum-4
Here it is, folks – the long-awaited high school lesson planning post! And hey – it syncs up with iHomeschool Network’s annual Not Back to School Blog Hop for this year, which makes me happy. I don’t know why, exactly; I don’t actually participate the NBTS Blog Hop (as in, adding my link and everything). I just like that there’s a ‘plan’ and being on-task with it, I guess*. I’m weird; what can I say? Moving on then…

As you may know, my boys are technically a year grade apart, but I plan most of their work together. Since they’re so close in age, it’s just easier for me. That means that this year, since LBB is in 9th grade, and PeaGreen is in 8th, PeaGreen will actually start accumulating high school credits this year because he’s doing high school level work. Luckily, we live in Texas, a state with little to no state/government interference, regulations… oh, I mean assistance <wink,wink, nudge, nudge> so this work out quite nicely for us.

This is an interesting dilemma for me; on one hand, PeaGreen is perfectly capable of doing the same work his older brother is doing. Holding him back wouldn’t make sense to me. But at the same time, he is younger, and there’s a part of me that wants to make sure to keep that separation because as an ‘oldest child’ myself, I know how important that extra bit of privilege/responsibility is to identity. Then again, there’s a wider gap between me and my younger siblings, so maybe it’s less of a concern with closely spaced siblings? If you have input here, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. In any case, LBB will turn 15 in January and he’ll start Driver’s Ed, which will, at least for a while, give him a little bit of ‘extra’ that comes with age for a while.

Our school year was really easy to plan this year. When we started homeschooling, I decided to go with a 6-week on, 1 week off schedule, and school all year long. That got switched up and changed during the first few years for various reasons, but that’s always been my ‘ideal’. Last year, and most of this year, we’ve managed to maintain that, so I just stuck with that plan and mapped out the school year accordingly. That gives us 195 school days (we have some weekend days that we’re counting as ‘school days’ because of clubs or other projects planned for those days), spread out over 39 weeks, from September 2016-August 2017. This includes a month-long break in December, and a couple of weeks in July. In truth, there will be missed days here and there; our ‘normal’ school year runs somewhere in the neighborhood of 170-185 school days per year. I build a little padding in so that we necessary, I can take a break or call a ‘movie day’… or just skive off school entirely and go to the beach.
cam04631-1
Here’s what a year’s worth of work looks like for my kids. It’s not quite accurate, because this doesn’t include their notebooks from this school year. They have one for CNN Student News/Current Events; Literature; Spelling/Grammar; Math; History and Science. But this is what goes into their binders each week over the course of a school year, and includes any worksheets or handouts that I give them or that they get from classes or clubs or events that they do during the year, arranged by week.  I don’t know if that’s ‘a lot’ or if it’s ‘not very much’. I try to avoid the trap of comparing what we do to what others do, but I thought I’d put this out there. The stacks are about 2.5 inches high in the center (when smashed down), if you’re wondering. I am about to file it all away, so I thought I’d snap a picture of it for posterity!

So… what I am sure you’re wondering is how I actually went about planning this school year, and what we’re using, right? Let’s get down to it!

As I mentioned before, LBB starts high school this year. We’re also in Texas, which means that although the TEA has regulations in place that govern how public schools may place and graduate students, private schools (which is what homeschools fall under in terms of designation) don’t have to follow those recommendations in any way. Shocking, right? I know… it scares the bejezus out of me, too, sometimes. Luckily, Annie & Everything is a blogger who apparently has my brain bugged, because every time I start freaking out over something high school related, she posts a blog that pretty much addresses my exact fears.

When there are no rules, what do you do (other than ‘pretty much whatever you want’)? I’ll admit it; started by looking at the TEA’s guidelines. As much as I fancy myself a bad-ass free-spirit who don’t need no fancy-schmancy ‘rulez’, the truth is that those guidelines are familiar and comfortable, and they’re just an easy place to start. We’re tweaking some of it, and have discussed with LBB his options as far as dual credit course and CLEPing courses that he covers well during his high school years, which means that he’ll be at least as prepared as his public school peers when it comes tome for secondary education. We’re starting with the basics, and letting him determine what direction he wants to go. While we’ve set University before him, that may not be his path (which is cool, man…), but we do want him prepared if that’s a direction he chooses to go in.

All that said, here’s what their actual schedule looks like this school year:

  • Math (D) (currently recapping middle school; will being Algebra I when finished)/Coding (1xW)
  • History – Ancients (2xW)/Geography (1xW)/Current World Events (3xW)/Community Service (1xM)
  • Science – Biology (3xW)/Science – Aquatic (2-3xM)
  • English I (3xW)/Literature I (D)/Grammar (D)/Speech 101 (1xM)/Writing (D)/Spelling (D)
  • Logic (1xW)/Debate (1xW)
  • Art History (1xW), Art Club (1xM), Art (practical)(2xM)
  • Music (orchestra – first year violin) Class (1xW)/practice (D = 1 hour)
  • Health (D) /Mental Health for Teens (spring semester 1xW)/Physical Education (D)/Home Economics (1xW)
  • plus notebooking for most subjects (D), field trips each week and driver’s ed in 2017

KEY: (D = daily) (#xW = 2 time per week, or 3 times per week, etc./ M=month)

They average between 4-5 hours of school work 3 days per week, with a lighter day of desk-work/book work on Wednesday (2-3 hours) to accommodate our homeschool group’s field trip or class, and this year we will have a full day at co-op on Thursdays. Like i said earlier, I don’t know if that’s a lot or only a little. Some days I feel like it’s a super lot; other days they get it done quickly and I wonder if I am being rigorous enough. Sometimes, homeschooling mommy-brain just won’t cut you any slack. Le sigh…

So here’s the grand finale – the part you may have been waiting for: What are we using this year? Here’s a list of most of the resources we’re pulling from this year. I don’t like ‘textbooks’, so you won’t see a lot of those on the list. Some of their classes are being taught by other homeschooling parents through either clubs, classes or our co-op. Having a strong support network/homeschooling community/village is so key to opening more options for both the homeschooled student and the homeschooling parent. We’ve worked so hard to build our group, and I cannot tell you how thankful I am to be part of such an amazing group, and how grateful I am to each and every one of the parents who are willing to put their time and effort into teaching and sharing and helping this community thrive. This year is going to be an amazing school year!

RESOURCES for this school year:

 

If you have resources that you love, or that you think I would, please comment and share them!
Happy homeschooling!

Warmly,
~h

*upon further reflection, the NBTS Blog Hop is one of the first things I joined in on when we started homeschooling – I think it was the 2nd year they were doing it when we started – so it’s always been something that helped me feel connected to the homeschooling world, I suppose.


Lapbooking in High School

lapbooking in highschoolWe love lapbooking. It’s one of those cool things that I had seen around the internet on homeschooling sites when I was new to the game that I thought was cool, but had no idea what it was or how to do it. Once I finally got my hands on a few, I fell in love and started helping the kids make them for pretty much everything.

First off, if you’ve never heard of lapbooking, it’s basically a way to organize all the information your students learn about something. They can span a single topic or person, like ‘alligators’ or ‘Queen Elizabeth I’, or cover a resource, like a novel or other book, like ‘Little House in the Big Woods‘, or they can span the length of a subject, like the lapbooks that correspond with Story of the World that were created by a couple of amazing mama-bloggers. Most lapbooks use what’s called a ‘mini book’ to house a piece of information. It may be a flap with a question on it, or a chart with diagrams, or a pocket with vocabulary cards and definitions on them. They’re part ‘open the flap’ book, part book report, part essay-question, part arts-and-crafts… they’re extremely versatile and you end up with a pretty cool way to display what your child has learned or material you’ve covered. As the kids get older, they can play a role in creating and decorating the lapbook as well, which really makes it their own.

If you have kids with sensory issues, or ADHD, lapbooks can also help in a couple of ways. First, for attention issues, lapbooks tend to break a subject or source into small, bite-sized pieces that make it easy to focus on one thing, complete it and move on. without getting overwhelmed with the bulk of material to cover. Additionally, the process of cutting and creating the book gives your child a hands-on way to process the information. If you have a child with sensory issues, then again, the hands-on aspect helps, because each bit of information is contained within a ‘mini book’ or insert that must be unfolded, twisted, opened, turned or otherwise manipulated to get to the information.

We started off with lapbooking and moved more into notebooking, which is similar, but more the ‘grown up’ sibling of lapbooking. Less ‘arts-and-crafts’ and more ‘deeper content’, which is good. But of course, you can make lapbooks more in-depth or focus more closely on a single topic or aspect of your subject matter. We use cheap composition notebooks (which are thankfully on sale right now!) for basically everything. Some, the kids just write their own content in and others, I print a page or template out and they paste it into their book after the work is done. That also creates a really cool product when you come to the end of the project/subject/topic.

If you’re into unit studies, then lapbooking is an excellent tool for that. There are hundreds available online to download for free, including ones I’ve created or found online and shared here, and many more that are more comprehensive from sites like HomeschoolShareTeachersPayTeachers and CurrClick.com. Homeschooling blogs are another great source of finding lapbooks on specific topics or using specific resources. But something I have noticed is that most lapbooks tend to cater to the elementary school crowd. What do you do when your kids ‘age out’ of what’s available online, and how do you incorporate lapbooking into curriculum for an older student?

That’s where I am at right now, and I would love to see what you’ve done with your kids if you kept lapbooking as part their studies. Our homeschool group is studying Russia for our next Social Studies Club meeting, so I am going to be working on helping the kids create something high-school-appropriate for that presentation. I’ll let you know how that turns out!

Warmly,
~h

 

 

 

 


Mid-March Update

I thought that it was April that was supposed to bring spring showers, but this year, March is taking all the credit for rainfall. I’m sure you’ve probably seen it on the news; eastern Texas and western Louisiana are pretty much submerged at the moment. Interstate 10 was closed for several days at the Texas/Louisiana border due to severe flooding – in fact, I think at the time of this writing, it’s still closed. I’ve gotten quite a few messages and emails from concerned friends wondering about our safety. I appreciate your love and concern, but we’re well out of the flood zone. Luckily, everyone in our local group is also safely out of the flooded areas as well. Unfortunately, many families in our area have been affected though, and it’s nice to see the communities around Orange rallying to support those who lost everything. If you’re interested in helping, The Orange Leader has a couple of options, or you can donate to the Red Cross for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Our local Humane Society also recently had a fire, and is accepting donations through their GoFundMe page.

This month hasn’t been all doom-and-gloom, though. Even though there’s been quite a bit of rain, it hasn’t had that much of an impact on our activities. Even so, we’ve missed a couple of things this month. It seems like the first of the year was a constant host of activities, but things seem to have leveled out just a bit lately. It’s been nice having a bit of a break. We needed the ‘catch-up’ time. I’m happy to report that we’ll start fresh this coming week with no make-up work! It’s been about 3 weeks since we’ve been able to say that. Unfortunately, I am having dental surgery next week, so we’re probably going to have to take an unexpected break to deal with that… but we’ll see what happens.

Earlier this month was our group’s art class. The book we’re using for the basis of the class is Discovering Great Artists by Kohl and Solga, which is a hands-on approach that we’ve been testing for the last few months. During the 6 weeks between classes, we study the artist, and at the group class, we watch a video or have a presentation on the artist and then the kids (and some of the moms too, if I am honest), attempt to create a work of art in that style. This month, our artist was Henri Toulouse Lautrec, and the project was an Event Poster. The lesson was great! I had no idea that he was responsible for the kind of advertising that was so popular in that time. It was also quite an interesting experience to cover an artist who featured prostitutes so often in his work with a group of kids. Le sigh…

 

CAM03481

CAM03482

CAM03484

It was a super fun project – I get frustrated with the kids because they don’t put as much effort into it as I’d like to see, but what’cha gonna do? Art’s my ‘thing’, but I know it’s not theirs, so I try to rein it in. I’m actually not all that displeased with what they did (I just know they could’ve done better). LBB’s been on a Bob Ross kick lately, so it was nice to see that represented in his project.

CAM03490
March’s Teen Homeschool Book Club was a lot of fun. The kids were supposed to read either a fiction or non-fiction book about Texas, in honor of Texas Independence Day, which is March 2nd. We visited the San Jacinto Monument earlier this month, which was fantastic, and bought a couple of books from the gift shop: Mirabeau B. Lamar, Second President of Texas by Judy Alter, and Davy Crockett: His Own Story by David Crockett. After hearing the boys flounder on their recitations for the book club, I am not sure if they actually did the reading they were assigned, so we’ll be going over those again, but afterwards, they got involved in the LONGEST game of Uno, ever… and loudest, too – at the library, no less!

CAM03494

We went back for our second game of D&D, and our mission is going well! We’re getting the hang of it. It’s slow-going though (as I am sure it always is with newbies), and I so appreciate our DM’s patience and understanding with us as we learn/play. I have also discovered that playing any game with kids that is as involved as Dungeons & Dragons is can make for a very long evening. Between distractions, side conversations, snack breaks and bathroom breaks, even though we’re playing for several hours at a time, not much gets accomplished ‘in-game’. Even so, we’re making progress – slow- but measurable. We added a new player to this round, too – an orc!

CAM03506

CAM03501
CAM03503

My very dear friend, The Hauswife, had her 30th birthday last week, Her husband contacted me about creating a custom planner for her, which was so much fun to work on! I had it printed and wrapped, and we threw her a surprise dinner party. I also made her a set of custom planner stickers so she can keep track of her life in style.

CAM03471

10271543_10153919522810449_5841042880144340342_n

We also had our third D&D game night. LBB ended up with a set of magical keys (that somehow disappeared when no one was looking), and PeaGreen was less than thrilled with my photo-documentation of his game-playing. We did manage to make it through a third battle, with our merry band in tact (barely). I think our DM is taking it easy on us! We added a new player this round as well, The Hauswife.

CAM03523

CAM03525

I wanted to show off my newly-made dice box, too! I started with a small wooded box from the craft store. I used ‘ArtMinds square wood box (4.13″ x 3.942″)’ item# 10308297 at Michael’s. (I am not affiliated with them; that’s just what I used – I don’t get any kickbacks from them for linking to them or anything.) I found a picture of a mermaid that I liked, and re-drew it, then burned it into the wood with a wood-burning tool. I also found an art-deco pattern for the sides and front, and then burned those sections as well. Then I painted parts of the box with watercolor, and painted her tail with a glitter glaze to make it stand out. It holds a set of Chessex dice, as well as several loose dice and miniature figures inside quite nicely. It’s bigger inside than I’d have thought, and is perfect for storage as well as carrying things back and forth.

2016-03-19_21.15.18

CAM03530-1

The last thing on our list was our group’s Social Studies Club. Our country of discussion was Turkey this month, but we weren’t able to go to class. I did find this lovely little drawing though, and still wanted to use it, so I am adding it anyway. Istanbul-travel-illustration

Hope your spring is off to a lovely start!
Warmly,
~h


March Into Spring 2016

365d0170b3ef54842af51b4fd6ba4fad

Spring has well and truly sprung in our little corner of Texas. It’s warm; the trees are blooming (which means pollen absolutely everywhere) and I’m sneezing my head off. Good times! Despite the respiratory distress, the weather has been incredible. We don’t get many days that make you savor being outside, so when they come, we try to take full advantage. This month has been no exception to that goal.

We wrapped up February with a trip out to the Big Thicket. That’s a pretty big place, if you’re not familiar with it. The Big Thicket National Preserve covers over a hundred thousand acres, and features nine different ecosystems, making it one of the most diverse national parks in the US. Currently, they’re on a mission to restore some of the native flora to the forests, and one of the big projects they’re working on is Centennial Forest. The long-leaf pine is a slow-growing pine tree that once dominated the Big Thicket, and forests from Texas all the way to Virginia. Over the years, the logging industry has decimated the population on long-leaf pines. The effects on the forests here have been interesting. Something I’ve always noticed is that in SETX, we don’t really have ‘forests’ – we have ‘woods’ – densely packed trees, with tons of underbrush – you can’t just wander through the woods like you see people do through forests in the movies. I always wondered why that is, and one of the park rangers explained it in a way I’d never heard.

Basically, when the old growth is cut down, it allows faster growing trees and shrubs room and sunlight to flourish. The addition of houses, settlements and roads has also changed the way that natural fires helped clear the forest floor, and let slower-growing trees mature properly. Once those slow-growers matured, the canopy they create prevents the underbrush from choking out the forest. By using controlled burns, herbicides and volunteers to come in and plant long leaf pines and other slow-growing native trees, they’re helping to restore what will eventually become a more balanced natural forest here. I won’t live to see it, but my grandchildren and great-grandchildren might. It’s neat to think that we will have had a hand in that.

Our homeschool group went out with 19 people (kids and adults), and joined a group of Park Rangers and other volunteers to plant 800 trees. Afterwards, we had lunch, then went for a short hike through an area of the forest where they are testing different methods of underbrush control, from fire clearing, to herbicides and clear-cutting. It was interesting to see how much work and actual science is involved in the restoration process.

CAM03312 (1)

We collect badges and patches from all over the place, and we got a special one for participating in the Centennial Forest replanting effort:
CAM03345

One of the things we look forward to each year is Texas Independence Day. I know other states don’t take the whole ‘state pride’ thing to the level that Texans do, and it’s funny to hear about it from non-natives; when you’re born here, it’s just a thing you do, I guess. Because we live so close, we usually head out to La Porte to visit the San Jacinto Monument, which stands on the battleground where the Texas Army fought General Santa Anna and won the battle for Texas Independence. It’s interesting to hear the story every year – I always pick up new details (even though I’ve heard the story many times).

After the monument, we lunch at the park grounds in front of Battleship TEXAS, which is where the Texas Army encampment is memorialized. There are stone markers all over the battlegrounds, with key positions or events marked. One day, we’ll get around to attending a re-enactment of the battle.

The Battleship wasn’t part of the fight for independence; rather, it is retired from service after both World Wars. Since it’s on the grounds though, that makes it a logical second half of the day’s trip. The kids always get a blast out of messing with the ship’s guns – they’re massive, and surprisingly easy to maneuver. The gears and cranks are all exposed, so it makes the physics of movement a highlight of the conversation. After climbing the insanely steep ladders and steps to get to the higher decks, we went below, and below, and below – they’ve opened up several of the lower decks since we were here last time, so we got to see a lot of the engines and piping down in the belly of the ship that we’d never seen before. There are some really tight spaces – I don’t think I’d like to actually be a sailor if I had to be down there all the time.

 

CAM03369

 

 

CAM03408

In other news, LBB got glasses! Since both Loverly Husband and I both wear them (and have for basically ever), it was surprising to me that neither of the boys needed them. He’s been complaining about things being blurry for a few weeks though, so we got him checked out and sure enough, he’s joining the club. PeaGreen decided to make a drastic change to his look, too, with bleaching and dyeing his hair. The bleaching process was pretty dramatic, but once we dyed it (purple), it’s pretty subtle until he goes in the sun; then it’s really bright!

12791104_10153398682761404_7031196670506013136_n

CAM03418

 

We’re wrapping up this week with our homeschool group’s Teen Social, which we affectionately called, ‘Mix Tape and Chill’. We had each of the kids send in a list of 5 songs, and one of the moms made a playlist on YouTube to play during the event. She made a list of all the songs, and gave a paper to each of the kids so they could guess which kid picked which songs. They competed for a GameStop gift card. Both my boys opted out of the contest; I have no idea why – that’s one of their favorite stores. Kids?

The theme for the day was ‘games people play’, and they spent the afternoon doing just that, from video games, to ‘lines and blobs‘, to the pantyhose bowling game, and wrapping up with LARP style sword-fighting, which ended up paving the way to planning a LARP-based homeschool PE discussion in our group’s discussion list for later this month.

CAM03434

CAM03438

CAM03442

CAM03458

 

How’s your spring going?
Warmly,
~h


Mid-February Update

mid feb update

Every year, I am surprised at how quickly January flies by. Here we are mid-February, and I am still honestly surprised at how quickly this month has flown by. We’ve been slightly busier than usual (and that’s really saying something).  Since I last checked in, we’ve managed to wrap up our first 6 weeks of school and are currently enjoying the last few days of our first official break. If you’re new, we follow a 6-on/1-off schedule. It’s true what they say about ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’; the first time I ever heard about this kind of schedule for school was when our local ISD did a trial of it for a single school year. The original idea was that with a year-round schedule, the kids don’t get bored and burned out during the year, and don’t have a months-long break during the summer to lose half of what they’d learning, and the first 6 weeks of the new school year isn’t wasted on catching up. It was a great idea -so much so that it’s stuck with me and I knew that’s what I wanted to try when we started homeschooling. We started out with 6-on/1-off, and have gone through various revisions of it over the years, but we’re back there now and it’s working beautifully.

As I said, this is our off week, and I have to admit that as much as I love the busy schedule we keep, I have absolutely reveled in the last few days of being just home, home, home with few responsibilities (other than the bare minimum required to keep the children alive and basic hygiene requirements met). I even opted out of our homeschool group’s classes this week, which was actually a tiny bit painful, but I really needed the break. Next week, we’ll be back into the swing of things, full stop.

Over the last few weeks, it seems like we’ve been everywhere, seen all the people and done all the things! For the last few months, we’ve been volunteering with our local Atheists Helping the Homeless group, SETX AHH. This month was the largest turnout of volunteers since the group got started back in October 2015, and we were happy to be there to help. My boys, and some of the other kids in our homeschool group manned one of the tables, helping assist mean and women filing up their bags, and directing them to some of the organizers if they had questions the kids couldn’t answer. If your local area has an AHH group, we’ve found our group to be very kid-friendly (with a few FAQs that you might want to consider), and it’s a great opportunity to have the kids involved and actively working with the community.

CAM03231

CAM03232

 

photo by: Yvette Michelle Portraits

photo by: Yvette Michelle Portraits

We try to mix our field trips up each year, and honor local and global culture when possible. Southeast Texas has a thriving Vietnamese community, and Chinese New Year is one of the holidays that the Vietnamese community celebrates each year. We celebrated the Year of the Monkey with a big picnic and craft day, followed by a dragon parade at the Tyrell Park Botanical Gardens.

CAM03238

CAM03263
Afterwards, the boys and I met at the library for the Teen Homeschool Book Club that our amazing librarian, Ms. Robin, hosts each month. The boys read Call of the Wild by Jack London, for this month’s selection. One of the moms is absolutely always on point with refreshments, and brought cupcakes for the kids to decorate, both for Valentine’s Day, and with an eye towards something from their book. LBB’s cupcake is meant to represent Francois from Call of the Wild; PeaGreen seems to have ignored that directive and opted for an inside joke reference with the other kids. I don’t know what the joke is, but they all got a kick out of it.

CAM03280

CAM03281

CAM03286

CAM03289

The boys also got to finish and present their Hawaii projects for our homeschool group’s social studies club. LBB talked about the Hawaiian Hoary Bat, with a drawn and painted diagram, and PG made a model of the Hawaiian Islands, and talked about island formation, and the volcanoes of Hawaii.

CAM03292
In other news, one of the dads in our group offered to host a Dungeons & Dragons Tutorial for the teens in our group, so we spent a Saturday learning how role-playing works. It was really fun, and we’re planning to give it another go soon. I always thought that D&D and other games like that (that were non-electronic and social) were good for developing creativity and I am pleased to see the kids taking an interest. Valentine’s Day was pretty low-key, as usual; we’re not big on a lot of the holidays, other than a nod of acknowledgement, but we did head out to my brother’s for dinner that evening. PeaGreen has spent the last few days there, so LBB and I got to spend some QT together. Today’s festivities included lunch, a coffee date and a long drive to pick up my other kidlet.

CAM03299
How’s your school year going so far?
Warmly,
~h

 


Mid-December Update

december_wallpaper_by_endosage-d5nugix

This week, I am happy to report that the illness has finally left the building. It touched the kids briefly (thank you, 3 years of breastfeeding), so we were able to carry on with what we had planned. That was a huge relief because, in addition to a full week’s calendar, it was LBB’s birthday Thursday, and Loverly Husband’s birthday on Saturday.

Moving on…

Social Studies Club – Each month, our homeschool group hosts a social studies club. We choose a new country/state/territory as the focus for each month. The kids all do a project of their choice. I love this format, because it means that all the kids can participate; it’s not limited to any grade level or ability. They also get to choose whatever area of study they want to work in, so the projects can be whatever strikes their fancy. We opted to do a group project, on Japanese culture; Kabuki theater/performance. We outlined the history of Kabuki, with a timeline for the project; discussed the finer points of a kabuki theater design with visual aids; and discussed elements of style and play structure with models of kabuki masks. The boys and I all worked on each part of the project together, and then presented a different piece of it for the oral presentation. It was a fun project!

Monday was spent putting the finishing touches on our social studies club projects. Lots of painting and crafting, and we got them finished with time to spare. We had originally planned on making a model of a kabuki stage, but that got to be too complex, so we we went with a diagram and an art piece instead. The projects turned out well, and I am really pleased with them. Now that the boys are done with them, I am going to have the masks framed with the timeline in the background for the living room. We don’t have a ton of ‘good’ art, but this is interesting and will make a good conversation piece!

Every year, our homeschool group chooses a charity to work with. Currently, we’re working with Southeast Texas Atheists Helping the Homeless. Every month, they collect items to give out at a local park. We haven’t been able to go yet due to scheduling conflicts, but this month, we got together with our group and made scarves. The process was super easy – we made about 40 scarves in about 2 hours. Even the littlest kids got to help, from cutting fabric to coloring tags – everyone had a job to do, and we had quite the assembly line going!
CAM02806
CAM02811
CAM02836
After scarf-making, we went to the library for the Homeschool Teen Book Club meeting. LBB read Dave Barry’s ‘The Worst Class Trip Ever‘, and PeaGreen read, Corrie Ten Boom’s ‘The Hiding Place’. (The Hiding Place study guide) The other students read a variety of books, including: The House on Mango Street, Huckleberry Finn, and The Prisoner of Cell 23. We played a few rounds of Mad Gab, and then had a great discussion over cheesecake and cookies.
CAM02845

After book club, we went for haircuts (finally)… they were looking like shaggy dogs for a while there!

CAM02850

Thursday was LBB’s 14th birthday. He got Fallout 4, which he’s been wanting since it came out. We’d originally planned on surprising him in the evening, but he chose to wake up super early and caught Loverly Husband on his way to work, so before we left for the day’s activities, he got a pretty good start on his game. I made aphoto collage for another project, but I thought it turned out pretty well, so I thought I’d share it here. These are some of my favorite pictures of this kiddo!

 

Seth 14

Social Studies Club  was also Thursday, and our lovely hostess organized a surprise party for LBB. The boys presented their projects (somewhat less enthusiastically than I’d envisioned) and did a great job. We decided that next month’s country is going to be Australia, so I am excited about getting started on that.
CAM02852
CAM02854
CAM02856
CAM02864
CAM02871

 

When we got home, there was a new treat for Mommy waiting at the mailbox…

CAM02874

I am SUPER EXCITED to dig into this! Participating in NaNoWriMo this year has me all fired up for writing again. I found this set on eBay, which was a pretty good deal – about half of what it cost new. I’ll still need to get the consumable workbook for both boys, but still a very good deal. Our homeschool group is also starting an art group based on Discovering Great Artists. I’m looking forward to that, also.

Home Alone at The Jefferson Theater – I thought I was going to have to work, so we nixed this idea and stayed home instead. We got caught up on Big Bang Theory and watched another episode of Man in the High Castle instead. I’m a big fan of alternate history/reality stories, and I so wanted this to be really good, and it kinda is (if you can overlook multiple glaring idiotic decisions and things that wouldn’t happen in a real-life similar situation). I am enjoying it, with reservations. I haven’t read the book, and am afraid to start it now because of spoilers… once we get through the series, it’ll go on my ‘to-read’ list.

The weekend is filled with birthday shenanigans for Loverly Husband, who turns 39 today, and uncertainty with plans as he and I are both on-call this weekend. Tomorrow’s regularly scheduled events are on hold, too – we would have been handing out our scarves and things with SETXAHH, but it got cancelled due to the weather so we’re planning to go next month.

All in all, a pretty good week!

Warmly,
~h

Filing this under ‘Secular Thursday’ as well. I was going to link it to Smrt Mama’s original post and Secular Thursday community, but her blog appears to have been taken down. It had been inactive for a while, so that’s not entirely surprising, but I am very sad to see it go, especially the list of other secular homeschooling bloggers.
secthurs