Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Sarah and I had tea together, this afternoon (well, technically, *I* had tea, she had mint hot chocolate!), and discussed her priorities for this upcoming year.

In 2012 she wants:
* more math
* more science experiments
* to learn the drums
* more baking
* more drawing
* more playdates

We also talked about the approach we've been using recently, and agreed that we want to keep using it. So 2012 will also include focus on:

* Spanish (coffee break espanol, a variety of Spanish picture books and songs, practicing with friends)
* Mosaic history curriculum
* Chemistry (mostly experiments)
* Nature Study/Weather (mostly observation and asking questions)
* Math -- Living Math, Good Time Math Event book, Life of Fred, String Straight Edge & Shadow
* Maps and Adventures
* NYC and family history
* Hudson River Valley
* Mythology/Religions
* Philosophy/Logic/Critical Thinking (by which Sarah mostly means "more puzzles!")
* Spelling

We're also going to take a week off every month or so to just focus on one or two projects.

Spelling's a big one. We haven't focused on it much because it's just not a priority for us, but it's been weighing on Sarah recently that she doesn't always know how to spell things, and a couple schooled kids have given her crap about it, which really hurt her feelings (one of the many reasons I'm glad we're homeschooling -- while homeschooled kids can be just as flawed as their schooled peers, they're generally pretty compassionate and nonjudgemental about what academic level other kids are up to. They get that it's arbitrary and no reflection of someone's value as a person). But now that it's bothering her, we're trying to find an approach that works for her. We've tried a few different ones, but none of them's particularly impressed us. We're going to try a new book that focuses on sounding out, writing out a couple possibilities, then looking it up in the dictionary. We're also going to try a couple more kinesthetic approaches and see if they appeal.

She's so hard on herself when she doesn't get things right on the first try. I wish I knew how to help her be gentler with herself.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

This week we're focusing on finishing up learning about Prehistory -- finishing that section in the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History (their website is awesome, full of such a wide variety of links to explore), watching documentaries, planning projects. Next week Sarah's going to put together a book of her own on prehistory, to draw together and celebrate everything we've been learning over the last few months. We'd planned to continue with the Mosaic curriculum, moving into Ancient Civ, but I've been wondering whether it might be a better plan to shift to a more project-based approach (because of conversations she and I've had, because conversations with another homeschooling mom recently reminded me how much fun the project-based approach sounds like, and because it was very hard to shift back to our usual routines after our latest break, which made me wonder whether those routines were no longer working for Sarah).

We talked about it tonight, while sitting in the rental car together. The rain was pouring down around us, pounding down onto the windshield. We were waiting for Joe (he was upstairs visiting his mom in the hospital), and we were enjoying the magical feel of being cozy and warm in the car, feeling cut off from the rest of the world. The only touch we were missing was hot cocoa or mulled cider to sip while we gazed out the window. We talked about how Playing School has been going, and about what project-based learning is, and about what we want our winter to be like. It was a really good conversation and it made me very happy to know we can have that sort of conversation, that we're building this life together.

I'm taking part in an online discussion, right now, that has triggered so many unresolved memories/issues/wounds from our years at the free school.

I'm so glad for our time at the school, and for the community we all created together there, but I am so very, deeply grateful that we're back to homeschooling, just the three of us in our cozy home, exploring the world together and being kind to each other.

(the outcome of our conversation, btw: we decided to try a week of projects, after we finish up Prehistory, and Sarah suggested it sounds like a fun approach for whenever we want to take a break for a week -- when we don't want to take a total vacation but when we don't feel like doing our usual Playing school, either. Mostly, though, she says she's happy with how playing school is going.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011


This month's Country Day was set in the USA. Sarah did a presentation on the Lenni Lenape (also known as the Delaware), and we brought baked beans to share. Her presentation was excellent, and she brought in the lenape toy and the clay pots she made at the Essex County Environmental Center's Lenape program, the other week.

We took the train down there (we're without a car for the moment) and, while the trip was a lot of fun, it was obscene how expensive it was. It would have been only marginally more expensive to rent a car for the day (seriously, we're talking maybe another $5 to rent a car, including all the fees). But Sarah had so much fun that she's asking to spend a day just riding the rails from place to place. Our friend K suggested taking a train down to Trenton and from there to Philly. The evening was gorgeous and stormy, and we had a good time watching all the layers of clouds floating by.

Today we hosted a singing gathering here at our place. We introduced our friend B to a few new songs, and she introduced us to The Island Song and Hoist The Colors (from POTC3). I think we're going to shift the music group to being a straightforward singalong one afternoon a month, instead of trying to integrate any music instruction, right now.

I really need to get a couple digital cameras -- one for family photos and one for taking photos of our homeschool activities for scrapbooking and posting. Maybe for Christmas.

This week we mostly focused on getting back in the habit of playing school every morning (November was a hard month in our household, and a lot of our routines fell by the wayside). We worked on Sarah's NaNoWriMo project, continued researching Chinese mythology, researched the Lenape, and did a lot of reading about New Jersey (history and political structure, mostly, but also familiarizing ourselves with the map of NJ and learning where on the map to locate the towns where our friends live).

Next week we're finishing up the prehistory reading we've been doing (mostly in The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History), and putting together our own book on prehistory. We'll also be continuing with Spanish and math (I can't wait to take a look at all our new math books!) and spelling (we've been slowly compiling a list of the words Sarah knows how to spell and making a point of paying attention to the spelling of words she writes frequently).