Monday, June 27, 2011

Our summer reading

This is a place holder at the moment for the books we each read this summer.

Dragonrider by Cornelia Funke
Lightning Thief

A very short introduction to Prehistory
How Democratic is the American Constitution?
I'm having a... not a hard day, but an uncertain day. Are we doing the right thing, making the right choices, is this homeschooling approach working, are our daily routines the right ones for all of us... I'm trying to just breathe through it, and remind myself that Sarah's having a great time, she's learning a lot, and anything else there's plenty of time to address.

This weekend Sarah had a fabulous time at Pokemon League on Saturday, and a fun sleepover at my MIL's house. She finished reading Dragonrider by Cornelia Funke (one of her favorite birthday gifts), and got started reading The Lightning Thief.

This morning we continued with Oak Meadow's Native American creation stories, reading a Lakota story and then finding a few sites online to read more about the Lakota and Dakota. We read more in Usborne, learning about the warm, shallow seas of 510-390 million years ago, and the appearance of the first vertebrates, coral, and fish. We did another spanish lesson, and we'll be doing some nature study this evening.

No science experiments this afternoon -- the day got started late, and then we spent a lot of time planning the pop-up restaurant Sarah wants to invite her friends to, next month.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Last week we continued studying weather, looking at weather vs. climate and continuing to keep our weather journal. We also read a few more of the Native American stories in Sacred Myths, read a Cherokee story in Oak Meadow's social studies lessons, learned a little more about the Cherokee nation, read about the beginnings of life on earth and the creatures of the Cambrian period, played around with the Head of the Class site, and did more Spanish lessons.

We also made pickles for my dad for father's day, saw him and my sister and visited West Point, went bowling, and spent time at our volunteer gig, helping to set up for their annual fundraiser.

Our days aren't going as easily as I'd like -- between my weekly dental visits, our car troubles, and various social engagements, our weeks are a little too chaotic -- but I'm hoping things will settle down starting this week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I have no idea what we did yesterday -- it's starting to seem as if Tuesdays just aren't our day for managing to fit in any playing school. We did get to our weekly volunteer gig, and Joe picked Sarah up to take her to Pokemon League, where they had an awesome time.

Today we did Oak Meadow Social Studies lesson 15, talking about a few Native American nations (Cherokee, Hopi, Lakota), about the geography and climate in which they lived before the Europeans came, and the sorts of homes they built. We looked at a map of the US and located where each Nation lived. We also read a few pages in Usborne about the Big Bang, the formation of the earth, and the shifting continents.

We did the next lesson on Coffee Break Spanish, did some math review, and watched a few more biology programs (one on birds, one on how animals observe in the wild).

Monday, June 13, 2011

This weekend was the rocket launch for the rocket building class Sarah attended a few weeks ago. The launch was awesome, everyone had a great time, and Sarah's excited about getting even further into model rockets as a hobby.

The apple spice cake Sarah made last week came out *perfect*, and it was a big hit with my grandparents, when we visited them to celebrate their 65th anniversary and Sarah's 10th birthday.

Today we're back with our social studies, Spanish, and Nature Study. We did lesson 13 from Oak Meadow, reading a story set in Ancient Kush, finding it on a map, then finding the area on a map of the world. We discussed maps, a little, figuring out what different notations mean. I can see how much Sarah's research skills are already improving, as she uses the index and maps with ease. We also read a couple more pages of the Usborne World History Encyclopedia, about fossils and evolution.

We're at lesson 3 in Coffee Break Spanish (we skipped last Friday). I think in 2 more weeks we're going to arrange to practice with a Spanish-speaking friend of ours.

For Nature Study we're just doing some more observation, looking and wondering and asking questions.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A couple months ago Sarah and I had a talk about what she might want to do with her life, what she wants her education to be preparing her for. I worry sometimes that I'm taking advantage of her laidback, cooperative nature when I design our days and lives -- that maybe she's not getting to do things she really wants to do, because she's not as demanding as some kids. She said she'd like to be prepared to go to college, just in case, but her dreams are to be a musician or a pastry chef. (Okay, technically she said she'd like to be a rockstar or a pastry chef, but I persuaded her that the best first step to being a rockstar is being a musician, and taking it from there.)

Pretty cool dreams, and easy enough to get started with. We got her a guitar for her birthday (well, we got her an IOU -- we still have to take her to the store to try a couple out, and then borrow a friend's ukelele to see which feels the best in her hands), we're getting ready to start hosting regular singing gatherings, and we've started working our way through a few of my cookbooks. So far she's made triple-chip cookies, which were by all accounts delicious (they've got milk, so I couldn't sample them), and helped me make a few different things.

Today she's making apple spice cake, a dessert staple in our house, to take to my grandparents' to celebrate her birthday and their 65th anniversary, while I make pasta salad to bring for lunch. I can look forward and see years of working companionably with her in the kitchen -- and then singing together companionably after dinner. What a good life we've got.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tuesdays and Thursdays are Science, Religion/Mythology, and Poetry/Storytelling (which Sarah remembered as Poetry and Song, so that's what it seems to be becoming). We picked up Intellego's Unit Study on Weather because Sarah's been really interested in earth science and weather in particular, recently. We got the PDF instead of the book. I was expecting something a little different from the way the unit study is laid out -- maybe I was expecting a little more ease of use? Or maybe more information right there in the chapters -- at least at the start it seems to be more about pointing you at different activities you can do. But we did the first few activities -- listing what we know about weather and what we want to know, and then going outside to observe today's weather and noting it in a paper journal and on the Eye in the Sky website -- and read a little about how barometric pressure works.

We're using Sacred Myths: Stories of World Religions for our Religion/Mythology work. I like the stories, and the breadth of religions they cover, but I'm bummed that they don't seem to make any attempt to differentiate between different sets of Native American beliefs -- they don't even mention which Nation each story comes from -- and glancing at the Sacred Earth section, they seem to be suggesting that the only Earth-based religious traditions are the modern ones that might be called neopaganism. At some point soon I'll be digging around online and through my books, to see what other sources I can find for religious stories to broaden the perspective a little.

We read The Ghost and Jenny Jemima, and listened to the song version on youtube, sang Drunken Sailor, and each got in some independent work -- Sarah on her drawing and me with a few science articles. We also watched a couple programs -- one on Burgundy, France, and one episode of How the Universe Works, about Extreme Stars.

So far this more structured approach seems to be working pretty well -- we're pleasantly busy, but not making ourselves nuts.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We skipped playing school yesterday, since we were finishing up the birthday festivities with a trip to Monster Mini Golf. Today we went bowling, and played school afterwards -- reading an Oak Meadow story from Ancient Phoenicia, finding the area on a map, then on a map of the world, and reading the first few pages of the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History (they've apparently got two books that are almost identical but one includes Prehistory from the Big Bang, and the other doesn't -- ours, of course, starts with the Big Bang). Then we did lesson 2 of Coffee Break Spanish, watched an episode of Animal Atlas on monkeys, and made some pizza. No math today -- Joe and Sarah'll do some together later tonight -- and no gardening, which will be our normal Wednesday afternoon plan. But between the heat index and the air quality warning, we were happy to hide out in our little cave.

Monday, June 6, 2011

So far our first morning back is going really well. I let us sleep a little late, because we'd both had some trouble getting to sleep, last night, after our wonderfully busy Birthday Weekend. I'm still working on getting in my morning routine when I first get up, but I worked out and started breakfast cooking, and then we played school.

Mondays are history/maps/world culture, spanish, and nature study.

We're using Mosaic as a gentle guide for our history work, and we're also finishing up the bits of the Oak Meadow 3rd grade Social Studies that we found appealing. This morning we read the intro to SOTW, and lesson 11 from Oak Meadow, which involved reading the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors, examining the map of where the story would have taken place, then finding that area on a map of Africa, and then on a map of the world.

For spanish we're using Coffee Break Spanish, and today we did lesson 1. (I've used it for myself before, getting through a few weeks of lessons, and I like the easy 15 minute segments)

For nature study, we're inspired by the Outdoor Hour Challenge at Handbook of Nature Study. Today we wandered around our yard for a bit, talking about some of the things we'd like to plant this year, and observing the birds and bugs and clouds. We decided we'd like to learn more about clouds and about moths vs. butterflies. After we got back inside, Sarah mentioned she'd like to learn more about weather in general. And, hey, look at that -- we were gonna be starting our Weather Unit study tomorrow, anyway! :)

Usually we'll do some independent work after playing school together, but between our late start today and my looming dental appointment this afternoon, today we just shifted straight into making lunch.

This afternoon we'll be getting out all her awesome science kits and books, and picking out 10 experiments we'd like to do over the next 15 Monday afternoons -- which I'm hoping leaves plenty of time for us to choose to take the afternoon off to go play with friends or do a field trip.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer session, here we come!

I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted here. I know I had trouble figuring out how to use the space. I'd started out thinking it would allow family members to keep up with what Sarah was doing, homeschooling-wise, but I'm pretty sure none of them ever actually reads it. Then I'd shifted to using it mostly for myself, just to keep track of what we were doing and to reflect on how it was going, but I was self-conscious about what dry reading it must be, for those handful of folks who were reading along at home.

On top of that, I started to find my blogger reading list overwhelming -- I'd added too many political blogs, I think, and the reading list started turning into just one more Should -- so I started to avoid coming here at all. I think I'll put that on my task list for next week -- going through the reading list and culling it a bit.

Sarah and I had decided to take time off from structured learning for most of the Spring, because we were so busy with limited-time-only homeschooling opportunities like swimming and soccer, and we agreed to start back up the Monday after her birthday. I have to say, we've generally homeschooled all year long, but I can see the appeal of taking some time totally off, because I'm so excited about finally getting to use all the resources we've come across in the last couple months! I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to Monday!

I also recently refocused on my own homeschooling, and started a separate blog (What's Next?)for keeping track of that. It's great to see how all the enthusiasm I'm feeling about that project is bleeding over into this one, and vice versa.

The basic outline of our plan for Sarah's summer session is:
* Mosaic for history/world culture
* comparative religion/mythology through reading lots of myths
* Living Math
* Intellego Weather Unit
* spanish
* nature journaling, including the one hour nature journal challenge
* using a handful of Oak Meadow 3rd grade lessons on math, science, and maps
* using the documentary on NYC, watching approximately 1 DVD each week
* watching one other program each week
* hitting lots of science and NYC museums
* continuing to memorize poems and short stories
* continuing to
(I'll come back and add a resources side bar at some point soon, with links to what we've found useful)

Our afternoons will look like this:
M science experiments (with an emphasis on Chemistry)
T cooking and playing food detectives (that is, nutritional anthropology)
W research, garden, nature journal
R crafts and building
F family zine

Each of us will pick one evening a week to make some sort of presentation to the rest of the family on what we've researched that week.

Obviously it's going to wind up being a lot looser than it looks all written down, and we'll take many days off to have spontaneous summer fun.

This is the first time we'll have been this structured since we experimented with Oak Meadow first grade. I'm both excited and intimidated at the prospect. I've also got mixed feelings about this much structure, philosophically. But we seem to thrive with a fairly structured, predictable schedule, so I'm committed to jumping in with both feet this summer, paying lots of attention to what is and isn't working, and adjusting things as necessary in the upcoming seasons.