Monthly Archives: May 2011

Blown away

Brooklyn blow away

Well that was how the weekend ended anyway.  This was my first time out to Deschutes River— I had no idea quite how windy it was going to be!  I’d even contemplated bringing the kite and decided against it.  Oops.  We had a lovely campsite with plenty of space to run, nice view and access to the river and TRAINS.  Forget camping and nature, we didn’t miss a single train that went by.  There would be a rumbling, and a horn blast (or 5) and all the kids, big and small, ran out to watch it pass.  The first morning we took a short hike to do a little railfanning.

Lars watching a train

That would be taking pictures of trains, in case you don’t have a couple rabid foamers in your house.  Aaron even gave me the first lesson on the old camera he’s giving me (Canon 40D- and lesson was where to find auto mode, lol).  Then after lunch we drove to the Historic Columbia River trail and explored down to the tunnels and back- very cool.  It was pretty breezy the whole day, but certainly tolerable.

When we woke up Sunday (supposedly the ‘nice’ day) it was cloudy and blustery.  Hmm, good day to take a drive and hope it calms down.  So we went to Stonehenge which was pretty neat though I was quite frustrated that the one lens I had did not zoom.  So… yeah.  Fun to look at and the kids got to run amok for awhile and climb on some rocks.  Not a great spot for a picnic though so we hunted down a park in Goldendale on the way to the observatory.  We had it almost to ourselves and it was great; the kids were on familiar turf (no setting new boundaries or rules) and everyone really relaxed.  I am totally looking up nearby playgrounds next time there isn’t one at our campsite!  The observatory itself was kind of a bust.  Lecture-style tour and since it was cloudy we didn’t even get to look in the telescope.  Unanimous decision to skip out early.  I could see it being a cool adult thing for the night session, but I will not be taking kids back there again.

I'm sure it was meant for jumping on.

By the time we got back to camp the wind was really howling.  I took the kids to lay down for a nap (after 2 late nights and a Dramamine I needed it) and Lars fell asleep right away, but the tent was flapping against me and Brooklyn on our side and the sound thundered in our ears.  Even the trains, so loud to be heard over everything else the previous day, were drowned out in the wind.  I got up and we played around with trying to make a wind block out of a blue tarp and a couple trees.  Sorta worked.  The guys had taken down our canopy- aka ‘kite’- while I was attempting to nap, so now it was just the tents attempting to take flight.  All 7 of them!  It was getting time to start dinner and I was glad I was cooking on the electric wok, not battling charcoal or a stove being blown out.  About that time the first tent managed to free itself from the tethers and took off down the road.  Yikes!  Chased it down, but it’s next stop was the trash.  Next came some decent sized branches out of the trees- not big enough to smash a car, but definitely the kind to do some damage to a person, especially a small person.  Even though dinner was only halfway done we decided to retreat.  Amazing how fast you can break down camp under the threat of being blown away or impaled by a pointy tree limb.  Plus there was bits of nature in our food.  I would have got pics, but was a bit preoccupied.  You can check out a couple here.

Everyone converged on our back porch an hour and a half later for a much more leisurely scarfing of dessert fondue 🙂  Mmmmm.  Perfect way to end our adventure!

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Just like everyone else

Yep, we’ll be joining the herds of people headed out camping this Memorial Day weekend.  I thought we’d done well by picking a place on the warm, dry side of the mountains.  But, alas, it’s suppose to rain there this weekend too.  I have to admit I’m more than a little bummed about that.  At least I’ll be hanging out with my best friends with plenty of time to kick back and relax (or if you know me- play in the fire).  We often go with 3 other families (total 16 people!) and have a nice little trick for doing the least amount of chores.  Each family picks a meal or two and makes for the entire group.  So for a whole weekend I am only taking 3 meals worth of food, one of which is oatmeal packets for breakfast and another is a picnic lunch.    Plus I’m doing a couple desserts b/c I think I have the biggest sweet tooth 🙂

So today is packing day, and I have lots of lists and random piles scattered everywhere.  Mentally I break it down into 3 categories: gear, in the tent and kitchen.  Major gear is the tent (tarp, stakes, hammer), canopy, chairs, lantern, firewood, kids bikes, other toys/games etc.  In the tent is sleeping bags (cots/pads/air mattresses/blankets/pillows), clothes/pj’s/extra shoes/jackets, toiletries/towels & first aid kit, books/smaller toys, laundry hamper, rugs, flashlights.  And kitchen is all my cooking gear, food, cooler, tablecloth, stuff for doing dishes, clothesline, and citronella.  Way to much cooking gear- stove, wok, bbq and dutch oven are all going this trip.  Plus all the stuff to go with each.  Can you tell we do car camping with kids?  Sometime I’m going to do a easy no-dish weekend.  Maybe.

What does all this have to do with homeschooling?  Well, nothing and everything.  Nothing because it’s just a weekend getaway for fun, and everything because whether I want them to or not the kids are going to be learning something.  That’s what happens when kids play.  Oh, and we might go to Stonehenge.

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Box day- again!

She's always had a thing for books.

One of the fun parts of spreading out my planning for next year is that I keep getting presents from the UPS guy!  We came home today and had 2 more packages on the front porch 🙂  4 new science books from Amazon.  The good news is Brooklyn is just as excited as I am to get new books.  The bad news is she took the animal encyclopedia and scampered away with it (meaning I’ll get to hear “I know mom- I already read it” about a hundred times next year).  Yes, my kid likes reading encyclopedias.  Next time I’m thinking about ordering a 25lb block of clay.  Ha- She won’t be able to run off with that quite as easily.

p.s. It was kind of a double box day as I got back a box of math toys I’d lent out.  Lars will be so excited!

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That other stuff…

My kids and friends at overlooking Spirit Lake.

Won’t she have any time to get out and play?  Where’s the fun stuff?  The social stuff?

The good news is all that educational stuff listed in the last post should only take about 3-ish hours a day.  4 days a week.  Nice when you don’t have to wait for everyone in a class of 25 to sit down, settle down and find their pencil 🙂  Just one.  And she knows it’s cutting into her playtime if she messes around.  Though I’m sure we’ll have our fair share of loosing the book and water breaks, which then of course will have to be followed up by potty breaks- lol.  Still, that’s a lot more free time than leaving at 8:30am and getting back at 4pm.

So one of the things we’ve done is register her as a part-time student at Home Choice Academy.  It’s the school districts way of trying to get back some state money as far as I can tell.  But by only going part-time (5hrs or less per week) I don’t have to discuss any of my curriculum choices, or really anything else that I’m doing with them.  So I’m cool with that.  And it gets us some free (plus supplies) classes, discounts on some extra-curricular off-site classes and a chance to meet some other homeschoolers.  For the Fall 2011 semester we’ve requested an on-campus art class (mostly drawing with a little clay work and some art appreciation), PE classes at the YMCA that include swim lessons and gym group games, and piano lessons through Beacocks.  Still waiting for confirmation of classes.  We would have fees for the last 2, but pretty reasonable compared to what I’d have to pay on my own.

Also she is going to continue with Girl Scouts.  She’s had a great time in Daisies this year, meeting new friends and having lots of new opportunities.  Besides selling cookies they’ve attended a father/daughter dance, done a trash pick-up service project and toured the Sheriff station.  Next month they have a troop zoo trip planned and in July we’re going to a week of daycamp.  Yep, I’m volunteering so even Lars will be going this time.  We’re looking forward to seeing what they come up with next year.

And now the really fun stuff!  If you didn’t notice above I said 4 days of planned schoolwork.  That leaves us with one whole day a week for park days, zoo visits and field trips when everyone else is in school.  I found this really great local homeschool field trip group awhile ago.  As in someone finds all these really cool things to do, you sign up for them (usually at a special school or group discount) and then you go.  So easy!  When she was in preschool we attended some Kinderkonzerts through them and drooled over all the possibilities.  Then just recently I pulled her out of school for a day to attend Snow White at the NW Childrens Theater– it was their own interpretation and very entertaining.  There are opportunities for numerous concerts, plays, OMSI classes, random tours (like behind the scenes local business to farm visits), special events etc.  One I’m really looking forward to is School On Trains.  I wonder if Aaron will join us for that one?

I’m sure more things will present themselves as we start meeting more people in the homeschool community as well.  It has been said there is a problem with homeschoolers and socialization- sometimes there’s just too much of it!

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So what are we going to do next year?

Well if I’ve learned one thing talking to other homeschoolers it’s that I’m going to have my great plan, and it will take approximately 2-4wks before I am modifying it.  I’m hoping the changes will be minor though because as much as I’ve loved researching and picking out curriculum it’s expensive!  Of course that could just be my taste 🙂

Some of our school books

I’ve decided to go with a Classic style, using The Well-Trained Mind as my guide.  We used the OPGTR by the same authors to teach Brooklyn to read and it worked pretty well.  Language arts is going to be a fairly big chunk of what we do.  Grammar is important in the classical education and I bought the book First Language Lessons to use for that.  It is nice and scripted, which will be good once we’re past nouns and verbs because I really don’t remember much of the terminology.  Included in that is some memorization and copywork.  I’ll likely add some copywork from our reading after she finishes her handwriting packet.  Her penmanship needs just a little work so I pulled out the D’Nealian packets we never used from Kindergarten last year to give her some practice, though we should fly through those pretty quickly.  After that copywork will serve 2 purposes: to continue working on her penmanship, and also to teach her to write by example from good writers.  The theme for this years reading is suppose to be fairy tales and myths!  I am planning to alternate ancient stories and myths to go along with our history with more recent fiction chapter books like Charlotte’s Web and James and the Giant Peach.  Narrations will also be pulled from those.  Narrations are asking her to dictate a couple lines from what we’ve just read, to make sure she’s listening and understanding.  And to finish up LA will be a spelling program called All About Spelling.  It’s not just a spelling list- there are tiles to play with and flashcards with spelling rules.  Huh?  Spelling rules?!  This one we will be learning together, lol.  I had no idea there was any reason WHY a word was spelled a particular way other than that’s how I’d read it somewhere before.  Now I find out there’s a reason for choosing c vs. k vs. ck!  That would have been helpful a loooong time ago.

Next up is math.  I chose to go with Singapore Math because it focuses on real understanding, not just memorizing facts.  Though you still have to do that too.  Some people go with just the basic workbook, but I figured I could use all the help I can get so got the home educators guide (it has suggestions for how to teach since it looks a bit different from the way I learned, and plenty of games to play), the textbook (which is the pretty color book with examples to follow for the discussion part of the lesson) and the workbook (yep, find the answer, show your work).  This program tends to be a bit advanced, so I shouldn’t be surprised Brooklyn tested into the 1-A level.  I think it will be a bit easy to start since she has had some math, but I’d rather figure out how it works on review work than jump in over our heads and risk skipping an important concept.

History was probably the easiest choice.  Story of the World.  It seems to be one of those tried and true programs that everyone loves, so might as well give it a whirl.  Study of history is also very important to the classical education, and is presented in chronological 4 year rotations (along with Science).  We will be starting out with the Ancient Times, which is pretty much beginning of time to the fall of Rome.  And yes, this book was written with the first grader in mind.  Along with the text is an activity guide that lists extra books to get from the library and lots of hands-on projects.  Mummified chicken anyone?  Okay, so I may be skipping that one.  And of course since I can’t leave well enough alone we’re going to modify the timeline a bit by reading the whole text (and doing narrations) first, and then do 2-3 week intensives from the AG.  Especially looking forward to trying some of the recipes!

Last we have Science and Geography.  For awhile I was pretty sure I was just going to write this myself.  How hard could it be?  After all I had my basic outline- ecosystems and animals in the fall and winter, and plants in the spring.  Woo-hoo garden!  Um, yeah.  Started trying to pull together the details… not so easy.  Kinda hard to find things to do with animals other than observation, and we don’t have any camels or sea turtles near by.  But I found someone who had already done it.  Phew.  So I ordered Elemental Science last night.  I still want to find a decent globe, but I wouldn’t want the UPS guy to forget where we live, so I’ll save that for later.

Do we sound busy enough?  Really?  Because that’s not all.  It’s all I am going to teach, but it by no means makes a complete education.  More on that later though.  The sun is calling.

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Beginning on a new journey…

Lars says "Let's go!"

As I write this Brooklyn officially has 18 days of Kindergarten at Sifton left.  But I’m already well into planning our journey for next year.  We’ve decided to take a year and try homeschooling.  Crazy, I know.  Hopefully it will be as much fun as I imagine and we’ll do another year, and then another.  First though, baby steps.  The good news is Brooklyn knows the plan and is good with it.  Yay!  Aaron is on board too.  The paperwork has been filed with the district office and  in a few short weeks we will on our own.

We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing this new step in our lives.  And one of us (you’ll never guess who) has been researching.  I’ve been reading books, boards and blogs about the different homeschooling styles, curriculum reviews and basically how to get this done.   And with any luck get it done with the least amount of tantrums (yep, the kid still throws herself on the floor when I ask  her to put away laundry) and still managing to keeping my sanity.

Here we go, wish us luck!

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