We started school in the middle of July. After a family meeting, the kids agreed that it was way to hot to do anything fun outside (since we don't have a pool). Better to do school indoors in the air-conditioning, and then take two weeks off in September to play, hike, explore, etc. (Note: starting school the same week as our evening VBS was a bad idea. Mommy was exhausted, though the kids seemed fine.)
We're using My Father's World: Exploring Countries and Cultures as our main curriculum this year. For the past 7 years, Sweetling has been doing school through OHVA (Ohio Virtual Academy), which was a great fit for her for many years. (Toa did OHVA for K and 1st grade, but the program needed some serious adaptation to fit into his learning style better.) But last year, I felt we had really drifted from our goals as a homeschooling family. It was a pretty intimidating decision to break away from something that had been so successful for us for so long. We've nearly wrapped up three weeks with the new curriculum, and its everything I think homeschooling should be for us.
(Of course, just as I finished typing this, Toa and I butted heads during math. Now, Toa is upstairs crying cause he just lost Wii for the weekend. Every now and then, he has to dig in his heels and be stubborn, and I get exasperated. This afternoon, we were struggling to work together on writing number words. Sensing that both of us were frustrated, I said that we just needed to take a short break. I told him to go upstairs and look at books for a little while, and we'd get back to this. This was just gasoline on the fire. A few minutes later, he was refusing to budge and I was threatening the Wii. How can I go from feeling like everything is coming up roses one moment to perhaps being the worst teacher in the world the next moment?)
Ok, the bump in the road aside, I'm still really happy with our curriculum choice. We're loving reading together on the couch, even when it turns into tickle fests. Or maybe especially when it turns into tickle fests. We're loving the hands-on projects, even though Mommy can't keep a few worms alive in a jar of dirt. (That one turned out so gross. So very, very, gross. I shall spare you the details, but let me say that it was really gross.) We're loving making maps together at the kitchen table. I'm especially loving how this curriculum seems very relaxed, and yet is still engaging and challenging.
We all love that the kids have time to explore and make and learn about the things that they are interested in too. We have time everyday for "independent explorations", where they can take half an hour and do any enriching activity they want. Here's a poem Toa wrote the other day. I'd love to post at least one example of what Sweetling does during this time, but I'm sure my pre-teen doesn't want her projects up on my blog. (oh how the times have changed.)
And, even though we get to do a lot of school together, Sweetling still has the opportunity to study several of her subjects completely independently. Since she said this was very important to her when we were discussing a school change last year, I'm counting it as a major success point of our new schooling approach.
(And, since I'm tooting my own horn, the rest of the afternoon with Toa of Boy went swimmingly. --you all know that I don't actually write an entire blog post in one sitting, right? A get a paragraph here, a paragraph there. Heck, sometimes it doesn't even all get written in the course of a single day.--- Anyway, he calmed down and read a Bionicles graphic novel he had checked out from the library. I went upstairs to announce snack time. He came out of his room, gave me a hug, and asked, "Will you forgive me, Mommy?" So we had a nice talk and a snuggle time, and after snack we got back to math and finished the page with no problems. Then we looked through books about forest habitats, and he saw a picture of a flying squirrel and wanted to learn about them. So we did a little internet research on them and watched some youtube videos of flying squirrels AND some youtube videos of cliff jumbing with windsuits in Norway. Then we found instructions for an origami flying squirrel and we were finishing up that when Daddy came home. See, that's what homeschooling is supposed to be.)
Other really cool projects that we did, cause I am in a cool sharing mood.
In the first week of school, we were reviewing the globe and the continents. We talked about the different kinds of maps and how a flat map couldn't accurately represent all the shapes and distances on a real globe. To illustrate this, we each drew a globe on an orange. First we drew a line around the middle to represent the equator. Then we drew a line from one pole to the other (the stem things), to be the prime meridan. Once we had those two lines in place, we started on drawing the continents. We started with Europe and Africa, checking out where they crossed the prime meridan and equator for reference. Sweetling's globe turned out amazingly accurate.
After we had our continents drawn, we labeled the continent and the oceans, and let the permament marker dry overnight. The next day for snack, we carefully peeled our oranges and reassembled our maps. We talked about how there were gaps in the map when we tried to lay it out. When we squished one section together to close those gaps, gaps appeared elsewhere. It was a great (and tasty) lesson.
There was also the aforementioned worm atrocities, which we will now quickly skip over. But, we did make a successful terrarium to demonstrate the conservation of water in the water cycle. Toa liked the mist that formed in our little green jungle.
During our second week, we only did a half week of school and went camping with Telephone and company. We set up two tents and a dining canopy and cooked over an open fire, which we built ourselves, for two nights. (Not without a little struggle.)
It was a wonderful time. The kids loved swimming in the lake and playing on the beach.
And some crazy Mommy let the kids draw with charcoal pieces picked from the ashes of last night's campfire.
This week, we started our study of North America with an overview of the USA. We're taking a three week road trip to California next year, so we're doing some mapping and trip planning as part of our schooling over the next couple of weeks. Today, we mapped our route out to California and labeled and colored the states we'll be driving through, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada.
During our second week, we took a three day camping trip.