Thursday, September 2, 2010

changes here too... (maybe)

I posted on my other blog that I am considering password protecting my blogs.... I'm not entirely sure that I will password protect my homeschool one but I am for sure going to password protect my other one. What are your thoughts on this? I'm thinking this one will be okay as a public blog as long as I stick to the topic of homeschooling (which was supposed to be the whole point of having this blog :-). It might not be very exciting though... it's just me and the boy this year, as the girl is off to give school a try.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

break out the catalogs....

The letter arrived today... there were no spaces available for Alex's grade! Fate has spoken! I'm off to read catalogs and make list after list after list! :-)

He took it really well when I told him. I asked him what he wanted to do, since our neighborhood school is still an option.... he said he would rather homeschool another year while researching schools so he can reapply for the next fall. I can live with that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

confession time

So, my friend pointed out to me the other day that I haven't blogged here since February. I thought it was finally time to come clean on the reason why.

I'm not sure we are as dedicated to homeschooling as we are to making the right educational choices for our children. Homeschooling was the right choice for Alex. Clara, however, has always just been along for the ride. I have questioned for years if homeschooling was the right option for her. Not necessarily academically, but socially. She thrives in group settings, she missed her preschool experience in a way that Alex never did. Jeff and I started discussing this seriously after the first of the year.

By the first of March, we had decided to look into school as an option for Clara. We found a school that is a performing arts magnet school and went on a tour. It looked like it could be a good fit for Clara. She did not know why we went on the tour. When she questioned us later, I simply told her that the school had a tour day, open to the community, and that her dad and I had just gone to check it out to be informed community members. She started asking details about the school and what we saw... I stuck to facts. She disappeared for a little while and then reappeared. She told me that although she liked being homeschooled, this school sounded like a good fit for her and she wanted to know if we would let her try it. She was so excited! I know she doesn't fully grasp the reality which is school, but she was truly excited about giving it a try. I told her that if it was something she wanted to try, she was more than welcome to (each year we always ask the kids what they would like to do the following year... they've just always said "homeschool" in the past).

The more Clara talked about it and asked questions, the more excited she got. That's when my worst homeschooling nightmare happened.... Alex got caught up in it all. He decided that if Clara was going to try it.... so would he! I was ill at this point. This wasn't supposed to happen. The school that we saw for Clara was not a good option for Alex even to try.... and we had already missed the lotteries for other schools. We informed him of this and told him that his only real option was the school Clara liked (we're within their boundaries so they have to take the kids). He was fine with this, but I wasn't. Alex is my kid who gets up and has his schoolwork done by 9:00am, who watches the history channel for the fun of it and randomly picks subjects then checks out and reads all of the library books available on that subject. He crafts his own educational experience much better than I can at times.

But... we moved forward and I scheduled another school tour and this time the kids were going along with me (this was about two weeks ago). Clara loved it all.... the dance studio, the fact that her grade was mostly girls, the fact they have musicals and dance performances.... we got to meet with a reading specialist who went through exactly were Clara should be coming out of 2nd grade and was pleasantly surprised to see that she was at or above where she should be (this had worried me since I really only had Alex to compare her with). As much as Clara loved it, Alex didn't love it. They were lacking in his favorite subjects and most of the material they would cover in 5th grade was what Alex did this year at home in 4th. And all of the stuff Clara was so excited about... dance, performances, etc... were things that Alex was just so-so about (he loves performing, but he's been doing enough professional theater lately that doing it at school doesn't appeal to him).

He came back from that tour in a horrible, horrible mood. He had in his mind that he really, really wanted to try school next year but was not sure this is where he wanted to be even just to try. We had a big talk later. I asked him why he wanted to go to school. He said that almost everyone he knows either goes to or has gone to school and he just needs to know for himself what it's like. I really couldn't argue with that. As a friend pointed out, to him, it's like another one of his research projects.... he needs to gather his own data.... this is an experiment. I had to respect that. However, I knew that the school Clara was going to go to was not the right place for him even to try (oh... don't think I didn't consider it for the selfish reason that I was pretty darn sure he wouldn't like it and would return to homeschooling ASAP). I talked to him about staying home another year. During that year we would research and tour possible schools for him. I decided to do some poking around on the school website and found that a few schools were having a second late lottery. I did some research and asked around about the schools on the list. I found one that looked like it could be a good option for Alex. We sent in the form and now we wait.

So, there you are. I may not be a homeschooling mom come next fall. One is going to give school a try for sure. One is waiting to see what fate decides. This time of year I'm usually reading homeschooling catalogs like crazy.... making list after list... reading message boards for suggestions and recommendations, etc. This year, I'm just here. My catalogs are stacked and ready (unread) waiting to be called into action if Alex doesn't get in to the school.

We're still doing school, but it's more school prep these days... which is why I haven't been blogging about what we've been doing. I wasn't sure I was ready to come clean about it all. Not because I'm embarrassed about any of it.... but just because it was all so up in the air (and actually still is a bit).

My thoughts are that our educational philosophy isn't going to change because they both may be in school. We try curriculum all of the time. We try things at one time and find it's not a good fit, only to try it again a couple years later and it really clicks! This is no different... they're just trying school. We've also let them make choices (or at least have a say) in their education over the years.... again, this is no different. Friends asked the other night what we would do if they both went and hated it. If that happens and they have given it a fair shot, they are free to come back home again at a break.

So right now I'm busy collecting and organizing books so they will have a good reference library at home (I always need a reason to buy more books). We're in the midst of our end of the year testing. And after they get back from camp, we'll continue with school prep. And it will all be okay :-)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

the opera....

Yesterday the kids and I got the opportunity to attend the dress rehearsal of the Lyric Opera's production of The Damnation of Faust. Amazing, simply amazing.

I'm not saying that we really understood much of what was going on... but the music and the staging was wonderful. The kids were mesmerized... especially Alex. He knew more of the story and was totally into seeing it come together on stage.

There was quite a bit that was not exactly kid appropriate, but they didn't catch most of it (especially since it was in French and I know, Clara at least, stopped reading the subtitles at some point).

It is such an amazing experience for me as a mom and a homeschooler, when I sit back and realize that the kids and I spent the bus ride home (and part of the evening) discussing opera! Not Spongebob, or Hannah Montana... but opera! (don't get me wrong... we do have those discussions too) Apparently, we all had a lot of questions about what was going on and why things were acted out the way they were. We discussed our theories as to what we thought was happening. We checked the descriptions of the acts in the program to see what we may have missed. And then we fell into the our typical discussion of "what was your favorite part and least favorite part and why".

I know I say this often here... but we are so fortunate to be able to homeschool here in Chicago. What an incredible number of amazing opportunities we have available to us here!

Monday, February 15, 2010


One of the kids' favorite things about their lit and poetry classes on Wednesdays is that they get to have a bit of recess with friends after class.

Due to the snowstorm that hit on Tuesday, they brought their snow gear and played outside after class... building a snow fort....

They had a blast!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alex's books

For School:
Meet George Washington (Landmark Books)
What's The Big Idea, Ben Franklin?
Phoebe the Spy
all of these are part of his Sonlight curriculum

Listened to on audiobook:
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
This was for a lit class that he and Clara are taking. I LOVE that I can download audiobooks from the library directly to my ipod (for free!!). This was our first real test of that feature and it went really well.

Read Aloud:
The Meanest Doll in the World

Read for Fun:
Dandelion Fire: Book 2 of the 100 Cupboards
A friend introduced him to this series and now he's hooked. He'll be excited to know that I just found that there's a book 3!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

On Wednesdays the kids have a poetry class with some of their friends. For the past few weeks they've been working on the Jabberwocky as a performance piece.

Today we finally got to see the show...

Ugh... apparently I have issues with uploading videos... I kid you not... it has taken me about 10 tries already! All five kids are in my video, but for some reason photobucket cuts off one whole side of my video! I'll have to try to figure it out... sigh.

Ooooohh... I think I got it this time!

Monday, February 1, 2010


The Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 kit has arrived at our house!!

Alex saved his money and finally had enough to place his order. It arrived on Thursday night just as we were heading out for the evening. It nearly killed him to leave it, but he was so excited that he actually had it that it was okay.

That night, before bed, he unpacked and repacked the box of parts so he would be ready in the morning. He then took the manual to bed with him and read it all so he would be REALLY ready :-)

In anticipation of the arrival of the box, he had worked ahead in his schoolwork so he could have Friday off.

The boy built and programmed ALL day....

He loved his first little bot... but alas, that love was short lived and it was quickly disassembled in order to build something else.

(demonstrating the jaws of the gator-bot he was building)

He built several of the examples from the kit over the course of the day. By Saturday afternoon, he thought he was ready to branch out into his own design. This really excited me. I must admit that I had a fear that he might build the examples and then be done... either from loss of interest or from it being more difficult than he had thought. I was glad to see that he was willing to give his own creation a shot even before he finished the sample projects.

So, Saturday night he built a gondola-bot that travels across his room on a piece of yarn suspended between his desk chair and closet door knob. He keeps tweaking the program, but right now it travels to the closet with a green light shining. When the touch sensor hits the door, it pauses, says "have a nice day", turns its light to red and travels back to the chair. When it hits the chair it again pauses, says "have a nice day", turns its light back to green and travels again to the closet. He's pretty proud of this so it goes on for quite a while! :-)

I can't wait to see what he builds next!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

what Alex has read...

... so far this year.... unless I missed some (which is entirely possible).

I really enjoy the books lists that Jocelyn posts on her blog, so I thought I would try to do something similar for Alex this year.

I'm going to try to do this each week. I took this photo on library day since we would be returning one of the books in the pile.
For School:
Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia
Mr. Revere and I: Being an Account of certain Episodes in the Career of Paul Revere,Esq. as Revealed by his Horse
Both of these are part of his Sonlight curriculum this year.

For Fun:
The Disappearing Floor (Hardy Boys, Book 19)
Alex loves the Hardy Boys mysteries... he always grabs one when he wants a quick read.
Peter and the Starcatchers
Alex LOVED this book. It was part of our family book club this year. I'm the only one who hasn't finished reading it, I got distracted by an old favorite (found a Trixie Belden mystery at the library... I loved those as a kid). Anyway, I'm trying to talk Alex into writing a review of the book for the blog, but so far, no dice.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thank You!

(random photo since I have an aversion to photo-less posts)

I just wanted to jot a quick note to say thank you for all of the advice and encouragement you all have given me, either in person, via email or by commenting here after my post about Clara.

I have decided to loosen up the structure with her. I'm toying with an eclectic mix of Charlotte Mason, Montessori and maybe a little unschoolishness (how's that for a word?) thrown in. I'm still working it all out, so nothing is really underway yet. She's still working through Horizons Math, but I've added more living math books to our day. She's still working her way through Click 'n Spell but I'm thinking about adding some of these from Montessori for Everyone and continue using All About Spelling to explain the spelling rules. I'm having her read more to me from various books, not just a "reader". I've also started adding in a bit of copywork. She needs more writing practice to go along with the work she has been doing with her handwriting tutor so why not be copying rich texts from great books versus the simple sentences given in her handwriting book.

Like I said, I have a lot to work out still but I think I'm on the right track.

Thanks again!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

homeschool swim

We're pretty fortunate here in the city that so many different people and organizations are willing to work with homeschooling families to form classes during the day. The place where the kids take swim classes is one of those great organizations. There are only four kids in the class but they're totally okay with that and the run the lessons anyway. The kids get great individualized instruction and they have a lot of fun with each other and their instructor.

Their favorite thing has to be the diving board though. They usually each get one turn off the low board at the end of class...

The boys got to have extra turns the other day while the girls changed clothes...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How do you solve a problem like...

... Clara?

Sigh... time for my biannual homeschooling meltdown in regards to this child.

So, here's where we are right now...

1. Math - we're actually doing decent here.... not great but decent. I have her plugging away through Horizons for my own piece of mind. However, where she's really doing well is with the living math approach. We've added more living math books and we're playing more games again.

2. Handwriting - still a struggle but we're making some headway... finally. We have a handwriting tutor (an occupational therapist) who comes to the house once a week to work with her. She still really struggles, which makes me sad, but like I said, she is finally making progress. And thankfully, she's made enough progress that she can get more practice at it because she's able to do written work in all of her subjects.

3. Language Arts - we're finally doing more work with this now. I have tried working on LA with her at different times but it was just more frustrating than it was worth for either of us. Uppercase and lowercase letters were all the same to her... capitalizing the first letter of a sentence meant nothing to her since she tended to write in all caps anyway. Now that handwriting is beginning to click with her, simple grammar rules are making sense too.

4. Reading - she's moving along in reading. She's finally graduated to reading easy chapter books. She has a friend who is an avid reader and it's pushing her to push herself with the level of books that she is reading. I still have her do quite a bit of reading aloud to me so we can work on issues together.

5. Spelling - not great but we're slowly but surely making progress. She's doing an online spelling program at the moment, but I need to get back to something more hands on.

6. History, Science, etc. - to be honest, these have not been at the top of my priority list for her this year. We have had so many other, more pressing issues to work on after her learning assessment that I haven't been doing anything terribly formal for her.

So, here's where I'm at... where do we go from here? What is the best overall approach to take with her? I need a plan. I know that both of my children have different learning styles and completely different interests. I know that what works for Alex will not work for Clara. Alex is thriving with Sonlight this year... it's been really exciting to see. However, as much as I would love to have two Sonlight kids and be able to pass curriculum down, I'm just not sure that it's the right fit for Clara. Sonlight is so literature rich which is right up Alex's alley... he could lose himself in books all day long. Clara always has to be doing something. Things click better with her when she actually sees how they work, when she gets to touch and feel it.

Right now she's doing well with and has a keen interest in music. She's been playing violin for over a year now with moderate success, but now that her teacher has been showing her the same pieces on the piano as well as the violin, her playing has really taken off. Given her interest in piano, she will be starting lessons next week. She's also doing well with dance. She loves it dearly and it really seems to be the one activity where she can truly focus.

I've been re-reading the descriptions of all of the different homeschooling approaches. Would Charlotte Mason be a good fit for her? Would a more Montessori based approach be better? Would we just be better off focusing just on a few things and taking a more unschooling approach for the rest? I'm doing lots of research right now trying to figure out what would be a good fit. If anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them! In the meantime, I'll be dragging out all of my books and catalogs again! :-)

what we're loving...

... right now.

I have decided that I need to qualify all statements like that with something like "right now" or "at this moment"... because, quite frankly, things change.

This is a recent find from the library...
How High Can a Dinosaur Count?: ...and Other Math Mysteries

I'm trying to incorporate more "living math" into Clara's day so I picked up some random books at the library last week. This one has been a huge hit. There's a little word problem for each picture and several bonus questions listed in the back. She loves working with this book.

Alex just started this book last week...

We had finally finished up Grammar Island, so when we started Sentence Island, we started this book as well. Who would have thought that Alex would enjoy "four level analysis" of sentences? We do these together and work through them aloud as he writes. I really thought he would balk at doing this book when it came time, but it has really surprised me!

And then there's this book...
Life of Fred Fractions

We're still loving this book... although I will admit that Alex ummm... strongly dislikes the "bridge" portions. He loves the rest of the book though and has really gotten a lot out of it. Because of the humor and continuing story line, he can't wait to keep working his way through the book. I'm excited to see that there are enough books in the series to keep us busy for years.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

location #5

Okay... since one of my New Year's resolutions is to be a better blogger, I decided that perhaps I ought to finish up this series of posts which I started... oh... what... two and a half months ago? :-)

This was our final location of the day....

This is definitely one of those buildings that I totally took for granted. Sure, it's a cool looking building and yes, I've been past it a million times (in fact, I once had a temp assignment in the building next door years and years ago) BUT I had never actually looked at the building.

If I had, I surely would have noticed the numerous stones set into the building...
The one above is from a Revolutionary Battlefield in New Jersey.

And the one below (also from NJ) from where Washington landed after crossing the Delaware...

Then there's this brick from Holland from the house the Pilgrims used as a church before making their voyage...
Also, if you look really hard...
... you'll notice that the carvings aren't typical carvings.... there are dogs with glasses, alligators, monkeys and who knows what all else. These all have meanings and thankfully a lot of them are outlined in the book we bought at the gift shop.

The whole building is like a huge game of I Spy...
You'll be amazed at what you will find there.