Saturday, August 30, 2014

The day we were complimenetd by complete strangers!

  After a long week with lots of trips, we all decided we wanted to stay home on Friday.  I figured we'd dive into some work from next week and get a bit ahead since there are going to be so many disruptions to our plans anyway.  The boys seemed eager for some real school work.  Our day started out very relaxed as usual and they played video games and watched TV until I reminded them that they were responsible for getting themselves ready on time to start school.  As soon as they sat down to eat breakfast they asked me to read them a chapter from our Harry Potter book.  I almost said no since I was busy getting myself ready but realized that even though it was my knee jerk reaction to say it wasn't time for school, I certainly didn't want to say no to reading.  I took a break from getting ready and we read the next chapter of the book together. 
    We walked upstairs talking about what was happening in the story, their predictions/ memories of what happened next in the movie, their comparisons of the book and movie, and even how they would have written parts of the story differently.  They headed to change and brush teeth while I finished getting ready and then we all cleaned the house for 20 or 30 minutes.  Today we dusted all the upstairs rooms including the baseboards.  Evan was amazed at how dirty the baseboards were in his room but did confess that he never cleaned them before. 
   As everyone finished cleaning they just sort of gravitated toward the table and got to work.  Evan worked on writing number sentences to word problems in his Star Wars math book and finished up the alphabet review pages in his Star Wars reading book.  Alec completed 5 pages in his math workbook (by choice as I only asked him to complete two!) and worked on a page where he had to circle all the vertices, a page where he had to draw the rest of the shape using the line of symmetry, a page where he read a char & answered all he questions,  a page where he had to judge/ estimate the length of lines (wavy, straight and diagonal), and a page where he had to color in shapes based on their parallel edges and equal sides.  Ian complained as he worked through two pages in his math workbook-- one on adding money together, and another on comparing decimals.  He did great and I let him do the second page orally along with me.  He just has it firmly in his head that he hates math, it's hard, and it's stupid.  The two older boys asked (YES-- ASKED!) to do their division minute test and both passed on this second attempt at the test.  They were happy to start putting together their spaghetti dinner pictures.  I've already promised a trip to the Olive Garden as a reward for learning all these math facts.  They were both pretty proud of themselves today! 
     Evan headed outside to play while the older boys finished up their math and took their math minute. I saw him running around the house and playing on the swings.  He came in excitedly and told us all we had to come see the toad he found.  We've found a lot of them over the last few weeks and the older boys excitement is starting to wane.  They told Evan they've seen enough toads but he told them they just had to come see this one since he was HUGE.  Evan's excitement was enough to motivate Alec, at least, and the two of them ran off to find the toad and examine him. 

     When Evan came back inside he asked to read his book so he could be finished with school.  I warned him we would still have to learn some geography later but that I was happy to read with him.  He re-read I Like Bugs and did such a great job this second time around.  Since we hadn't so much as touched the book since Monday I wasn't sure if he was going to remember much of it or not.  While we were reading, Ian read Frog Song and learned all about the different environments, sounds and behaviors of different frogs.  Alec worked on some coloring and just decided not to read today.  As long as the other two boys didn't notice and complain, I wasn't going to force him to read.  Alec is usually walking around with his nose buried in a book so I typically give him much more leeway in not reading during set school hours since he more than makes up for it at other times. 

    We wanted to head out for a morning walk and the boys all agreed they wanted to walk to their aunt's house.  Alec asked if he could ride his bike and while I was reluctant to have him on our busy road with the cars zooming past I knew he would be within sight at least and figured it was good practice for him.  I did have to remind him not to listen to his MP3 player while riding and to watch and listen for vehicles.  We had a nice walk and saw toads, caterpillars, and even a bee/ hornet nest on the ground.  The boys were dismayed to find that their aunt was not at home but after a short rest in her yard we walked home talking about what we wanted for lunch when we made it back to our house. 

Alec off in the distance on his bike-- when did he get so big?!

    During lunch the boys asked me to read some more of our Harry Potter book and Alec read a few pages out loud for us too.  Ian criticized Alec's reading and so I made him read a page out loud too.  Ian really does not like to read out loud but I reminded him that he can't criticize something he's not willing to do himself. 
    After cleaning up our lunch I pulled out our books on New Jersey and we learned about the garden state.  We read G is for Garden State and The Legend of the Cape May Diamonds.  Before reading I had the boys find New Jersey on the map and asked them if they knew anything about New Jersey.  Alec pointed out it's neighbors on the map, reading all the states and waterways around it.  Ian told me he thought they had a lot of mining associated with New Jersey too.  We talked about the length of the shoreline and I told them a bit about Atlantic City and Cape May.  The boys were happy to learn that the game Monopoly was based on New Jersey and that's where Boardwalk got it's name.  Since New Jersey was the first state to build a boardwalk near the beaches in order to keep the sand out of the hotel lobbies.  Alec colored a New Jersey coloring page while I read the stories but the other two boys decided to just sit and listen. 
   Once we were done reading I declared school "over" and told the boys to go play.  They soon were fighting and yelling at one another so I told them to go take a break from another in their rooms.  They played Lego's and toys in their rooms and then came out an hour later in order to get ready for some jet ski rides with their grandmother.  It was a bit chilly out and no one wanted to stay in the water and swim.  Ian headed inside to work on something in his room (he's been cleaning out bits and pieces of it and wanted to finish up). 
   I found Alec at the table drawing some pictures and offered to help him work some more on his peacock painting.  He set up all the paint supplies and we pulled up the pictures.  He sketched out the bird and started painting it in blue along with the outline of all it's feathers.  I worked with him and showed him the basic shape of the feathers and how to fill them in then he took over.  Evan had been in and out begging Alec to go outside and play in the woods with him so as Alec finished up for the day he thought about going outside.  I thought they had too until I heard them all in my room watching TV.  Turns out they found an episode of Mythbusters and were doing a little bit of science all on their own. 

     When the show was over Evan and Ian headed outside.  Evan played on the swings while Ian dug in the sand.  Evan was bored and upset that Alec did not want to play outside.  I explained that Alec was in a creative kind of mood and was in the house working on learning a new loom band bracelet.  As Evan spoke to me, he pulled out his camera and started taking pictures of all his special rocks.  I was on the verge of suggesting he take pictures of me or the cat (or anything but rocks) and realized it really didn't matter.  Here he was exploring nature through the lens and it's not like I have to pay to develop pictures taken with his digital camera.  Instead I encouraged him to keep clicking away until he was completely happy with his photos. 

    Alec watched a YouTube video and was teaching himself to make the Frozen bracelet.  Ian and Evan went inside to see what Alec was making and all three boys ended up working on a new bracelet.  Evan put all the bands on the bracelet for a starburst bracelet and then asked if I'd help him loop them all where they go.  As I went along I marveled at the fact that he got all the bands on right and I didn't have to fix any!  He then started teaching Ian how to make one.  Ian has made many fishtail and other easy, finger bracelets but has never used the loom.  He decided to try a starburst bracelet and did a really great job on it too.  I guess Evan's a good teacher. 

    We headed out to dinner and ran into some family.  The boys had fun talking and playing with their cousins and then settled down for dinner.  Alec enjoyed showing off his bracelet and comparing notes with his cousin about the different types of bracelets they've made.  By the time we were done eating and had gotten some ice cream the three boys made friends with an older couple and kept them well entertained with all their stories.  I wandered over as it was time to go and the man asked where they went to school.  I said they were homeschooled and he said he wasn't surprised since they were so well spoken and had such a great vocabulary.  They complimented us on what nice boys we have and how social they are.  It was so nice to hear! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lazy Lake Days.

   We spent our morning yesterday cleaning the house a bit before heading out to get some much needed grocery shopping done.  The boys kept asking me what time it was all morning long since they were anxious to get to kids group and see all our friends.  They passed the time away playing video games, watching TV, using their Bloonies, and Alec tried making a few new pictures on his Light Bright type toy.  He explained to me that it was the ocean with waves, and showed Persephone's garden.  It was quite creative. 
    We arrived at the park and were so happy to find 4 other families came out for this park day.  The kids happily swam, played together, ran around and learned to play touch football.  They played for 4 hours and still did not want to leave!  It was fun to watch the kid break off into small groups, regroup and break off into smaller groups.  All the kids go along great and I never heard one single complaint or argument-- I was great!  Us moms had fun talking to one another and comparing notes on our homeschool goals and lessons.  We talked about some plans for the coming year too.   On our way out of the park we noticed an old pay phone and Alec had so much fun playing with it as us moms talked about what a pay phone is, how much they used to cost and all our memories of them.  Seems so odd to see them nowadays with cell phones abound!

  We ran home and got Alec all ready for soccer.  He had his first practice last night.  He was happy to find that many of the boys on his team were the same ones from two years ago when he played.  He looked like he was enjoying himself and he told me he had fun.  The other two boys played in an empty goal with my husband and an extra soccer ball.  They climbed the hill near the field and had fun climbing on the rocks too. 
   I was thinking back over our week and marveling at all the new experiences we had; a new karate class, boogie boarding on the waves; trying out an aerial obstacle course, etc. and wondering how I can continue to do new things with the boys and still balance in our schoolwork.  I wasn't all that worried about not having done much real schoolwork this week as we hadn't planned on starting school until after labor day anyway but I was thinking we didn't have nearly enough field trip time scheduled into our planner.  I'm trying to take a few weeks to really think about what I want our school year to look like and how I want to revamp it before I dig in again.
    For now, I was content to realize that we still did a lot of reading; we've almost finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we've almost finished listening to The Son of Neptune, Ian read 6 picture books to himself over the course of two nights and Alec has almost finished his latest chapter book, as well as having read a few picture book too.  Evan has been reading signs galore as we walk and ride around in the car.  Some of the signs he "reads" are more obvious like Dunkin Donuts or McDonalds, but the other day we turned around in the parking lot of store called My Dogs and he asked out loud "does that sign say My Dogs?"  He's starting pointing out labels on bags, shoes and supplies too.  Something must  be clicking there!   I remembered when Evan started doing math out loud in the drive through the day we left Soar Indoors.  "Mom, if I have 100 + 100 that's 200 right?  And 200 + 100 is 300"  He also tried to subtract a bit too.  "300- 100 is 200 then and 100- 100 is zero just like 300- 300 is zero."  His brothers soon joined in and asked him if he knew 300- 1 and expanded on other math patterns.  Spending so much time outdoors has led to many natural science discoveries too.  I know I just need to relax and observe the learning that they're already doing and know that any extra learning I get to impart is just that-- extra! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Soaring to New Heights!

The boys were beside themselves with excitement yesterday morning.  We headed out to try an indoor aerial obstacle course.  We've had a Groupon for Soar Indoors that we bought at the end of the spring and we were waiting for the summer crowds to pass.

We were at Soar Indoors for almost 3 hours.  The boys LOVED it.  I participated with them too and it was a lot of fun.  We were all started on the lower course that's only 2 1/5 feet off the ground.  We are responsible for moving our own harness clips around and the time on the lower course is to make sure that we all have the hang of it before heading to the upper course that is 12 feet off the ground. 

Evan, Ian and myself found the lower course plenty challenging enough and just stuck to that.  I don't think Evan stopped once.  He became a master at clipping himself in and moving himself through that course! 

Evan went first and jumped right on. 
like being a tight rope walker!

Alec went immediately to the top as soon as he completed the lower course and picked some of the most challenging portions of the course to try out.  He did amazing!

 We're all very anxious to go back and try it again.  Learning new things and broadening our horizons was a perfect way to spend our day and it certainly didn't hurt knowing our local town started back to school today and we were out having a great day!

we just about had the room to ourselves today!

Ian had lots of fun balancing across the bridge

Alec starts on the upper course

watching him 12feet off the ground made me so
Alec's perseverance amazed me!

Evan's favorite part was the zip-line! 

he certainly did not inherit my fear of heights!

Look at that smile! 

We arrived home in time for all the boys to take a quick jet ski ride with their grandmother before she headed out for work.  They then spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and playing together.  I heard them pretending each other had a concussion or else had jumped into poison and they "rescued" one another with their boogie boards.  They had fun and all got along so well.

I couldn't help but marvel at how lucky we are to soak up these last few summer days and store away these memories.  It sure was a hot day and it was so nice to keep cool.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Catch a Wave

  I was up and raring to go quite early yesterday morning.  We were throwing the schedule was being right out the window and headed out of house early.  We were headed for the beach!  The forecast showed a hot, sunny week and we plan on taking full advantage of our freedom.  My mother, sister and nephews were joining us and we were all excited for a beach day at a beach with actual waves! But first we were trying out a new karate class.  I ran into a mom last week who runs a karate class in a nearby town and once we got to talking I discovered that she teaches the same form of karate my boys are already learning.  I was totally intrigued with the idea of a day class (since I really hate my weeknights being filled up!), I loved the thought of meeting more fellow homeschoolers, I loved that all three boys would be in class at the same time (so I only have an hour sitting around watching them instead of three), and the boys were thrilled to learn they could transfer in and keep their belt levels!  We decided to take advantage of their free trail class yesterday and see how well the boys would like it.  We had already decided that if they loved it we were going to be switching do jangs.  I have mixed feeling about it since we have been treated so nicely by the studio we're at now.  We'll definitely miss the teacher & friends we've made but I can't not take advantage of a class that will better meet our families' financial needs (did I mention that it's cheaper too?),work better with our schedule, and keep Ian interested in learning karate.  There has been no talk of quitting from him since we've started talking about this new class! 
    We arrived at the new class very early and since it wasn't open yet we sat and listened to our book on CD.  By the time we wandered in the class was just about to start.  We discovered that the version of Tang So Do is a bit different from the version the boys are learning.  About half-way through the class, Evan shamelessly announced to me that he HATED it.  I was so bummed!  Once class was over the instructor stopped to talk to myself and the boys and explained some of the differences in the two forms of karate and explained to the boys how she'd be working with them to fine tune their hand & foot movements to match their form.  She assured them that they'd catch up in no time and that they do have a lot of fun.  We left and walking out to the car, Ian was telling me that he really liked the new class, Alec told me he thought it was OK and would be fine once he adjusted, but Evan insisted he DID not like it at all.  That left me pretty much torn about what to do.   I figured we'd table our decision for a bit and just enjoy our day.

digging in the sand together
Alec boogie boarding
    We picked up my mom and headed to the beach.  The beach was quite crowded but we found my sister and her sons and settled down for lots of fun.  Evan met another little boy with the same name and they were soon friends.  They marveled at all the things they had in common and has a ball making up games to play together as they dug in the sand, jumped off dunes, and ran around.  Ian spent just about the whole day in the water body surfing and boogie boarding.   Alec actually got his feet wet and before I knew it had gone into the ocean too.  He too learned to body surf and had fun boogie boarding also.  He dug in the sand and tried burying his feet further at the edge of the surf.  Once he got hem unstuck he decided to try burying his hands too.   The boys checked out all the sand sculptures around us and Alec marveled at how they were able to do that.  We found a small crab and Ian picked it up and started showing it around.  Evan finally changed into his bathing suit and joined the rest of the family in the water and spent the rest of the day in the waves.  Alec helped teach him to body surf and then Evan took a few turns with the boogie board.  It was a glorious day and the boys had so much fun; even if Alec was shaking, and freezing most of the day.  The kid had goose bumps on top of his goose bumps he was so cold but he was having so much fun he just didn't care.
 They were all rather reluctant to leave the beach and asked about "next" time already!  What a wonderful day making memories with our family!

Evan and his friend

We saw lots of neat boats and planes too!

Ian boogie boarding with his cousin

Evan finally goes in the water

Alec buries his feet

Stuck in the sand, watching the waves deposit and take
sand away

He decided to try it with his hands too

All the boys waiting for the perfect wave

The crab we found

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Trial Run

   That pretty new schedule I have all planned out for our school year is looking like it will need to be totally revamped! Ugh!  While I do enjoy planning, I'm not looking forward to sitting back down and re- figuring everything out.  Before I chuck the whole thing and start anew I decided to at least give it a try and see for sure where the tweaks are needed.  We were supposed to spend this week going on various field trips and start fresh with our school year after labor day.  But, after talking it over with the boys, we decided to start a somewhat shortened day of school today and give our schedule a trial run.   Today I had all three boys down for Verbal math lessons and while I love that we're rotating different methods of math I realized it's probably going to pretty difficult to find time to sit with each one of them individually.  I realized last night as I was pulling everything out I should have a schedule for EACH boy.  That way I could rotate the boys through the different types of math-- for example on Monday I could do verbal math with Ian, have Evan work in his workbook, and put Alec on the computer on Kahn academy, then on Tuesday we'd rotate and I'd work with Evan on verbal math, Alec could work in his workbook and Ian would have his turn on the computer... you get the idea.  They'd all still get some one- on- one time with me but it wouldn't be as time intensive on my end.  Not that I mind spending time with them all on math but I'm starting to think that's going to make for some really long days.  Especially when I take into account that we're introducing a few new subjects each day too.  I'm already unsure how to do spelling with three different kids who all have a different list but we decided to dive and in and see how it goes.
    I left the boys on their own until 9:30 and only gave a few reminders that they needed to be ready (including having had breakfast, gotten dressed, brushed teeth, and made their beds).  Imagine my surprise when they were all ready. I called them all upstairs and we started in with our round of house cleaning.  I'm trying to get us all in the habit of cleaning for 15-30 minutes a day, all working together to clean different areas of the house as needed.  My hope is that keeping up on the housework will make it less time intensive and we should be able to get it down to a 15 min. cleaning each day without living in fifth and squalor!  They grumbled a tiny bit but all pitched in and actually said "that's it?" when we were done.  I took that as a good sign!

    Since Evan was one of the first one's done with cleaning, I offered to sit down with him and go through Verbal Math lesson book 1; lesson 1 with him.  He thought it was super easy since it dealt with adding zero.  He was quick, accurate, and attentive.  As soon as he was done I asked Alec to come work with me.  I used the same book but started him on lesson 23.  As you get further into the books the lessons are longer so we only covered half of it.  I wasn't really sure what level to start him out at and found that lesson 23 was actually a pretty good fit.  It was a little bit challenging but not too hard for him.  We counted to 30 by 2's, 3's, 4's, 5's, 6's, 7's, 8's, 9's and 10's and then we counted down from 30 by 2's, 3's, 4's, 5's, and 10's.  We added like digits together (4+4, 14 +14, etc.).  He added strands of numbers together (3+3+3, 5+5+5+5, etc.) and then he added numbers like 14+16 and 17+ 11; stuff like that.  A nice gradual, easy review with carrying numbers in his head and working out problems mentally.  Seeing how Alec did, I decided to try the same lesson with Ian.  He too, did really well and I'm thinking this might be a better starting off point for verbal math than the fractions level three book, which seemed a bit too difficult at times for both boys.  This way I feel like I'm giving them a running start.  Imagine my surprise when math was done in just 15 minutes!
    I sat the two older boys at the table and we did a trial run on their division minute quizzes.  Ian was so bummed that he got 11 out of the 16 questions right and I thought that was fantastic!  Alec only got 5 right but he realized we hadn't studied or done any division for awhile so he was happy with his score and knows we'll practice and do the tests again. 
   I pulled out each boys spelling lists.  I found these lists on Spelling Connections and decided to start Evan out with a first grade list, Alec out with a third grade list and Ian out with a fourth grade list.  I figured that would give me some idea of where they're at spelling wise and I can adjust as needed.  Evan's list dealt with short u sounds and I picked it specifically for the book I Like Bugs that we're working on reading this week.  I had him read the words to me, helping him sound them out as needed and then pulled out some Play-Doh and alphabet stamps for him to practice "writing" his words.  This is a spelling strategy I've uses in the past and I knew he really liked it.  The older boys thought that sounded like fun and so I told them they could do that too.  First I asked them to read their lists and since they were in cursive this was a bit tricky for them.  They decided to re-write each word in print down the side of their list so I felt like they ended up getting a double lesson in spelling.  I hadn't thought about how hard it might be for them to read them in cursive but I love that we'll be getting some adding learning in with learning how to read in cursive.  They thought their lists were easy and they had fun stamping the letters in the Play- Doh.  All three boys wanted to play for a bit when they were done and so I let them. 


       Evan came and sat with me on the couch and we started through lesson one in The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons.  It's a bit deceiving since lesson one is 14  pages long and you're only supposed to do a few pages each day but I figured if Evan was willing to work with me, more exposure to reading strategies certainly wouldn't hurt.  We easily went through the first 3 pages in lesson one and he pointed to the letters and pictures on the page.  We then read through I Like Bugs and talked about decoding, picture cues, and making good guesses.  He happily went back to Play- Doh when we were done.
    I let them play for a bit while I looked up and printed out some division flash cards for the older boys to practice with.  We cleaned up and headed out for a morning walk around noon.  It was a bit later than I had wanted to head out but I didn't want to make them clean up Play- Doh the minute they were done with spelling.  I know the downtimes and playtimes are important in our day.  We all grabbed an apple to help ward away hunger and headed out into our woods.  I was surprised to find out how overgrown the path was that we had planned to take; unfortunately we were pretty far into the trail before it became overgrown and rather than turn back the boys decided to just stomp right through it.  We did see a toad, a few unusual fungi species, and many spider webs-- one even had a spider on it tying up a dead bug.  The boys ran through the sprinklers on the way home and we decided to stick to more defined paths from now on. 


Sap running down the tree

We loved this purple globe mushroom

Spider web-- looking up through it

    I took a quick shower while they all made their lunches (I had the pleasure of walking right into a spider web and getting the webbing stuck in my hair).   We sat down to eat together and I read part of our Harry Potter book.  Typically, I would read an entire chapter but this was a very loooong chapter and I knew we still had geography to finish up our day.  I offered to read our geography books once the boys were done eating.  Alec and Evan were bummed I was stopping our Harry Potter reading and I promised to try and find time later on to read the rest but I know Ian wanted to play outside and in order to do that we had to finish our school day. 
    Our state study for the day was Rhode Island.  Living nearby we often visit Rhode Island and we even have family in Rhode Island so we started with my asking them what they know about Rhode Island-- they knew ALOT!  I had coloring sheets for the older two boys and I offered a sheet to Evan too, but knowing he hates to color I figured he'd pass on that (and he did).  The older two boys had fun coloring while I read aloud form R is for Rhode Island Red.  We stopped on each page to make connections to our lives; placed we had eaten or been to that were discussed in the book.  It was a great way to start our 50 state study!  We made it more than 1/2 way through the book when we were interrupted by the doorbell.  My mother in law stopped by and offered to bring the boys on a jet ski ride.  It was a gorgeous and sunny day so I told them I'd finish reading after jet skiing. 


      We cleaned up the house and headed outside.  They all went on jet ski rides, looked at the snake skin Ian found in the water, and watched as Ian caught another fish in his net.  Once they settled down outside we finished reading R is for Rhode Island Red and then we read The Bravest Woman in America; which was all about Ida Lewis and her job as lighthouse keeper in Newport, Rhode Island.  The boys loved the story and I loved that Ida was mentioned in R is for Rhode Island Red too.  Somehow it just tied all our studying together!  I declared school officially over for the day but was a bit dismayed to see it was 3:00 and we never had time for art (at least not a real art lesson). 

    Ian scrounged around in the house and found an old board and I helped him pin the snake skin down to it to try and dry it out.  Never having done that before I warned him that we could end up ruining it.  I wasn't sure how many pins we needed, where to put them or how much the skin would curl and/or shrink as it dried.  We worked together, slowly and carefully to stretch the skin out as much as we dared to without breaking it and hammered in some small sewing pins to hold it in place.

   The younger boys went off and played on the swing set and around the house while Ian cooled off in the water and I pondered what to do about our schedule.  I love all the topics we're covering and I know the boys didn't complain at all about the length of our day, since we added in plenty of fun things to do, but I know we can't keep up a full day of school 4 days a week.  We have homeschool get togethers, grocery shopping, field trips and other assorted errands that are going to get in the way occasionally.  I'm thinking one day a week as a catch up just isn't going to be enough.  Perhaps I need to plan an entire field trip week each month and we could use that as catch up time when we don't want to go anywhere?  I just don't know.  I just know I like our schedule, but I don't LOVE it and I'm much more likely to stick to it if I LOVE it.  In the meantime we'll keep it as is, I guess and I'll make changes as I think of them I guess.  All in all I'd say we had a successful trial run.