Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Half day

     Halloween is not my favorite holiday; I think I could even go so far as to say it's my least favorite.  I hadn't planned on doing anything special today but after just a few short hours of waking up I realized I was going to need to try and make our day extra fun.  The boys were in rare form with extra fighting, extra energy, and lots of excitement.  I tampered some of the bad behavior down by having them all clean their rooms, put away laundry, and help me clean all the bathrooms and toilets.
     We finally settled down to work and Ian typed up the rest of his report on the computer while Alec wrote up another 4 or 5 river otter facts.  Evan and I worked on reading and sight words since the two older boys were occupied.  I pulled up all the post it note sight words we used on our hopping trail yesterday and adhered them to our wall.  Evan grabbed a few of his Nerf guns and we played around with his sight words.  First  he just tried to hit the words and would read whatever word his bullet hit the closest to.  As he tired of that game I started calling out words for him to find and try to aim at with his gun & bullets.  It was fun!



   We settled down to read another elephant and piggie book.  Today we read Watch Me Throw.  This book had lots of new and rather long words but we still had lots of fun with it.  This was about the time I realized that we needed something extra fun to make it through our day.  I sent all the boys to their rooms (to stop the fighting and bickering) while I scoured the internet for some fun Halloween themed things to do.  I told them they could put on their costumes if they wanted and we'd finish up school while wearing them.  We made mummy dogs for lunch, read Harry Potter, filled in some fun Halloween mad libs and the older boys worked on a Halloween scrambled word worksheet.  I considered that English for the day.


 
















     Alec and Ian worked on a maze where they had to navigate their way through using multiples of 5, 6, & 7.  While they were busy working, Evan and I played a game.  It was a version of bump that required us to add the two dice together that we rolled and then subtract the number from 13 (so we got addition and subtraction practice in!).  It was fun but after 20 minutes or so Evan declared it a draw and asked to clean up.  The older boys didn't love their worksheets but they were fighting way to much today to try and have them play a game together and I just can't play with each of them individually.  They did agree that the sheets that they used today were more fun than traditional schoolwork so I guess it wasn't bad for pulling something together mid-day!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fun and Games for Learning

 After looking critically at our day, I realized we had covered just about every subject! We had so much fun and played quite a few games along the way too.



Writing-- Evan and I worked on his letter to Santa while Alec and Ian both worked on their science fair project boards.  Alec tried to finish up his river otter facts while Ian typed up some of the definitions for the VCR parts.

Math-- The older boys took a math minute this morning and they both passed!  Then I gave a mini lesson on making improper fractions into mixed numbers.  This is a concept we've worked on once or twice before with no real headway but I had hoped that by playing a game together they'd be able to work together to gain greater understanding.  Well, they had so much fun playing On a Roll that they wanted another sheet of paper and to keep playing more rounds.  I was kicking myself for giving them my only copy.  I spent part of my afternoon looking online for another printout and told them they could play another day.  I found it here if you're interested.  They did great and they loved it! 

While they played Evan and I played a game called Two Digit Big Man.  We took a deck of cards and each flipped over two cards.  We then made the biggest two digit number we could and the one with the highest number won and go to keep all the cards from that round.  At the end of the game we counted up to see who had more cards.  Alec and Evan played a round too.  I was happy to see that Evan could make the highest two digit number and tell me who won without even seeming to think about it. 


completed score cards-- they challenged themselves to compare
different fractions on the fifth and final round

91 versus 74-- "you loose mom!"


Reading-- Evan hopped around the room on his sight words cards, if he got a card wrong, or landed in the lava he had to start over.  I kept it light and fun and figured no matter how many times he might have to start over it would be great practice with his words.  I started following him around and were giggling and laughing.  He made a bunch of mistakes but told me this was lots of fun.  I found him and Alec playing with them again at various times throughout the day.  Evan and I also read Have You Seen My Cat? together.   Alec was reading books about river otters as he was working on his science fair project and Ian pulled a few books out of his book bin to read.  We read a bit more in Harry Potter before lunch too and it's really starting to get good now.


Science-- The older boys worked on their science fair projects today.  Since Evan is all done with his science fair project but still had not yet finished all the books we borrowed on them from the library, we read two more sea turtle books-- Into the Sea and Sea Turtles.  

We all examined the carved pumpkins again today too.  We ended up throwing them away once we studied them for a bit.  Ian's pumpkin had caved in completely and was sitting in a puddle of gooey water.  We saw splits in the seams of the pumpkin and noticed that it was much darker all around the outside.  Pikachu was growing mold so that his stripes, eyes and nose were now black.  Alec thought that was hilarious and totally fitting.  We examined the mold up close and debated about making a slide to put under out microscope but since no one wanted to touch it at all we decided that it wasn't necessary.  

Geography-- We received our Hawaii postcard the other day and had not yet had a chance to read it so we sat down today and studied the pictures on the front of the card.  I read the back of the card and we all tried a hand at sounding out the Hawaiian words that were included.  We agreed that it must be hard to learn how to spell some of their words.  For example their state fish is called the humuhumunukunukuapua'a.  Now that's a mouthful!  We also received Idaho's postcard today and so we learned a bit about Idaho too.  I tried to sort of quiz the boys when the postcard came in; I covered up the name and asked if anyone knew where our nearest postcard was from.  Funny enough Alec answered Ihio... then argued he was half right. 


Spelling-- While I had not intended to touch on any spelling today they all ended up with a mini lesson in spelling.  Ian and Alec were working on spelling as they were writing and typing up their science fair reports but when Ian won the math game he tried to write winner down on his paper and spelled it winer.  I used that time to show them a mini lesson in doubling the last consonant on CVC words.  We them wrote up a few words using the rule.  While Evan and I were working on his letter to Santa I had him sounding out words and spelling some of his sight words for me, not that I was thinking we'd cover or sneak in spelling but we did.



     Evan and Ian worked to make all sorts of buildings and garages out of both our magna blocks and our foam building blocks at various times throughout the morning.  They were pretty creative with them and had fun working together.  Ian left around lunchtime to head out with my mother in law.  They were going to lunch, grocery shopping for an elderly relative, and then hitting a local store for some pre-Christmas wish list making.  The younger two asked if they could set up a carpet picnic for lunch and watch a bit of TV.  They set up the blanket, made their own lunches and decided on something to watch together. 
Foam block garages and towers

Magna block garage

Yummy carpet picnic


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Mid Day Change of Plans!

   I'm really starting to feel the pressure of our science fair next week; we were supposed to work on the reports yesterday but with karate, errands, my sister coming to visit with my nephews and soccer practice we just never got around to it.  I knew inviting my sister over meant we would probably not have time to work on their reports.  We haven't seen gotten together in a while for the kids to just play and be kids and the weather was so nice that I didn't want to postpone their trip.  But I did worry about getting any work done.  All three boys worked on some of their math workbooks in the car and Evan worked on a phonics page while the older boys worked on some cursive but that was all we did for school.  I was fine with it, really I was.  They had a fabulous afternoon riding bikes, scooters, and skateboards.  They made up races, experimented with riding on the skateboard using their feet, their butts, and their bellies.  They played ball and made up some games of pass, some 1/2 soccer games and whatever else they wanted to do.  My sister and I got to talk and visit and it was just a fabulous afternoon.  I can't regret it; I just wish someone could have been working on the boys reports for us while we were playing.  At the time I figured we had most of today to get their reports done and so I wasn't worried.... until I happened to look at the calendar and realized we weren't going to be home today either.  Oops!

Their completed house
    Alec had an orthodontic appointment this morning and we had our gym class planned for this afternoon.  I worked my hardest to get the boys up and going early this morning so that we could hopefully get something done before heading out today.  I hesitated to interrupt when they were all playing so nicely together.  The boys worked together to build an amazing house with our magna blocks.  Eventually they finished up and got all ready for the day.  Evan worked on making his sea turtle puppet so we could display his craft at the science fair.  He did such a great job coloring and cutting and I just love the end result.  He does too so that's even better.



Evan's finished puppet

           While Evan was working on that the older two boys took their math minute -- still working on dividing by 8.  Ian then asked if he could sit at the computer and start typing up his report on the VCR as part of his writing for the day.  Of course I said yes! I was so excited that he was taking it upon himself to type his own report instead of trying to dictate it to me and expecting me to type it up for him.  Alec worked on finishing his letter to Santa from Monday. 

   We piled into the car when it was time to go and I had all the boys bring their math workbooks with them.  Evan also brought along his phonics book and they all worked on their schoolwork while we were driving.  Evan chose another subtraction page while Ian worked on real life word problems involving time and elapsed time.  Alec was still working on his letter to Santa.  At one point they all needed my help and I had to remind them I was driving.  Evan didn't know a few of the people and aliens from the Star Wars series in order to figure out whether he needed to add an n or an m to finish the word.  Ian had some pretty difficult problems that required multiple steps and so I walked him through the problem asking him questions and allowing him to solve the computations. 
   We arrived at the orthodontist and all the boys learned a lot about teeth.  We got to look in Alec's mouth to see how his teeth line up and what they should look like.  We go to see several x-rays of Alec's teeth and watch them take molds of Alec's mouth.  It was really neat to see the materials they use to make the molds, how they make the molds, and to see the final molded product.  Since the boys seemed to eager and asked a few questions here and there the staff was great about explaining what they were doing and why.  It was a great lesson!  Unfortunately, it's going to be an expensive one since he needs a palatial expander as well as some braces. 
    Once home we learned that our gym class had been canceled since both the instructor and the helper were sick.  I was sad they were sick and we weren't going to get to go to gym and have lots of fun but I was a bit relieved to think we might find time to get some schoolwork done.  The phone rang and my husband asked if my oldest could head to work for the rest of the day.  Ian was so excited to head out in the truck with my father in law and I knew he'd have a great day working. 
   It ended up working out great that Ian was gone.  The younger two boys and I got a lot of schoolwork done.  Evan and I finished up Evan's board.  We cut out all the letters for his title using my Cricut.  I let Evan push all the buttons and helped him spell sea turtle.  We also read two more books about sea turtles-- Turtle Tide and Turtles in my Sandbox.  I asked Evan to pick out a few books to read to me and he chose to re-read Moo! (his favorite book right now) and another elephant and piggy book called  I Broke My Trunk!  He loves these books but I don't think of them as early readers because there are some rather long words in the story.  He did AMAZING!  I was blown away by his reading and it was made all the better by his giggling. 

  Alec and I sat down and finished up the sea otter side of his board.  We looked up a few additional facts together on the computer, attached a few pictures and planned what we'll work on tomorrow to finish up.  We printed out some coloring sheets and activity pages about otters to bring with us as his hands on project.  He finally decided on his snack too and I'm feeling pretty good that we have two project just about 100% done.  Alec finished up his school day by logging onto the computer and requesting the next Spirit Animals book from our library.  He also completed a review sheet in his math workbook about dividing by 2.  I was surprised to find that we're about a third of the way through the boys math books.  I know we've been using them a lot these past few weeks but up until then I hadn't thought we'd used them much at all.  I'm feeling pretty good that we might actually finish one book in our homeschooling journey... maybe. 
   We spent of our afternoon checking out their pumpkins.  They had carved pumpkins over the weekend and they're already starting to mold.  They've noticed the color and textures changing.  We looked at all the fuzz, talked about what mold spores are, and why we have mold spores.  We looked closely at the outside of the pumpkin too and noticed color changes happening there.  We noticed that the carved sections are starting to shrivel, shrink, and flop inward.  I call that science.  The pumpkin carving was a lesson in and of itself too.  They got to see the insides of a pumpkin, smell the pumpkin and help scoop it out.  We learned that seeds float in water but the pulp sinks to the bottom.  We learned that pumpkin carving is messy, even with a disposable table cloth.  They learned patience while waiting for one another to finish with our carving tools.  We roasted pumpkin seeds and all the boys tried them.  The kids each picked their own pattern (Ian choosing to make his own despite my protests that it might not come out well), transferred the patterns to their pumpkin, and worked on carving them by themselves.  They came out amazing; even Ian's pumpkin which I ended up just loving.  It was so "him" and I congratulated him on not listening to me and having faith in himself. 
Carving away

drawing his pattern onto the pumpkin

Ian's completed excavator


Alec starts carving

Evan's finished pumpkin

Ian's finished pumpkin complete with candle

Pikachu

The outer skin of the pumpkin wrinkles as it molds

This is the mold; they noticed that it hangs stalactites

    With only two kids home it was a pretty quiet afternoon.  They locked themselves in Evan's room and played with all of his stuffed animals and Legos.  I love listening to their dramatic play.  They use such expression when making their animals talk and play out such funny scenes.  I got to catch up on all sort of computer work (OK, really I just blogged, caught up on Facebook and read a lot of funny blogs but doesn't it sound better when I call it work?) and housework.
  

Curriculum Wars

   I'm not really sure it is about new curriculum, but I feel like I'm always fighting the urge to buy more.  Maybe it's the shiny covers with the cute pictures and the bright colors.  Maybe it's the excitement of something new.  Maybe it's just the hope that this curriculum will be the perfect one I'm looking for; you know, the one that makes all my kids beg to do more.  Mostly though, I think this obsessive need to purchase new and exciting materials is a way to drown out those fearful thoughts in my head that I'm screwing this all up.  When I see one of my kids struggling with writing I start looking for a new writing  program or book.  When I notice our math book is heavy on multiplication and division and lacking in fractions and measurements, I go looking for new math curriculum.  Luckily, over the past few years of homeschooling, if I've learned one thing it's that we're not great at sticking to any curriculum.  I can't justify spending money on anything new when we don't seem to use that much of the old.  I came close yesterday.  I had a whole new math series in my cart and my finger was holding the mouse over the "checkout" button, but I took a deep breath and shut down the window.   I thought I was doing pretty good fighting the urge to buy more.  Then I opened my e-mail this morning and had a whole list of suggested curriculum books from Amazon all about writing with kids.  I have been stressing over the fact that we barely write and it didn't help that my husband was working with Ian the other night and has been commenting that Ian writes really slowly and needs to improve.  Ian was doing some copy work as part of his science fair project and it was taking forever.  He's always been a perfectionist and he does write very slowly, making sure that everything is neat, making sure every letter is perfectly formed, and all his spaces just so.  My husband was encouraging me to work on writing with him and speed him up.  Of course, I'm totally mystified on how to do that and while I know my husband didn't mean to panic me even more, he did.  I find most of my homeschooling fears reside with Ian, mainly I think because he's my oldest and by the time I figure out if we've done enough, if we've taught him everything, if we did this "right" it will be to late to go back and try out anything else.  It's a scary thing to just trust in yourself.  Very, very scary!
     When I really step back and look out at the world there's just so much to learn about.  Never mind the myriad subjects we could cover, but within each subject there seems to be an infinite amount of subjects to study-- what if I cover the wrong ones?  One thing that sometimes helps me keep all these fears in perspective  is listening to veteran homeschoolers and reading their blogs.  Today, in particular, this blog really helped me.  Sue Patterson, of Lifelong Learning, was writing about all her dusty books that she felt compelled to buy over the course of her homeschooling and her realization that it all distracter her from what really mattered-- her kids.  So I'm focusing on my kids, once again, and continuing on this journey together.  I'm reminding myself of the fact that my two youngest boys spent the entire day locked up in Evan's room playing together-- ALL day, laughing, making memories, becoming friends, and forging bonds.  I'm reminding myself that Ian, at only 10 years old, spent most of his weekend running equipment and helping to clear a house lot!  I'm reminding myself that Evan listens to books on CD that are meant for much older kids and not only understands them but really enjoys them.  I'm reminding myself that Alec devours books and has such a wide range of skills that he often baffles me.  I'm reminding myself that all of my boys have strengths and weaknesses-- we all do.  I'm reminding myself that a lot of what I learned in school never applied at all to my daily life and therefor wasn't necessarily something I had to learn-- therefor they probably don't need to learn it either.   I'm reminding myself that the future is never clear and, while I can worry about it, I can't let it take me out of today.  The present is right here, right now, and I need to focus on this gift I've been given.  I'll never have this day back with my boys so we'll make the most of it!  Tomorrow will come and somehow it always takes care of itself.  Besides, how can all this be wrong?




 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Back on Schedule

  With a goal of "getting back on track" in my head for this week, I was much more conscious of our time today.  I spent less time on the computer this morning and all the boys were ready for our day to begin by 9 o'clock or so.  Ian was up and ready early, making himself his own eggs and toast.  When we were finally all dressed and fed we worked on cleaning a bit of the house.   With all of our field trips for the past month our housework and chores had been really slipping and I missed having a clean house with us all working together.  Surprisingly, no one complained and we all pitched in for 30 minutes or less to clean a little.  
    While I was waiting for the boys to finish cleaning I went through and pulled out some ideas for school today.  I tired to hit upon a variety of subjects and knew that these would just be suggestions for our day.  The boys typically either take an idea I have and run with it or ask to change it completely.  As long as we accomplish something worthwhile by the end of the day I'm usually happy.  And today I was very happy!
   Just to give you a quick summary of our day here's the subjects we touched upon:

1.  Life skills-- the boys vacuumed, cleaned sinks, put away laundry, cleaned their rooms, and made their own breakfasts and lunches (with Ian actually cooking eggs).  Later in the afternoon when we were outside, Ian turned on the leaf blower and gave his younger brothers turns using it, explaining how to properly hold it, angle the blower so the leaves go in the direction that they wanted, and they cleared the whole yard
2.  Math-- The older boys took their math minutes with the 8 facts and while neither passed they felt good about their scores.  The younger two did Verbal Math with me while Ian chose to work on a review page in his workbook dealing with ordered pairs. 
3.  Science-- we went on a short nature walk/ bike ride this afternoon plus Evan and I started and FINISHED his Sea Turtle display board for the science fair.  We looked up & printed out pictures of the 7 types of sea turtles and glued them onto his board, labeling them with the papers he's been writing up this week.  We also printed out two pages of facts he compiled about sea turtles and worked together to glue everything onto his board as neatly as we could. 
The older boys wanted to bike


4.  Spelling-- The older boys used the Spill and Spell game letters to "spell" out their spelling words.  They each asked me to quiz them when they were done and got most of their words right.  Alec received an 80 and Ian got an 85; they both asked me if that was an A, a B or a B+ (where do they get this obsession with grades?  Seriously I try not to grade ANYTHING they do but they ask and beg).  Evan read his spelling words to me and we added a few sight words he's supposed to be memorizing from his spelling lesson book.  After he read the words he wrote/ copied them.  It may not sound it, but we made it fun by doing push ups or jumping jacks as he chanted the words and spelled them out.  He just loves that kind of thing and was smiling and giggling.  Alec asked me to play a few rounds of the actual game of Spill and Spell with him and so we did.  I showed him how I get such long words by looking for consonant blends and word endings. 



5.  Reading-- Alec finished up his last Sprit Animal book and we all listened to another chapter in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix today.   Instead of doing another reading lesson today Evan and I played sight word bingo.  He was the caller so he had to tell me all the words and I was pleasantly surprised by how many he knew right away.  Alec thought it looked like fun and he asked if he could play a round too so we played with the three of us and then Alec and Evan each took two boards and played against each other to see who could fill up both boards first. 

6.  Writing-- the two older boys wrote letters to Santa today.  Alec didn't finish his yet but he has a real good start.  Ian made so many mistakes on his first draft he asked if he could have another sheet of paper to start over.  I was stunned that he was willingly writing and he did an amazing job too!  He misspelled some words like excavator but as long as he got the smaller words right I let it pass and left him alone.  I see huge improvements in his sentence structure and spelling so I'm happy. 

7.  Art-- Ian worked on some drawings of trucks and loaders today and Alec was drawing a tree with all the different varieties of fruits in it.  He asked me If grapes grew on a tree or a bush or how they grow.  I explained that they grew on a vine, like poison Ivy, and so he decided to draw a grapevine growing around the trunk of his tree.  He worked really hard to find a way to incorporate all colors in his drawing.
8.  Geography-- We got another postcard in today.  We learned about California by studying the front of the postcard and the pictures of the state and it's many natural wonders.  We learned about the wildlife people there can see, the earthquakes they experience, and other interesting facts that our postcard exchange family wanted to share with us.  This has been such a great experience for us and has boosted not just their geography skills but their writing skills too!

   There were a few other parts to the day that I had a hard time categorizing.  Ian worked in his room for a while with his Lego pieces.  He's trying to design a model of a raking system for a hydroelectric plant that his dad owns.  He was challenged to come up with something that would work and then my husband will build it out of metal and machine parts.  Ian worked really hard to brainstorm different ideas and came down to show the boys and explain how it would work.  All three boys have been occupying their time building with our magna blocks lately.  Alec made a few really neat designs over the weekend and built a two- story building this morning.  The boys all played outside today too. Ian was digging on his hill and working on making a house for his cousin too.  The younger boys were playing with Evan's double sided sword and hanging out together, talking and cuddling on our hammock.  Their cousins came over in the afternoon and all the kids played together.  It was a really nice day. 

 


















     Putting it all into writing and it's no wonder we didn't finish school until 2:00 today!  It was a super busy day and most of it was due to the boys and their eagerness to work.  We even managed to get some portraits in today.  It was a beautiful day and I wanted to capture their smiles. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why I Don't Ask Comprehension Questions

I stumbled upon this article written the other day about how to foster reading comprehension in students.  And while I agree, in theory, with what the article is saying I can't help thinking that this isn't the only way. 

There is a whole other school of thought (that I apparently fall into) that believe we shouldn't ask kids a million and one questions to see if they're comprehending what they are reading and to try and increase their reading comprehension. 

When my boys are reading a book or listening to a read aloud (either myself or a book on CD):
  • I don't ask them questions.  
  • I don't prompt them for predictions
  • I don't ask comprehension questions when we're done the story
  • I don't ask them why they think the author wrote the book
  • I don't ask them anything else really.  
  • I usually don't even ask them why they like(d) the book or what they thought of it. 
 Maybe that makes me a bad teacher, I don't know, but I really don't think so.  I do know that they typically start talking all about the story before I have a chance to ask questions.  They will either talk to me about it, talk to each other about it, or act it out through their playing.   

When I started homeschooling my oldest son already hated reading.  He was sick of being told what to read, when to read, and how to read.  He begged me to let him choose his own books, to let him read in his room, and to let him read in his head and not out loud. 


 I had a hard time with his request since I came from a teaching background.  In school we're taught to have kids read out loud with you, stopping them to ask questions, correct their mistakes and check in with them on vocabulary.  I was worried I wouldn't know if he was actually reading and if he was understanding what he was reading.  I worried that he would just pretend to read or else stumble through a book just to tell me he had read it without understanding or remembering anything he had read.

I worried for nothing.  Within just a few short days I heard him re-telling the story to his brothers over breakfast.  He re-told with lots of feeling, emotion, humor and details.  He had read it, he had absorbed it, and he had ENJOYED it so much he wanted to share this book that he had fallen in love with, with his brothers.  

I realized then that when I read I don't want people asking me all sorts of questions about the story.  I don't think about metaphors or the author's purpose or anything like that while I am reading. 

If someone was reading to me and stopped to ask questions or force me to make predictions (especially if they were reading fiction books to me), I would find that distracting and annoying. 

I read (A LOT!) because I genuinely love to read. 

I'll read non- fiction texts, self- help books, murder mysteries, romance novels, historical fiction pieces, science fiction novels, fantasy, and just about any other genre that exists.  I read because I love it.  

I may not finish all the books I start and so I don't require my boys to either. 

I don't answer questions when I'm done and so I don't require my boys to either. 

And I think that's a GOOD thing.  If I had continued teaching my boys reading like they had learned in school I would have killed their love of books. 
Alec reading his chapter book during breakfast
     My boys enjoy reading (none of them as much as Alec, but they all enjoy it).  They know they have the freedom to chose what they want to read, when they want to read, and how long they read.

 Sure I'll occasionally tell them to go read for a few minutes if it's been a while since I've noticed them picking up a book. 

But mostly I sit back and I wait:

  • I wait for Evan to ask me to read to him when he could have chosen to stay up late and play (like last night when we read three books while his brothers were in the playroom building) 
  • I wait for the boys to come tell me all about what they have been reading (like Alec has been doing with his new Spirit Animal books).  They sometimes give such detailed re-tellings my eyes gloss over, but I listen.  If I don't understand what they're saying I'll ask questions but only so I can comprehend what they are saying not for the sake of getting more details or checking in on their reading.   
I know they won't continue plow through a book if they aren't comprehending the story.  They will stop and ask questions if they need to so I don't feel the need to stop and ask them. 

They'll tell me all about the story if they loved it and want to share it with me so I don't ask them detailed questions about what they read.  They'll tell me if a book was boring and they hated it.  They confess that they only read a few of the pages and then decided they had had enough.  They'll ask me to return books to the library and tell me "I didn't read it; I thought it was going to be like (such and such) but it wasn't."

I don't pick out their books for them and I don't force them to read books they aren't interested in reading. 

I know that when my boys were in public school they had entire binders of reading response journal pages, question and answer sheets and all sorts of other comprehension lessons.  I worried over the fact that we never worked on any of that.  I worried that perhaps something was missing from their learning by ignoring that aspect of reading (and sometimes I still do) but I also know there is good evidence to the contrary. 

There are whole thoughts of learning that tell us we shouldn't ask questions when reading stories with children. 

I have heard my boys make connections to books that we've read together that I would have never even thought about and that's kind of the point. 

We all make different connections to each story, book, and character so how can I ask my boys a question looking for one or two right answers when everyone's interpretation and absorption of story is different? 

Our Experiences are NOT the same: 


  • Have you ever read and re-read a favorite book of yours?  I have many books that I have read over and over again throughout my life.  Some books I started reading when I was fairly young and still in grammar or high school and I didn't come away with the same understanding of the book when I was older and married, and I sure didn't come away with the same understanding as I got even older and became a mother.  I related to different characters each time I read the book based on what was happening in my life and the point I was at in my life.  
Good books, GREAT books relate and speak to us all, but they speak in different voices at different times to all of us.  

Who am I to mold what the book is saying to my sons?  I let them hear and I listen to them tell me how their books speak to them.  So I don't ask; I listen.  In listening I've learned more about my boys and their ability to read, comprehend and relate stories to their own lives.  I've found that this is more meaningful and pushes them on to read more and try out new books with relish and delight.  So I guess I must be doing something right. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

A mesh of schooling and unschooling

   Today we had a whole entire day at home.  I can't remember the last time that has happened.  We didn't have to go anywhere at all today and I was really hoping to get a substantial amount of schoolwork done; mostly to make myself feel better since I feel like we've just been on the go so much.  We did get a rather late start to our day though. I spent a portion of the morning on the computer with Ian.  My husband had worked with him last night to disassemble the VCR even more and go over the various parts of the machine with him.  My husband explained how the circuit boards are made, why when Ian shines his flashlight on them he can see through some sections and not see through others and even helped us find a few pages of information to read on VCR's for Ian to write his report with.  We have officially changed his science fair project at this point and even though my husband joked that Ian was reporting on 20 something year old technology neither one of us could say he wasn't passionate about it.  I haven't seen Ian this engaged in anything we've done in a long time.  Fast forward to this morning when Ian and I spent the morning on Amazon looking up engineering kits and adding tons of Lego technic sets (complete with motor kits) to his Christmas wish list.  We requested a free Dyson Ideas Box-- a box from the James Dyson Foundation available to schools and homeschools that encourages students to think and problem solve.  We also requested a Dyson Engineering Box that allows students to assemble and disassemble a vacuum cleaner.  I was really impressed with all the teaching ideas found on the James Dyson Foundation's webpage and I hope to use it to inspire Ian to create even more.  He already wants to try designing a bridge using spaghetti that would be strong enough to hold up a 1/2 pound of sugar!  I promised him a few intensive weeks of hands on science the minute we get our science fair projects done. 


   As soon as everyone was ready to start school I encouraged them to work on their science fair projects for a little while.  The fair is just under two weeks away and we still have a lot to do.  Alec worked on adding a few more facts to his Venn Diagram while Ian and I watched a Youtube video on how VCR's work.  This is the first video in a three part series and I wanted to watch the first one with him and teach him how to take notes.  We also pulled out an old VHS tape to look at and plan on taking one apart to see how they work inside.  We figure we'll add information about that to his report.  While I was working with Ian, Evan was working on copying the last two turtle names down onto paper for his report.  We read two more turtle books together and then we typed up a few more facts onto his report.  We read Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out and One Tiny Turtle while Ian worked on pulling more pieces apart from the VCR and started trying to label them. 
   Alec and Ian took a math minute dividing by 8's today.  This is new for both of them and they struggled a bit.  Ian actually only got 2 wrong and I was impressed that he did so well on his first try.  He wanted to take another test right away but I told him he had to wait until Monday.   All three boys then worked on a page in their math workbooks today.  Evan actually had so much fun on his page writing the 10's and 1's that he did two pages and told me I'm the best mom for making school fun.  That he would say that while we were working in their workbooks made me laugh; I hate workbooks and can't stand how much we're relying on them lately but as soon as the science fair is over and we have more time we'll be back to verbal math and math games and more "fun" stuff!  Ian reviewed his 6 times tables and Alec chose a page working on dividing by five.  They both enjoyed an "easy" day of math and happily went to play the moment they finished. 
    They all went to play quietly upstairs and though I had more work I wanted to do with them I did not want to interrupt them while they were all playing so nicely together!  I took a few moments to do some laundry, dishes and quickly price out a vacation package for a family friend (I swear I should have just become a travel agent way back when--- I do love to plan! and I love vacations!).  I found Ian and Evan working together to rebuild one of Evan's Lego sets.  They had already cleared off his table to make room for it and everything.  Alec just finished up book 3 in his Spirit Animal book and was playing with his Lego sets in his own room.  He did inform me I needed to order book 5 for him since he read the other two books in just under 4 days and he had already started in on book 4 so it wouldn't last him through the weekend.  I warned him that book 5 is the last book out for this series and he shrugged and said he'd find other books to read when he was done. 

     The boys all came down for lunch and I offered to cook it for them today.  They've been great about making their own lunches and even all made their own dinner last night so I didn't mind.  We read another chapter in Harry Potter while eating and then Evan and I sat down to work on some reading and phonics.  Ian switched all the laundry around for me and started another load of clothes while Alec read some more of his chapter book.  Evan and I worked together on a sheet picking out the vowel sound in the middle of the CVC words.  We then read I'm a Frog! together.  We LOVED this book.  It was so funny!  He was giggling and laughing and doing such an amazing job of combining his sight words with sounding out.  It was a predictable text so he even managed to read whole phrases like "five minutes ago" without pausing.  We found a small pigeon drawn on the back page and he asked me if it was part of the pigeon series. I told him that Elephant and Piggie are an entire series in and of themselves written by Mo Willems, the same author as his beloved pigeon books.  We now need to order more of these through our library.  It was the most enjoyable reading lesson we've had in a long time.
   As soon as I was finished reading with Evan, Alec asked if they could watch Ben- Hur.  He found this cartoon version at our library and thought it looked interesting.  He's very big into learning about ancient Rome.  I think he was a bit disappointed at first to learn that it was a religious movie and I thought that they might turn it off but all three boys ended up watching the whole thing and told me it was quite interesting.  I certainly don't object to them learning about religion even if it's not something I teach them.  Some people would even argue that it was a great history lesson.
   As soon as the movie ended Ian went outside to work on his "site" and the younger two boys went to play in Evan's room.  Ian has been hard at work leveling out our side yard.  He used rocks to outline a "house lot" complete with swimming pool and garage area.  Alec helped Evan finish up the Lego set he had been working on with Ian and I heard them talking about the book I'm a Frog! reminding each other of lines and funny parts in the book.  They played with Nerf guns, stuffed animals, Lego minifigures, and whatever else they found in his room. 

    It soon became a bit to cold for Ian to be outside (in his SHORTS!) so he wandered inside and asked me to play a game of Battleship with him.  He was smiling hugely by the time we were done because he beat me royally.  We then played a game of Scrambled States of America.  Evan came downstairs and started building with our magna tiles.  Based on his declarations of disappointment it must have collapsed a few times but he was determined to build his building.  On his third try he excitedly called me over to look at his building.  We finished our Friday afternoon up by watching Secondhand Lions, a great, funny family movie that we all enjoy.


He's so proud of his building






     I was marveling at how well all the boys had gotten along today and how much learning they had done today; some of it schoolwork, some of it not.  Yet, they didn't complain at all even once today.  I love those days where we seem to perfectly balance what they want to work on and what I'd like to see get accomplished.  It's those times that we equally mesh unschooling and sprinkle in some "real" schooling that seem to work best for us.  Too much traditional schooling and the boys all chafe at the work and with too much unschooling they all seem to wander restlessly all day without any real clear idea of what they want to do.  For us, this was a perfect day!