Thursday, April 30, 2015

Signs that Homeschooling is Working

It can be hard in the day to day moments of life and homeschooling to know if what we're doing is enough.  I often worry that the boys are not building skills or retaining what we're going over.  It can be hard to judge those little baby steps they take but other days those steps can be obvious; like today.


I was blown away when Ian asked to read two chapters in The Hunger Games and offered to read all 6 pages up front (though he did change his mind after 3 and we took turns back and forth).  He did amazing!

As much as I have noticed huge growth in his reading & decoding skills I'm always a bit uncertain as to whether or not he's understanding himself as he's reading.

He tends to focus so much on the words that he doesn't always listen to himself.  I knew this was a problem two years ago when he left public school and I've never really been sure if it's something he's improving on or not.  I know he understands what we read but mostly he listens to me reading books out loud or he reads in his head.  Well, today he was reading his pages out loud and we got to a funny line and he chuckled before me; it's a small thing but it showed that he does understand even with the incredible vocabulary words that the author is using.    


I was doing my little happy dance in my head as we finished up reading when Evan came in and told me he wanted to read his book.

He settled on the couch and started reading Pete the Cat; I Love My White Shoes.  It's been a while since Evan has tried to read a book that wasn't specifically an early/emergent reader book and he did amazing!  He struggled a bit over the text itself; the font was small and white and not real easy to see but once he made it through the first page he adjusted just fine.  Alec had settled on the couch next to him to listen to the story but soon picked up his Egyptian Mythology book and buried his nose in it for quite some time.

It's indescribable how much these small moments mean to me.  These signs that I am doing OK, that this whole homeschooling this is working and that they are learning.  





Ian took the two page review test at the back of his book and finished up book 2 in the measurement series.  He did a pretty good job and since I don't make him take tests there were some problems we worked on together.  I didn't mind that he needed a few reminders or gentle prodding of questions since I had to look up a few of the answers myself!

Evan and I sat and looked through the pages he had left.  We decided together that after finishing two pages working on repeated addition (for example 3+3+3+3= ) that he could declare his book done too.  There were only 4 pages in the entire book that he didn't finish and they're all on two digit addition with regrouping and two digit subtraction with borrowing.

I don't feel for the need for him to master that right now so I told him we can move onto coins, telling time & counting by 5's (though after having him count by 5's to 100 last night at bedtime just for fun and to show me he could that doesn't seem worth going over).

We'll be reading picture book and playing games or doing activities.  I'm still stumped as to what to do for him for math next school year but for now we're just going to have fun & work on retaining skills.

Ian and Evan headed outside while Alec and I settled at the table.  He had completed one page in his math book reviewing the 9's times table.  He did a great job but I encouraged him to try something new.  Together we worked on a page that showed a chart converting cups, quarts, pints, and gallons.  This too is a concept I often struggle with (in other words it's not a skill I ever use).  He did great though and I went with him through the book showing him that I had modified quite a few of the pages for him when working on them in the future.  He was happy to discover that he is more than half-way through his book at this point.


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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tips for Homeschooling Outdoors

This morning was so sunny that I didn't want to sit inside and do schoolwork with the boys.

It was bad enough that we had to go to the grocery store and since we only go every two weeks it takes us a long time to shop and even longer to unload the car and put all the groceries away.  It was 11 by the time I was finished with all that and I was itching to get outside.

I suggested a hike but the boys all started grumbling.  They really do not enjoy hiking lately and I knew if I pushed it I would have a battle on my hands.

The boys WANTED to do schoolwork so we compromised a bit and brought it outside.


We set up some blankets and settled down in the sun to work.  They had been re-watching the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone during a late breakfast and while I was working in the kitchen so I used part of that time that they were occupied to set up some blankets and a fun sight word activity for Evan.

A few tips to make working outside more enjoyable:

  1. Think about the work you'll be bringing out--  If we're just using workbooks we'll spread out blankets and make ourselves comfortable on the lawn.  If we're thinking along the lines of messy art or science projects, a game, or even writing we'll use a picnic table.  It can be frustrating to move half way through the work when it's just not working.  
  2. Check the weather-- OK, obviously you aren't going to work outside if it's rainy or snowy. But more than once we've gone outside with a few worksheets only to find that the wind keeps trying to blow them away.  We've learned to go outside for a few minutes and really check the weather.  We can bring clipboards to keep loose papers from blowing away, set up in the sun if it's a bit cooler out or hide in the shade if the sun is really hot that day.  
  3. Be flexible-- There are a lot more distractions outside and I know that all of our schoolwork may not get done.  They may wander off to play with toys, find a bird or butterfly to chase, stare at the clouds, etc.  I have found that allowing them to wander for periods of time and then calling them back to work is one technique that has worked well for us.  Other times I just go with it; we've told oral stories about the cloud and formations...  We've used butterfly and bird chases as a jumping off point to learn more about that species....  You get the idea. 
  4. Do something unexpected-- Often I'll bring out silly string, bubbles, or find a way to use their toys for schooling.  One of the reasons we usually head outdoors for homeschooling is because we want to soak up the sun and have a break from our normal homeschooling routine.  Nothing breaks the normal faster than something unexpected.  

Bringing Our Work Outside:


Shoot the Sight Word Game--
Once outside, the older two settled on the blankets to work on their math books while Evan shot the sight words.

I wrote all of his new sight words out in chalk on the driveway and filled a large bucket with water then put a water gun in the bucket.

As he read each of the words he filled a water gun with water and blasted the word.

 Having just watched Harry Potter he often shouted "Aguamenti"-- the water spell.

 Since most of these words were new he needed some help and I walked through with him. He knew a few of them right away and made a few new connections with others.

He enjoyed this activity and while working together we came up with another idea for practicing sight words this summer.

We decided that when the weather gets nice enough to swim I'l write up his sight words on flash cards and as he reads them correctly he'll get to jump into the lake off the dock.  I thought it was a great idea!
Shoot the sight word 



He really got into this activity 


Math:
Once Evan was done with his reading the older boys asked me to check over their math.

They both completed two more pages in their books and as I corrected, Evan sat down next to me to start working on his workbook.

He only completed one page today but he did it ALL by himself!  He subtracted two digit numbers with re-grouping and only made one small error; turning one of the 7's into a 5 instead of a 6!

He told me not to look at his book at all while he worked (and wrote down everything!) then he showed me the completed page with a huge grin on his face.  I often worry that by writing for him he's not really taking in all the math as well as he should.  

I guess I don't need to worry about that! I was so proud of him and even better he was so proud of himself!

The other two boys did great on their math pages too and headed off to play on the swings or with their bikes and scooters.
Hard at work 

His completed page (the answers with 48 were to be
colored) 
Reading: 
Evan and I finished up his school day with a reading of Dick and Jane.  He read another 3 stories to me and, since I was preoccupied checking through the pages of Alec's math book to see what he still needs to complete, Evan had to hold the book, correct himself, and read it all on his own.  He did great!

Ian and I read another chapter in The Hunger Games.  He read the first three pages and then I took over and read the remainder of it to him.

Physical Education:
The boys played outside for a bit but we were so bummed to see the sky completely fill with clouds.  We ended up deciding to go to the library.  We had finished our book on CD while driving home from the grocery store this morning and we were actually running low on books, for once.



At the Library:
 Alec wanted to look for some books on Egyptian mythology and we spent some time pouring over books at our library.

We had an entire box of books waiting for us and walked out with a bulging bag.

Alec was so interested in his new mythology book that he could not wait to get started and spent much of our time at the library (as well as walking to the car and driving home) with his nose buried in it.

I was surprised to hear just how much the boys retained from The Red Pyramid and was glad to hear that they can't wait for book two The Throne of Fire to come in.

They were pretty resistant to the story in the beginning and I wasn't sure that they'd end up enjoying it.  Lucky for me, they loved it!


Learning on Their Own:
The boys settled down to watch the next Harry Potter  movie together.

When the movie was done the younger two boys wanted to go play outside with their wands.

They asked me to help them remember a few of the spells from the books series and I ended up printing off a list of them from Wikipedia; which Alec sat down to read cover to cover.  Alec and I talked about how most of the spells stem from Latin.

He had thought they were English since he noticed they have some different words like rubbish for trash or bangers for sausage.  He then asked me what country Latin came from reminding me that French was from France and German from Germany but he had never heard of a country that sounded like the word Latin.  We used Google to look it up and I tried to explain the origins to him.

Satisfied they went outside to hunt horcruxes using Alec's plastic sword as the sword of Gryffindor.


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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Meandering Through Math & Reading

After karate we had a very laid back day.  The boys each got to their own schoolwork in their own time.  We had nothing pressing planned and I was content to sit back and let them take control.  



They knew they needed to do some math and some reading and we had hoped to watch a science video but with our school year winding down into our summer schedule we're much more flexible with what we feel we HAVE to do each day.

We're toying with the idea of following the local school's calendar this year and taking the summer off like the boys asked to do.

I'm open to that idea but see them crying boredom within a few short weeks.  They have grand ideas of playing with all their school friends every day but many of them are away at camps and on vacation.

I told the boys we could play it by ear this summer but I'd still like to do a little bit of math and reading each day just so they keep those skills fresh but I promised we'd find fun ways to practice math and reading too.

Ian: 
Ian was the first one to finish his schoolwork for the day.  He worked on two more pages in his math workbook and after going through the book together we decided he only has 5 more pages left to complete.  He's so excited that he can still finish it up this week.  We read the next chapter in The Hunger Games together and this time I got him to read 3 1/2 pages.  We already have the next book on hold for us at the library; funny enough we should finish up The Hunger Games by Friday too.

Alec: 
Alec decided to settle down and complete two pages in his math book reviewing multiplication facts for the 6 times tables. He finished up just as Evan had their lunches ready and we all settled down at the table to eat.  When we were done eating and our family reading Alec went to his room and read more of his Warriors book.

Evan:
Evan didn't want to settle down to work right away and so had offered to make lunches for himself and his brother.  After lunch and our family reading we settled together to complete two pages in his math book.  Today I read him story problems that dealt with repeated addition. He had no problem coming up with the number sentences or the answers.  I showed him that we could add 6+6 or 2+2+2+2+2+2 and still get the same answer.  We talked about how we could write two multiplication sentences too 6x2 or 2x6.  We then flipped through his book and counted up that he only has 6 pages left until he's done his book.  He too can be done by Friday.  When we were all done with math Evan pulled out his new Dick and Jane Fun With our Family book and read me the first three stories.

Family Read Aloud:
I read another two chapters in Harry Potter today.  We were only going to read one but the boys all groaned when I put the book away and asked for me to keep reading.  Not one to argue when they ASK me to read I readily agreed.  W
 
Free Time when School is OVER!
The minute Evan was done school he headed outside to play with Ian in the dirt.  Ian got some new tools for his birthday and before I realized it Alec had joined them too and all three boys were digging in the dirt trying out Ian's new tools.

They played nicely together and, for once, it was a bright sunny day!  

So sunny that Ian soon came in looking for a beach umbrella or a rain umbrella that he was going to try and rig up to keep himself shaded.  I thought it was a great idea and warned him it could be quite tricky to get any umbrella to stay put in the wind but I thought it would be great use of some problem solving skills.  These boys can be pretty creative when life calls for it.
 

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Down Periscope: Exploring the Submarine Museum

We headed off to the Nautilus museum bright and early this morning.  I've been wanting to bring the boys to see the submarine and the museum for quite some time (OK the whole three years we've been homeschooling!) but we just never seemed to make it there.  There's nothing quite like learning history through fun field trips!


We arrived and had a great time searching through the museum.

They loved the control room replica where they could play with the buttons, pretend to lower and raise the sub, and pretended to order pizzas to go!  They also had fun looking through the periscopes and spotting our cars in the parking lot as well as turning them around and seeing the water, the submarine, and the sights of Groton.

We walked around the rooms reading various signs and checking out things like torpedoes, mission logs, personal effects and more.  We eventually made our way out to the submarine and each received listening devises for self- guided tours.

There are 5 different pre- recorded messages about the various components of the ship.  We learned about the living quarters, the mess halls, the control rooms; it was great.

Once off the ship they went right back to the control room replica and played for quite some time.

We finally got them all to the other end of the museum and we learned about modern submarines and torpedoes.  Ian was drawn to the ones depicting World War II and we talked about the changes in technology over time.

The kids were getting antsy and hungry so we started heading out and they played outside for a bit longer.  They took turns manning the gun and we walked around to see the various submarines that were placed outside.  We learned about small piggyback submarines and got to see a Japanese submarine too.  It was a fun way to learn a little bit about history.
 

We arrived! 

The control room 



checking the view outside through the periscope 

Torpedoes 

Getting to see inside a sub with explanations of each room 

Looking out the window onto the water 

Reading about the secret mission of the Nautilus 

Manning the guns 

An elevator made for Kennedy to get on and off the submarine;
he had back injuries that prevented him from using the ladder 

Inside the sub-- officer's mess hall 

We saw these same flags at Mystic Seaport! 

The first stairs installed in a sub in place of the traditional ladders 

Ian was amazed at how cramped the living quarters were 

The crews mess hall was multi- purpose! 

Back in the control room playing with buttons and levers 

Another model inside a newer sub; each station lights up

Learning about long range missiles 

Looking at the missiles and technology of World War II

Comparing that technology to the cold war

The kids had a ball on this gun; raising and lowering the cannons

Sometimes on each other! 

A SEAL submersible for secret missions 
The long black submarine in the very back is a Japanese sub like the one used to
bomb Pearl Harbor-- I made sure to draw all three boys attention to that one! 
The kids were finished with the museum in just an hour and a half.  

I'm sure there was a lot more we could have learned but with few hands on "things" to keep their attention they eventually got bored.

I don't force my kids to pay attention to everything when we're on a field trip.  I look to see where their interests lie and I'll occasionally bring their attention to something I found interesting.  Mostly, though I just follow their lead and figure that something new will catch their attention each time we visit a place and that they'll build up a larger pool of knowledge over time.

The kids were not nearly so excited about saying good-bye to one another though so we all went to a near-by park and spent the next 4 hours visiting, playing and having fun.  

One of the families brought their new puppy and all the kids had fun playing with her.  They made up games, ran around, climbed, jumped, and slid all around.  They even got a special treat once the ice cream truck showed up.

It was a fabulous day.
Taking the puppy for a walk 

Running around tired everyone out! 

Playing on the playground 

They had fun discovering a new park with new obstacles 

Nap time! 

Ian wants a puppy-- he just loved Libby! 

 Evan had fun and giggled a lot over Libby's playfulness 

Swinging and snacking on ice cream!  What a great way to end the day!

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