Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekend Unschooling Opportunities

Since we began homeschooling and I started reading and learning about unschooling,  I find that we learn at all times of the day and night, every day of the year. 

All kids have a way of teaching themselves and learning more about the world around them every single day. 

If you look for it you can see and hear new ways in which they develop they skills. 

Sometimes it's something as simple as a child asking what a new (to them) word means, sometimes it's a skill they've been working on and have finally mastered,  and sometimes it's something more subtle that you only notice as time has passed and you look back thinking about how much they have changed.

We started our weekend with another Karate class.  Alec and Evan wanted to head back to the dojang on Saturday and participate in another class.

On the way they brought their DS games which had Alec working on vocabulary words since his Pokémon game asked him to pick a work that best describes himself he could choose between words like diligent, adamant, naughty, serious, etc.  He asked me which one I thought best described him but I put the question back on him and asked him what HE thought.  There was a list of 20 words or so and he slowly went through them all stopping now and then to ask what a word meant.  He decided to pick serious since he's "serious about his Pokémon game!"

Once at karate they participated in an obstacle course and attempted to do pull-ups using a bar.  Alec was able to do a pull- up or two before his arms got tired.  The boys had so much fun ducking, dodging, weaving, punching, skipping, hopping, and cartwheeling over obstacles.  They reviewed Korean terms for different moves and kicks and worked on stretching and control. 
While they were at karate, Ian was hard at work with his father and grandfather.   Ian looks so forward to going to work on Saturdays and spends most of the day with his grandfather helping out with whatever he is working on. 

Sometimes he comes home filthy, but he always comes home happy.  I hope that whatever he decides to do with his life that he always manages to enjoy his work that much. 

He's learning new skills and using new tools all the time. 
The boys spent a good portion of the weekend outside (between rain storms) playing and riding bikes, scooters, and the like.  They ran, used the swing sets, played with sticks and swords and did all kinds of yelling and screaming. 

Whenever the rain started coming down hard the boys would come inside.  They played twister, video games, hide and seek and other fun games.

We worked on our family puzzle, read books and cleaned house. 
The boys observed nature while being outside but also when we were inside.  Of course, we often looked out the window to see what the weather was like but we also got to see a fox crossing the ice on the lake.  The boys were all excited about this and Alec was happy to answers all the questions about foxes.  We compared the different temperatures we encountered each day and tried to gauge the amount of rainfall we received.
We went to breakfast Sunday morning and Ian was able to guess the restaurant bill total (he estimated and ended up being off by only $.50!) 

We headed to my husband's work and checked out some of the machinery he's been building.    The boys love climbing on all the huge metal structures he builds and this time Alec practiced his balancing skills and his karate moves.  The boys sat down and meditated, tried lying down and even holding themselves in a plank pose.

We estimated the amount of welds it took to hold it together and talked about how the machine works.  The boys raced each other around the shop and worked on being fair. 

We listened to even more of our book and CD and talked about whether or not we want the next book in this series or to start at the beginning with the Percy Jackson books and listen to them all; the boys chose (unanimously!) to go on to the next book in THIS series. 
Alec had a birthday party and got to run through a laser maze, climb a rock wall, play air hockey and have fun with kids his own age.
All these ordinary, every day kind of events helps the kids build skills,  confidence, and character.   Somehow turning away from traditional schooling and forging our own path through homeschooling has really emphasized how the ordinary can really be quite extraordinary.   I know my boys are extraordinary and I just have to keep watching, observing, and embracing all the ways in which they show me that. 


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Taking Off With Math; How My Boys Show Me What They've Learned In Math

My boys are really growing in their skills and today I really noticed all the ways in which they are applying and learning math skills.

The older boys wanted to start with their math minute and Ian was thrilled that he passed his 8 times tables and has only his 9's and 12 times tables left.  That ice cream party is so close he can almost taste it!
While they worked on that Evan asked if he could to the dot to dot on the computer but counting by ones instead of by two's.  So I went back to ABCya! and found him the dot to dot page.
Alec moved onto to his math workbook and knew what he needed to do for his next page while Ian and I worked a bit with our fraction tiles.  I was showing him (& asking him to show me) equivalent fractions.

From there we moved onto reducing fractions, which was today's lesson in his workbook.

He struggled with it a bit mostly because he's afraid to make mistakes.  We talked about that being a part of learning and I think I may have gotten him to loosen up a little...maybe.  I told him his workbook is a WORKbook, it can be messy, it can have eraser marks, lines, scribbles, etc.  It's for working, learning and figuring things out.  He smiled a bit and I noticed he started making notes to help himself next to each equation.  He made a few mistakes but seems to have the general concept.

Alec finished his page and started telling me all the answers to the next page; which was multiplying by 10's.  He stopped more than half way through and said "why am I doing this?  I'm just going to have to do this all over again!"  To which I replied "nope, I was just thinking if you got through this whole page I'd mark it as done and then you don't have to do any math work on Monday."  A moment or two later when he still hadn't made a single mistake I stopped him and marked it as right.  He obviously got the concept!

Next thing I knew he had completed 5 more pages!

He worked with reading the names of numbers and writing them, place value, ordering numbers from least to greatest and greatest to least, he worked with fractions too.  He was writing fractions and even making equivalent fractions! 

"Now I don't have to do any math work next week!" He declared.

I expect at least one page a day to be done but they can always do more if they want.  I will never tell them to put down their math books!  Ian then started flipping ahead and found some easier pages and orally completed a multiplication fact page too.

I guess I found the right motivation for these math workbooks!

Evan asked if he was done school today and I asked him if he could do one last thing for me-- count to 100.  I had planned on having him do a dot to dot puzzle starting at 100 and counting down to 1 but he had assured me he did NOT know how to count to 100.

To make it more fun both Evan and I got up off the couch and did jumping jacks and hopping on one foot while he counted to 100.  He lost his place a time or two but if I counted a few numbers before where he trailed off he was able to find his place again and made it all the way to 100 without any mistakes.

 I told him he could go play and that I didn't have anything else planned for him.

He decided to sit at the table and "play" with the fraction tiles until his brothers were available to play with him.

Once Ian was done with his math book he wanted a snack and I offered to coach him through making Chex Mix.  Typically I'd give him the recipe and have him read and follow the directions but I don't really use the recipe and I modify it as I go along.

He pulled out all the ingredients and I talked him through the amounts to use.  He knew which measuring tools to use; the 1/4 tsp. measure 3 times for 3/4/ the 1/2 tsp. three times for 1 1/2 tsp., etc.

 Ian was bored later in the afternoon and I offered to help him make some more snacks and treats.

It seems that everyone in this house has a real sweet tooth lately and our groceries just aren't lasting.  We decided to make some brownies and since there are directions right on the box I left him to do it by himself.  It's great reading, reading comprehension, science, and math practice for him-- not that he knows that.  He just thinks "oooh, yummy brownies!"

The younger boys, who had been playing outside, came back inside once the rain picked up and Evan wanted to make some mousse.

We did a double batch so he had to add 2- 3/4 cups together and came up with 6/4.  I did tell him we could turn that into 1 1/2 but since he's only 6 I had him measure out 6 -1/4 cup measures.

We then turned on the mixer and I had Alec tell us what time it would be when 5 minutes went by.  I showed Evan the clock on the stove and told him it was 2:18 that the first number before the dots tell us the hour and the numbers after the dots tell us the minutes.

He then called out the time every minute as the clock changed.  He even told me when we only had one minute left until we had to turn off the mixer.

He turned it off the second the clock turned to the correct time and we started scooping out the mousse into dessert cups.  The house smelled heavenly between the mocha mousse and the brownies baking in the oven. 

I just loved seeing them apply what we were learning about in school to real life.

Math is the one subject I was never confident to teach my boys without using workbooks but I really do want them to know how to take what their books are teaching them and apply those concepts to their everyday lives. 

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Friday, March 28, 2014

A Very Easy Day with Short, Simple Lessons

We had planned on heading out to a game day with our homeschool group and I knew I wanted the older boys to work on one page in their new math workbooks while Evan and I would play a sight word game and read a book together.

That's all the schoolwork I had planned.  I figured we'd keep it short and simple today!

I believe in keeping most of our lessons short and sweet. 

  • I know that my boys don't always have the longest attention span and after 10 minutes or so they are not really paying attention anymore.
  • I know that my boys are more willing to work when I am not expecting more than they can give me.
  • I know that a lot of learning can happen when you add up short lessons over time. 
  • I know that not all learning has to happen through books or through my teaching so I plan  just a few short activities for us to do and then follow the boys lead for the rest of our day.   

Knowing I didn't have much planned I wasn't worried about starting school that early this morning.  I let the boys lay around after waking and they watched some TV and played some video games.  It's so nice to say "yes" to them!  They watched Wild Kratts, Duck Dynasty and played World of Zoo.

As soon as they opened their books they both balked.  I told them to calm down, take deep breaths and only focus on the page we're working on for today.  Ian was still a bit apprehensive.  I went over today's assignment with him and while he wanted me to check his work repeatedly he really was getting it; though I had to continually point it out to him that he was getting it all right!

He had to practice multiplying by 10, 100, and 1,000.  I think it was the sheer size of the numbers that was intimidating him because he understood to add one zero to the end of any number being multiplied by 10, two zeros to any multiplied by 100, and three zeros to anything being multiplied by 1,000.  He had some difficulty deciding where the commas went in each of the numbers.  As part of this page he also had to break down answers that had been multiplied by 100 and 1,000 and come up with the original number-- he did great!

At dinner they were bragging to their dad about how easy it was even though it was hard work. 
Alec's workbook page started with having him write out the number in words-- 3,452 as three thousand, four hundred fifty two.  It was great spelling practice for him and he breezed right through the page.  He also had to take some numbers that had been written out in words and write them as numbers.  The only one that stumped him was five thousand eight which he wrote as 5,08.  Once I showed him he only had numbers enough for five hundred eight he knew he had to add another zero and he knew he had to add it in BEFORE the 8.

 He even looked at tomorrow's assignment and told me that was easy too. 
I figured there would be a period of adjustment before the boys were comfortable working with workbooks; but they surprised me!

In between helping the boys with their math assignments I played a memory sight word game with Evan.  He totally kicked my butt!  He must have had at least 5 more matches than me by the end of the game.  I blamed it on his older brother's distracting me.  I'm normally quite good at memory games but I just couldn't focus today and so Evan won.  He read the majority of the words to me and had lots of fun working with his sight words. 

 The older boys finished their books right around the time we finished our game and I told them that since it was their first day with their new books and they had been dreading it so much I was going to give them the rest of the day off.
We worked together in the kitchen to pack lunches and pulled out some games to bring with us to our homeschool game day.

Alec and Evan decided to start playing a game of Mario chess and Alec continues to teach Evan how to play.  They played a few rounds and I had to intervene a few time when Alec was getting frustrated with Evan.  I just kept reminding him that Evan was learning and yelling at him wasn't going to help.  Evan is such a good sport about loosing and he's determined to figure out the strategy to playing chess.  He loves Alec's Mario set and always wanted to play with it.  Alec doesn't usually want to play with Evan since he's not hard to play against so now Evan is really applying himself to try and learn. I love it!  Alec recruited me to play a game or two with him too. 

While Evan and Alec played games Ian worked on his Lego's,  played in his room and then worked on finishing up his snake painting.   They all decided they didn't want to go to game day after all and settled down to have some lunch.

After lunch the boys all headed outside with their new wooden swords and axes.  They played outside together for over an hour.  They had such fun playing in the woods and chopping trees (though I use that term loosely as they mostly just knocked small dead twigs off of trees).  They rode scooters and bikes and had some fun in the sun.
Their grandmother called and took them to her house for the afternoon to work a bit in her yard raking and breaking up the ice.

We had a nice easy day with just a bit of light schoolwork sprinkled in.  It was nice to get outside and spend so much time soaking in the fresh air. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Combining Movies and Hands on Activities for Optimal Learning

Woohoo! We started school at 9 this morning!  We set a goal to start school easier and today we managed to hold ourselves to that goal...  We're still trying o incorporate a lot of games and hands on learning opportunities and decided to add quite a few movies into our day too.

Evan came downstairs around 9 after having helped clean the bathrooms and playing with his Lego's for a bit and asked if we could start school.

I showed him a computer game I found on ABCya! where he can connect the dots while counting by 2's.  He was excited to try this game and did really well with it.  I stayed nearby in case he needed help but he managed to count all the way to 100 by 2's without any difficulty.

He enjoyed it so much he asked me to save it on the computer so he could play it again another time.  I only wish they had more pictures to choose from.

Evan picked out another book to read to me and I was impressed that he knew the title "Best Friends" without seeming like he sounded it out or anything.  He read through the whole story with only a mistake or two and got real excited when I told him we were going to play Bang! again today.

I had pulled out the old sight word flash cards and put in his new words and we had such a fun time learning together.  He did really well with most of the words and I was glad to see how many of the new words he already knows. 

By the time Evan and I sat down to play Bang! the older boys had made their way downstairs too.  Ian did his math minute and then pulled out his extreme dot to dot book and worked on that for a while.  Alec wanted to wait to do his math minute and instead started with his color by number paper.

I let them choose what they wanted to do for math today since their new books will be in later and we'll be starting on those tomorrow.  They could choose dot to dots, color by numbers, or Sudoku or anything else that was "fun" with numbers.

Once Evan was done math and reading he went to go play and soon I was left with just Alec.  He wanted to try his math minute and was so disappointed when he had two more left to fill out and the timer rang.  I offered to let him try and take the test orally so I grabbed anther blank test, set the timer for one minute and stood next to him while he called out the answers-- he managed to get all 21 questions in under 30 seconds.  I considered that "knowing" his facts and told him to add another scoop to his ice cream cone.  He's now working on his 9 times tables since he believes the 9 times tables are easy.  He's found a pattern with them that has helped him memorize these facts quite quickly. 
Once all the boys were done with math they took off back to their room (and each other's rooms) to play with their Legos.  I let them play for a bit while I did some laundry and worked on the computer and then we reassembled at the kitchen table for science.

Since the boys had so much fun with the magnets yesterday I thought we'd conduct an experiment using them today.

  • I have been wanting to try to show the boys the iron in our cereal and so we followed Steve Spangler's Eating Nails experiment.  
  • We modified the experiment slightly since we used two different kinds of cereal (each with a different iron content).  
  • We compared raisin bran to frosted mini wheats and I had them predict which one they thought had more iron.  
  • We started by crushing each cereal and seeing if we could get any flakes or pieces to move around the plate using our magnets.  The boys were diligent about making sure they tried each of the three magnets during each step of the experiment to see if there were any differences.  
  • Once they tried moving dry crumbs around on the plate they tried getting a piece of cereal to cling to the magnets by pressing down on the flakes with the magnets.  
  • Finally we tried adding a bit of water to the cereal pieces and seeing if we could get anything to move along the top of the water.  Ian managed to get a few flakes of the mini wheats to stick to his magnet so he guessed that the mini wheats had more iron.  
  • We took two quart size freezer bags and added 1 cup of cereal to each bag.  We then poured hot water until the bags were 2/3 of the way full and then mushed the cereal and water around a bit with our hands.  
  • We set them aside in a bowl to sit for 20- 30 minutes and then checked them with the magnets to see if we could attract any of the iron with our magnets.  I hoped and prayed that something would show but I just wasn't sure if our magnets would be strong enough to make a difference.  They weren't! 
  • The boys and I were so bummed so we decided to buy some stronger magnets and try again another day.  
I hate it when our science experiments fail.  I know it's still a learning experience but it's always such a let down.
searching for anything moving near the magnet

Ian got a flake to stick

our cereal slurry
 My goal for the day had been to do some art with the boys.  I felt like it had been a long time since we had done a real art project.  They each added their own twist to their art work and I just love watching their creativity take over.

 Alec took samples of green paint and made me look up a picture of an anaconda so he could make sure he had the "right" shade of green for his snake.  Ian chose to make a milk snake and already knew the color pattern he wanted to use.

They worked on these painting throughout the day in fits and spurts, setting them aside to dry or when they had had enough and picking them back up again when they felt like it.

Alec's painting is all finished.

Ian is still working on his painting
We watched Born to Be Wild.  It was a very interesting documentary about orphaned elephants and chimpanzees in Africa. They all really enjoyed it so much.  It was funny and cute at times; who doesn't love baby animals?  While watching the movie the boys got their lunches all ready.  They worked together to put their lunch on the table and I am so grateful that they're becoming so independent.  Once lunch was over they settled in to watch the rest of the movie and I had to snap a picture of my younger two enjoying one another and the movie.

These glimpses of friendship are so rewarding and reaffirm my belief that homeshcooling is the right thing for us.  Once the movie was over all the boys were acting out that they were chimps trying to carry one another around on their backs.

We also watched Families of Russia this afternoon.

It was a cold, windy day and was just perfect for snuggling on the couch watching movies.  I even offered to pop some popcorn so we had a fun snack in the living room.

The boys love this series and asked me to request a few more of them.  They compared the two families shown on the movie to one another, to our lives and to the other movies we've seen so far in this series.

 The boys spent the afternoon playing, painting, and watching movies.  Evan played World of Zoo for a bit on the Wii and all three boys spent their evening after dinner working out on the treadmill, elliptical machine and playing ping pong.

Alec even challenged my husband to a game of chess.  He loves chess and has been working on teaching just about every family member we have to play chess and while he doesn't always win, or win easily I'm always uncertain that we're all playing "right."  It would be nice to get him together with other kids who know and understand the game too.

All in all it was another (dare I say?) perfect day filled with fun learning games and activities.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Magnets, Movies, and Games Make Us Happy

The boys all happily playing in one room together with all their Lego sets I was not anxious to interrupt them and start school.  They had been so helpful with all the housework this morning that I didn't mind letting them have free time to play.  I love days when they're all getting along and everyone is smiling and happy.

When the boys came down to start school the first thing they noticed was the magnets and metal pieces I had put out.  They were drawn to this simple science play and spent a long time playing with all the magnets.

  • They tried shaking the magnets once things were stuck to them to see if they could get them to fall back off.  
  • They tried sticking all the magnets to each other.  
  • They used the magnets to pick up the metal pieces and move them all around.  
  • We discovered it was really hard to get the metal shards and pieces off the magnets!

"it's all hairy!"

The older boys settled in for some math fun-- I had written answers onto each bubble of some bubble wrap and handed them a stack of flash cards.  As they solved equations they could pop the answer.

They seemed to really enjoy this activity and it was great division fact practice.  They then practiced their multiplication cards and took their math minutes.  I love when math is accompanied by smiles and laughter! 

Evan wanted to make some noise too so he went into the living room and played pop the sight words.

I had these long bubble wrap tubes that came in my Amazon order and I wrote a sight word on each tube.  He would read me the sight word and then pop the word.  He tried jumping, karate chopping, using his stuffed animal, pulling the word apart, etc. to break open all the poppers.

He had so much fun experimenting with different ways and watching what happened when one word popped.

  • He noticed that the force sometimes made them pop open at both ends. 
  •  He noticed that sometimes the release of air moved other words around it.  
  • He noticed that if he pulled them apart the air released slowly and didn't make any noise (or else made a slight hissing sound).  
It was great that he added some uniquely science observations to his reading.  There's just something about jumping and making noise that makes these types of learning activities so much more fun!

For math Evan practiced jumping by 2's.  I took mini post it notes and wrote the numbers from 2- 60 (counting by two's only) on each note.  I set them down around our dining room table and Evan would hop from one note to the other calling out the number as he went.

It must have been a lot of fun because I found him doing this several times throughout the day; it was such a fun way to practice counting by two's!

 The older boys wrote another page in their cursive books and Evan wrote his entire name two times.  They all did really nice work using their best writing and as a bonus even Evan was able to write part of his name using a colored pen.  He thought that was just great.
Evan and I worked on making a sample Lemur for his Madagascar report.  This paper Lemur is going to be his hands- on project and we wanted to make sure we'd have all the supplies we needed packed up with us.  I also wanted to make sure it wasn't to hard or to time consuming a project for people to make.  I think we'll look around for some small sticky back googlie eyes to use since the eyes were really hard to cut out and besides, I think googlie eyes make most craft projects more fun for kids. 

Alec and I worked on the computer for a bit.  We went to Pinterest and looked up Japanese snack and craft ideas.  He decided he wanted to make paper lanterns as his hands- on project and so we settled down to make a sample.  He took out colored pencils and used his sample of Japanese writing to add some characters to his lantern.

Alec also spent part of his day looking through his bin of rubber stamp animals trying to find an animal that he could use as the passport stamp for the children who visit his table.  After a bit more reading about Japan and the animals that are found there.  He finally settled on a sea turtle stamp.  We had read that sea turtles will lay their eggs on a few of Japan's sandy beaches so he was quite excited about that. 

While working on Ian's Guyana project we've really been struggling with a hands- on activity to go along with it.  He really wanted to study Guyana because of the show Gold Rush.  He loves that people mine for gold and diamonds there.  In keeping with his truck obsession we finally decided to set up a mini mining site inside a tote/ bucket for the geography fair so he spent some time looking through our toy bins for the right kind of trucks.

We also printed out the information that he has written up and started assembling his board.  It's a good thing we did too-- we discovered he only has room for another 3-4 pages of "stuff" and he really wanted to write up a couple of pages about mining and print out some mining pictures.  So we deleted the half- page or so he had written up about their history.  I love that these homeschooling geography fairs are so flexible and allow the kids to really focus on what is important to them about each region they chose to learn about.

We watched a Disney World Of Music DVD during lunch and learned a lot about music.  The movie was great-- it combined Disney rides, sights, and movies with real music applications.

  • We learned what sheet music looks like, we learned about rhythm, melody, and beats.  
  • We learned about all the families of instruments and got to hear salsa music, classical music, and pop music samples.  
  • We saw adults and young children playing instruments and watched a whole orchestra playing together.  

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The DVD inspired the kids to find new way to make music and they started "playing" the table, the door, their empty IBC root beer bottles and so much more.  They talked about what was vibrating to make the sound each time and tried to determine which family of instruments it would fall into.  Evan brought down his guitar and the two younger boys spent the afternoon making up their own music, their own dances, their own songs, and their own way to play the guitar.

Ian pulled out some computer paper and sketched a drawing of a dragon that he wanted to add to his sword.  He has put several coats of red paint on it and wanted to end with a picture of a black dragon going down the blade of it.  Then the boys spent a bit of time playing outside and in their rooms with their Lego sets before getting ready for Karate.
 At karate we learned that Evan was chosen out of all the kids in his age group to be April's student of the month.  His master explained that he had been noticing how focused, well behaved and the "black belt attitude" that Evan has been exhibiting.  Evan was so proud and couldn't wait to tell everyone that he was student of the month.  All three boys earned the next stripe on their belt and Ian moves up to the next belt level during Friday's graduation ceremony.  I'm always a bit nervous for them on stripe evaluation night because the evaluations can get pretty tough and expectations are high.  Yet, they always seem to rise to the occasion and do quite well with the added pressure and expectations. 
This was one of those perfect homeschooling days where each subject was the right mix of fun and learning.  Each activity flowed to the next and we were able to just relax and have a good time with lots of smiles.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Using A Family Meeting To Guide Our Homeschool Journey

After feeling like I have been in turmoil over how our schooling is going lately we started out our week with an informal family meeting.

I try to have these family meetings with the boy every few months; or at least a few times a year.  It helps us all to sit back and evaluate what we like and what we don't like about our homeschooling days and routines.  

Well, I guess it isn't really a  family meeting since my husband was already at work, but since he supports us no matter what we do we don't often include him.  I sat down with the boys and talk to them about how we're all feeling about school lately.

I asked them for their input: 

  • Their only complaint was that they don't get unlimited time (or more time) to play video games. 
  • Evan begged to keep reading to me each day and wants to continue working on sight words, adding, and "taking away" so we're all set there. 
  • Ian didn't have any input about  anything he wanted to change.  He's probably been the most easy going about homeschooling out of the three. 
  • They miss having their afternoons off and having large chunks of time available.

Then I told them how I have been feeling; what i think is working and what changes I'd like to see...  

I try to just make small changes and only when necessary.  I still would like to try and follow their lead most of the time while sprinkling in some more traditional subjects.

Is it awful that I didn't  take their video game complaint seriously?  I don't think so.

I know they LOVE video games and they would play them a lot more if they were allowed, but I also know they spend a few hours every day playing/ watching/ engaging in everything we own that has a screen.  I put a challenge to Alec to write down the start and stop time of all his screen time for one week so we could see just how much time he was getting to devote to his passion.  But I warned him that he has to spend time doing other things and I don't plan on adding additional time for him to pursue this.  He spends just plenty!

I warned the older boys that since they're getting into more advanced math it's getting harder and harder for me to find games and hands- on ideas so I have ordered a new math series for them. 

I'd like to stick to a schedule of doing one math worksheet a day in these new books with a quick lesson or review for each of them.  Math is one area I always question if we're doing enough, if I'm missing concepts that I should have taught them, etc. and I think having a set curriculum will really help (I hope and pray I can stick with this unlike our last math series!).   Plus I did tell him I would still play math games, use fun manipulatives like candy and make math fun.

I have warned the boys that as they get closer to high school age we'll have to add in a lot more writing to our day.  They are all reluctant writers and it's one subject I feel like we have been neglecting completely!

I sat and talked with Ian, my oldest, about why he wants to go to high school, what he hopes to get out of his learning experiences and even some of his long- term life goals.  I know he's only 10 and it will change but it's nice to have an idea of where they'd like to end up in life.

I encouraged all three boys to spend more time on the computer looking for learning tools, games, and videos (with my help) and learning to type.

They didn't seem thrilled by this prospect either so we may push off the typing skills for a few years.  I thought they would jump at the chance to be on the computer more but if I was wrong that's OK.

Our biggest change was that instead of starting school at 10 we're going back to starting school early in the morning and finishing by lunchtime. 

At least that will be our new goal; it remains to be seen whether we can achieve that or not.  We all agreed that it is much nicer to have all afternoon to go off and do things, play with toys, and just have fun without school work hanging over our heads.

BUT, in order to start school earlier I've recruited the boys to help with my list of daily chores.  To my surprise they eagerly helped out. 

With our meeting done, we headed into our day.  While I vacuumed the upstairs rugs, Ian vacuumed the downstairs carpets and Alec and Evan worked together to wipe down all the bathroom counters and sinks.  We were done in minutes!

We started school (at 10!  Grrr!) with math today and the older boys each had a math minute.  I then let Alec and Ian pick their own page out of the old math books we had to work on for today until their new books come in this week.  Alec chose to work with geoboards and elastic bands while Ian chose a review sheet of adding and subtracting 3 and 4 digit numbers, comparing using greater than and less than signs, writing fractions and telling time.  He did really great but got stuck with subtraction with regrouping-- a concept that has always given him grief.

While the older boys were hard at math so was Evan.   He had a subtraction paper and we used a row of dinosaurs as counters.  It's great that just a simple thing like swapping out counters makes math so much fun for him.  He divided them into teams of herbivores and carnivores and set to work.  He did great!

As soon as math was done he set off to play with his dinosaurs and the pattern blocks.  He sorted pattern blocks into piles and then him and Alec used them as food to feed the dinosaurs.  They pulled out the scale and tried to make sure all dinosaurs had equal amounts of food.  They used green blocks for the herbivores and orange and blue blocks for the carnivores.  They had this whole elaborate play system set up and I didn't want to disturb them.

Throughout the day I just took notes and observed each child, helping them with schoolwork when they asked. 

Evan and I played sight word bingo together and read another of his mini books.  We're more than half- way through his series of books and he's getting faster at finding the pattern in the text. Today he told me that the word "put" couldn't be "party" because it wasn't long enough and didn't have that "r" sound.  It's so nice to see he's finally catching on to this whole reading thing!

While Evan and I were reading and playing word games Ian was reading a book about animals of Guyana.  He wanted to add to his report and asked me to help him get the computer up and going.    We got two more pages done for his report and have some nice eye catching pictures to add to his board.  I also learned that animals like river otters, manatees, and ant eaters are found in Guyana-- I had no idea!

Once Evan saw Ian working on his report he wanted to work on his a bit too and asked me to help him find a food from Madagascar (that he would actually like) to bring for our snack.

We read through the index of just about every Madagascar book we have so we could read about their food:

  • We learned they eat a ton of rice-- more than even most Asians eat.  
  • We learned they eat a lot of fresh fruit. 
  • We discovered that while they don't necessarily eat tapioca pudding they do export tapioca; so we're going to see if Evan likes tapioca pudding.  
Once we decided on that he asked if we could read one of his book about lemurs (as if I'd say no!).  So we settled into learn all about lemurs.  By the time we were done everyone was hungry for lunch.

We had lost track of Alec all morning while he was up in his room.  He was content to let his brothers work on their schoolwork with me while he worked on putting together some Lego sets.

We had a great morning they were content, quiet, and working hard at whatever they all chose to work on.  It was great! 

Evan asked me if I was going to help him add more to his Madagascar report and so I sat at the computer while he dictated facts to me about Lemurs.  I was so surprised when he asked me to help him write up some more facts.  They're really taking off on these geography reports this time and I'm so proud.  Once I finished typing up the facts, we also watched a video on the dancing lemur and added a few photos to his report.

He wanted to go play in the garage and outside with Ian riding scooters and so off they went.

Alec came to me and asked if he could work on his Japan report since he hadn't had a turn yet today.  I sat back down at the computer and he dictated several more facts to me about Japan's culture, some of their holidays and traditions, etc.  I was pretty impressed with his knowledge!  Especially since I haven't noticed him reading any books on Japan lately. 

Ian worked on painting his sword.

By 4:30 the boys had settled down to watch movies and play video games and I was left to marvel over all that we had accomplished in a day when the only lessons I had planned were math and reading!

 My only complaint was that school took all day today (10-3:45!); but I loved that they were all joyful about it, engaged and following their own interests.  We tend to work in fits and spurts and I guess I just have to learn to just go with it. 

We'll keep working towards our goals from our family meeting and check back in with the boys in another month or so to see how they think things are working out.

Our homeschooling journey is ever changing and I don't want to ever leave them behind forging my own path for us all while they're left wondering where I went without them.  They are the center of our learning and we have to move forward together in a way that works for us all.

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