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!


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