Wednesday, August 31, 2011

10:00 am Snack Time!

Now that we've upped our schedule to five days a week,
we get longer breaks in between activities. This has led to more creative time in the kitchen.

Here we have a carrot, sweet corn, cucumber, tomato, apple, orange, almond, raisin salad; a poached (is that how you spell it?) egg; and, organic corn chips. Snack time is definitely a highlight of our day!

What Grade Are We In?

I recently learned that, by U.S. standards (we're in Central America), my son should have been in 2nd grade. He had already done 3 months of third grade in a Waldorf school when we started homeschooling last April, so we mostly kept working at a 3rd. grade level.

At the school, where he did K-2 and started 3rd, classes were mostly taught in Spanish. He was reading English at a low 2nd grade level and writing at a 1st grade level, basically sounding out the words and writing them as he would in Spanish - a language that is, for the most part, written as it sounds.

So, I decided to stick to 3rd grade Math, Science and Spanish - but look for 2nd grade curriculum for English. Then I realized that he was more at a 4th grade level in Math. His English progressed so quickly that we're flying through the 2nd grade stuff. And, to top it all off, a teacher recently told me that I was pushing middle school content on him in our Unit Studies. Apparently, learning so much detail about the Solar System is "too much" for an eight year old - even though he loves it.

So, what grade are we in?
1st grade phonics
2nd grade grammar
3rd grade science
3rd and 4th grade math
5th grade geography
6th grade unit studies

I still haven't done the Can he read 120 words per minute test to figure out where he is in his reading, and I'm not going to.

That's the great thing about it.
We work at his level on each subject.

I'm recording everything we do in case we ever need to "show our work". Now that I know that if we were in the U.S. my son would be just now starting the 3rd grade, I think we'll stick to that on our records. We'll have done 18 months of "3rd grade" and that's just fine by me. After all, the "standard" stuff only takes up a fraction of our learning time, which is ALL THE TIME!

He's ready for things that most kids don't get until high school, if ever, unless they have really cool parents. He's ready to talk about real-world issues. I hate the idea that kids should live in fantasy la-la land bubble until they're a certain age. We talk about anything and everything that comes up: sexuality, war, third-world politics, corruption, racism, climate change, poverty and the global economy. We analyze music and movies that are not "age appropriate", and he gets them.

This post is more of a reminder to myself (and you, if you need it), when I get caught up in what we're "supposed" to be doing - grades and standards - to stay clear on why we homeschool:
critical thinking
finding passion

Thanks to M and J in a Nutshell and Through the Wardrobe for being sources of inspiration, especially when I need to remember that I want to do this creatively and outside of the lines. I'm getting there, slowly but surely!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Bone Eater

After taking a month off, it's been hard getting my son back into the practice of writing. He did keep a travel journal during our trip, but it wasn't daily.

Before the break, we'd mostly been working on writing summaries, but now I'm finding that I need to be more creative. I looked for some prompts on the internet, but wasn't very happy with what I found. So, I decided to make up my own. Here are some of them:
Describe a Monster
Give it a name. What does it look like? Where does it live? What does it eat? What does it do? What kind of sounds does it make? Use rich adjectives. Try to start each sentence differently.

If you could choose any super power, what would it be? What would you do with it?

A Magical Place
Imagine a place where anything can happen. Where are you? How did you get there? What are you doing there? What do you see around you?

The World-Saving Invention
Imagine that you have invented something that saved the world by solving one of our biggest problems. How does it work? What problem does it solve?

Letter to a Bully
Think about a time when you were bullied. Write a letter to the bully. Explain your version of what happened and how you felt. Explain why you think what he or she did was wrong.
I let him write as much as he wants, and don't try to force him to "make it longer". The better the prompt I give him, the more he wants to write. I figure in enough time for discussion before writing and after reading aloud what he wrote.

Today we did "Describe a Monster". He wrote it in Spanish (his first language), but here's a rough translation:

The Bone Eater is an evil and ferocious monster who eats children wandering up the mountain. He has a son named Cuchumolongo who also eats bones. They have claws that are one meter long and two centimeters thick. They're red and their eyes are the color of fire. They have pointy ears and tails, and they can jump very high.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Take Time to Smell the Flowers

I've come back from our summer trip with seven extra pounds from too much bread and beer, and some new ideas about homeschooling.

I'm trying to get 180 days of schooling in this year, and AR about documenting them. Before we left, I printed out a few dozen worksheets and packed a couple of books so that we could at least count ten or so days of schooling during the trip. We got all the worksheets completed without much hassle and even read one more book than I'd planned on. Seeing how much we learned on the trip and how many other activities we did, that I hadn't factored into our 180 days, I realized how much more relaxed I could be about the whole thing.

Because I didn't have our every minute planned, we were able to participate in spontaneous classes like tin-punching with my cousin and water experiments with my aunt (an amazing science teacher).

Our school year is from January-December, so we are now entering our final trimester of 3rd. grade. Our schedule will be more spread out through the day, with more breaks and independent projects. We will also be including a twice weekly bodywork routine to help me get rid of these 7lbs and count it as part of phys ed.

Instead of writing up a complete schedule, I'll leave lots of blank spaces for those unexpected experiences that should most definitely be counted as learning, and at the end of the day I'll fill them in with what we did.

I had planned on doing another Unit Study this year, on the human body. But that is seeming like an extremely huge undertaking so late in the year. Unit Studies are great, but do require lots of time and effort. Instead, we're going to work on a theatrical production - "The Pluto Monologues" - as an extension of our Solar System project. We've been working on it since we got back and absolutely loving putting it together.

So, I will try to remember what I learned on our vacation - take time to smell the flowers and anything else we feel like sticking our noses into.

On another, more "on-it mom" note - I can't believe how much hs stuff I have accumulated! My Mac died right before we left and now I'm having to transfer everything (links, bookmarks, archives, documentation and all things hs related) to my new one. A new Mac is a pretty fine thing, especially when the screen is triple the size of my head, but I was used to my old set-up and am a creature of habit. Anyway, I wish I had listened to the advice of a more experienced hs mom. It was basically - find what you need and get off that thing.

Hunting for free educational resources can become compulsive. I have found great sites, links, videos, games... but, at the end of the day, we use books, notebooks, the world globe, stuff we find around the house, and basic computer programs like Word and Powerpoint much more than we do any of the stuff I've found on-line. Lots of it is for several years time from now, but it was cool so I went ahead and stored it like a rodent. Now it's so much that I don't have enough time to really go through it all. I'm terribly stubborn and only learn by making mistakes. Should've taken the advice, but now I know, and will try to cut down my hunting to half an hour weekly, and have even more time for those flowers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer Journey 2011 in photos

waving a see-you-soon to our volcanoes

first stop - California
appreciating the size of the redwood trees

first night of camping

we spent 45 hours total in the car
(we don't normally travel in cars
more than a few times a year,
and only for short distances)

we flattened pennies

camped in a wild and windy desert

had a run-in with an angry centipede

visited the Homol´ Ovi Hopi Ruins in Arizona
and got a great historical tour

got to New Mexico
and played on my aunt's real piano
(we only have a tiny keyboard at home)

got quite a lot of schoolwork done
in no-stress bits and bobs
whenever we felt like it

fetched eggs from the chicken coop every day

found all kinds of shapes and colors
in the clouds and the flowers

learned to ride

took hikes and even saw a bear!

hung out with the cousins
at the swim hole by the river

practiced sumo wrestling

hunted, caught, interacted with, and released snakes

it was an epic journey!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Dream Come True

For the first time ever, my son gets to ride a horse.
This is also the first time I get to bring him to the place I spent my summers as a child, and where I used to ride with my father...
Funny to see him as I was two and a half decades ago.