Friday, March 26

I'm off... a silent retreat.

Yes, all my homeschool mom readers, it's true. I do not have to listen to the sound of my own voice for a good 24 hours.

Man, I may never speak again.

Tuesday, March 23


It's so fun to watch your kids fall in love with the things that you love. Finding these similarities gives me hope that perhaps I am doing something worth emulating. For the past few weeks, B has been working on a project that I remember loving when I was his age. It was the write-your-own-story-and-turn-it-into-a-book-project.

Years ago, when it was my turn to do this project I remember taking great care to make it a long story (my tragic flaw was evident early on) and to draw pictures on every page. It was a story about a clock. And because I remember feelings and gists rather than facts and details all I remember is the clock moved. But I remember loving the project.

B, who is not yet the avid reader his mother was, loved this project too. That little blank book was all his and I swear I caught him caressing it. (I admit, I wanted to hold it too.) He copied his story into it with precision. It is some of his best penmanship. I mistakenly assumed he'd most love illustrating it, but that wasn't where he placed his efforts. He just liked the totality of the activity. Kind of like me.

His Friday class finished them up and presented them on a special day last week -- complete with clear fruit juice drinks and treats brought from home. Giddy parents gathered around with our cameras to hear our children read their stories, clapping for each others' young prodigies. His teacher beamed with pride, which was okay since I felt enough to share with her.

Afterwards, I asked him if he was nervous. He said, "No." Really? I'd have wanted to hide under the table to read my story aloud. After all the solidarity I felt with him in this project, I guess that's just where we're different. Whose experience was better? It doesn't matter. But I bet you I'll catch him sleeping with that little book near his pillow.

Tuesday, March 16

Bird Unit Study

Creation, being such a tangible thing, is easy for young children to grab hold of. We're basing our whole year's unit studies on the six days of creation and thinking hard about each day and the corollary outcomes of what happened on that day. I think we spent a month each looking at light, atmosphere, geology and botany. Now we're speeding up and so we spent two weeks on oceans and sealife, and now two weeks on birds.

One of J's (6th grade) favorite subjects is birds. Because he has such a vast prior knowledge of them, I just gave him a big ol' project to complete in the next two weeks. As a result, he's totally engaged and loving it.

His project has three parts:

1. Research and make a poster on one bird of your choice.
  • Draw and color the bird accurately. Pay attention to details in its markings, beak shape, feet structure.
  • Label the parts of the bird and describe what that part does. Use interesting facts specific to your bird rather than obvious uses.
  • Classify it into the Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species in which it is placed.

2. Create a habitat/biome map.
  • Carefully, color a map of the world to show these different habitats: rainforest, temperate deciduous forest, boreal/taiga forest, chaparral, grassland, savanna, desert, tundra.
  • For each habitat, include a brief paragraph of information about two birds that live there (its habits, biology).

3. Migration Essay.

  • Write a short essay about one species of bird and its migration. Include an introduction with a topic sentence, two body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

I was concerned that this would be too much to do in 7 days (we have a planned field trip and two days of Options classes, so it's not even two full weeks). But after just two days he's done with the first part of the project. Here's his poster.

And then my budding artist, B (grade 2) decided to do this amazing woodpecker picture. He's drawn it three times now in different mediums and sizes.

Last night, before bed, they both just wanted to sit and draw birds. I'm just going to go with it and give them every opportunity to do this unit the way they want to.

Other things we're doing:
  • Read Aloud: There's an Owl in the Shower by Jean Craighead George. We're four chapters in and there's already a good discussion going on about the tension between loggers and environmentalists during the Spotted Owl issue in California. I love having this conversation with my kids. Their mama is a pure tree-hugger.
  • Second Read Aloud: Bright Wings edited by Billy Collins. This is a new book of poetry all about birds. I just read them one each day and ask what they think it's about and we talk about the descriptive words. It's a light poetry study, but it's good for us.
  • Animal Life in Action videos about birds.
  • J is reading about John James Audobon and doing a Famous Person Report.
  • Bird sighting records. We don't get a lot of birds in our yard, but we're going to go out a few days and observe them.
  • B is studying birds mentioned in the Bible, and not just the ones that are called unclean.
  • B is reading Magic School Bus books to me.
  • B has chosen to do a project on Woodpeckers similar to J.
  • We'll go on an Audobon nature walk on Monday.
  • A field trip to the nature center to learn about Birds of Prey in a couple weeks.
There's a ton of websites to use, but we've found that these are pretty user friendly: (find birds in Colorado) (find birds by name) (habitat map) (we looked at golden eagles attacking a wolf and pulling goats off a cliff!)

Monday, March 15

Social Schedule Week of March 15th

Taekwon Do for J
Tae Bo for me

Worship at TNL

Tae Bo for me
Co-op on Equipment for the Visually Impaired
Tae Kwon Do for J
Karate for dh

wii games at the library

Options classes
Play practice for J

Celebrate dh's birthday.

School is in there Monday - Friday too. This is just all of supplemental stuff we do. Next week is even more packed. If you ever assumed that homeschoolers stay home all day and don't interact with the world, your assumptions are off.

Just sayin'.

Friday, March 5

"Reading Aloud to Boys" and Examining Your Core

I have a few things up at Heart of the Matter this week.

In the March Magazine issue My article on reading aloud to boys is on page 17. Reading aloud is an intentional time for us. It's not about educating them so much as it is about parenting and connecting with them.

There is also a collaborative article on "How We Teach Reading" I tossed my voice into it on page 30. You can see how different my two school-age boys really are.

Lastly, on the HOTM blog I have a post about keeping homeschooling OUT of the center of your life. There is absolutely zero strength to be found in homeschooling. (And the curriculum you use won't provide it either). The core of who we are must come from a much stronger source if we're really going to do this.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 3

A Tiny Little Epiphany?

So, we had this really great day of learning today.

Due to their sickness last week, a couple field trips, and some make-up work for their weekly Options classes, the boys had a full docket of things to do.

And they did it.

J moved from project to project with ease and independence. B only moved through a couple things but he was fully engaged. S just copied what B did. (ha!)

I had a small motivator for them. The new Lego magazines had arrived and we also wanted to go to the park with friends because the SUN IS OUT in Colorado today. (Well, the sun is always out, but the warmth isn't.) So, I said that if we move through our activities well, we can have these things that we want.

J rocked it today. He didn't rush through things, he learned them. He didn't whine and complain, he just picked up the next book. I was amazed. And then I wondered...

...maybe he would do well with even more independence.

? Maybe?

Lately, I've not been the prep queen that I have been in the past. And I'm wondering today if my recent fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants methods may actually be one of the triggers that frustrate him. Today I happened to be organized and ready and it freed him to work at his own pace.

Could it be that my highly distractable child is actually more of an independent learner than I thought?

Or could it just be that the sun is out in Colorado today...