August 23, 2013

Friday Favorites: Paper 53 App

This is my fave drawing app on my ipad: 


Because with the marker, pencil and watercolor option, I can quickly sketch up...


Bible study notes:


Corn for a Kindermusik program on the farm: 



A quick visual for the 4 main human needs:



A winter doodle (really missing the cold now that August is sweltering!):



A treble clef for a music flyer:



August 20, 2013

Homeschool High School Begins

Recently Cayli and I enjoyed a quiet afternoon at Barnes & Noble. She read Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story for her online biology class while I planned our homeschooling week.

Calendar-wise, Cayli is technically an 8th grader this year; however, she has stacked her year with a whole bunch of highschool credits.

Graduating early isn't necessarily her goal. We just happen to meet regularly with other other homeschool families that also have science and math lovers in 8th-9th grades, so it just made sense to capitalize on their interests and earn a few credits, too.



So Cayli is studying, for 1 credit each:

  • Biology
  • World History
  • Algebra 1
  • Literature/Composition
  • Photography/Graphic Design
We are using Oak Meadow's syllabi for all of the above. I appreciate their critical thinking questions for each chapter and their assortment of hands-on projects.

Counting credits is all-work, no-play so she'll also continue her harp studies and baton twirling (both of which should earn enough hours to account for music and PE credits over the next few years).


She is also working as a student-teacher at one of the studios where I work. She helps me teach younger violin students and she even has her own student who is playing the lyre harp.

Cayli is self-motivated. She keeps up with her own schedule and assignments. She would like to pursue medicine as a career. This year she gets a jump-start on her goal!






August 16, 2013

Friday Favorites: Co-op Gatherings


Every Friday, surrounded by an ample supply of nature and friendship, this group of kids gathers at (really crams into!) our house for a one-room-schoolhouse of sorts where the youngers are encouraged by the olders.



We do break them into groups for certain subjects. The 8-9th graders are working together in world history, biology and literature/composition.

The 7th graders come together for earth science, civics and writing (they are working on a graphic novel!).

The 3rd-6th graders spend their time drawing, reading together and exploring the nature around my home.

Micah is the youngest and he oscillates from one group to the next, doing only what interests him, of course!

In our co-op each mom uses her specialty area to "coach" a group. So no one is overwhelmed by responsibilities. No one has to teach or lecture. We have created a group where the moms simply assist the students by piquing their curiosity on the subject matter and then letting the kids experiment and explore the lessons. We are using the Oak Meadow curriculum as our guide.

Though we've homeschooled for 9 years, we haven't always been involved in a co-op. Some years are more conducive to belonging to a group; other years have needs to focused elsewhere.

This year was just the right year to re-ignite co-op learning opportunities. And we are very happy to host our friends every Friday!

August 14, 2013

Math Journals

Math is my nemesis. Homeschooling would be as simple as 2+2 if I didn't have to teach this subject.

It's really not the subject matter that confounds me. It's more of the overwhelming amount of patience I must have every day to teach my easily-distractible, numerically-unmotivated twin daughters. These girls would rather be singing songs and catching lizards. So at the first noise or movement, I've lost them.

They also like color and art and doodling.

So, since I prefer to teach to their strengths (life's a whole lot easier that way!), I decided to make math colorful this year a la math journals.

I bought gridded composition books, complete with storage jackets filled with colored pencils and regular lead pencils (they have since added their geometry compass set to the pocket). They didn't necessarily need the grid paper, but I thought it added an element of seriousness to the study, plus it's different from their other notebooks.


Our math text is Oak Meadow 7, which is really a general math. Honestly it starts a bit basic, but I figured it would help with their notetaking skills and shore up any gaps in their abilities. About half-way through the text is some algebra concepts. I'm hoping that they'll be confident problem solvers by the time we get there.

For now they simple write what I write. I teach from my own journal, set up just like theirs. I read through the Oak Meadow lesson, but present it in my own words, in my own colorful way. They are free to use whatever colors they prefer. They also have the freedom to write their own words...but they must demonstrate understanding of the lesson's concept.

Here's my page:

Here's one of the girls page of the same lesson:


After I finish teaching the lesson, they both have to "teach" me the lesson using their notes. Since they are auditory learners, they love to talk! This is an easy assessment time for me because I immediately recognize shortcomings in their comprehension. So I answer any questions and then let them complete the problems from Oak Meadow's text. 


This picture is a bit difficult to see, but they have to write and solve each problem with lead pencil. They both chose to draw squares to keep each problem separate. Then I use a pen to check the right problems and circle the wrong ones. They hate the circles so they really do try to get just check marks! Then they write their own big 100 in the middle when everything is right!

I only have one math book for the both of them. I suppose it could be a consumable workbook, but I don't let them write in it. Knowing that they will be doing algebra soon and will probably have to copy problems from a text, I figured they need to learn how to do that correctly now. It is a learning process but each day gets better as they develop the skills to precisely copy numbers.

Occasionally I take a picture of lesson with my Evernote app camera and email them the page. This way they can work on the go. They still have to write the problems and answers in their composition book.

If time allows, I will print off some foldable activities that they can glue into their journals. The web, especially Pinterest, have thousands of ideas! But learning to take notes is a priority this year so that's our focus for now. 

Organization is also a goal, so they also have to keep a table of contents. We left the first two pages blank for this. On the first day they numbered every page in the comp books. When we do a lesson, they add the lesson title to table of contents page and write the page number of the corresponding note page.

We have been using this system for two weeks now with great success. I haven't seen a single tear, felt no struggles and they feel much better about their math abilities. They really aren't as frustrated and neither am I. A true win-win in this house!










August 12, 2013

Twin School: 7th Grade


These girlies just turned 12-years-old this summer and will begin 7th grade work. I'm not sure where the time has gone. They were 2-years-old when we moved into our house so they've spent 10 years loving the natural surroundings and entertaining us the way only twins can.

Over this past decade, as their personalities have developed, I've concluded that they are do-ers. Not readers--heaven help them if they have to stop long enough to pick up and read a book--but kids who DO. So this year I plan on making learning easier for them and teaching simpler for me by filling their year with no-fuss projects and activities that let all of us thrive.

Don't get me wrong, they will have to read. And they need to continue to develop their writing abilities (which equates to torture because they are auditory learners and must talk.about.every.thing.) But reading and writing become bearable if they get to DO something, too. The plan is for every unit study to be heavy on a Read / Write / DO process.

For language arts (which includes literature and composition) I pulled out my trusty Beyond Five in a Row manuals. Over the past few years we've covered most of the first two volumes, so this year we're mainly focused on volume 3. We started the year with a study of The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright.


It's full of fine art activities, as well as history and science projects...so it's practically perfect for the girls. The will keep a notebook of all of their projects and writings. I'll post more on that later. 

As for math, we are using Oak Meadow's 7th grade math and making our own math journals. I wanted to be easy this year so that we could focus on writing and research skills. Journaling our way through general math also shores up any gaps that they have due to past frustrations of doing math.


They will colorfully write out the lesson and then complete the skill sets in pencil. I also have a math journal that I write in while I teach the lesson. This way they can see how I would present the information. They can choose to copy my way or format it their way...either way they are learning notetaking skills. I'll post more pictures of their journals as our year unfolds.

Executive function skills are also a focus. In their math journals they will keep a running table of contents so that they can quickly locate any lessons they need to review. They are also keeping an assignment planner. Every morning we have a Morning Meeting where we go over everything that I expect from them that day. They update me on what they have done or how their reading is going. We touch on due dates for school subjects, chores, extracurriculers (twirling, piano or violin) and family field trips. They have to write it all down! Then we break it down in manageable parts by discussing what they should do each day to make sure they are prepared for the final due date.

Bonus: This planner that they write in doubles as my record of assigned work for the year!

We also utilize lots of technology. I keep many files in Evernote and email assignments or websites to the girls as necessary. Since I work outside the home in the afternoons, they will email me their writings or pictures of their on-going projects so that I can give them immediate feedback. That way they don't get distracted or lose interest while waiting on me to comment, encourage or redirect when I get home in the evenings.

We're two weeks into our year and I can tell a huge difference in these girls over last year. By focusing on unit studies of interests and keeping the love of learning alive through projects, these girls--and me!--are excited again about getting back to academics!