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 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!

August 9, 2013

Friday Faves: Stockmar Crayons

Pure Beeswax. Silky smooth. Stick & block choices.

Easy thin lines. Easy thick borders or snakes. Instant work of art.

Readily preferred by Micah (who doesn't like crayons at all).

Color heaven. 

August 8, 2013

Have Litmus Paper, Will Test

It's been awhile since we had a hands-on science experiment. While reading through The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, two random descriptions popped out at me:
  • The characters' bathroom doubled as a science lab
  • The 6-year-old had busted a window when throwing a bottle of Milk of Magnesia
I guess I had science on my mind for either of those clues to inspire action...I needed to do something.

So I ordered litmus paper strips.

And I bought a variety of fruit.

I think they have tested every liquid in the house by now!

Milk of Magnesia isn't something we have on hand, but we did discuss that it was an original medication to relieve an upset stomach. We did have antacid tablets in the back of our medicine cabinet, so once we tested for an acid, we tried to neutralize it. 

I think neutralizing was the most fun since it involved crushing up the antacid tablets and mixing with the fruit juices.

This year I didn't choose a specific science curriculum so that we can experience it naturally through whatever books we read together as a family or through questions that come up during family discussions. So far it has worked well for us.

August 6, 2013

"I'm Bored!"

To be honest, I don't hear the cry of boredom much. We're an active family, not to mention creative in many things, whether the tangible or with time. I remember my grandmother saying that she was just "piddlin'." I never thought she was doing just seemed that she did a little bit of this and a little bit of that...yet she created beautiful porcelain dolls with intricate dresses.

She found great satisfaction in just putterin' about. The older I get, I find that I enjoy the freedom and creativity of piddling; so do my kids.

My kids are learning how to use their time--well, sometimes it's not used all that wisely--but they do fill their time doing.

Since TV is limited (we don't even have cable) and a generous amount of art supplies are readily available, they always have their hands into something. Their unstructured play time (though I guess it should be called "down time" or "free time" now that the girls are older) is filled with crafts and baking and reading and music making and gardening and such.

Just to watch them minute by minute you may not notice what is really happening since they sort of flutter from one activity to the next. They seem to being doing nothing productive. But let a little time pass and their little bits of this and little bits of that become a realistic product from their imagination.

"Never Underestimate the value of doing nothing." 
~A.A. Milne
So when assignments and chores are done, and boredom begins calling, you will find my kids:

  • having spontaneous music lessons, sharing what each other knows 
  • trying to harmonize a song that's stuck in their heads 
  • researching the life cycle of moonjellies because they saw baby jellies at the aquarium
  • facepainting
  • learning to draw so that their facepainting art improves
  • baking brownies
  • making playdough
  • creating forts from pillows and sheets
  • creating (sometimes it's zentangling, sometimes it's watercolors, sometimes it's paper)
  • gardening
  • researching why the pumpkins didn't get as big as we thought and how to keep the bugs off the tomatoes
  • drawing birds
I can hear you say, "but you have girls! And girls like to do those types of things! What about boys?"

My boy, who is still young, doesn't lay around long enough to let boredom find him. He can be found:
  • making playdough with his sisters
  • building forts
  • dressing up as a super hero
  • creating a lego tower
  • turning sticks into arrows
  • racing his cars
  • folding paper airplanes
  • drawing and put his artwork on the fridge
  • posting signs to keep his sisters out of the bathroom

So my children are in the process of mastering my grandmother's art of piddling. Independent exploration--a little bit of this and a little bit of that--goes a long way in stirring the pot of creativity and keeping boredom at bay.

August 2, 2013

Friday Favorites: Zentangle

I discovered zentangling a few months ago during a therapeutic walk through Hobby Lobby. I say therapeutic 'cause I just feel better--and inspired--and creative--once I leave.

Many times I challenge myself to find something that I don't know how to do but may be interested in learning. This particular time I made way to the drawing isle. I own many drawing pencils and tools...but have never really used them. My eye landed on this book:

and my artistic life has been changed!

Zentangling is simply relaxed doodling. I love that there is no right or wrong way. And the supplies are easily accessible: paper, pencil, fine line pens. We use our gel pen collection to add color.

We now have a zentangle kit that goes wherever we go. So that when we have a few minutes of wait time, we pull out our journals and doodle.

Here are a few items the kids and I have drawn:

July 30, 2013

Micah & Sharks & Gators, Oh My!

We visited the state's aquarium this past weekend. True to usual self, Micah was drawn to all things with sharp teeth. He spend a few seconds (his limit...the boy HAS to move!) at the shark tank and then was entranced (for another few seconds!) by the albino alligator exhibit.

His first question upon seeing the real gator (and again repeated when he saw this plush costumed one): "Can I smile at him?" Because we all know you Never Smile at a Crocodile!

Gators and crocs look so similar. What's the difference? Crocodiles have V-shaped snouts and their teeth stick out when their mouth is closed. Alligators have U-shaped snouts with no teeth showing.

Geographically, alligators are only found in the US and in China while crocs can be found all over the world.

The aquarium's rare albino alligator is white with pink eyes. He lacks pigments to give his skin color. In the wild he would be an instant target since he can't blend in with his surroundings; the aquarium staff provides a as-close-to-nature-as-possible indoor environment with ample UV lights and vitamin D to maintain his health and safety.

Alligators lose 2000+ teeth during their lives. I think Micah is a bit jealous! He keeps wriggling his own teeth, hoping one will fall out. But until then, he just have to admire the gator's pearly whites.

July 26, 2013

Friday Favorites

In an effort to stay on top of documenting my family's life, I'm gonna start a new weekly blog post outline some of our favorite activities, items, adventures, musical tastes, etc. If we like it, then it will probably show up here. You know, things like...

Say the word "favorite" and my brain instantly cues Julie Andrews singing My Favorite Things. Truly, The Sound of Music is a family favorite! As youngsters the girls sat mesmerized by the nun turned governance turn step mother to the von Trapp family. They sang along and continued singing days after we watched it. I do believe that this movie--and Mary Poppins, of course!--helped produce the drama loving vocalists in my house.

July 22, 2013

Feeling bloggy

It's been a looong while since I've published anything on this blog. I have several drafts that are half written; I'd come up with something to write, and then either be distracted or dissatisfied by my writing. So nothing has been posted in the past two years.

Hopefully that will change. Because I have missed documenting my family's life.

Life is understandably different than it was a few years ago.

My kids are growing. Cayli is now 13; the twins are new 12-year-olds; Micah is 6.

I work almost 20 hours a week as a private music teacher. Matt still works full time as a courier and is also a pastor of a small rural church. The girls have more mature interests than they did a many months ago; our conversations are deeper. Micah participates in family life more and more each day as he interacts and humors us with his crazy antics.

Still some things are the same.

We still homeschool. The girls still twirl and sing every chance they get. Micah is still a tornado. They still love ice cream.

Yes, some things never change.