Turtle Courses. Reflections, K Week 30

Elizabeth and I wrapped up the farm unit this week, all except one last bit of writing in her journal.  It was a fun yet busy week, both around school and in general. On Monday, we made little ‘animalitos.’  The … Continue reading

Turning Inward. Reflections, K Week 11

Again, at the end of this week, there is a feeling that seems most predominant in relation to our homeschool, though it really involves life in general.  I actually considered titling this post “Quitters” because that’s what I’ve been doing … Continue reading

How to Get by as a Single Homeschooling Parent (Hopefully). Reflections, Week 47

I feel much more positive this week than last.  I have had some encouraging contacts and have made some decisions that I believe I will stick with; indecision is very hard.  I feel more positive that I am making the … Continue reading

Determining Priorities. Reflections, Week 45

Thank you to those that voted in the poll and commented on my last reflections post, T-Ball Mamma!  I gave serious weight to your votes, to my current situation (I’m facing separation and divorce), and my priorities.  I asked myself if … Continue reading

Be My Valentine. Reflections, Week 29

I have lots of photos for my readers this week!  We had a fun week this week leading up to Valentine’s Day, making valentines for family and friends and doing some math with M&M’s.  Elizabeth was really excited about Valentine’s Day this year, as we had been working on the valentines and had gotten a cute little petite rose bush for Chepe which we kept secret in her bedroom until the morning of, and she was tickled pink to have the secret.  I especially liked how excited she was about the holiday, especially as she was not expecting gifts herself, but was anxious to give hers out.  This is a step in the right direction from where I felt we were at Christmas-time.

The Moving Beyond The Page curriculum has a “February Holidays” unit which centers on Valentine’s Day as well as Black History Month and President’s Day.  I think that this is one of my favorite units so far; I decided that the unit met all of my subject goals without modifications, so that was easy.  This week, I merely focused on the Valentine’s portion and tried to get the valentines made and out before the 14th.

064I also got Elizabeth interested in a bit of math by having her add some color and chocolate!  The unit had a little math game of equations written in hearts, meant to be cut out and then cut in half.  The child would then do the addition to find the solution, thereby matching up both halves of the hearts.  Elizabeth color-coded hers, and then I ripped out the M&M’s and she did a thorough job of counting out candies for each number to be added, and then counted them all together.  It doesn’t sound extremely impressive, but it’s one of the first times since we started the curriculum in which she put her brain into the addition and did each part of the equation separately as is necessary.  I was very happy with her effort.

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On Chepe’s day off, we also made a non-Valentine’s-Day-themed trip to an art museum.  The weather here in Upstate New York is bitter, bitter cold, so in thinking about fun things to do out of the house I was obligated to come up with an idea that would keep us indoors.  The day that we went birding for snowy owls, there had been abstract art for sale at the café we stopped at for lunch and Elizabeth was very interested in it, so I was thinking of doing something art-related.  Finally, I came up with a few ideas, and with Chepe’s input, we decided upon the Rockwell Museum of Art of America in Corning because it was about art and cowboys.

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Making a collage on a light-table.

The trip turned out to be a fun one.  I hadn’t been to the museum in over ten years, and they have made an effort to be kid-friendly, with a kid’s art and activity room, as well as scavenger hunt pages for each floor.  I wish now I had taken a picture of the scavenger hunt sheet, but I didn’t.  It was actually so much fun that as we left, I thought to myself that even without children I could have wanted to do it!  The scavenger hunt helped all of us (except hyper Paul) take a look at each picture or the majority of the pottery, and to look for little details to find the images on the sheet.  It was fun.

As a lover of horses and the spirituality of the American Indians, some of my favorite art that we saw was 3-D:

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Lastly, I have some funny photos of our last activity to finish up the owl unit from last week: peanut butter cookies.  Elizabeth had a good time decorating them (and eating the decorations).

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If you have been following Seed To Seedling, you might have noticed that we have not taken a single vacation week since we began in July.  I contemplated it – I had contemplated taking a week off every 6th week – but once we got into the flow, school seemed so non-invasive and fun and easy that I just never did.  As well, Elizabeth asks almost daily to do school, and we occasionally do school activities on the weekends if she/we are not out and about with family.  But the weeks around holidays in which I feel like I have deadlines, like with making the valentines, kind of stress me out, and I have decided that we will take a break this next week.  I have some housekeeping things that need to get done while Paul is napping, and though school doesn’t have to be done while he is asleep, it is a lot easier.  I think a little break will do me some good, though I have my doubts about Elizabeth.  I am anticipating that it will make her sour to start back up, or to do my organized activities again.  We shall see, I guess.

Well, I hope you all have a nice February break if you are taking one.

Share your thoughts: What special projects did you do leading up to Valentine’s Day?  What kind of school break schedule do you plan?

 

Trying My Best To Keep Us Active. Reflections, Week 18

In some ways, I am way more motivated than I used to be, but in others I am way lazier.  One way in which I am lazier is by keeping us holed up at home because it is so much work to bundle us up, strap everyone into the car, get where ever we are going, keep us all together – you get the picture.  But, that’s no reason to not get out and experience life, and every time I make the effort, I always feel excited about it; I’m always left with a natural high afterward.

This time of year is busy.  We didn’t host Thanksgiving, for which I am eternally grateful, but we did attend two dinners Thursday, a few hours apart.  Saturday we had another, and today, Sunday, I drove to my aunt’s a few hours away to pick up a dresser that she was giving to us.  That’s a full holiday weekend in my opinion.  I am not the type to have something going every day, actually, I don’t at all look forward to being a super-star soccer mom; I don’t like the run-around.

A friend had also told me a few weeks ago though about a Thanksgiving parade in Elmira on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  She said it was pretty nice and pretty big for our area; she was planning to go with her kids and some of her family.  I asked if we could meet up with them and tag along because it sounded neat. She was super nice and said yes and even called back to give me directions.   I was on the fence about whether I wanted to commit to it up until the night before – not because I didn’t want to go, but because it is a little bit of a drive, and amongst all the other hubbub of the holiday, I wondered if I wanted to put the effort in.

Good news: Thursday, about 9pm, I finally decided that we would go.  The forecast was not calling for extremely cold weather.  I had not told the kids about the parade, so Elizabeth had not been pestering me about it.  I just needed to get some UMPH! under me and do it!

And we made it!  I put the effort in, and we made it – on time – and it was fun.  We saw the characters from Frozen, some super heroes, the singing hampsters, local bands and dance crews, and even a pretty good Pirates of the Caribbean float.  The kids had fun, both watching the parade and visiting with my friend’s kids, and it was fun for me.

I personally love to be out and about, but with all the work that it takes to get there with two kids under five, sometimes I just feel too lazy to do it.  Yet I need to remember that the kids also love to be out and about, and I need to push myself to be sure that Elizabeth is involved in some kind of group activity next year, particularly one that I can leave her at, so that she has part of her week away from me.  People always bring up the “socialization” thing when anyone mentions homeschooling, and mostly I just feel like rolling my eyes as I think my daughter is more socialized than some kids that go to public school, but I’ve got to be more diligent at keeping us involved.  Currently, we do attend a weekly story time at our library, and we were attending church, although we are not anymore.  Investigating local gymnastics and ballet classes for her age group, I have found them all to be on Wednesday, which is my husband’s only day off so that doesn’t work for us, as well they run with the school year and you can’t just jump in whenever because they all do some kind of production at the end of the season, thus we have kind of been locked out of them.  I’m not very worried about Elizabeth’s lack of involvement in some kind of class or group right now, as she is only four, but I want to make sure that I make myself let her be involved next year, as she both needs and wants to be.

I find it is also good for me to be out and about.  As I said, I love to be; I love to interact with people and just see different things.  Paul enjoys being out of the house too; just like Elizabeth, I think he gets bored if we are at home too much.  Besides, kids learn about the world around them by experiencing it.  I just need to remember these thoughts when I feel unmotivated to put on the winter gear and pack us into the car; I need to push myself to just do it.

I’ll admit that in one way it was a fairly tiring long weekend, but in another it has also left me feeling energized by what I accomplished, and as I very rarely regret participating in life rather than watching it on tv, I reflect that this time was no different.

I hope you all had a very happy Thanksgiving!

Chime in:  What are some things that you have to push yourself to participate in life and keep your homeschooling active?  What are some ways in which you never seem to tire?

Reflections, Week 12

This week seemed incredibly uneventful somehow, though by the end of the week I had decided to skip church on Sunday for a day off. We are just plain old busy with raking the incredible amount of leaves that fall on our woods (but the kids do love the leaf piles), harvesting and freezing veggies from our garden before the first hard frost, and doing autumn chores like cleaning and closing up the storm windows for winter. My kitchen also needed a serious mopping because the toddler lets you know he is done eating by flinging food on the floor. Though it seems like it’s hardly worth going through the trouble of mopping because within hours, there is food thrown on the floor again, and, of course, orange juice spilled as well.

Never the less, Elizabeth and I snuck in school nearly every day thus week, almost purely with the motivation to move on to the Halloween unit. I don’t usually tell her until the moment of that we are beginning a new unit, because she will not want to finish up the current one, but somehow I let it slip this time.

We were still in Unit 6, Fireflies, which utilized 100 pennies for adding and counting. The pennies were supposed to be “fireflies.” It was very interesting to watch, as the concept seemed so simple to me, but for a 4-year-old, matching actual objects with number cards, then the pennies with the dots on the cards and working through how the dots and pennies were not the same size, allowed me to see her little brain working and developing. It was cute.

But she continues to be stuck on one idea for the acting activities. In the first and third units, we play acted like animals, and she is just glued to the idea and will not branch off of it. Our objective was to act like opposites, which is so broad that we could be anything as we were acting, but she would not go along with it even if we were animals acting in the opposite way. For a little bit we were fast cheetahs and slow turtles, but that was about all of it, over and over. It is fine, really, I’m not complaining that she loves to play act, just being aware of how it is with her. Play acting is definitely one of her favorite activities though.

Some other things we did this week:

  • Started reading Stuart Little
  • Made fingerprint F’s, plus some tiny fingerprint animals
  • She dictated a detailed account of her experience catching fireflies for me to write down
  • Made up silly and “spooky” songs about Halloween while being recorded

Reflections, Week 8

As far as school goes, this week was low-key again. As far as life goes, it was’t.

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Garlic scapes with farm behind

Our garden is in full swing, and as I pick and chop and steam and freeze, I am left wondering about the public school schedule of September to June and if that really fits into agricultural timetables? If summer break was originally planned into school so that children could help out on the farms, I feel like the two busiest months are actually left out: June and September. In late May, here in NYS at least, everything needs to be planted (except some filed crops that go in as second plantings).  Vegetables need to be planted around Memorial Day in order to have enough time to develop and ripen but be past the threat of death by frost. Children do get Memorial Day off, but one day is not enough to get a garden large enough to keep a large family going all winter planted, let alone a whole field of vegetables meant for selling. Hmmm…

Now, what I’m finding this fall as I am trying to freeze more than I have in years past, is that public school is in it’s second full week, but I’ve got ALOT of work to do with picking and washing, chopping and steaming, draining and freezing. I’m pooped. If, in the past, the family needed help at home on the farm, how is it beneficial to have the kids at school during peak season? The best answer I can come up with is that having the kids at school gets them out of the adult’s hair, and then neighbors helped neighbors bring in the crops and do the canning. Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone to share my load with. Though my sister had wanted to can together this year, but unexpected events make it impossible for her, and I get to my jobs here and there throughout the day as the moment presents it’s self anyway, not in a planned hour.

It’s interesting to ponder why exactly school would begin in September and not October if for agricultural reasons, or was it really that warm summer temperatures make it impossible for a classroom-full of students to sit still through the day? I think that might have had something to do with it.

In addition to all the hard work we are doing to preserve our own food, Monday was Honduras’ Dia de Independencia, or Independence Day. I had planned to paint some HN flags with Elizabeth and make an Indian Bonita headdress with beans and corn, but we didn’t get it started until Sunday. Luckily, it did all get made. When my husband got home from work, he got a nice surprise: we played him the national anthem, had the flags hung up, Elizabeth showed him her headdress, and I made comida tipica for dinner.

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Honduran flag. Photo via photopin.

Again, I was struck with appreciation for my pre-organized boxed curriculum, Moving Beyond The Page, as I tend to have pretty good ideas, but when it comes to executing them, it seems like I’m always just a little disorganized or missing something I need. I found that in Peace Corps too. In the moment, when I am in the midst of whatever I had been planning but finding that I am missing something, I can see perfectly what I needed to make it totally awesome. I’m that way for presents too: the day before, or the day of, I suddenly think of an awesome present, but by then, I don’t have enough time to order it without paying an arm and a leg for shipping, so I figure that next year I’ll do it. But by next year, I’ve lost the idea and the same cycle happens. And no matter how early I begin thinking about it, it doesn’t fail to happen all over again.

What happened in school with my short-sighted planning was just that Elizabeth had troubles free drawing the flag, and until she was painting, I realized that I should have pre-drawn it for her to color in. As well, though we talked a little about Honduras’ Independence Day as merely a liberation from Spain, I had intended to go into it more, but didn’t prepare myself enough. Another part of my brain tells me, though, that she’s little, and what we did was probably enough.

Lastly, I’ve not been my best this week. Since getting my menstrual cycle back about three months ago, which I hadn’t had since before I was pregnant with my son, who just turned 18 months, my PMS is horrible. Horrible, tremendous, absolutely horrendous. I feel like Maleficent. I feel overwhelmed. I can not keep my patience. I can’t hold my tongue. And unfortunately, as the people I am most in contact with are my kids, they get the brunt of it, particularly Elizabeth because she reacts to it. And this time, it didn’t help that Paul was teething too.

But what I have said so far is not an excuse. It is not ok with me. I am not ok with me being like this, no matter what time of the month it is. I am even, I am stable, I am not loop-d-loop. Actually, one thing I have loved about life after kids, particularly after my second, is how stable I’ve felt. The mood swings are gone, no more being angry for no reason. Why be angry when I’ve got these wonderful kids and a wonderful husband?  Generally, I’ve felt soooo content.

But these past three rounds before my period, I have not been stable. It has been nearly unbearable, so I decided to ask my doctor for a solution. I have never before considered medication, usually I wait until the last minute to even take ibuprofen for a headache, but I just can’t make time for other relaxation methods, can’t fit yoga or meditation in, Zumba and horseback riding are out just now. My whole life is wrapped up in my family, my outlets are writing and cooking. That’s just the way it is right now. So, my doctor prescribed me an anti-depressant to take only during those PMS days even though I am still nursing. I just started it, so it hasn’t begun affecting me yet, but I know I feel a lot better just recognizing that I need some help and then asking for it.

Your turn to chime in: How do you stay sane when it all seems overwhelming, whether by feminine cycles or just plain old life?

Do you celebrate any cultural holidays in your school/home? If so, in what way?

Why do you think a public school year runs from Sept. to June in relation to historical agricultural necessities?

Happy autumn equinox!

Busy Beginning

What a week – what a past couple of weeks – what a summer! Good, very good. Busy, yet not too busy, so that I can savor the weather, the green, the garden, the kids. It’s only August, so we still have two months left of nice, out-doorsy weather. (The voice in the back of my mind also says, “It’s all ready August?! The year is more than half over! Only two months left until the cold autumn weather…then…winter.” But I try to push that one away as it doesn’t have anything good to say.)

I decided to start school this past week, prepared, yet on a whim. Elizabeth and I have been doing workbooks each morning, as a prep, and I started the Spanish curriculum on Monday, but by Wednesday, she seemed a little disinterested, so to keep the ball going, I suggested we do the English curriculum and she was game. Though I think the parent guide and my big planner unguarded her a little, she was able to get into it each day. I know that teaching takes practice, I know that I’ve got to find my groove too.

So, we started on Monday and by Friday, I was contemplating skipping a day, but we didn’t. Afterward, I had a number of deep thoughts on our homeschool.

Setting the scene, I didn’t have any caffeine on Friday, so felt sluggish to begin with. I also had the pressure of preparing for the ‘Bring Your Own Squirt Gun Party’ that we were going to host on Saturday. After doing Elizabeth’s work, I noted that I had kind of gone into it just trudging forth – and it’s only our first week. It occurred to me that though the units are set in five days/lessons, I don’t need to do five consecutive days (as I all ready messed up the perfect week by beginning on a Wednesday anyhow). Also, this past year Elizabeth went to nursery school only one day a week, is it necessary to go from one to five? No. We are starting a 30-week curriculum during the summer, which means that we have LOTS of time to get it done. Additionally, we are homeschooling pre-k, which isn’t obligatory for (most of) New York State, so we are ahead of the game, in my book. Lastly, we could start out at three days and work up to more. Isn’t that the joy of homeschooling – working at your child’s pace?

So, I was having good thoughts, looking at things from different perspectives, of which I am the queen. I also like patterns, so my next deep thought appeared at 3pm, as it had appeared before on previous days. My son was asleep, and I had done our normal nap time routine with Elizabeth because I thought she might be tired enough for a nap. She wasn’t, yet I needed some quiet time to write and think. On my other blog, Seedling, I recently wrote on Forcing Dropping The Nap, and though it was my idea,  am finding it exhausting to become accustomed to not having my daughter sleep in the afternoon. (As my computer is very sick and I am writing this on the iPad which doesn’t let me highlight to put in links, I will correct the link at my first opportunity. Until then, please look under the ‘Recent Posts From My Other Blog: Seedling’ at the right of the screen to be directed.) Tied in with dropping the nap, you see, is also the issue of pushing tv time back for school time. By Friday, I was feeling like school, then tv, then lunch, then Paul’s nap didn’t leave any time for play, especially out doors. And at 3pm Friday afternoon, when Elizabeth and all of her energy interrupted my quiet time, I felt that THAT was the chunk of the day that should be reserved for tv time so that I can do my own thing if she doesn’t sleep. Having at least made the decision that’s been brewing in the back if my mind, I’ve got to implement the rule and encourage her to be patient enough to wait until that hour to watch it.

On a different note, today, we hosted a successful ‘Bring Your Own Squirt Gun Party’. 🙂 It was a small party, purposefully. We actually had more adults than children, because I had asked my mom and sister to help chaperone so that parents could choose to leave their child (and take a break), but only one did (out of three.) (Maybe it had something to do with the fact that auto spelling now tells me that I spelled chaperone wrong, so they may not have understood…). It was nice and low-key, and I tried to not stress about the state of the house (which rarely seems to get beyond ‘disaster’ no matter how much house work I do), especially as we were all outside. I also kept the treats and activities simple. We let the kids just free-played, then we all had snacks, after which, they went off on the bikes. Just when they were getting tired of that, my cousin showed up with her little girl and BUBBLES! Overall, I was pleased with the outcome of our little party. My mind even contemplates more get-togethers… A potluck in the park?… Hmmmm….