Thursday, January 25, 2018

Six years of adventures with Jude!

It's hard to believe that we've been homeschooling now for six years.  School began for Jude and I back on January 23, 2012.  A lot has happened in that time.

Enrollment: Jude was a school of one.  Now we're up to three current homeschoolers, one homeschool graduate, and one in-schooler who will be homeschooled starting this summer.

He's gone from creating faces with stickers to building (and labeling) his own spine.

It took Jude forever to learn to read - almost three years. It was a major accomplishment for him when he could read the simplest of Bob books.

Now, he's casting spells in Hogsmeade shop windows that he learned from reading Harry Potter by himself.

Curriculum: I still seem to spend a lot of time looking for the right programs, but it's nice that much of our work is fairly well organized for us.  When we started, I spent every weekend looking for work for the next week, printing it out, and collating it.  I was constantly searching for things that "fit."  By now, while we still enjoy trying new things through reviews, we also seemed to have found things that suit us well and have become favorites.

Weekends are either for relaxing or catching up on things that would take a large chunk of the weekday.  One of Matthew's favorite things are his Chemistry projects from MEL Labs, and often Jude wants in on it, too. Last weekend's theme was, "OOH, which should we do first? Light stuff on fire...or light stuff on fire?"  My overarching rule is "Don't make me explain anything to an insurance company - homeowner's or medical." Experiments completed and the house is still standing.

Bookshelves: When we started, I had a small storage box in the dining room that held a few books and a folder with printed materials.  Toys were in the basement playroom.  As the kids have gotten older, they've outgrown the oversized toys and we've taken over the playroom into a school suite.  But we've also run out of shelves, especially as our home library expands.  Last week I ordered some bookshelves, and Luke has spent most of this week putting them together.  I'm in the process of sorting and organizing, but I'm happy with the way things have begun to come together. Of course, one of the first shelves to be filled was the one with Jude's beloved Magic Treehouse books.

Favorite Activities: When we first started, one of Jude's favorite activities was cooking. Luke took up the mantle during his homeschool days, and now Celia enjoys experimenting in the kitchen.  However, Jude still has food as a recurring theme.

For a long time, Jude has said he wants to work in our family business, but he did not want to go to college.  Now that Luke is in college taking online courses, Jude has figured out he can just homeschool that, too! Six years down, eleven to go!

Homeschool Review Crew Weekly Link Up

Friday, January 19, 2018

Finally, ready to start 2018!

2018 began and we were off and running.


I had planned to run the 10K race at Disney's Marathon Weekend three days after the New Year, and Damien decided to train along with me.  He was excited to find out that he was old enough to run in the 5K, but disappointed it was sold out.  We made pie-in-the-sky plans for 2019's Marathon Weekend, but then Santa did some magicking, combined his powers with Disney magic, and brought Damien a 5K bib along with "Disney bounding" Peter Pan running clothes and a costume for after. We had a fantastic time -- I'll tell more about our races in another post, but I'll share a few pictures now!


Got his bib and ready to run! 

Running through Epcot before sunrise - about a mile left on the course

Showing Pluto (and Goofy) our medals!

I am so happy to finally be getting back to a routine. We aren't quite there yet, but I'm working on it.  We originally planned to start back to school on January 9th, but Christmas break was extended by illness.  (It's bad when Mom gets sick and has to wave the white flag!)  Thankfully,  by this past Monday we seemed to be on the mend, and we're back to school this week.

Jude doesn't know it yet, but this writing exercise will be turned into a blog post soon. He's writing about how to make brownies, his favorite dessert. He has a couple more revisions - and a baking session - to go. 

Damien made paper dolls dressed in Ancient Egyptian clothes.  I foresee a video featuring them...

Matthew discovered that silk, wool, and cat fur can create electric charges, but bubble wrap does a better job than any of them.  He has a stack of science labs to catch up on - we're saving them for weekends.  This weekend we're looking at Dogfish scales and cracking open a couple of chemistry experiments that got shelved. 

My main goal for this week was to get things organized. Last fall was absolutely crazy, so it was time to check and make sure everyone had what they needed. All three of the boys needed some new curriculum things, so my credit card and I got to work.  I also ordered some new bookshelves because we've outgrown the shelves we had.  They should be here in a few days and we'll see just how assembler-friendly Ikea furniture is!

Another Crew year is starting up, and we have our first assignment - we're reviewing Wulf the Saxon from Heirloom Audio.  I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things with a new Blog Party I've been invited to join, called "Homeschool Highlights."  My plan is to share what we've been doing, and see if I can't kick a hole in the Writer's Block I've been wrestling with.  Here's to 2018!

Homeschool Coffee Break

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

December update...

Our original Fall semester plan was to have off from school for a little in October. Neal and I had plans to go to Disneyland for our 20th wedding anniversary. I  took a week hoarded from working through the summer so the boys would have off from school. 

Then Aunt Jo and Uncle Brendan surprised us with a visit.  We had a phenomenal time touring with them during the end of October and the first half of November!  Here are a few pictures from our travels for now -- I'll share more details about what we did on our trip in the coming weeks.

We did sneak a little learning in.  Aunt Jo and Uncle Brendan each became Junior Rangers with us when we visited the National Parks, and Matthew got an aircraft pop quiz at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. 

Once we said goodbye, we had two weeks of daily appointments, with Thanksgiving sandwiched in there.   Now that we are finally back to a somewhat calm schedule where we can get some work accomplished, we're careening into Christmas.  For now, we're working on tying up loose ends. 

In the middle of it all, Matthew tested at Karate and has advanced to a purple belt.  Celia also had her fall concert with the Rowan Youth String Orchestra, where she was the first chair violin.

Luke is nearly done his first semester of college.  There were a few moments of panic trying to meet a deadline (what's college without a couple of almost all-nighters), but he made it to the post office with nearly an hour to spare! He's got a blog post percolating in his head about surviving the first semester; he plans to share that before the Spring semester begins. 

A new Homeschool Review Crew year is starting up, and I did finally decide to re-apply.  I got a "thick" acceptance email a couple of weeks ago, and am looking forward to new products to work with next year.  I decided that I really enjoyed writing, and being part of the Crew gives me that opportunity. I think the hardest part is going to be blogging between reviews -- I'm working on creating a list of things to share about.  Hopefully having prompts and photos already gathered will help with some of the writer's block I've been experiencing. 

I'm looking forward to having some semblance of routine after the New Year begins. It won't at be the very start of January though -- I'm currently training to run a 10K race during the first week of January.  Lucky for me, I've got a few trainers helping me.

Right now, we're playing "Tread water and plan for the next semester."  Tread with us!

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack (Homeschool Review Crew)

When we go on our touring trips, our days are chock full of activity.  We are up early, out the door to wherever we are going, and often come back to the hotel positively exhausted around dinner time.  When we return, there is usually a little bit of time between baths and bedtime where the boys want to do something besides watch shows on TV (assuming we can figure out the unfamiliar channel guide) or videos on their iPads.  This trip, I brought our Kwik Stix Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc. in our suitcase.

I loved how easy they were to bring along.  Travelers could certainly transfer them to a zip-top bag so they'd fit into a corner of the suitcase or between items, but we left them in their original packaging because it is very slim and packed flat on top of our packing bags.  (Note: It also packed well at the bottom of the suitcase on our way home.)  When we reviewed Kwik Stix in the past, I was impressed at how quickly they dried and how little mess they made. This was a definite plus for taking them to a hotel.  Yes, crayons and markers are items that are relatively mess-free, but the kids and I liked the novelty of the thin, marker-dimension paint sticks rather than "boring old crayons."

This trip, we're traveling with Aunt Jo and Uncle Brendan from Australia. They came all the way from Canberra to surprise the kids! I knew they were coming, so I had to secretly make plans for us to go away, but it's always fun traveling with Uncle Brendan because he's a big kid at heart.  Damien grabbed the Kwik Stix, a bunch of paper (also easy to pack flat in a pocket of the suitcase), and ran through the connecting doors to show them what we brought.  To his delight, Uncle Brendan sat down, and they started drawing together.

It was just before Halloween, and the guys were trying to "out scare" each other with their drawings. Damien met his match, I think!  The blur is the kangaroo "boxing" with the Ghostbuster.

After a few rounds of "Who can draw the bloodiest creature?" they decided to have a real drawing contest, and Aunt Jo got to be the judge.  I'm sure the folks in the lobby heard Damien's squeals when he was declared the winner.  Poor Uncle Brendan -- even his 3-D creation didn't sway the judge.

This Kwik Stix pack is especially nice because it has a LOT of paint sticks in it. It contains a total of 24 paint markers: 12 classic colors (basics like red, blue, green, etc.), 6 neon, and 6 metallics.  The neon orange and silver metallic tones gussied up Uncle Brendan's portrait of the emu!

The Pencil Grip, Inc. does offer other packages of Kwik Stix -- just the classics (in multiple sizes), neons alone, etc., but I think between the "specialness" of the "big" pack, as well as its packability, it is definitely something that makes for a special car or hotel "vacation activity" treat.

For more ideas on how to use Kwik Stix Thin Stix, click the banner below to read more reviews.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Kid Niche: Weave Your Word in Me Bible Study (Homeschool Review Crew)

When Luke and Matthew began homeschooling, we continued on with theology studies where they had left off -- both were in upper grades so much of the foundation had been laid by their schools.
For the little boys, it's been a completely different process because of my own admitted struggles -- after our experiences with our Catholic parish and diocese, I'm caught between a few rocks.  My belief in God has remained strong, and despite exploring other denominations, I realize that I'm Catholic by faith to the core.  While I'm still working toward forgiving those who have wronged us, I want to teach my children my faith.  Bible studies have been a thorny issue for us.  Most Bible studies are aligned to the King James Version of the Bible, and the viewpoints presented are slightly different than ours.  Catholic programs seem to be few and far between and finding a good Bible program that fits both our faith and the boys' learning styles has been challenging.  I was intrigued by Weave Your Word in Me - Part 1 from Kid Niche Christian Books, which is designed to be translation-neutral.

"Translation neutral"? What does that mean? Well, in a nutshell, Kid Niche takes the core lessons of the Bible and uses them to guide the user's reading, but refers the reader back to the chapter-and-verse passages in his own Bible, rather than providing the scripture passages printed within the study.  This allows multiple faith denominations to use the same core guide, but approach the Bible from their points of view.  It works with any of the most popular translations: KJV, ESV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, and our preference, the NABRE.  Where there is a difference in where to find things, it will indicate this, so that the student is studying the correct Bible verse for the lesson.

Weave Your Word In Me takes the prayer Jesus taught his disciples (and therefore us) and unravels it in a way that children can learn the "great God-truths Jesus has woven within the Lord's Prayer."  I really like this approach - as a child, I learned my prayers by rote, without really understanding them.  This program combines both learning the lessons of the Bible and learning to have a relationship with God.  It's a very different approach from Jude's past studies, which have been more historical in nature than personal.

The program is geared toward later elementary students (grades 4 to 6), and I think this is an appropriate target age.  I think this study does a good job of helping support the emerging thinking and faith of children in this bracket without becoming "too" anything -- it's not too simple for the almost-teens, but not too deep for the younger end of the age range.  It's a program that I think could be used for students slightly younger and older; a student could start with it at 8 or 9, and then revisit at 12-turning-13, and as their thinking matures, their answers will change.  I notice that Jude is still in a more "literal" phase, while I think Celia would be beginning to find more philosophic/theologic answers.  I liked that while some answers are very literal, and basically "if you find the correct verse, you just need to fill in the blank," there are also places where the student needs to read and then parse the readings to find the correct answer.  It's not a huge leap from "what it says" to "the answer you need," but it's just enough to help encourage "figuring it out from context" rather than a purely literal reading.

On a practical note, I liked that this arrived as a pre-printed, pre-punched packet that just needed to be popped into a binder.  It's also on a heavy-weight paper, which means it holds up to erasing misspellings.  Each of the 36 lessons is only one to four pages; lessons take Jude no more than about fifteen minutes.  Each day is short, but still fully teaches him the core lesson of the day.  There is also an "answer key" provided, so if your child is working independently, the parent can easily check answers.  While Weave Your Word in Me - Part 1 is the first "half" of the program, there is a Part 2 available, as well as a full 80-lesson version.  I think if I were to purchase this myself, I would get the full 80-lesson program.  I think if you had a relaxed approach or another religious study program going on simultaneously, once-a-week might be sufficient, but at our two-to-three-a-week pace, we will finish this in the "first quarter" of our school year.

Jude liked this study and wants to continue past the review period.  Subject aside, it's always a good thing when he says "I don't want to be done."  He enjoyed the seek-and-find aspect of the program - each "question" referred to a different book and/or verse of the Bible.  He was proud of himself when he remembered whether a specific book was Old Testament or New Testament, too.  His prior Bible study courses were more chronological -- beginning with "In the Beginning..." and continuing from there.  I like how this pulls verses from the Old and New Testaments, showing how the lessons God shares through Scripture are timeless - from the beginning of Genesis to the writing of Revelation and right on through until today.

For more reviews about this program, click the banner below.

Weave Your Word in Me {Kid Niche Christian Books Reviews}

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