My neighbors offered us this whiteboard. The kids like it, but I think we will have to get rid of it after all, because I just can't find space for it.
So this week, we tried out a new schedule.
Monday = Art Day. This means I make the kids pick a picture and copy it.
These are some of the results of Art Day. I wish I had taken a photo of Kyrie's picture when it was done; it was really impressive. It was interesting to see the different kinds of pictures that each of the kids chose to copy.
Tuesday = Book Report Day
I made Kyrie and Elijah write book reports on one of their library books. I want them to learn something about what should go into a book report, and also practice their writing. It took a lot of giving them suggestions and prodding them to get them to finish these.
This is Kyrie's. It says:
1: the Carcter's [character's] names are Jacob, Braid Beard, Bonney Anne, Mom, Dad.
2: The pirates had to babysit.
3 They codint [couldn't] get the treasher [treasure] until they found a person that cold [could] keep her quiet.
4: Finaly one of the pirets rocked her to sleep.
5: The pirets got the treacer [treasure].
tittle: pirates Don't change dipers
Kyrie is organized about her presentation, numbering the sentences because I said she needed at least five sentences. I am amused, though, that she switches spelling on some of the words from the beginning to the end. Her sentence structure is good, and she remembers to capitalize the first word and add a period at the end. Contrast that to Elijah's, who barely even puts spaces between his words:
Translation: Buzz Boy and Fly Guy [the title of the book]. Buzz Boy and Fly Guy saved everything. The Bad Guys are pirates. They stole Buzz Boy and Fly Guy's house. The dragon took their house back home.
Wednesday = Spanish Day
We reviewed the Spanish vocab flash cards together. I think next time I will do it with each of them individually, since they are all at different levels.
Thursday = Poetry Day.
We read a poem aloud and the kids copied it into their notebooks. We are going to work through all the poems in The Harp and the Laurel Wreath, one each week.
Friday = History Day
We read the introduction in The Story of the World. The kids seemed to enjoy it, although I did have to put Gabe in the crib to stop him from poking Elijah in the eye with a toy gun. Elijah was finding that distracting. ;)
All in all, I think it went very well. On Saturday I stopped by the Learning Palace and got some workbooks for the kids. Elijah seems to like workbooks more than the other free-time activities I have for them, so I wanted to get him some. They didn't have any cross-subject matter ones, so I picked out a math one and a writing workbook, figuring those are the areas he needs the most work in. I picked out a fractions workbook for Kyrie so she wouldn't feel left out, although she does not seem so interested in workbooks as Elijah does.
It occurred to me yesterday that any of you who follow my blog but happen not to be Facebook friends might be wondering what I'm up to. The answer is... waiting.
Lots and lots of waiting.
Increasingly painful waiting.
As of today, I'm at 41 weeks, 2 days. For those of you not fluent in pregnancy-lingo, that means I'm a week and two days past my due date. This is not exactly unusual for me. Only one of my babies - Elijah - was born before 41 weeks. And Savi only came at 41 weeks exactly because she was induced then. ("Induced" is pregnancy-lingo for the doctors giving me drugs to force the baby to come out.) Kyrie stretched things all the way to 42 weeks and only came then because she was induced too. 42 weeks is as long as the doctors are willing to let things go, so if Julie (the name of this baby) is not born before next Tuesday, I have an induction scheduled for that morning. Gabe now... Gabe is a whole 'nother thing himself. Gabe and Julie actually share the exact same due date - Sept. 7th. Gabe stretched his time out to 41 weeks, 1 day, which means his birthday was yesterday. I started to have contractions Tuesday evening, and was seriously thinking that Julie and Gabe were going to share a birthday... but after two hours of them, the contractions went away. There have been two more false alarms, where I had contractions for a few hours (5 hours this morning), only to have them stop. And that's not even counting the sporadic contractions that I've been having for about two or three weeks now, that just show up randomly, maybe 5 to 10 a day.
I haven't been impatient for Julie to be born. I don't generally mind the waiting; there's always more that needs to get done, it seems. But after last night's and this morning's contractions, I am starting to look forward to getting the contractions over with.
In other news, I am officially homeschooling now. The school year started at the local elementary school, and my kids are not going. I think homeschooling went pretty well over the summer, and even more, I am confident that God wants me to do this, although I'm not completely sure about *His* reasons for wanting it. But when I pray and ask God what he wants me to do, I get a sense of peace about homeschooling, and a lack of peace about not homeschooling. So there you go.
I was at the library the other day and saw Prospero Lost on the shelves - a book I've been intending to buy for several months, without getting around to doing it. So I checked it out and read it. Then I decided to buy the sequel off Amazon. Since Amazon has its "free shipping on orders over $25" deal, I started looking around for something to get with it. There aren't any other sci-fi books that I want to o read badly enough to pay for them instead of checking them out from the library, so I started thinking about homeschooling books to buy. (If David Weber ever finishes what I think of as his "Hell" series but which he refers to as the "Multiverse" books, I believe I will buy those.) There are two areas that I have been thinking lately that the kids' activities are somewhat lacking in - history and science. Science textbooks and lab supplies appear to be considerably expensive. But I did find a history set that looked promising, called Story of the World. It seems aimed at the 6 to 7 year olds, and gets pretty good reviews. (Interestingly, the one complaint that I heard the most about it was that it did not cover as much non-Western history as the reviewers would have liked - but they still generally admitted that it included more non-Western history than any other comprehensive history books aimed for that age.)
When the Amazon books came, the Story of the World book was smaller than I was expecting. For some reason I was expecting one of those wide children's books full of lots of color pictures on every page. But the book is small enough that both of the books I ordered fit in a box that my mail lady decided could be squeezed into my mailbox. (I had to use both hands to pry the box back out again.) I could have sworn the reviews mentioned color pictures, but there is not a colored picture to be found within the book, just a few scattered line drawings and a number of black-and-white maps. The text itself, however, looks very promising - short sections with a style that I think Kyrie and Elijah will find very engaging. And the lack of pictures might end up being a benefit; maybe then the kids won't be all fighting over who gets to sit closest to me, so that they can see the pictures (as they do with other picture books I read to them).
I am planning that, after Julie is born, I will start a new weekly schedule for homeschooling. So far I've been trying to leave them as much choice as possible in their activities, because I read that book about Montessori principles and found it highly convincing. So I had set up various activities for them and have been allowing them to pick and choose what activity to do. However, this appears to mostly result in them spending the whole time reading. Kyrie does a little bit of drawing now and then, Elijah will work on a workbook if he has one he likes, but mostly they sit and read. And, while Elijah did work his way through the entire Extreme Nature book, most of their reading is of the fiction library books they picked out (currently featuring Spiderman and Captain I-forget-who vs. Dr. Frankenstinker). Now, I love that they read as much as they do, but they have almost completely neglected the math activity I set up, the Spanish activity, the art-copying activity, the writing activities, the poetry book, etc. A few weeks back, I was getting particularly concerned that they were not getting any math practice in. So I printed off some free math worksheets online and started making them do one sheet every day before they break off to do whatever activities they want.
This went over smoother with them than I expected. The first day, after they finished the page and I corrected it for them, Elijah looked like he wanted to cry and said he didn't want to do that again the next day. I asked him why, and he admitted in a quiet, near-tears tone, that it was because he didn't get very many right. I laughed at that and had him count with me how many he had gotten right. (I think it was 37 or so, on a page with maybe 45 problems). As the number of right problems grew higher and higher, he cheered up. The next day he did another sheet with no objection. (Afterwards, I had to turn him aside from trying to compare how many he had gotten right that day with the day before, lest he be discouraged every time he did worse than the day before.) Since then, there has not really been any significant resistance to doing math pages. I have upped Kyrie to doing two pages a day, since that seems more the level she is at, at the moment.
Since the mandatory-math-page went over with them ok, I thought that I would start implementing other mandatory activities. I plan to start each day of the week with a different activity for them, follow that up with math pages, and then let them break off into their 'free choice' time. The schedule I'm thinking of will probably look something like this:
- Mondays - History (where we read together one section of Story of the World, and discuss it)
- Tuesdays - Book reports (where the kids have to write a book report on their library books and then present it to each other)
- Wednesdays - Poetry (where we pick a poem, each kid will read it aloud, and then they will copy the poem into their notebooks)
- Thursdays - Spanish (where we spend some time practicing the Spanish flash cards that I have been making up)
- Fridays - Art (where each kid has to choose a picture, from any book or magazine on the homeschooling shelf, and draw a copy of it)
I don't really have it firmly set which activity will happen on which day; I don't think it will really matter, except that Tuesdays is the one day of the week where my afternoons are most likely to be free to make a trip to the library, so that is the day when I want to have them do their book reports (when they have had all week to read the books, and right before they return them).
I am still on the lookout for a good approach to science. I'm thinking about making a trip downtown to Powell's (for those of you not familiar with the Portland area, Powell's is the biggest used bookstore in the country) to look for used science textbooks, cheaper than the new ones I'm seeing online. There's a million random science experiments online that I can find how to do more or less free, but I want some way to approach science learning and experiments that I am confident is comprehensive, and I haven't really found that yet. I'm not really sure that textbooks will be the best way to do this, but I want to at least take a look inside some and see if it will satisfy me or not.
So... that's where I'm at right now.
I bought each of the three eldest a notebook. The idea was that they could copy things in it from other books. And I mentioned that Extreme Nature book is one of the ones Elijah in particular has been enjoying reading, right? Kyrie decided to start off with her new notebook by copying a page from Extreme Nature. Only afterwards did I see what page she had decided to copy. Ken and I both found this very, very amusing.
Next come the book reports. While I may eventually be organized enough to make book reports a regular weekly feature of our homeschooling, I will probably not be recording them. This session of book reports (and the recording of them) was really just an excuse for me to get Savi talking to the camera. I figured if she saw Kyrie and Elijah talking into the camera, she would want her turn too, instead of getting all shy about talking (as you will see she gets shy towards the end of her video). I wanted to get a video of her talking now, because her speech has been making such radical strides forward since she started speech therapy. (Her speech therapist continues to be impressed by how fast she picks things up). Before Savi gets *too* good at talking, I wanted a reminder of what she sounded like before. And, in the meantime, you also get to hear what Kyrie and Elijah sound like giving their book reports. :)
Transcript of what Savi says (minus Mom speaking), in case you can't tell (or in case I can't tell, 5 years from now when I've gotten out of practice of translating her):
Savi: "Watch out for the purple dots, them are the dinosaurs. These are the holes. The [no?] bring you all the way to here. If you go like this, then be on the blue, then you could the new way to here. But don't go to here. Because it make you go to here or here. No more. Those are footprints. These are the dinosaur footprints. Yeah. That is a thing to show you to go to here. But you can't, because it is a dinosaur. No. Yeah. No. Roly Poly. Yes. Eat. Yeah. Mmhmm."
It's interesting sometimes reading the Brain Quest questions; most of them are the same kind of math and word questions that I had in my Brain Quests as a kid. But every now and then I run into a question that I *know* I didn't have back then. Like one that showed a cat sitting on a keyboard in front of a monitor with a CPU on the side, and it asked "What part of the computer is the cat sitting on?"
After both Savi and Elijah wanted me to sit down and do Brain Quest with them, Kyrie started wanting me to do Brain Quest with her, too, even though she can do it by herself just fine. So yesterday I was sitting with her and she was going through all the answers, and the question came up that asked something like "An oil spill from a ship does not pollute the water. True or false?" This was one of those questions that I'm pretty sure weren't in the early editions that I had. Kyrie already knew about the Gulf oil spill, and related the question to that, but then I started explaining the difference between oil spilling from a ship and oil spilling from a well. I got out a map and started telling her about the Exxon Valdez spill up in Alaska, and talked about the BP spill. We talked about why people are mad at BP; we talked about the offshore drilling that some people want to do and why others think that would be a bad idea; we talked about how most of our oil comes from the Middle East and how some people want us to get our own oil and some people want us to use other energy sources besides oil; I sort of skirted around the issue of the wars going on and 9/11 and people's ideas about how that relates to oil; I reassured her that when they make oil into plastics like the wrapping around the Kix cereal, the oil doesn't get dangerous stuff into our food (with the possible exception of BPA in water bottles - I didn't go into other possible exceptions); I talked about how much we use oil; I explained that most other countries don't have as much oil to sell as the Middle East; I told her that Democrats and Republicans generally think different things about what we should do about energy; all in all, I think we talked for an hour or something about all of this, with me explaining different things and her asking questions here and there.
It was a lot of fun. It helps that she's so inquisitive. Elijah would have lost interest after one question, I think. Some of Kyrie's questions are just beyond me, like when she asked if the oil was making some of the fish or sealife extinct, or whether the fish and sealife had come back to Alaska's coastlines; I don't really know that. We've been reading this Extreme Nature book, too, that I've mentioned before. It occasionally talks about some extinct or near-extinct species, and Kyrie has asked me a couple of times why it's a bad thing if a species goes extinct. It's so self-evident to me that it's bad, I'm not sure my explanations about why are any good. (On the other hand, the last time she asked me that, I said something like, "because then there won't be any left at all" and she said something about getting new ones from the babies, and I explained that extinct meant all the babies died too; so maybe her question was just because she wasn't grasping the scope of extinction?) Anyhow, it's been fairly fun doing the homeschooling so far. If Gabe would just stop insisting on trying to be in the middle of everything, all would be well. :) And if I could find a way to get the kids to practice their basic adding and subtracting skills a little more, that would be good too. Although, yesterday...
A little background first. I have Kyrie and Elijah write and/or draw in their "journals" each homeschooling day. (Each page is half lined, half blank space for drawing.) Elijah has a theme going for the last week or so now. He writes "I like to play [insert made-up game]". Starball, starman, hit man, fire man, and so on are the names he comes up with. They all tend to incorporate Mario themes to them. And usually it includes a drawing of him and some bad guys. I am, generally, impressed by his creativity with this. Yesterday's edition involved him holding a "pow" (a type of block from Mario that you pick up and throw to make something happen); he said the pow would make the walls around him come down, so that he could reach the bad guys who were waiting on either side. He had a column of circles on one side, and the circles all had either a plus, minus, or multiply symbol in them. He said that the plus ones would give him an extra life (a "1-up" in Mario lingo), but the minus (he calls them "take away"s) and the multiply would take away his lives, so he wasn't going to get those ones. One of the bad guys was also giving all of his extra lives to another bad guy, because the second one only had one life. And the first one didn't mind have only one life, so he was giving all the other ones to the second guy. The things that goes through that boy's head. :) I was kind of glad to see him using some math symbols though.
Anyhow, homeschooling is going ok, in case you are wondering. It's a little hard for me to think it through with my fog brain, but the kids seem to be keeping reasonably busy and might even be learning something now and then. Elijah seems to be a little too willing to give up if he runs into something difficult; I'm not quite sure how to get past that, but we'll see.
Homeschooling Day 3
The kids all started off working in their workbooks. I had gone to a local school-supply store and bought each of my three older ones the summer edition workbooks for their grades. I had done that just so that they would have something "new" to keep them occupied on the airplane to Minneapolis, because I had been deeply concerned about managing four kids on a plane without Ken. Now that we're safely home again, the workbooks got added to the pile of things that they could work on when homeschooling. When we got home last Monday, I discovered I had a stomach bug - this eliminated homeschooling for Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday Savi had her speech therapy appointment, and Friday morning Elijah had a Barium Swallow Study, so when the kids asked if they could do homeschooling that Saturday morning, I decided that was probably a pretty good idea.
They worked on their workbooks for some time. Savi can't read the directions yet, so I sat next to her and described what she should do on each page. Eventually, Savi stopped and went off to play. Elijah then wanted to go play, too, but I told him he had to keep doing homeschool. (Savi, being not old enough for kindergarten yet, gets to homeschool on a more voluntary basis than the older two.) I suggested to Elijah that if he was tired of working in the workbook, that he go do one of the other homeschooling activities, like maybe picking a book off the shelf to read or look at. He insisted that he had to finish the workbook, even while he continued to whine that I wasn't letting him go play. This strange dynamic of him forcing himself to work on the workbook even while whining that he wanted to stop (while I continually suggested he try a different activity) continued long enough for him to do another 3 or 4 pages, I think. Then I made him close the workbook and put it away. I pulled out one of the books on the homeschooling shelf - Extreme Nature - and started showing him the cool pictures and summarizing the crazy aspects of the animals. He enjoyed that. I think he must have just really not had any concept of the other activities besides workbook-ing that I have in mind for them to be doing. I'll need to work on that.
Homeschooling Day 3.5
Yesterday, Monday morning, my friend Jackie was coming over to practice music with me, for our prayer group. (I have since scheduled with her to do that afternoons instead of mornings, so as not to interfere with homeschooling.) I was trying to get a variety of things done before Jackie came over, so I wasn't going to homeschool that day. But the kids asked if they could work on homeschooling things anyways, so I said yes, figuring it might keep them out of my hair for awhile. They might have worked for as much as an hour or so (workbooks again) before putting the things away and going to play outside instead. (Although without me to tell her what the directions were, Savi seemed to just do random things in her workbook, and got bored before long.)
Homeschooling Day 4
This was today. The kids did some workbook activity; Kyrie and Savi each took a turn with the alphabet-tracing whiteboard; and I tried to set up a new math activity for them. I used Excel to make a chart of blank squares, with the numbers 1 - 10 across the top and across the left side. The idea is to pick a math operation like + or x and fill in the squares with what you get when you use that math operation on the number to the left and the number above. For example, in the row that has 5 on the left and the column that has 8 up above and if you are doing multiplication on that sheet, you would write 40 (5 x 8 = 40). I printed off about a dozen of these sheets for the kids to fill in.
I had bought small glass beads at a craft store; I used one of the blank sheets to count off 100 of these beads and put them in a jar (a washed-clean Adams peanut butter jar, specifically; I try to keep one or two of these empty jars around for when I find I need to put small things in something; I put the leftover beads in another such jar, to be saved for future use). The beads are for them to use to help fill out the charts - like an extended form of counting on their fingers, one that goes up to 100. I think it will be especially useful with multiplication, for them to make rows and columns with the beads and then count the total. My counting out the 100 beads, though, was highly distracting to the kids, so that I could not get them to focus on what they were doing while I was trying to set it all up. Then I went back into the bedroom to print off answer sheets, one each for addition, multiplication, and subtraction. (I couldn't get Excel to give me answers that were in the form of improper fractions, so I left off the division one.)
Kyrie and Savi followed me into the bedroom to see what I was doing; Savi left the door open and Gabe came in, too. I shooed Kyrie and Savi out, but I could not grab Gabe very well with the printed answer sheets in my hand. I turned the light off, hoping he would come out on his own. No response. I closed the door, thinking maybe that shutting him in for a moment would get him to come over by the door, so that I would not have to chase him down. (My bedroom is... err... full of stuff, and not the most comfortable for pregnant mom to navigate). Closing the door turned out to be a BIG mistake. Unbeknownst to me, Kyrie had, while she was in the room, turned the lock on the inside handle. When I shut the door, the lock clicked in place, leaving Gabe trapped in my bedroom by himself. He's too little to know how to turn the lock back off. There's no keyhole-and-key to unlock the door from the outside. What there is, is a little tiny hole in the doorknob. I knew, vaguely, that you were supposed to able to stick something in there and unlock the door, but I didn't know what or how. I tried poking it with a pin; no luck. I tried poking it with a thermometer; no luck. I tried telling Gabe to turn the lock; his response was to wiggle the doorknob. (And he banged hard on the door a few times when he got frustrated with being in there.) Eventually I gave up and ran outside to see if the landlord was around. Very fortunately for me, he was. Apparently, it takes a very, very thin screwdriver to turn the lock from inside the doorknob. He didn't have one small enough to fit, so he used his power-drill to unscrew the whole doorknob and open the door that way. (He put it back on again). Thank the Lord for a helpful landlord!
That whole fiasco was another complete disruption to homeschooling today. I went back to laminating those answer sheets and tried without much luck to get the kids to go back to working on something. I told them to write in their journals; that and me reading the Bible to them is supposed to wrap up the homeschooling activities for the day. They each declared they were done when I finished laminating, even though none of them had probably spent more than 5 minutes writing or drawing anything. I gave up on the journals and grabbed the poetry book off the shelf and read some poems to Kyrie and Elijah in a semi-desperate attempt to use up some of the last hour of homeschooling time left. Then I read one Bible story and we wrapped it up to go have lunch.
Homeschooling - Miscellaneous Thoughts
I woke up Monday morning from a dream in which I was taking an art class (complete with my high school art teacher, Miss Ritchie); there was a painting that I had to do by the next day. Like most of my school-related dreams, there was a thread of excitement for doing again the work that, in waking life, I miss. When I woke, though, it got me thinking about the lack of artwork in the kids' homeschooling so far. I intended for one of their activities to be copying pictures from the various books that we have with cool pictures in them, but that has not yet actually happened. I think the concept might be a little too vague for the kids to actually *remember* that when considering what activity they want to do. So I think I need to set up maybe a little station or something - like a basket with crayons and blank paper and a picture book - so they have a visual reminder of that particular activity. Maybe a sketch-book-and-crayons would be enough, and they could remember that they can pick out any book they want. I'd also like to print off some simple line drawings, for them to practice drawing something upside-down. (One of those right-brain, "see things as they are" techniques).
Eventually I am going to have to address this whole workbook thing. One of the things that helped inspire me to try homeschooling was a book about Montessori principles. There's good evidence presented about how movement aids learning, and the author states that one of the signs of a Montessori school is that there are no workbooks. It struck me strongly at the time as a good goal, but it is not clear to me if I can reach it or not. While somewhat more expensive than I would have thought, workbooks are quite ... pervasive in learning fields, and finding and/or coming up with a complete set of non-workbook based teaching materials is easier said than done. I think I need to mull over how much workbook-ing I am willing to settle for in the long run.
We did homeschooling on Saturday, since we didn't do it any other day.
Elijah got frustrated with what he was doing, but refused to stop. Strange.
Otherwise it went well.
So this is what homeschooling has looked like so far:
Mon, June 21st: Planned to start homeschooling. Didn't, because Kyrie was sick. (And I wasn't really quite ready yet).
Tues, June 22nd: Homeschooled. Went ok.
Wed, June 23rd: Homeschooled. Went ok.
Thurs, June 24th: Didn't homeschool because Savi had a 10am speech therapy appointment.
Fri, June 25th: Didn't homeschool because I had an OB appointment in the morning.
Mon, June 28th: Didn't homeschool because that morning the lady I sing with at my prayer group (Monday nights) came over to practice the music then.
Tues, June 29th: Didn't homeschool because Elijah had an appointment with the endocrinologist. (Who, in case you are curious, said Elijah definitely has Constitutional Delay of Growth, which means he has to put up with being small until he's a young adult, but is perfectly healthy.)
Wed, June 30th: Didn't homeschool because I'm trying to get all the laundry done to make sure we are packed and ready to leave tomorrow.
Thurs July 1st-Monday July 12th. Won't homeschool because we will be out of town for my dad's wedding.
Tues, July 13th: Probably won't homeschool because I have an OB appointment in the morning (and will probably be recovering from the trip, too).
So it looks like the kids are getting two days of homeschool for the first month of summer break. Not exactly the greatest start. But, I have learned a definite lesson. Either I have to find a way to make afternoon homeschooling work, or else I have to stop scheduling things in the mornings.
Kyrie slept through most of it (she's still working her way through that bug, I guess.) Elijah seemed to think that Gabe screaming made it difficult to concentrate. (Gabe was having a really bad morning. I eventually decided it was because he was tired, and put him down for a very early nap. That helped.) Elijah also complained a little bit when Savi kept up a steady stream of chatter with me, talking all about the number words (eleven through twenty) she was tracing and copying. (Some of it was unintelligible, most of it was kind of basic - "I can do both kinds of E now, it showed me how to do the lower-case e", some of it was extremely cute - "this e is leaning up against the t, and this other e is fighting with the e next to it."). The chatter made it difficult for him to concentrate on the word search that he was working on. I've been thinking this may turn into a long-term issue, since I really only have one room to be working with all the kids in. The kids naturally like some peace and quiet when they are concentrating, but that will be hard to achieve if I'm trying to have a conversation with another kid, or if one of them gets really excited about what they are doing and wants to show it to me. Kyrie did come out towards the end and had a conversation with me based on a National Geographic article about cheap ways of making buildings more earthquake-resistant.