Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Changing it UP

This is our first year of homeschooling.  Over the summer when we made the decision and in the fall when we began homeschooling, I knew that I had no clue had really very little idea of what I was doing and how to do it.  I didn't expect myself to know yet.  I figured as long as we kept chugging along everything would fall into place.  And some of it has...there are still areas that we are figuring out...areas I can improve on.  I really want to let go more.  I want to let learning happen with guidance as opposed to strict adherence to lesson plans or what is in the book (this is all me, my girls are happy to soar in other directions; I am the one saying, "Ok, come down from there I see that connection, but it's not in the book, you are off track from the book..." and I REALLY want to slap myself silly.)  I am just that kind of person.  I make lists.  I cross things off as I go along.  I plan things out.  I need to figure out how to have loose guidelines and let go and let learning happen and let my girls go off on tangents, make connections...if you have any ideas or suggestions, PLEASE, PLEASE, help a sister out here!  Any suggestion is GREATLY appreciated.

We have taken the last three weeks off and continue to take this week off.  Over this time I have breathed a little, gotten a little distance and had time to think.  The girls continued to do math and handwriting.  I feel that both girls have a good handle on the cursive writing and their skills will improve as long as they keep writing their final copies in cursive (they also both got diaries for Christmas and have been very happy to tell me, show me that they are writing in cursive!).  The girls also did book reports over the break.  And they ENJOYED them.  Seriously.  We are going to incorporate book reviews.  Our read-aloud was ... not a hit.  First of all, I have a lot of serious feelings about Little Women.    We read the entire first part of the book and part of the second part, but are looking forward to renting the movie.  I would LOVE to read Little Town on the Prairie with the girls, but not sure when we will do that.  I LOVE Drawn Into the Heart of Reading, but we seem to not have found time for it.  Both of my girls are voracious readers.  They read at least one chapter book or novel a week. ( They beg to stay up late reading.  It is not uncommon to find them reading in an armchair in the afternoon.  I am so blessed in this area...well, actually this only happened since we began homeschooling, so maybe they are blessed to have me as their mom! Ha!) I am going to start requiring simple, informal book reviews and occasional pages from DITHOR activity book.  (Santa brought me a photocopier, printer, scanner, fax machine thingee--YIPPEE!!) I also bought an Evan Moore Reading Comprehension book for each of them.  It's just a simple workbook, but they will occasionally do an exercise in there.  Just so that I can ensure that they are comprehending what they read.  I am big on comprehension.  Maybe this will satisfy my need to cross things off a list.  Reading Comprehension-Inference!

I want to spend more time on Art.  Both of my girls really enjoy art and they are both really good at it.  I bought Discovering Great Artists, which I have been looking through and some of it looks a little too young for my 8 and 11 year olds.  But I know that I can change it up slightly to meet their needs.  I am looking for any recommendations for art books, curriculum.  I have Art Projects for Kids bookmarked on my computer and there are several ideas there that we want to try.  Santa brought the girls good quality sketch books, tubes of watercolors, charcoals, various soft and hard lead pencils, oil pastels, chalk pastels and other art supplies that I am forgetting.  We have a double sided easel.  I was a little disappointed in the selection of classes at the art college and art council nearby for this Winter Session.  But we have tentative plans to go to the Met in January and inspired by Jessica from Teachable Moments, I think we will plan one art outing a month...the Met, the Grounds for Sculpture, maybe the Art Museum in Philly, maybe a pottery workshop, the local art museum, maybe a gallery walk in SoHo...we are fortunate to have such close proximity to both Manhattan and Philadelphia.  I really need to get off my derriere and take advantage of it.

Science is a whole other issue.  I have bought some curriculum sight unseen, but am having a hard time buying science that way.  I have wonderful friends at co-op who have brought in their science curriculum so that I can peruse them.  I've also received some science curriculum from freecycle.  I will just be honest here.  I hated science as a kid.  Abhorred.  Despised.  I am a Language Arts girl...I like shades of gray.  Science is black or white, confining, conforming.  Since September, my attitude toward Science has changed radically.  We have been doing experiments almost every day and <insert a drumroll here> SCIENCE MAKES SENSE!  It's not just memorizing that if you mix a with b c occurs or when e is exposed to f then g happens, but if f is exposed to d then ...you get the picture.  Actually seeing it happen instead of just reading about it and memorizing it for an exam is really changing my attitude toward science.  That being said, I want a curriculum where there are A LOT of experiments.  I am talking every concept is illustrated with an experiment.  Daily experiments that I can do in my kitchen.  Santa brought 2 science kits and my parents gave the girls a wonderful Solar System kit, so those are our science plans this semester.

I am also very excited to attend my first Homeschool Conference in the Spring, where I am hopeful that I will find the perfect Science curriculum.

I've realized that with my girls home more, they need to go to bed earlier for my sanity.  I need a couple of hours a day to be alone and read, research, come up with ideas, regroup.  I felt guilty for a while about needing this time.  I felt like people would laugh and say, "Ha, she can't take being with her kids that much!" But when your 8 year old wants to do another science experiment at 11pm...um, there needs to be a limit.  My eyes are being held open by toothpicks at that time and I can't even focus on a Harlequin, never mind blowing up a balloon with vinegar and baking soda.  So, we are going to adhere to a strict 8pm bedtime, with reading til 9.  That way, my cherubs will get up earlier and we can start earlier...and have more time before lunch.  Starting at 9 or 10 felt like we got one or two things done and then it was lunchtime and sometimes I felt like I lost them when we ate lunch.

God has a funny way of having things work out.  I've always heard that we don't even know what we need when we pray and it's so true.  I could never have prayed for this, but it is working out.  I am a librarian.  I love my job--LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it.  I thought about leaving when we decided to homeschool...but I could not bare to leave my peeps, and an environment where I interacted with adults and was thought of as smart.  But budget cuts being what they are, my schedule will change fairly dramatically come January.  Yes, I will be in the Children's Library, but I will be working 8 hours a week as opposed to the 12-16 hours I was working.  Yes, there will be less money.  But, there will be more time.  Also, in January, our co-op takes a break.  We only meet up the last Monday of the month.  And my girls' choir takes a break in January...giving us wide open freedom.  I need wide open freedom to feel like I can sink my teeth into something...I can't wait to see where this will take us and what we will sink our teeth in!