Friday, January 28, 2011

Week in Review - The One Where I Questioned Everything

This was a rather trying week for me.  We have been getting hit pretty hard with snow (another 18 inches this week!) and temps have been below zero.  Which means basically, we rarely venture outside of the house.  Homeschool roller skating and ice skating were both cancelled this week.  The library was closed.  My husband is an arborist, so he works outside most of the time and in these weather conditions, he has been unable to go to work.  We all have cabin fever.

We had a long conversation, which we called State of the Family, about how we are all doing.  I am way more concerned about A not being around girls her own age than she is.  Several times she has said, "I have P--when you have a sister like her, you don't need anyone else.  She is like 7 friends in one.  Crazy, kooky, funny, smart, sweet, playmate and fighter." (If you knew P, you would agree!)

I completely appreciate all of the comments and emails I received this week regarding my questioning homeschooling.  Deb over at Not Inadequate turned me on to this wonderful post.

Last Monday, I found the blog of a non-homeschooling mom.  I really liked her approach to organizing her family and her home.  I was feeling like I needed to get more organized and could learn more from her.  I read further and she spoke about her philosophy on child-rearing.  She believes that kids need to do things they don't want to do to understand that life is like that sometimes.  I agree.  This got me to thinking... and changing my approach to some things.  The girls have been given more responsibility around the house and seem to be doing well with it.  This week the girls helped shovel snow, folded clothes, cleaned the basement and their bedrooms, emptied the dishwasher several times, set the table and cleared the table and washed the dishes every night.  They were doing some of these things, as asked.  This week, we asked more than usual.  They didn't give us a hard time.

I began to question various areas of our approach to homeschooling.  One of the reasons we brought the girls home to learn is because we felt that the schools were too focused on the test.  Also, both of our girls had severe test anxiety (vomiting, decreased vision, hyperventilating, etc.) which we felt was brought on by the school and teachers constant droning about the BIG STANDARDIZED TEST.

I have given the girls spelling tests and their Math programs have tests built in, but that was all of the testing that we were doing.  I don't necessarily agree with memorizing facts.  I do, however, think my girls need to get past their test anxiety and need to learn test prep.

We spent the last few weeks learning about acids and bases in Science.  We have done a lot of really fun experiments.  This week, we compiled all of that data into notes and the girls were asked to study the notes.  I wrote up a test and administered it on Thursday morning.  They each got a 90%.  Not bad (and in truth I was kind of glad that my test was difficult enough that they got some wrong).

We learned about New and Middle Egypt and made papier mache Death Masks.

We learned about Hathshepsut, Amenhotep and Thutmose.  The learned what the prefixes poly- and mono- mean.  We learned about the first library.

We learned about Moses.  I got out my Children's Bible from when I was a child, which has gorgeous illustrations of this story, which is my favorite Bible story.  I also showed the girls (on youtube) Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea.  Gotta love youtube!

We watched youtube videos about glass blowing, The Quest for the Phoenicians and the Carthage and the Phoenicians.

We also finished our study of the African continent in Story of the World.  The girls have been taking quizzes on each chapter at this awesome website.  I decided to compile the data from the last few chapters and create a History test.

Our experiences with test anxiety had me dreading this week and these tests.  I created a test on Chapter 13-17 of Story of the World and administered it today.  They each got a couple wrong, but did well with it.

We began a Writer's Workshop model of writing.  We start with vocabulary words.  Then, a mini-lesson, which so far has been reading stories to inspire.  Then the girls anything they want for a half hour.  P has been writing a story.  A has been writing poetry and various things about the 4 characters in the Mother-Daughter Book Club Series that she loves.  We end with share time, usually over lunch.

Math continues to be a struggle.  P is happy with Teaching Textbooks.  A worked with Singapore last week and Monday and Tuesday of this week.  She's had a few meltdowns even with Singapore.  We had a long discussion and she has decided to use Teaching Textbooks.  She would really like for me to buy Everyday Math, but I am not sold on that idea.  Everyday Math does not teach for mastery and I feel that mastery is imperative in math.  We are working out a plan to use Teaching Textbooks and Life of Fred Decimals and Percents--she adores LoF, but I think it's good as a supplement, not a stand alone program.  She did Teaching Textbooks twice this week and says that now, after trying several other programs she thinks TT is a really good program--we'll see...hope she keeps up the positive attitude!

Completely on her own, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday A started a poetry unit.  She wrote poetry during our Writer's Workshop and she asked to do the exercises on poetry in our reading comprehension book.  I'm cool with that.  I had bought a book on teaching children how to write poetry and completely on her own, she selected some exercises and completed them beautifully.

P finished Double Fudge by Judy Blume this week and is antsy for the library to open so she can get more Fudge books.  A finished the Much Ado About Anne by Heather Vogel Frederick.

The girls wrote letters to characters in the novels they were reading this week, using a formal letter structure.

My plan for January was to finally begin Drawn Into the Heart of Reading, but A discovered the Mother-Daughter Book Club series and they are so excellent that I wanted her to keep reading.  We are going to start Percy Jackson together next week and may or may not include some pages from DITHOR.  I had all but given up on the Adventure unit and the 5 books each that I had researched, selected and ordered from the library for each of them.  UNTIL...we got walloped with another giant snowstorm (I heard on the radio we have not had this much snow in 62 years!) and the library was closed and the girls finished their books...and perused the titles I had picked and started reading!  A is reading Shipwreck: Island Book 1  by Gordon Korman and P is reading Kit Saves the Day by Valerie Tripp  .  We took advantage of the snowy days Thursday and Friday and cuddled in bed and read!  Other than prepping for the History and Science tests, we read and completed some DITHOR worksheets, baked some amazing treats and made Valentine crafts!  I can't tell you how much this did my heart good!  I began this week questioning our decision to homeschool and ended this week with a renewed commitment!
I got the recipe for these amazing bars, at Raising Little Women, they are called Peanut Butter Twix.

When I look back over this, I think, "Geez, we really did a lot this week!"  Jason has commented that the girls are so much more willing to talk about what they are learning and he sees them incorporate what they learn in history and science in their play.

Next week...
We are beginning our Science unit using The Care and Keeping of You, a Spa Science Kit and Yoga!

We are also beginning to study the Greeks.  We will be reading "A Song to Demeter" and "Percy Jackson" and perhaps sneaking in some visits to our favorite Greek restaurant or even (finally!) making moussaka and spanikopita and pastitsio!  (I've always wanted to make those, my mom's BFF is Greek and wrote down the recipes for me YEARS ago, dear woman, and I've never made use of them!  Shhh..don't tell her!)

We will continue our Writer's Workshops and Teaching Textbooks and maybe just break the seal on Rosetta Stone!!  But I am kind of thinking I'd rather do Latin...ugh...I need to make a decision!

We have also been doing a lot of little projects around the house to get past this cabin fever...but I will share all of that in another post!

We have plans for homeschool roller skating and a playdate with a homeschool friends scheduled for next week.  Also, I never thought I would be so glad to see choir resume!  We are starting a new season of programs at the library and the girls are back to Sewing with Mama next week!!

But first, they are headed over to Mama's for a sleepover with their cousin this weekend and the hubby and I have plans to hit the town! Yippee!