Friday, May 4, 2012

When School is not the priority...

School has been taking quite a different turn around here as of late.  My father-in-law was diagnosed with esophageal cancer which has had me quite upset for several reasons, some of which I have been praying about sharing on my blog in an effort to hopefully help someone else...I just have not decided yet how or if to share this.  (I am realizing more and more my fear of being judged). I have been feeling under the weather, partly due to my father-in-law's diagnosis, partly because of some digestive issues that I have.  For years my diet has consisted mainly of raw fruit and vegetables and whole grains with some dairy and little my doctor said, "...this diet is not without it's problems....people who eat processed foods and fast food have a different set of problems, but eating a high fiber, low-fat diet, although healthy can present some other painful issues...".   All of this is to say that emotionally, physically and mentally I have been ... leaving a lot of things up to the girls...such as how they fill their time.

To my great surprise, the TV hardly ever goes on and when it does, it's to watch the Waltons on DVD. We realized that we hardly ever watch TV anymore and so we have decided to cancel cable.  Today will be our first day without cable...we will see how it goes...

My girls have been making youtube videos, Allie is all about craft tutorials and movies with her sister and homeschool neighbors as characters.  They have also made some "Man on the Street" videos where they ask random questions of people walking by...don't ask...if our neighbors didn't think we were looney for homeschooling, they surely think we are all looney now... The questions are innocuous, "What is your favorite kind of cheese?  How do you eat this cheese?"  or "Do you think there is anything worth watching on television?"  or, they interview people walking their dogs, asking all kinds of questions about the dog.  Fortunately, one particular dog-walker family homeschools their high school age kids and get really into being interviewed, hamming it up for the camera, etc.

Piper is all about stop-motion videos featuring her American Girl dolls.  She makes various props for the dolls, creates storylines and has figured out how to make the video and post it to youtube.  She taught herself how to do this.

Right now we are keeping the videos private, for just their friends and family to see.

Allie and Piper and the homeschool neighbors created a stop motion video for a stop motion video contest.  The deadline is today.  The girls have been working together for almost two weeks.  They did this completely on their own, without any adult help or supervision.  They assigned tasks, one of the homeschool neighbor girls wrote the plot, the other three created props and together they positioned the dolls over and over, taking photos, editing and making a movie.  There were some disagreements and it was really difficult for me not to step in when sometimes it is so clear that one child wants to get their way and the other three are in disagreement; that one child feels excluded and picked on.  It's a learning curve for all of them and me, for sure.

Both of the girls have been reading voraciously.  Allie devoured the Hunger Games series and is now really into the Iron Queen series by Julie Kagawa.  Piper is all about American Girl books, she's finished the series and making her way through the mysteries, while anxiously awaiting the McKenna movie and the Julie musical this summer.

Allie has been working on a self-assigned essay about the woman who created American Girl dolls.  She has also been reading her Zoobooks and then doing further research on animals and has created an Animal Notebook.

Piper has created a notebook of ideas for stop motion videos, with notes on props, dolls, storylines, plots, characters....

In addition to the stop motion videos, Piper has been begging to bake.  She has made all sorts of cookies and cakes lately.  At first I was supervising, now I just show her where things are and put the trays or pans in the oven and take them out of the oven (we have a high wall oven).

The girls have continued to do math.  This week, Allie assigned herself review work on percents and figuring out tax because she felt she needed more practice with that.  I have been sitting patiently-or at least trying to- with Piper and trying to find ways to help her understand division.

We've taken a relaxed approach to history, eliminating the summaries.  We now read a section of a chapter each day and then look for youtube videos, read some of the corresponding reading, and/or print out pictures of the people we read about and write something about the people for our notebooks.  I've also given them some words to define and assigned them to describe a feudal system.  This is how we did history last year, before I realized you were supposed to do the summaries.  I realized my girls retained what they learned this way last year better, so although I do feel that it is very important to be able to express what you learned in writing, I just don't have the energy or wherewithal right now to enforce that...maybe we will get back to that, maybe we will employ more of a notebooking approach...who knows?

We have added a Lapbook from Elemental Science to our Science Approach.  Although this lapbook is really geared to younger kids, I find it really is helping to show the correlation between the various body systems and a great way to have an overview of each system at our fingertips.
When we were learning about the Five Senses, we blindfolded ourselves and used our other senses to guide us all over the house.  Then the girls had a lot of fun giving me things to taste and making me guess what they were by touching, smelling and tasting them.

Are we headed toward unschooling?  I am not sure.  I still feel that kids need to learn discipline, they need to learn to absorb things they may not be wholeheartedly interested in, they need to learn to do things they may not love doing...because, maybe this is very cynical of me, but...that is life.  If I had my way, I would lay in bed all the ding dong day and read novels...but I need to clean the house, make food, go shopping...sometimes I need to learn about illnesses, even though I don't want to...

So, right now, this is just where we are.  I have been feeling bad about my lack of motivation in the school department as I deal with other things.  I have been afraid that I would be judged harshly.  But, I have come to the realization that right now, this is where we are.  The girls ARE learning.  We school year round and I am certain that we will get back in the swing of things in one way or another at some point.  I have heard that all homeschoolers go through phases like this.  I am proud that my girls are continuing their studies without my prompting.  They are creating assignments about things they are interested in and using their time wisely.  Those are huge lessons and I am SO proud of them for it!