Monday, May 4, 2015

Spring Fever, Splash, Tree Change, & Hyperbole

Spring Fever

We made the decision a couple of years ago to follow a traditional September - June school schedule.  The girls like having the summer off to relax and do things with friends and I need the time to relax, plan and get my head cleared from one year and ready for the next.

I have several projects that I am itching to start...

  • When the girls were tiny and scrapbooking was the big thing, I had made them each scrapbooks with photos from when I was pregnant with them until they were two.  I also made Year in Review albums up until 2009, when I started making photo books.  Over the years, for different reasons, I have gone through the scrapbooks and pulled out photos for memorial collages and #tbt or #flashbackfriday or to scan and make into prints to frame and then just sort of shoved them back in the page protector but didn't glue them back on--and the books are A MESS!  I want to scan all of those photos into Shutterfly and make photo books, I can keep copies and if when the girls grow up and move out, they want a copy, I can have another copy printed!
  • When we cleaned out my mother and father-in-law's house, we took a beautiful antique armoire that my brother-in-law didn't want.  I want to clean it and sand it down and refinish it.
  • I also want to paint the desk and night tables in my bedroom with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE working with this paint!
  • Also, I would like to make a decision about moving or staying.  We would LOVE more land for gardens, privacy, to have chickens.  We have been looking for a few YEARS and we have had a hard time finding something with gas heat (oil heat is 3x the price of gas heat and some towns near us are outlawing woodstoves because they say they are fire hazards) or what we have found has the acreage we want but shares a driveway with a neighbor--we want more space from neighbors or one house had toxic mold, another needed A LOT of structural work (was really a tear down)...part of me wants to hold out for that Craftsman bungalow on three plus acres on a not-busy road...but another part wants to make the decision and feel settled.  A few years ago, before all of this wanting more land started, we had started saving to remodel our kitchen, but we have been putting it off and if we are going to stay--I really want to get rid of this ceramic tile floor and counter! We bought this house because it is close to a lot of major roads and as the girls are getting closer to college, we have realized they could commute to at least 8 great schools from here (that is not counting the schools in the city).  While we want them to have the college experience, neither my brother nor I lived at school and felt we got the experience and I don't see paying 15k or more to share a room and a bathroom and eat crappy food...but of course, it will be up to the girls what they decide to do.  Hopefully, we will get closer to making a decision this summer. 
  • In the last few weeks we started looking at YET ANOTHER HOUSE, this one on 6 acres and a bungalow (not quite the wide front porch Craftsman type bungalow that we had in mind, but a bungalow style home), on one side was protected open space, BUT the other side is a nursery that is for sale and the rumor is that it may become a corporate complex (it is not that close to the house and it's kind of "off the beaten path" but our realtor told us that the current owners have filed paperwork with the town to turn it into a complex of office buildings, the paperwork has not yet been approved--I guess we can hold out and see if it gets approved? Or if someone snatches the place up in the interim?)

Princeton Splash

The girls attended Princeton Splash a couple of weeks ago.  It was a great experience!  I admit, I wanted them to do it and they were hesitant.  But when they heard about the course offerings, they became a little more enthusiastic.  I have learned with my girls that I often need to push them to get them out of their comfort zone--but usually when I do, they end up having a good time.  
I am reposting this from Piper's Instagram

On the day of Princeton Splash, I was nervous about dropping them off and leaving them to navigate a university campus all by themselves.  I almost said "let's forget it", but I am glad I didn't, because the girls had a wonderful day and navigated the campus just fine, made new friends, came out smiling and confident and eager to share what they had learned--about why Kanye is a genius, how to persuade people (which Piper told us she couldn't tell us about because she might want to use it on us!), how to make a video game and making marble cupcakes in a dorm with a bunch of college girls, just sitting around and talking!

Jason and I went out to lunch, reminisced about when we lived in Princeton, visited one of my high school friends who now owns a very chi-chi shop in Princeton and just enjoyed having some time alone together!

Winding Up Academically

Since I tracked our hours this--Allie's first year of high school--year, we have enough hours in Language Arts to consider it one credit, although there are a couple of more things we are still going to do, like read To Kill a Mockingbird together and work through this packet together.

We have finished our Chemistry curriculum, but we still have 7 hours to fill, which the girls will fill with experiments from the Caveman Chemistry book my brother-in-law used in a college class and the girls are interested in trying some Kitchen Chemistry, plus we have a membership to Liberty Science Center and plan to spend some time there this summer, so I don't think rounding that out will be a problem.  I am also considering asking them to write an essay about what they learned in science this year, sometimes I think writing something makes you think about it more and understand it even more clearly.  They can use the Student Reading from our curriculum, which they have been dutifully highlighting and taking notes in the margins on, to write the paper.
Measuring pH, we did this for HOURS, using red cabbage leaves and water.
Baking soda, hand soap, lotion, make-up, etc. we just kept finding things to test!

The girls are working independently through a research and writing project on Ancient Civilizations, they have about 10 hours until they complete the 120 hour requirement for a credit, but about 8 more topics to cover (they cover one topic a day, 4 days a week and it takes them about 2 hours to research the topic, write an outline, write the paragraph(s) and enter the works cited in proper format) so they will go over hour-wise in history as well.  I was considering one of these Lapbooks for the Middle Ages, but we had such good luck with this research and writing project and the girls truly learned and were able to discuss so much, that I am considering doing the same for Middle Ages and maybe even Renaissance.

We have completed Level 1 of Rosetta Stone Italian and accompanying Italian grammar worksheets. I am not counting this at all.  I will count all five levels of Rosetta Stone Italian, plus an Italian school grammar workbook as 2 years of Italian.

We have almost 60 hours (half high school credit) of quality work in  Film StudyArt and Cooking & Baking, we are undecided as to how long we will log hours for these classes.  Presidential Politics will be an ongoing full high school credit project until November of 2016 (I just bought this US Government Studies Lapbook from Knowledge Box in part because I thought it would be a cool addition to this study and in part to see if we want to go this route with the Middle Ages or continue with the research-based learning project).  E-cubed ends in about a month and by that time, Allie will have over 120 hours there, she learned about geography, art, discussed books, learned how to hang drywall, tape drywall and use a drill, among MANY other things there but I am undecided if I should count it as a "Club" or a half credit or a full credit.  Other moms who are using this credit hour system all have different ideas, so I am going to have to go with what feels right.
We are considering Writing Group like a high school club.  A group of girls that get together and share their writing, provide feedback, hang out.  It didn't start out with the goal of being a positive group for girls.  It started out because Allie loves to write stories and Piper enjoyed writing plays with the idea of her friends acting it out and her filming it and I thought they could use a writing group to share their ideas and get feedback.  One of the things that I knew was most important in this group was that everyone feel safe and comfortable and so, in looking back over the year, we ended up doing a lot of things to learn about and accept each other--from writing what we admired about each other in each other's journals to writing positive descriptions of each other to learning to give AND take positive feedback AND constructive criticism. I think the group is tighter for it.  We are having our last meeting for the season this week.  We may do Writing Club next year or we may do Film Club instead as all of the girls love movies and it could be fun to watch movies and discuss them together--cinematography, lighting, camera angles, choices the director made, etc.

The girls have also happily logged many hours volunteering to help me with programs at the library and volunteering at the soup kitchen.  Both things, they have said, make them feel good and they are going to continue both indefinitely.  Allie is considering a career working with children and is also hoping to volunteer at a children's hospital this summer--if my mama heart can handle letting her, there are just some things I want to shield her from!  Allie, ever the book lover, also talks frequently about becoming a librarian, she has approached my boss about other volunteer opportunities or possibly a paid position in the future, when something opens up.

The girls are continuing and expanding their dog walking business and Allie will be doing more babysitting this summer.  We are looking forward to beach days with friends, several trips we have planned and just relaxing...and, of course, I have my list of projects I want to do.


Math has been...tricky.  Piper has struggled so much with fractions.  We have been using Teaching Textbooks which is a software program that offers an explanation and hints and help and solution explanations...but just not enough practice of new concepts.  I was printing out worksheets for Piper to supplement what she was learning and that was helping.  Then, Allie started struggling with Polynomials and while she understood the basic Rational Expressions and Quadratic Equations, eventually as it got more complex, the explanation on Teaching Textbooks was not enough.  The girls had meltdowns.  I had a meltdown.  Math is not my thing and Algebra is not something I can explain, although I was able to solve the problems, I just don't feel like I can do enough here on my own to help her.

At the same time - the week after Easter - their school friends were on spring break posting pictures on social media and I started questioning if we made the right decision to homeschool or if the girls would have been better off in school.  I beat myself up for everything.  It was a pretty bad time.

Jason came home, saw the state of us girls and took us all out to dinner.  After a margarita and chips and some of the best salsa ever and grilled cactus and fish tacos, we were all feeling better.  The girls NEVER questioned being homeschooled--they want to continue and feel lucky that they are homeschooled.  We just need to figure out the math thing.

One IG friend mentioned CTC Math Tutoring, which is a bit pricey, but might be what we need.  We also might need to hire a personal tutor.  A friend from our little local homeschool group loaned us Life of Fred Beginning Algebra, but I don't like that the answer key is on the same page as the questions.  Allie is reading it, but she really doesn't have to solve the problem because the answer is right there .  I cover it with Post-its...but still....  Another friend mentioned Key to Algebra series which she said saved her sanity and starts very basic, but it seems to be out of print :(  I have had a hard time finding it anywhere and as it is consumable, her kids wrote in it and she threw it away. 

My plan is to take this break and let the girls breathe and let me research things and come to a decision and maybe in a couple of weeks, when we have wrapped more stuff up and can focus almost exclusively on math and do it at a relaxed pace, we will try something new...or go back in to Teaching Textbooks (someone told me they have a one-on-one tutoring available over the phone, but i have not looked into that yet) or hire a tutor or something.

I love that homeschooling allows us time to take breaks when needed and find the curriculum that works for our individual children.  

Tree Change Dolls

Since we abandoned CNN Student News because I didn't like starting our day with violence and anxiety-producing images and stories, I have been sharing things I find with the girls every morning (sometimes they share things they find online with me, too!).  We all LOVED this story, this idea, these dolls, how creativity was celebrated, how social media was used positively, how industry was created, how there is a need for this, how innovative this mom was....the list really goes on and on of all the reasons we love this and I wanted to share it.


The girls and I have been going over different literary devices.  I found this youtube video for yyperbole and I thought it was so excellent that I had to share it.  I don't think anyone would ever not understand or remember what hyperbole was after watching this!