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Happy MLK Day

Today is one of my favorite homeschool days. No, we don't have a vacation. There are too many important things to learn about. We read great books, historic speeches and discuss concepts of friendship, peace and justice. I had found a timeline of Dr. King's life on the Mailbox website for William to complete.


Then it is time for math. After doing his requisite KHAN academy exercise (today he chose mulitiplication and division), William likes to watch videos like this one:
https://www.khanacademy.org/math/vi-hart/v/binary-hand-dance

Now he is practicing the binary hand dance. I love it!

It is freezing cold for Martin Luther King Day here in Minnesota. So for our science, we did a repeat of a freezing experiment that we did last week when we thought it was cold at 16 degrees. Today it was -8 degrees, so we thought we would see how much faster it was to make ice globes. Our balloon froze completely around in about 3 hours, approximately half the time it took last week! Now we can enjoy the beauty of our candles glowing.

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Busy fall

We have had a busy fall with school! We have bumped things up a level for third grade. It feels like we need to make sure we get in more traditional academics than we did in second grade. So we are taking fewer days off from "work." When Eliana is in preschool four afternoons a week, William and I have a nice chunk of quiet time to focus on third grade academics. We are able to take most mornings slow, do art projects, read stories, or have outings. Recent morning outings include the gymnastics studio, swimming lessons at the YMCA, co-op, taking photos at my school, and Bruce the Bug Guy! I arranged for Bruce to come to town. My kids really enjoyed his bug camp last summer and were excited to see his bugs again and share them with their friends. His show culminated with eating bugs! Why will my kids eat bugs without hesitation, but turn their noses up at my cooking?


Rosie!

William's photo from pajama day at school


We are getting ready for the holidays. It will be nice to have a couple days off for Thanksgiving this week. Then soon it will be Advent. A friend of mine was looking for book suggestions for an Advent calendar of sorts. As a fellow book lover, I decided to borrow her idea and raided my kids' book shelves looking for all the Christmas themed books I could find there. I easily came up with 25 books, but I did purchase one more. One of my favorite children's Christmas songs was in book format at the Target Dollar spot. I couldn't resist. Here is the array of books we came up with. We will read one each day starting on December 1st. The last one will be read Christmas morning.


25 books for Advent

When the stack is gone, it will be Christmas!



(Many of the books I have were used in my kindergarten room. The red tape was how I could easily pick out my own personal books when I rotated my book shelves each month.)

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Summer school

I think summer school is busier than any other school season. We are in the throes of activities right now. We still keep up piano lessons and we've got to practice some math facts. Then throw in swimming lessons, park days, bug camp, story time, summer reading programs, service learning, field trips, theater camp, Lego camp, gymnastics, family visiting and visiting friends. And that's just when we are not on vacation :) We've got to take breaks for the 4th of July, anniversaries, and family reunions!

It's been a really hot summer, so we've been trying to come up with fun things to do indoors on all those dangerously hot days. Our latest project is building the globe. We found ONE Ravensburger 540-piece globe puzzle on the red dot table at Barnes & Noble! Score! It's been a great project. I'd been wanting to get a globe and this looks to be a good starter. It's surprisingly sturdy. When it's all complete he can take the World Landmarks book I found at the Target dollar spot and see which landmarks he can locate on the globe. Fun! Inexpensive! Educational! And it beats the heat for this cool weather mom.


Southern Hemisphere complete!
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IOWA Basics

We got our results! I've got to say, that seemed really fast! We sent the test back to the U of M on a Monday and the results were in our mailbox in just over a week on Thursday. Being one who likes charts, graphs, percents and numbers, I enjoyed looking them over. Nothing surprised me. I was sitting across from him while he took the test watching how he answered :) (Which was very nice because I could see EXACTLY which concepts he struggled with.) I wasn't sure if it was worthwhile doing this particular test while we were doing it because it took four entire mornings, but in hindsight, I think it's the one we'll stick with. The results are well laid out and easy to talk about with William. And we'll be able to compare his progress from one year to the next in the various subject areas. For example, we have quantitative evidence that math facts are his weakness (he is average *gasp*), so we can put more emphasis on practicing them, getting faster and more confident. Then we can test again next year to see if his percentile score improves. I also really like that he gets practice with the fill-in-the-bubble type of test which he will need to do eventually for more important reasons. All in all, it was a good experience!

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Squishy Circuits kit

The electronics kit we ordered has arrived! William is having a lot of fun exploring electricity with Squishy Circuits and the activities created by the University of St. Thomas. Caution: The buzzer is loud on the video. So loud, in fact, that Eliana's ears no longer work :)

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Plugging away

It's been a while since I updated about our homeschooling adventures. William has mentioned a few things he's been excited about in his blog. Here are a few highlights from our last couple months of schooling:

Community activities:
*I have been teaching a show and tell/group games class for 6-9 year-olds at our co-op this semester.
*We started another, much smaller co-op twice a month that does Spanish, PE, music, art and show and tell.
*We went bowling with the area homeschoolers.
*We have gone to two plays: Winnie the Pooh and a puppet theater version of Peter Rabbit.
*The Annual Maple Syrup Festival at St. John's Arboretum was a fun and educational trip despite the slow sap flow due to warm temperatures.
*William has been doing swimming lessons through community education. We are thinking he'll pass level one this time!
*He will also start another youth enrichment league Lego group in a few weeks.

Metro activities:
*MN Historical Society in St. Paul - We got a family membership through Groupon. It was a great deal. We were surprised by how much there was for the kids to do at the museum. We learned a lot, had a great time, and with our membership we will get free admission to 26 historical sites around the state! Fun for this summer!
*Works Museum - What a great place for science exploration. Between our GPS and traffic difficulties, we ended up having only an hour to spend here. We will definitely have to go back. William made it through about half of the museum and could've spent hours just playing and exploring with ramps, pulleys, light, lasers, opitical illusions, and countless other exhibits not to mention the hands-on experiments that we could've done upstairs.

Online activities:
*Clever Dragons is a fun website for boys to do learning activities, watch funny videos, and interact socially in a moderated environment.
*Codecademy is an online tool that teaches you to program. It taught William some valuable concepts, but quickly became too difficult.
*Scratch is an exciting program developed by the smart people at MIT. It teaches computer programming in an exciting way. It uses sounds and animation to get kids interacting and creating. William has been really motivated and has created many mini games, learning a lot about computer programming in the meantime.
*KAHN academy has been on our radar since the fall, but we only just recently delved into it and discovered the power of it. It is a math program that takes students through exercises, tracks their progress, and offers helpful teaching videos to help them when they get stuck. The videos branch out into many other topics as well.

Home activities:
*William continues to love practicing piano. He let me know the other day that he prefers playing piano over video games!
*The rainbow sticky notes have continued to be an important part of our daily routine.When I realized they weren't going to last much longer, I was pretty disappointed. Then, about a week before they ran out, I found one lonely, identically colored, crayon-shaped tablet of sticky notes in the dollar spot. Divine intervention!
*My ECFE classes are wrapping up for the year. I'm looking forward to being on hand more often to help William with learning new skills.
*We will be doing Iowa Basics testing in a few weeks. I am excited to be doing a test that most schools use. If and when we decide to go back to traditional schooling, we will have his test scores to show his progress.

It doesn't feel like we're doing all that much on a daily basis because, when William stays focused and gets his stuff done, he really has a lot of free time. That's been wonderful! He has time to play Legos, read for fun, play outside in this crazy, warm spring weather, and use his imagination. His sister really enjoys spending time with him, too. We're loving homeschooling!

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Reaffirming the decision

Have you ever felt really convicted that you're doing the right thing? It's a great feeling! This week we have had some conversations with professionals about William and it has been a really important affirmation to us that we are on the right track with homeschooling. We always knew he was a unique kid and felt he would be a good candidate for homeschool. First grade was a real turning point. Preschool and kindergarten are taught much more in the way that he learns best, so I'm glad he got that school experience. And first grade was a good experience in a different way. He knows what school is like and we know that it wasn't a fit for him. At home he is able to delve into his interests and increase his skills at his own pace. He can focus much better because we can control the environment. He has more time to build friendships that are meaningful based on shared interests.

This was a week of particular distractibility, maybe because it was so chilly and we had some cabin fever. Wednesday I came home from teaching my morning class and, instead of accomplishing the work I'd assigned him, he had spent his time reading a science book to find an experiment he wanted to do. The book was set aside and he was able to complete the experiment on Friday, when his work was finished. He made a working stethoscope. I guess I can't complain too much about the things that distract him.

Instead of the stethoscope experiment, on Thursday Eliana taught us how to do an experiment she learned at daycare. We put a water-filled balloon (with a little air, too) outside in the sub-zero temperatures and made a beautiful ice candle holder. It was a lovely addition to our dinner table that night and another fun experiment watching it melt.

Also on Thursday, we picked up and went to the trampoline park on a whim. I love that we can do what is needed to combat the winter blues and not be stuck "indoors" on cold days. Let me tell you, it felt wonderful to jump! I highly recommend it.

What really feels good is knowing we can settle in for the long haul with this homeschooling thing. We've been steadily finding our way and I'm now convinced we'll be at it for another couple years at least. I am already looking forward to having more one-on-one time with William when Eliana is off at preschool four days a week next year. Remind me to carve out plenty of one-on-one time with her, too. On the other hand, I'm sure she will remind me in her own way :)

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Homeschool Saturday Morning

Here is Saturday morning hanging out in our pjs at home:

We had an opportunity to practice respectfully addressing your parents when Eliana asked Sara if she could paint. We have now escalated from "I like it when you call me Mom. It's a special name only you and your brother can call me," to "Sara can't give you permission to paint, but Mom can." She has been very persistent in this stage which isn't really surprising for my strong willed girl.

While Eliana was painting, William was creating a math game. My challenge: Which is greater 1/2 or 3/4? I got the answer correct!

Now William is painting a cover for a book he wants to write entitled "Aron's Colorful Pterodactyl."

Some days I wonder why I ever bother planning lessons.

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Registration time!

I'm discovering another homeschool benefit that would have come in especially handy in the past few years with William. Having an August birthday, school registration season has always been a difficult time of year for us to decide what to do with him. Now we are going through it all again with Eliana. Last year at this time we registered her for preschool. We later decided to wait another year. Now it's registration time again. I need to decide where to send her and which class to register for and then hope I am happy with my choice 9 months later! It sure is easier to default to homeschooling. But she will be registered for preschool. I firmly believe in giving my kids a few years of school to see if it's a good fit for them. As the saying goes, all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. I'm thankful for William's school experiences. He just told me today about the time in first grade when he tried to sharpen his eraser. He can really appreciate what school has to offer versus homeschooling and so can I.

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A time to give thanks

We've been into art projects lately. You saw the sea life stencils. Then I found some fun turkey art on a homeschool blog (http://minnesotahomeschoolersalliance.wordpress.com/) that we tried out with reasonable success.


Samples and Eliana's projects

William's turkeys

Either my kids aren't quite ready for scratch art or they needed a little more help with technique. They tended to rub the scratched off bits of oil pastel back into their picture while scratching. Teaching them to remove the scratched off bits would have turned out a better finished product, I think. Plus it would have made much less of a mess! But they loved the oil pastels and did some of their best coloring, so that may contribute to my disappointment with the scratching. It's always hard to color over a beautiful picture with black. [Edited to add: After looking at the demo piece again, we should have outlined the picture with Sharpie first. I think coloring the background would've helped, too. Noted for next time.]

The turkey drawing project, on the other hand, was a huge success! I decided I need to do more drawing projects. The step-by-step process turned out the best drawing I have ever seen from my 3-year-old and the 7-year-old was happy with his results as well. The 3-year-old could hardly mess up the watercoloring. I did the sharpie over the top with her input on colors. The 7-year-old completed the entire project on his own and the results were awesome!

My personal project for the week was sorting through our extensive picture book library. I amassed quite a book collection during my years of teaching and the kids have continued to add to it. I hadn't done a complete overhaul of the kids' bookshelves in several years. I realized this when I could not find a Thanksgiving book to save my life. Now the books are in their age-appropriate rooms and I have a better idea of where to start when looking for books on specific themes or by certain authors. Don't ask "how" I sorted them, like my husband did. Just know that I did. Because realistically, the kids' bookshelves are never going to get put back exactly the way they found them. And that is just fine for my abstract-randomness.

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