Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Catch up

I have to start by acknowledging the passing of our beloved Tommy Ratboy. He was struck by some kind of virus that swiftly knocked him down last week. Monday he was fine, but by Thursday he had ulcers on his eyes and was coughing. I called to try to get him into the vet, but the small animal doc wasn't available until yesterday (Monday) evening. He really went downhill over the weekend, but was hanging on to the bitter end. The vet advised us to have him put to sleep. That was a moment in my parenting career that I don't want to relive anytime soon. Poor kids, big sis especially, but little brother, too. Both of them in tears, big sis nearly wailing, me with a tear in my eye over the pain they were feeling. Even the vet got teary. Man that was hard. We brought his little body home and buried him in the backyard. The crying continued for my girl until sleep took over at bedtime, and resumed again when she awoke this morning. I hate hurts that I can't fix.

Over the weekend, our family went camping with our homeschool group out at Camano Island. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we had a fantastic time. I love seeing all the kids of different ages all playing together, watching out for each other, and having a good time. A couple of dads shared their fabulous musical skills at the evening campfire, and kids told jokes and made up stories. It was an awesome way to wrap-up the end of summer.

I'm currently sitting up in bed, with a wad of gauze where my tooth used to be. I'm happy to report that my experience with this oral surgeon was very positive - quite a relief after past procedures with other dentists that bordered on barbaric. This doctor and his staff were great. I'll have a gaping hole, where this tooth used to be, for about four months before a crown is put in its place. At least the jagged tooth is gone now. Someday I'll be able to smile again without feeling self-conscious. In the meantime, maybe I can incorporate this into a Halloween costume???

Today is a homeschool "vacation day". This afternoon I'm just taking it easy - watching last week's presidential debate online, icing my mouth, drugged up on pain pills, and changing out my gauze every once and a while. And getting caught up on my blog!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

I won the Schoolhouse Planner in the giveaway Brenda was hosting over at Homeschooling From the Trenches. I'll let everyone know how it goes when I start implementing it into our home/school!

Monday, September 22, 2008

h e l p

I'm going to the dentist in the morning. I should have been in for this tooth a few years ago. I have serious dentist issues. I'll have to share my horror story with you sometime. For now? just think good thoughts for me, and I'll try to remember to breathe.

Homeschooling Surges in US - FOX news article

This article can be viewed in its entirety at their website

Homeschooling Surges in U.S. as Parents Reach for Legal Rights
Monday , September 22, 2008

By Shannon Bream

This is part of the America's Future series airing on FOX News Channel, looking at the challenges facing the country in the 21st century.


"Homeschooling is no longer just an offbeat trend or an avant-garde educational choice. It is growing exponentially and its proponents are fighting for new legal rights in the U.S.

With more than 2 million homeschooled students in the United States, parents' reasons for opting out of traditional public school are as varied as their demographics."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Homeschooling Update: what we're using now...

We're about five weeks into our school year, and Big Sister and I are getting into a good groove with the schoolwork. We're really getting a lot covered while Little Brother is away at school for 3 hours each day.

After the computer snafu earlier in the week, I had to reload my Homeschool Tracker Plus (which I had dusted off once I became a little paranoid after the annual filing hassle I'd been through). And unless I *ahem* win the Schoolhouse Planner, I intend to stick with Tracker. Because I like to be able to go with the flow, and I'm never sure exactly how much, and to which subjects we're going to get to, I use the weekly plan feature to load assignments. If you haven't used Tracker, this probably makes no sense to you, but that's okay... just move on down the list. I will say that the Tracker learning curve is pretty steep, but between the tutorials online, and the message boards and tech support, you can usually get your questions answered relatively easily (she says after two years of playing with the program, lol).

If I had to join a homeschooling team, it would be the Eclectic Homeschoolers. I've definitely pieced together a little of this and a little of that.

Handwriting: Handwriting With Tears Edited to say that should read Handwriting Without Tears, LOL! (currently finishing up Printing Power, but will be switching over to Cursive Handwriting in another month or so. Nat's really excited to learn cursive).

Spelling: We just started using Spelling Power. I bought a spic-n-span, used, 3rd Edition at Homeschool Potpourri for $35. New it sells for about $70, which sounds steep for a spelling program, but isn't bad when you consider that it contains spelling instruction up through high school. Theoretically it's the only spelling program we'll ever need. It utilizes placement tests to place the student in the appropriate starting level, and then from their they progress at their own pace. The manual indicates we should spend no more than 15 minutes/day on spelling (5 minutes testing, 5 minute study of missed words, 5 minute daily activity for reinforcement). In actuality, my girl likes the daily activities so much that spelling takes closer to an hour. I really like that the activity suggestions are categorized by learning style because it helps me choose ones that I know will really click with my kid. Her favorite activity this week was writing her review words in shaving cream on the desk (think fingerpainting), but she liked making tactile word cards, too...
(finally a use for all the lentil beans after last year's Lentil Science program)

Math: I'm using a combination of workbooks, games, and activities. We didn't really get into Math-U-See like I'd thought, but mostly that's because it turned out I didn't have all of the materials I needed. I've put it on the back burner for now, but I think my younger one would do well with it next year. We're continuing with Singapore Primary Math which is the big winner in my book, as it's the one and only piece of curriculum that has remained the same since preschool. We've spent the last few weeks doing review of basic math facts, and are finally moving forward again with fresh material. Although we're finishing up 3A, I like to mix things up a bit with Primary Math Challenging Word Problems, Primary 2. I think it gives her the opportunity to put math into practice in a non-threatening way. This way she should be able to focus on the construction and manipulation of the problems, and the calculations she come more readily. For additional drill of multiplication facts, I picked up Flash Skills Grade 3 Multiplication Activities. I really like the Flash Kids/Harcourt Family Learning books because they provide short activities focused on specific skill areas, and the layout of the pages makes it inviting to kids. We actually use a few of their books, and I picked them up at Barnes & Noble. In addition to workbooks and flashcards, we've also been playing a lot of games that reinforce math facts, as well as taking to the driveway with the sidewalk chalk for more math fun (when the weather permits).

Language Arts: Going with a total mishmash of stuff here, too. For grammar and writing, I'm picking and choosing from a couple of units in Grade 2 Language Arts (also from Harcourt Family Learning, like the math one above, but more comprehensive). Reading and writing is where she really struggles, so I'm really trying to get this all cemented this year. She's progressed really rapidly in the past month, and I think this is the year that a lot of this is going to come together for her. I only have a couple of units in the grade 2 book that I wanted to make sure we touched on, and then we'll move on to Grade 3 in the same series. Again, in the remediation realm of things, I'm having her work through 100 Words Kids Need to Read by 1st Grade. Awfully brave of me to tell you that, I think. I'm using it to solidify the spelling of many of the sight words (she consistently relies on spelling words phonetically no matter how many times she reads it written correctly), as well as to provide more reading practice and build fluency. She's flying through it, and it's building her confidence. To test reading comprehension, I'll periodically pull out Flash Kids Grade 2 Reading Comprehension. It contains short reading passages, with a follow-up that varies (fill-in the blank, true or false, create a graph, fill in a venn diagram, etc.) to test comprehension. For practice with the writing process, I'm using an old version of a 2nd grade writing instruction workbook from Teacher Created Resources. It's old enough that it doesn't even have an ISBN on it, so I can't find it on the web to show you. It has 32 different writing prompt-type activities that can be turned into pieces of writing. For example, one page had six pictures of a dog doing doing different things. It said that a boy had taken his dog for a walk, and asked the student to fill-in an action word under each picture. Well from that, N. was inspired to write a paragraph about the walk they went on. Then she decided she wanted to add more detail, so she edited it. After that, she decided she wanted to turn it into a storybook, so she rewrote it a third time, with illustrations for each page. She's done a few of these so far this year.

Social Studies/History: Our state separates these two subjects, but for the sake of discussion I'm combining them under one heading. For history, we're using K12 History2 (finishing up our study of the middle ages from last year), and then we'll head into History3. We're also doing the History of the Horse unit study, which introduces a lot of history, social studies, and life science. Most of our social studies occurs during everyday life. We talk about politics, current events, local government, taxes, community, religion, etc., and I really think that covers things at this stage.

Science: I bought this super cool book called Stomp Rockets, Catapults, and Kaleidoscopes: 30+ Amazing Science Projects You Can Build for Less than $1. It has easy to follow directions for all these projects that will totally appeal to N. because they all look like crafts. At the end of each project description, there's a discussion about the science concepts behind why the thing did what it did. My plan is to have her pick a couple of these each month to work on. We're also using Sow and Grow for plant activities and nature study. And if we run out of science to do, I just ordered Real Science 4 Kids Pre-level 1 Chemistry from Rainbow Resource.

Our homeschool is lacking in Art and Music appreciation, I'm afraid. We appreciate them - we love to sing to songs on the radio, color and draw pictures, but I don't think that's what they have in mind. Big Sister has been begging for fiddle lessons for at least a year now, and it's probably time I did something about that. Maybe we can hit the art museum a few more times this year.

The last subject we're supposed to cover is Occupational Education. I'm not really sure what that means for a 9-yr. old. I'm not sure that my state does either, because I've been unable to locate the learning requirements for this subject area. If they can't figure it out, then I'm not going to worry about it either. I say it's all the other skills she's picking up that can't be classified into the other subject areas. A catch-all category. If we want to get specific about things, my kid is pretty certain she's going to be a veterinarian, and she's constantly getting training in that. In fact, it was with that thought in mind that I filed "cleaning the rat cage" under Occupational Education in Homeschool Tracker!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Flying Up...

Big Sister became a Junior Girl Scout this afternoon. She joined a new troop and they held a small bridging ceremony for her.

Here's a picture from the night she bridged from Daisies to Brownies, taken two-and-a-half years ago in December 2005...

We took a few pictures before leaving for the meeting...

Her new leader asked me to present her wings to her, since I've been her Brownie leader for the past two years.

Then she crossed the bridge and "bridged" to Juniors. They welcomed her into junior girl scouts...

...and then they all did the Girl Scout Promise together, and sang the Make New Friends song (we accidently left her new vest at home, or she would have been wearing it after crossing the bridge).

Rules to the math game(s) we made up...


2 6-sided dice
4X4 blank bingo cards for as many people as are playing OR one score card for each person (details below)
pen/pencil and stamper (optional)

Each score card should be set up as follows (this formatting doesn't look right, I'll have to fix it later):

1 16
2 18
3 20

6 24
7 25

11 30
12 36

Players take turns rolling the two dice. One roll per turn.
That player may either add, subtract, or multiply numbers on the two dice to come up with an answer on the number sheet.
For example:
If a player rolls a “2” and a “3”, they can add for “5”, subtract for “1”, or multiply for “6”.
Whichever answer they choose, they mark that number off on their score card. Each answer may only be used one time.
OPTIONAL: For added fun, each time a player completes all the answers in one section, they may stamp that section (or place a sticker on it).
If a player rolls, and cannot mark off an answer from their roll, they don’t mark anything, and play passes to the next person.
The winner is the first player to mark off all of the answers on their score card.

Each player receives a blank 4X4 bingo card to fill in on their own using the numbers from the score card above, with the following restrictions:
At least five of the numbers must come from the right side of the score card. The rest may come from either side.
Each number should only be used one time.

The first player rolls the two dice. That player decides how they want to use the roll (add, subtract, or multiply) to come up with a number. Whichever answer they decide on, all the players may mark that number on their bingo card (use counters, stamps, stickers, or simply cross off).

For example:
If player one rolls a “5” and a “3”, they can choose to add for “8”, subtract for “2”, or multiply for “15”. If the player chooses “15”, they mark it on their card, and any other players with the number “15” may mark it on their cards, too. Players should pay attention to other players’ cards to try and avoid giving anyone else a bingo.

If a player rolls and cannot use any of the possible answers, then play passes to the next person.
The winner is the player who is first to get 4 in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.


Why did we leave out certain numbers in the number sequence?
Which answers are more likely to occur when using the six-sided dice?
How would the game change if different dice were used (10-sided dice, for example)?

It could happen to you...

Unfortunately, it happened to us. Our computer picked up an adware virus the other night, and it completely disabled our system. It plastered stuff on our desktop wallpaper, and removed our ability to access parts of our computer. Norton was worthless in this instance, and it couldn't even perform a system scan once the virus got in. Hubby found instructions for virus removal (for a while we could still get online), but it was pages and pages long, and the virus had disabled our drivers so we couldn't use our printer. It was an awful feeling. We ended up taking the laptop to a local guy who got it fixed up for us. Yesterday we bought an external harddrive so we have a backup of everything on both computers (the desktop died a couple months ago, but we were able to get all our old documents and files off of it). Today we're back to normal, with the exception of the new firewall we're using seems to be interfering with our connection. I'm sure we'll get it figured out in the next couple of days.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Make believe is so much better...

Days like this make me glad that the money I invested in the stock market was all pretend. Only down 2.5% though, so maybe I'm still doing okay.

Stocks Get Pummeled

And speaking of make believe, the kids thought I should put this on my blog today... (no, we can't take credit for it, but it made us laugh)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The ABCs of Homeschooling - CBS News

The ABCs of Home Schooling - Today's Model of Personal Education is Not Your Grandmother's Home Schooling

(CBS) For a growing number of American students, "homework" is two words, not one, and a classroom is the one place they're not likely to be, because when it comes to education, for these students and their parents, there's no place like home. Tracy Smith spells it out for us:

Please go to the CBS website to see video and read this article in its entirety

Talking about gardening again...

We've been getting one last punch of summer weather these last two weeks, so my eyes are turned to our garden once again. I'm cheering for the onions, strawberries and tomatoes that still remain. A young friend of ours was turning five years old recently, and when I asked for gift suggestions, his mom mentioned his love of gardening. We ended up getting him his own set of gardening gloves, and some good quality, child-sized, tools, as well as a storybook called "Jack's Garden".

We bought the spade and rake...

Jack's Garden, by Henry Cole

While at Molbaks picking out the birthday gift, I also stubled upon a little gem titled Sow and Grow - a Gardening Book for Children.

This book will be a great resource, with two chapters at the beginning devoted to the science of gardening - one chapter on botany (plant structure), and one on biology (what they need to survive, and what processes are taking place). I like that the author doesn't skimp on the science, and uses proper terminology. Their are great diagrams and drawings included, as well. The rest of the book is a month-by-month activity guide for gardening projects indoors. Septembers activity is pressing flowers and leaves, which we're really excited to get started on. We're already planning how we could create a notebook of pressed flowers from our yard, and another from around the pond near our house. The vintage drawings throughout Sow and Grow make the book a lot of fun visually, and the spiral binding means that the book will be easy to keep open as we work on the various projects.

I also came across a link to an article titled Ready, Set, Grow: The Benefits of Gardening With Kids, which gives great suggestions for cultivating (I'm so punny) a love of gardening.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Proud Mommy moment

There was an ice cream social sponsored by the PTA at A's school last night, and the whole family went. It was really interesting to watch him on his turf; someplace where the rest of us are complete outsiders at this point.

First of all, I can see that school fuels his desire for clearly established rules. As soon as we got out of the car and stepped onto the sidewalk that leads to the front of the school, he and sis began running excitedly, but then he suddenly stopped and said to us "Oh, wait! No running on the sidewalk!" It's cute watching him try to keep himself from running, LOL!

Later, he and N. were across the sports field as hubby and I watched from the playground. They were both headed back towards us, when A. started to veer off towards a group of older girls who were standing back in the trees along the fence on the far side of the field. Hubby muttered "Oh, here we go..." as we watched A's hands go to his hips as he strided purposefully over to the group of 8 or so girls, obviously to read them the riot act. It became apparent that the area was off-limits, and that he was going to remind them of that. Sure enough, shortly after he disappeared behind the trees, the girls began to swarm out the other side, coming back towards the playground... with A. following behind, hands still on his hips. Two girls were walking behind him, smiling and talking to each other, when one put her hands on her hips in imitation. Both of them laughed (it was really funny), and he stopped in his tracks, turned to face them and then obviously told them off. They giggled and ran to go play elsewhere. He had a big scowl, and stomped back over to us to let us know that he'd let all of them know that they weren't supposed to play over there. He also let the two girls know that he could be angered very easily, LOL! They were really good sports about it. I'll be curious to see where this leads A. in the future.

The other thing that was really cool to see is just how well-developed his social skills really are. I've always taken him as being a loner in big groups, even with kids he's known for a couple of years now. Last night he was really excited to introduce us to kids from his class that he ran across on the playground. We met Piper, Andrew F., Garret, Ethan, and ran into Riley (who we already know from his bus stop). He would go up to them and say "I'd like you to meet my sister, N." He was really animated, not in his usual silly way, but like he was really engaged in what was going on. This was in contrast to the kids he introduced us to, who seemed startled to be approached by another child, let alone know how to respond to being introduced to someone. I was pleased to see that he's evidently been properly socialized in the past five years (in spite of not attending any kind of structured school environment). I was equally pleased to see that his sister obviously holds a really special place in his life, and that it was important to him that his friends meet her, and that she meet them. I'm now wondering if some of the activities we participate in with our homeschool group are just too overwhelming because they are so loosely structured, and because there are so darn many kids there. Yesterday's LEGO club at the library had 70 people in attendance, and A. spent most of his time sitting in a small corner by himself. He didn't want to leave, and he said he was having fun, but he really didn't want to deal with all those kids. He tends to be the same at parkday. Maybe in his kindgergarten class of 20 kids, he'll come out of his shell a little bit - more like the way he is with us at home.

When it was time to go and we were driving away, I commented to Hubby that the whole experience felt really bizarre. Something about attending a function at your child's school that makes it very apparent that you are, in fact, an adult. By homeschooling these past 5 years, we were mostly able to avoid that reality. I think that last night's little ice cream social easily aged us five years, in less than 60 minutes time. I'm steering clear of that place in the future! LOL

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How do you talk to your kids about 9/11?

My oldest had just turned 2 years old, and we were in Seattle visiting my dad. Hubby was down in CA, and would be flying up to join us in a few days. Words to describe the helplessness and despair I felt that day, both as a parent, and as a citizen of the world, are still hard to come by. If anything good can come from the events that took place on September 11, 2001, I want to share with my children so that they can understand a little better the world in which they live. How to do that without putting fear or hatred in their hearts?

My little girl is now 9 years old. She is caring, compassionate, and like many kids her age, has a strong sense of what is right, or just. I've been searching the internet for ways to honor this day, in hopes of getting a discussion going with her, but resources are hard to come by. Seems like there was a lot more out there on the web a few years ago. Are we forgetting already?

I'm not a real "rah, rah" American, but 9/11 made me realize like nothing else ever had, that to the rest of the world, we are all Americans over here. I think it's a good idea to figure out just what that means. Many of the lesson plans online have children creating patriotic crafts to help build that national identity.

Many everyday people became heroes that day. Ordinary people did extraordinary things, and risked their lives for strangers. Others did what they could by raising money or donating to help out the victims and their families. Firefighters became a shining symbol of the great things we are capable of doing for one another in our everyday lives. Some lesson plans suggest writing thank yous to your local fire department, or baking cookies for them.

9/11 got many people in touch with Faith. Even I, the devout Floundering Whatever that I've been for nearly two decades now, felt the need to be in community with others seeking understanding of what had taken place. Specifically, I needed something bigger than myself to help ease my shattered peace and innocence, and I felt the need to experience that with other people around me. I went to a service with my grandmother at her Catholic church. For one afternoon during that disjointed week, I felt tethered to the world, and it gave me hope and compassion. It also gave me an adult memory of time spent with my grandma - a memory that wouldn't have been created without the events of that week. I want my kids to feel that connectedness - that they are part of something bigger than themselves, and that even the most tragic events in our lifetime cannot sever that thread.

How will you remember 9/11, and how will you help your kids to understand?

Education World Lesson Plans - Remembering 9/11

PBS, Newshour lesson plan (for older kids)

Teacher Vision lesson plan

A to Z Teacherstuff - lesson plans, especially for elementary age kids

Here's what we did...

First I asked if she had ever heard of 9/11. She thought it was some show on television, but she wasn't really sure.

I gave her background on where we were that day; what we saw on television; the emotions I was feeling, and about how parents want only to be able to keep their children safe... and on that day, and in the days that followed, I suddenly felt myself woefully ill-equipped for that task.

We took a look at pictures of the WTC from 9/11, taken while the towers were still standing (** highly recommend parents choose carefully the pictures they want to show their children BEFORE sitting down with them - there are a lot of deeply disturbing images that you don't want to stumble upon with them sitting right there). We made a list of national symbols (flag, White House, Statue of Liberty, the President), and I explained that the WTC was also a symbol that would stand out (due to its location, and size). How would you feel if someone intentionally destroyed something that was special to you?

We talked about how many people were suddenly feeling a deep sense of patriotism. We watched a video for the song God Bless the USA, which included some of the national symbols we had already discussed. Displaying US flags on your car became popular, and was a way that Americans could feel united at a time when we were all feeling very vulnerable.

We focused on ways that people overcome their feelings of fear and helplessness. Some did it by taking action (like making donations to help out victims of disaster, or joining the military). The government responded by trying to make travel more safe. Many people sought out places of worship, and joined in fellowship with those around them. And mostly we talked to one another, because talking about what scares you can sometimes make you feel a little better.

Lastly, I wanted to convey to her that fear can sometimes cause you to jump to the wrong conclusions and have poor judgment. A 9/11 lesson plan I found online talked about the movie Monsters, Inc. In the movie, the monsters are all scared to death of children, but two monsters come to learn than children are nothing to fear. We must be careful not to make decisions from a position of fear, or act on the basis of stereotypes.

I tried not to get too much into the huge loss of human life that took place on 9/11, and with the war that followed. Even without going into those details, she still had a lot to process. She understands that the WTC towers housed offices, and that there were people in the buildings, and that the towers eventually crumbled to the ground. We also talked about the heroes onboard flight 93, that ultimately went down over Pennsylvania in an attempt to avoid more loss of life. In the years ahead, I'm sure she'll eventually grasp the magnitude of what happened, and how the world forever changed that day, but for today I was happy with what we were able to discuss.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Drowning in paper...

I'm drowning in "important papers" created by my two children. My kindie boy brings home at least 2 or 3 drawings or completed coloring sheets per day now (not to mention all of the newsletters, book catalogs, etc. from the school). Initially I dutifully hung them on the wall. By "initially" I mean the first two days - it then became apparent that our home would soon be wallpapered in scarcely colored worksheets if I didn't slow things down. Now they are in a stack on the the dining room table.

My girl has started creating illustrated story books from her language arts lessons. They start out as a roughdraft on a worksheet with writing prompts, or blanks to be filled in with descriptive words, and then they take on a life of their own. She edits them, rewrites them, sometimes rewrites them once again, and illustrates them. If she could simply draw all day, she would. Actually, for years the story books she created consisted entirely of pictures, and she would have to read the story to her audience because the narrative was stored in her brain. The perfectionist in her didn't allow her to write anything on the pages because she worried about the words being misspelled, and I think knowing there were errors on the pages took some of the joy away. Well, all in due time, because now she's coming up with these great stories with both illustrations AND narrative on the page... but where to put them?

I'm toying with doing something with notebooks and page protectors. The page protectors are nice because you don't have to hole punch anything (like N's stories). Being in notebook form, it would be easier to look through than the stack of A's papers currently piled on the dining room table. I could keep most of his work for a while, and then gradually weed threw it, or I might be able to keep one month's work in a single protector. It could turn into a portfolio of sorts for N., and I could keep all our homeschool paperwork in there, along with the journalling I'm trying to do on her homeschooling. Hmmm... this could work....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Schoolhouse Planner could change my life

No, really! It could! To glimpse a peek at what the planner contains, go here.

Here's just a partial list of what this e-book planner has to offer:

Calendars in various forms–yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily
Lists of holidays and places to record special days in your family
Planners for your homeschool–in various styles to meet your individual needs
Pages for both long-term and short-term homeschooling goalsCurriculum planning forms
Evaluation forms and test score recording sheets
A "through the Bible" in a (school) year schedule
Forms for recording Bible memory and other memory work
Logs for recording books read, movies and documentaries viewed, etc.A field trip planning form and recording log
A sample science lab sheet and nature study sheets
A place to record extracurricular activities
Outside classes, co-op, and support group information and recording sheets
Household planning forms
Daily, weekly, and monthly household schedule charts
Grocery, menu-planning, and food logs
Various budget and financial planning forms
Garden planning sheets
An appliance and electronics inventory sheet
Vacation planning ideas
Address and telephone records
And much, much more!

If this doesn't go along with my post yesterday about wanting to have better documentation of our homeschooling, I don't know what would. I've used other products designed for organizing your homeschool, but this one has the added bonus of helping you manage the "home" portion of your homeschool as well. There are many places all over the internet to find forms like you'll find in this planner, but I've yet to see them all compiled in one place like this. Above, I have bolded those tools which I am most excited about, and think that I would really use. If I win, maybe next year this little beauty will help me get my tomatoes in the ground in time to ripen before the end of summer! ;P

Thanks to Brenda, over on the K12users yahoo group for organizing this giveaway!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pictures of the kids

Little brother took this picture of Sissy ealier this week, and I cropped it and tweaked it.

Picture from our bike ride on the Iron Horse Trail today

Covering my...

I mentioned that the other day we had to go track down the form that homeschoolers in our state are required to file each year so that we can continue to legally homeschool our kids (ie. show they aren't truant).

According to the law, this is supposed to be a simple form which contains the name and ages of any children being homeschooled, address, name of the parent, and parent's signature. That is what the OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) long ago determined was the information districts needed to ensure that if they weren't being held accountable for a students education, then someone else was (ie. the parents). Any child of compulsory age (8 in WA) not in school, and without the proper paperwork filed, is then considered truant. The law, and OSPI, also state that the form be filed directly with the superintendent of the school district.

That all seems simple enough, but for some reason they have to make it harder than it is. Last year I just mailed a copy of a generic form I had downloaded from the Washington Homeschool Organization website, which saved me from knowing firsthand how difficult it can be to fulfill my obligations under the law if I choose to do all of this in person. I went to the campus of the local "homeschool" program, and they couldn't find the form. They sent me to "the main office, since you'll need to turn it in there anyway", which I assumed meant the administrative building - you know, because I have to file it with the superintendent an all. I went there, and nearly gave the poor lady in student services a coronary - her getting defensive, and me trying delicately to determine who in the land may actually have this form, and where they expected me to take it, without making her feel personally attacked. She told me where to get the forms (the administrative building of the "homeschool" program - ie. the school district office that oversees families that educate their kids at home through the district, not the independent homeschoolers), and said that she "could tell me where in the building the superintendent was located" but she was "pretty sure that no one was going to let me turn the form in to him". In other words, they were going to prevent me from following the law, which, if they decided to get technical about it at a later date, would technically make my kid truant. School policy doesn't supercede state law last time I checked, no matter how much easier it is for them to try an compartmentalize all of us families that don't enroll our kids in a traditional program.

Eventually I tracked down the needed form. Now how to get it to the superintendent. I already knew of three separate families that had tried to take their forms to the superintendent's office, and were threatened with security. That didn't seem an appropriate environment to exposed my 9 year old to. As it was, she was raising many perplexing questions, like: why wouldn't the school district want to follow the law? and why would they tell you to do something different from what you are supposed to do? Interesting questions with complicated answers. After much deliberation, and discussion with some other homeschool leaders around the state, I decided that the next best course of action was to send our signed form via certified mail, return receipt requested. (Can you tell I like to get worked up about things?) I mailed it yesterday, and unfortunately it will be arriving at the Admin building today, Saturday. No one will be there to sign for it. It will go back to the post office, waiting to be signed for by whoever goes and picks it up. I wonder if anyone will claim it. Sigh. I tried.

Oh, and just for their education, I included a copy of the law with the pertinent parts highlighted. You know, so they can get their act together.

So now that I've probably brought way too much attention on myself and my family, I decided that I'd best start keeping better track of what we're doing in our homeschooling. I'm not required to keep a record of what we do, only to make sure that we cover the eleven subject areas: reading, writing, spelling, language, math, science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, and art and music appreciation (and test or assess our child annually). I'm thinking though that if anyone should ever like to make my life difficult, it would be handy to be able to whip something out that showed that we had indeed been covering everything.

Happily, our state's law actually recognizes the unique character of homeschooling:

"...all decisions relating to philosophy or doctrine, selection of books, teaching materials and curriculum, and methods, timing and place in the provision or evaluation of home-based instruction shall be the responsibility of the parent"

and "...the legislature recognizes that home-based instruction is less structured and more experiential than the instruction normally provided in a classroom. Therefore, the provisions relating to the nature and quantity of instructional and related educational activities shall be liberally construed."

Which means that playing on Webkinz world counts for reading (kinzchat, the newspaper), math (figuring out how much Kinz Cash you need to make in the arcade so that you can afford to go on Vacation and still have money to spend in the gift shop), and occupational education (computer skills). And taking care of the family pets counts as occupational education and science. When a late night discussion turns to Hannibal marching elephants over the Alps, and we stumble upon a documetary of Hannibal, Carthage, and the Punic Wars, then we've covered history and social studies. An email about an opportunity to see Vaux's swifts coming in to roost for the night in a large chimney stack in a local town, and leads us to investigate their habits, adaptations, and migratory routes. I'd say that about half of our homeschooling looks fluid like this, where we stumble into learning, and about half is semi-planned out in advance by me, with input from N. and my observations of how things are going guiding that plan. So now I'm just journalling what we do at the end of each week, in case somebody decides to care, LOL!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A bumpier ride (updated 5:45pm)

Today went slightly less smoothly for our resident kindergartener. This morning he really did NOT want to get ready for school. What he wanted to do was stay in his pajamas and go downstairs to watch tv. He let me know that he's already done two days of school this week, and he didn't want to do it today. Doh. Sorry, buddy, but we're going to play by the rules here for at least the first few weeks. You don't get to take a personal day on Day 3.

When he came home, things weren't much better. He seemed happy enough, but when I was asking him about his day, he started walking towards the front door (we were outside). He closed the door, then opened it and told me "Mom, I've had to talk to people all day, and I just can't listen to anyone anymore!". Then closed the door again, and stormed off to his room, leaving me sad and speechless out in the driveway. I think he's burnt out on people (lol, ya think?) which I was kind of afraid would happen. Later he excitedly told me that he gets tomorrow off, but I had to break the news that he's got one more day. And this is only a four-day week. Sigh.

Apparently I misunderstood. I thought he was telling me that he gets a full day off tomorrow, but what he was trying to tell me was that tomorrow was going to be "full day". Now, in his mind, after three days of adults asking him if he's in full-day or half-day kindergarten, he thought that full day meant he was going to be at school all day tomorrow. When I prodded him further, trying to figure out what he was telling me, he said that his teacher told them "tomorrow is going to be a full day!" LOL - imagine his confusion. He was telling me that he was going to miss lunch, and that he hoped he'd be home in time for dinner. Fortunately I was able to explain that his teacher just has a lot planned for them to do tomorrow, and he'll be home at his usual time. I'm sure his worries over spending the whole day at school tomorrow probably contributed to his attitude upon arriving home. So much to learn.


I was thumbing through the student/parent handbook that A. brought home from school the other day, and I came across a list of Playground Rules. Doing my parental duty, I was sharing the rules with A. and trying not to express my disdain as I read them.

In particular, did you know that:
1. There is no running allowed on the playground. (This would explain why my son is bouncing-off-the-walls hyper when he arrives home).

2. The grass is off-limits from September through the end of April. Okay, really, I do understand that the school is trying to avoid 300 kids tracking mud through the hallways, but still. One of the cool things that A. and I had discovered when we'd gone to visit before school had actually started was that there were these fun stumps to climb on, and a small "grove" of 3 fir trees that created a neat spot to play in. He and I were imagining him playing there on recess with the other kids. Guess not.

3. There is to be no digging in the sand. My son tells me that the sand is only for walking on.

It was at about this point, with my son on my lap, that I accidently let slip out of my mouth the words "These rules are so lame!"

To which he replied in the affirmative. I had to tell him that I understood why they had the rules that they did, and that it was really important that he didn't go to school and tell anyone that the playground rules are lame. I told him we'd just have to play on the playground the way we want to when it's not school time.

BTW - I really am hsing my other kid right now. She's sitting down next to me creating a worksheet for me to do. It's important to keep Mom busy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reflections on the first day

A's first day seemed to go well for him. The two of us walked together to the bus stop at the top of the hill, while N. stayed home by herself. This is a big step for her, too, since she hasn't had the opportunity to stay alone before. It's only for 15 minutes or so, and she seems to enjoy the quiet. Heck, at her age I was a latchkey kid and I survived, so I think she can handle it. And it's not like I'm terribly far - if she needed to, she could wave to me from the driveway, or call me on my cell phone. I think she appreciates the wee little notch on her belt to independence. Right now she plays on Webkinz world while she waits for me to return, with the idea being that she's all ready to jump into doing school with me when I walk in the door.

It's been nice to spend the one-on-one time with N. these last two days. I have a rough outline of what I'd like to get done each day, and we were able to get through her work well before A. returned from school. Today she and I had to drive over to pick up our district's form so she can homeschool (another long story, but one I'm not going to get into), and then went to Starbucks at B&N together to do school. That was a nice change of pace. She also picked out a new book that she's had her nose buried in for most of the day (from the Warriors manga trilogy - cat fantasy stuff). In spite of the fact that she's shutting out the rest of the world while she's absorbed in it, I really can't complain - it's pretty exciting to see, actually. While we waited for A's bus to drop him off after school, N. did math out in the driveway. I had her write out the skip counting for 2s and 3s (I drew blank lines on the ground, filling in a couple, and having her figure out the pattern). Then I called out multiplication problems, and had her jump on the answers. We've got to take advantage of the last of the summer weather while we have it!

So my thoughts on yesterday.... My first thought after I put my boy on the big yellow bus was "I can't believe I just let my baby leave with that big hairy man who I know nothing about!" If a big hairy guy drove up in a van and offered to drive my child to school, I wouldn't hand my kid over to him. The Bus (and presumably the background check that was performed) somehow grants this stranger a status that very few people have been given: our trust that he will care for our boy when we aren't there to keep him safe. Really the same can be said of his teacher. She seems nice enough, but that tells me nothing of her qualifications, personality and temperament, experience, ideology and beliefs. This all kind of creeps me out, yet parents everywhere do this every year, and seem to not even give it a second thought. That's just plain weird.

One cool thing about him riding the bus is that it's giving me an opportunity to meet some of the other families on our street. There are only two other families with kids at our stop, but one has a boy in A's class, and the other has a daughter just a few months younger than N. We've lived here for more than 2 1/2 years, and have never seen any of these kids before. Hopefully some new friendships can come out of this experience as well.

Most of the time A. was gone, besides schooling his sister, I kept glancing at the clock and wondering what he was up to, and how he was doing.

He arrived home 40 minutes after school got out (we live about 4 minutes away, but they transport all the half-day kindies on one bus so it takes awhile), and was full of energy. He had lots to report, but the first thing out of his mouth was "Recess was too short!"

He was also excited to tell me about a kid in his class named "Viper". I was intrigued, and said "Really? A boy named Viper?". He said that no, it was a girl, and I realized he was actually talking about a girl in his class named "Piper". As uncommon as the name Piper is, Viper was sounding especially unique. If we ever have another kid, I have dibs on "Viper"! ;P

Today's happy report from him (after a 30 minute ride - there's hope the ride will grow shorter): "Recess was longer today!" LOL - the kid has priorities.

I have to say, it was really cute to see him getting off the bus. I stood on the stairs at the entrance, and the kids are so short you can barely see their little foreheads sticking over the tops of the seats. Already he has a little buddy from class - a boy who shares his same name. They said good-bye to each other as A. got off the bus, and apparently they shared a seat this morning on the way to school. I'm glad he's having fun, and two days into kindergarten, this is looking like a good choice for him.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008