31 October 2011

It's all about the geometry

Finally went out and got pumpkins.  We're right on top of Halloween.  Actually, it's not really a big deal here, but we do carve pumpkins and the girls trick-or-treat (at least for this year).  So today it was about the geometry of cutting eyes, noses, and mouths.

27 October 2011

February blues

I read a great blog post today over at Heart of the Matter about the February blahs.  Funny thing was, I had been thinking about February today.  The basic jist of the post is that come February, the excitement of the new school year, the new supplies and books, the joy of Thanksgiving and Christmas has all worn off and you're in for a long stretch of short days, few holidays, nothing to look forward to for a while.  February is usually the time lots of moms question homeschooling just because February and March are such a tough time to slog through.  I totally agree....to a point.

We really like February here.  True, the books are old, the subjects aren't exciting anymore, the school supplies are getting worn, the days are short, it's just the same thing day after day.  But...we love winter and snow here.  My girls don't usually get a snow day, a day totally off from school.  They sure get to enjoy the snow though.  They usually get up and are out the door first thing in the morning, sometimes before I'm even out of bed.  They play until they're cold, come in for breakfast and cocoa and some schoolwork, head back outside for more snow fun, then more cocoa and school.  Why take the whole day off when we can have the best of both worlds, snow and school? 

The other reason February isn't so bad is we have a vacation to look forward to.  For years, the girls and I have gone to NH to visit my wonderful sister-in-law, her hubby, and now there's a new bundle of joy to visit, little Z.  The girls and I have gone to play in the snow since they get lots more than we do, now they ski and snowboard and it's a chance to do that on much better (bigger) mountains.  We usually spend just less than a week there, visiting, playing, having fun.  The trip is always towards the end of the month so it does a nice job of breaking up the long winter.

I tend to get the winter blues after we get back.  The fun trip is over and all we have to look forward to is months of school.  I did find some good ideas over at Heart of the Matter, some good ways to break up the sameness of the days during this stretch.  I think we'll make time to take the dog over to a nearby park for a walk, maybe in the snow; we'll head over to the outdoor ice skating rink, maybe we'll pull out the pasta machine and make some homemade pasta or try cooking something more extravagant than we usually do.  Now the trick will be to remember all these ideas when we get to February.....

25 October 2011

Today's "Why I'm glad we homeschool" thoughts

I've had several random thoughts recently and realized that mostly they fall into the category of "Why I'm glad we homeschool."

The first is a bit old, but probably the most important (at least to me).  Rosie Jane is in a GS troop that she likes but isn't participating in much this year mainly due to scheduling.  They used to meet on Thursday nights but everyone else was too busy then so they moved it to right after school.  That time doesn't really work for us either, she's got science lab then with her best friend down the street.  The good thing is that occasionally if I need to I can have the girls get together at a different time to work on their labs.  We had to do that a couple of weeks ago; Rosie Jane really needed to go to her GS meeting to finish up a project they'd been working on for months.  It was interesting when she got to the school though.  She'd been there in the evenings before when it's quiet and there's very few people there.  That day, they got there just as the kids were being dismissed from school, so there was lots of noise, kids running even though the PA said not to, just general chaos.  She came home that day and said she was glad she was homeschooled.  Words to warm a mom's heart, especially from the girl who is was always asking to go to public school.

This morning I was thinking about how glad I was that Sweet Pea wasn't going to public school.  Around here it can be high stress, with everyone trying to take as many IB, AP, honors, and other advanced classes as they can; get in all the sports and clubs, etc.  Sweet Pea is very laid back and all the spoken and more importantly, unspoken pressure to do all this stuff would make her very stressed out.  As it is, she can take the classes that interest her, take her time in the ones that she needs to, either because they interest her and she wants to dig deeper or because she's having a hard time and needs to move slower to really get what's being taught to her. Plus she has plenty of time for fun stuff, like her horse, and working at the barn.

Today was also a chance for the girls to help out in a way they never could if they were going to school elsewhere.  Bob volunteers for the Community Business Partnership, an organization that helps small business get started.  Each year at the end of October they hold the Women Entrepreneurs Expo.  Bob has a table there promoting his business and last year Sweet Pea helped at his table during the Expo.  This year, both girls worked at the CBP this morning by helping stuff their goodie bags that are given out to attendees.  On Friday during the Expo, they'll both be handing out the goodie bags as people come in to register/check in.  Sometime after noon, when they're off duty from that they'll be helping Bob at his table.  They both will be gaining some great experience from this, how to behave in a business atmosphere, talking with others (adults), making introductions and small talk, sharing information.  Lots of great stuff.  Hopefully Sweet Pea will be attending one of the workshops.  She's a budding entrepreneur herself, soon to open an Etsy shop to sell the bracelets that she makes and one of the workshops would be helpful to her.

I think that's enough for today.  I know I'll have more "why I'm glad we homeschool" thoughts in a week or two!!

18 October 2011

Learning how to study

Just a quick check-in. The girls survived their first tests in French/German.  We need to work on study skills.  They did fine on the tests but we need to work on spelling in a foreign language.  They have a pop quiz almost every week, and they've been doing their homework but they need to study and review more.

I think study skills in general are something we need to work on.  Sweet Pea hasn't really had tests up until now so this is something new for her.  They both need to learn how to learn and study, not just for a test but to get it in their head long term.  I think with Sweet Pea, she's got the long term stuff but pulling out specific bits of information for a test is harder especially since it's something she hasn't really had to do before.  I also need to teach them that learning a foreign language and knowing it well enough for the test is different than studying for a science or English test.

12 October 2011

The true test....first tests coming up

So the girls have been doing really well and enjoying their language classes.  Sweet Pea said it's not as bad as she thought it was going to be; Rosie Jane loves her class.  The real test is coming up this week - they were assigned their first tests on Monday.  They have to print them, take them, and email them back to Mr. G before Friday's class.  The tough thing (at least for my girls) will be that spelling counts, including umlauts and accents.  They're both doing well with the speaking and reading as far as I can tell, but the spelling is a challenge.  I'll probably look over their tests before I scan them to email them back but it's not my job to grade them (yea!).

Funny story about German class...we were on the road this weekend.  Now we hardly ever take off Columbus Day, Bob works so we continue on with school, but this year we took it off to head to NH for our nephew's baptism.  Class did not take a break so Rosie Jane had German and Sweet Pea had French on Monday.  We figured we'd be all high-techy and use Bob's phone as a hot spot for his laptop and the girls could connect to class.  Worked great, Rosie Jane got into her class, was listening in, participating, everything was going great....until the computer died!  It was her turn to speak and just as she asked "can you hear me?" the computer went into hibernation!  Turns out it was a problem with the computer cord and we couldn't get it to charge.  Bummer.  Then Bob had a brilliant idea (of course, after her class was over) and asked if I could get in using my phone (we've got HTC EVOs).  So I went to the site, had to download a couple of things but got it all set up in time for Sweet Pea's French class.  The only downside was that she didn't have a mic so the class couldn't hear her, but she could type in the text message box and participate otherwise.  Worked great, if in a small version.  We'll have to remember that next month; we're heading to Disney for a few days and will be in the car on a class day.  I may be a mean mom and make them do school when they think they should be off, but not mean enough that I'll make them take time out between Space Mountain and Dumbo to learn German or French.  They can catch up when we get home.

The end to the funny German class story is that Rosie Jane went to listen to the recording of her class on Tuesday and it apparently caught more of her talking than she thought.  You could hear her ask "can you hear me?," then a loud "NOOOOOOO" and some other chatter before she's gone.  She said that she was really embarrassed listening to it.  She asked her friends today about it and they thought it was funny.  I'm sure Mr. G was glad she was back on her computer.

04 October 2011


Algebra has become a thorn in my side and the bane of Sweet Pea's existence.  Usually she does math first to get it over with.  These days, it's the last thing she wants to do and puts it off as long as she can.  Ugh.  Math is a major cause of meltdowns in our house.  Currently we're using Life of Fred Beginning Algebra but I think I may pull out the Teaching Textbooks Algebra again.  She was halfway through that when we decided to give Fred a spin.  It's mostly been going well, but we're hitting a block again.  I told her that she needed folders in her brain to keep math problems straight.  She said that she's got them for writing, history, and some other stuff but the math is all jumbled together and she can't pull out what she needs.  I'm also going to spend some more time looking over the Khan Academy to see if I can find anything helpful there.  I think the biggest problem is that history and writing/reading are her forte and numbers just aren't, which means that I'm not sure that either Life of Fred or Teaching Textbooks are necessarily a good fit for her.  I need to figure out what is so that she can move on.

01 October 2011

Field trip this week

Guess where we went this week!  Yep, Williamsburg.  It actually did tie in with studies, Sweet Pea had just learned (again) about the Gutenberg press so we went to the printing office.  It was actually kind of interesting since the printer that was there was talking politics (of the time) and that Thomas Paine was actually a professional rabble rouser (after he was done causing trouble in Virginia, he went to France to stir things up there).  Then apparently it was shift change time and the new printer was talking more to the young kids there about what he was doing - inking the things he uses to put the ink on the press, how the press works.  Then a large homeschool family came in and we didn't get to ask the (to me) burning question of the day, how much had the press changed since Gutenberg's time?  But the homeschool family had cool shirts on.  We mostly just wandered around and hit things we were interested in, Rosie Jane wanted to go to the Apothecary and the Goal (jail), we walked by the reconstruction of the blacksmith area, lunch at the Cheese Shop, we stopped by the farm on the way there.  It was a warm but finally sunny day and we enjoyed ourselves.

We did get a lot of regular schoolwork done.  I think we're starting to fall into this year's routine.  It's been a really different feeling with them taking the online classes.  It just gives a different rhythm to our days.  It's also nice that they're responsible to someone else for getting their work done.  I make sure they get their homework done (they've got something assigned every class) but Mr. G is giving them a grade, not me.  Looking forward to October.