Thursday, November 12, 2009

Homeschool Ramblings

For more Homeschool Weekly Wrap-Ups, visit Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Ever since I began homeschooling, I have sustained a love/hate relationship with the month of December. I love Christmas, but because it's my favorite holiday, there are so many things I aspire to get done for the holiday: baking, shopping, decorating, crafting, relaxing, fellowshipping. But with all the curriculum and the attendance sheet squares staring me in the face, I typically allow homeschooling to turn this cherished season into frenzied chaos.

I'm not going to go through that stress this year. This year, I have given my calendar a major facelift. We are going full-fledged into this year-round schooling thing. Next week will be our last week of school until 2010 because we are taking from Thanksgiving week all the way through the New Year OFF! I'm so excited. Of course, this will mean we school in June and July, but the kids are often so bored during the summer anyway, it's not a big deal. In fact, Alex just shrugged when I told her it would mean school during the summer.

With only two weeks left before a long break, I have to make them count. This week has been a fruitful one. Here's a wrap-up:

Some time ago, I halted all book work and spent a week emerging the boys in Math Fact Boot Camp. Well, turns out Michael only committed the facts he learned that week to his short term memory. We have hit the proverbial brick wall with long division, and much of his problem is due to the fact that he cannot recall the facts we "learned" that week. (Incidentally, he can tell you all the names of and prices for every Lego set on the market.)

I have been frustrated to say the least. And I've been eyeing that big, yellow school bus with more and more wistfulness because how great would it be to ship him off for someone else to teach him his math facts? 'Course he'd probably just come home with a note from his teacher asking me to help him learn them.

Anyway, I was a little stumped about what to do. Knowing my little boy likes computer games, I had perused the internet for math games, but most of them were rather boring. Then, by chance, I happened to be discussing math and other homeschooling issues with my friend Mitzi at co-op while we were supposed to be watching the 3-year-olds. She mentioned a computer game she had used with her kids called Timez Attack. I downloaded the free version of it, and Michael is hooked. Not only that, but Alex loves it too and is therefore getting lots of great review. Not only that, but Jacob wanted to play too, so he is learning his multiplication facts before his curriculum demands it.

Not to be left out, the Princess has now decided she is interested in the computer as well. So I dug out the kids' old Jumpstart Kindergarten CD. Showing it's age, it makes the computer sound like it may blow up while it is running, but she is having a great time. She has never before shown interest in the computer, so Alex sat down with her to show her how to work the touch mouse. And within a few minutes, she was comparing shapes, discovering numbers, and digitally coloring pictures.

About the same time we had Math Fact Boot Camp, we had a sick week and thus a day when we did not make it to co-op. The boys are in a Backyard Science class there, and their teachers were kind enough to send home the materials they needed to do the project they missed. I may be a little lazy I procrastinate a lot, so we did not get to the soda bottle greenhouse project right away. OK, so weeks went by. And every week, the boys' teachers would ask them if their plants had sprouted yet. So finally this week I decided to be a responsible adult and teacher and help them get the project done. Every day the boys excitedly check their bottles, anticipating those first little sprouts to spring up.

In science, we are also finishing up our brief look at anatomy. Some time ago, I got a wonderful idea and link from Casey at Bumpin' Along. We printed out near life-sized skeletons which the kids labeled. Today we added some guts and labeled those as well. Next week we'll finish them up by adding the digestive system. It's been fun having our own skeletons.

Other Stuff
In one of my efforts to cement those math facts into Michael's head, I bought a Multiplication Lapbook from Hands of a Child. I knew I might be met with some indignation from the other 3 when I pulled out lapbook materials for Michael alone to work on, but I had no idea the indignation would be a firestorm. They ALL had to do a lapbook NOW. While I'm not the parent who gives in to each child's whims whenever they surface, I also hate to turn my back on potential learning experiences, especially those met with such enthusiasm, so I visited Homeschool Share which offers many, many FREE lapbooks (but none on multiplication). I allowed the other two older ones to look through the exhaustive topic list and pick a lapbook. Both of them chose one on cats.

I printed out the materials, and they did the rest. Even Audrey got into independent lapbooking. I printed some things out for her for a Dr. Seuss Are You My Mother? lapbook. She cut everything herself. The affixing to the folder part of her project is still underway, but she pulls it out everyday to work on it.


Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

That's the great thing about homeschooling--you get to make it work for YOU. Not being locked in to some predetermined schedule offers so much flexibility. I hope you get to experience the holiday season in full with your new plan.

I love the skeletons! That looks like fun :)

Christi said...

What a great week, I hope y'all can wrap in time to enjoy the holidays. I wish I had some words of wisdom to share about math and the teaching of it but we struggle daily with Algebra. So really all's I can say is that it doesn't get any better or any easier. Thanks, right!!?? Sorry! I have y'all have a great weekend and a very blessed week.

CrossView said...

Ooh! Some great links! Thank you for those...

Doncha just love the freedom we have? If our calendars don't work, we can change them.

I think of it as snow days. You know, school's cancelled for today so we'll just make it up later. LOL!

We do year round because of boredom...

We loved Jump Start and Reader Rabbit.

Cheryl@SomewhatCrunchy said...

I love the idea of year round schooling. I always toss the idea around but then chicken out because I don't know that I don't have the fortitude to see it through the summer. I love that your girls want to do the same things as their brother' that's so dear!

Samvach said...

This is the first time I've visited your blog and I will have to come back and read more often! I, too, am taking a very long break over Christmas. My daughter is competing in a four state swim meet in Indiana the week-end of Jan. 9-10 so we are taking the week of Christmas all the way through to mid-January off. I have often thought about year-round schooling. All of my children continue with some subjects during the summer but we don't do full-blown school. I love the flexibility that homeschooling allows us to have!

dclouser said...

I will have to check out that new (to me) lapbook site! Loved hearing about the kids' school and seeing the pix. Sounds like they are all doing great and that you've found a few new teaching tricks. I so wish I could have home schooled my kids!

Arby said...

My 12 year old is a master at loading his short term memory for a test, taking the test, and doing a complete data dump. His math facts recall stinks. Oh, he can master the complexities of algebra, but 8 x 7 will kick his butt. I think it’s time to let him play a video game. Thanks for the link!

tsinclair said...

We are taking 2 weeks at Christmas, that is about all I could commit to for now. I have to admit, I love summer break as much as the kids.

I really like your skeleton idea. We have the body outline and are filling it in, but the skeleton label idea is very good.

I will have to look at the lapbooks. We tried it one time without very much success, but that might have been my fault as I tried to do it all in one day.

Math facts...we need review as well. I will never understand, weeks go by great and then one day it is total brain dump.

Amy @ Cheeky Cocoa Beans said...

Wow--those are some great links you shared! Thank you!!

It looks like y'all had a fantastic week. Hope this one goes as smoothly for your family, too. You are such a good momma!

BTW, if we had those big windows at our kitchen table, my 7 year old would get absolutely NOTHING done. Ever. ;)

Weird Unsocialized Mom said...

We took off from Thanksgiving until after the first of the year last year and it was wonderful! The kids got a little restless, but it was so much more relaxed than normal.

We're not able to do that this year because we took some time off in September for vacation, but I think we'll still do a much lighter load. I hope it works out wonderfully for you and your family.