Friday, July 24, 2015

Thinking about Getting Ready for our First year of Middle School

It seems big. Kind of intimidating. We are launching into a completely different plane of development, and teaching a teenager isn't something I've ever done.

Sean will be 13 just before we begin our year of 7th grade homeschool. I expect to use some of the curriculum from last year, since we sure didn't get to all of the history and language I wanted to cover.

I haven't started on our curriculum for this year yet. We are getting ready to sell our house and move, and we don't know if the house will sell, so we haven't begun to look for a new place yet. We hoped all of this would happen in June, but delays on septic paperwork that was not on file at the county, etc. has set us back a bit. And that has me on hold as far as purchasing any supplies or books for homeschool, and getting really serious and organized. Everything is going into boxes for storage while we sell.

One thing I know I want to do is a PE class at our local YMCA. Our homeschool group that meets each week has been talking about doing this together. I think it's a great idea. We have plenty of opportunities to run, jump, climb, and play here, but now that Sean is getting older I think he needs a more structured PE plan.

I am also looking for other group opportunities for him, because I know that adolescents needs a lot of social activities. I'm still thinking on it, and researching what is available. If I can't come up with anything, I'll create something here like I did last year with the Wolf Camp survival training.

Intern or shadowing someone in the work force, hopefully doing something he wants to learn more about, is another idea I have.

And I was listening to a radio program about children's philosophy classes, and I thought about trying to do something like that with a small group at the private school Sean used to attend.










Thursday, July 16, 2015

Road Trip Provides Best Geography, Cultural lessons

The more I relax and observe, instead of worrying and leading, the more I embrace unschooling.

Here's just one example of why:

My oldest son joined the Air Force, and his graduation from Basic Military Training in San Antonio, Texas was at the end of June.
My husband couldn't get time off from work, but I wanted to be there, and make sure Sean was there for it as well. So after a couple of months of trying to decide if we should fly or drive, I settled on a road trip.

It's been years since I've driven that far as the only driver. I admit I was a little nervous about being overly tired, but I have driven all the way across the country before.

Sean was apprehensive. He didn't like the idea of being gone so long.

I convinced him I needed company, and a navigator. The trip was pretty big. It took us six days to get to San Antonio, and longer to get home because I wanted to stop and see as much as possible. We were gone for 22 days. We enjoyed seeing David graduate, and spending time with him while we could due to the restrictions they have for trainees. We saw a lot of San Antonio, visited the Alamo, did the River Walk cruise. We also had fun at our hotel swimming pool, but without Dave. He wasn't allowed to swim.

And here's the unschooling part.

Sean learned so much just by being my co-pilot. Along our way, after I determined our next stop, I would tell him where we were going, I would plug it into my phone navigator, and then I would have him keep track of where we were and how much farther to our next stop.

Although this was completely different from the old days when I used a huge Atlas to help me, it worked great. We stayed on two-lane highways most of the trip, and even traveled on Route 66 for a while. The scenery was breathtaking, and the traffic was minimal for the most part.

We drove through Oregon, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico on our way to San Antonio, Texas. We experienced extreme heat, and then extreme heat and humidity. Some of the places we drove through had our car thermometer reading 101 F or more.

We took a different route to get home. We drove through a different part of Texas, then into New Mexico, visiting the Carlsbad Caverns area, White Sands, and we saw the continental divide, and Four Corners. We cut over into Utah, visiting a town called Bluff, learning a little bit about the Mormon history in Utah, and climbing Wilson's Arch near Moab. Then we took a highway in Idaho, and avoided Eastern Washington because of wildfires there, and instead headed back to Portland, Oregon, and then home.

He learned a lot about geography, and the variety of landscapes, and he shared some of his knowledge with a friend as I was driving through part of New Mexico on our way to Utah. His friend didn't seem to know where New Mexico was, or Utah or Idaho for that matter. The friend will be starting high school, and is in public school. Sean tried to describe where New Mexico was on the map, and sharing and teaching is the best way to solidify knowledge.

Could Sean have learned all of this in school? Maybe. But after listening to his friend on the phone I have my doubts. Could he have learned this from me through a homeschool geography curriculum? Yes. But would he have really learned it? Would he have internalized it, and been excited about these new places? I doubt it.

We were blessed to have the opportunity to visit these places and experience the different climates, the landscapes, and the people. I handed him my camera while I drove, and he got some beautiful pictures of the monuments in Utah, and the adobe homes in New Mexico.

He asked me why the Native Americans seemed to be so poor, and it sparked a great conversation about disenfranchised people, and the effects of what has been happening for many years. And we stopped at some interesting places, like the Living Desert Zoo in New Mexico, and he took pictures of animals, bugs and spiders, lol.

By interacting with a variety of people, including Navajo, I can now introduce him to information about Navajo and it will mean something completely different to him.

I can only hope that he will remember this trip as fondly as I will. It was so much fun to experience all of the things we did, plus we had some wonderful conversations. We spend pretty much every day together, but the time in the car was very focused with no opportunity for distractions.

This is the kind of guiding/teaching and learning that I like best.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sleeping

I wish sleep could be part of a work plan. It really is work, because a growing body transforming through puberty requires a lot of sleep. And that is most of what Sean has been doing for the past month.

It has slowed us down quite a bit.  He can function great later in the evening after sleeping 12-14 hours, but for me, it's the time of day that I'm fading away. My ability to think and respond are not so great at 10 p.m. and that seems to be a great time for him to begin asking me math questions.

Frustrating as this can be, I've decided there is nothing to gain by fighting his need to sleep. Even if I drag him out of bed and make him come to the land of the living, he's comatose, and can't do school work.

So I'm waiting it out, reminding him that the material still has to be covered, so we will have to continue to work into the summer to be sure we cover it all.

We were almost finished with ancient civilizations. I was trying to spark his interest in Native American history as an ancient civilization. He wasn't that interested. I decided to hold it for later, maybe next year, and just ask him what he'd like to learn about instead. I've been trying to present history in order, and I've had him filling out a timeline on a large roll of paper. But if he's not interested, I'd rather skip it and come back to it later.

He wanted to study Medieval history. And so we've been doing that for more than a month.
We plan is to visit a Medieval village in Carnation, Washington very soon.

If he can wake up.




Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Native American Geometry Workbook Series

I found these by accident. A link, or something, that led me to the Teachers Pay Teachers site, which BTW, has some good stuff. Not all of it is great, but some of it has been helpful to me.

The premise behind the workbook series is that if you get kids creating art, math happens naturally. And it does.

There are two workbooks that aren't really necessary, in my opinion. One is called Native American Geometry Workbook, and in the corner it says "Student Files." Although it is interesting to read through and see the work students have produced, it isn't essential.

The other is called Native American Geometry Workbook Series "Howdy," w/ printables.
This one is 33 pages, and though it has great information in it, it is pretty much a retelling of what is in the student files workbook.

When I got these they were both free.

I paid for Volume I, which is 159 pages, Volume 2.1, which is 70 pages, and Vol. II: 2, which is 116 pages. These seem like a great way to introduce Geometry while making it apply to everyday life.

I like the Montessori materials, and the way the information is presented, but especially at the adolescent plane I think it is important to show how it is meaningful to our lives. We are using Keys of the Universe Geometry Album alongside this series.

These workbooks start with having the student produce beautiful artwork, and progress to Pythagorean demonstrations through gardening.

As I presented the first lesson Sean was eager to begin. I can't wait to see how this progresses!
Here's a link to Vol. I.
If you've already used these, I'd love to have your feedback in the comments!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Night School

Today we were doing life as school. A trip to  Les Schwab to get the tires on my car checked resulted in most of an afternoon away from home.

While we were out, I stopped at the library and we checked out books on Rome and Ancient Native American history, as well as a book about building rockets. We are hoping to participate in Rocket Day with some local homeschoolers this weekend.

We've been working on cleaning Sean's room for a few days, and he had it ready for a deep vacuuming. As I helped put some things away, I noticed a dime and asked where he kept his piggy bank. Found it, and then he wanted to count all of the change. He doesn't use it much, but he has had it for more than 7 years. Once we had that job completed we headed out for a Mom and Son dinner at a local Teriyaki place.

As I drove along the sand spit I suggested that as soon as the rain clears we should start doing some of our lessons outside, and do some of our school at the beach.  I said something like, "We should do more school out of the house," and he responded saying he wanted to do school in the house, and I don't remember how it started, but we kept responding to each other rhyming with the word House for a very long time.

When the waitress came to our table to take the order, Sean ordered our meal. It's become kind of a tradition for us, that if we are at an Asian restaurant he orders and is in charge. It started when he was quite young--7 or 8, I believe. For some reason he seems very comfortable ordering Asian food, and knows what each item is, and what he likes. After the meal,  he asks for the check, and asks for boxes to take leftovers. Soon I will have him pay, and figure out the tip.

After dinner we went shopping for a comforter to deliver to my husband at the fire station, and I was trying to hurry to get it there before he would be ready for bed. He usually goes to bed early while he's at the station, hoping to get as much sleep as possible before an emergency call.

By the time we arrived at the station it was 9 p.m. What I thought would be a quick hand-off of the item to my husband turned into a full hands-on lesson in fire and rescue/medical aid gear. Sean was full of questions, and explored all of the things he was allowed to explore, including the night vision tool that helps locate people in danger. He went from fire engine to fire truck, command rig, and Medic One rig asking questions.

He has done that before, but it was basic, and it's been a while. It was also during the day, and there were other people around. This was a private tour.

We didn't do one formal school activity today, but look at all of the learning that happened!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Update on Geometry Sticks

We have started the Keys of the Universe Geometry album, and so far, so good.

A lot of it was just review in the beginning, but it led to some great work.

Going over the concepts of Congruent, Equivalent and Similar led to looking at our fraction circles. We don't have any metal insets, or metal anything here, so I have to improvise with some of the ways I present these concepts. Luckily he's had access to these things in a classroom before, so my information is just one more way of looking at it.

The fraction circles were a way for him to explore equivalency, and he used two 1/2 circles.
While he had those out, he started fitting other fractions into those halves. He's done this work before, but it was fun to explore it again. He made notes in his math composition book to indicate how many 1/10s can fit into 1/2. He traced the 1/2 and then traced 1/10s inside of it and labeled it. Then he did the same with 1/8s. I asked if it would work with 1/7, and he said no, and then we tried 1/5s, but that didn't work either. When he had the 1/2s finished, I asked, "So, if four 1/8s will fit into 1/2, how many will fit into one whole. Of course this was easy work for him, but I was happy to review it and see where he is with fractions. (Who needs tests?)

Then he asked if there was division with fractions, because he's been working on long division for a while now. He likes it, and still seems to want to keep going with it.  I can see that he is still working through the steps for long division and needs my assistance sometimes. He sees all of the numbers and starts to get confused. I'm trying to find a better way to explain it, but haven't found anything yet that will isolate just the numbers he needs to focus on at that moment. I encourage him to cover up whatever he isn't using, but it is difficult. He has worked with the tubes, but I can't justify spending the money on them. I don't think we would use them for very long anyway.

We've worked with word problems, so he understands the concept of division, it's just setting it up on the paper and working through it a step at a time with all of those numbers on the page that are getting him tripped up sometimes. I want him to get used to doing this, because when he gets deeper into algebra I don't want the string of numbers and setting up those problems to be overwhelming.

But I digress.

Once he was finished working with the fractions, we moved on to Geometry Sticks. At first he was resistant, and claimed we had done that work before. We had never done it before, but he remembered it from school.

I started at the beginning anyway, and followed the album. By the time I had constructed a few polygons, he was starting to become more receptive to the idea. He clearly understood what a polygon is, and I asked him to construct one. He wanted to use as many sticks as possible.

I kept saying, "Oh, I don't know. Do you think this will work?" He insisted that it would. When he got to the last piece, and he probably used about a dozen sticks in various sizes, he had to zig and zag them to get a closed end.

We ended with the quadrilateral.

Next we will explore the Triangle, and talk about how it is the shape that constructs.



Monday, February 16, 2015

More materials--Geometry Sticks

My view of materials has changed a bit over the years.

I seem to waver back and forth-- get as many materials as I can afford, or just forget it and improvise with something around the house. Some of the materials we have don't get used much, and that disappoints me. I have spent a lot of money on some of them, and others I've found a a great discount. Either way, it's not free.

I tend to hang onto them, because I never know when it will suddenly interest him.

I'm also feeling a little nostalgic, because I know we are going further away from materials now, and next school year we will officially be Middle Schooling it.

So, I'm always excited for the materials to arrive, and hope that Sean will choose to work with them. That is definitely the case with the Geometry Stick material.

I've had my eye on it for more than a year, but there were always other things that we needed more. I finally placed my order, and I'm so glad that I did.

I recently purchased the Keys of the Universe Geometry album, and as I read through it I saw that the stick material is used throughout the album.

We haven't started the album yet, but plan to do so this week.

Sean is very agreeable and open to working with some of the materials I'm presenting, so I'm crossing my fingers that he will love the Geometry Sticks and the lessons in the album.