Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What do you do at bedtime?

Last Thursday, we hosted our homeschool play day that has carried on since last year's Wolf Camp that we hosted on our property. Only Kyle could make it last week, and after I returned from taking Kyle home, Sean was on the computer. It was nearly 4 p.m. and I told him we needed to do some school. I asked him to turn off the screen.
He told me he had done science the night before, but I was skeptical. I hadn't seen him doing science the night before.
He showed me a video he watched about opioids. I decided it was indeed science, and pretty advanced stuff, so I asked him to get his science composition book and carefully, in his best 7th grade handwriting, outline what he had learned from the video.
He first was surprised that he is in 7th grade. I guess he forgot. I have never made a big deal about grade levels, but I like him to know what level he is now, because we are getting ever closer to high school.
He pulled out his sketch pad, held it up and asked, "You mean like this? Can you read this?"
He was seriously curious if he had done work at a 7th grade level. He had outlined what he learned. And he had obviously paused the video to take careful notes and to be sure he had spelled the words correctly before moving on. It was well organized, neatly written, some information was circled with a mark that denoted a this and then that type of scenario of how pain is communicated in the brain. It was so impressive that I was left speechless.
Mostly because we haven't even talked much about my expectations for this year, or about how to take notes, and how to be thorough. But also because the subject matter was very advanced and complex, and he had done it late the night before, when he could have chosen anything at all to do. Legos, a movie, any number of things.
I didn't want to skip doing school, so I encouraged him to think of some reasons why a Dr. would prescribe an opiate. He had some of the medicines listed, and said maybe morphine for a broken bone.
He searched broken bones, and the various ways a bone breaks. I asked him to sketch those and label them, and he did it with skill.
His work led me to wonder if he knew some of the clearly advanced biological terms, and if he knew what the person meant when talking about enzymes. He hasn't chosen to do that work yet, but I am sure he will soon.
And I wonder if we all, after at least some exposure to watching others categorize information, come to understand how to take notes and outline information?
I also wonder if he would do better to start school at 4 p.m., because he clearly does some of his best work after I'm in bed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Homeschooling and selling the house

It's the first time I haven't been the least bit excited to say goodbye to summer and jump into the school year. It's our first official year of Middle School, 7th grade. I'm getting there, but I'm overwhelmed with life right now.

Our schools start in September around here, and I decided to follow the schedule of our old district, which means we officially begin tomorrow. Just to get him into a routine I did a soft start last week.

I haven't planned anything for curriculum, except a basic concept of what I'd like to see him do this year.  I've had ideas floating around in my brain, read a few of the many items I have on Middle School years for Montessori, and that's about it.

We are selling our house, so almost everything has been packed into bins and put into the POD while we show our home on a regular basis to potential buyers. I thought we would have it sold by now, but there was a delay in listing. It's only been on the market for a month. I packed all of those things away in early June, thinking the house would be listed by the end of June, and we would be ready to pack up and move by now.

Keeping the house looking like no one lives here is a big job. I try to keep everything clean and put away, so that we could do a quick sweep and wipe down and be ready to get out of the house within an hour. It has happened more than once.

I kept only a few things for math and language in our storage ottoman, and figured we could limp along with library and field trips until we are settled into a new place. I miss the homeschool materials. It feels so bare and strange without them. Maybe that's why I haven't been very excited. I'd like to have our old shelves and materials in our living room again, so I could update the materials on the shelves, and we could just go to the shelf and choose something to work on.

But we have to improvise for a while, so I decided to start with goals for the school year. He has some goals, and I have some for him, and we will work together to accomplish those. A lot of them are practical life kinds of skills.

He wants to get solid on Algebra, and asked to do Trigonometry, but I cautioned him that the manual is rather thick for our Montessori Adolescent Algebra. I don't think we can get to Trigonometry in one year.

I want him to learn how to do a budget, and a business plan. He wants to learn how to parallel park, and to fly an airplane.

Some of our goals will likely get changed or altered in some way, but we are both looking at this year much differently than the past two we've spent at home.

He asked me tonight if I had some stuff out for him to work on for tomorrow. I don't, but I will certainly pull out some things. Language will have to be first, because I have to do more prep for math.

This month I see us focused on math and writing. And we might have to keep it going for a couple of months. It can be an in-depth study of those subjects until we can mix in the other things.

We will definitely do some manual labor kind of work around here. He has embraced hard work, and looks for a chance to work outside. Today he cut the raspberry bushes and hauled the clippings out to the compost pile.

After reading one of the papers on adolescents, I recognize that he is fully in that plane of development. His bed covers are always crumpled, and clothes strewn on the floor. He cleans up each morning and makes the bed, but he prefers to sleep without the top sheet anymore, making his comforter a pile of soft material.

His focus is on friends, finding any opportunity to socialize. And I will make sure he has a lot of opportunities for that.

He has become what the paper describes, a cave child. He wants to be in the house, specifically in his room if he isn't in front of the video game. He hangs out in his room, with his crumpled bedding, and his music. He no longer goes outside on his own much. I have to encourage, or ask him to come help me with something in the garden. Then he lingers, walking around the property, playing with the dogs, talking to the chickens, observing the birds in the trees and yard.

This property has been exactly what we needed. It has provided so much joy and opportunity for a healthy homeschool environment. We are looking for another, similar to this one, but one that meets more of what we need.

In case you're looking to relocate to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, to a farm that would be perfect for your homeschooling family, with a Christmas tree farm started with 200 trees growing, 7 acres of land, beautiful flower beds, a chicken coop, small shop, hookup for an RV, and a natural amphitheater with a gazebo for entertainment, and more, here's a link to the MLS:

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


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!