Thursday, October 28, 2010

No Expiration Date

We are now two months into our life as a homeschooling family.  After overcoming the challenges of adjustment and allowing for de-schooling to take place, I am noticing that some things are really working!
1) Math - my girls have very different learning styles when it comes to math.  Singapore Math was what I chose for Lilah when she first came home and it is what we are using now.  Back in January, she would argue over math every single day.  Tears were common.  Now, she loves it.  Just the other night, she asked to stay up late.  I assumed it was to write.  When I came up or bed, on my pillow was a note that she worked in her “fun” math book practicing math facts for a half hour!    Grace has also had a journey in math.  Math was her favorite subject in school.  Not so much at home.  Her teacher was the 4th grade math teacher, and as such, had years of materials at her fingertips.  Unfortunately, I do not.  I asked Grace not to compare me to her.  It just isn’t fair.  I don’t have resources accumulated over 20 years of teaching.  My focus is not solely on teaching math.  I will do my best and offer her the best of me.  We decided to set aside our Horizons text and instead use youtube to “teach” the concept and use workbooks for practicing the concept.  This decision changed everything.  In October she has mastered two x two digit multiplication and three x two digit multiplication.  She has learned averages.  She is learning long division a divisor of two digits.  
2) Writing - I did not choose a formal writing curriculum.  I found WriteStart at a curriculum fair and grabbed it for a basic guide.  We did several lessons from the first unit, mostly the skill builders, all pertaining to adding details.  We are approaching our writing as writer’s workshop.  Right now each girl is working on a story.  Grace’s is a about a girl living in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina (inspired by Ninth Ward but with a very different style) and Lilah is writing about a girl who does not quite fit in, who wants to be homeschooled, and how she finds her place.  Into this writing, I throw mini-lessons.  They are inspired.  Frankly, they are inspiring!
3) History - I love teaching history so it is no surprise it is going well.  I adore The Story of The World, and consider it one of my best purchases.  We are still studying The Greeks, taking our time to savor them.  We are slowly reading The Odyssey (abridged) and will watch the History Channel’s program on it in November.  We notice history everywhere.  In the bookstore, Grace shows me calendars with pictures of Greece.  We have learned about the Olympics and some of the Greek Gods.  History comes alive with this type of learning.  
4) Sleeping - This is the first time since my children started preschool, that their bodies have been allowed to develop a natural schedule.  I try to keep bedtime consistent at 9:00 lights out because Grace needs that.  She needs the structure of a bedtime and her body is asleep by 9:10!  Lilah is quite different and although she is upstairs, she is allowed to read, write (or do math!) until she is sleepy, which is usually around 9:30.  They wake when they are ready, Grace at 7:30 and Lilah around 8:00.  There is no morning rush to get out at 8:30.  They start learning in their pajamas and get dressed when we have somewhere to go.  It is relaxed and wonderful.  We are looking forward to the winter, when we can start our day reading in front of the fireplace.
5) Sisterhood - This is also coming along nicely.  The girls are finding things in common.  Their latest project is building a studio in our attic.  Hours were spent clearing space, organizing toys, sorting clothes to donate, removing old boxes and containers to make room for a video studio.  They envision our attic becoming the next iCarly studio.  They enjoy making videos on their laptop’s video camera.  I have to say, their two minute shows are funny.  This morning they are hanging posters, draping walls with old sheets and bringing up furniture.  These types of projects bring them closer.  Since they are so opposite in many ways, they have not taken the time to find common interests.  I love that they are doing this independently and plan to use youtube as a way to get their videos onto their blogs.  Again, they are inspiring me!
It is important for me to look at the journey.  Sometimes life can get busy with outside lessons, appointments and errands.  Even through I try very hard to keep our mornings free, life has a funny way of changing plans.  Play dates pop up and who can say no to a breakfast play date?  Certainly not me!  So there are days when it looks like not much was accomplished.  I remind myself we are no longer on a school schedule.  I do not have to finish a concept at a certain date.  In fact, I don’t want to “finish” a concept and close with a test.  I love the fact that learning at home has no expiration date.    No!  Everything is connected.  Math is connected to Lilah’s learning to quilt.  Quilting is connected to History.  History is connected to The Odyssey.  The Odyssey is what we are reading.  The books they are reading have inspired their writing.  Writing is essential to EVERYTHING! 
 It is the circle of learning.  There is no beginning, there is no end.


Theresa said...

I am so glad to hear that the girls relationship is blossoming! That bond is priceless.

I was going to ask you if you were testing in Story of the World. I've been asking the review questions but had been pondering whether or not I wanted tests. How long are you spending on each unit?

Are you reading a children's version of the Odyssey (we have a graphic novel of it at the library)? Are you reading it to them? Or are they reading it aloud?

Helena said...

Jessica, I LOVED this post. It's like you sang those words right into my brain, and my thoughts sang back, just the same. I kept thinking, Yes! And, Of course! And, How lovely our journeys are!
Thank you for writing what I am thinking. I LOVE that learning happens everywhere, and has no end. Isn't it amazing? And so, so wonderful.

Jessica said...


I do the reviews orally. Sometimes I will ask for a written review but I don't call them tests. Generally I spend one week per chapter. We are slowing down for the Greeks. We have done two chapters in three weeks. I do not want to move ahead yet......I want to finish The Odyssey first.

I am reading it to them and I am using the version by Geraldine McCaughrean. It was recommended in The Well Trained Mind. I don't know if there are other abridged versions but I would check. I don't love this one.

The History Channel has programming in November about The Odyssey. I read that it is good. We are going to watch it. I might start The Lightning Thief as our next read aloud.....

What are you reading to complement History??

Jessica said...

Thanks Helena! It is remarkable to realize that we learn as much as our children in this process!

Karen said...

When you posted on FB about their studio my first thought was what a long way they have come in such a short time as far as their relationship. I love it! I too love the way everything is connected, in fact my perfect curriculum would be exactly that.

For you and Theresa, here is a link with some multiple choice SOTW quizzes.

Jessica said...


THANK YOU! My girls will LOVE this and not even think of it as a test!

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