Sunday, May 25, 2014

Beach Nights

Beach nights have begun.  If only Mother Nature would wake up and realize that we are nearing June.  I sure would love to sit at the beach and not have to wear lined Crocs, jeans, a long sleeve tee, Greg’s hooded sweatshirt, and a fuzzy blanket!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Random Happenings

So much of our week is spent moving from one activity to another with random bits of work thrown in between.  Sometimes there is not much to say because posting that lesson 10 of Teaching Textbooks was completed or we are so close to finishing Life of Fred Elementary just is not all that riveting.    
Grace asked me if I am going to keep blogging since lately a week or more may pass in between posts.  My answer was yes, just sporadically, when  I have something to say or share.  Since I print out my blog yearly and they are favorite books of ours, I don’t want to abandon it even if it means that sometimes I am just reposting pictures already shared on Instagram.  If and When Instagram allows for blogging formats with the ability to print, I think many bloggers will abandon their blog sites.  
Spring happenings are taking place.  We are getting some much needed housework done.  First up was new front steps and walkway.  Our house had the original 1930 concrete steps which were beginning to crumble. We were afraid someone would trip and get hurt.  We choose brick to keep in character with the home, but added the bluestone to update it.

I have been keeping a 1000 Gifts journal for several months now.  It is my place to reflect on my blessings, my prayers, and the things in my life I am truly thankful for, from a warm ray of sunshine to having new stairs.  Blessings are everywhere and when times get hard or busy we often overlook what is right before our eyes.  This journal keeps me centered.  I thought it was time to encourage the girls to keep their own 1000 gifts journal.  Perhaps their goal is 100, not 1,000 and while they have to be prompted to take it out, they always feel better after working in it.  I told them it is just another way to talk to God.  

Speaking of God, I love this church door.  I drive by it often when I bring one of the girl’s friends home.  I asked Lilah to roll down her window and snap a photo.  

There have been trips to check out new delis in town, haircuts, horseback riding lessons,  movie outings, and playtime with Gilly.  There have been book club meetings and favorite pizza eating.  Library trips and trips to Hartt School of Music.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

There is nothing so good for the inside of a man 
as the outside of a horse. 
   ~John Lubbock, "Recreation," The Use of Life, 1894

Monday, May 19, 2014

First Swim

It is not really warm enough here in CT for swimming.  My toes have not felt the sand and my mind has not even begun to dream about swimming in our backyard.  We have had a 70 or 80 degree day here and there, but I need consistency.  I need a pool that is at least 80 degrees.  However, my girls don’t have these same strict requirements.  

Sunday was a beautiful day.  Not only because it was Mother’s Day.  Truthfully, we don’t make much of “holidays” like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentines Day.  My theory is that if you are not showing those you love that you value and honor them every day, then celebrating these is hypocritical.  Every day should be Mother’s/Father’s/Valentine’s Day.

The day was warm and sunny.  After a visit to my sister’s for dinner with her family and my parents, the girls returned home and felt the pool was just begging for company. 

In they went and in they stayed!  I don’t know how they did it.  But they had fun!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Discovery Adventure Park

My girls had the opportunity to spend a day in the trees at the Discovery Adventure Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut with other homeschooled children.  Lilah passed because she, like her Mama, is not too fond of her feet leaving the ground.  Grace, on the other hand, prefers it this way!  

This was her second trip here and while I was nervous about the rain, it was actually a blessing.  The mosquitoes and pollen were kept at bay.  The fog and the mist transformed this city park into a lush forest complete with huge red tailed hawk just feet away monitoring the climbers.  

Hours passed in the blink of an eye.  Grace only paused for water breaks, saving her lunch for the car ride home.  She savored every moment of this time challenging herself to new heights and sharing the experience with kids she does not have the opportunity to see often.  

I love activities that challenge the mind and the body.  These kinds of activities bring a sense of peace to Grace and they are where she thrives.  I would love to return here at night, when the fairy lights that hang from tree to tree are lit and the forest would truly be magical.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Creating Course Descriptions

One day when Grace was at her class in New Haven and Lilah was immersed in projects of her own making, I took a few hours and went through all the data I collected in Grace’s 8th Grade Binder.  I wrote down everything chronologically, and I was able to see trends or concentrations in what we were learning over the course of the year.  History fell into mainly three categories: Irish Immigration, World WarII/Holocaust and Civil Rights era.  Science was mainly marine science and chemistry.  

The next step is to summarize this information into class or course descriptions that speak the language of traditional academia.  A high school or a college does not have the time to read through 4 pages of detailed daily notes.  What we did in a very nontraditional way needs to be summarized in a way that Lee Binz describes as college-talk.  

At first this felt overwhelming, but with a model provided in the book The Homeschooler’s Guide to Portfolios and Transcripts by Loretta Heuer, M.Ed., I set out to try my hand at it.  Before I pay for a service to do this for me, I wanted to see how complicated it is and if the time and effort would be worth the cost to outsource to someone else.  One thing I know for sure is that I do not want to do this four years from now with four years worth of information, projects and classes to sort through and determine importance and relevance.  I would much rather put in the effort periodically over the course of four years than cram it all in and not be sure I am producing a product that will accurately reflect the amount of effort that went on behind the scenes.  

Some of Grace’s 8th Grade work can count for high school credit, provided the class was content worthy.  I knew this, but hearing it from Lee’s webinar somehow made me feel validated in counting it.  For example, Grace’s piano can be counted at Piano V since this was her 5th year of lessons.  It makes no sense to call it Piano I just because it is her first year in “high school”.  The same is applied to sign language.  She successfully completed ASL I in 8th Grace.  This will be a pre-credit on her transcript and her “freshman” year will show ASLII.  Lilah, should she stick with ASL, would enter “high school” with ASL IV which may by then be called Conversational ASL.  

One issue I have run into is what to do with things that don’t quite fit into a class, because it was a one time class or workshop or the class ended with fewer hours required to give it 1/4, 1/2 or full credit.  Last fall we participated in a Bible Study class and we made the choice to leave after the 6th week.  It just so happened that the 6th week was a perfect stopping point because our learning focused on the Old Testament and the 70 year Exodus from Jerusalem.  The 7th week began to cover the return to Jerusalem.  It was 18 hours, not including the homework. We spend about an hour a week on homework, which would bring it to 24 hours.  This was valuable learning.  We still reference what we learned often.  But how does it fit in to our big picture?  Where does it go?  Is it just left off?  Since this is 8th grade, I am just going to leave it off.  

This is where I am at now.  We still have two more months of learning to record and evaluate.  I want to have all the course descriptions complete by the end of June so that July 1st, we can turn the page to the start of her “high school” experience!

These are rough drafts.....

History: Credit Earned 1

20th Century History: 

Survey of Immigration.  Content included book So Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll, an Irish Mill Girl as well audio visual content of the movie adaptation of before mentioned book.  Viewed Out of Ireland, a documentary including archival information of the plight of the Irish and the reasons behind their immigration to America.  Visited The Great Irish Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University to view similar archival information as presented in documentary as as well as sculptures depicting the famine, the fatigue, and the journey of the immigrant masses.  Attended workshop offered at Yale University’s Splash Program titled Kiss Me I’m Irish; an overview of Irish culture and history.

Survey of Civil Rights Movement. Content included book With The Might of Angels: The Diary of Dawnie Rae Johnson.  Viewed the first installment of documentary Eyes On The Prize.  Viewed the movie Ruby Bridges.  Compared and contrasted what we watched to what was presented in Eyes On The Prize. 

Survey of WWII/Holocaust.  Content included book Hannah’s Suitcase, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, biography of Maurice Sendak and Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli.  Maurice Sendak lost family members in Poland during the occupation.  Later he designed sets for the opera Brundibar, originally performed by the children interned at  Theresienstadt Camp in The Czech Republic.  Visited gallery showing of Maurice Sendak’s original works at New Britain Museum of American Art.  Compared the suffering of the Irish Potato Famine to the Holocaust Victims and learned that the sculptures at The Great Irish Hunger Museum were based on victims of the Holocaust.  Discussed the concept that suffering is universal. Viewed Little House on the Prairie Season 5: The Craftsman, dealing with a Jewish immigrant and the prejudice he faced due to his race and religion. Viewed PBS documentary Irena Sendler as well as historical fiction movie Miracle at Midnight and the based on true life events movie, The Monument Men.

American Sign Language I (ASL) Credit Earned 1  This credit will count for High School foreign language requirement meaning she will have capability of 5 credits in foreign language.

This course focuses on beginning ASL communication skills both receptive and expressive as well as vocabulary and grammar in a cultural context.  American Deaf history and culture is covered.  Student has mastery of the sign alphabet, finger spelling, numbers, colors, time of day, food signs, animal signs, 70+ vocabulary words, and is able to sign a book.  Has mastered signing of simple nursery rhymes.  Class supplemented with documentary viewing: Sound and Fury, Sound and Fury 6 Years Later, Cecelia’s Story.  Grace attended Yale Splash’s workshop on Introduction to Sign Language.

Marine Science Survey. 
 30 Hour course provided by SoundWaters Organization in Stamford, Connecticut.  Long Island Sound Watershed Runoff, Point source/ non-point source pollution, Rivers, streams, tributaries, agricultural areas, urban areas, Brackish water, salt water, fresh water, surface water/ ground water, Estuary.  Students tested water quality including: salinity, pH,turbidity, temperature,nitrates – different sources.  Students were introduced to different Sampling equipment: Population survey, Random sampling/ quadrants,Transects, Water quality, VanDorn/ LaMotte Bottle, Turbidity tube/ Secchi disk, Hydrometer, Thermometer,pH colorimeter, pH/ nitrate strips.  Students used various nets such as dip net, seine net, plankton net in Long Island Sound. Labwork included use of microscopes, compound and dissecting.  Students were introduced to animal adaptations of the Diamondback terrapin, Horseshoe crab,Spider crab, Hermit Crab, Seastar, Flounder, Oyster toadfish, Bivalves: Clam, oyster, mussel, Chocolate fingered mud crab, green crab, Lobster, Asian shore crab (invasive species).  Habitats of these sea animals were investigated: Salt marsh (Spartina grass), Peat, Ribbed mussel, Buffer/sponge for coastline, Rocky intertidal zone, Sandy beach.  Students became familiar with the food chain/web: Plankton, Phytoplankton – oxygen production – primary producer, Zooplankton – mero/holoplankton – primary consumer, Scavenger, predator, consumer, decomposer
Yale Girls In Science Investigations Physics Survey.  Classes consist of physics of the invisible world, the material world and the chemical world.
Yale Splash Science Workshops: Chemistry of H2O, Deadly Microbes and Viruses, Oxygen 
Attended Chemistry of Hydrogen workshop at Beacon Self Directed Learning Center
Books included Fizz, Bubble and Flash including completion of corresponding lapbook
Visited Yale Peabody Museum to view Hall of Rocks and Minerals.  
Completed Herbalism Curriculum Herb Fairies.  Attended two homeopathic workshops presented by Dr. Yashasvi Jhangiani, B.H.M.S.

Fine Art.  
Curriculum Mapping The World With Art Completed.  
Live Performances at:
Lincoln Center Avery Fisher Hall: World Peace Orchestra
Peter and The Starcatcher on Broadway
The Piano Guys in concert at Jorgensen Hall University of Connecticut
Piano VIII
Piano Performances: need to be added

8th Grade Language Arts  
Weekly participation in peer group writing workshop. Monthly participation in peer group book club. Book Club Book list: Milkweed, Jerry Spinelli, Coraline, Neil Gaiman, Baby, Patricia McLaughlin. 
Curriculum: Wordly Wise 3000 Book 6, Spelling-U-See level 5, Writing Strands Book 3.

Friday, May 2, 2014

8th Grade Binder Update

As we are winding down the year (I consider a school year July 1 through June 30) Grace’s 8th grade binder needs some attention.  I have not been as diligent as I need to be about recording hours and activities every single day.  For example, yesterday Grace spent an hour streaming The Weather Channel live to track the severe weather outbreak in the southern states.  

Streaming The Weather Channel

We looked up local Alabama news and streamed that as well.  She was looking at radar, updating me on torcon values in the Birmingham area and is fluent in the weather speak that meteorologists used (rain wrapped tornado, debris field on radar, how storms to the west will increase the rotational flow of the storms to the east, etc).  This is her thing and while it fascinates her, it worries her because she is aware of the human element and the heavy toll on life and property these storms take.  Technically this could be counted as science.  It should be counted as science.  Too often I forget to record these spontaneous learning opportunities and tend to consider only the structured learning that we do.  My goal is to record daily, every learning opportunity that takes place during the day, whether it is Lilah making homemade bird treats (nature studies) or Grace watching an hour of weather (science).  

Lilah's fine art!

I am aware that the hour values on her subjects are not entirely accurate.    Language Arts looks light because I did not record the hours she spent reading the books for book club, because I am not sure if this “counts” but I have kept an accurate book list.  I also realized that not every subject has to hit 120 hours.  If the goal is for 1 credit in fine arts, 30 to 40 hours per year over four years is fine.  Music instruction should technically fall under fine arts but that needs its own category due to the hours she has spent on instruction.  Here again, I did not count hours of practice. Should I?  I really don’t know.  If I do it would be much, much higher.  

Math and sign language are not hour based, they are content based.  She has earned a credit of foreign language as an 8th grader and this will be counted on her high school transcript.  She is still working on Teaching Textbooks Algebra I and this will not be finished for several more months.  She will get credit for this as a “freshman”.  She has 47 hours of volunteering or community service.  I am not sure how to record this.....what class would this be in school-talk?  From my research it is not really a class, just an accomplishment.  Many schools would honor a student who has reached 47 hours of service in one year.  Perhaps next year she will strive to achieve the President’s Award for 100 Hours of Community Service.

I don’t have all this figured out yet.  I have areas of improvement, especially if I am going to begin a 7/8th grade binder for Lilah next year.  But this is where I am now.  I will post back with an update in a few weeks with how this binder will look when class descriptions are added, and it is prettied up a bit!

This begins my binder.  Sometimes I need a reminder that you can unschool to college!

I am keeping all outside documentation of classes and beginning to ask for course descriptions and letters of recommendation.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Another high school post...

If you had the chance to go back and do high school over again how would you change it?  If you were freed from the restrictions of spending your day inside a brick building, what would you do?  If you had no tests, no midterms, no official requirements, what would you learn?

Honestly, if I had the whole world open to me at 14, I’m not sure where I would begin.  It is a pretty big world out there and the amount of information contained within it is staggering.  We talk about college in our house.  It is expected that each of the girls will go on to learn a skill, obtain a degree, or learn a trade that will afford them financial independence. If this is a goal, then colleges do have basic guidelines that they are looking to see on a transcript. 

This is how we will structure our “high school” experience.  Where did the term “high school” come from anyway?  I wish there was a way to avoid using that term for the next four years because it conveys a very different experience than the one we are having.

We will approach the next four years with the intent to provide an equivalent education in the following areas:

Math - 4 credits*
Language Arts - 4 credits
World History - 1 credit
US History - 1 credit
Foreign Language - 3+ credits
Science - 3 credits
Fine Arts - 1 credit
Technology - 1 credit
P.E - 1 credit
Government - 1 credit
Economics - 1 credit
Electives - 5+ credits

* we are using Carnegie Credit Hours (120hrs=1credit) and/or content based credit (Teaching Textbooks Algebra=1 credit)

Now throw out required reading lists. Throw out boring old textbooks.  Throw out teaching to the test.  Throw out moving from class to class when the bell rings.  Toss away all your restrictions and look at what is around you.  How can you obtain equivalency in the community, in the “real world”?  How can you match your talents, your interests, your passions to the above list?

This is what we will be figuring out as we head into the next 4 to 6 years of our homeschooling experience.  I began this adventure with a 2nd grader who is now finishing up her 6th grade year.  My 4th grader joined us a bit later, and she is now finishing up her 8th grade year.  Things look much different now than they did 4 years ago.  As I look back through this blog and read the posts about learning about water lilies during our botany study, watching and reading Linnea in Monet’s Garden,  and combining this with a trip to see his collection at The Wadsworth in Hartford, I want to commit wholeheartedly to this way of learning.  The term “high school” seems to make us homeschooling parents lose our way, change our philosophy, and start teaching to the test.  College acceptance being the ultimate passing grade. 

I want to stay true to our way of learning, even if it means that now we have to incorporate some more traditional types of work into our day.  The beauty is that what we are using (Wordly Wise) is because Grace wants to be fluent in ASL and needs to increase her vocabulary.  There is a purpose to what we do.  They may not love Writing Strands, but Lilah sees how it helps her grow in her craft, which is vital to being an entrepreneur.  I have always been very intentional about choosing what we learn and how we learn it and I want to stay true to that.  

I think today I may brew a second cup of coffee and pull out my three blog books, covering the early years and make a list of my favorite learning experiences to use as models and reminders.  We have had so many. 

Books I have read and recommend: Grace Llewellyn’s Gorilla Learning and The Teenage Liberation Handbook, Blake Bowles’ Better Than College, Barbara Edtl Shelton’s Senior High A Home Designed Form+U+La.

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...