Friday, October 31, 2014

A History of the World in 100 Objects - Discovery Ahead

We kicked off our new addition to our history curriculum, A History of the World in 100 Objects.  It is perfect for us and for how we learn best.  We are not completely abandoning A History of the Ancient World, but this will be used as a supplement rather than our core text.  

I simply adore the themes that run through this book, that humanity shares common DNA despite our skin colors, our religions and our cultures.  If we can focus on commonalities rather than differences, we can see that these carefully chosen objects from the collection at The British Museum, demonstrate that we are really not as different as we appear to be at first glance.

We began our study by reading the Preface and the Introduction last week.  We are using this as a working text.  Each girls is allowed to highlight and write in the margins.  They are uncomfortable doing this but I told them these are study skills that will help them in the future.  

This week we studied objects #1 and #2.  We read from the text.  We listened to the podcasts online.  We (me included) created double journal entries for each object.  Half the page is what we found interesting from the text/podcast.  The other half is reserved for what we learned from the supplemental materials or trips I will bring to each item.

To kick off our study, I wanted something grand.  I wanted to pack up our books and journals and pens and learn on site.  The Peabody Museum in New Haven is the perfect place to find similar objects to #1 and #2.  We read outside the Hall of Egypt and then went it.  Even though we have been here before, many times, when you visit a museum with a specific purpose there is always something new to discover.  The girls recorded their information and then we headed downstairs to the part of the museum that houses fossil records and 

Here again we run into difficulty with text vs. our personal beliefs.  I explained again that scientists believe that humans evolved from apes and that there is plenty of scientific studies that refute this.  But like the Big Bang theory, I try not to get bogged down in details.  I know that God designed this planet, just as he designed us in his own image.  Even if humans did not always look the way we do now, it is because God designed it to be so.

I was thrilled to discover a whole area dedicated to the Leakey family, who we read about in item #2.  We looked at replicas of the same stone tools that are sitting at The British Museum!  It was very very cool.  

This type of learning is very powerful.  This is where we came to work on our Periodic Table of Elements and as we walked into the museum the girls reflected on their time working with their friend, how much they missed her, and how much they remembered from that project.  I may not be able to find a replication of each of the 100 items in the book, but I will try to find as many as possible.  

We will also watch documentaries and do some old fashioned research at libraries to uncover additional information for some of these items.  It pleased me when the girls were telling Greg about their day and Grace commented that this book is so much better than the other book we were using (although I think it is not better, just a better fit) and that this learning is fun.

I am excited to move ahead to the next item and move ahead in our learning and begin to connect the pieces, the time periods, and the human experience that took place behind these 100 objects.  We have much discovery ahead.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Last show of the season

It has been years since Grace and I rose before the sun, grabbed coffee and breakfast to go and drove over an hour to get to a sporting event.  This used to be our Saturday routine when she would spend the day skating at the ISCC in Simsbury.  She gave that lifestyle up in favor of her family and since then we have not had many occasions to watch the sun rise as we traveled along a country road.

This weekend gave us that opportunity, although she slept through most of the sunrise!  Grace competed in one more show for this season, a benefit for breast cancer research at a farm in the Litchfield hills.    

In some ways this show was a better experience than the last one.  Grace felt part of a team now that she knows the other girls better and has a stronger relationship with her trainers.  There was more camaraderie at this show since the girls all competed back to back and hours of time did not separate each class.  There was more time for warming up and an indoor ring to stand in when the 49 degree temperature chilled your bones.  

In some ways this was not as good of an experience.  We learned the difference between larger shows with independent judges not hosted at a farm and smaller shows held at local farms.  We prefer independent judging.  Grace walked away with the reminder that ribbons are pretty and she loves to hang them on her shelf, but ribbons are not the sole reason for competition.  This is an individual sport.  If you have a good ride you have done well.  If your horse does what you ask of it, you have done well.  If you can line up waiting for results and know in your heart that you have grown as a rider and this event was stronger than the last, then no matter what color ribbon you are given, you have already won.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Party Planning: Halloween

It is well known that Lilah lives for party planning.  Give her an event and she will give you an experience.  This was the first Halloween party she has thrown and it was a grand event.  

The highlight was a scavenger hunt game that the girls played in teams.  They had to find clues hidden in the house.  Some clues were spells that her team mates had to work together to reverse.  Others were clues to decipher the name of the witch who organized the game.  The first team to get her name won.  Along the way the teams used monopoly money to buy and sell clues and spells.  The remaining money was used to purchase prizes we picked up at the dollar store.  Everyone went home with something, whether they won the game or not.  

I wonder what Miss Lilah will plan for Christmas??

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Week of October 19 - 25, 2014

We love  I get many of my art journaling ideas here.

Lilah usually end up making her own creation anyway...

Working with one of our younger friends.  We are planning for an art journaling class to replace pottery when that class ends in two weeks.

Crosby's vet appointment.  He weighed in at 20lbs!

First trip to the beach.

Working on Ground Poles

Lots of puzzle making

ACCOMPLISHMENTS week of October 19-25
Grace: Lesson 23: Undoing in reverse order
Lesson 24: 
Lilah: Lesson 16: Division Basics
Daily review of multiplication with flash cards. Her speed and accuracy has greatly improved.

Incorporating A History of The World in 100 Objects into our study and changing the title of our course from Ancient History to The History of Humanity (1 credit) Read Preface and most of the Introduction.  Each girl chose a colored highlighter and when they find information interesting, we are highlighting it to be used in their notebooks as a double journal entry.

didn’t happen this week.  Next week my goal is to do two-three lessons.  
Language Arts
After reading chapters 12-14 we were intrigued by the Hindu religion and introduced to the Goddess Kali.  Before the story turned towards Hong Kong, I wanted to take the opportunity to explore Hinduism.  2 hours at the library and the girls each have a little project of the fundamentals of the Hindu Religion.                 

Lilah read Who Was Albert Einstein? for fun. She fell asleep reading it and woke up early to finish it.

Viewed two lessons of Compass Classroom’Word Up! The Vocab Show and did the Quizlet vocabulary flashcards.  Ordered the download on sale for $9.99 at the girls’ request.

Viewed Understanding World Religion: What is Hinduism?

“If there is a book you want to read but isn’t written yet, write it.” Shel Silverstein

Lilah has returned to her blog and has a goal to blog about her days as a homeschooled middle school student.
Began the glazing process.  
An hour lesson this week (Tuesday).  Both girls worked on cantering.
Both girls learned how to do ground poles and Grace will be competing in a ground pole event this weekend.   Grace had an extra lesson this week (Wednesday) to work on this skill.
Grace spent two hours at the farm Saturday preparing the horses for the show the following day.
Worked on politics and geography signs.  Spoke to instructors regarding private lessons during the 6 week hiatus.
Continued practicing recital pieces
Worked on an art journal page with a friend Wednesday morning for 2 hours.
Social Justice
We have completed the Seeking Social Justice Series.  I am seeking new components to this course.
Personal Finance
Did not happen.  This is not going to end up a credit for this year but perhaps will be over the course of the next 4 years.  The video series is too short to be a credit course but will be a great supplement to the full course offered by Dave Ramsey that we will use next year. 

 **Homeschoolers do not have to work with the same paradigm as traditionally schooled children.  I can keep track of hours in one subject over 4 years.  When I reach 120 hours that constitutes a credit whether it was all completed in their freshman year (as will be the case for her internship, math, history, science, freshman english) but not for art, social justice, finance.  This is why I am vigilant with documenting our work because Lilah’s work that is high school level will give her high school credit despite being in 7th grade this year.
Crosby had his 3 month vet appointment Monday.  Grace rescheduled her volunteering to be able to attend this appointment.  

Crosby did very well with his third training class.  He worked on sitting.   He turned 3 months old this week!  We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of his adult teeth.

Lilah began her most challenging crochet project, a doll.  She does not work with patterns yet somehow makes her vision come to life.

Lilah spent hours planning and preparing for her first Halloween Party!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do you have a Guidance Counselor?

Students in high school have guidance counselors.  According to, counselors give assistance when it comes to the student’s core curriculum, they assist with individual planning, respond to students’ needs and concerns, provide referrals, consultation and collaboration.  For a homeschooled student all these roles are generally provided by the parent primarily responsible for the delivery of the education, or in my house, me!

I don’t want all this to fall on my shoulders.  To use that all to popular catch phrase, I don’t want something to “fall between the cracks” and even in homeschooling, there are cracks.  I fully admit that I cannot be everything to everyone under this roof.  

We are very fortunate that the girl’s Aunt Kris, is actively involved in their homeschooling.  Years ago, she took on the role of math teacher and met with the girls weekly to do Simply Charlotte Mason’s Business Math.  While this program is tedious and we never did find out if the businesses turned a profit, this math program is still talk ed about from time to time.  Since then she has kept up to date on what we are up to through Instagram and my blog.  She is not one to ask the girls “What did you do this week?” but rather, “Tell me everything about your trip to the theater!”, or “What book are you reading now?”.  

Now that the girls are older, she is still actively involved in their learning and now it is needed more than ever.  The girls are working on beautiful things.  Their lapbook for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is really too beautiful to live inside a binder.    When there is no audience for a child’s work, the child (at least mine) questions why it has to be done with effort and skill and beauty.  In fact, why do it at all?  Why not just read or watch the documentary and then move on?  Each girl has an A average in Teaching Textbooks this year.  We learn for mastery.  I expect an A.  However, there is no report card to show relatives, no honor roll to be inducted into and no name posted in the local newspaper.  Having someone other than the parent take interest, ask questions, review work, give constructive criticism, provide feedback, and challenge the child to do more is very powerful.  It helps feed the internal fire of intrinsically motivated learning.  

My heart soars when Grace tells me she thinks it is neat that her Aunt comes for dinner, watches a movie based on a book that she read alongside the girls, and looks through their growing binders of work.    I love that Kris remembers which projects are not finished and makes those the first things she asks to see the next time she visits.  She is their guidance counselor in addition to being their Aunt.  She is providing those valuable roles of giving assistance with curriculum and planning.   She is responding  to their needs and concerns.  She is providing feedback. She consults with them and she certainly collaborates with them.  How many family members ask for the study guide we are using so they can do some of the same activities?  Not many!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Around the World

My girls always learn best through projects where the reading is connected to life and life is then connected back to learning.  This is time intensive.  It can slow down the reading of a book and extend what could be a week long assignment into a two week long project.  We have never been about rushing through curriculum but more about wandering our way through what we are learning about and finding some experience to make it stick.

My girls are not always self motivated.  We are not true unschoolers, although we follow many of the guiding principals of unschooling.  As their mother and educator I have to introduce to them topics, facts, stories, subjects that they may not stumble upon through their interests.  Around the World in 80 Days has a chapter detailing an extremist Hindu sect preparing for a human sacrifice while transporting a statue of the Goddess Kali.  As I was listening, I knew we had to dig deeper.  My plans for math and science were pushed aside and we took a trip to the library, pulled out every book in the children’s section about Hinduism, and set about creating an informative collage.  

We took time at the end of our day and viewed a short documentary I picked up at the library: Understanding World Religion, What is Hinduism?

In the video Ghandi is mentioned.  He was also mentioned in the documentary we watched about the Suez Canal.  We will have to learn about him next.  I pre-ordered the Who was Ghandi? book on Amazon which will deliver in 3 weeks.  Our learning is very fluid moving from one topic to another related topic all the while deepening our understanding on what we originally set out to discover.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Last Week: October 13 - 17

When I am fearful, I know it is time for a change.  When I fear that we must adhere to a “high school”-like way of learning, we are headed straight for a fall.  Despite this being our 5th year of homeschooling, there are times when fear raises its ugly head and makes me doubt if we are on track, if we should stick with something the girls hate just because we are already several chapters in, and it is “high school level”........  Often it is my dear friend Karen who talks sense into me and reminds me that we are not on this journey to make our girl’s educations look like their counterparts at the local high school.  If that were the case, it would be so much simpler to send them to school!

So we are tweaking history.  More details will follow in next week’s wrap up, but I am very excited about what we are doing.  

So history was a little light this week, at least in our text.  However they are getting lots of history from the little detours we are taking with Around the World in 80 Days.  So much history in this book.  And this history sticks.  They are familiar with the Red Sea from our work with Mapping the World Through Art.  The same with India.  And something really cool happened in ASL class this week, they learned the sign for Ireland.  It is three fingers which you move like you are digging up potato.  They knew from their history last year (Irish potato famine and immigration) why this was the sign.  Boom.  Learning.  They will never forget the sign for Ireland. Something else cool happened at the weather conference when a map of the glacier impact for climate/weather was shown. It just so happens that glaciers were one thing mentioned this week in science as a factor affecting the geology of the area we happen to live in.  Then at church the reading was about Cyrus.  Hmm....he was mentioned once or twice in Story of the World.  

For us learning is not going to be simply reading a chapter and taking a test.  Our style of learning is about constantly searching for connections in our daily life to what we are learning about in our studies.  By searching for connections we deepen our understanding, and learning becomes not only more fun, but more meaningful.

Lilah ch. 2 quiz 100%
Lesson 13: multiplication
Lesson 14: multiplication; using mental math to multiply large numbers

Grace met with our neighbor, a middle school math teacher, to review some algebraic concepts.  We discussed committing ourselves to the completion of this course as soon as possible if for nothing else, to get it over with! 
Lesson 18: order of operations and use of the fraction bar
Began chapter 8.  This text is not holding their interest.  They have no excitement for history.  I have to ponder what I want to do.  It feels very dry with reading a chapter and answering comprehension or critical thinking questions.  Several chapters on they are no longer remembering the details because it is not connecting with them.  Last year our study of history was vibrant and alive.  Immigration, the Irish Famine, the Holocaust, and Westward Expansion may not have been studied chronologically but the learning was authentic.  We constantly make connections to what we learned last year.  That is not happening this year and I know it is because I have put the “high school” label on it and took away the exploration in favor of a text.  

After much research, I purchased a used copy of: History of the World in 100 Objects.  The sample pages on Amazon hooked me at 5:30am, so chances are this will be something we can dig into and have FUN with while covering history chronologically.
Lilah read Planet Earth: What Planet Are You On

as a supplement to the geology section of our science course.  Lilah noted that some of the writing directly contradicts Creation based scientific theories. I told her that there is a great divide between the scientific and the religious community over how this planet and life was formed, but there can be common ground when we know that God had a plan and he carried out his plan.  Whether The Big Bang or Creation, God designed it. 

Week #8: Geology.  The forces that change the Earth’s landscape.  Grace researched Connecticut parks with evidence of glacier melt that we could visit. 

This week provided Grace with much to keep up on from storms in the south and southeast, a major hurricane in the Atlantic, and the first hurricane to possibly hit Hawaii ever!  This week will culminate with Grace and I attending the Tri-State Weather Conference at Western Connecticut State University this weekend.  
Language Arts
Watched the Disney animated movie: Alice in Wonderland and compared it to the Tim Burton version.  While visually I love the modern version, the classic version is a better retelling of the story.

Our quotes this week: 
“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.  I can choose which it shall.  Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet.  I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”  Groucho Marx

“No two persons ever read the same book.” Edmund Wilson

As Philias Fog was journeying across India, we used this opportunity to learn about the colonization of India. We watched Episode #5: Freedom of PBS’ The Story of India (1hour)

Writing Group: Blackout Poetry


Girls confirmed their pieces for the winter recital. Lilah added another page of sheet music to Walking on Sunshine and Grace is working to master Secrets.
Social Justice
wooden crosses (see below)
Watched Seeking Social Justice #6: Individual.   
Purchased: Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World by Brandon Vogt
The girls had the opportunity to practice their ASL conversational skills at a Deaf Community meet up at Starbucks.  They are blessed to have a very good friend who is fluent in ASL and who attended this meet up to help the girls feel comfortable in the use of their new language.
This was the last week to create clay items.  Next week will be the first of three weeks of glazing.
Grace will be competing in another horse show (the last of the season) at the end of October.  
Grace worked on jumping and Lilah worked on cantering. We brought Crosby and their friend with us to the farm.  
Crosby completed his course of medication for Giardia and he is back to training class which is good because he is a smart dog and needs to be intellectually stimulated.  The girls repeated our first session of having him come while holding his attention. 
Lilah won a town wide pet photography contest at the 9th Annual Animal Rescue’s Festival. Her picture of Crosby in his bow tie will be the picture featured on the 2015 Festival tee shirt!  
Lilah began decorating 4" wooden crosses to be given as gifts at our November dinner at the shelter.  It took her 90 minutes to decorate 5 crosses.  Sadly Crosby destroyed one.  She has 20 more to do, but plenty of time to complete them.  

Grace’s boss adjusted the work schedule and because our weeks are full with lessons and activities, there may be fewer hours available for her to work since she is not willing, at 14, to give up every Saturday morning and give up time with her father.  

While Grace and I were at the weather conference, Lilah was in her favorite place, the kitchen.  We came home to a homemade gluten free pumpkin roll, popcorn balls and a no-bake Butterfinger pie with Newman’s Own “Oreo” cookie crust.  I have no doubt this girl will own her own food truck or store front bakery some day.  She began asking what culinary arts schools are in the North East.

Grace is really enjoying Matilda.  I think it qualifies as a classic, no?

This always amazes me.  Music studies should be considered as a foreign language!

Black Out Poetry
I am thinking of framing these.

A talk given by NJ State Climatologist mentioning glaciers.  A beautiful connection to science studies this week.

Her favorite talk of the conference.  Storm chasing!

I did not realize this was gluten free until Greg told me!  

Butterfinger Pie

Popcorn Balls

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...