Thursday, January 21, 2016

OYAN Update

OYAN (One Year Adventure Novel) is moving along.  We slowed down dramatically over the holidays and are now revving back up to power through and complete this curriculum.   My girls approach writing very differently; one loves to write and one hates to write.  Their stories look very different.  Lilah has set a goal for 100 pages and at the close of chapter 5 she is at page 38.  Grace’s goal is simply to write the best story she has ever written and so far she is meeting that goal!  

OYAN’s video lessons keep up on track and moving ahead.  Because we are doing this as part of our writing group, there are four other girls to account for and because I am not their “teacher” it is up to them to find the motivation and perseverance to power through when writer’s block sets in.  If we were doing this solo, I’m not sure we would make it, but the group shares are powerful and transformative.  I have sat at my kitchen table and listened to stories come to life.  I have heard genuine, constructive feedback from their peers and have been amazed when the girls took that feedback, evaluated it and reworked their chapter into a more powerful, dynamic piece of writing.  The process is authentic, positive, supportive and simply thrilling to watch.

We are half-way done.  Chapter seven will be shown this week.  The program is designed to write out of order, focusing on acts, rather than chronological chapters, but due to the writing and learning style of our group, we decided to proceed through the lessons chronologically and it is working for us.  I am so curious to see what their characters have been up to since the last time we met.  This week (chapter 6) they should have experienced a failure.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wolf Conservation Center

Like I said in an earlier post, we are signing up for just about everything that includes the word teen so when a post came across my yahoo group for a once a month class at The Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY, I jumped on it.  It is not enough for a stand alone class obviously, but it ties in beautifully to the girls' biology units on ecology.  Rather than worry about a lab for this module, they will have hands on experience with live wolves and learn from conservation experts about the environmental and human issues affecting their habitat and forest ecosystem.  

I found a free lapbook on and we went to the library and took out many books about wolves.  The great thing about lapbooks, is that information is information and you can customize lapbooks to meet the developmental needs of young children or teens.  For example, Grace used a photo she took and her favorite editing program to overlap a quote on the photo and this will be used as the cover of her lapbook rather than a coloring page that was provided.  Lilah wants to draw or paint a wolf, like she did with the lion that became the cover of her Narnia lapbook.  

I am glad we began our research early because every thing we learned was covered in the first class.  The lapbook will be worked on over the next four months until the class is completed in May.  This is the first time the WCC has offered homeschool programming and I am impressed with the thought that went into planning.  Although there is a large age range of children, the instructors are comfortable with all ages and the teens were split into their own group.  

My girls felt this was the best class we have attended in a long time and wish it was offered weekly.  So do I.......

Course Outline:
Wolf families, pack structure / wolf life
Importance of communication within packs
Den building 
Pup 101
Activity – shelter/den building with sticks and leaves
Resource survival game (food, water, shelter, etc.)
Importance of the Endangered Species Act
What the ESA is: different listings, what they mean, creation of act
Examples of what animals are listed
Current challenges faced by ESA
Activity – write essay about what the ESA means to you and present it to the class
Current challenges faced by wolves located at Isle Royale, British Columbia
Little known wolf populations that are struggling
BC, aerial hunting of wolves, caribou population, etc.
Activity - tracking:  importance of radio collars in tracking these wolves
SSP:  in depth look at the Species Survival Plan program
Red wolves, Mexican gray wolves
Federal recovery programs, institutions involved
How SSP has helped wolves  F838, 2015 red wolf pups, M1141
Activity – SSP studbooks
Mythology of wolves                       

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Update: Dave Raymond's History

After taking a break from our history program to delve deeply into Civil Rights in preparation for our Alabama trip last November, we are back to our daily video lessons with Dave Raymond.  I love these lessons.  I love that they teach things not found in a classroom textbook, like who Cotton Mather was and why he matters.  Or that our country WAS founded on Christian values and why that matters.  Or that the Puritans had some really great values and perhaps that is why their communities were so much stronger than our current ones.

Living in New England allows us to take our lessons and bring them to life.  When I was searching for historical sites pertaining to the Puritans, I came across a Mather Homestead in Darien, Connecticut, just around the corner from piano lessons.  This is the family homestead of one of Cotton Mather’s nephews and is protected from developers by a land trust.  

I’m so looking forward to this spring.  As we continue to watch our lessons and create beautiful notebooks, we will walk in the footsteps of the people we are learning about by visiting Philadelphia, Boston and Gettysburg.  

Monday, January 18, 2016


For years and years my girls have asked to snowboard and every year I put it off.  First off, I hate to be cold.  Detest it really.  Once I am chilled, I am chilled all day.  No fire is warm enough to warm me back up.  There is no way I want to snowboard or ski.  

Last year we had bindings put on their snowboards and this year I came across a great rate for a homeschool group at a “mountain” in New York.  The package is for 6 weeks including a 90 minute lesson and full day lift ticket.  We were worried it would not get cold enough for the snowmakers to cover the hill but at the very last minute the weather changed and enough snow was made to open a few runs.  Our experience with homeschoolers is that they are a fickle bunch and the large group (including many teens) who expressed interest when this was initially offered in October, never registered, leaving us with no possible friend connections.  But that’s okay.  Our other classes are full of teens and in reality it is hard to talk during lessons because they are so focused on what they are doing and trying to stay upright.

This was a workout for the girls.  They were sore for days.  Once they get a bit better we will look into the possibility of going more frequently because one of my goals is to give them more opportunities to exercise while having fun.

Friday, January 15, 2016

ASL at The Sign Language Center

This winter we have joined several new classes and activities with the hopes of making new connections and friendships.  Hands down, the hardest thing about homeschooling teens is maintaining friendships.  If you happen to be part of a hybrid program that automatically builds in social time (like school) then it's easy, but we haven not chosen that path and for us, social time is equally important to academic time.  We have signed up for pretty much everything that has the word “teen” in it and is in an hour radius from home!

Grace is signed up for a six week American Sign Language course in Manhattan at The Sign Language Center.  It is a hike, and an expense, but it will immerse her in the language with other learners her level and Deaf instructors.  We placed her in Level 2 and some of it is a review and some of it is an extension of her learning.  Along with 20 students (some teens) they work for 2.5 hours on basic components of the language and culture.  

Having a class from one of the best language institutes in New York validates her transcript.  It substantiates her work with her tutor and demonstrates that she is capable of what I have listed for Level I and II.  My goal is to have her take all six levels at The Sign Language Center, ultimately becoming fluent.  The classes will be spaced over the next two years because of cost and time.  There is the cost of the class, the cost of a 10 trip ticket for the rail, the Metro Card for the subway, as well as the time involved.  It takes us 8 hours to do this class.  The benefit is this is 8 hours of time with Grace, which reminds me of way back when, when we used to travel back and forth from skating lessons.  It’s an early day and a long day, but a worthwhile day.

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...