Monday, September 12, 2011

Book reports!!

Yes, I did it. I made them do book reports. Writing is one of those things that is so important, that if you don't learn, well... you can't blog!! Who wants to read a blog with no paragraphs and no flow and no form? Well, apparently lots of people, lol, but I hate blogs without paragraphs. I hate people who use bad spelling and grammar on Facebook. I also hate when people say "libary" and "fustrated."

We've dabbled a little in Writing Strands. We play around with Mad Libs. But I truly, truly believe that good writing comes from reading good books. The reading is still coming along slowly here. I'm sure they're all "behind" grade level - though Cameron fakes it pretty well. (Actually, I gave them a couple of word tests about a month ago and both Cameron and Cassia scored at about where they should be on one test, but then kind of low on one that was supposed to test their ability to read alone.) But we do listen to a lot of good audio books and I read wonderful stories to them (finally finished the entire Harry Potter series! and have now moved on to Treasure Island). I know in my heart that hearing good prose will help them to write good prose.

And now I have proof.

Cameron's book report was so lovely! I just don't have another word for it. I mean, the spelling was horrific (and you can put that word on his vocabulary list because he asked me what it meant when I mentioned that, lol) but the content was divine. When I first assigned the task (in a spur of the moment, "This is what you need to do before you can play video games today," moment) I first asked them if they knew what a paragraph was. Cameron spit out the perfectly right answer, "A collection of sentences," though I'm not entirely sure where he picked that up. I must have said that before (?). Then we digressed into this silly tirade of, "Well, what are sentences?" A collection of words. What are words? A collection of letters. What are letters? A representation of sounds. What are sounds? A way we use our voices to communicate with each other. Etc., etc., etc. Yes, it went on for quite a bit longer. Eeek.

Anyway, after defining the paragraph (and the meaning of life) I told them the basic parts of an essay and that their book report should contain at least three paragraphs: an introduction, "I read X book by Y and it was about Z;" a body, "I (dis)liked X because ABC," but please use more than just one sentence here; and finally a conclusion, "I think people should(n't) read X because Q." I also told them that this book report should be at least a page long (knowing that Cassia writes bigger and occasionally skips lines). I was truly impressed by how little help they asked for and how comprehensive their book reports were! I mean, it worked!!! Just listening to good literature has given them good writing skills (not Hemmingway, obviously, but good for their age!)

Cassia's essay was a little sparse - her last two paragraphs were only one sentence each - but they did the assignment well and Cameron wrote quite a nice second half of his essay because he was concerned about filling a whole page, lol. Cassia just wrote bigger. ;) (Finding it hilarious that my paragraph about Cassia's paragraph being sparse is sparse. LOL.)

In conclusion, "I think that the Ghost of Blackhawk Island is a really good book and I think that every kid should get a chance to read the Ghost of Blackhawk Island at least once or twice in their life." And, "I like Molly the Pony: A True Story so much I read it 7 times. I really think you should read this book it is really good."

The End.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

It's that time of year again!

LOL, it's that time of year again: the weather is cooling, parents all over Facebook are posting their back to school pictures, homeschoolers start planning out the year, and I decide to give blogging one more try. We'll see how long I last. Last fall, I think I only made it one whole post before giving up.

But really, last year was a whirlwind. I had a 4-yr old and a 2-yr old... that's enough to do anyone in. I had too many classes and 4-H projects with the older two - we seriously had something going EVERY day of the week. Craziness. And I took up roller derby. I had actually taken it up in April or May of the previous "school year" but finally made the team in September which meant three practices a week and lots of weekend commitments.

Of course this year, I'm still doing roller derby and I'm an officer in the league (but hopefully only until December!). We're still in 4-H and I actually have THREE of them in it this year (but that should make it easier with more kids involved and fewer running rampant around the 4-H center) and somehow I ended up co-leader of our club... still not quite sure how that happened, lol. But this year, we seem to have three days "mostly" free and instead of a 4-yr old and a 2-yr old, I have a 5-yr old and a 3-yr old (next week) and I'm finding more and more moments of sanity and rationality in the two of them. (Oh boy, they are thick as thieves though and don't necessarily use their powers for good!) So, I have hopes and dreams of being more organized and in control and purposeful in our schooling, rather than haphazardly taking what we can get. Actually, with this leader thing going on I HAVE TO BE more organized and in control. These blogger mind-dumps usually help a lot with that, so here I am.

Anyway... today a friend posted a favorite article on Facebook about what kids should really be learning in the preschool years: things like knowing they are unconditionally loved and that there is magic in the world. And there was also a link for the World Book list of what a child should know for each grade. Guess what I zeroed in on? LOL.

Turns out though that we're not doing too badly (if you ignore language arts). Linus is actually pretty much ready to graduate preschool at two-and-fifty-one-fifty-seconds... except for the Social-Emotional Development sections. He is only three-ish, so maybe I'll cut him a little slack. ;) I noticed in the Kindergarten Social Studies section that it said Greyson should be "understanding and appreciating different cultures" so I pulled out our Children Like Me book, intending to read a couple pages with him. We read the w.h.o.l.e. book. A couple times he asked how long it was and how much more was left, and once he even said that he was done after this page, but then when I tried to close it he wanted to go on. (And when I say "read" I mean that we went over each page and talked about the things that interested him, not reading all the words per se.)

It was pretty awesome. He's really into wanting to learn right now. Not too long ago, he was balking anytime I suggested he do something or look at something. Now, he may not be 100% on board (like he had this really dubious expression when I said that I wanted to read this book with him), but he gives it a shot and will let himself be pulled into something that wasn't necessarily his idea.

And then there's the stuff that is his idea! Earlier we had been reading books and we took a lunch break from reading and he pulled out this dry erase activity board we have and started playing "tic tac toe" with Linus - except they weren't using just X's and O's, they were using lots of letters! So cute. Grey even ended up writing ZOO and then recognized it! And then that led, even later, to him asking how to spell a million different things and then trying to copy them. Did I ask him to do this?? No way. Would he had done it if I had?? No way.

P.S. The red letters are Greyson's and the green are Linus'.

Unschooling rocks. Just sayin'

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another School Year, Another Attempt at the Blog

Just for Megan and Amy, I'm making some use of my iPhone in the dentist's waiting room. The kids are watching Ichabod Crane & Mister Toad and so, might possibly, allow me to finish a thought. I wouldn't put any money on that though. ;)

So despite my best efforts, the kids are growing up. Can you believe that when I started this blog Cameron was in Preschool/K-4? Well, now he's in 4th, Cassia in 2nd, and Greyson (the baby in my profile pic, lol) is in Pre-K/K-4. Before I know it, I'm going to have a house full of teenagers and THEN what am I going to do???

Since I apparently haven't blogged since March, I'll catch you up on the last year a bit... What did we do? We seemed to be so busy doing everything that we didn't have time to do anything. The kids each made it through, maybe, half a math level; we only made it through 2 or 3 lessons in Writing Stands; did almost no history or science. But we DID do book club, cooking, global art & crafts, sewing, and outdoor adventuring in 4-H; piano (Cassia) and violin (Cameron) lessons; American history via the old PBS cartoon Liberty's Kids; scouts; sports; many, many audio books; and a zillion field trips. It was a good year of unschooling. We learned a lot, but this year I'm feeling the need for more structure in our lives.

So to that, I've created a "schedule" for this school year. It's extraordinarily loose as far as schedules go, but it gives us some direction. Each day has 8-10am blocked off for schoolwork and 10- noon for cleaning the house. After that, the schedule varies according to our other activities and includes things like science projects (Cassia's request), cooking, history projects, and tea & poetry afternoons.

We've been on the schedule for four days now and it's been a partial success. We gotten math, writing, and reading done every day, but we never get started on it until 10. Cleaning is a bit of a hit and miss - no one ever wants to and I just don't feel like the fight most of the time - but I think that might improve with a little bit of consistency, hence the scheduled time.

Today is supposed to be our science project day but I have nothing planned. I think if they work quickly with their bookwork and actually help me clean once we get home from the dentist then we'll have time to do an experiment from one of the many kits we have before soccer practices. See the schedule is a good thing- I never would have thought of that as a plan for today if it wasn't already on the schedule.

Well, it looks like it's going to be my turn soon so I better bid you adieu. Happy New School Year!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Ignore this

Testing why I can't seem to read my blog from my phone unless I write a new posting.

Oh, looks like I figured put how to add a picture tho....

Big oops there. Yes, that's the needle floating out there in the middle of the fabric.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Midnight musings

OK, it's not midnight yet, but I'm sure it will be once I finish. My days have taken on the strangest patterns. Now that the kids are getting older they are much better able to fend for themselves in the morning (get up, get a fruit & cereal bar, get a glass of juice, turn on tv, veg), I'm able to sleep in a bit. This means that I'm able to stay up a bit. Sometimes a big bit. It's not uncommon for me to stay up until 1:00 am lately which I haven't done on a regular basis since college. Mid-life crisis? Perhaps, but I'm guessing I still have a few more years before that one hits. One thing that it does stem from though is that I quit "having" to watch certain shows on tv. I still like tv - I'm not like many of my insane friends who only get cable tv when the Olympics is on and then cancel it right after (swear to god, I know at least three people who did that) but I've become less chained to it. I've found that I can let DH watch a show and go do something else. I can even enjoy a show just about as much by only hearing it from the next room. It's liberating. It really is.

So what am I doing? Sewing! Or at least trying to. Here is a tooth pillow that I made for Cameron:

Cassia has a matching pink one.

And here are some quilted potholders that I made:

It's been a really rewarding pastime for me. I've always pegged myself as a "can't sew" person, but the truth was I never really tried. Well, I tried to make a dress once in junior high Home Ec but the pattern I picked out was much too hard and I got quickly frustrated and quit. Ended up failing that portion of the class, actually. That pretty much set the tone. I made a pillow in 1999 and turned some old flannels into napkins in 2004. I tried to make an outfit for Cassia around that same time, but again, it was hard and I got frustrated. I didn't entirely quit that time though. I finished the capris but never got around to the shirt. I don't think she ever wore them. There was just something wonky about them... not sure what.

But for the last two years, Cassia has been involved in a beginning machine sewing project at 4-H.
Last year she made an apron and this year she's make doll bedding - pillow & blanket for the doll and a coordinating pillow for herself. Well I figured, if a six-year-old can do it, so can I. So for Christmas I recycled some of her old clothes into little drawstring bags to hold handmade Easy Bake Oven mixes. (Which are really good! SOOOO much better than the icky chemically ones you buy.) It was such a fun and EASY project that it inspired me to do more.

DH's aunt makes these gorgeous quilts and she makes that look so fun and easy that I thought I might give that a try too. So far, I've made 5 quilt squares. Three with a Roman Tile pattern (pictured above) and two with a tulip pattern.

The first squares were super easy and fun. The actual quilting and binding of them was a bit more difficult, but overall I'm happy with the effect and I learned a ton. The tulip pattern was a lot more complicated. I learned, as I progressed, that a little measuring and marking goes a long way and the extra time spent there saves a lot of time ripping out bad seams. They eventually came out looking quite nice. The quilting of them has been more challenging. First I was going to attempt to hand quilt them but soon realized that the batting I'm using in these potholders is much too thick for me to learn such a fussy new skill. So then I tried machine quilting them, like I did the first set, but the tension is all off and it's been a nightmare of knotted thread and skipped stitches. I think I've finally got that down but the pretty little pattern that I had planned on is not looking very pretty with my less than perfect sewing. I think that I may rip it all out again and go back to trying to hand quilt it anyway.

As you can imagine, this isn't really stuff that I can work on with little ones around so I can't get too crafty until after they go to bed. Which means I've been up until at least midnight every night for the last couple weeks. *Yawn* But, I'm feeling pretty self-satisfied. I'm not giving up. I know I can do this if I just keep practicing and that's actually a great feeling. I'm really enjoying that this IS hard. And somehow potholders and tooth pillows don't seem as intimidating as clothing and such. If I screw up a potholder, who cares? It's probably going to get stained and burned anyway, right? If I screw up clothing it's wasted time and money because no one is going to wear it. At least that's what I'm thinking. The bottom line is just that making clothing wasn't satisfying to me but this is.

Oh, and I just realized that we have a play to go to in the morning so I'm going to have to get up early. Blah. OK, enough about me. ;) Maybe tomorrow I'll actually blog about the kids and this school thing.