Friday, April 30, 2010

Homeschooling right now, or, a summary of this past school year and what we're learning

We're winding up another great year here at our home.

Michael, age 13 1/2, is nearly done with his second year of algebra. We called it his 7th grade year even though he was doing work that was more high school level. Since the beginning of the year some things have come up that made us decide to move him on to high school level this fall... including early morning seminary and making sure he is doing college prep work (and exploring things at a higher level). Of course this is all after discussing it with him. Just this past few weeks Michael, on his own, has researched all kinds of animation, movie making, claymation, and cinematography and gone from writing stories and story boards to making short animated films, published on facebook using both Paint and Legos. (we're applying these many hours of work to getting his Cinematography merit badge.) And of course it counts as credit for homeschooling. We look forward to doing more of the same with his coursework and interests during the high school years. Michael has also done a lot of study this year about US history, geography, earth science, survival skills and stories, and computers. Curriculum we've used is Life of Fred Advanced Algebra, writing based on what he has read and what he's studied with history, survival unit with books like the Cay, My Side of the Mountain, and Hatchet, Boy Scout Merit Badges and advancement, History Channel dvds and related research, history resources from the library, typing cdrom program, Mango languages through the library, Geography 41 from BYU independent study, drawing practice from, and Spelling Power.

Benjamin is 11 1/2 and doing well with 5th grade coursework, though also ahead in some areas. He is our reader. He reads almost anything he can, as long as it isn't something his sister likes (princesses, fairies and the like). Most recently he has read and reread Peter and the Starcatchers series, but loves to read the Hardy Boys, the Harry Potter series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Spiderwick Chronicles and beyond, the Rangers Apprentice books, the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit (though he hasn't finished those). I think on his list of books to read soon are Eragon and sequels, Fablehaven, and the Leven Thumps series. I love seeing him read books like Tom and I do... over and over and any chance he gets. He is loving the Life of Fred math series, and getting much more independent in all his work. He and Michael are studying Italian online, and taking typing. He loves being a Boy Scout and can't wait til he can do more with the other Boy Scouts at age 12, when he also can become a deacon. Another thing he has discovered is gymnastics at our local community college. Curriculum for him includes Life of Fred Decimals and Percents and Life of Fred Fractions, second hand Lit, Vocab and Grammar books I used with Michael, reading books of his choosing, Boy Scout Handbook, History channel dvds and library resources, typing cdrom, cursive writing workbook, Mango languages from the library, gymnastics, earth science materials, and Spelling Power. Also anything related to books he's read or movies he's watched, we do research on, like the Magic Tree House books and now, Percy Jackson inspired interest in mythology.

Emilie just turned 10 earlier this month. While you can tell she is getting older, she still loves anything princess or fairies, especially Disney but all kinds of stories and books about girly stuff. She, too, loves to read and you have to tear her away from her books to do whatever task she's supposed to be doing. She loves having a sister, and is getting better at helping with babies; she just wasn't interested enough to try harder with baby brothers. With homeschooling she is really improving at writing, which I feel was her biggest weakness. She is in 4th grade and doing especially well with math and science, but loves reading the American Girl books and researching history from those. One thing I am especially proud of with Emilie is her love of the gospel. She cherishes the scriptures and wants all her friends to know her beliefs. You can find her reading scripture stories any time of day, sometimes at night with the lights off when she's supposed to be asleep. She loves Activity Days and looks forward to being in the Young Women's program in 2 years. Curriculum I'm using with her has been two different math books, still not a right fit but we're making it work, a language arts book I used with Michael and Benjamin at this age... good for Michael, didn't work for Benjamin, French with the library Mango program, ballet at the community college one semester and now gymnastics, Spelling Power, and anything else we fit in that she's interested in.

Nathanael just turned 7 in March. He keeps telling me he is nearly 8 and will be in Cub Scouts and be baptized so soon. I use this to remind him to make better choices :) and about how long a year is. He is getting really good at reading and works extra hard at the long books that he knows he can just sit down and read really fast.... a page at a time. He's started Harry Potter, and just like Michael at this age, just can't quite sit still long enough to get through much at a time. He has read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I think, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator on his own though, and loves both movies inspired by the first. He also loves books but just needs a little more patience. He wants to be older than he is, really soon, too. I love the age he is, though, and he still is our "why?" child. Full of energy wanting to grow up too soon. He loves everyone he meets and is working hard to be the best he can at everything. He likes writing stories and books and drawing. He is in 1st grade and we don't do a whole lot of formal desk type work at this age, but what he does learn is so important. He loves Magic School Bus games and movies, and I know he's going to continue to love learning as he grows. Curriculum I've used with him is a Sam's Club 1st grade workbook, a spelling book, computer games related to Magic School Bus and various "First Grade" games, library books about anything imaginable, outdoor stuff, and Schoolhouse Rock. Plus anything older siblings are learning. He and Samuel LOVED the rock collections we used in Earth Science, especially after watching Magic School Bus inside the earth, reading the book, and playing the computer game, and tell me all about rocks and minerals.

Samuel is 5 years old and technically not 'in school'. However, he insisted last year on having a preschool workbook, taught himself to read using the Book of Mormon and listening to his family read that and other books to him, and was reading on his own, fluently, by age 4. He now is our know it all and will tell us many things we may or may not have wanted to know. Remind you of anyone, say, 8 years ago? He has finished one kindergarten workbook and now has another, working on a spelling book and reads over Mom's shoulder at the computer. He loves Schoolhouse rock also and his curriculum is all of the above and more. The world is his classroom at this age. I love them bringing stuff to me so we can look it up online or in a book. Not sure what grade I'd call him, but for the record, he's not a preschooler even though he wouldn't officially be in Kindergarten til next fall.

Timothy is 3 1/2 years old and this year, learned to talk. I'm proud of this. Before this momentous occasion, he had taught himself the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, sizes, and many other things before stringing more than two words together to communicate with his family his wants, needs, ideas, and other things. Now he is constantly surprising us with his observations, humorous at times and sometimes extremely insightful. I guess his next step is the bane of all parenthood, potty training. Yes, folks, we have three in diapers. Again. This is the fourth time (in 2000, briefly in 2001, 2008 and now). I just felt strongly that he should talk first. His curriculum is his family and his home. Though he also loves Schoolhouse Rock, his favorite things to watch are They Might Be Giants ABC's, 123's, and Science. Try them. You will love them. Not your normal educational dvds or cds. He likes to repeat what we say and store away knowledge, only to make connections that completely surprise us later. He is also our nonstop bundle of energy, our big little kid...

Christopher just turned 2 and decided that he needed to talk too. He's not as clear as Timothy but he sure tries. He amazed and astounded us all by trying to say his family's names in the van on the way home from Utah. He loves music, his family, anything Timothy is doing, and anything his family is doing. I know his favorite night of the week is FHE. He likes to help. He loves his baby sister. He corrects us on a lot of things, like Liberty is BABY. not Liberty. He gets mad that he needs a nap and Timothy doesn't. Believe me Christopher, if I could get Timothy to take a nap, he would get one too. His curriculum is also his family and home, plus whatever Timothy watches on dvd.

Liberty 6 months old and is learning to get into trouble and make messes. No curriculum needed there either. She already knows how to get everyone she knows to pay attention to her, plus random strangers walking by. What more does she want? She's cute. Even Timothy says so. We're all here for her entertainment.

Family learning is also important. This year we learned how to adjust to another baby in the house, how to fit 10 people into a 3 bedroom home, how to fit another set of bunk beds, more about making bread and grinding wheat, cooking for large groups, and other practical things. We also have read the Book of Mormon for countless hours as a family, traveled to Utah to see family, started studying the Old Testament using the church Old Testament Resource DVDs, had good friends move to New Zealand, made new friends here too, learned lots about the universe and history from dvds and then doing more research at the library and online, yardwork, housework, plumbing, saving money, and many other things that are useful.

I think it has been a good year, and I look forward to many more with my crew.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy 2nd birthday (late) to Christopher!

Happy Birthday Christopher!

He did a great job blowing out his candles (he'd just watched Nathanael do this the day before...)

Our typical two year old look... why oh why did you set the cake on fire? But he was good with the whole thing after a bit.

Buzz Lightyear presents! yay!

I'm all over this, Dad.

Bumps and bruises...

Pirate boy?

Gangsta style? Do his brothers dress him or something?

Obviously a man of many names... now he's Super Duck... that's one of Liberty's bibs. It also squeaks.

Hi Mom!

Christopher is our big 2 year old now! A month ago tomorrow he turned 2. He doesn't say much but now that Timothy is talking (his partner in crime) he is certainly trying to express himself verbally. His favorite thing to say right now is "ummm.... yeah!"

He still speaks a sort of twin like language with Timothy, especially when they are upset or have some game going between the two of them. He also says ball, some colors, empty, wa-wa, Mom, Dad, Michael (mo-co), car, train, vroom, and other things extremely important to 2 year olds. Like "goggie". He also knows farm animal sounds and some other animal sounds. He's good at roaring and for a while there, even butterflies roared if you asked him.

He is sort of shy but if you get to know him he has the cutest grin for you.

We love our Christopher! So glad he came to us 2 years ago.. (and a month)

Happy 7th Birthday (late) to Nathanael!

Poor Nathanael had to blow out ONE candle SEVEN times instead of the other way around...

Oooh... BIG lego set...

Nathanael's banana chocolate chip bundt cake... yum!

Star Wars Legos, too!

Lost a tooth the day before... third tooth lost! Call me toothless, wait, no, Benjamin's lost LOTS more.

We like spiky hair.

Look, I built it!

Happy Birthday (a month ago) to our big Nathanael boy! 7 years (and one month) ago a little boy was born in rural Ohio... after 9 minutes at the hospital. He is a joy to have around. He is our "why?" boy and never runs out of questions though he is learning to think and make sure he doesn't already know the answer before he asks...

He loves books, puzzles, computer games, Magic School Bus, Legos, playing with Samuel, writing his own books (see facebook...) and lots of other things. His favorite foods are cherries, chocolate chip pancakes, quesadillas, and ice cream. His favorite book to read is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His favorite movie is also Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Willie Wonka at the Chocolate Factory.

He is good with his younger brothers and sister and wants to be like his older brothers and sister, but there are times when he gets on their nerves (and they on his). He is proud to be the oldest boy in the little boys room, and can't wait til next year when he turns 8 and can be baptized and start Cub Scouts.

We love you, Nathanael!

Timothy and the scriptures

I noticed in our family scripture study that instead of his normal activity (speaking a twin like language with Christopher and running around singing) Timothy has been sitting in one place.

I didn't think anything of it until noticing last Thursday that when the person next to him finished a verse, he started speaking and turning pages in his board book, even though the next person started reading the next verse. So Friday we helped Timothy read a verse, and continued Saturday and Sunday and I think he will continue to help us read every night.

My little boy is growing up! It was so long before he started talking I guess I forgot that we asked the older kids if they wanted to read. Samuel said no for a long time and then was completely reading on his own when he was barely 4 years old. Timothy is nearly 3 and a half and we didn't even ask him to read with us.

He finally invited himself.

Go Timothy!