Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Name My Homeschool! Win Something!

A contest! Yay!

Objective: Come up with a name that the kids and I like enough to use for our homeschool! The plan is to get tee-shirts made.

Prize: It'll be something rad, I'm sure! (Okay, okay, you need real motivation? It'll probably be a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts.)


1. I may or may not choose a winner. I don't want to be stuck with "The Idiot's Homeschool for Dumbasses" just because it was the only submission.

2. I will pick a winner (or not) in approximately a month.

3. Names that use our last name or location details such as city or street name are welcome, but please don't post them as comments. Email or Facebook message me with any suggestions of that type.

4. Multiple submissions are welcome.

5. Legal mumbo-jumbo. This is a ridiculously silly contest. Don't take it too seriously.

Stuff to guide you:

I should probably be smart and creative enough to think of my own homeschool name... or not homeschool my kids. Unfortunately, I spend all my energy and creative power keeping my children alive and educated, so I thought this might be a fun way to compensate for my lack of bright ideas. I'd love something that's quirky, fun, and witty or that somehow represents both/either the chaos we experience now in our lives and/or the intellectual freedom and prowess we aspire to. That's a tall order, which is why I haven't been able to fill it yet. I obviously have no idea what I am talking about. But I have great confidence in the ability of my small readership to wow me with your excellent suggestions. 

To review, we have four boys. We live in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. I want my kids to be inspired learners, to enjoy their childhoods, to be a tight-knit family and to be connected to their communities. Inspired? Aaaaaand..... GO!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Halfway There!

In most, if not all, states, 180 days of school are required of public schools. Homeschool laws vary pretty widely, but in Pennsylvania, homeschoolers are also required to hold 180 days of school. On Wednesday of this past week, we hit 90 days. Halfway there!

When we decided to embark on this crazy experiment, we decided that, even if it wasn't going great, we should stick with it for at least half a year to see if we could work out any wrinkles. I am really excited to have made it halfway and to have only felt like throwing in the towel a few times. Let's face it. I have four young children. I am with them pretty much all the time. I think the unexpected scenario would be if I hadn't ever wanted to send them away for other people to deal with. I always want to keep my mind and options open, but I can say this: at this point in time, we have decided to complete this school year at home and continue next year with both Alexander and Jack as official homeschoolers.

These days Alexander is working on the zero through five times tables, reading for comprehension, writing paragraphs, some history of Pennsylvania, American symbols, landmarks, and important documents. We do critical thinking exercises each day. He has started an animal fact journal and learns about one new animal each week. For spelling we use Sequential Spelling. He also practices typing and playing his recorder, and has reading time each day. He recently picked up the first in the Hardy Boys series and is loving it. I love the opportunities it presents for vocabulary expansion! We do at least one art project per week. He is taking gymnastics and a social skills class at the YMCA and participates in Lego Club at the library. Justin is starting to participate with teaching by starting up lessons in stop-motion animation.

Jack is still working on his phonics and reading readiness, but is starting to be able to sound out simple CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words. In math, he can add and subtract numbers up to about 12. He actually enjoys filling out worksheets, so he does one or two each day, but due to his age I try to focus more on games and listening to stories. He also does critical thinking exercises several times per week. Jack takes a sports sampler class at the YMCA and recently impressed coaches and parents alike with his total focus and patience in an egg and spoon race.

On Monday I will start incorporating a new program called Five In A Row with both of them. The idea is that on each of the five days in a school week, we will read the same picture book, then do an activity relating to the book. The guide book offers several activities to choose from in the subjects of social studies, language arts, science, art, and math. I can tweak each activity to suit the level of the child. This will be a nice way for them to be able to do things together for part of the day instead of only taking turns having one-on-one time with Mommy. This week we will be reading "Owl Moon."

I am starting to research more complete curricula for next year and am leaning towards one called Moving Beyond The Page. I have enjoyed creating the boys' curricula from scratch this year, but it is time consuming and I worry that next year with them both being official homeschoolers (this year Jack is just a pre-K), it may take even more time. I think that with the right attitude, we can use a packaged curriculum and still maintain flexibility. The curriculum that I am considering includes language arts, science, and social studies, but I would still have to add in a math curriculum and plan for things like art, music, and critical thinking. I will likely still design Jack's curriculum on my own for his kindergarten year. Next year I also plan to incorporate more structured PE activities at home.

And that, my friends, is the state of the homeschool.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Another Fairy Tale by Kai

"Mommy, I want to tell you The Three Pigs. Once upon a time there were three pigs. They wanted to make their houses. The first pig made his house out of curtains. The first pig made his house out of rocks. The first pig made his house out of microphones. Then the wolf came and knocked on all of their doors. Then he huffed. Then he puffed. Then he blew down all of their houses and they had to run to the house of their mama. It was also the house of their dad. It was also the house of their baby brother. Their baby brother was in the living room. And that was the end."

So, maybe I should teach him ordinal numbers. Otherwise, I think this is a pretty good re-envisioning for a two-year-old!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Noah is Nine Months Old!

I know... time flies... it is tough to find enough of it to post as regularly as I'd like.

Noah loving his reflection at the Please Touch Museum
Happy 9 month birthday to Noah, as of the 10th of January! He's doing very well. He had a well-visit with the pediatrician (well, nurse practitioner, but that's another story). He measured 30.75 inches long, which is above the 95th percentile. If the measurement was accurate, he is our tallest nine month old by a quarter inch. However, a measurement that accurate is asking a lot when you're dealing with an active baby. Still, he's tall like his brothers. That much we know for sure. He weighs 20 pounds and 13 ounces, which is at the 50th percentile, making him our lightest nine month old by half a pound. He's also down from the 95th percentile just five months ago. I know all my babies just slim down after the first six months or so, but it always seems so drastic. I am sure he is fine; he's just a lithe little thing.

A few days after he turned nine-months old, he took his first single step. He's repeated the feat several times since then and once, today, he even took two steps. He's still pretty unsteady, though, and a while away from walking with any confidence. I'm really looking forward to Spring when we can get back outside and watch them all walking and running around. I hope to get a swingset installed in the backyard, using Noah and Kai's birthdays as my excuse.

Noah has only recently started to eat much in the way of solid food. Up until he was eight months old he struggled with a very strong gag reflex every time food would hit his throat, even the thinnest mixtures. I really didn't know how I'd ever get him to eat, but starting at six months old I would just try for a few days, give up for a few weeks, then try again. Every time the food would get to his throat, he would gag. Finally, right before turning eight months old, the gag reflex started to lessen and he was able to start swallowing some purees, but it took the past five weeks or so to build him up to where he was eating one small jar at breakfast along with some Cheerios, and one small jar in the afternoon along with maybe a Wagon wheel or two. Unfortunately, yesterday he came down with a stomach bug, so we went back to just nursing until he is feeling well again. Hopefully he'll take right back to it as I build him back up slowly to where we were.

He still is not sleeping well and wakes probably six to eight times per night and wants to nurse all night long. Reminds me of a few other someones I know! I did have Jack and Kai both night weaned by this age, but Noah may prove even more stubborn than Alexander was! No matter, someday I WILL sleep again. Someday....

For now, it's great to see my baby grow. It's bittersweet as always, especially since he is my last. But it's exciting, too. The next time I'll do an age update on him, he'll be a year old! WOW!