Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Plans For the Next Homeschool Year ... Everyone is in High School Edition

You read that right: this coming fall I have two high schoolers learning here at home at the Living Oak Academy!

I know so many people who stop homeschool at or before high school; only one other family in our homeschool circle is planning to give it a go. I think it is because of clashing parent/adolescent personalities as well as fear that the harder subjects can't be effectively taught.

I try very hard not to parent from fear, and that especially extends to home learning. I believe that anyone who wants to learn will learn and that we don't have to take traditional paths to make that happen.

I was never afraid of teaching math; my own schooling only went as far as college algebra, but Papa minored in math so I knew we'd be okay. Except Papa doesn't really have time to teach the boys math in the evenings. So last year we tried Teaching Textbooks for algebra, and it worked fantastically. I was able to give support when needed, and Papa stepped in when even I was stumped, but overall the boys learned from the program. It was so cool to hear them throwing around words like coordinate and slope. So this year we are definitely moving forward with Teaching Textbooks!

The plan:

Texting Textbooks Geometry
Big History Project as our spine for history and science
A block on US Government incorporating our November election
A Greek history block to tie in with geometry
Literature to tie in with BHP
Time 4 Writing
Rosetta Stone Spanish
Piano for J
Guitar for T
Competitive mountain biking team for PE (also brings in some health and vocational arts work)

I've decided to give the Time 4 Writing high school courses a try; a friend had good success with the middle school courses. Although Brave Writer was fantastic, I think the boys need something that focuses more on the basics rather than the creative process. They are going back to the basics and taking one course in the fall semester and one in spring, with a plan to be finished well before we move into So Cal League finals and the state championships.

My main energies will be focused on the Big History Project as well as the two other social studies blocks. Everything else is pretty much taught for me, either with the programs or other teachers.

Last year competitive mountain biking threw us for a loop and we ended up scaling back our lessons until we settled into the routine of practices and races (which include travel). That was fine; home learning is all about flexibility, but it meant that the boys didn't finish up all their lesson work until late July, giving us only one full month off before we start up again. Hopefully we have a handle on things now and can start our year the day after Labor Day and end the Friday before Memorial Day, giving the boys a full three months off next summer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

We Lived It

The homeschool year is over and I didn't blog about it at all - we lived it instead! I have to say that this was one of the best homeschool years that we have ever had.

First off, Teaching Textbooks Algebra I was a huge hit! I know that I laid the foundation for making math lovers with all of the creative, holistic math we did, but I certainly felt unnecessary this year as the boys took their math learning into their own hands. Oh, I helped with a problem here and there, but mostly they just got it.

Language Arts got easier; the boys read a variety of assigned and self-chosen literature, and we discussed everything that we had all read. The second semester took a turn toward science fiction as the boys read all of the Robert A. Heinlein juveniles, which was really fun.  Grammar, spelling, and vocabulary all got easier too; I think the boys are at an age where it all just clicks. I pulled off the archaic vocabulary study after they announced that it will no longer be part of the SAT. The boys knew most of it anyway, they're smart like that.

We made extensive use of video and discussion while studying history/social studies, and made our first real foray into World War I and World War II. J-Baby got very interested in our spring election and has given me some great ideas to incorporate into our learning coming into the November election.

We used the new COSMOS TV series as a springboard for our second semester of science. So much fun!

Music lessons continued and I was really blown away by the progress both boys made. I love that J-Baby really explores music with the piano, and how much time they both spend at their instruments other than required practice time.

Mountain biking has been the best PE ever! They work on so much related to fitness, nutrition, health, stress management, and more, plus they learn new skills continually and have a weekly class that focuses on core strength. In addition to all that they've been learning bike maintenance and repair, which would fall under vocational/applied arts, I suppose.

Rosetta Stone Spanish was the other surprise hit of the year; they are really enjoying learning a new language. J-Baby in particular has begun asking a lot of questions relating to grammar and vocabulary, outside of his regular lessons.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Catching Up

I've been doing a great job of meeting my daily goals; I just haven't been blogging about it. I walk just about daily now, mostly on errands. To the library and post office, to the movie theater, downtown to restaurants, to the farmers market, to outdoor concerts (at this point checking out rehearsals, mostly). Sometimes I get my walking in by going around the block a couple of times, or walking around window shopping and reminiscing. I haven't been on my bike, but that is something we can work on.

This week I did day camp driving everyday, so the tunes were cranked up. We're also listening to a lot of vinyl at home. I love putting on a record and sitting to listen, maybe knitting, but not using the music as background for activities like cooking and cleaning. There's a purpose to it, and a stronger appreciation, I think.

I sit outside daily, along with walking. My front porch is a beautiful place to be. I made it to the pool Tuesday; we don't usually go during day camp week as the kids are wiped out by the time they get home.

As for creating, I knit almost daily. I say almost because I might have missed a day, but I don't think so. I even knit up in the mountains at a race. Since 6/16 I've completed three waffle weave dishcloths (I went back to the pattern for another one, in cotton hemp this time), a "grandma" dishcloth, and I've added several rows (maybe 20?) to my shawl in progress. I also made deodorant last week, and made sunscreen today.

The kiddos have summer colds right now :( I made them chamomile/lemon/ginger/honey "tea" and they've been sucking on zinc lozenges. Papa wanted to give T an antihistamine last night, but I resisted since I believe that a runny nose is one way the body eliminates the virus, and also, drying things up can give bacteria a better medium to multiply in. Yuck! I'm weird, but I really think it's best to get through minor illnesses without allopathic medications, especially for a child who doesn't have work obligations that require him to be somewhere.

I can't say I know why the boys got sick, but I have my suspicions. Being around 75 other kids at day camp meant being exposed to germs.  But day camp also changed how the boys eat; they had far less fresh fruit each day (not much other than their morning smoothies) and neither of them ate a green salad all week. Plus they relied on bread for sandwiches everyday. In our family, lowering gluten consumption helps everyone have fewer colds. We didn't even eat beans and rice this week; we kind of had a vacation mentality and ate take out most evenings.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wondering About Fake Meats

What I am thinking about today:

Sunday we had company to celebrate Father's Day, and while I sometimes question the sincerity of someone who declares I don't even miss the cheese or sour cream! (because why would you mention it if you didn't miss it?), I did take note of a positive comment about the simplicity of our meal and how it was appreciated that we didn't try to make something that resembled a traditional American meal, except with fake meat. Nope, it was rice and beans, some plant-based toppings, and a delicious cabbage salad for us, not a Tofurkey in sight.

I do buy fake meat, however. I went to the grocery store for produce this morning and decided to take advantage of a sale on Boca Chik'n Patties, Gardein Chick'n Strips, and Gardein Meatless Meatballs. (All of these, at my local supermarket and not a health food store!) Yesterday I purchased several packages of Field Roast Sausages (which are also plant-based), hoping to score the rumored Field Roast Hand-Formed Burgers (I struck out - maybe they are too new?). There is no way that I can claim to be a purist on this issue.

Some people who eat plant-based can't stand the thought of eating anything that resembles animal flesh, and I understand that. Me, I'm raising teen boys (explanation enough in itself), and while I have a long history with veg*nism, they don't. They ate mostly plant-based with some fish for the first halves of their lives so far, and then we ate meat, eggs, and dairy for close to six years (don't judge - or if you must, keep it to yourself). There are only so many meals per week that I can base on beans before I feel whispers of a mutiny just beneath the words Beans Again?. A pasta or potato based meal can broker a truce, but sometimes someone just really wants pizza or a burger (that someone might be me, but left to my own palate I'd probably throw a broiled portobello mushroom on a bun and call it good because I love simple).

I've thought long and hard about whether or not it is okay to eat food that is meant to mimic animal flesh, and I've decided that it's okay for us. Fake meats help people transition to plant-based eating and can make plant-based social situations a little easier as well. Besides, as anyone who does eat meat will tell you, plant-based fake meats aren't really like meat at all. I never lie to a meat eater and pretend that my fake meat is going to taste remotely close to what it is meant to replicate.

I eat far less fake meat than the rest of my family, but I do eat it. I don't pretend that a Field Roast sausage is anything like a hot dog, but then again I don't pretend that my favorite thing about hot dogs is anything other than Gulden's mustard, a soft bun, and some vegan baked beans.  I skip meatless meatballs and soy chorizo and any fake meat on a pizza. I never think to myself I'm starving and make myself a snack of a vegan Gardenburger, as the testosterone-laden members of my family are wont to do. But I do eat a Boca burger now and then (thank you Red Robin), and I'm crazy for the Native Foods Chicken Ranch Run burger; I can't help it - they are better than any fried chicken sandwich I ever ate as a meat eater.

Fake meats (should I call them meat analogs?) are very processed and not likely to be remotely healthy, so I try to limit the guys to fake meat at one meal per week. That's enough to keep them eating beans five days a week, so who am I to complain?

Outside: I drank my (nettles) tea on the porch this morning with a sweat shirt and socks on! We also went to the pool in the afternoon.  Still, today ended up low on the hours spent outside index. I should have gone with the mountains with the guys and sat under the pines with the Big Dog while they rode. Why the heck didn't I do that? Oh yeah, there wasn't any room in the truck for me since they took friends. I suppose it's better to carpool and save the environment.

Move: Today was a stretching day. Somehow I remember dance warm-up stretches from nearly 25 years ago. I should have stretched for a longer period of time, so I will probably use the foam roller after I warm my muscles in a hot bath.

Create: I started a new dishcloth, which I may even finish before bed.  Then I will be done with this pattern for a least a week, I think. Done with a capital D, because I am bored with the repeats and very tired of the purling rows. I'm going to switch back to my shawl-in-progress.

Music: We cranked up the radio and sang along to P!nk in the car, and I'll put on some relaxing tunes for my bath.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

6.17.14

The boys weren't quite in the grab summer by the horns mood today :(  T-Guy wanted to save his energy for his Tuesday night road ride which is super intense, so he didn't want to swim or bowl. J-Baby had sore legs from swimming yesterday, so he didn't want to go either. They wanted to play video games and read.

Plus, my massage therapist had to cancel my massage, which was another :(  But it was okay; I went to the health food store in the morning, the post office and library in the afternoon, finished my current dish cloth, and finally took my new mountain bike out for a proper spin in the evening - it even involved a little bit of dirt. I had one of my favorite meals for dinner (our lighter meal): sliced avocado with salt and pepper on sourdough toast. Yum! I just got out of my second long hot bath of the day (with epsom salts, ginger, eucalyptus, and Medieval Blend essential oils) and plan to sink into bed with a library book very soon.

Spend time outside: We walked to the post office and library this afternoon and went for an evening bike ride.

Move my body: I walked to do my errands and went for a 45 minute bike ride in the evening. That's a little over an hour of movement, and some vitamin D via sunshine during the walk.

Create: I completed the dish cloth I started yesterday (and used the sewn bind off, which I had forgotten about and really love).

Music: We listened to a remaster of Led Zepplin III on vinyl.

Summer Bucket List and Daily Goals

Today felt like the first day of summer vacation; Thursday the pool opened and we went and that felt like summer too, but today was the first day post Father's Day, which means we have no birthdays or family holidays for months!

Suddenly, despite having registered Papa and the boys for their summer races this morning, I feel free. We can visit with family when it works for all of us and not feel guilty when a race on Mother's Day (meaning we were gone all weekend) requires apology flowers and rescheduling to a day that no matter how we try really isn't Mother's Day. There will be no birthday parties to squeeze into weekends that are already full with long practices, races, or race travel. The obligations are pretty low all summer, which provides a much needed break.

So we went to the park this morning and the pool this afternoon and got started on the months of slow.

For a few years now I have created a summer bucket list, or manifesto, if you like. This year it looks like this:

Outside Everyday
Pool As Much As Possible
Picnic - Any Time of Day
Friday Bowl Days
Make and Eat Lots of Popsicles
Create Daily
Hang Out With Friends
Morning Walks
Sew Every Week
Hang the Laundry
Have Music Nights
Give Up Facebook
Go Device Free Most of the Time
Go to the Beach
Camp
Relax
Breathe
Be!

Some of the items on the list are part of what I want for everyday this summer. My daily goals are to:

Spend time outside everyday - preferably where I can be on grass or under trees, but in a hot day pinch a few hours on the porch or by the pool will count.

Move my body daily - walk, swim, bike, or stretch.

Make something (create) everyday - knit, crochet, embroider, sew, draw, paint ... or even cook something new.

Listen to music daily - I love music but I also love silence, and silence often wins.  But some of my best summer memories involve music, so we are going to listen at home if we don't happen to be in the car.

Today I spent time outside four times; I went to the park and spent two hours under the oak trees with my bare feet on the ground, I was at the pool for two hours, I ate a meal on the porch, and I went for a 1.5 mile walk in the evening. The walking was also moving my body. I finished a dish cloth and started knitting another one in a more complicated pattern. We cranked up the music in the car while going to and from the pool.


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

And Just Like That The Year Is Almost Over

(Yes, I know I shouldn't begin a title with And, but I wanted to.)

It's June. It's hot. We're eating watermelon. It's time for the outbreath of summer. We are definitely in wrap it up mode.

This has been one of our oddest homeschool years ever. I learned to let go, to be flexible, and to relax; the boys learned without my planning and hovering.

To remind everyone of where we are, T-Guy (a moniker long ago discarded) is 15 and was in 9th grade for the 2013 - 2014 homeschool year.  J-Baby (oh how he hates that name now, but I'm not changing it on the blog) is 14 and was in 8th grade this past year.  Wait, didn't he do 8th grade last year? He did, but I still had him registered as a 7th grader in my little private school. We will decide when to graduate him based on when he finishes the courses he needs for university.

Our yearly summary:

Mathematics: The boys are using Teaching Textbooks Algebra I and it has gone better than I ever dreamed. They aren't quite finished; their true summer break will start once they get through the last few chapters.

Language Arts: Hmm, I don't keep track of eery book they read because it would be impossible. Together we read Oh Pioneers! by Willa Cather, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. They have also read several books, fiction and non-fiction, with Papa. They did some spelling and vocabulary using SAT Vocabulary Lightning, but we relaxed on that when we learned that the SAT test would be changing and that the obscure vocabulary wouldn't be focused on any longer. Now I am working with spelling, vocabulary, and grammar in a more holistic manner, correcting it as needed. Writing is usually done in a subject journal format, which works well for them.

Science: We started with Elementary Chemistry. J-Baby loved it and went with it, T-Guy hated it and stalled. Still, they did a lot in the five months that they used it. Since then we've approached science with documentaries and discussion, along with some non-fiction reading. This spring we watched Cosmos (new version) together as a family and used it as a springboard for further discussion and exploration. We star-gazed, we traveled into nature and identified rocks, plants, and animals, and we explored lakes, rivers, creeks, and the ocean. We even went to fish hatchery to learn about that (which tied in with last year's reading of The Giver). Papa took the boys on a JPL tour, and I took them to tour both a high tech noodle factory and a low tech olive factory.

Social Studies: Short Lessons in World History was far more time consuming than the title would suggest. Still, the boys put in the work and gave it an hour a day until race season started.  We then switched to the documentary and discussion format that works so well for them, as well as assigned non-fiction reading. We went on a few field trips, including one that taught us about early settlers to the USA. This spring we spent considerable time discussing politics; J-Baby was fascinated by the incoming political mail and informally gathered opinions and ideas about politics from it. This has given me the idea to watch our fall general election closely and do more scientific gathering of data from the political mailers.

Foreign Language: I had almost given up hope that they would gain interest in Spanish, but they did, and they have been putting our Rosetta Stone program to good use. I don't even have to remind them - they do multiple lessons daily and it's 100% child directed.

Health: We focused a lot on puberty, sexuality, and social relationships this year. Along with physical hygiene, which now includes caring for skin with acne and how to prevent fungal infections (luckily, no one has gotten one yet).

Arts: Piano (J-Baby) and Guitar (T-Guy) have been their main instruments again this year, although J-Baby picks up a guitar fairly often and I imagine that a request for lessons is forthcoming (do you know that when your mother regularly uses words such as forthcoming that you end up with a great vocabulary organically?). Both boys also sing and have been working on harmonies. They also enjoy using Garage Band.

Physical Education: This has been the year of the bike! Both boys were on the mountain bike team, with T-Guy on the high school team and J-Baby on the middle school development team. This isn't just riding bikes, this is learning about being athletes. Learning new skills, improving existing skills, practicing good nutrition, learning about physiology - it's all there.

Vocational Arts: The boys are learning the ins and outs of both bike maintenance and repair and trailer maintenance and repair.

I'm starting to think about next year, and how I can bring back some Waldorf elements to our days while still keeping the responsibility for learning on the boys.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Year Is Slipping Away From Me.

I started this post last April!  I abandoned it, but it has a lot of good info so I will update and post it.

What we did/are doing:

Math: We did Oak Meadow 7th Grade Math and 8th Grade Math. We chose to do two years of math last year so that T-Guy could work at his true grade level. We (did) do math daily now rather than in blocks and it has made a difference in how well the boys retain their new skills.  Both of them really love math. This year we've switched to Teaching Textbooks for Algebra I and it is going really, really well. In the space of 14 months I went from having math reluctant children to having kids who count math among their favorite subjects.

Language Arts: We read, discussed, and wrote about The Giver, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, A Wrinkle in TimeBridge to Terabithia, Johnny Tremain, and several other books that I can't think of right now. We enjoyed The Giver so much that we read the rest of the books in that series, and J-Baby also read all of the Hitchiker's books. We started and abandoned Lord of the Flies as it wasn't grabbing any of us. Many other books have been read for pleasure rather than by assignment.  This year I have chosen our literature based on common 9th grade reading lists; so far we have read and discussed My Antonia and are finishing up Great Expectations, with more classics to come throughout the year.

We used the spelling/vocabulary lists from Oak Meadow 8th Grade English; I input the words into Vocabulary Spelling City and the boys learned and tested on the words using the VSC iPad app.  This year we are combining a book called SAT Vocabulary Lightning with the VSC app.

I had high hopes for The Write Foundation but it didn't work for us; the content was too religious with a decidedly creationist slant. Instead, last year we focused on solid paragraph writing with the boys answering questions in their subject journals. The boys took a Brave Writer online course last spring and we got so much from it that I bought their program and that is what we are using this year, along with continuing with subject journals.

We're still using Daily Grammar off and on.

Social Studies: The main spine for this subject was the Oak Meadow 8th Grade Civics syllabus. I found it uninspired and too heavy on the written work, so we adapted it for home use. We also watched several PBS/BBC series that brought various historical time periods to life for the boys, including Colonial House, Frontier House, 1900 House, and 1940s House. We tried Manor House but gave it up as it wasn't nearly as good as the others (something I recall from when Papa and I watched them the first time around).  This year we are using Short Lessons in World History; our intention is to switch to the Big History Project next fall, so this is just a brush up.

Science: We started with Oak Meadow 8th Grade Physical Science, but switched to Classic Science Elementary Physical Science as Papa didn't really have time to work the Oak Meadow with the boys on a daily basis and he felt it was poorly written and difficult to understand. The Classic Science program is more student directed and I was able to manage the experiments. The boys liked it so well that we are using Classic Science Elementary Chemistry this year. Papa also took up teaching the boys electronics, which they have continued this year. J-Baby is still learning to program on both the Mac and the iPad.

Physical Education: We decided not to do the same program we did in 2011 - 2012. The boys enjoyed it but it was scheduled in the middle of the afternoon and I had tired of the interruption it caused in our day. We focused most of our joint PE work on mountain biking; there are always new skills to be learned. In addition the boys worked on strength training using body weight only, and T-Guy had baseball. This year the boys have joined the area high school and middle school mountain biking teams, which comprise a full physical education curriculum.

Health: We focused on healthy bodies last year and will continue this year. We have ongoing discussions and learning about the role of exercise on the body, plus healthy diet and other habits such as ample sleep, fluid intake, and stress reduction. We continue to address the topics of puberty, teen sexuality, substance abuse, anger management, and healthy relationships.

Foreign Language: The boys elected not to study a foreign language last year, although we offered Spanish. J-Baby did dabble in Spanish using various resources. They began focused foreign language lessons this fall with Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish.

Fine Arts: Both boys made significant progress in their musical pursuits. J-Baby continued with piano lessons and T-Guy made a concentrated effort with guitar. This year J-Baby is again taking piano lessons and we found a great guitar teacher for T-Guy. Both boys work on music appreciation and have been learning the works of famous composers. In addition, J-Baby pursues drawing and other art endeavors, including modeling and mixed media work.