Sunday, December 19, 2010

Homeschool Christmas

Have I ever mentioned how much I love our homeschool friends? They are the best.

Here are just a few pictures from our very laid back, nothing fancy, just the way we like it ChristmasHanukkahKwanzaHolidayFestivus Party.

And yes, Thing 4 is wearing her pajamas. My kids wanted to have a pajama party (because they never get to wear pajamas to school, except on school days ending in "y"), but it didn't work out for the other kids. Never one to be swayed by peer pressure, she had a pajama party anyway. I love that girl.

Doing a little crafting:

Dominos and WalMart catered our shindig:

Happy Break! See you next year!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010


OM 5 Science has us learning about astronomy. In our study of early, practical applications of astronomy by the Egyptians, we learned about sundials. One assignment required Thing 3 to make a sundial and try to tell time with it, checking himself against a clock. It was difficult at first, but he got pretty good at it fairly quickly.

We made this very simple yet effective sundial by placing a pencil in a ball of clay. Every hour, Thing 3 went out and marked the hour with a stone. This sundial goes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Easy cheesy! And fun!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fool-Proof Science Experiment

Our first semester of Oak Meadow 5th Grade Science has focused on Environmental Science. A few weeks ago, we were studying pollution, recycling and composting. We did a very easy experiment where we buried five different types of trash.

Four weeks later, we went out to dig up the trash in order to make observations about how quickly the different types of trash decomposed. Now that's an experiment that even I can't mess up!

Oh wait. Yes I can. Unbelievably, we couldn't find the trash. We even called in reinforcements. Still, no trash.

Through some kind of gypsy magic, the trash disappeared! Either that, or someone is trying to drive me insane like Adam did to Dixie all those years ago. (And let me tell you, that's a pretty short trip!) Or maybe we gave up too soon. It was very windy and chilly that day. Perhaps we'll find it when we plant our garden in the spring...if I'm not in a treatment facility by then.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Music To My Ears

Planning ahead for next week's history lesson on the patriots (not the modern day "patriots" who don't spell-check their protest signs, but the real patriots), I ordered Thing 3 a copy of The Declaration of Independence. It came from Amazon today. When I went to tuck my kiddo in tonight, he confessed, with a fair amount of guilt, "Hey Mom, instead of reading Johnny Tremain I read The Declaration of Independence. I hope it's ok. Sorry I didn't wait until next week."

I knew that ditching the twaddle was a good idea.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Learning With Oak Meadow

Learning is natural, school is optional.

I came across that quotation on an Oak Meadow board the other day. I don't know who said it first, but it really resonates with me. If I had a true homeschool room instead of dining room that the homeschool tsunami struck, I'd have that quotation painted on our wall.

Humans have an innate desire to learn. If you don't believe it, just spend some time with some boys who play Yu Gi Oh, Bakugan, or Pokemon. My boys have played or are currently playing all of these games. They can talk to you about the minutiae of the games until your eyes glaze over and your brain goes numb. At one point, my older boys knew the names and evolved states of all 200+ Pokemon. Seriously. They never took a class. They learned the details because they were interested and excited Pokemon, so learning about it was natural. (I should confess that during our Pokemon phase, which seemed to last years longer than it actually did, I often commented that I wished the children would put as much time and effort into memorizing, oh I don't know, something like the Periodic Table as they did into memorizing Pokemon.)

If you don't believe that learning is natural, just step into my kitchen right now and watch my daughter trying to teach herself how to use chopsticks. She's been at it for 15 minutes. There is no teacher standing over her and there will be no test. She got chopsticks on a field trip last week and she wants to learn to use them. It's that simple.

While the idea of unschooling appeals to me on some level, I have never bought into it completely. I think that people (and kids are people, too) need to be exposed to lots of different ideas and activities to find out where their interests lie. I also think there is value in learning about some things that one does not find particularly interesting at the outset. When my children ask, "Why do we have to learn about
that?", I like to tell them, "Because knowing things like this makes you a more interesting, well-rounded person." (It sounds so much nicer than, "Because I said so", doesn't it?)

Oak Meadow does such a great job of building on a child's natural desire to learn while gently guiding them through a fabulous, well-designed curriculum and exposing them to lots of interesting subjects and ideas. I see it as a homeschool curriculum with an unschool-y feel. Both of my children have studied topics this year that they probably would not have chosen to study had they never been exposed to them, and they have been excited about them. The OE Dad even commented again last night that we are having so many more, "Hey Mom! Listen to what I just read!" moments this year. I "blame" Oak Meadow.

Instead of asking a child to list 5 animals that live in the ocean, Oak Meadow asks them to, "Go to your library and check out a book about the ocean biome. Learn about ocean life. Describe 5 animals that live in the ocean and draw one of them." In response to that question, Thing 3 said, "I need to get a book on rare ocean life. I already know about dolphins, sharks and whales. I want to learn about ocean animals people don't know about." In fact, several times in the last few weeks, Thing 3 has gone beyond what was required in his research. Success!

When you take the "schooliness" out of school, as Oak Meadow does, learning is not confined to a certain time or place. It becomes natural again and can happen anytime, anywhere.

Learning is natural, school is optional.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Biomes and Deep Thoughts

Thing 3 is learning about the Earth's biomes so last week we headed out to Red Bud Valley Nature Preserve to do a little biome study. Red Bud Valley is interesting because in one relatively small area, you can observe both forest and grassland biomes. Because of the different conditions, the variety of plant life is vast.

I love nature walks because they offer so many opportunities to learn. On the cliff side of the preserve, we talked about rock formations and the different types of rocks we saw. My child who loves textures had to touch them all.

The kids did a little nature journaling.

Thing 3 did lots of observation and made many notes.

My hunter hunted.

And my gatherer gathered.

As I was walking behind my children, watching them experience their science lesson that day, it hit me that *this* is why I homeschool. Sure, the flexibility is great. No homework is great. I love that we don't do fundraisers anymore. Doing school in our pajamas is fun. But for me, it really all boils down to days like this...days when my children can spend time learning by doing, touching, seeing, hearing and smelling.

I'm so thankful for that I am able to spend this kind of time with these sweet children and I know that I will never regret a moment of it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


We took a little field trip to the polling place yesterday so I could vote. Initially, the kids grumbled about having to go, but we had a great discussion as a result of them tagging along. They had lots of really good questions. It's so interesting, because they have gone to vote with me many times but they have never been as curious as they were this time. I like to think it's because they are in an environment now where they are encouraged to ask lots of questions and to think outside the multiple choice bubbles. Or it could have been a fluke. I'm going with theory number one because it validates my existence and makes me feel better about not being able to shop the clearance aisles at Target while they are in school.

After voting, we talked about why there are partitions at the voting booths and the importance of a secret ballot. We discussed the 19th amendment and the fact that women didn't have the right to vote until 1920. (That discussion led us to a mini-study on the Women's Suffrage Movement. We are reading a great book on the subject. Why have I not studied this until now?)

We talked about different political offices and about term limits. We also talked a little about why it's important to exercise your right to vote, even when there is a better chance that you will win the lottery after getting struck by lightning than there is that most of the candidates for whom you vote will win...not that this ever happens to this slightly liberal independent who lives in Oklahoma. I'm just saying...

I love homeschooling. Everything is a lesson.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Homeschool Blues

Hat tip to my good friend and fellow homeschooling mom, Angie, for telling me about this video. Love it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Artsy Craftsy

Oak Meadow provides a lot...a whole lot...of enrichment activities to go along with what we are studying. I'm thrilled to have the activities planned for me. That makes it so easy. Here are a few things we've done recently.

Thing 4 has been studying Native American cultures, so we made corn husk dolls and dream catchers. We invited our sweet friends to do these crafts with us.

Thing 3 has been studying Colonial America, so we made pinch pots and we're in the process of doing a little needlework. The needlework thing has made Thing 3 thankful that he was not born a female in Colonial times.

In our Animal Habitat study, we learned about ways we can improve the habitat for some animals. We made bird feeders.

Whew! I'm about ready for some worksheets!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall Break!

Fall Break starts Thursday and goes through Monday. I am doing the Happy Dance!

Most homeschooling moms I know don't take Fall Break or many of the other typical school breaks. I, however, welcome the public school vacations and take them just as if my children were in public school. I do it with little guilt, too. Maybe I'm just a slacker, I don't know, and at this point, I don't really care. I just know that after 8.5 weeks of lots of focused time with my precious angels, I need a break. If that makes me a slacker, then call me a slacker. I've been called worse.

So tomorrow our school work will consist of doing our history crafts for the week and then we break until next Tuesday. The OE Dad insists I deserve the time off (smart man, eh?), and I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Oak Meadow Science is very hands-on. The kids and I really appreciate that. Science is so much more meaningful when you can see and touch it.

Here are just a few photos of some of our science activities from the past few weeks.

The kiddos are gathering pond water for our observation of bacteria growth. We put tap water, pool water and pond water in petri dishes with agar to see which would grow the most bacteria. The children's hypothesis was that the pond water would grow more bacteria. They were right, of course. You'll have to take my word for it because I forgot to take pictures of the bacteria growth.

Since I had extra petri dishes and agar, we decided to swab some things around the house to see what kind of bacteria we could grow. We swabbed the toilet seat, the door handle in the bathroom, the coffee maker handle, the computer keyboard, Thing 4's bear that she has slept with (and chewed on) since she was 6 months old (aptly named "Yucky Bear Bear" by her brothers), and Thing 3, who had a bad cold at the time, coughed in one of the dishes. Ick.

Here, the kiddos are looking at Thing 4's blood. She made good use of the nasty scrapes she had on her knees after having a bad fall on her skates.

Science rocks!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Cool Dam Tour!

Earlier this week, the munchkins and I went on a tour of Pensacola Dam at Grand Lake with some of our awesome Otherwise Educating friends.

Or, as my homeschooling friends and I like to call it, the Dam Tour. (We spend entirely too much time around pre-adolescent and teenaged boys.) We never tired of the (bad) joke. We went on a dam tour, had a cool dam tour guide and took some good dam photos. Our collective mental age is currently somewhere around 11, I think. Ok, truth be told, we really can't blame it on the boys. We just need to get out more.

The OE Dad accompanied us on this field trip and was glad he did. He put this field trip right up there with the tour of the PAC.

The Pensacola Dam is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in the late 1930s so there is a lot of history there.

Cool Art Deco light:

The building used to be a fallout shelter:

There is still a gas mask and "telephone" in the original Otis elevator:

Thing 4 operating the elevator:

We did learn some more technical things about the dam, but I am more interested in history than the generation of electricity, so not a lot of that information stuck with me, but the kiddos remember. I do remember that the dam provides electricity for 24 OK counties and some counties in Missouri and Kansas.

It was definitely worth the drive.


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