Friday, January 29, 2010

No Snow Day Here

My older boys are out of school today due to the snow. In our little homeschool, we don't take snow days because I don't want to add days to the end of the year. We do, however, set aside our regular schoolwork in favor of "outdoor weather labs", if you know what I'm saying. There's a lot you can learn when you play in the snow. I pretty much let them teach themselves, though. It's too cold and windy out there for me.

More on Vincent

As part of our Van Gogh study, we watched this fun video this afternoon.

It is not the dry, biography that I was expecting. It was very good and really held the kids' attention. I always know that a video is a hit if they ask to watch it again with their daddy, and they did that with this one.

I'm not sure what it is about Van Gogh, but my children have been more interested in this study of him than in almost anything else we've done this year. It ranks right up there with our ongoing study of Greek Mythology. Van Gogh's life was short and tragic, and the kids are fascinated by stories of him. I think it comes down to the fact that all kids love a great story, and Van Gogh's life, tragic as it was, is a really great story. After watching the movie today, they both asked if we could go back to the Philbrook and see the Van Gogh painting again. That is success in my book.

I'm not sure what the practical application is for all of their newly acquired knowledge of Van Gogh, as I'm certain the ACT and SAT do not have any questions about why he lost part of his ear or why he began using bright colors later in his career. That's ok, though. I'm hoping things like this will make them more well-rounded people.

Check out the Getting To Know website for more great educational materials on artists, composers and presidents.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Taking School On The Road

I'm certain I've mentioned this before, but one thing I love about Otherwise Educating is the flexibility we have. It's great not being confined to a classroom. The children learn so much simply by being a part of my day.

Yesterday, we did some work in the morning and then traveled 30 miles north to have lunch with my husband. As we were driving, I noticed that my children seemed more observant than they had in the past. We talked about the pumpjacks and what their purpose is. The children noted how different the terrain is just a few miles north of where we live. (Thing 3 described it as "a barren wasteland". He prefers trees to wide open plains. I was just impressed with his vocabulary.) We talked about the horizon and how much farther you can see when you're in
barren wastelands wide open spaces.

Since we are doing a rock and mineral study in Science right now, we stopped by the rock shop on the way home so the children could pick out some rocks and minerals. It was fun to look at all the rocks and talk about things they had learned in Science the day before. And I enjoyed chatting with the woman who was working at the store because she had homeschooled her children. It's always a pleasant surprise to run into people who support our decision to OE. You just never know what kind of reaction you're going to get when you have your kids out in public during school hours.

On the way home, the children did some logic puzzles together. (Gotta love those higher order thinking skills! )

Today we are taking school on the road again. A friend asked me to work at her store for a few hours. The children are thrilled about doing school at the store, and I'm thrilled to be getting out of the house and to have the opportunity to interact with big people for a few hours.

We are ready to go!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fun New Math Game

As I may or may not have mentioned, teaching AC math is a bit of a challenge. It's not that she's not good at math, quite the opposite is true. She is a math whiz if she's doing it in her head. She just has a mental block where math work is concerned. I think it's partly a confidence issue.

After beating my head against a wall and causing my ever-patient homeschooling friends to want to beat their heads against a wall due to my incessant whining about our math struggles, I finally took the advice of all three of those friends and ditched our math curriculum (for the time being). Instead, we do kitchen math, mental math, math games, games that are not math games but that require math skills (like Yahtzee), and work from the incredible "Math Pamphlet" that my good friend made for AC. (That's a whole other post. It's really wonderful.)

In my search for ways to work on math without it seeming like we are working on math, I came across the Exact Change Card Game. Not only is it a great way to teach money skills, but it is perfect to teach children how to add a series of numbers with regrouping. I have AC do all the adding for all of us. It's great practice and is a good confidence builder for her. I think it's really going to help. Hopefully, we can start our Singapore Math curriculum again soon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Starry, Starry Night

Last week, I took the munchkins on a last minute field trip to the Philbrook Museum of Art. While we were there, we noticed a painting by Van Gogh that we had not previously seen. We have been since it was added to the collection, but somehow we missed it. I don't know how you can miss a Van Gogh, but we did. Seeing the painting piqued the kids' interest in Van Gogh, so we decided to make him the next artist we study. (This brings our total of artists studied this year to two. My intentions were good, but it takes longer to explain long division than I had planned.)

I picked up some great books on Van Gogh at the library. Vincent's Colors is our favorite. It is perfect for picture study.

Vincent Van Gogh Gallery is an incredible online resource. We also enjoyed watching this slideshow of many of Van Gogh's paintings set to the music of Starry, Starry Night by Don McLean. I've always loved the song, but somehow it seems even more sad when I listen to it while seeing those paintings. Here is a great explanation of the lyrics.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Homeschooled Kids Are Weird!

Today marks the fifth time in the short life of this blog that someone has arrived here by doing a Google search with some variation of the words in this blog title. (A while back I had a post titled My Weird, Unsocialized Homeschool Kids, and it is showing up in Google searches that include those words.) I can't help but wonder what the motive was that drove those folks to perform that search. Was it someone who really thinks homeschooled kids are weird and is looking for articles to back him up? Or is it some parent who wants to homeschool her kids but is afraid that homeschooling her kids will make them weird and is looking for evidence to the contrary? Whatever, I find it mildly amusing.

For the record, my homeschooled kids are weird, but it has nothing to do with the fact that they are homeschooled. My kids who attend public school are weird, too. As evidence, I'd like to share a photo of a gingerbread house my public school kids decorated together.

For those math challenged people out there (me!), that is Absolute 7 in gum drops. Don't ask me why. All I know is that the boys thought it was pretty funny (because they're weird!)

Nope, my kids' weirdness has nothing to do with schooling. It's all in the genes, Baby! I come from a long line of freaks. Just ask my husband. We take pride in our "weirdness".

For future Googlers who end up here by accident, please read this helpful article to determine whether or not your child is showing signs of weirdness. Early intervention is key.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


While I don't strictly follow the Charlotte Mason model, I do like to incorporate many aspects of the CM style into our week. One aspect of CM that I particularly like is the teaching of handicrafts. As I am somewhat handicraft-challenged, I have not jumped right into this endeavor. My intentions have been good, but I just haven't taken on the challenge yet.

In an effort to make this semester a little less dull school-y, I am trying to shake things up a bit. To that end, I decided that there was no better day than today to start handicrafts.

About a month ago (when I first intended to start handicrafts), I purchased some small cross-stitch kits at Hobby Lobby. We dug those out today and went to it. We didn't get very far, but we did, at least, get started.

Do you know how many times a child can drop a needle while cross-stitching? More times than she can drop a pencil while doing math.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Lost Art Of The Thank You Note

My mom is a GRITS girl. If there's one thing the child of a Girl Raised In The South knows, it's the importance of a thoughtfully written thank you note (preferably written on monogrammed stationery). However, unlike my mother (and much to her dismay, I'm certain), I have never really taken the time to pass along to my children how important it is to handwrite (not send via email) a thank you note for a gift received or for any other act of kindness. Sure, over the years I've had the children send a thank you note now and then for various things, but I have not been consistent about it. I decided that since I have my younger children with me all day now, there is no excuse for not teaching them when and how to write a proper thank you note.

Instead of copywork this week, we are writing thank you notes for Christmas gifts. In addition to learning basic etiquette, writing the notes provides opportunities to learn how to address an envelope and to practice handwriting, grammar and a little creative writing.

Since Thing 4 is still learning to write neatly, we use penmanship paper for her notes. I also let her use the kind of paper that has space for drawing because she likes to include a little art with her notes.

Surprisingly, the children have really enjoyed doing this.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Inspiration For The New Semester

"Learning that begins in freedom, that is guided by curiosity and that is conducted without a need for external rewards and punishments gives children an understanding that life is learning." Linda Dobson from The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas

Friday, January 1, 2010

Mad Libs

Around here, we use Mad Libs quite a bit. It's a fun way to work on simple parts of speech. The kids love them because they're so silly, and it's something we can take with us on road trips, etc.

Today I came across It's A Mad Libs World!...Online Mad Libs. Cool! The kids fill out a form that asks for parts of speech, click "submit" and the story appears. If they forget the definition for one of the parts of speech, they just mouse over the term and a definition pops up along with a few examples. There are 13 Mad Libs categories to choose from. Our favorite is Pirate Mad Libs!

Mad Libs not only reinforce simple grammar, but they're great for reading practice, too.

Check it out. It's a fun site!


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