Monday, November 28, 2011

Homeschool Sloths

It's just that kind of day.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New School Year, New Fashion Statements

(The iPad camera still stinks, but it is super handy for blogging.)

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, August 1, 2011

And So It Begins

Goodbye, Summer. I'll miss you.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Here is a great site with free printable homeschool planning forms, calendars, recording keeping forms, etc. It's a little overwhelming at first, but there is a lot of good information there and many great resources.

Donna Young Planners

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An overdue post

I have been meaning to post a detailed "Year In Review" post but I just can't seem to get around to it. Here's the Reader's Digest version of what I learned this year.
  1.  Oak Meadow is perfect for us. The upper elementary (we were in year 5) is much more involved than I had anticipated, and some weeks we had difficulty covering everything completely, mostly because I didn't use only Oak Meadow. I had too many other things in our schedule.
  2. Sometimes less is more. (See #1)
  3. Swinging helps Thing 4 concentrate. I started noticing that if she was having difficulty focusing on, say...Math, she would ask if she could go swing. When she came back in, her concentration was better. (Everything is relative.) I've talked to other moms who have kids with attention issues who are especially creative, and they have noticed this, too. Interesting. 
  4. MCT Language Arts is fabulous, especially the Caesar's English portion.  (Thanks, Melanie).
  5. Life of Fred...also a fabulous curriculum. We use this to supplement Singapore Math. It is great for developing higher level thinking skills. 
  6. Singapore Math is perfect for Thing 3, not so much for Thing 4. We are switching to Oak Meadow Math for her next year. 
  7. It's great to be able to tailor instruction and expectations to each child's learning style, personality and activity level. (See #3 and #6.)
  8. As Latin goes, Lively Latin is a really good curriculum.  It's a nice mix of the basics of Latin combined with history, games, art history and puzzles. The online resource is very good, also. That said, we are dropping Latin next year. (See #2.)
  9. Rosetta Stone is a great way to learn a foreign language.
  10. It's worth paying for a good art class. 
  11. We should have planned more field trips and done less "school". Thing 3 was verging on burn-out by the end of the year. (See #2.)
  12. CiCi's pizza is over-priced and under-good. We go there anyway.  
  13.  Otherwise Educating is great. Summer is greater. 

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    The Cult of Apple

    In an effort to further indoctrinate our children in the Apple ideology, we took our FunSchoolers on a field trip to the Apple Store. Granted, given that my children live in a home with, ahem, an Apple product or ten, there wasn't much work to be done on my crew. However, there are some in our group who have not yet drunk the Apple-flavored Kool-Aid. What better way to convince a parent that she needs to buy an iMac than to let her kids play with one for an hour and a half and let the kids fall in love with it? Who can say no to a child begging for a $1,700 computer? Sneaky, sneaky, Mr. Jobs.

    We could choose from one of four, text, music or photo. We had the kids make a stop action video with props they brought from home. Very cool!

     The big kid in this next photo is Adam, an Apple mind control expert  Store employee. He had as least as much fun working on this as the kids did. He was so great with them that my neighbor suggested we hire him to entertain the children this summer.

    Indoctrination aside, this was a great field trip. In addition to giving each child a DVD of their project and a certificate, they got free t-shirts (sans location tracking...I checked).  

    I have tried in vain to upload one of the projects but Blogger is having trouble with video tonight. Trust me when I tell you it very long as you don't play it backwards. 

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Learning about Bernoulli's Principle And Flight

    Have I mentioned that I really love Oak Meadow? The enrichment activities are so great. Take our lesson on Bernoulli's Principle and the Principles of Flight, for example. We had a textbook lesson that explained Bernoulli's Principle and its relation to flight, and then OM had Thing 3 experimenting with paper airplanes to gain a concrete understanding. He told me today that it was one of the best days he's had this year. But then, who doesn't love playing with paper airplanes?

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Some days are good math days...

    ...and some days aren't. I've finally learned that it's better to let go of math on the bad math days and move on to something else.

    It was a bad math day but an excellent day for flower arranging. Thing 4 spent a great deal of time carefully choosing flowers and greenery from our backyard and making flower arrangements. This was one of her favorites.

    It made the bad math day a lot less frustrating.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    The black hole of homeschooling "stuff"

    How is it that we do school at home, rarely take our books, etc. out of the house, yet we are always losing things?

    "Go get your math books, please." "I can't find them." "What do you mean you can't find them?" "I mean they aren't on the shelf or table or in my room. I looked on the couch, in the playroom and even in the car. I can't find them anywhere." If I had back all the time I've spent looking for school books, my house would be clean and I'd never have dirty laundry in the hamper.

    And pencils. What's with us not being able to keep up with pencils? In the course of our two years of homeschooling, I have purchased approximately 4,598 pencils, yet we can never find one when we get ready to do school. Are the children eating them? Today, Thing 3 resorted to doing math with a red ink pen because it was either that or a white board marker. The few pencils we manage to scrounge up always have broken lead and/or bad erasers.

    I wonder if other homeschoolers have this experience or if we are just terribly, horribly disorganized? Feel free to comment. 

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    I love the outdoor classroom...

    Yesterday was a beautiful day, so the kids and I headed to the park to take some pictures and just spend some time enjoying nature on a beautiful day. The ability to take advantage of days like yesterday is one of my favorite things about homeschooling.

    We watched the squirrels.

    We studied the rocks.

    And we found a perfect example of phototropism, a term we studied earlier in the year.

    We took a class picture.

    And we enjoyed the beautiful colors of the season, (and tried to stay away from that huge bumblebee in this bush).

    There's just something irresistible about rocks in a stream...

    ...and sticks.
    "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." ~ Albert Einstein

    Sunday, April 17, 2011


    A couple of weeks ago, we studied volcanoes in OM 3. I am fascinated by volcanoes. As it turns out, so are my children. I purchased this volcano kit for our demonstration. That's art and science rolled into one! My kind of activity!

    We forgot to add the red food coloring the first time. Still, it was an impressive eruption.

    The boy had the idea of recreating Pompeii...with army men and Native Americans. There were army men and Native Americans at Pompeii, weren't there?

    Thursday, March 31, 2011


    Our OM 3 curriculum directed me to this fantastic reference site today. Kidipede is an online encyclopedia covering topics in history, science and math. It's a great resource. Check it out!

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    From the mouths of babes...

    So I was back at art class with the kiddos today. I'm always glad when it takes the children a while to finish what they're working on (you just can't rush creativity) and pack up their things because I get to watch and listen to everything going on in the room.

    Today, two girls were sitting at a table in the corner working on their paintings. One girl, the younger of the two, said to the other, "Someone called me weird yesterday." The older girl said, "So? There's nothing wrong with weird. Why would you want to be normal? Normal is boring. Normal is a setting on the dryer. Weird is better. Weird people do great things if people will leave them alone and let them." 

    "If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise."  ~Johann von Goethe

    Friday, March 18, 2011


    Last week, I splurged and bought a refurbished first generation iPad. With the release of the iPad 2, Apple cut the price on the original iPad. Since we purchased a refurbished model (which comes with the same warranty as a new iPad), I saved an additional $50. It's going to be such a great resource for us. I've already found so many fun, educational apps for the kids.

    This morning,Thing 4 sat in front of the map and played  Stack The States, even though it's Spring Break and we have taken a week off from "school". (I realize it looks like she's looking at the map of the world, but she's really looking at the map of the U.S. which is hanging above the world map. The world map will come in handy when she plays Stack The Countries.)

    Stack the States is such a fun way to learn about state geography, capitals, shape, where they fit on the map, etc. Here's a short video that shows the app in action.

     Another great app that we have found is BrainPop. BrainPop has short, animated movies on many different topics across all subject areas. Every day there is a new BrainPop movie. Each morning we check for the new movie. In addition to the daily featured movie, you can search their large database of other movies for others your kiddos might find interesting.

    Here is an example of a featured movie:

    If you don't have an iPad, you can get a membership at the BrainPop website. There seems to be a lot of information and many educational tools there.

    There are so many more fabulous apps for education that I haven't had the chance to check out yet. We also plan to use the iPad for writing papers and playing with videos, photos and music. 

    iPad, where have you been my whole life?

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Art Class And The S Word

    Every other Tuesday, Thing 4 heads to the big city for art class. She loves art class, just like she loves piano lessons and dance class. And she's very much looking forward to starting her acting classes. I'm beginning to see a pattern here. Math? Not so much. Anything related to the arts? Definitely.

    Recently the S word has come up again. You know..."Don't you worry about socialization?" I don't even like the term socialization. It sounds so something we do to make people fit in. I find it negative and, frankly, kind of creepy. I suspect that what people really mean is, "Don't you worry that your children will never learn to interact with other children if you keep them locked in your house all day and they never see anyone but you and the UPS man when he makes the almost daily delivery of Amazon packages?" (I'm expecting to hear from the My Strange Addiction people any time now.)

    But back to art class. When I walked in yesterday to pick up Thing 4 and her friend, it struck me that this is the way I want my children interacting with other children. On this day, my daughter was sitting in a class of 17 children of many different ages. A couple were close to her age, and most were at least 3-4 years older. It was such a diverse group of kids. I appreciate that she has kids in her class who have been at this art thing she can look up to. I appreciate that she has the opportunity to interact with children (and adults) of many ages. The "real world" is made up of many different kinds of people of all ages from many different backgrounds. What better way to learn to relate to people in the real world than to live in the real world every day?

    I stood for a bit and listened to the casual conversations going on in the room. The kids were complimenting each other's work, asking "What shade of green do you think would look good here?", talking about past paintings they had done. The teacher was easily facilitating the work going on in the room and it was obvious that the kids respected her and she them. Several of the children (who I didn't know) came up to show me their paintings and asked what I thought about their work. They were very comfortable conversing with me and seemed so mature and, dare I say, normal.

    What more could I want for my daughter? Socialization? Not so much. The ability to develop real and valuable interpersonal skills and maybe a true friendship or two? Definitely.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Learning With Weird Al

    Today, one of the kiddos asked me what a palindrome is. Since I believe that music and memory are strongly connected, and that people remember things better if they can relate it something musical (think Schoolhouse Rock), I showed the kids Weird Al's Bob video. Every phrase is a palindrome.

    Ok, that's not entirely true. It's not even mostly true. I showed them the Weird Al Bob video simply because I love Weird Al. The man is a genius, and he does a darn good Bob Dylan impersonation.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Practical Application

    Thing 3 to Thing 4, "You are a grotesque and vulgar individual! Even odious pit bulls are more amiable than you, and worms are more venerable!"

    Thing 3 to me, "Mom, I'm not serious. I'm just trying out my awesome new vocabulary."

    Thank you, Caesar's English. (And a hat tip to my good friend for finding this fabulous language arts curriculum.)

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    The Terrafirmanator

    I took the kids to see Gnomeo and Juliet today. It was a cute movie. In the movie, there was an ad for a do-it-all lawn tractor called The Terrafirmanator. My kids got the joke. Thank you Latin study.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    Canaanite Mask

    Last week in Oak Meadow 3 Social Studies, Thing 4 studied Phonecia and the Canaanites and how they used different types of resources to create and trade goods. We talked about natural, human and capital resources and how they interrelate. She was really interested in this, and I was really happy (again) to be using OM, because I would never have thought to teach her this at this point in her learning.

    To go along with the lesson, she created a Canaanite ceremonial mask out of Sculpey clay. Cool!

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Edible Cell

    In Oak Meadow 5, we've moved on to Life Science. On Friday, we studied cells and made an edible cell. This was a really cool activity that made learning the parts of a cell a little less intimidating.

    We started by gathering items from the kitchen to represent the organelles. We used a blueberry for the nucleus, a strip of fruit roll-up for the microtubles, Mike and Ikes for mitochondria, and rock candy for vacuoles. Not surprisingly, the candy didn't hold up too well in the Jell-o, but we worked with what we had because we were sort of snowed in.

    Jell-o was our cytoplasm.

    We poured the Jell-o in a quart-sized Zip-Loc bag (which was the cell membrane) and added the "organelles". As we added each item, we talked again about what it does. I don't have a photo of us actually creating the cell, because we had a slight mishap just as I was going to shoot the picture. Let's just say that cytoplasm on the floor, cabinets and Oak Meadow Science book makes for a sticky situation.

    Here is our finished cell, which no one will eat because it looks too gross.

    It's even worse than those nasty congealed salads that people of a certain generation like to bring to our church pot-luck dinners. All of our organelles, except for the nucleus, either dissolved completely or look really anemic. Oh well, it wouldn't be an Otherwise Educating science project if it worked well. The cell may not be edible, as the book suggested, but Thing 3 does have a really firm grasp on how the main parts of a cell work together. He also learned that rock candy completely disappears if you let it sit in Jell-o too long. Where else is he going to learn that?

    Friday, January 28, 2011

    Some days we ditch school...

    ...and play outside. After two weeks of really cold weather, we just had to go out on this beautiful 70 degree day. We took a trip to the skate park (after our environmental science field trip to drop our recyclables at the recycling center because, when you home school, everything is a lesson).

    Thing 2 was home from school trying to recover from the flu. He needed some fresh air and sunshine, so he came along and read.

    In our recent study about the artist Renoir we learned that he didn't allow his children to attend school until age 10 because he felt they could learn so much more simply by being outdoors than they could ever learn in a classroom. I think he was right.

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Benjamin Franklin

    "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” - Benjamin Franklin
    In OM 5 History, we are studying Benjamin Franklin. What an interesting man he was. Early in his adult life, he was a soap and candle maker. We attempted to make candles the way Ben did, by dipping wicks in melted wax, then in cold water, then back in the wax, repeat, repeat, repeat.

    We were supposed to keep this up until our candles were the diameter we wanted. After about 20 minutes of dipping, our wick looked only marginally different, and we concluded that Benjamin Franklin had much more patience than we do. (No wonder he moved on to bigger things like becoming an inventor, scientist, writer, along with that Founding Father gig.)

    We ditched the Oak Meadow suggestion and re-purposed our Subway cups from dinner, using them as candle molds. I showed the kids how my sisters and I used to make ice cube candles when I was a kid.

    I'm no Ben Franklin, but my children were impressed.

    Today we wrote with a quill and ink, just like Ben Franklin did. It really gave the kids an appreciation for our current day writing instruments...not to mention the eraser.

    Thing 4 had a lot of fun pretending she was writing the Declaration of Independence.

    Did you know that, except for two years of formal education from age 8 to age 10, Benjamin Franklin was home schooled and self-taught?

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Marbling Paper

    This week, OM 3 had us marbling paper. This is quite possibly the coolest art project we've done since we began this crazy OE experiment a year and a half ago.

    We started with the marbling set that came in our OM 3 craft kit. (Buying that kit was one of the best decisions I've ever made. When it's time to do a project, I have everything right running to Hobby Lobby to piece together our materials.)

    We filled a pan with 2-3" of water and placed the float paper.

    Then, we added color, one drop at a time to the float paper.

    The kids loved watching the color shoot out from the paper and move through the water. They were amazed that the color stayed on the surface.

    Next, the kids blew on the water, causing the colors to move around (but not blend), which created cool designs. This can also be accomplished by dragging the colors around with paint brushes.

    We carefully laid heavy weight paper on top of the water. (Our first attempt was with lighter weight sketching paper, but it rolled when it got wet.) Card stock would work well.

    And when we lifted it up...Voila!

    Marbled Paper!

    When Thing 4 saw the result, she literally gasped and said, "Please don't ever put me back in school." (She really likes art.)

    This project was so much fun that the kiddos showed Thing 2 and the OE Dad when they got home tonight. They both made some, too.

    And I loved it so much that I marbled all the trash that I found on my kitchen counter.

    Now we have to figure out how to make something gifty with this paper.


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