Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Think Hurt Motivated Me to Homeschool

I know it's Christmas and it should be candle light, candy, and family.  All warm and fuzzy.

But of late I have been thinking about why we homeschool.  There are a gazillion super cool positive reasons (one on one instruction, getting deeper into most subjects, slowing down when we need to really understand something that may have been lost in a classroom, a childhood, time for imagination, the connection, and on and on and on).  I somehow have been focusing on why I needed to homeschool.  Why I needed to step out of my then mom culture.

Let me tell the story of a heart ache.

When our older girls were in elementary school we were part of a large tight knit group of parents and kids.  We had gigantic 4th of July parties, late nights around fire pits, snow days (we live where it doesn't snow, so we brought it in and made it a party), beach days, PTA, and days lounging in pools.

We always had our pile of kids with us.  They mostly got along.  They played complicated games while trying to include everyone's passion.  At one point it was army men vs. cats (with costumes and face paint, of course).

It was good.

There was one girl that lived in a family with more chaos than was within my comfort level, but I thought that was just me that saw it that way.  The family was an important part of our group.  We loved them all; giant warts and all.

For many more reasons than the chaos in which she lived the girl decided to kill herself with her father's service revolver.  Dead.  In a moment.  Dead.  At 14.

She had just spent the night with my daughter.  In our home.  She sat with us.  She laughed with us.  She seemed at the edge of a decision.  I thought that maybe she was deciding to choose a boyfriend over soccer.   If only.

I. Had. No. Idea.

Of course it was a shock.  Of course there was/is grief.  Of course.

What I didn't count on was the fall out.  I didn't count on losing our entire friend base.  I didn't count on that girl's mother making a living talking about how friends need to not keep secrets about suicide.  (For the record, I totally agree....however, that was not the girl's story.)

I understand how grief takes on a different shape and feel for everyone.

We poured our hearts out to that family.  We cleaned the room after the police left.  We sat with them through the nights.  We drove them to view their daughter and to finally pick up her urn.

One day I was sitting with them and they had someone come and take the door to her room away.  The blood had soaked up through the bottom of the door.  Her blood.  I wanted to leave.  I stayed.  I stayed because they needed company.

The mother needed to find a point of blame.  She chose us for some of it.  Our friends triaged and continued to support the grieving family.  I think I understand that.  We were a bit of collateral damage.

Two years later it was time for T to start Kindergarten.  We have an awesome, wonderful elementary school with brilliant, caring teachers.  The same teachers that taught our older girls and the girl.  However, because of the nature of the gazillion kids per class a parent really needs to be involved in the school.

I did it.  Sort of.  I couldn't invest fully in that connection.  T went there for Kindergarten and 1st grade.  That was it.  On my most honest days I recognize that I was too hurt to fully invest in the mom culture at that school.

I know.  I'm selfish.  On the other hand, homeschooling has been the most amazing ride so far.  I love it. T loves it.  I'm making new connections where I can, but now I know her experience at school is not dependent upon how quickly or deeply I get involved.

I think I am finally ready to reach out a little bit more.  A baby step.  I am feeling more confident with homeschooling.  I was also slapped in the face with a little reality that next year there is a very good chance that both older girls will be away at college.  It is time for me to dip my toe in my new mom culture.  T and I are going to switch our schedule a bit to accomodate some outside classes and a few of those park days with our local homeschoolers.

It may be finally time to embrace the new us.  The us without the girl.  The us with the big scar on our hearts.  It's ugly, but it's healing.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

WFMW: Call in the Reinforcements

There is quite a story that goes along with T's addition to our family.  The short version is that she demanded to be born.  Her next closest sibling is 10 years older than she is.

I had the awesome joy of having two teenage daughters and a toddler at the same time.  It interesting time.

We have three daughters and each one is very, very unique (I wish there was an "understatement" font)!  I can barely keep up.  I am sometimes overwhelmed with my inexperience at homeschooling, with parenting...with life.

In those moments when I'm certain I can't cope with 3rd grade homeschooling, one of those unique big sisters scoops up my mess and takes over.  They teach her things that I never would have thought about. They have embraced this home learning thing to its fullest.

T is learning German courtesy of her oldest sister (yes, that's our All About Spelling board that we love).  She can now count and ask a few basic phrases.
She has learned the art of art.  My oldest sees the world differently and tries her best to get others to understand her vision with any medium available.  On T's Christmas list this year is a piece of art to admire (T's words, not mine).
She has learned to appreciate a good story from her other sister.  When math gets too complicated (read:  I've over complicated it), T goes to her for a better explanation.
T has also been taught cartwheels and handstands from the nutty middle sister.  I love it.
It's so nice to have olders that remember what worked and what didn't for them as they were learning the same things that T is at this age.

It is nicer that they have enough pity on me to take over when it's obvious I am in need of reinforcements.

I highly recommend having older kids around to help with your younger ones.  Or at least some friends to take over some homeschooling when you have reached your limit.  In my experience, taking breaks is highly productive (or at least that's what I tell myself!).

See what works for others at We Are That Family and Works For Me Wednesdays!  Don't forget to check out The Mercy House and Shop Mercy this season of giving.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Galaxies and Stars

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
These last couple of weeks we went far, far away to a ....

I know.  I couldn't help it.

We are working on finishing up our Space Unit.  We wanted to finish it before the final Space Shuttle launch on November 1.  Our local space museum is having a shindig for the launch and it seems as though that would be a perfect end to our unit.  Thank goodness it was delayed because we were too!

T already learned about the moon and its phases and the planets, now it's on to galaxies and stars.  We began by learning about galaxies.

Like a true innovator, I borrowed some ideas from the The Forest Room.  To demonstrate the expansion of the universe, we blew up a balloon to measure the distance between the letters to compare it with the deflated measurement. (*Hint:  blow up the balloon to write the letters first, then let the air out to measure the deflated distance.)

T used white paint and glitter to describe the different types of galaxies (thank you, The Forest Room, again!).  Can you tell me why I thought glitter was a good idea....and why I thought the kitchen table would be a good place to craft?  We are still bedazzled.
Then she learned about the constellations, found some favorites, and learned how our night sky doesn't stay the same.
In yet another nod to The Forest Room, we I decorated an umbrella with that super stinky permanent silver paint pen.  I used chalk first to draw out some of her favorite constellations.  Then I went over it with the super stinky permanent silver paint pen.
It conveniently sprinkled a little for us so T could actually use the umbrella.

Here are some of our resources for our stars and galaxies unit.  Our total journey beyond (moon, planets, stars & galaxies) has taken us over two months of pretty consistent work.  If you want to see more, here is our moon unit and our planet unit.
Next we are on to study electricity, color, and sound.  It seems as though our conversations about stars and their energies and lifespans have naturally led us in this direction.  We are fortunate to have the flexibility to follow our interests.  What a blessing homeschooling is for us!  I'm learning so much!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fitting Square Pegs...or Not

Image by ePublicist/Yoel Ben-Avraham
I have a houseful of square pegs.

There was a time when I tried to make them round, but their edges were too sharp.

Then I made excuses for them as if I were round and I knew how they should be.

Then I gave up.  Kept my head down.  I tried to encourage them in their squareness and comfort them when they noticed they weren't round.

As they grew older and I appreciated who they were becoming more and more, I stopped keeping my head down.

Now I look around.  I'm bursting with pride at my square pegs making their own way like frontiersmen.

I keep my mouth closed though.  Their paths are unique.  How could I claim to be an expert on square-peggedness?

I just know I can love and appreciate them.

I'm so glad it really does take all kinds to make the world go round!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Our Planet Study

Our planet study was loads of fun!

We are using a bunch of different resources, but mostly R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey: Earth and Space this time.  This is our first experience with it and we are loving it!  I appreciate that it is so hands on.  Actually T appreciates it the most.
T's Pringle Oven

For our planet study we:

  • watched Bill Nye's (I love him!) The Planets
  • watched Magic School Bus' Space Adventure
  • read The Mystery of Mars by Sally Ride & Tam O'Shaughnessy 
  • did R.E.A.L. Science's Uranus experiment with egg cartons, checkers, and chop sticks (we tried to measure the "terrain" of the closed egg carton (different numbers of checkers in each egg hole) by poking and measuring with a chop stick.
  • did R.E.A.L. Science's Mars experiment by making our own red dirt with sand, water, and steel wool.
  • did R.E.A.L. Science's Mercury experiment by making our very own solar oven with a Pringle can.  We cooked a hot dog!
  • designed our cover (top pic) from the idea on Art Projects For Kids
  • and memorized R.E.A.L. Science's Planet Poem
After we had explored each planet, we gathered all of our lab notes and pictures in a notebook with her own cover art.  T is very excited to share her planet notebook with our charter school teacher.  And I'm super excited that she's excited.  

 Next, we are on to galaxies and stars!  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Swapping Picture Books

An amazing thing happened last year.  We participated in Zoe's International Postcard Swap.  We received postcards from all over.  We tracked them on our world map and I patted myself on the back for the excellent geography lessons.  We felt good, happy, and fulfilled.

Then the earthquake in New Zealand happened and my little girl's world got smaller.  She remembered getting a postcard from a family who lived in the very city hit the hardest.  We were able to pray for that family not knowing how they were doing after the earthquake.  We were able to do that just because of Zoe and Playing by the Book!

Then she (Zoe) came up with the brilliant idea of a picture book swap, Perfect Picture Books by Post.  We were all about it and super excited when we were matched with a family in Germany (my oldest is a German major).

Our package came the other day.  I wish that my camera took better pictures (or that I took better pictures with my camera) because the envelope was colorful and wonderful and...I have no pictures.  I also feel a little creepy that I just sent mine via Amazon because my world is crazy and I couldn't carve out time during business hours to go to the post office.
The book my partner sent was perfect for us.  It was something that my oldest could read and translate with no issue.  The subject was adorable and the illustrations caught the spirit of the cat.

See the cat was looking for someone specific to dance with and it was NOT the hamster.
It was all quite unfortunate until he found....HER!
True love!  *sigh*
My favorite bit was watching my oldest read aloud to my youngest.  My youngest wanted to hear it in both German and English.  She decided the book was much better in German.
We've had so much fun participating in the swap!   The whole process was loads of fun; the girls deciding which books for us to send, receiving our swap, and reading our swap (again and again).

Thanks Zoe and thank you Kerstin!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sunday We Walked for CHOC & the MASHER

On this past Sunday, we were privileged to walk the CHOC Walk.  We walked with Team MASHER.  John Mash Jr. had walked in CHOC Walk for many years when he thought he was a survivor of childhood cancer.  Since he couldn't walk this year, Team MASHER did.
Some of the over 750 people walking for Team MASHER
We walked this year for John and his family.  I mean, really, what else can you do?  Maybe John's family will look back one day and take comfort in those that supported them in this little way.

John's family's prayers changed from "cure" to "compassion."  Tonight their son entered the gates of Heaven.

I just couldn't imagine.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

WFMW: Healthy Donuts

Donuts.  Doughnuts.  However you spell it, "healthy" isn't normally a word to go with it.

Until now.

Check this out:
I know you wish you had my super cool photo skills.
Here's what you need:

  • toasted bagels (we got Thomas' Thin Sliced Bagels)
  • Nutella (yum)
  • sprinkles
Here's what you do:
  • toast
  • spread
  • sprinkle
  • eat
There you have it.  A snack of awesome proportions.  Enjoy!

Don't forget to check out We Are That Family and find out what works for everyone else on Works-For-Me-Wednesdays!

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Love/Hate This Blogging Thing

I do have a love/hate relationship with this blog.

I do so love that I can write things down.

I do so hate that I should do so on a regular basis.

I do so love that I have a place to go when my world slows down enough for me to write.

I do so hate the angst and anxiety I feel about saying too much, about revealing too much, about being honest and transparent. that I've ignored it for a month or so, I have a new found desire to write. it. down.

I have an excuse for my absence.  I do.


This is my backyard.  This is just the very beginning.

It is supposed to rain this week.

Of course it is.  This will no doubt be the wettest winter in the recorded history of SoCal.  That's the twisted way my self-centered mind thinks at times.  The SoCal drought will officially be over because I am trying to construct a little something in my backyard.

Yep.  Healthy thinking here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WFMW: Burn Out Remedy

This school year (ha!  All three weeks of it!) I have tried to keep things more hands-on and less book work.  The end result is a happier kid, but a mom that is a bit stretched outside her comfort level.

It's hard work to not have a pile of papers at the end of the day.  Seriously.  It's much easier on my check-off-the-list kind of mind to have tangible evidence of "work."

Documenting throwing marbles in flour and eating Oreos for science is WAY outside my realm of comfort.  But I trudge on.  Until I don't.

In the midst of this gigantic (to me, of course) shift in philosophy, we are trying to add on to the house.  I had no clue how much had to be done before the plans are even submitted to the city.  Every day there seems to be something that requires my immediate attention.  Every day?  Every couple of hours.

Oh yeah...and my husband is working out of state .... again (thanks, California for your awesome tax incentives to businesses!).

So all of this whininess to say I had it last week.  Had it.  Done.

Then...some wonderful friends invited us to Crystal Cove.  We ditched school and had ourselves some R & R.

For those of you not in SoCal, Crystal Cove is a state park with a bunch of cottages from the 40's.  People leased these cottages for years and years and years until the Irvine Company sold the land (and the cottages and the leases) to the State of California.  The State kicked everybody out when their leases were up and turned it into the park that it is now.  On the first of every month, you can try to reserve one of the cottages.  Most people book 6 months out.  After going, I believe it may be worth it.

We parked across PCH (busy highway) and walked down this little trail.  It felt like what I remember California being when I was growing up.  Well, except for the pavement.  That seems a bit TOO SoCal, but it was convenient.
Then we walked through a tunnel decorated by all kinds of fun things (including a dolphin birthing circle with blood and everything -- interesting) to get under PCH.
Then to the beach.  The lovely beach.  The perfect beach with the amazing tide pools.  My camera ran out of batteries, but we saw a bunch of starfish, rock fish, a bazillion hermit crabs, sea anemones, and other tiny fish that darted away from our shadows.
T fell on the slippery rocks and got algae all over her...she was not pleased.
Thank you starfish for making it all better! 

So when it gets too much, put down the list, take a deep breath, and get outside.  See what's bigger than yourself.  It's guaranteed to put things in perspective.  Guar-an-darn-teed!

Check out We Are That Family and find out what works for everyone else on  Works-For-Me Wednesdays!  And check out what she's doing with the Mercy House.  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up: Mission Moon

This week we've been working on all things Moon.  I must say my goal to be more project oriented has worked so far.
Don't those sort of/kind of look like the phases of the moon?  Maybe?
This week has been a lot of fun with science moving to the end of the day because it is so happily anticipated.  Well....that and the fact that it tends to last a long, long time (by T's choice).

Last week we started a moon journal.  The cloud cover has cooperated and T has been able to record each night's moon.

While we were on the phases of the moon, T made some Oreo moons.  Needless to say this project didn't last long.   I had lots of teens wishing they were studying moon phases on that day.
We talked about the surface of the moon and created our own craters with a pie tin, some flour with a fine mist of cocoa sifted over the top, and a marble (meteoroid).
T's meteoroid marble tossing.
That would be a "crater!"
We will be working on our Moon poster next week.  T is cutting out cardboard Oreos and using a glass to make her circles on white paper before cutting into the different moon phase shapes.

Of course, we did other fun things like learning how to round in math by going to Starbucks and adding the order for mental math (rounding was a big help then!).

After our recent trip to Alaska, T decided to not just gather state facts, but to write a paragraph about the beauty she witnessed.  I love how self motivated she was for that....I came home from the post office and she had taped it to the garage door for me to see!  It made me happy to my toes!

I'm still trying to figure out how to make grammar fun and exciting for both of us.  We are enjoying the Daily Grams (a big hat tip to Kris for putting that on our radar!)....but....well....a piece of paper kind of pales in comparison to the other hands-on learning we've been doing this week.  Any ideas?

How was your week?  Check out what everyone has been doing at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschooler's Weekly Wrap-Up.

Happy Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Parenting "Adult" Children

Image from SharingMachine
I am conflicted and constantly checking myself in regards to parenting my oldest.  I mean when do you stop mothering them?

I admit I am one angst filled mama.

I worry when she drives (not that those three four accidents would be any reason to worry!).

I worry that she is too blunt with her friends.  She isn't always one to participate in social norms.  It is a very big part of what I love about her, but I do hope that her friends have the same tolerance as we do.

I worry that we haven't done a good enough job in helping her understand money.  I trust that she has an amazing work ethic, but she can also spend with that same laser focus.

It appears that most of what I worry about are the things I haven't spent enough time or energy teaching or encouraging her.

I believe I need to get over myself.

She is a competent adult.  She will be moving out someday soon.  She will make her own way.  I'll get to experience a different relationship with her.

Yep.  I need to just get over myself.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Our 3rd Grade Curriculum

Last year had quite the learning curve for me.  I am so list oriented that there were times when I forgot about the learning and just focused on the accomplishing.

A lot of what we used last year wasn't a great fit.  I wasn't confident enough to change midyear, but I did give a bunch of different stuff a try at the end of the year.  Most of the new stuff that we have chosen to use this year seem to come from Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.  Thank you, Kris!  T especially thanks you!!

We enjoyed First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind last year and we'll use level 3 this year.  It's funny, T did a great job utilizing what she learned in her writing...if only you could decipher what she was spelling!

This year, however, I've only purchased the Instructor Guide.  We ended up not using the Student Notebook last year because the lines were much bigger than her writing.  She found it easier to use her Handwriting Without Tears paper.

We are also going to use Daily Grams (grade 3).  I found that they were a great way to start the day and fun review for T.


This year we are going to stick with Step Up to Writing.  Last year we used Writing With Ease, but it was a bit monotonous for us.  We will continue to use the narration skills we learned last year when we do our history.

I am also going to try to encourage more creative writing.  We are working through Small World's WordSmithery.  Last year, her program reignited the passion lost while we struggled through Writing With Ease.

We are going to try out All About Spelling (level 3).  We weren't thrilled with our choice from last year and are ready for a change.

For vocabulary we will continue using our fun folders for Greek and Latin Roots by Trisha Callella.  It was relatively painless and she has been able to use what she has learned in other areas.  I love to see the relevance!

This year we are going to play more...and use Mammoth Math (grade 3 Light Blue Series).  I printed some of the free worksheets for her and then ended up purchasing it through the Homeschoolers Buyers Coop at a huge discount.  We started using it at the end of last year after we had finished Singapore 2B and T enjoyed it.  I think that I am going to have the whole thing printed and bound.  Sometimes it's just easier for me to have it in hand rather than on the computer.

I didn't love science last year.  T didn't love science last year.  Zero fun.  This year I was thinking that I would try to develop my own science, but now I have cold feet and we're going to try R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey.  I'm going to get Life and Earth & Space to fill in the blanks (she has already done a bit from both in the last two years).


We are sticking with The Story of the World (vol. 3 Early Modern Times).  We were maniacs last year and went through vol. 1 AND 2!  We loved it.  The not-very-creative me loved the student activity pages.  It was a treat and we just couldn't seem to help ourselves from going on to the next chapter.  I don't think it was the wisest of decisions, though.  This year, I think that we will try supplementing with even more books and activities in hopes of going deeper, not faster.

We mix it up with me reading aloud, T reading aloud, and listening to it read by Jim Weiss.  We have supplemented it with Sonlight's Book of Time (a blank timeline book from 5,000 BC to the present) and their timeline figures (stickers to color).  We also reference The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia.

BIBLE/MEMORIZATION:  I am still on the hunt for an appropriate Proverbs study.  I am considering using the Generations with Vision Proverbs Study Guide, but I'd like to slip through it before I buy.  I would like to tie in our study with memorization.  We are big on memorization and will also memorize some poems and other verses from our Bible.


  We are going to use Harmony Fine Arts for music and art appreciation.  We also took Jimmie's suggestion to purchase the Art Page-a-Day Gallery Calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I tried to use this last year, but they were already sold out when I read her post.  Ours for 2011 just came in the mail last week.

For our Nature Study we are going to use Harmony Arts Handbook for Nature Study.  She posts challenges each week and that seems about our speed.


We will continue working through her Handwriting Without Tears workbook, but I will quickly transition to an emphasis on keyboarding.  I know that may be a cop out, but the act of writing is laborious for her.  Her hands don't work as quickly as her brain.  We need to find a work around for her.


I would like to be more deliberate with T's PE this year.  Last year she did swim team, but this year we are not going to always be in town so I need something we can take with us.  So far I have hiking and yoga.  It's a start....right?!

So that's it.  That is going to be our year.  We'll be back in Alaska for the first part of the school year and who knows where for the rest.  I am adjusting to our vagabond style of making a fact, I may prefer it!  I'm enjoying the new sites and I'm ok with our new definition of "home;" it's definitely the people, not the structure or the geography.

If you are interested, here is 2009-2010 curriculum choices.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Our Alaskan Adventure

Here we are in Alaska trying to figure out how to leave our home for the next few months and stay up here while my husband is working.  T and I are headed home tomorrow, but we'll be back soon.
Alaska is gorgeous.  We went north on the highway a bit and discovered that they have crazy-beautiful parks right along the highway.  Stranger still is that it seems as though everyone drives the speed limit!
We've seen moose on the side of the road and pet moose at a reindeer farm.  We learned that caribou and reindeer are basically the same creatures; one's just domesticated (like horse v. mustang, I guess).  Did you know that the males, females, and babies all grow antlers during the summer?  The only thing that grows faster is bamboo.  The antlers have a blood supply so it's a way for them to cool down in the summer.
We also went to a musk ox farm.  Musk ox are like prehistoric goats.  They comb them once a year to get their qiviut.  The wool/hair gets spun and then sent is to the Oomingmak Knitters Coop which knit these freakishly warm scarves, hats, smoke rings (nachaqs), and if you are really feeling wealthy, a blanket (it costs $10,000 to commission!).
We've been to Earthquake Park and Kincaid Park (where we saw the moose).  Earthquake Park is where the Good Friday earthquake of 1964 is commemorated.  Hello... a magnitude 9.2 earthquake!!!  Freaky stuff for someone like me who does not care one bit for the earth moving.
I'm certain I'd never tire of the scenery here.  T and I are plotting our return!!