Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When a Dad's Work Pulls Him Away

I don't write much about our life beyond homeschooling, but my husband's job is one of the reasons we love the flexibility of homeschool!  In my husband's industry, he pretty much works away from home; like plane rides away from home.  Each job is 4-6 months long with crazy long hours and not a lot of opportunity to sneak back home.

It's heart breaking for him.  He misses those accidental moments with his daughters....with me.  He misses the drop in visits from friends and family.  He misses the house we've worked so hard on.  He misses so much.

We started contemplating moving somewhere a little less insane (money wise) so maybe we could reinvent how we grab our income and he could be home more.  At that exact moment in time when we were finally brave enough to make the move, it became abundantly clear that we needed to stay put.

At what cost?  We'll find out...I guess.

I know this is our new normal (not too much filming going on in SoCal these days), but it's tough.  I've been pretty good about not whining.  We've seen some amazing places.

It's just so darn hard.

I'm ready for a break.

Here are some things that we have tried to do to make the away time go a little faster:

  • FaceTime (gotta love iPhone!)
  • I still wait on big decisions (and even not so big decisions) until I speak with him
  • I try to keep the house running so he doesn't have a long list of honey-do's when he gets home
  • The big girls text him regularly and even though he really is Speed Racer's dad (a total Ludite), he'll text back
  • I keep it positive (or try to) for both his sake and for the girls' sakes
  • I'm realistic and open with the girls on how difficult it is on everyone - it seems to keep the difficulty from growing into a monster-sized pity party
  • I try to be super frugal so the money he makes goes as far as it can
  • I try my best to keep my whiny days to myself (or to a dear friend) - my husband already feels horrible because he can't be home
  • When we visit, we do our touristy stuff while he is at work so when he is "home," we are with him - we are happy to just be with him
So we trudge through our own unique way of defining family.  We are thankful for the work.  We find the stamina to support each other and we pray.  We pray a lot!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Our 4th Grade Curriculum

I'm not really ready for school to start this year.  As not at all ready.  I'm feeling a little accomplished in that I've narrowed down our curriculum for this year...pretty cool in that we start on MONDAY!  Ugh!


Last year went pretty well for us so we are going to stick with what worked for T and add a little extra (Editor in Chief, Word Benders, Greek & Latin Roots) here and there.

For grammar we will use Daily Grams 4 (a nice little 5 minute warm up to the day) and First Language Lessons, Level 4 (T loves diagraming sentences...really).  I think we are supposed to use Daily Grams with Easy Grammar, but First Language Lessons just seems to work for us.


Last year we used Mammoth Math (loved it!) and supplemented with lots of games and books.  It was a great year and it reignited T's love of math.  So, of course, this year I'm going to mix it up.  I know.  I'm nuts.  It just seemed as though Mammoth Math 4 would need a whole lot of additional teaching to keep up with our state standards.  I am in no way asserting that our state's standards are the be-all for math, but she is ready for more.  So....

We are using Teaching Textbooks 5 and will supplement with Singapore 4 (last year we supplemented with Singapore and it seemed like a good balance).

If you do decide to use Teaching Textbooks, be certain to use their placement tests.  My not-really-a-math girl placed higher than I thought she would.  I may end up bumping her up to 6 mid-year (thank goodness for our charter school's financial support of our curriculum!!).  We'll see.


We have worked on geography the last couple of years just through our travels and history.  This year I wanted to be more deliberate in our study.  We are going to try Daily Geography Practice, Grade 4.


We have fallen in love with The Story of the World.  This year we will use The Story of the World, Volume 4.  There are some weeks that we just read, talk, and take the test (boring) and other weeks we do a bazillion activities (fun!) to go along with the chapter.  I like the flexibility and I'm thrilled that we'll be going through it again.


We will create our own science units again this year.  Last year was a ton of fun and we learned a lot. Our topics this year will be water/oceans/waves, chemistry, and horticulture.  We are going to include some our homeschool friends in our studies so it should be even more fun this year.


I cannot recommend Harmony Fine Arts enough.  We loved her guidance last year and we were thrilled to visit museums and actually see some of the artists' work.  It was like a celebrity thing.  The rest of the museum visitors thought we were a little nuts...but whatever.


We are going to keep working with Typing Pal with a little lot more diligence this year.  I even have it on my schedule so I don't blow it off. : /


We went to a homeschool conference this year (my first) and heard Susan Wise Bauer (loved her!).  We stopped by her booth and found that she had a bible workbook, Telling God's Story, Year One.  It seems to be in the same vein as The Story of the World with activities for each chapter.  The book is set up to be a group (Sunday School-ish) or a homeschool workbook.  We may slow it down and do a chapter every two weeks.

Boy, it seems as though we've added quite a bit since last year and have yet to cull anything.  Yikes!  We may end up slowing down a lot of the extras.  We'll see.  Last year she was wanting more.  It's always a struggle to find that balance.  Thankfully with homeschooling we can have the flexibility to be....well....flexible!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Just Like Riding a Bike

So, I've learned a little bit this year.

My 9 year old learned a little bit, too.  She learned her times tables, long division, how to diagram sentences, all about the moon, our planets, our stars, and energy.  She discovered a love for fractions and writing.  She also finally learned how to ride a bike by herself....at 9 years old.

I have to admit; I was a bit embarrassed that my 9 year old could not yet ride a bike.  However, every time I tried to teach her it was a lesson in frustration.  I would run behind her, holding the bike up as my little passenger coasted.  As soon as I let go, she would topple over to the left....to the right....it didn't matter.  She just couldn't grasp it.

Last summer, I gave up.  I was proud of myself for not being the creepy, guilt-producing mom.  I just stopped offering it as an activity.

To be honest about it, I kind of forgot about being embarrassed.  I didn't really care that she couldn't ride a bike.  That is until I saw a little 4 year old peddling his little heart out on a family bike ride. *sigh*

Then a couple of weeks ago she asked for me to pump up the tires on her bike.  Hmmm.  Ok.  I did.  She hopped on and I took my place behind her and we began the same game as every other time.  It wasn't going to work.  Surprisingly, I still didn't care.  I just told her to coast around and when she felt comfortable, to peddle.

I went inside.

I got my coffee mug and heard a shout, "Mom!  I'm doing it!  I'm doing it!"

Yes, she was.  She was riding her bike.

That was it.  She just needed to do it on her time.  She needed to do it when she was the driver and not just the vaguely participating passenger.

And, looking back, her mastery of most everything has been in her time.  She stopped nursing on her own, she walked when she was ready, and she potty trained when she was ready.  This last year she mastered long division in a day after she had mulled it around for a week or so and then asked me how to do the "big" numbers.  The same thing happened with fractions.  I didn't really teach her.  I just guided her.
T reading her Life of Fred book while I'm shopping for flooring

There were some things that I forced the readiness upon her.  Things like swimming.  She knew how to swim before she was a year old.  She hated every minute of it, but we live in So. Cal. where everyone (including us) has a pool.  She learned to swim.  And now she loves it and she loves the pics of her as a baby swimming, but there was no way she was "ready" to learn to swim that young.  I don't regret teaching her that one!

I hope that I've learned to wait for her readiness to be the driver.  I hope that I'll remember how easy it is to teach when your student is primed and ready for the learning.  I hope I'll remember that homeschooling is just like riding a bike.  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Confessions of a Serial Curriculum Checker Outer

I must confess I had an epiphany last week.

In regards to curriculum for our soon to be 4th grader, I need to do a lot less looking and a lot more doing!

Intentions don't equate to learning.

Great ideas without implementation don't equate to learning.

Unused curriculum doesn't work either.

I'm all about getting new ideas to keep things exciting, however lately I've been spending much too much time looking through options for next year.  I am distracted from the business of finishing 3rd grade.

So much of this homeschool thing is so deliberate and takes such willpower.  I suppose it's time to grow up and try on some of that maturity my years on this earth were supposed to give me.

It is time for me to focus on the job at hand.

I am putting myself on a curriculum research time out.

Starting now.

Poor T.  Her holiday is over.

Happy Monday to her!!