Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just another day in the life

We read our chapter in The Phantom Tollbooth outside in the playhouse. They were excited at first, but the same ebb and flow of attention ensued. I will have to try giving them modeling clay as suggested by a friend. The chapters are so short I'm getting a little frustrated with them for not paying attention. They haven't given this book a chance from day one. (I know that I am not a bad reader, either. I can be fairly entertaining to listen to...I think.) Especially, my eleven-year-old who is setting the mood for the other children. Maybe I will have to pick a different book for her and read to them separately.

Then we came in and crafting some animal on paper. Parts of their bodies are made from leaves. It was really fun for me. Aria had to do something different. It seems like she has to make the project her own some how. Which is fine. I think it's kind of an independence thing. Some way to state the fact that she's an individual with her own ideas. I just wish she would put a little more thought and effort into them. Maybe if I take more of an interest in her ideas she'll take more pride in them

She drew a snowman and then wrote a little story about it. The story was suscipiously similar to Frosty the Snowman, but she's practicing writing. Maybe it'll spur a little more writing and little more of her own creativity.

We practiced our math facts. Both Casey and Aria did wonderfully. They are actually memorizing the facts. Aria is really fast at the onces we're practicing. I wonder if I should skip ahead to the next set with her, since seems to have these already.

Aria and I played a fun game of WAR. She won. Casey and I played Addition Rummy and he won. They played their educational games online and then we called it quits.

I may have to start a new book tomorrow. Nanny bought them a Junie B. Jones book. It has a Halloween theme and they both eye-balled it like it was a steak. I'll be sad to give up on The Phantom Tollbooth, but the love of language is the goal.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Continuing Education

We are and I am. We started the day with more from The Phantom Tollbooth. This book has such great words in it. It plays on words in such a fun way. I love it, but I'm afraid much of it is lost on the children. There are words in there that even I don't know. It's neat how the language is simple but the vocabulary thrown in is higher level.

The interest from the children ebbs and flows. Connor is sometimes very loud and distracting, but I love that he wants to be with us while we're reading. Especially, since we're trying to learn an appreciation for language. Maybe we will see how warm the playhouse feels tomorrow morning. We can read in there if it's not too hot.

I had Aria start a writing journal today. I told her to write about anything for fifteen minutes. She gave me permission to post it.

My Summer!
By Aria

My summer was awesome! I love to go swimming on Summer Break! But it gets hot here is the summer. It goes up to 100 degrees in the summer.

By Aria

I love my family because they take good care of me and they'll never give up on me. They buy me clothes, food, they give me lots of love and care. On my birthday they get me gifts and that's better then nothing. Casey may not like me, but I know my other family does, like Connor, Mommy, Daddy, Loli, Nanny, and Paw Paw. My family dances and sings, but sometimes they're embarrassing. Lol. But most of the time they defend me.

I especially like the part about her family will never give up on her. I hope she knows that to be true with all her heart.

Casey and I colored an 'M' and an 'S' and reviewed the sounds they make. We looked at some flashcards with 'M' words and 'S' words. I taught them a funny song for the 'M' sound. He knows the sounds and did just wonderfully.

Ronnie came home early from work because he wasn't feeling up to snuff. So, I took the kids to the park to collect more leaves for another Fall craft project. We played on the park equipment, took a long hike and climbed a scary 'cliff' face and saw squirrels and a lizard. Oh, and we collected leaves.

Then we practiced our math facts with the dreaded worksheet. I only had Casey do the first ten and he whipped through them in just a few seconds. Aria went through 30 of them very quickly, including the new ones. Then we played a game of addition rummy and Casey won. He wanted to play another game and Aria didn't. She went off to play and Casey and I played another game. I won that one.

At one point he had a 1, 3, 0, and -. (In this game we have to make a true mathematical statement.) He put the 1 down then the - and the 3 = 0. I asked him how he could take three away from one, but it didn't matter to him that you couldn't. He just thought I've got one and if I start taking them away I'll have zero. I told him that was math for later and we couldn't do that in this game. :)

I also learned quite a bit about brakes today from my husband. I had a brief but informative tutorial on axle assemblies, drum brakes, disc brakes, read wheel drive, and front wheel drive. Don't quiz me on any of it, but I think I have a decent understanding. Enough to be sure that I could never do any brake work on any vehicle ever.

Why would anyone ever stop learning? It's so funny!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


We're all kinda tired and lethargic today. We got a chapter read in The Phantom Tollbooth. We colored with crayons and chalk. Casey taped words all over the house like 'wall' and 'hat'. He sounded them out and figured out where to put them. It was fun for awhile. I'm impressed that he is doing as well as he is with the little formal training we did. We do have to get him to memorize which is 'm' and which is 'w'. He still gets those confused. I think I may use the "Teach a Child to Read in 100 Lessons" just for a reference.

Aria and I reviewed math facts and played war and both kids played iknowthat.com. Casey said he hates the way we are reviewing the math facts. I told him we wouldn't do so many and maybe that will help. I think I'll time test Aria tomorrow show her how well she knows this stuff. She's doing well with the worksheet review and the games we're playing.

We are progressing and I am proud of all of us. Maybe we'll have to celebrate each month of school with a little party at home or something. :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


We are continuing to study our addition facts. Aria has the ones we're working on memorized. Casey is still struggling a bit. I don't know if I need to go back and do the +2's with him? I think Friday's will be timed test day, but only if the facts are mastered. I think it'll really give them a boost of self esteem if they can do these facts quickly and accurately.

We began reading The Phantom Tollbooth yesterday. So far they are only mildly interested. I think Casey likes it a bit more then Aria does. I wish we could make reading time a little more enjoyable. They are likely to be wandering around or wanting a drink. We could really get into a book in short period of time if they'd quit milling about. :) I need to find a spot in the house that is more fun, dark, comfortable, secret. We need to create a reading fort, I think.

Yesterday, we made a Fall craft from a tracing of their hands. Today we created BINGO cards with addition facts on them. Then we played BINGO. We had a good day. They half-heartedly moaned about doing school but then they participated pretty well.

I feel like we are getting into a good routine. I will slowly add more work over time. I want to add science, history, geography, but I don't want them to be overwhelmed. (I don't want to be overwhelmed for that matter.) I would, also, love to add some type of outing every week. Anything, from park day to visiting the post office. Those outings will keep us sane through the Winter.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What did we do today?

I announced it was the first day of Fall and the kids seemed kinda excited. I read them The Tiny Seed. Casey was riveted, but Aria and Connor were busy playing their own game. I realize the book was way below Aria's level, but I wish she would have let the boys enjoy it.

Then we used their crisp, new, waxy smelling Crayolas. We all colored Fall Themed pictures. We have our 'stained glass' leaf project hanging in the front window and now our coloring pages. It makes me smile to see the season and my children represented. To see evidence of our time together hanging in the window is heart warming.

We went through our math facts according to a method I found online. It suggested teaching only a few facts at a time until they are mastered. Then introduce new ones. Aria didn't like this method because when you get one wrong you have to got back and do two previous problems and the one you missed. She doesn't like extra work, but we got through it. Casey seemed to enjoy this method a little more then Aria.

Then we played Addition War. Aria really liked that game and Casey hated it when he started losing. So he quit and I kept playing with Aria. I'm glad she liked it. They both wanted to play BINGO so we may have to do that tomorrow.

Then it was time for our educational computer games, but Aria chose to READ instead. Last night, too, when I told her it was time to get off the computer she sat at the kitchen table all alone and read for quite some time. It is SO gratifying to see her enjoying a book for the sake of enjoying it.

Casey did play educational games a bit, but he was distracted by some racing game which Connor was playing. So that wasn't very successful, but even the fun games are teaching him something. Usually, strategy and numbers.

I love when we are all sitting together around the table with our math cards or we are all sitting on the bed together with our 'story candle' and a book. I become aware very often of how good it feels for all of us to do these things together and to see the kids enjoying it. These are good days.

Friday, September 19, 2008

System Failure Shut Down Imminent

Just kidding. The joyous enthusiasm, which Casey and Aria enjoyed in the first week or so, is steadily waning. I am trying to make this fun. I guess it's kind of like going to get your tooth pulled and someone says it's fun 'cause there's a clown in the room. Just because I think it's fun doesn't mean they do. Just because I'm a clown, doesn't mean I'm fun. (Really, I'm more of a doofus. That's not the same as a clown, is it?) We're always going to have days like these I guess.

Yesterday and today we read letters from people doing wonderful and kind things for others. Aria made several comments, yesterday and today, about how good it is that these people did wonderful things and how sad it was that people suffered. We talked about ways we could be kind to one another and we role-played some situations that happen in our house. I want the children to understand how to better deal with their clashes and I am hoping to develop, in all of us, deep empathy.

A while later, Casey came to me and said, "Mom, I found something under your pillow. I didn't put it there. Come look." I knew right away he had drawn a picture for Ronnie and me. (I had made that suggestion earlier.) He was very adamant that this drawing was not his. I told him the drawing made me so happy I had to kiss him. He felt good, I could tell. We showed Aria, too. She said, "Oh, that's really nice." She played along well. We left it under Daddy's pillow so he can find it later.

I love that he thought about doing that after we discussed it this morning. I love that he did it of his own accord and enjoyed the feeling. I hope that Aria will do something so we can give her the same praise and good feeling. I'll have to be on the look out for things I can praise her for or this will be another exercise in how Casey's the good, thoughtful one and Aria's the self-centered one. She's not really, but the perception is that we think so and we need to change that.

We played some more Math Basketball, yesterday, after I taught a little lesson to both Aria and Casey. I showed them all of the addition problems which add up to ten. I laid them on the table and asked if they could discern what the cards had in common. Aria said they were all addition problems. Casey said they all added to ten. I was impressed with both of them for being so observant. I was especially impressed that Casey, after quickly adding the first two problems in his head, decided that the rest of the cards added to ten also. Aria and I looked at each other in amazement.

I brought out a couple of the corresponding subtraction problems, too. I showed them how the numbers become reversed and if you know the addition facts you readily know the subtraction facts also. They both seemed to grasp the concept fairly quickly.

Today, we just sat outside and reviewed the facts that add up to ten. We looked at the ones that add up to nine. I tried to get them to practice a few of the stack of flashcards, but their hearts were not in it and I could not convince them to manufacture any artificial heart. Which is, to continue with the cardiac theme, disheartening.

I spoke with Aria, afterward, to try to convince her of the necessity of working everyday. I told her I felt that I wasn't pushing them very hard at all. We are able to be outside everyday and do fun things. I explained to her that even if she were to become America's Next Top Model, she would still need to know how to read complicated contract documents and know whether her agent was taking 20% or 80% of her money. She said she would try harder. I spoke with Casey, too, and he said he would try.

We played educational games online for 45 minutes. Casey played longer because he was enjoying it so much.

We're having a lot more interaction and good conversations. So, I need to realize that just because we're not discussing the Pythagorean Theorem, yet, we are learning valuable things. We are making progress and we will continue to make progress. All of us together.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


We didn't do much in the way of "school work" today, but the kids are really enjoying this new website we found, iknowthat.com. And it really has a wide range of subjects. Both Aria and Casey said that science is their favorite. They played for and hour or so this morning.

Aria read us our short story today. The boys had a hard time paying attention, but I listened. She said she liked that story. Then we made this cool leaf project that is supposed to emulate stained glass. It was a little stressful at first because no one seems particularly interested in doing anything today. As we continued they got into it.

We're skipping math today. No one is in the mood. But I count today as a success. We spent time together. They learned. They had a good time and we made something pretty.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

We've had some really nice days

The weather as been so beautiful these past few days. We have tried to take advantage of it by being outside quite a lot. Yesterday we had a bit of an abbreviated day, but we still accomplished some good work. We read our story, Red Leaf Yellow Leaf, outside around the table. We talked about planting our own tree. It was nice to be outside with the kiddos.

Then we played some more math basketball, which the kids love. I just would like to see them committing some of the problems to memory. I'm going to have to figure out a more systematic way to study these equations so that they remember them. Maybe I'll start some fact family work with them.

Then they played on Funbrain. Aria wasn't so much into doing any kind of work yesterday, but I still managed to encourage her to get something done. I think that Mondays are going to turn out to be a little tougher in terms of attitude and work ethic.

Then last night Ronnie, Chris, Aria and I sat around a campfire and drummed. Aria has a real aptitude for drumming. She can readily hear the beats and adds her own into the mix with pretty good skill. I'd like to see her work more with rhythms, maybe she'll find that drumming is her forte. She can have that in common with her Daddy.

I've had a few moments in the last two days where I have stepped back and looked at an experience we are having and I am thankful for it. Drumming with my girl, walking with my kids, talking to them about nature, seeing them enjoy roasting marshmallows and playing at the park in the dark. This is a far better life then one where I go to work everyday and they go to school everyday. We would not have the quality or quantity of experience we have now.

Today, was even better then yesterday, although, I am still getting resistance from Aria. We again read outside. This time a poem called Ten Tall Oak Trees. We talked about what it would be like without trees. I explained they were important because they provide oxygen, help other plants to grow, Aria said they provide shade, and I said we would miss being able to climb and swing on them.

We then had a very nice, long walk. We collected leaves, rocks, sticks, acorns and plants. Then we created leaf collages on paper for Grandpa Braun, who is having a knee replacement today. Aria wasn't too into this craft and was having difficulty mustering enough motivation to work today. So we talked about what craft she would like to do. I tried getting her to color a geometrical design, but there was no enthusiasm there either. I asked her to think about how much she enjoys looking back at the get well cards she received from her class in third grade. I asked her to think about doing something for Grandpa that will make him feel like those make her feel. She made him a very nice card with a poem on the back. She really did a sweet and thoughtful card.

They are now playing on a new educational website we found and they are having a really good time with them. Casey's learning about optics and Aria's pretending to go through a whole day of school with all the different classes. When I told her she could be done at three she said, "Awww, I'm having fun with this." I told her she could play that site as much as she wanted.

These are really great days.

Friday, September 12, 2008

We have a lot of energy today

We played some fine games today. In an effort to teach all of us a little more empathy I found a fun role playing game. I put several situations in a hat. For example, 'someone one just called you a name'. The person who draws, acts out that situation telling the other person what happened. So, making a sad face and using a very pitiful voice you would say, "someone just called me a name." The other person would then respond appropriately with comfort or a suggestion on how to remedy the situation, i.e. telling a grown up.

Casey and Aria both acted and responded very well. Comforting and identifying with each other and helping each other through their difficulty or their exciting situation. Aria, in particular, enjoyed this game because she could break out her great acting skills. She wanted to create an entire one-act play out of each situation.

We then read more of Beauty and the Beast. The kids were all interested in the story today and paid good attention. I think in the future I need to talk with them more about the story and ask them how the characters are feeling and what they enjoyed about the chapters we read. I need to engage them more to help them experience the story instead of just 2 dimentionally listening.

We then played a rousing game of basketball flashcards. Using addition flashcard today, the children answered and then if they got it correct they took a shot a the basket, a bucket on the floor. If they hit the rim they got 1 point, if they got it in they got 2. A total miss got no points. They were so loud and rambunctous that we could barely continue the game, but I guess that means they enjoyed it. I told them each their scores in private and instructed them not to tell each other. I told them that this is the score they must beat next time and that it was not a competition between the two of them, but are only competing with themselves. I may next time just give them points for answering correctly and then letting the shoot at the basket for extra or no points.

They are now playing on Funbrain again. I think we had a good time today. I feel good about the empathy training and I hope to add similar things weekly. I need it as much as the children do. We get too caught up in our own feelings too often.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Calm Down

Yesterday we took a lazy day. This morning we got a late start, but we did eventually get to read and play a few 'educational' computer games. We made lemon bars together and did a few flashcards.

Then I screwed up. Aria and Casey have been in a hurry to get through our routine since Monday and I guess it's offending me 'cause I'm not pushing very hard. I'm trying to make it fun. I had a long conversation/lecture with Aria. I found out that she thinks learning is stupid. I think she really believes that too. But it's not the learning she doesn't like it's the working. We are all incredibly lazy in my house.

I don't know why I let her opinions offend me like I do. I don't know why I can't step away from this child and be more objective in my responses. I mean why did I have to take her comments so personally? She thinks working hard for something is stupid. Do I get upset because I'm scared for her? Do I get upset because I feel like her lack of education will be a reflection on me and my ability to teach my children? Why can't I just let those comments go and subtly show her the way?

Well, I don't know exactly why, but I have to learn to do it. I am not helping my child or our relationship by going on and on about how she's wrong to think the way she does or by getting angry at her. I can show her what it means to work hard by setting a good example first. I can challenge her and help her to push herself. I have to let the anger and fear go. It's her life not mine.

So Calm Down!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Let's keep this up

I just looked at my schedule for the month. It looks as if we skipped a week of preparation. Our schedule was to have been to get up and go for a walk and enjoy some music time for the first week and then add storytime, math, and crafts the next week. We have instead decided to skip walks and institute story time this week. We've read Beauty and Beast, Mul de Plier The Girl From the Land of Plenty, and East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon.

The kids seemed to enjoy the first two stories but they weren't as enthusiastic about the third. But we did a craft associated with East O' the Sun and they seemed to warm to the story a little more in doing that. We did stick puppets of the characters. I'm hoping to print out the play I found and see if the kids will put it on for the video camera.

We listened to some kids' music and few of Aria's choices and then had some 'educational' computer time. They played on funbrain.com, which is Aria's favorite at this time. Lastly, we played 'bet you can't' with our addition flashcards. Which is a game where we bet play money that the other person can't get so many correct in a row. Both Casey and Aria are good at this game and enjoy it. Yesterday, we played the same game with multiplication. I am impressed with both my children's understanding of the concept of multiplication.

I'm proud of how we've done and I've really enjoyed the last week with my children. Today I felt, from them, a little bit of reluctance to a routine. I'm hoping it doesn't become something they dread. I guess I'll have be sure to choose very interesting stories.

Aria's been trying out some new vocabulary. I've noticed she's not so fearful of using bigger words although they are not always used in the correct way. Today, she found two empty paper towel rolls and handed one to Connor saying, "Take this as a token of my gratitude and let's have a war. Let's fight."

Casey, too, uses great words and will usually cause me to laugh every day. Yesterday, they were playing some pretend game and Aria was calling herself Ashley. Casey didn't want a pretend name and I said, "Casey Ryan is a great name because it means brave little king and Connor's name means valiant and wise. Aria means Poetic One." I think Aria teased Casey at that point and said his name meant something goofy and Casey responded by saying, "I think Ashley means, pathetic." I had to giggle at that one.

Now we're all doing our own thing again, but the nice thing is that even though our schooling day is over I know they haven't stop learning. They are reading, typing, figuring out strategies, learning social intricacies, and a host of other things I can't see.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I like my children

We started the day well. I told Aria we weren't turning on the TV or the computer until we got done with school. She looked unhappy at first, but I reminded her that if she wanted to go to high school we had to do school like they do. I told Casey about the situation when he got up and he said, but didn't you say I didn't have to work if I didn't want to? I said, things have changed. He asked how they've changed and I said we're gonna do a little bit of fun school everyday of the week. Monday through Friday. Then he seemed to accept it with some indifference.

We had Main Lesson time. We read about Mul de Plier from the land of plenty. :) And they drew pictures of what they were hearing. They seemed to enjoy the story pretty well. Then we painted with watercolors and listening to DJ Aria's playlist. I made lunch and the children all played house together. IN THEIR ROOMS. Their very own idea.

How nice it's been so far. No TV and no games. No whining or crying or arguing over finishing a TV show or game on the computer. Aria being responsive and talkative. I wish everyday was like this. I like my children and I feel like they are much happier people when the TV and the computer goes off. Unschoolers, please, don't picket me if you read this. :)

I'm finding that our deschooling seems to be completing itself. We went for a long time without any agenda or school at home type time table. And when the other children on the street started school Miss Aria decided it was time for her to start also. Little did she know that I had already created an outline of the school year and planned to institute a Waldorf inspired schedule. I am still not pressing too hard. I don't want it to become an ugly battle to get boring worksheets done in order to play, but I am hoping we will all learn together. I hope we all learn because we all realize that it feels so good to learn. It's not about grades or competition but about bettering ourselves. We want to be able to like who we are and be confident in ourselves and what we know.

A good day and I like my children.