Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Phew! Is this week over, yet?

Yesterday, the children woke with so much energy that I had to fore go any thought of structured teaching. We went outside and kicked the ball around. Aria read us a chapter in our Junie B book and the kids played a bit on some educational websites. That's why we do this, though, right? I can move with the ebb and flow of my children's energies. Teachers in school cannot.

Today, I took a bit of a personal day. I tried to encourage the kids to play on some educational websites again. They did for a short time, but they really just wanted to do their own thing today. That's just fine. I having been feeling like a little bit of do your own thing was inevitable.

My dear husband and I are planning on doing a major junk purge to clean out the house, garage, shed. I am going to have to prep for that and I need to look at what we're doing with school. I want to make sure we're enjoying each other's company and learning as well.

We have some new animal additions to the household. Three baby gerbils, but I'll be darned if I can't find the camera to take their pictures. Ronnie, also, carved some awesome pumpkins for the kiddos and I want to take a picture of those, too. Can someone, please, divine were the darn camera is?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday, again

Well, we seem to be doing more in less time. I can't tell what's going on, exactly. It maybe that we are doing less wandering aimlessly between 'subjects' or the children are hurrying to get through the work so they can do their own thing. Casey seems to enjoying his learning time. Aria enjoys our reading time, I think.

I feel that I have to be careful the direction I take from this point forward. I'm seeing a little of the old 'I don't want to do this, it's stupid' attitude from my dear daughter. I may have her blog about it and see if she can't tell me what's going on.

We read "Eloise Takes a Bawth" today. Aria loves Eloise. Then Casey and I colored snowmen with letters on them. We cut them out and match the top hat with the lower case letter to the snowman with the cooresponding upper case letter. Aria colored some Halloween themed pages and she blogged for Casey.

We did our math worksheet. Casey forgot some of the facts from last week. I'm confused because the last two days he's gone right through them without any problem. Aria, too, has a few to memorize. I just need to go slowly. Maybe we should take a break from the worksheet and play some flashcard games.

Casey's Phrase of the day: "Say what, Mama with the big butt?" That's lovely, son. Thank you.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Larvae vs Rainbows

In our home, rainbows don't hold a candle to larvae. We went outside today to 'make' a rainbow by reflecting sunlight off of a mirror held under the water. The rainbow is reflected onto a piece of paper held above the mirror. Personally, I thought this to be quite amazing and fun. I wish I could have shared it with my lovely children, but a larva was found near our experimentation site. I'm afraid larva trumps rainbow.

We found out that the larva is probably an acorn moth. Specifically, Cydia splendana, I believe. I don't know what so splendid about this thing. It's pretty gross, in my opinion. I enjoy looking at different types of insects and spiders, but this one is just disgusting. Sorry, Refracted Light you just aren't cool enough. Maybe if you were a bit slimy looking and had creepy grasping legs you'd have a chance. :)

Seriously, though, I am glad the children like nature and want to care for these creatures. I am hoping that they will someday feel the same sense of responsibility for their Earth that I do. I hope they understand the importance of caring for the only home we have and feel driven to do what they can to accomplish that.

Let me backtrack now and start at the beginning of the day with Casey. He found me in the office, as usual, with my cup of coffee. I was printing the day’s worksheets which he spied and wanted to know what they were. So, I showed him the letter matching worksheet I planned for later. He wanted to do it immediately. I told him to draw a line from the lowercase letter to the uppercase letter. He had just a little trouble with lower case 'b' and 'd'.

I have to laugh at the fleeting thoughts I have when they want to do stuff before I planned to do it. That's when I am most grateful for unschooling. In the past I may have said, "No, those worksheets are for Language Time." (I would have said it all know-it-all-teacher-like) What if he didn't want to do it later? What if I had to make him do it and then he didn't learn a darn thing?

A few minutes later, we were all sitting together for breakfast, a rare occurrence, and Aria wanted to start reading our new “Junie B. Jones” book. Again, I could have said, "No, let's wait till we're all done eating and we can light our Reading Candle. We can go outside and read." But, why? The child wants to read to us. We're all there. We're not so distracted by our food that we can't listen to a fun story. Yet, this is what they'd have to deal with in school everyday, the compartmentalizing of each subject into block of time when they may or may not be able or willing to participate. Not my kids.

We do try to have some sort of a schedule, but if they want to do math first or science first or dinner in the morning I don't care. All I want is for us to be happily learning and comfortably busy.

We practiced our math worksheet and did a fill in the blank worksheet. I am going to move them to the next set of facts tomorrow. We did a couple of Mad Libs which came out okay, except that the children weren't very creative with their choices of words. The stories were mildly funny, but I may have to give them multiple choice answers or a big list of adjectives, verbs, and nouns. I gave them an example of an adjective, like red. They would pick blue as their word. I, definitely, think a list would help make it more fun. Aria blogged and she started one for Casey, too. I think she likes writing under a pseudonym.

After we were done, I introduced Connor to Chilly Willy on YouTube. He wasn’t very impressed, but Woody Woodpecker was a hit. Casey came in to have a look at what we were watching and he says “Oh, you guys are watching Crazy Chicken, huh?” He made me laugh out loud with that one. He says these things with such authority sometimes. As if, there can be no other title for this show. Mostly, because what Casey says is nearly always right, in him mind anyway. Yes, son, we’re watching the Crazy Chicken cartoon.

That reminds me of one of Connor’s funny quirks. If I say, “Connor you are so cute.” He says, “No, I not. I’m Connor.” I love this. I may be reading too much into it but I like that he doesn’t want to be anything but himself. He refuses to be labeled. Maybe I’ll start using that as my motto, too. I’m not lazy, fat, busy, mother, homeschooler, disorganized, smart, stupid, or temperamental, I’m Jill.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rainy Day

Stayed up late again with the fire pit, so we got a late start today. The day is rainy and cool, not very condusive to high productivity. We finished Junie B. It ended with a good laugh.

We reviewed our math facts and I think I will start Casey on the next set tomorrow. He zipped right through the current ones. We, also, practiced counting by 5's with a worksheet. Casey is working very hard on his writing skills. I see Aria's handwriting improving, too. The numbers she wrote today seemed more adult some how. Both the children understood the exercise by the time we were done. We should be able to move on to skip counting by 2's by next week. It probably seems backward to count by 10's, then 5's and then 2's but it seems easier to me to learn them in that order.

Aria and I played WAR and she beat me again. I think the laws of probability don't apply to her. Casey and I played Addition Rummy. He wanted to change the rules in the middle of the game. He said this our game and we can make any rules we want, right? I said it'd be more fair to change the rules before we start playing so that we all get a fair chance. But in the end he put down all his cards according to his rules and then pronounced me the winner because he didn't have any cards and I did. What a sweet boy.

The kids then cleaned their rooms like crazy people. We are considering getting them gerbils, but we told them they had to show some sign that they are responsible individuals by cleaning their rooms and keeping them clean. Clean rooms have nothing to do with caring for gerbils, I realize, but...a gerbil could get lost in there and never be seen or heard from again.

Now they are demonstrating their 'karate' skills in the driveway, with a lot of gusto. :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Static Electricity

Aria read to us this morning out of our current installment of Junie B. Jones. She doing such a good job of reading with inflection and emotion. We started out at the table outside, but a visit from a bee had everyone in tense knots so we moved inside. We sat at the table and Casey colored while Aria read.

About half way through, I heard him sounding out the words on the front of the color book. "C-c-c-a-a-rrrr-e B-e-e-e-a-rrrs, I love Care Bears." He whispered. I noticed how much beginning reading is like beginning talking. You notice it a little at first and then it seems like overnight they are talking like you and me, or reading in this case.

Casey and I sat down later and typed out many words with the word processor. He doesn't have any problems with words like cat, sat, met, set, but what impressed me is that longer words don't scare him at all. He read set and said, "That's like on the computer when you push the button." I said, "That's reset." And I typed it. I had typed 'tad' and then he tried to type tadpole. He started with 'tat' and asked me how to spell pole. He was also sounding out 'broadcast' when he saw it on TV this morning. He got 'broad' all by himself.

He cracked me up, too. He's very impressed with his own abilities he said something about making a lot of money with the Amazing, Reading Six-Year-Old. I'm not gonna tell him that a lot of six-years-old kids are reading now and nobody else better tell him either. :) I can practically see the wheels turning. The comparing sounds and words. The strategies he's developing to remember them. It's VERY cool.

After reading we 'played' with static electricity. I found a cool idea on this website: http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/static.html

Step 1: Transfer some of your electrons to a balloon.

Step 2: Attract a neutrally charged object, cereal, with your negatively charged, electron-infested, balloon. :)

Step 3: Allow electrons to hop to cereal and give it a negative charge.

Step 4: The negatively charged items should repel each other.

Step 5: Wear balloons because it's fun.

Warning: Balloons are dangerous for little ones and big ones alike. If you get a balloon stuck in your throat there isn't much that can be done for you, short of a tracheostomy and the doctor who's giving it better be in the next room because there isn't time to get you to the hospital.

After our fun with static we reviewed our math facts. I think Casey is just about ready to move on to the next three facts. He should have them all memorized in a few weeks. Aria is doing well, too. I think she may need the rest of this week for these facts. She's gaining control of that brain muscle, I feel.

Then we played a game to learn counting by five's. Aria, Casey and I each had a different color crayon and we took turns writing the numbers in the five series as quickly as we could. Casey has caught on quickly and his writing is improving. Aria already knows them quite well. We have a colorful chart to look at now.

Lastly, Aria went to play some educational games and Casey and I played a cool strategy game online.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lots of stuff to talk about

We took Friday off from schooling. It was our tenth wedding anniversary. We dropped the kiddos off with family. The next morning we took Aria to an audition. We were so proud of Aria because she is not naturally extroverted. She was very nervous. Each child was to read a three sentence commercial bit in front of a casting director and the camera. I wondered if there would be a point where she would decide that she didn't want to go through with it, but she did it!

Her father and I found out pretty quickly that this was not a 'real' audition, though. It was a thinly veiled sales pitch for an acting/modeling school. If they found that your child has talent then you fork over $2k - $5k for them to attend their school from which directors draw their talent. Needless to say we were disappointed, but it was a wonderful learning experience and way to test limits.

We suggested to Aria that we look around for community productions to get involved in and read up on acting to gain the experience she's looking for. She seemed mildly interested.

It was, also, a great opportunity for Aria's daddy and me to spend some time completely on her. Aria got a new outfit, her daddy took her out to the park and took some pretty pictures of her for the audition, we ate breakfast at McDonald's on the way to the audition and after we took the elevator up to the 37th floor of the building we were in and looked out over Dallas. It was a nice time for us.

Yesterday, was a rest day and today we're back to the old grindstone. This morning we read Junie B. and reviewed the letter 'R' with Casey. We went through our math facts worksheet and played a game with the 100 chart. This time we rolled a die and we moved five spaces for every dot on the die. So, secretly, I introduced Casey to counting by fives. I showed him how all the numbers we were landing on ended in five or zero. Then Aria blogged for a bit.

Finally, we worked on some more Halloween decor. We painted our pumpkins, put up cobwebs outside, and attempted to build a giant spider out of a trash bag. The trash bag spider still needs work, but this mommy/artist ran out of gas.

The children's creative juices, however, did not end there. They began planning a 'Halloween experience'. They want to dress up the front yard and scare people. The Barbie's are now several different colors and the plan is to drop them from above somehow. Aria has decided that Sharpay is not scary enough and will now be a zombie, vampire, prom queen. I guess Casey will be a zombie, vampire, Ninja? I love to see them working together and thinking up crazy stuff.

It's been a good and tiring day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Science part II

Well, my husband got the speaker phones to work! There were some resisters attached that he removed and it seemed to make the difference. It is VERY cool. The voices are very clear. Science is so cool. Here's the wonderful website I got it from: http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/SpeakPhone/index.html

Casey and I played some educational games this morning and he actually read the word 'blossom'. I was impressed because he decoded it very quickly. He's trying more often to figure out the word and doing less guessing. He's doing it because he wants to and not because he has to. That's my favorite part of his learning to read.

Aria is turning into quite the prolific writer. She seems to be enjoying the blogging and we even found a homeschool blogger that has a lot of kids on it. It's http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/home.php

I am still planning on reading to the kids today, but dear daughter is still in bed. We had a late night. My sweet husband got a fire going for us in the backyard and we all enjoyed a night of sitting around the fire. We played guitar and drummed. It was so wonderful. Aria and I had some GREAT conversation and some wonderful cuddle time.

Casey and I talked about fire, what the sparks are made of, and the gases being released. We talked about the gas being mostly carbon dioxide and that other things that burn release gases, too. Which Casey noticed once when he cut the cord on the oscillating fan, which was plugged in at the time, and it sparked and smoked. (That was scary, let me tell you.)

Aria and I talked about personal things, about whether mermaids were real, what are the Philippines like, who does she look like, are wolves real, are werewolves real, and we talked about what she was like when she was a baby. I felt very close to her last night. I love it when she opens up.

Unschooling has taught me to appreciate that these are true learning experiences. In the past, I would have had these conversations and enjoyed them, but I probably would have forgotten them quickly. I would not have realized that they were much more then conversations with children. These questions are important. This is a need that must be fulfilled and now I can appreciate how much my children are really learning. I don't need a report card full of subjective letter grades to tell me they are learning and they are intelligent beings.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I attempted to make telephones out of an old set of speakers. Unfortunately, I couldn't get them to work. Casey was interested when I took the speakers out of their housings. Taking things apart is fun for both of us. We tested them several times, but didn't hear any sound come out. I'm really disappointed but we'll try again. Maybe we'll figure out the problem eventually.

We finished "On My Honor". When my dear daughter realized that they weren't going to find the missing boy or his body, I think, she kinda lost interest. Oh well, she persevered anyway.

Then, Casey and I played War and Aria blogged. They've played outside in the rain today, too. It's been so cool out and the overcast skies are sort of creating this cozy environment in the house.

I think about how lucky we are to experience these days together and how they don't have to be in their desks all day. They can play in the rain, play games with their mommy, eat when they are hungry, and learn at their own pace.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yeah! A book we like!

We had a wonderful reading time today. The reading candle was burning and we were sitting outside. The temperature was comfortable and a light breeze was blowing. It was very relaxing.

I started the book "On My Honor" by Marion Dane Bauer. Aria was so interested in what was going to happen to the charater, Tony, that she had me read six chapters. The boys played in the sandbox while we were reading and Casey came over a couple of times. He seemed especially interested when I read a description of one the characters flying down a hill on his bicycle. The author described it very vividly. I was totally caught up in it, too.

We made a spider web craft after storytime. Aria burned herself on the hot glue gun so it wasn't very fun for her. Casey accidently threw his web/throwing star up on the roof. The craft itself sounded good, but it didn't turn out to be very easy or aestically pleasing, in my opinion. Oh, well they can't all be winners.

I set Aria up on her very own blog. I was amazed at how much she typed in comparison to how much she will physically write. I think there may be a motor skill issue which keeps her from writing. I will need to work with her on sentence structure and grammar, but she's good at spelling. Her vocabulary will improve with reading. I'm hoping she will begin reading other homeschool children's blogs.

This blog will really be beneficial in many ways. It will allow her to express some of her feelings about homeschool that she may not be able to verbalize. It will allow her to practice her writing skills. It will clue me in to possible issues and problems she may not be voicing. She can see that there are other homeschoolers out there and we are not alone. She may even make a friend or two. She can read examples of good writing and hopefully absorb a bit of that. I'm excited about it.

Lastly, we reviewed our math worksheet. Casey moved on to the next set of three facts. We played a game with the 100 chart where we roll a die and add the result to the numbered square our playing piece is on. If you answer correctly, without counting the squares, you get to move one extra square. I found this game on this wonderful blog: http://letsplaymath.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/things-to-do-hundred-chart/

Very good job by everyone today. :)

Monday, October 13, 2008


We didn't do much today, but I am happy to report that Casey has the math facts from last week, thoroughly memorized. Aria can count backwards from one hundred by tens. Casey now recognized the W goes up and M goes down. I pretty sure he know what all the the letters of the alphabet say and he is reading a bit. I know he knows M, S, A and E for sure. Neither one of them complains very much when we start school work and they both participate well.

We worked on our math skills a bit and I tried out a bit of the book "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. I only read to Aria because I was concerned that some of the book would scare Casey, but Aria wasn't very much interested. I'll have to keep trying to find her forte when it comes to books.

I learned a very special thing yesterday while reading the reviews for the book "Deschooling Gently" by Tammy Takahashi. One of the reviewers listed the chapters in the book. One is entitled Teach Your Child As If No Other Exists. I MUST endeavor to keep that foremost in my mind at all times. I believe with all my heart that comparing and rating children is one of the most damaging things we can do to their self-esteem, but it is, also, a very difficult thing to unlearn. I am hoping to order the book soon. If I can learn something so valuable from a chapter heading, just think what may actually be held in the chapters.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ah, the weekend!

I'm so glad it's the weekend. I think we all needed a little break. I read to the children separately, yesterday. Then we colored and played iknowthat.com. We practiced our worksheet and both the kids are very close to mastering the facts we're working on. We played WAR, again.

Aria wrote a couple of silly songs/poems. One was entitled, "I Like Bacon" and the other was "I Like Candy." Casey practiced the "A" sound and colored a sheet with an ant holding an "A". I sang him a couple of silly "A" songs while he colored.

We made chocolate chip cookies afterward. All in all it was a nice day, yesterday. I've been doing research and good planning for our homeschool days. I'm feel pretty good about the progress we are making and the time we're spending together.

Yesterday, we had some excitement. Casey and his friends accidently stirred up a nest of Yellowjackets. When all was said and done. Three people were stung. Casey has seven stings, but we got him in the tub quickly and poured baking soda in the water. He's fine today.

Today, however, is a day to relax. It's lovely out and we are all enjoying slacking off.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


We had a very abbreviated school day. I, unfortunately, found Oregon Trail online. Then, more unfortunately, I spent the better part of an hour getting two of my five people to Oregon. Then I rallied my troops here at home and we made our way to the kitchen table at a snail's pace.

I attempted a book called The Light Princess. Apparently, it was too dated for my modern children. I gave up and read Hanana Montana, which went over only slighty better.

Then we practice with our math worksheet, but this time I paid them ten cents for every memorized and correct answer. I did this because I wanted to pay them in dimes and then have them count by tens. Both the kids pretty much know how to count by tens. I just wanted to verify how well they really understood. Aria has this mastered. Casey was a little more hestitant after 100, but he grasped the pattern right away. I don't think he'll need much practice before he masters counting by tens. They both are proceeding well with the math facts. There is a little hesistation with the current facts that both kids are working on. They may need to practice the same next week, but they'll have by the end of next week.

We were going to do some free form writing after math, but the neighbor tempted us with toys. The neighbor is moving and she had her daughter's old barbies and a little house that has animal people in it. So, we've spent the last hour discovering what treasure we've brought home. (Like, we need any more junk around here.)

I got some good college level books from here though. Books about writing, computers, and a pre-algebra text. Oh, well, we'll just have find other things to get ride of around here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


We kinda did the same old same old today. The kids got into some trouble this morning and so we were all kind of in a bad mood. I read to the children separately and then the two older children played on iknowthat.com.

We practiced with our math worksheet and played WAR and then we called it quits. That's about all we could handle for one day. I think I may see if I can convince them to bake cookies with me. We shall see.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


We tried out Mary Poppins today for reading time. I don't think Mary Poppins will survive another sitting, but we gave it a try.

We made egg crate carton spiders. That was fun for everyone. Even Daddy made one. He was home from work today to help me, since my back is hurt. Connor was very sad that I put the paints away while he was playing. Apparently, he wasn't done.

We practiced our math facts worksheet. Aria is amazing me with her memorization. It looks like she is getting the hang of it now. We, then, played a game I found on this blog: http://homeschoolmath.blogspot.com/2006/06/10-out-math-card-game.html
It was nice because Aria, Casey and I could all play at the same time.

I hung our spiders in various places around the house while the kids were playing a pretend game outside. (A tornado was sweeping them away from each other.) They were excited when they came in and found their spiders displayed.

We are doing so well and I am sure we will continue to improve.

Monday, October 6, 2008

We're relaxing

Friday and today have been a little relaxed. We've just read and played math games. I'm having difficulty finding time to sit down and really plan our days, but I will spend this afternoon doing that so we can be more productive the rest of the week.

I wouldn't say that we haven't been productive, though. We have had a good time together and we are enjoying the cooler weather. Spending time outside is definitely good for us. Lazy days feel so good sometimes.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Welcome to October

We took yesterday off. The public school kids had the day off for parent/teacher conferences and we took the day off for parent/nap time conferences. We did very little, except computer games and lounging around.

Today, though, we got back to it. They were a little reluctant and I was a bit grouchy with them. We turned it around though. We sat outside for story time and we read SIX chapters in Junie B. Jones - Boo and I Mean It! They colored a ghost while I read and we all laughed at the really funny parts.

I'm sorry Phantom Tollbooth you pale in comparison to the antics of Junie B. It was SO nice to enjoy that time together, outdoors. For them to ask me to keep reading was like a miracle. We put our ghosts together and then they went off to play iknowthat.com. I got a few things ready for math time, while they played.

They practiced their math worksheet and they are doing well. Aria still hesitates on some of these that we have been practicing. Sometimes, it's as if it is hard for her to switch on her memory. She is constantly looking for patterns and if there is a way to figure out the answer by figuring out the pattern she'll do that, but while that part of her brain is engaged she cannot recall, automatically, the facts that we have reviewed over and over.

This ability to see patterns is quite impressive and valuable in many respects, until, there is no pattern. So, we shall just keep using that darn old memory and try to strengthen it. I need my memory honed as much as she does so we can both benefit from these exercises.

Casey, Aria and I played WAR and I was impressed by both their skills in adding. Casey understands adding tens is very easy and gets those answers right away. So does Aria. Aria got three hands of 9 + 7 and by the third one Casey had it memorized and told her the answer.

Aria wrote a nice short story about a Princess. It wasn't very long or complicated and it plagiarized Junie B. a little. It wasn't particularly nice handwriting. She seems so defeated if I criticize anything she does. I don't know how to make her understand that she is capable of more creative and beautiful things if she would just have some pride in her work.

I did ask her to try to write nicely. I asked her to slow down, but I didn't mention that the story sounded quite a bit like the story of Junie B. I didn't mention that her printing was still pretty bad. I didn't mention that the story wasn't very long. I just told her it was a good story and it sounded like something that could turn into a longer story about this Princess and her dad.

I guess I'm gonna have to try to figure out a way to encourage her without making comparisons to what other kids at her age are doing. I know she is capable of more, but maybe emotionally she isn't. I don't want to enable her if she's just being lazy, but I don't want to tramp all over her spirit either. She had enough of the that in daycare and public school. I'll just take my time and do some reading.

Again, this is a good reason for us to homeschool. Aria can take her time a develop as quickly or slowly as she needs to and she doesn't have to be made to feel like she's 'behind' everyone else. I just need to remind myself of that. We are not 'behind' we are right where we need to be.