Saturday, September 22, 2012


Sometimes you really question your choices in homeschooling, partially because there are just so very many choices to make.  Which subjects to cover, which curriculum to use for each subject, how much time to spend on each subject (both per day and as a cumulative total) ... down to nitpicky details like which type of paper to use and how to teach pencil grip.  I've seen knockdown drag-out fights online  in regards to pencil grip.

And then every once in a while you get some sort of validation.  This week we had a couple of those moments.

Thalia is taking Spanish at a university, and I had heard that this was really a bad idea considering she's only piddled around with the language before this -- she was doomed to being unable to keep up since she hadn't actually studied it as a school subject before.  But she's really doing alright.  She commented the other day that part of what makes it easy is all of the Latin we did.  Not that we ever completed any particular program, and not that any of us have any fluency in Latin whatsoever.  However, she remembers conjugating Latin verbs, and the little charts I made to show the conjugations (which I based on how I learned to make charts in Spanish class, by the way).  So now when they conjugate Spanish verbs in class she realizes things like "just leave off the t in 3rd person [Latin] and you've pretty much got it."

Apparently our slovenly approach to learning non-English languages accomplished something.

Her dual enrollment English class is going well, too.  Whenever she has a question about a part of speech she diagrams the sentence, and that clarifies things in her mind.  I never learned to diagram.  Frankly, I barely learned any grammar in school at all.  But Susan Wise Bauer assured us (via her books and articles) that learning to diagram would be a good idea.  So we did, using Rod & Staff English, First Language Lessons, and, finally, Analytical Grammar.  And now, years later, Thalia is earning extra credit for speed and accuracy in her ability to analyze a sentence.

It might be enough to go to a homeschool parent's head, you know?  Except then all of these discussions of past curricula made me nostalgic for those early days of homeschooling, and I started looking through old photos....

Oh, look, an archeological dig!

And hieroglyphics!

Dying cloth purple, just like in Tyre!

Yeah, we've got tons of photos from studying ancient history.  We also have tons of maps we drew of the various countries.  We were using Story of the World, including the Activity Book -- if you've used it you know what I mean.  Do you want to know how much the kids retained of this?  Almost nothing. They remember the time we recreated the burning of London in the driveway and Annabeth was so excited that she tripped over something and bloodied her nose when she fell.  It's like all of those maps, not to mention most of the projects, never happened. Sigh.

It's sort of like we've been throwing stuff against the wall for the past 10 years and seeing what sticks.

Other notes from the homeschooling trenches:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Check it out -- I'm Mystique!

 10th Doctor

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Week in Homeschool

Thalia:  "It seems like I have less homework this year, but I also have less time."

The "less homework" is due to shorter, more intense classes.  The "less time" is because we spend so much time in the car.  Which brings us to the Big Question of the Week -- how can we better utilize the time we spend getting places?

(The Small Question of the Week was whether Annabeth needed to do the long division section of Lial's Basic College Math given that she liked and understood the RightStart way of doing long division.  That one was solved by doing the section test to see if she really was proficient.)

We have somewhere to go Every Single Day.  Not all of us go someplace everyday, but someone always has to be somewhere, and it's usually at least 20 minutes away.  That adds up by the time you get there and get back home.

Plus we end up with these odds and ends of time -- "we're going to leave in about 10 minutes" translates into "well, sheesh, it really probably isn't worth trying to wash the dishes/grade the math/get out the vacuum in that amount of time".  (Although, really, is it ever worth getting out the vacuum?  It's pretty much in permanent last place on my list.)

We kicked around the idea of doing audiobooks in the car.  One issue with that is the passenger list varies so much.  At any given time there might be 1, 2 or 3 people along for the ride.  And during the course of a trip, 1 or 2 passengers might be dropped off or picked up.

Maybe load books on the iPod so we can plug it into the car's sound system, and then click to different books according to who's in the car.... Seems awfully fussy, doesn't it?

Annabeth is always a passenger, so she simply takes along her homework to work on in the car.  Thalia does a lot of the driving, and I do the rest.

I"m really grateful that we live in an area that has so many opportunities. Also, it's great that we can take advantage of so many of them -- we have a car, we have access to relatively inexpensive fuel, we can pay for all of these classes.    And, really, the amount of running around we're doing this semester is about on par with what I've seen other families mess with for years at a time.  But I'm just thinking that we could somehow do it all better.

And I will say that I'm doing fairly well in the times I'm waiting for someone to be done with something.  During ballet I might walk to Dick Blick; during voice I can head over to Ben Franklin (at least for another couple of weeks).  I started reading a novel the other morning while waiting for my tires to be rotated; I finished it during all the various classes I was waiting around on.  I got all my co-op science planning done while kids were in backstage class. And it occurs to me that these would be wonderful times to do some handwork -- I just remembered a sweater I started knitting 2 years ago.  Maybe it's time to finish some of this stuff.

So, any words of wisdom out there?  Any websites or blog posts on the subject I should be reading and pondering?

Want to connect with other homeschoolers, including some who probably have actual answers instead of questions?  Follow the link:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

This Week In Homeschool

This week we've added another layer to our schedule, so to speak.  We've started most of the dance classes the kids are planning on taking this year, which will be tap and ballet.  And Scouts.  I've been to 2 Scout meetings for the same troop, which is stupid, but that's the way this group rolls.

Thalia is in an adult beginning ballet class.  This looks like it will be a good fit for her.  The class is both more rigorous and more casual than the class for teens.

She's also taking tap for a second year.  Annabeth will probably be joining tap classes also.

Annabeth is taking ballet at a different studio.  Her class meets 2  times a week, and is a better fit for her personality.

On Saturday Annabeth starts acting lessons at a new place.  This will be an adventure.  We're stepping back from such intense involvement in the place we went to last year, and trying out other places.  Thalia isn't taking any acting courses this year, although she's open to auditioning for anything interesting that comes along.

And then there's Girl Scouts.  Gah.  What can I say.  People still drive me batty.  Girl Scout parents tend to have a special knack for that.  This year I planned to be less passive about the situation by being a leader.  But the meetings are at a time that are so incredibly awkward for our family (and can't change due to general whiney "Oh, ick, I don't want to do that" from others) that I can't have much physical presence. Annabeth is disappointed by the way things are going, but doesn't want to quit.

As for other subjects, Thalia keeps asking if she's actually doing everything she's supposed to.  The classes are fewer in number, yet more intense, so it's a new sensation.  She's had tests in her 2 dual enrollment classes (Spanish and English).  Neither has been completely scored yet, but she felt good about both.  The English test was much easier due to her love of diagramming -- Analytical Grammar for the win!  Other than that, her only school subjects are math and science.  She's started  Lial's Precalculus; and she read the first chapter of her chemistry book in preparation for class which will start next week.

Lial's Basic College Math is off to an easy start for Annabeth.  I still haven't purchased a grammar program.  Thalia is convinced Annabeth should use Analytical Grammar, of course.  Other classes -- science, history, ASL, sewing, whatever-else-I'm-forgetting-to-mention -- continued without much ado.
Action shot of homeschool occurring without much ado.  The weather is suddenly gorgeous, and homeschoolers have the flexibility to take advantage of that.

Honestly, most of this week was sucked up in having a wood floor installed in our bedroom -- moving stuff in and out of the room, dealing with the actually laying of the floor, and all.  By Friday night I was ready to sit around watching Quantum Leap reruns (now available free on Amazon Prime) and eating those miniature Dove ice cream bars (the chocolate coating on the little ones is thinner and more fun than the coating on the full-size bars) and totally zone out.

But now it's time to grade papers from this past week and prep for next week.

Interested in what other homeschoolers have done this week?  Follow the link:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Our backyard earlier this summer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Long Weekend

We're having hardwood flooring put in our bedroom later this week.  Much of current life revolves around that.

We'd already ripped up the carpet, ripped up and disposed of the padding. removed all of the staple (Annabeth is in charge of that) and the tack strips, screwed down the floor so it doesn't squeak, then put the carpet back over the subfloor so we could still live in the room.  Also, ripped out the woodwork.

This weekend Rick repainted the woodwork, and we started emptying the room.  Also, tried to figure out what to put on the bottom of various pieces of furniture once it's placed on the floor.  And lugged 17 boxes of hardwood up the stairs to our room so it can acclimate more, since the temperature and humidity of the living room is different than our room.

We've hired out the actually laying-of-the-floor.  It's the same company that did most of the rest of the house.

When not engaged in that, we:

1. Went swimming one last time at the public pool before it closed for the season.  Had to wait for a break in the rain for that one.

2. Watched movies.

3. Dealt with a rat with injured toe nails.  Rats bleed a lot when they have foot injuries.  Like, really, really, really A LOT.  And when someone hands you the bleeding rat while they run to get some first aid items, and the rat starts crawling all over you while you're trying to hold it still to see what's wrong, well, you can pretty much say goodbye to whatever you're wearing.

Also, for a toe injury you need styptic powder.  But if you don't have actual styptic powder, you can use cornstarch.  Which, if you're me, you bought last year for science class and kept the rest of because it might come in handy.  Apparently flour also works.

4.  Bought some fabric and made a new top.  Happened to change out of it into an old tshirt before the rat injured herself.

5. The kids rolled change.  $204 worth.  Annabeth gets a 10 percent cut, and the rest goes to Thalia for her trip to the Dominican Republic next year.