Thursday, November 16, 2017

Make like a tree and...leaf!

We are enjoying Fun Fridays now that our homeschool co-op has ended for the semester. Fun Friday flexibility allowed us to finish up some projects we've been working on for a while. 

In her weekly science class, Punky has been learning about animal classification. The week she learned about birds, we really got interested in learning how birds make nests. We watched several videos, made our own nests, and were especially intrigued by the weaver bird. We decided to try our hands at weaving, wondering how in the world that tiny bird can weave such an intricate nest with only its beak! Wow!

We've done paper weaving and we've made potholders, we've made loom band jewelry, and we were ready for something totally different. I happened to see a fun mash-up of string art and a nature loom, and we decided to try it out. Using a small pumpkin, I created a loom with nails and string. Punky collected some items from our back yard (long blades of grass, a dried out vine, flowers, leaves, etc) and then she chose a few lengths of fiber from our craft cabinet. She then proceeded to weave the items on her pumpkin loom.

The weaving skills are there,
but the cat decided to do some adjusting
before we could snap a picture. Silly cat!

On the opposite side of the pumpkin, Punky used more nails to create a "freestyle" nature loom. I believe her goal was to create a web of string in which she could secure all of her nature treasures. Goal achieved!

After our weaving projects, we decided to check out some fall leaves. We have previously talked about plants, photosynthesis, and seasons. I wanted to build on those topics by exploring why leaves change colors and fall. Our quick lesson started with a BrainPop video on leaves. This provided review of terminology and gave us a foundation on which to build our lesson.

The leaves around our neighborhood aren't as vibrant in color as other parts of the country, but we do enjoy some red, orange, and even purple color! Again, Punky went exploring and found some leaves for our investigation. We created a fall color leaf rubbing and talked about the veins in the leaves carrying the food and water, and providing structural support for the blades of the leaf.

We were excited to see this science in action through a STEAM project I happened to find on Pinterest (honestly, this is why *I* wanted to do this lesson). We used coffee filters to demonstrate the way the water and food moves from the center/stem out to the blades of the leaf.

Our leaves decorate our back door
(please ignore dog nose prints,
but notice the adorable Scout Autumn
 just waiting to be invited inside). 

Punky ended the project by reading the book The Falling Leaves by Steve Metzger, and watching a BrainPopJr video called Fall.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Finding my groove...again

We're starting our TENTH year of home education. If you look at the past ten years our path would fit right into an amusement park map—quite a rollercoaster!

When we started, I was teaching public school at home. It's what I knew. We had a set assignment for each content area and worked through the list each day. If I was feeling generous, I'd let Sunshine choose which lesson she wanted to complete first. We worked in our formal living room, which was empty except for a big chair. I added a folding table and chair for her, and a plastic crate full of books. We started out reading The Tale of Despereaux and did some Saxon Math. Science was out of workbooks full of explanations and experiments. We had fun, we got to know each other in our new roles, and we had school.

It became clear that we needed a designated work space if we were to continue this school at home method. That's when we turned our home office into a classroom, complete with a desk for the kiddo and a desk for the little sister (who was still in preschool 2 days a week but liked to sit with us when she was home). School at home continued, and we moved our classroom space back into the "formal" room of our house when we found out there was another baby on the way (the home office/classroom would turn into a nursery). The classroom looked like a modified public school classroom. Half of the room was dedicated to kindergarten (Belle) and half was dedicated to fourth grade (Sunshine). It was the first thing you saw when you walked into our home, but that didn't bother me because educating our kids was our priority.

Class in the "formal" living area

During that time we joined a homeschooling community in our town and started getting to know other homeschooling families. This was a critical step in our evolution. It was important for all of us to know and understand other approaches to home education. We met people from all walks of life, various spiritual backgrounds, and with a wide variety of educational philosophies.

Fast forward about a year and I was ready for a big change. I decided that I wanted our classroom to be connected to our kitchen, so we moved our learning supplies into the family room of our home. Our formal living room became the all-the-time living room. This made more sense for our family and felt more homey. This is the way our home is still set up, and we call our school space the library.

The Library Classroom (Year 1, it has changed a lot!)

The kids rarely work in the library anymore. It's a base camp of sorts. We keep the bulk of our books and teaching tools, games, arts and craft supplies, and such in the library. It's also next to the kitchen (a.k.a. science lab). The library also holds our kitchen table, so we take our meals in our school area. It has worked well and I really love the cozy feel of a room lined with books.

The past two years I've had 3 kids in my home school class. That was a stretch because my students are too far apart to do a lot of overlapping lessons. One bonus is that I've asked the older students to help their little sister with lessons and projects. She loves working with them, and it reinforces their knowledge and allows them practice in explaining concepts to younger kids. Neither have said they want to be teachers, but they will always have opportunity to teach others in their careers, communities, and families.

One of the major changes I've introduced with my youngest child is a VERY child-centered learning experience. I've always met my kids at their level and focused on their interests, but with the youngest kiddo I've full-on embraced the child-led idea. It's made each day an adventure and I've questioned my sanity a time or two, but she is growing and THRIVING in our environment.

Because of this new "throw away the text books and embrace the hands-on experiences" style that we've adopted, I'm started to clean out my stockpile of workbooks, curriculum, and other materials that don't fit my evolved philosophy. That doesn't mean we're not reading! It just means that we're reading different forms of media. We spend a lot of time at the library, and even more time getting into things or going on research trips.

Belle is officially a teenager and would be an 8th grader in public school. Her day is a mash-up of the two philosophies: teacher led materials (grammar, algebra), student led research, experiments, etc (science, independent studies), and a true mash in student led-teacher assigned activities (history, English).

Sunshine is a high school SENIOR this year! Crazy town! She started taking dual credit courses at a local college last year and will continue this year. In fact, all of her courses except English will be dual credit this year. More on why we chose dual credit and a well-rounded high school transcript in a later post.

Now that's that...and it's time for me to get to planning some activities for the kiddos. We're still embracing a summer schedule: sleep late, slow wake up, and lots of fun with friends. We also have family coming to visit for a few days this week and we're beyond excited. We get to show them some of our favorite places and see what kind of mischief we can scare up!

If this post has inspired your inquisitive side please leave questions in the comments. If you'd like me to write about a specific aspect of homeschooling, being a pilot's wife, or expand on something you've already read, I'm taking requests!