Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Raccoon's Writing

Raccoon is more of a global learning than sequential, so lately I present the whole alphabet to him instead of going letter by letter like I was before. He seems to be retaining more and wrote this on my whiteboard this morning.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Late Readers

We have been busy, and I have a bunch of pictures to post, but reading is on my mind. Raccoon is not interested in recognizing letters or numbers, although his writing and counting have improved. Late reading is fairly common in boys, I've heard, but the question I ask myself is, if it's going to take another year or so, what should I do in the meantime?

Tonight I found an answer - focus on expanding his vocabulary.

Now that I can do. He picks up new words easily, and like non-fiction books, so this is a good match for us with interests and skills.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dewey School

I don't know anything else about John Dewey, but I found this quote by him:

Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.

I like that. Bookwork makes Raccoon crazy. At this point, he thinks he won't learn to read. He compares himself to me, not realizing that he is learning just like his peers. I wonder if he'd find watching other kids fail to be encouraging. But the sitting is killing us both. He slouches, chews on his shirt, holds his pencil wrong, and falls off his chair, all to avoid writing. He hates repetition. Today was impossible until I told him we'd do a tea bag rocket. Then all the fidgets were gone and he was 100% attentive.

I know he needs a "doing" school, I just don't know how to get us there.

I think the only thing we learned today is that our tea bags are a single square so we cannot unfold them like the instructions say to do. Ours never took off, but we watched a youtube video to see what was supposed to happen. My kids didn't care though, they just liked that we burned something.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Settling In

We have a good routine going and I'm happy with what we're getting done. I love the freedom that homeschooling gives us.

We're going to our local school for PE and recess.

Exploring our neighborhood, we found a playground behind the community soccer field, a new road, and a pond (we're hoping for frogs!).

We're doing a seed experiment to see what plants need to sprout and grow. The variables are water and dirt.

Backpacks out of icecream cone boxes. Raccoon wanted a quiver so Maddie got one too.

Playing scientist on his bed with water and food coloring.

Mailing our Flat Traveler to PA as part of Education Possible's exchange.

Kitty's $4 shopping cart is her new favorite toy.

Board game school with Mancala and Rummikub.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014

Solar cards, tornados, and spider eggs

My mom found some light-sensitive paper, so we had a blast today making designs with odd objects from around the house. The directions suggested 1-3 minutes in the sun or "until the paper turns almost white." Turns out that in our tropical sun, it was more like 20 seconds. Our first ones were overexposed, but Raccoon is more about process than product, so he didn't care. My favorite was the design he did with rocks and their shadows.

My mom also found a nifty little device that screws on to create a "tornado in a bottle." Since our theme for the week is weather, it was a perfect fit. Raccoon and I tried to do this experiment a few months ago, but taping two bottles together is leaky and the hole was not small enough to produce the desired effect. This little device was so easy and effective, I highly recommend it. All I did was fill one bottle 2/3 full, screw on both bottles, swirl the water a little and voila! Tornado!

We also got to see our local firefighters putting out a blaze in a neighbor's yard.

Painting rocks is Raccoon's newest hobby. We've caught every visible spider in our yard and several of our neighbor's as well, so we're taking a break while we wait for our four egg sacs to hatch. One sac is going on two months and no spiderlings yet. We've also had some good discussion about extinction due to over-hunting, and raising animals in captivity. We currently have four spider pets in jars on our counter. Did you know that they can lay egg sacs months apart, apparently without refertilization? I can find out very little online about spider eggs but we have certainly learned a lot firsthand.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Living Overseas

Sometimes reading other homeschool blogs is good for me, and sometimes it's not. I see all the things available in metropolitan areas - libraries, clubs, sports, gyms, coops, museums, etc. - and I want that for my children. I get activity and supply envy. I wonder if we are making the right choice. This is why blog reading can be bad for me.

On the other hand, another mom wrote about poetry for kids and I thought, "I could do that with Raccoon." I love ideas.

This is the root of my fear, that I'm not a good teacher because I'm not doing that or that or that.

We may not be able to do all those things, but we do have a high-speed internet connection by God's grace. And a rainforest within driving distance. And a second language.

I am frequently scanning the horizon, but where my feet are standing is pretty nice too if I remember to look down every now and then. There is much to learn everywhere.

And I mentally shake myself. He's in K, he doesn't need everything to happen this year, good grief. I tell myself to stop worrying and being ridiculous. All I need is a little laugh at myself and to lighten up.

So I think I will continue choosing not to look and to keep marching to our drum. But every now and then, the unknown horizon still calls my name.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Routines and Rhythms

Celosia School - Year E (Kindergarten)

Neither Raccoon nor I are morning people. Kitty and my husband, the King, wake up with a smile and chatter, Raccoon and I do not.

6 to 8 am    Somewhere in here all four of us eventually wake up. Kitty likes to go outside first thing and Raccoon watches some Netflix until he's civil.

8 to 9 am    Valiant attempts at breakfast which neither one of my children eat well.

9 to 11 am   School happens at some point between these hours. I break Raccoon's day into two blocks. During one we read his history lesson (currently from a children's almanac published in 1942) and do pages in his two workbooks. Then in the second block we do hands-on activities from our science kits or outdoors. Some days both blocks happen during this time, other days we split things into am/pm and occasionally evening work as well. Kitty joins us, plays by herself, or is off with Daddy, depending on the day.

11 am    Lunch (Since neither one does much for breakfast, we do an early lunch which they generally eat well)

noon to 1 pm   Free play (I eat lunch)

1 to 3 pm   Naptime for Kitty, iPad time for Raccoon, and free time for me if my husband is home. If not, Raccoon and I do something together.

Our afternoons vary a lot. Sometimes we take a walk, go into town, visit the neighbors, do messy stuff, etc. It depends on how much and what we accomplished in the morning. There is a snack somewhere in here as well. We are mostly outside and do educational stuff mixed in with everything else.

6 to 7 pm    Supper

7 to 8 pm    Family play, often with the King

8 pm    Bedtime for Kitty, free time for me and the King, movie time for Raccoon

9 pm    Bedtime for Raccoon

10 pm   Bedtime for me (although several times a week I stay up until midnight, just enjoying the quiet, I am an introvert)

Looking at this, part of me thinks "I should be doing more!" but another part of me says "Free and happy, good enough!" so this is probably how things will stay for the next few months at least. Our core subjects are language, science, math, and history with art, music, social studies, etc roaming through.

In order to fulfill 180 days of school, our target for when we actually have to report that we are homeschooling, Raccoon needs to do 5 days of school per week for most of the fall/winter. So my plan is that MWF we will do our core subjects, T will be coop day (he's going to attend our local school in Spanish while my husband is there teaching English), and Th will be special project or book day. In the spring we will switch to a four day week, which I'm sure will be a welcome break as the rainy season lets up and we start to spend more time outside again. With our year-round schedule, this puts us done in May with June completely off and a soft start in July for first grade (if he's reading, if not I might just call Year D Kindergarten again and keep matching each subject to his interest and ability level).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

September Fears

There are 5 days until all of the local children head back to school. Raccoon is going to miss his favorite playmates as they will only be free on Saturdays. He's seen them a lot this summer since they live right up the road from us. Catching spiders, looking for frogs, and playing with their puppies has kept him busy for the last few weeks.

When I thought of the long days ahead that he'll have with just me and Kitty for company, I began to have homeschooling doubts. At this point, our schooling only takes about two hours a day, leaving him with a lot of free time. Being an extrovert, he wants to spend that time with other people, especially kids.

How am I going to keep him busy, in a good way? I feel like he does need a class or something once a week to make some friends, but that means commuting 30 minutes at least to our nearby town. I don't know of any other homeschoolers in my valley, nor how to meet them if they do exist. The closest homeschoolers I know of are 90 minutes away, three hours roundtrip. Raccoon's various cousins are my next best choice, but they live over an hour away and will also be busy with school and homework.

I guess I'll see how things work out and find solutions as the problems arise. Perhaps his friends will not have as much homework as their mom expects; they'll be in first and second grade. What do people with small families who homeschool in remote locations do for socialization?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Save the Frogs Poetry Contest

Raccoon has been obsessed with frogs lately. He is preparing plastic containers as "habitats," and every day he asks when it will be rainy season. We have been learning about raising tadpoles, just in case we happen to find any. When I saw the Save the Frogs contest, I knew it was a good match between interest and opportunity. We were talking about frogs while he prepared his latest habitat, and I asked him for some froggy words. Then the subject turned to what frog's might dream about, and this is his first poem, which we submitted to the contest:

Frog Dreams

being big
soft grass
squishy sleeping

(Because he's a four year old boy, he actually said the last line as "sleeping in poo," so I suggested possible alternatives and we settled on the last one.)

The deadline is October 17, 2014.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kindergarten Photo

We started this school year in July since we are homeschooling year-round, but I wanted to take a "first day" picture since it's that time of year. Kitty wanted to do whatever her brother was doing.

Kitty is in Pre-Pre-Pre-K so I didn't make her a sign. :) After the photo Raccoon wanted to rip up the sign, which reminded me of a particular 6th grade Christmas concert of mine where we ripped off itchy aluminum colors and spontaneously celebrated, much to the dismay of our choir teacher, as we later found out. Apparently it seemed rebellious. We were just glad to be done, as was Raccoon. Photos are still not his thing but he's come a long way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Our School Corner

Our "schoolroom" is mostly just to store supplies and books. My mom helped me organize this space during her visit in June and I will be forever thankful. We recently rearranged the shelves slightly to make our house more earthquake ready. The center one is tied to the bars on our windows (we don't live in the U.S.), and the other two will fall on the center one. This isn't really important to the functional setup of our schoolroom, but it's been on my mind.

Anyway, the basic setup is my books and the kids' videos on the left, learning materials and games in the center, with curriculum, art supplies, science stuff, etc on the right. The washing machine and dryer are just out of sight on the right.

This is our living space. Our house is small, so there is one large room then two bedrooms behind where I stood to take the picture. That's it, but it's all ours so I love it. You can see our schoolroom in the center corner, but Raccoon and I sit at the bar to the left to do science and writing activities. The rest of school we do all over. So our schoolroom is more of a corner storage area, but having everything at my fingertips has been an amazing time-saver.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why are we homeschooling?

So it may seem a little late for this post since I've been blogging about why I want to homeschool Racoon for a while now, but I wanted to record our main reasons in one (hopefully) concise post.
Age: Raccoon misses the cut-off for kindergarten by six weeks, but I feel like he's ready for more than another year of pre-k.

Flexibility: Neither he nor I are morning people. We currently start between 9 to 10 am, once we are both fully awake and functional. Love it. I also like the flexibility with his speed of learning, slow or fast as he needs it, and that we can do school anywhere or anytime. It also lets us continue to travel for our work and bring the kids along.

Time: I want my kids to be with me, at least while they are so young. This isn't in a smothery way, just in a why not spend time with the people I like best? way. As we all need or want more freedom we will adjust, but I suspect that the older they get, the more I will continue to enjoy their company.

The extra truth: I was bored in elememtary school, but I was a meek, well-behaved little girl who wanted to please my teachers so I mostly coped by reading in class. My son, well, let's just say that he's none of those things, as lovable as he is. I don't want him labeled as a troublemaker or whatever. I don't want his curiousity and love of learning squashed by having to stay in his seat for hours a day. Needing a wide level of help and challenge, having SPD, being bright... it seemed like a lot to ask any classroom teacher to handle. Once Raccoon has more self-awareness and self-control (I'm thinking 3rd grade or so), we'll revisit our education choices together.

Money: International English schools are very expensive, from $500 to $800 a month per child. It may be worth it for middle school onward, but right now I feel like I can do so much with less. Our current salary doesn't provide enough for that kind of tuition, so I would have to get a job at the school for a discount. I don't want to leave Maddie yet.
Location: We live an hour away from our school of choice, making our daily commute a nightmare. We may move back into town at some point, but I think ruralandia has a lot of advantages for our kids right now.

Language: We want both Raccoon and Kitty to easily transition to college in the US if that is their choice. My husband and I feel that a US-style education in English fits best with that goal. There are not many schools like that available here, and the ones that do exist are expensive and far away, as I mentioned above. I do plan to have Spanish curriculum in our homeschool to ensure that they are functionally bilingual. If Raccoon dislikes homeschooling at some point, we might look at a Spanish school, but everything under "extra truth" still applies to make school in any language not a good fit for him right now. That said, our very poor but generous local school, about six houses down our dirt road, has offered to let Caleb join their K class, called Basic 1 here. I may take him for one day a week so he gets a feel for traditional school and forms friendships with kids in our neighborhood, if they have found a teacher by then.

So those are our big 7.

I envision our list for homeschooling Kitty, when her time comes, consisting of one thing: because we love it.

Disclaimer: I would like something with more peers starting anywhere from 5th grade on, but what that looks like depends on Raccoon's needs at that point. I'm not opposed to traditional school, homeschool just fits us better right now.

Candlemaking and more

Here's a peek at some fun stuff we've done (in random order): dipping string in hot wax, rubber band guitar, water jar scale, a river expedition, playing in the sand, fractions, and learning about life cycles with our pea plants.

15 school days down, 165 to go...