Category Archives: Homeschool Blather

A little self assessment – good for the homeschool.

Here I am!

Yes, I fell off the face of the planet for a little while. We, and by we I really mean I, were in a bit of a sophomore slump with homeschooling. There might have been a few parent/child relationship issues and there might have been some illness issues. But let’s just say that life creeped up on me and the last thing I had the energy for was putting myself “out there.”  I suppose the fact that I’m writing this now means I’m starting to rebound a bit.

So…homeschooling sophomore slump. I’ve no idea if there really is such a thing but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there is. Just about everything we tried last year worked so we kept it up, but somewhere along the way school became a struggle, too much like work.  There were daily arguments: “Mom, do I HAVE to do that?” and even, my worst nightmare: “MOM, I HATE SCHOOL!” Uh-oh, clearly it was time to face the music and figure out what needs to change.

I’ve begun to realize that I have been taking too much responsibility for EJ’s education and have not let him become responsible for himself. We do too much together. I ask him to do too little, and often the wrong things, by himself. The flip side is that I have to look at what my expectations are and try not to fit too much in each day. I don’t think I’m too far off the mark, but sometimes I feel like I’m rushing through things. I’ve noticed I have a tendency to talk too much. I say what comes to my mind often over-complicating a topic. I suspect that having EJ do more on his own will help solve both issues although undoubtedly it will bring up others. As I start planning for next year I’m trying out some small changes now to see if they feel like the right direction. So far there has been improvement so I’m optimistic.

Mr. Hamp recently asked me if I thought there might be a time we would put the boys back in school. He is on board with homeschooling 100% but he saw how frustrated we all were on one particular day. I have to consider this question thoughtfully and honestly with myself.  Certainly I could and would, if I had to, but truthfully my philosophy about education has changed to the point that I simply can’t see us ever going back to a traditional type education. It’s pretty obvious to me that I’m in this for the long run, so I need to constantly stay on my toes and remember my first rule of homeschooling:

“Be flexible and if it ain’t working, find a new way!”

I’m wondering about other homeschoolers? Maybe this never happens to you, but it seems unlikely. I imagine that everyone one of us has our difficult periods where homeschooling just doesn’t seem to be working. So how do you refresh and reset when you realize that you’ve lost your way?

Poetry Monday: Marianne Moore

We generally read or memorize one poem each week and spend a few moments learning about the poet’s life. I try to place each poet in time and location, along with any interesting information that makes them memorable. I’m hoping to make poetry a semi-regular posting here.

Marianne Moore
(1887 – 1972)

Marianne Moore was an American Modernist poet with sharp wit. She graduated from one of the “Seven Sisters”  – Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Ms. Moore made her living as a teacher in Pennsylvania and later as a library assistant in New York City. She wrote poetry throughout her life and beginning in 1915 her works began appearing in a number of literary magazines. She was awarded the Pulitzer prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollinger Award for her book Collected Poems (1951).

Her most well-known poem is titled Poetry. She was almost notorious for frequently revising her poetry. Poetry, for example, in its original incarnation was 32 lines. She revised it several times, eventually down to just three lines. I believe that the original poem is far more thought-provoking and ‘real’ than the final revision; her most evocative lines in the original have been omitted.  Take for instance this often quoted line:

Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.

The writer’s job, she seems to say, is to bring real life, sometimes ugly as toads, into the world of the imagination. Unlike the school-books and business documents she mentions earlier in the poem, poetry is a combination of the imagination and reality. Both are important but their role is quite different.

Here’s an audio recording of Moore I found reciting her poem Bird-Witted.

Continue reading

Writing, part II

Last week I posted about EJ and writing. My struggle to strike a balance. I want to nudge him so he progresses but not so much that he shuts down. There seems to be a very small window between the two. This week he completed the second All About Spelling writing activity I mentioned in the previous post.

Objective: Use the following words in sentences. You may not use all the words in a single sentence, but you may combine one or more words into each sentence. The sentences may be unrelated to each other or related forming a paragraph.

I let thirty minutes go by before checking in on him. He had nothing on paper, and no ideas. My husband saw both of our frustration and stepped in to help. I don’t know if what he said helped EJ, but I do know that five minutes after his dad talked with him he brought this in to me:

feeding | spoonful | toothless | sobbing | plays

“I am feeding a toothless baby blue bird spoonful of bird seed. It eats, it plays, and it naps. feeding birds is fun!”

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This is beautiful! Aside from some minor errors, for a boy who dislikes writing so much to come  up with something unexpected, is just an amazing thing! He has a great start here and I’d love to take it further, develop his idea a bit more, but I’ve made a decision to not critique his writing at this time. I feel he is a baby bird just peeking over the nest and will all too easily startle.

I have had a hard time pinning down exactly what my goals are for EJ and writing. In the long-term I hope that he is able to write well even if it’s never his passion or spark, but I know arriving there may take years.  Finally though, I think I’ve discovered my goal for the near future. That is to help him forget that he hates to write. To help him break the cycle of believing he cannot do it, to actually begin thinking of himself as a writer.

The Writer Within

My 8-year-old son despises writing. Although it’s not a big factor, I do count this fact as one of the reasons we homeschool. He is a creative, energetic, verbal, bright boy, but if you ask him to write anything from his head he can’t do it. Tears are not unheard of no matter how gently I approach writing. Fortunately for my own peace of mind, I have found that this is not at all uncommon for boys this age. There have been several interesting discussions over on the Secular Homeschool forums of late that help me reinforce my approach with EJ and writing.

Despite all of the angst over writing, every once in a while EJ surprises me with some spontaneous original writing! For example he came up with this during a math lesson and dictated it for me to write:

Things I could do if I was flat.
Inspired by Flat Stanley.

  1. I would win more often at hide and seek.
  2. I could slip under doors.
  3. I could repair a sail on a boat at sea with just myself.
  4. I could fly like a kite.
  5. I could mail myself in an envelope.
  6. If I turn sideways no one would really see me.
  7. It would be easier to climb a rock wall.

This summer, much to my amazement, he wrote a poem that he wanted to put in the birthday Thank You notes he was writing. We typed it up and glued one into each note below his handwritten thanks.

Summer’s fun will last forever.
No matter the time, no matter the weather.
Summer’s fun will last forever.

Recently his spelling lesson (All About Spelling) added a new activity that I knew would cause angst. Of course I had a choice, I could have skipped it entirely. But the reasoning behind the activity was well explained and felt it was valuable. He was given the related words below and was to create several sentences using these words.

rainy, dripping, ponds, melting, quickly

Ultimately he didn’t do the assignment. When he was stuck, I tried to help by suggesting he imagine a scene where the words might all fit. He was unenthusiastic so I sent him off to figure it out himself. After a while he came to me with this:

It is spring.
The birds are singing, the snow is melting, getting warmer.
It is spring.

I’m so happy that he took the assignment and made it his own. I could focus on the fact that he only used one of the five words, or the fact that it is really very simple. I know that his peers are probably writing fabulous book reports and essays about their weekend, but for EJ and today it’s enough that he was asked to sit down and write and he succeeded! I’m so proud of him.

Poetic Monday

We generally read or memorize one poem each week and spend a few moments learning about the poet’s life. I try to place each poet in time and location, along with any interesting information that makes them memorable. I’m hoping to make poetry a semi-regular posting here.

Author: Luo Binwang c. 640 – 684 Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty.

Luo Binwang was said to be able to recite poetry at the age of six and this poem, Ode to the Goose, is said to have been written when he was just seven years old. Luo Binwang is named as one of the four Heroes of Early Tang under Emperor Goazong. The Tang Dynasty was a golden age for Chinese poetry which was considered the highest form of literature.

Ode to the Goose

Goose, goose, goose
You bend your neck toward the sky and sing
Your white feathers float on the emerald water
Your red feet push the clear waves

Goose goose goose
Bend neck toward sky sing
White feather float green water
Red food push clear wave

The first version above is the literary English translation of our poem and the version we learned. The second version (below the first) is what might be a more literal English translation of the poem from the ancient Chinese. Translating Character based languages is tricky so depending on the translator may be interpreted differently so I take this information with a grain of salt.

Week 5 in Review

We had a good week over all. I’m a bit short on time today so I’ll just make some observations about the week and end with some photos of our two homeschool field trips.

Here we are in week five and I’m still adding in subjects for EJ, working up to our full plan. We’ve been doing math, spelling, printing, science, and of course lots of reading. This week EJ added ancient history back into the mix and I quickly realized that I had made a bad decision in scheduling history and science on the same day. So some tweaking of our schedule is in order. I also decided that with all of the changes I keep making to the master schedule it’s just not worth keeping so I’m going back to my “wing and a prayer” method of having a general outline but no specific plan for each day. Okay, so that sounds like I’m making it up as I go along, I’m really not because most of our lessons are open and go (meaning little prep work) so it’s just a matter of getting them done and keeping track of what we did.

JD is doing fabulous and learning so much. He loves to show off his new-found knowledge at odd times throughout the day. This week in math he learned about evens and odds and routinely points out patterns of even and odd numbers as he comes across them. I love how he applies what he learns to his world.

Our BFSU science lesson this week was about maps. Learning what information is included in maps, how to read a map, and how to draw maps of our own. We had a chance to use our map reading skills during our field trip to Mt. Tom reservation.

We ended the week with two field trips with our local homeschool group. The first was a visit to a local fruit orchard that installs a self-guided sculpture trail each Autumn. The second was a trip led by an educator with the Massachusetts DCR at Mt. Tom state reservation. The focus was on finding and observing life on land (and follows up our previous field trip; life in the water, from last month).

Art in the Orchard

This was a lot of fun and we discovered a new place to get organic apples, blueberries, raspberries, and pears, practically around the corner from us! I really enjoyed taking pics of all the sculptures and reading about the local artists that created them. I have pictures of most of them on my Flickr page if you want to see more. The kids had a great time following the trail of sculptures. While I don’t think they learned much about art, they did get some good exposure. Afterwards they enjoyed ‘playing’ with the free range chickens. They even named several of them – my favorite was Hen-ry. Get it?

Portal

Portal to another Dimension

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The chickens were a highlight

Zap!

Zap! My favorite sculpture

Mt. Tom:  Finding Nature on Land

This group of kids are so enthusiastic! Usually they run through the trails trying to see what’s around the next corner. This time they were forced to slow down and explore a couple of small areas to see what they could find. They fully explored decomposing logs and found some unidentified buggies, several hiding salamanders, and a colony of ants with a rather large queen. We’ve had so much wet weather it was easy to spot quite a variety of mushrooms and fungi. We even looked in trees for folded leaves that were surely the work of one bug or another.

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Mt. Tom

This photo was actually taken at the orchard the day before, but you can see Mt. Tom off in the distance.

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Checking to see what is under a log

Gelly Shroom

I call this a Gelly Shroom because it felt like the gel inserts for your shoes.

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Gathered around chewing on Black Birch branches.

Unknown fungi

Orange Fungi of some sort

As always, thanks for reading.

Week 3: Vacation in Pictures

What an interesting week. This was our first family vacation in 5 years. We returned to Boston where I spent nearly 20 years but haven’t visited in more than eight. Although I was born and raised in New Hampshire, I tend to think of Boston as the place I grew up. In a way it really felt like coming home.

Going on vacation when everyone else is in school is a wonderful perk of homeschooling. Although some places we visited were still pretty crowded – the New England Aquarium in particular, most were very quiet. It was so nice to see the kids exploring the Museum of Science without having to worry that another child was waiting for a chance, they could take their time. One disadvantage to visiting in the beginning of the quiet season we discovered was that in some cases the most popular exhibits were closed for routine maintenance. The Planetarium was closed, the famous electricity demonstration was modified because the giant Van Der Graaff generators were being cleaned. All in all, as a family that avoids crowds when possible, the upsides far outweighed any downside!

Home Away

Our lodgings for the week

Mathematica Room

Planetary Gravitation

Robot programing

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Cownose Rays

Jellies

Jellies

Myrtle the Turtle coming up for air.

Myrtle grabs some air

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Smiles!

Kid Power!

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Swans!

EJ and the plesiosaur

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Hancock viewed from the Pru

Thanks for peeking!