20 May 2015

You can research curriculum, spend weeks planning out the year, print everything out and then it all gets pushed back to follow those rabbit trails. Rabbit trails happen and the best thing you can do is just go with it. They show interest and are an amazing opportunity for some child-led learning. 

This year, we haven't touched some of the books that are on our 3rd Grade reading list and that is just fine. They loved Charlotte's Web so much, we moved onto The Trumpet of the Swan. I also happened upon a Roald Dahl boxed set, which I just had to take home with me of course! My 7 year old daughter couldn't wait to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My 9 year old son, chose The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me, a perfect choice for my animal and song loving kid. 

We ended up dwelling in White and Dahl and loving every moment of it. Reading outside, inside, snuggled on the couch, with some hot tea, hot chocolate or Gobstoppers. We had a chocolate taste testing and studied how chocolate is really made. We invented our own candy and visited a history of chocolate exhibit. 
It wasn't planned. 
It just happened. 
And they are still talking about it. 
They have retained it. 
They have developed a love of reading and stories. 
This was not work. 
This was using what they loved and going deeper with it. 
They voluntarily started researching swans when reading Trumpet of the Swan. 
We are now reading James and the Giant Peach and they immediately dug out the animal encyclopedia to look up information on all of the insects in the book. It's just natural to want to know more, to be curious. 
They want to understand the world around them. 

Don't be afraid to follow those rabbit trails. You never know where you'll end up. 

10 March 2015

I hear this a lot. As homeschool parents, we worry that our children are going to fall behind because they aren't "on track" with their peers.

How do you know that your child doesn't have their own track? Their own timeline of developmentally appropriate learning?

Maybe your child needed to spend extra time on addition and subtraction early on and now is more than a semester behind in their math book. While the public school progressed on leaving students who weren't ready for addition and subtraction behind, you spent the extra time to make sure they got it. Now your child is in 2nd grade and blowing through the material you give her because she finally gets it. She's catching up fast. That's what happened to my daughter.

We spent so much time and energy on basic number sense, addition, subtraction, clocks and money. I repeated chapters. I supplemented with other, more simplified math hoping that maybe it was the way it was explained in our math program. Nope, she just wasn't getting it. I worried she had dyscalculia, which is a difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers and learning math facts. Why? Because she wasn't learning? Because she was "falling behind"? She could read at a 6th grade level at 6 years, 9 months old. Why wasn't she getting math? 

The answer is she had her own track for math. 

My middle son has his own track for reading. This one had me worried he would never learn or be interested in reading. It wasn't until he turned 9 and discovered a book series he loved (Captain Underpants) that he finally started reading on his own, with enthusiasm. He preferred to read out loud because he wanted to share the funny stories with us. I had him read each book twice for fluency and he did not mind at all. 

This is the son that didn't start talking until age 3. He still goes to speech therapy for his /R/ sounds. At 8 years, 7 months I gave him the DORA test and he scored at or below grade level for everything except reading comprehension and oral vocabulary. He would drive me nuts when I would read out loud because he never appeared to be paying attention, but he could always narrate back to me exactly what I just read. 

I feared he could never quiet his mind enough to sit and read a book. One night, when he was 8 years old, he asked to have a reading light like his big brother clipped to his bed. He has trouble going to sleep at night (his mind goes a million miles a minute) and wanted to try reading just like big brother. I thought this was perfect! Of course I would do it and of course our daughter wanted one as well. And that was when he finally started trying to read. He wanted to read The Spiderwick Chronicles. Those books are 4th grade level books with plenty of large words to sound out. He worked his way through them because he wanted to. Those books were hard work for him, too. He would show me any words he couldn't sound out or didn't know the next day. He worked hard at it, but it wasn't really until 3rd grade and Captain Underpants came along that he truly enjoyed the act of reading. I bought another DORA test and plan to have him take it at the end of the year. I'll update with the results. 

Do not be discouraged because your child is not ready to do the same tasks as other children. They are just working at a different pace and that is one of the beautiful things about homeschooling. They are given the time to work to mastery and then move on. So give yourself and your kids a break and drop the idea of grades and what the other kids are doing in public school. 

27 February 2015

We went to the Washington rain forest in October. As a little reminder, we made terrariums around Christmas and they are still thriving. I only had to open the lid once after day two when I noticed there was too much water in there. I had to dry it out a bit.

The plan was to put real moss on the top layer, but that didn't work out so dead moss worked just fine. The other terrarium had a larger fern in it. I was able to break the first one up much easier. The one below looks more like the rain forest. 

We used
aquarium gravel
activated charcoal - in the aquarium isle
decorative moss
Asparagus Fern

09 February 2015

I remember loving Charlotte's Web as a child. I truly adore reading E.B. White. His simple style just flows out so smooth and steady, creating an easy and enjoyable read.

As I was reading Charlotte's Web aloud to my 7 and 9 year old, I knew the chapter where Charlotte dies was coming. I worried that it might be upsetting to my animal-loving children and seeing me cry would make them start crying and we would have a cryfest and never get to the end of the book. As I approached the chapter, I steeled myself. Then, I reach the paragraph and start to tear up. Hold it together.  As I'm reading about Charlotte dying, I start to struggle with my words, slowing the pace, trying to just get through it.

My 9 year old looks up and asks, "Are you crying?"
I reply, "Yes. It's so very sad. Charlotte was such a good friend and spider."

My 7 year old daughter then takes the book from me and takes over reading for me; reading the next two chapters with complete composure. After we finish the book, we watch the movie during lunch to compare the two. When she dies in the movie, my 9 year old checks on me to see if I'm crying. I'm thinking, how on earth am I going to get through all of these children's books that seem designed to make you cry?!? I guess we all better get used to it because we have so many books to read!

Upon finishing, my daughter asked if she could take the book up to her room to read again on her own. Of course you can, I know you'll love it as much as I did.