Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Spelling Adventures

Day 5 of Sequential Spelling, and E is surprising himself!

The way this program works is by building on a sound. If one can spell 'in' then one can spell 'sin'. From there is 'sinning', 'inning', and 'beginning'. Very little pre-teaching, just a quiz every day in which he corrects each word before moving to the next. Each day adds and subtracts words, building and moving forward. Every day a new quiz. No practice, no memorizing. Patterns and definitions. That's all.


I did not teach the 'double the consonant and add ing' rule...the kids are supposed to pick up on the pattern themselves so they can really own it. We had a small argument over not doing that for plural; you can see with 'fins' he really wanted to write 'finnes'.


It was pure pride on his face when we got to 'disagree', a new word. First try, he got it. And 'beginning'. Remember, this is day 5. Five! I do believe it is a success.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reading and Whole Lot of Math

These were the books on our table last week!

The People Could Fly is a recommended read-aloud for first grade, but also fit in with E's geography lessons. Good stories, but hard to read! They are written with an accent. e asked me why I was talking like our librarians, lol...


Frog and Toad was e's reading for the week. One week of Explode the Code and she's all over books now! Confidence. She now makes a beeline for the Easy Readers and has her nose in a book the whole way home. Love, love, love. She helps me scan book spines in the chapter book section for read-alouds, and actually found a new book of Pooh stories written in the old style of A.A. Milne AND a Paddington book by reading titles. Very proud of herself.


House building for Children is for E. We are finally going to start his THIRD GRADE building project. It's going to sit under the fig tree, up near the fence. I'm pretty excited. Math in action.

e's math consolidation main lesson block has come to a close. I am so sad. I love these stories! Best ever. e enjoyed them as much as E did, and produced entirely different and yet similar main lesson book pages. These two children of mine are so different and yet so much alike. :)





At this point, e can count forward AND back up to times 12 by 2s, 3s, 5s, 10s, and 100s. She's pretty math savvy. Both of my children have gained wonderful number sense from every day living and observation, so the four processes come almost naturally. Such a different approach from the way I learned math in school.


One of those everyday life experiences has been our square-foot garden. e is right beside me every step of the way. E likes to seem indifferent to it...but I know otherwise.

There is so much math to be done in the garden without me trying to create it. The kids naturally start calculating things and announcing their answers!


And science. For instance, is this one plant producing two shades of flowers, or two growing close together? We can't tell. E is trying to think up ways to find out.

e's most exciting addition to our garden: strawberries! She got to taste the first fruits of her labors today.

No garden of ours would be complete without a chocolate mint plant, right? The plant on the left is chocolate mint. On the right sits a peppermint. Mmmm.

I hope everything survives the scorching summer. I'm learning as I go!


Story of the World

We've started over with Story of the World volume one, this time doing a family lesson book. I made the first page after we read about Nomads. I told them we were creating our own textbook, so we could look back and refresh our memories whenever we wanted. I showed them a textbook I'd checked out from the library and asked if they'd rather learn from one, or make their own. E's view of main lesson books immediately changed! How cool that we are creating our own books! Somehow he hadn't made that connection before.

For chapter two, I drew the map and border. We summarized it together. I asked E if he wanted to write it in. Of course he didn't. I asked e, and she said YES! So of course E wanted to then. Silly boy. e wrote the first two lines, then E wrote the rest. They collaborated on the picture.

Then we created the Nile in a pan. Potting soil, grass seed, and some flood waters. It's growing pretty well.

We enjoy Story of the World. A year or two ago we mummified a game hen for the chapter on Egyptian mummies. It was seriously disgusting....but never did smell bad. Pretty amazing science lesson for all of us. I can't wait to get further in. There are four volumes, from the ancients up to the present day.


Monday, April 21, 2014


Happy Easter! This is what greeted me today when I opened our fridge. We had a low key Easter. An egg hunt or two in the backyard, yummy treats, and lots of family time. We built a compost box out of pallets for the backyard and watched Shrek the Musical on Netflix. We are all still singing the songs! And just like every year, we spent quite a bit of time trying to explain 'saved by the blood of Jesus'.

But onto geography. This was a fun block!


I took Christopherus' suggestion of choosing a local hero through which to teach the geography of our specific area. There were many I could have chosen, but in the end I settled on Major General Benjamin Butler. He was a new Union general stationed at Fort Monroe during the Civil War. When 3 slaves escaped and presented themselves to him, he made a quick decision to ignore the Fugitive Slave Act (which required him to return the slaves to their owner) and instead declared them 'contraband of war'. It was the first time the term 'contraband' had been applied to people, and it allowed thousands and thousands of slaves to escape the South, form refugee camps, fight for the Union Army or move north, and even learn to read and write (the teachers were also heroes, as it was against the law to teach a slave to read or write).


I used this story to help E understand the geography of Hampton Roads: Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, James River, Elizabeth River, Fort Monroe, the peninsula, and south of the water. Our proximity to Washington, D.C. and Richmond, where we sit as the mid-Atlantic region on the coast...I did NOT go into detail about slavery, the Underground Railroad, or the war, any more than to say that slaves were treated as property and that the nation was divided over the issue. Who Abraham Lincoln was, as well as Jefferson Davis (and that Davis was imprisoned at Fort Monroe) did come up. My focus was on the good being done rather than the evil, and I was pretty impressed that he followed. He seems to be on a theme of bravery and leadership right now, which fits perfectly with Steiner's expectation of ten-year-old development.


So- here's how we began with maps. Our neighborhood. I find it interesting that E placed Princess Ann as the bottom of his map, whereas to me it was the top. He oriented north, while I oriented south. THAT is why I use a GPS! My sense of direction leaves a lot to be desired.

We then looked at maps of our city. I helped him find our street. Then, dear friends, my boy surprised me. Blew my mind. This is the child who probably cannot tell you our address or the city he lives in. He might in all seriousness tell you we moved here from Norfolk, Alaska. Every day I point out the name of our major cross-streets...yet he had to read street signs to remember them for his drawing.


But this kid found the route on the map from home to gym, from home to base, from home to botanical gardens. How? It wasn't until later that he even realized the map had street names listed. He figured it out based ENTIRELY on how the roads curve and cross. He also pointed out where certain stores and parks were located along those routes, again based entirely on street geometry. WOW.


That right there shows his amazing super-high intelligence if you take words out of the equation. If only everything were in pictures and art and movement, he'd have it made.

This boy of mine... I am so blessed to live in a country that allows me to homeschool him as we see fit!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

In This Place

A few books arrived in the mail today. Sequential Spelling and Explode the Code. Not exactly Waldorf. At all. So...why are they on my table?


When E was younger, I used to freak out a little that he couldn't do this or that and shove a workbook or two at him. Gave him some forced direct instruction. Stuff his peers were getting. He should know this. All 8-year-olds should know this.....right? I didn't trust in the process. I didn't leave well enough alone. And it backfired every. single. time.


Which makes it all the stranger that these books are here. Except remember we use Teaching Textbooks for E's math. That's not Waldorf. That's on the computer- as far from Waldorf as one can get. Our move to Teaching Textbooks happened after much, much, MUCH thought, prayer, and careful consideration. It wasn't a move made out of fear, as the workbooks and forced instruction were. It was (and is) a success.


Likewise, these books have been in the back (and front) of my mind for a while now.


I've had many discussions with E about spelling. He gets a bit frustrated when he tries to use a search engine and has become interested in riddles and puns that play with homonyms/homophones, so I started thinking that perhaps it is time to give some extra attention to spelling. He is ten now and reads, reads, reads, but the words don't transfer from reading to writing for him. I looked into different approaches and showed him a few informational videos. The one that spoke to him was Sequential Spelling. No busywork, no lists based only on length of word. This approach takes a sound and builds (quite quickly) on it. Tests every day, each word corrected immediately before moving on to the next word. Working with sound and meaning. E isn't excited to begin, but he is looking forward to better spelling.


This program can be used for first graders on up, so am I also doing it with e? Absolutely not. E is ten. TEN. He is in a very different stage of development than e. e is just beginning her journey.


Explode the Code is for e. She can read. We've been reading Mouse Soup and Little Bear together. The only thing stopping her is confidence. (I think....she has en eye appt next week to make sure!)


Explode the Code is generally for teaching phonics rules. It is designed for the child to work through independently, and has plenty of silliness worked in to keep it light. I used this program successfully when I taught children with learning disabilities, and completely UNsuccessfully with E. Forcing it on E was out of fear (my 2nd grader can't read!!) and not well-thought-out. Explode the Code uses logic (pick the word that fits in this sentence). My E finds great joy in arguing common logic and would not pick the right word, EVER. I don't think we got beyond the third set of pages.


But back to e. She doesn't need the instruction; as I said, she can read. She just doesn't believe she can read. Sort of. It's complicated. :) The bottom line is that she needs a confidence-booster. My expectation is that she will find Explode the Code quite silly (as in funny) and easily work her way through it. It is not new material. If she doesn't like it, out it goes. Trial and error.


So here we are, in this place. I see us moving away from our unschoolish ways, guided more and more by Waldorf philosophy....and yet not. Blessed to be in a country where we have the freedom to homeschool with the method and curriculum of our choice.


Now to plan these last two months of first grade....how in the world is my baby almost seven?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Guinea Pigs and Little Tables

For his birthday present, we gave E two art lessons. This guinea pig is from the second. Amazing! I wish we could do more.

The weather has been so lovely (well, until last night!) that we have spent much of our time outside! Or at least tried to. It is hard to keep up with indoor chores and cooking while outside, and these silly kids of mine no longer race outside without me. I miss that about their earlier years. E used to rush outside first thing. Now it takes a firm push. Our little preschool-sized table has been helpful; it is perfect to squeeze around for those times when you want to be outside, but not running around.

We have started again at Story of the World, this time making a family lesson book from it. So far so good, if our Nile will ever sprout.....more on this later.

e and I planted our little square foot garden- more on ts later also! So much to say!

And here. This was one of those times where I said "Go outside!" Intending for them to run off energy... but instead I look outside to see this. :) How can I complain? Life is good.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014


This weekend, e and I filled the little raised bed C built. We are following instructions from this book.

Our box is 6 feet by 3 feet. 18 squares. What to plant? I have some research to do... What do you plant this time of year?

Our family walk on Sunday took us to the botanical gardens, where e found an abundance of camellia blossoms all over the ground. This is only a fraction of what she brought home!


I have main lesson book pages and form drawings to post another day. The kids are actually making good progress on lessons, despite the gorgeous weather outside. Right now e is reading Mouse Soup on the porch, while E hangs out just inside the back door to read Harry Potter (again).




Monday, April 7, 2014

The Problem with Alaska

There it is, the problem with how America sees Alaska. You probably know from previous posts that I have made every effort to expose my children only to maps correctly depicting our country's 49th state. After putting together this puzzle, my kids spotted several issues immediately, and started asking questions.


What's wrong with it? Well.... First of all, that's not its location. It does not live in a little box off the coast of Mexico. It should be nowhere near Hawaii, which isn't in its place either. The biggest problem? SIZE. We all know Alaska is up north, even if we grew up seeing it in a little box in the bottom left corner of maps. But how many of us know how truly gigantic Alaska is? I remember teachers labeling Texas as the largest state. Ha. Texas is teensy weensy compared to the vastness that makes up the state of Alaska.


Alaska is 1/3 the size of the continental United States. ONE THIRD. Woah.

And we have the audacity to put it in a little box.


We also have the audacity to assume that no matter where you travel in the United States, the sun will always rise in the east and set in the west. I just read in several gardening books that very opinion, and I have seen standardized tests ask children where the sun rises and/or sets with no allowance for location.


I imagine you know where I'm going with this. Alaska is so very far north that anyone who has not lived there cannot begin to imagine the amazing forces at work. I feel nothing but awe and wonder for Alaska. It does not belong in a little teeny box. It deserves to be seen, in all its glory.


My sometimes-practical E had to remind me that if Alaska were to be placed correctly and to the same scale as the Lower 48, US maps would be largely Canada. Not practical, especially if you are trying to see an actual teensy weensy state like Delaware or Connecticut. Those are hard enough states to see as it is.


Of course. But it still irks me. Like the Texan license plate C spotted driving around Fairbanks one day that boasted "My state is bigger than your state." Ha. Not even close!


Friday, April 4, 2014

Foggy Beach Day

Today the children and I spent some time on the beach. It was a bit chilly- maybe 60 degrees- and beautifully foggy. E was so eager to start digging in the sand that this was as close as we got to the water! The waves and sand were just what we all needed. I miss living on Fort Monroe, walking on the sea wall and playing in the sand every day, especially early in the morning while the crabs dug out their holes and sea gulls dropped shells on the rocks.

Meanwhile G hung out in her tipi and wondered if we had abandoned her. She greeted us at the door with indignant wheeks. We were obviously late for lunch.

Spoiled piggy, we love you so!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Creative Rhythms

My sweet, curious, creative boy just turned ten. Ten! And this momentous birthday was supposed to be celebrated with pizza and donuts and swimming with friends. Well...instead he got to spend some time at the hospital with me and my kidney stone. C made sure he got his pizza and donuts, but the swimming had to be cancelled. So we did a redo yesterday. The donuts stuck in the pan, and his friends had to cancel. But we still had fun at the pool, and we managed a few intact-ish donuts. I'm hoping this can be like music- a disappointing dress rehearsal means it will be a good show, right? Hopefully he has a great year ahead of him. I'm just in awe that my boy is ten. Double digits. It doesn't seem that long ago that he was teeny tiny, and yet I can't remember what life was like before he arrived! He is such a blessing.


That blessing, though, does tend to shake things up, so.....I joined Thinking Feeling Willing. I've completed the first set of mom lessons: rhythm. It took me a week, thinking over our days, our needs, our obligations to find what might work for us. It looks like a schedule, but it isn't exactly. The times only give me a sense of forward movement. It is more an ordering to our days. Some things are anchors, like meals and read-aloud and bedtime. Others are flexible.


My will is weak when it comes to upholding rhythm; I have trouble getting up before my children, pushing forward in lesson blocks, and keeping up with planning and household duties. It is time I get on top of this and make it work. Our rhythm is dependent on me. Nothing else, nobody else. Me.

Making it pretty helps me remember that a smooth rhythm to one's day is a beautiful thing!


Meanwhile....duct tape creativity reined in E's world.

An iPad holder for movies in the car- thinking ahead to next year's gymnastics meets!

And a zebra on a toilet. The toilet even sports a seat and lid and handle. Wait til you see what e made him for his birthday....


Then on Friday I decided we needed some form drawing. Top one is E's. See the wrinkles? He had such a time. Not because form drawing is hard for him, because it isn't. He was battling his will. He wanted to draw the form, but he didn't want to draw the form, but he did, but he didn't.... Several pages ended up torn to pieces and thrown before he managed this. Maturity. I'm loving it! Seriously. He's growing up.

We've had warmer weather and a whole lot of rain. Saturday we took our umbrellas out for a walk, tip-toeing around the earthworms that were ALL OVER! There was quite a variety in color, length, and 'state of fatness'. Of course e brought home some treasures. :)

And speaking of worms, our red wigglers came!! About 1,000 of them arrived in a little box last week. e helped me wet the peat moss for their bedding.

The child curriculum that comes with a lifetime membership to Thinking Feeling Willing also came in the mail! This is it, early childhood to grade 6. Looking through it, I remember why we switched to Christopherus. Christopherus has so much to it. It is all there...sometimes too much there, and I feel inadequate because we don't do but a fraction of it. On the other end of the spectrum is Waldorf Essentials. As per the name, the essentials are there, with not much extra. The simplicity makes one feel that Waldorf education at home is totally possible, and gives recommendations for where to find more if you seek it.

Anyway, about that birthday.... E's friends J and S gave him a Wreck This Journal. Each page has a way to wreck it. Smear dirt here, take this book into the shower with you, tie a string around it and drag behind a bike, drip liquid on this page...

Pure genius. The boys spent hours wrecking their journals! And here we have e's gift to E... a toilet planter. Perfect.