Sunday, May 31, 2009


I am so frustrated and angry today! It is one of those days that I seriously wonder why we are all torturing ourselves with homeschooling.
Ok, that's not entirely fair. Most days we have a great time, but sometimes I just get so frustrated. Especially on days like today when Q is just not interested and not trying her best, or trying at all for that matter. I just don't know what to do. She doesn't seem to be focused at all and yelling at her is not working for her or me. I tell her something and then ask her a question about what I just said and she says "hmm...I think I know that." WELL YOU SHOULD-I JUST TOLD IT TO YOU!!
Should I start rewarding "good" days? I have been thinking for a while about a reward system for getting her work done. Something like for each subject we cover during the day that she actively and positively participates in she can have some sort of reward i.e. computer, tv, outside, or phone time. I really don't want to do that though. I am hoping that our school day will be its own reward and be fun and engaging. So I think I just discovered the answer to my problem. I already know that Q is no longer interested in the ocean as a topic for study and she really didn't want to finish the animal classification stuff we were working on but we only had three more classes to finish. So she agreed to finish them up. And man have we both been suffering. Lesson learned...when Q says she is finished with something she is finished. Drop it and move on!

(Wow this was really therapeutic. Who would of guessed?)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Little M Is One!

Little M and Ms. Q enjoyed a great day reading outside. It was a great start to our birthday weekend. Max is one year old now, officially a toddler. Fred is another year older too. No pictures of Fred's birthday revelry, sorry, but here are some pictures of M's first birthday celebration.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why Homeschooling?

When we told our families that we were going to start homeschooling Q, we had to answer the same question all homeschooling parents face - why? Some people were curious as to what lead to this decision. Some appeared more horrified than curious and some flat out said don't do it. Lucky for us no one asked us the dreaded socialization/socializing question. Although after doing internet research on homeschooling, I was prepared to answer that question as well.

The main reason is pretty simple. Q just wasn't doing well. She was doing alright, not flunking out of the first grade or anything, just kinda floating along. She was getting into a lot of trouble with her teachers for talking in class and not following directions. Not in an oppositional or defiant way just in a six year old's enthusiastic way. We kept having parent teacher conferences about her "behavior" but I really didn't know what I was supposed to do about it. I asked her why she kept talking in class and her response was "I can't help it-I have a lot to say." Which really is true. The girl can talk your ear off about anything. If she has an opinion, or a question, or a thought about something, anything, she will talk about it, and talk about, and talk about it. There have been times when I have actually begged her to please stop talking for a minute so I can hear myself think!

I kept repeating the mantra - she's six, she's six. What does this mean exactly? Well it means it's difficult for her to sit still for six hours, eight if you count her afterschool program. It's hard for her to sit next to her classmates and not talk to them. She has trouble remembering to raise her hand to answer a question or to use the bathroom. Wait a minute here. Are these really the expectations school is placing on a six year old?

Gone were the days before kindergarten when Q was really excited about school and would pretend play "real" school with her dolls and stuffed animals. By the middle of first grade she hated it there and it was a continual battle to get her there in the morning. Who could blame her really? When was the last time I sat still for six hours? How would I feel if I couldn't talk to my coworkers all day except at lunch? What if I had to ask my boss to use the bathroom or raise my hand and receive permission to speak in a meeting? What is her school training her for? Certainly not the job I have, or the one anyone else I know has. I am a children's mental health professional, why was I letting the school tell me that my child's behavior was unacceptable when I knew it was developmentally appropriate? Was it ok for Q to feel bad about herself because she couldn't follow the rules? Learning was becoming a chore she didn't want to do. Something just wasn't right with all this. We had already made the sacrifices necessary for me to stay home part time so M wouldn't have to go to daycare so we, ok I, decided Q wouldn't have to go to school anymore either. It took a really well planned out presentation and some convincing for Fred to agree to a trial period. But so far so good. I won't pretend everyday is wonderful. Some days we don't get anything done and Q and I can't stand each other. But most days we spend enjoying learning and experiencing life. Not waiting to go to the bathroom or not talking about things that excite us.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Unit Ideas

This week has been really hectic. I have had two changes in my work schedule, both reducing my day time hours at home this week. Luckily we did get to squeeze in enough time on Tuesday afternoon to make it to the library, our usual Tuesday adventure.

While at the library, Q mentioned that she would like to start learning about electricity in school. Then she saw a movie about dinosaurs and thought that we could use it in school to learn about them. Then she added jazz would be a good topic to learn about. Perhaps we could learn about how bees make honey? Then at home she was looking through a National Geographic magazine and was really interested in the polar bears, and the article about a fungus that is killing frogs around the world. We used the time line to figure out when a Pharaoh, whose remains have just been identified, lived and she delighted in showing everyone the gruesome picture of the mummy and pointing out how long ago she lived. So I asked her if she was done with oceans. And yes, she is officially tired of them she said. We have a few things to finish up and she is ok with that, but what to do next? She has so many ideas she seems to be running in a million different directions at once, but it is so wonderful that she is exited to learn things. That's why we homeschool in the first place, right?

Recently I overheard her on the telephone talking to a friend she used to go to public school with. Q was telling her friend all about the ocean activities she was working on and pretty much bragging about her cursive handwriting skills. She said "yeah I know you don't know how to write cursive but I wanted to learn how so I am. I get to learn whatever I want in school now." She also added that we spent the whole day at the beach on a school day and it actually counted as schoolwork! I thought wow instead of bragging about her new designer sneakers (doesn't own them) or getting the hottest toy (doesn't own this either) or playing video games my daughter is bragging about cursive writing and field trips to the beach. Man I hope this lasts.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ocean update

I just wanted to post about some of the work Q has been doing on her ocean unit.

So here is the food web that we created on the living room wall. Fred's actually been really nice about us hanging up school stuff all over the house. First paintings and drawings, then the time line, now this. What's next?

She had a really good time making this. First she went to enchanted learning and printed out the information sheets on like a dozen different ocean animals. I don't even know how many she finally printed out, colored, and then cut out. We used the information sheet to decide who eats whom and connected them with yarn. We worked on this for over two hours without taking a break and only stopped because M woke up from his nap and we had to eat lunch. Q was so into it she wanted to keep working on it even after "school" time was over. Which we did. It really came out great! She is really going to give me a hard time when it is time to take it down.

Q has been doing work on addition and subtraction with one digit numbers and we just introduced place value. She really likes using manipulatives especially the kind you can eat!

She is still working hard on her coral reef diorama. She happily showed me the star fish Dad made while I was at work and she can't wait until her clay coral and clownfish are dry and ready to be glued in. I'll put in pictures of this as soon as it is done.

Q used the "specimens" she collected at the beach to create her own beachcomber book like the book Out of the Ocean by Debra Frazier we read together. She took a picture of each item, printed the pictures out, stapled them together with a cover, and then wrote a short description of each one. It turned out really nice and although she won't admit it, I know she is proud of her work.

Today we finished learning about undersea explorers. Q researched Sylvia Earle and created a mini-book about her for her lapbook and we added the important people and inventions of deep sea research to our time line. My nephew stopped over the other day and I saw him looking around at the time line. In order to visually create the time space I wanted for the time line it stretches from our front door, down the bedroom hallway and back around to the back door. It took him a while to ask about it though, which was kind of funny. Q was so excited to tell him about the things on the time line. It was great hearing her explain about "Richard Trevithick who invented the modern locomotive in 1803" like she was an expert. Sometimes I think she just isn't getting it, but I guess something is getting in.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Mottainai is Japanese for "it's a shame for something to go to waste without having made use of its potential in full." Just let the idea sink in for a second. Hmm... that this word can mean so much seems monumental.

I read this word while searching online for Furoshiki folding techniques. Weeks ago as warm weather started in I was smitten with the need for yard sale rummaging and thrift store finds. Then I found this awesome blog that has been really inspirational and this site about crafting new finds. And now mottainai. It must be a sign.

But where are my good deals? What do I even need? I would love to make a frame collection on the kitchen wall sorta cottage chic only with a more modern twist, I am in desperate need of a bed frame and Q has been bugging for a new bed too. I have always wanted to make a clock, and we need a larger space for our growing collection of homeschool supplies. I just got a new sewing machine for Christmas that has been screaming for more time out of the closet. Now if I could only figure out how to infuse the caffeine straight into my veins so I can skip all the coffee drinking and have ALL 24 HOURS of the day! But alas, my body does require some restorative sleep (as does my mind evidently). So I'll have to be happy searching and planning, I've always been better at that aspect anyway.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Our Beach Field Trip

Yesterday was great weather for a beach field trip, so that's what we did. I woke Q up earlier than usual and asked her if she was in the mood for a trip. We packed a lunch (and breakfast too), stopped for some sunblock and we were off.

Cape May Point State Park

It was M's first trip ever to the beach. I think he had a good time.

Here's some pictures of our trip:

Q looked out on the water to see if there were any boats or dolphins around and we collected lots of sea debris in our bucket that we identified later at the beach museum. We found some whelk egg sacks, scallop shells, mussel shells, crabs, a skate egg pouch, and some sea weed to name a few.

We thought these rocks would be the perfect place to find a tide pool, but sadly no little creatures were living there.

The "class" certainly enjoyed their field trip!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Just another school day

Today may have been "just another school day" but it was so great. It has been raining here all week and everyone was being annoying and annoyed. The weather report called for more of the same dreary and rainy weather. But it never came. The sky was blue and Q pointed out that there appeared to be cumulus clouds in the sky (we learned about clouds a few weeks ago) and this meant we were in for a nice day. So we decided to start our day off with a walk around the neighborhood. It was a little humid already but a great energizer. When we returned M went in for a nap and we got to work. Q chose dolphins for her animal study and we were going to finish this up with a short report today and some dolphin painting. Which actually got done. So did a hands on activity to learn place value, a worksheet for phonics, AND copywork and cursive writing practice. What's going on here. We rarely ever get done all the things I plan for a day. But we took a walk...

And swung on the swings...

And helped Dad work on a car, all before our 3pm quiting time.

What happened here? Serendipity I'm sure.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ocean Unit

I have been thinking about creating a lens about this unit on squidoo, but I think I will actually finish the unit and see how it goes first before I commit to too much with. Especially a Squidoo lens. The ladies in the Unit Studies group on Squidoo are really thorough! Anyway, here's what I was thinking about including. We will not be able to cover it all I'm sure before Q looses interest in it and wants to do something else but at least I have a lot of ideas to work with.

animal study
animal classification
food chain/web
human/nature connection
waves, currents, tides, salty
water cycle

identify and locate 5 oceans
map reading skills

Language Arts
vocabulary and spelling
creative writing
compare and contrast

explorers - undersea and over sea
human uses of the sea

Art and Music
crayon resists
not sure of the music part just yet

Q is working on:
1 digit addition and subtraction
place value
I figure we can use her shell collection and goldfish crackers for manipulatives as well as some undersea stickers I found at the craft store.

There are so many trips that we can take I'm not sure how we'll decide where to go. Of course we have to go to the beach, that was one of the reasons Q wanted to do this unit in the first place. Down the shore there is also whale watching cruises, aquariums, and a marine mammal stranding center. This should work out wonderfully.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Saturday - Sunday

My work schedule is set so our school week runs Thursday through Sunday. This allows for me to go into the office on Monday and Wednesday mornings and gives Q three days off a week. When I first arranged this schedule it sounded great. Now I think it is somewhat of a bother.

Here's the thing - there is just too much going on on Saturday and Sunday for us to have a "normal" school day. First of all there is the fact that the neighbor is out of school and now that the weather is nice, she is outside and Q can see her playing through the dining room window. Second, there are birthday parties, engagement parties, communions, and other friend and family obligations. There are also so many fun and interesting community events scheduled now! What's a mom to do? Oh I know - let it go - have some fun! Afterall kids learn best through play, right?