We just watched the Mythbusters episode where they investigate a 22,000 foot fall.  The myth was busted, but all the “don’t try this at home” PSAs were not enough to keep GeekBoy from building his own replica house to drop bricks on.  He was trying to replicate the small scale version of the experiment.  But since we don’t have glass or 15lb weights just lying about waiting for someone to experiment with, he tried dropping a block onto a Lego “house” and a Lincoln Log “house”.

Just like that…

My “first grader” has passed into 3rd grade math.

GeekBoy’s 2nd grade Math test

He completed his 2nd grade Math workbook last night.  I found these worksheets online to serve as a test.  He doesn’t like a lot of repetition, so once I prove he knows the concepts and how to do things, move on.

As a reward, I promised him no more “school” today.  Personally, I think he deserves it.

Tips and Tricks

We are a family of eclectic homeschoolers, with a good dash of unschooling thrown in for good measure. We’ve only been at this whole “homeschooling thing” for about a year and a half at this point. So what tips do I have for you?

Well, we recently started a basket system that is working fairly well for us. All three children have their own basket, and I write up an assignment sheet every morning with 3-5 tasks that I would like for them to complete each day. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I don’t make a big fuss over things that aren’t done. We’re raising three very independent children, who love to make their own decisions about what they do when (within reason. They do still have to obey Mom & Dad. But they are more willing to obey when we need them to because we give them the freedom to choose what they want when it possible). Truthfully, the seven year old is “first grade age” and already working on second grade material, just about ready to pass into 3rd grade work, so I don’t sweat it if he takes a day off to play Lego Star Wars with his little brother. The 4 year old is doing five-year-old kindergarten work this year. She is slower to catch on than her brothers, but she is also working ahead for her age. I have found it’s much easier to let her go at her pace, no matter how slow. When she’s ready, she’s ready. Trying to force a concept before she’s ready only turns her off and frustrates me. So there are days when the baskets sit, unused, but they are a great tool for whenever my kids feel like “doing school.”

I also allow the computer games. Websites like Starfall are absolutely amazing, and even the three year old is identifying letters because he plays Starfall. Sesame Workshop is fun for the little ones, even if Elmo’s voice makes mom want to stab her eardrums with hot pokers. They’ve recently added videos too, even many of the old ones with Grover! Yippee! NickJr games are great for all kinds of fun, and subtle learning. Help Dora to the top of the number pyramid, and learn number recognition and sequencing all at the same time. We have all kinds of games from JumpStart, and Scholastic. The I Spy set is great for increasing observational skills, something my 7 yr old is sorely lacking. Even Lego Star Wars is good for strategy and financial planning (you need to collect enough studs to be able to buy extras).

Anything can be turned into a lesson. Case in point, our fireplace was finally fixed, and we started our first fire. In that process, Daddy taught the kids all about fire and what it needs. We discussed fire safety, and what to do in the case of a fire. Water glasses at dinner can be come an interesting lesson on surface tension. Cooking is fraught with math and chemistry. Even movies and TV shows can be turned into life lessons by making examples of the characters on screen, and discussing their choices, mistakes, and what they should have done.

Read. Read. Read. And just when you think you are tired of reading, read some more.

We are a family of geeks, there are 5 computers in this house, and 5 people. So the task of keeping the computers snyc’ed up can be daunting. I’ve installed Google Browser Sync for GeekBoy, to keep his bookmarks sync’ed up on all three computers that he might use. I’ve been experimenting with Speed Dial to store places I want him to visit. I’m still working the kinks out of that one though. We use K9 Web Protection for our filter. I like that the database of sites is dynamic, and rated. It won’t just block whole chunks of the web, but specific sites get rated into categories. Then I have the option of blocking whole categories, or just certain sites. I can also block a whole category but set up exceptions for certain sites. I can block based on keywords found in the URL if I want. The software will bark if the kids find a bad site, and actually block access to the net for 10 minutes if they try to access bad sites too often. It also keeps track of where they’ve been. So I can log in and check up on what sites they’ve been to. Pretty awesome. And! K9 is free to home users! have more than one computer? Simply apply for an additional license. Rockin’! I know.

For some ideas for teaching math to a workbook hater, check out my Works For Me Wednesday post on my other blog.

Those are just a few things I’ve been doing around here that work for us.

Join the fun at Heart of the Matter.

This just blows my mind.

This whole year has given me a whole new perspective on home education. It’s been terrifying for me, to not have a curriculum laid out for me. But the kids are flourishing.

We read, a lot. We haven’t gotten to the library yet since Christmas break, but we normally go once a week, check out about 20 books, and return them all the next, having read every one. I let them pick their own off the shelves, and I pick some that cover topics that we are interested in this week, or things I want us to learn for upcoming field trips or whatever.

For Math, I bought some workbooks from walmart, and had a kindergarten math book (sadlier-oxford) left over from our brief stint with a curriculum last year. thePinkDiva has worked her way to the half way point of the kindergarten book. With workbook-hating GeekBoy, we started using more real life examples, and situations. I’d have him help count out my change, we gave him a house bank account and he is responsible for keeping track of the money he earns for work done around the house above the norm, as well as computing his own interest (10% to make it easier to figure), and anything that he spends on Lego Star Wars or whatever. Then we visited the NASA open house, and spoke to the men in charge of the robotics. Homeschool graduate that he was, he got right down on GeekBoy’s level, and let him know that as a NASA engineer who worked with robots, he used math every day. He told my son that even though he didn’t really like math, he needed math to talk to the robots and work with the computer programs. Ever since then, my math-hating child has done a complete turn around. GeekBoy now randomly spouts math facts from the back seat while we drive, and is just about done with his 2nd grade math workbook. (a little test prep book from walmart which reviews all that 2nd graders are supposed to know.) By flipping through the 3rd grade workbook I have, I know that he’s really almost done with third grade too. A little work on his multiplication tables (he already knows how to multiply by 0, 1, and 2. if he thinks about it, he can do 3s & 5s also.), and learning to divide (we’ve already started talking about how divide is the opposite of multiply, and he’s doing simply division to help me figure out how many candies or cookies each person gets), and he will be in fourth grade math. And the kid is only in first grade according to age level. Gramma said it didn’t surprise her because she can see that he’s a smart kid, and that it won’t be long before we’ll be into algebra. I was like, “woah! Slow down!” Then I flipped through the fourth grade book. Well, yeah. With a bit more work in multiplication and division, and learning about estimating, he’ll whiz through fourth grade in no time. This from the kid who last September declared “I hate math!” We’re also working with him on financial stuff. He has his own house bank account that he needs to keep track of. When he does chores above what he is expected to do (like folds laundry for me, or empties the dishwasher) he gets paid. Right now he’s about 2/3rds of the way to earning enough money to buy the star wars lego pack he wants. We have a neat object lesson planned to teach him about sales taxes (percentages) and the differences between needs and wants, and the value of a dollar. I figure if we start training him to know the difference now, then maybe when he’s 20 he won’t be in the of living paycheck to paycheck with little understanding of how to get ahead.

Also, we bought GeeArt subscriptions last July when it was super duper cheap. The kids just LOVE Ruby and Furnace and Tickles. Admittedly, I haven’t been so good at following up on the DoArt sections, but I’ve downloaded all the teacher lesson plans and we’re starting fresh. GeekBoy is already through a large portion of the lessons, but we’ll be going over them with thePinkDiva and reviewing with GeekBoy before launching into the various art projects associated with each lesson. Today we started a mixed media collage. So far, it’s freakin’ awesome.

And every so often, they come up with things that just astound me.

And then… Today. The ultimate. My 4 year old darling daughter, thePinkDiva, read a story. The first story ever, and she read it, all by herself. *S* WOO HOO!

Lessons Learned from Unschoolers who’ve btdt

 Since ditching k12 earlier this “school year,”  I’ve been looking into other ways of schooling.  Even though I think we are more eclectic than unschoolers, I’ve found the info over at An Unschooling Life to be pretty helpful.  She just published the 11th Unschooling Voices blog-letter.

1.  Honor your child’s feelings. – Colleen posts a lesson she learned the hard way, about listening to what our kids tell us about how they feel.

2.  Stephanie shared this little gem:

My role as facilitator is to observe my children, to know when to step in and when to stay out of their way. I do not want to hinder the learning process, I want to nurture it and watch it flourish.

3.   Mandaroo talked about how a virtual school practically destroyed her daughter’s love for math and learning.  I saw much the same thing happen with GeekBoy after a few months of using k12’s math program.  There were daily assessment tests, and repeated lessons if he didn’t pass, and pressure…  Suddenly he hated math.  We had to abandon math workbooks altogether.  We began only doing math using real-life situations.  We let him have his own house bank account.  Now, he spouts out math facts at the oddest times.  Funny how that worked out.

PE with an Outsider

We went to PE with our Co-Op yesterday.  And we had fun, at least, most of us did.

Backtrack just a bit, to yesterday morning at breakfast.  I announced what day it was, and GeekBoy declared, “I don’t want to go, I don’t like leaving the house.”  Now, reality is, he said this mostly because he was already knee-deep in a pile of Legos, working on his next creation.  But I can’t blame him.  I’m not a big social person either.  I’m a wallflower.  always has been always will be.  I’ve always been on the outside of popular.  I blame public school, where I got bullied and made fun of daily.  I also blame private school, where I was shut out of virtually everything “cool” because of who I am, and who my dad was (he was a business manager at the school).  I do have to recognize the genetic factor, because both of my parents were also outsiders.  Being an outsider is not a bad thing.  But it is incredibly frustrating for a child of 7, who just wants a turn with ball, but isn’t given one.

So we had a talk yesterday morning.  I told GeekBoy that honestly, I’d rather home too.  But.  We can’t.  PE isn’t just playtime, it’s also a good way for him to learn how to interact with other people, and other kids.  Yes, you know how to behave here at home, and playing with your brother and sister is good.  But!  You need to know how to act around other people, not just us.  That’s why we go.

He accepted that and off we went.  We all stretched out, and then the kids ran laps around the big fellowship hall the Co-Op borrowed.  And by “kids ran laps”  I mean my older two ran around a few times, while I jogged next to Lil’Chicano, who insisted on doing 4 laps.   Then the kids played 4 corners, where 2 “its” tried to tag the child running from one corner to the next with a ball.  And by “kids played”  I mean GeekBoy got it, thePinkDiva especially loved when she won one round, and Mom ran the corners with Lil’Chicano, who insisted on playing with big kids.  It was fun.  like i said, tPD won one round, and Lil’C won another.  Those little kids, always overlooked.  See GeekBoy,  sometimes being short pays off.

We played a form of tag, which meant mom following Lil’C again, and playing with him.  During this game, tPD had a run in with another kid.  She wasn’t hurt physically, but her pride was apparently damaged beyond repair, so she sat in a corner and sulked for the rest of the day.

Then we played Caterpillar.  Some weird game where the circle of kids tries to hit the kid on the end of a four person caterpillar with the ball.  Only problem with this was that we had about 10 kids, and only 3 or 4 actually got a turn with the ball.  So of course every time the ball rolled out of the circle it was a mad dash to get it!  The mad dash not only made the game hard to play (because most of the circle wouldn’t stay put), but it also resulted in a minor meltdown from GeekBoy.  He’s not the fastest, or the biggest, or the strongest kid there, so he constantly lost out on the Mad Dash.  Which left him frustrated to the hilt.

So they kids played Freeze Tag instead.  This time, mom actually got to stand on the sidelines while the kids ran wild and crazy for a little while.  Then a quick game of Shark & Minnows (without the water).  And truly, the line of the day –  GeekBoy to the big guy (a teenager who is taller them me!), after the big guy tagged him twice,  “You already tagged me once, I’m on your side.  DU-U-UH!!!”  he he he.

Then we came home, and discussed various situations that occurred throughout PE, and how we should have handled each event a bit differently than we did.  And by “we” I mean whichever kid that was involved at the time.

Overall, though, it was a good time.