Monkey Butt!!!

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We went to the Zoo. It was fun. The kids had a blast, and couldn’t help but compare the real zoo to their Zoo Tycoon 2 game that they all love so much. There were several times the Diva would comment, “Mom! They need to put in a girl camel so the Camel will be happy!” The Mandril (pictured above) was the favorite. And to prove the kids actually learned something, once we got home and checked out the photos, GeekBoy declared, “His butt is so colorful so his family can follow him through the jungle.” See… they do learn! And the best part… I didn’t tell him that! He read it off the sign in front of the monkey cage. Learning from everyday life. It can happen folks.

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The Emu was pretty pissed about having his sleep disturbed.

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Check those birds with the weird red things! “Uh, it says they are ‘Hornbills’ Dad!”

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The GeekBoy even took some photos of his own.  Lookie!  Art class!  Photography practice.

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“Look mom!  Elephant butt!”

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No trip to the zoo is complete without a chance to feed the goats.  Immediately after this photo, thePinkDiva completely lost her marbles because a goat’s tongue had dared to touch her hand.  She insisted on washing her hands, right that second.  The best we could do was a purell dispenser on a post at the end of the fence.  *Note to self – next time we visit the zoo, bring wipes!

And of course, I just couldn’t post this without this most excellent shot of the day…

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Monkey Butt!!!   Ha ha ha!

Teach your kid about the Internet before the Internet does

Recently, a parent on the home school support e-group asked us all, what do you do, what routines/products/procedures do you use to keep your kids safe online? The answers were astoundingly underwhelming.

The number one way parents were “keeping the kids safe online” was to simply limit their access to not just the internet, but computers in general. After that, several different filters were named, a fisher price computer accessory that limits access was another option for smaller kids, but only one parent mentioned teaching their kid about internet safety.

My kids are already pretty computer savvy. Up till now though, they have been content to stick to the websites I’ve given them, like NickJr.com, Starfall, and Sesame Street. But, the time has come. Geek Boy is living up to his name. He found HotWheels.com and Lego.com months ago, and he’s been noticing URLs all over. The little guy, BigBoy, likes all the racing games and Lego games, and wants to play too. What’s a Mama to do?

Teach them.

Teach them about the good and bad of the internet. Teach them how to protect themselves online. You wouldn’t send your kid into a football game without the right equipment, or without making sure he knows the rules. These are our top three, SafeKids has a more comprehensive list of rules.

Rules

  1. Never give out your password. Ever.
  2. Never ever give out personal information. This means your name, birthday, address, where you live, etc. Believe it or not, this includes your email address!
  3. If something doesn’t feel right, tell a grown-up!

There are several resources for parents, to educate ourselves so we can educate our children. CurrClick (formerly Homeschool Estore) has a great lesson book by HomeSchool Learning Network called Internet Safety. It’s a good read with lots of links to place online. I love that it explains marketing online, and teaches about how to recognize marketing traps, and avoid them. I also like the the segment on Internet Law. Parents need to stay on their toes though! While it is a great jumping off point, the Net changes at the snap of a finger. Parents need to do their own research and find how things have changed since this lesson booklet was put out in 2007. Primarily, HTML, while still used, is no longer the dominant force it once was. PHP and Flash are the new languages of choice for most web designers. Laws change constantly. The book says there are 50 Internet related laws being considered by congress. A quick search at the provided link to Thomas reveals 938. The book is definitely a good resource, but use it as a jumping off point, don’t think you are done once you’ve read it.

Internet Safety is important for our kids to learn at a young age. The state of Virginia just made Internet Safety Training mandatory for all students. The DOE website has some great tools and ideas for teaching internet safety. The Virginia Internet Safety Guidelines Resource PDF has a wealth of great information as well as links to awesome sites, such as the the PBS Internet License Test for munchkins, or the Microsoft Age-By-Age Guide to Internet Saftey. In fact, the Microsoft website has some great resources, even for family & gamer safety. The Virginia DOE site points to I-Safe, the Government funded internet safety educational resource. I-Safe is supposed to be a free online resource. While I haven’t yet tested this one myself, you can check out their I-Learn programs for yourself and see if they would be useful to you. They offer kids & teens, as well as courses for parents, and older adults, mentor programs, and law enforcement courses. The FBI has a great Parent’s Guide publication, which gives tips to help to minimize your child’s chances of become a victim online. ParentsTV.org offers articles about MySpace and Internet TV. CommonSense.com offers some good information on everything from IMs to Social Networking, to downloading to MMPOG (massive multiplayer online games).

My kids love games, especially internet games. I’ve found several Internet Safety themed game sites, including NetSmartz Kidz – which teaches kids about rules, safety, and netiquette. Media-Awareness has some fun games involving the 3 Little Pigs who learn about Net safety, Big Bad Wolves, and flaming. SafetyLand, while I have not tried it personally, looks to be a fun game about helping an Internet superhero defeat the bad guy who’s messing up Safety Land, and is run by AT&T.

We need to teach our kids these lessons before they get big enough to find Social Networking sites and chat rooms. As a parent, I want to stay informed of all the latest WEB2.0 innovations, internet jokes, etc., so that I will know what my kid is into. When they are old enough for Social networking, you can be sure that I will be their number one friend. Filters and keyloggers have their place for sure, but nothing beats an involved parent for keeping your kid safe.

In their own words

Big Boy – “Yea, I like skoowl. I like to write in my fresh, clean notepad.”

ThePinkDiva – “Staying home with Mommy, and doing math with M&Ms.”

GeekBoy – “What I like about it…  Well, I don’t like the math.  but I do like the multiplication…  Building robots out of Lego’s…  doing science experiments…  Art – the drawing, the painting, even the coloring.”

Organization? Who needs it?

Truthfully, me. I need it. I used to be the most disorganized mass of humanity on the face of the earth. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I was in the top ten. Then I found Flylady, and things have never been the same. I became organized, semi-efficient, and my house was never 15 minutes from messy, even if I didn’t do everything Marla said. Marla gave me the gift of routines, and it has saved my home.

So naturally I would apply those routines to homeschooling. Oh, I tried. I truly did. Our first 6 months in this crazy journey were highly scheduled and incredibly… painful. The enforcer in me brought out nothing but tears and fights in my son. Poor guy, he will most likely always be our guinea pig.

So what happened? How did we go from a scheduled, classical approach to our current unschool-ish eclectic approach?

Life.

Six months after we started, December hit. December is a rough month for me. While I had only planned on a week or two break for Christmas vacation, the depression that hit me at the begining of the month made it nigh onto impossible for me to continue the daily fight school had become. I needed a break, so we took one. For the whole month.

Then January rolled in, and brought with it a house hunting trip, and preparations to PCS (Permanent Change of Station for you non-military types. With all that packing, and traveling, and whatnot,we really didn’t get a chance to do a whole lot of “school,” and that was just fine by my son.

February brought a big move. We had bought our very own house for the first time ever, and were still stuck in the old place until the end of the month. Weekends were spent dropping the kids off at Gramma & Grampa’s house so we could come down for three day weekend and do as much of the renovations as possible before the kids and the household goods got here. Plus, there was a seemingly endless set of inspections and the never ending packing and decluttering to be sure that we didn’t move boxes of crap. Again, official “school” got kicked to the back burner.

March saw us happily settled in to our new home.  Just as we were ready to settle into a groove, life threw us a curveball.  And if that wasn’t enough, we got the double whammy.  After that April and May were a blur.  We literally just clung to each other in hopes of getting through the valley and back into the light.  Forget “school”, forget anything.  As long as everyone was clothed and fed, it was good day.

But somehow, through it all, my kids flourished.  By the time I was ready to start looking at school again, I retested him, figuring I’d have to find out where he was, and fill in the gaps.  The gap was not in what he hadn’t learned yet but should have, but rather, how far ahead of where he was “supposed to be” that he actually was!  It was eye opening to me!  After a few glitches with our curriculum order, we decided, screw it!  He did so well when we weren’t using the stuff…  why should we spend the thousand or so dollars?  So we sent it all back, got our money back, and have been flying by the seat of our pants ever since.  It’s been a nerve-wrackingly awesome ride.  But the results are clear.  Whatever we have, or haven’t been doing, it’s working.

I still need some semblance of organization though.   Hence the basket system.  Work books, and whatever they might want to play around with, available at their fingertips throughout the day.

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Even though we are big advocates of learning though teachable moments found everywhere and anywhere.   It does help to have a system in place for when they feel like “doing school.”

This post brought to you as part of Home Education Week at Principled Discovery. Join the fun!

Home Education Week!

April Fools!

I’d love to say that every day here in Casa de Yuriar is all sunshine and roses, and happiness abounds.  Don’t be fooled by the pleasant front we put forth when we venture out from these four walls.

We have our fits, tempers, and frustrations.  There are days when we all wake up on the wrong side of the bed.  Days when momma is hormonal, and flingin’ dishes.   I don’t write about those days here, though I do often blow off steam on my personal blog.  I tend to not write about 30 minute screaming fits from thePinkDiva (there is a reason I nicknamed her Diva!), or the fact that BigBoy has hit the terrible twos a year late, and seems to think he can talk back and tell momma “no” to just about everything.  I tend to avoid blogging the times the big guy lashes out instead of thinking rationally, esp since it’s a daily occurrence.

I don’t like reliving the downside.  It only feeds my sense of failure.  So often, I gloss over the difficulties inherent with spending 24-7-365 with my brood.  Sure, there are times when I wish I could rent a hotel room for a weekend and just sleep.  But truth is, I would miss the little crumb-crunchers too much to spend all that much time away from them.

Although, things may be changing soon.  for a big announcement, check out my personal blog here.

This post brought to you as part of Home Education Week at Principled Discovery. Join the fun!

Home Education Week!