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.”

Profiling Aprendemos Academy

Aprendemos Academy is a small, multi-grade school. Our campus is located in a modest 4 bedroom home on the east coast, though classes have been known to take place just about anywhere.  Including, but not limited to, the local Outback restaurant, where dinner turned into a geography lesson.

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Our student body consists of three active, energetic children, GeekBoy, thePinkDiva, and BigBoy.

GeekBoy is a hands-on kind of kid.  He loves experiments and building things with his legos.  He is also very much a gamer with his current favorites being Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, and Zoo Tycoon 2.  He is into Mythbusters, and love to replicate any experiment the teacher will let him try.  (Diet Coke and Mentos anyone?)  He does have his challenges, like dsygraphia, and prefers to draw rather than write.  As such, his curriculum has been adjusted to allow him to dictate or type any written reports.  He even has his own blog, which he uses to write some of his reports.  Overall, he is a very sweet, very bright kid whether he knows it or not.  This first grader has both challenged and amazed his teacher by his abilities.  The teacher is constantly scrambling to find age appropriate, yet challenging reading material for this child, who reads a good 4 to 5 grade levels above his age.

thePinkDiva is very auditory/visual.  Bored easily, this one wants everyone around her to entertain her all the time.  She continually tests the norms, often refusing to give correct answers despite her knowledge just to see how the teacher reacts.  She is an adventurous spirit, locked inside a porcelain doll.  Fragile, yet strong.  This preschooler loves writing.  She thrives on work books where her brother despises them.  Don’t let her grade level fool you, this preschooler is doing kindergarten math.  She knows her letter sounds and how to read, but would rather give wrong answers and watch her teacher’s head turn purple and explode.  Somehow she thinks this is funny.

BigBoy is a laid back, yet fearless 3 year old.  Technically too young, and although not doing any official schooling, this little guy loves to tag along with his older siblings.  As a result, this 3 year old is not only reaching his physical milestones ahead of schedule, and speaking clearer then most high schoolers in D.C. (so said his grandfather), he is also learning simple math (can tell how many wore cookies he needs to equal three) and knows his colors, body parts, positional words, and is often meeting and in some cases surpassing the developmental milestones for a 5 year old.

So what kind of teacher could possibly meet all the challenges these three students present?  Surely it would take a certified teacher with years of college and possibly even a master’s degree to be able to meet each of the challenges presented by these students.  It couldn’t possibly be their college-dropout mom.  No.  It couldn’t possibly be their high-school graduate, 19 years of military training, yet uncertified father.  No.  Surely, they must hire a certified tutor to be able to know how to teach these children.  Right?  I mean after all, the college-dropout who spends every free moment researching ideas and theories online, the woman who has made Google and Wiki-pedia her best friends in this effort, the woman who spends hours trying to find the best strategies, and new ways to challenge her students.  This woman couldn’t possibly be the one responsible for the advanced knowledge of these challenging students.  No.  They must hire someone.

Wrong.  The “teacher” of this small, home-based school is none other than their college drop-out mother.  A woman who loves her children so much, she has given up the illusions of a grand career in digital scrapbook design, and instead focuses that creative energy on her three children and their education.  Despite their teacher’s lack of credentials, the kids are flourishing because of the love their teacher/mother has for them.  The same love which drives her to spend her free time researching, creating studies, finding fun field trips, and learning more about everything and anything her kids might want to know.

“As a mother, I want the best for my children.  I want them to have the best education possible to be sure that they can accomplish whatever they want in life.  As a teacher, it’s my job to not only meet the challenges each of my children present me with, but to also challenge them.  It’s not a rose garden.  The road of the Home Educator is riddled with self-doubt, worry, and stress.  This is not a path for the faint of heart. ” – Lorraine Yuriar, teacher and mother

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

Home Education Week!

Teachable moments are everywhere.

You just have learn to recognize them when you see them.  For example, fingernail cutting time.  In our house, this can be a big deal.  Our children are known for their over dramatic reactions, and clipping fingernails can turn into Emmy award winning performances involving the pain of cut nail.  *Side note – They are not really in any pain, as evidenced in the fact that distraction techniques work to stop the drama.  We do not cut fingernails to the quick.  They are just being over dramatic.*  A few nights ago, Daddy was cutting GeekBoy’s fingernails, and began to quiz him on multiplication facts.  It worked as a distractor until they got to one that GeekBoy did not know how to work out in his head.  I was passing through the room, and heard what was going on, so I pulled out the white board, and helped GeekBoy work through the problem.  Then we did several others.  He completely forgot what his father was doing.

Next up!  BigBoy.  He is too little from something like multiplication, but we are working on letter recognition.  So I started to write letters on the board and before he even knew Daddy had started, his fingernails were all cut.

Last, but most assuredly not least, thePinkDiva, our newly crowned 5 year old.   We’ve been working on simple math and reading, so I started of with some 1+1, and then we finished with a series of “_AT” words.  Finally, she read the sentence, “Fat cat sat on rat.”  all by herself.  And again, Daddy was done with her fingers before she even realized he had started.

A teachable moment can be anything.  It can be a lesson in morality brought on by a movie or tv show.  It can be a conversation over the dinner table.  Even a tick bite can be teachable.  When BigBoy got bit last Saturday, after killing the tick, we – the mom and dad – learned more about ticks in the area and the possible diseases and what to watch for.  Then when I found a tick crawling on my leg, I managed to capture it (after throwing it into the bathtub, recovering my wits, checking the kids for more ticks, and taking a picture so it could be more easily identified).  I plan to use it to let GeekBoy do his own tick research.  Even though I’ve identified it, I will let him take a stab at ID’ing it and see if he can figure it out too.  We will learn how to identify species of bugs, and how to research bugs to learn more about their habitat.  We will also learn about what to do if he finds one on him (call mom or dad!) and what not to do to.

It should be fun.  A science lesson from a tick.  Teachable moments.

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.

no such thing as a sick day

We’ve actually done more “school” today then we have in several weeks. Yet the fact that we are all sick, some sicker then others, has not slowed us down today!

In between movies, GeekBoy has done a page of a math workbook (which is something he almost never touches!), and 4 pages from a language workbook. Meanwhile, thePinkDiva and Lil’Chicano practiced identifying their numbers with flashcards. tPD is working on numbers 9-12 right now, and the Lil’Chicano is already id’ing 1-4 all on his own! How awesome is that?

I continue to be amazed at how much information these kids soak up, just living life. I grew up in the “sit at your desk for 8 hours a day” environment. It really is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it is not necessary. This is the point where you could start calling us “unschoolers”, and we are… but not really. We jump from topic to topic with lightning speed. Usually the kids, all three, are interested in knowing everything they can fit into their heads about a subject for about one week. Then they are on to something new. But I do insist on the classic fundamentals of Math and Language. We gravitate towards books, a la Charlotte Mason Method, and utilize unit studies and lapbooks on occasion. All of that makes us more of an Eclectic Homeschool.

Speaking of being eclectic…  I found this great Thanksgiving Lapbook unit over at HomeschoolEstore (soon to be Currclick.com).  Looks like fun.  I’ve got to get into it and really figure out how it’s supposed to work and all, but it looks like my kids will love it.  We shall see.

NASA Rocks.

Last Saturday (and yes, I’m just now finding time to blog it!)  we checked out a rare NASA Open House.  Took a “journey into Tomorrow” where Geekboy got to play astronaut and do a Duplo experiment through the glove box.

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After we checked out the Moon Rock, we caught up with LittleBlueSchool and the kids made a new friend.

Then we made slime, but not useable pictures, because it’s hard to take pictures and police three children making slime all at once.  However, I now know that slime is made with dishsoap colored green, and the stuff they put into a disposable diaper…  Hmmm….   I smell a future experiment. *S*  Then we walked through some exhibits, and talked to the wind tunnel guy, and then… we found them.

The robots.

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It was actually pretty cool.  Turns out, the two guys running the exhibit were homeschooled.  It was really neat because the  older one got down on GeekBoy’s level and talked to him about the importane of Math, and how engineers may not like it, but they still need it.

After that, we wandered back to the Gym area and stood in line for roughly 30 minutes for some balloon swords and a pink poodle.  Oh yea.  Super fun!  By then the little ones were worn out, so we headed out.  ut we did check out the historic wind tunnel on the way back to the car.

NASA 3

We headed home, and the kids showed dad their goodies, and played with their slime.  And of course, you just can’t play with slime without making slime-boogers.

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an Assessment

Geekboy. He’s the kind of kid you hated to have in your class. You know, the guy who could sit in the back of the classroom and sleep all day, and still bring home straight A’s.  The one who gets it all without really having to apply himself. Explain it once, it’s in there, ready to be spit back at you when you least expect it. My biggest challenge with this kid is, am I challenging him enough?

thePinkDiva. She is the kind of kid who would sit in the front of the room, take extensive notes, and still fail.  She is one of those kids who always seems a step behind, although reality is, she is way ahead of where kids her age are.  The information is in there, it just needs a few days or a week or so to bounce around in her before she can spit it back out.  The trick to this one – Don’t push too hard.  Present new information, then back off for a few days and let it sink in before you try again.

 Lil’Chicano.  He’s my tank.  He’s bright enough.  He counts to 8, and speaks extremely well.  He even recognizes a few letters already.  Reality, he’s not old enough to asses educationally, but…  Developmentally, he’s more like his big brother, always a step or two, or four, ahead of the crowd.  He is very physical, as he should be for a little boy.  He will tackle anything that isn’t nailed down.  He just lowers his head and “BOOM!”  It really doesn’t matter what he hits; mom, GeekBoy, tPD, Dad, the couch, the wall, etc.  As long as he hits something.  He literally bounces off the wall and keeps running.  My legs are black and blue from constantly getting charged at.  Motherhood:  the full contact sport.  But he is a sweetheart, and one of the best behaved kids ever out in public.  (They all behave beautifully in public, saving the inner demon for at home, behind closed doors.)  The trick to this little guy – make it a fun, physical game.  if it involves motion and hitting something, he’ll be happy.

the Cotton Gin

Thursday (and I’m just now getting around to blogging this…  how sad is that?) we went on a field trip with members of our local co-op to a Cotton Gin.  It was fun!

We really started Wednesday, when mom got this lapbook on Eli Whitney from the HomeshoolEstore.  We learned a little bit of information about the man Wednesday, to get us ready for the trip on Thursday.

Then we went to go see it in action.  We almost got lost, but Mom followed the trail of cotton down the side of the road, and sure enough it lead to the right place.  *S*

The guide was great.  A little above most of the smaller kids who were there, but I think the parents had more questions then the kids did anyway!  He talked about how the plant grows, and the machine they use to pick it now, and then showed (from a window above the gin) how the machine worked.  There have been vast improvements to the technology since Whitney’s day.

Back then, the slaves had to pick the stuff, and the gin was pretty much a bunch of wire teeth that ran through the cotton picking out the seeds.  Today, there is a machine that picks the cotton, and loads it into a module.  The trucks pick up the modules, and bring them to the gin.  the cotton is then run through a vacuum of sorts, which fluffs the cotton enough to separate the bits of trash from the cotton.  Then it runs through a dryer, and into the gin itself.  After the gin, it gets cleaned, and there is a camera taking pictures every 15 seconds that allow the operators to determine if the cotton needs to be cleaned again.  The less cleaning the better.  Farmers get paid by the pound, and cleaning strips weight.  Then it goes over to the press where it is smashed down into a bale.  The machine spins and starts to load another bale, and the workers have 2 minutes to get wires around the first bale and get it out of the machine (not as easy as it sounds!).  Each bale is given a number, and samples are taken to send to the government.

Awesome fun fact – Everything that comes out of the Gin is used.  The cotton, obviously, sold to make cottony things with.  The seeds, sold to plant more, or to make cotton seed oil.  The garbage cotton, stuff that is too short to be of any use to most manufacturers, goes to fill furniture and make q-tips, that kind of thing.  Even the trash is used, as compost for future crops, or as feed for the local farmers cows.  Its really pretty awesome when you think about it.

Oh, and!!  Another awesome fun fact – Did you know that they can trace your shirt back to the farmer who grew it?  The US Government apparently has strict quality controls over the cotton.  The bale numbers are used to track it no matter where it goes.  Using that number, which is placed on the tag of the shirt somehow, your shirt can be traced back the gin that ginned it.  The gin can tell you which farmer grew it.  That way, there can be no hanky panky, and messing with the product, because they will find you.  Pretty awesome huh?

Anyway, the kids had a blast.  They got to take home a few seeds, and a handful of “dirty cotton” (seeds and all) and a handful of “clean cotton.”  They loved getting to touch and feel and everything.  Both GeekBoy and PinkDiva said that getting to take some seeds was their favorite part.  LilChicano gave me this quote,

“The cotton gin always get me freakin’ out!”

Too cute.  Here are some pictures from our trip.  Ignore the big white spots.  Apparently that’s what happens when you give a 6 year old a camera, and forget to clean the lens when he’s done.  *S*   (He helped me shoot the wedding.  I’m working my way through the photos and will be posting his on my other blog soon.)

Enjoy!

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View from the window above the gin.  Great flash, I know.  *S

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The cotton, being sucked into the dryer while the trash is blown outside.

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The seed shed.

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Modules all in a row.

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GeekBoy’s write up afterward.  See!  We glued the seeds and taped some cotton samples to the Gin diagram!  How awesome is that?

“Is this fall be-cation?”

thePinkDiva asked me that earlier this week after her daddy told her he would be on “vacation” this weekend.  Being that Mom, aka theTeacher, is so stressed out over the upcoming wedding, and Lil’Chicano’s potty training…   Yes, this is fall vacation.

Sort of.

thePinkDiva has been doing her math every morning, and we still read, read, read.  We even made it to PE with the rest of the co-op this past Wednesday, although the kids were ornery and we left early.  And, technically, since I’ve made “Photography” part of GeekBoy’s art curriculum this year, it will be a working vacation for all of us.  thePinkDiva actually wants to bring her math book to show her Gramma.  I think my heart smiled when she said that.